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Bristol HI-FI Show

The Bristol HI-FI Show 2020
(page one)
Bristol HI-FI Show

Click images above to enlarge. (Bentley / Naim & info desk)

Report by Les Best & Robin Francis

With the wind and rain battering bare faces, expectant ears, camera, lenses and laminated name tags, it was a relief to take shelter and be greeted by the warm smiles at the front desk of the 2020 Bristol Hi-Fi Show. With five packed floors of premium hi-fi to explore, we knew we would be fully warmed up by the end of the show.

We followed the laid back (slightly retro sound & looks) from the Harman / JBL stand. A real reminder of how simple things were in the ‘80s. Another name of long standing and a further welcoming greeting came from Keith Monks who was keenly demonstrating his new Prodigy record cleaning machine. With a sleek, modern design, this machine garnered a lot of attention from vinyl lovers looking to insure their records remained in tip-top condition.

A new-to-us company, Kirmuss Audio, kept all hi-fi enthusiasts mesmerised with their technical and passionate explanation regarding their Ka-Rc-1 ultrasonic record cleaner. Our just purchased copy of Vincent Berlanger’s “Pure Cello” on the Audio Note record label was handed over for the ‘well advised’ (by Vincent Bélanger himself) clean on this super quiet machine.

‘What a difference a year makes!’ Last year’s demonstration by Dynaudio left us colder than the temperature outside the hotel! This year we couldn’t get enough of the musical power, control and elegance of the Confidence 50 loudspeaker (powered by Dynaudio’s Bill Livingston’s own Naim amplification). We were handed the main control tablet for the Naim system and were encouraged to select whatever genre we wished. The fact that we (and others) sat back, removed our loose jackets and relaxed our shoulders is testament to all components used (list with photographs below) in the gently lit Dynaudio room. The Dynaudio Confidence 50 speakers not only conveyed emotional insight into every track selected, these speakers delivered tonal accuracy on par with some of the most revered studio monitors with added emotion and drama. Hopefully, we will be able to explore other speakers in the Dynaudio Confidence range later?

Naim / Focal bravely occupied the same huge space as last year, but with added room treatment in the form sound dispersion & absorption panels in specified areas. Whilst both of us found the system vastly lacking last year, this year’s ND555 fronted Statement (power & pre) / Scala Utopia Evo combo was, to at least one of us, jaw-droppingly good. The centrally placed Naim Statement amplifier (746W into 8O, 1450W into 4O, 9kW burst power into 1O) certainly had a tight grip on all areas within the musical spectrum. Given the cost (57k amplifier & 65k pre-amplifier) I can imagine this system will be a discussion piece for a long while.

The PMC / Martin Logan / AVM / Bryston demonstration focused mainly on the MartinLogan Expression ESL 13A, Motion series & the PMC Twenty5 26i’s. Obviously, this was a wide range of speaker types for a very wide ranging audience (something for everyone). Those who had not before experienced the musical holography of a MartinLogan ESL, left the demo room especially in awe. Many also visually expressed contentment after listening to music through the PMC Twenty5 26 i’s.

That doyen of hi-fi, Audio Note, repeated their relatively simple looking system set-up from last year. Again, we were quickly reminded not to be fooled by simplicity! Just as with the relatively no thrills looking system set-up, we were treated by a very low key live (unamplified) cello duo performance (Belanger alongside CD) by the aforementioned Vincent Bélanger. With eyes closed, we listened and genuinely found it difficult to differentiate ‘live’ from recorded. The Audio Note system demonstrated great depth, breadth, width and tonal accuracy with ease.

The uniquely named Von Gaylord 130watt Nirvana mono block amplifiers and Legend Reference speakers fronted by the MBL CD transport offered a big, vibrant and detailed sound. This was a room we would definitely have spent more time listening and exploring given the chance.

Although not for us, it is impossible to not mention to the beautifully crafted Curvi-BMR (Funk Firm / Curvi hifi) speaker. Resembling a vertical side-winding snail in shape, this speaker is definitely eye-catching and raised many eyebrows. Coupled with the Akutrak phono stage turntable – cartridge performance comparison by physicist Arthur Khoubesserian, this room prompted many a technical and emotional discussion.

We entered the Living Voice / Kuzma demonstration room with great expectation. Thankfully, the celebrated Auditorium OBX speakers fronted by the Kuzma Stabi R turntable did not disappoint - giving a sound and experience to behold. The effortless dynamic range and beautiful natural highs massaged our ears. Credit has to be given to the ‘Living Voice Pure Music Battery Power Supply’ occupying one corner of the room. Considering the consistent use of specific power conditioners in many of the rooms at last years’ show, this was definitely a ‘different’ (and refreshing) approach!

Rogers - another name from yesteryear displayed ‘another type of retro’ with a visually beautiful collection of ‘vintage’ turntables including a pristine looking Goldring Lenco75 with an equally attractive Thorens TD124 with 12” SME arm. To prove the fact that beauty and high audio quality can be achieved, the Thorens TD124 with 12” SME arm provided us with a stunning fluid and haunting playback of the vocals of London Grammar’s Hannah Reid.

As with last year’s show, we were treated with various streaming demonstrations, but this year it seems we were provided with extra home theatre & AV room demonstrations from the likes of Klipsch and Kef, through to Emotiva / SVS systems. Most of these demos generating room filling, chair vibrating sounds. However, it was the Rel AV room we feel offered the most accurate, fastest and believable sound (room size permitting) with their S/510 in-line array configuration supporting a pair of Kef Ref 1 stand-mounts. The Rel set-up was not only visually very impressive, but their ability to fill-in, punch, be subtle (when required) and convey sound with speed in a 2-channel setup is the reason we have chosen to invest within our own two-channel systems.

We spent two days (one day more than last year) exploring, discovering, excited and generally fulfilled at this years’ Bristol HI-FI Show. Yet, we still did not see everything. We may have to consider pitching a tent for the full three days next year
(weather & any other unnatural events permitting)!

© Michael Valentine Studio
22-23 February 2020

 

Featured exhibitors:
Audio Note, Audio-Technica, Audiolab / Wharfdale, Avid HI-FI, Bentley / Naim Audio, Bowers & Wilkins, Canton, Chord Company, Chord Electronics, Decent Audio, Dynaudio, Elipson, Emotiva / SVS, Falcon Acoustics, Funk Firm / Curvi HI-FI, Fyne Audio, GIK Acoustics, Harmon / JBL, Henley Audio / Musical Fidelity, Keith Monks, KirmussAudio, Living Voice / Kuzma, Melco, Michell Engineering, Naim Audio / Focal, PMC / MartinLogan / AVM / Bryston, Proac, Pro-ject, Project Audio Systems / Musical Fidelity / Klipsch, Rel, Rogers, Sound Fowndations, Tonar, Von Gaylord Audio & Voxativ

Audio Note delivering a natural sound. “Audio Note keep it simple” - Vincent Bélanger

Audio Note
Audio Note
Audio Note
Audio Note
Audio Note
audio-technica
audio-technica
audio-technica audio-technica
audio-technica
Audiolab / Wharfdale
Audiolab / Wharfdale
Audiolab / Wharfdale Audiolab / Wharfdale Audiolab / Wharfdale
Avid HI-FI
Avid HI-FI
Avid HI-FI
Avid HI-FI
Bentley / Naim
Bentley / Naim Bentley / Naim Bentley / Naim
Bentley / Naim
Bowers & Wilkins
Bowers & Wilkins
Bowers & Wilkins
Bowers & Wilkins Bowers & Wilkins Bowers & Wilkins
Bowers & Wilkins Bowers & Wilkins Bowers & Wilkins
Canton
Canton Canton Canton
Chord
Chord
Chord Electronics
Chord Electronics
Chord Electronics
Chord Electronics
Decent Audio
Decent Audio
Decent Audio Decent Audio Decent Audio
Decent Audio
Decent Audio

Dynaudio - Power, control and elegance. Our show listening room winner!

List of components:
Confidence 50 Raven speakers
Naim ND555/55PS, Naim NAC552/552DR, Naim NAP300/300DR
Naim SuperLumina interconnects
Naim SuperLumina 2.9m speaker cables
Naim core with 16 bit albums ripped from CD (Accurip) and 24 bit albums from HD tracks loaded onto the core

Dynaudio
Dynaudio
Dynaudio
Dynaudio
Dynaudio
Dynaudio
Dynaudio Dynaudio Dynaudio
Elipson
Elipson
Elipson
Emotiva / SVS
Emotiva / SVS
Emotiva / SVS
Emotiva / SVS
Falcon Acoustics
Falcon Acoustics
Falcon Acoustics
Falcon Acoustics Falcon Acoustics Falcon Acoustics
Falcon Acoustics
Falcon Acoustics

Akutrak phono stage turntable & cartridge performance comparison
by physicist Arthur Khoubesserian (Funk Firm)

Funk Firm / Curvi Hifi
Funk Firm / Curvi Hifi
Funk Firm / Curvi Hifi
Funk Firm / Curvi Hifi
Funk Firm / Curvi Hifi
Funk Firm / Curvi Hifi Funk Firm / Curvi Hifi Funk Firm / Curvi Hifi
Fyne Audio
Fyne Audio
Fyne Audio
Fyne Audio Fyne Audio Fyne Audio
Fyne Audio Fyne Audio Fyne Audio
Fyne Audio
Fyne Audio

Go to The Bristol HI-FI Show 2020 page two photographs

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