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Event Report Audio World 2011 Diary part 2
Sunday was more of the same, to wake us up we decided to play some noisier stuff, Black Francis, live Talking Heads, live Ben fold and Jon Hopkins followed. Almost as good as coffee and a darn sight cheaper at hotel prices... This sort of set the tone for the day, revelling in a sound that despite its acoustic faults wasn’t fazed by complex material and could cope with volumes and bass that the doubters who say ’weedy’ single ended amplifiers cannot manage. We weren’t complete hooligans of course, more refined stuff lurked in the mix but it was hugely entertaining none the less.
Then in the afternoon disaster struck, the problem on LP resurfaced and the right hand channel went. Curses! So it wasn’t the transformer. It was traced to the arm, one of the very first ones made and almost pre production in nature. A soldering iron was borrowed (thanks Graeme!) but it appeared the fault was internal. Rats, oh well, CD only it was. Apologies to everyone who wanted to hear vinyl afterwards, we did consider one of us distracting Mario in the Audio Note room whilst the other snaffled his tonearm, but we think he might have noticed fairly quickly.
I decided to tackle the rest of the corridor to take my mind off it, I’ll admit to having a bit of a Lowther fetish, so headed into the John Howes room.
His new speaker uses an upward facing driver and a semi circular cone to disperse the upper frequencies. The Box housed a low frequency horn which I assume vented to the floor
The usual Lowther strengths and weaknesses were evident, although the reflector nicely removed the inevitable beaminess at the expense of some treble output and imaging focus, but provided a pleasantly large sound that seemed very consistent throughout the room. In a neighbouring room a red pair were being used (above right).
On the side table was a matching rebuilt Quad II, despite appearances in the picture below it’s a stronger red than the pink shown here. As an aside it was also great to see both cassette and reel to reel (a Revox, sadly not pictured) being represented.
Art Audio can always be relied upon to produce equipment that teases both sight and hearing, the sound was very pleasant but perhaps a little lacking in scale. I have my suspicions it was possibly the speakers. I always love these amplifiers for their sense of theatre, the blue lit acrylic chimneys and polished chassis are rather stunning.
Analogue Alchemy were next, a large pair of open baffled speakers and huge chunks of illuminated acrylic greeted me, reviewer Paul Messenger was having a chat so I didn’t stay long, just long enough to hear that despite appearances the speakers and five turntable models are made in the UK.
Into the Audion room and they were using level 8 (I.e. One step below ultimate) Silver Night power amplifiers. They feature silver everywhere except in the primary of the output transformer (that’s where the level 9 comes in). The two box Quattro pre amplifier driving them and speakers were the Revolver Cygnis Gold.
Next up was the Air Audio Distribution room.
Dutch speaker brand DSS are one of the products they import. Curiously the two models shown are both about the same price (circa £7,000) despite one being a stand mounter and the other a floor stander (called the Hauk, pictured below), apparently the specification of the former being rather higher than the latter, accounting for the similar pricing. The sound from the stand mounters was really rather promising, with very extended bass for the cabinet size and not obvious tonal aberrations -
They also bring in the Acoustic Signature line of turntables, displayed across the back of the room, pictured below
Onto UKD and there was the new version of the S6 integrated amplifier, this seemed like quite a lot of amplifier for the money (circa £3,000).
The speakers were a little curious, the Opera Grand Callas may not be particularly new but the first time I’ve had a proper look at them. They have no less than 5 tweeters on each one, three rear facing (see below) and two front facing. As someone who prefers directional speakers there’s were never going to be to my tastes (to my ears whilst they can be very pleasant, they tend to distort and dictate the image to their own presentation rather than letting the recording stand on its own), but nonetheless find it quite interesting that they chose to design the speaker in this manner.
The Pathos InPol Remix sitting on the table rather caught my eye. This stylish and dinky amplifier is finished in wood veneer, it’s a hybrid (the two triodes pocking out of the top rather give that game away) and it uses a mosfet output stage to produce 10 watts. It has limited inputs (XLR and single ended) but a version with an onboard DAC (seemingly only with USB and no SP/DIF) adds to the inputs. Honestly, this is seemingly a slightly quirky product, with a limited market but I applaud such things!
Also on display was the reintroduction of the Onix name, a brand possibly only familiar to us old fogies, and now being made in China.
The Emporium room were using Funk Firm decks, Lector for digital, Viva amplification and an unusual sighting on these shores of the Vandersteen Quattro Signature speakers.
Their cunning back up system loitered in the corridor (pictured below).
Kronos were using the very distinctive and slightly imposing JM Labs Focal Viva Utopia, driven by VTL amplification.
I must apologise for the poor picture of our neighbours AMR room. It was very dark in there, but certainly conducive to serious listening. I was hoping to bump into my old friend Thorsten, who designs these products, but he was apparently jet setting all over the place. It’s a tough life...
They were showing their new DP-
Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head home. It turned out to be an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable few days. We’d like to thank everyone who made it along to our room.
We felt the attendance to the show was very good (the organisers say there were 1,000 visitors), it may have been smaller than recent years but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and it was great to see an increase in families and younger generations attending.