Saturday, 11 May 2019

4 Lots of Kudos in One Night - Passive and Active

Kudos' Titan 808 has been around a few years now, and has given a great account of itsself at multiple shows 'musings has attended in the UK and Germany.
Most recently with the rather good Naim SNAXO active system at the Chester Hifi show earlier in the month.  I also chose a Linn Exakt driven pair when presenting a "MyTunes" playlist evening at Manchester dealer brianandtrevors, where they were augmented by a pair of REL No 25 subwoofers.

But there's more to Kudos than their well received top of the range T-808.  There are entry level "X" models, mid-range "Super" models and 4 different interpretations of the Titan formula.  So what's the rest of the range like?  To find out, 'musings returned to brianandtrevors for an evening of Kudos discovery.  The evening followed a fairly typical approach for a joint dealer / manufacturer evening - gradually stepping up the range, but perhaps with a little twist tonight.  To allow the comparison of the speakers, a pretty much "no compromise" system was put together from Scottish manufacturer Linn:

A largely Klimax level LP12 - Radikal PSU (in the Akurate casework), Ekos SE2, Kandid and a booplinth.  Onboard was a Urika 2 phono stage which fed an Exakt signal to a Linn Klimax DSM acting as pre-amp and streamer.
Initially the KDSM ran with its internal Katalyst equipped stereo DAC to a Linn Klimax Twin/D stereo power amp.
I/C cables were Linn silvers, with Chord Music making sure there were no compromises on the speaker cable side.

That's quite some front end to feed into the first speaker we heard tonight - the diminutive little Kudos X2 compact floorstander.  Bear in mind that, at £1600, it was being fed by a system that included speaker cables that come in at (assuming they were 3m in length) 4x the price of the speakers.
It has to be said that these little speakers probably weren't designed for use in a room the size of tonight's dem room.  Before they were played, Kudos' Dave White introduced himself and the company philosophy - keep things simple and use the best quality components and cabinets that can be achieved at a price point.  Drivers all come from SEAS, modified or created to Kudos's own requirements.  So until the top of the range, simplicity means 2-way designs, uncluttered crossovers and quality cabinet veneers.  So the little boxes played and did a pretty good job.  Yes, there was a looseness in the bass, which goes surprisingly low, there was some vagueness in the treble but the music was flowing, feet tapping, even the room joining in with some modes didn't detract from enjoying what was going on.  It would be great to listen to these in a smaller room, where I'm sure they'd work pretty well.  We listened to a few tracks from the streamer then moved on with a 3x price jump to the middle of the range Super 20 speakers.

This is another 2-way floorstander, but around 850mm high and sporting significantly higher quality components.  Again the finish is superb with matched veneers on the baffles. Well, this was a significant step-up in the musical presentation to match the price change.  The SEAS tweeter in the S20 is several steps up from the X2 in terms of detail, definition, believability and control. Similar improvements come from the mid-bass driver. Curiously the initial impression was of a speaker producing less bass output than the baby floorstanders, but in reality its just hugely better controlled and keyed into the hooks and rhythms of the tune.  The treble presentation, whilst far more refined, is just a little to forward in the mix for my personal taste, but there's no doubt the others in the group of 12 were enjoying what they were hearing.

The next step up was 2x on the price-o-meter and takes us into Titan territory.  We didn't hear the 505 standmount tonight, going straight to the first of the floorstanders, the 606.  This is similar in height to the Super 20, but the cabinent is very differently constructed.  Dave introduced the isobaric mid-bass driver and the thin-walled inner cabinet which is surrounded by heavy MDF side panels that are connected to the inner panels with damping material.  The tweeter too is from SEAS's upper end Krescendo family, amended to Kudos spec - the tweeter alone costs more to Kudos than all the drivers put together in a pair of X2s.  They're very substantially built speakers, needing a trolley to move them around, even though they're still under a metre high.  And how was this?  Well, it wasn't all a complete step up from the Super 20.  Bass a little deeper, treble that much more clear and definitive in the way it starts and stops, vocals carrying more emotion, along with tighter imaging, most if it was good.  But for me the Super 20 won out on the bass lines keeping pace with the rest of the music, and providing that foot-tapping drive.  So not a complete success for me.  After a short break to refresh glasses, along came the "twist" of the demo.  The Kudos Super and Titan ranges have a little trick up their sleeves - they have a clever but simple connection panel on the rear that means they can be converted to work in active mode - that is, effectively removing the internal passive crossovers to allow power amplifiers to be connected directly to each drive unit with the splitting of the frequencies delivered by an active crossover in front of the power amps.  This works with Naim analogue active crossovers and with Devialet and Linn digital crossovers.

So the Klimax DSM changed its role from digital to analogue converter, to one feeding a still digital Exakt feed to a Linn Klimax Exaktbox/1.  The Exaktbox does the digital to analogue conversion, along with some clever stuff such as phase correction of the drive units (and no crossover phase distortion), time aligning the drive units and adjusting the speakers' output to counteract room modes that normally causes "boominess".  Because each drive unit now needs its own power amplifier channel, an additional Klimax Twin was pressed into action, along with more Chord Music speaker cables.  Now the Titans are singing. This is a massive step up in performance for these speakers, much as we've experienced before when hooking the Super 20s up to an Exakt system back at 'musings base.  The reservations with the 606 in passive mode are almost gone - there's still a little reticence in the bass lines, but its very minor now and allows the other elements to shine through.  The live Eva Cassidy track we started with on the X2s is now in a huge venue, the soundstage goes back a long way beyond the speakers, Eva's voice is full of emotion, inflections and phrasing details. Nice.  We listen to a good few tracks from the streamer. Interesting set of feet on the 606s tonight, seem to tackle some of the shrillness I've heard from these speakers when sitting on standard spikes. Other than understanding they have some Sorbothane de-coupling, there wasn't time to discuss further tonight.

Another break follows, and the final set up of the evening is rolled into the room whilst more wine, coffee and juice is sorted out for the audience of a dozen or so listeners.  In the break we swap system information, who's interested in what and why Kudos is of interest.  Most have Linn front ends of some sort - vinyl and streaming, there's a few Naim front ends (streaming and CD) mostly Linn amplification but also Naim and a few others.  From a speaker comparison perspective, Linn, PMC, Kudos and others are in use.

Back to listening and we're now at the top of the Kudos range with the Titan 808.  Unlike last time in this room, the 808 was not supported by the big REL subs.  They had to fend for themselves.  It turns out that they're quite capable of looking after themselves thanks very much, and I ended up enjoying them more on their own.  The sense of scale of the Eva Cassidy venue is stunning on the 808 and they punch hard and fast.  Unlike the 505, 606 and 707 which have slightly (intentionally) leaky isobaric chambers, the lowest bass driver, in its separate box, is a more conventional sealed isobaric.  The 808 is a 3 way design but described as 2.5 way by Kudos by which I think they mean the lowest bass driver augments the lower end of the mid-bass rather than delivering a completely separate set of frequencies.  So this top-end speaker needs 6x power amp channels and as such another Klimax Twin and pair of Chord Music cables were helping out in this final system configuration.  The same tweeter is featured across the Titan range yet it somehow seems clearer and smoother in this configuration, but its the clarity, transparency and realism of the mid-bass combined with the sheer kick and tightness of the lower bass that stand out here.  We listen to lots of tracks and the LP12 is pressed into action for a few songs, including an album by one of my current favourites, Bob Moses from Canada.  There was some boominess with this system, Linn's SPACE optimisation wasn't in use until later in the evening, after the formal presentation has been completed.

What did we learn?  Well, in passive form, mostly spending more gets a better result, but not always in all areas.  But once Exakt was deployed, the whole experience was a huge improvement in performance and consistency. And, yet again, the 808 produced a great result - personally I think they performed better than with the REL subs in this room - not quite so jaw-dropping in terms of sheer power and impact, but more musically satisfying.  The X2's are good for their price and did a reasonable job of filling the big room.  But then again there's no real substitute for box volume, driver quality, cabinet construction and, most importantly, a high quality front-end active system. It would've been nice to hear the Super 20 moving from passive to active, but you can't fit everything into one evening.  I do wonder about those in the audience who might've been contemplating the 606 - were they satisfied, or do they now spend a longer time saving for the 808?  But then again, there's the 707 in between, and that's definitely worth a listen. I won't be changing my Twenty.26s for the 606s as they didn't do absolutely everything comprehensively better.  Perhaps the 707s?  Will have to leave it until another time to find out.

Thanks once again to Brian, Trevor, Dave and the other attendees for another enjoyable and instructive evening.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Linn's Akurate Exakt DSM / System Hub - Adding Surround Functionality

Linn's Akurate Exakt DSM (AEDSM - the main source in the 'Musings system) has always had lots of HDMI inputs and an output, since it was launched in 2014.  Later versions and the otherwise identical re-branded System Hub has an updated HDMI board to support later protocols.  If I remember correctly, the update was introduced in 2016, but there must have been some forward thinking going on back then...

At the end of 2018 it became apparent that a surround sound upgrade was available to be retro-fitted to the AEDSM  / Akurate System Hub (ASH), for Exakt systems.  I would say "announced by Linn" but that would be overstating the case as the stealth marketing continues...

To add the new surround board, the later HDMI (2.0) board is needed - we'll see why in the pictures below.  So back in 2016 the board was designed with the ability to add a surround module which wasn't mentioned at the time.  So later AEDSM / ASH products can have the surround module added to the HDMI board already installed, earlier AEDSM products need an update to the HDMI board before the surround can be added.

But surround capability has been available for some time in Exakt right?  Well kind of - if you have a disk player or movie / tv streamer that can decode the signal and then send a multi-channel digital output for the AEDSM to translate that into Exakt and send it to multiple Exaktboxes or Exakt equipped speakers.  So the major change here is that it is possible to connect multiple sources to the AEDSM / ASH where the processing will be carried out inside the DSM, not in the source component.  Also, in previous Exakt surround implementations, as in stereo Exakt, an Exaktbox channel and a power amp channel is needed for every drive unit in every speaker.  Now it is possible to set up an Exaktbox to supply a full range signal to centre, rears and sub, whilst the main left and right channels continue with the normal approach to Exakt.  So that massively reduces the cost of going Exakt surround for those who already have Exakt main front left and right solutions.  For example, in a Linn Akurate system using a 225 centre channel, Akubariks as rears and a sub, and additional 13 channels of Exakt and power amplification is required.  And those Exakt channels would have to be across 2 full Exaktboxes and one Exaktbox sub.  Now those additional centre, rear and sub channels can be driven out of one Exaktbox and 3 amp channels (plus the sub amp).

This will be first of 2 (or possibly 3) parts - in the next I'll get to setting up the system, but for now, this is about the boards that are fitted into an early DSM to get surround up and running.  The pictures below show before and after:

Original HDMI board - The front of the DSM is at the top of the picture: 

It's not easy to spot in this picture, but there are 2x main board layers - HDMI is on the upper board - the lower board contains the pre-amp and Exakt boards.  This upper board ends where you can see the 2x light blue ribbon cables upper left

The Newer HDMI (2.0) Board.  Main interest here is the new long multi-pin connector in the centre of the board:


Surround Module Still in Anti-Static Bag.  It's quite a small unit:


Surround Module Underside:

Note the board copyright on the lower edge in this picture - its not a Linn designed board - it looks like a product of Momentum Data Systems based in California, US. No surprise that it would be an outsourced supplier - Linn won't want all the expense and complication of testing and managing the licencing of this kind of functionality - it changes far too frequently to make sense at Linn production volumes:  http://www.mds.com/wp-content/uploads/Datasheets/Audio/DAE82_rev8d.pdf  Looks like it may be a 4 year old design already.

Surround Module Installed into the Multi-pin Connector on the HDMI Board:



 Next post in this short series will consider connecting up the Exakt system implications.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Hegel At The Heart of 2 System Awards At Chester Show 2019

Hegel DAC equipped integrated amps were at the heart of 2 systems receiving audiophilemusings awards at the 2019 Chester Show:

Hegel, Auralic, Dynaudio


A relative newcomer to the hifi scene in the UK, Hegel have very quickly forged a good reputation for their integrated amplifiers.  I've heard the all-in-one doing a great job with Amphion speakers in the past, but today was the first chance to properly listen to their main integrated amplifier products.  And it proved be something worth waiting for.
Here an Auralic streamer was being used purely as a streamer, passing a digital signal to the DAC onboard the £9.5k Hegel 590 integrated amplifier.  Chord Epic Twin cables fed a pair of Dynaudio Contour 20 standmounts.


We listened to a good few tracks in this room too.  At around £15k this is not pocket money kit, but compared to the £400k in the barn, its an absolute bargain.  I'd much rather spend my time enjoying this system which delivered musicality in spades. The medium sized standmounts made the best of the source they were being fed - flowing and smooth whilst delivering strong dynamics and a suprisingly deep sound.  Vocals were perhaps a little recessed in the mix, but this is a very minor point and I'd much rather this than the upfront and brash presentations that some systems have, masquerading as "exciting".  We would've gone back for more but there wasn't time today.  Great stuff and another case of Auralic appearing in an award winning system, but I suspect the Hegel to be the star turn here.


Hegel, Kudos, Innuos

A thank you to the Innuos room host here as we turned up a couple of minutes after official closing time but he happily powered the system up again to give us a 10 minute listen.  Very helpful. 



I understand earlier in the day that Zen Mk3 vs Zenith Mk3 server comparisons had been demoed.  We just listened to some tracks using the Zenith as the source.  Having just enjoyed the slam and scale of the Naim / ATC SCM50 system, I was a little afraid that the smallest of the Kudos Titans, the 505, might seem a little undernourished, especially driven by Hegel's more modest £3.2k integrated amp with DAC, the 190.  But there was no need to be concerned.  Perched forward on the edge of the sofa moved us out of the worst of the room mode and directly into the music.  Insightful, tuneful, detailed, driving, emotional vocals all present and correct.  But the weight behind these chunky standmounts were the surprise here, a more substantial sound then when last heard with the Linn Selekt at Bristol.  If only we'd got to this room a little sooner, we could've enjoyed a lot more music in here.

Kudos & Innuos: 2 Awards Each At Chester Show 2019

Kudos & Innuos were involved in 2 system awards from audiophilemusings at the 2019 Chester Show.

Innuos, Naim, Kudos

Normally Kudos are in the smaller of the 2 "medium" sized rooms, but here they were in the slightly larger medium sized room.  On demonstration today was some big news for Naim, Kudos and active system lovers.  The SNAXO for Kudos is back!  The 3 channel SNAXO active crossover for Titan 808 is orderable now with delivery likely to be later this month and the 2 channel for Titans 505, 606 & 707 plus the Super 20A and Super 10A to follow a couple of months later.

Why is this such big news?  Because Kudos pursued this route with Naim for about 18 months but finally announced about 12 months ago that Naim had chosen to pull out of the project.  But there seems to be a change of heart that has come along with the change of leadership at Naim and the active crossovers are going into production.  Based on today's experience, this is great news from a sound quality point of view plus it will give Naim dealers the chance to sell more power amps to Kudos customers.

So today, Kudos were running with:

Innuos Statement server
ND 555 / 555PS streamer
NAC 552 / 555 PS pre-amp
SNAXO 362 / SuperCap active crossover
3x NAP 300 power amplifiers
Kudos Titan 808 speakers in walnut
Fraim racks
Surprisingly (except for one Audioquest interconnect), standard Naim interconnects and NACA5 speaker cables completed the system

Top shelf showcasing SNAXO active crossover and its Supercap PSU

First time hearing the new Innuos Statement server

Its pretty much impossible to say how much the newly released £10k Innuos Statement server was making to this system as we didn't have anything to compare it against.  Suffice to say that it wasn't holding this system back at all today.
Importantly, how were all those black boxes performing when driving the Titan 808s actively?  Well, it was certainly on par with the same speakers heard recently with Linn Klimax Exakt electronics, but not the same.  Here the typical Naim drive and speed was very obvious, but what we weren't getting was any of the brand's forcefulness that can result in a quickly tiring listen.  Our first visit to the room was for around 40 minutes followed up by over an hour again later in the day (with some liquid refreshments to hand), so I'm pretty certain that it was a reasonable amount of time to work out if this would be tiring.
The system was playing pretty loud too.  It's difficult to directly compare to the Linn system, being in a different room and without the REL 25 subs, but here I would say it was slightly less refined and naturally flowing compared to the Linn front end, but it had more bite and solid power to the bass lines.  Possibly attributable to the front end, or the subs or a combination of both.  In this room we listened to the music flow through this system - timing is superb, the tune is easy to follow.  Glad to see the SNAXO lives, as the Titans deserve a front end of this kind of quality.  This system was simply superbly musical.
A nice touch: Naim signature green lighting in the Kudos room


Hegel, Kudos, Innuos

A thank you to the Innuos room host here as we turned up a couple of minutes after official closing time but he happily powered the system up again to give us a 10 minute listen.  Very helpful. 



I understand earlier in the day that Zen Mk3 vs Zenith Mk3 server comparisons had been demoed.  We just listened to some tracks using the Zenith as the source.  Having just enjoyed the slam and scale of the Naim / ATC SCM50 system, I was a little afraid that the smallest of the Kudos Titans, the 505, might seem a little undernourished, especially driven by Hegel's more modest £3.2k integrated amp with DAC, the H190.  But there was no need to be concerned.  Perched forward on the edge of the sofa moved us out of the worst of the room mode and directly into the music.  Insightful, tuneful, detailed, driving, emotional vocals all present and correct.  But the weight behind these chunky standmounts were the surprise here, a more substantial sound then when last heard with the Linn Selekt at Bristol.  If only we'd got to this room a little sooner, we could've enjoyed a lot more music in here.


Acoustica Chester Hifi Show Report. 6/7 April 2019

It must be Springtime again as Acoustica's annual show was running this weekend at the DoubleTree hotel on the outskirts of Chester in the North West of the UK.

Being one of Naim's biggest dealers for Naim means that this show has a heavy bias towards that brand's electronics, but there's a good smattering of other brands too.  This year the format was very familiar from previous years with the larger rooms in the old part of the building and the remainder of the show in the groundfloor bedrooms and one system in the big "barn" function room.

A sample of previous show reports can be read here:

2018
http://audiophilemusings.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/chester-hifi-show-2017-naim-kudos-t-707.html
http://audiophilemusings.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/chester-hifi-show-2017-naim-uniti.html
http://audiophilemusings.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/chester-hifi-show-2017-naim-snaxo-and.html
http://audiophilemusings.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/chester-acoustica-show-march-2015-kudos.html
http://audiophilemusings.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/chester-acoustica-show-march-2015-naim.html
http://audiophilemusings.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/chester-show-2014-chord.html
http://audiophilemusings.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/chester-show-2014-rega.html
http://audiophilemusings.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/chester-hifi-show-march-2013-review.html

As you can see, its a show I try to get to as often as possible - the venue is pretty good, its conveniently about 25 minutes from where I live, there's usually something new to hear, and its free for anyone to attend.

So let's get into this year's show.

Naim ND555, Naim Statement, Focal

In the big "barn" room, we find the ND555 / 555PS combination top of the range streamer, partnered with the incredible Naim Statement pre-power amplification combination into a pair of Focal Utopia floorstanders. With cables and racks we roughly totted up around £400k of equipment.  It has to be said that the system in this room has been set up in numerous different positions in the room over the years, but it always seems to be difficult.  You can see below the size of the Focal speakers which were finished in an underwhelming gloss black with a less than perfect finish.  Many lower cost speakers have a better black lacquer finish than this.



So things started well, with some superbly rendered, highly detailed acoustic guitar music.  This simple recording was very good to listen to.  At last some promise in this room?  But then Shelby Lynne's "Just A Little Loving" came on - a great track. Normally.  Here, we wondered what was making her sound nasal, why the bass was bloated and sluggish and why Shelby should be portrayed around 5 feet wide.  Ho-hum, but the good news is that shouldn't be taken as a view on the electronics, as further rooms described below demonstrate.

Also in the room were 2 of the bright green sofas from the Naim dem room at the factory - currently up for grabs in a charity fundraising project.  I wonder if Naim are treating this as a move away from green and towards white, but maybe I'm over extrapolating.  Alongside were some of the old "chrome bumper" kit, emphasising Naim's longevity in the market, and, I suppose, their ability to continue to support and service the older kit.


Dynaudio Confidence / Naim Audio

In the second largest room of the show we found Dynaudio showing the "smallest" of the floorstanders in the new Confidence range - the model 30.  I say "smallest" because these boxes are, at a guess, approaching 5 feet tall.  Slim yes, descreet, not so much, but far better presented and finished than the Focals above, and a fraction of the price at £17k.  Still a big price tag of course.  On the Fraim were Uniti CoreND555 / 555PS, 252 with PSU pre and NAP 300 power.  Cabling looked to be all SuperLumina.

Now I know this is not an easy room - we've heard a good number of systems in here over the years, such as Focal Utopia (painful), Focal Sopra (not too bad), Dynaudio Special 40 (reasonably good but too small for the room) and ATC SCM50 (good) and its never really been brilliant.  But today Dynaudio proved a couple of useful things - first that it is possible (like ATC) to get a good sound in this room and second that the lacklustre sound from Focal speakers in this room has nothing to do with the Naim electronics.  Today we heard a system that was taut, detailed, produced a good sensible sized soundstage, timed well and played a decent tune.  For the first time since Naim's new streamer range demo evening (using the ATCs), we sat in this room for half a dozen or so tracks enjoying the experience.



Kudos Titan / Naim Audio

Just across the landing area (passing the headphone / Melco area) we arrived in the Kudos room for 2019.  Normally Kudos are in the smaller of the 2 "medium" sized rooms, but here they were in the slightly larger medium sized room.  On demonstration today was some big news for Naim, Kudos and active system lovers.  The SNAXO for Kudos is back!  The 3 channel SNAXO active crossover for Titan 808 is orderable now with delivery likely to be later this month and the 2 channel for Titans 505, 606 & 707 plus the Super 20A and Super 10A to follow a couple of months later.

Why is this such big news?  Because Kudos pursued this route with Naim for about 18 months but finally announced about 12 months ago that Naim had chosen to pull out of the project.  But there seems to be a change of heart that has come along with the change of leadership at Naim and the active crossovers are going into production.  Based on today's experience, this is great news from a sound quality point of view plus it will give Naim dealers the chance to sell more power amps to Kudos customers.

So today, Kudos were running with:

Innuos Statement server
ND 555 / 555PS streamer
NAC 552 / 555 PS pre-amp
SNAXO 362 / SuperCap active crossover
3x NAP 300 power amplifiers
Kudos Titan 808 speakers in walnut
Fraim racks
Surprisingly (except for one Audioquest interconnect), standard Naim interconnects and NACA5 speaker cables completed the system

Top shelf showcasing SNAXO active crossover and its Supercap PSU

First time hearing the new Innuos Statement server

Its pretty much impossible to say how much the newly released £10k Innuos Statement server was making to this system as we didn't have anything to compare it against.  Suffice to say that it wasn't holding this system back at all today.
Importantly, how were all those black boxes performing when driving the Titan 808s actively?  Well, it was certainly on par with the same speakers heard recently with Linn Klimax Exakt electronics, but not the same.  Here the typical Naim drive and speed was very obvious, but what we weren't getting was any of the brand's forcefulness that can result in a quickly tiring listen.  Our first visit to the room was for around 40 minutes followed up by over an hour again later in the day (with some liquid refreshments to hand), so I'm pretty certain that it was a reasonable amount of time to work out if this would be tiring.
The system was playing pretty loud too.  It's difficult to directly compare to the Linn system, being in a different room and without the REL 25 subs, but here I would say it was slightly less refined and naturally flowing compared to the Linn front end, but it had more bite and solid power to the bass lines.  Possibly attributable to the front end, or the subs or a combination of both.  In this room we listened to the music flow through this system - timing is superb, the tune is easy to follow.  Glad to see the SNAXO lives, as the Titans deserve a front end of this kind of quality.  This system was simply superbly musical.
A nice touch: Naim signature green lighting in the Kudos room


Hegel, Auralic, Dynaudio


A relative newcomer to the hifi scene in the UK, Hegel have very quickly forged a good reputation with their integrated amplifiers.  I've heard the all-in-one doing a great job with Amphion speakers in the past, but today was the first chance to properly listen to their main integrated amplifier products.  And it proved be something worth waiting for.
Here an Auralic streamer was being used purely as a streamer, passing a digital signal to the DAC onboard the £9.5k Hegel 590 integrated amplifier.  Chord Epic Twin cables fed a pair of Dynaudio Contour 20 standmounts.


We listened to a good few tracks in this room too.  At around £15k this is not pocket money kit, but compared to the £400k in the barn, its an absolute bargain.  I'd much rather spend my time enjoying this system which delivered musicality in spades. The medium sized standmounts made the best of the source they were being fed - flowing and smooth whilst delivering strong dynamics and a suprisingly deep sound.  Vocals were perhaps a little recessed in the mix, but this is a very minor point and I'd much rather this than the upfront and brash presentations that some systems have, masquerading as "exciting".  We would've gone back for more but there wasn't time today.  Great stuff and another case of Auralic appearing in an award winning system, but I suspect the Hegel to be the star turn here.


Mark Levinson and JBL

It was back to the 70s in the JBL room - as you can see in the picture below, the orange fronted JBL L100 Classic has a style reminiscent of that decade.  Even the psychadelic artwork in the room was joining in with the vibe.  Fed by a Mark Levinson streamer and integrated amp, these re-imagined JBLs were probably the easiest to listen to I've heard from the brand.  I noted that they don't feature horn drivers so that might be at least part of the reason.  Also unusually from my other JBL experiences, this was a softer, laid back kind of sound that I'm not familiar with from this brand.  Bass was OK but the Giorgio Moroder track from Daft Punk lacked a good deal of detail, so the tune was less distinct and kind of blurred.  A reasonable listen.



ATC Electronics & SCM 40 Speakers




The first in a quick succession of 3 systems from ATC today, so interesting to contrast them one after the other.  Here ATC were fielding the same system as they demonstrated at Bristol in February this year.  CD2 was providing content through to the SIA2 integrated amp an on to the SCM40 floorstanders, here operating in passive mode.  As at Bristol, this was a decent sounding system.  Nothing outstandingly good nor bad.  Having heard these speakers at this show last year with an Auralic source and on a few other occasions in their active mode, I get the feeling the ATC electronics are holding them back a little.

ATC SCM100 & CDA2


At the opposite end of the room from the SCM40s, the altogether more imposing SCM100 speakers were partnered with ATC's CDA2 Mk2 CD Pre DAC and a Melco server.

Well this is more like what I'd expect from ATC, particularly these classic range speakers in their active form.  Built in power amplifiers and active crossovers seem to bring out a punchy, clear, articulate and strong performance.  The percussion on Dire Straits' "Six Blade Knife" was palpable in the room and the guitar interplay much easier to follow in comparison to the much more cost effective SCM40.  Great fun to listen too, all that dynamic and detailed behaviour can get a little strident in louder passages.

ATC SCM50 & NAIM Electronics

So far we'd heard ATC passive with their own electronics, active with their own electronics and here was another combination - passive with a different vendor's electronics.
In this room the ATC SCM50 played tunes very well indeed, making good use of the music coming from a combination of Naim NDX2 streamer (using its internal power supply), a NAC282 pre with PSU and a NAP300 power amp.



I think this was possibly the best balanced of the ATC systems today.  The Naim electronics complemented the 50s very well.  Another room we could have revisted to enjoy again if time had permitted.  This system seemed to do all the great dynamics and details of the 100s, but they never got to the point of being strident, even though the volume was pretty high.  I do think, however, that perhaps the smaller 50s better suit these smaller rooms and perhaps we had to sit a little too close to the 100s.  Enjoyed this system today.



Hegel, Kudos, Innuos

A thank you to the Innuos room host here as we turned up a couple of minutes after official closing time but he happily powered the system up again to give us a 10 minute listen.  Very helpful. 



I understand earlier in the day that Zen Mk3 vs Zenith Mk3 server comparisons had been demoed.  We just listened to some tracks using the Zenith as the source.  Having just enjoyed the slam and scale of the Naim / ATC SCM50 system, I was a little afraid that the smallest of the Kudos Titans, the 505, might seem a little undernourished, especially driven by Hegel's more modest £3.2k integrated amp with DAC, the H190.  But there was no need to be concerned.  Perched forward on the edge of the sofa moved us out of the worst of the room mode and directly into the music.  Insightful, tuneful, detailed, driving, emotional vocals all present and correct.  But the weight behind these chunky standmounts were the surprise here, a more substantial sound then when last heard with the Linn Selekt at Bristol.  If only we'd got to this room a little sooner, we could've enjoyed a lot more music in here.

Show Summary

A very enjoyable show again this year.  Thank you to Acoustica for hosting and to all the manufacturers supporting the show.  Whilst I didn't get around all the rooms this year (we deliberately missed a few that weren't showing anything substantially new, and ran out of time for others), what struck me was the number of systems that were genuinely good or better.  When I think back over all the shows covered by audiophilemusings, this probably has been the show with the highest propotion of enjoyable systems.  Quite some achievement.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Musings At The HifiWigwam Show 2019

Room 120 is all ready for visitors tomorrow at the Wam Show at Kegworth.

www.thehifishow.com

After setting up and working on speaker positioning, the room was measured and SPACE Optimisation applied.  Linn Akurate Exakt source and Lejonklou power seems to be working well with the Gauder Akustik speakers.




Some independent feedback from around the forums:

Lejonklou forum member u252az: "Sunbeams system was the first Exakt system I have enjoyed - worth going just for that"

CyrusUnofficial forum member hifinutt: "Gauder sounded superb . Very natural" and on AOS "my favourite was the gauder akustik"

CyrusUnofficial forum member Czechchris: "I too liked the speakers you had playing"


The Flash: "sounding nicely balanced in that system. I think the curved cabinets are very smart indeed. The blue was far less of a "statement" than I expected, looked rather smart I thought."

Nopiano: "I agree with all the praise. They were evidently extremely well set up, and the system had a coherence and balance that was way beyond what I’d expected. Easy to enjoy!"

Richard A: "I’d like to add my plus one to those comments and this was my first chance to listen to Gauder. I loved the sound in your room, possibly the most natural/unforced of them all. I don’t need more speakers but I’d buy those in a heartbeat if I did. GLWS those are a bargain."

Friday, 15 March 2019

My Tunes at brianandtrevors 14 March 2019

The House of Linn, aka brianandtrevors, is a hifi dealer in Manchester.  The ex-Linn team started out as House of Linn then expanded into a parallel business that stocks non-Linn gear.  I've spent a few evenings there for demos and we've done some business together, on the Linn side of the house.  Its a fine old high ceiling end terrace with 3 dem rooms, a workshop and, perhaps most importantly, a kitchen for brewing tea and dispensing wine.

Most of the evening events have focussed on a product launch, or a manufacturer visit. Quite a few times B&T have mentioned having relaxed music only evenings and finally, they've kicked off a new series dubbed "My Tunes".  The idea is for a customer or other visitor to play some tunes, chat a little about them whilst enjoying the afforementioned tea or wine.  And that was the brief I was given when invited to be the "selector" for the first of these evenings.  Play a few tunes and tell the group a bit about why they were chosen.

I only had one request, that I could choose the system we'd use, and fortunately B&T are now Kudos dealers so it was straightforward to ask for something interesting, but more of that later, there was some planning to do.  What to play?  I do have a collated album of around 450 "favourite" tracks saved on the Melco NAS so I headed there and started to think about what to play and what to say.  It takes a bit of time to whittle it down, try and think of a good variety and then think back to why the track was in the main list, how it came into my life, and how to frame the story.

Eventually there were few enough tracks to put into 2 slots of about 50 minutes each, to allow for a break part way through (to recharge glasses of course!).  The first track was easy - play the first record I bought for myself - and then I remembered that there is a little box of singles in the house, so a quick check and there it was - the original copy of Solid Gold, Easy Action by T-Rex.  Glam rock!  I think it cost me about 35 pence, probably quite a few weeks of pocket money back in 1972.  It then occured to me that it might be worth not only talking about the music, but my hifi journey too, given the location.  So I tried to mix the two things along the way - a bit about the music, a bit about the hifi.

A good size audience of 15 joined the evening.  B&T introduced the idea and myself and that was it, get on with it!  Something I really appreciated, and hoped the audience did too, there was no mention at all of the kit in use, except to answer questions during the break. So no selling as such, a nice relaxed approach.  But we'll cover the system now, because it was something that I'd wanted to hear for a while and something I hoped would work really well.

We started the evening with that very old and pretty well worn T-Rex single, running on an almost full Klimax Linn LP12.  So a Radikal motor and PSU, Ekos SE, Keel, Urika II phono stage, Kandid cartridge and the one deviation from Klimax - B&T's own bamboo based booplinth plinth.  Brave of them to let the Kandid track this old single.  It sounded a bit thin, but remarkably free of pops and crackles, but clearly showing signs of stylus damage.  For the rest of the evening we played the tracks from the Innuos Zenith through a Chord Music ethernet cable into a Linn Klimax DSM - but using the Exakt outputs tonight.  The Exakt signal travelled down a Cat 7 ethernet cable to a Klimax Exaktbox/1 (that's the Katalyst version).  This was on a small rack near the speakers which also accommodated three Linn Klimax Twin power amps, each driving one of the 3 drivers in each Kudos Titan T-808 speaker, via Chord Music speaker cables.  So that was the system I'd asked for, but B&T threw in a couple of Exakbox sub boxes and a pair of REL No 25 subs at the back of the room.  All the electronics were supported by Quadraspire racks.

Click on the images for larger versions:



Kudo Titan 808 speaker along with a stack of Linn Klimax ingots - one Exaktbox, 3 Twin power amps, and a couple of boxes not in use tonight


From the top: Linn LP12 turntable in a booplinth, Linn Klimax DSM streamer / pre-amp, Innuos Zenith NAS, Linn Radikal power supply for the LP12 all on a Quadraspire X-Ref rack

Chord Music Cables
View across the largest of the dem rooms


Before the guests arrive we chewed the fat on the latest in hifi stuff and more, then had a listen to the system - just spending a little time tweaking the volume of the subs down a little to get the best balance.  SPACE is in play on the system and, as is often the case now, with the latest software versions, the default setting in a Exakt system is pretty much spot on.  And the system was sounding fantastic, pleased to say that its probably the best system I've heard in the house.  Full of detail, speed, tuneful bass lines, crisp, clear, beautifully resolved and emotional vocals and slam like I've never heard in the house before.  Fantastic.  I also spent a bit of time listening to a pair of Titan 505s in the smaller upstairs dem room, being driven by Linn Akurate Exakt electronics.  That was a good listen too - the Titan range seems to be a good design.

Below is the list of tracks I went with.  I have to say, I'm not sure its the right list, or the best list, or whatever, but its the one I came up with for the evening.  I did put some time into it but I didn't over think it or spend time putting tracks in and out of the list. Maybe I'll get invited back in a few years time and I can go with a completely different list.  So in there there are some older tracks, some new stuff, electronic music, jazz, americana, folk, covers, punk and rock/pop.

You can click on the image for a larger version:


I was hoping to put together something that some people would know (Teenage Kicks, of course), some tracks known but in new versions (Ever Fallen In Love, Don't Go Breaking My Heart) and something that would be new to most if not all (Pitch Black, perhaps Fink).  During the break it would seem that the balance was OK for most, but I've no doubt there were some genres missing or perhaps too much of one genre for others.

The audience were very attentive, there was some banter during the introductions, hopefully the little stories were interesting, but mainly, I hope that the music was of interest and enjoyable.  Certainly that system did it all justice.  If nothing else, I enjoyed the evening!

I'm looking forward to the next time B&T organise a session - it'll be interesting to be in the audience and hear someone else's selections and stories.

Thanks to B&T for the invitation to "select".


B&T have made the most of this post for their newsletter  :)

Sunday, 3 March 2019

14th March 2019 - Manchester Dealer Launches "My Tunes" Musical Evenings


Manchester dealer brianandtrevors (aka House of Linn) are launching a new series of occasional musical evenings.

The idea is pretty simple - a guest selects a bunch of tunes they enjoy and plays them to other guests / customers.  We get the chance to hear a good system and hopefully some good music with the possibility of being introduced to new material and artists.

'musings has been invited to present the first of these evenings on 14 March 2019.  Should be fun.

You can reserve a seat by calling or emailing brian and trevor.  More details in the latest newsletter:

https://www.brianandtrevors.com/almost-spring-2019-newsletter/

Thursday, 28 February 2019

4th Member of the 4th Generation

About 6-7 months ago the amps actively driving the main left and right PMCs were swapped from Linn Akurate/D to Lejonklou Tundra Stereo 2.5, which you can read about here.

The main use of the system is for stereo music, so the existing Linn AV5125/D amp for the centre channel was fine for the time being.  However, recently a nice used Tundra 1.2 came up for sale which made swapping out the amps possible at neutral cost.  Even though the Tundra 1.2 for the centre isn't a perfect match for the left and right 2.5s, it will be a step close than the Linn amp.

The amp lives on the bottom left of the main rack.