Friday, 23 February 2018

SOUND AND VISION - THE BRISTOL SHOW - REPORT 2018




Sound and Vision - The Bristol Show.  I think probably the biggest and busiest annual commercial show in the UK.  Organised by retail chain Audio T and heavily supported by What HiFi? magazine, it aims at a wide range of customers from the Sonos user through to the lower end of the high end, if that makes sense.  The observant will have noticed that it takes place in Bristol, in the South West of the UK.  Not a bad place to get to with good motorway and rail links.  The Marriott hotel hosts the event and it's the usual "efficient" concrete hotel that gets the job done, with little flair or imagination.  But most of the bedrooms are not too small and there are some decent larger rooms too.

So, what to expect of this show?  Well, in the main, people, and lots of them.  This is not like a Friday at Indulgence where you can wander the halls and get the best seat in every room, nor does it have the relaxed atmosphere of Cranage Hall. This is full-on busy - busy rooms, busy corridors, busy bars etc.  And that's on the Friday - the day I attended this and previous years - but I understand Saturday and Sunday are busier still. Arranged over 8 floors (although the rather lonely 3 rooms on the 10th floor don't really count a floor in itsself), I find its best to list out the room numbers you want to visit based on the floorplans on the website then get a lift to the top floor then walk down the stairs making your way eventually to the basement, picking off your chosen rooms as you go.  In this way, you can avoid too much use of the lift which is slow and time wasting.  With this approach you can probably cover every room you're really interested in, then, if there's time left over, go back to pick up on any rooms that may still be of interest.  Who's there?  Well most of the main magazines (and their reporters) are there, as are major manufacturers such as Naim, Cyrus, KEF, Mission, Arcam etc., many smaller manufacturers such as Kudos, Harbeth, Audio Note etc, cable providers such as Chord & Audioquest then a number of accessory providers or dealers and a few stalls selling vinyl.

Bear in mind that these notes are about the rooms I visited - probably between 70 and 80% of the rooms were covered, so I might've missed some gems, but equally, I might've missed some howlers too. As usual, these are my own opinions and are based on what I've heard, nothing more, nothing less.  Allowance should be given for the constraints of large floorstanders in small rooms - sometimes boom is very difficult to avoid, although some exhibitors do seem to manage.

You can click on each image to see a larger version.

Leema and ATC (main system)
- Leema Sirius ripper / NAS / DAC
- Leema Tuscan II
- Leema Hydra II
- ATC SCM100 passive speakers



A decent start to the day, up in the wilds of the 10th floor.  Here we have a system that's playing music in a very fluid way, great vocals in particular.  Controlled, deep bass lines and very little of any effect from the room.  Just a couple of minor points - the imaging was very narrow - crowded into the space between the speakers, and I thought there'd be a bit more slam from the big ATCs. But overall, very enjoyable.

Leema and ATC (Elements system)
- Leema Elements CD Player
- Leema Pulse IV amp
- ATC SCM11 speakers


Just along the corridor from the bigger Leema system, this little set up was making a reasonable fist of things, but just felt a bit underwhelming, warm and lacking in detail in comparison with the bigger system. I really enjoyed the Elements stuff with Leema's own little Xen speakers a couple of years ago at the National Audio Show, so perhaps the ATCs were letting the side down here.


FALCON ACOUSTICS AND SUGDEN

In this room there were 2 pairs of speakers - Falcon's little LS3/5a standmounts and their much larger 3-way RAM Stuido 30 floorstanders.  Electronics from Sugden.  When we went in the room it seemed that the LS3/5a speakers were playing - lightweight, flat, a little unclear. But no, it was the large floorstanders and the big Sugden boxes. Disappointing.



TOTEM
- Rega RP3 TT
- BlueSound Node and Rega DAC
- Rega Integrated Amp
- TOTEM Sky floorstanding speakers




The last time I heard the tiny Totem Sky floorstanders was on a side wall in a largish room at the Munich High End Show back in May 2017 (reports here and here). There they sounded fun, musical, lively, refined - mighty impressive for such a slender, diminutive speaker.  But here was a great example of why its worth spending more than just a couple of minutes in a room.  Because on entering, the album "Avalon" was playing.  The sound was thin, dull, almost muffled and in colour terms - very grey, lacking colour, insight and detail.  A major disappointment.  A second track on the album was just as dull.  But then we asked for the BlueSound / Rega digital source to be fired up, and what a revelation.  Now we had a system that was full of detail, depth, emotion, light and shade, great imaging and musical engagement.  Superb.  Two tracks later and we were convinced of the little Sky's capabilities.  But then on came the P3 again and it all fell flat and dull again.  A suprising result as the P3 is such a well respected turntable, but here, if you'd only heard the Totems with the turntable, you'd be looking elsewhere for something far better.  With the better source, they were fantastic.



XTZ SPEAKERS

Here we had a cinema system blasting out crashes, bangs and other effects stuff to great effect at high decibels.  Dynamically impressive.




VON GAYLORD
- ART CD Player
- Von Gaylord Nirvana Valve Amps
- Von Gaylord Legend Standmount Speakers





Substantial looking valve amps stood on the floor. Substantial looking cabling, neatly laid out across the floor, but very conspicuous as it reached behind the stands to bi-wire the Legend boxes - themselves a chunky looking slope sided pair of substantial standmounts.  All the kit looked very well made.  I enjoyed this system - it avoided that bloomy warmth that seems to afflict many valve amps - it was incisive, detailed, dynamic and very very clear.  Great vocal quality with subtelty and expression coming through well.  On top of that, the imaging was expansive but stable and the taut, suprisingly deep bass lead to a very engaging system.


MISSION
- Audiolab CD Player
- Audiolab Integrated Amplifier
- Mission QX2



I first heard this combination at the Indulgence Show at the end of 2017 (report here) - a "soft launch" of the new QX range with the Bristol Show being the full official launch of the range. It sits above the LX in the Mission hierarchy and the chunky looking QX2 standmount comes in at a very reasonable £399.  Looks are, of course, a personal thing.  For me the proportions - short, squat, square in profile - look a little odd.  The rounded edges and brushed metal top and bottom plates add a touch of class, but give me the impression of something lacking in substance.  The trim around the mid-bass driver is, I suspect, a devisive styling piece - I'm not keen - it looks "technical" for the sake of it - our room host didn't have a reason for its existence. There are grilles which clip in place but only cover the drivers giving a "double circle" look.  As for the sound of this system - well, at Indulgence I thought they were out of their depth - too many other high end systems to be sat alongside.  Here, probably in a better room, they sounded OK at moderate volume.  They move along OK without ever really being outstanding, nor offensive.  So, not the giant killers of old like to original 700 or the 760s or the 751s but nice enough.  It would be interesting to compare them against other similar speakers from competitors such as MA, Tannoy etc., I suspect in that company they might fair quite well.

AUDIO NOTE
- CDT One/II CD Transport
- DAC 2.1x DAC
- P2-SE Amp
- Type E Speakers



Now I know Audio Note have a very loyal following, and some who enjoy their systems are very vocal about their preference, and that's fair enough.  Yet every time I've heard them at shows, they do so many things so well, but there's always been something that makes me not enjoy the music - most frequently its been a tendancy to become hard or strident or both as the volume ramps up.  But here, today at Bristol, it all came together very well indeed.  There was superb treble detail without harshness, subtle vocals and excellent imaging. Trumpet occasionally pushed towards the strident but it never became too much.  The sheer scale and depth of the bass pedals and the acoustics of the building on a church organ recording was truly excellent.
Much better than usual.

FYNE AUDIO
- Rega Isis CD Player and Amp
- Fyne Audio Floorstanding Speakers




I apologise for this, as it will probably never get out of your mind when you see these speakers again, but a friend at the show described them as Minions, and once that was in his head it was difficult to shake off. But get past that and these Scottish speakers have some fine attributes.  They use a large concentric driver, rather like a Tannoy Westminster, but in a slimmer, substantial cabinet that is kind of teardrop shaped in plan view.  Lovely veneer and very well built.  A couple of controls on the front make "presence" and "level" adjustable.  So they're very good at vocals, there's an open spacious quality to their finely etched treble detail and they're fast to respond to the incoming signal. But, where is the bass?  What happened to the driving beat, the kick of the kick-drum?  Perhaps they'd been tuned via their controls or through positioning to avoid a boomy room mode, perhaps that's just the way they are.  A mixed bag then.

ASTINtrew
- TEAC Reel to Reel tape deck
- ASTINtrew Integrated Amp
- Chartwell LS6 Standmount Speakers





Playing an STS Jazz Masters tape (on beautiful metal tape reels - how geeky is that comment?) this simple but very well recorded jazz was presented exceptionally well on this system, which was probably designed with this kind of material in mind.  I felt engaged with the musicians, even though this isn't my kind of music (and being engaged by music I don't normally enjoy is usually a very good sign of a good system) and the breathy raspy qualities of the sax was beguiling.  As they'd say on The Fast Show - "Niiiice"

AMPHION
- Amphion Argon0 Speakers
- Hegel Integrated Streamer / DAC / Amp
- Ikea Furniture



Do you have one of those cool all-white designer apartments / flat / bedsit / whatever else estate agents call these things of limited space and close proximity to your neighbours?  Are you limited for space but want a decent sounding system?  Give this one a try.  For such tiny, £700 speakers, this was playing some great sounding music - particularly good with Jackson Browne.  Of course, these speakers don't go deep, but they go deeper than you'd expect and they don't try and do stuff they can't so, they just do what they can do very well.  Very enjoyable.



HEGEL
- Hegel Ripper / NAS
- Hegel 360 DAC / Integrated Amp
- Amphion Floorstanding Speakers



This Scandanavian brand is relatively new to these shores, having had no UK dealers at all when they first rocked up at Bristol 4 years back.  But it hasn't taken them long to start to build up a decent following, with the 360 amp getting lots of favourable comments on one of the UK's main HiFi forums of late. And this praise would seem to be reasonably well deserved.  I enjoyed my time in this room with a good, lucid and flowing sound.  That kind of detail that comes without it being shoved down your throat. Nice.


REL
- Arcam Disc Player
- Rotel Amplifiers
- B&W 805D3 Floorstanding Speakers
- 2x REL Subwoofers

Well, what a mess. Amazingly overbright sound, splashy treble that was hard to listen to. Then there was the bass - massively, out of control and booming into, across, up and down and wallowing around in the room.  A good approximation of the effects of sea sickness.  "Electrified" completely trashed.  All of these manufacturers are capable of far better than this, so not sure what was going on today.  'nuff said.


BLUESOUND
- BlueSound Node with built-in amplification
- B&W 700 Series Floorstanding Speakers

We had a convincing demo of a Tidal streamed track played on "the World's best selling streaming system" (I'm guessing Sonos, but the player wasn't visible) and the same track on the BlueSound - with the BlueSound giving a far more convincing rendition.  Then we had the "CD quality" vs MQA version of the same track - both again streamed from Tidal (rather intermittently in the case of the MQA track - it would seem that using a 4G signal to stream your demonstration isn't the most reliable approach).  We were asked if we preferred the CD quality version or the MQA version.  Trouble is, the MQA version of the track was at least 6dB louder than the CD version.  Not good. But most in the room thought the MQA sounded better - I found it better to reserve judgement due to the volume disparity which essentially rendered the comparison invalid.  We tried again with some tracks streamed from local storage - Stevie Wonder's "Superstition".  Here there was possibly no volume difference or at least if there was it wasn't detectable.  The CD sounded quite natural and of decent quality - the MQA version sounded more detailed and punchy, but a bit "false".  Moving on to a Fleetwood Mac track from Rumours and again the CD vs MQA comparison - this time the MQA sounded more detailed in the top end, but the mid and bass were muddled and a bit sluggish compared to the CD.  So a mixed result.  But then the best thing to do would be to compare an MQA track against the un-"folded" 24 bit track.  But this wasn't available.  Across about 8 or 10 sample tracks, not one was available with an MQA vs full fat 24bit version.  Not very convincing. Comparing a CD quality track against an MQA track is mildly interesting, but as soon as the challenge of a real and meaningful comparison between a folded 24 bit track and a non-folded 24 bit track is requested then the comparison wasn't possible. This felt very much like an MQA selling exercise rather than a demonstration to prove the worth of MQA (which isn't necessary for streaming, as proven by Qobuz).  Hmmm.  Time to move on, but not before observing that the BlueSound / B&W pairing sounded OK, if not outstanding, considering the price of the speakers.

AUDIOQUEST / LINN / KUDOS
- Linn Akurate Exakt DSM Streamer / Pre-Amp
- Linn Akurate Exaktbox 10 DAC/DSP
- Linn Akurate 4200/1 4 Channel Power Amp
- Audioquest Cables
- Kudos Titan 606 Floorstanding Speakers



Well at last, a chance to hear the T-606 Kudos with Linn Exakt technology.  Not yet launched publically, the Exakt filters for T-606 are on their way. The main purpose of this room was to demonstrate Audioquest power cables.  The demo went from all stock power leads from a typcial high street Belkin distribution block and then gradually replace bits with Audioquest products.  First the standard Linn mains leads were replaced with AQ's starter product, the £160 NRG2 (soon to be replaced by Monsoon) - one for each of the 3 Linn components, but still plugged into the Belkin power strip.  A nice improvement in dynamics and clarity.  Then these were connected into the AQ Niagara 1000 power distribution block. This has a number of lightly filtered sockets and one unfiltered socket into which the power amplificer was connected.  Most of the design of this block is around care and attention to earthing and making sure that the earth has a lower impedence at the wall socket than it does at the component end - said to ensure that high frequency noise flows down the earth away from the system.  Another improvement here with similar quality and magnitude to the first change.  Then everything was swapped back to the standard leads and power strip and the sound became less clear and the imaging shrank significantly.  A clear change, but not as big a change as some other cable demos.  Worthwhile though, but as ever, VFM is a personal perspective.  What about the system itsself?  Well, those T-606s continue to shine - but with Linn Exakt are a step above what I've heard from them so far with standard Naim amps and their internal passive crossovers.  What Exakt brings to them is a real sense of purpose - a purpose to deliver the music in the cleanest and most convincing way.  There's lots of good technical attributes to talk about - the outstandingly deep bass from a reasonably compact enclosure, stunningly pin-point and ultra stable imaging being good examples - but its the way you just get wrapped up in the music and the message from the artist.  I go back a couple more times to this room, spending about 45 minutes in there later in the day, enjoying each visit. I later learn that the team hadn't had the time to set up SPACE optimisation for this room, so there's potentially more to come from this system.  Deeply impressive.

KUDOS
- Naim Uniti Nova Integrated Streamer/DAC/Amplifier
- Kudos Titan 505 Standmount Speakers




A launch event for the latest in the Titan range from Kudos.  This time its the 505 - a reasonably substantial standmount speaker, but also the baby of the Titan range.  The speakers playing today are the first (and only ones at the moment) to be built.  Probably they won't change much for production - Kudos seem to have got the "knack" of the Titan forumla now.  And they're a chip off the old block in terms of performance. The tweeter is now familiar from the 606, 707 and 808 but this time it's paired with another isobarically loaded mid-bass driver - something quite unusual in a standmount speaker.  Does it work?  Well on the basis of this first listen, its a qualified "yes".  The room was rather stark, and the sound notably improved when the room filled up with absorbent humans, suggesting that the speakers would benefit from a more substantially filled room - sofas, curtains etc.  But a good showing - the family characteristics of engaging music, drive without forcefulness and a decently deep bass (as long as you were sat in the right place in the room - there was a substantial suck-out of bass in the middle of the room). So there's probably more to come (they were stood on Kudos's out of production 50 stands and its unclear which stands Kudos will offer for the T-505 at the moment).  Looking forward to another listen, possibly at the Acoustica Show in April.

ISOACOUSTICS
- Gaia Speaker Supports

Another simple and clear demo from IsoAcoustics.  One pair of Focal Aria floorstanders on their standard spikes compared against an identical pair, identically spaced in the room, fitted with the IsoAcoustic feet.  The change is very clear, with the Arias fitted with feet benefitting in terms of tautness of the sound and expanse and precision of the imaging.  Going to have to try a set on the PMCs.

ATC
- ATC CD Player
- ATC Integrated Amp
- ATC SCM40 Passive Floorstanding Speakers



Great top end and mid-range from this system, but rather overshadowed by a curiously out of control bass.  Not typical of ATC systems, but that's how it was today - probably a room interaction issue.

AURALIC & SPENDOR
- Auralic Streamer
- Spendor D9 Floorstanding Speakers



The last couple of times I've heard the latest from Spendor, they've underwhelmed - coming across as a little too safe and therefore not too engaging.  But today they were more open, there were some dynamics and there was much to admire. Perhaps its this part of the building, but they suffered very much from the same bass boominess noted in the ATC room above - they were at the same end of the same corridor, so perhaps there's something about those rooms.

WILSON BENESCH
- WB Circle Turntable fitted with Laser Cartridge
- CH Electronics Amplification
- Latest top of the range WB Resolution Floorstanding Speakers





I'm going to reserve judgement on this system - I suspect its very good. But after the 3rd different vinyl disk of twinky-twonky meandering jazz music, we gave up.  What we heard was good, but there just wasn't enough variety in the music.  Interesting pick-up on the turntable though - it reads the movement of the stylus using a laser in the cart - which seems to need a very complex and expensive looking phono stage - its the one with the clear lid and massive capacitors shown below. Not sure I would give these speakers house space. Even with the elastic band 'grilles' you have to look and the back of 2 bass drivers per channel, and their associated wiring.



NAIM/FOCAL KANTA
- Naim Unit Nova Streamer/DAC/Integrated Amp
- Focal Kanta No 2 Floorstanding Speakers



First chance to hear the new speakers from Focal - a range that sits (price wise) between Aria at the lower end and Sopra in the mid-range.  At first these were pretty enjoyable with a decently smooth treble, particularly by Focal standards.  The music was flowing OK and was very listenable.  Until the bass came along, and it didn't matter which row of seats you're in, it was massively boomy in this room - despite what looked like some big bass-trap type boxes along the wall/floor interface.  Tricky shaped room, to be fair, but it needs to be better than this.  Bizarrely, Focal's lower priced Aria range are still the most musical I've heard from the brand.

NAIM/FOCAL UTOPIA
- Naim NDS Streamer
- Naim Classic / 500 Series Pre-Amps, Power Amps and PSUs
- Focal Utopia Floorstanders




Still a major turn-off for me, the Utopias are unfriendly, sharp and curiously unmusical. They're seriously masking some very capable electronics.

Here today there was a number of major updates to the Naim streamer range - on display, but not being played. A new version of the 5XS streamer, a new NDX2 mid-range streamer and the very interesting new addition to the top of the range (above the NDS), the ND555.  The NDS has been discontined with some saying the NDX 2 will outperform the NDS.  These new boxes all adopt the Uniti style streaming platform with a nice (larger) colour screen on the front panel, along with the proximity sensor to wake up the controls as you approach the box.  The electronics are revised too, although based on discussion elsewhere (the Naim Forum) it would seem that the DAC chips themselves are not changed, but the SHARC DSPs may be different.  Of course a DAC can be implemented in different ways so there may be more to come from this older chip.  Digital inputs on the back panel allow external digital sources to feed through the 555's DAC.  The ND555 is a replacement for the CD555 at the top of Naim's range of digital sources, the CD555 going out of production a few months back.  The ND555 uses some of the CD555's ideas such as floaty circuit boards (there are transit screws to clamp these down for transporting) and copper plated parts etc.  New DAC architecture too - I was told this uses SHARC DACs, but I'm not sure that's the full story.  A single PS555DR external power supply is required.  A second such supply is optional.  Looking forward to hearing this new streamer, but I suspect it'll be hampered by the use of Focal speakers, so it will be better heard in a dealer or a friend's system with some more familiar / enjoyable speakers of choice.

ND5 XS 2 Front

ND5 XS 2 Rear

NDX 2 Rear

NDX 2 Front

ND555 Streamer Above PS555DR power supply

ND555 Streamer Above PS555DR power supply


TECHNICS
- SL-1000R Turntable with Audio Technica AT-ART1000 Cart
- Technics SU-R1 Pre-Amp
- Technics SE-R1 Power Amp
- Technics Floorstanding Speakers

SL-1000R






The UK launch of the new SP1000R turntable and arm.  A further refinement of the SP-10 / SL-1000 of the past but with new materials, motors and electronics.  The SP will spin its 7kg platter up to speed in under a quarter of a second - that's some torquey motor.
A Luxman phono stage was in use today along with a Quadraspire X-Rack and Audioquest cables.  We only heard one track on this system, but its a long one at around 15 minutes and has lots of variety of music, including electronic, orchestral sounding sweeps and is very well produced.  Have a listen to Nils Frahm's 'Sunson' on the album "All Melody" - its something I've been listening to at home recently and is quite some piece of music, building gradually but demonstrating the artist's imagination and maturity.
What of the turntable?  Well, as a digital source user, this is probably the least turntable sounding turntable I can recall hearing.  Its timing stability is absolutely stunning.  Perhaps this is something that puts me off vinyl but I've never really identified it as an issue, perhaps timing problems associated with a mechanical device attempting to produce stable timing is something I'm sensitive too, but in a subconcious way.  Anyway, this was a very enjoyable and accomplished performance from this turntable.  Impressively musical, something I must admit to not really expecting from Technics.

SP-10







DYNAUDIO
- Naim NDS Streamer
- Naim Classic Pre-Amp and Amp
- Dynaudio Anniversary Special Forty Standmount Speakers



I've rather grown to like the red stained deep lackered wood veneer on these speakers - I prefer it to the light grey.  Having first seen these medium sized standmounts at the Munich High End Show in May 2017 (where they were on display but not being played), it was good to finally hear them.  And for Dynaudio fans they'll be familiary territory - smooth, dynamic without being shouty, great mid-range and taut but not really that deep bass. But just a bit "more so" in all of those areas.  Nice sounding speakers without being stunning.  I would personally question their VFM compared to others at that kind of price point.

REVEL
- Mark Levinson Streamer
- Mark Levinson DAC/Integrated Amp
- Revel Floorstanding Speakers



Potentially a good sounding system.  Played too quietly next to a curtained off section of the room full of multiple loud conversations.  Not a good demo.

CYRUS
- Cyrus Signature Streaming System
- KEF Blade Speakers




Cyrus were launching Qobuz integration and had a speaker from Qobuz presenting the service.  A Q&A session about Qobuz.  2/3 of a high-res Qobuz stream of a Coldplay track which was too loud and played on the KEFs which were curiously toed-in at about 45 degrees.  Another inconclusive and poorly thought through demo really. (edit:  I understand from other reports that there were longer periods of music being played in the room, so shame I missed this).

NEAT
- Rega TT
- Melco, Rega and Heel Electronics
- NEAT IOTA EXPLORER





I really enjoyed this system. It was simple enough but the new, bigger, Iotas with their downward facing isobaric loaded bass driver worked extremely well today.  There was no issue with room boominess (it is possible!), everything was clear without being aggressive and the sound filled the room (at the expense of imaging, which is distinctly blurry, but that's just a different balance of compromises).  Music on this system was easy going (and I mean that positively, not that it lacked any dynamics at all), but pretty crisp and precise at the same time.  I really enjoyed my time in this room.



DALI AUDIO
- Dali Sound Hub with BlueSound Module
- Dali Callisto Wireless Active Floorstanding Speakers



This system was streaming via the BlueSound module in the control hub.  This sends the signal wirelessly to the Callisto active speakers.  Strangely, the room host didn't know if the DAC was in the hub with an analogue signal sent to the Callistos or if it is sent in digital format with DACs in the speakers.  Either way, this system was OK, but didn't deliver the clarity, dynamics nor musical enjoyment that is provided by Dynaudio's equivalent

ELAC
- ELAC Streamer
- Audio Alchemy Electronics
- ELAC Adante Standmount Speakers




I liked the sound of this system.  Nicely balanced and another good speaker design from Andrew Jones, using a concentric treble and mid-range driver (which is unconventional in that the mid-bass driver is in an internally ported enclosure which then vents to the front mounted passive radiator).  There was no exceptional performance here, but, equally, no exceptional mistakes either.  Enjoyable.

MITCHELL & JOHNSON
- Leema CD Player
- M&J Pre-Amp and Power Amp
- Leema Floorstanding Speakers



M&J are a new British based amplifier brand.  They have used a Leema designer and the electronics are built in the same Welsh factory as Leema products.  In terms of market positioning they sit below the Leema full size range.  Playing through the Leema floorstanders these amps gave a good account of themselves, being tuneful and enjoyable to listen to.  Another system that didn't "wow" but didn't disappoint either.

NORDOST
- Lots of Moon Electronics
- Lots of Sort Kone supports
- QKore Virtual Grounding
- ProAc Response D30R Floorstanding Speakers



Like the demo of QKore at Indulgence last year, the QKore virtual grounding box was connected to the mains distribution block, then to the source/control components and finally to the power amps.  In between each change a track was played before and after for comparison.  The difference wasn't so stark as it was at Indulgence (where I thought the music was more musical without the QKore) - here, it seemed different with small changes rather than something definitive, with the balance just about tipping to preferring the system without.  Nice sounding system though.


PMC and AVM
- AVM Streamer / DAC / Pre
- AVM Monoblock Power Amps
- PMC Twenty5.26



Good sounding system with engagement into the music.  The AVM and Twenty5 seem to work very well together.  I would've given this system a HIGHLY COMMENDED award but I hadn't realised how much more expensive the Twenty5.26 is compared to Twenty.26. They're not an easy choice at that kind of price where as in Twenty form they pretty much had that lower price point sewn up.

Q ACOUSTICS
- Linn Akurate Sondek LP12 (not heard)
- Marantz Electronics
- Q Acoustics Concept 500 Floorstanding Speakers




I've been waiting a while to hear these speakers, having seen them as only static exhibits at Munich last year.  Since then they've received lots of high praise in the HiFi press.  Today they sounded very good and I enjoyed spending 15 minutes with them. Not the miracle that I'd read about, but certainly should be on the shortlist of anyone looking in that part of the market.

MUSIC AT THE SHOW

I enjoyed the following:
Lots of Boris Blank / Yello (with and without Malia), Jackson Browne's 'Casino Nation' on the album 'The Naked Ride Home'; 
'Thanks To You' by Boz Scaggs
And favourite by far was Nils Frahm's 'Sunson' on the album 'All Melody' which helped the Technics turntable shine

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