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Sound and Vision – The Bristol Show 2018: Top 12 debuts

Sound and Vision – The Bristol Show is over for another year. But, over the three days (Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th February) there were plenty to see and hear. Furthermore, plenty of firsts.

The Bristol Show, how it has become affectionately known, is when the hi-fi and home cinema industry takes over the rooms (and power sockets) of the Marriott City Centre in Bristol. This year saw well over 200 brands showing their latest and greatest products to the public. Also, it is worth noting that that public not only comes from every corner of the country, but many fly in specially for this show.

So, for a solid two days (I had to fly to Barcelona on the Sunday to cover MWC. I know, you feel my pain) I climbed up and down the stairs in search of the things that make me go hmmm. Oh, thanks Leema for deciding to take three rooms on the tenth floor. I’m not getting any younger, you know!

The Dandy Dozen: Bristol 2018

There were plenty of favourites on show this year. I am always impressed by Ophidian and they brought out their big guns, the Prophet P2s (£3,200) for me to listen too. Remarkable sounding, as expected.

Also, there were some new and interesting devices on show, such as the Orpheus JTR 1 speakers from the same creator that brought you the MiniPod and Blueroom loudpspeakers.

I could easily write something about everything I saw over the Friday and Saturday but, instead, here are my top 12 device debuts at The Bristol Show. Just to add, for the pedants, I am classing it as a debut if it’s the first time I’ve seen it in the flesh.

Righty, let’s get in to it. I’ve decided alphabetical would be the most diplomatic order to put things in.

Amphion

First up is Amphion. I loved this room as it was set up realistically, just how most music consumers would. It was simple yet sounded great.

Having spent many years in single bedroom apartments in London, this rang particularly true to me. Here you had a Hegel Röst networked integrated amp (£2,200) and a pair of £700 Argon speakers with music provided from a tablet using AirPlay. Simple and effective.

AmphionNot only did this sound great, but it also looked good too. Amphion managed to get the ‘lifestyle’ system looking as fab as it sounded.

Astell & Kern ACRO L1000

AK ACRO L1000 and laptopI had to go find this as I really love the design of the ACRO L1000. This is a very cool-looking desktop amplifier, headphone amp and DAC.

Astell & Kern has done everything right here, as far as I’m concerned. The volume wheel dominates the rest of the exquisite aluminium casework. It is such a tactile bit of audio hardware I just couldn’t help myself from groping it.

AK ACRO L1000Priced at £799, the ACRO L1000 can play PCM files up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD11.2MHz, and offers 2.5mm, 3.5mm, 6.5mm and XLR audio outputs. Your office system *needs* this!

Chord Qutest

Chord Qutest demoHaving loved the Hugo 2 DAC from Chord I had a feeling I’d fall in love with this cut-down version. Named Qutest, I expected it to have confidence beyond its stature. However, it is well deserved.

The Chord Qutest (£1,195) is essentially a Hugo 2 without the headphone amp and rechargeable battery. This makes it perfect to slot into your hi-fi system.

Furthermore, it enjoys Chord’s typically extensive file support, with the USB-typeB input, for example, supporting 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512. I am crossing my fingers for an opportunity to review one.

Quadraspire Qplus first impressions review

DALI Callisto 6

DALI Callisto speakersI’d lost touch with DALI so it was great to catch-up and get reacquainted. It also seems timely as the Danish speaker company has teamed up with Lenbrook International aka Bluesound to create two wireless speakers – Callisto. These, naturally, use Lenbrook’s BluOS hi-res multi-room platform.

DALI Callisto speaker and hubThe speakers communicate with the DALI Sound Hub, via a 24 bit/96 kHz connection. A multitude of standard inputs – all with auto detect – ensures that any audio device can be connected; be it via Bluetooth, optical, analogue or coax.

The DALI Callisto 6 being being demoed at the Bristol Show are pre-production models. However, they sounded impressive.

Keep your eyes and ears open for these as they should be hitting stores in the next few months.

Elac Miracord 70

Elac miracord 70Spotted in the Elac room was the brand new Miracord 70 turntable. This, as you have already worked out, comes in just below the highly recommended Miracord 90.

The glossy black MDF plinth is typically understated. The belt drive is powered by a Premotec synchronous motor.

The platter is a 2.6Kg glass plate with a ceramic sphere as a central element on the shaft. This design achieves a smooth operation and a very high resilience to external influences.

Elac Miracord 70 topThe new arm guarantees a minimum tracking error and is fitted with an Audio-Technica AT95 cartridge.

It wasn’t in use when I visited so I just gawped at the Miracord 90 looking and sounding fabulous.

Although, I did like the look of the little box of tricks known as the Discovery DS-S101-G Music Server (£950). This nifty device uses a lite version of Roon and will play nice with 192kHz 24-Bit Audio Formats: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC. It will sniff out all the audio you have stored on your network and then push it out through your system. I am really interested in this.

Fyne Audio

fyne F1-10It is always special to see something beautifully crafted coming out of the UK. This time it was the gorgeousness that is the F1-10 from new Scottish speaker brand, Fyne Audio.

Fyne Audio had some rather fine (sorry) speakers on display on the ground floor, but upstairs is where the main event was.

Fyne F1.10Their flagship loudspeakers, the F1-10 looked and sound awesome. They were being simply fed by Rega Apollo CD transport and Osiris amp.

Imposing, until someone mentioned “Minions” to me, the £18k Tannoy meets Sonus Faber design nevertheless left most with slack jaws. Oh, there is an ex-Tannoy link from what I gather.

The sound was amazingly balanced even though they appeared to be too large for the room.

But, it is that deep and lustrous finish that makes you want to stroke them.

Larsen 8 speaker demo with John Larsen

iFi Pro iDSD

iFi iDSD and StaxiFi’s new flagship DAC isn’t being officially launched until next month, but that didn’t stop this gang of rebels from showing it off in Bristol.

The Pro iDSD (£2500) supports PCM files up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512 with DSD1024 upsampling. Additionally, it has a selectable tube and solid state analogue stage, and works over the LinkPlay hi-res Wi-Fi platform.

It certainly looks and sounds the part. The full rig is more than eye-candy, but it never hurts to look good, does it?

Ifi iDSD topiFi was also teasing visitors with a pre-production version of the xDSD, the latest addition to its mobile headphone amp/DAC range. This should be available in April and slips in above the extremely impressive nano iDSD Black Label. The xDSD also boasts full PCM and DSD support. Furthermore is will have six to eight hours battery life and aptX Bluetooth streaming.

Jamo Studio 8

Jamo Studio 8Celebrating its 50th birthday this year, Jamo is back in the UK and armed with the latest generation of its long-standing Studio series speakers.

The comprehensive (ten-strong) Studio 8 series comprises three floorstanders (S 809, S 807 and S 805), two standmounting designs (S 803 and S 801), two centre speakers (S 83 CEN and S 81 CEN), two subwoofers (S 810 SUB and S 808 SUB) and, finally, one Dolby Atmos-certified upward-firing design (the S 8 ATM).

The floorstanding Jamo S 805 speakers (£349 per pair) were on show for the first time at the Bristol Show.

The Studio 8 range employs soft dome tweeters with WaveGuide technology, as well as aluminium/polyfibre woofers plus reflex ports. And all models are available in your choice of white (with grey grilles), black or walnut (with darker grey grilles) matte vinyl finishes with wood-grain accents.

Some models also benefit from Atmos speaker integration features too.

Optoma UHZ65 first impression review

Optoma UHZ65

optoma UHZ65 projectorI have already covered the launch of this rather competitively-priced 4K UHD home cinema projector in more detail here.

However, as a quick overview, the flagship UHZ65 is based on Optoma’s Award-winning lamp-sourced UHD65. Furthermore, at just coins under £5000, it is still considerably more affordable most other similarly equipped projectors.

Whilst in this room, I also learned to appreciate 4K projector screens a lot more thanks to the guys from Grandview.

Ophidian

Ophidian speakersOphidian never cease to amaze me. What they can get out of their diminutive Minimos and Mojos is tantamount to witchcraft.

However, I was lucky enough for them to bring out the big guns, the Prophet P2 (£3,200).

The Prophet P2 is a 2.5-way floorstander featuring dual 180mm aluminium midbass drivers and a 27mm Sonolex coated fabric tweeter.

These speakers still mange to sound bigger than they really are and produce and effortless, lifelike sound and exceptional dynamics.

Quad Artera Solus

Quad Artera SolusThis all-in-one system was at the very heart of Quad’s award-winning demo room this weekend. The fresh-faced Quad Artera Solus (£1500) is a CD transport, DAC, preamp and power amp combo.

Also, it just happens to be the first Artera product to offer Bluetooth connectivity using the aptX codec. This promises ‘CD-like’ 16-bit/44.1kHz audio. Furthermore, its 32-bit, eight-channel DAC (capable of playing PCM files up to a 32-bit/384kHz) feeds five digital inputs. Tasty.

Chord ChordOhmic launch

Technics SP-10R

Technics SP10-RThe SP-10R was doing its thing in Bristol ahead of its official summer launch. This was definitely a must see.

A couple of times the doors were shut due to timed listening slots but I was actually recognised and allowed in at one point. Now, I am not saying who they must’ve thought I was, as that doesn’t really matter, does it? 😉

The SP-10R has no pressure, other than being described as the brand’s “most premium turntable ever.”

Also, there’s the fact that it will likely have a $10,000 starting price, it had better have the chops.

That said, it does seem to have most bases covered. The new deck features a newly-developed ‘noise reduction circuit’, and a coreless direct-drive motor that Technics claims has enough force to rotate the platter with very low-speed irregularities.

Technics SL1000RAdditionally, those looking for the complete system variant should check out the Technics SL-1000R, which adds the triple-layered base and S-shaped tonearm.

Technics SL-1000R angleOh, you will need even deeper pockets for that one too.

Von Gaylord

von Gaylord demo return of the legend and nirvana monosOK, stop giggling at the back. Seriously!

Everything in this room was chunky. The neatly laid cables running from the Nirvana monoblocs up to the Legend speakers had plenty of girth… really?

Schoolboy humour aside, Von Gaylord are an outfit out of West Sacramento, California and the build some impressive kit.

The trapezoidal standmounted Return of the Legend loudspeakers ($9,995.00) were bi-wired and connected to the Nirvana tube monos ($8,495.00).

Von Gaylord Nirvana mono ampThis was a really enjoyable system. I actually loved the fact that it didn’t have that somewhat bloomy warmth that lovers of tube amps seem to dig. Instead, this was more assured, detailed and dynamic.

The bass was surprisingly taut and deep and vocals were presented with subtlety and expression. Great stuff and definitely ones to check out.

Honorable mentions

Of course, there were many others out there. For instance, AVM launched their AVM 30 range – always tasty kit. Same can be said of Melco and Leema, too. But, it wasn’t only the new stuff that I enjoyed. TAD, Iota, Goldnote, Prism, and Musical Fidelity never let me down.

Til next year, then, Bristol!

Bristol Show 2018 gallery

Click image to enlarge

Acoustic Energy – Chord

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Clear Audio – Funk Firm

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Fyne Audio – IsoAcoustics

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Klipsch – Michell

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Mission – Origin Live

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Orpheus – Ruark

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Sennheiser – XTZ

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Sound and Vision – The Bristol Show 2018: Top 12 debuts

by Jay Garrett time to read: 8 min
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