Now in it’s seventh year, the unique high-end audio extravaganza that is Hi-Fi Show Live went from strength to strength this year, with its move to a spectacular new venue: the vast but elegant Ascot Grandstand. Exclusive product launches, packed workshops and a raft of superb sonic demonstrations were the name of the game this October.
Feeling groovy: Clearaudio’s new turntable arrives in style
“Putting the amp into campervan” (thanks to Hi-Fi News for the quip!) was Clearaudio, whose very own VW camper welcomed arriving visitors in the Grandstand’s lobby. The van was host to Clearaudio’s brand new edition of its multi award-winning Concept turntable package: the Concept Active. Aimed at the increasing number of audiophiles and music lovers who crave the benefits of a high-performing system without the hassle of endless black boxes, it takes high-end plug-and-play simplicity to a whole new level by featuring an integrated headphone amplifier and phonostage. And if it can fit so comfortably in in a VW, then you’ll have plenty of room for it at home.
Inspired choices: Sound Fowndations
Berkshire-based hi-fi distributor Sound Fowndations showcased an inspired and innovative system bringing together an eclectic, yet perfectly matched, selection of hi-fi highlights, all leaders in their field for different reasons. Kerr Acoustic’s loudspeakers are best known in professional studios but are now increasingly being found in the home. Here, a special Furutech limited edition version of their K300 Mk3 model was paired with Exposure’s award-winning 5010 preamp/monoblocks, along with Clearaudio’s stunning Innovation turntable. Keeping things running oh-so-smoothly was DS Audio’s ION-001 vinyl ionizer, ever-poised to keep unwanted static at bay for a clean, pure and unfettered sound. And special thanks are due to AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer, who filled the room with two excellent and entertaining presentations, and spun some vinyl ultra-rarities.
Listening space: Decent Audio
County Durham based distributor Decent Audio imports some of the world’s leading hi-fi brands and, wisely, took three rooms at the show to give its product range the demo time and space it deserves. One room showcased the superb Canadian Kronos Pro turntable, fitted with a van den Hul Colibri Signature Stradivarius cartridge, feeding Ayre’s superb ‘Twenty upgrade’ amplification and the new Raidho TD 2.1 loudspeaker. A second room was given over to Eclipse TD’s innovative and visually striking egg-shaped loudspeakers, while a third was dominated by Magnepan’s towering super-slim, and hugely impressive, flat panel 20.7 loudspeakers, which “staged a sonic disappearing act at odds with their size.” (Hi-Fi News).
A fine ‘romance’: Exposure & Kudos
Exposure Electronics and Kudos Audio have been collaborating on the new VXN active crossover, which was previewed at the show in an eminently affordable, and yet absolutely high-end, system featuring Kudos’ Titan 505 standmount loudspeakers paired with amplification from Exposure’s multi award-winning compact XM series – including the oh-so-cute XM CD player. The duo’s second room took things up towards the higher end of both brand’s ranges, with Kudos’ Titan 707 floorstanders and Exposure’s (again, award-winning) 5010 monoblocks.
Aesthetix & Gamut together again
Dorset-based retailer Stone Audio is known for its exciting demos and it’s show set-up didn’t disappoint. Driving a superb set-up were three of Californian Aesthetix Audio’s incredible valve amps: the Rhea phonostage, Calypso linestage and Atlas power amp. The Aesthetix amps were partnered with an ‘old friend’: Gamut Audio’s RS5i floorstanding loudspeakers. It’s not the first time that Aesthetix and Gamut have been brought together and anyone who’s heard them in tandem will know this to be one of those ‘once heard, never forgotten’ pairings, with pinpoint-accurate timing, crystal clear details and a dynamic punch that can leave you breathless.
The headphone zone: Dan Clark Audio
San Diego-based Dan Clark Audio (formerly known as Mr Speakers) was represented in the Show’s headphone zone by the brand’s UK distributor, Electromod. Dan Clark’s new Ether 2 ‘phones are racking up the rave reviews right now – and justifiably so (check out this year’s Hi-Fi Plus Awards and you’ll see why).
New kid on the block: The Reel-to-Reel Rambler
And, last but not least, visitors to our very own Reel-to-Reel Rambler room were treated to the stunning sound of analogue tape through a system featuring tape decks from Studer, Revox, Pioneer, Akai and Ballfinger, with Aesthetix amplification and Raidho speakers. Big thanks also to GIK Acoustics for the loan of their acoustic panels (perfect for a glass-walled room), and Townshend Audio for their excellent Fractal F1 loudspeaker cables and Seismic Stand.
There were talks from tape-loving journalists Ken Kessler and Neville Roberts; from audiophile record labels UltraAnalogue Recordings (Canada), Open Reel Records (Italy) and Chasing the Dragon (UK); and from audiophile jazz artist Lyn Stanley. The room was packed from the show’s opening to closing time – so it seems the tape revival is gathering some speed. Find out more at https://thereeltoreelrambler.com
Many thanks to Paul Miller and his team at Hi-Fi Show Live for organizing such an excellent event – surely the highlight of the UK’s audio calendar. Here at DDPR we’re looking forward the the 2020 Show already!