National Audio Show 2015 pt.1

Music First Classic Headphone Pre amplifier
Music First has produced its first headphone amplifier/preamplifier. By using autoformers for the passive volume controls MF has managed to make its least expensive preamp yet at £1,900. It has six inputs and two outputs and those of us familiar with MF products are more than a little excited about its potential.

AKG N90Q
AKG’s latest headphone (below left) uses TruNote to adjust the EQ to suit your ears. A bit like small scale room correction it measures the response of your ears and changes the balance to produce an even response. It offers tone controls and has a built in DAC with USB input as well as noise cancellation for £1300.

Vivid B1 Decade
Introduced to celebrate the first decade of Vivid loudspeakers this reworking of the B1 (above right) is more than just a tweak and a nice paint job. Most significant is the change to a vacuum infused polymer cabinet as used in the Giya series, it also shares the mid and tweeter with its range topping stablemates so potential is very high even at the £18,000 asking price.

DS Audio DS-W1
This new Japanese cartridge uses an optical system for creating a signal from a vinyl groove, essentially it measures stylus movement with a light beam. The technology was introduced in the eighties in the digital heyday and before the commercial advent of LED. The DS-W1 comes with a dedicated preamplifier for £6,250.

Heed Elixir
This is a new entry level integrated amp from Heed that has a class A headphone output and MM phono stage in an all analogue, 35 Watt design retailing for £750.

Acoustic Imagery Atsah 500 Mono
British class D power amps with very nice carbon fibre casework and Hypex NCore putput modules inside. These were sounding very entertaining driving Eminent Technology LFT-8B ribbon speakers. At £1,600 per pair they look more than interesting.

Hi-Fi Hangar
This retailer from near Guildford who specialises in vintage as well as new gear was playing the most interesting music heard on the day and making it sound pretty good in a tiny square room, definitely a contender for best in show. Note Squeezebox source and elderly Meridian preamplifier alongside the Atsah amps and Eminent ribbons.

Blue Aura V40
Blue Aura make compact and attractive speaker systems that often have Bluetooth connectivity. The V40 is a hybrid integrated with a valve preamp, internal DAC, Bluetooth and a 30 Watt output for £395.

Inspire Xerxes
Inspire will try anything with turntables it seems, including an upgrade for the Roksan Xerxes with a new top and bottom plinth in veneered marine ply atop sorbothane feet for £695 including build. They also do the Vivid DC Carbon upgrade for the Linn LP12, this involves a DC motor and power supply, carbon fibre top plate and armboard alongside an acrylic and aluminium subchassis for £1550 plus £135 for the build.

Leema Pulse IV
Leema appear to have thought of everything for the Pulse IV, this integrated amplifier has 180 Watts of power, balanced and RCA inputs and a dedicated headphone output. It’s also a DAC capable of converting DSD256 from USB and S/PDIF inputs plus PCM up to 384kHz. Finally it’s a streamer with Bluetooth, wi-fi and Ethernet connections. Projected price looks like £3,000.

Chasing the Dragon
The picture of restraint as ever, Mike Valentine gets ready to spin his latest release. With the aid of a big ART audio system Mike was showing off his fabulous direct to disc vinyl cuts including the new Big Band Spectacular with its master tape and D2D pressings. More anon but take it from me this one’s a shocker.

Magnific 521
Magnific make two speaker models that are very similar in size and price but the 521 is the latest, it has a paper coned woofer and silk dome tweeter in a box that’s 48cm (19inches) high and claims a high 95dB sensitivity. It was certainly loud enough on the end of a Ming Da MC34-A valve amp, price is £2,500.

ME-Geithian
This is a German speaker maker with its roots in the studio world. The unusual looking speakers range in price from £2,000 for the two-way, coaxial, fully active RL-906 to £12,000 for the three-way, active RK 801K with a 15inch bass driver. The latter is said to have a cardioid dispersion pattern below 300Hz. This is due to the cabinet design which is neither reflex ported nor sealed, and it did sound rather good even atop high studio style stands.

Kleio K135
British newcomer Kleio is making a preamplifier (K105, £3,000) and integrated (K135, £3,200) using really solid machined aluminium casework with a powder coated automotive finish. Features include a 256 position volume control, separate power supplies for pre and power sections and balanced and single ended in/outputs. If they sound as good as they look I’m interested.

Jason Kennedy