Sound & Vision Bristol Pt.1

 

The Sound & Vision Bristol show has become the best show in the UK. Every february the great and the good make a pilgrimage to the west and congregate in the challenge to boutique hotels that is the Marriott City Centre, for there they are in for a lively long weekend. It constantly surprises me how many new products appear at the event and this year was no exception as the following report hopefully reveals. The Luck, pictured above, put on a bit of live entertainment through what must be the most expensive PA system per watt ever used, it consisted of Focal Stella Utopia EM speakers, McIntosh MC601 monoblocks and Chord Co Sarum cables.

 

 

CAD 1543

CAD made its show debut and carried off the best sound of the show award from the Clarity Alliance. Not a bad start and a deserved one too. It did this with a Townshend Allegri pre, Brinkmann monoblocks and Dynaudio C1 speakers with Townshend Isolda EDCT cables on the end of its 1543 USB DAC and a hot-rodded laptop running JPlay, one of the less obvious secrete ingredients was a balanced power supply from Airlink Transformers that CAD man Scott Berry has a high opinion of. CAD showed a shiny white cased version of the CAD 1543 but hasn't quite finalised the remarkable USB cable yet whose prototype I have been beta testing.

 

 

Q-Acoustics Concept 20

This new model from Q-Acoustics is a genuine wolf in sheep's clothing. Using the same drive units as the the beer budget 2020i the Concept 20 has a larger cabinet because it has another cabinet inside. The two 10mm thick enclosures are separated by a layer of Gelcore, a non-setting adhesive that is designed to turn resonance into heat. It sounded remarkably convincing on the end of relatively affordable NAD electronics, and sounded even better when the £350 price tag was revealed.

 

 

ADL Furutech X1

Furutech's electronics arm ADL released the rather attractive and decidedly ambitious X1 portable headphone amp/DAC. This has a direct digital USB input for both Android and iDevices (iPhone, iPad etc) which cuts out the internal DAC. It has an ESS Sabre ES9023 converter, optical out and runs a lithium ion battery that is recharged via USB. It is also very nicely made and comes in a variety of colours, size is similar to an iPhone 4 but a little thicker and price £485.

 

 

AVA Media Maestro 50 & 150P

AVA Media make rather a nice RIPnas but they also build two rather nicely put together digital amplifiers. These are made in Manchester and have casework that's hewn from solid aluminium billet, the stuff of the high end, but prices do not reflect this as the 50 watt Maestro 50 (shown with non standard glass top) is a mere £229. It achieves this unfeasible result by limiting inputs to two digital types and delivering its full power into a four Ohm load (20w/8 Ohms). The bigger unit above is the Maestro 150P (60w/8 Ohms) power amp with four digital inputs, one pair for analogue and a USB. Both are based on the PWM technology found in Lyngdorf designs at considerably higher prices.

 

 

PMC BB5 SE

This picture doesn't reveal the glorious veneer finish of this pair of BB5 SEs nor their extraordinary physical presence but then Keith Tonge is a man mountain! I will attempt to put in a side view which gives a better idea but it's the sound that counts, despite the less than optimum conditions of the room this was the only place I found genuine bass at the show. It was nothing short of glorious and made the prospect of having to lug a pair in for review seem more than worth the effort. See this news piece for more details.

 

 

Michell Cusis

This one I did not see coming. Michell Engineering, the company that has been making turntables since the seventies, has released its first cartridge. The Cusis is a moving coil with a generator system from a "well known European manufacturer" and a body made from carbon loaded acrylic, the same material that Michell uses for platters. It has a diamond tipped boron cantilever with a line contact stylus and weighs 11grams. Price will be £1065.

 

 

 

Leema Libra

Leema has launched its first Contellation series DAC. Libra has a back panel that would put an AV amp to shame with inputs for three coax, three optical, two AES/EBU, USB and two for I2S via RJ45. The latter have fully programmable pin allocation so that any source with this type of output can be accommodated, according to Mallory Nicholls at Leema this is a transmission technology that's making progress in the high end. The USB input features the company's M1 module for fully asynchronous operation, Libra also has a Bluetooth interface which is unusual on such a hardcore product. Output is via RCA phono or balanced XLR.

 

 

 

Guru Junior

Bristol was honoured to be the official UK debut of the Guru Junior. This is a more conventionally enclosed variation on the QM10two which brings the price down to £800 but thanks to a very similar driver array and slot port gives a sound that's not far off that of its dearer sibling. Tom Tom Audio was demonstrating it with a Naim UnitiLite to great effect despite a very reasonable overall system cost. The example shown is the first of the full production models with anodised aluminium baffles front and rear alongside a lovely real wood veneer wrap. Note the sponge feet, the blob in the foreground is the guru's top, natch.

 

 

Audio Note Arm 2

Audio Note has replaced its original Rega based range of arms with a new design. Three models use the same one piece arm tube and headshell but have different grades of internal wiring, pricing will run from approximately £650 to £1,200. The AN Arm 2 has a low slung counterweight and a height adjustable base for varying VTA.