Monthly Archives: October 2012

Across the pond for an audio show, the UK National Audio Show 2012

I just got back from the UK where I attended the National Audio Show sponsored by The Chester Group as part of a week-long vacation. While I was in London, I caught a concert at the Cadogan Hall, Enrique Bátiz conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in  Wagner’s Overture to The Flying Dutchman, Sibelius’ Violin Concerto (soloist Jack Liebeck), and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. I had literally front row center tickets, and what a powerful (as opposed to just loud) sound you hear in those seats!

As good as our stereo equipment is, it’s still a fair ways from live music. But to be able to hear the great music and performers of the world play at your command makes whatever fidelity loss we experience tolerable. Nothing at the audio show rivaled the concert, but there was some excellent sound (judged by the standard of home audio) to be heard. Here are a few of the products that caught my interest.

HART D&W was showing the “Aural Pleasure” loudspeaker which amusingly looked liked little bronze Buddhas squatting in the corners. But if you saw THIS Buddha in the road, killing it would be quite a feat. The knuckle test on the cabinet results merely in sore knuckles. They provided a powerful sound but with limited bass, the corner placement meant to make the most of the bass from what is, after all, a small speaker.

ORIGIN LIVE was displaying their well crafted tonearms and turntables with Mark Baker doing the honors in the room. This company started with Rega arm upgrades, but has progressed to bespoke arms, turntables and now electronics and Astute 8 speakers, the speakers hanging rather than rigidly fastened down.  A very interesting company for sure.

ICON AUDIO designer David Shaw loves the sound of vintage tube amps and was showing an extensive (to say the least) line of tube amps, everything from push-pull to SE amps with just about any audio tube you can imagine as outputs. He seems to bring a lot of passion to his craft and I enjoyed very much talking a bit of shop with him.

TOWNSHEND AUDIO’s Max Townshend has seemingly been around British Audio forever and his latest products look very interesting. His new passive preamps and CD/SACD player were displayed along with his well-regarded Rock Turntable and Maximum Supertweeters.

HI END CABLE is a UK retailer displaying the new revision of the Raidho monitor, the C 1.1 along with Bel Canto electronics and getting quite a good sound. This is a small monitor I am much curious about, expensive but with some real technology in play. The shy Dave Jackson didn’t want to speak about the system much at first, but once started sounded like a senior BBC presenter!

PALMER AUDIO’s Jon Palmer started shy and stayed so throughout! But no denying the wonderful sound his Palmer 2.5 12 was making driving the suave Harbeth Compact 7 ES3 loudspeakers. Quite a striking looking table to boot.

AUDIO NOTE was at the show, playing vinyl to excellent effect. The presentation was low-key, no talk, just music.

DELTEC AUDIO is a name from the past back in the game with some new interesting products. The “Little Bit” was a fine D to A converter back in the day and their new designs include more compact units that looked quite interesting.

LORICRAFT AUDIO was displaying their record cleaners, turntables and Garrard restoration services. Terry O’Sullivan was holding forth with some quite interesting stories to go along with their interesting products and services.

VTL and VIVID AUDIO provided some mighty convincing sounds from their Giya G1 loudspeakers driven by VTL Siegfried Mk 2 amplifiers. To me, this was one of the best sounds of the show.

DECENT AUDIO (modestly named, ‘eh…) reminded us of just how good even the entry-level Magnepan designs can sound, displaying the MG12’s  and the new Magnepan Mini (not heard).

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend both days of the show, so my impressions were a bit limited. But it was a fun show and it was very cool to see what the hi-fi world looks like across the pond up close and personal. Next up, RMAF 2012!