New turntables may have been a little thin on the ground at one of the UK’s biggest hi-fi shows, but there was still plenty of audiophile gear catching the ear and tempting our wallets in Bristol. John Pickford reports…
Back in February, we visited the Bristol Hi-Fi Show, the biggest event of its kind in the UK, to check out what’s new in vinyl replay. Many fresh products were launched at the show this year, though new turntables were a little scarce. Turntable supremos Dual were showing a range of new, affordable vinyl spinners that look and sound impressive at their respective price points. Elsewhere, high-end manufacturers AVIDHiFi were producing sweet music with one of their entry-level systems headed up by the brilliant, recently reviewed Ingenium Plug & Play turntable.
Rega demonstrated their new complete System One hi-fi setup, comprising the multi-award winning Planar 1 turntable, io integrated amplifier and Kyte bookshelf speakers. This system sounded wonderful for the all-in price of £999, putting many more expensive set-ups to shame.
One clear trend at this year’s show, alongside that for good things coming in increasingly small packages, was for heritage or retro-styled loudspeakers. JBL launched the funky-looking L82 standmount, a scaled-down version of the L100 Classic, both of which sport brightly coloured foam grilles straight out of the 1970s. Rogers introduced the AB3a Active Subwoofer System to complement their legendary BBC-designed mini-monitor LS3/5a and were also showing the larger LS5/9 speakers on bespoke stands. They also displayed their E20a/II Classic Tube Integrated Amplifier, which we’re looking forward to putting through its paces.
Harbeth, another manufacturer with BBC heritage, occupied two wonderful-sounding rooms with their new XD series of speakers, which update their proprietary RADIAL cone technology, while Spendor showcased their Classic range, including an intriguing new LS3/5a sized mini-monitor – watch this space.
On a more modern note, Neat Acoustics unveiled their new ribbon tweeter equipped EKSTRA and MINISTRA speakers, both of which feature a sealed iso-baric arrangement that acts as an integral subwoofer system. The smaller MINISTRA, designed for close-to-wall positioning, sounded agile and articulate, even when battling to be heard above the subsonic rumble coming from the nearby AV surround sound rooms. A full review is in the pipeline.
Danish manufacturer JERN demonstrated their remarkable room-filling 14 ES speakers, which come with a unique cast iron housing and raised more than a few eyebrows by producing a full-range room-filling sound from their diminutive enclosures.
The Monitor Audio room was constantly well attended as they demonstrated the sixth generation of their Bronze range of speakers. Sporting brand new drivers and improved build quality, we look forward to testing them thoroughly in the not too distant future.
Moving away from loudspeakers, Chord Electronics created something of a buzz at the show with their new high-end ULTIMA 5 and ULTIMA 6 stereo power amplifiers. Employing groundbreaking feed-forward topology, both of these stereo units share DNA from the company’s flagship monoblock amplifiers. We can’t wait to get our hands on one of these beauties.
Finally, Keith Monks were demonstrating their new Prodigy record cleaning machine and we were lucky enough to come away with one.
The 33rd Bristol Hi-Fi Show showcased some excellent new kit but please, can we have some more turntables next year?