Oct 022010

In this part of Adventures in High Fidelity Audio’s coverage of the NAS show we will cross over to the other side of the corridor and work our way back down towards the main entrance of the show and then left to the larger ground floor exhibition rooms.

As Jordan Acoustics were using Room S10 for ticketed Ken Ishiwata demonstrations I was unable to cover this room.  As much as I would have loved to see and hear Ken there was simply not enough time to do so.

As there were AV products in the Indianapolis Suite I did not visit it.

Room S12   Astintrew and Revolver

There were a lot of new interesting items in this room including a turntable I had not seen before and one I had not seen in many years.

Revolver have just relaunched the Rebel 2 which retails for £799 with a Rega tonearm.

The other turntable on show was an Acoustic Signature Manfred with Jelco 750D tonearm and Soundsmith cartridge The Voice. The reason for this turntable being on display was a tie up between Astintrew and the designer of the turntable, the nature of this tie up was not made clear to me. The Manfred is distributed in the UK from Select Audio and costs £1450 with a basic Rega arm, power supply Alpha 1 and Cherry finish.

The sound was nice and open and quite musical, with no bass issues that I could hear with the music that was being played while I was visiting the room.

Having heard Astintrew products a few times in the past, at shows (never outside a show) and not having been particularly impressed by the sound (and this despite all the good reviews) I was much happier with the sound in this room on this occasion. It would seem from this showing that Astintrew electronics sound much better with Revolver speakers than the other speaker makes they had used in the past. The speakers in use were the Revolver Music 5 £1299 and the Music 3 £649.

Overall a nice room with a pleasant sound.

Room S11   Marantz

Marantz had taken over this room with a mixture of static display two channel and AV products.

This display included the following, NA 7004, PM 7004, UD 8004, SR 7005, SA 11 S2, PM 1852 and a SA 15S2.

At the front of the room a system made up from a pair of Art Stiletto Modern 4 speakers with Marantz KI Pearl Lite SACD player and integrated amplifier was playing and doing a reasonable job of filing a large room.

The Pearl Lites take the basic concepts embodied in the limited edition KI Pearl products (only 500 SACD players and 500 integrated amplifiers) and bring them to a new price point and normal quantity production runs.

The KI Pearl Lite SACD player and integrated amplifier retail for £999 each.

Room S9   Trilogy

Never having heard the original all valve Trilogy amplification from quite a few years ago (late 90’s if I remember right) but being familiar with the Isol-8 range of mains products that Nic Poulson brought to market after his split from Isotech (Nic was a principal designer for that brands early mains products) I was very excited about the prospect of hearing Nic’s new Trilogy range.

Well I was not disappointed as despite a poor room the new Trilogy pre-amplifier, Phonostage and amplification sounded very nice indeed (once you made allowances for what the room was trying to do to ruin the sound)

To the right side of the room a number of Trilogy products sat on static display and the fit and finish was lovely.

The system was made up of a Brinkman Bardo turntable, Ayre CD player, Trilogy 909 pre-amplifier £4495, Trilogy 907 phono stage £1795 and Trilogy 990 valve/hybrid power-amplifiers £5895. The speakers were Revel Studio 2 £12000. A Isol-8 Substation was also in use £1899.

I for one look forward to hearing the new Trilogy products again and I also very much enjoyed my chat with Nic who is a true gentleman.

Room S8   Mcintosh

Jordon Acoustics a Scottish audio dealer were exhibiting a selection of Mcintosh electronics and a very large pair of Adam Tensor Alpha (semi- active)  speakers.

Alas I was not in this room for long enough to say what it sounded like as there was no music playing while I was in it. As time was pressing I had to move on.

This was a shame as the speakers looked very interesting.

Here is what Adam say about them……

“The Alpha is a large floor standing speaker that houses two new 12“ HexaCone® woofers with 100mm voice coils (front/rear mounted), two new 8” HexaCone® woofers, two A.R.T. midrange units and an X-A.R.T. tweeter* in a quasi D´Appolito array.

Its bass units are driven by two 500W bass amplifiers with individually tuned frequency responses for the two woofers, including parametrical equalization for extended bass response. It consists of two separate cabinets utilizing sand bags as coupling devices to improve sound quality even further.

The upper driver alignment features a horizontal symmetry of the drivers (sometimes referred to as a D´Appolito array). If the drivers are filtered properly there is an absence of any sudden change in directivity, leading to a harmonic dispersion behaviour throughout the audio band. The speakers provide a wide dispersion in the horizontal plane and a narrower dispersion in the vertical plane, thereby reducing reflections from the ceiling or the floor. Less reflection means superior imaging, and better localization of phantom sources for the discerning listener.”

Retail price of these speakers is £32800 a pair.

Hockenheim Suite   Nordost and Renaissance Audio

Cable manufacturer Nordost and Scottish distributor of Sim Audio Moon Electronics Renaissance Audio were exhibiting together in a frankly massive room.

There was music playing briefly when I entered the room and it sounded good despite the size of the room but this all-be-it to brief  blast of music was replaced by a question and answer session about the Nordost cable range so sadly I can offer no more comment on the sound of the system.

Wilson Audio Duette speakers and matching stands were being used with Moon electronics in the form of the Moon 350p pre-amplifier which…..“is a differential preamplifier with circuitry derived from MOON Evolution series. A modular design that allows for both an optional 24-bit/192kHz DAC (including a USB input) and an adjustable MC/MM Phono stage, the 350P offers the best of both audio domains – analog and digital. A full-function monitor loop, discrete headphone amplifier stage and front-panel mounted mini-jack input round out this package, making the The MOON 350P the finest and most flexible entry-level MOON preamplifier to date.” Above it a Moon CD 3.3 CD player and on the bottom shelf a Moon 400M power-amplifier.

Behind the equipment tables a nest of  Nordost cables could be seen.

Hungaroring  Suite   Tannoy

The star in this room was the majesty that was the Tannoy Kingdom speakers. However unless you sat bang in the middle, on the back row of seats you would not have thought much of the sound from these £35000 speakers.

Sitting off side the sound was lacking in coherence and the bass was very boomy. However if you sat in the back row you would have been rewarded with a wide, deep soundstage with very good imaging and instrument separation. If there was a negative it would have been the fact that instruments were being rendered in a larger than life manner.

The system being used was a Wadia CD player, Music First pre-amplifier and a Moscode 402Au valve/hybrid stereo power-amplifier.

This amplifier has 200 watts a channel into 8 Ohms which rises to 300 Watts at 4 Ohms. It uses a hybrid topology with a choice of these valves “of 6H30Pi, 6GU7, 6DJ8, 6922, 6FQ7, 5814, 7730, or 12AU7 (2 of each) per channel6H30Pi, 6GU7 supplied” and a Mosfet output stage. I have wanted to hear a Moscode amplifier for a very long time so it was a real pleasure hearing one. Though to be fair as I was not familiar with any of these components (I know past Wadia’s quite well but not the new CD players) so I am not sure what was doing what but the sound was very good, though the room was causing a few problems.

Tannoy’s website say this about the…..

“The Kingdom Royal is a new flagship loudspeaker representing the sum of Tannoy’s rich heritage, cutting-edge technical innovation and world renowned acoustic engineering.

A true no-compromise design, Kingdom Royal brings together a new series of Tannoy reference components, a radical new cabinet and the finest quality materials throughout. From the high gloss wood veneer and Italian leather trim to the all-new 12in Dual Concentric™ driver with its cryogenically treated 3in HF dome and compression motor, every component represents the pinnacle of materials, technology and the summit of Tannoy’s technical excellence.

The result is a triumphant expression of Tannoy itself. Pushing the boundaries of high-end loudspeaker design to new levels, Kingdom Royal offers unsurpassed acoustic performance, ultra-low colouration, high efficiency and musical integrity unmatched by any other loudspeaker on the market today.”

In a large bay window to the right of the speaker pictured above, some of the Tannoy Kingdom Royal’s innards were on display.

Tannoy say this about the drive units …….

“Kingdom Royal is a true four-way design offering unrivalled extension and linearity from sub-bass (below 20Hz) to ultra-high frequencies (over 50kHz). At its heart is an all-new 12in Dual ConcentricTM drive unit that develops Tannoy’s long established DC technology to the limits of modern materials and current engineering technology.

Some two years in development the new Kingdom Royal 12in Dual ConcentricTM driver is the most advanced coaxial HF/LF driver Tannoy has ever developed. With a new chassis and 10-point fixing, the outer bass/mid driver section mates a revolutionary ultra-light multi-fibre cone and copper clad aluminium edge wound voice coil to a massive ferrite motor system for breathtaking transient response. Its hardedge roll surround has extremely low memory effect which further improves articulation in the mid and upper bass. The crossover to the DC’s high frequency unit occurs at an exceptionally low 700Hz to ensure the majority of the vocal region is handled by the new tweeter.

This HF drive unit is one of Tannoy’s most radical driver designs to date. It couples a 3in heat tempered aluminium alloy dome and waveguide with a 1.5kg ferrite motor to create a true horn loaded compression driver. Each production dome is individually tested and, along with the mated copper clad aluminium voice coil, undergoes full deep cryogenically treatment. This innovative process, involving freezing to -190degC and slowly thawing over a controlled period, relieves residual stresses in the microstructure of the dome and reduces crystal boundary imperfections in the voice coil for greater naturalness and emotional communication of the music.

To produce critical musical harmonics well beyond the accepted range of human hearing, the Kingdom Royal SuperTweeterTM uses a high-tech magnesium alloy dome that offers remarkable coherence and near flat extension out to over 61kHz. Each dome is vapour coated with a thin ceramic layer, producing a high internal damping and low colouration, before being meticulously plasma treated by hand and bonded to the voice coil. Combined with a Neodymium motor and rear damping cavity, the new SuperTweeterTM offers outstanding linearity and accuracy, alongside higher sensitivity and wider bandwidth than Tannoy’s previous generation titanium SuperTweetersTM.

To deliver bass and sub-bass performance to match the new DC and Supertweeter drivers, Kingdom Royal uses a 15in multi-fibre bass driver with massive ferrite motor system and underhung voice coil. The result is significantly lower distortion than traditional large surface area driver designs and class leading articulation down to well below 20Hz.”

Tannoy also had more affordable speakers from their range on display in the room.

Its has been awhile since I have heard Tannoy speakers and this was quite an experience, a flawed experience but one none-the-less.

Monza Suite   Burmester

Burmester of Berlin Germany have been one of those product brands that I have read about over the years (mostly in American magazines like Stereophile and The Absolute Sound with the occasional article/review in the UK Audio press but I think for many they are a bit of unknown quantity) but never actually heard.

The quality of build, fit and finish was obviously very high, being had crafted by experienced crafts people and this was something that had just leapt of the pages of those magazines and in the flesh I was not disappointed but the question is how does it sound ? Well when I entered the massive room and saw relatively small speakers my heart dropped. I did not at first glance think I was going to hear anything in this room at this time that would be of any use to me in helping me form an opinion about the Burmester sound.

I walked round the room and looked at the static display systems and Burmester make complete systems from the front-end right through to the speakers. The appearance in the flesh was just as I had imagined it would be in the flesh, it just oozes quality and to my eyes has a kind of Art Deco meets Bauhaus look.

As Pink Floyd began to play I made my way to the back row of seats and sat down. I spent quite awhile in the room listening to CDs and vinyl.

The sound was open and detailed with very good presence in the room though the soundstage width was a little truncated finishing just beyond the edges of the speakers. There was also very good image depth and despite the massive size of the room the bass was full, rich and deep.

As well as hearing Burmester for the first time I also enjoyed hearing another first for me in the form of a Transrotor Fat Bob Reference turntable with Transrotor branded SME arm and Rotoring Mello ref cartridge. Sadly some past deal between Transrotors founder and Michell Engineering (the details of which I don’t know) means that it is unlikely we will see Transrotor in the UK soon….this is a pity.

The system on demonstration included as well as the afore mentioned Transrotor turntable a full Top Line set up featuring a 089 belt drive top loading CD player, 088 pre-amplifier, phono-pre 100 and a single 911 350 watt power-amplifier. The speakers were B30s.

The Burmester representitive expressed to me his deep regret that a technical problem meant that he would not be able to use the second 911 mk 3 power-amplifier that they had brought with them. He felt that we were missing about 15% of what the system should and could do. Well 15% down or not it was still despite some room issues (a constant at the show in most exhibitors rooms) still very impressive and musical.

Thank you to the guys from Burmester for exhibiting at the show. I for one look forward to hearing Burmester again.

Suzuka Suite   Creek and Epos

In another huge room (it seemed rooms were either too big or too small at this show) Creek and Epos were exhibiting together not a strange thing as Creek own Epos these days.

The system was made up from a pair of Epos Encore 50’s a Creek Destiny 2 CD player, Creek Destiny 2 integrated amplifier, phono stage and Creek turntable.

The system struggled to fill the room with sound (unlike the Burmester room next door) and Peter Gabriel’s track Power of the Heart sounded thin and there were some issues with the bass as well.

Not having heard Creek electronics or these Epos speakers before I suspect that what we had here was another room problem.

However in saying that the Peter Gabriel track was still quite enjoyable.

There was also another Creek/Epos system sitting to the right side of the room as well. This system comprised of Creek Evolution CD player, integrated amplifier, tuner and Epos Epic 1 and 2 speakers. It was not in use when I was in the room.


The End of Part Two

In Part Three we will continue our journey around the large ground floor Suites.

©Text and all photos Copyright Adventures in High Fidelity Audio 2010 all rights reserved.

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