Two weekends ago – 21st and 22nd of September – saw this years National Audio Show or NAS for short take place at its usual home of Whittelbury Hall Northamptonshire and it certainly looked to be a smaller event than last years show (based on comparing Show Guides) – in fact I would myself now really question if Chester Group can go on calling it a National Show as it isn’t in my view, though the first one and second could be said to have been.
In fact even last year it was pretty obvious to me that NAS was shrinking with quiet a few manufacturers and distributors choosing to no longer exhibit there (past companies to opt out include Audio Freaks, Absolute Sounds and Coherent Systems to name a few) and this year a whole raft of previous NAS exhibitors have opted to exhibit at the HiFi News show at Windsor, which sadly by what I understand from day one has had a very far from inclusive raison d’etre. In fact from the rather disparaging editorial in this months HiFi News Paul Miller – the titles editor – pretty much dismisses the relevance of any of the brands not exhibiting at his show, by saying the following and I quote, ‘…populated by a surplus of brands we’ve never heard of’ …. ‘ (1) I would counter by saying that all of what is going to be at the Windsor show was once new, unheard of and unproven.
Interestingly his pot shot at NAS (its hard not to read it as such) and the companies that exhibit there, are often to be found advertising in HiFi News and HiFi Choice (a title now owned by those behind HiFi News) and also reviewed by both titles. Surely if they are as he claims ‘surplus brands’ then reviewing or allowing those companies to advertise within the pages of HiFi News dilutes his views of what constitutes high-end HiFi and what HiFi in HiFi News should be? If he doesn’t it certainly reads that way.
I do however agree with Paul Miller that the UK really needs, and should be able to both organise and stage a true National and International show (such as we once had) that, exhibits and demonstrates quality HiFi at all price points, but I think Paul’s premise that only very high-end systems offer ‘awesome’ sound – what he infers in his recent editorial – is a bit of red herring and false. Many more modestly priced set ups can offer almost as good a sound as very expensive components but I will concede that some of the worlds finest music reproduction is to be had from the top end of the market, just not necessarily all of those to be shown at Windsor.
On a personal note I think it sad that the once inclusive, excellent HFi News show that was once the show to attend this side of the Atlantic is now going to be on its return a pretty closed elitist event.
Hopefully at some point someone will have the vision, drive and charisma to pull all the various disparate elements of the UK audio industry together to put on a genuinely National Show. I for one await that day eagerly but I won’t hold my breath as I fear the hurdles to be overcome to achieve that may be too great. Sadly the UK audio industry is rife with rancorous politics, some of which stretches back over many decades and may not be able to be swept away easily – even if a common, unifying desire to promote high quality reproduction for all underlies such an event.
Sadly this year I was unable to attend NAS personally, so I can offer no opinions re sound quality of the rooms, or as detailed a report as I usual compile and as such I will only comment in detail on a few items that catch my eye.
Thanks go to Paul Coupe of Reference Fidelity Components (2) who very kindly took the majority of the photos for me and Justin (User211) and Dean (SCDIB) who gave permission for me to use some photos they posted on a few forums, with these gentlemen’s help I can now present a mostly photo (3) show report of this years NAS 2013.
Once again thank you guys for your help.
Let the show begin…..
The Brooklands Suite – Trade Stands Area
Clario were exhibiting their relatively new Clarity Dual turntable £6200 (fitted with an SME5 tonearm), which was on static display in the Brooklands Suite area of the show – their usual exhibiting area.
Clario Audio http://www.claro-audio.co.uk/
Townsend Audio had numerous items on static display including the latest version of the long running Rock turntable the 7, Allegri pre-amplifier, Townsend Super Tweeters, elements of the Seismic vibration stand, Seismic Vibration Isolation Platform, Seismic Isolation Pods and the rather clever Seismic Isolation Corner units designed to fit the corners of heavy or light furniture used for audio but not designed for such a purpose.
Townsend Audio say this on their website about them:
‘Designed to float your existing equipment rack in an unobtrusive manner, the Seismic Isolation Corners slip discretely under the bottom corners of your support furniture and bring you all the benefits of Seismic Isolation without major upheaval.
Seismic Sink Corners have been designed to provide vibration isolation for almost any existing equipment rack, stand or speaker with three or four legs. Each Corner is a small platform suspended from two Seismic Load Cells™ on which the equipment legs are placed. Level can be adjusted by spanner when fully loaded and four units are able to hold equipment weighing up to 240kg. This arrangement, in conjunction with the mass of the stand and equipment, forms a stable suspended low-pass filter with an attenuation of about 20dB per decade above 2Hz. This ensures that deleterious ground borne vibrations at 4Hz and above are virtually eliminated. Isolating audio and video components from vibration increases fidelity and imparts an openness and clarity to the sound, with gains in focus and solidity of image.’
‘A result that non-suspended hi-fi furniture simply cannot approach.’
I have not seen anything like this before, so for those poor audiophiles forced to maintain domestic harmony and use an item of regular furniture for the housing of their system this solution gets them an isolated equipment table and a compromise that should please everyone. Price for 4 is £890
Townsend Audio http://www.townshendaudio.com/
Ground Floor – The Suites and Syndicates
S32 – Audio Emotion
Audio Emotion http://www.audioemotion.co.uk/
S31 – Decent Audio
Decent Audio http://www.decentaudio.co.uk/
S30 – Epicurean Audio
Epicurean Audio http://www.epicureanaudio.com/index.php?tpl=home
S27 – Henely Designs
Henely Designs https://www.henleydesigns.co.uk/home-c1
S26 – Long Dog Audio/MCRU
As far as I know this was the first time Nick Gorham of LongDog Audio fame has exhibited in his own room at any audio show and the shame of this is I would very much have liked to have heard his designs and in-particular his new DAC design the VDT1
‘Designed by Nick Gorham, the Longdog Audio VDt1 Digital to Analogue converter is now available at MCRU. Recently demo’d at the sound + vision show in Bristol, the DAC is DSD ready and will handle files up to 24/192. Featuring many unique properties that make it stand out from the competition, the DAC’s specification is un-rivalled at this price point. Everything possible has been done in the quest for the best sound quality, the DAC has audiophile fuses installed as well as a Furutech gold plated IEC inlet, the unit rests on RDC cones and has top quality silver plated RCA sockets on the rear as outputs. The DAC is available with silver or black case and can be configured with balanced XLR outputs on request.’
Retail price is £3650
S-PDif inputs: 2. Galvanic isolation with high performance pulse transformers. RCA connectors with 75 ohm impedance. 110 Ohm AES XLR inputs available on request. Supported speeds from 16bit/44.1k to 24bit/192k SPDiff Reciever supplied by three separate ultra low noise voltage regulators.
USB Input: 1.
Powered from Host computer, Galvanic isolation between Host PC and DAC, prevents noise from the host computer being coupled into the DAC.
USB Audio class 2.0 interface.
Driver free on Linux and OSX host systems. Simple driver installation on windows. Speeds from 16bit/44.1k to 24bit/192k (32bit accepted). DSD over USB supported, 64bit DSD, automatic switching between PCM and DSD
AK4396 DAC selected for best subjective sound when used in balanced out mode. DAC powered by two ultra low noise voltage regulators. I2S and DSD input isolated from receiver to avoid noise transfer between stages.
Analog output from DAC taken directly to output buffer, no op-amps, capacitors or additional solid state devices in the signal path once it has left the DAC chip.
Fully balanced valve output stage using 5687 dual triodes, and custom Sowter output transformers, with nickel cores and balanced winding patterns. Use of balanced design ensures distortion levels equal to solid state output stages, but with the sonic qualities that only valves can deliver. All resistors in signal path are high quality Takman carbon film types.
Output via high quality RCA sockets, fully balanced XLR output available on request.
Output signal level 2.18v RMS full scale (single ended).
Digital board has 4 stages of pre regulation using low noise regulators, feeding 9 individual ultra low noise regulators mounted next to the driven device. Custom board design providing isolated ground paths between stages to reduce noise induced jitter to a minimum. High quality parts used throughout digital stage to ensure optimum performance.
Analog board contains three regulated power supplies, one for the digital board main supply, one for the output stage valve heater supply, and a valve regulated high voltage supply using high voltage mosfet and EF86 pentode design. Low noise HT supply ensures ultra low analog noise floor.
Custom UK wound toroid transformer, with oversized core, shield and hum band, supplies power to the unit.’
This is very interesting design and one I hope to hear in the future sometime.
Long Dog Audio http://www.longdogaudio.co.uk/
S25 – Kralk Audio
photo ^ Kralk Audio
A new name to me Kralk Audio were exhibiting their range of very keenly prices loudspeakers.
Kralk have this to say of themselves….
‘Kralk Audio is a small independent loudspeaker manufacturer based in Stanley, near Wakefield, in West Yorkshire, England. Our aim is to give customers the highest quality audio experience utilising the best components and build quality possible. With various options available on all models, we firmly believe our products are unique, allowing each and every customer to tailor their loudspeakers to their needs.
Our loudspeakers are hand built to exacting tolerances, and are assembled with care and meticulous attention to detail, so as to afford each and every customer a thrilling and satisfying aural experience.
Although our cabinets are finished in four standard colour finishes, we are always willing to listen to our customers needs and requirements to make their time with Kralk Audio a complete and satisfying experience’
On demonstration within the room were the BC 30 £349, ATLPS1 £749, ATLPS2 £850 the pro version of the ATLPS2 £1250. All Kralk speakers come with a 5 year warranty.
Certainly a name to look out for.
As part of the Kralk Audio demonstration system they were using a Pioneer PD10 K SACD player, a beautiful gold plated Classic Turntables Company refurbished Garrard 301 (what they call a Brass Studio Reference), SME 309 12 inch arm and an Esoteric Audio Research 912 pre-amplifier.
Kralk Audio http://www.kralkaudio.com/
Classic Turntable Company http://www.classichifi-shop.co.uk/
S24 – The Right Note
The Right Note http://www.rightnote.co.uk/index.asp
Imola Suite – Inspire HiFi
Inspire HiFi http://www.inspirehifi.co.uk/
Monaco Suite – DCS
Melbourne Suite – Henely Designs
Henely Designs https://www.henleydesigns.co.uk/home-c1
S28 – Alacrity Audio
Alacrity were showing their new speaker design the Caterthun 8 which is designed for use in larger room. These speakers were being used on the back end of a Deltec Precision Audio Pre-power and DAC.
Alacrity have this to say about the Caterthun 8’s…..
‘Made in Britain by hand, the groundbreaking Caterthun 8’s design goals were greater bass extension, high-end resolution and sensitivity.
The performance advantages wrought by the massive increase in acoustic-induction volume coupled to the largest drive unit we have ever considered for domestic use include… “iron-like grip” “vice-like control” “acoustically invisible”
Our Caterthun 8 loudspeakers are fitted with bi-wireable 4mm gold connections for convenience and wide compatibility and are currently available in classic English Oak, Bird’s Eye Maple, Macassar Ebony and Rosewood.
Power Handling: 300 W (200 W RMS) Sensitivity: 90 dB
Minimum Impedance: 8 Ohms. W x H x D: 250 x 450 x 300 mm Weight: 20 Kg per cabinet
Frequency Response: Sub-sonic to 20,000 Hz +/-3dB Crossover Frequency: 2.25 KHz
Bi-wireable: Yes Connections: 4mm Gold Bass Port: Front Reflex Drivers: LF 20cm Bass Mid / HF 20mm Soft Dome Finish: Range of oiled, real wood veneers Optional Extras: Cat8 Loudspeaker Stand in Black, or contact us Recommended Placement: 10 – 15 cm from rear wall Recommended Stand Height: 40 – 50 cm Shipping Weight: 25 Kg per loudspeaker, packed’
These look like an interesting design.
Alacrity Audio http://alacrityaudio.co.uk/
Deltec Precision Audio http://deltecprecisionaudio.com/
Catalunya Suite – Brodmann Acoustics/Nu Nu Distribution
photos Dean (SCIDB)
Brodmann Acoustics http://www.brodmannacoustics.com/
Nu Nu Distribution http://www.nunudistribution.co.uk/
Magny Cours Suite – Icon Audio
photos Dean (SCIDB)
Icon Audio http://www.iconaudio.com/
Nurburgring Suite – Brian and Trevors/PS Audio
Brian and trevors http://www.brianandtrevors.com/
Suzuka Suite – Burmester/Midland Audio Exchange
photos Dean (SCIDB)
Midland Audio Exchange http://www.midlandaudiox-change.co.uk/
Monza Suite – Decent Audio/Kronos Audio
In this particular room Decent Audio were exhibiting the stunning looking Kronos turntable from American company Kronos Audio, which was fitted with a Graham Phantom tonearm.
Kronos Audio have this to say about there turntable
‘All turntables currently on the market are constructed either with or without a suspension system. Suspended turntables are better isolated from both mechanical and sound vibrations emitted from the speakers. these turntables are often preferred to rigid ones as they deliver a more organic sound and a softer presentation. However, the suspended platter and tone arm present a significant downside – a pronounced blurring of the musical signal. this is caused by torsional forces, a natural tendency of the sub-platter frame to rotate in sync with the platter. Although this rotation is controlled by springs, or other elastic parts found in the suspension, at this new point of equilibrium, the slightest vibration coming from the stylus reading the groove is echoed back to the stylus, out of phase. the result: the stereo image produced is blurred and distorted. Critical musical information is permanently lost. To solve the problem of torsional forces, some manufacturers build a rigid turntable and completely eliminate the suspension. But vibrations produced naturally by mechanical components and the environment are fed back to the platter and tone arm, causing yet another type of blurring and distortion of the music signal. The resulting sound is often described as harsh, aggressive and glassy. While endless research into alternate materials has been beneficial in improving the sound of rigid turntables, because the platter and the tone arm are not isolated, vibrations can only be controlled, not eliminated. Additionally, the proposed design solutions create expensive, heavy and complicated turntables.
KRONOS is an innovative turntable that breaks the rules of conventional audio design, earning the reputation of being the first of its kind. It employs two identical high mass platters, one above the other rotating in opposite directions and moving at precisely the same speed. This engineering completely eliminates torsional forces. Since the turntable is protected from mechanical and environmental vibrations, it can therefore be suspended without any negative outcomes. Finally, the judicious use of materials helps minimize the transfer of remaining mechanical vibrations emitted from the bearings and stylus friction. The result is a turntable platform with unparalleled stability. A solution so innovative that two separate patents applications are presently pending with more to come.
KRONOS uses two high quality Swiss-made DC motors that consistently deliver quiet, smooth, linear power to the platters. DC voltage to the motors is produced from a fully regulated CLASS A dual power supply, CPU-controlled to maintain constant speed. The KRONOS’ controller does not use pulse width modulation, as this method of control produces jerkiness in the drives. Instead, the CPU controller receives speed readings from the platters via optical sensors and adjusts voltage to each DC motor in real time. Speed stability is therefore guaranteed over the life of the turntable, regardless of environmental factors, belt stretching or mechanical wear.
When designing and building the two bearings of KRONOS, our objective was to provide the most quiet operation possible while maximizing service life. Our in-depth design process included extensive research of base metal alloys and vapour deposit coatings within the aerospace industry. We also inverted the bearing design to place contact in the rotational plane, successfully reducing torque induced drag. We also included double hydraulic insulation to provide the ideal dampening properties. The result – The lowest noise floor we have yet encountered in an audio turntable.
Limited Edition and serialized units
Every Kronos turntable is entirely hand assembled and duly adjusted and tested before it is shipped to you. It is protected in its custom built flight case. And it is very exclusive. Only 250 Kronos turntables will be issued in its first version.’
The Kronos Spec:
‘Dimensions: 22w x 14d x 11h inch (56w x 36d x 28h cm) Weight: 90 lbs. (41 kg.) Crate dimensions: 25w x 17d x 15h inch (64w x 43d x 38h cm) Weight: 120 lbs (55 kg)
Rotational speed: 33.3 rpm and 45 rpm Power supply: dual channel pure class A linear DC AC voltage input: 110v or 220v factory set DC voltage output: 0 to 5 volt, dual cpu controlled, factory calibrated DC transmission: pico 3 pin cable Data input/output bus: RS232 Transmission: pico 4 pin cable Motors: 2432 precious brushes dc motors (qty 2)
Motor mounts: delrin enclosure , height adjustable Speed guidance system: continuous open loop feedback Sensors type: optical diode I/O (each platter) Correction cycle: every two rotations. 1.5% max. 0.05% min. Monitoring: twin real time speed led display Command input type: 1 capacitance sensor on/off (left) Command input type: 1 capacitance sensor 33/45 (right) Platters type: composite layers and encapsulated, balanced Platter weight: 30 lbs / platter Drive: 3 silicone / viton 1.8 sting belts / platter Compensation pulley: Teflon and Chrome steel bearing Lubricant: synthetic grease Sevice interval: 1 year (clean and re-grease) Main bearings: dual hydraulic isolated inverted sleeve and ball Shaft type: grounded heat hardened tool steel pvd coated Ball type: ceramic top platter, steel lower platter Lubricant: 8 ml. variable viscosity synthetic oil Service interval: 5 years (clean and re-oil) Suspension: full floating top suspended Elastomers: 317 o-rings , viton / silicone mix Service life: lifetime’
This certainly looks very impressive and well built from the pictures I have seen, so I am certainly looking forward to hearing one in the future.
photo ^ Dean (SCIDB)
Kronos Audio http://www.kronosaudio.com/
Decent Audio http://www.decentaudio.co.uk/
Hungaroring Suite – Analogue Alchemy/ANT Audio
photos ^ Dean (SCDIB)
Analogue Alchemy http://www.analoguealchemy.com/index.html
ANT Audio http://www.ant-audio.co.uk/
S7 – Teddy Pardo
photo Dean (SCIDB)
Teddy Pardo http://www.teddypardo.com/
S6 – Albarry Music
S8 – Xclusive Audio Visual/Waterfall Audio
Waterfall Audio of France now have a new distributor in the UK – having taken over from BBG – and very interesting these speakers are too. Its easy to dismiss them for being made from glass and being ‘lifestyle’ products but to do so would be to miss quality designs that make as big a sonic impact as they do a visual one.
I base that opinion obviously not from hearing these speakers in the photo as I didn’t get to hear them but previous exposure to the brand and I was impressed with what I heard after being initially somewhat sceptical.
Well worth checking out in my opinion.
Waterfall UK http://www.waterfallspeakers.co.uk/index.html
Waterfall Audio http://waterfallaudio.com/en/home/home.html
S9 – Audio Cabinet
Audio Cabinet http://www.audio-cabi.net/Audio-Cabinet-Finishes.html
S10 – Zingali/The Music Room
Zinglai Acoustics http://www.zingali.it/?lang=en
The Music Room http://www.music-room.com/
S11 – Quadral
S12 – LW Audio
I must saying looking at these stunning photos of Iain Borthwick of LW Audio’s room I am very sorry not to have been there to hear these new products from Audio Music a company that has its roots in Stereo Knight (Stereo Knights designer Fang is behind Audio Music) – who’s products I reviewed a little while back.
Iain was exhibiting a system comprising of Vyger Atlantis turntable, Oracle CD player, Audio Music AM R-T1 pre-amplifier, 805 M mono block power- amplifiers and a pair of Brodmann VC7 speakers.
Audio Music’s designs look to my eyes like a cross between WaVac and the aforementioned Stereo Knight (the lineage is there to be seen) and Audio Music have this to say about the AM R-T1 £4250 pre-amplifier ….
‘The volume control system consists of a volume switch coupled to a volume transformer, that we have produced and used for many years.
The benefit of this volume control is that the sonic background is very quiet and natural with a highly analytical sound, and with a rich musicality that will clearly reveal every note of the Symphony.
We use a Single Ended design which is more natural sounding and dynamic than Balanced designs.
The preamp is a dual mono design, so that the transformers, power supply and voltage regulation are completely separated, so avoiding noise and cross talk. We use a large number of high value U-Cap copper foil capacitors, which were carefully chosen for their natural, analytical sound. The output transformers bandwidth can extend to between 15 HZ to 120KHZ
The unique design of our new tube preamp, The name “Magnetic AM R-T1” can be implied from the prefix: “magnetic”, which indicates its direct origin from the AM magnetic passive preamp. Not only does AM R-T1 utilize transformers for volume attenuation, but also another 2 transformers for the signal output and two more for power supplies.
The remarkable level of performance has been achieved with an all new audio and power supply circuit design. This new audio circuit is all tube, Class-A, with zero feedback, utilizing a total of four long-life tubes (2 6H30 as the drivers and 2 6922 as the amplifiers); and furthermore, it is a truly balanced circuit design in both the input and output stage, with the support of 2 volume control transformers.
The Magnetic R-TI is a direct upgrade from the AM reference version of the magnetic passive preamp, which already delivers an exceptional performance, by utilizing both tube amplifiers and output transformers. One great advantage of this magnetic feature is that it is capability of optimally matching with any amps and interconnects, while accepting input from any sources, at various impedance levels, with the least possible interference to the signal.
The power supply is divided into two separate parts: The main power transformer, which is used to power the audio circuit, and Mosfets, that are used for both the voltage stabilization and for a constant current supply. This enhances the reliability, and makes the tube amplification as linear as possible.
With its great build quality, audiophile grade components, versatility and the ability to musically transform every system, not only does the AM R-TI deliver striking clarity and detail that presents instrumental timbres and textures in an amazingly lifelike way, but it also represents great value, with great reliability and vision.
Feature summary of the R-T1 preamplifier
Technical details about magnetic AM R-T1
2 transformers for volume attenuation with 33 steps.
Transformer output. Independent regulated power supply. The left and right channels are a completely independent design. Pure tube, Class-A, with a zero feedback audio circuit.
Versatility to match all kinds of amplifier and interconnects, based on a fully magnetic or transformers implemented design. MOSFETS for voltage stabilization and constant current supply.
U-cap .capacitor in signal path. Detachable IEC power cord. High quality gold-plated AM custom binding posts and RCA jacks.TEFLON insulated wire and Japanese made POCC rectangular solid core copper wire all the way. A fully machined aluminium alloy chassis and exceptional build quality.’
Frankly for the price this pre-amplifier looks like quite a bargain – interesting stuff.
Also part of the system was the AM 805m mono amplifiers. Audio Music say this about them on their site:
‘Tube complement 6V6 is the input tube, KT88 is the driver tube and PSVANE 805 is the amplifier. Frequence response 20 Hz ~ 55 KH Input Impedance 100k ohms Input sensitivity 1 V
S / N > 90dB Input selections RCA single-ended ; balanced / XLR Power Output 50w Load impedance 4 & 8 ohms Power consumption 180 watts Dimensions (W * D * H) 260 X 460 X 220 (mm) Weight 31kg (each).’
‘MONO POWER AMPLIFIER
The performance of music personality is the most important
What is the pursuit of true music atmosphere reappearance? We believe that to perform the music personality is the most important. During many years research, we found the new digital technology cannot meet its demands, so we back to most basic analogue circuit, not only to make better frequency response of the enlarger or the distortion can be done, test data is just the basic and take it as reference, more important is to express sound positioning, soundstage depth, height and width all at the same time, also including music emotion and expression, these are hard to obtain from tests, it needs to take many trial and error for finding the ture music atmosphere.
Basic research of making the circuit well, the design of power supply is traditional, as the structure of single-end direct heated triode is simple, no push-pull circuit crossover distortion, with mellow and transparent timbre, it is very popular for the music lover.
We abandon all semiconductor component, starting from pure analogy, we are also directly linked believers, the power amplifier without using any coupling capacitor.
To pursue maximum music dynamic range by the most simple structure,power supply adopts traditional π type filter and chokes. Power transformer, output transformer and drive transformer all use HIB Double C Core except the chokes using EI.
Specifications subect to change without notice
Feature summary of the AM-805m
The is a hight -efficiency 805 Class A single-ended amplifier
Power transformer .Output transformer .Drive transformer.And are based on double C Hib Core
With direct coupled design ,the pursuit of the largest music dynamic .And music.
special double chokes transformer for B power circuit will reduce hum
S/N ratio is improved by DC ignition of filament,eliminating capacitor form signal circuit. real sound can be played by a composition of direct and coupled transformer
Chassis features 12mm aluminium top plate for aesthetics and a thick, massive foundation for attaching components to optimize sound.’
Also on display and use were another pair of very impressive looking power amplifiers from Audio Music but so far I have no details on these.
All in all from the photos one of the more interesting rooms, shame I didn’t get to hear it – maybe next time.
LW Audio http://lwaudio.co.uk/
Audio Music http://www.am-hiend.com/
The First Floor – Rooms, Syndicates and Suites
S19 – Computer Audio Design
Sadly I have no photos for this room
S20 – Ming Da UK
Sadly I have no photos for this room
Ming Da UK http://www.mingda.co.uk/
S 21 – Art Audio
Art Audio http://artaudio.co.uk/
S 22 Janzen Loudspeakers
Janzen are a new name to me though the origins for these speaker designs can be found in the 1940’s and 50’s work of David Janzen’s – owner of Janzen Electrostatic Speakers – father Arthur (you can read the fascinating history here http://www.janszenloudspeaker.com/company.htm) The zA2.1 retails at $7495 a pair or $3747.50 each (these can be bought singly) and the speaker looks very interesting too.
Janzen have this to say about themselves and their speaker design….
‘These speakers don’t conjure a musical experience into existence by complex technological artifice — they recreate the original for you effortlessly by using the most elegant and simple means possible. Electrostatic speakers use the simplest, most linear possible way of moving the air. Not simple to implement, but simple in operation. It’s unique how easily these speakers bring you so close to the original performance.
Also, they sound as clear and pure as the air itself, with every detail evident, imaging holographically crisp, and at the same time, the tonality and dynamics are completely natural.
Size. They’re only just over three feet tall, less than monitors on stands, but the sound stage is big, deep-bassed, and seems to come from above the speakers, not down on the floor.
When I was a boy. Old timers might be interested to hear that when I was a boy, the music in our house came somewhat magically from KLH Nines, the first truly full range electrostatic, and regarded today as one of the ten best of all time. They were driven by Marantz electronics. The speaker choice was related to the fact that my father was Arthur A. Janszen, who developed these speakers a few years after inventing the world’s first commercially practical electrostatic high fidelity transducer. This transducer covered a wide frequency range, from 800 to 30,000 Hz, and was first utilized in a midrange / tweeter add-on array called the 1-30, then also as the tweeter in the KLH Nine.
Best kind of music? Many people think extraordinary fidelity is only important for jazz and classical, which are of course excellently nuanced and live sounding on the zA2.1. Well, if you crank them up, you can get nearly 110 dB peaks with bass extension flat typically to 40 Hz in room, so electronica and rock are a total blast, even without a sub. You get nuance and slam..
Ambience. Another interesting thing is how realistic the recorded ambience is. Particularly with two-mic and binaural recordings, you will hear the reverberancy from the performance space coming from where it should, namely all around you, not just from between the speakers, and not artificially from reflections around your room. This is critical to a being there experience.
It happens because of two things: 1) exceptionally high phase linearity, which causes the recorded ambience to be accurately reproduced, and 2) relatively high directivity, which reduces the amount of sound directed outward and reflected within the room.
Sweet spot. These speakers are fairly directive as part of how they recreate recorded ambience so well, but they also have well controlled dispersion over a fairly wide sweet area, creating a reasonably wide area with full spectrum sound. Several people can be seated side-by-side, and all get nearly the full effect.
Who’s going to like all this? Audiophiles, sure. But also, if you think of yourself not so much as an audiophile, but more as someone who loves music, who maybe frequents live performances and knows how they sound, or if you’re a musician, you’ll probably be fascinated by how close this comes to the genuine article. You can close your eyes and believe it. If you are an audiophile, you can rest assured that your non-audiophile spouse, friends, whoever, can love them right along with you and not ever for one second wonder what is the attraction.
The brand. Since 1954, electrostatics have been the standard bearer of high fidelity, and JansZen originated the electrostatic. Reviewers and manufacturers sometimes claim that a particularly fine speaker is almost as good as an electrostatic. My father was granted his patent in 1953 on that first commercially practical electrostatic transducer mentioned above. In 1954, he founded JansZen Laboratory and began manufacturing the first high fidelity electrostatic speakers. Many are still in operation after more than 50 years without service.
Since then we’ve advanced the technology through several generations of designs. Today’s are the sixth generation, designed from scratch, and fully modern in every way.
Are JansZen electrostatics practical? As for practicality, JansZen’s are as durable, solid, and forgiving of setup and amplifier variations as the best of conventional high end speakers. Not being dipoles, unlike practically every other planar speaker, they can and should be near the wall behind them, not one third of the way out into the room. You can also adjust the response to match your taste and room configuration with rear panel controls, as well as using the same positioning adjustments as with regular speakers. And amplifier distortion can’t possibly harm electrostatic tweeters.
Woofer integration. You might know that deep, accurate, electrostatic-quality bass doesn’t normally come from electrodynamic woofers. But it does in this case, though, seamlessly handed off from the electrostatic panels.
It’s the result of several factors: a unique take on the WTW dual woofer configuration; fast, low distortion woofers that have stiff, aluminium cones, solid aluminium phase plugs, cast aluminium baskets, and multiple shorting paths, operated well below their breakup frequencies in sealed enclosures (a.k.a., acoustic suspension); an unusually low crossover frequency for a two-way speaker (500 Hz), and a specialized crossover design.
The WTW configuration also helps alleviate floor bounce effects by distributing these effects over a wider range of frequencies than a single woofer would.
Made in USA. JansZen’s are designed, engineered and made in the USA, carry a 5 year warranty, and we use mostly green materials and processes.
Frequency response — 30 Hz – 20 kHz +/- 3 dB on axis (in room) Sensitivity — 87 dB/1W/1m (pink noise) Power handling — 25W – 150W RMS/ch/8 Ohm recommended; up to 250W tolerated (500W/4 Ohm) Impedance — 6 Ohm nominal, 4 Ohm min., 10 Ohm max. Peak SPL from pair playing music 108 dB at 4 m [13′] in mid-sized room – 4.5 m x 7.3 m x 3.0 m [15′ x 24′ x 10′] 114 dB at 2.5m [9′] in small room – 3.7 m x 4.9 m x 2.7 m [12′ x 16′ x 9′]
Fully enclosed, not dipoles, eases placement Listening area Full spectrum 1 m wide @ 4 m (3.5′ wide @ 13′) Very tight vertical dispersion and relatively narrow horizontal dispersion conserves recorded ambience, reduces interaction with the room and sharpens the soundstage, yet is wide enough to avoid a headphone effect.
2.5 way, WTW (Woofer – Tweeter – Woofer) configuration Woofers above and below the ESL array; ESL panels employ half-split-response (1.5 way ESL) Woofer radiation pattern mates better to ESL array Reduces room mode coupling and eases placement
Excellent phase alignment for soundstage focus Vertical image stability Minimal floor bounce effect
Crossover — 1st order @ 500 Hz — far below the disturbance-sensitive hearing region of 1 kHz – 3 kHz; entire midrange and treble carried by the electrostatic elements; minimum phase operation through crossover region Secondary partial crossover — 1st order — limits upper treble from half width of ESL panel — controls dispersion and flattens response without an electrical rolloff network
Woofer level — three settings – autoformer maintains damping factor and cone control — no resistive divider Intimate Mode — on-axis seating Intimate A: +3 dB — compensates for when speakers are placed far from front wall (or boosts bass a bit near front wall) Intimate B: 0 dB — for speaker placement near back wall or more relaxed bass response Audience Mode: -3 dB — for off-axis listening; matches woofer level to room diffusion of highs Tweeter/midrange level setting from normal to -12 dB
ESL panels: Two identical panels in each speaker, mounted in a barometrically isolated sub-enclosure Vertical array; 18 cm wide x 40 cm high (7″W x 16″H) Protected by an acoustically transparent barrier 520 square cm [80 square inch] forward radiating area per array Tough, stable, injection molded, ABS stator frames 66-element, parallel wire, stator electrodes (total of 132 electrode elements per panel)
Unique panel construction and materials are immune to the effects of wide and rapid temperature and humidity swings Optimal sonic membrane material Thickness less than 1/15th of a sheet of 20 lb paper — lighter than the air it is driving Acts as a virtual air driver with force applied evenly over its whole surface — no breakup Properly damped, unlike see-through electrostatics Introduces absolutely no midrange or treble coloration, and distortion is far below audibility Will not lose its tension or degrade over time
1.5 way tweeter/mid design controls horizontal dispersion and eliminates electrical EQ network
Woofers: Two identical, 18 cm [7″], low mass, alloy cone, extra low distortion, low inductance, high resolution drivers with dual short circuit paths, heavy cast aluminum frames and solid aluminum phase plugs
Operate well below their breakup frequencies and their Xmax for practically no cone coloration Seamless acoustical integration with the ESL Strong, accurate bass, not boomy dance club bass Exceptionally low series resistance in crossover conserves damping factor and maximizes cone control airLayer Option Adds air and sense of spaciousness in listening area Only minimally affects image precision Adds highs when standing or moving about the room Dipole air without the dipole drawbacks
Side firing tweeter on outboard side of each cabinet Sound above 2 kHz directed at near side wall and scattered into listening area airLayer sound field is diffuse and spherical Interacts only minimally with the coherent, quasi-cylindrical direct sound Fully adjustable from off to overly loud
Accommodates a range of tastes Can be turned down or off for binaural and two-mic recordings
Accommodates a range of wall distances and materials Accommodates asymmetrical wall distances
Enclosure: Sealed (acoustic suspension) for best woofer transient response, minimal group delay, and best integration with ESL array High mass, 25 mm [1″] thick, well damped wall materials for negligible enclosure radiation 63 mm [2.5″] thick, solid hardwood baffle is maximally stable and rigid, yet free of resonances Baffle step is eliminated with front edge scoops, which are also visually interesting.
Modest backward tilt maintains time alignment between drivers and sharpens image
Plinth 63 mm [2.5″] thick Solid hardwood standard Choice of high durometer rubber feet or carpet spikes Input Single pair of binding posts, not for bi-amping) Rhodium plated, solid copper Cardas Patented binding posts for spades or bare wire with a convenient, single clamping knob 5-way, nickel plated copper posts available on special order
Diaphragm polarization supply Mains power — 0.1 Watts to 1.0 Watts, depending on mains voltage — very green Works from any mains worldwide without adjustment Built-in surge protection
IEC cord inlet with power switch — uses standard power cords worldwide No transformer or oscillator — high reliability, and no radiated or conducted noise to affect your other components
Weight — 28 kg [62 lbs] each
Dimensions: Speaker enclosure — 91 cm tall x 26 cm wide x 22.6 cm deep [35.9″H x 10.2″W x 8.9″D] Plinth — 30 cm wide x 35 cm deep x 6 cm high [12″W x 14″D x 2.5″H]
Heirloom quality materials and finishes used throughout for lifetime operation, yet all are recyclable Designed, engineered and made in the USA Lead time — 0 to 4 weeks, depending on backlog and options Warranty — 5 years on all components against defects in materials and manufacturing Modular construction and simple disassembly for straightforward repairs, even in field Price — $7495/pair MSRP direct from JansZen
Miscellaneous: High grade polypropylene film caps 10 mm [3/8″] thick, wool felt for edge diffraction 63 mm [2.5″] thick, solid hardwood baffle and plinth Stainless steel rear panel, nameplate, and exterior hardware will never rust Wide range of appearance options available’
Once again I find myself looking at the photos and wondering what these visually and technically interesting speakers sounded like.
Janzen Electrostatic Speakers http://www.janszenloudspeaker.com/
S 23 – Music First
Music First http://www.mfaudio.co.uk/
Chapel Suite – Concert Fidelity/Z Axis Audio/TAD
Concert Fidelity http://www.concertfidelity.jp/
Vale Suite – Audio Lounge/PMC/Bryston
photo Dean (SCIDB)
Audio Lounge http://www.audiolounge.co.uk/#0
Luffield Suite – Audioworks
Audio Works http://www.theaudioworks.co.uk/
Stowe Suite – Mike Valentine/Chase The Dragon/ZenSati
Last two photos Justin (User211)
Woodcote Suite – Audio Reference/Gamut
Its nice to see Audio Reference back exhibiting at HiFi shows.
Last photo Justin (User211)
Audio Reference http://www.audioreference.co.uk/arcadianet/Default.aspx
Room 102 – Sound Fowndations
photo ^ Dean (SCDIB)
Sound Fowndations http://www.soundfowndations.co.uk/
Room 104 – High End Cable
High End Cables http://www.highendcable.co.uk/
Room 157 – Audio Note
Audio Note UK http://www.audionote.co.uk/
This looked like an interesting show with quite a few UK firsts exhibited at it such as the Kronos Audio turntable, Audio Music’s amplification, Janzsen Electrostatic speaker and Sound Fowndation showing the new Clearaudio Master Innovation turntable to name but a few and certainly despite being a bit smaller than last years show, its débuts like that that makes attending NAS at Whittelbury Hall still well worth a visit.
However the many absences from the show such as Kudos, Angel Sound Audio, Select Audio etc is concerning, and as the HiFi News Show appears to have no place, for what Paul Miller calls ‘a surplus of brands we’ve never heard of ‘ ( a grossly unfair comment in my view) it would be a real shame if NAS were to vanish from the Annual UK show roster as many of these so called ‘surplus brands’ in my view very interesting audio brands would lose their window unto the world and the audio buying public would be all the poorer for not being able to see and hear them.
Chester Group do need to rename the show in my view, based on what I have seen here – as it can’t really be called National any more, unless they can address whatever the issues are that are causing the drift away and grow the show back to what it was at its beginning.
I for one hope they can halt that drift because it would be a tragedy if NAS were to close its doors and I wish them all the best in preventing that (4).
I hope to attend NAS next year in person – God willing.
(1) HiFi News November 2013 – ‘The Show Must Go On’, Page 102
(2) Reference Fidelity Components http://referencefidelitycomponents.co.uk/
(3) In a few cases I have linked to photos elsewhere on the net while I await permission from the copyright holder to use them.
(4) Just to be clear I have heard nothing on the wires, official or rumour to suggest that is the case but its hard not to see the wolves closing in as there has been a very clear and marked drop in exhibitors choosing to exhibit at NAS over the last year or so, and its particularly obvious this year. Some have gone to the Windsor show and some have vanished temporarily no doubt watching to see how Windsor goes, but will Windsor be a home for them? That remains to be seen as the vibe in the air at the minute and over the last while since HiFi News announced their show – among those in the know – is that it isn’t and won’t be as the Windsor show is more exclusive than inclusive.
If that were to persist into next year and beyond, then that in my view – assuming there is a next year (again I have heard nothing along the lines to suggest there won’t be) – would be a real shame. So over to you HiFi News re broadening the remit of the show and the type of perfectly valid and valuable audio brands that could exhibit there.
© Text Copyright 2013 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio except highlighted text quotes as Copyright belongs with their sources. Photos Copyright Paul Coupe, Justin (User 211) and product photos belongs with the related companies.
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