Onwards and ever deeper into the labyrinthine of corridors we will go now as we explore more rooms further into the National Audio Show 2012.
Catalunya – Jordan Acoustics/Marantz/Boston Acoustics
Marantz’s brand ambassador/designer Ken Ishitwata was busy all weekend doing timed demonstrations in this room – sadly time constraints meant I could not attend – and during a break in the demonstrations I snuck into the room and took some photos of the very affordable system Ken was using. It comprised of an SA11.5.3 SACD player and a matching PM 11.5.3 integrated amplifier and a pair of Boston M25’s that Ken had some design input.
After taking the photos I sat and had a listen to the system and I was very impressed with the sound and in particular the full well balanced sound the speakers were making. The sound stage was wide deep and highly focussed imaging was pin point and despite the room being large and the speakers small the bass was very good – impressive stuff indeed.
I asked about the speakers – Boston M25s – and was expecting a retail price of several thousand which is pretty much the norm for high performance mini-monitors but I was blown away by the modest cost, a truly shockingly little £579. It has been a long time sing my lower jaw has hit the floor.
More on the Boston M25 speakers…
‘The m series family of loudspeakers was created to deliver exceptionally accurate and natural sound reproduction from an aesthetically pleasing design. Each m series product was specifically engineered to provide superior acoustic results for the intended application.
Most remarkably, the M350, M340 and M25 utilize the Extended Wide Bandwidth (EWB) tweeter and Boston Acoustics Lo-Q™ cabinet construction for pure sound reproduction and minimal interference from the cabinet.
The look of the m series includes traditional and modern design cues that provide exceptional sonic results and allow them to easily integrate in a wide variety of home décors. The M350, M340 and M25 is available in gloss black lacquer and traditional walnut veneer, both with black faux leather trim.
Main features are: Second generation Extended Wide Bandwidth (EWB) Tweeter to minimize phase shift and distortion while improving pistonic motion, polypropylene woofers are lightweight and rigid with large motor structures for maximum low frequency output and heat dissipation, Boston Lo-Q cabinet design to minimize cabinet response and interference, leatherette covered baffle, rounded cabinet design with premium quality finish, 5-way gold-plated precision binding posts, high quality crossover network filter circuit boards and components.
Specification:Design: 2-way, 5 1/4″ (133mm) polypropylene woofer, 1″ (25mm) EWB dome tweeter, Frequency Response: 62Hz – 30kHz, Recommended Amplifier Power: 50 – 200W, Impedance: 4 ohms, Sensitivity: 85dB, Dimensions (HxWxD mm): 314 x 176 x 258, Weight (kg): 6,7
In my view even based on a short listen these are a stunning achievement.
Elsewhere around the room various other pieces of Marantz electronics and Boston Acoustics speakers were on static display.
Imola – Inspire HiFi
I was particularly keen on visiting this room – something I did a number of times over the duration of the show – to hear their Technics 1200 derived turntable The Monarch, but instead they were using a brand new product the Enigma which is another turntable derived from a vintage design, in this case the Goldring Lenco GL75.
When I entered the room Inspire were playing Stimela by Hugh Masekela when I entered the room and sat down and despite the volume level being a tad too loud and some bass issues the music was beautifully reproduced with a wide deep soundstage, good instrument separation and focus and a slightly to the warmer side of neutral musical sound. I sat pulled into the music and I very much enjoyed the sound of the Enigma.
Later that same day – The Saturday – the Monarch was playing and I found myself much preferring the sound of the Enigma as it sounded thinner, slightly etched and more hifi sounding than the – to my ears – more musical Enigma. Yes the arm and cart were different but still the Enigma in this setting was the better sounding source. Obviously it goes with out saying, but I will anyway, that in a more sympathetic room, with a system I know well that might not be the case but on this showing the Enigma showed the Monarch a clean pair of heels and to my mind it is a wonderfully musical turntable that reproduces music not all the elements spotlit.
As there is no info on the Enigma yet – Inspire’s webiste is being updated (1) – I will concentrate on the Monarch. This what Inspire say about it on their website….
‘The Monarch turntable is Direct Drive and apart from the inspiring design, features, and materials used in its construction, it utilises some remanufactured previously used parts from Technics 1210 turntables – all the parts are thoroughly tested and inspected before the remanufacturing takes place – As most of us know, the Technics 1210 features some high specification parts – Utilising some of the best parts from the 1210 has further enabled us to bring something very special and desirable to the customer at a much lower price than they would otherwise have to pay.
Bearing spindle re housed in a phosper bronze sealed bearing – each bearing is manufactured by us to fit individually the Technics bearing spindle – Hi grade oil is used within the bearing (without the platter on – pull the bearing shaft up a little and feel the pull back into the bearing – this is due to extreme tolerances being used) Bearing assembly securely fitted to the aluminium billet sandwiched between the solid wood.
Motor magnets and some motor circuitry are re housed into a brand new platter / plinth (more on the platter and plinth later).
The on board circuitry is upgraded with hi spec parts such as a new Quartz chip of much higher spec – taking speed control to another level and this can clearly be heard in listening tests – speed drift simply will not happened with the Monarch – perfect everytime.
The remainder of the Monarch has been inspired by us to give absolute quality rarely seen even at many times the price. The stunningly beautiful plinth is solid Walnut (other woods may be available) with an internal layered billet of 6 mm aluminum – Rigid beyond anything we have seen in other turntables – Rigidity and mass combined to give terrific isolation and a platform for all the parts to work very effectively.
The rigidness and mass are perfect to take the parts such as the bearing assembly screwed directly to the sandwiched aluminium – the arm board can be cut for all arms up to 12 inch. The billet of aluminium which makes up the arm board is also bolted to the internal sandwiched aluminium. The toggle switch for speed selection and stop start is a delight to use, and the turntable becomes clinical in its simplicity – almost like using a costly hi spec cd player!
The Monarch platter is two superbly machined billets of aluminium with a sandwich of sorbothane through the middle – this allows the Monarch to avoid the pitfalls of a top mat needing to be used – In tests over a long period we have found that mats only add to the sound in unwanted colouration – Our platter most definitely does not use a mat, and the benefits are immense, and can clearly be heard – with more detail and separation of individual instruments. The platter top is beautifully machined and has a slight record label recess and 3 added ring indents to off set any resonance escaping from the vinyl. The heavy stainless steel puck adds that extra control of the record to the platter surface – again with added benefits to the music reproduction. The feet are machined from aluminium and have shock absorbers internally fitted – they look good and give a superb base (and isolation) on which the plinth can rest and perform.
The Monarch at first sight appears very compact refined and beautifully understated – looks can be deceiving! It takes all arms up to and including 12 inch variants – (our preferred option) with the 27% better tracking ability (information courtesy of SME LTD). The Monarch weighs in at a massive 39lbs.
The plinth design is like no other in that it will still fit most turntable shelves etc whilst allowing the use of the 12 inch tonearm – indeed it is only 2 inch’s wider than an LP12 . Our off board power supply (spec below) is manufactured with the highest grade parts…….’ Price without arm £3970
The Monarch is certainly impressive to look at as is its fit and finish, which is to a very high standard – therefore it hides its origins well. I look forward to hearing it again and in comparison to its idler drive brother The Enigma.
Around the room other Inspire products were on static display.
Below the cheaper Monarch turntable, still based on a Technics 1200, The Junior which retails for £2500
Monaco – Analogue Alchemy
This year found Analogue Alchemy very much consolidating their position and products with nothing new to show as such but their electronics are now much closer to completion with Alex Nitikin heading the development.
The turntables now have model names with Julie the entry level turntable followed by Ella, Norah and top of the range, Gloria. All these ladies are still as beautiful to my eyes as the first time I saw them back at the 2011 Audio world show at the Park Inn Heathrow.
When I entered the room an ANT Audio heavily modified rebuilt Technics 122 mk3 tape deck was playing and the sound was stunning. I would challenge anyone to have been able to identify that it was tape playing. Alex charges £800 and you provide the tape deck, so if you have one it would in my view be well worth contacting him about getting it rebuilt.
I look forward to seeing where Analogue Alchemy are as a company next time I visit their room.
57 – Wireworld
American company Wire World had their full range of signal, speaker, video, computer audio, mains and digital cables on display.
With so many products in their room I decided to focus on the up and coming computer audio arena and the Wire World Starlight USB cable which is now available for USB3.
Wireworld would appear to be the first specialist cable manufacturer to be offering audiophile quality USB3 cables. This is an important addition to the computer audiophile arsenal of connection choices as many external hard-drives (Seagate, Western digital, Freecom) which need to be hooked up to a computer and then into a DAC, now come with a USB 3 connection.
This is going to be an increasingly important as most of the hard-drive manufacturers are now switching from USB2 to USB3, so its nice to know that Wire World now offer a way of keeping the cable path from HD to PC/MAC and then into the DAC the same – personally I think this is important.
WireWorld USB cables feature Symmetricon™ cable design with islolated power lead. WireWorld USB cables function over significantly longer runs than conventional USB cables and provides improved sound quality in media server, PC audio, and other digital music applications.
Wire World have been very clever in their USB cable range designs – including Ultraviolet, Starlight Silver and Platinum – in that the audio and power cables are kept separate, thus ensuring that any damage the power transmission aspect of a USB cable has, is prevented from damaging the delicate digital audio signals, which in traditional USB cables are in close proximity to each other – which is not a good thing.
Wire World say this about it…
‘WireWorld USB cables feature Symmetricon™ cable design with islolated power lead. WireWorld USB cables function over significantly longer runs than conventional USB cables and provides improved sound quality in media server, PC audio, and other digital music applications.’
Wire World say this about their Starlight USB3 cables….
The unique flat design of the Starlight® USB3 cable was derived from WireWorld’s award-winning flat HDMI cables. This elegant cable features 12 conductor Symmetricon™ design utilizing 24 gauge silver-clad OFC conductors to provide substantially higher fidelity than other USB cables, regardless of cost.
Conductor type: Silver-clad oxygen-free copper
Available lengths: 0.5m, 1.0m, 2.0m, 3.0m & 5.0m
Available as:Type A plug to Type B (STX) Type A plug to Micro-B (STZ)’
As yet neither the Ultraviolet not Starlight Platinum ranges have USB3 connection, but I would guess with the increasing popularity of high quality computer audio its only a matter of time before they do.
Starlight USB3 cables are priced from £105 for a 0.5 m and the cables are available in longer lengths.
56 – Advanced Acoustics
Having decided to stop distributing electronics Sean has decided to consolidate Advanced Acoustics by returning to his first love and passion – not that he had paused this – which is room acoustics and he had a number of very interesting new items in the room in the shape of the QRDs -Quadratic Residue Diffusers.
These cubes – about the size of average record storage cubes – are open at the front with various vertical slats positioned within to diffuse as Advanced Acoustics say on their website…
‘While absorption is vital for any room an area that can’t be ignored is diffusion. Diffusion is the even spreading of sound waves from a direct source. So if you have a small space diffusion can give the idea of a room being larger than it actually is by providing increased natural ambience. By having no absorption or diffusion installed in a space speech intelligibility is reduced and sound quality is degraded and while absorbent materials will help a great deal in solving that dedicated well designed diffusion such as our QRD Diffuser will be much more effective.’
At the very reasonable price of £186 each these are a in my view a definite must try product along with their absorption panels.
Sound within this room was pretty good despite there being no curtains.
58 – Ming Da
I can’t help but feel a tad weird entering this room as it is a short distance away from where Icon Audio had their equipment set up, and Ming Da products are visually very similar to some of the Icon Audio electronics. The reason for this is Ming Da manufacturer the Icon Audio products to David Shaw’s specifications – many resembling native Ming Da items – and make items specific to Icon Audio as well. I am well aware that for years Chinese items have appeared on the audio market that resemble others Bewitch and Pure Sound being another case in point but in reality are not the same and having heard Icon Audio in the past in controlled circumstances – i.e in my home system and at many shows so I was very keen to hear Ming Da’s native products and here was my opportunity.
The system on show comprised of MD 7SE £1520 pre-amplifier, MC 805 amplifier£3499, MC 2000 CD CD player £1395, MC 2006 phonostage £1595, Audio Note DAC One, Acoustic Solid Solid Machine turntable and Tune Audio Marvel Speakers £8995
The items that particularly caught my eye was the MC805 power-amplifier…
‘MC805-A 40W monoblock power amplifier. This amplifier uses the classic 805ASE triode valve running in single-ended configuration, and heavy duty transformers to ensure that the output is as pure as possible. Sold in pairs, and an ideal match to one of the Ming Da pre-amplifiers.
Specifications: Power output: 40W RMS, Distortion factor: <1% at full power, Frequency response: 18Hz – 30kHz ± 1dB, Signal to noise ratio: >88dB
The pre-amplifier being used in the system also looked very interesting…. ‘MD7SE preamplifier. A very high quality preamplifier, using 6SN7 valves, specifically chosen for their widely acclaimed musicality, and using a 274B valve rectifier to practically eliminate power supply noise.
Also available is the MD7SE-S for the committed audiophile, with specially selected 6SN7 valves and premium Jensen coupling capacitors.
Specification: Frequency response: 10Hz – 75kHz ± 1dB, Distortion factor: <0.03%, Signal to noise ratio: >91dB, Nominal input level: 100mV (max 2V pk), Input impedance: 100kΩ
and the ‘MC2006 phono stage: top of the range phono stage, switchable betweenmoving coil and moving magnet inputs. The power supply is separately housed and uses valve rectifiers to provide the lowest possible noise figure. DC heater supply further reduces the possibility of hum and mains-borne interference being picked up. The input matching transformers are made in Britain specially for this product
Specifications – moving magnet: Input sensitivity: 100µ, Input impedance: 47kΩ, Voltage gain: 60dB, Signal to noise ratio: 90dB. Specifications – moving coil: Input sensitivity: 1mV, Input impedance: 100Ω, Voltage gain: 80dB, Signal to noise ratio: 78dB’
The Tune Audio marvel speakers a two way horn loaded speaker also impressed me both visually and sonically….
‘High quality 8″ wide range driver for low & mid frequencies modified in house and 1″ compression driver with titanium diaphragm for high frequencies.
MARVEL, a two way design, compact enough to house a back loaded bass horn driven by a wide range 8″ driver. Bass horn fires to the floor and it’s build of grade A Baltic birch plywood. Mid frequencies are radiated directly by the cone while the high frequencies are handled by our proprietary epoxy compound tractrix horn.
Crossovers are of 1st order and located on the bottom of the bass horn well away from driver’s magnetic fields. All components are hard wired for best contact. All internal wiring are custom made of high purity OFC copper with waxed cotton insulation. Brass bracing parts with felt acoustic isolation are used to minimize vibrations transfer on contacts of the different horns.
High frequencies horn is located on the side of the bass horn mechanically time aligned for a time coherent result. User can adjust the level and beaming of the high frequencies horn to fine tune MARVEL to the listening room and position.
Specifications: System Sensitivity: 97db, Impedance Nominal: 8ohms, Crossover @ 2500HZ, Recommended Power. > 5watt, Recommended Amplifiers. Low-mid powered tube or solid state with low or no feedback. Recommended Placement. Near wall or room corner placement is desirable. Preferred clearance between speakers >1.5 m., Listening Distance. >2 m.
Dimensions.H149cm, W32cm, L56cm,Weight. 42Kgr each, various finishes either in natural wood or paint are available.’
Sound quality was open detailed, musically effortless and the speakers lacked any of the more obvious horn colourations that to me get in the way of the music – shock horror another horn speaker I liked.
It was pretty much the end of the Saturday when I visited this room and the exhibitors were pretty chilled out and relaxed – read totally knackered as was I – but I managed to have a brief chat with them re their products and a short discussion broke out re the merits of Prog rock and this resulted in some Emerson Lake and Palmer being played.
59 – Jordan Acoustics – Art Loudspeakers, Systemdek, McIntosh
Jordan Acoustics had two rooms at this show – as they had at last year’s show – and also like last years show the system featured components from Art Speakers, various examples of McIntosh valve amplification, a Systemdek 3D Signature turntable.
The exact system breakdown is as follows: McIntosh C500 pre-amplifier, C452 power-amplifier, MC275 mk6 power-amplifier, Naim HDX server, Bricasti m1 DAC, Nagra VPS phonostage, Systemdek 3D Reference turntable, Davinci Master Reference Virtu tonearm, Transfiguration Pheonix MC cartridge.
Within this room Art Loudspeakers were premièring their new Alnico range of speakers and in particular the Signature speakers at £22000
Art say this about them…
‘The ART Alnico series consists of three new loudspeakers that share a 35mm soft dome alnico magnet high frequency unit. This provides high sensitivity and excellent stability giving each model a natural and life like presentation. They all utilise curved wide baffle cabinets constructed from laminated birch plywood with solid aluminium front panels and tops. Secured to these the drive units deliver a performance of beguiling realism with scale, depth and agility.’
Their specification is as follows: Speaker type 3 way bass reflex floor standing, Bass / Mid Driver 1 x 260mm bass (treated paper), 1 x 150mm midrange (treated paper),Tweeter 35mm soft dome alnico magnet, Crossover Jensen copper foil inductors and capacitors, Internal wiring Kondo KSL Spc copper, Binding posts WBT Platinum terminals, Frequency response 26Hz – 20kHz ± 3dB, Sensitivity 90 dB/for 1 watt @ 1 meter, Impedance 8 ohm nominal impedance, Recommended power min 8 watts, Cabinet S Glass Laminated Birch Ply Cabinet machined from solid billet aluminium front baffle and top.,Overall dimensions 1100mmH x 320mmD x 430mmW (Cabinet), Weight packed 80 kilos each.
Also in the room was the lovely looking new version McIntosh 275 stereo power-amplifier, which has the sockets positioned differently. McIntosh say this about this version of the 275 power-amplifier…..
This sixth generation MC275 has many subtle enhancements from the previous release that greatly improve performance. Combined with the widest bandwidth McIntosh output transformer design, the MC275 features tauter bass control and thermally quiet circuit design. The result is pure music.
McIntosh patented, gold plated, speaker binding posts assure the best connection to all speaker cables, while high quality balanced and unbalanced input connectors enhance signal transfer from the connected pre-amplifier.
The seven small tubes are LED illuminated to indicate the amplifiers functional status: upon power up, they sequentially glow amber for a few seconds and then all turn green to signify system readiness (see below). In the rare case of an output tube failure, the small tubes in front of it will turn red to notify you of the problem. Power Control is used to remotely control tube illumination from a McIntosh pre-amplifier.’ Current Retail price is £3999 for this piece of ongoing audio history.
Having had a listen to one of the slightly older version of this amplifier recently I did find that its having the power input on the opposite end to the signal terminations a bit of a pain. Personally I would prefer it if the power socket was on the back as in my view it would A look better and B make it easier to place the amp.
The rest of the system looked amazing too.
Jordan Acoustics always go for broke in their system set ups at the shows I attend and despite the lack of curtains leading to a pretty live acoustic, this system sounded very good indeed.
German speaker manufacturer Quadral was showing its own speakers and electronics from the Aurum brand.
512 – Origin Live
Mark Baker was looking very relaxed when I entered his room and had a listen and despite the lack of curtains to tame a fairly live room the sound was quite good.
Mark was using a Music First pre-amplifier, Origin Live Discovery new phonostage, Origin Live Sovereign mk2 turntable with Enterprise-C tonearm, Cambridge Audio CD player and Astute Speakers and Subwoofers.
This year his radical speaker design The Astute’s were being complemented by upward facing subwoofer’s the Astute 12.
Origin Live say this about this unusual design….
‘To complement the Astute 8 we have introduced the Astute subwoofer 12. This extends the frequency range of the system down to 30hz (-3dB) providing thunderous lows while retaining near perfect speed and accuracy.
At the heart of this design is an ultra low distortion, high efficiency woofer providing great control and musicalty. With carefully optimised cabinet and driver design, the subwoofer integrates seamlessly with the Astute 8s, or any other loudspeaker of your choice.
The amplifier module powering this subwoofer is a Class D design that provides RMS power of 550w, with peaks in excess of 1Kw. The massive headroom in the amplifier allows breathtaking dynamics and unsurpassed performance, critical to your enjoyment of the music.
The Subwoofer also features variable gain, +/- 180 phase control, variable crossover (50-150hz), and variable parametric EQ. These allow you to tune the subwoofer perfectly to any room, and any taste. Inputs to the Subwoofer 12 are either XLR or RCA (either stereo or mono).’
Also in the room and system on demonstration was a new phonostage from Origin Live, the Discovery 2 but sadly there are no details on it yet.
As always it was a pleasure visiting the Origin Live room but sadly time pressures meant I could not sit and listen for very long.
I must apologise to my readers for the lateness of this part of the NAS 2012 show report, I am back on track now, so the rest will follow more quickly. All I can say is that life got in the way.
Part Four will follow very soon.
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