This years National Audio Show was quite a bit smaller than on previous years with Absolute Sounds, Audio Freaks, Missing Link, Black Rhodium and a number of other regulars staying away the reasons for which I am not privy to but it did make NAS 2012 a little poorer overall. However this slight reduction made my job of covering it all a little easier this year compared to other years.
However there were still a fair number of new companies exhibiting for the first time, including German company Backes and Muller, Brodman Acoustics, Logical Automation, Ming Da and Prometheus Audio to name but a few of the show’s newbies.
In the past the Brooklands Suite entrance – closer to the main car parks – was one of two ways into the show, with the main entrance through the hotel’s lobby. Logically this was a really poor choice – in my view – as a main entrance into NAS and I applaud the decision to use only the Brooklands Suite as the entrance now. I see this change as being a much more practical way in and as a result the show now flows much better throughout the hotel.
Last year I presented my NAS show report in three large parts, however in hindsight that was a mistake so I will be presenting this years National Audio Show report in a number of smaller blocks.
Arriving at the hotel fairly early – on a bright sunny but cool Saturday morning – there was quite a big cue of audio enthusiasts waiting to get in and hats off to Chester Group for the improved smoother entrance procedure that got me into the show fairly quickly.
There were a few less exhibitors in the Brooklands Suite to previous years – the sound pods of last year were absent – but overall the mix of those there mean’t there was a nice market place vibe on both the Saturday and the Sunday and I very much enjoyed walking around the various stalls and seeing what was new and there were quite a few interesting new products on display.
Just in the door to the right was Art Vinyl who were both exhibiting and selling their revolutionary way of displaying and storing records as framed art on the wall of ones listening room or anywhere else one might chose to display pictures.
The frames pull open from the bottom via a concealed hinge to allow the easy removal of a record sleeve and the frame itself only obscures a very small amount of the album sleeve around the edge – just enough to hold it in place.
Art Vinyl have this to say about their play and display flip frames…..
‘Art Vinyl Play & Display Flip Frames give you the chance to stylishly display your vinyl albums, 12″ records and their contents on your wall. With the record frame’s unique design, you can also change over your vinyl record display within seconds, without having to remove the frame from the wall. Our frames have a unique quick release system; simply press the catch at the top and they hinge open.
We understand that no 12″ records are alike; with this in mind our Play & Display frames are designed to compensate for differences in the thickness of LP or 12″ records when displayed in the frame. This is achieved thanks to the unique ‘sponge finger’ system on the back of the Flip Frame, which will ensure that any 12″ record can fit comfortably against the front display panel. On the back plate of the frame, soft pads at each corner ensure that the frame is held securely against the wall.
Available in black and ice white, Art Vinyl Play & Display Flip Frames come fully assembled and beautifully packaged, ready to attach to your wall with just one screw (fixture included in the box).’
I must say I think this is a great idea and adorning ones walls in a selection of the albums one is going to play that night appeals to me greatly.
As Art Vinyl say….
‘Sometimes vinyl album covers often remind us of a time, place, event or simply a piece of musical excellence. If you have that record in mind, the Play & Display Flip Frame will let you celebrate the art and still allow instant access to listen to the music at the same time.’
I think this is a very clever idea and I wish them all the best with it.
A single flip frame is £39.
Supra were at the show as usual, and seemed to be pretty busy throughout the duration of the show.
Sadly – for anyone specifically wanting to meet those behind HiFi Critic – this stand was only open on the Saturday and not the Sunday. Now I know there will be those – particularly HiFi Critic – that will take my next comments as mischievous but I feel if you are taking a stand at a show you should be there on all the days advertised and not just the one.
I also know that several of the writers were moving around the show on the Sunday but as the stall is a focus point and port of call for the readers/subscribers it should really in my view have been manned on both days.
English company and purveyor of very useful analogue related products were exhibiting for the first time at Whittelbury.
This company offer hand held quartz LED strobe lights, separate strobe discs and they can also retrofit a strobe features to Garrard 301/401 and Thorens TD124 turntables.
More details of this service and individual products can be found here…..
Unlike HiFi Critic the HiFi Plus stand was manned throughout the show and was fairly busy during most of NAS’s duration. I saw Alan Sircom – HiFi Plus editor and reviewer – manfully making his way around the rooms as was I, but unlike the early days of my show attending he was not carrying the entire contents of a small photographic studio around his neck.
I used to pass Alan in the corridors of the Park Inn Heathrow Show and feel sorry for him as this was really not the best way to comfortably cover a show – so yeah for quality compact digital cameras.
Deltec Precision Audio
Unlike previous years DPA had opted to have a stand in the Brooklands Suite rather than a room on one of the upper floors of the hotel. I asked why the change and Adrian Walker explained that most people appeared to want to chat at the previous shows they had done, about the products and trying to run demos at the same time as people wanting to talk with him, Dave Clarke DPAs engineer or the sales team made that difficult, so for this year they had decided to try a stall in the Brooklands Suite instead.
As it turned out DPA had much to talk about with quite a number of new products unveiled at NAS 2012 including a new budget interconnects called Desire and the Minuet range of electronics.
The Desire range includes an RCA to RCA stereo phono interconnect, USB cable, digital co-ax cable and IEC power cable. Pricing was very reasonable and for the show introductory prices were: The Desire interconnect was £60, USB £20, Co-Ax digital £60 and IEC cable £100
One item the original Deltec Precision Audio was famous for was the compact ‘The Power’ RF filter box – I have one myself still that I use day to day – so they have decided to launch an extensive range of new products in a similar size of box to the original ‘The Power’ that include a Minuet DAC £300, Minuet Filter £300, Minuet Disc phono stage £500 and an upgrade PSU (no price as yet) – all Minuet electronics come with a basic PSU as standard. Fit, finish and build quality looked very good for the very reasonable pricing.
I was not able to hear these items at the show – I ran out of time as DPA had the DAC, DISC and PSU on headphone demo via a Michell Gyrodeck, SME 5, turntable set up – so I look forward to hearing them in the future.
Also on static display were DPAs other electronics – from left to right: DPA 241 pre-amplifier and DPA 242 power-amplifier, the DPA CA1 pre-amplifier, DPA S1 power-amplifier, the PDM3 DAC and The Power Plus RF filter.
Very much a regular at the Whittelbury Show, though this year exhibiting under the Timestep name – rather than as Sound HiFi – Dave Cawley had a number of new items on his stand.
Dave Cawley of Timestep was proudly showing of his Technics EVO turntable in a very nice Inspire made custom surround – the turntable sits into it rather than having its own plinth replaced – and this certainly takes the edge of the DJ look of the deck – though I personally quite like that.
Dave was also displaying and demonstrating a Japanese headphone amplifier I had not seen before from Luxman in the form of the P200 £1395 and also the E200 phonostage £1395 also from Luxman.
I was also delighted to hear that after a very long absence from the UK market that the Tri-Planar tone arm – now in mk7 guise – is once again available from Sound Hifi. Sadly the cost of this arm has soared to a heady £4750 excluding output cable, but it should be stated that so has the cost of the likes of a Graham Phantom Supreme and this is to be expected with small quantity almost bespoke manufactured items.
The Tri-Planar – once the Wheaton Tri-Planar – is an incredible looking, sounding and highly engineered tonearm and is certainly among the best available tonearms in the world. It was a shame that a real one was not on display on the Timestep table.
You can read more on the history of this arm here
and Time Step can be found here
This company were showing items from Astin Trew in the shape of that companies AT3500 CD player, DAC 1, Trichord Research’s new headphone amplifiers – sorry no details as of yet – and they were also selling STS CDs/SACDs.
Loricraft have been exhibiting in this particular spot since the first time I attended this show – just to the left of where the lectures are held. Once again – as I do at every show – I felt disappointed as their stall was static display only. I just wish that they would get a room so it might be possible to hear their turntables – only one on display this year.
The usual range of record players were also on static display.
Like Loricraft, Claro Audio were once again exhibiting in the Brookland Suite, though unlike previous years I had an opportunity to hear one of their designs – in the Art Audio room – and very good it sounded too.
Max Townsend this year was exhibiting from a stand rather than a room and he had a selection of his isolation stands on display.
More details on Townsend Audio products here …
HiFi shows in the UK would not be the same without Diverse Vinyl and this years NAS was no exception and great business they were doing throughout the duration of the show. I myself made a number of purchases on vinyl and SACD.
Stamford had a great selection of CDs, Vinyl and accessories for sale and like Diverse they were doing a roaring trade over the weekend.
Atacama had some beautiful new all wood equipment stands on show – part of the new Eco range -along with their long established speaker stands and HiFi racks.
I must say that I really liked the look of the all wood stands but the wood shelves on the traditional Atacama equipment rack also looked very good as well.
There were also speakers from German company Elac on static display.
Mike Butler was pleased as punch to be able to show me the newly revised Isolation Spike – not a question of a redesign as such but just a few minor cosmetic changes and one slight mechanical change – the details of which I am sworn to secrecy, walls have ears and all that don’t you know.
Quite controversially – I can just hear Linn owners moaning about this – Mike had also fitted a Linn LP 12 with Isolators. Sadly it was only on static display but I am reliably informed it makes quite a difference to the sound. Having reviewed these on a BSE Slatedeck it made a big improvement to that turntables performance so I can only guess as to how they would help an LP12 -anyway it looked very nice with them fitted.
Around the stand Track Audio had a pretty much full selection of their beautifully crafted products and for the first time an operational system in the shape of electronics and speakers from AMR – details in the Exhibitors Prologue Part Two.
The AMR DP 777 DAC was the main source – though a CD777 was used from time to time – for the system, fed via a laptop and external hard drive and very fine it sounded too.
I find Mike’s boundless enthusiasm and passion for what he and Track Audio does a really refreshing tonic among some of the more dour exhibitors.
Henley Designs/Audio Technica
There was a very definite emphasis on headphones at this show with the HeadZone mini show and Henley Designs having a large stand area devoted to Audio Technica, with headphone bays powered by Project headphone amplifiers.
Having recently stopped distributing electronics to concentrate on his first love room acoustics Sean had two stands at the show one in the Brooklands Suite and one in the main body of the hotel.
There were some very interesting items in the other room, new to the Advanced Acoustics portfolio but I will describe them in detail in that part of the report, despite the fact they were also on display here too.
On this stand Sean and his team were demonstrating room optimisation with the Reves Parc equipment which he still sells.
I must confess that I love the look of quality wooden audio furniture but before HiFi Racks came along with their Podium products many such designs, while nice to look at were also somewhat compromised sonically.
They had much of their range there from audio equipment, home cinema, TV, media storage and their lovely headphone stands on display.
Odd name for this company as there were no turntables on show but there was a huge quantity of very cheap vinyl which attracted many during the show. I passed this stand quite a few times and it resembled bees round a jam pot as audio enthusiasts both civilian and trade jostled to get a browse through the many brown boxes full of records.
Mains Cables R Us
David Brook was a very busy man over the length of the entire show and I am actually quite amazed by show end that he could still talk.
His stand was a veritable cornucopia of audio delights from mains and interconnect cables, PSUs, accessories and audio components such as the new Mains Cable R Us media server, the 9inch version of the amazing ‘The Wand +’ tonearm and the Tellurium Q Iridium headphone amplifier.
This, new on the scene arm – from New Zealand – is a fairly revolutionary unipivot design that has been gaining both enthusiasts praise and that of the audio press. It is available directly from the manufacturer at roughly £400 in standard shape but the + version comes with Cardas wiring or the facility to connect your audio cable via a pair of RCAs mounted underneath. The + version also has improved construction as well. Price for the + version is £695. While I have not heard this arm yet it looks to be very good value for money.
Also new was the Mains Cables R Us media server, which is the brainchild of and collaboration between Nick Gorham – designer of all Mains Cables R Us PSUs – and Gary Jamieson the details of this unit are still somewhat sketchy but the price will be £1495.
Cable manufacturer Tellurium Q’s Iridium headphone amplifier was on display and demonstration on this stand and a lovely beautifully built thing it was too. Sadly time constraints mean’t I did not get to listen to this Class A, Quad regulated PSU design but knowing Colin Wonfor’s previous electronics I am sure its very good. Price £1236.
During the show’s duration a number of music acts played live in the Brooklands Suite, solo artist Fiona Clayton and duo The Luck. I had very little time to stand and listen – sadly – but what I heard of both was very good indeed, so I was sorry I could not listen for longer.
Part Two of Adventures in High Fidelity Audio’s coverage of the National Audio Show 2012 will continue very soon.
© Text and Photos Copyright 2012 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio.
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