Nov 072011

In this part of the National Audio Show report we will be visiting the First floor areas of the show and there were a number of real gems here, including what for me was the best sounding room at the show and I would go so far as to say one of the best sounding rooms at any of the shows I have visited so far since starting AIHFA.

157 – Audio Note

I have to be honest and say right from the off that this show was a first in so much as Audio Note’s room was not sounding as good as it has on other occasions. However in saying that it was still better than a number of other exhibitor’s rooms, and by a fairly large margin.

Audio Note were exhibiting a system made up of an CDT Zero/2 CD Transport, DAC2.1X/2, Oto SE integrated amplifier and Audio Note ANE speakers. The Audio Note turntable was fitted with a new tonearm in the form of the Arm 2, which is a rewired version of a Rega RB250.

155 – Acoustic Imagery

Are a new company, though John Young has been involved in the audio industry both from a retail perspective and design and manufacturing one for quite a number of years.

Acoustic Imagery was born out of John’s own quest to find solutions for his own audio system and Acoustic Imagery started when…‘John came across an article about a Philips engineer called Bruno Putzeys who had developed a new concept in Class D amplification and these “UCD Modules” would be made available to everyone from DIYers to OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers).

So, with some trepidation and a not inconsiderable sum of money squeezed from the ‘piggy bank’, he bought 1600 watts of Class D modules and 2 thumping great 500VA transformers together with power supply circuits and various enclosures to drive his loudspeakers. Oh! and a Behringer 24/96 digital electronic crossover to make it all work…..even in those days the potential of Class D could be seen.

Since 2006 John has been using and improving the amplifiers driving his hi-fi system and 2 years ago began developing designs to use the UCD technology in a commercial product. He decided at an early stage that using a traditional linear power supply would make the case design too big and bulky so when Hypex announced the arrival of a Switch Mode Power Supply (SMPS) for their amplifier modules, this was music to his ears….literally!

The SMPS’s from Hypex allowed ACOUSTICIMAGERY to standardise the case size to 220mm w x 300mm d x 65mm h and also enable a ‘machined from solid billet aluminium’ construction to be used. The positive benefits of this type of construction are that there is only one joint on the whole case which is good for low EMI and that the whole case also can act as a heatsink.

Together with the power amps John has sourced a pre amp to match and a phono stage is in the latter stages of development with the electronics finished and just the case design to finalise.’ Taken from the Acoustic Imagery website.

This particular National Audio Show was the world launch for Acoustic Imagery and the company’s products a pre-amplifier, mono power-amplifiers and a prototype phonostage.

The Pre-amplifier is an ‘active line level pre amplifier which has the ability to drive long cables and by using the very best 24 step rotary attenuator is extremely transparent and dynamic. There are 5 line level unbalanced inputs with gold plated RCA phonos and a high quality front panel mounted rotary selector switch. There is 1 unbalanced output with gold plated RCA phono sockets.

The case is machined from solid billet aluminium and is made up only of two pieces; this ensures low EMI transmission. The pre-amplifier is also available with rubber tipped integral feet are standard with spikes optional.’

John is particularly proud of the power-supply in his pre-amplifier design……. ‘A high quality pre-amplifier needs a high quality power supply and the one used in our pre-amplifier has a unique and important feature. Having concluded that one type of regular is not enough to cover all kinds of supply needs for audio electronics circuit, our PSU has 3 parallel supply paths. The main features of this are:

A path that takes care of constant or slow varying current sourcing. This is a path where main power is dissipated.

An extremely fast and wide banded regulator circuit that is not able to handle large constant current but able to source current demands varying far beyond far beyond the audio frequency range. A path where a large amount of energy is stored to supply extremely large current peaks instantly.

Price £2995 + 20% Vat’

The mono D400 power-amplifier is ‘a Class D design and is housed in an enclosure milled from solid billet aluminium. It is physically the same size as the pre amplifier case and so visually a perfect match.

The rating for the amplifier is 400 watts into a 4ohm load but will easily drive any load.

The amplifier has a very flat frequency response irrespective of load impedance, has a nearly frequency independent distortion behaviour and has very low radiated and conducted EMI.

Efficiency is over 90% and under normal operating conditions, radiates little heat thus negating the need for large external heat sinks.

The input to the amplifier is balanced as standard using a Neutrik® XLR input socket and an XLR to RCA lead is provided to connect the power amp to the unbalanced pre amp output.Speaker connections are via 5 way shielded binding posts and mains is connected via a switched, fused IEC mains socket.’

The retail price for each mono amplifier is £1995 + 20%VAT

I particularly enjoyed my brief chat with John Young and I enjoyed the sound of his system which comprised of the aforementioned pre and two D400 mono amplifiers + a pair of Eminent Technology LFT-8B’s and a Clario Clarity, Ortofon tonearm and Ortofon Cadenza Black cartridge. The sound of music played on this system was open and detailed with an overall presentation just sitting to the slightly warmer side of neutral and was also musical.

I look forward to hearing these products again in the future.

154 – Axhorn Loudspeakers

Within this room a large set of preproduction speakers were in use and as such I don’t think its fair to make any comments on the sound as they are not a finished design, so I won’t .

What was interesting was a new High End Deltec Precision Audio pre and power combination, which while only mock ups themselves were still very interesting.

The new power-amplifier the 242 £11,500 (aprox) and a new pre-amplifier the 241 £12,500, which uses a Kelvin sensor feed back design, with the speaker cables connect directly to the speakers. This design will allow the individual damping factor of the amplifier to be set to match the speakers. As the Axhorns match this philosophy Deltec will be distributing these speakers. The pre-power, cabling and speakers will also be available as a system.

The pre and power amplifier are fully balanced designs but alas all that was on show in the room were two mock ups. The system was being driven by more conventional Deltec amplification, a  DPA CA1 pre-amplifier and SA1 stereo power-amplifier plus a Deltec PDM3 DAC.

153 – Deltec Precision Audio

It was nice to see the guys from Deltec again this year and being able to have a brief chat with them but sadly it was a much shorter one than last year, as the clock was ticking very much against me and what I wanted to achieve with this show report.

Deltec Precision Audio were launching a new Digital to Audio Converter (DAC) at this show, first seen in prototype form at last year’s NAS show.  This true high end performance DAC, called the PDM3, has three priority selected inputs, USB, optical SPDIF and coaxial SPDIF, with sample rates from 44.1KHz/16 bit to 96KHz/24bit.

Also in the room and being used was the DPA-CA1 Stereo Pre Amplifier and the DPA-SA1 stereo Power Amplifier……

‘The DPA-CA1 is a minimalist stereo pre amplifier with the signal handling circuitry as simple and direct as possible. The CA1 has six line level inputs for sources, two record monitor outputs and two play monitor inputs. Dual outputs are available for bi-amping capability.


‘The DPA-SA1 embodies the philosophy of Deltec Precision Audio. The SA1 is an exciting new Stereo Power Amplifier that is radical and innovative. We urge serious audiophiles to audition the SA1 and enter into this new realm of believability. Every single component has been carefully considered and chosen for delivering the best performance.

At the heart of the DPA-SA1 Stereo Power Amplifier is the hybrid voltage amplifier – the DH-OA37.  This Thick film hybrid, designed and developed by Deltec. The DH-OA37 is designed using a radical circuit architecture achieving a high gain bandwidth product compared to most amplifiers.  This coupled with a highly linear open loop performance, virtually eliminates high frequency distortion giving an exceptionally smooth and treble quality.

The output stage in the DPA-SA1 uses Current Coupled Class A. This output stage topology offers a ten fold improvement in distortion by the use of a high speed Class A driver and current amplification circuitry. The loudspeaker output is via two WBT CE compliant binding posts per channel.  The power supply plays a crucial role in the sound quality performance of the power amplifier, particularly with the problems

Matching the performance achieved in the circuit design is also expressed in the creation of the enclosure. The softly contoured clean looking front panel of the DPA-SA1 is sculpted by precision machining from a solid billet of aluminium. The surface part is finished to a very high standard, which is then hand gloss painted and lacquered to a high luster. The fabricated envelope and chassis are accurately laser cut and folded. They are finished in a fine linished anodised satinwood black.’

Various other bits of Deltec equipment and cabling was also on static display round the room.

I enjoyed the sound of music in this room and as much as I wanted to sit longer I had to move on. It is nice to see that Deltec are growing as a company, even in these difficult economic days and their product range continues to expand to meet market demands but does so in a logical and measured way.

152 LW Audio

LW Audio had on first appearances made a fundamental error by putting the tall Anthony Gallo Ref 5 speakers into their room, at least that was what I first thought when I walked into their room and I introduced myself to Iain Borthwick. Music was playing in the back ground and I had to admit it sounded good, very good but I thought it was the Reference 3.5’s playing not their considerably bigger brothers.

Iain and I chatted for a bit and then it turned out it was the much bigger speakers playing. Iain turned the volume up and well much to my surprise I had to concede to myself and then Iain what I thought was initially a mistake was if not quite a complete triumph (there were a few slight issue with the bass) it was still very good and an enjoyabile and musical sound was being produced.

The Anthony Gallo Reference 5 is the flagship model in Gallo’s range of speakers…..

‘The Reference 5LS builds upon its smaller sibling’s (3.1) considerable strengths, achieving even greater performance in virtually every aspect of sound quality. Measuring 78 inches tall, this all-new loudspeaker is the closest any line source has ever come to being omni-directional. The Reference 5LS spans the gamut of frequency and dynamic range, yet its slender 7″ width and 11″ depth enable it to excel in virtually any listening room and blend beautifully into most decorating schemes.

At the cornerstone of the Reference 5LS’ standards-setting performance is our patented CDT II™ tweeter, whose power-handling, off-axis response and efficiency approach the textbook definition of ideal. Midrange drivers employ Gallo’s spherical enclosure technology, which virtually eliminates enclosure resonance and diffraction while enabling a broad 300-degree dispersion. The 5LS is also the world’s first speaker to use multiple CDT II™ tweeters. To form the line array, Gallo deploys seven CDT II™s and eight 4″ carbon fiber midrange drivers, each housed in its own 5″ spherical enclosure.

Although most line sources must horizontally offset their various drivers, the Reference 5LS alternates tweeter cylinders with midrange spheres, one atop the other, in perfect vertical alignment. As a result, the phase and dispersion problems caused by driver offset are entirely eliminated. Twelve aluminium, rear-firing 4″ subwoofer drivers equal the surface area of a 15″ driver, but reproduce bass with a speed and transparency that no large driver can approach. The tubular stainless steel bass enclosure is stuffed with Gallo’s patented S2 Technology, which further enhances the quality and quantity of low-frequency output.

Capable of being driven by a single, capable amplifier, the 5LS offers the options of bi- or tri-wiring, as well as bi- or tri-amping. Although able to handle massive power, the crossover-free design and high efficiency of both the CDT II™ tweeters and carbon-fiber midrange drivers are perfect matches for low-powered, high-performance amplifiers. The first-order low-pass filter used for the bass drivers (the ONLY crossover employed in the 5LS!) can be bypassed, enabling the LF enclosure to be driven from the LFE output of a processor, or from a separate amplifier. Gallo’s (optional) Reference SA amplifier, which features volume, phase and crossover adjustments, is ideal for this application, as the speaker can be placed for optimal imaging and soundstaging performance and then fine-tuned for bass using the SA’s control facilities.’

Also in the system and used during the duration of the show alternated with the Reference 5s were the amazing Reference 3.5 speakers which are the updated version of my own reference speakers the 3.1’s

‘Redeveloped from the ground up to incorporate numerous technological advances and performance upgrades, the Reference 3.5 replaces the award-winning 3.1 model, and outperforms its predecessor in every respect. The result is an inspirational loudspeaker that has the critics united in their praise.

Housed in a precision-engineered, cast aluminium chassis, you’ll find two isolated spherical enclosures, holding carbon fibre mid-range drivers, alongside our amazing CDT™III tweeter – the latest evolution of our now legendary tweeter. By adding Optimised Pulse Technology® and OPT Level 2, along with our patented S2 Technology, we have managed to far surpass the musical boundaries set by the 3.1.

With the Reference 3 and 3.1 models, traditional spikes were used to couple the speaker to the floor. Anthony Gallo’s philosophy for the Reference 3.5 is that the base should decouple the speaker from the floor. To this end, the base is made of Garolite, a high performance composite used extensively in the aerospace industries. A layer of Dermsol gel material is then applied to bottom of the base, completing the decoupling process.

The attributes that made Gallo famous: unparalleled transparency, sound stage and neutrality – are more evident than ever in the Reference 3.5. More importantly, there is an organic wholeness to its sound, connecting with the listener on a deep, emotional level.’

Both speakers were being used with the Anthony Gallo Reference 3 S.A amplifier and in the case of the Reference 5’s, a pair of them. Iain switched them in and out of circuit while I was there and the difference was quite marked with not only the bass improved (not just extended) but also the midrange fleshed out more and the soundstage gained extra width and depth. So while weight and scale was increased the system also gained increased naturalness and openness; this was impressive, even in what was to my mind a less than ideal room…..

‘Reference 3 owners looking for an even more intense experience have the option of adding our Reference 3 SA amplifier to their system. The 2 x 240-watt Reference 3 SA amplifier is an innovative high-power amplifier, specifically designed to work in parallel with the Reference 3 to offer even greater bass extension.

It does this by ‘actively’ powering a second voice coil on the Reference 3’s bass driver. The effect of utilising this second voice coil is like adding two perfectly integrated subwoofers into the room, taking linear bass response down to a stomach-churning 22 Hz.

This ‘stereo subwoofer’ effect adds a new dimension to the already exceptional performance of the Reference 3. In stereo systems, bass is pure, musical and as deep as you could possibly want, without interfering with midrange and high frequencies. In multi-channel systems, on the other hand, it simply removes the need for a dedicated subwoofer.

While it’s true that the SA amplifier has been very much designed with the Reference 3 customer in mind, it’s also far from a one trick pony. Not limited to use with the Reference 3, the inherent sound quality of the advanced circuitry found within the amplifier means that it’s equally at home when used as stand-alone component for powering full-range loudspeakers.

Furthermore, the Reference 3 SA includes the ability to bridge the channels in the amplifier, boosting mono output to 600 W. This high power output, along with the added features of bass EQ control, dual mono attenuators, phase control and adjustable low pass filter control, makes the Reference 3 SA an ideal method of controlling and powering passive subwoofers.’

The system was made up of the Stereo Knight Enigma pre-amplifier (recently reviewed in AIHFA) the matching Stereoknight monoblock M100 mono power-amplifiers, the aforementioned Anthony Gallo components, TrusoundZ cabling (review coming very soon)  a Cary Audio CD player, two box pre-amplifier and a pair of Cary mono amplifiers.

101 and 105 Advanced Acoustics

Another ticketed demonstration suite I was unable to attend.

102 HiFi +

As this was a timed ticketed demonstration using room I did not enter it, as much as I would have liked to; sadly lack of time prevented me from doing so.

104 – Sound Fowdations/Isotek

As well as the usual demonstrations of Isotek and Furutech products SoundFowdations were also exhibiting Canor Audio products (formerly called Edgar pre 2007) who are based near Presov, Slovakia and who are now being distributed in the UK by Sound Fowdations.

I first saw this brand at last years National Audio Show and while the room they were in was less than ideal I saw a great deal of potential in what I heard that time. However at this show the sound of their components in this room were very good indeed and I enjoyed very much what I heard.

Pavol Curlik and Zdenek Brezovjak of Canor were present in the room and I enjoyed the brief chat I had with them.

The Canor TP106 integrated amplifier+, CD2 + CD player and TP206+ phono pre amplifier were part of the demonstration system.

‘ We refined the new TP106 VR+ amplifier with specially selected, measured and burned-in 6550 high-power tubes and superior Mundorf coupling capacitors which resulted in better overall performance and also higher output power (55W at 4Ohms). All aluminium models are manufactured in black and in silver finish. Both machines are equipped with a unified remote control. The CANOR TP106 VR+ operates in pure class A up to 20W per channel.

Output power 2 x 55 W / 4 Ohm
Inputs sensitivity 400 mV / 40 W / 1 kHz
Frequency range 20 – 20 000 Hz ±0.1 dB / 5 Watt
Inputs impedance 60 kOhm
Inputs 5
Harmonic distortion <0.05 % (1 kHz, 5 Watt)
Signal-to-noise ratio >93 dB
Tube complement 4x 12AT7, 4x 6550, 2x 5AR4
Power 230 V / 50 Hz
Dimensions (w x h x d) 435 x 170 x 390 mm
Weight 26 kg’

The CD2 VR+ tube compact disc player….

‘Compared to regular version, we refined the new CD2 VR+ tube compact disc player with superior Mundorf capacitors and applied even more careful selection of tubes.
Frequency range 20Hz – 20kHz (- 0.35 dB)
Total harm. distortion < 0.005% @ 1kHz
Signal to noise ratio > 102 dB (20-20,000Hz)
Output impedance < 200 Ohms
Output voltage 2.9 Veff
Power 230V, 50Hz / 100 VA
Dimensions (W, H, D) 435 x 122 x 370 mm
Weight (net) 12 kg’

The 206+ phono preamplifier

‘The CANOR TP 206+ is a fully valved phono stereo MM preamplifier. We use high-quality teflon insulated metal RCA connectors for input and output. For a relatively small dimensioned device we have chosen external feeding from a power transformer to maintain the best values of the signal-to-noise ratio. To stabilize anode voltage we use a special stabilizer with superior circuits of current supply to create a totally clean feeding without noise.

The TP 206+ phono stage tubes are being burned-in and measured on our specially developed BT-2 and TTM-2 measuring devices.

TP 206+ all-tube phono preamplifier. The CANOR TP 206+ is an improved version of the standard model, moreover, it contains step-up transformer circuits which allow to connect also MC pickups. As became quite common to the “+” versions, we again use the superior Mundorf capacitors.

Tubes 3 x 12AX7
Input impedance MM 47 kOhm
Input capacitance MM 100pF/220pF
Gain MM 42 dB / 47 kOhms
SNR MM 70 dB / 72 dB TP206+
Input impedances MC
only TP206+
10 Ohm / 20 Ohm / 50 Ohm
100 Ohm / 200 Ohm / 500 Ohm
Gain MC only TP206+ 62 dB
SNR MC only TP206+ 70 dB
THD < 0.3% (1kHz)
curve accuracy 20 Hz – 20 kHz / ±0.3 dB
Power 16 V / 1000mA
Dimensions (w x h x d) 210 x 88 x 295 mm
Weight without power supply 3 kg’

Keith Martin was as wonderfully passionate about his Isotek demonstration as he usually is and as on previous occasions his swaping various items in and out of circuit was immediately obvious and always showed the benefit of the Isotek mains product being in circuit. We are not talking subtle differences here but night and day ones.

Once again thanks go to Keith Martin and Chris Green for being excellent hosts.

106 – Cognoscenti High Fidelity

Were exhibiting a system made up of an Inspire turntable and speakers from Richter, an Australian company new to the UK. At last March’s Audio world show I was so underwhelmed by the sound made by these speakers that I didn’t really comment on the sound. Well this show saw a much better sound so much so that I was quite impressed with the open, detailed, musical and sweet sound. Norah Jones was playing and I am not really into her vocal style but the way she sounded played on this system made me stop and listen for awhile.

Just goes to prove that the old adage that one should never judge a book by its cover, very much applies to audio products too. I look forward to hearing Richter speakers another time.

S14 – Abbingdon  Music Research/Select Audio

Stephen Riddick of Select Audio had a number of new products in his room, including a new pre-amplifier from Pass Labs and matching power-amplifier.

XA 100.5 £14850, XP25 2 box phono pre-amplifier £7500, Basis 2200 turntable with Benz SLR Gold cartridge, XA 30 three box pre-amplifier £13000 control + 2 gain stages UK Premier AMR CD 777 and DAC, Verity Audio Amadis.

I would love to bring you more info on these new Passlabs products but alas they are at the time of writing not listed on Passlabs website.

As per usual Select Audio and AMR set high standards in their room for sound quality.

S15 – HiFi Critic, DNM Design, Wilmslow Audio

This was an interesting room as it featured a pair of speakers designed by HiFi Critic Magazine and produced by Wilmslow Audio as a kit speaker.

The Rhythm King is available as a two part kit were the builder can supply their own cabinet or Wilmslow Audio can also offer a cabinet either to be assembled ‘flat pack’ or already assembled.

‘Rhythm is a vital part of musical experience and yet it’s so often lacking in many audio systems, and in particular loudspeakers. Instead of a plodding tuneless bass, a mid-range which doesn’t join up well with the low frequencies and a disembodied, uneven or prominent treble are commonly encountered. These factors impair the sense of coherence and integration. This means the subjective ‘involvement’ factor: the drive, the rhythm, the pulse of the music, is absent. For a loudspeaker the solution is complex, involving better time alignment, smooth energy output with frequency, and fast decay rates.

Many commercial designs are conflicted by the need to:
# Sound as loud as possible for the size and price
# Have the deepest most powerful bass
#Have a sparkling ‘Hi-Fi’ treble so the customer ‘gets his money’s worth’
In group tests these products often succeed, but may later lead to dissatisfaction.

So HI-FI CRITIC decided to design a lower sensitivity, DIY kit speaker, sealed box with well damped, extended fast bass, using a larger than usual enclosure, with defined wall boundary location. It has been engineered for fine time alignment using the linear phase BMR driver for mid-treble, married to a high power, pure piston, 220mm bass driver from SEAS

The Basic Kit includes (no cabinet):

Loudspeaker drive units
High-quality crossovers, custom designed for each kit and built on high-grade PCBs
Recessed terminal trays with gold-plated binding posts
DNM cables
Damping materials including cabinet lining and internal wadding
Gaskets or sealing strips for drive units
All fixing bolts and screws
Wilmslow Audio 3-colour self-adhesive acrylic badges
Fully detailed assembly instructions, including CAD cabinet drawings
Cabinets and additional options shown separately

Treble:  BMR85D
Bass:  SEAS L22RN4X/P
Enclosure type:  2-way infinite baffle
Frequency response:  40Hz-22kHz
Sensitivity (2.83/1m):   86.5dB
Amp requirement:  25-150w
Impedance:  8 ohm
Internal volume:  40 Litres
Weight: 40Kg per pair
Dimensions (HxWxD):  900 x 330 x 240mm’

This is what Wilmslow have to say about the cabinet….

‘To compliment the loudspeaker kits, we offer an ever-expanding range of cabinets.

The Rhythm King cabinets are supplied in four different options as shown below, all are fully CNC machined and rebated from 25mm  MDF.

Overall size of cabinet: 900mm high x 330mm wide x 240mm deep

Flat-pack option:

Cabinets supplied as a self-assembly flat-pack in either plain mdf or pre-veneered mdf of your choice. Both options are fully machined and rebated which means that the components all slot together very easily, just needing to be glued with the ‘Evo-stik Resin W’ wood adhesive that is provided.

All the neccessary holes and rebates for the drive units are pre-machined so you can assemble the cabinets without having any wood-work skills.

Factory built option:

Cabinets are supplied fully assembled eliminating the need for any you to undertake any construction. The plain mdf cabinets are supplied assembled but unfinished ready for you to apply your own paint finish. The veneered cabinets are supplied assembled and waxed to a furniture finish.’

The system being used to drive the speakers was from Naim and I was quite impressed with the sound in this room, which had good bass quality, with nice imaging. Overall I enjoyed my brief listen to this system.

There was also some items from DNM on static display in the room as well. This was a real shame as I would very much like to have heard them; maybe some other time I will.

S20 – Quadral

German Two Channel and Home Cinema speaker brand, now with new UK and Ireland distribution.

S23 – Music First Audio

Harry O’Sullivan of Music First Audio was exhibiting their new phonostage, now in completed form (a prototype was shown at the March 2011 Audio World Show, held at the Park Inn Heathrow) and very nice it was sounding too.

The system the phonostage was hooked into included a Notingham Analogue Space Deck with SME 5 arm and the amplification was undertaken by an MFA pre-amplifier, Step Up Transformer, power-amplification was provided by Howes Audio Quad 2 amplifiers and the speakers were Howes Acoustics Quarter Waves.

The sound in this room was excellent and I very much enjoyed listening to the Bass Face Swing Trio – Tribute to Cole Porter album.

S22 – Music First Audio

Stephen Billington was exhibiting in his room a system (when I was taking photos in this room Harry was standing in for Stephen) comprising an EAR modified Revox B77 mk1 reel to reel, Bel Canto S300 power-amplifier, Music First Audio Baby Reference pre-amplifier £6000 a scaled down version of their top pre-amp and Rogers LS 3 5A speakers though on day one they were also using a pair of Eminent Technology speakers.

Sound quality was very good and was setting a high standard, as MFA always manage to do.

S21 – Kudos Audio/Cymbiosis

Unlike last year I was actually able to get into these rooms, the move to smaller separate rooms facilitated this I think, as the crowds visiting were split up; whereas last year they more than filled the previous room used and regularly as every time I attempted to visit I could not get into the room. Just a case of bad timing or popularity? I suspect a bit of both.

The main focus of this particular room was the new Kudos Titan T 88 speakers.

Kudos’s website has this to say about them….

‘Designed without compromise to be the clearest, most coherent and musically engaging loudspeaker we have ever created, the Titan T88 is the flagship of the Kudos range.  The Titan T88 is the embodiment of all of the Kudos design ideals combined into one package to produce the ultimate musical performance.  Over twenty years of our own loudspeaker design experience is incorporated into this product along with the finest quality components – regardless of cost.

The complex cabinets are made from high density MDF varying in thickness from 25mm to 50mm.  Internal bracing and specific damping is used to optimise cabinet resonance and a tri-laminate front baffle houses the drive units.  The upper cabinet, which contains the tweeter and midrange / bass unit, is port loaded into an optimal boundary gap created by precision machined spacers that separate the upper and lower cabinets.

The lower cabinet houses the two bass drivers in an isobaric arrangement placed back to back with the rear driver out of phase.  Exhaustive testing has proven this arrangement to virtually eliminate non linear 3rd order harmonics and produce a significantly improved bass response over other isobaric designs.  This bass section also ports into the optimal boundary gap: having the ports from both sections close together and operating in a shared and controlled space minimises phase discrepancies to produce a harmonious port response.

The lower cabinet is securely attached to the tri-laminate plinth via spacers to control cabinet to plinth energy transfer.  The plinth itself provides the best possible grounding interface with very high density MDF being combined with a damping compound and a 5mm steel plate, into which precision milled spikes are fitted, manufactured for Kudos by Track Audio.

The drive units are some of the best in the world and are produced for us by SEAS in Norway – a company with almost 60 years of expertise in this field.  The tweeter is developed exclusively for Kudos from the famous Crescendo unit.  The main midrange / bass driver and the twin bass drivers are specific to the Titan T88 and combine with the tweeter to produce seamless integration and response over the frequency range.

The best way to ensure the listener can connect with the musical message is to keep the crossover design as simple as possible.  This can only be achieved with excellent drive unit integration thus allowing the crossover design to be of a minimal, low order construction to reduce “ringing” and other unwanted artefacts.  The crossover components are from Clarity Caps and Mundorf and are hand matched to ensure tolerances are reduced to nominal levels.

The crossover itself is a low order, two and a half way design where the bass section in the lower cabinet is rolled off early in the frequency range, the mid/bass driver and tweeter are then operated as a two way design.  A slow roll off of all the drivers ensures optimal coherence though the crossover regions.

Chord Company internal wiring has been carefully chosen for its high quality, musicality and resistance to the effects of vibration.  Chord Company cables also link the two cabinets, which are fitted with Furutech pure copper Torque Guard binding posts to ensure a superb connection.’


Type: 2.5 way Isobaric Bass Reflex
Recommended Amplifier Power: 25W – 300W
Sensitivity: 91dB / @1W / 1m
Nominal  Impedance: 8 ohms
Frequency range: 20 Hz – 30kHz “AIRR” (Average In Room Response)
Tweeter: SEAS – Kudos Crescendo K2 29mm fabric dome
Mid bass driver: SEAS – Kudos 220mm Nextel coated paper cone with 39mm voice coil
Bass driver: SEAS – Kudos 220mm double coated hard paper cone with 39mm voice coil (x 2)
Dimensions: 1115mm x 275mm x 370mm (hwd)
Weight: 66kg
Finishes: Tineo veneer (High Gloss paint finishes available to special order)

Woodsong Audio

I had read quite a lot about the beautiful replacement Linn LP 12 plinths that Chris Harban of American company Woodsong Audio makes and seen a few photos but frankly photos don’t do them justice as you really need to see these in the flesh to appreciate them.

The system in this room was made up from Naim Audio components and  Woodsonged Linn LP12s.

S18 – Kudos Audio/Cymbiosis

In this room Kudos were launching their new new Super C10 speakers.

‘The C10 is a truly outstanding compact loudspeaker which has already won a legion of admirers and has quickly earned itself a reputation as one of the best sounding anywhere.  The 12 litre, reflex ported cabinet and 18cm main drive unit are taken from the C1 but that is where the similarities end and the magic begins.

Instead of the already high quality tweeter used in the C1, the legendary 29mm SEAS Crescendo fabric dome unit is used – this is almost certainly the finest tweeter in the world. When used in the C10 this produces unrivalled ability to reproduce high frequencies accurately without negative “hi-fi” artefacts such as smearing of fine detail, or compression.

To make best use of this superb tweeter the crossover components and wiring are all of the highest quality.  The capacitors are silver wired and made specifically for Kudos by Clarity Caps to the highest possible tolerances and internal cabling for the C10 is by the renowned cable specialists The Chord Company.  Once again a low order crossover is used for minimal electrical interaction with the signal.’

S19 – Audio Freaks

Audio Freaks had a very downscale setup compared to previous shows and while the room was smaller there was no compromise on sound quality as in previous years the sound was very good.

The system was made up from the following components:  HRT Music Streamer II+ and a Windows 7 driven laptop containing WAV and AIFF files (with music) instead of either the LP or CD playback system – was most certainly worth the chance taken. Accompanied by a number of not terribly expensive new products from Avalon Acoustics, conrad-johnson, Magnum Dynalab and Cardas Audio.

Becketts Meeting Room – Ensemble

I will make no bones about it, this for me was the best sounding room at the show; if not one of the finest sounding rooms I have heard since starting to cover audio shows in the UK for AIHFA; a few years ago. Yes I realise that is quite a statement but it is how I feel about what I heard.

There is also the question of presentation of the equipment in the room, which was among the best I have seen. The system was beautifully placed in the room with obvious care and attention re its set up and the personalities behind Ensemble, Urs Wagner PHD and his wife Anne, showed their passion and extreme care for what they do; in how the room looked and sounded; its a shame more in the industry can’t be like this.

The system was bar the turntable, arm and cartridge an all Ensemble affair even down to cabling and equipment supports. The first surprise on entering the room was seeing a Voyd Reference turntable with a Graham Phantom arm sitting on it. My first thoughts if I am honest was that that combination can’t work. After hearing it playing I have to say it worked and did so very well indeed.

The system being exhibited in this room comprised of the aforementioned Voyd Graham combination, DIRONDO CD Player, FONOBRIO, Phono-stage, FUOCO Pre-amplifier, EVIVO Power-amplifier and a pair of NATURA loudspeakers. The other items in the system were ISOLINK DUO Mains distribution and Isolation transformers, SILINX EXTREMA Mains cables, speaker cables, DYNAFLUX FSF rca – rca interconnects, ZORBO Isolation platforms, ZORBIES Isolation pads and equipment tables.

Ensemble Audio formed in 1986 are a Swiss company based in Aesch and they have as the strap line on their website the following words ‘A NEW WAY OF WELLNESS’, well it has been a while since an audio company have followed such a complete front end to rear end approach to system building and the degree of synergy between the parts that make the system up results in a wholeness rarely achieved in today’s audio market place. This is taken from their website and says it all…..

‘Make form, function and build quality constitute a perfect whole (a real ’ensemble’) and you get products of timeless elegance, user friendliness, and long, reliable service.’

As I sat in the room listening I wrote down the following words to describe the presentation of the music: natural, open, detailed, beautiful, exquisite, musical….. The whole performance hung together with depth, width and a real sense of being there and all this despite the fact the record was a bit noisy. The system didn’t make a meal of the noise on the record but instead just let the music sing; impressive.

After removing this Lp Urs played some of Schubert’s Piano Quartet Op Trout 114 and it sounded beautiful too.

Truth be told I could have sat in this room all day and listened and both Urs and Anne were lovely, gracious hosts while I was in their room.

Well done to both of you and thank you for a truly enjoyable experience.

Chappel  – Jordan Acoustics

Jordan Acoustics were exhibiting a system comprising of components from Mcintosh, Mc 601, Mc G500, System Deck 3D turntable, Nagra VPs phono stage, Art Deco 30 loudspeakers and an Audio Origami 12inch tonearm.

Stimela by Hugh Masekala was playing in the room while I was there and as I know this track intimately it served as an excellent bench mark for assessing the sound and frankly it was being reproduced here, a tad overblown and lacking a bit in coherence. Whether it was a room issue or components not being run in or settled/warmed up I can’t say but I left the room feeling a bit disappointed by what I had heard.

Along the right side wall, a number of Art speakers were on static display.

Along the back wall a raw unfinished System Deck 3D sub chasis sat along side a pair of very large  Mastersond 845 amplifiers.

Stowe – Focal/Vitus Audio

Danish company Vitus Audio had teamed up with French speaker manufacturer Focal to jointly exhibit in this room and I must say that this made a refreshing change to the normal partnering (at least at recent UK audio shows) of using VTL electronics; not I should hasten to add there is anything wrong with VTL, just its nice to hear and see something different from time to time.

The system comprised a SCD – 010 SACD Player £13800, SIA integrated amplifier £18500, Focal Stella speakers £63,500 and all the cabling by Vitus Audio.

The SCD – 010 is like all Vitus Audio products is a very impressive sight in terms of its physical presence fit and finish.

‘The CD Drive selected for the SCD-010 has been stripped down to its basic mechanical and electronic parts and totally rebuilt. This ensures a lower level of errors in reading the digital information on the discs, which leaves the error correction system in the drive with much less work to do.

The digital audio part has been taken to the extreme. From day one we decided to use sample rate conversion,
to minimise jitter. However instead of using a standard solution from ADI or TI, we chose the DSP based module from Anagram Technologies. First of all we gain higher flexibility, as this module is programmable and can be upgraded for newer standards.

Secondly we achieve a sample rate of 384KHz where the current limit on standard solutions is 192KHz. The higher the sample rate the higher the bandwidth. As Anagram Technologies designed a masterclock module to fully support their sample rate conversion modules – the choice was easy – however a very expensive one.

The analog stage uses our highly regarded topology taken directly from our amplifiers. It is a discrete coupling, which uses zero feedback, ultra linear transistors and high precession resistors. The resulting open loop bandwidth lies at 2.5MHz and gives a very linear phase response, which is one of the key elements for correct musical harmony.

The power supply is split into 4 different and completely separate supplies. One each for the drive and digital audio part and two for the analog stage (left and right).’

The SIA – 025 is identical physically to the SCD 010 and this fact created some challenges for Vitus Audio, as they very much wanted a system that not only has matching synergy from a sonic point of view but also from a visual one as well. The SIA -025 was the answer…..

‘The SIA-025 has been designed to accommodate many of our customers requests, for a real integrated amplifier in our high performance Signature Series.But as usual, our design team went an extra mile. The result is not only an amplifier with 5 inputs (balanced and unbalanced), a preamplifier output (for biamping purposes) and balanced speaker outputs.

Integration was a major challenge, but necessary to fit all the parts into the fairly small chassis, which the SIA-025 shares with its siblings – the SS-010 and SS-050.

The output stage of the SIA-025, is taken from the SM-010 monaural amplifiers – sized to fit within one chassis with a balanced input buffer. The main task for this buffer, is to separate the new simplified relay based
volume control from the selected source. By putting all our efforts into developing this true balanced integrated class A amplifier, we succeeded in making the new higher level of integration perform to the standards that any customer would expect from our Signature Series.

SIA-025 adds more flexibility in terms of more inputs, the possibility of bi-amping should it be needed and lastly a full bypass function for enabling compatibility with external surround processors.’

There were a number of examples of Vitus Audio’s other products on static display to the left side of the system.

The sound of this system was very good indeed but as time was pressing I didn’t get a chance to sit and listen for long; as much as I wanted to.

It was also very nice meeting Ole Vitus and Britta Vitus, his wife.

Vale – Studio AV

This company was exhibiting its usual collection of VTL amplification, DCS digital components (CD transport, DAC and Clock) and Focal speakers.

The sound of Supertramp – Crime of the Century,  playing in the room while I was there, was a tad bright and forward and this type of reproduction is not really to my taste.

Priory – Lectures

Sadly lack of time meant I was unable to attend any of these no doubt very interesting lectures.

Luffield – Item Audio

Sadly lack of time meant I was unable to attend any of these no doubt very interesting lectures. To say this room was bunged with audio delights would be still not really to do justice to the amount of audio electronics, speakers, computer audio products that were sitting in it. The room was split in two with a system positioned along the left side wall and another along the right side wall as one entered the room; this layout making those walls the front and back walls.

More equipment was displayed along a very long table on a long the wall the door was in and this was covered in all sorts of kit including items from StereoKnight. Frankly there was so much kit in this room that it would make a large enough show report on its own if I had the space to include it all and as I don’t feel I had time in the room to do justice to that I will focus on a few items and let the photos do the rest of the talking.

Swan Speakers from HiVi inc had a number of impressive speakers on display, all of which looked like incredible value for money (this system was not playing so I can’t comment on sound, hence I say ‘looks like’ rather than is)  including these amazing looking computer audio speakers the Swan T200 B Active Monitors £695…….


The T200B is a professional monitor electro-acoustical design for multimedia products. T200B can upgrade your iPhone or computer into a Mini HiFi system and setup your personal PC studio.The full functioning LCD remote controller can control each speaker independently due to the dual amp design.

Each speaker is shipped with it’s frequency response curve, so you know your pair is a perfect match. The T200B combines a triangular enclosure design with black piano lacquer and silver aluminum panel. T200B adopts HiVi 5” long excursion woofer and 28mm soft dome tweeter. The woofer and tweeter are positioned in a delta arrangement which minimizes the radiation area and reduce the diffraction of sound waves. The sloping panel design causes the high and low frequency to reach the listener simultaneously in the near sound field. The asymmetrical enclosure structure reduces internal standing sound waves and minimizes cabinet resonance.

Featuring a full functioning LCD remote controller with intelligent microprocessor digital volume control, and capable of producing 100dB SPL sound output level with wider horizontal dispersion. All these combine to give T200B formidable dynamic, natural, accurate sound reproduction and guarantee near field monitor sound accuracy.’

Also very impressive looking was the £4750 2.6HT speakers.

‘The Swans 2.6HT is a 5.2 channel ultimate home theater system based on the latest ribbon driver technology. Its foundation relies on the principal of low level distortion and a powerful output with a linear sound source. This ultimate ribbon home theater system consists of two beautifully crafted front main speakers each with built in powered subwoofers; one center speaker; and two rear surround speakers.

Each speaker is hand finished with the finest of exotic wood veneers and multi coat hand buffed piano lacquer. Each front main speaker features 8 ribbon tweeters and 8 dome midranges aligned in an aluminum front baffle with two 6.5” bass-midrange drivers to create a true linear sound source configuration.

To ensure the Swans 2.6HT has optimum low-frequency performance, powerful active subwoofers are built directly into each front main speakers. Each sub features a 10” woofer powered by a 150W RMS amplifier ensuring an effortless bass response well below 25Hz giving superior sound quality and boundless momentum.

Swans 2.6HT is primarily designed for use in villas, private home cinemas, and family home environments. The system has a luxurious finish, intricate technical design, but still maintains convenient set up and installation. Sound quality is natural, pure, simple, and gives a brand new experience to home cinema and music.

Swans 2.6HT adopts a new 5.2 channel system which integrates the designs of the front channel speakers with active subwoofers. The system offers cutting edge acoustic engineering featured in each component, from the high end HiVi drivers used to the linear arrangement and sound source structure. Sound pressure dynamics beyond imagination, easy application to various listening environments, and it’s gorgeous classic visual design all contribute to the Swans 2.6HT being a new and fantastic high end home theater system worthy of accolades.’

Series Swans flagship hometheater integrated speaker system
Model Swans 2.6 full range speaker
System Type 3-way 4th order vented box system with powered 1-way sealed box system
Drivers Configuration Woofer: L6-4R×2 (6.5″)
Midrange: DMO×8 (50mm)
Tweeter: RT1.3×8 (isodynamic ribbon super tweeters)
Frequency Range 40Hz ~ 20kHz
Harmonic Distortion 62Hz ~ 20kHz ≤1%(2.83V/1m)
Sensitivity 89dB
Nominal Impedance
Power Handling 10 ~ 240W

As you walked into this room a pair of massive ‘open baffle'(that’s what the label on them said, despite them being in massive cabinets) Proof of Concept ‘Euclio’ loudspeakers £10000 stood and while I was in the room looking round the various components in it the system behind the POC speakers, MSB DAC, an Aurender s10 PC transport £5200, Euclio Econote £59995 and Stereoknight Enigma pre-amplifier £3500 was feeding these massive speakers with Metallica’s Enter Sand Man through them. The sound was big, bold and powerful but more I can’t say as the music lacked subtly enough for me to know what the speaker was doing exactly.

On a long table a massive amount of kit was on static display.

Interesting room, but in my opinion, there was too much going on in it and as such it was overwhelming.

Woodcote – Decent Audio

Decent Audio were using a Rega Isis CD player, Osiris integrated amplifier and a pair of new to market, Magnepan MG3.7 speakers £6000. The sound of this system was big and powrrful with good detail and bass but I felt that the room was perhaps just a bit too big for the system being used.

The Magnepan 3.7s are the latest speakers in the Magenpan range and are a direct replacement for the long running (12 years) 3.6s; the specification of the 3.7s being nearly the same bar being slightly more efficient.

Magenepan say this about the 3.7s….

‘The 3.7 is a 3-way design, like the 3.6, but, it is a full-range ribbon design, like the highly acclaimed 1.7. We are calling it “trickle-up” technology. The concepts that worked so well in the 1.7 were incorporated in the 3.7.’ The spec is….

Freq. Resp. 35Hz- 40 kHz
Rec Power Read Frequently Asked Questions
Sensitivity 86dB/500Hz /2.83v
Impedance 4 Ohm
Dimensions 24 x 71 x 1.625 inches

Also in the room was a very impressive set of headphones from Audeze, that were being drive by a pro audio headphone amplifier that was also equally impressive looking.

‘Audez’e Headphones The LCD-2

The LCD-2 is the state of the art Planar Magnetic Headphone from Audez’e Inc. Every component of the LCD-2 is precision engineered with one goal in mind: Recreate the sound exactly like the artist intended. LCD-2 combines leading edge technology and development with knowledge, feedback and suggestions from an on-going dialogue with Sound Engineers and Audiophiles. The Audeze LCD-2 uses a proprietary thin film diaphragm that is housed between a unique super efficient push-pull magnetic structure. Audeze’s manufacturing process combined with the advanced materials and technology produce extremely accurate and incredible sounding headphones. The LCD-2s are made of hand selected Carribean Rosewood. The sloped earpads are made of premium lambskin leather with specially selected foam to offer the right amount of firmness.


• Custom designed Caribbean Rosewood earcups.

• Specially designed premium lamb skin leather earpads.
• Diaphragm excursion of 2.5 mm p-p for very high SPL. Maximum output exceeds 130 dB.
• Left and rear transducers have matched sensitivity and frequency response within +/- 0.5 dB.
• Specially designed self closing, acoustically transparent magnetic structure with highest grade Neodymium magnets.
• Large diaphragm area creates plane sound waves that enter ear canals the same way as it happens in real environment.
• Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 20 KHz, usable high frequency extension 50 KHz.
• Distortion: less than 1% even at full output.
• Impedance: 50 Ohms, nominal
• Maximum diaphragm excursion: 2.5mm p-p
• Efficiency: 91 dB/1mW
• Maximum output: 133dB, 15W
• Transducer active diaphragm area: 6.17 square inches.
• Input cable: Custom cable with mini XLR connectors

Whats in the box?

LCD-2 comes with ADZ-6 Cable (2.5 meters or 8.2 ft with split)
Wood Care kit
Woodbox or Travel Case for storage
Frequency response graph of the particular LCD-2
Care kit and Warranty documents
1 year limited warranty’

There were a number of other Magnepan speakers on static display on the right hand side of the room as you entered it.

Corpse  – The Right Note

Jeremy Baldwin of The Right Note was as usual very animated and passionate about the equipment he was demonstrating, which was similar to the items he was using at the Park Inn show back in March, with a few exceptions as this system was more computer audio focussed than the aforementioned one. The system also had a UK product/brand launch in the form of  LeadingEdge equipment supports and room acoustic treatments.

The system was as follows……

  • MacBook Pro as the music source, running Pure Music software
  • VertexAQ Aletheia DAC, with no upsampling or noise-shaping – Aletheia dac-1
  • VTL TL-7.5 two-box preamp, one of the very best – VTL brand
  • VTL MB-450 monoblock valve amplifiers, made a great impression last year
  • Kawero Vivace loudspeakers, part of “Far and away the best sound…” at the Heathrow show – Vivace
  • Vertex AQ mains filters and cables, always in our systems – Vertex AQ brand
  • New LeadingEdge equipment platforms and racks, hiding Vertex RFI and EMI technology in exquisite furniture
  • New LeadingEdge acoustic treatment panels, designed from true acoustic principles with an exquisite finish.

The sound Jermey was getting in this room was very good and on a par with previous occasions I have heard the systems he has exhibited, though I did feel on this occasion that the room was maybe just a tad too big for the system. Regardless though it was still very good and Diana Krall sounded excellent.


Well I enjoyed myself during my visit to the National Audio Show 2011 at the Whittelbury Hall but I have to say that there is a certain degree of staleness creeping in with a number of dealers using more or less the same components at too many recent shows. Frankly I think its time for a bit of thinking outside the box re this. Many of the dealers who exhibit have broad product ranges and for me, it would be more interesting to see other systems/components from their product portfolios given a chance to be seen and heard. By saying this it should not be inferred that I don’t think these components are any good just I feel UK mainland audio shows could do with a few less of the usual suspects being exhibited.

Sadly a number of exhibitors still insist on not having any information in their rooms re their products, no literature or pricing. I live in hope that come the next show I attend that this will be less the case; I live in hope but I won’t be holding my breath. To those who have upped their game well done.

The overall standard of sound in the rooms was better than last years NAS show but for me, as already mentioned in the body of this part of the report, the Ensemble room set a very high standard of sound quality, set up and appearance. Well done Urs and Anne Wagner. So the Ensemble room was in my opinion the best sounding room at NAS 2011.

The Right Note Room, both Music First Audio rooms, Deltec Precision Audio’s (main room only), Sound HiFi’s Funked 1200 turntable, headphone set up, Audio Freaks, John Howes Acoustics, Select Audio/AMR, Acoustic Imagery, Audio Smile, Hart Audio, LW Audio, would be the stand outs among the other rooms; so I will award them joint second place.

See you all again soon.


© Text and Photos Copyright 2011 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio, with the exception of highlighted quoted text from various company websites and photos taken from Swann Audio, Canor, Acoustic Imagery, Anthony Gallo, Wilmslow Audio, Audeze, Kudos Copyright for those images/text belongs with those companies.

NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.

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