Sep 122013
 

 

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When Wesley Cunningham of Living Space/Audio Space told me a few months back that he was organising a mini hifi show at the Stormont Hotel, I received the news with a mixture of emotions. I was delighted that there would be an audio show in Belfast but equally I was disappointed it would only be a small event focussing on only a handful of manufacturers.

Amazingly – how the time flies by – it has been almost three years since the last HiFi Show in Northern Ireland which encompassed many manufacturers, distributors and most of the main specialist HiFi retailers in Northern Ireland. It was an event with its own issues and flaws but overall it was a nice show which allowed those who attended to experience a broad range of approaches to music reproduction in the home and to my mind it was a shame the event I was about to visit would not be so wide ranging in its remit.

This show inspired by the 40th Anniversary of the formation of Naim Audio was to be much smaller, focussing on the aforementioned Naim in the main, with the presence of Focal, Rega and The Chord Company to round things out. The total number of rooms used was only five, including the foyer of the Confex Centre.

However despite being a small event there was plenty to see and hear and a few products on demo and display were having their first UK exposure at this event.

The show was all on the ground floor of the Stormont Hotel’s Confex Centre – well used over the years for HiFi shows – and as such I was very familiar with the way in which these rooms can and do affect audio reproduction.

So with out further ado here is my coverage of the first Audio Space Autumn Audiofest.

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Driving into the entrance of the Stormont Hotel on Sunday morning, passing the beautiful sculpture ‘Looking Listening’ by John Aiken – very appropriate as I was about to attend a HiFi show – I was filled with excitement re what I was going to see and hear and a little trepidation if I am honest because the equipment to be on show today was the kind I had little first hand experience with.

When I worked first time round in the specialist audio retail trade – back in the late 80s to mid 90’s – there were several camps of audio thought and retailing, the ‘Flat Earth Approach’ embodied by brands like Rega, Linn and Naim + others, the ‘Pipe and Slippers kit’ embodied mostly by Quad and the rest of the audio world with which I was more interested and at home.

There was also most definitely a very unhealthy rivalry between the different retailers that crossed the purely commercial lines of competition and strayed into an almost religious typed bigotry back then.

I tried hard to keep an open mind but my being in one camp – so to speak – mean’t there was very little opportunity or if I am truthful desire to hear kit from the likes of Linn, Naim and Rega – though Rega turntables fairly regularly came in to where I worked to have new cartridges fitted and the RB25o and RB300 tonearms were fairly ubiquitously fitted to various other makes of turntables, so I did have first hand experience and respect of those items but not the electronics or speakers and no exposure whatsoever to the other brands products.

Its only fairly recently with my covering UK mainland shows that I have been exposed to and been able to hear those brands and this mini show was to be my first major step into what once might have been enemy territory – a mainly Naim Audio event.

So open minded, I drove the relatively short distance from my home to cross the Rubicon……..

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Foyer – Naim/Audio Space

The entrance area of the Confex Centre had a number of Naim Audio and Focal products on show, with Wesley Cunningham MD of Living Space/Audio Space master of ceremonies.

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The First system comprised of an Acer laptop front end feeding the new Naim DAC V1 USB DAC £1250, Naim NAP100 50 watt power amplifier £650, a pair of Focal Dome speakers and a single Focal Bird sub woofer.

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The DAC V1 is a brand new product just introduced to Naims Classic Series product range and Naim have this to say about it:

‘The DAC-V1 is an asynchronous USB digital to analogue converter with multiple digital S/PDIF inputs, precision volume control and a high-quality headphone amplifier. It will produce stunning sound quality from your computer and transform it into a high-quality, high-resolution music hub.

Connect the DAC-V1 to your PC, Mac or Laptop via a standard A to B USB cable and the quality of your music will be defined not by the limitations of the computer hardware, but by the quality of the data itself. And with DAC-V1 that can be incredibly high, up to 24bit/384kHz resolution.

While the DAC-V1 is perfectly suited to being positioned on a desk near a computer it is also highly versatile. It can integrate seamlessly into a traditional hi-fi system or be used with any two-channel digital audio source such as a games console, satellite box or any other device with a digital output via one of its five S/PDIF digital inputs. The DAC-V1 can also be combined with the Naim UnitiServe hard disc server and its matching power amplifier, the NAP 100, to create a compact high-end music system.’

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The technical details are as follows:

‘High-speed asynchronous USB input up to 24bit/384kHz

5 x S/PDIF inputs up to 24bit/192kHz (1 x BNC, 2 X RCA, 2 x TOSLINK)

Selectable fixed or variable analogue outputs (DIN or RCA)

Zero S/PDIF Jitter design in common with the original Naim DAC

Naim custom designed Digital Filtering with 16 times oversampling

SHARC ADSP21489 DSP for Digital Filtering and zero S/PDIF jitter

Classic discrete Naim preamplifier gain stage topology with selected components

High-quality Burr Brown PCM1791A DAC, in common with NDX and SuperUniti

Single ended Class-A headphone amplifier. Front panel ¼ inch headphone output

Optical isolation between digital and analogue sections

Naim digitally controlled analogue volume control for performance and precision

Linear power supply with 210VA transformer, windings for Digital, DAC and analogue stages

Operates with computers running OSX, 10.7 and above, Windows XP, 7 and 8

Floating or Chassis ground switch for optimum performance with any system

Field upgradeable firmware

OLED display for adjusting settings and checking incoming bit-rates

Control via IR remote control or front panel controls’

You can read more about this product here http://www.naimaudio.com/hifi-products/pdt-type/dac-v1

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The next system comprised a Naim Uniqute2 £1150, Focal Spirit One headphones, and a pair Focal Aria 906 (450 Euros) stand mount speakers – getting their UK launch at this show.

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Focal say this about the Aria 906 speakers:

‘The Aria 906 is ‘faithful to the DNA of the Aria range: refined high-end acoustics combined with excellent perceived value thanks to the use of noble materials. This 2-way loudspeaker allows users to enjoy all the qualities of the Flax cone: neutrality, presence and finesse.

The Aria 906 is recommended for rooms measuring from 160ft2 (15m2) and from a listening distance of 8ft (2.5m).’

The 906 uses an interesting material in its woofer and one that used to be part of the bed rock of the Northern Irish economy Flax

Focal say this about this material:

‘Made in France but affordable, Flax cones are oriented towards acoustic performance, high-tech and give an original design to the brand’s speaker drivers!

After more than five years of research and development, engineers at Focal can now reveal a new cone made of high-quality flax fibres. F cone are characterised by their natural sound, with low coloration, their richness of reproduction in the midrange register and their tighter bass.

F cones are made of high-quality flax fibers core enclosed by two thin layers of glass fibre. They satisfy the key criteria of a high performance diaphragm : high internal damping, high velocity of sound and high flexural rigidity.

All these criteria cannot be met by a mono-material cone. Sandwich technology greatly influences the neutrality of the sound produced by the cone, something, which has always been Focal’s hallmark. The expertise gained from the sandwich technology of the Utopia and K2 Power ranges enabled Focal to develop a revolutionary flax-fibre cone conciliating the 3 criteria.

Flax is twice as light as fiberglass, because the fibre is hollow. It also has very low elasticity which makes it ideal to increase the flexural rigidity of a sandwich structure. Moreover, it can be obtained in non-woven bundles of considerable diameter and it can therefore produce the thickness required for a sandwich.

Composite materials have properties suitable for applications where both rigidity and low mass are required. However, their disadvantage is that they lack damping, which leads to very poor control of vibrations. Recent developments in this field combining composites and natural fibers have brought unexpected opportunities. Flax fibre has an excellent internal damping of the same order of magnitude as the glass or Kevlar fibres or aluminium.

Flax cones are designed and manufactured in France, from French flax fibre. France is the main cultivator in Europe of fiber flax, principally in Flanders, Picardy, Normandy and the Pas-de-Calais region. French flax is considered the best in the world.

Synthetic fibers or foams originating from petrochemical resources are subject to inflation linked to the sharp rise in crude oil prices. Organic or ecological textiles, like flax, are thus becoming more and more pricecompetitive.

Because the “W” or “K2” sandwich have to be manufactured by hand, their range of application remains limited for reasons of cost. The industrial process developed to manufacture the “F” cones bring it within reach of very price competitive product ranges’

The Aria range also uses Focal’s TNF tweeter. Focal say this about it:

‘Focal brand’s signature product, the inverted dome tweeter has been continually developed ever since it was created. It bears repeating that its main advantage, apart from its very low directivity, lies in its use of a coil of small diameter (hence very light and better accelerating) directly fixed to the rigid dome.

Just as with the cones of its bass and midrange speaker drivers, what makes Focal unique is working directly on the sound output and, therefore, on the mechanical characteristics of materials. When we introduced the pure Beryllium inverted dome tweeter ten or so years ago, we clearly demonstrated the decisive advantage of this exclusive technology.

For the TNF tweeter, we have brought two major evolutions to our aluminium/magnesium tweeter. The suspension between the dome and its bracket uses Poron, a material with shape memory.

This suspension method is directly derived from the famous Utopia Beryllium tweeter, making it possible to reduce distortion by a factor of three in the 2-3 kHz range, where the human ear has very great sensitivity.’

The Aria 906s were brand new with minimal run in – used all day on Saturday only – so not at full performance yet, and being used in a large open conference centre’s foyer was hardly an ideal setting and yet they sounded open, detailed and quite natural. I was quite impressed after the brief listen I had.

unitiqute_front_10pc_0Naim say this about their new Uniqute2:

‘It’s a cliche we know, but good things come in small packages. The UnitiQute 2 all in one audio player however isn’t just good: it’s a brilliant-sounding, uniquely versatile, seductively compact and, of course, irresistibly cute example of what contemporary music in the home is all about. Music downloads, high-resolution music files, internet radio, network music, UPnP servers, iPod/MP3 players – everything that the new era of music delivery can throw at it, UnitiQute 2 can play. Revitalised for 2013, UnitiQute 2 improves upon the performance of its predecessor with enhanced sound quality and Multiroom functionality. High-resolution 32bit/192kHz streaming capability and a DAB/DAB+ tuner now also come as standard.

Music for everyone

Just like NaimUniti 2, its multi-award-winning sibling, UnitiQute 2 is right at the forefront of modern music delivery technology, and its significance for music enthusiasts of all aspirations is far greater than the simple sum of its component parts. For the committed enthusiast with an existing Naim setup, UnitiQute 2 can not only deliver exceptional Naim music-making as a second system, but also play the role of gateway to all the new digital music delivery formats – from USB memory sticks, UPnP streaming to internet radio. For the more casual listener, UnitiQute 2 can take the place of both the old hi-fi system and the iPod dock, sound far better than either, and at the same time introduce new worlds of audio ripe for exploration.

Small box… Big on features

For starters, UnitiQute 2 includes a preamplifier with two analogue inputs, five 32bit/192kHz-capable digital inputs and all the traditional Naim musical clarity and transparency. Next, UnitiQute 2 includes a muscular power amplifier that provides all the rhythmic punch and definition you would expect from Naim. You want conventional radio? Well, UnitiQute 2 includes FM and DAB/DAB+ tuners that get the best possible performance from either format. UnitiQute 2 is happy also to play music from an iPod or MP3 player via its front panel-mounted USB socket. The USB audio connection is digital so iPod sound quality is optimised, and Apple authenticated too so compatibility is seamless. And the same USB socket can be used to play music files in almost any format at up to 32bit/192kHz resolution straight from a memory stick. And it doesn’t end there. A network Ethernet socket and integrated Wi-Fi means that, along with everything else, UnitiQute 2 can easily tap into Internet radio or UPnP servers, a Naim HDX for example, to drop almost unlimited music choices right into your lap. Talk about cute.

Easy access to your music

Bringing everything audio, digital and analogue together is one thing, but making it all work seamlessly together is something else entirely. UnitiQute 2 is controlled by a dedicated remote handset in combination with a large, clear display. The UnitiQute 2 user interface borrows the principles of intuition and accessibility, and much of the substance, from the already proven NaimUniti 2 interface. The interface is clear, intuitive, uncluttered and makes light work of access to the remarkable versatility and performance of UnitiQute 2. And the n-Stream app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch will enhance the experience still further and raise its brilliance yet another notch.

Multiroom & Party Mode

As well as being a high-end standalone streaming system, UnitiQute 2 opens up the possibility of multiroom hi-fi. Connected to other Naim streaming products over the home network, it can act as the ‘Master’ or ‘Client’ streaming product in a multiroom system which will get the party started and play music in Naim quality in every corner of your home. Click here for more information on Multiroom & Party Mode.’

You can read more about the Uniqute2 here: http://www.naimaudio.com/hifi-products/unitiqute

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The third set up in the foyer was a Naim Unitlite £1895 with another pair of Focal Spirit 1 headphones, this one was on static display only – as far as I could tell.

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The Focal Spirit 1 headphones £150 looked lovely but sadly I didn’t get a chance to have a listen, but you can read more about them here:http://www.focal.com/en/mobile-headphones/298-spirit-one-3544051725002.html

 

Naim Audio http://www.naimaudio.com/

Audio Space/Living Space http://www.livingspace-ni.com/naim-audio.html

 

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Sitting to the rear of the Foyer area with no literature, on static display was a display stand with a pair of Kef M500 £250 and M200 £150 headphones resting on it. I didn’t know that Kef were making headphones – much as I didn’t know Focal were either. They looked interesting but there was no way to hear them and their lack of prominent position made their presence at the show look like an afterthought and as such I have to ask what was the point?

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However you can read more about them here http://www.kef.com/html/gb/showroom/mseries/m500/m500/index.html#.UjDgvcaUT08

 

The first room I visited was The Board Room, the entrance to which was flanked by a pair of Naim Ovator S600 speakers £7000.

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The Board Room – Naim

 

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Which featured an all Naim system made up from a NAC 282, NDS, XP5, NAP 250 and Super CAP. To its immediate right was another system set up made up from Naim Super Nait, Nait XS 2, Nait SI and Hi – CAP. All the equipment was housed on Nain Frames and the speakers were Naim Ovator S400s £3850.

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While I was there Van Morrison was playing, and while I was not familiar with the music the quality of sound was quite good with no major room induced issues affecting bass reproduction. It was open and detailed without being bright or forward. If I had any criticism – which could be room or recording induced was that music was very much anchored to the speakers with little extension in any direction, so there was a lack of width in the soundstage, height and depth.

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However traditionally these are areas Naim are not that well known for excelling at with rhythm , pace and timing being their strong points – to some width, height and depth of image are HiFi created artifices  but to my mind these are important parts of the musical performance, if present in the recording. The thing is I know Naim equipment can do these things as well as their traditional strengths, and well, as I have heard other Naim kit do this even in the less than ideal environment of a hotel room.

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On static display in an alcove in the wall the following items were on static display: NDX Network Player, Unit Serve Hard Disk Player, Unit Serve SSD Hard Disk Server and a NAP25 power-amplifier.

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Nain Audio http://www.naimaudio.com/

 

Confex 2 The Chord Company

 

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Beside The Board Room was Confex Room 2 which was being used by The Chord Company who specialise in supplying a large range of audio cables at varying price points.

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Alan Gibb MD of Chord was demonstrating the differences between their various cables when I arrived i n the room – and very ably as well – using an all Naim system comprising of a Naim CD X5 CD player, Classic Series DAC, Nait X5 integrated amplifier and Flat CAPx5. The speakers were Focal Aria 926s (1000 Euros), also like their 906 brothers getting their UK launch at this show: you can read about them here http://www.focal.com/en/aria-900/445-aria-926-3544056691302.html

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The main focus of this room was Chord Company cables and the differences and improvements one can get from cable to cable by going up the range.

There are few things in audio circles to create more heat than light than trying to discuss the improvements one can get by using good quality cables over basic ones. Have a look around any audio forum and it won’t be long before you trip into the land mine that cable threads are. Debate rages re who can hear what or not, that cables make no difference etc well this demonstration ably undertaken by Alan was a great illustration as to just how much of a difference and improvement cables can bring to a system.

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Alan used a basic interconnect cable, Chord Anthem and then Sarum to do the demonstration and at each step up the difference between basic, better and best was obvious and not subtle.

Alan used Shawn Colvin’s beautiful album Fat City and as each cable was swapped in and out Shawn’s music and vocals could be heard improving as new details, nuances of vocal inflection, frequency extension, width, depth, height of soundstage improved. It became increasingly easy to listen into the structure of the recording and appreciate the added weight, scale and transparency of the music – though in doing so the system started to excite resonances in the room which in part were slightly detracting from what Alan was doing but not enough to obscure the improvements still easily heard.

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Alan explained the differences between the construction methods of each cable, from mass produced in China to handmade in the UK and in the case of Sarum made by a military contractor who provides the data wiring for American Nuclear submarines periscopes. Alan went to great lengths to explain how these cables are designed to let absolutely nothing out, nothing that could be detected by enemy ships or planes – so zero transmissions. Equally these cables also let nothing in, so they are proof against all forms of interference.

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Alan towards the end of the demo did a comparison between the original now discontinued Sarum against the new version which also includes a Tuned Aray.

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Chord say this about the Sarum cables:

‘The RCA version of the Sarum Tuned ARAY interconnect range is every bit as impressive as all the other Sarum cables that benefit from the Tuned ARAY technology. The performance this cable will let your system produce will almost certainly be at least remarkable and more likely a revelation. The most obvious and instant impression is likely to be one of surprise at just how musical your system actually is.

This is in every aspect of performance a remarkable interconnect that really reinforces just how important cables are when it comes to making a system work like it should. This is the cable that has forced us to reassess the level of performance that every component we have connected it to is actually producing.

Sarum TA interconnects and mains cables are fitted with a single over wrap of very heavy gauge silver-plated foil in combination with an extremely dense silver-plated flat braid. Because of its unusually heavy gauge, the silver-plated foil is technically challenging to apply, but when combined with the more conventional silver-plated braid, the results are exceptional. The shielding offers a higher level of protection than any Chord cable has previously achieved and at the same time produces a flexible cable that is simple to install.

The Sarum Tuned ARAY has many parts in common with the original Chord Sarum. The Tuned ARAY technology though takes the performance of the cable to a new level. The individual conductors are produced from micro polished silver-plated conductors. Insulation is foamed PTFE and the Sarum cable is fitted with the most efficient shielding we have yet used. The plugs are Chord’s ultra low mass RCA plugs, fitted with precision-machined acrylic plug surrounds.’

There was quite a marked difference between old Sarum and the new Sarum in much the same way that there had been between Anthem and the old Sarum.

After the demo I had a chat with Alan and reviews are in the offing and I most certainly want to experience Chord Sarum in my own system. Chord Sarum retails for £1600 per stereo metre.

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Congratulation to Alan on a very professionally conducted demonstration and I thought Alan dealt very graciously with all the questions asked of him during the course of the demo.

The Chord Company http://www.chord.co.uk/

 

Confex Three – Focal/Naim

 

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Within this room Focal who fairly recently formed a close business relationship with Naim were demonstrating speakers I have heard numerous times before – at many UK mainland shows and during the Northern Ireland Audio Show but never on the end of Naim – in the past more often than not on the end of VTL amplification.

The system comprised of a Naim NDS, NAC 252, NAP 300, CDP 555, P5. 300 P5 and Super CAP, Naim Frames and the speakers were Focal Scalia Utopias.

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When I entered the room The Blue Nile track Walk Across The Rooftops was playing and a very different sound to what I had heard before was evident. However there were room issues present so I suggested to the demonstrator that pulling the curtains across would improve the sound and it did so to the most part.

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With the curtains pulled there was a slight reduction in openness and air but the bass was much cleaner and less boomy and as such while this was a trade off the sound was now more natural less forward and more articulate in the lower mid and bass. Hotel rooms are a nightmare to get a good sound in and the Confex rooms are no exception but all in all this was among the best I have heard big Focals sound. This was a surprise as frankly I didn’t think Focal and Naim electronics would be a good match and yet they, on the basis of this experience, seem to be – though not the only good match out there.

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On static display at the back of the room were two pairs of Focal speakers Electra BE and Diablo Utopia’s.

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Focal/JM Lab  http://www.focal.com/en/

 

Confex 5 – Rega

 

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The final room of the show was a little disappointing frankly, as the equipment was just plonked down on fold out tables – not level or particularly solid – and for the most part this room was about demoing the difference between various models of Rega turntable – turntables that are pretty infamous re needing excellent infrastructure in the form of wall shelves and isolation tables to work to their fullest performance level. I am not by the way saying that music can’t be had re casual set up but paying attention to detail reaps dividends in performance and particularly re Rega turntables. All the other rooms had well set up equipment, on proper HiFi tables (Naim frames) and care and attention had been paid re set up.

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I know these comments are coming across as being hard and despite my knowing the owner of the distribution company for very many years I feel poor set up ruins what audio companies are trying to do at audio shows (I bang on about this all the time in my show reports so my comments are not just about this particular room but all such) and yes I am well aware of the counter argument re audio system set up fascists being too tight re how systems should be set up, and equipment should be able to work placed anywhere and yes it will, up to a point, but go the extra mile and the improvements in performance reward the effort. never mind the exhibition room looking more professional – anyway I will put this particular hobby horse down now and get on with what was in the room and there was a lot.

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The main system playing was a Rega Isis CD player, Rega’s new out Elicit R Integrated amplifier £1600, Aria phonostage and Rega RP6, Apollo R CD player, Fono Mini A2D phonostage, Rega Brio, also in the room there were single examples of the Rega RP1, RP3, RP6 and RP8 turntables. Just outside the entrance to the room a real blast from the past, a classic Rega Plannar 3 with an RB200 Lustre sourced tonearm.

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The speakers being used were a pair of RS5 and RS7.

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On display and in use was the Elicit R £1600 integrated amplifier is just new onto the market and very nice and classy it looked too. Rega have this to say about it:

‘Rega is very proud to introduce a brand new high performance integrated amplifier. Designed and engineered to the highest standard to deliver the best possible audio performance whilst remaining simple to use and easy to setup.

Our recent development work in amplifier design circuitry has allowed us to further advance the Elicit-R performance by using new and improved power amplifier circuits (based around the hugely successful Rega Brio-R amplifier). Combined with FET discrete line pre-amplifiers and a programmable stepped attenuator volume control ensuring greater levels of performance and control over the delivery of power. The Elicit-R is supplied with the new Solaris system remote handset offering full control over this and all of the current R range of electronics.

Technology:

The output amplifier used in the Elicit-R was born after extensive research by our engineers to develop a low source Class-A* driver stage. Based around a complementary pair of Darlington output transistors forming an emulated Class-A driver stage.

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Features:

The Elicit-R includes a high quality built in moving magnet phono stage designed to maximise the potential of your vinyl system. A simple switch on the rear panel allows the same input to be switched to a secondary set at line level. This input is specially configured to offer further isolation and reduce noise. This makes it ideally suited for connection of more sensitive products such as an external MM or MC phono stage.

If your system is not vinyl based the same socket allows this line input to be used with any line level product (such as a CD player or DAC) ensuring maximised connectivity via the back panel. These features coupled with Polypropylene capacitors throughout the signal path, improved power supplies, increased output power to 100 watts per channel all housed in a brand new custom designed case combine to give the best performance Elicit to date.

*The design of the Elicit-R benefits greatly from running warm. To ensure best performance it is recommended to allow the unit to reach optimum temperature before critical listening.’

Main Specs:

Power output 105 Watts per channel into 8Ω, 127 Watts per channel into 6Ω, 162 Watts per channel into 4Ω

Input sensitivity for 105 Watts into 8Ω

Line inputs (input 1 switch set to line) 1-5 and record – 196mV load 10K

Phono (input 1 switch set to phono) – 2mV Load 47K in parallel with 220pF

Direct input – 760mV Load 50K

Power amplifier gain – 31.6dB

Record output – 196mV for rated inputs

Pre-amplifier output – 760mV for rated inputs

Dimensions: Width 432mm x Depth 325mm x Height 82mm

Weight – 13kg’

Another new item I was interested to see was the exciting and quite radically designed RP8 £1600 skeletal turntable – a bit of a departure for Rega – and I was not disappointed re getting to see it and hear it.

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Rega have this to say about it, which I will quote in full:

‘Rega is extremely pleased to announce the launch of the much awaited RP8 turntable. A turntable which takes Rega’s design philosophy further than ever before. A radical new plinth using custom designed materials, a new tonearm bearing assembly, 24v low volt-age motor controlled by a hand tuned electronic power supply and a custom version of our Planar 9 engineered hub bearing assembly. These are just some of the features of this amazing new turntable designed to extract more music from your vinyl than ever before.

The Evolution of Revolution

Evolution is a well proven and documented process in many areas of our lives. This applies in particular to design engineers and machines. Over the past forty years our cars have become more reliable and economical whilst we take for granted the reliability and speed of modern aircraft. Rega is no exception to evolution. Rega’s experience and previous achievements allow us to continually develop and produce better products.

RP8-SKELETAL-Product-page

The RP8 represents probably the biggest step forward in the evolution of Roy Gandy’s turntable design philosophies. Low mass, high rigidity plinths combined with electronically controlled low vibration motors, high flywheel effect platters and lower mass higher stability tonearms.

The RP8 is the first of our new “skeletal” design turntables offering groundbreaking levels of performance and amazing value for money.

The RP8 will also be available with its perfect partner, the Apheta moving coil cartridge, factory fitted as a package option.

TTPSU power supply

The compact TT-PSU uses a high stability, crystal locked, low distortion sine wave generator. This, along with an efficient drive amplifier fed from a stabilised DC power supply, generates a 24V AC balanced signal of less than 0.05% distortion, which is completely un-affected by any changes in the mains/line voltage and conditions. This then drives the improved Rega anti-vibration circuit built into the RP8 motor PCB.

RB808Tonearm

The RB808 tonearm is packed with new features pushing the boundaries of tonearm design. As with all Rega tonearms each one is meticulously hand built by a team of highly skilled technicians. The RB808 has improved bearings and a tightened spindle fit tolerance over previous models (each bearing is individually selected to find the perfect match for the chosen spindle). This is a proven method of increasing the amount of detail retrieved from the record surface.

A brand new low mass precision engineered vertical bearing assembly has been manufac-tured to further compliment the inherent design philosophy of the RP8 turntable. The RB808 uses the latest Rega arm tube. Completely redesigned to redistribute mass, further reduce stresses and resonances. This advanced design tube increases the stiffness and rigidity of the overall assembly using CAD design to blend the multiple varying tapers. Externally we have fitted a bespoke Rega designed low capacitance phono cable. Which uses an advanced phono plug assembly. This has only two parts to minimise joints and incorporates a twist and clamp design locking the plug to the terminal. The design increases connectivity and ensures the signal path is kept as clean as possible.

Magnesium and Phenolic – Dual bracing

A super lightweight plinth combined with a double brace mounted specifically where the increased rigidity is required (between the tonearm mounting and the main hub bearing) forms a structurally sound “stressed beam” assembly. This design prevents energy absorption and unwanted resonances which will add un-natural distortions to the music. The RP8 takes our double brace technology to the next level. Not content with an unprecedented stiffness to mass ratio, Rega have obsessively reduced any resonant properties by using two different materials for the new stressed beam. The top layer is magnesium and the bottom layer is pheno-lic (two of the lightest and stiffest materials available). Incorporating two different materials into the brace structure lowers their ability to pick up unwanted airborne vibrations. Simply put, different materials have different natural resonances. By using two different materials together they decrease the natural frequency of each other by self damping.

Super flywheel effect triple layer glass platter

The new RP8 three piece laminated glass platter is the result of a collaboration with a small, emerging, young British glass engineering company. As a general rule the only part of a turntable that requires extra mass is the turntable platter in order to achieve constant rotational speed. However a heavier platter creates more problems for the main bearing design so again an ideal compromise creates the best solution. Practically this means keeping as much of the mass to the outside rim of the glass platter to create more flywheel effect but keeping the inside of the platter as light as possible without sacrificing stiffness. The RP6 was the first Rega turntable to use a precision engineered glass ring laminated to the outside using modern CNC techniques to ensure concentricity. The RP8 takes it one step further by laminating three rings together to produce the RP8 super flywheel effect glass platter – an engineering triumph !

Skeletal plinth design with polyolefin foam core

RB808-APHETA-RP8-product-pa

Controversially Rega has always researched methods of producing light but stiff and rigid plinths. The technology is simple: unwanted noise at microscopic levels is developed by the turntable motor and main bearing. The plinth can also pick up airborne vibration from the music. From the beginning in the 1970’s Rega pioneered the use of a stressed skin structure for the plinth. This uses two layers of phenolic resin with a lightweight particle or fibre board sandwiched between the skins. This technique has been used in many applications where stiff, light structures are needed such as an aircraft wing or a Formula 1 chassis. The current increase in interest in turntables has allowed Rega to research and develop higher technology structures for the customer who is happy pay a little more for higher sound quality. The all new RP8 turntable utilises a unique new stressed skin structure produced from thin phenolic skins sandwiching a featherweight nitrogen expanded, closed cell, polyolefin foam core. This material has been developed exclusively for Rega over a three year period. The RP8 plinth is 7 times lighter than the weight of the original Planar 3 plinth. Rega has added even more stiffness in the crucial area between the arm and the main bearing.

De-coupled outer frame and dust cover

RP8-NO-PLATTER-Product-page

A common problem for many skeletal design turntables is the inability to incorporate an effective dust cover into the design. We have constructed an outer frame that minimises contact between the inner and outer plinth. The only points of contact are three location devices on the feet which centralises the inner and outer plinths perfectly. This makes set-up extremely easy and allows the use of a dust cover. The RP8 can be used without the outer frame if so desired.

24V Low noise motor

The motor is a high specification, 24V twin phase synchronous unit which has the anti vibration circuit hand tuned to each motor and is controlled by Rega’s unique and innovative TTPSU power supply. The motor drives the CNC machined pulley and sub platter/hub-bearing assembly via the belt drive.’

While I was in the room Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major was playing on the Rega RP8 and very nice it sounded too, but the question I ask is could it have been better? I think so. Frankly I think Rega deserved a better showing, and if there is a next time? I hope the brand gets it.

Rega http://www.rega.co.uk/

 

Conclusions

 

I enjoyed myself a great deal and heard some interesting sounds at this mini show and after talking to Wesley he expressed happiness re the number of people who had attended the Audiofest Show, a show Wesley wanted to be more about manufacturers and brands than retailers. However I think it pretty hard to totally separate the shadow of retailers from such shows, especially if dealers organise them – which has been the traditional model re HiFi Shows in Northern Ireland and Ireland as a whole in the past. For me this is less of an issue as long as the event is well run and interesting and this show was both things.

Being honest, I know little about Rega, Naim and The Chord Company products as my own audio life both as an enthusiast, audio professional and more recently reviewer has pretty much not seen me cross paths with these brands often (occasional at UK shows) or in any detail, so this show was a milestone for me in that this was a fairly significant exposure to the charms of these brands and I must confess that charmed I was.

I do have a few issues re this mini show – some I can put down to it being a first event, others not so. Firstly no sign-age to show where the event was or even if it was on. Nothing outside the Confex Centre indicated an audio show within, but I can forgive this due to the nature of the event (most folks were invited personally or via online audio forums), however one thing I can’t forgive and its part of the aforementioned hobby horse is the lack of information re products on show and importantly how much they cost – quite a few times I heard exhibitors stumble over knowing how much items cost exactly.

I also – as mentioned earlier – have issues with equipment not set up to perform to its best – I think this looks poor and more importantly where other exhibitors had managed to do this it looks unprofessional for those that didn’t – sorry but that’s how I feel about it, said from the point of view of an audio enthusiast, multiple show attender, someone who has helped exhibit at audio shows, set up systems at shows and knows how important impressions are – rooms should look good, have plenty of information to hand and above all sound as good as is possible and that includes sitting sensitive turntables (Rega’s still are, though not as bad as they once were requiring wall shelves to get the very best performance from them) on level dedicated equipment tables

However overall despite these niggles I enjoyed myself, enjoyed the demonstrations particularly Alan Gibb’s and I look forward to the next mini show Wesley Cunningham organises – well done.

 

Neil

 

 

© Text and Photos Copyright 2013 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio, except where noted and Copyright belongs with those named parties. Non-show taken product photos Copyright belongs with Naim and Rega. 

NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without prior written permission. Failure to comply, may result in legal action.

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