Apr 172011
 

In this the final part of my report on the Audio World 2011 show I will take you round the last of the Syndicate rooms and give you a round up of my thoughts on the show overall.

Syndicate 11 – Revolver Audio/Audion International

Regular show exhibition partners Revolver Audio and Audio International were once again sharing a room and presenting a system together which comprised of a pair of Audion Gold Dreams level 8 power-amplifiers £26,000, Quatro Premier MC/Line level silver wired, class A, dual mono design pre-amplifier £8000, Cygnis Gold speakers £13995. The front end they were using was an Audio Note CDT Zero CD transport and Audio Note DAC One.

The Quatro is a very interesting two, or four box design including a  phono amplifier and line level pre-amplifier. On Audion’s website they have this to say about it…

‘The Premier Quattro preamp is a two or four box preamp, totally hard wired using silver wire with specially selected components to make it one of the best sounding preamps in the world!

The Quattro is available in our new design Uni-chassis’, and includes an MC stage for even the most sensitive of cartridges, presenting itself as a high-end, high quality product capable of handling a massive array of sources. The Quattro also includes the same silver wire in the signal path, with specially selected and matched components including some tanatalum resistors, etc etc. There are 4 line level inputs and an MC input – hand built too!

Its phono stage can accommodate any low output moving coils, and its line-stage is just a cathode follower with very little gain. It has the benefits of both simplicity of design and superb execution (with only 4 tubes in the entire signal path from the cartridge, a 4 chassis totally dual-mono construction and the power supplies use only polypropylene capacitors). There are 17 active power supply stages in the 2 box and 21 active supplies in the 4 box.

We would recommend only two upgrades to this pre-amp, Teflon V-caps and either Vishay Dale stepped attenuators or Goldpoint.’ You can read more here http://www.audion.co.uk/index.html

Their room was very busy through out the duration of the show and when I did manage to get a seat to listen, the way music was being reproduced was very nice with real weight and scale but not at the expense of fine nuances.

Syndicate 12 – Daedalus Audio/First Sound Audio/ModWright Instruments

New to the UK Daedalus Audio shared a room with another company making its UK debut, First Sound Audio and ModWright Instruments Inc who’s products have been both seen and heard at UK shows before were exhibiting a new (UK Premier) amplifier the KWA 150 se; so all-in-all a room full of firsts.

The System comprised an AMR CD-77 front end, First Sound pre-amplifier and Daedalus Audio DA-RMa speakers and the new Signature Edition of the ModWright KWA150 power-amplifier.

The First Sound Paramount plus mk3 pre-amplifier on show is a dual mono, two power supplies linestage using 2 6DJ8 valves. You can read more about the technology and topology of this design here http://www.firstsoundaudio.com/technical.html and more about this interesting company here http://www.firstsoundaudio.com/

The beautifully made floorstanding Daedalus Audio speakers that sat either side of the electronics were a pair of DA-RMa’s £5500 and this is what their website says about them….

‘DA-RMa
(Daedalus Audio-Reference Monitor-a)

The DA-RMa is a full-range stand mount monitor designed for accurate, detailed imaging, soundstage and dynamics with no listener fatique. The sculpted baffle, precisely aligned drivers and handcrafted crossovers are some of the features that make this a speaker perfectrly suited for the audiophile or recording engineer.

Specifications:

96db 1w/1m – 8 to 350 watts per side
Available in solid Oak, Cherry, Walnut.
[Maple, Quartersawn White Oak
or Ebonized Walnut option]
sold w/o grills
Made in the USA
Isolation Stands for the DA-RMa
with Maple bases – $600 set’

You can read more about Daedalus Audio here http://www.daedalusaudio.com/index.html

The amplifier getting its UK (world?) premier was the new Signature Edition of the KWA 150 £7000 amplifier and this one was the first of the production line. This is what ModWright say about the standard model on their website….

Design Specifications of the KWA 150:

  • Fully dual-mono internal design, including separate power transformers, power supplies and input and output stages for ideal separation and exceptional soundstage.
  • Chassis design and internal layout optimized for lowest possible noise floor, providing greater micro-detail and micro-dynamics for a natural and organics sonic presentation.
  • Fully discrete ‘Solid State Music Stage’ design by Alan Kimmel, offering midrange of tubes as well as muscle and speed of solid state design.
  • Zero global Negative feedback.
  • (24) High Current ‘Thermatltrak’ Bi-Polar output devices for extreme linearity and speed.
  • Over 180,000uf total power supply capacitance reserves for deep and tuneful bass.
  • Lundahl Input Transformer coupled floating ground design, preventing ground loops and isolation from ground mains, for exceptionally low noise floor.
  • RCA and XLR inputs transformer coupled to fully balanced circuitry.
  • Proprietary protection circuitry operating completely outside of signal path, protecting both amplifier and associated system components with ZERO impact on sonics.
  • DC input and output protection
  • Over-current protection.
  • Output short-circuit protection.
  • Thermal overload protection.
  • Proprietary ‘RFB’ circuit to protect amp in case of single rail fuse failure
  • Class A-AB operation.
  • Bias optimized for low distortion, heat and sonics, allowing for lower operating temperatures, and ideal sonic presentation.
  • Pure copper pcb traces, offering the lowest possible impedance.
  • Extremely short signal paths and highest quality MWI capacitors and audio grade signal path components for sonic purity.
  • Technical Specifications:

    Dimensions: 17″Wx17″Dx9″H; Weight 84lb packed.

    Power: 150W @ 8ohms; 250W @ 4 ohms; 450W @ 8 ohms bridged mono; 650W @ 4 ohms bridged mono. ALL power ratings at .05% THD!

    Noise Floor: -100dB (Unweighted)

    Bandwidth: 10Hz – 100Khz (+0, -1dB)’

    and the new Signature Edition….

    ‘We have taken the KWA 150 and applied nearly two years of additional R&D and further thought into how to FURTHER improve upon the award-winning KWA 150.

    We are finally finished with the prototype and the first ‘Signature Edition’s are now rolling off the production line

    Upgrades to all existing KWA 150’s available! Upgrade Cost = $2,000.

    Summary of key elements of upgrade

  • Circuit design revisions to input circuits that lower distortion and improve dyanmics and resolution.
  • Cryo-treated, solid core ultra-pure input wiring and 12GA stranded audio-grade output signal wire to binding posts.
  • Revised capacitor bank (current storage design) that increases total storage (capacitance) and also lowers power supply impedance, which translates to faster current delivery to the output stage.This all translates to the following in terms of sonics:
  • A more open and resolving overall presentation.
  • Tighter and faster bass and transients.
  • Improved speed and dynamics, whilst still retaining tube-like midrange qualities.
  • Improved soundstage and low-level cues due to an even LOWER noise floor.’
  • I really enjoyed my time in this room when I got a chance to sit and listen to the system on the Sunday plus the long chat I had with Lou Hinkley of Daedalus Audio in the corridor.
  • The overall sound was very musical and effortless, with excellent ambient acoustic reproduction (the music being played was a live choral piece) very good detail and really good bass reproduction within the room.

    Because I am not familiar with the electronics bar the CD player (I own one) I can’t say exactly which part of the system was doing what but as a system it was working very well in the room and I spent longer here than I should have; which put a bit of pressure on me to cover the rest of the show.

    Syndicate 13 – Sound Location

    One of the bravest and boldest systems at the show was presented by this new to me dealer and that was a desk top system with an I pod as the source. This was no ordinary Doc and I-Pod set up but an attempt to put together a fairly high end one and one with several different types of speakers as options too.

    This set up included a Wadia 171T DOC and 151 Power Dac with cabling by Siltech including 550L and MIT Magnum AC power cords.

    I heard this system on the first day with a pair of very compact Audience single driver speakers from the ClairAudient range ‘The One’ £725 and on the second day with the very futuristic looking Eclipse TD series 307mk2 speakers£260.

    Sound Location were also using a pair of Amphion speakers during the course of the show but I did not hear this set up with them.

    ‘The ClairAudient The ONE incorporates the same exclusive A3-S full-range crossover-less driver that is at the heart of every Audience ClairAudient loudspeaker, along with a purpose-designed passive radiator. The A3-S driver is a high power, 12mm excursion, ultra low distortion transducer that is full-range, instead of using a separate woofer, midrange driver and tweeter, and crossover network and the potential sonic compromises of sonically dissimilar drivers, phase distortions, loss of resolution and transient response degradation. The ONE is designed to deliver surprisingly expansive, dynamic and detailed sound from a desktop-style loudspeaker.’

    You can read more about the drive unit used in ‘The One’ here http://www.audience-av.com/parts/A3.php

    The sound of the system with the Audience and Eclipses had some similarities but with a slightly more organic sound with the ‘One’s’ and more precise sound with the TD 307’s. However both sets of speakers on the end of the Wadia’s reproduced music with excellent focus, detail and sound staging and surprisingly good bass from such tiny speakers (no subwoofer was used). If this system had been used in a smaller room the very slight forwardness (down to a slight lack of weight in the lower mid and bass), which I heard on both days would have been absent and a very good sound would have been excellent.

    I must say that I was really surprised by just how much I liked the sound in this room. Being honest I have a bias against I-Pods and I was not certainly not expecting to hear a fairly large scale sound from such small speakers but I did on both days. For around £2600 (not including cables) Sound Location presented a system that punched way above its price point and not only challenged my biases but also I have to say the quality of sound some other exhibitors were achieving elsewhere at this show.

    Also on display in the room were a much larger pair of speakers from Fujitsu ten in the form of the Eclipse TD712 zmk2 £2553.

    I applaud the exhibitor’s decision to try something different and unexpected at this show and hopefully anyone with an open mind visiting their room could see, hear and appreciate that.

    I should also say that I really enjoyed chatting with Paul who runs Sound Location and also well done for what you achieved in your room.

    You can read more here http://www.soundlocation.co.uk/

    Syndicate 14 – Analogue Alchemy

    Stepping into this room one was greeted with an amazing sight of beautiful turntables bathed in blue soft light. I must be honest and say that my heart raced slightly as I particularly like colour blue and lighting that uses that colour. So to say I was excited would be putting it mildly.

    My excitement did however turn to frustration at the lack of information in the room, as  finding a new company at the show with exciting looking products and no information was just a touch annoying. Waiting for an opportunity to ask about the turntables, I was eventually able to ask Mark Proskourine about the lack of info and he explained that it was very early days for the company and they were still feeling their way. Mark said for me to Email him after the show and he would give me more information. He has given me so much (Thank you Mark), that frankly it is too much for this room report, so I will be devoting a separate article to it; in a few days.

    The system in the room was made up of an Analogue Alchemy turntable Tri-Star £14000, Shanling CD-T1000 CD player, Clearaudio phonostage, Myryad MX P2000 pre-amplifier and Analogue Academy Sound Master speakers £20000.

    What follows is an extract from the answers Mark gave to my questions about what they had been exhibiting at the show…..

    “”We displayed five models of turntables at the show, from basic to more advanced, (all models shown were presented in their intermediate stage II) which will retail from £1500 to £14000, depending on the model and stage.”

    Mark continues….

    “All the turntables come with hand crafted, elegant, matching isolation platform with individually height adjustable feet and a handy precision spirit bubble level. Their weight varies from 9 to 37kg. We have also developed a fine
    range of turntable accessories to complete a setup: 2 types of record clamps – one is non-magnetic stainless steel, which can be used in combination with a nicely made precision spirit level. The other one is a sandwiched
    steel/aluminium combination, with an inbuilt precision bubble spirit level.”

    I also asked Mark about how Analogue Alchemy  products will be marketed/sold in the UK, he answered thus “we shall be using one distributor in the UK, as well as selling them on our website. that’s for the time being. We will also be looking into EU and US, Russia, FSU and other potential markets.”

    As one entered the room to the right a long table had a number of turntables on static display and what a fantastic sight they made.

    Sound quality in the room was good but there were some bass issues which lead me to think that the Sound Master speakers were just a tad too big for the room or were possibly just exciting a room node. However regardless of this I could see and hear great potential in Analogue Alchemy products, which would no doubt shine forth in a bigger, better room.

    I for one look forward to both seeing and hearing from this company again.

    You can get more info here http://www.analoguealchemy.com/index.html

    Syndicate 15 – Bit Perfect Systems

    This server based system was made up of a Bit Perfect Ref 1 £3500, Audium C5 speakers £2000, Calyx DAC £1500, Calyx integrated amplifier £2200 and a MIT Z-powerbar.

    More info can be found here (soon) on Bit Perfect Systems http://bitperfectsystems.com/index.html and on Calyx here http://www.calyxaudio.com/cgi/home/?eng=1

    Syndicate 16 – The Audio Works

    Their system was a very simple single source and integrated amplifier set up and comprised an Accuphase DP400 CD player, E330 integrated amplifier and a pair of Tannoy Definition DC8 speakers. All cabling was Music Works with Revo equipment tables and speaker stands.

    Syndicate 17/18 – Music First Audio

    Music First Audio’s Harry O’Sullivan and Steven Billington were both very proudly showing off a new MFA product (in room17) in the form of a brand new two box phonostage, to me on the Friday night, after their room set up was completed. I had a long listen on the Friday night and again for awhile on Saturday after the show had ended and I have to say even on such a brief exposure I was very impressed.

    This design, I was told uses two 6SL7s and two 6NS7s valves in the main phonostage and an EZ80 valve in the power supply. As this was a  final pre-production sample its case work was fairly utilitarian and not what the full production unit will be dressed in, when it comes to market in late June 2011. The price is expected to be in and around £3000 + VAT.

    I listened to extracts from a number of albums and 12 inch singles including a remix of True Blood by Madonna. The sound had excellent focus, dynamics without being bright or forward. The only negative was as a result of the Quad ESLs having a slight lack of slam in the lower bass other than that this track was very good. Tracks from Waltz Darling were breathtaking and sublime.

    I hope later in the year to get a chance to do a full review of this phonostage (fingers crossed)

    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 and power-amplification was by a vintage Quad solid state power amplifier, with Quad ESL63 speakers.

    The strap line for room 17 could very much have been ‘Wot No CD’ as everything in there was analogue with the main sources in use being the aforementioned phonostage and Nottingham Analogue Space Deck with almost equal use being made of a wonderful Revox A77 reel to reel machine.

    Room 18 was mostly analogue too with the main source being an Akai GX55 reel to reel machine (with a somewhat more spot lit sound than the Revox next door) and digital in the form of an MSB Platinum DAC 4 (I POD Doc version) with Platinum Power Base power supply. A laptop was hooked into this rather than an I-POD. The rest of the system in  room 18 comprised of a pair of John Howes Quad two mono power-amplifiers and Quarter wave speakers, bothof which were  in Music First Audio company livery.

    I have to say that Music First Audio always work hard setting their rooms up and both rooms sounded very good but for me Room 17 was excellent and I very much enjoyed hearing Malcolm Mclaren’s, wonderful 1989 album Waltz Darling both on vinyl and reel to reel.

    Room18 also had Waltz Darling playing and the sound was a tad brighter and just a little bit more forward than that of room 17 and thus slightly less to my taste but in its own way still very good.

    Well done Steven and Harry for having a very high standard of music playback in your rooms.

    More details on Music First Audio can be found here http://www.mfaudio.co.uk/index.htm

    Syndicate 19 – John Howes Audio

    Having spent a bit of time in John’s room on the Friday night, which afforded me a sneak preview to the magnificent way music would be reproduced by this system during the course of the rest of the show.

    The system comprised a Docet-Lector transport and DAC, Music First Audio classic mk2 pre-amplifier, Howes PX4 3watt mono power-amplifiers £7000, Howes quarter wave speakers using PM6 ‘A’ drive units £4500. All cabling was by Jena Labs (a name not well known in the UK, but held in high regard by many audio enthusiasts in the States; more info here http://jenalabs.com/)

    John was also using some classic bits of kit in his system such as a Revox 710 cassette deck and had his heavily, but sympathetically, modified Quad Two amplifiers£2500 + a pair of PX4 amplifiers on static display.

    I was not entirely convinced by his speakers at last years National Audio Show at Whittlebury Hall but based on this outing there must have been a room issue there, as the quality of sound of the music playing at this show was very good indeed. I have written in my listening notes ‘beautiful, beguiling and musical’ with ‘an open and detailed effortlessness, lovely’ I was very impressed with the sound of this system in this room.

    Well done John Howes and his partner in crime Mike Blackwood.

    Syndicate 20 – Art Audio UK

    Art Audio were using a pair of  Charlise mono power-amplifiers, Adagio single ended stereo amplifier, Conductor pre-amplifier, PS Audio Perfect Wave CD transport and Perfect Wave DAC (£2999 each), on the Sunday an Olive 4HD music server, PS power plant and Ars Aures Mi speakers.

    Sound quality in the room as with all of the previous times I have visited an Art Audio room was very good.

    Syndicate 21 – Inspire HiFi


    Derbyshire based Inspire were using a more or less similar system to last years March Hi-Fidelity show which comprised of an ATC SIA2 integrated amplifier with Whest phono stage, Inspire Vivid modified Linn LP12, Apollo Eclipse SE fitted with a 12inch SME V arm £5725…nice ! There was also an entry level Apollo on show as well. The speakers in use were from ATC.

    To the left side of the room Inspire had a few of their turntables on static display including the entry level Quest.

    Conclusion

    Well despite this being a smaller show there were still some interesting things to be seen and heard and I very much enjoyed my visit.

    However on a negative note (I won’t apologise for banging this particular drum again, as it is a major pet hate of mine) I still don’t understand why some companies spend a lot of money exhibiting (costs are very high to exhibit at these shows) but don’t set themselves high standards for room presentation, system and items on display info, items being priced and making sure the system sounds good in the room. It is after all true that first impressions are what stick and looking like you can’t be bothered creates a bad  impression among show visitors, both those new to audio and those who are seasoned show attenders.

    There were some excellent products at this show and a few that have helped to change my mind about certain biases I have namely horn speakers and what can be achieved from an I-POD.

    So in no particular order the exhibitors who should be applauded most for the way music was reproduced in their rooms are: Sound Location, John Howes Audio, Music First Audio, Voxativ, Select Audio, Audio Note UK, Daedalus Audio, LW Audio, KOG Audio and UKD.

    Most interesting new comers/products Voxative, Track Audio, Daedalus Audio, Analogue Alchemy, Stereo Knight and First Sound Audio.

    See you hopefully at next years show.

    Neil

    © Text/Photos Copyright 2011 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio.

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

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