Oct 172010

In this part of the show report we will be visiting the large first floor suites.

Copse Suite  Cyrus/Vienna Acoustics

Last time I heard Vienna Acoustics (also the first time I had heard them) speakers they were on the end of McIntosh electronics, a few years ago, so to see them being used with Cyrus was quite a swing from one end of the audio scale to the other; as it turns out the pairing worked quite well, despite the large room.

The main system featured a pair of Vienna Acoustics Klimit The Music speakers and two of the Mono X 300 power amplifiers from the new Zero Global Feedback designs. These were hooked up to two PSX-R power supplies. The source feeding these components was a CDXT SE+ CD Player, DAC XP+.

The following details on the components used in this demonstration system have been taken from the Cyrus website.

The new Cyrus ‘ CDXT SE+ is a pure CD transport system that delivers the very best sound from a CD. This premium CD Player was voted the best CD player in its category by What Hi Fi Sound & Vision in 2009. Featuring the highly advanced Cyrus SE ‘CD Engine’, dual transformers and PSX-R socket for upgrading to a PSX-R power supply, this is our definitive CD player. The CDXT SE+ is the perfect partner with a DAC X+ or DAC XP+. Alternatively, if you are considering an integrated amplifier solution the 8 XP d or 8 XPd QX are highly capable partners.

The CDXT SE+ is the transport or disc spinning half of the ultimate Cyrus CD player system. At the highest levels of CD player development we have learnt that it is beneficial to separate certain sections of the CD mechanics from the low level decoding sections. The most successful way we have found to do this is to manufacture the player in two separate and isolated die-cast chassis. The benefits of this approach bring higher resolution, quieter background and improved imagery.

The SE engineering was originally developed for the CDXT. The SE brings the following key benefits;

• Specifically developed for Audio data standards
• Up to 5 times fewer data errors than ordinary players
• Less reliance on error correction
• Better signal to noise ratio
• Improved laser control accuracy
• Upgrade path from recent Cyrus CD players

We realised quite quickly that if we could incorporate SE across the range this would bring an economy of scale and therefore only a relatively small extra cost to each model, rather than loading all the SE development overheads into the high-end model CDXT. This is why CDXT SE+ is (in the world of high-end audio) relatively inexpensive.

The ‘other half’ of the high-end CD playing system is a matching DAC called DAC X+. Separating the mechanical elements from the low-level decoding circuits offers significant improvement to the resolution of the audio signals. Conversely joining the low level analogue signals, post DAC, with the preamplifier delivers improvements so we make a combined DAC and preamp model called DAC XP+ for the ultimate hi-performance solution. You have a choice between our high performance DAC X+ with our most advanced engineering or the preamp equipped version for the best systems. Being Cyrus, the multi-input decoder only (DAC X+) can be upgraded to full DAC XP+ dual mono, fully balanced preamplifier specification later on. So if the DAC XP+ is beyond your means initially, you can upgrade later and gain the benefits of the ultimate performance as funds allow.

This integration brings several benefits because, unlike the transport, the preamplifier benefits from its closer physical link to the DAC and a much smaller circuit topology.’ Price £1500

The matching DAC the ‘DAC X+ is a multi input digital to analogue converter and will significantly enhance CD performance, especially when partnered with the CDXT SE+. The DAC X+ should be partnered with a preamp and power amp and then you can really appreciate the wonderful resolution and musical enhancement that this offers.

The DAC X+ is all about accuracy. First a highly accurate reference clock is generated and this is used to locking together a special Sample Rate Converter and the Digital to Analogue Converter for maximum digital accuracy. After re-clocking (from a wide number of available original sample rates) the signal is up sampled to 192kHz before feeding to twin stereo DACs designed in dual mono configuration enabling balanced operation. Operational elements of the system, such as the digital control signals, are optically isolated from the twin mono DAC cards improving the clarity of the system. The re-clocked digital signal benefits from the development of a carefully specified power supply system. Based on a custom designed ultra low noise torroidal power transformer, the power is cascaded through a number of sophisticated regulation stages and isolation techniques that ensure each section receives an unrestricted, noise free, power supply.

Each input may be re-named from a wide list of options within the menu allowing the owner to customise the DAC’s input options to match their own system options. The input names are displayed on the clear soft green backlit LCD display matching all other Cyrus components.

Although the DAC X+ will slave “on”, through the Master Control BUS with any Cyrus CD player, it will act as and respond to preamplifier remote commands if fitted with the optional preamplifier.

The result is an easy to use, compact unit, that is able to elevate the performance of many source components massively extending the performance and useful life of a consumers investment in Cyrus (and other) audio and video components. Price £1500

The Mono X300 ‘is a massively powerful amplifier, yet it is still housed inside just one magnesium die-cast chassis. Incredibly, it is able to drive over 300 watts into real world speaker loads!’

Also various Cyrus components and Vienna Acoustics speakers were on static display around the room’s boundaries.

The sound in the room was overall quite good, open and detailed but the bass at times was a tad boomy.

While in the room I spotted an old colleague from very many years ago who has worn somewhat better than I have and this was something he was quite keen to point out to me….thanks a lot! I have missed his sometimes cutting wit and quirky sense of humour. The last time I bumped into him was at the Novotel show back in 1999. Alas he was working (very hard) for AudioT (who’s room it actually was) and I had a show report to write, so the clock was very much ticking against both of us; so sadly I had to move on after a short chat.

Woodcote Suite  The Music Project/David Bearing/MIT Cables/The Audio Works/Blade Audio

I am afraid I will not be winning myself any friends among the exhibitors in this room.

I have to be honest with my comments here and while there will always be a degree of differences in opinion on what constitutes a ‘good sound or not’, there was something seriously wrong with the sound in this room.

I debated not writing anything on this room, or just listing the gear used but to have done so would be to have let the readers of AIHFA down.

The sound in this room was lacking in coherence, was forward, boomy in the bass, thin in the midrange, bright and shrill in the treble and the soundstaging was off. Frankly, this was to my ears the worst sound at the show (so far) and it really should not have been as the components making up the system are generally regarded as being very good.

Now I will be honest and say that I mainly prefer the sound of valve based products (but I do use and like solid-state as well) and while I can respect the sound of Focal speakers they don’t quite do it for me, but my comments here are not about my own personal preferences; there was something seriously wrong with the way music was being made in this room.

Concerned and shocked at what I was hearing I went and got a second opinion from someone who’s ears I trust (he has much better listening skills than me). His reaction to the sound turned out to be just as negative as mine had been. His words were and I quote “Its hard to make Focal’s sound that bad”. After a few more minutes of listening to a choral work (the music I had heard on first entering the room had been electronic) his opinion was that he felt something was out of phase. Now I have heard out of phase before but this was dramatically wrong, not just slightly wrong. It could have been a components, cables, room mismatch but what ever was wrong it was doing no one any favours.

I wish I could be more positive about this room but sadly the only thing I can say to be positive is that the system looked very nice. I will reserve a final judgement on these components until I hear them again; more than likely at a future show.

Luffield Suite   Chord Electronics

Chord had split their suite up into zones, to mimic the kind of situations that their new Chordette range of components are designed to work in.

Chord had set up a ‘in the garden zone’, ‘between rooms in your home zone’ and a ‘full size Chord system in the living room set up’.

I have to say that with this new range of electronics Chord’s John Frank’s has created are a stunningly beautiful range of little jewels.wow !

Situated around the large room Chordette systems, either housed in tiny perfectly formed mini version of the Coral rack, or sitting on their own, all these tiny marvels (the Prime, Gem, Peach, Scamp and Mogul) created music.

I have to say honestly that the sound quality while good was not exceptional but this was down to the large room and only using small systems to deliver music into a zone of the room. I feel that in the real world acoustic of a normal living room (or elsewhere in the home) that the sound quality would be much better.

The fit and finish of all these products was fantastic.

The heart of the systems in use through out the suite was the new Mogul which is a ‘Fully featured Windows 7 micro PC with dual HDMI/VGA connectivity, 6 USB’s, 320Gb storage and HD audio support. The Chordette Mogul is the heart of a flexible highly advanced and stunningly styled home computing/media solution.

Running the latest Windows™ 7 operating system it supports a vast range of multimedia applications with full internet access and support. Play music,
download and playback a missed television program, check your email or
browse the internet.

The Mogul is the perfect solution, small and unobtrusive in any application.’

The Peach then acts as a – ‘DAC with Apt-X Bluetooth, USB, Optical & Coax digital inputs.

The Chordette Peach, developed from the highly successful 2008 Chordette
Gem, integrates with an existing HiFi system and allows the transfer of music
from a Bluetooth enabled product. The Peach adds optical and coaxial inputs
vastly expanding the system possibilities. The USB port allows direct streaming of audio from a Personal Computer’ or laptop or a Mogul.’

A Scamp then amplifies the music – ’40W stereo amplifier with analogue and USB input and volume control. Bridgeable to 80W

The Chordette Scamp is a stereo amplifier with control for both digital and
analogue inputs and has been designed as a small but extremely capable
amplifier for your system. With it’s own RCA phono inputs, USB input and Gain control, this little power house can be used as a stand alone integrated
amplifier from a single source or a power-amplifier when combined with the
Chordette Prime. This gives great flexibility and with the switchable
bridged mono feature, an entire Chordette system can be built without replacing any item.’

The main audio system featured the latest version of the Red Standard CD player was hooked up to a Chord pre-power combination and Wilson Benesch floor standing Chimera speakers. Sadly this system was not in use when I was visiting the room.

I love the look of these new products and I wish Chord all the best with this new range of electronics. I for one hope that the general public will embrace the Chordette’s.

Priory  Suite  Studio AV

There were a lot of  Focal speakers in use on the first floor suites and it was interesting to hear the differences in sound quality that each electronics choice brought to each room, with Focal on the end of  each set up.

In this room the system in use comprised of a DCS

Paganini  CD/SACD transport/DAC/Masterclock and Upsampler, Linn Sondek LP12/Audio Origami PU7/Benz Micro Glider SL/ Linn Lingo 3 VTL TP-6.5 phono stage VTL TL-6.5 pre amplifier, Mark Levinson No53 mono power amplifiers and Focal Maestro Utopia speakers. Nordost Odin cabling was in use and the equipment tables were from Quadraspire.

The sound in this room was big and bold with a nice big soundstage and good depth of image + sound stage width. Overall the sound was very nice.

Vale Suite  Kudos/Cymbiosis

Sadly each time I tried to visit this room it was full; which was quite an achievement as it was a huge room. The upshot of this is that I eventually gave up.

I am sorry to say there is thus no report on this suite from me, though you can read one from  Cymbiosis who’s room it was….  http://www.cymbiosis.com/nas10_report.html

Stowe Suite  DCS/JM Labs

There was quite a collection of DCS kit on static display in this room in fact all the products from the DCS catalogue were on show.

There were also plenty of JM Lab speakers dotted about the room too.

The real suprise of this room was the system chosen to do the demo with. Rather than using all the more complicated choices of kit available these exhibitors decided to use what was a very simple set up. The old saying that ‘less is more’ sprung to mind as despite the large room the system managed to fill the room with music that was nicely rendered and tonally right; though occasionally it was just a touch lean.

The system was made up of a DCS Puccini CD/SACD player £11299, VTL IT 85 integrated amplifier, JM Lab (Focal) Diablo speakers. The cabling being used was from Tellurium Q with Music Works Revo racks being used to house all the electronics. Music Works mains cables and distribution blocks were also being used.

Well done guys for picking a system that did well in an awkward room.

Chapel  Audio Freaks

Audio Freaks have always had an excellent sound at the shows they exhibit at, that I have visited and Whittlebury Hall was no exception.

The system was fronted by a Zanden one box CD player the Zanden Model 2500S CD Player in its new Piano Black finish. The turntable was a Kuzma Stabi SD-12 turntable, Stogi S-12 tonearm and a Benz-Micro Glider SM phono cartridge. There was also a Magnum Dynalab MD07 T tuner.

These components were housed on a Finite Elemente HD03MR EDITION in walnut wood finish; which looked beautiful.

Amplification was via 50% of the new Karan Acoustics KA L REF Mk3 line/phono pre-amplifier. The power-amplifier was a Karan Acoustics KA S 600 stereo amplifier (on the finite elemente HD 09MR EDITION amplifier platform) getting its world premier at this show.

The speakers were Avalon Acoustics Transcendent dynamic loudspeaker system (world launch) and the KA S 600 amplifier, Cardas Clear IC and Clear Beyond SC cables and the Running Springs Audio Duke line conditioner.

Also on static display was a Conrad Johnson ET3 pre-amplifier, Rogue Audio Stealth phono pre-amplifier, Conrad Johnson LP66S amplifier and a Magnum Dynalab MD29 FM Receiver.

The sound was open detailed, effortless and smooth…..very nice indeed.

This for me was one of the best sounding rooms at the show. I could have sat on longer but time as ever was chasing me hard and biting at my heels.

Once again well done Branco.


The End of Part Seven

In part eight we will start the final leg of this show report by visiting the Audio Note room, the last of the suites, where The Right Note were exhibiting and moving into the last corridor to vist among others Deltec Precision Audio and Select Audio.

©Text and all photos Copyright Adventures in High Fidelity Audio 2010 all rights reserved, except for the show logo Chester Group copyright.

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

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