Nov 192010
 

In this the last part of the Northern Ireland Audio Show report we will visit the first floor of the Stormont Hotel, where a number of exhibitors had very interesting rooms.

Room 057 AudioNote

Audio Note as in all of the shows I have visited this year, from the Park Inn back in March to this show have (so far) always had an “above the norm” (for Hotel room based sound) sound quality in their rooms and NIAS was no exception; with what was probably a better sound than what they had had at the just past Whittlebury Hall show. In short the quality of music reproduction in what was a small room was very good indeed. Just walking into the room was almost enough, as it just sounded right…..to my ears at least and others too based on comments I heard in the corridors and have read later on the net.

With their speakers positioned hard into the corners of the room and firing up the narrow room they produced a wonderfully musical sound with very little bass problems.

The system they were using comprised of the following components which I feel are worth looking at in more detail:

Audio Note CD-Three Compact=

The Audio Note CD3.1 x/11 £3960…..“integrated CD player featuring: in-house custom modified Philips front loading CD mechanism, non-oversampling digital filterless DAC, based on the highly regarded Analog Devices AD1865 chip, ECC88 valve output stage with Audio Note copper foil capacitors and tantalum resistors. Available with brushed aluminium or classic black acrylic fascia.”

Audio Note M5 Valve Hifi Preamplifier

The Audio Note M5 pre-amplifier £6300…..“Level Three top line pre-amplifier with Audio Note™ tantalum resistors, 5687 line stage with novel power supply design based on the patented M10 power supply design, 6X5, OB2, ECL82, Audio Note™ filter cap and proprietary Audio Note™copper wired HiB C-core output transformer.Phono version has 6072A phono stage.”

Audio Note Ankoru Parallel Single-Ended Class A Monoblock Amplifier

Audio Note Ankoru/11 £25,200……. “The ANKOUR/II is a true, fully balanced design, supplied as a pair of mono amplifiers. They utilise the finest components including Audio Note (UK) tantalum resistors, a mix of Cerafine and high grade electrolytic capacitors, our own IHiB double C-core output transformers and fully balanced 1:3 input transformers for the 600 Ohm balanced XLR inputs.

The circuit is fully transformer coupled – once again using our own superb custom transformers – and each amplifier uses a 6V6GT to drive a pair of 211 output triodes in parallel single ended configuration to produce a devastating 45 watts of pure class A triode power. As one would expect, the amplifiers are valve rectified, using a pair of the highly regarded 5R4WGB valves per chassis.

The ANKORU/II has been designed to fulfil all Level Three criteria: –

  • Pure Class A operation
  • Zero Negative Feedback
  • Single Ended output stage
  • Valve rectification
  • Directly heated triode operation
  • Materials and component quality”

Product ImageAudio Note AN E/lx £3960……..”The AN-E must be the most efficient wide band speaker of moderate size on the market, with an effective bandwidth from 18 Hz to 23 kHz at -6 dB, efficiency better than 95 dB/m and a dynamic headroom above 108 dB. The extremely high efficiency is retained well over the bandwidth, and makes the AN-E very suited to the high quality, low-power triode amplifiers that will form the future of music reproduction, once our obsession with power and specifications is generally recognized as folly.

The AN-E is a two-way, ported enclosure, with a carefully designed cabinet which is shaped to enhance and aid driver dispersion on one hand, and bass output on the other. The cabinet is lightly braced and little internal damping is used. The cabinet is designed in such a way that it augments and supports the drivers in their task, not unlike the box of a guitar. The drivers are selected and paired before they are matched to the crossover in the same process as the AN-K and AN-J.”

The sound in this room was open, detailed, effortless and organic, with a nice wide sound stage, good depth of image and excellent communication of the music. There was only the occasional bass issues to mar the sound and these issues were few and far between.

Once again Audio Note well done.

Room 056 Sound Fowndations

For the first time this year I was able to get Keith Martin alone for a chat and very interesting it was too, so much so that some of what happened in Room 056 will form the basis of a separate review/article soon.

For the first time this year (based on my visiting their room at several other shows) Sound Fowndation had a very good sound in their room and perhaps using the Clearlight Audio RDC Private Addition speakers were part of that success.

The system in use consisted of a VPI Classic turntable and Classic SE tonearm, Ortofon Cadenza cartridge, ADL DAC, Leema Tucanna integrated amplifier, Leema Antilla CD player. Mains conditioning was via a Super Titan, Aquarius and G2 Titan. All of these items were housed on Clearlight Audio RCD tables.

Sound quality was open and detailed with good bass integration and very good stage width and depth. There was however a very slight leaness to the sound which no doubt helped give a less bass prominent presentation. This was a surprise as the speakers are quite large so to be honest I was expecting more bass issues.

The Furutech ADL GT-40 USB DAC/headphone amplifier with phonostage £395. Here are some more details on this amazing product…..

“Built for enthusiasts who have growing music collections on their computer hard drives.

The Furutech GT40 is a  high performance 24bit/96kHz USB DAC …featuring a low-latency USB 2.0 audio driver that plays and records at 96 kHz

AND

its contains a high performance headphone amplifier

AND

it also has a high quality Phono stage ( Moving Magnet & Moving Coil)  – Record your favourite vinyl to hard disk via the USB output

AND

it has a High Specification Analogue to Digital Converter for high resolution recordings via analog inputs including phono, AM/FM radio, or other analogue signals

The Furutech ADL GT40 features L/R analog outputs, and switchable line or phono inputs with a vivid, captivating sound that is simply unheard of in this category.

The Furutech ADL GT40 brings Furutech’s signature sound — smooth, detailed clarity — to desktop systems, especially with high resolution 24bit/96kHz files, but even 16bit/44.1kHz files sound impeccable and very musical.

Enjoy audio in high resolution at 24bit/96kHz surpassing conventional 16bit/44.1kHz standards

Incorporates the most trusted driver in professional audio for 96kHz recording and playback

External power supply: while a USB-powered device might be convenient, it won’t develop the power required for high resolution playback, so Furutech designed the GT40 with an external power supply to solve the problem.

Highest Quality Parts: The Furutech GT40 features a high quality amplifier and condenser supporting its high performance analog circuit

High End Audio Grade Connections: The Furutech GT40 is equipped with gold-plated Teflon-insulated RCA jacks with an extremely high quality aluminium chassis and machined volume knob

Please note: The GT40 requires recording software to be installed to record/rip LPs to Hard drive. This software is not supplied with the GT40. There are a variety of free or pay recording software available, so very difficult to make recommendations, but Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) is a free-to-download software that is relatively simple to use and very functional.

Tech spec:
● USB & Analog Playback and Record multimedia audio system

● Connectivity: USB B Interface, Analog input/output RCA jack

● USB Playback Resolution : 24bit/96kHz

● USB Recording Resolution: 96kHz (Max) supports 32kHz/44.1kHz/48kHz

● Frequency response: 20Hz ~ 20kHz (40Hz: +0.5 dB, 15kHz:-0.5dB)

● SN ratio:-90dB (A-wtd) / Line Output

● Line Output Level: 1 Vrms

● Line Input Level: MC 0.4mV / MM 5mV / Line 1V

● Headphone Output Level: 80mW ( 32 ohm ) Max.

● Power Supply AC Adaptor Rating: AC 9V 0.5A

● Dimensions: 150 (W) x 111 (D) x 57 (H) mm

● Weight: 785g Approx.

The load (Input Impedance) for the ADL GT40 is fixed at 47K ohm input impedance for both MC and MM.
Maximum Input Level for MM: 5.0mVrms at 1K Hz
Maximum Input Level for MC: 0.4mVrms at 1K Hz
Maximum Input Level for LINE: 1Vrms at 1K Hz

The Gain setting for the ADL GT40 is fixed at 62.5dB for MC and fixed at 48.5dB for MM.
(MC input to LINE output) => 62.5dB @ 1K Hz , +6dB(Line)
(MM input to LINE output) => 48.5dB @ 1K Hz , +6dB(Line)

GT40 has no setting for gain to match different impedance headphones.
We recommend using 16 ohm to 300 ohm impedance headphones.”

There were items from Blue Horizon and Furutech on static display around the room.

I really enjoyed myself in this room and Keith Martin was an excellent host/exhibitor/demonstrator.

Watch for the Isotek Super Titan review…..coming soon.

Room 055 Pure Sound

Unlike the Whittelbury Hall show, at this show the new Pure Sound M845 mono blocks were up and running (not on the first day though as an A 30 integrated amplifier was being used and was not that successful a match with the Triangle speakers; that were being used in the room. The A30 was not driving them properly)

As I have already (as part of my Whittlebury Hall Show report) quoted all the details of the L300 pre and M845 power-amplifier I will not repeat those details here. However here is a link to Pure Sounds site where you can read more details…. http://www.puresound.info/

On day two not only were the M845 and L300 pre-amplifier being used but Guy Sargent from Pure Sound was also manning the room.

The system comprised of the aforementioned Pure Sound pre-power combination a Musical Fidelity M3 Cd player, Triangle Trio speakers, Nor Stone equipment table and Track Audio 400 speaker stands. Various other items were on static display in the room, including a Pure Sound A10, P10 phonostage, A8000 CD Player and a SRM Arezzo turntable with Audiomods tonearm on it.

Despite the bass issues due to the small room size the midrange, treble, imaging and soundstage width and depth were very good indeed and the overall sound was quite musical. However I really wanted to hear this set up in a slightly bigger room, were there would be no bass issues and the system as a whole could breath.

However overall I enjoyed my time in this room.

Room 054 Renaissance Audio

Over from Scotland was Renaissance Audio and their MD John Carrol with a selection of Sim Audio Moon electronics a brand they distribute in the UK. The Northern Ireland Audio Show was the venue for a UK product launch in the form of the brand new not been seen before: Moon 100D DAC £499.

This tiny well formed DAC offers a lot for its very modest price. Here are some details taken from Sim Audio’s website….

“The MOON 100D Digital-to-Analog Converter accepts USB, S/PDIF and TosLink inputs. Intended for use with a computer via the USB input, the remaining inputs allow for interfacing with other source components such as a music server, digital tranpsort, etc. All digital input signals are processed through an asynchronous sample rate converter and then 24-bit DACs.

Using 24-bit/1.411MHz processing, the MOON 100D will faithfully reproduce your digital music in an effortless fashion. Accepting an input signal from 44.1 to 192kHz with a bit-depth range from 16 to 24-bits, jitter is a virtual non-issue thanks to the asynchronous operation of this DAC. Sonically, it portrays all of the Simaudio hallmarks: clean, powerful, fast, extended bass combined with an open midrange and airy extended high frequencies.

· Power supply with 3 stages of DC voltage regulation
· A fully asynchronous sample rate converter
· BurrBrown PCM1793 high-resolution 24-bit/192-kHz D/A and 8X oversampling
digital filter
· Accurate digital clocking system for exceptionally low intrinsic jitter levels
· Single-ended RCA analog outputs
· Advanced analog signal path using a DC servo circuit and proprietary analog filter
· Pure copper circuit board tracings with extremely low impedance characteristics
· Extremely rigid chassis construction to minimize the effects of external vibrations
· Accurate matching of high quality components in a symmetrical circuit design
· Designed to be powered up at all times for optimal performance.

The USB input on the MOON 100D accepts a digital audio signal of up to 16-bits/48kHz. This is the native specification of the USB input. However, if you require a higher sampling rate, there are ways to achieve this with the 100D.

Rather than including a USB input for sampling rates exceeeding 48kHz, we opted to provide the best possible power supply, D/A converter and analog stage in the MOON 100D at this price level. Also, keep in mind that USB wasn’t originally intended for use with hi-resolution audio; there are latency issues which compromise sound quality (i.e. jitter and phase errors, etc.). These could be minimized through dedicated costly circuitry, but this would significantly drive up the cost of the100D without improving the sonic performance on any of the other inputs.

If you intend to use the MOON 100D’s USB input, it’s very likely that your computer is a data source for music. Today most computers with a built-in sound card will have either an S/PDIF (RCA connector) or Toslink (optical connector) digital audio output, thus eliminating the need for a USB input on the 100D. Furthermore, if you’re committed to getting the most out of the music stored on your computer, then in all likelihood you have installed an after-market soundcard in your computer. Virtually all of these soundcards have at least one S/PDIF, Optical or AES/EBU (XLR connector) digital output. At this point, USB connectivity becomes irrelevant. The USB input is there for convenience as opposed to performance.

In the event that you wish to use your computer’s USB connection with files greater than 48kHz, there are several relatively inexpensive after-market products; compact one-box USB-to-S/PDIF interfaces that will work with USB datastreams up to 24-bit, all the way up to 192kHz.”

All of this translates into a very exciting product for those who want to upgrade an old CD player, or integrate computer sourced audio into their main audio system, or access HD (24 bit 96/192 khz) quality music from the digital output of an Olive 4HD or similar device.

The main system in the Renaissance room was made up of a 750D Moon CD Player and Moon 700i integrated amplifier + Totem Wind speakers £13000 with a second system running Totem Aro speakers on the end of a Moon CD3.3, 350 P pre-amplifier and 400 mono amplifiers. Spectral equipment stands were being used with Black Ravioli isolation pads and both systems were wired up with Abby Road cabling.

On a side unit a number of Moon items were on static display, 320 B PSU, 300 DAC, 310 LP phonostage, 100D DAC, and a LP3 phonostage.

I am somewhat biased towards liking Moon products (I own a Moon Andromeda CD player) and the quality of music playing in the room was very good though the big Totem Wind speakers were in my opinion too big for the room and were creating a few bass issues. However despite saying that and taking into account the room/speaker inteface created problems the sound quality in this room was still good.

It was also nice to catch up with John who I have not spoken with since the Park Inn show.

Room 053 Henley Designs

Not actually exhibiting themselves Kronos AV had put a system together made up of products that Henley designs distribute.

The system comprised of an Olive 3HD, Roksan Caspian M CD Player and matching integrated amplifier. The speakers were Audio Vector S3 Super Arrete speakers and Audio Vector cables were in use. The equipment stand was from Music Tools. You can read more about Audio Vector here….  http://www.audiovector.com/products.html

There was also a pair of Audio Vector S1 Avantgarde speakers on static display in the room.

The Olive 3HD £899 first seen at Whittelbury Hall show is a new scaled down version of the bigger Olive 4HD (in use in the Ardhowen HiFi’s room). Essentially similar to the 4HD it has no digital in or outputs nor an HDMI interface Here are some details from Olive’s website….

“Just plug it in and play. Setting up the Olive O3HD Music Server is as simple as connecting a standard CD player. It does not require a computer, network installation or virus protection to keep your music from harm. And, once installed, anything you want to do is easy: Find your favorite song. Search by artist, genre or album, or leaf through the album artwork. The high resolution color touch-screen display makes it fast, fun and easy.

The O3HD navigation interface was developed with only music in mind.
Each music genre is color-coded for easy recognition. Each play-screen
adapts to show only genre-relevant information. Organizing and browsing
your music collection is now officially fun!

HD music in 24-bit/192kHz is the original quality used in the recording
studio, and 250 times the resolution you get on a regular audio CD. This
means it includes all the subtleties and nuances from the artists’ original
recording. It’s like having a live performance at home.

Storing HD music is one thing. Reproducing it in all its unique detail is another. The O3HD is a direct result of Olive’s long-standing and highly respected audio engineering experience. That means you always get state-of-the-art audio components, including a premium DAC with full 24-bit/192 kHz capability.”

You can read more here http://www.olive.us/products.html

There were a couple of Project turntables on display in the room as well.

On the first day the sound in this room was pretty poor (possibly down to the rooms curtains not being pulled closed) but by day two the sound quality had improved/settled down quite a bit compared to day one, but it was still a tad too bright and forward in its presentation for my liking. However a few visitors to the room (that I over heard) expressed their liking for the way music was reproduced in this room.

Room 052 Advanced Acoustics

Last but by no means least was the Advanced Acoustics room. Heroes of this and other shows they exhibit at, Advanced Acoustics provided all the acoustic panels used in the other exhibitors rooms at this show; adding much to the sound quality achieved in these difficult hotel rooms.

Advanced Acoustics also have a distribution arm for Cayin and direct sales of XTZ products called Audio Sanctum.

The main system in use in the room was made up of a Cayin A-100T, Cayin CDT-12A £2020, Rives Parc analogue room compensation processor and a pair of Divine Acoustic Proxima 2 loudspeakers. The Equipment table was a DA VAP platform.

There was also a number of XTZ products on static display with another Cayin amplifier as you entered the room on the left hand side.

As Cayin is a new brand to the UK (but well established elsewhere, such as in the USA) I will provide a few more details on the two amplifiers that were on display in the room.

Cayin 300B

“This single ended class A integrated amplifier is equipped with a sophisticated rectifying stage using a pair of 5AR4 (GZ34) tubes. The selected mesh plate 300 B tubes discover the most delicate nuances of sound. The remote control operates all functions of the A-300B: even the feedback level can be varied in two steps. On the top of the amps panel, it is possible to readjust the bias level of the power valves quickly without opening the cover.”

requency response: 15 Hz ~ 30 kHz
Total harmonic distortion (THD): 2% @ 1kHz
Signal-to-noise ratio: 83 dB
Input Impedance 100 k ohm
Output Impedance
Vacuum tube: 2x300B (Full Music), 2x 5AR4, 2x 6SN7, 2x 6SL7
Dimensions B x H x T: 420 x 200 x 380 mm
Weight: 28 kg
Accessories: Remote Control
Input Terminals: Tape, CD, AUX, Tuner
Output terminals: Tape out
Circiut: Pure Class A, Single Ended
Colour: chrome chassis
Colour front: silver
Sensitivity 280mV, 600 mV pre-in (input for preamp)
Speaker Output Impedance: 4 Ohm, 8, 16 Ohm
Power Output: 2x 8 Watt RMS
Consumption: 280 Watt
Highlights switchable NF adjust to reduce negative feedback

Cayin 100T

“This integrated valve amplifier looks as good as it sounds. The owner may adjust the bias of the power valves by using gain controls and a high precision VU meter on the outside of the amp. To control the input voltage of the power stage, the A-100T uses a 6CG7 type valve, which improves the stability of the four KT88 for each channel. This makes the frequency range of the power stage more linear. That may sound very complex to anyone not involved in the secrets of valve design, but you don’t need to be a technical expert to feel the beauty of sound reproduction, which is possible by connecting the Cayin A-100T to your speakers. The superior sound quality is also depending on fine-tuning each single A-100T in Germany before we deliver it to our clients in the rest of Europe.”

Frequency response: 10Hz – 65kHz
Total harmonic distortion (THD): 1% (1kHz)
Signal-to-noise ratio: 89dB
Input Impedance: > 100 Kohm (RCA)
Vacuum tube: KT88 × 8, 12AU7 × 2, 6CG7 × 2, 12AX7 × 1
Dimensions W x H x D: 440 x 210 x 397mm
Weight: 29 kg.
Accessories: Remote Control
Input Terminals: Aux, Tuner,  CD, pre-in
Output terminals: Tape out
Circiut: Class AB PP
Colour: black
Colour front: silver, black
Sensitivity: 480mV, 900mV (pre in)
Output Impedance: 4 Ohm, 8 Ohm
Power Output: 50w Triode – 100w Ultralinear
Consumption: 280 W

Sound quality in the room was good on the first day and much better on the second day as the components settled down.

One element that contributed to the good sound in the room was the Rives Parc Adaptive Room Compensation System. Here is some more info taken from Advanced Acoustics website……

“The PARC is a Parametric Adaptive Room Compensation system. Rives Audio designed the PARC because current stereo and home theatre components have exceeded the capability of their environment. Todays hi end audio speakers and electronics have the capability of delivering a near flat response throughout the audible frequency range (20Hz to 20kHz). However, these systems interact with their environment, namely the room they are located in. One of the largest problems in typical listening rooms is standing waves or room modes (bass modes) caused by parallel walls. The PARC is specifically designed to alleviate this problem.
The PARC is a 2 channel, 3 band (per channel) parametric equalizer (parametric eq) that can attenuate 3 separate frequencies at different ranges and amplitudes. It is purely analogue based, so there is no digital conversion to corrupt the audio signal. The system uses components and modules developed for high end analogue recording studios. Every item in the signal path is of the lowest noise and highest quality available. The engineers that developed the unit have literally dozens of years experience in designing low noise parametric equalizers (parametric eq) for the recording industry.

The basic function of the PARC is to equalize bass anomalies in the room, commonly referred to as room modes. The most prominent bass anomalies occur when two parallel walls (or floor and ceiling) excite a particular frequency (an axial mode). The distance between the two walls determines which frequency is excited. The most problematic, or highest amplitude, is generally ½ of a wavelength between two walls. The way to calculate the distance is:
½ * speed of sound / distance between walls = Frequency

The speed of sound is 1130 feet per second. Thus a room with 17 foot spaced walls would have a frequency bump at:
565 / 17 = 33.2 Hz.

This is considered the first mode between those two walls. The second mode is for a full wavelength, which would be at 66.4 Hz. The third mode would be at 3/2 wavelengths, or 99.6 Hz. Each mode has lower amplitude than the previous mode. However, imagine a room where the length is 2 times the width. In this example 34 feet long. The first mode for that room is at the same frequency of the second mode of the width, or 66.4 Hz. When modes combine like this the problem is compounded, and the bass can become very bloated and distorted.

Even at Rives Audio they recommend reducing any bass anomalies as much as possible before employing the PARC; the less electrical equalization the better. However, over damping a room, or filling it with bass traps can be impractical, expensive, and may not lead to the best sounding environment. The PARC employs the highest grade components and shortest signal paths possible. The goal is to make these alterations to compensate for bass problems with as little effect as possible on anything else in the audio chain.

The PARC operates between 18 and 350 Hz. It attenuates ONLY, there is no gain in the PARC. The purpose is to reduce the frequencies caused by room excitation. There are three bands per channel. These three bands were originally designed to compensate for the 3 parallel surfaces in most rectangular rooms (side to side, front to back, and floor to ceiling). However, they can be cascaded or used in a variety of settings to best suit the room.

Their first priority was to keep the signal as clean as possible while still providing the flexibility of parametric equalization. The audio boards are separate from the power supply and from the digital control boards. Furthermore, the audio boards are 2 layer boards only, with minimal signal path length and crossings. The audio boards are designed by the same engineers that design API and ATI mixing boards and control consoles. These are considered by most to be the finest in the industry owned by the best musicians and studios.”

I really enjoyed my time in the Advanced Acoustics room and it was also very nice to meet Sean Advanced Acoustics MD.

Conclusions

Firstly it was really nice that there was once again a dedicated HiFi show in Northern Ireland and back at the Stormont Hotel. I very much enjoyed myself and it was great to meet new people such as Wesley Cunningham of Living Space/Audio space, Mary of Naim Ireland, Anne Sallis of GR8 Events, Sean of Advanced Acoustics and also old friends such as Guy Sargent and John Carrick of Atlas.

Show attendance was not what was hoped for by either the show organisers or the exhibitors but those who did come were for the most part dedicated audio enthusiasts and they were of the kind, type and quality to make a show like this a lot of fun by both being appreciative of the effort that went into putting it on and also by asking really good questions.

There were some disappointments, the lack of local press interest. I won’t go into details here save to say ” shame on the lot of you”. The lack of better signage for directing visitors around the show. Lack of a large banner outside the hotel facing the road to advertise the show to the passing cars (the road the Stormont Hotel faces onto is one of the busiest roads in Belfast). This was a lost opportunity for promoting the show.

Several advertised events did not happen and a few exhibitors did not come, such as Music First. It is a real shame that visitors to NIAS 2010 missed out on hearing what I have heard in their room back in March at the Park Inn London Hi-Fidelity Show and the Whittelbury Hall Show…..oh well maybe next time.

Despite the lack of visitors and the issues mentioned above NIAS 2010 was still in my opinion a marked success as this show was not just a one dealer sponsored show as it had been in the past (and thus a closed house to the provinces other audio businesses) but instead included the best independent audio dealers both old, Lyric HiFi, Kronos AV and new in the form of Living Space/Audio Space and Ardhowen HiFi. Maybe next time (if there is a next time) Moore’s HiFi of Newtownards, Bose, B&O and Sound and Vision of Coleraine will also be involved.

Thank you to GR8 Events for putting on the show….thanks Tony and to Kronos AV who provided a fair amount of brands on show at NIAS 2010.

I for one hope there will be another show like this again and back at the Stormont Hotel…..better signage will solve the “getting around the show issues and knowing where to go etc”

Here’s to next time.

Neil

©Text and all photos Copyright Adventures in High Fidelity Audio 2010 all rights reserved, except for the show logo NIAS/Gr8 Events copyright and a few manufacturer product photos.

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


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