Nov 232012

In part five of my extensive coverage of the National Audio Show 2012 we will visit the rest of the downstairs exhibitors rooms.

Magny Cours – Icon Audio

Frankly every time I enter David Shaw’s room at an audio exhibition I don’t know where to start, as the rooms have always been bunged with kit and this show was no exception with table tops round the room covered in valve amplifiers.

As had happened on previous years the room was full of visitors and I was unable to sit down for a listen; such is the price of popularity. However the tonal balance and sound of music playing in the room while moving around was pretty good but more than that I can’t say. Maybe next year I will get a chance to sit and listen for awhile.

Nurburgring – Backes & Muller

NAS 2012 was this brands first – to my knowledge – visit to a UK show and very interesting it was as well; though sadly the room was holding the sound of the system back a bit but even so it was still possible to hear what an ideally set up B&M system would be like – which is very good in my view.

The system comprised an Accuphase SACD player, B&M ICE 802 digital/analogue pre-amplifier and most of B&M’s speakers: BM line 35, BM Line Sub (a rather interesting upright design that looks like a free floor standing classic speaker enclosure) , BM Line 25 and a BM Prime 6. These speakers were swapped in and out of the system during the demonstrations.

Not knowing anything about B&M myself – as I am pretty sure many reading this will be in the same boat – I think it well worth while seeing what B&M have to say about themselves, approach to design and their history……

‘In the mid seventies Backes & Müller decided to begin building active loudspeakers….’ which they believe …… ‘there’s no alternative when you want to perfect the system loudspeaker.

Selected chassis, carefully chosen components for the electronics and a circuit design which precisely tunes all elements to each other, together with connections as short as possible, guarantee the most precise and direct possible conversion of the musical signals in sound. Combined with B&M’s own legendary dynamic excursion control “DMC”, which recreates an exact tracking of the membrane movement to the musical signal, the B&M loudspeakers bring precisely the musical experience in your living room that the sound engineers and studio producers have captured for you in meticulously detailed labour. You can’t hardly enjoy music in a more dynamic, vivid and honest way.

It is exactly this quality which characterizes the long tradition of Backes & Müller, which has already survived so many trends and fashions. And there’s one word that is predominant in each and every test and product review during all these years: musicality. In this tradition we will innovatively proceed; in the age of DVD and SACD we will live up to our reputation of musical neutrality by using fully innovative developments. DMC BM-Dynamic Movement Control – DMC™:

The task of a driver is to convert the electric signal in sound energy. Ideally this will be executed in a “linear” way, which means without any change of sound, physically speaking, the membrane stays exactly in the rhythm of the electric signal. This can only be partly successful since for example the membrane has its own weight which works against the acceleration of the membrane mass. In the same way the membrane strain influences the symmetry of the membrane movement. And even when all of this wouldn’t be relevant, still every driver has to deal with an aging process, which softens the rubber surround, etc.

Already 25 years ago Backes & Müller has developed a process which works against all these weaknesses – the DMC™. This process functions as follows: the membrane movement is detected by a sensor and matched with the electrical signal. In this way differences between the radiated sound and the electrical input can immediately be corrected by the electronics. This guarantees an exact reproduction of anything that is present in the musical signal by the radiated sound. Basses sound precise and dry, while unwanted oscillations of the membrane are prevented, the mids and highs sound detailed and clear. You’ll only hear the pure music as it was meant to be and not your enclosure!’

Technology used in B&M speakers….

‘In general physical terms all drivers make mistakes, which must be taken for granted with passive, non-controlled system. All BM drivers, however, comprise an active correction process.

Active speakers are unfamiliar with problems such as loss of power, impedance, faulty crossover information, and incorrect phasing. The amplifier-chassis ratio is superb: more actual amplifier power is available, the impulse processing is faster and the dynamics are higher. All of this has been made possible with the active control intelligence. A sensor system permanently compares the membrane movements to the values that the currents acoustic signals require. If any difference occur, the membrane movement is corrected.

B&M uses two different kinds of inverse feedback principles: inductive and capacitive. An intelligent electronic protection switches off the complete system in case of an overload. The electronic BM crossover separates the acoustic signal paths into the respective frequencies and allocates them to the amplifiers. Every single amplifier drivers a chassis that is optimized for this frequenczy range.

All these components are indispensable for an optimum music reproduction and have been mounted to a big heat sink, the so called electronic unit. The controlling and surveillance of all functions (for example switching on/off, differentiated fault diagnosis, digital level programming) is processed in a micro controller. These items are indicated at a matrix display on the front panel of each loudspeaker.’

At the heart of the system on demonstration was the wonderful looking The Ice pre

‘With the new BM ICE 802 – preamplifier B&M establishes a new class in BM Digital Home Devices. Offering a universal connection to all source units of your high end system, irrespective of whether analogue or digital, both high quality analogue input devices such as the tuner or the tried and tested record player, as well as newer digital media with the highest resolution are all accepted by the BM ICE 802 and converted into the appropriate format.

Purist, simple to operate via an Infrared remote input channel selectionand volume control, analogue signals are converted to the digital level and then connected, loss-free with our speakers. Equally, itis possible to channel the music files from a media server connected via the USB input to the loudspeakers or to drive an analogue preamplifier. At the same time, the highly precise internal clock regenerates the measure markers for all queued signal sources. After the internal volume control with self-developed dithering, the music signal is available on three outputs: an AES-standard digital output for direct connection with the digital inputs of the B&M loudspeakers, a valve controlled analogue output and via our HD-DAC an analogue Symmetrical output with a performance at the limit of the physically possible.

Here the listener is spoilt for choice and can choose freely according to personal taste.’

‘When used in connection with the B&M Line series, BMLine 25, BMLine 35 and BMLine 50, the volume control in the loudspeaker amplifiers can be driven directly. A special control unit at the end of the transmission chain permits the exact, optimal adjustment of the volume just as it should be. This high-tech device is packed into an extraordinary cabinet made of a modern, long-term stable polycarbonate with extraordinary optical characteristics. With the new BM ICE 802 -preamplifier B&M establishes a new class of BM Digital Home Devices. These offer a universal connection to all source units of your high end system irrespective of whether analogue or digital.’

Specs: Two Stereo HD-AD Converters, 24Bit/192KHz, Sigma-Delta Converter from Burr-Brown

One Stereo HD-DA Converter, 24 Bit/192KHz,Sigma-Delta Converter from Burr-Brown

Analogue2 × Stereo-Cinch, 4.0V dBV Digital: 2 × TOSlink optical SPDIF, 192KHz, 24Bit, 2 × Coax-Cinch SPDIF, 192KHz, 24Bit, 1 × AES3-XLR-IN, 192KHz, 24Bit,1 × USB-In 48KHz, 24Bit

Analogue Cinch-Stereo,Digital2 × AES3-XLR,Control OutputRJ45-B&M-Control

Processing Clock-Recover-Algorithm to provide a highly precise clock resampling to align all sources to the digital master clock Analogue volume control by knob or by infra-red

Infra-red Remote Control Input channel selection, volume.’

I visited this room several times during the show and while the sound was not particularly exciting on the first day by day two it was very good despite a few room issues. While I was seated Keith Don’t Go by Nils Lofgren was played and it sounded as good as I have heard it as did Dave Brubeck Quartets Take Five.

I certainly look forward to hearing B&M speakers in the not too distant future.

Susuka – Logical Automation

I entered this room a couple of times and I must say that it was not a very welcoming layout with a large section of the room screened off for a home cinema area and the light levels pretty low.

The part of the room – just inside the door – that was accessible was littered with items that looked like they were part of a Dr Who set with large white speakers (Spectra and Terra) set up round a seated area and on a table just inside the door a low table had a couple of quite unique looking pieces of equipment, which at any moment I expected to leap off the table top and run round the room gibbering and killing the visitors.

As there was no music playing I can’t offer much more comment on this room, which is bit of a shame as the items on display certainly looked interesting but as Home Automation products fall outside of AIHFA’s remit in the main I moved on to the next room.

Mondza – Audio Acoustics

What can one say about this exhibitor who’s rooms I have visited over the years since the first show I covered as AIHFA, well having spoken with Shabir I have found him to be very passionate, a purist and someone who is uncompromising in his vision for his brand – that he began in 1982 – and that shines through when one talks with him.

The quality of music reproduction within this room was to a pretty high standard and while the room was probably just a bit too large for the system and the acoustic quite live, Shabir had still managed to achieve an enjoyable, musical listening experience within a fairly harsh environment – testament to his system set up skills and equipment.

Shabir says this about Audio Acoustics and its products…….

‘Six years ago Audio Acoustics embarked upon an intensive research and development programme, to produce a range of totally no-compromise loudspeakers. Incorporating great originality and lateral thinking, these speakers tackle problems of multiple resonances that are completely overlooked in other commercial designs.

The result is a range of speakers that reproduce music with a dramatically superior dynamic range, bringing an extraordinary sense of calm and a unique naturalness to the task.

The design and execution of these exceptional speakers results from an obsessive and painstaking attention to the subtlest details, progressively eliminating successive weakest links and compromises in order to achieve the finest possible performance.

To do so requires starting with the very best ingredients, and this has often involved designing and manufacturing the various individual elements ourselves including, if necessary, the actual materials involved.’

Audio Acoustics have a range of speakers which include; The Fundamental K2 £17995, Sapphire Ti-C £38000, Sapphire Diamond £81000, Orb Weaver Diamond £8568000 and two new designs coming soon to be called the Sophia and the Zarah.

This is what Shabir says about the Fundamental K2 on his website…..

‘No other speaker looks, works, or sounds like the Audio Acoustics Fundamental-k2 Speaker. How do we know this? Simply because we have designed and manufactured every part ourselves. Even the cables inside are painstakingly handmade by Audio Acoustics. The Fundamental-k2 Speaker represents the beginning of a range of loudspeakers that will redefine your expectations and let you hear the music without the intrusion of the transducer’s interpretation.

Features unique to the Audio Acoustics Fundamental-k2 Speaker include:Special drivers with resonance control, Four-layer double membrane laminate enclosure, Sapphire tweeter, W’ sandwich diaphragm bass/midrange driver, Resonance Base wired, Optimum vented airflow control port, Custom wound crossover components to specified nil tolerance values

Frequency Response: 20Hz – 43KHz (+ / -3dB) Sensitivity 91.5 db, Impedance: 4 Ohms (nominal), Drive Units: 2x200mm “W” cone,Bass-Mid: 25mm ferro fluid sapphire concaveAmplifier compatibility: well suited to amps 12W or more,Nominal Power Handling: 100W,Standard finishes: InclusiveTM Carbon Black, Titanium Metallic a, Mirabelle Maroon <more details>, Size (wxhxd): 295 x 1271 x 400mm, Weight: Per System Pair: 419lbs/190kg 2 box

Unique Value Features include:

Worlds First Unique “Double Float” mounted resonance Sapphire HF

The hf unit is mounted on a resonance controlling membrane, which in turn is bonded to the sub front baffle; under this is a second resonance-controlling polymer. This for the first times let’s the hf unit function without interference or interactive devastating effects of the loudspeaker cabinet itself. Further controlling any resonances from within the hf unit it self-allowing it to function to new heights.

First production “Single Float” mounted W’ sandwich diaphragm bass/midrange driver

The bass / mid driver is mounted over a bonded single resonance membrane to the cabinet structure. This function further shows a driver is a small percentage of the system only. (All other aspects addressed naturally) Paramount is the need to allow the driver to be allowed to function without compromise or any resonances getting to the component itself. When allowed to function properly components take on a surprising new competence that was but overlooked. I.e. the more you can retrieve from each component by allowing it to function, the more effective naturally it becomes

Also all the merits of the “W” cone

“Resonance controlled” loudspeaker system with acknowledged attention to the first “Active cabinet” and selected system components.

Once we have accepted that even if we produce a cabinet structure be it out of solid Diamond or nano tubes -a lot of them! This would address the hardness factor we require, but we could still not remove the inherent mass of the material. Removing the vessel of energy storage; be it minuscule micro resonances. When this conclusion was reached, than one has to find a vessel in which the energy that will unavoidably become present with incitement and the back wave is removed or never allowed to raise its ugly head.

This we achieved with clever membranes and polymers composites. Controlling incited energy is converted to heat and dissipated. Having this equilibrium gives us a cabinet that is a perfect platform for a active driver mounted and allowed to work in its own world (as above) the cabinet functions in its own plane and the Air compliance issues addressed all working is perfect harmony. Three separate issue sharing one goal not three opposing forces working against each other. As far away from convention yes but a radical alternative.

Four-layer, double membrane Composite

The cabinet comprises of 30mm material than there is a 2mm resonances controlling developed compound, adjacent to this is another 25mm material and a second internal membrane to handle air compliance issues. This is done unconventionally by the use of redirecting/absorbing and eliminating any two parallel points within the cabinet structure. No conventional foam/ garneted wool etc. is incorporated.

Advanced metallic a gel coat developed.

A 18 month program together with a world renowned British lacquer specialist, was undertaken to produce revolutionary new gel coat process horrendously labor intensive to do with unsurpassed end results.

Resonance Base wired

Our finding in controlling resonances is also applied to our reference cable system’s these in turn are incorporated into the Fundamental with the finest silver litz cables used on the Hf section and very high strandage copper resonances controlled applied to the base/midrange.

Optimum vented airflow control port

Air compliance issues were addressed with the combination of the internal membrane and the advanced airflow port system-no longer is the Air compliance within the cabinet a hindrance but a allied to work with. This can only happen when the cabinet is removed from the equation and is no longer a part of the problem.

Custom wound unconventionally

Specified nil tolerance values are achieved. Every component has been meticulously designed and developed from a clean sheet approach. Signal paths are kept as short as feasible.

Nigh on nil Tolerances are achieved by producing specific 0.5% components in larger quantities and than selected down to specific requirement values only.

Components are produced in the England the US, Germaney.Sweden and Denmark where the expertise is second to none for each specified field.

Though costly and time consuming it guarantees component and end product with specific consistency to the reference tuned system’s requirements and musicality.

Nano Pucks

The nano puck eradicated resonance being fed into the loudspeaker system from the environment etc., and is and removes further the interaction between the function of the loudspeaker and its surroundings, as well as secondary isolation.

Harmonizing to complete the loudspeaker chain in function and form, letting it simply work without resonance interference.’

Audio Acoustics make a number of models of speakers and they sell the Weiss Jason transport and Medea DAC, in fact Audio Acoustics have been using these two items in all their audio show demonstration systems sine I first began covering shows. I like this level of consistency of approach as it gives a base upon which to be able to evaluate the products AA make themselves.

Shabir hand makes a range of interconnects, speaker cables and mains cables that he labours on personally and this process can – with one particular model – take up to a year to complete. One particular set of speaker cables he had just completed – to order – and was showing in the room had a retail price of £100000, alas they were only on static display so I could not hear them.

Audio Acoustics make a full range of cabling that runs from £2000 in price upwards.

Shabir says this about his cables…..

‘The research and development of our cable construction has been a substantial investment and labor to technology over a period of 8 plus years.

An offshoot from the vast investment to produce a means to transfer information between components and with absolute nil alteration.

Audio Acoustics were the fist people in the world to address the incitation of resonance. We have taken this to the absolute degree and can state that as opposed to rectifying the problem once occurred i.e. minuscule vibrations damped, we have developed means to avoid it being created within a media and keep equilibrium.

Naturally we start of with the finest raw materials feasible, silver purity derived 7 nines to be precise and drawn out with the finest dies available today are a prerequisite. These are then coated and than the strands are sleeved in batches of specific differing numbers. Next they are painstakingly hand wrapped with our developed resonance controlling membranes several layers and type/s thick. Over this a binding sleeve followed by a specified custom dielectric silicone sleeve to finish.

All connections are crimped with finest silver and finest WBT silver spades with specific platinum coating to stop oxidation for termination in the case of the loudspeaker cables.

The Interconnects use two variations of this process with simplified 7 Silver strand two-layer version in the “Resonance” and 49 strands in a 4 layer in the “Wow Resonance” The RCA are star point contact manufactured with pure silver and untreated and brazed on with pure melted silver to avoid contamination by poor solders.

The mains cable is a different affair but internal specifics vary as our finding for electron flow differ from “established findings” Only Audio Acoustics products address mechanical and electrical properties in all our designs. Something very much at infancy stage with our competitors.

Suffice to say any audio acoustics product however “not the norm” or workings understood; is there for one to see hear and be amazed with -in black and white. The Object being to create components that do not add, remove, change, flatter, or alter absolute perception of the required transfer of information. Leaving it to the software to impress and communicate the essence of the artist –which for some of us is the goal NO More and No Less & NO different……. the Resonance and Wow resonance cable systems. They redefine the term “wire” and are a fundamental rudimentary ancillary in its own right.’

With resonance control being a particular area Audio Acoustics are interested in, with controlling and removing it, it is therefore no surprise that they have a range of items called Nano Pucks that can be used with speakers and as isolation feet under equipment. These Nano King’s retail for £6300 per set of three.

Audio acoustics website says this about them…….

‘NANO PUCK Loudspeaker & Component Energy transfer and isolation unit

Once we have understood how devastating resonances are on sonic reproduction and function of ALL finite components. We concentrated on delivering a solution for interim general application; until the day a fully resonance controlled system will be available from us.

At this point we offer various state of the art transducers and two Cable System’s. To help Complement bringing out the full potential of your ancillaries function the Nano Puck / King Puck and Nano On rack system take the term support to the panicle of next generation and at a comparative 10th of the price!

The Nan On systems address issues that to date all isolation supports however elaborate have overlooked. With isolation addressed, resolving 10% of the problem only of stopping energy getting to your unit, but not addressing the effects of power transformers and other “generating” components very much so resonating away in harmony internally in our ancillaries.

The Pucks are a Simple yet fundamentally designed sandwich of our developed membrane and polymers. They consist of 4 non-specific thicknesses of material sandwiched within 5 specific membranes with a silicone cosmetic surround and cosmetic stainless steel mirror finish Top.

They are used under the spike or base of a loudspeaker set improving the resolution, imaging, focus and dynamics with the starting and stopping of leading edges, they will add musicality beyond belief and generally transform the system. All who have them very rarely have just a set- in fact I know of no one! Be Warned.

Under components they will out perform all your expectations of the finest supports and are a 10th of the price to boot. Further more they are at home on hifi racks, floors or fine arts furniture. At last you can have a nice piece of audio nirvana on a decent Louis table or contemporized placement without sonic compromise.

They are a basic necessity of our Loudspeakers systems requirements, removing and encapsulating them from their entire surround.

This is the cheapest substantial scientific upgrade you will ever do. A true missing link of the chain finally bought to you by Audio Acoustics…..’

I enjoyed my all to brief time in the room and talking with Shabir.

Hungoraring – Music Works

I wish I could write anything positive about the sound in this room but I can’t, it was pretty awful but this is not for the first time for bad sound in this room as a number of past exhibitors have also had poor sound, so it was not the equipment to blame but room acoustics, made much worse by the absence of curtains.

I say the above not to annoy the exhibitor, but simply to point out to anyone who visited this room and thought it sounded poor to go audition this equipment in a dealers demo room or preferably their own listening room as it should have sounded much better than it did. These exhibitors really got the short end of the stick – in my view – with this room.

Hockenheim – Angel Sound Audio/Select Audio/AMR

I watched Keith Cheal of Angel Sound Audio setting up the system in his room on the Friday night before the show and he was working very hard to achieve a good level of sound quality and I have to say all his hard work paid off as despite some acoustic issues with the room the quality of music reproduction within the room on the occasions I visited was very good.

The system was made up of components from AMR, Pass Labs and Verity loudspeakers, in fact the system appears to have been pretty much identical to the one AMR/Select Audio had demoed in a much smaller upstairs room the year before.

However it was still very interesting to hear how the system’s performance translated to a much larger room from a small one and in the main it worked very well with an expansive deep soundstage that was beautiful, musical and natural. I could have sat and listened in here for a long time but move on I had to do.

I think this is one of the first time a Reiymo CDT-777 CD transport and DAP-999 DAC EX. Having heard both of these items, for protracted periods of time in my own system, was a real pleasure. You can read more about these items here…..

Also around the edges of the room various items from AMR where on static display including the DP777 DAC, which was also part of the main system, Track Audio Isolation platforms were being used as well.


The next part of NAS 2012 will follow very soon, with coverage of the upstairs rooms.

© Text and Photos Copyright 2012 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio, except where noted and Copyright belongs with those named parties.

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