Well its been an epic but sadly we are now at the end of the NAS 2010 show report. With these last six rooms this years coverage by Adventures in High Fidelity Audio ends.
These final rooms contained some very interesting kit and in one room a return from the dead brand and in another, something that so far I have not heard or read anything about anywhere else; which to me at least seems a real shame.
Room S19 Inspire HiFi
The new additions to it were a Marantz CD 63SE and a Fidelity Audio HPA-100 No Noise Ultra X mains conditioner. The rest of the system in use was made up from an ATC SIA2 integrated amplifier with Whest two box phono stage, Apollo, Eclipse SE turntables and the 12 inch version of the Eclipse SE fitted with a 12inch SME V arm…nice !The speakers in use were from ATC.
However a new item just launched by them which was on static display in the room (at least while I was visiting) was a Vivid Package Linn LP12. “Oh no not another Linn LP12 modification” you might think or say but Inspire’s looked very interesting.
Here are some details about it from their website.
The result after installation of the upgrade package is staggering – not just a change in sound, but a real improvement in detail, dynamics and attack, and looks for the most demanding of home décor, after all this is 2010 and not 1978 when the LP12 when the LP12 was launched
Join the ever increasing number of LP12 owners who have vivid upgrades and consequently a 30% increase in performance and sound (some say more)
The complete package is available for a short period only for an amazing £699, and with free fitting and a money back guarantee. Available at this price for a short period only
The vivid sub chassis and armboard are (available separately at £239, as are all the other vivid parts) is a highly desirable upgrade for your LP12 at a fraction of the cost of other sub chassis’s. The armboard paired with our LP12 vivid sub chassis, has brass inserts and hex bolts for a rigid fixing to the vivid sub chassis, the combination gives a huge performance increase, with the sound now presented in a clear and striking manner giving a new found freshness, an altogether better listening experience from you LP12 Compared to the thin metal stock LP12 sub chassis and MDF armboard with tiny wood screws, the vivid sub chassis and armboard is a revelation for those requiring more detail and an altogether better listening experience
The quality manufactured plinths available in just about any wood you could possibly want (some woods have an extra cost) are quite breathtaking to look at
The award wining Hercules Power Supply is as good as it gets and a worthy contender to beat the Lingo PSU. It also offers electronic speed change
Our now famous acri mat is the perfect upgrade to the felt mat, giving much more detail retrieval
The base board on most LP12’s is thin board and only helps to give the sound unwanted coloration. The vivid bottom baseboard is 3mm thick rigid acrylic and has our patent pending Sorbothane and metal shock absorbers
Our rebuild (currently free) takes on average 3 hours, and everything is cleaned and put together with painstaking accuracy – nothing is left to chance, for example the bearings are cleaned 3 times before the very special turntable bearing oil is used, platters can be polished by request, and each spring and each grommet, spring and nut and bolt is cleaned – the list of extra work we do is large, the result is spectacular, you know when you have a vivid LP12 set up by us, we really are the very best at LP12 set up.”
Sadly to my ears the sound in this room was not great. It was bright, forward and somewhat shouty. I suspect that the room was to blame as was the case at the earlier March Park Inn show, as I have heard the ATC amplifier and speakers sound better elsewhere.
Room S20 The Chord Company
This was another sealed/ticketed demonstration room so I did not get inside. I passed a few times in the hope of getting in but my timing was off each time.
Room S21 Vertex AQ/Alteheia
Now this was an interesting room for a start they were playing music from the likes of Rush (excellent ! I heard this as I passed the room later on) and while in the room they were playing a truly beautiful piece of music which I did not recognise. It was a nice slice of chill out dance from (I was shocked when I was told) by the exhibitor that it was Will Young.
The sound was very good in this room no doubt helped out by the Vertex AQ products, which I had heard demonstrated earlier by The Right Note.
The system was an interesting mix, some of which I had heard elsewhere and some not before. The CD player was a beautiful Accustic Arts Reference CD transport the Drive 2, with a Hovland HP100 pre-amplifier, Advantage power-amplifier and Audio Physics speakers. All cabling and accessories were not surprisingly by Vertex AQ.
The star of the room was the first in a range of electronics from Vetex AQ in the form of the Aletheia DAC which will retail for between £10000 and £11000.
“For the last 2 years, in the back rooms of Vertex, in darkest Wales (believe us, it is dark here most of the time), we have been working on some major electronics projects. Actually, we are always working on electronics for the Vertex range itself of course. But no, this time our sights are set on something different – the design and production of fully fledged electronics.
We will give these products a different brand name – ALETHEIA. And of course, this range of electronics will have a fundamentally different approach – the fusion of outstanding electronics design with all the Vertex principles of RFI and microphony control, right down to a component-by-component level (ie each chip, capacitor, resistor and so on…..).
So far this work has been based around amplification, and DACs. We have looked at the various choices and options for these types of devices, working through all the major permutations. With amplifiers for instance, different classes of amplification, different power supplies, valve and solid state. With DACs we have again looked at power supplies, but also the options of different conversion formats, chip types and so on. Now of course, there is nothing at all unusual in this sort of work, its what you’d expect any design company to do. However, with our work its been a little different, because we include the problems and resulting behaviours of RFI and microphony interactions in every step of our analysis.
Then we thought we had better build something…..”
The DAC1 is a 16 bit no oversampling design, using a TDA 1543 DAC module with 44.1 to 96 khz . This may go some way to explaining why I liked the sound as I am a fan of multi-bit digital playback.
Well done Vertex AQ for an interesting room and interesting new range of products which I look forward to seeing and hearing in the future.
Room S18 Deltec Precision Audio
A little while ago a rumour began circulating that a once great British company of the 80’s and 90’s had been reborn and with the first news items in the audio press and a review of the first products from this rebirth the rumours were proved to be right-Deltec Precision Audio were back.
My first interconnect cable was a Deltec Slink cable which I bought via mail order from KJ West One (Faster than the Speed of Sound) mail order service more years ago than I care to recall. I then later on, went on to get several Black Slink cables a Power mains conditioner and love the sound of the amplification but being honest I did not much care for the sound of the Bit Stream based Digital to Analogue converters they made as Deltec Digital (I preferred multi-bit CD players and DACs)
DPA are back with a pre-amplifier, power amplifiers both mono and stereo, the Power + mains conditioner, mains cables, a new DAC (which I have heard in prototype guise and liked very much) and the Black Slink interconnects.
The system comprised the following items:
Room S22 Music First Audio
Music First were using a similar system to the one they had been using at the London Hi-Fidelity Show in March except that the amplification was different and the speakers were very different being new designs from John Howes and very interesting they were too.
I had a pleasant chat with Harry O’sullivan from Music First and a longer chat with John Howes the designer of the speakers, HiFi reviewer, organiser of the Tonebridge Audiojumble and collector of vintage audio equipment. John was a real gentleman and I very much enjoyed talking with him about his speakers the John Howes’s Howes Acoustics ‘Quarter Wave Omni’ loudspeakers which were being driven by a pair of his PX4 SET (3 watt) mono amplifiers.
They are an omni design with top mounted diffuser which sits above a single full range driver which can either be a Lowther Ceramic-JH £3500, DX2 (rare earth magnet) £4000 or PM6A (Alnico) £4500-the price for the speakers changing depending on which drive unit you want. There are also options for finish with black and a light wood finish being present in the room.
This system was as I stated earlier the same as that being used by them back in March at the Park Inn show so it was interesting to see how it sounded with different speakers in use (they were using My Audio Design: My Clapton Grand MMs then) The sound was to be honest on the first day somewhat odd and a bit thin and bright but knowing this system can and has produced fantastic results before, I visited the room a number of times over the course of the show and each time I visited the sound had improved and not just slightly but by quite a large margin.
Now being honest despite the improvement in sound quality I find the presentation of Omni’s a little lacking in the pin-point-imaging and focus I like. However despite saying that, they do reduce the need for a single, in the middle-hot-seat for listening and thus give a good spread of sound through out the room. As with all things in audio any design is a set of compromises which the designer makes in order to obtain the results they want. The question though as always with audio, is do those results created by that company and designer match what you want from the reproduction of music in your living room.
Clarity and purity of the sound in the Music First room was very good and there was a lovely openness and naturalness to the way music was being reproduced but as AIHFA writer Barry Hunt suggests perhaps things would have been better if the speakers had been positioned even further into the corners of the room and closer to the back wall. However they were fairly close but with speaker positioning even a few centimetres can make a big different. At times I felt while listening that the thinness I had heard the day before was as a result of a lack of bass reinforcement (or a speaker unable to generate enough bass in a bigish room) which at times seemed to creep into the lower mid as well (depending on the type and style of music being played). I am pretty sure this was down to the room speaker interface and not a mismatch in the system.
As before at the Park Inn show Music First had a very interesting room and overall despite the issues mentioned above I did enjoy the music being played in it and it was also nice to see them still using a ReVox A77 reel to reel tape player.
Rooms S17 Tom Tom Audio
Back in my March Park Inn show report I stated that I did not like the sound in the Tom Tom Audio room at that show. However at NAS with the Devore Fidelity speakers in use and not the Gurus (which were lurking at the far front of the room and it is they who’s sound I don’t like) the sound was good enough that I sat for a longish listen and I must say that while I could hear some elements to the sound that I did not like (contributed by the Naim electronics) I heard enough of what the speakers were doing to really want to hear them again; perhaps on the end of some nice valve amplifiers or a slightly to the warmer side of neutral Class A solid state amplifier.
Devore Fidelity speakers are made in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York and musician and speaker designer John Devore, who founded the company in 2000 you can read more here http://www.devorefidelity.com/about.html
Tom Tom Audio had Gibbon Series Super 8 and 9 speakers within the room on static display and also as part of their demo system in which they were also using a pair of Devore Fidelity Silverbacks.
Tom Tom Audio were using Naim and Rega electronics to drive the Devore Fidelity speakers and these included the new DAC £1995, Uniti £2100 and HDX £4500 and the Rega Isis CD player and Osiris integrated amplifier.
Overall I found myself enjoying the music within the room and I certainly can’t wait to hear Devore Fidelity speakers again.
Room S23 Alternative Audio
Back in March the Alternative Audio room was one I missed and I deeply regretted doing so as after speaking to Peter Downes of Alternative Audio and learning what he had been using in his room, at that show, I was kicking myself for missing him out, as it had been a great line up of equipment.
Determined to make amends I visited him very early on during my visit to the NAS show, so it is a tad ironic that his is the last room of this show report.
The system in use in the room was very impressive both from a visual point of view and sonically.
The system in use comprised of a Brinkman Bardo turntable with Graham Phantom mk2 arm, Lyra cartridge, NAT Utopia pre-amplifier, NAT Signature phono stage, EAR Acute CD player, NAT SE2SE mono power-amplifiers and the Analysis Audio Omega flat panel speakers.
NAT of Serbia valve based designs that Alternative Audio were using are very interesting so here is a little bit about them taken from NAT’s website….
“Utopia Direct Coupling Dual Mono Vacuum Tube Remote Controlled Line Stage represents top of the Line Stage segment in NAT audio equipment. NAT is really proud to present line stage with no coupling capacitors or inter-stage transformer on signal path, yet zero feedback concept. Sound is treated only with vacuum tubes and hi quality small value resistors.
Utopia is a vacuum tube dual chassis line stage preamplifier in full dual mono configuration. First chassis called Control Unit contain power supply, digital controls and all other modules. Line Stage is second chassis, which contain only analog circuits.
LINE STAGE CIRCUIT: Unique all triode zero feedback configuration makes this low output impedance preamplifier capable to drive any kind of power amplifier. Long life military grade tubes 6N23P-EV (E88CC equivalent) & 6N30P-DR special low impedance triode are used in line stage circuit.
Volume control is realized with 16 high reliability relays. Contact material of these relays is silver with gold glad. By relays switching combination volume control can be adjusted in 100 steps.
ANALOG POWER SUPPLY started with two custom-made low-density toroidal transformers. All needed voltages are regulated with 11 stages per channel(22 stages in total). Anode voltages are double regulated for each analog stage.
Control Unit Chassis contain two high quality input AC filters one for analog power supply transformers and one for the digital supply.
Micro-controller Based DIGITAL CONTROL CIRCUIT controls all necessary functions of preamplifier, and its current status is displayed on an alphanumerical front panel. Front panel is made of twelve dot matrix displays. Digital Control Circuit is supplied with custom-made low-density toroidal transformer (totally three transformers per unit). Remote control unit made from two pieces of solid block aluminum controls all preamplifier functions.”
The Signature phonostage
“NAT Audio again introduced state-of-the art product, this time phono preamplifier-Signature Phono. Phono stage contains 6 vacuum tubes in full zero feedback configuration. Even local feedback is avoided.
Battery supply is used for the military grade ultra low noise 6N23P-EV triodes with approximately 10 000h of life time. These triodes are totally replaceable with any type of 6DJ8, E88CC but are very best among them.
System of battery charging is full automatic.
AC voltage (for filament, battery charging and logic) is filtered by input encapsulated and shielded RFI power line filter.
Low output types of MC cartridges are boosted by the premium Jensen step-up transformer.
Passive RIAA equalization is applied regarding the philosophy of zero feedback concept. Signal-to-noise ratio is impressive (over 90dB), partly thanks to battery supply.
With output impedance of around 700 ohms Signature Phono may easy drive any interconnect cable at reasonable length. Input resistance and capacitance may be adjusted in many steps by DIP switches on rear preamplifier’s panel to match cartridge impedance.
High quality gold plated teflon isolated connectors, both input and output are used in phono stage.
Each Signature Phono preamplifier is hand crafted device with burn in test period of 100 hours.
Again, Signature Phono confirm original innovative approach of NAT globally.”
The SE2SE mono Power-amplifier
“NAT introduce this ultimate parallel single ended Mono Block Power Amplifier Se2Se. High output power Mono Block Se2Se can easily drive electrostatic, magnetostatic or standard dynamic type of loudspeakers at 4 and 8 ohms equally.
New generation of hand wounded output transformer in combination with very low feedback or zero feedback establish extremely wide frequency response.
Sound quality is totally independent against power supply instability, because all stages in amplifier have stabilisation.
Mono Blocks Power Amplifier Se2Se really shows how powerfull single ended triode amplifier sounds, with damping factor over 25 (to control wide variety of speaker yet zero global feedback design)”
You can read more about NAT products here
Also of great interest were the Analysis Audio Omega speakers. Analysis Audio of Mountainside, New Jersey America say this about themselves…..
“Analysis Audio was officially established in 1990. The first pre-production planar-ribbon loudspeakers were finished and being tested by 1989. The owner/designer of Analysis Audio has been professionally involved in audio since 1979. By 1982 he opened his own speaker lab to design, modify and service loudspeakers.
Analysis Audio has accumulated vast knowledge of many speaker types and crossover designs over the many year in business. Analysis Audio has concentrated on the full range planar-ribbon design because we feel that this type of transducer, correctly executed, can reproduce music more faithfully and more naturally overall than most other designs.
The focus at Analysis Audio is to design and manufacture the highest quality, high performance planar-ribbon loudspeakers available. This can only be accomplished by a team like Analysis Audio which has in-depth understanding of the technology behind music reproduction. Equally important to us, and at the top of our list of priorities, is excellent customer service. Once you purchase a pair of Analysis Audio loudspeakers we want you, our customer, to feel confident that we stand behind our products.”
The Omega design specifications are as follows….
Woofer: Planar Magnetic eff. area 564.2 sq in
Midrange/Tweeter: Direct Coupled Ribbon eff. area 46.5 sq in
Inpedance: 5 OHMS
Frequency Response: 22 – 20000 Hz
Crossover Frequency: 650 Hz
Recommended Amplifier: 50 – 400W
Dimensions: 66in(H) x 24in(W) x 2.4in(D)
Weight: 99 lb
To my eyes there was a hint of Apogee about the Omega speakers and other Analysis Audio designs (not a bad thing) in their appearance.
You can read more here http://www.analysisaudio.com/
It was very nice to also meet Peter and have a chat with him.
Despite some reservations that Peter Downes had about the sound in his room I felt especially on the second day ( the sound had improved a fair bit) that Peter despite some room/mains ? issues, probably had one of the better sounds at the show. My only regret is that I did not hear his room back in March, both he and others (who’s opinions I value) say that the sound was even better. That would have been quite something to have heard indeed.
I really enjoyed this show in terms of the products I saw and heard and the people I met during the show but as a location for such a show I much prefer the London Park Inn Hotel; the layout of which is much more straightforward than the twisting maze of corridors that Whittelbury Hall is.
I also feel that two days is just not enough time for a show this big and if as Chester Group suggest next years show is even bigger, then frankly it needs to be expanded back to being a three day event. I felt that I used my time well but even over the two days I still managed to miss out on seeing and hearing some really interesting products; such as the Oyaide Original TT platter mat and record weight, which I missed totally. I ask the question what else did I manage to miss ?
However there were some very interesting products and brands that I managed to see and hear at NAS 2010, including the Vertex AQ Alteheia DAC, NAT electronics, Analysis Audio Omega speakers, Origin Live Technics power supplies, John Howes speakers, Trilogy electronics, Audio Smiles new add on Advantage bass module for the Kensai speakers, Burmester, Track Audio’s new range of stands, the return of Deltec and many others to numerous to name in this part of the report.
The overall vibe at the show was upbeat and it was exciting to see a number of new products being brought to market even during such difficult times as these. I particularly hope that the general public will embrace the magic that the Chord Cordette range brings to audio and while some of these are wifi, streaming, computer typed products I do hope that they might act as a springboard to more purist audio for those who have bought a Chordette set up…one lives in hope.
See you all in 2011.
The End of the NAS 2010 Show Report.
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