MGY News

Bristol 2024 Hi-Fi Show Report

bristol hi-fi show report by mgy europe
It was a great pleasure to visit the Bristol Hi-Fi Exhibition, an event which our distribution company, MGY, have been attending for many years in a row. For those unfamiliar with Bristol Hi-Fi Show let's say that it's currently the largest and longest running exhibition in Great Britain. Bristol is an old city with good transport connections and formidable musical history which also makes this annual event attractive. We headed there prepared to see a lot of exciting new products but also bundled up for February weather. Wouldn't want to miss anything due to catching a cold!
The exhibits are to be found in proper hotel rooms on 4 floors and also in a sprawling maze of conference rooms below where a participant can find either large spaces for demonstrating to a number of people at once or arrange stall to sell records or hi-fi accessories.
We will do a brief report of the most interesting things we have seen naturally focusing on British brands we distribute in Estonia and some neighbouring countries: that will be Chord Electronics, PMC and Fyne Audio. Nevertheless there would be other products pictured and/or mentioned which we noted not commercially but being a hi-fi enthusiasts as we all are.

Ground level

The Chord Company manufactures a wide range of cables and also some very useful network and power accessories. They had a huge, for the cable manufacturer, presence at this show: their cables where used in several rooms, and the company had a big space for point-of-sale cable displays where, we think. all potential customers where getting a treasure stove of information from the exhibitor staff. They also had a demo room downstairs where interesting comparisons were performed vis influence of power socket blocks, LAN noisefilters and shielded vs. non-shielded power supply umbilical cables (yes, they exist in Naim universe). Chord Company demonstrations are very well thought of and accessible: timings are right and it's really easy to hear the difference. I can only imagine an amount of effort made to run sound comparisons so smoothly. Rather ingeniously they put the equipment rack backwards, so the socket side is turned to listeners. You don't see the front of the electronics but you see a lot of cables. Anyway we later have found that they used Naim electronics with ATC SCM100 speakers. If you have to ask, the speakers were positioned normally.
Chord Electronics which is of no relation to Chord Company debuted its first integrated amplifier in Ultima series. We have Ultima Integrated in stock so dealer enquiries are most welcome. Chord Electronics now have a compact one-box solution to complement their amazing DACs. Priced at €10200 in the Baltics, it's an extremely capable high end amplifier with absolutely unprecedented performance for this price range. Would make a fantastic upgrade for a serious music system and will become a solid long-time investment. Demo room had the Chord Electronics DAC and upscaler (Qutest + M Scaler) and Ultima integrated with ATC SCM40s.

Bristol Show is for solid no-nonsense hi-fi which you will actually see in the stores (sooner or later) and one notices much less exorbitant, rare and stratospherically-priced products there compared to Munich High End, for instance. That is to be expected, since it is a consumer exhibition. We spotted a few flagship products however, one being a complete Linn system in a huge room. Linn has released new top-of-the range speakers named 360 last year. The 360s are fully active, with DSP-based crossover and room correction inside but can be also bought in a 'Passive with Active Bass' configuration. New power amps, the mono Klimax Solo 800s had their first public appearance with those 'Passive' 360s in Bristol. The retail price of the complete system with Linn Klimax DSM and 50th Anniversary Sondek LP12-50 turntable will easily topple £200K, we think.
Like we said, there were some large areas (more like a conference room or a repartioned hall) to demonstrate large speakers for example Dynaudio Confidence 60 with Naim 500 amps. Though in a huge room too, the Wilson Benesch Discovery 3Zero would be, we guess, the most expensive standmounting speakers at the show. They look diminutive but remember that the bass comes from an isobaric low-frequency load, so there is another woofer hidden inside the cabinet. The amp brand we remember from the 90s — Trilogy Audio — seemed to be resurrected by the original owner, Nic Poulsen of Isol-8, as their electronics were used with the Wilson-Benesches. On display there was also a cut-out of a rather unusual (and expensive) WB subwoofer, or ultrasonic generator as they prefer to call the device.
Acoustic Energy will soon release a new flagship floorstanding speaker — Corinium, which by today's standards is priced very competitively at around £6K. It uses four new carbon-fibre-based drive units in a 3-way configuration.
Tannoy is firmly committed to revive the legacy of their dual-concentric speakers and now has the Super Gold Monitor series to apply modern tech to make a classic studio speaker of the 80s home-listening-friendly. Symphony Distribution now represents Tannoy in the UK and they had both the lobby exhibit and a hotel room uptstairs with Prestige Stirling speakers paired with Western Electric valve amp.
Naim Audio had a secret high end demo room with ticketed entry so we never get there, unfortunately. They were showing some new electronics in the 300 series and giving examples of various ways to hook the external PSUs. Their other rooms at the hotel floors above had modest Naim systems including new amp-streamer Uniti Nova PE with Focal Sopra and new Aria Evo-X speakers.
We have got a nice surprise from PMC (Professional Monitor Company) who cleverly introduced a new loudspeaker series without actually making a new series. The smart folks in Biggleswade (that's where father & son Thomas and their team do their magic) had given the well-know twenty5i series a hidden path of radical upgrade: the design enables to fit active crossover and amplifications in place of passive crossover thus making the speakers active. The change to active is not really hard to do and does not require any special tools. and can be done in-situ by the owners we were told, or at dealer's. Also the older Twenty5 series speakers are also eligible for conversion to active. Very clever. Naturally the amp and the active crossover were designed by PMC which has a good background in amplification too. More information will be available on our website very soon. In their huge demo room PMC was using Bryston pre and power amps to demonstrate PMC's entry level Prodigy floorstanders or the new active Twenty5is.


Another notable example of DSP and active concept finding its way to home speakers was shown in one of the Harbeth rooms (there were many, I'll tell ya). The NLE-3 speaker with digital processing allows to time align the drive units and do other things impossible in a passive design. You'll never guess, but NLE stands for New Musical Experience. All new NLE-3 were used in rather unconventional amp configuration with QUAD re-launched valve classic for the mid/highs and some budget (which does not necessarily mean poorly designed) class D amps for the bass. In one of the other Harbeth rooms the exhibit was centered around recordings made by Lyn Stanley and reproduced via different formats including open-reel tapes. Oh, and take that, sung by the singer herself!
Don't get us wrong: traditional speakers wre overwhelmingly outnumbering the active and DSP-corrected ones. Though what is a traditional speaker in year 2024 remains too broad a question. For example Lyngdorf is surely on of the pioneers of class D amps and DSP in hi-fi, but they chose to demonstrate a small passive speaker, called Cue 100. Mounted on a tripod, Cue 100 use advanced driver technology paired with warm and unusual looks with a choice of coloured fabric covers (optional). We gather they still have used room correction in the DAC section of the Lyngdorf electronics though.
Kudos demonstrated a rather unusual crossover block which is inserted between power amps (Naim NAP250s) and Titan 505 speakers. The Sigao Drive is passive (non-powered) design which connects to special inputs on the Titan speakers and has provisions to load-match the power amps. (in their room that were Naim NAP250s and a Naim pre). This arrangement allows to drive Kudos Titan series speakers as active.
Rega Research has a new pre and a power amp (Solis and Mercury) in the top range, which were pre-production units so on silent display. Mercury pre-amp will also have a DAC built-in.
Audio Note offered an interesting comparison with one room (demos ran by Daniel Qvortrup, owner's son) with a sophisticated but not extreme high end valve setup with level 4 and 3 components including AN-E/SPx speakers with a field coil woofer and a new Meishu Konzertmeister single-ended triode amp. The other room was based around Level 0 system (hope you have guessed that Audio Note has tiered its range, and it's from 0 to 5) with AX1 or AX2 speakers and small I zero valve integrated.
Fyne Audio had two adjacent rooms. The main room had the Vintage Classic X speaker with Accuphase pre/power and the other room demoed brand new F702SPs and F1-8s with a set of Rega electronics. At the Show Fyne Audio introduced, not surprisingly, a supertweeter add-on. The supertweeter, named Supertrax, can be an upgrade for Classic series, which is evident in design and finish similarities, or, alternatively, may be used with other compatible speakers. We know, that Dr. Paul Mills, Fyne Audio's acoustical wizard, has a long history with supertweeters, so, again, not surprisingly, there is one in the Fyne Audio range. Bear with us for a few days and we will provide extensive information about new things at Fyne Audio on this website.

From the studio to your home

While some companies like PMC (Professional Monitor Company) or ATC (Acoustic Transducer Company) have their feet firmly planted in both professional and home environment we could not help noticing that more venerable studio brands are considering a dab at home audio market. I am not sure at which home huge Lockwood coaxial speakers can find a place but the company has very impressive legacy of servicing great artists in their studio work. Same can be said of Quested monitors which joined force with a newcomer Ultrafide to bring a taste of modern studio sound to Bristol. Ulrafide is a branch of MC2 Audio Amplifiers — you guessed it right, a professional audio brand with over 30 years of experience. The Ultrafide power amp uses a linear power supply driving a class D high frequency switching output stage.
A firm called Orange Consumer Products, as we think, are a manufacturer of guitar amps. With vacuum tubes (valves) inside, obiously. They would be aiming at a consumer and DIY audio market too, with a valve performance testing station and a couple of portable active speakers.


It was so nice to see (and to hear) analogue sources in most of the rooms. Among product debuts there was a very unusual uni-pivot Supatrac Blackbird tonearm (Sideways Unipivot Arm with Torque Reaction which Assists Contact, that's the acronym), new turntables from Cyrus Audio and Exposure (presumably their first dab into record players). Silence Audio, a newcomer, introduced a very aggressively priced entry-level turntable with boomerang-shaped plywood-with-aluminium-layer chassis and great-looking unipivot arm. We are not sure where it's made, but the designer, Croatian engineer, Marko Borovac, used to do work for some other well-known UK and German turntable brands.
Connected Fidelity had a record player appropriately named Hub with Sorane tonearm and Hana Umami Red MC cartridge mounted on it. Sorane is a Japanese manufacturer which makes three very distinctive tonearms: one S-shaped with gimbal bearings and removable headshell, one flat, with a angled headshell fixture, and another flat one without a detachable headshel. The designs looked very interesting while externally reminescent of Dynavector and Ikeda products of yore, they seemed to be very well made for a price point while probably designed with classical low compliance cartridges in mind like Denon DL103s or SPUs.
Rega made us smile with an enlarged mock-up of their new and unusual MM-cartridge. That was fascinating and reminded us of the Alien films. Unusually for MMs, the diamond tip used is fine-line-shaped, not a simple elliptical or spherical.
US cartridge manufacturer Grado, represented here in Europe by Tonar, had sent a couple of new third generation flagship cartridges: Lineage Epoch3 and Aeon3.
Bit of a curiosity than a proper music source but we were told that at another event in a hotel nearby they even had a new portable cassette tape player. Not a Sony Walkman, no. FiiO now makes those, let's say Fiiomans?

Why so little about the sound?

Well, we exhibited at Bristol Show in 2018 (wow, that long ago) and know that the hotel rooms are somewhat problematic. If you position your speakers 'normally', that is along the rear wall across the entrance, the nodes and zeroes of the SPL in room are very uneven and it's way difficult to get decent sound at all spots the listeners would be sitting (or standing). With good speakers you may optimise for one or two chairs but elsewhere in the room there would be unexpected colourations or bass boom or bass drought. If one ventures to position the speaker at the long wall you usually get an even sound without obvious tonal flows but, boy, where does the soundstage go? Most of the times the space and depth will be struggling to manifest themselves. As far as the big conference rooms are concerned, they do not resemble the normal listening room acoustically, with reverberation time generally less then optimal and the walls being not walls but just temporary partitions.
Anyway respect and props to the people who managed to achieve good sound at the show. And no reason to be impolite about the ones who did not: the results may be completely different at a store show room or at a customer's home.
Another point to make is that good sound is achieved by many ways. Some exhibitors had specialised acoustical treatment in the room, some didn't, some used sophisticated equipment racks, some didn't bother and so on. Each cook has their own recipe. It is the result that matters, right?
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