THE HI-FI SHOW 2016: White House Suites
Beaumont Room - Bowers & Wilkins
In 2016 the palatial Beaumont Room hosts Bowers & Wilkins, which is celebrating 50 years of audio excellence by filling this substantial space with its range-topping 800 D3 floorstander. There’s also a Bowers & Wilkins History Zone (see below), displaying renowned speakers from the company’s archives, allowing you to see, side by side, the evolution of the company’s 800 Series. The demonstration will be powered by new Classé Delta amplification and the 2016 Hi-Fi Show Live will be the first public demonstration of this amazing new range.
The 800 Series Diamond didn’t get better by chance. Rather, it got better by change – 868 changes to be precise. The exceptional Diamond dome tweeter, now housed in a new design of Nautilus tube, may have been retained, but the rest of the loudspeaker has been re-imagined from the ground up. Most striking is the transformation of the midrange drive units. A new Continuum cone featuring superior acoustic properties replaces the Kevlar cones that have long been a major factor of the 800 Series’ blisteringly realistic midrange. Bass has also been dramatically improved by the introduction of the Aerofoil cone, which reduces distortion thanks to a new cone geometry.
These innovations, when teamed with improved cabinets, a more robust Matrix bracing system and the vastly improved Turbine head design means that the latest 800 Series Diamond sets a new benchmark when it comes to reference quality sound.
For this generation of 800 Series, instead of a flat-fronted speaker with a curving back, Bowers & Wilkins’ engineers developed a cabinet with front and sides formed from one continuous curve, held together with a spine of solid aluminium. Sound dispersion is therefore improved, and cabinet reflection is reduced, as you’ll be able to experience for yourself when you listen to the 800 D3 demonstration.
Beaumont Room - Bowers & Wilkins History Zone
This year marks 50 years since the beginning of Bowers & Wilkins, and at the Hi-Fi Show Live the company has set-up a History Zone, concentrating on the development of its core design – the 800 Series. The original 801 was launched back in 1979, the company announcing it as ‘the first commercial effort to develop and produce a loudspeaker that would reflect the highest standards attainable without regard to any of the so called “practical considerations” that inevitably compromise conventional designs.’
The ‘stacked boxes’ design still informs the 800 range, albeit in a somewhat sleeker version these days, but the uncompromising design of the original didn’t stop it being adopted by recording studios and broadcasters as a reference monitor, the speaker growing in its second generation and adding a bass reflex port for more powerful low-end reproduction.
That association has continued through successive generations, the seeds of the current design first being seen in 1998’s Nautilus 800 series. And these flagship speakers have incorporated technologies now widely used across the company’s range, including the Nautilus tube behind the Diamond Dome tweeter, the golf-ball-inspired Flowport reflex port and the Matrix internal bracing inside the cabinets.
Examples of early 800 series models will be displayed at the show, so you can appreciate just how much the design has evolved – before listening to the latest version! Join us and see how Bowers & Wilkins’ innovative engineering has redefined those ‘highest standards’.
The Dining Room – KEF, Chord Electronics and the Chord Company
KEF is joining forces at the show with Chord Electronics and The Chord Company to present a state-of-the art ‘Best of British’ system. It’s based around the massive KEF Muon speakers. Standing 2m tall and with no fewer than eight drivers, the Muon uses the latest version of KEF’s famous Uni-Q drive unit, with the tweeter at the heart of a 12.5cm midrange cone. Covering the lower frequencies are seven 25cm mid/bass and bass units, allowing the speaker to reach all the way down to 25Hz.
Powering the Muon at the show will be the Reference system from Chord Electronics, in the form of the Red Reference MkIII CD player; the DAVE DAC with its next-generation WTA upsampling and Pulse Array DAC technology; the advanced CPA 8000 Reference preamp; and the colossal SPM 14000 MkII Reference mono power amplifiers, featuring the latest-generation 12kW-capable Chord power supply. Each amplifier contains 64 proprietary power output devices, giving massive reserves of energy and incredibly low distortion.
Chord engineers will be on hand to answer your questions and give advice, and the company says there could also be another new Reference product launched at the Hi-Fi Show Live, too. And connecting it all will be the brand-new cables from the Chord Company, the ChordMusic range. Based on the company’s SuperARAY technology, this is the most advanced design in the company’s history, ‘removing what sounds like the last layer of cloud obscuring the musical landscape.’ So take your seat in the White House Dining Room to hear the ‘Best of British’.
Remenham Suite - ELAC, Devialet and AudioQuest
The stars of this room will be obvious as soon you walk in. After all, the new ELAC flagship speaker, the Concentro, has very obvious visual impact. The Concentro, ELAC says, was all about breaking free of its position as one of the hi-fi world’s best-kept secrets, and showing just what it could do. The new speaker certainly fits that brief. It stands almost 1.7m tall, weighs 140kg and sits on a 25kg stand milled from a single block of aluminium.
The cabinet is also a departure from ELAC’s traditional cabinet shapes, the central front and rear panels, each containing the JET-5 tweeter and midrange driver, being framed in a sculptural enclosure housing four side-mounted 25cm bass drivers. These woofers are arranged so that they operate in opposition, the aim being to give the loudspeaker ‘unprecedented dynamic power’.
Both the bass and low/midrange drive units employ ELAC’s patented crystal cones, which incorporate the company’s tried-and-tested proprietary aluminium/sandwich technology, and it’s possible to fine-tune the midband and treble, as well as alter the relationship between direct and diffuse sound. Driving the Concentros, the Devialet 1000 Pro combines the sophistication of analogue amplification (Class A) and the power and compactness of Digital amplification (Class D). For the first time in the UK, Devialet will showcase two 1000 Pro amps running as one system – an exceptional performance.
All system connections will be from the latest AudioQuest range of loudspeaker cables and interconnects.
Griffith and Roxburghe Suites – Oppo
Showing at 2016’s Hi-Fi Show Live for the first time are some new innovations from Oppo, adding wireless music to its existing strengths in high-quality audiophile Blu-ray players and superb planar magnetic headphones, all of which will also be on display. New for the show is an upgraded version of its HA-2 portable headphone amplifier. The HA-2SE retains the leather-clad pocket-sized dimensions of the original, and packs an ESS Sabre 32 Reference ES9028-Q2M DAC chip for ultimate sound quality on the go. It’s compatible with Apple iOS and Android devices as well as Windows and Mac OSX computers, and can even act as a portable power bank to charge mobile devices.
Completely new, and getting their first public showing, are the company’s Sonica products, including two wireless speakers for multiroom audio and a network-capable DAC able to stream hi-res music all the way up to DSD either over a network connection or from USB storage. At its heart is the same ESS Sabre technology, and the player – like the wireless speakers – can be controlled via a free Sonica app compatible with iOS and Android. The two Sonica wireless speakers use custom drivers, and have network, Bluetooth and AirPlay connectivity. Tuned by Igor Levitsky, the designer behind Oppo’s PM-series headphones, the Sonica speakers can be used as standalone devices, as part of a multiroom system, or paired to give an even better stereo sound if required.
Morley Suite – Esoteric and Nordost
Esoteric, Nordost, and Atacama are joining forces in The Morley Room to demonstrate the latest products from each company, with speakers supplied by Northamptonshire-based ProAc.
At the heart of the system will be a set of the very latest models from Esoteric, the audiophile brand from the makers of TEAC and Tascam. These products, precision-made and handbuilt in Japan, are coveted by enthusiasts worldwide, and the Show line-up could win the brand even more fans, comprising as it does the N-05 network player, the K-01X SACD/CD player/DAC, the C-02X preamp and the S-02 power amp.
The new network player can handle both locally-stored music libraries and streaming services including Tidal, and is compatible with file formats all the way up to DSD 11.2MHz and 384kHz/32-bit. It also has an asynchronous USB input for direct connection to a computer, and can be controlled using an app compatible with both tablets and phones.
Meanwhile, the S-02 power amp delivers a hefty 290W into 4ohm, rising to a maximum of double that, and uses a custom transformer as part of a generous power supply provision, meaning it has plenty in reserve for even the most dynamic music.
It will be driving ProAc speakers, with all cabling supplied by Nordost in the form of its award-winning Valhalla V2 power cords, interconnects and speaker cable, all used with the support of the company’s intriguing new Sort Lift. This raises cables off the floor, minimising the points of contact they make with the ground to ‘reduce boundary effects’. Underpinning the electronics will be equipment supports from Atacama’s Evoque Bamboo Custom range.
Ashbrook Suite – Convert Technologies
Convert Technologies is the new name for Entotem, and the company is showcasing its range of Plato music player/streaming systems, which feature intuitive storage of everything from digital music files through to LPs. Its simple browser-based interface let’s you access your entire music collection, plus streaming services, for instant playback.
Four Plato models are available: the original Plato is a one-box home entertainment solution that combines hi-fi amplification with the ability to record from both analogue and digital sources, such as vinyl, tapes and CDs, to which you only have to add a pair of speakers, while there’s also an upgraded version, the Plato Class A, which is the subject of a forthcoming HFN review.
The Plato Pre takes the same formula, but offers it in a preamp-output version, designed to be connected directly to power amplifiers or active loudspeakers, while the Plato Lite is designed to be used with existing preamps and integrated amps, and also lacks the phono stage built into the other models.
All the Plato models have USB inputs as well as analogue and digital audio connections, and a HDMI output to connect to a TV screen for use as a monitor for the system, which can play video content as well as audio.
Alongside the Plato systems will be the German AvantGarde speaker range, for which Convert Technologies is now both strategic partner and UK distributor. Featured will be the Uno XD speaker, which combines AvantGarde’s signature horn drivers with active internal amplification and DSP including a 10-band parametric equaliser, allowing the speaker to be optimised to the room it’s used in.
The Uno XD is available in no fewer than 11 colours, ranging from Stealth Nocturne Grey and Smaragd Pearl Green to Shiny Citrine Orange and the Ruby Brilliant Red seen here.
Hastings Suite – YG Acoustics and Bel Canto
Cambridge-based high-end distributor Padood is bringing a wide range of its brands to the show, along with a chance to meet representatives of some of the top names it handles. As part of its ‘meet the manufacturer’ programme, it will be joined by Bel Canto president Michael McCormick, YG Acoustics head of European sales and marketing Kerry St James, as well as a design/engineering representative from turntable manufacturer SME.
Among the systems which will be on demonstration will be one built around the YG Acoustics Sonja 1.2 loudspeaker, which demonstrates the modular design of this model from the Denver, Colorado, manufacturer. It comprises the Sonja 1.1 with the addition of a dedicated bass module, matching the sculptural design of the whole range, and will be powered by amplification from the same part of the world, in the form of the Boulder 2110/2160 pre/power amps.
Boulder’s 1008 phono stage will be used with the SME 30/12 turntable and tonearm, while digital music will be delivered by the Weiss MAN301 network player and Medus DAC. Kubala Sosna Elation cables will be used throughout. Also on demo will be a system using the SME 15 turntable and Bel Canto Black Series and Plinius electronics, driving YG Acoustics Carmel 2 loudspeakers via Analysis Plus Silver Oval cables.
Visitors will also be able to see the full range of Plinius electronics, and the Bel Canto e.One range. The latter comprises source components, DACs and amplifiers, all built in a new more compact form made possible by switching technologies and new amplifier designs, and at more affordable prices.