Words: Paul Miller, Andrew Everard, Adam Smith & Ken Kessler; Pictures: Andrew Sydenham

Now in its fourth year, the Hi-Fi Show Live expanded its ground floor exhibits into the Beaumont Conference Centre’s prestigious White House suites as UK enthusiasts were offered the unique opportunity to experience the cream of 2016’s high-end audio. Exclusive UK product launches were unveiled by iconic brands including Mark Levinson, Wilson, Continuum, Classé, GamuT, Luxman, Audio Alchemy, D’Agostino and many others. The big White House, Windsor, Lancaster and Buckingham Suites provided the ideal environment for many unforgettable demos while the various special presentations were often left with standing room only. If you missed this unique high-end audio extravaganza, then here’s a taster of the event.

Mola-Mola’s Bruno Putzeys, developer of the Hypex NCore Class D technology, with a brace of his Kaluga monoblocks, which were driving the Vivid Audio Giya G4 speakers. In the rack is the Mola-Mola Makua preamp, which features optional phono and DAC sections.
www.mola-mola.nl; www.vividaudio.co.uk

For those looking to stock up on quality music, Dawn and Chris Harris of Theme One Records came armed with a selection of the best new and used pressings to tempt visitors. The vast selection of titles on offer included recordings from the specialist Dutch label Music On Vinyl alongside Gearbox and Plane Groovy.

G-Point Audio provided numerous compelling reasons to visit its spacious Sandringham 6 suite, not least the eye-catching £23k hORNS Universum MkIII loudspeakers by Auto-Tec, available in numerous colourways and modelled here by Nives Osvald. The turntable pictured is the £11k J. Sikora Reference with an 11in Kuzma 4Point arm.
www.gpoint-audio.com; www.horns.pl

KEF showed the latest version of its Muon flagship speaker, driven by Chord Electronics’ CPA 8000 Reference preamp and SPM 14000 MkII Reference mono power amps, all connected with ChordMusic cables from The Chord Company. KEF’s new LS50 Wireless active speakers were also demonstrated, by Head of UK Sales and Marketing Nick Bryant [inset, alongside vintage R105.2s].

Irv Gross of Constellation and Continuum poses proudly with the latter’s Obsidian turntable and Viper tonearm, a UK scoop for the show. The sound was spectacular heard through Constellation electronics and Magico speakers.

Izumi Saito, Luxman’s European Sales Manager, flew in to demonstrate the heavyweight PD-171A belt-drive turntable (£5000) with the flagship C-900u/M-900u solid-state pre/power amplifier combination (£10k each). Rated at 150W/8ohm, the massive M-900u drove the partnering DALI Epicon 8s with a velvet fist.
www.luxman.com; www.dali-speakers.com

Clearaudio’s Robert Suchy leans on the Statement v2 turntable tipped with a Goldfinger Statement MC. He’s flanked by GamuT’s new Zodiac speaker, enjoying its world debut and demo’d with two huge GamuT M250 power amps.

Mandy Clark of Pioneer & Onkyo Europe demos the upmarket Esoteric range, including the N-05 network player, C-02X preamp, and 290W S-02 power amps. The towering rack is from Atacama’s Evoque Bamboo Custom range, with a waterfall of power, interconnect and speaker cables from Nordost’s V range (plus new Sort Lift cable elevators).
www.esoteric.jp; www.atacama-audio.co.uk; www.nordost.com

Pure Sound’s Guy Sergeant poses beside a dazzlingly white £2500 Heco Direkt speaker, a pair of which were driven by Pure Sound’s own valve monoblocks. Source was a Motus II turntable from STST with Vertex arm and Etsuro Urushi cartridge. Aurorasound’s PREDA line stage and HEADA headphone amplifier were also in use.
www.puresound.info; www.stst-hi.de; www.aurorasound.jp

Atlas Cables’ Donal Cook used the Hi-Fi Show Live to demonstrate the new Zeno headphone cables and very new turntable interconnects. Alongside, and with no hot iron in sight, technician Bryan McFarland [inset] gave a practical and insightful demo of Atlas’s ‘cold-soldering’ termination technique.

Here’s Chris Fayers of Decent Audio, fielding a fine-sounding system fronted by a £14k Kronos Sparta 0.5 deck. It may lack the contra-rotating platter of its bigger brothers, but it’s still an impressive sight! Fitted with a Transfiguration MC, it played through a £3000 Audio Analogue Puccini Anniversary amp and 1.7i Magneplanar panels.

Nigel Crump of Symmetry demo’d his system with Magnepan 20.7 loudspeakers ‘because it sounded so good last year!’. Electronics were Ayre KX-R Twenty preamp and MX-R Twenty power amps and the full Audio Alchemy line-up including the Roon-ready DMP-1 music player, fed by a Brinkmann Spyder turntable and Lyra MC.

Elite Audio had a roomful of innovative brands driven by a MacBook and Acoustic Signature Thunder turntable (centre rack). Amplifiers included the Gato AMP-150 (top left) and new Crayon CFA-1.2 at £4400 (top right), all demo’d via a Pure Power 2000 regenerator. Rune Jacobsen from Triangle poses with the £4600 Signature Delta floorstanders.
www.gato-audio.com; www.triangle-fr.com; www.eliteaudiouk.com

Convert Technologies’ Dave Belcher shows off the AvantGarde Uno XD speaker, which his company now distributes. The speakers were being driven by the best-known product from Convert (formerly Entotem), the Plato music streamer/player. The company was demonstrating the new Class A version of the Plato, to be reviewed in HFN Jan ’17.

In one of Absolute Sounds’ three rooms, the Wilson Alexx and Yvette loudspeakers enjoyed their UK debut, demonstrated by Peter McGrath [inset] with D’Agostino electronics for the former and Audio Research the latter, and with Transparent cable throughout.
www.wilsonaudio.com; www.absolutesounds.com

Many boutique hi-fi brands are family businesses and here’s Felicity Isherwood cueing up the £4500 Inspire Monarch Mk2.1 (with improved PSU, platter and clock-referenced direct-drive) for dad, Robert. Also demo’d was the stunning Vivid DC Carbon – based on an LP12 chassis with carbon-fibre upgrades.

YG Acoustics’ head of European sales and marketing Kerry St James poses with the company’s Sonja 1.2 loudspeaker, which is built using a modular concept. The Denver manufacturer offers the smaller Sonja 1.1 speaker which can be supplemented with a bass module to create the 1.2.

Primare’s Siemen Algra gets up close to the cool, UFPD-equipped Class D I32 integrated amp. This £3200 version was ‘fully loaded’ with its MM30 module (USB, wired/wireless network streaming and DAC). This small system, with Revel Concerto 2 M16 standmounts, sounded very big!

Decent Audio’s Simon Griffin kneels next to the £6500 Audio Analogue Maestro Anniversary amplifier, rated at 150W/8ohm, with the exceptional 2-way ribbon-tweetered Raidho D1.1 standmount loudspeaker – new to the UK market – on the right. Source was the sublime £35k Kronos Pro turntable with 12in Black Beauty tonearm.

Tube amp fans made a beeline for Icon Audio’s room where the company’s David Shaw demo’d his new SE version of the 100W MB81 monoblocks featuring big GU81 tubes alongside a prototype of his new Stereo 30SE single-ended amp, expected to cost £1600.

Bill McKiegan of D’Agostino Master Audio Systems introduced the Progression mono power amplifier to the UK. This beastie is said to deliver 500W/8ohm or 2kW/2ohm! It inherits the venturi-style cooling from the Momentum range, as well as the distinctive meter.
www.dandagostino.com; www.absolutesounds.com

Naim’s Dave Spiers (left) and Jason Gould demo’d the range-topping Focal Sopra No3 loudspeakers – in fetching Hermès Orange – using a Naim NDS Streamer, 555 power supply, NAC 552 preamp and NAP 500 DR power amp.
www.naimaudio.com; www.focal.com

Our Hi-Fi Show visitors enjoyed a uniquely ‘Live’ event in the Audio Note room as acclaimed cellist Vincent Bélanger accompanied his own recordings played through a very high-end AN system. Highlights included Audio Note’s CD 4 disc player, the Tomei 211 tube-based integrated amplifier and silver-wired Audio Note’s E Spe loudspeakers... and Bélanger Pure Cello, of course!

Mike Valentine of Chasing The Dragon joined Symmetry to talk about the recording techniques he uses at Air Studios in London. Playing to a packed house, twice a day, Mike gave visitors the chance to compare half-speed mastered and direct-cut albums with standard LP pressings.

ELAC’s Export Sales Manager, Monika Lowe, poses with the massive Concentro flagship speaker, which was being driven by a pair of Devialet 1000 Pro amplifiers. The speaker was designed as a showcase for ELAC’s technology, and has front and rear panels each containing the company’s JET-5 tweeter and midrange driver, and four 25cm bass drivers, horizontally opposed on the side panels.
www.elac.com; www.devialet.com

Music First Audio’s Jonathan Billington unveiled the company’s Classic Step Up Transformer V2 with key improvements in shielding and winding. Source was an Audio Note TT2 Deluxe turntable and tonearm, playing through Music First’s Classic MM Phono Amp 632.
www.mfaudio.co.uk; www.audionote.co.uk

Oppo offered visitors the chance to catch up with its latest planar magnetic cans and also showed its new HA-2 SE portable headphone amp, which has been tuned and upgraded [see p68]. Tucked away in a side room was Oppo’s new Sonica range of multiroom wireless speakers, along with a new Sonica DAC.

Puritan Audio Labs showed its £995 PSM136 mains purifier with six independently conditioned 8A power outlets. Company MD Mike Lester has designed military-standard power conditioners, and used this knowledge in the unit’s internal circuitry.

Hi-Fi News’ vintage expert Tim Jarman wowed visitors with the performance of his 1970s system... driving Focal’s flagship Sopra No3 floorstanders! With B&O’s Beogram 4000 turntable at the helm, power was provided by Sony’s 88-series separates and Aurex System 15 components.

Hi-Fi News’ Ken Kessler delivered three vinyl-spinning demos each day, to riveted audiences, one each in the Sound Fowndations, Decent Audio and Absolute Sounds rooms. Here he’s seen during a last-minute Q&A session, squeezed in on Saturday afternoon, trying to explain why he doesn’t listen to classical music!

A key overseas presenter at this year’s Hi-Fi Show Live, Todd Eichenbaum (left) discussed his role in overseeing the design and development of Mark Levinson’s latest 500-series separates, including the No519 disc player/streamer/DAC and No534 power amp (a single chassis derivative of the No536 monoblocks). With JBL’s K2 horns – breathtaking sound.

Marking its half-century by charting the history of its 800 Series, shown by the company’s Tom Henderson [inset], B&W also demonstrated the new 800 D3 speaker on the end of a pair of Classé CAM300 monoblocks, due early in 2017. Classé president Dave Nauber said the 350W amps will cost around US$10,000 apiece.
www.bowers-wilkins.co.uk; www.classeaudio.com

Vinyl startup, Planalogue, showed its Prelude turntable equipped with Abis SA-1.2 tonearm and Hana SL moving coil. The deck features an acrylic/birch-ply sandwich plinth while the platter is machined from acrylic and supported on a stainless/brass/Delrin bearing. Founder Peter Laitt used Harbeth P3ESR mini monitors to great effect.

Computer Audio Design, led by Isabel Whitley and Scott Berry, joined forces with GamuT whose hefty RS7i floorstanders developed a mighty sound in concert with its D31/D200i pre/power combo. CAD’s CD transport/ripper/DAC solution was augmented here by its passive GC1 Gound Control unit (£1650).
www.computeraudiodesign.com; www.gamutaudio.com

In the Headphone Haven, Harman Consumer UK allowed visitors to experience its 2016/17 EISA award-winning N90Q reference-class auto-calibrating headphones from AKG, while Criterion Audio used the new Bel Canto DAC 2.7 USB DAC/preamp to demonstrate Grado’s PS1000e headphones. The no-compromise planar-magnetic Abyss AB1266 cans were paired up with Moon’s No 430 HA headphone amp alongside Grace m920/Audeze LCD3 and Chord Hugo/Sennheiser HD800 combinations.

Paul Mortimer of Emerging UK was on hand to demonstrate the MERGING NADAC network-attached DAC, which was fed music files stored on a hard drive. The NADAC played directly through pairs of active loudspeakers from Swiss company PSI Audio: the PSI A25/225 [far right], A215 [middle] and A17. Also in use were PSI’s AVAA C20 Active Bass Traps – effective, though not cheap at £4500 per pair.
www.emerginguk.com; www.psiaudio.com

With a hi-fi legacy stretching back over 40 years, Japanese IT giant Melco may have the perfect heritage to deliver PC-free digital audio but it was Alan Ainslee, pictured, who brought this unique range of digital music storage/players to the UK. The slimline HA-N1ZS10, HA-N1ZH60 and HA-N1AH40 were all on demonstration at the Hi-Fi Show Live.

In Hidden Systems’ room, Fredrik Lejonklou was on hand with his new integrated amp, the £2500 Boazu. Sources were all Linn, namely a fully-equipped Sondek LP12 SE turntable and Klimax DS and DSM servers. These played through the new Totem Acoustic Sky loudspeakers, which are a modern take on the company’s famous Model One standmount.

Either side of this rack of PS Audio electronics sits a pair of the company’s £13k BHK Signature 300 monoblocks. On the rack’s bottom shelf is a PerfectWave P10 Power Plant AC mains regenerator (£4.5k) feeding a PS Audio DirectStream Memory Player, LanRover USB transporter (for digital signal conditioning) and DirectStream Junior DAC.

There was a treasure trove of exotic gear in Malvern Audio Research’s room. Raj Jassal demo’d a Pre Audio deck with air-bearing tonearm, Audio Detail Nuvistor phono stage, and Ming Da Piccolo integrated amp feeding the new Ana horns from, er, hORNS. Just 18W filled the room with palpable and dynamic music.
www.malvernaudioresearch.co.uk; www.horns.pl

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