Words: Paul Miller  Pictures: Andrew Sydenham

Now in its fifth year, the Hi-Fi Show Live also expanded into the nearby Kensington building as UK enthusiasts were offered the unique opportunity to experience the cream of 2017’s high-end audio. Exclusive UK product launches were unveiled by iconic brands including Mark Levinson, Wilson, B&W, Ayre, Luxman, Constellation, T+A, MFA, Trilogy and many others. The big White House, Windsor, Lancaster, Buckingham and Kensington suites provided the ideal environment for many unforgettable demos while the various Workshops, hosted by Germany’s Stereo magazine editor Matthias Bode were often left with standing room only. If you missed this unique high-end audio extravaganza, then here’s a taster of the event.

The purple lightshow in KEF and Chord Electronics’ suite could not colour the spectacularly clean and vivid sound delivered by these Reference 5 floorstanders, driven by Chord’s Blu mkII CD transport and DAVE DAC, CPA 5000 pre and SPM 1400 MKII Sig. power amps.
www.kef.com; www.chordelectronics.co.uk

Metaxus distributor Petronel Butuc of Audiophiles Clinic prepared an eye-popping and ear-catching demo of both the floorstanding Sirens and standmount Macrophone speakers, all featuring ceramic-coned Accuton drivers. With Metaxas Ikarus amps and the Marquis ‘skull’ headphone amp also on show, this room was a real jaw-dropper.

Host to our cable Workshop AudioQuest was also host to a Linn LP12 turntable, Linn Akurate Exakt streamer/preamp and four-channel Linn 4200 power amps driving fully-active Kudos Audio Titan 707 loudspeakers. Two range-topping Niagara 7000 mains conditioners [HFN Sep ’17] ensured the sound was never short of sparkling.

High-end hi-fi would never have got off the ground in the late ’70s without the vision of doyen distributor Ricardo Franassovici, seen here standing alongside Absolute Sounds’ staples including the TechDAS Air Force 2 turntable [HFN May ’15] with SAT tonearm, Kalista DreamPlayCD/DAC [HFN Nov ’17] and Constellation Pictor preamp. Inset is Peter Mackay who unveiled the new Magico S3 mkII floorstanders.
www.magico.net; www.absolutesounds.com; www.kalista.audio.com

Squeezing a big performance into one of the Hi-Fi Show’s smaller rooms, Raphael Samad (right) of Emerging UK navigated visitors through the Roon-compliant NADAC Merging+Player (with Merging+Power) and enjoyed music through active A25-M three-way speakers from PSI.

D’Agostino’s Bill McKiegan is smiling because he wasn’t asked to lift these two mighty Progression Monoblocks [HFN Jun ’17] onto the laminated Artesania platforms. Heard with Wilson Audio’s new Alexia Series 2 floorstanders, and with a dCS One as the flagship front-end, the sound was mesmerising.
www.dagostinoinc.com; www.wilsonaudio.com

Alongside the GamuT RS7i floorstanders, D3i/M250i pre/power amps and DS Audio’s flagship Master 1 optical pick-up, Clearaudio’s massive suite played host to a plethora of power conditioning from IsoTek’s Genesis One, Titan One and new EVO3 Ascension ultra high-end power cable – all demo’d by IsoTek’s Björn Hegelstad.

The ongoing tube renaissance would be nothing without the tireless efforts of Icon Audio’s David Shaw, whose products adhere to the mantra of ‘Value, Performance, Reliability and Service’. Fans of the hottest hi-fi filled the room to hear David’s massive Russian GU81-equipped MB81 push-pull monoblock amps connected to his single-driver FRM 2 loudspeakers (pictured here in red).

Mandy Clark of Pioneer & Onkyo Europe demo’d the brand’s flagship Esoteric range, including the Tidal/DSD-ready N-05 network player, K-01X SACD player, C-02X/S-02 pre/power amps, held aloft on Atacama’s Evoque-SE Bamboo Custom rack, and with power, interconnect and speaker cables from Nordost.
www.esoteric.jp; www.atacama-audio.co.uk; www.nordost.com

Atlas Cables’ MD Kevin Kelly used the Hi-Fi Show Live to demonstrate the company’s flagship Grun grounding system, designed specifically for its range-topping Asimi and Mavros cables. Alongside, and with no hot iron in sight, technician Andrew Conway gave a step-by-step demo of Atlas’s ‘cold-soldering’ termination technique.

Primare’s Terry Medalin gets up close to the cool, UFPD 2-equipped Class D I35 integrated amp. Rated at 150W/8ohm, the I35 offers balanced analogue inputs and compatibility with 768kHz LPCM and DSD128 music files. With the matching CD35 Prisma CD player and  Revel Concerto 2 M16 standmounts, this little system sounded very big!

Nigel Crump of Symmetry wowed visitors with the huge Magnepan 20.7 loudspeakers ‘because they sounded so good last year... and the year before!’. Electronics included the new 913R twin-chassis phono preamp, 915R vacuum tube line preamp and 995R ‘Hybrid Pure Class A’ monoblock power amps from Trilogy, with vinyl via a Brinkmann Spyder.

With a hi-fi legacy stretching back over 40 years, Japanese IT giant Melco has arguably the perfect heritage to deliver PC-free digital audio but it was Alan Ainslee (ex-Technics and KEF), pictured, who brought this unique range of digital music storage/players to the UK. The latest Ravenna- and SongKong-equipped N1ZH/2, HA-N1A/2 and N1ZS20/2 models were all demo’d at the Hi-Fi Show Live.

Atacama’s award-winning Evoque-SE Natural Bamboo equipment furniture was on display alongside the Eris Eco 5.0 range. But Carl Sambell [left] and Dennis Greenaway really surprised visitors with the Falcon Acoustics 15ohm ‘BBC LS3/5a’ mini monitor. Claimed to be ‘100% faithful to the 1976 BBC specification’ they certainly looked the part.

OPPO offered visitors the chance to revisit its award-winning PM-1 and PM-2 planar magnetic cans, driven by the powerful HA-1 amplifier. Also on demonstration for the first time was the UDP-205 universal SACD/DVD/BD/CD player, an ‘Outstanding’ Hi-Fi News review award-winner [HFN Jul ’17].

With Audio Note’s TT-Three Reference deck and silver-wired/6463-based M8 phono preamp driving the legendary Ongaku 211 integrated amplifier, the stage was set for an unforgettable sound. But even this was topped by the acclaimed cellist Vincent Bélanger playing solo and also accompanying his own recordings. The performance was Bélanger Pure Cello, of course!

Bowers & Wilkins used the Hi-Fi Show Live to debut its exciting 700 S2 loudspeaker range. Such was the interest in these new models there was standing room only during B&W’s demos – and doubly so when Stereo editor, Matthias Böde, was running his ‘speaker positioning’ workshop!

In another Hi-Fi Show Live exclusive, Music First Audio’s Jonathan Billington unveiled the company’s first power amp. The Senlac SJE monoblocks, seen here beneath the Revox/Nagra decks, are Class AB MOSFET designs rated at a full 100W/8ohm.

The crew from Karma AV needed some muscle to get these K2-inspired/legacy-styled 4367 JBL monitors in place, but they lifted the roof when driven via the No515 turntable, No526 preamp, No519 disc player/streamer/DAC and No534 power amp. The sound was breathtaking.
www.marklevinson.com; www.karma-av.co.uk

ELAC chose The Hi-Fi Show Live to launch its new Adante Series of loudspeakers, illustrated here by the substantial AS-61 standmounts. The Adante range presents a ‘clean sheet’ design unique to ELAC and this pair sounded positively sparkling via the EISA Award-winning Miracord 90 Anniversary turntable and Alchemy electronics.

Arguably the most spectacular demonstration at the Hi-Fi Show Live saw whirlwind guitarist Joncan Kavlakoglu performing a duet with one of his own recordings through an awesome system including an Aurender W20 music server, a DAC, preamp and (four!) power amps from Nagra’s HD series plus the four-tower Sonja XV Junior loudspeakers from YG Acoustics. With a supporting cast including SME, Boulder, Bel Canto and Weiss, this huge suite was a high-end treasure trove.

Kevin Akam of distributor Signature Audio Systems demo’d PS Audio’s heavyweight reference system. Fronted by its SACD/DVD-A/CD-playing DirectStream Memory transport and DirectStream DAC, with muscle from the Bascom H King-designed tube Signature preamp and 300W BHK Signature monoblocks, the system easily filled this big room with an impressively big sound.

Two generations from Puritan Audio Labs were on hand to explain the inner workings of its mains-purifying conditioners and dissipative ‘Interference Eating’ 13A power cables. The PSM136 Purifier features six independently filtered 8A outlets with star earthing and DC blocking.

Mike Valentine of Chasing The Dragon joined Symmetry to deliver a spirited presentation of España, celebrating music by Bizet, Chabrier and Rimsky-Korsakov, while also discussing his binaural recordings.

Any colour you like (well, almost) as KEF’s Ron Locke showcases the EISA Award-winning LS50 Wireless speaker. Show goers also got first sight of the special ‘Nocturne’ LS50W, decorated by Marcel Wanders with UV-sensitive musical notations! Chord Electronics’ Poly wireless streaming module was also debuted.
www.kef.com; www.chordelectronics.co.uk

Vivid Audio’s Giya G3 speakers looked spectre-like in Sound Design’s blacked-out room but also sounded hauntingly transparent on the end of Mola-Mola’s state-of-the-art Makua preamp and Class D Kaluga power amps [HFN Aug ’17]. SDD also debuted the GPS Audio range of turntables from Germany at the Hi-Fi Show Live.

Hi-Fi News’ vintage expert Tim Jarman wowed visitors with the performance of his turntables, amplifiers, loudspeakers and early CD players from the 1970s and, latterly, early ’80s. Playing to large audiences throughout the weekend, Tim brought the Hi-Fi News Vintage Review pages to life while answering questions about buying and restoring iconic gear.

Computer Audio Design’s Scott Berry (left) joined forces with Quadraspire’s Alester Kells whose elegant Xreference racks played a supporting role in the very convincing demos of CAD’s CD transport/DAC solution and GC1/GC3 Ground Control units. Trilogy amps and Kudos Titan speakers wrapped up an amazing sound.
www.computeraudiodesign.com; www.quadraspire.co.uk

Rolling demonstrations in Absolute Sounds’ third room included the latest hybrid electrostatic speakers from MartinLogan’s Masterpiece series alongside the chance to experience Sonus faber’s gorgeous Homage Tradition collection. Gabi Rijnveld (inset with HFN editor Paul Miller) unveiled Crystal Cable’s new ‘cuboid’ integrated amp.
www.martinlogan.com; www.crystalcable.com

In the Headphone Haven, Harman Consumer UK treated visitors with a Mark Levinson No519/No526 combo to drive samples of its AKG and JBL ranges, including the 2016/17 EISA Award-winning N90Q reference-class model. Criterion Audio featured DACs and amps from Weiss, Bel Canto, Simaudio and Slee to feed its choice selection of headphones – including the new Sonoma Model One electrostatics. Sennheiser was also on hand to demonstrate its slick HDV 820 and HD 800S combination.

Representing a range of brands from across the globe including Auralic, Innuos, Rockna, Merging Tech. and T+A, Ultimate Stream’s Steve Helliker was on a mission to entice visitors into the wonderful world of music streaming. Also showcased were the elegant, fully active Stilla floorstanding speakers from Dutch brand AEquo Audio.

Kog Audio unveiled two systems at the Show, the principal one featuring T+A’s new MP 2500 R, a versatile digital media/CD/SACD player, with matching PA 2500 R integrated amplifier. Joined by the Talis 300 loudspeakers in yet another exclusive launch for the UK at The Hi-Fi Show Live the ensemble sounded both graceful and vivid.
www.ta-hifi.de/en/; www.kogaudio.com

Peter Laitt (left), founder of Planalogue, demonstrated his well-reviewed Prelude deck which features an acrylic/birch-ply sandwich plinth, acrylic platter and stainless/brass/Delrin bearing. Helping to deliver a great sound into a modest space were the astonishing single-driver/full-range Cesti MB loudspeakers from  Markaudio-SOTA.
www.planalogue.com; www.markaudio-sota.com

Audiophiles could do little but gasp and listen in wonder at this fabulous array of exclusive Luxman separates, aided and abetted by a pair of room-filling DALI Epicon 8 floorstanders. Vinyl fans were delighted to discover the PD-171A turntable and new EQ-500 tube-based phono stage, but the real last-minute exclusive came in the form of Luxman’s very new Luxman L-509X integrated amplifier!

Decent Audio’s Simon Griffin unveiled the prestigious 2.5-way Raidho D2.1 floorstanding loudspeaker – new to the UK market – complete with two Raidho Diamond mid/bass drivers and famous Raidho Ribbon tweeter. The music sounded exquisitely poised thanks, in part, to the latest Kronos Pro turntable and Audio Analogue’s Maestro Ann. amp.

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