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A Mixed Bag

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matthewpiano's picture
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Just got back from the show.  Had a very enjoyable day indeed but found the demonstrations to be a very mixed bag.

The Rega system was absolutely superb.  RP3, Apollo-R, Brio-R, DAC and RS3 (?) speakers.  Sounded very natural, involving and spacious on both CD and vinyl sources and overall given the price/performance ratio I'd say this was the standout of the show.

I very much enjoyed the KEF demonstration.  The Blades are incredible and the demonstration material was very well chosen to show off the qualities of these and the new R-series speakers.  In fact KEF came out as one of the best speakers across the show - they sounded excellent in the TEAC room too.  In the TEAC room they were showing some interesting and very capable sounding full-size seperates which I hadn''t seen before!

Also impressive was the Dali room, partnering Audiolab 8200CD with 8200A amp and the Zensor 5 floorstanders.  Very satisfying combination, particularly convincing with vocals, although perhaps lacking the fleetness of foot and openess of the Rega system in the opposite room.

Roksan and Audiovector sounded excellent too, particularly from CD source, and the other major standout was the Neat room with the incredible new Iota speakers.  They had me looking for the sub!  Very clever engineering and they sounded superb on the end of a Naim Uniti-something and a Rega RP3 turntable.  I also liked the Focal room, and the little Wilson Benesch standmount speakers.

The Chord demonstration was very interesting and illuminating.  I'm still not convinced about the benefits of expensive USB cables.  In terms of the step up through the analogue range, I felt again that there is a clear difference between the entry CrimsonPlus/Carnival Silverscreen combination and the ChameleonPlus/Odessy, but as you go up through the price range I'm not sure that some of the fairly subtle improvements really warrant the outlay and, certainly, you'd have to have a very very special system to even consider the upper end of their ranges.

Negatives?

The Naim rooms with the Ovator floorstanders did absolutely nothing for me yet again.  I just can't get on with that sound at all.  

I was disappointed with the Audiolab/Wharfedale room which used the M-DAC with the 8200CDQ and the Mono-blocks driving the Wharfedale Jade floorstanders.  It was clearly very accomplished but it was very sterile and I didn't find it remotely involving.  In fact, I much preferred the entry-level Audiolab components through the Zensor floorstanders in the Dali room.

The Marantz room was a disappointment and I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the 6004 range.  Maybe the Castle speakers didn't help but the sound was strangely flat and certainly not as good as my 6003s sound at home.  I'm sure in different circumstances I'd hear differently, but today I wasn't taken.

Some manufacturers clearly expect people to be impressed by looking at their equipment rather than listening to it.  We had to ask for the Pro-ject box set-up to be demonstrated, Pioneer and Yamaha's hi-fi was just stacked up looking pretty, and the B&W guy spent ages talking to somebody about non-B&W accessories whilst leaving the volume turned right down on the Classe electronics driving the PM1s. The Cyrus display was also ineffective in this respect and when I did hear a Cyrus set-up in another room later on (one of the speaker manufacturers, can't remember who) it sounded pretty awful.

The REL room was interesting for the Sonus Fabers playing in there, but I would have preferred to hear them without the REL subwoofer as sub-bass really isn't an interest for me.

All in all a very interesting day again and well worth the trip.  Certainly given me some food for thought.

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matthewpiano's picture
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RE: A Mixed Bag

Oh, disappointingly, the Audio Note room was Missing In Action today as well with a scribbled note on the door.  Shame, because I always enjoy hearing their kit.

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RE: A Mixed Bag

Interesting comments.

I've always though Naim should stick to lectronics rather than speakers, because that's what they're exceptionally good at. The speakers of theirs I've heard have always been pretty horrible, so your comments don't surprise. Hopefully the Focal takeover will fix the problem - Naim with just about any speakers other than their own sound great. to be fair I'd say the same about Rega, though their speakers are more palatable.

I've heard the Audiolabs with the Wharfedale, and would echo your comments. Deeply disappointing. Surprised you liked the with the Zensors - I'd have thought them too forward for speakers already biased towards the treble rather than the bass.

 

 

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RE: A Mixed Bag

altruistic.lemon wrote:

Interesting comments.

I've always though Naim should stick to lectronics rather than speakers, because that's what they're exceptionally good at. The speakers of theirs I've heard have always been pretty horrible, so your comments don't surprise. Hopefully the Focal takeover will fix the problem - Naim with just about any speakers other than their own sound great. to be fair I'd say the same about Rega, though their speakers are more palatable.

I've heard the Audiolabs with the Wharfedale, and would echo your comments. Deeply disappointing. Surprised you liked the with the Zensors - I'd have thought them too forward for speakers already biased towards the treble rather than the bass.

 

 

Bear in mind it was the Zensor floorstanders rather than the Zensor 1s.  The floorstanders weren't particularly short of bass.

I'd agree on Naim - the Uniti-something being used in the Neat room sounded superb through the Iota speakers.

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RE: A Mixed Bag

Apropos of nothing, went to a Lizst piano recital to-day. Any recommendations about what CDs to buy - was mightily impressed, and I'm not keen on piano.

Lizst's 200th birthday yesterday, as I'm sure you know

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RE: A Mixed Bag

NP, thanks for the insight. It's always good to get a personal perspective.

The Audio Note room is usually one of the most musical, and it's always where I like to spend some time.....so I understand your disappointment.

What system were Chord using for their demo?

Cheers

Cno

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DIB
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RE: A Mixed Bag

CnoEvil wrote:
What system were Chord using for their demo? Cheers Cno

 

Various cobinations of a Sony CD transport, a Naim Pre-Amp, Arcam rDac, Naim nDac, Power Amp unknown (sorry), and Kudos Cardea standmounts.

 

Oh, and Chord cables.

 

When I was in they played tracks by Ryan Adams, Heather Nova, Caitlin Rose, and Christy Moore.

 

Those Kudos speakers sounded nice.

 

.

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RE: A Mixed Bag

Just shows how we all have different ears.... I thought the Rega system sounded harsh and bright i had to walk out because it was hurting my ears! i thought the Marantz and Castle combination was amazing sounded brilliant to me i love the Castle Knight 2 speakers....

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RE: A Mixed Bag

DIB wrote:

CnoEvil wrote:
What system were Chord using for their demo? Cheers Cno

 

Various cobinations of a Sony CD transport, a Naim Pre-Amp, Arcam rDac, Naim nDac, Power Amp unknown (sorry), and Kudos Cardea standmounts.

 

Oh, and Chord cables.

 

When I was in they played tracks by Ryan Adams, Heather Nova, Caitlin Rose, and Christy Moore.

 

Those Kudos speakers sounded nice.

 

.

Thx DIB.

I suppose that as the cables get very expensive, the system ideally needs to keep pace (cost wise).

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RE: A Mixed Bag

Phil77 wrote:

Just shows how we all have different ears.... I thought the Rega system sounded harsh and bright i had to walk out because it was hurting my ears! i thought the Marantz and Castle combination was amazing sounded brilliant to me i love the Castle Knight 2 speakers....

I think it can very much depend on what day you go. Most of the systems will sound better the longer they are on.....very often sounding worse on the first day, especially early on.

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RE: A Mixed Bag

If you rang your dealer to arrange a demo, and he told you he was going to set up the equipment in a hotel bedroom (and invite 20 other people over to listen to it with you) you'd think he was insane, and that it would be the worst way you could possibly audition such an important purchase.

If it were a good way to judge hifi then What Hifi? could save a fortune and write a year's worth of reviews of all the new gear in one hit!

 

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RE: A Mixed Bag

Surprised no one has mentioned the gorgeous proac d40s. Fantastic natural sounding speaker

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RE: A Mixed Bag

chebby wrote:

If you rang your dealer to arrange a demo, and he told you he was going to set up the equipment in a hotel bedroom (and invite 20 other people over to listen to it with you) you'd think he was insane, and that it would be the worst way you could possibly audition such an important purchase.

If it were a good way to judge hifi then What Hifi? could save a fortune and write a year's worth of reviews of all the new gear in one hit!

 

This is one of the surprising characteristics of an Audio Note system. You can bung it in a hotel room...no fancy isolation devices, no acoustic panels, no expensive racks, no mains conditioning or power cables.....and it sounds fantastic (with most music). There's a lot to be said for it.

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matthewpiano's picture
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RE: A Mixed Bag

chebby wrote:

If you rang your dealer to arrange a demo, and he told you he was going to set up the equipment in a hotel bedroom (and invite 20 other people over to listen to it with you) you'd think he was insane, and that it would be the worst way you could possibly audition such an important purchase.

If it were a good way to judge hifi then What Hifi? could save a fortune and write a year's worth of reviews of all the new gear in one hit!

 

Certainly it is insufficient to audition in this way alone before making a purchase, but then so is listening in a dealer's listening room.  You can get a very good idea of how suitable a system or piece of equipment is at hi-fi shows and it certainly does provide a great over-view of the hi-fi market.  

Of course it wouldn't be good enough for WHFS&V's reviews but then their listening rooms aren't even really representative of most people's homes either.

The Chord rep pointed out this afternoon that the biggest single change you can make to any system is the listening room.  I agree whole heartedly, but ultimately this negates the ultimate usefulness of any demonstration environment but the target listening space.

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RE: A Mixed Bag

matthewpiano wrote:
but then their listening rooms aren't even really representative of most people's homes either.

But then they are designed as testing tools, not as comfy listening environments.

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matthewpiano's picture
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RE: A Mixed Bag

CnoEvil wrote:

chebby wrote:

If you rang your dealer to arrange a demo, and he told you he was going to set up the equipment in a hotel bedroom (and invite 20 other people over to listen to it with you) you'd think he was insane, and that it would be the worst way you could possibly audition such an important purchase.

If it were a good way to judge hifi then What Hifi? could save a fortune and write a year's worth of reviews of all the new gear in one hit!

 

This is one of the surprising characteristics of an Audio Note system. You can bung it in a hotel room...no fancy isolation devices, no acoustic panels, no expensive racks, no mains conditioning or power cables.....and it sounds fantastic (with most music). There's a lot to be said for it.

Agreed.  Most domestic listening spaces aren't that much better than hotel rooms in real terms so the ability for a system to produce good results in a less than perfect space is a great est.

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