The Bristol Sound & Vision Show is upon us. It’s the three days of the year (Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th February) that the hi-fi and home cinema industry takes over the rooms (and power sockets) of the Marriott City Centre in Bristol - when over 200 brands get the opportunity to display and demo their latest and greatest products to the UK public, and where thousands of wide-eyed punters get the opportunity to see, hear, and in some cases, even come away with them.
We’ve been up and down the hotel lift, scoured the floors and planted many fingermarks to find out what are among the show’s best new products…
iFi Pro iDSD
iFi’s new flagship DAC isn’t being officially launched until next month, but that isn’t stop it making its UK debut at the Bristol Show. The Pro iDSD, priced £2500, supports PCM files up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512 with DSD1024 upsampling, has a selectable tube and solid state analogue stage, and works over the LinkPlay hi-res wi-fi platform.
iFi is also displaying a pre-production version of the xDSD, the latest addition to its mobile headphone amp/DAC range and available in April. Slotting in above the nano iDSD Black Label, the xDSD also full PCM and DSD support, as well as six to eight hours battery life and aptX Bluetooth streaming. Move over Mojo? Watch this space.
Dynaudio Xeo 20
Dynaudio has at long last updated its 2014-launched, five-star Xeo 4 and Xeo 6 active speakers. The new Xeo 20s standmounts (£1999) and Xeo 30 floorstanders (£3199) that stand in their places supposedly benefit from improved bass and off-axis performance, and will soon be joined by the Xeo 10s, which are essentially slightly re-styled versions of the five-star Xeo 2s. Needless to say, our hopes for the new models are high.
Being described as the brand’s "most premium turntable ever" (no biggie), the $10,000 SP-10R seems to have all the technical wizardry we've come to expect from Technics turntables - both in their early days and since its revival over three years ago - which here includes a newly-developed ‘noise reduction circuit’, and a coreless direct-drive motor that Technics claims has enough force to rotate the platter with very low-speed irregularities.
Those looking for the complete system variant will want to glance an eye over the Technics SL-1000R, which adds the triple-layered base and S-shaped tonearm, doubling the damage when it comes to price.
Hopefully it won’t always be the case, but right now any home cinema projector with 4K, HDR and laser in its description means serious business and steep asking prices.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Optoma’s flagship UHZ65 (based on its Award-winning lamp-sourced UHD65) is only one of a few to speak of. At £5000, it’s considerably more affordable than Sony’s current offering and the JVC DLA-Z1 (which we demoed at the Bristol show last year), putting it in good stead to keep Optoma in winning ways.
Read more: Optoma announces flagship 4K projector
Pro-Ject Debut III S Audiophile
'A turntable of many firsts' is how we’d best describe Pro-Ject’s new Debut model. It’s the first Debut deck with an S-shaped tonearm, and the first Pro-Ject turntable to feature a new, exclusive cartridge and the brand’s new logo.
Another new Pro-Ject product is enjoying its first public outing at the Bristol Show, too. In order to pander to a portion of today’s new wave of record spinners that also seek streaming convenience, some turntables now have built-in Bluetooth recievers – like Pro-Ject’s also-new, friendlier-named Jukebox E.
Read more: Pro-Ject launches Debut III S Audiophile
Monitor Audio Studio
Among the most striking standmounts on the showfloor thanks to their honeycomb tweeters, sandwiching metallic-silver RDT II cones and grille-less design, Monitor Audio’s new £1000 Studios are enjoying their debut at Bristol. Small on footprint, big on tech, they appear to have high aspirations, borrowing the driver design of the company’s £15,000 Platinum PL500 II floorstanders.
While we haven’t done anything more than clap eyes on the brand’s most affordable (and, going by its name, self-assured) powered DAC, we already expect big things from it – as we would from any product based on the company’s multi-Award-winning Hugo 2 DAC.
Essentially a Hugo 2 without the headphone amp and rechargeable battery, its purpose is to slot into a hi-fi system rather than be used with headphones. In typical Chord DAC fashion, file support is extensive, with the USB-typeB input, for example, supporting 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512. We'll have the pleasure of the Qutest's company in our test rooms soon, so keep your eyes peeled for our review.
New year, new… fascia? The new three-strong HDA range sees Arcam’s first design fascia change in 19 years and, more importantly, is supposedly the brand’s “best performing range of audio products yet”. While it introduces the SA10 and SA20 integrated amps, our interest is particularly piqued by the CDS50 SACD/CD-player-cum-streamer, priced £1699 and available in spring.
Like any successor to a current or former Award winner, these dinky desktop devils (emphasis on the dinky) are as anticipated as speakers of this size and purpose come. Promising a sonic improvement over the DS-1 pair, which we gave an award to in 2015, the DS-2s hope to be straddling your laptop or perched on your bookshelf once they’re available in March.
Rega P1 Plus
With a turntable heritage as illustrious as Rega’s, you may be surprised to know the brand has only just launched its first turntable with a built-in phono stage. Before now, the entire line-up has been decks-only.
Making its debut at the Bristol Show, the P1 Plus is essentially a Planar 1 turntable with a moving magnet Fono Mini A2D phono stage built in – which, considering the Award-winning feat of both products, puts the £328 P1 Plus in good stead to enjoy similar success.
Astell & Kern ACRO L1000
The portable music player purveyor has furthered its foray into other audio products – not with another CD ripper or desktop music player this time but a desktop amplifier, headphone amp and DAC.
Astell & Kern has done anything but dial in the design, dominating the aluminium casework with a volume wheel that’ll have both of your hands out of their pockets.
It’s well specc’d too - priced £799, the ACRO L1000 can play PCM files up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD11.2MHz, and is in possession of 2.5mm, 3.5mm, 6.5mm and XLR audio outputs.
Read more: Astell & Kern ACRO L1000 is a hi-res desktop amp and DAC
Dali Callisto 6
Having teamed up with Lenbrook International aka Bluesound, Dali has made two wireless speakers that use Lenbrook's BluOS hi-res multi-room platform – Callisto. We first saw the Callisto 2 standmount and Callisto 6 floorstander at IFA 2017, and while the versions being demoed at the Bristol Show are still at pre-production stage, they’re due to hit shelves in the coming months.
If our first impressions from the demo of the 6s are anything to go by, the wait will be worth it.
Quad Artera Solus
A do-it-all just-add-speakers system at the heart of Quad's award-winning demo room this weekend, Quad's new Artera Solus (£1500, available now) is a combined CD transport, DAC, preamplifier and power amplifier.
It’s the first Artera product to offer Bluetooth connectivity using the aptX codec for 'CD-like' 16-bit/44.1kHz audio, and its 32-bit, eight-channel DAC (capable of playing PCM files up to a 32-bit/384kHz) feeds five digital inputs.