The Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2020 was a predictable success with three busy days of impressive hi-fi and AV demonstrations.
It was the 33rd incarnation of the UK’s largest and longest running hi-fi show and it was once again the place to be to see all of your favourite audio brands in one place, showcasing their latest and greatest products.
If you made your way to the What Hi-Fi? stand and demo room you would have been treated to an 8K treat, thanks to a 2020 LG 8K OLED TV, alongside a Wharfedale Evo 4.4, 7.2-channel surround sound system, Denon AVR and Pioneer Blu-ray player. We also had a 120fps 4K Blu-ray clip of Gemini Man to give your eyes something else to think about. There was the show competition, too – look out for the announcement of the winners – and of course a chance to subscribe to this very magazine at a special discounted price!
Scroll down to see our news from the show – there are certainly some products to look out for in the coming months...
Bristol Hi-Fi Show highlights
Bristol Hi-Fi Show preview
So what’s in store for visitors this year? Here’s a sneak peak at some of what you can expect from the show floor…
Astell & Kern
The show naturally exhibits many five-star products, and one of them this year will be Astell & Kern’s flagship A&ultima SP2000 portable music player, which we recently said “sounds like no other PMP we’ve heard”.
Members lower down in the company’s range will also be making an appearance: the Kann Kube will also be available for demo-ing, and visitors will also have one of the first chances to see the all-new SA700 portable player that was announced in November.
Arcam (and JBL)
Harman Luxury Audio Group, the firm behind Arcam, JBL Synthesis, Lexicon, Mark Levinson and Revel, has a cinematic treat in store for attendees. In the Empire 2 area, there will be live demonstrations with the 16-channel AVR30 receive and the IMAX Enhanced-equipped AV40 processor, driving a 7.4.4 speaker system made up of JBL's new HDI line of speakers.
The show will also mark the first UK public outing of the L82 Classic speakers that JBL announced at CES 2020.
Likely to be paired with an Astell & Kern player or two, Audeze headphones will have a keen presence at the Bristol 2020 show. More specifically, there’ll be the brand-new and, for Audeze kit, affordable LCD-1 planar magnetic headphones, the £849 LCD-GX audiophile gaming headphones, and the higher-end LCD-i3 aptX HD wireless earbuds.
Audiolab & Wharfedale
Audiolab is teaming up with Wharfedale for what’s bound to be a fine audio demonstration in The Old Vic Suite on the lower ground floor. Audiolab’s entire 6000 Series, which compromises the Award-winning 6000N Play streamer, five-star 6000A integrated amp and the 6000CDT CD transport, will be on demo, partnered with Wharfedale’s five-star EVO4.4 floorstanders (every morning) and the Linton speakers from Wharfedale’s Heritage Series (every afternoon).
Incidentally, a Wharfedale EVO4.4-based speaker package will be a significant player in What Hi-Fi?’s 8K demos in the Bristol Suite.
Bowers & Wilkins
Bowers had a big 2019, and because of that it isn't short of products to show off at Bristol. Visitors to the B&W room in the Wallace Suite won't know where to look first. There'll be the latest PX7 headphones, the five-star 600 Series and the 700-series speakers, the formidable Formation wireless range, and the latest OLED TV from B&W's highly acclaimed partnership with Philips, the OLED+984 TV.
Naturally, that showcase is completed by high-end hi-fi demo heralded by – cameras out – its iconic 800 D3 loudspeakers in a beautiful new Santos Rosewood finish. The new Rotel Michi Series of high-end, hi-fi electronics will be one of the star exhibits in the Wallace Suite, too.
British cable specialist Chord Company is preparing for its biggest Bristol ever! While it is keeping specific details under wraps, it will be launching a number of new AV cables at Bristol, as well as demo-ing its new Epic X speaker cable and Epic DIN cables in room 112. The award-winning Clearway Analogue interconnect (worth £90) is also being given away to visitors who subscribe to the What Hi-Fi? magazine at the show.
As for the hi-fi industry’s other favourite Chord, Bristol will see the UK debut of a brand-new Chord Electronics product that’s “set to transform the capability of one of its most popular products”. There will also be new products from the high-end ULTIMA series of amplifiers. Chord Electronics will have a vast presence: visitors can see them on Stand Bristol 5 on the Ground Floor, on Stand Bristol 6 on the Ground Floor and in the SS Great Britain 1 Suite on the Ground Floor.
Among retailer Advanced MP3 Players' Bristol showcase will be the newest portable music player from Cowon. The Plenue R2 is the latest model in what's been a successful range, with the Plenue D2 and its predecessor having scooped What Hi-Fi? Awards. The R2 has a promising spec list that includes 32-bit/384kHz playback and a dual next-generation premium DAC design that "merely sips battery power while delivering the best audio output". Room 310.
In room 106, Cyrus will be treating visitors' ears to the fourth member of its One range, the One Cast just-add-speakers streaming system. Its network streaming experience is based on Google Cast, meaning that music streaming apps – Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music, Qobuz, Tidal and BBC Sounds, to name a handful – can be easily streamed through One Cast.
On a mission to rub shoulders with Sonos, Denon will be showcasing its recently announced Home multi-room wireless speakers. The Home 150, 250 and 350 are all built on the established HEOS streaming platform. Voice control is also on the menu, with Denon Home control possible via third-party Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa devices. Each of the speakers has an integrated microphone, too, with native voice assistant support to be added via a firmware update in 2020. With that, they'll also fall into the 'smart speaker' category.
Bristol will mark the UK debut of the flagship from its new Legacy Series, the 3230 floorstanders. Also in room 208 will be the latest speaker in the French brand's spherical Planet Series, the October-announced W35, which we recently said “is one of the most stylish, home decor-friendly wireless speakers around, and [has] got enough welly to fill all but the biggest rooms”.
In the Advanced MP3 Players room (310) will be FiiO's new digital music player, the M15, which utilises many top-of-the-line components, such as AKM's flagship AK4499EQ third generation DAC, capable of decoding up to 768kHz sampling rate and native DSD512. There's 64GB of storage (expandable up to 2TB), a built-in Bluetooth receiver and 15 hours of playback time.
Fyne Audio will have the first fruits of its newly opened Glasgow production facility on show at Bristol. There will be three new additions to the premium F700 speaker range, the F700 (£2499), F701 (£3999) and range-topping F704 based on a 30cm IsoFlare driver and 30cm bass unit. Visitors will be able to spy a collection of Fyne’s speakers in the Bristol Suite downstairs, while two demo rooms upstairs will offer listening opportunities.
Portable music player purveyor iBasso will be showing off its latest DAP. The DX160 is a midrange model with dual CS43198 DACs, 32GB of internal storage (optionally expandable by SDXC and SDHC Micro SD cards), Android Oreo OS, 13-hour playback time and a 5in Full HD display.
AV demonstrations are few and far between at Bristol Show, but there are always a couple of sit in on – and one this year will be in KEF's room. The British company will be showing just what a R Series 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos AV system can deliver. The set-up will comprise its flagship R11 speakers, the more compact R5 floorstanders and the R2c centre speaker.
Klipsch will come armed with the latest updates to its Heritage speaker range. The Heresy IV and Cornwall IV, the originals of which were launched in 1957 and 1959, keep their classic look but feature bang-up-to-date technology including an all-new crossover and internal cabling from Audioquest. You can spy the revamped classics in room 418.
Leema Acoustics has confirmed it will be demoing a range of the company's UK made stereo products. The Bristol Hi-Fi Show will see a demo of the Pulse IV and Stream IV, the latest incarnation of Leema's source and amplifier combination, which together delivers CD playback, hi-res audio streaming, an MM/MC phono stage, high-quality DAC, wireless Bluetooth and that all-important amplification. The Welsh company will also be showing its advanced music streaming server, Sirius, the five-star Tucana II Anniversary Edition integrated amplifier, and the Elements Ultra phono stage, an update to the five-star Elements. You can find Leema Acoustics in room 412 on the 4th floor.
Want to listen to the best-sounding wireless speaker we've ever heard? Good news: if you're going to Bristol you'll get to. Linn will continuously run two types of ticketed, 25-minute demonstrations over the three-day show, the first of which is its new Series 3, which we recently praised in its five-star review for its excellent combination of sonic articulacy and luxury design. That same demo will also give Linn's Selekt DSM modular, upgradeable network music streamer a run out. The second demo, meanwhile, will centre around Linn's legendary Sondek LP12 turntable.
You can get your hands on a 10 per cent off Linn Products Voucher when you book and join one of the demos.
Living Voice, Kuzma and Triode Corporation
As the newly appointed UK distributor for KUZMA and Triode Corporation Japan, Definitive Audio will be showcasing numerous products – both new and old – from the two brands at Bristol. What’s more, we’re told Franc Kuzma himself will be making his debut at the show, while Living Voice speaker designer Kevin Scott Kevin Scott will be DJing using the Kuzma Stabi S,R and M models and a range of Kuzma tone arms and cartridges.
These demos will be bringing the heat too (!) with an all-valve system that includes the Triode Corporation TRX-M300 mono amplifiers, SJS phono and line preamplifiers and Living Voice OBX-RW3 loudspeakers.
Big news: In light of the company gaining a new UK distributor (PMC Distribution UK) in July 2019, US speaker outfit Martin Logan is making its Bristol Show debut. Its presence will give the UK’s audiophiles their first opportunity to see all the company’s ranges in one place. Why now?
“What is little known in the UK is that Martin Logan has an extensive range of speakers that have inherited the DNA of the flagship products, but at a much more affordable price making the Martin Logan magic available to everyone… For this reason we are making a special effort to bring the entire range to the Bristol Show, so the UKs hi-fi fans can see what theyve been missing and how accessible Martin Logan is,” says PMC Distribution UK director Ian Sutton.
Martin Logan has recently expanded its renowned electrostatic loudspeaker offering with the new Motion Series, which will be on show alongside the brand’s flagship Masterpiece series electrostatic speakers and other products in the ground floor Bristol Suite. PMC will also be conducting timed demonstrations of select products in the SS Great Britain 1 & 2 suites, too.
Melco What Hi-Fi? in the Bristol Suite will have a nice neighbour in Melco. The digital music library specialist will show the new S100 data switch, in addition to the newly announced EX Series of libraries, which feature advanced search and browse functionality following the integration of Melco Intelligent Music Library (MIML) software.
Monitor Audio has announced the next generation of its renowned Bronze Series of budget speakers, and we can't wait to hear them when they get their official launch at the Bristol Show. The new range comprises eight models: there are two standmounts (Bronze 50 and Bronze 100) and two floorstanders (Bronze 200 and Bronze 500), with a centre speaker (Bronze C150), rear speaker (Bronze FX), Dolby Atmos speaker (Bronze AMS) and subwoofer (Bronze W10) rounding out the range for AV use. Monitor Audio will be previewing them at the February show in the Bristol Marriott City Centre Hotel's Empire 1 Suite.
Fresh off a five-star review for its M2sCD player, Musical Fidelity will be unveiling its latest integrated amplifier. The M8xi comprises a DAC, pre-amplifier and two monobloc power amps housed inside one large chassis, and is capable of delivering a generous 550-watt power output. You can experience it in The Bristol Suite this weekend.
Pretty neat news: Neat Acoustics will be revealing its latest speaker, the Ministra. A compact bookshelf version of the Ekstra speaker that launched at last year’s Bristol Show, it also features iso-baric bass loading and a true-ribbon tweeter. And borrowing too from the company’s Ultimatum models, its sub-baffle, which houses the drive units, is coupled to the main cabinet via a polyethylene membrane.
Completely ready and waiting to be demoed at the Bristol Show, it promises to deliver a “room-filling and innately musical presentation” that belies its modest size.
ProAC is launching not one but two new speakers at Bristol. The K1 standmounts and flagship K10 floorstander expand the company’s K Series range, which already includes the likes of the K3, K6 and K6 Signature. The former is a two-way stand mount design featuring ProAc's proven 6.5in Kevlar mid-bass driver and ribbon tweeter, which are integrated by a “high quality” crossover and housed in a ported cabinet designed fist utilised in the K6.
The floorstander, meanwhile, is supposedly the culmination of Stewart Tyler's 40 year speaker design experience. It incorporates two 8in Kevlar professional quality bass drivers, two midrange units and a ribbon tweeter, housed in a slim cabinet that also uses a porting arrangement.
Show attendees will be the first in the UK to have the opportunity to experience Rel Acoustics' renowned S/510 line array, a vertical stack of three units designed to elevate reproduction from conventional stereo or theatre to a floor to ceiling panoramic presentation. Rel says 'the proper perspective and height of sonic events are illuminated' with this design. So why not hear for yourself? At Bristol, the line array will be demonstrated paired with the highly acclaimed KEF Reference 1.
British hi-fi outfit Rogers has created the AB3a active stereo subwoofer system specifically designed for use with the legendary LS3/5a – and in room 420 at Bristol visitors will be able to hear it.
The AB3a's configuration is the same as Rogers' original AB1 where each subwoofer doubles as a stand for the partnering LS3/5a. They use two LS3/5a bass units, each mass loaded to lower the resonant frequency and stiffen the bextrene cone for increased low-end definition. And each houses a 50-watt mono amplifier that can be adjusted for gain, frequency and phase response.
In the 1st Floor Conservatory, its usual spot, British high-end brand Wilson Benesch has confirmed it will be exhibiting its five-star, £5995 speakers, the Precision P1.0 – which you'll want to hear, by the way – alongside other models from its other speaker lines.
Von Gaylord Audio
US hi-fi brand Von Gaylord Audio is back at Bristol for its third year running, too, this time armed with both its entry-level and reference systems. Among the kit being demonstrated in room 404 is the Harmony preamplifier, and the VG-8 monitors powered by Triode Valve mono amps.