The 2023 Bristol Hi-Fi Show is in full swing. Held at the Delta Hotels Marriott, Bristol City Centre Hotel from 24-26 February and now in its 34th year, it's a welcome return after a Covid-induced absence of three years.
For UK-based lovers of quality audio and the equipment that produces it, a visit to the Bristol Show is a must. It is Britain’s biggest and longest-running exhibition event of its kind and it's certainly been good to be back.
More than 160 exhibitors are showing their wares this year, and Team What Hi-Fi? are here too, answering queries, bringing you highlights from the show floor, and giving live demonstrations of our bespoke custom-built, multi-speaker AV surround sound system incorporating the latest TV tech. Also, look out for our special competition to win over £10k's worth of shiny new kit.
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Bristol Show news and highlights
Not only does Bristol present an unrivalled opportunity to see and hear the latest audio hardware, it also offers the chance to buy a variety of hi-fi equipment and accessories at bargain prices thanks to the special offers that are available there - here's a full list of deals at the show.
Astell & Kern
We're most looking forward to seeing the unique ACRO CA1000T system. It's a desktop-based headphone amplifier and DAC with a tiltable screen that is also battery-powered ("portable" they say) with extensive hi-res audio support (native DSD, full MQA decoding, LDAC and aptX HD codecs) and advanced technology that will drive any audiophile-grade headphones.
Products from Audiolab’s recently announced flagship 9000 series, the 9000A integrated amplifier and 9000CDT CD transport, will be on live demo all throughout the show weekend, paired with Mission 770 and Wharfedale Dovedale speakers.
The just-launched 7000 series (pictured above) will also be revealed to the public for the first time.
High-end German brand AVM will be showing two new products for the first time at the Bristol Show, paired up with new Martin Logan Motion speakers (pictured above).
First up is the AVM Evolution CS 5.3 all-in-one streaming CD player, which will be partnered with the brand new Martin Logan Motion loudspeaker series at the show. The CS 5.3 features 350W of amplification into two channels, a built-in CD player and can stream hi-res audio files up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256.
Additionally, the flagship AVM OVATION CS 8.3 all-in-one streaming CD player will also be on full blast, powering the PMC twenty5i series speakers. With an enormous 500W per channel on board, the OVATION CS 8.3 Black Edition is also equipped with "an extra special grade of valves reserved just for this model" – this is designed to improve the valve preamplification stage to the next level, and deliver the best possible sound performance overall.
Chord Company will be exhibiting in not one but two rooms in 2023 in addition to its familiar foyer stand. It will be showing new analogue cables, innovative noise-reducing power solutions and revealing some dedicated 8-pin DIN and Burndy cables to complement Naim Audio’s new Classic series of hi-fi electronics.
At Bristol, Chord Electronics will have a wide range of prodcuts on display, so there should be something for everyone. The recently launched Ultima Pre 3 will undoubtedly be one of the main attractions, where it will be paired with 300-watt ULTIMA 5 stereo power amp.
But the demos don't stop there. Over the course of the show the company will also be demonstrating its Mojo 2 and Hugo 2 DAC and headphone amps, its Anni desktop integrated amplifier, plus the Qutest DAC.
The Reference Jubilee turntable from high-end disc-spinner specialists Clearaudio will be making its debut at Bristol. Billed as showcasing “the best of Clearaudio past, present and future”, the deck reprises the distinctive boomerang-shaped design of the original, 1980s Reference (Clearaudio’s first-ever turntable), but replaces the original’s acrylic construction with a wood and aluminium chassis and a new motor.
Cable and power specialists Connected Fidelity are branching out to join the deck party too, with their first turntable – the mid-priced HUB – which is constructed from a special bamboo-based material and uses quartz-clocked electronics to help ensure speed accuracy and consistency.
The turntable will be available in two finishes (natural bamboo and a dark stained finish), while the HUB demos at the show will include a Sorane tonearm and Hana MC cartridge.
Cyrus Audio will be showing off the i9-XR stereo amplifier that leads the XR Series range along with the newly announced PSU-XR power supply. Cyrus says the amp achieves "new levels of sonic performance with the addition of the PSU-XR external power supply."
Cyrus Audio will be sharing space with Auralic and Spendor on the 1st floor Castle View Suite, with the Auralic Altair G1.1 music streamer and five-star Spendor A7 and D7.2 speakers completing the demo.
Danish hi-fi brand Dynaudio will be running demos of its new Focus range of active wireless speaker systems in the Bristol Suite foyer. Announced mid-2022, Focus is an all-in-one system with built-in amplification and DAC (in standmounter and floorstanding varieties) that can play any music from any source (viny? CD? TV? yes to all) thanks to wi-fi, multiple analogue and digital inputs and it's even Roon Ready.
You'll also be able to have a gander at the company's Confidence, Special Forty, Contour and Emit speakers in the room. The team has also promised you can have "a nice sit down and listen to some great music".
Another brand showing off new additions to an existing range is Exposure. Its 3510 series of separates (integrated amplifier, pre/power amps) is now joined by a pair of 3510 mono block power amplifiers, which will make their Bristol Show debut this year.
French hi-fi brand Focal will be joining Naim in the Executive Lounge with a demo of Naim's new Classic series and the Focal Sopra 2 speakers.
Turntables need phono stages and that’s where niche brand Funk – the force behind Pink Triangle – comes in with the Akutrak stage, which, it is claimed, is the only product of its kind to correct cartridge frequency-response errors. Funk will also be showing a concept prototype pair of active floorstanding speakers.
Cable and connector specialist Furutech, meanwhile, will be launching its top-of-the-range LineFlux NCF interconnects.
The fine folk at Fyne Audio will be showcasing two speakers from the all-new retro-styled Vintage loudspeaker series, which we first glimpsed at Munich High End 2022. The flagship Vintage Fifteen is a £30,000 pair which boasts the Scottish brand's newest and largest 15in (38cm) IsoFlare driver to date, housed in a real wood hand-finished cabinet and featuring Fyne's patented technologies such as the FyneFlute surround design, BassTrax ports and "deep cryogenically treated" crossovers.
These giants will be on demo on the third floor. Also sharing space in the demo room is the new baby of the family: the "micro" Vintage Five standmounter speakers with a much smaller 5in (12.7cm) IsoFlare driver will get their first introduction at Bristol (pictured above).
Alongside the manufacturers of source units, headphones, amplifiers and speakers, the Bristol Show will also be hosting an army of accessory providers, including respected UK brand Hi-Fi Racks (no prizes for guessing what they make). The company will be showing its new Totus range of highly customisable hi-fi furniture made from solid-oak and solid-walnut hardwoods.
Korean-based HiFi Rose has made quite the splash with its beautifully designed hi-fi products. Key product on demo is the latest RS520: a well-equipped just-add-speakers solution for anyone wanting to combine a network player, DAC and integrated amplifier in one compact box.
Loudspeaker veterans JBL will be showing off their newest soundbar, the Bar 1300, in the Empire 2 Suite on the ground floor. As well as having a wireless subwoofer, it boasts detachable rear speakers that help turn it into a standalone mini surround sound system. We have yet to get our hands on one (it doesn’t go on sale until mid-February) but are more than a little intrigued.
JBL's new Classic series of hi-fi separates (stereo amplifier, CD player, music streamer and turntable), the new 4329P Studio Monitors system and a new high gloss black edition of the L100 Classic speakers are also on display.
Klipsch will be showcasing its new The Sevens high-res-supporting, powered monitors. They're the latest addition (alongside The Nines) to the company's Heritage Series of speakers and feature luxury materials, Bluetooth support, a built-in phono pre-amp, HDMI connectivity and 200W of total system power.
Welsh hi-fi brand Leema Acoustics will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with the reveal of a new Quantum series of products, all handmade in Wales, which we'll see for the first time at the show.
While there are no specific details of each product yet, we know the range will consist of the following: an Electron CD player, a Positron music streamer, a Neutron DAC/preamp and a Graviton power amplifier.
We don't have confirmation of what Linn will be showing at Bristol, but it's worth noting that the brand will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Definitely worth a visit, even if just to wish many happy returns...
Danish hi-fi brand Lyngdorf Audio will be at the Bristol Show for the first time, bringing its new and distinctive Cue-100 loudspeakers, which will be driven by the TDAI-3400 integrated amplifier. The speakers use new Purifi drivers and an AMT tweeter, while the amplifier handily makes use of Lyngdorf’s RoomPerfect room calibration system.
MartinLogan's new Motion and Motion XT series of speakers will be making their UK debut at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show.
The fourth generation Motion Series comprises five models (two floorstanders, one standmount, one centre channel and a surround, ranging £1195 to £3995) while the new and more premium Motion XT range comprises four models (two floorstanders, one standmount and a centre channel) - the latter series ranging in price from £1795 to £6495.
The Motion series has been “completely reimagined” with upgraded thin-film tweeters, new woven fibreglass mid/bass woofers and a new crossover design. The Motion XT uses an advanced variant of the tweeter and Kevlar woofers.
Here's an exciting piece of news: McIntosh (along with sister brand Sonus Faber) will be making its debut at the Bristol Show this year. The iconic American brand will be lighting up the show with its trademark blue and green-lit kit – specifics are still unknown, but this is one demo room we imagine will be bursting to full throughout the weekend.
Melco is bringing its entire product range of Japanese-engineered digital music libraries (music streamers with built-in storage) to the Bristol Show. This includes the latest, full-width N50-H60 (6 TB HDD) and N50-S38 (3.8 TB SSD) models, the flagship two-box N10 with a separate linear power supply, and the entry-level, five-star N100 streamer.
Headphone fanatics will no doubt be pleased to know that Meze Audio will be exhibiting. We're hoping to get our hands on the latest 109 Pro (a dynamic open-backed and audiophile version of the popular 99 Classics) – made of luxurious materials and black walnut wood, and sporting custom-designed dual composite 50mm drivers.
One of the products we're looking forward to seeing most at the Bristol Show is the Mission 778X, the company's first stereo amplifier in 40 years.
Updated since 1983's first version, the new amp mixes analogue with digital and Bluetooth smarts to bring it up to modern day standards.
The Award-winning Mission 770 speakers will also be on live demo with Audiolab electronics every afternoon.
The company recently added new premium amplifiers to the Nu-Vista range, with the Nu-Vista PRE preamplifier on show. The all-analogue PRE is a Class A design with 12 line-level inputs (RCA and balanced XLR) and comes with a matching outboard power supply unit.
A surprise reveal at the show has been the brand new Musical Fidelity M8xtt turntable, pictured above.
Not for the first time, Naim will be making a splash at the show – perhaps more so than usual as it is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Taking pride of place alongside the champagne corks in the Executive Lounge will be the new Classis series products: the NSC 222 streaming amplifier and a new 100W-per-channel incarnation of the iconic NAP 250 power amplifier with NPX 300 power supply. You'll be able to hear them with the Focal Sopra 2 speakers.
British loudspeaker manufacturer Neat Acoustics will be launching the latest addition to its Classic Series, the Elite, complete with its distinctive AMT tweeter.
Onkyo & Pioneer
Two AV heavyweights make a welcome return to the Bristol Show. It's been a long time since we've seen an either an Onkyo or Pioneer AV amp.
Henley Audio have taken the reigns for UK distribution, so you'll see passive displays of the latest Onkyo and Pioneer home cinema amps on the ground floor at Bristol.
High-end turntable brand Origin Live will be showing the latest Mk5 updates of its turntable ranges. There's a remodelled multi-layer platter and a new power supply update on the Calypso, Resolution, Sovereign, Voyager and the upcoming Swift turntables, which should deliver performance upgrades.
You'll be able to listen to the new Sovereign-S Mk5 turntable on demo, while the Calypso and Voyager Mk5 decks will be on display. We loved the Sovereign turntable when we tested it back in 2005 (five stars), so are looking forward to hearing the latest model.
Among the other eye-catching turntable designs at Bristol will be the Blue Danube from long-dormant hi-fi brand Pink Triangle. Sporting an aqua-coloured band across its plinth (hence the name), this customisable, reference-standard deck is said to possess “the lowest wow, flutter and rumble ever measured”.
While there aren't any new speaker products from PMC, the lead engineer on the twenty5i series development team, Toby Ridley, will be running demos on specific proprietary technologies used by PMC to make their speakers
Each demo will focus on a different technology (such as Advanced Transmission Line, Laminair aerodynamic vent and 24dB fourth order crossovers) and explain how it is fundamental to PMC's speaker design.
If it’s an AV amp that you are after, pay a visit to premium Swedish brand Primare’s stand, where the nine-channel (100W per channel) integrated SPA25 AV amp and processor will be making its debut, complete with Dolby Atmos/DTS processing and 4K HDR switching.
More floorstanders can be found in Empire 3 on the ground floor, where ProAc will be showing and demonstrating models from its flagship K-Series.
Pro-Ject will be showcasing its Colourful Audio System – a complete package that includes the Debut Carbon Evo turntable, all-in-one network streaming amplifier Maia S3 and Speaker Box 5 S2 bookshelf speakers. Fingers crossed they're bringing the lovely golden yellow finish (and they did!)
This year, personnel from hi-res streaming specialist Qobuz – the official streaming service of the show – will be on hand to answer all your streaming-related questions. They will also be curating a set of bespoke playlists and offering all visitors to the show a free 60-day Qobuz trial.
There must've been something in the water in 1973. Turntable specialist Rega is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and we were treated to a very early preview of the upcoming Rega Naia turntable (about £12,000 with the Aphelion 2 MC cartridge fitted) – officially launching in Autumn 2023.
REL Acoustics will be showing no fewer than 10 new models at the 2023 Bristol Hi-Fi Show. Head on up to the 3rd floor, where REL's staff will be demonstrating and discussing all things associated with the company.
Always wondered what the fuss was about Roon? Need someone to show you the ropes? Roon's Nucleus+ server will be on demo, connected to various products to show real-world walkthroughs), and the team at Roon and Henley Audio will be on hand to explain how it all works and answer all your questions.
Rotel will be showcasing its new Diamond Series models: the DT-6000 DAC Transport (£1999) and RA-6000 amplifier (£3999).
Both models were unveiled in 2022 to celebrate Rotel's 60th anniversary and they sit just below Rotel's high-end Michi range, and benefit from a "Michi-inspired" circuit design. They're furnished with plenty of features and connections to play your CDs and hi-res digital audio (through the DT-6000) and vinyl, Bluetooth streaming and more (through the RA-6000). The amp has 350 watts of power into 4 ohms and features technical and performance designs inspired by the Michi models.
Staying with the headphone theme, Sennheiser will be showing its new HD 660S2 open-back over-ear headphones alongside its just-released IE 200 premium wired earbuds, complete with a number of design innovations, including a revised, braided cable.
Joining sister-brand McIntosh, we're excited to see Sonus Faber also making their debut at the Bristol Show. The Italian hi-fi brand has recently revamped the 90s' Homage range of loudspeakers, while we're hoping the five-star Lumina V floorstanders will also make an appearance.
If you like your speakers to look a little different, you might be tempted by the newest member of the Kaya range from Vivid Audio, the idiosyncratic S12.
Based in South Africa and headed by technical director Laurence Dickie (who originally designed the B&W Nautilus speakers), the Kaya S12s are the baby of the family, cost around £6000, and can be colour-matched to nearly any car too.
What Hi-Fi? will be there too, giving live demonstrations of our bespoke custom-built, multi-speaker AV surround sound system incorporating the latest TV tech. We'll have products from Sony, McIntosh and Sonus Faber to deliver a rather thrilling experience. It's also a chance to have a sit down, so make sure you stop by!
Our team will also be on hand to offer audio-based advice and answer your hi-fi-related questions.
You can also enter our special competition to be in with a chance of winning over £10k worth of kit.
Wharfedale will be exclusively launching the new Dovedale speakers at the show. They're the latest and biggest speakers in its Heritage Series line of revived classic speakers with modern technology, and are the first Wharfedale speakers in a long while to be made in the UK.
The three-way Dovedales take inspiration from a 1971 design, feature a 25mm soft dome tweeter, 13cm midrange and 25cm bass Kevlar-cone drivers, and a lovely real-wood finish design. Cost? £5000 per pair, or £5,500 including dedicated stands.
Wilson Benesch will be presenting the latest loudspeaker from its new Fibonacci Series reference line, the ACT 3zero floorstanders. The speakers stand just over one metre tall and use cutting-edge and eco-friendly technology: the enclosure uses sustainably sourced and bio-based composite materials in its construction, replacing the carbon fibre-heavy structure of its ACT predecessor.
The speakers further use a new isobaric drive system comprised of two seven-inch Tactic 3.0 drivers. There's also a new one-inch Fibonacci Tweeter, and a dedicated seven-inch Tactic 3.0 midrange cone that is directly amplifier coupled.
The demo system in full is as follows: Wilson Benesch A.C.T. 3zero speakers, Turntable, IGx Infrasonic Frequency Generator and R1 Carbon HIFI Racks; Ypsilon Aelius II Special Edition monoblock (x2) and PST-100 preamplifier; CAD 1543 DAC MKII, CAT Server, Ground Control GC1.1 and Ground Control GC3.1; and RCM Audio TheRIAA phono preamplifier.
Wireworld Cables will be relaunching in the UK at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show, thanks to its new distributor, Acoustic Energy. Also at the show will be David Salz, President and cable designer of Wireworld Cables US. David will be on hand Friday and Saturday to discuss any cable queries you might have.
Yamaha might be best known in audio circles for its acclaimed AV amps, but at Bristol the company will be demonstrating its NS-2000A three-way floorstanding speakers, R-N2000A stereo receiver and all-new YH-5000SE headphones. The latter are a high-end homage to the planar magnetic design the company used in the early ’70s. If you have never heard what a £5000 pair of headphones sounds like, here is your chance.