We wouldn’t want to try and guess what new year’s resolutions you might have made (ignore the news? cancel the gym membership?) but, for our part, we have decided – in a carpe diem sort of a way – to get out and about more. And we know where we will be going for our first major outing: the 2023 Bristol Hi-Fi Show.
The 2023 Bristol Hi-Fi Show will be held at the Delta Hotels Marriott, Bristol City Centre Hotel from 24-26 February. Tickets are available online via the show’s official website or on the door. That's in three weeks, so get your tickets now (opens in new tab).
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, following a Covid-induced absence of three years, is set to be back bigger and better than ever this year.
For more than three decades (this will be the show’s 34th year), Bristol has been a firm fixture in the audio industry’s calendar and the go-to event for punters and manufacturers alike. More than 160 exhibitors will be showing their wares this year, including leading hi-fi brands such as Marantz, Linn, Technics, Rega, Bowers & Wilkins, Naim, Pro-Ject and Onkyo. Oh, and we'll be there too, answering queries 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 a stack of shiny new kit.
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.
Bristol always provides a number of last-minute surprises and many companies still have their big guns under wraps but, to help whet your appetite, we have compiled a rundown of some of this year’s already-revealed highlights and we'll be adding more in the run-up to the main event. So, without further ado...
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.
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.
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.
Cyrus Audio will be showing off its latest XR Series range, along with the newly announced PSU-XR power supply. We're also hoping to see glimpses of the newly revived Cyrus Classic line of hi-fi separates.
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.
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.
Will we also see JBL's new Classic series of hi-fi separates on show, including the brand's first-ever turntable? We'll have to wait and see.
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...
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.
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.
The company recently added new premium amplifiers to the Nu-Vista range, and the key product on demo will be the Nu-Vista PRE preamplifier. 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.
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”.
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.
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. Rega plays things close to the chest so we'll get our first glimpse of any new products at the show...
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, and the team at Henley Audio will be on hand to explain how it all works with compatible products.
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.
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. 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 thousands of pounds’ worth of premium hi-fi kit.
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.