The UK's largest and longest running hi-fi show is back next week… and now with a new name!
Organiser Audio T has changed the show’s name from ‘Sound & Vision - The Bristol Show’ to simply 'The Bristol Hi-Fi Show' - not because the show has gone through any kind of divorce, but as it better reflects the returned dominance of two-channel fare, and the smaller percentage of home cinema product at the show in recent years.
AV brands will still exhibit, however - Audio T simply believed it was time to scrap the misleading equal billing of ‘sound’ and ‘vision’.
Otherwise the iconic, beloved event – now in its 32nd year – returns largely unchanged on Friday 22nd February to Sunday 24th. Held at the Marriott City Centre Hotel In Bristol, the show will see the display and demo of the latest and greatest hi-fi kit from over 160 exhibiting brands, including floors of familiar faces: Arcam, Audiolab, Bowers & Wilkins, Chord Electronics, Cyrus, KEF, Naim, Pro-Ject, Rega, Technics and Wilson Benesch, plus more.
Indeed, if the South West of England is more convenient for you to get to than Munich (for the High-End Show) or Berlin (for IFA), then The Bristol Hi-Fi Show is the hi-fi show for you.
So what’s in store for visitors this year? A few handfuls of brands have already given us a sneak peak at their exhibits…
First things first, a product launch! Following the debut of the company's 300 Series last year and the AE1 Active and 100 Series in 2017, this year’s Bristol Hi-Fi Show hosts another first for Acoustic Energy…
The brand is set to launch its two-strong flagship range, the 500 Series. The AE500 standmount and AE509 floorstander utilises Acoustic Energy's newly developed Carbon Fibre tweeters and mid/bass drivers, housed in new cabinets evolved from the Reference Series.
ATC has just unveiled its CD2 CD player (£1500) and SIA2-100 stereo amplifier (£2500), both of which will be available to hear in Bristol ahead of their April launch. The CD2 uses a TEAC 5020A-AT transport and AKM DAC, while the 200 watt (into 8 ohms) amp is a well-equipped beast with analogue inputs, a 3.5mm input and trio of digital inputs - optical and coaxial, and USB Type B capable of handling PCM 32-bit/384kHz and DSD128 files.
Audiolab's 6000A integrated amp, which we awarded five stars to last September, will be demoed with the matching 6000CDT CD transport and soon-to-launch 6000N network player. The streamer is based on the DTS Play-Fi wireless multi-room platform, offering direct access to Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer, Spotify (through Spotify Connect) and Qobuz, as well as internet radio stations via iHeartRadio and SirusXM. At the demo's helm will be Wharfedale speakers, including some new models set to be previewed exclusively at the show.
Bowers & Wilkins
Bristol Show visitors who’ve read our recent five-star B&W 606 review and thought “I’d like to hear them” are in luck. B&W will be journeying to the south west with its 600 Series, which is now 24 years old, into its sixth iteration and continues its long tradition of marrying sensible prices with technology trickled down from its top ranges.
The new 600 Series ranges from £399 to £1249 and features B&W’s new silver Continuum midrange driver that has replaced the company’s once-iconic yellow Kevlar cone. And if the larger standmounts are anything to go by, this could be the mid-priced speaker range to beat. You will also be able to hear a full B&W 600 7.2 package in action in the What Hi-Fi? demo in the Bristol Suite.
Also on show will be the five-star Philips 55OLED903 TV with B&W sound - and you can win one of these fantastic Ambilight 4K sets by entering the competition in our February 2019 issue, on sale now!
Where? Wallace Suite, lower ground floor
Late last summer, PMC (UK distributor for Bryston) announced the £14,500 Bryston SP4 Surround Processor, which will make an appearance at The Bristol Show. The SP4 is a Dolby Atmos-, Auro-3D- and DTS:X-supporting, 16-channel processor, expandable to a 32-channel system thanks to a set of 16 optional RCA sockets in addition to 16 XLR outputs.
There’s built-in Dirac Live room correction technology, more than a handful of HDMI inputs and other digital connections, and an iOS app and webpage are also available for users who do not have control systems. As it’s built on a modular platform, it also has the potential to be futureproof.
Chord Company will be showing off the benefits of its latest cable technology XLPE, a new insulation material, first used in the September 2018-launched SignatureXL speaker cable and since been tricked down into two new speaker cables, the RumourX and ShawlineX.
Where? Room 112 (first floor), Stand Foyer 1a and 1c (ground floor)
Chord Electronics will be demonstrating its recently-launched Hugo M Scaler, a standalone, FPGA-based upscaler that can upscale CD-quality files (44.1kHz) up to 705.6kHz (16x CD’s resolution), ready to be passed to a suitable DAC. Here, the pairing will be with Chord's Hugo TT2 DAC/preamp/headphone amp and TToby power amp, driving Bowers and Wilkins’ 805D3 speakers.
Chord will also be flexing its portable arm with demos of its Mojo DAC/headphone amp and accompanying Poly wireless streaming module. And Poly-based news is expected to be announced ahead of the show.
Where? Stand Bristol 6 and SS Great Britain 1 Suite, both on the ground floor
Acclaimed for its budget (and successful!) portable music players, Cowon is giving Bristol Show attendees an exclusive first look (and we expect listen) at its new player, the PD2. You can expect a 2.5mm balanced output, dual DACs, DSD support, Cowon's JetEffect EQ software, and hopefully a decent price and performance too.
Where? Advanced MP3 Players, Room 310.
Creek Audio is marking its 37th year in the hi-fi industry by moving its production away from the far-east and fully redeveloping its product line-up. Creek will also be releasing products not seen in its catalogue for some 25 years.
Where? 226 on the second floor.
Dynaudio hopes to really impress with its Bristol Show showcase, which will include its new midrange Evoke speakers (£1100 to £3900) and flagship Confidence range (£11,000 to £35,000).
While we saw the latter at the Munich High End Show in May, the show will mark the first time we’ve clapped eyes on the Evokes, which were announced just before Christmas and which Dynaudio says borrows tech from the company’s higher-end ranges.
MORE: Dynaudio borrows near-flagship tech for midrange Evoke speakers
The Japanese speaker specialist will be demoing its waveform reproduction technology at Bristol with a ‘floorstander-eclipsing’ set up comprising the TD510ZMK2 speaker (pictured above) and partnering TD520SW subwoofer, driven by Ayre Acoustics’ new EX-8 integrated amplifier.
Where? (Decent Audio) Rooms 318, 320 and 322 (third floor)
Edwards Audio is coming armed with its new TT6 turntable, with an in-house unipivot tonearm, plywood plinth and acrylic platter, as well as its new IA7 integrated amplifier and SP7 compact floor-standing speakers - all of which are manufactured in house at Talk Electronics, and will be on demo at the show.
We spied ELAC's new Navis powered speakers at CES earlier this year, and soon they'll be making their way to Bristol for the show. The floorstanding and standmount speakers have new drivers driven by Class A/B tri-amp pure analog amplification, with an amp for each driver.
Both speakers have a 160-watt amp for the bass woofer, 100-watt amp for the midrange and a 40-watt Class AB amp for the tweeter. And you can add a Discovery Connect and the Navis speakers become a wireless streaming system, with Bluetooth, Airplay, Spotify Connect, Roon and DLNA capability.
Visitors will be among the first to experience Falcon's recreation of the BBC's first LS3/5A prototype speakers, which it has made for a limited edition run of 50 pairs. The handmade replica is allegedly the closest possible recreation of the final ‘no compromise’ prototype created by the BBC two years before the speaker’s first commercial production in 1976.
MORE: Falcon Acoustics recreates 1974 BBC LS3/5A prototype speakers
The recently expanded Focal Kanta speaker range makes its Bristol Hi-FI Show debut, with the gorgeous No1 bookshelf speakers (£4499) in action with a Naim system pairing in the Matthew Suite (Lower Ground Floor).
The French audio brand will also be occupying the headphone bar in the Brunel Suite (Terrace Level) where you can demo its headphone range, including the eminent Utopia open-backs and just-launched Stellia closed-backs and Arche DAC headphone amp.
Fyne Audio, who has delivered some very, very fine speakers since its launch in 2017, will be revealing two new speakers: the F702 (£6k TBC) and the new flagship, the F1-12.
The F702’s 20cm Fyne Audio IsoFlare drive unit (as well as the speaker’s crossover) uses engineering trickled down from Fyne’s Flagship F1 series speakers, and is joined by a matching 20cm bass driver that Fyne says maximises its multi-fibre cone construction and FyneFlute roll surround technology. The F702’s crossover also benefits from the investment into the F1. The machined aluminium plinth offers stability to the hand-crafted high density birch plywood.
The F1-12, meanwhile, represents the pinnacle of the company’s line-up, building on the F1-10’s design with a larger cabinet, a brand-new 12in version of the IsoFlare point source driver built around a rigid cast aluminium chassis, and a larger (20kg) aluminium sandwich plinth that incorporates Fyne’s largest BassTrax Tactrix Diffuser system for improved bass performance and flexible room placement. Prices will be announced at the show.
Where? Room 304
iFi will be displaying and demonstrating its current arsenal, which features the likes of the micro iDSD Black Label, xDSD and xCAN DACs, but, as the company has hinted, there could be some surprises at the show too. Consider us intrigued…
The L100 Classic (with the emphasis on ‘classic’) is set to receive its UK show debut this year. A modern take on the legendary L100, which were launched at CES Chicago back in 1970 and were a huge hit for the company, the new version is the result of the JBL Synthesis team’s advancements in signal processing, EQ, amplification and speaker engineering.
Where? Empire 2 (L100 Classic)
MORE: JBL revives its retro L100 loudspeakers
Last month at CES, it didn't come as much surprise that a speaker whose name takes after a hamlet from which the Aurora Borealis can regularly be seen (Tuktoyaktuk) was one of the most attractive we laid eyes on at the show.
The Kanto TUK active speakers (£699), which feature aptX HD Bluetooth, analogue and digital audio inputs anda USB DAC and headphone amp, won a Stars of CES Award and will be previewed at The Bristol Hi-Fi Show.
Where? Room 424.
Leema is launching the Stream IV streaming CD player – the latest incarnation of its Stream CD player – which will be demoed alongside its natural partner, Leema's recently launched Pulse IV amp.
Where? Room 412 (fourth floor)
“If you’re looking for a top-end one-box electronics solution, the Selekt is a good place to start” is what we said of Linn’s Selekt DSM just-add-speakers music system, which will be on demonstration at the Bristol Show. It's a challenger to Naim’s Uniti range, and unlike Linn’s three other streamers the Selekt DSM is a modular design.
While the base model is a £4000 streamer/pre-amp, it can be purchased (or later upgraded) with an integrated 100-watt-per-channel Class D power amplifier (£5250 total price) or the Katalyst DAC architecture that features in its Akurate and Klimax siblings (£5500 total price). For both built-in amplification and Katalyst, the damage is £6750. The most important thing to know: it sounds exceptional. You’ll want to hear this one.
MORE: Linn Selekt DSM review
Harman’s Mark Levinson is going to need a sturdy shelf to show off the first two models from its new 5000 series, the No 5805 and No 5802 integrated amplifiers. The 125 watts-per-channel machines are due to go on sale in the first quarter of 2019 for $8500 and $7000 respectively (UK pricing tbc). In addition to new preamp circuitry, phono stage and DAC, the range brings support for 32-bit/192kHz and DSD 5.6 files, MQA playback and aptX HD.
They’ll be partnered with JBL’s K2 S9900 speakers, which we’ve described as ‘among the very best speakers money can buy’, so you may want to mark this one a must-see.
Where? Empire Suite 2
MORE: Mark Levinson 5000 Series stereo amplifiers arrive at CES 2019
Looking to import your CD collection into a digital library? Japanese music library specialists Melco will be demonstrating its 2018-launched N10 and N100 digital audio music libraries, with comparisons of CD rips available to audition.
Where? Room 204 (second floor) and Bay 1 (ground floor)
Mitchell & Johnson
Following the announcement of its British-built 800 Series last September, Mitchell & Johnson will be bringing it to the Bristol Hi-Fi Show to give attendees a earful of its capabilities. The 800 Series preamp and power amp will be in partnership, while the new matching CD player which will be making its world debut at the show.
Where? Room 415 (fourth floor)
Monitor Audio didn’t waste any time in the New Year, announcing its all-new Gold speaker range before we’d even had a chance to recover from New Year’s Eve activities. A fifth-gen update to the previous Gold Series it launched in 2015, the new six-strong series (which ranges between £1100 and £4000) sits below the company’s flagship Platinum II models - and borrows technology from it too.
It'll also be showing off its newly-announced, 2nd-gen MASS surround sound speaker system.
Where? Empire Suite 1
MORE: Monitor Audio launches all-new Gold Series speakers
Naim's 2018-launched family of network players – the ND 5 XS2, NDX 2 and ND 555 - will be demoed with the brand's Uniti Core reference music server and CD ripper as part of a 45-minute session designed to help attendees understand how to hear the best of everything, whatever the source. Tickets for the sessions are available from Naim’s Brunel Suite, and every attendee will leave with a free Naim Records album (while stocks last). Naim Records has also struck a deal with Diverse Vinyl on an exclusive Show Offer – buy one album get another half price.
British manufacturer Ophidian will be demonstrating its new P-series Evolution speaker range, including the including the P1 standmount (£2200) and P2 floorstander (£3500). The speakers feature custom aluminium mid-bass drivers, decoupled baffles for reducing the effects of drive unit vibration on the main cabinet, and an Aeroflex bass loading system.
Every day until 3pm, PMC will be demonstrating Dolby Atmos music and movies using its twenty5 series speakers (our reference AV package here at What Hi-Fi?, no less), expanded to include additional twenty5.23s for the rear surrounds and four of PMC’s custom installation wafer series for the height channels. It will be driven by Bryston’s aforementioned SP4 processor.
After 3pm, PMC will switch to a two-channel demo using the twenty5 series paired with its five-star Cor integrated amplifier, fed by Bryston’s BDP3 digital player and BDA3 DAC.
ProAc is adding a new Response standmount and a K Series floorstander to its current range of high quality loudspeakers, the former of which is particularly exciting for us in light of the Response DT8 winning a 2018 What Hi-Fi? Award.
The Response D2R is a ribbon-loaded version of the brand’s flagship standmounter, the Response D2, while the K6 Signature looks to expand on ProAc’s reference range. Where? Empire Suite 3 (Response) and Room 216 (K Series)
In celebration of half-a-million Phono Box phono stages sold, Pro-Ject has introduced two new budget phono stages. The Phono Box S2 Ultra (£200) and Phono Box Ultra 500 (£299) largely feature the same impressive specs (fully discrete electronic layout, and dip switches for impedance, capacitance and gain controls), however the latter is a special edition model, supplied in a wooden display box, limited to 500 pieces, and has a chrome-finished copper chassis.
Puritan Audio Laboratories
“The definitive way to kill earth line noise dead”, says Puritan. And if that hasn’t stopped you in your tracks, we don’t know what will. Puritan is claiming its GroundMaster is the ultimate grounding solution - a more effective noise-ridding solution to simply using ground rods in your garden, it says. Essentially the GroundMaster is a small device with two connectors that connects to your hi-fi and ground rod, with 12 tuned frequency guides to block the spectrum of noise frequencies.
Remember Rogers? Well, it’s back! The renowned British company is returning to UK manufacture and has a full range of audio products – speakers, amplifiers and accessories – planned for 2019.
Where? Room 422 (where you can experience Rogers’ speakers and valve amplification)
Driving Monitor Audio’s new Gold series speakers will be Roksan's Blak CD player, Xerxes 20 Plus turntable, Caspian VSC2 vinyl system control and Blak integrated amplifier.
It will also showcase the power and integrated amps and CD players from the brand's Caspian and K3 ranges.
Ruark's upcoming R5 hi-fi system will enjoy its UK debut at Bristol. Apparently a scaled down version of its flagship R7 system, the R5 seems to be equipped, with wi-fi streaming, aptX HD Bluetooth, a CD player, DAB/FM and Internet radio, and analogue and digital connections that include USB and phono inputs.
The 2.1-channel, A/B Class-driven system can also work in a multi-room environment with Ruark's existing MRx, R2Mk3 and R7Mk3 models.
Sony wasn’t short of announcements at CES, and the Bristol Show is where most Brits will get to see them for the first time. The budget Sony PS-LX310BT turntable with Bluetooth streaming will make an appearance, as will Sony’s new IER-Z1R in-ear headphones and £8000 DMP-Z1 portable music player from the brand’s Signature Series.
MORE: CES 2019: Sony announces PS-LX310BT budget Bluetooth turntable
MORE: Sony DMP-Z1 portable music player hands-on review
Technics was a headline-grabber at CES with its new SL-1200/SL-1210 MK7 DJ turntable, but at Bristol it'll come armed with two other other new products: the Ottava C50 wireless speaker, and the forthcoming SL-1500C direct-drive turntable that's based on the legendary SL-1200.
Where? Cabot Suite
The Canada-based company is back in Bristol with its new KIN Play Bluetooth aptX and aptX HD bookshelf speakers, which made their debut at CEDIA last September. With a master/slave design and optical (24bit/192 kHz) and analogue (including turntable and sub) inputs, these 120-watt-per-channel active speakers sound like a promising proposition for £999.
Of course, while we recognise the show's two-channel focus, we'll be running our usual legendary AV demonstration in The Bristol Suite (ground floor). And we really hope you can make it - not least as we're more than a little excited about it this year.
We'll be giving Samsung's 75in 8K (yes, 8K) QLED TV its first UK public run, paired with a 7.2-channel surround sound system comprising one of our 2018 Award-winning Denon AV amps and the B&W 600 Series speaker package, for the ultimate AV experience.
Not only will you get to witness a cutting-edge audiovisual display, you'll also be able to put your feet up for a few minutes. And we have 20 fabulous prizes up for grabs in our £10k show competition!
Just before Christmas, Wilson Benesch announced its most affordable speaker range - although it still ranges between £5995 and £14,995. The Precision Series comprises the P1.0 standmounts and P2.0 and P3.0 floorstanders, and feature mid/bass units from the reference Geometry Series and tweeters derived from the flagship Eminence. Where? Conservatory, 1st floor
To book your tickets in advance for the show (and save money if you do!) go to the show website. See you there!