North West Audio Show 2022 (Cranage) Show Report & Gallery - PART TWO

Posted on 1st July, 2022

North West Audio Show 2022 (Cranage) Show Report & Gallery - PART TWO

Jay Garrett wraps up his visit to the North West Audio Show (Cranage) 2022 with exhibitors N-W…

Welcome to Part Two of our North West Audio Show 2022 coverage. It is assumed that you've enjoyed Part One already and that you have also checked out the extra images found on our discussion forum.

In Part One we covered exhibitors A-M and here we'll report on N-W as well as wrap up with our show conclusion.

So, let's get to it!

NEAT ACOUSTICS

Although silent in Munich, Neat's new £1,995 Petite Classic loudspeakers were in fine voice in Cranage sat atop SolidSteel stands.

NWAS 2022 (Cranage) Show Report

This little monitor's low-frequency output had visitors searching for a hidden sub. Impressive sounding and room-friendly on the end of Atoll's ST200 streamer (£2,000) and IN300 amplifier hooked up via Audiomica cables. As always with Neat products, musicality and dynamics were the order of the day here, with wonderfully communicative mids highlighting vocal delivery.

NEWBRIKS

Newbriks had an exciting proposition as they specialise in renovating and upgrading classic Linn Isobarik loudspeakers, including bespoke modified crossovers should you fancy it.

NWAS 2022 (Cranage) Show Report

I was not, in any way, prepared for what I heard from the pair in the room hooked up to 'olive series' Naim amplification and a Linn LP12. I reckon no one would be any the wiser if you had this hidden behind a curtain with a decent contemporary system out front. There's still life in the old dog, yet, as they say!

NUNU DISTRIBUTION / COHERENT SYSTEMS

Hourly scheduled demonstrations at hi-fi shows, good idea? Having discovered that these were ditched later on Sunday after I managed to get into the room early on to hear the system, I'm guessing trying to keep to such a tight schedule may not have been working perfectly.

NWAS 2022 (Cranage) Show Report

However, I'm glad I spent some time here as some top-flight gear was on the Creaktiv Systems racks. I particularly liked the amount of attention that the digital source was given in this set-up. Most of us of a certain age will have become accustomed to analogue front-ends set up with scientific precision, protected from any hint of extraneous interference, and connected to carefully matched equipment. However, a phone and streamer seem to be the only requirement for music playback according to some - but not here.

NWAS 2022 (Cranage) Show Report

Starting things off with a Novafidelity X50D ripper/streamer (£1,800) running through an “enhanced” Wadia 25 DAC. Then, a pair of Mutec MC3+usb in series so one reclocks the other while its slaved (£1,025 each) - this is apparently “the best 10mhz clock outside a caesium unit”, and a Mutec REF 10SE-120 master clock (£4,895). This was sent out through TAD E1-TX (£23,995) speakers via a pre and power amplifier from a UK company that had slipped by me named MC Limited. Its Liquid Music P2 140Wrms @ 8 ohms stereo power amp (from £9,995) and P2 pre-amp (price depends on configuration). All cabling/ grounding systems (RTZ) and earth noise suppression devices (End) were MC (Musical Coherence). My notes simply state, “Coherent Systems - as the name suggests”.

NVA

We've already reviewed the NVA P50 and S80 pre/ power combo, but it was the £3,600 NVA INT400 70 Watt integrated amplifier on the stand today, available as the basic model with single power supply, a twin power supply model with upgraded volume pot, or a stepped attenuator version.

It was also the first outing of the newly upgraded semi-omnidirectional Cube loudspeakers featuring an upward-firing mid/ bass unit and forward-firing tweeter. The 86db efficient speakers are £3,500 in black acrylic or £4,500 in Birch ply and are a sealed box design featuring a first-order crossover.

Cables and balanced mains unit were also NVA products. The result was “wide-screen soundstaging” of the orchestral and piano pieces I heard.

OPHIDIAN

Ophidian's 1.3m tall 3-way Voodoo floorstanding loudspeakers are beautiful things to behold and, pushed along by an Atoll ST300 streamer, Atoll IN400se integrated amplifier, sounded rather good, too.

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Featuring dual 10-inch drivers sporting thick black anodised aluminium cones, dual voice coils and triple shorting rings to reduce distortion. Naturally, the bass is also augmented by Ophidian's Aeroflex system. I am informed they are capable of plumbing down to 26 Hz. There is also a 7-inch mid with a solid aluminium phase plug loaded in a damped sub-enclosure that hands over to a 22mm fabric soft-dome tweeter for the highs. These new British £14,000 loudspeakers were rocking out to Sad But True by Metallica and sounded magnificent with plenty of well-managed yet explosive punch in the lows and snappy mids and treble.

ORIGIN LIVE

At Cranage, Origin Live used Falcon LS3/5a loudspeakers and an £8,300 Sovereign Special turntable that uses trickle-down tech from their £24,000 Voyager turntable.

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This was outfitted with an Origin Live Agile tonearm costing £10,500 and played through an Origin Live Discovery Ultra phonostage, Hegel pre and PS Audio PerfectWave BHK 250 power amplifier, all sat on HiFi Racks audio furniture.

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Scissors Cut by Art Garfunkle was especially emotionally charged as it played through this system.

PADOOD

George Gimenez was the perfect host and provided me with a couple of double espressos to help me through the day. This is also where I caught up with Cameron Jenkins of Stranger Hi-Fi (as well as being an award-winning record producer), Paul Burnip (after chatting over email for the past few months), and Quadraspire's Eddie Spruit.

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Padood looks after a shopping list of high-end audio brands such as Aurender, Avantgarde Acoustics, Bel Canto, Boulder, Crystal Connect, Nagra, Plinius, Siltech, SME, Weiss, YG Acoustic and more, and plenty of their offerings were neatly displayed in this large room.

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Additionally, YG's £27,000 eye-catching dusky-pink Carmel 2 loudspeakers were playing at the end of an SME Model 12, Nagra Classic Pre, and Plinius 300 power amplifier. Also on the Quadraspire rack was Nagra's Tube DAC. Everything was joined by Siltech cables.

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As great as the sound and level of equipment in here were, the miniature Quadraspire rack stole my heart. Made of off-cuts, it is now being sent to dealers to help potential customers choose the finish they want. I thought it would make an excellent phone/ remote control holder.

PHONOSTAGE AUDIO

The Lancashire-based dealer's first system was a Nottingham Analogue Hyperspace Turntable with Hana SH Cartridge, Graham Slee Majestic pre-amp, and Proprius monoblocks (£2,500) with Graham Audio LS6/F loudspeakers (£3,333) all supported by HiFi Racks Podium Reference.

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I found this an intriguing system, but it all gelled together remarkably well. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to hear the second system consisting of an Exposure 3510 integrated amplifier, Exposure 5010 pre-amplifier, and Exposure 5010 mono power amplifiers on an Apollo Storm hi-fi rack going out to Graham Audio LS8/1 Derek Hughes Signature Edition Loudspeakers.

RUSS ANDREWS

Russ Andrews was using NWAS to debut its new SuperRouter grounding system alongside the Kimber Kables 4PR and 8PR speaker cables. The new red and black versions of the latter feature Varistrand conductors (different diameter strands within each) made of high purity, oxygen-free copper and promise “industry-leading conductivity” and very low induction.

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Prices start at £145 for a 2.5m pair of 4PR. Meanwhile, the SuperRouter is said to provide efficient grounding for your system and deal with RF interference by connecting your components' casework to a ground point via an RFI shunt device. The SuperRouter costs £699 with nickel binding posts and £1,199 for the Signature Edition sporting WBT-0710 binding posts.

SOUND FOWNDATIONS

Chris Green was at the helm of an impressive set of kit featuring a ClearAudio Master Innovation turntable outfitted with a DS Audio Grand Master cartridge system going into a Kondo G70 pre-amp and out through Kerr Acoustics K100 loudspeakers sat on their Townshend Audio supports.

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However, DS Audio's E5001 eccentricity detection stabiliser took centre stage, with Chris enthusiastically demonstrating this new device that measures how far off-centre the spindle hole is, enabling you to centre it more precisely.

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At £5,500, this is clearly targeted at those vinylistas looking to eek the last nth of performance from their system. However, Chris proved that correcting a few hundred microns of eccentricity resulted in an easily audible difference as we were treated to Living, Loving Maid by Led Zepplin before an Eddie Grant cut. Chris was also spotted in other rooms correcting people's vinyl positioning.

STRICTLY STEREO

Strictly Stereo from Stockport showed how simple a good-sounding attractive system can be. Here, Dutch & Dutch 8C speakers played via Roon's excellent hi-res music interface through an Innuos Zenith MK3 music server connected to an Innuos PhoenixNET network switch.

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Also present was Puritan power management supported by a Quadraspire rack. This high-quality streaming system offers much of what a modern musical home will need.

SUPER NATURAL AUDIO

Danny Baty's SNA partnered with Clipaudio, CML Music, Audio Detail, MingDa UK, McIntosh and Missing Link to tremendous effect.

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I walked in just as a demonstration using Clipaudio's Y Bone TT turntable through the updated Curvi BMR MkII loudspeakers (£6,500) was winding up and handed over to Super Natural Audio's new valve DAC, which runs a non-oversampling Philips TDA1543 multibit converter chip, AKM AK4113 SPDIF receiver and a CMedia USB board. The £5,000 asking price is put into context by the ECC88 buffer stage and Sowter transformers feeding a valve rectified output stage using a Russian 6H13C tube.

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In addition, of course, it has an all-tube output stage featuring EL34s used as an active anode load, I was reliably informed. Incredibly, this component uses independent power supplies for each stage, four in total. Frank Zappa's Hot Rats sounded magnificent through this, and Chris Liauw's (also of Curvi fame) new £13,000 Etude 5 loudspeakers. The Etude 5 features a transmission line design with an array of four BMR drivers working with a ring radiator tweeter and a pair of force-cancelling 200mm side-firing bass drivers. The McIntosh MA6900 was running as a power amplifier for one system, as well as the MingDA UK Dynasty Potente MD150 monobloc power amplifiers in the other.

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The pre-amp was another Super Natural Audio creation featuring four pairs of inputs and two out, a couple of triode-wired E80f pentodes for input and a 6SN7 for output. An Alps Blue Velvet volume pot is fitted as standard alongside components from Jantzen, Audio Note, Mundorf and Nichicon, just to name-drop some of the boutique brands included in this amazing-sounding and bargainous £2,500 offering.

TOWNSHEND AUDIO

Townshend's stand appeared to be attracting plenty of interest, with people testing out the A/B demonstration of Kerr Acoustic speakers with and without the company's isolation platforms.

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Naturally, there was also a variety of well-engineered offerings on the table, such as the Allegri+ pre-amplifier and, of course, a stunning-looking Rock Doc Townshend Rock turntable.

ULTIMATE STREAM

Ultimate Stream enjoyed good weather for the most part out in a gazebo where the company showed the £750 Escape P6 (60-watt) and £999 P9 (100-watt) weatherproof portable loudspeakers, enabling them to be used inside or outdoors.

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The rechargeable battery offers more than eight hours of play time, and the 360-degree sound is sent via Bluetooth from your device. Alternatively, two speakers can be paired for wireless stereo. These remarkably well-put-together speakers sounded impressive at The Bristol Show in 2019 and even more so in their native outdoor habitat.

VERTERE

Vertere was showing its three most affordable record players, and it was the entry-level DG-1 with Sabre MM cartridge spinning when I was in the room.

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This was connected to an FM Acoustics pre-amp and out to ATC's active SCM40A speakers.

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This well-equipped yet compact and great-sounding system proves that you don't need to be inundated by boxes or restricted by space to have outstanding hi-fi performance.

WILKINSONS AUDIO

The HiFi Rose RA180 amplifier (£5,449) was getting plenty of attention alongside its RS150B streaming stablemate. The analogue front end was by way of a Stack Audio upgraded LP12 with Goldring Ethos cartridge.

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Stack offers three levels of structural upgrade - Tenor, Alto and Soprano -  the latter includes a one-piece machined plinth. A complete Alto build is £1,400 plus £100 installation from Wilkinsons. This system was linked by Atlas Cables output through Fyne Audio F1.8 speakers. The second system featured a Roksan Attessa turntable, streaming amp, and CD transport going out to a pair of Fyne Audio F500SP. A mighty Fyne selection of products, it has to be said.

WILLOW TREE AUDIO

The £9,750 Horning Hybrid Aristotol floorstanding speakers from Denmark featured “denuded” Lowther drivers out front with an in-house wave-guided tweeter and a pair of 8-inch Beymer woofers at the rear being driven by a pair of Audio Music AM833S.

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Bill Campbell's Serious sounded punchy and clear in this room. The source was a Jays Audio CDP, and Audio Music DAC1 sat on Lateral Audio supports.

WORLD DESIGNS

World Designs demonstrated its valve-based amp kits using loaned Falcon and ProAc loudspeakers. If you like a bit of DIY, these kits offer various difficulty levels and price points.

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For instance, the top-level KT88 integrated sells for £1,495 and is powered by KT88 Kinkless Tetrodes in a Class A Push-Pull Ultralinear configuration comes in a Class A push-pull ultra-linear configuration.

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However, add £200 for the XL variant, and you get boutique components such as Schottky diodes for both main rectifier and heater supplies, Pi filter DC heater supply, Soniqs ICT signal cables, Soniqs SAX signal path and Rifa Low ESR Power capacitors. Pre-amps start at £395, power amps start from £745, and phono stages are priced from £335.

NORTH WEST AUDIO SHOW 2022 CONCLUSION

I was impressed by the positivity I felt at the Munich Show; however, I can safely say that this paled into significance at NWAS 2022. Maybe because it was a 'local show' and this was the first chance for the majority to get out to a hi-fi show in over three years, or it's because it appeared to be well-organised and staffed by genuinely friendly and helpful people. Perhaps, it's a mixture of all of the above?  A 200-mile, 4-ish-hour drive might not be ideal for most people but for those more local to the venue, I can certainly see the appeal as I am not aware of any other shows servicing that area with the UK Audio Show, hosted by Staverton, another De Vere estate, in Daventry being more midlands, than the north. Both of these shows, along with Bristol, prove not everything in this industry is London-centric - and is better for it.

Hats doffed, then, to the organiser and staff who managed to make everyone feel welcome, especially at a time where this could well have been some people's first large gathering since the before times. Yes, it was a bit of a rabbit warren for first-timers, such as myself, and there were no real options for refreshments other than the bar and a coffee stand just inside the bar. But those are small criticisms in the larger scheme of things. I will no doubt be returning next year on the weekend of June 17th and 18th depending on how my birthday on the 16th goes.

North West Audio Show Report: Part One

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    Jay Garrett

    StereoNET UK’s Editor, bass player, and resident rock star! Jay’s passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

    Posted in:Hi-Fi Headphones
    Tags: nwas 2022  north west audio show  ophidian  origin live  vertere  ds audio  kerr acoustic  boulder  yg acoustics  nagra  aurender  atoll  plinius  quadraspire  hifi racks  russ andrews  clearaudio  super natural audio  sna  curvi 

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