UK Audio Show 2022 Report - Part Two
Welcome to Part Two of Jay Garrett's UK Audio Show 2022 report, which will take you from Kerr Acoustics to ZinAmps and everything at the show in between.
The fact that I had to publish this year's show report in two parts is a testament to how it has grown since 2021. Even then, it was the only UK hi-fi show to have gone ahead. However, this year's show welcomed more exhibitors and many more visitors over the weekend who seemed to enjoy the range of products on offer - from DIY kit amps and speakers to high-end five-figure turntables and amplifiers.
For me, it was heartening to see that the UK's love of music and the equipment used to play it remains in rude health. Indeed, I saw many leaving the show with at least a record bag of goodies, if not the excited glint in the eye of someone who will soon be taking delivery of a new component.
Onwards, then, to Part Two.
Jes Kerr remains remarkably humble, even though several visitors proclaimed his to be the best sounding of the show during my visits to his room. This is no mean feat, given the quality of some of the other spaces.
The Kerr Acoustic K320 Mk3 (from £7,495) sat atop their custom Townshend Acoustics Seismic Isolation Platforms are a thing of audio beauty - we already know this as we've reviewed them and declared them “a sophisticated speaker that delivers an accessible and enjoyable performance”.
The emphasis here is fun. Yes, these speakers are incredibly adept at presenting information aplenty; however, the K320 Mk3 also likes to boogie. Such was proven when Yeah Yeah Yeah's Wolf and Billie Eilish's Bury A Friend was put through them via a LucasAudioLab streamer, Lampizator DAC, Townshend Allegri preamp and an EAM Studio 362 power amp. That said, more audiophile fare was dealt with respectfully in the shape of Tutu's Promise by Jessica Williams and Lee Ritenour's LA By Bike. Even the stand-mounted K300 mk3 (from £4,995), which weren't really broken in, sounded great. A tad more insightful and leaning towards the studio monitor side of things, but still an excellent listen with the transmission line loading making these sound so much bigger than their dimensions and the ribbon tweeter ensuring all was well in the upper ranges.
As well as the stand demonstrating the almost legendary record-cleaning machine, Kirmuss debunked various myths surrounding vinyl care at the UK Audio Show - keep in mind that the company doesn't claim their machine cleans records; it restores them!
The Sunday sessions discussed the chemistry of records and cleaning solutions in relation to the Triboelectric Chart and how ultrasonic technology may come to the rescue to undo the effects of decades of misapplied cleaning agents. Additionally, they demonstrated how to test whether an advertised ultrasonic machine is a sonic bubbler or if it actually uses cavitation - a question that is even more relevant now several trendy-looking ultrasonic cleaners are available. Furthermore, they invited vinylistas to bring in a record from home so it could be restored at the show, where they were played for a before and after audition should the volunteers wish.
Limin Audio gathered several high-end audio brands to its system, which featured Lyravox's Karlsson active speakers flanked by Qln Prestige Three 2-way floorstanders.
Puritan Labs supplied the power, while Bladelius provided amplification. The latter Swedish company was represented by its Ask (220W @ 8 Ohm) and Oden (400W @ 8 Ohm) integrated amps and Heimdall phono stage, as well as what looked to be the 2x45W @ 8ohm Mode stereo power amp. Joining these on the Quadraspire rack was the £10,299 Whest Audio TITAN Pro 3-stage phono stage.
However, the Lumley Stratosphere Mk3 turntable (£35,000) and hardwood Stratorium arm from the Netherlands sporting a titanium headshell was undoubtedly getting most of the room's attention.
Longdog Audio brought along its open baffle speakers previously enjoyed at Cranage this year.
The design feature a Lowther Silver PM6a full-range driver, a Supravox 12-inch GMF bass unit and a horn-loaded super-bullet tweeter. They're rated at 98db sensitive and priced at around £9,000.
At the UK Audio Show, they were wonderfully helped along by Music First Audio preamplification, alongside a Longdog MCJ3 valve MC phono stage (£1,400) and the Applause Award-winning P6-100m monoblocks (£3,500 pair). The turntable was a £7,595 AMG Giro II.
Lowther took over a somewhat decently sized room but still could only fit one of its gorgeous olive-veneered Hegeman speakers, which did a lovely job even in mono.
Four pairs per year will be made of this very limited edition model, which will be priced at around £70,000. Along with the brand's field coil driver, the Hegeman sports a plywood horn with backlighting. Interestingly, Lowther plans to offer NFTs for each pair of loudspeakers to establish authentication and separate them from the trade of 'replicas'.
If you need more real estate, budget or both to buy Lowther's Hegeman speakers, then the British brand's flatpack range may be to your liking.
The Acousta 116 is £2,400 per pair plus drivers, while the Fidelio MkIII is the same price. This classic Acousta is the choice of many home builders worldwide - one was even found in the home of Jimi Hendrix. Meanwhile, the 205F is touted as “the perfect entry point for the self-builder” and appears small enough to handle easily in most workspaces. The 205F costs £3,500 to £4,000 when it's built and fully veneered or £1,200 as a kit.
MALVERN AUDIO RESEARCH
Joining Lowther in the Durham Suite was Malvern Audio Research, who supplied the front end of Audio Detail amplification in the form of its new 300B push-pull amplifier (£8,000), 101D DHT phono stage and preamplifier.
Providing the tunes was a handsome Amari LP32s turntable that features an aluminium and birch sandwich plinth and a 65mm, 8kg Aluminum Platter.
MIDLAND AUDIO XCHANGE
Some heavy dub was playing when I made myself comfortable in Midland Audio Xchange's room. This was then replaced by Le Temps Passé by Michel Jonasz, which sounded rich and fulsome through the Devore Fidelity O/baby loudspeakers (£6,298) nudged along by a Western Electric WE91E integrated amplifier.
The WE is a single-ended 300B design, and for its £14,000 price tag, you get an MC phono stage, DAC, Wi-Fi, Ethernet and remote control. The analogue source was an attractively finished Dr Feickert Firebird loaded with a Reed P and fuuga MC, while a Tri-planar VII carbon with Kiseki Blue was also an option.
This was linked to a Dr Feickert Vero phono stage and Leben CS600X. There was also a set of DeVore 096 Orangutan, a dCS Rossini and Lavardin ITX waiting in the wings. Support was NEO, and cables were Esprit Gaia Eterna.
In this room with the Monopulse A speakers, you were in control of the playlist - well, to a point. A list was stuck to the door, and you could select what you wanted to hear through the speakers from that list. An interesting idea which seemed to equally fill visitors with dread or glee - such is the British psyche.
The speakers feature streaming capabilities alongside precision impulse 28mm e silk domed tweeters handling things up to 22kHz with the low frequencies down to 20Hz dealt with by a 200mm Kevlar driver. Selecting a personal favourite from the list, Paul Simon's Graceland, and these red-clad floorstanders did a fantastic job. Chatting to a lady next to me, she commented, “they're not much to look at compared to the other rooms, but they sound great, don't they?”.
MUSIC FIRST AUDIO
As well as the great-sounding room featuring the brand's new Reference V2 preamp going into a pair of Sveda Audio Blipo Home U22 active monitors, Music First Audio also had a space where you could make your enquiries. Here was a static display including a topless MFA Baby Reference which demonstrated the attention to detail and work that goes into each product.
We were impressed by Node Audio's Hylixa speakers as soon as they landed on the scene.
Virtual factory tours were held at 11:30 on both show days if you had yet to hear of them before the event and wanted to know more. You even had a chance to corner the ever-affable Ashley May, one of Node's founders, with your questions.
Now available in its Signature guise, Node Audio's speakers give a supremely natural presentation thanks to its Helical Transmission Line, 3D crossover, and low-diffraction outer profile. This is genuinely cutting-edge stuff, especially considering that the cabinets are grown in 0.2mm steps through a process dubbed Selective Laser Sintering.
NVA demonstrated its new £2,500 INT 250 integrated amplifier rated at 70W per channel, featuring six line-level inputs and a couple of power supply options with the Cube speakers.
The amp uses quality components and features an all-new satin-matt acrylic case. It sounded in good voice during our visit, and having already enjoyed the pre/ power combo in a StereoNET review; we look forward to taking the integrated for a spin.
Origin Live decided to be a huge tease and hid some new speakers under large black-clothed frames alongside a flagship system, with the company's Voyager turntable playing a central role.
That said, they did sound good, and the bit of information I gleaned was that it was a set of active speakers constructed not long before the show. The British firm also had all of its turntable and arm offerings on an impressive display.
ProAc was celebrating Stuart Tyler's life achievements. Following the sad passing of ProAc's Founder, Stewart Tyler, in June 2021, the Tyler family thought the UK Audio Show would be an excellent opportunity to celebrate Stewart's lifelong passion.
The display charted the company from its Celef beginnings to the present day and the K Series range through early speaker models, old photos, hi-fi show posters and brochures.
As well as the impressive static display of some ProAc classics, the gorgeous K1 standmounters were in fine voice as I sat and enjoyed an engrossing rendition of Level 42's 43.
These British-designed and built loudspeakers look excellent and, I'm told, feature components from Europe and the USA and are made of European-sourced birch plywood.
As these are hand-built to order, you can request various bespoke touches such as name plates and custom finishes or simply with or without grilles.
Chris Allen was on hand to discuss what his Room Sonics consultancy does and how it does it. In short, the company performs onsite acoustic assessments and then moves towards acoustic design, speaker alignment and sonic optimisation for your space using the assessment results.
The company has worked in professional monitoring studios, and Chris is thoroughly knowledgeable about room acoustics.
“This whole system costs £5,000ish”, read the flip chart page blu-tacked to the wall in Russell K's room.
This bout of not-so-humble bragging was no doubt a reaction to visitor comments as the sound coming from the Russell K Red 50s (£1,750) at the end of a Melco Audio library and Naim Uniti Star CD player/streamer sat atop a Lateral Audio rack could've been coming from a much more expensive system if you closed your eyes. More proof that you don't necessarily need mega bucks and a huge system of components to produce excellent sounds. To this end, Russell Kaufmann gave a series of 30-minute presentations over the weekend about loudspeaker design and set-up.
SUPER NATURAL AUDIO/ CML MUSIC
Super Natural Audio, alongside the remarkable Curvi MkII and Etude 5 loudspeakers of CML Music, conspired to produce a hugely engaging system that first drew me in with Shadow Waltz by Sonny Rollins and then almost had me applauding along with the recorded audience at the end of Fink's live recording of Biscuits.
This was a prime signifier of what most of us in the hobby aim for - a system able to reproduce music to a high standard and the underlining emotional content of the art. Music was supplied via a LucasAudioLab streamer hooked up to SNA's non-oversampling valve DAC (~£5,000) to perform the number-crunching. The DAC sports a single Philips TDA1543 converter chip and a valve-rectified output stage that uses a 6AS7 triode. The turntable is a Clip Audio Obsidian with an acrylic platter and a modified Alphason arm, but it was all about the streaming when I visited. Also on the racks were Audio Detail-tweaked Ming Da power amplifiers and an Audio Detail NV-08 phono stage.
Time Audio showed the organic elegance of Diapason's range of speakers, which were also featured in their demonstration alongside Audio Exklusiv amplification and the Audio Exklusiv P8 CD Player and DAC (£5,400) sat on the uppermost platform.
This features three separate, large power supplies with R-C-L-filters. Meanwhile, converter and up-sampler chips are flagships from Crystal (CS 4398) and Analog Devices (ADA 1896), leading to a pure tube output stage in the form of a direct-coupled anode to cathode circuit using two ECC 802s.
Two additional ECC 802s serve as impedance converters. Some tricks in the circuit ensure ideal characteristics of the upsamplers (192 kHz) are met, as well as a highly jitter-free signal. With the help of asynchronous clocking, all signals inside the P8 are principally newly clocked.
This room must have been underlined, ringed and arrowed on most hi-fi fans' schedules. If not, you may have missed one of the very few chances of seeing a range of Townshend Audio's famous Rock turntables, brought along by the legend that is Matt 'Rock Doc' McNulty, who rebuilds, refinishes and restores these excellent machines. Furthermore, Max Townshend's own system, complete with the mythical Glastonbury Tor loudspeakers and hybrid valve/Class D amplifiers that Max Townshend developed but never put into production. Naturally, the Townshend Allegri Reference preamp and Seismic isolation products were also in full effect.
The system was gorgeous, and over a couple of visits, I was treated to Flak by Future Sound of London and Thank You (RJ Reynolds) by Chris Jones via the Townshend Rock Reference, as well as Steve Miller Band's Abracadabra being streamed via a dCS unit.
However, what I found incredibly interesting was the Rock Doc display - Rock of Ages, if I may be so bold. Right at the start of this precession of precision was the hyper rare Cranfield prototype from 1976-77 (below).
A direct drive design with brass suspension bellows and a plinth constructed from an early synthetic stone called Granitan. Next in line was the Elite Cranfield Rock from 1979, which became the Elite Rock 2 in 1981-82. Then the Townshend Rock Reference from 1989-94.
The Rock 3 was made in the US when Townshend moved production to Texas and has inner tube suspension built-in, while the sexy mirror-finished Rock V was a revision of the Reference with bellows suspension, a PVC platter and motor and power supply from a Rega P3.
Finally, at the end of this fascinating history was the skeletal Rock 7, the last Townshend Rock.
This felt like a fitting tribute to Max and a truly one-off gathering of his designs - most of all because everyone I saw that visited the room seemed to be enjoying themselves, and, let's face it, Max always enjoyed a good time.
Ultimate Resolution demonstrated the excellent new-era Epos ES14N loudspeakers.
The compact system featured M1ZH/2ex, Sonnet Digital Audio Morpheus DAC II (£3,500) and T+A PA 2500 R Integrated Amplifier (£9,021) sat on Quadraspire racks connected by Tellurium Q Ultra Silver XLR interconnects and Silver Diamond speaker cable. It was even good enough for me to sit and enjoy a Dire Straits live cut…
ULTIMATE STREAM/ KOG AUDIO
Here Kog Audio and Ultimate Stream brought together the Epos and Fink loudspeaker range being driven by T+A MP200 Media Player (£4,400), DAC 200 (£5,400) and A200 Stereo Amplifier (£3,490) supported by a Solidsteel Hyperspike rack and joined together with Tellurium Q cabling.
In this room, Nola Boxer loudspeakers were at the end of a system that included Electrocompaniet electronics and the behemoth Tom Evans Audio Linear A power amplifier (£6,600).
Synergistic Research cables were used alongside the company's HFT button-sized 'high-frequency transducers' affixed to the speaker's baffles. Although not the most aesthetically grabbing rooms of the show, it was hard not to enjoy the results of this system.
WHOLE NOTE DISTRIBUTION
Whole Note Distribution seemed to be making an eloquent point as its room was being filled by what could well have been the smallest speakers in a demonstration system at the show. The speakers in question were the remarkable Boenicke W5 (£5,200) which were doing a fine job at the end of the smart-looking AGD Alto preamp and Tempo power amp.
We've had the Audion monoblocks in for review, and the Tempo power amp follows the GaN FET Class D design with 100W on tap from its compact casework. Meanwhile, the Alto boasts a volume control with the “most thermally stable and high precision resistor ladder circuit” as well as a built-in fully balanced phono stage (MM & MC), two more sets of stereo RCA and a pair of balanced XLRs inputs. The analogue source was the Wand turntable and arm. Digital audio was supplied by Silent Angel's Rhein Z1 streaming server (from £1,550) hooked up to the brand's Forester F2 Linear Power Supply (£1,199).
Digits were converted by Lab 12's DAC 1 Reference (£2,795). Peter Gabriel's That Voice Again deftly enveloped the room in a way that boggled my mind when I opened my eyes and saw the speakers generating the sound I was hearing. Beautifully baffling was my parting remark.
In Part One of my reports, I mentioned speakers hosted in a room near the bar area that were impervious to alcohol-enhanced impulse buys. Those speakers were the elegantly-formed William Eikos Aurigen. Part sculpture, part speaker (it seems almost crass to call them loudspeakers).
The Aurigen is constructed from bamboo, with the speaker pods sporting an ellipsoid cavity behind the 3-inch aluminium drive units, which I'm told are derived from a Ted Jordan design. The man behind the brand, William Funnell-Pilcher, also doffs his cap to Graham Fowler, Max Townshend and Tom Evans. The drivers are then suspended in pods via wires with a Sorbothane sphere acting as a spring to isolate the cabinet. The crescent-shaped stand is made of bent bamboo, taking advantage of the wood-shaping expertise found on the Isle of Wight, thanks to the range of experienced yacht builders on the island. The stand base is also home to an isobaric bass driver system.
Additionally, the Aurigen utilises custom Litz cables that have silk insulation which, while not looking like much, appear more than capable. The Aurigen system's triple patented technology aims to do away with conventional loudspeaker rules - especially the sweet spot - meaning everyone gets the best sound everywhere. At £150,000 plus VAT, this is undoubtedly an intriguing proposition.
WILLOW TREE AUDIO
Willow Tree Audio hosted the UK debut of both the Cen.Grand DAC 1.0 DSD Deluxe (£ 5,995), Jays Audio CDT3 Mk3 (£5,500), Audio Music 805 Monoblocs (£11,500 pair), and Horning Aristotle Ultima, so a room certainly not to be overlooked.
These were joined by an Audio Music RT2 Pre Amp. The analogue front end consisted of a Technics SP10 Mk2 fitted with an Audiomods System 6 tonearm and Hana Umami Red cartridge going via an Aurorasound Vida Mk2 Phono Stage. The cables were Audio Music, supports were Lateral Audio, and room treatment was courtesy of GIK acoustics. This was another room I could have sat in for hours, as nothing about the presentation sounded forced or unnatural.
WIRE ON WIRE/ 3 SQUARE AUDIO
Want to instantly start a flame war (are they still called that?) on social media? Mention hi-fi cables. I am confident that Wire on Wire's distinct breed of cables that are said to be tunable through adjusting the spacers will be the subject of many an online conflagration.
However, I cannot deny the sound coming via them and out of the £1,900 3 Square Ayal's acoustically aligned drivers. The front end included a Dayens Ampino Custom preamplifier and a pair of Beresford TC-7240 audio routers feeding Ampino Monoblock power amplifiers.
ZinAmp was first introduced to me at the show last year through some of Mycetias' speakers.
This year ZinAmp, which takes its name from Zinfandel wine, dubbed the “wine of the people”, had its own room to display its amplifiers for the people, as it were. These can be bought ready-made or in kit form at various levels depending on how confident you are about your soldering skills. There was a definite nod to the 70s/80s heyday of amplification. Still, the bi- and tri-amping options alongside user-selectable crossovers built into the amplifier seemed to hit home with the tweakers in the audience. The system was rounded off with some Zinspeakers, and, although not for sale to my knowledge, there were plenty of nods of approval during my visits.
UK AUDIO SHOW 2023
I hope you enjoyed this virtual walk around the show, and if you couldn't be there in person, you at least got a feeling for what was on offer this year. If you did attend, did my round-up match what you experienced? Was there something I missed? Did I answer one or more of your “what was in that room?” moments? Please do let me know in the Forum.
I loved the extra touches that Roy and Justin Bird added to the show, such as the mime artist at the door who was also helping people from taxis and the close-up magician who entertained everyone who stayed for the evening meal. The latter did a sterling job in the face of a dining room filled mostly with hi-fi industry people letting off steam after a hectic and busy day.
From my experience, I think the UK Audio Show team can pat themselves on the back for another job well done.
Next year, the UK Audio Show returns to the Staverton Estate on October 7th and 8th where it is planned to take over the entire venue! This means space for an extra 100 exhibitors and plans for a major concert on the show's Saturday evening and an increased presence of keynote speakers, workshops, and listening sessions during show days. This will not to be missed. I hope to see you there.
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 HiFi Show
Tags: kerr acoustic kirmuss limin audio longdog audio lowther malvern audio research midland audio xchange lyravox puritan labs bladelius lumley devore fidelity western electric dr feikert lavardin monopulse music first audio node audio nva origin live proac rmb loudspeakers room sonics russell k naim melco super natural audio curvi cml music clipaudio
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