Bristol Sound and Vision 2017 AV Show Report

There’s a lot more sound than there is vision these days

by Steve Withers Feb 25, 2017 at 3:16 PM

  • The Bristol Sound and Vision Show might have reached its 30th anniversary but the event appears to be going back to the beginning as far as its focus is concerned.
    There has been a definite trend over the last few years for a lot more audio products and fewer video products. In fact even the products that are AV related are very much on the audio side of things. That’s a shame because the Bristol Show was often the only chance that consumers had to see projectors in action and get an idea of what was possible in terms of home cinema. This year’s show represented a real low point from that perspective with no Optoma, BenQ, Epson or Sim2 and no JVC stand, although attendees could get a look at the company’s new DLA-Z1 4K laser projector, so that was at least one positive. There was also a Vivitek projector being used in one room but that was just a bog-standard 1080p model – so hardly groundbreaking.
    So it was left to Arcam to really put the sound and the vision into the Bristol Show with a demo of their AV860 AV processor. Never a company to do things by half, they had a fully specified 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup with Dirac Live room correction. The setup used KEF Reference Series speakers all around, including overhead thanks to a specially built rig, and a Sony VPL-VW550ES to deliver the images onto a massive projection screen. The system was being driven by the company’s P49 power amplifiers, with a trio across the front three channels in mono block mode to deliver an incredible kilowatt per a channel. The company actually built custom twin subwoofers for the show because the room their stand was in used cardboard walls and thus a consumer subwoofer wouldn’t be able to handle the physical space. The company also spent two days building the stand and a further ten hours calibrating the system to perfection using Dirac Live. It was certainly worth all the effort with various Dolby Atmos trailers demonstrating the full potential of the format, as well as the way that Dirac Live simply removes the room from the equation to deliver an incredibly realistic audio experience. The scene from Everest where the storm hits was particularly visceral and you could really hear that it was ice crystals rather than simply snow that was hitting the doomed mountaineers. It's an impressive experience and one we know all too well from our review of Arcam's AVR850 AV Receiver.
    As far as no-holds-barred home cinema demos went, the only company giving Arcam a run for their money was Bowers & Wilkins who had a 5.2-channel setup using their 800 Series Diamond speakers. There was a pair of 800 D3s at the front, an HTM1 D3 as a centre speaker and a pair of 802 D3s for the surround channels, all coupled to Rotel amplification and an Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player. There were also a pair of their DB3D subwoofers at the front that were used to augment the really low frequencies in conjunction with the 800 speakers. Naturally given the size of the 800s they could deliver a perfectly good low-end themselves, as evidenced in a number of stereo demos that showed how much detail and clarity the speakers could get from even a CD source. However the addition of the subwoofers gave the low-end a solid but subtle foundation that worked perfectly with the 800s for a 2.2-channel performance. The company then demonstrated the full potential of the 5.1-channel system with the opening bombing raid in Unbroken. Despite being familiar with this scene in a 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup the 800 system really showed what 5.1 is still capable of with a tremendous sound performance that was precise and detailed, with a huge bass presence where needed.
    Sadly it wasn’t just the video side of things that felt depleted at this year’s show, with no AV Receivers from Denon, Marantz or even Yamaha. There was no Onkyo stand either and although Pioneer did have a stand where you could see their latest SC-LX701 AV Receiver there weren’t any actual demonstrations. That allowed Sony to steal the limelight with their first Dolby Atmos and DTS:X AV Receiver the STR-DN1080. The company were running the new 7.2-channel AVR with a KEF speaker system that included upward-firing speakers for the two overhead channels. They also had a Sony 4K HDR TV and their new UBP-X800 Ultra HD Blu-ray player to create a complete 4K and Dolby Atmos setup. The system sounded impressive and despite a number of Sony Pictures discs on display, they wisely chose Deepwater Horizon with its barnstorming Dolby Atmos soundtrack to show off the receiver’s capabilities.
    If you like serious bass when it comes to home cinema, then you'll be glad to know SVS had their new SB16 Ultra subwoofer on show. This combines a 16” Ultra driver and an 8” edge wound voice coil with 1,500W of continuous and over 5,000W of peak Sledge amplification. There’s also a fully discrete MOSFET output, an innovative subwoofer control and a DSP smart phone app with custom presets for precise tuning. So you should be able to add some serious bass to your system whilst still ensuring it is perfectly integrated with the rest of your components.
    Although if it’s sheer size that you’re looking for, the REL No. 25 Reference Series subwoofer has to be the winner. This monster of a sub commemorates 25 years of REL designing and building subwoofers and what a way to celebrate. It comes in a cabinet that is 3” thick and has a Piano Black Lacquer finish with 12 coats. It measures 737 x 540 x 762mm (WxHxD) and despite their being handles on each side it’s also a four man lift, weighing in at 76kg! The No. 25 uses a 15” long throw carbon fibre driver with an inverted carbon fibre dust cap and 1,000W of continuous and over 2,400W of peak amplification. So if you’re looking for a sub that’s both huge and surprisingly stylish, the REL No. 25 might be right up your street.
    Mission launched their new LX range of speakers recently and the award-winning LX-2 bookshelf model was on show as was the new LX-C centre speaker, which is useful for those planning a multi-channel system based on this excellent new range.
    Finally the popularity of soundbars and soundbases appears to be waning if this year’s show was any indication. However Canton had their latest range of soundbases on show with the DM55 being the smallest of the range. This model uses a 6-driver design to deliver a 2.1-channel experience, it includes aptX Bluetooth and is available in white or silver and black. Moving up the range there is the DM75 Glass, this mid-sized soundbase uses a sleek glass-topped box with an 8-driver design that delivers a 2.1-channel experience. It also includes aptX Bluetooth and is available in white or silver and black. Finally there is the DM100 which is the biggest soundbase in Canton’s range. Designed for larger TVs it has a sleek glass-topped box with an 10-driver design that delivers a 2.1-channel experience. It also includes aptX Bluetooth and is available in just silver and black.
    The decline of the soundbar is in part due to the increasing popularity of wireless speakers and multiroom systems and Orbitsound had a product that is designed to offer the best of all worlds. The One P70 is an all-in-one high fidelity sound system for TV, Bluetooth and HiFi listening. The One (P70) is a multipurpose audio solution that can be positioned in multiple orientations to suit any environment (with a reversible display and logo). It can be wall or surface mounted and uses airSOUND technology to deliver a seamless audio experience without the limitation of a stereo sweet spot. It uses a wood and metal construction, has an integrated 5.25” subwoofer, Bluetooth, optical and Aux inputs and the ability to learn other remote controls. The One (P70) will initially be available in black with white and light wood options coming later in the year.

    Well that’s about it as far as the AV side of the Bristol Sound and Vision 2017 is concerned. Ed Selley will be covering the HiFi aspects of the show and it’s fair to say that he had a lot more to get excited about this year.

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