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Bristol Show - a personal opinion

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by Ian J, Feb 28, 2005.

  1. Ian J

    Ian J
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    had a very enjoyable day at the Bristol show yesterday, doing the rounds with Nobber22 for the third year running and trying to have a good listen to as many speakers and subwoofers as possible.

    If you also want a drink and chat too, it’s impossible to demo everything properly so we made a start by not staying longer than a couple of minutes with any company that wasn’t prepared to demo their own equipment properly. I don’t think that Norah Jones at low volume will show anyone anything about a speaker’s capabilities so we didn’t waste too much time on those people.

    Many exhibitors took their own acoustic panels with them to help adjust the room to optimise it but surprisingly a few also thought that their equipment would sound good in a bare hotel bedroom – and invariably they were wrong.

    It is odd that so many manufacturers throw away a golden opportunity to demonstrate their products and just waste their time and money going through the motions. Their attitude is that no-one is actually buying at the show whilst forgetting that people like Nobber and myself and every other active forum members will be giving recommendations for the next twelve months based on what they heard yesterday.

    My own M&K setup is on the bright side and I find certain CD’s and music DVD’s unplayable if they are overproduced. Two against Nature by Steely Dan is one of my discs that sounds so bright that it grates. Of all the possible demo discs out there Monitor Audio were using this one to demo their small Radius floorstanders and wonder of wonders it sounded terrible so I could spend the next twelve months telling anyone who asks, that these speakers sound terrible when really it was just a very stupid choice of demo material.

    There have been complaints elsewhere that it was annoying that so many manufacturers were using the same bits of music and film to demo their kit with. I actually appreciated this as it is much easier to hear differences if they are playing the same pieces.

    One area that I have difficulty with is knowing exactly what are the most important elements in the sound that I am listening too. Many of the amp and cd player manufacturers were using other company’s speakers and it was difficult to know how much effect they had on the sound that we heard.

    Arcam were demo’ing their mid price amp and CD player using a pair of Acoustic Energy Aelite 3 at £750 per pair and Eric Clapton sounded very good. Acoustic Energy themselves returned the compliment by using Arcam equipment for their own demo and Peter Gabriel sounded very poor with the bass much too loud and boomy.

    Of the more expensive speakers that we gave some time too, neither the oddly shaped Gallo Reference speaker nor the £4,000 Eclipse giant eyeball would be on my short list as they both sounded eminently ordinary.

    Focal had their £1,000 5.1 setup on demo and we watched a clip of a motor racing film which whilst it showed the surround steering to good effect was the film equivalent of Norah as there was no bass nor treble in the clip.

    Onkyo were demo’ing their electronics with M&K speakers including the MX350 sub. Co-incidentally they were showing the same gunfight scene from Open Range as M&K were themselves in their own room.

    Onkyo came off a distinct second best as their room was much larger and oddly shaped and the speakers had been poorly setup. Instead of putting the sub in between the main speakers it was off to one side and you could hear that it wasn’t integrating at all.

    By contrast the M&K demo of the same scene (on a continuous loop) was much better. They were using the entry level K speakers but with the same MX350 sub and the gunshots were much more sharply defined. The explosive rifle shots had much more impact than at Onkyo, as one would expect from a well setup system in a smaller room with some acoustic treatment.

    M&K are unsurpassed at gunshots (and crispy drumbeats from last year) but it’s a shame that they don’t demo their speakers in different areas too as not every film is high tempo.

    REL and MJ Acoustics were conveniently next to each other which was very useful for comparative purposes. MJ were using a pair of subs but the room was dark and I couldn’t see what they were. Likewise I couldn’t see which sub REL were using but I wasn’t impressed with either demo which is a shame as I would like to have been.

    My star of the show last year (and Nobber’s too) were the pair of Totem Rainmakers that we heard at the end of the day. This year they were using a pair of slim, compact floorstanders and were one of the very few using vinyl (Supertramp for any of you oldies reading) and the sound was eminently ordinary.

    Redline was an interesting room as they were demo’ing a range of ultra expensive Moon CD players and power amps all of which ended up coming out of a pair of Focal Labs £3,600 standmounted speakers but this was one of those rooms where I wasn’t sure if I was listening to the speakers or the electronics. Overall this had a treble and mid range to die for but the bass was booming badly. I cannot believe that the bass would boom so badly on a system of that cost so must assume that it was a room problem that Red Line hadn’t conquered.

    Tact was another room where they used their own electronics complete with room equalisation which was pumped through another maker’s speakers. This time they were a pair of Dali floorstanders and the overall sound was exquisite.

    Three years ago Wilson Benesch’s room was two channel only, last year the main demo was two channel with an AV rig at the side. This year the role reversal was completed with the main display being AV. The room was huge and it must be very difficult to set up a home cinema demo in a room that size but Wilson Benesch managed. Eric Clapton via a huge Sim projector looked and sounded great, as it should for the cost involved. WB were selling all of the demo kit off with a discount of 25% and this would have been a real bargain for some lucky person but unfortunately we only had two numbers up in our line on the night before so I had to pass on that bargain.

    It’s difficult to remember so much of what we heard which is why I have done most of this in (almost) alphabetic order but for me there were three standout exhibitors. Living Voice were alone in using classical music to demonstrate their speakers. Nobber and I stood at the back listening to this for a while. I don’t know what the details of the speaker that we heard were or the price (it wouldn’t be budget) but they sounded superb.

    PMC had two adjoining rooms. In the first one we watched a DVD of the Blue Man Group doing some sort of spoof rock concert and they were using a pair of the large stupidly named OB1 floorstanders with an absolutely massive centre speaker last seen on duty in the Denon room last year. The power, scale and authority of this speaker setup was superb and to my mind this was the best AV demo that I saw at the show. Unfortunately I was at the back so much was obscured but I would have loved to have had another listen at the front as these speakers were superb. The only caveat was that there wasn’t a great deal of treble in the demo piece.

    Next door was a two channel demo of the GB1 speakers which I believe retail at £1,000 per pair. I don’t know what the music was being played but it contained loads of treble, loads of mid range and a double bass and was the perfect demo piece for those that really want to hear what a pair of speakers can do. These did it well and ended up my show with the Ian J gold award for speakers that you don’t need to remortgage the house for.

    Next up was the small standmounted DB1+ speakers but these suffered from being played straight after the much better OB1 speakers and didn’t sound as good, the music being used wasn’t as appropriate for the demo either.

    I would guess that most people would have walked straight past the Omiga Audio room on the basis that they have never heard of the company. Those that did would have denied themselves of one of the great experiences of the show. Omiga’s main interests lie in far too technical areas for me but it seems that apart from their cabling side they modify other company’s equipment much as Cosworth do for Ford or Pro-Drive do for Subaru.

    On display was a Waddia CD player and Bel Canto amp the results of which were to be heard via a pair of huge and ugly Meadowlark Osprey transmission line floorstanders which we were told were the babies of the range and also the cheapest at £2,800.

    They may not have been the prettiest speakers that we saw but the sound that they produced was sublime. They played several different CD’s for us and these speakers sounded superb. They even made Suzanne Vega sound good and I can’t normally stand her.

    It was difficult to believe on some of the tracks that there was no subwoofer as these boys produced the sort of bass that many subwoofers would be happy with, but without any boom or slowness at all

    If you have a large room, an understanding wife and £2,800 these speakers should be on your shortlist as they would certainly be very high on mine.
     
  2. recruit

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    Hi Ian,

    Nice rundown of the show :thumbsup: i wish i could of made it but maybe next year.
    It's nice to see that M&K have a good presence there and also nice to see that the MX350 is still doing a good job as it is 1 peice of equipment that i have no intention of changeing Cracking Sub, I thought i also read somewhere that they did a 850 shootout what was that all about?

    Cheers
    John
     
  3. ahin4114

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    Good summary Ian.

    The subs REL were using were a pair of the new Storm 5's I believe. When I went in there the chap was demoing with Behind Enemy Lines in DTS. When I asked him to play the minefield scene, he didn't have a clue it was on there as he'd never seen the film. I swear that some of these demo's were put together with very little thought, there are several areas on that film that would be good sub tests, and he didn't know any of them apparently. Also it took some coaxing for him to reveal that they were running two subs in there. They had one on show at the front, and another one hidden away at the rear becuase they couldn't get it sounding right with just one apparently.
    I thought it sounded fair on some of the better scenes though.
     
  4. steve k

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    Why did they have to use two subs :confused: in a room that was so small,
    I though you could get away with only one sub
    So why are we told that subs are not directional and can be placed anywhere in a room.
    I know my living room is bigger than the room they where using and thought i could get away with only 1 sub :confused: or am i missing something
     
  5. Smurfin

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    A popular misconception.
     
  6. Smurfin

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    Ian did PMC use a sub with the DB1s?
     
  7. Ian J

    Ian J
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    For the two channel demo with the GB1 followed by DB1 neither used a subwoofer.

    An interesting aside is that many of the speakers that I really liked last year didn't sound so good this year and possibly the reverse was also true but the PMC's sounded good both years and that alone was quite unusual
     
  8. Matt F

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    The GB1's are lovely little floorstanders Ian - I own a pair now, driven by a Bel Canto .

    I presume you know our friend WM is one of the guys behind Omega Audio?

    Matt.
     
  9. Sly

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    i'll second that , i would love to see a gb1 surround package demo'ed as those beasts they had in the other room are alot of speaker and alot of cash!!
     
  10. Ian J

    Ian J
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    I did read about your speaker exploits but I wasn't aware that you had gone the Bel Canto route too. I must admit that I probably wouldn't have gone into the Omega room if I hadn't known that Tony was there but I'm glad I did as the whole setup was very well worth a listen.
     
  11. NaimBoy

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    The kit in the right hand PMC room was a pair of OB1s and the matching CB6 centre speaker, and a pair of LB1s for the rear I believe. Having heard this setup last year I felt compelled to buy a pair of OB1s and haven't looked back since ! Hooked up to a Naim 82/180 pre/power combo they're quite capable of re-arranging internal organs with the amount of bass they'll generate when the neighbours are out, and being a three way design it doesn't affect the vocals either....

    The £1000 GB1s are a stonking piece of kit for the money - if I had the room I'd certainly have a pair for rear channel duties.

    As for the rest of the kit at the show, with the possible exception of the M&K, Sim2 & Sharp DLP PJ demos, I didn't find anything that really made me sit up and take notice.

    I found the Denon dem to be particularly disappointing - the PQ from the £2,500 DVD player into the £25k 3 chip DLP PJ was good (as it should be at that price!) but I found the sound somewhat underwhelming, as did those I was with.... ah well... think of the money I've just saved !!!!!
     
  12. Ian J

    Ian J
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    The Blue Man Group - The Complex Rock Tour Live turned up this morning and one of the advantages of working from home is that I can down mouse and take time out to listen to anything new that arrives.

    I have only played about 20 minutes of this rather odd "concert" but it contains some very powerful and driving bass rythyms which are a marvellous test of the speakers' nether regions and of course subwoofers as they need to be nimble as well as accurate to keep up with the beat. I counted at least six drummers with full drumkits which will give you an idea of the power.

    If you have never heard of them (which I hadn't until Sunday) they are the blue men that do the Intel advert.
     
  13. Sulis

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    Apparently the original 'Blue Men' have now retired, and have franchised it out so there are now about 30 Blue Men playing concerts all over the US... :)
     
  14. jonthepom

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    I really enjoyed the Meridian demo but then considering the sheer cost of such kit it should sound marvelous. Still cats can look at kings
     
  15. Ian J

    Ian J
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    Unfortunately we didn't get to see it as either the queues were too long or it had just started with a long wait until the next demo. We also missed the Denon demo for the same reason (first time we've missed it in 4 years) although they kindly let us in at the back but it was too crowded and we could neither see nor hear anything properly so squeezed out again.
     
  16. robfitzp

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    Ian

    Nice show report. I would agree that the number of rooms playing simple accoustic or Norah Jones was frustrating. Credit to the guys in the Moon room who played a varied selection including Nine Inch Nails and Tom Waits. Confidence in their equipment obviously.

    I have to say I thought the M&K room showing the Kevin Costner western was painful - maybe that is what they were going for given the number of people being shot! I spent quite a while in there and the clarity was incredible but after about 1 minute I wished I could have turned the volume down.

    Least impressive was the room with the Mitsubishi projector on the 4th floor. It may have been superb but the guys running it could not get it to work with an Iscan so they were just showing a blue screen......Nice to know they are all knowledgeable about the product.

    WB was my favourite room at the show - the two channel set up with a pair of Arcs and the new Precision Base filled the conservatory very nicely. The AV set up was not quite on a par with last year's - Curves instead of ACTs and only one pair of Arcs at the back, but it was still superb. I have exhausted all goodwill with my wife otherwise the gloss red cherry curves would have been coming home with me.....

    Cheers
    Rob
     
  17. danny daniell

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    Rob,
    was it the Onkyo room you are describing,or the M&K? The Onkyo guys were using M&K`s & were playng Queen in DTS 96/24....i thought it sounded fantastic! Freds vocals sounded so realistic.

    Dan
     
  18. Nimby

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    The Blue Man Group "Complex" was my favorite CD for quite a long time. Definitely a "grower" and I recommend it highly for those growing tired of the same old tired "three men and a drummer" format. (it must be an age thing. :rolleyes: )

    Reading between the lines Ian, I would say your system is too bright for enjoying a wide range of music. Steely Dan on my own system is not "bright". Your excellent show report suggests you are looking for matchingly bright systems to your own. (I could be wrong) :)

    The popular British Subwoofer manufacturers are not doing anybody any favours it seems. Least of all their would-be customers.

    I'd be absolutely miffed to hear that a manufacturer was using a second concealed sub if I was in the market for a British sub. This smacks of something rather more serious than balancing the bass in a hotel room! But then I'm not a legal expert in consumer protection. Nor did I see the degree of concealment with my own eyes.

    Regards
    Nimby
     
  19. robfitzp

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    Dan

    I am talking about the M&K room upstairs at the end of the corridor - Onkyo were on the ground floor IIRC? Didn't hear them playing any music.

    Cheers
    Rob
     
  20. Elephant Man

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    I was impressed with the sound gof the un shots from the western, in the M&K room.
     
  21. ahin4114

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    The gunshots were crisp, but 5 minutes of overly loud gunshot only footage was a bit extreme. M&K's were also being used in the Lexicon demo of their RV-8. Unfotunately whoever was running that had a dB fixation too, and the woodland scene from house of flying daggers was uncomfortable to several people, myself included.
     

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