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, its impossible to demo everything properly so we made a start by not staying longer than a couple of minutes with any company that wasnt prepared to demo their own equipment properly. I dont think that Norah Jones at low volume will show anyone anything about a speakers capabilities so we didnt 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 CDs and music DVDs 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 companys speakers and it was difficult to know how much effect they had on the sound that we heard. Arcam were demoing 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 demoing 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 wasnt 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 its a shame that they dont 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 couldnt see what they were. Likewise I couldnt see which sub REL were using but I wasnt impressed with either demo which is a shame as I would like to have been. My star of the show last year (and Nobbers 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 demoing 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 wasnt 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 hadnt conquered. Tact was another room where they used their own electronics complete with room equalisation which was pumped through another makers speakers. This time they were a pair of Dali floorstanders and the overall sound was exquisite. Three years ago Wilson Beneschs 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. Its 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 dont know what the details of the speaker that we heard were or the price (it wouldnt 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 wasnt 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 dont 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 dont 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 didnt sound as good, the music being used wasnt 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. Omigas main interests lie in far too technical areas for me but it seems that apart from their cabling side they modify other companys 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 CDs for us and these speakers sounded superb. They even made Suzanne Vega sound good and I cant 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.