Bristol show review

Ian J

Banned
I have taken the liberty of reproducing my "Bristol Show" review thread here as it only deals with speakers :-

For the fourth year running I did the rounds with Nobber22 and we seem to have broadly similar tastes in loudspeakers although very different tastes in music.

I have the same complaint again this year as I always do and that is that too many companies demo their products with plinky plinky stuff that has neither range nor dynamics and therefore tells you diddly squat. There is never enough time to hear everything so we didn't bother with those that refused to demo their equipment using decent material.

I took a small notebook with me as I can never remember what's what and I found that making a note of what was being played acted as a good reminder when trying to sort the wheat from the chaff later on.

Arcam is always an unusual demo as they are demonstrating their amp and CD but so much of the sound that you are hearing will be down to the speakers which this year were PMC. In order to show the difference between vanilla stereo and 5.1 he first played a Seal track in stereo then told us how much more spacious the sound would be when switching to 5.1 and playing the track again. Unfortunately I was sitting a couple of feet directly in front of the left hand speaker so the stereo or special surround effects were completely lost on me and I atually thought that the sound was better without the centre speaker in use.

Canton – we wanted to hear the 5.1 system that everyone on the forum is talking about but they had just finished the demo when we arrived and were playing a pair of traditional floorstanders. Not that impressed so moved on.

Focal were demoing their Electra BE 1000 with ribbon tweeter at £2,300 per pair in an interesting setting where they tried to recreate a typical living room complete with fireplace and sofa. I sat down and as I didn't like the music that they were playing which sounded to me like 2,000 cats all screaming (at reference level) I got up to leave but the salesmen was alerter than most and whipped the CD off and asked what I would like to hear. The acoustic guitar track that he played next gave a much better indication of what the speakers could do but unfortunately it was still much too loud and well about the levels that an acoustic guitar would sound like in real life. Still, one to shortlist for a proper demo outside of a hotel room.

Focal also had the room opposite where they were demo'ing a 5.1 system. Nobber and I were the only guests at the time and we watched a rather washed out Pod Race on plasma. When it had finished the salesman flicked to Hotel California from the Hell Freezes over Tour and as soon as I started to smile the salesman decided that he didn't want to play that so flicked it onto Peter Gabriel. Everyone has Hotel California so it's a great reference point but this salesman was as daft as his colleague in the other room was as attentive.

Leema Acoustics is a company that I discovered at Bristol several years ago, nearly buying their little Xen mini monitors at the time. Looking forward to hearing them again I was disappointed to see that they were using Steely Dan's Two Against Nature as demo material which is a terribly recorded DVD that nothing could ever make sound good, so regretfully we quickly moved on.

Living Voice had a very interesting demo of their £7,500 speakers which sounded as good this year as they did last year. The speakers may seem expensive but their prices paled into insignificance when compared to what they were connected to, starting off with interconnects at £1,600 and finishing with an astonishing £48,000 for a monoblock amp.

M&K had the £1,700 per pair flat 150 speakers on demo with Robbie Williams doing the honours. Like him or loathe him there is no denying that it makes for good demo material and the M&K's sounded good, especially as the room was larger than the average living room.

We looked into the N'Bien room and they were demo'ing a pair of very classy looking standmounted speakers at £900. They sounded very good on jazzy material that wasn't particularly demanding until we asked him to play something else. He put on Phil Collins/Genesis and it was so bright that it made my teeth go on edge – yuk.

PMC always take care over their demos and this time was no exception. In one room they had two pairs of floorstanders on two channel duty, the £1,145 GB1 and the £1,695 FB1+ switching between the two. They were playing music that showed off the great dynamics and bass of the two speakers ( Blue Man Group and Kraftwerk) but not enough to indicate what the top end sounded like. Overall they both sounded good and both would be on my shortlist to demo properly.

The second PMC room had their new wafer speakers with three wafers of the £1,650 per pair variety at the front and the smaller wafers at £1,100 on rear duty all coupled up with a £1,600 TLE sub. They were playing Bela Fleck and the Flecktones whom I had never heard of but promptly bought as soon as I got home. The midband and treble sounded great but the overall sound wasn't well integrated as the bass was much too loud but this was a room/setup problem so forgiveable. I liked the sound but when you tot up the total cost of a system it's an awful lot and there is much better value out there in the traditionally shaped speakers.

Proac had on demo a pair of their £1,400 Studio 140 floorstanders playing piano jazz and boy they sounded good. Five stars from What Hifi and for once I wouldn't disagree.

REL/Vienna Acoustics provided both the best and the worst demo in the show. We listened to a pair of £3,000 Vienna Beethoven Concert Grand large floorstanders underpinned by the new REL £1,800 B1 subwoofer and in my opinion this was the best display of the lot. They were playing a Strauss waltz that demonstrated top end, mid range and dynamics with the REL beautifully integrated and coming in just for the low notes. Following up Strauss with Wynton Marsalis really sold this combination to me and if I had the necessary large room to accomodate these speakers I would have ordered a pair on the spot.

The other REL/Vienna Acoustics room was by contrast a disappointment. This was a five channel demo using a pair of £2,195 Beethoven Baby Grand's plus a Maestro Grand centre. I think that the rears were the standmounted Haydn Grand speakers but I didn't take much notice as I was leaning on it. Playing a musical piece I was struck by how good the Baby Grand's were and how much better they would be in real life situations than the large floorstanders that we heard next door. Switching to Mousehunt I was struck by how different the voicing seemed to be between the centre and the main speakers and I didn't like the centre speaker at all. The Baby Grands were open and airy whilst the centre was boxy with all of the voices sounding compressed.

It was the REL subwoofers that were the most disappointing as although the bass was adequate, when I asked the salesman which sub was being used he said that there were three different subs from the new R range in use. One was boosting the centre speaker, one was boosting the rears and the third was used for LFE only. What use is that. We wanted to hear what a REL sub sounded like not three all wired up together.

We started off in the Ruark room listening to a pair of £2,800 Crusader3 floorstanders. They sounded superb but as they were the first speakers that we listened to we said that we would go back for another listen at the end to see if they still sounded as good but unfortunately we ran out of time.

I like Spendor but they were playing plinky plinky stuff that anything could probably reproduce well so as there wasn't enough time to hear everything anyway we didn't stay long.

Tannoy had a pair of £1,200 Autograph Mini speakers. These were tiny yet if you shut your eyes you would have thought that they were large floorstanders, such was the power and scale. Nobber asked the salesman if there was a subwoofer hidden away but it was all their own work. The biggest drawback with these speakers was the look as they appeared to be designed to partner 1960's G Plan furniture

Vivid Loudspeakers was a room that we nearly passed by as we had never heard of them but luckily we went in. The pair that we listened to had a very unusual design to say the least but sounded superb which at £10,750 per pair they should. A pair of woofers fired forward plus another pair firing rearwards and both front & rear ported
in a most unusual conical shape. I don't know how many people would find the shape acceptable ( see here )but they would look a treat in one of these trendy warehouse conversions and when the South African Nobber22 found out that they were made in his home country he started reaching for his chequebook

We had two stabs at Wilson Benesch as the morning visit co-incided with a complete power failure. We returned at about 4:00 pm and had pride of place on the comfy settee in front of the two channel setup featuring a pair of £2,100 Arc standmounted speakers. Initially they were playing some awful drum & bass rubbish (that Nobber liked) but replaced it with some Elgar which may not be to everyone's taste but at least it can demonstrate how good the speakers are. Good they were too although I'm not too sure about the hugely expensive subwoofer that isn't a subwoofer.

As we were still listening at 5:00pm when the show was supposed to shut Nobber and I didn't have the chance to reflect on what we had heard and to rank them in any order but if I had the space the Vienna Beethoven Concert Grand's would be top of my list closely followed by the Wilson Benesch Arc's . If I could have physically accommodated either of them I would have left the show several thousand pounds poorer but with a huge smile on my face.
 

clarky78

Active Member
Damn, i had this thought in my mind, of a few guys standing around talking about hifi with about 10 things on show, i mean it's was a hotel not the NEC!!... where can you possibly demo stuff in a hotel? short of hiring out all the bedrooms and removing all the beds!

Seems i missed out there then..

I assume the speakers you didn't like would possibly be better with different partnering equipment. I mean at the end of the day, you can probably get anything to sound good if it's with the 'right' kit.
 

Knyght_byte

Novice Member
nice review Ian, i must get myself to a show one time, keep meaning to and keep forgetting to save up the money to get there and stuff...lol

clarky, i take it you've never been in a proper full size hotel then? only a small local one?...heh
 
D

DIGITAL VIRGIN

Guest
First time at the show for me so I did not know what to expect. Amusing and frustrating in equal measures. Initially enjoyed the novelty of visiting the bedrooms in turn, feeling slightly naughty sitting expectantly in a room filled with middle aged men - now I have never been to a strip joint - but it seemed a good approximation. I then got increasingly frustrated in that they were not demoing the speakers I wanted (come back in 2 hours Sir ) and was also amazed at the CD's they were playing and consequently the lack luster sound from what was very expensive kit. Spent half an hour looking for Wharfdale - who were not there!!
My highlight however, and this made the trip worthwhile was being told by a nice Cyrus lady to go upstairs and liten to a Cyrus powered pair of Wilson Benesch stand mounters ( just to highlight my novice status I had never heard of them). Initially confronted with some indifferent music from huge floorstanders with an amprack the size of a chest freezer and interconnects the size of firehoses. Nervously asked if I could listen to a CD which I had taken along - Santana / Clapton duet and sat in the comfy leather sofa in front of the Arc/Cyrus set up. It was the first decent demo of the day - stunning. Caused quite a bunfight as people clamoured to write down the name of my CD.
Now if I had the money I would have bought the Arcs too - even though I only have a series III Cyrus set up. Will I go next year - probably not. It's not the best place to seriously audition - but it was an experience.
 

lewi

Novice Member
Ian J,

Great review and thank you for sharing it with us (Sorry that sounds patronising but not mean't I assure you). You obvioulsy went for the 'big stuff' if the prices quoted are anything to go by but I would be interested in any views you may have gained concerning the Acoutic Energy T for theatre 5.1 surround sound speaker package which were launched at the show. My bother in law, whose views on audio kit I highlt rate thought they were excellent at video both surround sound and pure audio kit.

Any views?
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
I wasn't overly impressed with the AE speakers, didn't really stand out, although I'm not sure these are the best places to really get a feel for how anything sounds!!

Apart from the 5.1 Arcam demo which I thought looked and sounded excellent, (I had a more central listening spot) the new KEF 3000 series certainly made an impact. For such a small speaker set (like the AE's) they sounded very good. The matched sub was a gem and really gave the whole thing some good kick, something that was missing from many of the demos, any sign of bass and decent music!!:)

Ian.
 

Ian J

Banned
lewi said:
I would be interested in any views you may have gained concerning the Acoutic Energy T for theatre 5.1 surround sound speaker package which were launched at the show.

If they were the speakers in the AE room near the AV Forums room I thought that they were quite good and well worth the £800 asking price.

It isn't easy to demo speakers in a hotel room as I remember last year AE had speakers in that same room that sounded deadful but we spotted the same speakers in someone else's room and they sounded much better.
 

lewi

Novice Member
Ian thanks,

That helps alot. I was interested in the new KEF 3000's. A bit pricey but we will see if anyone starts discounting (Which I doubt). Its hard. I had bought Ruark rears and a centre to compliment my Sceptres but my wife flatly refused to use them becaue they were "too large". I got a full refund from a VERY understanding speciaist Hi-Fi and Video dealer.

I want/need a really good small speaker system. I know when my wife hears what micro's do or rather can't do, she will appreciate why I wanted the Ruarks. Trouble is, I've lost a great price deal which I won't ever get back! Hey Ho.
 

clarky78

Active Member
Knyght_byte said:
nice review Ian, i must get myself to a show one time, keep meaning to and keep forgetting to save up the money to get there and stuff...lol

clarky, i take it you've never been in a proper full size hotel then? only a small local one?...heh


No i have been in very big ones (part of my job), but i couldn't see a few conference rooms doing a 'show' much justice. I'm used to the NEC!

But it seems i was right, and they used bedrooms!
 

lewi

Novice Member
Ian J said:
If they were the speakers in the AE room near the AV Forums room I thought that they were quite good and well worth the £800 asking price.

It isn't easy to demo speakers in a hotel room as I remember last year AE had speakers in that same room that sounded deadful but we spotted the same speakers in someone else's room and they sounded much better.

Hi Ian,

We appear to have two Ians on this thread. So I replied to the wrong one! I believe the speakers you heard were the ones my B-in-L heard. After a very disappointing demo of the Tannoy Arenas in a specialist AV retailer recently (£1200), I think the AE Theatres will fill my bill
 

Badger0-0

Member
Nice review Ian J :smashin:

Tannoy had a pair of £1,200 Autograph Mini speakers. These were tiny yet if you shut your eyes you would have thought that they were large floorstanders, such was the power and scale. Nobber asked the salesman if there was a subwoofer hidden away but it was all their own work. The biggest drawback with these speakers was the look as they appeared to be designed to partner 1960’s G Plan furniture

I'm intrigued about these.
More research needed, methinks.
I don't care about looks, it's sound I want :smashin:
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
lewi said:
We appear to have two Ians on this thread. So I replied to the wrong one! I believe the speakers you heard were the ones my B-in-L heard. After a very disappointing demo of the Tannoy Arenas in a specialist AV retailer recently (£1200), I think the AE Theatres will fill my bill

The other Ian again! :) I'm sure the KEF guy at the show said that they would £1000 for the 5.1 set, although I'm assuming that didn't include the stands. The AE's had custom stands on show as well. I would give the KEF's a listen if they're not out of range, I'm not a fan of Satellite type speakers in general, but these did sound good. Also the KEF centre is larger than the others with 2 woofers (if you can call something not that large a woofer) to try and make dialogue sound better... again difficult to gauge at the show, but if I was in the market for that sort of thing then I would definitely give them a proper demo...

HTH,

Ian S.
 

spiver

Active Member
Nice review Ian. I`ve got to agree that the choice of demo material leaves a lot to be desired. I sometimes wonder exactly what sort of person they are trying to appeal to. Its all too easy to be put off a good product due to a poor demo.
I`ve not been to the Bristol show but I assume that its the same scenario at the Heathrow show. Actually thinking to take a notebook makes sense but its also worth taking your own reference discs along.
Even the demonstrators must get fed up with live jazz (or whatever) after a while.:boring:

Glad you mentioned the Proacs. I love 'em - my D15s are the only floorstander than I have been able to live with for any length of time and I have never felt the urge to upgrade them which in itself is some kind of miracle.:clap:

Looking forward to your 2007 review :thumbsup:
 

Ian J

Banned
spiver said:
Actually thinking to take a notebook makes sense but its also worth taking your own reference discs along.
Even the demonstrators must get fed up with live jazz (or whatever) after a while.:boring:

I did but I forgot to mention it. :(

Regulars in the subwoofer forum may recall someone posting that the Joss Stone album "Mind, Body & Soul" contains one particular track ( Snakes Find Ladders ) that contains bass notes of depth and power that are very unusual in CD's and even many cheaper and smaller subwoofers were having difficulties with the track.

The Tannoy Autograph Minis were thumping out loads of bass playing an Elton John disc and so I offered up Joss and whilst it sounded good the bass had completely disappeared.

We did the same thing with some huge, ugly floorstanders that were supposed to reproduce bass notes down deep but again these notes were just about heard but without much impact.

If you want to hear Joss Stone as it was recorded it would seem you can only do so with a subwoofer.
 

Beobloke

Active Member
Ian J said:
We looked into the N’Bien room and they were demo’ing a pair of very classy looking standmounted speakers at £900. They sounded very good on jazzy material that wasn’t particularly demanding until we asked him to play something else. He put on Phil Collins/Genesis and it was so bright that it made my teeth go on edge – yuk.

I happened upon the N'Bien room as Jennifer Warnes was playing and i have to say i have NEVER heard the bass line from "Somewhere somebody" reproduced so badly!

I quite agree with you about some of the music being played as well - i walked out of at least 4 rooms because whatever was playing was so quiet that a nearby subwoofer was drowning it out!
 

Nobber22

Novice Member
Badger0-0 said:
Nice review Ian J :smashin:

Tannoy had a pair of £1,200 Autograph Mini speakers. These were tiny yet if you shut your eyes you would have thought that they were large floorstanders, such was the power and scale. Nobber asked the salesman if there was a subwoofer hidden away but it was all their own work. The biggest drawback with these speakers was the look as they appeared to be designed to partner 1960’s G Plan furniture

I'm intrigued about these.
More research needed, methinks.
I don't care about looks, it's sound I want :smashin:

I asked the Tannoy bloke about other finishes and he hinted that the Autograph range may well be added to, with some more up-to-date finishes soon. Again, stunning little speakers!! :clap:
 

russraff

Well-known Member
Here's a piccy of the Tannoy Mini, for those who are curious.
 

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  • Tannoy mini.jpg
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Badger0-0

Member
Agreed.
Just showed the pic to the missus and she said "no way".
Looks like I'll have to wait till the new finishes come out.
Does anyone know what was feeding them??
 

russraff

Well-known Member
They do look a bit retro, but then so do all the Tannoy prestige range. Have a look at the Westminster Royal on Tannoy's site and you'll see where the inspiration has come from.
 

conkerman

Active Member
Funny how we can all see things differently!! :)

A quick summary is as follows.

Tannoy, I liked the mini Autographs but did not like the snobbish response that I recieved when I asked how these speakers perfomed with some slightly more energetic music, Sounded nice though!
I must admit after visiting in 2003 and being totally patronised by the REL chap, I will never buy a REL product. Was a lot busier on Saturday as well.

Liked.
Living voice, yummy, the cleanest power I have ever heard.
AE, Well impressed by the AE1 Classic, still great after all these years.
Totem, the Arros sounded great at the end of a pretty affordable system.
Focal, Sounded good with Audioslave and that did it for me.
Naim, The room with the Allae left me cool with the plinky plinky stuff, emanem sounded great.
Revolver R33's for £199, should have bought 'em.
New Linn stuff looks nice.
Dali room was a nice place to be.



Didn't like.

Crowds
Girlfriend didn't like the food.
Jamo 909's totally overwhelming the room.
Crappy music used in 80% of demos.
Cyrus sounded pretty weak to me, not sure whether it was the room or what, but was very, very thin sounding.
Audiolab not demoing :(
Rega demo was pretty underwhelming, may have been the recording of the flaming lips though.
Being bored to death by the vienna acoustics bloke for over 10 mins without playing any music.
Not being able to get in the Arcam room.

The new AE system sounded pretty good to me with the Coldplay DVD.

Looking forward to next year.
Gaz
 

conkerman

Active Member
Fair point :)

But there was some expensive kit there that was pretty unimpressive.

IIRC the amps were £48K per pair :gulp:

They really did a good job for 7.5K speakers. Like I could ever afford them :)
 

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