Spring & Summer 2021 Round-upThe last year has been testing for everyone concerned, and it is with relief we start to move towards a level of normality again. We are now back in the shop and open again for appointments Monday to Friday. We have been working hard over the lockdown period to prepare for re-opening including adding to our demonstration equipment. Ill briefly round up what we have added and some other product news.
We have added the Trinnov Amethyst preamplifier, Optimiser & DAC. Something we have coveted for a while given our experience with the Altitude 32 and 16. This will offer reference performance for both our 2.1 channel digital sources and enable us to bestow the benefits of proper room correction on a 2.1 system as well as seamless subwoofer integration, something that cannot be underestimated.
We have had a parade of cinema processors over lockdown. I have had the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time with the Lyngdorf MP60, Trinnov Altitude 16 and Storm ISP Mk2 in my cinema at home. We are the only business with direct regular experience of all three of these platforms and having them at home for assessment really brought into tight focus the differences between all three competing platforms putting us in a unique position to offer detailed advice on the best solution for every room we come across. Currently the cinema in the shop is being powered by the Anthem MRX740 and MCA525 and as the software develops on the new Anthem platform you can really hear these products start to come alive. It is important that we have the new products on demonstration for a consistent period. This enables us to thoroughly test and put them through their paces. We always find that these times early in a product life cycle are the most beneficial for us to be able to offer detailed support and assistance to our customers, whatever question they may have.
As of today, we also welcome Arcam products to our installation portfolio. Both Nick and I have a long history with Arcam and can now supply their full range for installations in cinema and hifi applications including the Arcam AV10, AV20, AV30 & AV40.
We have added to our two channel sources in the shape of the CEC CD5N Player and TL5N transport. To put is very simplistically CEC produce very analogue sounding digital devices, packed with soul. This comes from their unique deployment of a belt drive for the mechanism. The development of the CEC Belt Dive System started on the technical premise that in their basic form, analogue turntables and digital CD players are fundamentally the same. Although the speed of a CD varies, the change takes place in tiny increments. In other words, the speed during a certain time period can be seen as constant. Based on this result CEC developed a completely new CD playback system, which is free from acoustic feedback, has a higher signal to noise ratio and eliminates jitter. For this development CEC has worldwide patent rights, the design is as unique as the sound.
This joins our existing Bluesound, Sonos and Lumin X1 & Lumin D2 network streamers along with our existing turntable range from Project and Technics. We have a few things cooking with the turntables within the shop but nothing we can announce at this time, the main addition in this arena is the new Hegel V10 Phono Stage. A fantastic phono preamplifier punching well above its weight and a perfect companion to the Technics SL1210GR and Sumiko Songbird combination. We can still offer a fantastic Technics turntable refurb packages as well. This includes fully customised plinths, arms, buttons and internal wiring. We can essentially take a battered old 1210MK2 and turn it into a dream high fidelity turntable which will last for ever.
On the cinema front we are about to imminently welcome the Reavon UBR-X100 & UBR-X200 BD UHD Players, these seem to be offering an upmarket option for people who covet the old Oppo players and may hopefully stop some of the ridiculous pricing on eBay of these older Oppo disc spinners. The performance of the Oppo units was bettered by the Panasonic UDP-9000 almost immediately after Oppos exit from the sector and the Panasonic still one of the best players available, so the inflated prices on eBay have always been a little baffling to say the least.
Speakers & Subwoofers
We have had some major additions in this area, by far the biggest in terms of size and sound is the completion of our Ascendo fabric wall system in the main cinema. This features 3 x Ascendo CCRM12P Passive 12” monitors and two Ascendo SMSG15 WL, 15” subwoofers. We have had some fantastic results with Ascendo products in customers systems, so we thought it was time commit to a full array in the office. The speed to which the system now responds is utterly amazing, so much so I have upgraded half the cinema at home to Ascendo CCRM6-P monitors with a huge bump in performance as a result. I would not be surprised if we added the infrasonic 24” subwoofer later in the year to this system to really put the cat among the pigeons. These now sit alongside our Wisdom Insight P2m’s as our preferred options to reproduce cinema sound to a supremely accurate degree.
We have added to the hi-fi speaker selection by adding Audiovector QR series. We are extremely picky about what brands we stock as they need to not only produce a good sound but be perfectly accurate across the frequency range, the less is more approach. Audiovector as a brand we have had an eye on for some time and after extensive listening tests realised it fits in with the sound we are trying to achieve. Quite different to Davone and Amphion our other main brands, probably down to their use of the unique tweeter drive unit which can work like a perfect piston over several octaves of the frequency band without the distortion normally found in aluminium/diamond drive units. This means music sounds warm, precise and detailed, yet dynamic and musical, the sound literally jumps out of the speaker at you. Speaking of Amphion, we have also added the highly regarded Amphion 7LS to our shop system. Recently awarded best speaker under £10,000 by Hifi+ Magazine, these really are big, stunning speakers, particularly on the end of our very capable Hegel H30 Power Amplifier.
There has also been quite a bit of movement on subwoofers, Velodynes new Deep Blue series have been a welcome addition coming in a variety of guises for 8” up to 15” variants. We also expect to see some higher end units this year which should be special given the pedigree of their predecessors. REL have upgraded the T series to the all-new Serie T/x models. REL do split people into two different camps, those who have heard them properly demonstrated and those who have not. If you look at the specifications on paper, I will tend to agree that they do not look like they should be anything special, and I admit that I was in that camp as a non-dealer for several years having not heard or experienced them. I can only think that REL are very fair with their measurements and as a result form that fairness they suffer from being on paper at least, lagging. But that does not tell the whole story. Listen to one and you can instantly hear the level of engineering and harmony at play in these products and you can literally hear where they are coming from in their approach to the design of bass. They do not do bass like anyone else, and that is a good thing. I would estimate 99% of people who give them in a chance in a demonstration get it, and then struggle to see past them. This is one of the reasons why experienced reviewers constantly sing their praises. If there is one negative, the flashy design is not for everyone, but we love them for what they are, great subwoofers.
The big recent news is that Harmony is now no more. Many people have relied on the Harmony platform to control multiple devices seamlessly within their home and their removal from the market will be a big blow for many. We can only hope that the technology will be for sale and someone else will pick up the baton and run with it. While it only accounted for a small part of Logitech’s portfolio, there must be a space in the market for a small company to make it work. In the interim we are left with a rather large hole in this area, something we can fill to an extent. We are currently testing an RTI control system which is remote based and while more advanced and more expensive than the Harmony equivalent, will offer an answer for those juggling remotes.
Television & Projector
Televisions these days are a bit like hook a duck at the fairground, if you are not quick the next one comes along. I do not think the television business will change significantly this year, short throw projectors and ALR screens are trying to make inroads into the TV market, but penetration and quality is still minimal compared to that of a decent OLED or LED. We currently have OLED sets on display from LG, Sony & Panasonic and should cover all the current 2021 ranges as they emerge. There is still no definitive movement from Samsung on Micro LED which could potentially be a revolution to the sector and have a bigger long-term impact than plasma did in the early days. As soon as we can buy one at a reasonable cost, we will have one on display here for certain.
The projector sector has been a little quiet of late, Sony have launched some new models; VPLVW290es, & VPL-590es, but these seem to build on previous versions rather than being a huge step change in terms of cost and performance, but they are slowly edging toward laser rather than traditional bulb-based performance. I would expect some news from the likes of Epson & JVC maybe later in the year when things have calmed a little, 2020 being the topsy turvy year it has been.
With regards cinema screens, I currently have the SI Solo Pro 2 screen at home to review, so this should be on the cards for one of my next published reviews once I have spent some more time with it over the next month or so. So far it looks great and being battery powered is a stroke of genius, I cant really understand why anyone has not done it before to be honest.
One of the big questions raging in the shop was what do you sit £50,000 of hifi equipment on? Our Custom Design Tuscan stand has done a great job during lockdown but with the addition of some key components it made sense to take on a premium Hi-Fi furniture brand. The key bit was to find something big and strong enough to be a sturdy home for the HEGEL H30 power amplifier, weighing in at 45kg this was no mean feat. So, it is with open arms that we welcome NEO Luxury Audio Racks to the shop. Handmade in Slovakia, these must be some of the best hifi supports I have seen, and I have seen a few. We currently have the NEO high end on permanent display at Slateford Road.
Links for Reference -
Storm ISP Mk2
Anthem MRX Range
CEC CD Players and Transports
Hegel H30 Power Amplifier
Reavon UHD BD Players
Ascendo Speakers & Subwoofers
Audiovector QR Series Speakers
Amphion 7LS Speakers
REL Serie T/x Subwoofers
RTI Remote Control Systems
Samsung Micro LED
Sony UHD Projectors
SI Solo Pro2 Cinema Screen
NEO High End Equipment Racks
Arcam AV & Stereo