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National Audio Show 2016 (UK)

09-23-2016 | By Bill Malcolm | Issue 87

This is my fourth attendance at the National Audio Show held each year at Whittlebury Hall near Towcester, England. I believe this will be the first time our readership at Positive Feedback will have been exposed to this show.

This has been the premier show in the UK until the last couple of years where the Hifi News Show has taken over that pedestal in my opinion. Certainly many of the core high end brands were missing from the National Audio Show this year, which was a great shame as historically it had quite an eclectic assemblage of brands from virtual DIY affairs through to super luxury like Dartzeel and Metronome. Indeed I recall from several years back an Absolute Sounds demonstration of Dartzeel NHB-458's driving Magicos and fronted with a Kalista Ultimate—wow!

That said, I fail to not enjoy myself at these events and this year was particularly special as I spent some quality time listening to music and boozing with Angel Despotov (CEO of Analog Domain) and Alain @ Choice Hifi. Analog Domain were putting in a big appearance with two separate rooms at this show—more on this later.

National Audio Show

Themes

Analogue was back in force and making a very strong case for itself indeed—not that it needed to for me being a fully subscribed vinyl junkie! Speaking of which, the show offers great opportunities to procure some new pressings as Diverse and other companies are always present. My favourite rooms and moments were all based on analogue replay to be honest.

National Audio Show

Room treatments were starting to find their way into a couple of rooms and I really think that more dealers should focus on this as some rooms had bad problems with booming bass. I can't understand why more dealers don't invest that small additional time to acquire a modicum of bass trapping...

Room treatments were nicely employed by Longdog Audio—the room fronted by Garrard 401 with electronics by Longdog Audio and Harbeth speakers. Non fatiguing sound that had great balance. I would want just a fraction more punch and dynamics but that is probably because I am not so predisposed to the Harbeth sonic signature. All in all, a very good room though.

New Products

I think it is fair to say that the Onkk direct drive turntable caught the attention of press and punter alike. The Onkk turntable uses a constrained layer plinth, ceramic bearing, direct drive motor, external DSP controlled PSU, and pistonic leg suspension. It was mated to a custom painted Origin Live tonearm and Van Den Hul Colibri platinum cartridge. This fed a two box NVO SPA phonostage and onto AVM amp and Vivid speakers. The sound was natural and never harsh with large soundstage and good timing. I enjoyed chatting to the designer whose background is in the super luxury clock world as well as Nick from Emporium.

IMG_1108

Analog Domain has recently launched their revised M75D integrated amplifier featuring in two rooms. Both rooms (Choice Hifi and Concerto Audio) used the Analog Domain in pre/power form (the M75D and M75P) powering Estelon and Marten speakers respectively. The sound was fast, highly resolving, dynamic but without veering into analytical. I know how great this product is as it is my weapon of choice at home fronting my Focal Maestro Utopias. These amplifiers have astonishing build quality and represent very high sound quality—they come highly recommended from me and did a sterling job in these two systems. I spent a good wedge of time with the delightful Alain Abensur from Choice Hifi—his system used the SME15 with Van Den Hul Crimson cart, Tom Evans phono, and Analog Domain amps. The sound was very refined with super detailing and pinpoint imaging. A great debut from Choice and I look forward to their next outing. Funnily enough, it was a previous National Audio Show where I first heard dCS using a Vivaldi DAC direct into an Analog Domain M75P then to Alexias that grabbed my interest—such was the visceral impact of the bass on a Muse track I heard.

National Audio Show

Sound of the Show

I think I have to hand this to Stephen Harper @ Audio consultants. Stephen presented a very high value system comprising Nottingham Analogue turntable with 12" arm and Clearaudio cartridge—this was fed into a Norma integrated and German Physiks speakers. The room was heavily treated with Acustica Applicata DAADs. The soundstage was frankly cavernous with great resolution and pinpoint detailing. My highlight was an Analogue Productions pressing of Billie Holiday that transfixed the audience—that Nottingham turntable with 12" arm represents absurd value for money in my opinion. Very well done, Stephen. I think you might also receive a call or two about the DAADs.

National Audio Show

Hidden Gems

On Sunday morning I entered a room tucked away from the melee by Woof Audio. I heard a Pear Audio turntable via a Croft phono stage and into Rethm speakers. The sound was intensely intimate and really wonderful. I heard a magnificent pressing of Visions by Hanss Theesink and Terry Evans. It was so good I papped it with my iPhone and purchased a copy as soon as I got home. From here, I leisurely ambled over to the Audio Note room (so chilled from the Woof experience), which never seems to put a foot wrong. The sound was inviting, lifelike, and highly musical. I could have sat in there all day to be honest. Mind you a slightly awkward kerfuffle regarding seat positions between the room proprietor and a punter made me scarper rather than being able to luxuriate in the Tomei and E's.

So there you have it, a short report from another National Audio Show. Will I go again? Sure—great to meet old and new friends, and discover new music. These objectives were hit 100%.

National Audio Show

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