Rega’s Phil Freeman told me that they were trying to stop visitors from taking the system too seriously this year. His reasoning being that trying to appreciate its finer points in a hotel room with high ambient noise is akin to test driving a Ferrari in a car park. As a distraction Simon Webster had brought along a variety of turntable components to illustrate the differences between models. They played an RP10 with its shiny RB2000 arm and the Apheta MC through an Aria phono stage, a Saturn-R spun discs and an Elicit-R provided power for a pair of RS5 speakers. But we weren’t listening, honest.
Bob Surgeoner put his little pink things on display at Bristol, this being the Motive XS range’s first public outing in the UK, the pink SX2s first appeared in Munich last year. The Neat system consisted of an LP12 with Radikal power supply, Naim Superline and Supercap phono stage, NDS and 555 streamer and a relatively restrained SuperUniti2 integrated amp. Neat’s room was selected by the Clarity Alliance as a runner up in its best Best Sounding Hi-Fi Room category, which can’t be bad for a system at a fiftieth of the price of the winning Naim/Focal system.
Chord Co was demonstrating the benefits of cable upgrades by hooking up a row of Chord Electronics Toucan headphone amps with Chameleon, Chorus Reference, Anthem Reference and Signature Tuned ARAY interconnects. All five Toucans were connected to Nigel’s Bonnec preamp and a pair of KEF M500 headphones so that comparisons could be easily made. Upstairs in a dem room Chord Co were demonstrating differences between Ethernet cables, or practicing the dark arts as some would have it. Differences it turned out were widely noted however and the ‘it’s only 1s and 0s’ argument buried once again. Chord Co won the Clarity Alliance Best Stand in Open Areas award for its efforts.
Derek Gilligan had hoped to demonstrate the new X3 floorstander at Bristol but supply problems meant that he was only able to show a pre-production example. The X3 is a larger version of the X2 with a 6.5inch mid/bass driver, that’s it next to its maker above. Derek used his Super 10 standmounts with a Naim system fronted by a DPS turntable with ARO arm and Dynavector Te Kaitora moving coil. As with Neat the phono stage was a Superline and an NDS/555 provided the digital source, but Kudos used a NAC 552/NAP 500 to control and drive the system.
Bristol was the first UK outing for the Statement NAC S1 and NAP S1 amplifier, the new jewel in the company’s crown and one of the most astonishing products in the business. At Bristol Naim took a big room near the bar and installed a pair of Focal Grande Utopia III loudspeakers alongside an NDS with twin 555 power supplies and a CD555 with just the one. It sounded stunning but not quite as resolute as it had in Las Vegas the previous month. I asked Steve Sells about it and discovered that the room had had a temporary raised floor installed creating a void beneath it and this was not as solid as he would have liked. Apparently the NAC S1 was also not run in and it sounded a lot better on the Sunday than it had on Friday as is often the case with kit that takes an age to warm up. That said it was still by far the best sound at the show, a state of affairs appreciated by the Clarity Alliance who gave it the Best Sounding Hi-Fi Room award, an honour that was collected by sales director Doug Graham, seen here with his halo still intact, and former Alliance chairman and Hi-Fi+ editor Alan Sircom.
Nytech & ARC
Surprise of the show was the reappearance of two brands that any self respecting flat earther will remember. Nero Audio of Germany has started making ARC’s passive/active speakers again using big 8inch drivers in the original style and Nytech Audio has been revived by engineer Philip Balaam in Wales. They brought along some classic Nytech for visitors to get all misty eyed about, Philip services the button festooned beauties as well as building a new range under this classic name.
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