A brief encounter at the Bristol Sound & Vision Show 2017
This year’s Bristol Sound & Vision Show was in its 30th year and it is the longest running and biggest Hi-Fi and AV Show currently in the UK. I have visited it quite a number of times over this 30-year period and some of them have been very good and some just OK, with the exception of this year’s event. This one seemed to have a buzz surrounding it and well ok it was its 30th anniversary but it was really buzzing, not just because of the high attendance but also due to the fact that it had so many manufacturers displaying this year, and some really interesting products and electronics. With numerous amounts of luxurious speakers from the likes of Focal, ProAc, Spendor, ATC and PMC to name just a few there was so many that it was quite overwhelming and I wish that I had attended for more days as I was only able to attend on the last day which was the Sunday. I just did not have enough time to see everything as all the exhibitors were sprawled across the whole of the Bristol Marriot’s Hotel, and I mean it had literally taken over the whole place with most of the floors showing something.
I had a plan which I had marked out on the visitors guide but like all plans something went wrong somewhere as I was not expecting the quality to be so high but it was, and I ended up staying longer in some of the rooms than expected. The portable Head-Fi section of the show was also very good as it had many different Headphone exhibitors and portable high resolution players on show and ready to demonstrate. The one which I was really keen on listening to was the new Sony NW-WM1Z High-Resolution Audio Walkman with partnering Sony Headphones and indeed it was very special with a beautiful sound that was just drawing you into the music, I own the new Sony NW-WM1A player but this is a big step up in sonic quality and that is due to the superb build quality with its sumptuous gold finish, and an all copper frame in which the electronics are built into, it also uses the Axios Kimber Cables throughout.
After the longish stay in the head-fi section we then made a visit to the Naim Audio and Focal demonstration with which you had to book a show time as it was being demonstrated in intervals, with talks from Naim Audio and Focal about their new Unity range of electronics and these were playing through the Focal Sopra No2 Speakers which were finished in a lovely white gloss finish. I was not expecting to hear what we heard, as I was accustomed to the Focal Utopia range and their sound quality which was my reference for Focal speakers. The Sopra No2 had an absolutely exquisite treble and midrange which sounded so lush that I could not believe that they were being powered by one of the Naim Audio’s Unity range of electronics as they managed to fill the whole room which is massive but they did a tremendous job. There was a downside in that the bass was not quite all there and did not have the snappiness that I was used to but I do not think it was the speakers fault instead more power could have rectified this very minor issue. I was also impressed by the new Naim Audio Unity range as they have certainly been completely redesigned and the look and sound is incredible for the price as these units can do it all more or less in one box.
Next, we headed on down to the ATC and Chord Electronics room which were demonstrating the ATC SCM4O Speakers connected with Chord Electronics including the award-winning DAVE DAC, and this combination sounded very nice indeed. The ATC speakers sound was very precise and rewarding with good sound staging and imaging which the Chord Electronics showed off to a very high level, proving that you do not need massive boxes to make these speakers sound good as the Chord Electronics are so compact in design but stacked with features and with the usual exceptional build quality.
We then made a direct route to the Esoteric room which were displaying and playing a multitude of their electronics and all the music was being played through the gorgeous ProAc K6 speakers which sounded divine, with a sound that filled the room with such a quality that we ended up staying considerably longer than intended. I was hooked by the sound that these speakers were portraying. The bass was so taught and deep with a beautiful texture to it with multiple layers that just seemed to get better the longer we were listening. Every part of the music seemed to be perfect in its presentation. Midrange was so fluid and rich in sound quality and the icing on this very beautiful speaker was the ribbon tweeter which sounded so delicious and sparkled with every bit of music being played through them. I ended up taking some video of this room which can only give you a hint of the sound quality on offer as in the flesh it sounded so much nicer than it came out on my recording, but I thought it deserved to be shared all the same.
Another room which I have always liked in the past when visiting previous shows was the Wilson Benesch room which had its Geometry range of speakers playing and this included the new Discovery II Speakers which were partnered with CH Precision and DS Audio electronics and the brilliant Torus infrasonic subwoofer. As a previous owner of the Wilson Benesch Discovery speakers these new ones are a major step up and this is down to the incredible engineering and design that Wilson Benesch are so good at and have refined over the years. They looked absolutely stunning too with a new red carbon finish on both the A.C.T One speakers and Discovery II speakers. Wilson Benesch are the masters of carbon when it comes to speakers as they have been using the material for as long as I can remember. Once again, we spent longer than intended due to the beautiful sounds that were being demonstrated by this room and managed to get some good video content as well as lots of pictures which can be found on my social media channels.
In all this was the best Sound & Vision Show that I have attended over the many years that this event has been running and judging by the sheer number in attendance it certainly was busy with people constantly coming in. It is such a great venue too with the Marriot hotel offering such great facilities to all the visitors. I loved the show and so did my colleague with both of us absolutely shattered at the end of the day but the highlights were most certainly the Esoteric and ProAc rooms, also the Wilson Benesch room which both had us mesmerized and captivated by the quality that was on offer. I will certainly be returning next year and apologies to all the other exhibitors that we did not have time to see and hear which I am sure were very good such was the standard of this show this year.
You can see more pictures of the show on my Facebook page and also Instagram where you can see the pictures shown in full.