This is my third year attending the HiFi Show Live event and was hoping for a good one and boy did it deliver on that front. Situated just off the M25 near Winsdor. The location is perfect for Heathrow and Gatwick airports which are not far at all. It means all our International friends can access it very quickly from the airports. For me, it is just an hour drive, so not far at all. So the location is near on perfect and I have to say that HiFi News has done a splendid job at organizing the show with so many great exhibitors and it was publicized brilliantly with all the major print magazines, online magazines/websites advertising the show and its content. That meant that visitors came from far and wide to be at the show., and it was packed on both Saturday and Sunday.
The event is spread all over the Devere Beaumont Hotel with rooms varying from small to fairly large and obviously, some were better than others. Due to their limiting size and acoustics of the rooms, they are not ideal in most cases. This was tackled by a lot of the exhibitors using room treatments like acoustic panels and bass traps which worked well for most. This show is where you get to see the very best in the high-end audio world for speakers and electronics in the UK bar none. It is a must for any serious audiophile who wants to see and hear the best of what the top manufacturers have to offer. So the distributors were out in force and two of the biggest in the UK had some of best rooms of the show, they are Absolute Sounds and Padood and both had some serious kit on offer to hear and see. They also had the UK first's to show off the latest and greatest pieces of kit from the different manufacturers. It also catered for all budgets, from the reasonable to the downright obscene amounts of money, but hey that is life and some have bigger wallets than others and it was nice to be able to get to hear the differences between such kit.
There were three stand-out rooms for me but before I go into detail let me go through some of the smaller rooms which offered great demos of kit which were more realistic for most of us. The first was the KEF and Chord Electronics which were demoing 2 rooms with the main one demonstrating the KEF Reference Five speakers with Chord Electronics, this room sounded great and was always busy with continuous music being demoed in both rooms. The second one had Chord Electronics HeadFi and the brilliant little KEF LS50 wireless speakers which this featured cabinets with a StarWars theme, and they were actually luminescent which could not be seen at first but when Rob from KEF showed us by blacking out part of the front baffle, they glowed which I would imagine looks cool at night, but most importantly they sound very good which is why they are such great speakers as you manage to get a pair of the best value active monitors on the market.
On to my next room which featured kit from Dali speakers and Luxman electronics, it was very busy and the Epicon 8 speakers sounded very lush indeed powered by some nice pieces of electronics from Luxman, a great combination and they looked stunning too. On from there was the Karma AV room which featured JBL 4367 and 4312SE speakers and they were partnered with Mark Levinson electronics and also the new No515 turntable which was co-developed with VPI Industries. The new turntable features a 3D printed arm which is then fitted with an Ortofon cartridge. This room sounded very good indeed with a nice spacious sound and the vinyl sounded great through the big JBL 4367 Monitors, powering them was Mark Levinson preamp and stereo power amplifier.
A manufacturer which I missed at the Indulgence show was Metaxas & Sins which has to be said has some of the nicest looking electronics and very striking and certainly different looking speakers than what we are used to. The Sirens which look like a curvy lady, even with a tush at the rear (seriously). Also on show were the smaller mini-monitors (Macrophones) which were playing when we entered the room. The Macrophones feature ceramic drivers which are behind metal grills due to their fragility. They presented a very box free sound which demonstrated how well designed they are and are perfect for monitoring purposes as we were sitting only about 1.5 meters away from them. Speaking to the founder Kostas Metaxas who is a recording engineer and designer, he has a long and established history in the audio world and it was a pleasure to meet and hear what he had to say about audio and the speaker industry and what inspires him to create such wonderful speakers and amplifiers.
On to my favorite rooms of the show and we were certainly spoilt for choice as this year the rooms were sounding incredible and the first one which was being demonstrated by Absolute Sounds was the breathtakingly good Wilson Audio Alexia series 2 speakers, they were complemented by Dan D'Agostino Progression electronics, dCS were also accompanying the Alexia's showing their new dCS Vivaldi One player. The original Alexia's were already one of my favourite and best sounding speakers on the planet, so how could you possibly improve on perfection, well Daryl Wilson has. With the Alexia series 2, they have the same tweeter as the WAMM Master Chronosonic and improved cabinet volume for the bass drivers and revised crossovers. This all adds up to what is one of the most dynamic sounding speakers I have heard with an immediacy which is rarely heard of until now, they start and stop on a dime with micro-dynamic and transients which are simply astounding. Demonstrating them was Peter McGrath from Wilson Audio who is also an established recording engineer. He played several pieces of music one of which was produced by Keith Richards and it sounded stunning with the bass slam that you really felt resonate through you, it was visceral and so dynamic in nature. Finishing off with one of his own recordings, Tosca when the fat lady sings Opera and the Alexia series 2 demonstrated how accurate they really were, they disappeared when the sound started and you were immersed into Tosca with a soundstage as big as the recording demonstrated with huge depth and scale. The rendition was powerful stuff which literally took my breath away on the finale such was the impact of the bass drums and how powerfully the Alexia's managed to portray this excellent recording. Obviously, the partnering equipment also played a huge part in how accurately the Wilson Audio Alexia's performed with the D'Agostino Progression mono amplifiers sounding effortless with tons of power and control over the speakers and the dCS Vivaldi showing why they are probably the best at presenting digital recordings in the world. This was all tied together by the sublime Transparent Cables which are some of the finest cables for high-end audio. Bill McKeigan and Raveen Bawa were also on hand to talk about both D'Agostino and dCS respectively.
My second favourite room was once again presented by Absolute Sounds and it was the brilliant Magico room with the S3MKII speakers playing with Constellation Audio electronics and the new Metronome Technologies Kalista DreamPlay Transport and DAC. They were all again tied together seamlessly with Transparent Cables. Irv Gross from Constellation was present and also Peter McKay from Magico to demonstrate their wonderful speakers and electronics and present the music to the audience. I was actually surprised and delighted by how well the Magico S3MKII speakers performed as they easily powered the fairly large sized room and that top end from the beryllium and diamond coated tweeter was so sweet that it just played effortlessly with whatever they chucked at them, another undeniable feat was the copious amounts of bass that they delivered but with such control and composure, the bass sounded so textured and instrument separation was amazing with no smearing of the sound at all. We could not stop talking at how good that room sounded.
On to the final room which was very impressive indeed and was presented by Padood here in the UK who had the amazing YG Acoustics Sonja XV Junior speakers and accompanying them was the gorgeous looking and sounding Nagra Audio who were demonstrating their new HD preamplifier with the equally impressive HD monoblock amplifiers. SME was used for vinyl duties. The sheer size of the YG Acoustic speakers was impressive alone, as they had separate bass modules accompanying the speakers. They played several pieces of music which were recorded by Nagra from the Montreux Jazz festival and it all sounded simply divine with great bass and dynamics. A first for me was when they had a young man sit at the front and play the acoustic guitar with the music, he was actually a famous up and coming artist whose musical ability was undeniably good and the speed in which he played the guitar, it all sounded like one recording and seamless in integration, and received a huge round of applause when finished, and deserving too.
This all added up to be the best HiFi Show Live that I have attended and want to thank the organizers and especially Paul Miller (Editor of HiFi News magazine) for being so obliging this year, and all the distributors who made it such a wonderful show. I cannot wait for next years now.
I hope you enjoyed my report and here are a few videos that I managed to capture of my favorite rooms at the show, make sure to check out my Facebook page for plenty of photos from the show.