Fast forward two decades and just as my predilections have greatly expanded, those of our industry have done likewise, and as anyone who has made an annual journey to the West country will tell you, this has continued to be reflected in the show. Where once attendees would have been greeted solely by Hi-Fi kit, this popular event is now home to an array of AV innovations that takes in everything from noise-cancelling headphones and AV furniture to surround sound speakers.
There was a grand total of 195 brands touting their wares at the Marriott this year and despite the panic on the high street over depressed sales, the figures for the show remarkably continue to increase. Demonstrating a knack for success, the brand leader during the three days was Pioneer – who also laid claim to the title last year – followed closely by strong sales from Sonos, Arcam, Onkyo and Cyrus.
As Bonnie, Chantell and I began wandering the halls on the 22nd, we found ourselves with a great deal of company. Whilst the general attendance was approximately the same as last year, the overseas contingent was on the up, with our Dutch colleagues providing the strongest presence. Journeying across the pond, tech-enthusiasts from the USA and Canada wandered the various levels, joined by people from Norway, Italy, Belgium, Croatia, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden and Ukraine. With the list of overseas distributors ever increasing and a number of export sales being reported, the Bristol show remains a popular industry haunt.
lights, camera, action
During my first foray into the Denon room, I was treated to the world première of ‘EARTH The Blu-ray Disc’ courtesy of LionsGate Films, projectiondesign, B&W and, of course, Denon themselves. Not to be outdone by the content, a good amount of the kit in the room also received its first public airing, including the cineo30 1080p DLP eCinema projector from projectiondesign. As this £20,000 unit was used to QC the movie, it was only fitting that it had the honour of showcasing it.
Utilising the same technology, albeit after adaptation for consumer use, the Aurora series of home cinema projectors will include the Norwegian company’s first 3-chip projector as part of a full line of five models. The range is due to be available by Q3 2008, and will be priced between £3500 and £50,000.
Denon also handed a European debut to their DVD-2500BT High-end Blu-ray Transport, whilst the spine-tingling demonstration of the 3000W AVP/POA-A1HD was a world’s first. Comprising the AVP-A1HD network-centric pre/processor and the POA-A1HD Super Amp, this imposing system boasts the new ‘wave’ industrial design, 4-zone room-to-room capability, Internet radio, a DenonLink3 ultra-high-speed audio interface and a price tag of £10,000. Bowers & Wilkins 803D speakers with matching centre and subwoofers, Chord Epic, Chorus and Silver Plus cables and
Audiophile Base isolation AV racks completed the set-up.
This was proving to be a popular room, and I found myself back there later in the day for the annual Bristol Show Technology Press Conference. With the focus firmly on the visual half of the AV world, Dolby demonstrated their new High Dynamic Range (HDR) Visual technologies in an LCD TV with LED backlighting, which offers an impressive contrast ratio, vivid colours and eco-friendly power consumption. With Dolby and Sim2 planning to unveil a prototype shortly, this technology will soon be drawing even more attention.
As I made my way through the show, I found myself surrounded by a significant number of companies who had chosen the Bristol show as a launch pad for their latest technological marvels. Amongst them were NAD, who presented a selection of new kit, including the VISO FIVE DVD/CD Surround Sound Receiver, and the C355 Integrated Amplifier. Retailing at around £900 inc. VAT, the VISO FIVE features a sensitive FM/AM tuner with a 30-station preset memory, an XM Ready input and RDS capability, and is also DAB-ready when used in conjunction with the optional NAD DB-1 Digital Audio Broadcast tuner module. The compact C335 builds on the success its award-winning predecessor, the C352, and features proprietary PowerDrive circuit topology, a patented Distortion Cancelling Circuit in its output stage and tone controls which leave the mid-band essentially unaltered.
size is everything
Two doors down, I happened upon the Arcam Solo Mini. When the Cambridge-based manufacturer first launched the Solo it soon became one of the most popular all-in-one Hi-Fi systems on the market, and led to the Solo Movie 2.1 and 5.1 versions. Now, like those kids in that annoying Rick Moranis film, it has been shrunk down (though probably not with a ray in the attic) to Mini size. Maintaining the concept of the high-quality CD/tuner/amp, the power has dropped to 25W per channel, with the price now at £650 or £900 with the equally diminutive Muso speakers.
Heading towards the show’s entrance, I came across two favourites proudly flying the flag for the AV furniture industry. Having cunningly set up shop in the ground floor’s main hallway, Atacama made another successful show appearance, with their Modena 36 and a growing number of Aurora 6 Speaker Stands. Boasting a clear glass column that can be filled with anything other than liquids or living creatures without risk of altering the acoustics, they attracted a considerable amount of interest.
Location isn’t the only factor of consequence when it comes to pulling in the punters, as Spectral demonstrated with their brightly coloured offerings. In addition to showcasing the Catena range of modular furniture for installation, the vast stand featured their Closed, Curve and High End ranges – all of which have been expanded for 2008. With the new Gamestand unit set to tap into the lucrative gaming market, the future continues to look bright for Spectral.
Exhibiting side-by-side, and jointly preaching from the Gospel of St. Jobs were popular brands Fatman and Roth Audio, who showcased the latest ALFiE iPod audio system with built-in DVD/CD and FM/AM radio. Fatman’s offerings included the latest addition to the iTube family, the iTube 452. With a whopping nine valves and four line input stages, this stunning fully integrated push-pull amplifier boasts 2x 45W and comes complete with an iPod docking station. Also bidding for attention was the delightfully dark iTube ValveDock Carbon Edition and a new wireless version of the original iTube ValveDock.
sweet, sweet sounds
As my wanderings took me further afield, it became clear that a number of manufacturers had chosen to focus purely on the audio side of things. Most notable amongst them were Meridian. Battling for audio supremacy in the Bristol suite, this renowned purveyor of high-end goodies was demonstrating the F80 – often at high volume. I, however, was quickly directed to the lower ground floor and the company’s main demo room.
Having battled through the crowds, here I witnessed the unveiling of the latest digital-active DSP7200 speakers. Co-founder and Chairman Bob Stuart presented the sleek units, along with an F80, and it was immediately easy to see why this was proving to be one of the more popular show demos.
Okay, so Pink Floyd is a little before my time, but it was certainly an effective way to highlight the audiophile-grade capabilities of this stunning new addition to the DSP range. Each cabinet houses four internal 100W amplifiers, whilst active Bessel low-frequency alignment provides clarity and deep, tight bass. With Meridian’s SpeakerLink technology also included, the DSP7200 is a worthy rival to the flagship DSP8000. As the company that launched the world’s first audiophile CD-player, it was also nice to see Meridian maintaining their fine tradition of innovation with the launch of the new 808.2 Signature Reference.
Heading to the room directly opposite, I was instantly drawn to KEF’s highly polished Muon speakers. A veritable feast for the eyes, the 2-metre high creations feature a four-way speaker system mounted into the front of the structure, which along with two additional rear-mounted bass drivers, produces a crisp and clear sound. Hidden behind a rope line, you could be forgiven for assuming that there was some grand show of celebrity going on; however, I am reliably informed that the truth lies more in the fact that the aluminium exterior attracts fingerprints like crazy.
Still, at £70,000 a pair, whoever ends up owning one of the remaining 80 pairs will undoubtedly get a cleaning professional to worry about that. Lending support, KEF Reference Series owner and exclusive KEF Brand Endorsee Jason Plato spent part of the show signing a number of silver hardback Muon Booklets for those attendees lucky enough to grab one.
onwards and upwards
Up on the first floor, Loewe’s Connect TV system was striking a chord with consumers. Combining a Freeview decoder and complete multimedia package with an optional PVR, this networked, Full HD LCD TV – available in panel sizes of 32-, 37- and 42-inches – taps into the desire for all-in-one products. Included Loewe-developed software makes viewing computer sources on these screens a doddle, with connectivity options that include Ethernet and USB ports and a wireless link. Prices start from £1950. Occupying the room next door, and continuing this trend, the Loewe Individual 52 Compose features integrated HDTV reception and a DR+ hard disc recorder.
On show a few doors down was Onkyo’s LS-V501 2.1-channel DVD home theatre system. With 50W per channel to the main speakers and 100W to the subwoofer, DVDs can be played in normal stereo and ‘Theatre Dimensional Virtual Surround’, whilst an optional DS-A1x iPod dock ensures that Apple fans can make the most of this system.
If you’re reading this, it’s more than likely that you’re one of the thousands of people within the industry who subscribe to every issue. You’ll no doubt have noticed, therefore, our last issue’s stunning cover – given that it was sporting Monitor Audio’s PL300 and copious amounts of gold foil it would have been hard to miss! Joining it as part of the Platinum range, the PL100 had no shortage of admirers thanks to its hand-selected Santos Rosewood and Ebony veneer cabinets, which were coated in 11 layers of clear gloss piano lacquer and Strathspey hand-upholstered leather.
Using the show for the first UK unveiling of the full range of Audio-Technica headphones, Henley Designs took the opportunity to introduce consumers to the award-winning, noise-cancelling ANC7’s. To make sure the message got across, ‘Headphone Girls’ Sophie and Kirsty were roaming the show offering demonstrations to passers by.
bring the noise!
If you were walking past Orbitsound’s room, chances were that you’d catch an AC/DC track emanating from the T6 valve dock and speaker unit. Utilising innovative airSOUND single-point-stereo technology, this iPod dock features a pre-amplifier with dual triode valve amplifiers. Not to be outdone, the T12 spatial stereo soundbar with iPod dock and powered sub did an impressive job of doing justice to music of a more classical nature.
With multiple applications, the T3 is a personal stereo aura device that essentially uses the human body as an amplifier. The idea behind this clever technology is that the user wears the device around their neck and it generates a soundfield around the head, eliminating the need for earphones. It’s an intriguing concept and we’re looking forward to seeing big things from these guys in the future.
That products will be launched at the show is a given, but in Virtuoso Sound’s room, System Fidelity went one better. This pan-European brand chose Sound & Vision as the venue for its UK launch, and to celebrate, the company unveiled a new flagship integrated amplifier. The SA-300SE features a 75W per channel wide-bandwidth design with ultra-short signal-paths and a Class A power supply to support its 135W dynamic power handling. With ample analogue inputs and a line-level filtered subwoofer output, a chunky aluminium exterior, blue illuminated volume control and stylish aluminium remote control complete this £449 package.
Always keen to impress, Sony had a host of new kit on show, including two new Blu-ray players. Both the BDP-S300, and high-end BDP-S500, can output 1080p HD via a single-cable HDMI interface, which is partnered with 7.1-channel Linear PCM and Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound audio.
In the case of the BDP-S500, this goes even further, with Dolby TrueHD decoding and Bit Stream Output for DTS-HD1 and Dolby TrueHD audio signals via HDMI 1.3. For the ultimate home cinema experience, team either of these latest offerings with a 24p capable TV and consumers will have access to 24p True Cinema, ensuring that what they see and hear is a faithful reproduction of what the director intended. The BDP-S300 is set to hit the UK market mid-September and the BDP-S500 from the end of October.
Think MP3-players and the majority of consumers will instantly picture an iPod. Sony’s gorgeous Bluetooth-enabled NW-A820 Walkman may be set to change that. With a clear, high-res 2.4-inch LCD display, this little stunner can play up to 10-hours of video or 36-hours of music thanks to a storage capacity of up to 16GB. Intuitive, sleek and available in a choice of four colours, Sony may well be onto a winner when it hits the shelves next month!
Moving on to the fifth floor, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d stumbled into the Matrix. With by far the largest presence at the show, Naim occupied three rooms (with a fourth located on the 1st floor) – each bathed in an ethereal green glow. In addition to showcasing the recently launched NAIM CD5i CD-player, NAIT 5i integrated amp and the SuperNait integrated amp, the show was the chosen venue for the unveiling of the blessing to vinyl that is the SuperLine high-end Phono amplifier.
Powered by a Naim preamp, SuperNait, HiCap or SuperCap, this latest piece of kit can deliver true RIAA equalisation accurate to 0.1dB and boasts up to 20 cartridge loading options. Grabbing some of the limelight, and also making its debut was Naim’s new Power-Line mains cable, which follows on from the popular Hi-Line cable.
So what did the exhibitors make of this 21st birthday bash? Well, in between demonstrating the award-winning new RED reference CD-player in tandem with the CPM3350 integrated amplifier, Nathan of Chord Electronics offered the following assessment: “Everyone was great, the show was professional and I could not believe how slick the operation was.”
Indeed, a plethora of industry attendees were keen to offer their praise. It fell to Arcam’s Geoff Meads to sum up the atmosphere perfectly when he pointed out, “It was so busy, we had trouble getting in our own room!”
As for us, during our many travels we comfortably had three boxes worth of SVI snatched up by tech-hungry folk, and with the show continuing to provide such a positive presence in the industry, we’re all looking forward to next year already!
The Bristol Sound & Vision 2009 show will be taking place between Friday, February 20th and Sunday, February 22nd, 2009.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: http://www.bristolshow.co.uk