Report from Bristol Audio Show

Hi everyone,

I spent this weekend at a fairly large hifi show in Bristol, England. I thought I'd share with you my thoughts about the brands that exhibited. Was anyone else there by chance? I'd love to hear some other opinions.

Firstly, there was a definite home theater lean to the show, which is generally not of interest to me, and the worst sound was inevitably in the home theater rooms. Meridian's room, for instance, featuring the G series electronics with active DSP series speakers, sounded quite awful. The sound was euphonic, without being musical. Imagine combining the worst of tubes and solid state! Driver integration seemed bad. Etched highs and muddy bass.

The only home theater based room that featured some good sound was Linn, with the Unidisk SC universal player and their own Espek speakers. The sound stage was massive, and filled a very large room nicely. The presentation was fairly musical and quite neutral, though not the best in the show in either category.

The Omiga Cable room sounded wonderful. Meadowlark Osprey speakers, Bel Canto integrated, and Wadia 861 CDP. This was a very musical sound, a bit on the lush side, with an expansive sound stage. This one really felt right.

The next interesting room featured GamuT speakers, a Michell turntable, and..... THE DK INTEGRATED!!!!! The sound in this room was big, forward, well delineated, but a bit unrefined. The DK was clipping noticeably when played too loud, which leads me to believe that this was not a particularly synergistic system. I talked to the UK distributor of DK for awhile, and he told me that he knew nothing of the bruhaha in the states about the amp, and that he was using the stock tube. I would have loved to hear it with a Siemens CCa or a Mullard.

The best sound at the show, bar none, was in the nBien room. I had never heard of them before now. They're a speaker manufacturer, I think from Japan but possibly from China. Their NX-6 monitor speaker was the best standmount I've ever heard. The musicality was simply astonishing. All the passion and life of each performance came through loud and clear. The speakers threw a huge soundstage. Driver integration, to my ear, was some of the best I've heard. I believe these speakers are phase coherent, maybe that's part of it. They were driven by Japanese solid state electronics (sadly I can't remember the name), and the Marantz reference SACD player as a transport, which I normally hate. But boy did it sound good here. I was truly amazed. Even more amazing was the price of these suckers, 799 pounds! They sounded way more expensive than that. The one knock I have is that they only had jazz and vocals playing, nothing more challenging. And there's no US distribution yet. But I'm going to keep my eye on these, they sounded fantastic.

There was a lot more at the show, but this is what stood out to me. Check out and ask me about anything I didn't mention!
Wow, lousyreeds1, what a great report! We at Audiogon love you very much. Your writing exudes such beauty, such precisio n. You should be nominated for a Pulitzer!