My feelings about the Heathrow show

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leben_in_symphonie
Gesperrt
#1 erstellt: 09. Okt 2004, 09:29
This is a report I wrote for another forum and I think it could be for a few of you of some interest. The Heathrow Hifi show was from the 21st till the 23rd of September.

Introduction
It was very nice to come back to England to enjoy seeing you visiting the Heathrow show.
For the first time and supported by Lee we decided to take our time listening to each system for a while and not just run in and out without giving our ears (and us) a chance to get familiar with the system’s sound characteristics.
This meant though that we took the whole Saturday and Sunday (from about 10:15 am to over 6PM) listening most of the systems. Unfortunately I didn’t hear some rooms, which could have been good or interesting but after all I believe that it is not the amount, which is important but the quality (dedication) how you listen to the different systems. Also I find very important to sit at the right place. After all we always compare the performance of what is exhibited to our home components. But do you sit at home out of place? ..so why in the shows?
Of course sometimes we had to be patient to find the right seat but that's life.

I had brought with me my old "boring" two CDs:
- Trumpet concert in D major of Stölzel (first track)
- Messiah from Händel with the English baroque soloists conducted by Gardiner (Hallelujah)

Both CDs aren’t particularly well recorded but in top systems sound more than great.
I brought these two tracks with me because it is the only way for me to compare and “measure” systems. When in the shows I listen to music, which I don’t know, I often like the quality of the sound but as soon as I put on one of my two tracks, I get the link with the natural orchestra sound. Mostly then I realize how colourful the Hifi sound world is. There is taste for everybody and I must say if people are happy with any of these colours (as I said I was also happy when listening to Jazz and Pop music), good for the companies, dealers and listeners: there is no need to criticize any component.

I have though a little bit of a problem when in the brochures I read:
- The best loudspeakers in the world…probably!
- …and a unique naturalness to the task (Audio Acoustics)
- Clarity, detail and dynamics (Ferguson hill)
- An absolutely natural sound and the ability to pick up the slightest musical nuances. (MEL Audio)
- Combination of the explosive dynamics of live music; the clean sound uncoloured by cabinet resonance (Clef from Emotive Excellence)
- The most transparent and natural speaker in the market today (Amphion, Krypton)

I have a “slight” feeling that some people need to be more critical towards there own “baby” , this would help them much more to improve and maybe indirectly sell more.



My impressions about some of the gears
I actually wanted to write down for myself the feeling I had when listening to all the systems I heard. Unfortunately after a while I stopped writing or there weren’t any brochures to write on or I couldn’t hear the system with my tracks.

System:
- Lavardin preamplifier model PRE 6/2 (£2400)
- Lavardin amplifier model AP150 (£ 7000)
- Loudspeakers Amphion Krypton (£8000)
- CD player ???? (£1800)
The sound was very clean, clear, precise and controlled. After the “uncontrolled” low ends of the previous room a relief for my ears. Hearing more and more (stuff that I didn’t know), my attention got fixed on the high ends which started to disturbed me. I had the feeling they were quite aggressive like as someone would hammer on your head. Maybe they were too “direct”.
When I then heard my trumpet concert I noticed that the violins and also the trumpet were at least in the high frequencies quite “thin”. After 20 minutes of listening from the optimal position I got the feeling I wouldn’ t be able to listen to that system for more than 1-2 hours. I believe because of the loudspeakers but someone in the room mentioned that he heard the system with the Rogue Audio tube amplifiers the day before and it sounded “better”.

System:
- Unison research Unico CD (£1195)
- Unison Research Unico SE, Line amplifier (£1275)
- Opera Callas Divina loudspeakers (£5250)

This 7,5 thousand quid system impressed me for its performance. For this price you get good clearness and details which were better than some much more expensive units. With classical music the sound seemed quite natural and never disturbed the ear. It was lacking in extended low frequencies, which for some people are indispensable. I believe this is a valid alternative for the Chinese gear.

System:
- Audio Analogue Maestro 192/24 CD (£1750) directly into
- Pathos Acoustics INPOL2 tube amplifier (£5650)
- Triangle Electroacoustique Magellan Concerto (£9995)

I heard this system with Jazz music selected by the salesmen but nevertheless I had the impression it was missing in definition. The drums sounded quite smeary and you couldn’t distinguish where the instruments were at the point that it was difficult to find out if it was a trio or quartet, which was playing. Lee was wondering if the system was playing out of phase.

System:
- Advantage S.5 Universal CD player (£2750)
- Advantage Grendel 2 Channel amplifier (£5150)
- Lumley Lampros 300/2 (£5000)
- Acoustic Zen cables (all together about £2000 ?)

I had the feeling that the high frequencies were not clear enough and that the instruments were placed one on top of the other. Maybe there was too much dispersion, which was also frequency dependent. You could hear how the piano suddenly moved from one side of the stage and back. Funny enough there was very good depth which gave me a strange feeling of telling myself: “this sounds great” and then a few seconds later “oh not really”.
With few instruments the system (loudspeakers) get away quite well but when hearing orchestral music there was no localisation of each instrument. I would really be interested to hear the Lampros concert Grand.

System:
- Metronome Technologie Kalista CD Transporter (£15350)
- Metronome Technologie C2 Signature DAC (£11350)
- Lamm L2 Reference preamplifier (£12500)
- Lamm ML1.1 valve mono amplifier (£18600 pair)
- Venture Precision speakers (approx £18000)

The first impression was that the sound was very clear and neutral and that nothing was disturbing you except for that there was something missing in the room. The volume of the music was kept at room level (in case the neighbours complain). Mr Lamm who was in charge of the room didn’t allow the volume to go above a certain level. Soon enough we have sighted the problem in those loudspeakers. This room was the best example how you can spoil a wonderful system using an underperformer like those speakers. The main problem was that they didn’t fill the room up, not even to one third. The choice of the loudspeakers was for political reason, which Metronome Technologie was quite involved in. Well if they like to spoil the reputation of their products using such partner units, then it is their problem. I think it is a pity for those who go to the shows and want to hear something good or at least the best what a company can offer.
In the second IES Ltd room there were other two systems with Metronome’s T1A SignatureTransporter combined with a Chord DAC64 and the Lamm LL2 preamplifier, Renaissance Amplification RA-01 valve mono amplifier and the Wilson B. Curve loudspeakers. I didn’t listen particurly well to this system and what I heard it sounded very good, clear, detailed and a good soundstage. In this room I was more engaged in talking to the staff and getting their feeling about the choice of the speakers in the other room.


Leema system:
Unfortunately either I haven’t done any notes on this system or I lost them. I don’t remember much about them and therefore I believe that they didn’t struck me for any reason. Sorry for this.

Townshend room
Coming in this room the first thing my eyes got captured were those pair of loudspeakers (Glastonbury III, £12000) and then all the Best of Townshend won. That really made you think: this is serious stuff in this room!
I was though very disappointed when hearing classical music through that system. Any relation to live classical concert and a little bit of self criticism would tell that man that those speakers are out of place unless you are achieving purposely special colouration and lack of cleaness. Not for me.

System:
- 3Dacoustics by Shanling CD-T100C UK (£1650)
- MF Audio TVC preamplifier (£1600)
- 3Dacoustics by Shanling SP-80C UK, Dual block amplifiers (£2000)
- 3Dsonics by Shanling Transparence, full range dynamic dipole loudspeakers (£2400)
This system sounded for my ears a bit confusing with tails at the end of each note. It fulls the room with warm sound but there was not much of definition.
When listening to the Trumpet concert everything (mostly the strings) sounded like coming from tin-instruments and a lot of echoes were around. Otherwise if you like the look of the Shanling why not buy them?

Ferguson Hill loudspeaker FH001
Unfortunately my notes got lost (or did I do any?). I don’t remember what components were attached to these loudspeakers but I remember that with the Hallelujah they had neither dynamic nor clearness. The positioning of every single instrument was missing.


Walrus Systems
I mostly remember about the Magnetplanar MG 1.6 loudspearkers which were driven by the Amplifon WT-40 amplifier (£1995) and as source the Brinkmann LaGrange turntable (£6995) and tonearm (£2400) or by the SPJ Alba turntable (£12000).
The sound was very nice which didn’t disturb me at all (very natural) but one of the negative side is that as soon as you aren’t sitting in the ideal position or as soon as someone was between you and the speakers the sound /imaging got very bad. Also here I didn’t ask to put on any of my tracks and therefore I can’t say much how the system reacts to more complex music with orchestra and choir.

System melaudio
- Dan digital transport (€12480)
- Beer Seba DAC (€12480)
- Ruah II preamplifier (€ 5920)
- Harmaghedon amplifier (€ 13800)
- Sela plus i. loudspeakers(€4870)

I was impressed by the system while hearing some tracks from another person. When then I heard the trumpet concert I found lots of impurities (also tinny high ends), which let the system down. When I asked if they didn’t inverted the channel he noticed that a button on the transporter was set on. This button inverted the polarity when listening to my CD. Once the button was pressed to the right position we heard my track again and it did sounded much better: more definition, details but still I felt that it could have had more low frequencies. After all one of the better sounds at the show.

END OF PART ONE
leben_in_symphonie
Gesperrt
#2 erstellt: 09. Okt 2004, 09:30
System:
- ZYX R-1000 (£1500)
- Schröders “Reference” tonearm (£3500)
- DPS Turntable (£2500)
- Lindemann 820 CD /SACD player (£8000)
- TRON Syren Preamplifier, TRON Jubilate mono amplifier (£8000 pair)
- TRON Cantata mono amplifier (£9000 pair)
- Avantgarde Acoustic DUO loudspeakers (£10300)
- Cabling: PHY-HP

This was one of the two system in the show with horn speakers. I gave this system particular attention since it was ages, that I didn’t hear any horns.
The first impression I got hearing a vocal track with Jazz music was a huge soundstage. Also the low frequencies were huge and present. Then when getting used to this kind of sound I got attracted by these big dimensions: The mouth of the singer seemed to be two meters high and two meters wide and shouting in a megaphone while there seem to be a great dynamic.
Then I asked to listen to the Messiah and everything collapsed!!
The soundstage was flat even if huge, low frequencies were missing, detail missing, week high frequencies. With that sound quality I wouldn’t resist more than 20-30 minutes listening.
When hearing a flamenco track put on by the exhibitor the sound became even if quite impressive, very ridiculous: the heal of the flamenco dancer hitting the stage sounded like a log of a huge tree banging on the stage at a very fast speed. Yes I must say impressive and I’m sure there will be lots of people which will go for that: not me though.

Systems from 47 Laboratory
- Model 4704/04 PiTracer CD transport Unit (£21000)
- Model 4706 Gaincard MKII Amplifier unit (£1260)
- 7 model 4799 power Dumpty power supply (£1500 each)
- Konus Audio “Essence” speaker system (£3500)

This is a very interesting system for its very small size.
The sound was very nice especially for jazz and pop music where especially the sax and drums sounded positively impressive. The dynamic was great and the system sounded fast. I had a feeling that the high ends were quite “bright” or very slightly “aggressive” and that such a system could cause me problems after months of usage. I would maybe get too nervous listening to it or get fed up with it. I didn’t try to listen to classical music, I don’t know why, maybe because I was getting tired and didn’t expect much from my tracks.


Art Audio system
With the Trio loudspeakers and the Diavolo tube amplifier.
I didn’t write down many notes about this system only that it sounded flat and with poor details. Also lacking a bit in clearness. I put some question marks about the speakers


Vivid audio system
with the K1 floor-standing loudspeakers. I didn’t write down with which components they were attached to but only the price (£8000 + 3000 + 24000 + 10000 preamplifier).
These speakers needed a bigger room. I just don’t understand why companies who exhibit expensive units, can’t afford to spend 1 –2 thousand £ more for a bigger room where there product will maybe have more chance to be admired by the visitors. I had the feeling that the high ends of these loudspeakers were not free. It felt as if these frequencies were coming out compressed from a small box. Also I heard some echoes which made the sound a bit confusing. I wonder if what I heard was a consequence of all those absorbers (250-4k Hz) which were placed everywhere in the room. Sometimes too many absorbers may kill a live sound. Maybe the usage of some diffusers may have put some life in the sound. A question of taste, though.

Marantz System

- Mordaunt-Short Performance loudspeakers (£3500)
- PM-11S1 integrated stereo amplifier (£2500)
- SA-11S1 SA-CD player (£2000)
- TT-15 turntable

The first impression sitting in the right place was pleasantly good but very strange.
The sound didn’t sound at all natural but the effect it had to me was nevertheless attracting.
After a while, though that sound made me nervous and I started to reject it so I left the room without trying to hear any of my tracks.¨


Tube technology system
- Genetix Monobloc (£7500)
- Fulcrum DAC64 DAC (£2500)
- Fulcrum Tx24 Transport (1000)
- Preamplifier?
- JMLab Alto Utopia Be loudspeakers (£11000)

The first thing I did coming in this room was try to find the ideal seat. Then I listened to the music proposed by the exhibitor the Tube Technology. After a while I got quite annoyed about the music (Miles) which didn’t help me to get an impression about the system at all. Switching on to other music proposed by the exhibitor didn’t help me much more. I had the feeling that somewhere some details got lost and it sounded like an Hifi-system. What I mean is I never had the impression that I was there at the performance. Maybe I was missing the depth or maybe the sound was slightly smeary but anyway I was soon fed up with that system. I don’t know why I didn’t ask them to put on a track of my music: I just walked out of the room. Afterwards somebody told me that the Tube Technology never ever accepts to put on visitor’s requests. Maybe I saved myself from an humiliation.

The TacT room
Now I don’t know the costs of this system and all the components it had, but it looked huge with all those columns of loudspeakers and cables around the place, nearly looking like a stage of a pop concert.
I found a good seat in the optimal position and started to hear this monstrous system.
When listening to a piece with a big male choir and a big orchestra there were a few passages which impressed me very much (especially the physical part of the sound when it strikes you) but on the other side there was something which didn’t sound right. The sound was not “together”, I had the impression that the speakers weren’t working together and weren’t matched together. The location of a single instrument was not in one small place but in a larger place (low definition) and this even if the single instrument sounded clear. With the big orchestra and choir the general impression was for me a mix of clearness and messy sound where the details got lost. Anyway an interesting experience.


McIntosh system
Unfortunately I didn’t write down the components of this system but I was anxious to hear it. After the first beats I heard the typical warm sound of McIntosh. The clarity and soundstage were good but not as I’d like it to be. When listening to McIntosh up to a level, which is half ways between room and live level, the system sounds great and warm. Once though the sound level reaches live then I start to hear lots of unclearness uncontrolled low frequencies and a bit too much colouring. This is less when hearing analogue sources so that I believe that the McIntosh CD (DVD) players are units to be avoided. When I criticize McIntosh for their clearness, details and controlled low frequencies I must though recognize that in the show there weren’t many other systems, which did better. Anyway coming back home I enjoyed listening to my old McIntosh system. A bit colourfully warm but very pleasant maybe because of these cold days over here.

Audio Acoustics Sapphire speakers
I listened quite a bit to these speakers but unfortunately I neither wrote down to which units they were attached to, nor I wrote my impressions about them. If I remember well, the speakers sounded clear and very controlled but never gave the impression of music enjoyment. I don’t know if I should use the word sterile but it was something like that. We asked also to turn up the level of music but he simply couldn’t because of the amplifier and the room size. Here also I wonder why exhibitors of really expensive kits cannot afford to get a larger room once a year.
It is very nice concern to pay much attention in the technique, avoiding cabinet edge diffraction effects or internal resonances but if the sound is clinical without live then you might have much more success going in the other direction like for example McIntosh.


The new Clef from Emotive Excellence
These loudspeakers were the attraction of the show not because of their sound quality but because of their price of £70000.
Listening to these speakers was the greatest disappointment in this show. The Hallelujah was dull, flat, no low frequencies, messy, without details and resolution. If somebody likes this type of sound I regret that they have to spend so much money for these speakers. Thinking now about the price, I believe it worth it because it is so rare that such a speaker can sound so strange, unique. The worst thing though is that I feel angry when I read such reports like the one in the Hi-Fi News from a certain David Allock. I think this is an offence to any Hifi-fan. I don’t want to add anything more because it could become an attack at a personal level, which would be out of place.


Conclusion
This year I was very pleased to visit this show and mostly to take my time in every single room giving the chance to any system to get my sympathy. I heard some good system with very good sound and I met again my friends. I saw some new faces but unfortunately didn’t have time to talk to them. I will certainly come again to see some shows and why not visit some bake-off.

Many thanks to Lee for his friendly hospitality and apologize (also to Ian) that you had to hear my old two old tracks so many times this weekend and the other times too. You must be getting nightmares and starting to hate Händel.

PS: from a forum member

the components in the TacT room were:

RCS2.2x £2650
2 x S2150 amps @ £2050 each
2 x SDA2175 amps @ £740 each
8 x W210's bass cabinets @ £400 each
LS1 Main speakers £18,000
Denon A11 Transport @ £1,500


[Beitrag von leben_in_symphonie am 09. Okt 2004, 09:38 bearbeitet]
Manek
Inventar
#3 erstellt: 11. Okt 2004, 09:18
thank you so much for your review. it was enlightening for us who were not there at the event.

manek.
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