BRISTOL SOUND & VISION SHOW 2015 – WHAT WE SAW
Hi, firstly let me introduce myself. My name is John and I am the latest member of the Home Media team. Having spent many years in another industry doing a job that just paid the bills, the chance to work in the Hi-Fi and AV sector was something I had wanted to do for a long time. To actually do a job in which you have an interest is very refreshing and I have been fortunate to be given the chance to experience that. I would like to thank my new colleagues who have been a tremendous help getting me up to speed and making me feel part of the team.
When Simon, the store owner, asked whether I would like to join him on a visit to the What Hi-Fi Sound & Vision Show 2015 in Bristol, it was an offer that I could not refuse. This was a show I had wanted to visit for a few years as an enthusiast, so to visit it as part of the trade was even better. Now in its 28th year, The Bristol Show is one of the largest Hi-Fi and AV shows in the country. The Show is held over four floors of the Marriott Hotel in the centre of Bristol and features many of the leading audio visual companies, showcasing their latest products.
The main reason for visiting this year was to look for new products to bring to the store and also shortlist products to install in our home cinema demo room which is undergoing a makeover at the moment. This is an area that I am closely involved with; more details of our plans for this will be released shortly, but I can tell you that it will feature Dolby Atmos sound processing and a range of the latest home cinema products as well as intelligent lighting control systems.
On our arrival early on Friday morning, there was already a queue of eager enthusiasts, including at least one of our customers, who I was to spend a very enjoyable couple of hours with, to help him with suggestions for kit to install in his upcoming living room conversion that we will be undertaking in the near future. On realising that Simon knew nearly everybody with a trade lanyard around their neck, I took the opportunity to go searching for suitable products. One of my favourite areas of interest is in digital streaming products and there were a few that we had earmarked for consideration.
The first of these being the Naim NAC-N272 pre-amp and streamer; this looks to be a sure fire winner for Naim and will be arriving in the store soon. Pioneer had two new streamers on display; the N50-K and N-70A, which both feature Hi-Res audio decoding, Spotify Connect, and Apple AirPlay amongst a host of other features.
Next, I came to the Astell & Kern stand, amongst their portable Hi-Res media players stood the AK500N. Like everything in the A&K range, it is beautifully built, everything about it shouts quality – as does the price tag at around £9000. It is not short on features, which includes an in-built battery to isolate mains noise, four solid state drive bays and one click CD ripping as well as decoding all of the hi-res audio codecs, and it is a truly stunning piece of kit. Now where did I put those lottery numbers?
While surveying the many speaker manufacturers on display, all with speakers of varying size, it was Leema Accoustics and Quad that really caught my attention. Both of these manufacturers were demonstrating speakers that were small in stature but big in sound, the Quad S Series with its ribbon tweeter, in particular were remarkable because of the size of the room they were being demo’d in, far bigger and taller than the average living room, but filling it easily with its characteristic smooth sound. Those of you with wives that would rather not have their living room filled with large floor standers, both brands are worth an audition.
Also on the “bigger is not always better” theme, we come to my other passion – AV. The Bristol Show is co-sponsored by What Hi-Fi? Magazine. Their demo booth this year featured a Dolby Atmos demonstration, this was well attended all day and I joined the queue to experience this with Darren, one of our customers. After standing and waiting patiently for the next demo, we were ushered in to the darkened room for the start of the demo. Up front on display duty was an 85” LED television, an Oppo provided the source, while Pioneer supplied the amplification. As this was an Atmos demo, Focal supplied the speakers, including four in the ceiling to enable the Atmos decoding to work.
At the moment there are only a couple of films with Dolby Atmos encoding, What Hi-Fi chose the Michael Bay film, “The Teenage Mutant Turtles” plus a short Dolby animation. First we were played the scene without Atmos then with it enabled. To say I was underwhelmed was an understatement; there was no subtlety at all, to quote another film it seemed like they were trying to blow the bloody doors off! This was a very disappointing demonstration of a very good addition to the Audio Visual landscape. Now I understand that you have to work to the constraints of your surroundings and the many visitors coming through the doors but personally I felt that What Hi-Fi’s handling of this demonstration left much to be desired and I wonder how many of the show’s visitors were left feeling the same.
Time to catch up with Simon now, and the last demo of the day proved to be the best by far. Both he and I in the past had JL Audio subwoofers in our cars and as they have just released domestic versions of their subwoofer range, it was there that we ended the day. For those of you that haven’t heard of JL Audio, they hail from America. As JL Audio concentrate solely on the sub bass side of things, they had ATC SCM19’s covering the rest of the frequency range. This was a bonus as Simon has had ATC on his radar for a while, and for good reason it seems. The SMC19 stand mounters really shone; coupled to Naim amplification, they really made an impact on us.
The guys from JL Audio really had the subs dialled in well, underpinning the bassline with a tight, well-defined, and musical bottom end, just enough to make their presence felt. For those of you with two channel systems, come and have a demo with us to see what a well dialled in subwoofer can add to your enjoyment. We were then asked if we would like an AV demo, “why not” we said grinning! Now two ATC’s were good but four were better and with the inclusion of a centre channel of not inconsiderate size, we were treated to the “Mutant Ninja Turtles” again, and both Simon and I were both engrossed in the action. Like I said earlier, bigger is not always better and the JL Audio team certainly put the What Hi-Fi demo to shame. Nice job!!
As we left the show for the journey home, talk turned to an AV system with Hi-Fi values, there’s an idea… hmmm… watch this space! Next up, the Essential Install Show at Sandown Park Racecourse, Surrey, can’t wait…
Written by John.