So for the third year (Josh’s second) Inearspace hauled our arses along the M25 to get to Bristol for the annual hi-fi show that has always been quite epic, both in the journey there, and the day itself. As you know with me I usually do quite detailed reports but only of odd stuff but this time I got a bit trigger happy on the camera and took a fair few pictures and thought it would be unfair to deprive you of them. As there is going to be quite a few pictures, I thought I would break it down into a few parts so this, I thought we would start with the portable and headphone related companies.

Merdian MQA

Yes them Audeze LCD-XCs are being worn back to front and yes we did intervene. Not the best situation to make a decisive decision regarding a file format but we are excited about MQA. We got supplied a phone number so we can gather some more information for you.

Audeze and Astell & Kern

Computers Unlimited were in attendance with the pre-production EL-8s from Headroom and Josh felt a need to try them out again as you can see . We can confirm we are going to be getting a production pair very soon so stay tuned on that. Very exciting!

Unlike at Headroom (where there was an empty shell). The new Audeze Deckard Amp/DAC was at Bristol and we got to have a little listen with an LCD-3 and it sounded pretty darn good as well as looking the part as you can see below.


Acoustic Research

Was really busy so did not even get a chance to try out their swanky looking AR-M2 DAP but Josh had a quick listen to the Sennheiser HD650s with their UA-1 and having owned the headphone and knowing how good (and bad) they can sound he came away not too fussed either way, which is not too out of the ordinary when testing an open back headphone in a noisy hall.

Audio Technica

Their new rather expensive desktop amp. Maybe it was the headphones in use but the sound was muddy. The range of outputs for different impedance headphones was cool.


Dynamique Cables

A cable company from Brighton had just ventured into the headphone market. The cable looked well made and we should get one over to try with our HD800s.


Qobuz

Streaming service Qobuz had a Sony ZX-2. I didnt try it as expected Sony to have one, they didn’t. We then had no time at the end of the day to return.

The Devialet Phantom running qobuz’s service sounded like it had been blown. I really hope it had and didn’t sound that bad.


Chord

Chord were showing off quite a few things. Firstly the brand new CPM 2800 MKII “digital” amplifier. It is an intergrated with a DAC section that comes straight out of the Hugo. This is a cool one box solution that connects your computer ot your speakers. A cool idea. It was driving some Kef Reference 1s.

Oddly we also got to test some universal IEMs at Chords booth that they had in to try their Hugo with. There was the Rhapsodio RiT1, which sounded a loty better than the prototype i looked at on the old side with a slightly emphasised bass but it could have been more forward in the mids.

Josh also tried a Noble model. It had gold plated screws so was either the 5 or 6 driver. Josh found it very bassy and did not seem all that impressed.

The new Hugo TT was also there of course and while we did have a play at Headroom, it impressed us more here, mainly with the Audeze LCD-XCs. Hugo’s normally leave us a bit dissapointed after all the hype but this was certainly better. I still need to try one properly and test out just the DAC section. They also used a Melco server for the TT.


Quad

Quad were showing off their new tube based amp/DAC along with the Aedle VK-1 headphones (horrendous sounding) which were nice looking and the Ultrasone Edition 12, which it done a nice job of taming. I like the look of the Quad and would love a proper play with it.

Audioquest

Wrote about the new Nighthawk’s enough in the Headroom report but forgot to take photos then so made up for it here. They also had a little USB cleaner called the Jitterbug, was lacking a housing but is a finished product, or so i am told.



Sony

Of all the new Sony stuff that has been released recently, Sony seemed to have none of it, which was a real shame. They did have the Z7 headphones though and they were warm and boomy in the bass. I think the price tag could come down a bit but I like the look, but then I can say the same about the R1, which is much cheaper.

Trichord Research

Trichord seemed to have bags of ideas for products in the headphone amp space and the below product looked really cool, even if it was an early prototype. He told me how he could do loads of designs, one with a dac, op amp ouputs, discrete outputs, balanced outputs, you name it. I have a feeling this may end up as a modular product where you pick the parts you want, would be cool. Watch this space.


icon Audio

Was to loud in their room to try the amp but it looked nice with its three valves. It had some unique ideas regarding different output settings as well. I will see if i can find out more on this.

Furutech/ADL

It was the Furutech room but a Fosgate tube amp with Music Surrounding DAC caught our eye. It was powering a pair of HD800s with a Furutech cable and Josh found it really nice sounding, might have to follow this up as well, tube amps are certainly needed at Inearspace.


Inakustik

Have no idea who these guys are what it was doing at Bristol but it is a curious little DAC/amp.


The headphone section of Bristol has certainly been growing which is great too see. I will do a speakers report soon so stay tuned for that as well. Oh and did we enjoy lunch, well lets just say we got pretty excited when we saw a 5 Guys Burger and Fries, oh and since I handled petrol, it was on Josh.

Sonny Trigg