Every year for the last 4 I have attended the Marriot in Bristol for Audio-Ts event. Previously I have tried to take as many picture as possible, talk about every single thing that was new and marvel at every speaker I had not yet seen before. Sadly I see a staling in the show, minus the appearance of some new companies and few product unveils, there seemed to be a lot of the same, I feel as though some rooms had not even changed from last year. On top of that there was the normal “show syndrome” of poorly laid out demos, music more obnoxious than some of the systems prices and of course, rude company representatives. To keep things interesting and so that you are not completely out of the loop if you missed the event we are going to do a much more condensed show report broken down into 2 sections. What we liked best and all things headphoney! So to take a look at the best sound of these show I will hand you over to Josh.

Best HiFi Sound of Show

While I had my camera with me the whole day, only when a room really impressed us, did the camera come out. These are the 4 brands we think had the best sound of the show and therefore warrant this following award!

BOSR

MBL

The arrival of MBL at a British show was one of the more exciting prospects of the show.

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New Noble Line amplification and multi-function CD player were on demo heading up their relatively compact 120 speakers. The total price of what they were using including cabling (and maybe even plants!) was £38,000 which seems like a lot but you get a stunning sounding system in return. Most of our readers will be aware that we are big fans of MBL, and this particular demo just reinforced that. Every speaker in their range has similar sonic characteristics, they are so flat for a start, and some measurements from the front chair confirmed this with only a little bottom end roll off departing from that. Secondly, they image unlike any other speaker brand I’ve ever heard its just so precise and immersive in an almost surreal way.

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Usually small rooms at shows are filled with speakers that are two big or poorly positioned and this can often make the room sound very boomy and genuinely all over the place! This is not the case with MBL, the sound was tight, expansive and perfectly controlled. A further mention goes to the demos themselves which have always been varied and challenging. It actually gives you an opportunity to see what the speakers can do rather than the monotonous generic demo ‘sounds’ that you often hear.

MBL continue to impress in every circumstance and setting.

Larsen

So to set the scene, we walk into a relatively empty room of a company unknown to me and see two very odd looking speakers pushed right up against the wall and entirely square on. I was wondering what was going on to be honest, especially as there was no music playing! The gentleman giving the demonstration placed a CD in the tray and wound up the volume on the rather pretty Gamut amplifier. Now I was absolutely perplexed as to how a speaker that looked like this and positioned like this could produce such an overwhelming scale and dynamic prowess. It was a “scratch your head” moment. It really was awesome though, the 2.5 way design gave deep, controlled bass that tied the whole performance together. Both myself and Sonny were mightily impressed by the performance despite only being able to listen to a single track.

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Not strictly relevant, but in this room a well known UK magazine said no to a feature because “they like to deal with the bigger brands”. I think this is shocking and says a lot about the state of the industry actually. This company were easily in the top 5 sounding rooms at the show and it makes me wonder, what more can they do to get the publicity they deserve from the bigger publishers out there?!?!

Whether you are a multi million pound giant or a small start up company, if your product is good enough you should receive credit and a bit of publicity in my eyes. So thank you, Larsen I loved what I heard and hope to see more of you in the future!

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Unfortunately we couldn’t find a UK price but did find they are 7000USD over the pond in the states and a cheaper 2,500 euros in Sweden, take a look by following this link to their site!

TAD

The TAD Compact Evolution One is quite possible the most enjoyable bookshelf speaker I’ve heard. I guess they should be with an asking price of £16,495 per pair (£17,995 with stands). They are involving and emotive like no other stand-mount speaker and they do top MBL in the conveying of emotion for me. Timbre and tone are simply amazing and the genre versatility is a huge plus as well. Something else that impressed which all of these speakers have had in common is that they produce a sound and scale that is so much bigger than you expect, I don’t mean louder I mean BIGGER. I would be put in a very difficult position if someone put a free pair of the MBL stand-mounts and a free pair of these on the table but said I could only choose one. They are both amazing speakers, but one is more natural, musical and engaging while the other is more analytical, spacious, transparent and unbelievably precise. I think you can work out which is which!

I think I need both….

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So they sound great, but if that’s not enough I think they look bloody amazing, I have seen so many design options for these speaker both at Munich High End last year and at Bristol this year and they are all stunningly finished and executed whether you actually like the design or not.

Sonny found that these guys are new to NuNu distribution so pop over to them if you are interested!

PMC

It is Sonny again and I will take over for the rest of the article. This paragraph will be briefer but we though they deserved a mention. PMC were demoing different products on the dot every hour and we caught the last bit of their demo of the studio monsters that are the BB5 SE, not cheap at £25k! The room was PACKED and I won’t be making any huge critical sound impressions but these left a big impression the second time I have heard these. They were also on demo 4 years ago on my first visit to the show and they have not aged a bit. Them demo was exciting with the new Phill Collins Vinly transitioning into a FLAC of James Blake, a reference track for me and Josh here at Inearspace. Sadly their Queen vinyl was damaged or they were going to get our heads bobbing with Bo Rhap!

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Sonny Trigg
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