AVR ventured out of its London offices to the Northen Sound & Vision show in Manchester at the weekend. A little less hectic than the capital's shows tend to be, there was more room to manoeuvre and more time to loiter, generally talking AV with some of the 200 or so brand reps. The crowds were there, but low-key enough that it was rarely a problem getting into the rooms, which gave us plenty of time to see some first-class gear up close.
Did you go too? So tell us about it. Click on the discussion button below and comment on any of the pics or comments here, or just tell us what you thought of the show. Let us know if you saw any kit there that you'd really like to read a review of - we'll do our best to get it in, try it, and tell you all about it.
MacIntosh MC2102 power amp, 11WPC, 8 tubes per channel £6,000
MacIntosh C2200 preamp uses vacuum tubes for signal processing, £4,000
Distributor Audio Solutions had some quality kit from US manufacturer McIntosh Laboratories to show off. Their frankly beautiful valve amp designs, all look very American, ie powerful, and were shown with a pair of Green Mountain Audio Callisto speakers, less than common on these shores, augmented with tweeters from Townshend.
MacIntosh MVP861 universal player with three 192kHz/24-Bit PCM/DSD Stereo DACs and progressive scan £4,000
Green Mountain Audio Callisto speakers £2,500, with Townshend tweeter
Linn Unidisk 1.1 £6,500, Climax Control preamp £6,500, Climax Chakra 500 twin power amp £4,500
Linn Accurate 242 floorstanding speakers
Linn demonstrated a typically minimal-looking system that's been around for a little while now, but the word is that they'll be showing off a new entry-level system, including disc player, pre and power for around £2K at Bristol.
Pro-Ject 2 Xperience turntable
The X-Pack - turntable, cartridge and electronic speed control for £650
Henley Designs had what looked like a bit of a bargain - a Pro-Ject 2 Xperience turntable on acrylic plinth with a £300 Ortofon cartridge and £75 electronic speed control all for £650 (£950 as separates). One of the chaps doing the demos reckoned they'd accidentally discovered that using the speed control actually lowered the noise level of the cartridge. We weren't sure exactly why this would be (he didn't seem too sure either) but it sounded good nonetheless.
JBL Project Array £8,000
Harman Kardon's Infinity surround system £1,750
JBL were demonstrating their very distinguished Project Array speaker, a snip at £8,000 (but you do at least get two of them for that). They didn't appear to be giving of their best when we popped in, but this was put down to the use of Traci Chapman's first album (tinny, late-eighties production, apparently). A quick listen later on with something more robust and rocky seemed to fare better, however.
Harmon Kardon AVR-series receiver
Harman Kardon Bridge for iPod
Harman Kardon's Infinity surround system made an attractive little package, with their discreet, tubular casings. Flush mounts and feet as well as the subwoofer are included in the surround package for £1,750, although the extended floor stands which may be necessary for the stereo pair or surrounds are extra, at around £200 a pair. Handily, they'll also supply a Harman Kardon Bridge dock for your iPod, which is compatible with Harmon Kardon AVR-series receivers.
MartinLogan Vantage £3,900
Wilson Sophia 2 £11,500
The Midland Audio Xchange (MAX) brought along a couple of new products fresh from their international debut at CES. The MartinLogan Vantage electrostatic loudspeaker is a cut-down version of the Summit with a cut-down price to match at £3,900 a pair. The Wilson Sophia 2 meanwhile, updates its predecessor with new anti-jitter technology claimed reduce the noise floor, a bass-alignment system and anti-diffraction technology to increase tweeter detail, all for £11,500 a pair. Both speakers are also available in a surround configuration.
Unison Research Sinfonia £2,975
UKD brought along their Final electrostatic loudspeaker, available in five sizes from the diminutive wall-mounted 100i and 200i to the floorstanding 400i and 600i and the frankly huge 1000i. They also had the Unison Research Sinfonia (£2,975), the little brother of the Performance (£5,500). The Sinfonia retains the sleek lines of the Performance but cuts down on the price with simplified circuitry (it's not a full dual mono design), and a reduction in valves (four KT88s rather than six) and a bit less power at 29 watts instead of 40.
Tannoy Glennaire £4,000
Tannoy Mini Autograph £1,250
Icon Distribution were responsible for showing off Tannoy's monster Glennaire speaker (£4,000). It features a single 15” dual concentric paper cone driver with a tweeter in the centre. It's due in the shops in around 6-8 weeks. They were also displaying the decidedly retro lines of the Mini Autograph, a £1,250 bookshelf speaker based on an old 1950s Tannoy design. The 4.5in driver is apparently Tannoy's smallest-ever dual concentric driver.
Cairn Moov 2 CD player, 4810 ntegrated amp, Nitro preamp and KO1 power amp
Cairn Moov 2 CD player £1,500 and 4810 integrated amp £1,500
Icon has just taken on the UK distribution for French two-channel hi-fi manufacturer Cairn, and plans to give their products a big push later this year. They certainly pass the cool test, with their slick looks, though as ever at shows, it would be misleading to make much of a pronouncement of their sound quality. The Moov 2 is currently a CD player though it's planned to be a universal player by summer 2006 and the Cairn amps can be easily fitted with bespoke connections thanks to their modular set-up.
Lyngdorf CD-1 player £1,545
Lyngdorf TDA2200 True Digital amplifier
Lyngdorf CD-1 player/transport (£1,545) and TDA2200 True Digital amplifier certainly had impressive credentials. Peter Lyngdorf created the first all-digital amplifier (the Millennium), and this is an extension of that design. It features the still very rare all-digital processing system which undertakes no analogue processing of the musical signal until the moment it hits the speaker, thereby supposedly cutting down on the possibility of interference or corruption involved with converting it from digital (CD) to analogue within the amp. The version we saw didn't yet have the RoomPerfect room correction system which promises great things, but we'll be looking out for it at Bristol later in February.
MBL 101 omnidirectional speaker £27,490
MBL 121 £7,290
High-end manufacturer MBL had some of the weirdest looking speakers on display. The reference line MBL 101 (£27,490) is an omnidirectional design that's as fascinating to look at as it is to listen to, though they're also big enough to fill an auditorium with sound, should they need to. A more 'affordable' alternative is the considerably more discreet 121 (£7,290) which features similar technology.
Nonsuch 4 £7,000, soon to be augmented with the Nonsuch 2
Anthony Matthews' Soul and Soul Mate amp and preamp
Seventh Veil unveiled… not very much actually, since their latest product wasn't quite ready. They had the Nonsuch 4 (£7,000) speaker and matching, separate bass driver which has been around for a little while, but they did have a tale to tell about the Nonsuch 2, which offers half the drivers (two), again with separate bass cabs, for half the price (£3,500), and AV option is also on the way. We won't get to see the Nonsuch 2 until Bristol, the Soul and Soul Mate amp and preamp were lovely though.
Anthony Matthews' Soul and Soul Mate amp and preamp. After reading the article by Dave (Northern 2006 show - Manchester...), I was astonished with the look of the Anthony Matthews' Soul and Soul Mate amp and preamp.. Reason?
I am sure I saw this circuitry on a Delorian in Back to the Future 1/2...... Does anyone see the similarity, or do I open a another bottle of wine and let it lie....