Windsor UK 2016 Hifi Show Report

To summarize, especially those in small rooms struggling to know what speakers to buy should just get the Heco Direkt, 2700 quid, and run it with SETs. Details follow.

Went to the Windsor HiFi show yesterday. None of the big systems were sounding good, due to room and show conditions on the first day. There was Dan Agostino and Wilson Alexx, and AR and Wilson Yvette in the same room. Magico S5 mkii with constellation centaur metronome top line transport and dac. All with top of the line Transparent.

The Wilson room was playing many master copies of Peter McGrath’s recordings. Ken Kessler gave a speech in that room where he was very honest that he does not use concerts to judge hifi, and does not go to classical concerts much (something I had guessed by reading his reviews). He said that according to him systems should be used to create your own definition of sound, and not try to have a live reference, else it will be self-defeating. He said that he and Peter Mcgrath were good friends, and had contrary views on this subject, Peter being a classical guy. He added that for someone who likes classical, reading his reviews was like a wine connoisseur reading a beer drinker’s review. He mentioned that he sees the markets for dealers declining and for custom install increasing, and the low end of hifi becoming cheaper but the high end becoming pricier. They mentioned someone in Colorado who had blown up a hole in the mountain to create a music room.

Anyway, back to the sonics. Given how bright the Yvette sounded in that room, I was surprised how relatively relaxed the Momentums made the Alexx sound. This was similar to when I had heard the Momentums with Alexandria X2S2, with a similar Vivaldi stack and Transparent set up. The momentums are extremely fine, musical amps. Will try to compare it to some other amp, and the stereo to the monos. The Alexandria was a private set up, and had much more timbre, midbass, weight and grandeur.

Then YG sonja with the Boulder 2160, a compete Boulder system with SME 30/12 and ortofon a90 also had set up challenges.

The Jadis JA 80 + Martin Logan Expression had the DCS running straight to the amps, which I think was a mistake and should have had the Jadis preamp in. It was wired L to R incorrectly, which I pointed out to them.

The Clearaudio statement room with Goldfinger statement and Gamut amps and speakers was too noisy with public taking loudly, and they were again wired L to R incorrectly, which I pointed out to them because violins started playing from the right. They corrected it and violins were back to the left.

All systems were sounding hard. The best rooms were the simplest. The Maggie 1.7 with audio analog 70w amp and Kronos Sparta 0.5 and transfiguration proteus, PS audio phono was extremely impressive. When I started playing my LPs of Argenta Espana, Rubinstein Emperor, Scheherazade, and Bruch Scottish Fantasia, with CDs of Bach cantata choral and other arias, it sounded great. Small room, panels close to the wall, with absorbers behind.

The Maggie 20.7 was in a big room with Ayre and Brinkmann Spyder, Lyra Etna.

The best sounding room was a small room run by Pure Sound of UK, a small dealer/designer. The Heco Direkt speakers, 95 db, with Pure Sound’s 845 SETs of 25 watts (he mentioned he also runs them with 10w EL84 amps) and STS Motus direct drive with the Hana SL cartridge (500 quid).

Guy from Puresound was part of the team that designed the Voyd Reference and knows his stuff.

I played Bruch, it sounded nice. I therefore thought I could stress the speakers easily with orchestral, so put on Scheherazade. Unflinched. Then I put on Argenta Espana, and it sounded brilliant. I was flabbergasted. Such small things should not be capable of such performance. You might not get the best piano from it, but hey, it’s 2700 quid! And will fit into your bathroom if you wanted it too. And have a SET multichannel set up to boot.

The audio shows are a great representative of audiophile set ups. Most audiophiles force in speakers into rooms that don’t suit them. I clearly had an epiphany today of seeing that unless you can get your ultimate system into a proper room, imperative to consider a nice low cost Turntable, with Audio Technica or Hana SL 500 quid cartridge, integrated SET amp 1 to 2k used, EAR phono used 1k, and Heco Direkt. These German speakers will come below your waistline, and are broad baffled, paper cone, vented bass at the bottom. Here is the 6 moons review

The other good sounding room was Audionote, which had, like in Munich, a live Cellist playing alongwith the music. The AN TT2 with the AN IO1 and their phono was giving a lot of purity to the higher frequencies and mids tones that I haven’t heard before. I have never been impressed by an AN system before, but that’s mainly because I am not a fan of those speakers.

Then there was the horns Universum room, which are among my favorite speakers. During the day they were sounding hard, and I noticed they were placed too wide to soundstage. After show hours, the crew took them off the wheels, spiked them, brought them closer to each other, and changed the amps from 80 watt 211s which had made the horns sound aggressive to 12w EL84 monos. Then it started sounding much better.

The choral on this was the best. The transport was a Lampi golden gate, which in the morning had KR 45 valves (not a fan), but in the evening had the special Lampi EML mesh globe anniversary 45s, my favorites with the KR242s.

The distributor G point was bringing in a new turntable, Sikora, and both the reference TT with Kuzma 4 point 14 inch arm with Audio technica’s top of the line Art 1000, and the smaller model with Audio technica Art 33sa (500 quid or less) were playing through the Sikora phono.

It surprised us that the smaller model was sounding better. Only later did I realise that the Art 1000 cartridge hadn’t reached them yet, and they were temporarily using the Kuzma cartridge. In the evening they received the Art 1000 and installed it. It is still new and needs to be burnt in, but the slam and bass of the bigger TT is higher.

One thing these horns do better than systems is the separation and distinction of each instrument in orchestra. Flutes, clarinets, brass, strings, sound extremely well separated with distinct tones.

Oh yes, the 200k KEF Muons seemed to choke on Holst Planets Mars dynamics, and the tonality was heavy metal. Coupled with powerful Chord amps.