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Old 23rd September 2012, 09:45 PM   #1
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Default National Audio Show UK 2012

Just back from my first ever experience of 'high end' audio at the National Audio Show in Whittlebury UK, and well worth a few quid and a car journey to find out what all the fuss is about. My first impression is of an industry and a hobby that has gone seriously wrong! People are so caught up in imaginary 'soundstaging' and 'imaging' and messing about with cables that they've completely taken their eyes and ears off the basics.

Going from room to room, coming across ever more outlandish setups - and prices - I expected to hear utter audio magic, but instead heard sounds that induced nausea. So many bizarre speakers with huge horns and bits hanging on strings, speakers with woofers in their sides, or open baffle speakers all producing strange comb-filtered anti-phase effects that are supposed to be 'ambience', with disembodied bass not connected to the rest of the music. So many demonstrations relying on LPs as the ultimate audio source with a pop or crackle every few seconds, ubiquitous valve amplifiers some the size and appearance of radiators, and truly massive (ridiculous) cables. I went with the intention of being amazed (just what does a £5000 speaker sound like?) and inspired to build something better than my current setup, but what I found was an industry that has disappeared up its own fundament. The only setups that sounded half decent to me were the Magneplanar speakers which, based on limited listening to typical 'audiophile music' (how many times do audiophiles listen to Dave Brubeck's Take Five and some track or other by Hugh Masekela?) were 'straight' and un-coloured (I'd have liked to have heard how loud thay went, however), and active speakers by Backes and Muller. In a large room I heard an £18,000 pair and a £36,000 pair which were both excellent - they sounded like my own homebrew active system in fact :-), but bigger. The budget model at £14,000 a pair sounded a bit too bassy for my liking, but is presumably tuneable. There were also some retro-style Harbeth speakers that may have been good, but the music was so anodyne, and the surroundings so noisy that I couldn't tell - but they didn't offend me.

The whole experience was bizarre, coming away feeling that £5000 is supposed to buy you budget, entry-level speakers, and that there is simply no 'magic' in vinyl and valves - one system with multi-thousand GBP conventional box speakers was quite simply offensive to listen to. And the audiophile music! Please stop playing the anodyne audiophile music! Play something that (a) has been recorded within the last few decades, and (b) shows what the system can do with real dynamics.
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Old 23rd September 2012, 10:11 PM   #2
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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You seem surprised? What did you expect from part of the 'lifestyle' industry?
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Old 24th September 2012, 08:44 AM   #3
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Oh, and add to the list of OK-sounding speakers some large Tannoys with concentric tweeters.
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Old 24th September 2012, 09:41 PM   #4
M Gregg is offline M Gregg  United Kingdom
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Yes,

its a good job we can Diy audio..I listened to a £16,000 system a few months ago...what a shock..I thought we had just been marching on the spot for the last ten years...

Of course not...we have gone backwards I remember the Hifi shows 20years ago being waaaay better than what seems to be about now..
I don't believe its rose tinted specs or perhaps loss of hearing...

I don't know whats happened, perhaps its that "good stuff" is now the price of the old superfi...many shops have gone now...and the old walk into the Aladdin's cave of wonder has become a few stark shelves full of mediocre boxes. OK AV is the new audiophile scene...

Regards
M. Gregg
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