Review: Vinyl revival meets Dolby Atmos and MQA at Bristol Hi-Fi show 2016

posted on Saturday, 27th February 2016 by Steve May

home cinema  Hi-fi  High-end 

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It’s not a leap to suggest that the 2016 Bristol Hi-Fi show is playing host to some of the best sound and vision demos it’s ever seen. You really don’t have to travel far down its corridors before discovering one outstanding demo or another. From two-channel to immersive Dolby Atmos, it’s all there.

Arguably the most exciting stereo presentation I heard at the show came from Monitor Audio, which was playing a variety of CD FLAC rips through its flagship Platinum II floorstanders. Fronted by Chord Electronics DAC/digital preamp/headphone amp DAVE (pictured above), imaging and dynamics were grin-inducing. They may retail for £15,000 a pair but frankly, in the world of stratospheric premium Hi-Fi, I think this big MAs may well be a bargain. 

Impressive on a different scale was Devialet’s amazing Phantom wireless music system; it was difficult not to be impressed by the sound of the French brand’s sonic science. 

Monitor Audio

Phantom

Awarded Best Home Cinema room by trade group The Clarity Alliance, was Arcam. Its Dirac Live tuned Dolby Atmos show, featuring an AVR850 and KEF speakers, drew huge lines. For those with rather less room to play with, Yamaha was demonstrating its YSP-5600 Dolby Atmos soundbar. Winning Best sounding Hi-Fi Room at the show was PMC.

Talking of industry awards, Clarity also honoured Sony stalwart Eric Kingdon also awarded a Honorary Fellowship for his contributions to the industry.

The show isn’t all music. Big screen projection was represented by JVC and Epson. The latter was screening Avengers Age of Ultron (Blu-ray) on its laser light EH-LS10000, to a packed room, as well as demonstrating the benefits of draper screen fabric in room with high ambient light.

Disappointingly though, visitors won’t get an early look at 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. There’re no players on show (you’d have thought Samsung would have offered one up). 

One of the must-visit rooms at the show belonged to Technics. Making its UK debut was the brand’s upcoming Grand Class SL-1200GAE turntable (pictured below). While the deck embraces the classic look of the brand’s iconic platters, there’s lots of interesting new tech here – including DNA from the brand’s Blu-ray players. While I would have liked to hear the system playing classic rock rather than classic classics, it was nevertheless a thrill to see it working up close.

Technics

Record Cleaner

There can be little doubt that the vinyl resurgence has put a spring in everyone’s step. High-end turntable manufacturers clearly feel vindicated as sales surge. Rega rebooted its P3 record player at the show, while Audio-Techica bowed the AT-LP60BT. Even that man in the white lab coat who sells record washing machines (at least that what I think he does), attracted a crowd.

There was High Res Audio on hand too, after a fashion. Pioneer went two-channel for its demo this year, utilising the High Res Audio XDP-100R portable as a source for its gorgeous new A70-DA stereo amplifier (pictured below). While the player incorporates the latest volume-improving firmware update, it didn’t have the native MQA update ready. Instead the portable was running MQA software through a stop-gap app able to decode/unfold MQA on the fly. If you're interested in high quality music, the results are not to be missed.

Pioneer MQA

Yamaha Soundbar (1)

The Bristol Sound and Vision show runs at the Marriott Bristol City Centre hotel, February 26 -28. 

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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