Review: Bristol Sound & Vision Hi-Fi and Home Cinema Show 2018

posted on Friday, 2nd March 2018 by David Slater

home cinema  Hi-fi  High-end  Trade show 

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Fearlessly braving the inclement weather, Inside CI left its cosy office and headed to Bristol, for the UKs largest hi-fi and home cinema consumer show - aka Sound & Vision - held once again at its usual home in the Marriott Hotel.

First up on our tour was the Dali room where we had a demo of the new Callisto active speaker system, which merges traditional Hi-Fi with a number of innovative technologies. Its appeal is considerable: the system takes the pain out of trying to hide cables in your lounge, as it is wireless, yet doesn’t sacrifice sound quality. The wireless speakers connect to an essential part of the system, the Dali Sound Hub.

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A multitude of standard inputs, all with auto detect, ensure that any audio device can be connected; be it via Bluetooth, optical, analogue or coax. The system supports up to 24 bit/96 kHz Hi-Res content. A Bluetooth remote will reach the Sound Hub, even if it is hidden away in a cabinet, so all the user has to do is press Play.

The design of the speaker is simple but gorgeous. You can choose from black or white satin finish. The speakers are designed around a 165mm wood fibre woofer with an advanced SMC magnet motor system and a hybrid tweeter module consisting of a 29mm ultra-light-weight soft dome tweeter and a high-performance ribbon tweeter. The drivers are fed by a powerful dual channel 300W Class D amplifier connected directly to the drivers.

Their performance is transparent, detailed, coherent and well-timed, beyond what you would expect to be available at this price point. One great feature I liked was the touch sensitive volume slider on top of the speaker. Slide your finger to increase the volume, very cool.

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Next up, I dropped into the Monitor Audio room where the British Hi-Fi brand was showcasing its new Studio monitor speaker models. At £1000 a pair, the Studios sit between the company’s Gold 50 (£950) and Gold 1000 (£1250) stand mounters. The dual 10cm drivers of the Studio use the same magnetic design and materials as the ones used in Monitor Audio’s flagship Platinum PL500 II floor standers that cost £15,000, so this makes them awesome value for money. They truly sound amazing at this price point. The Studios are available now in black, white and grey finishes.

Recently acquired by Harman Group, Arcam had three new products at the show: the CDS50 SACD/CD network streamer (which will retail for £699), SA10 CD Player (£699) and SA20 (£999) integrated amplifiers. Clearly reflecting Arcam’s reputation as one of the UK’s most respected audio companies, this looks like a superb new line up. Products will be available very soon.

Moving onto the all-important cables that connect any system, I headed to The Chord Company room for lunch and a PR briefing on its new ChordOhmic loudspeaker plug. This silver-plated loudspeaker plug is designed to bring both the electrical and sonic benefits of silver to speaker cables everywhere. The new plugs will be available on all Chord Company cables going forward, as well as being separately available, enabling Chord’s new plug to improve other brands of cable, too.

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The introduction of the ChordOhmic follows the successful implementation of silver-plated connectors in the company’s flagship loudspeaker cables. For 2018, the tech has trickled down from ChordMusic and Sarum T into a more efficient and affordable plug which offers a highly cost-effective performance upgrade for any level of cable or system. ChordOhmic speaker plugs are available now priced at £8 each/£64 for eight.

At the show, we had a chance to chat with Ian Severs from Karma-AV, who was really chuffed to receive the Clarity Alliance’s award for best cinema room, repeating the success of 2013! The award-winning Atmos system featured the new Emotiva RMC-1 processor/pre with XPA-11 amplification driving an SVS Ultra system including its Prime Elevation speakers in the height channels, and new SB-4000 sub.

Scheduled for arrival in May at £5,500 retail, the flagship Emotiva RMC-1 looks set to be the world’s first 16-channel capable processor, promising 16 fully balanced outputs, enhanced DSD support, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, HDMI 2.0b, and 4K UHD video with HDR!

Precision 32-bit DACs are teamed with an all-analogue preamp section offering eight HDMI inputs and dual HDMI outputs. The RMC-1’s partnering power amplifier, the XPA-11 Gen3, is an 11-channel version of Emotiva’s latest modular audiophile power amp platform. It features three 300W single channel amplifier modules and four 65W two channel amplifier modules for a total of three channels at 300W/channel and eight channels at 65W/channel. Ideal for driving 7.1.4 or 5.1.6 systems or 7.1/7.2 channel system that includes two pairs of smaller speakers in other zones.

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SVS is always well worth a visit, and this year was no exception. The design catching the most attention was the glossy new SVS SB4000 subwoofer. Deploying technologies trickled-down from the universally acclaimed Ultra Series subs, the sealed SB-4000 subwoofer deploys a high-excursion 13.5-inch driver, powered by a 1,200 watts RMS 4,000+ watts peak ‘Sledge’ power amplifier, featuring a fully discrete MOSFET output stage with Analogue Devices’ most advanced audio DSP, enabling pinpoint control and accuracy in any environment through a smartphone app with custom presets. The SB-4000 is one of three new designs in the 4000 range of sealed, ported and cylinder designs (typically retailing at £1,799.00, £2,249.00 and £1,999.00).

The Primare range of products was on show next door, with the all new Prisma which offers network playback from stored and streamed media, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as multi-room/multi-zone connectivity and control, all managed through the Prisma application.

The compact I15 Prisma amplifier provides 75W per channel, PCM 768kHz DACs and DSD 128 compatibility, as well as complete digital media access and system management by way of the Prisma connectivity and control technology.

The I35 Prisma integrated amplifier is the first to use the brand’s new UFPD 2 power system, a refinement of Primare’s award-winning UFPD all-analogue Class-D technology. Providing 150 watts at 8 ohms, the I35 Prisma offers fully balanced analogue input options and a full-featured DAC stage enabling PCM 768kHz and DSD 128 conversion, as well as Prisma connectivity and control technology.

The partnering CD35 Prisma CD player features an all-new DAC stage utilising an ESS Sabre chipset for conversion up to PCM 384kHz and DSD 128.

The I35 and CD35 are available with or without Prisma technology. All models include a C25 Primare system remote control and will be available in Black and Titanium finishes.

All in all, it was another really busy show, with some great Hi-Fi equipment on demo. It was well worth venturing out for. Here's to the next one!

David Slater

David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
Living North

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