Reviewed: Sound & Vision Bristol Show 2014

posted on Saturday, 22nd February 2014 by Steve May

Arcam  Epson  Events  Dali  JVC 

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The old man of UK hi-fi and AV shows still has life left in him if this year's Bristol Show is anything to go by. According to the organisers, attendance to Sound & Vision: The Bristol Show 2014 was up a staggering 40 per cent, giving the show its best numbers for five years.

A wide range of launches and new tech seem to be pulling in the crowds, and anecdotally at least the demographic seemed to be slightly younger, with more families and youngsters ferreting around the show's many rooms and hidey holes. Has hi-fi found a new lease of life at last?

JVC and Epson projectors please visitors
The highlights were many and various, with vision as well as sound creating a buzz. Enthusiastic queues waited patiently for demonstrations of JVC 4K e-shift3 projectors. Offering a 2160p pixel image, the brand's newest models offer filmic images of astonishing smoothness. Elsewhere, Epson was exhibiting its colour rich range toppers, the EH-TW9200 and EH-TW7200, with 3D fantasy Oz: The Great and the Powerful. Not to be outdone, Optoma employed Tom Hanks to promote its incoming HD91 projector. The new model, the first LED DLP offering from the brand, delivered a bright, sharp pictured that belied its 1000 lumens output. Sequences from Captain Philips looked flawless, while an animated 'toon revealed clean 3D. The HD91 will retail for £3,000. Of particular interest to installers, the projector will run maintenance free with no need for recalibration. It also offers instant on.

SVS rocks the house...
Speciality speaker outfit SVS laid on an impressive demonstration of a full 7.1 multichannel system, incorporating its new 2000 Series ported subwoofer. The brand told Inside CI that interest in its new subs had proved overwhelming, and it's easy to see why. This big enclosure proved potent with a clip of The Police live in concert. The SVS Ultra boxes were partnered with a full electronics package from Primare, and the overall result was terrific.

Naim used the show to debut its £125,000 Statement amplifier. Promising some 750w per channel, and claiming considerable floor space, the Statement arrived having wowed visitors at CES. However it sounded strangely subdued at Bristol. Some suggested the Beryllium tweeters of the partnering Focal Grand Utopia speakers just weren't up to the prodigious power of the new amp, or that the suspended floor of the demo room was problematic. Whatever the reason, the Statement was not quite as definitive as you might imagine.

Arcams win Best in Show
More visceral thrills could be had at the Kef Blade loudspeaker demo and the Anthem home speaker room. Arcam also won plaudits, with its demo room eventually being awarded Best Home Cinema room by trade body Clarity Alliance. The brand gave its new AV950 its first public outing, and the crowds roared approval. Arcam luminary John Dawson went on to win an Honorary Fellowship from the body, for his years of service to the business.

Of course, the Bristol show isn't just about massive sound systems. Flexson introduced a range of brightly vinyl skins for the ever-popular Sonos Play line which enables owners and installers to customise their speakers. The new PlayBar mount, which allows the Sonos soundbar to be affixed onto an existing articulated TV mount, was also on display.

High-res audio takes off
High resolution audio was a reoccuring theme at the event. Sony demonstrated its High Res audio separates, while Chord Electronics had people swooning over Hugo, its ultra advanced pocket DAC/headphone amp. This portable offers five digital inputs including A2DP aptX Bluetooth, plus advanced 384kHz PCM and DSD 128 playback for DXD (Digital eXtreme Definition) music files. Cleverly, Hugo can also be used as a reference-level source component in a static system. And of course, build quality is divine, with casework made from precision- machined aluminium honed to a bright silver finish.

Wireless streaming was also everywhere. JVC introduced its new 4.1 wireless Bluetooth speaker system at the show. The SP-A is AirPlay and DLNA compliant and features a funky square design.

Monitor Audio demonstrated the astonishing power of its 5.1 Radius sub/sat speaker package and new network amplifier, using the slogan 'fill the air not the room.' Another popular audio reveal was the new twenty.26 loudspeaker, from PMC. Like the other models in the range it features PMC's distinctive sloping cabinet design with Advanced Transmission Line bass loading tech. Very rock 'n' roll.

Another new treat at the show came from Antelope Audio, which debuted for the first time in the UK the Zodiac Platinum DSD256 upsampling DAC, matching Volitkus amp and an audiophile 10M atomic clock, known as the Baby 10M.  Antelope Audio has been a champion of atomic clock generators in the pro audio world for some time, where producers and engineers use Antelope DA and clocking products. Now consumers can get their hands on the very same. The Baby 10M reduces jitter in the digital stream, and is based on Antelope's Isochrone 10M pro-audio clock. We rate it as officially cosmic.

For more from this year's Sound & Vision Bristol Show, check out our CI TV YouTube channel and our photo gallery below…

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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