Taking place at the stunning Royal Ascot Racecourse, The UK Hi-Fi Show Live is back after a four year absence. One of the most prestigious events in hifi’s global calendar, it’s where the world’s finest audio brands and ambassadors gather to showcase the gear that represents the very best that’s on offer.
Spread over six vast floors, this year saw a resurgence in high-end analogue alongside the latest digital audio products which continue to push technological boundaries, for music experiences that are second to none.
After our recent review of Perlisten’s highly impressive R5t loudspeakers, we made a beeline for this system featuring the brand’s flagship R7t Limited Edition floorstanders which were being premiered, driven by Primare electronics.
Featuring carbon fibre over HDF cases, hand-picked components and specially made isolation feet by IsoAcoustics, it’s no wonder company CEO and Co-Founder Dan Roemer was proud to present them to show-goers.
Another UK first, this time from MoFi which is expanding its analogue offerings with the new MasterDeck flagship vinyl spinner, sporting an Allen Perkins designed 10in hybrid gimbal tonearm and three-phase BLDC Sinusoidal motor for ultimate speed accuracy.
This was feeding an equally new MasterPhono preamp that offers passive RIAA equalisation, balanced FET input and output stages and programmable load and gain settings for a wide range of cartridges. Both components sounded captivating through the brand’s SourcePoint 8 loudspeakers, designed by Andrew Jones.
Talking phono stage design and development with Primare’s Terry Medalen was a personal highlight. Its R35 remains our review benchmark for features, sound and flexibility.
This system sounded as good as it looked. Monitor Audio teamed up with Vitus Audio using a pair of SM-103 Mk.II power amps in rare blue finish to drive the former’s new statement Hyphn loudspeakers to full effect. Chief Executive Officer Rob Barford (above left, who recently spoke to us about the brand’s 50 year history) joins Alexander Vitus Mogensen CEO & Owner, AVA Group A/S – Vitus Audio, to present a match made in hifi heaven.
Bringing its global brands together into systems that suited a range of budgets, here’s the reference room from Renaissance Audio featuring a world premier of VPI’s Titan direct drive deck feeding MOON’s newly released North Collection 791 streaming preamp with matching 761 power amps.
The system had Nordost cabling throughout, including from the Valhalla 2 range and new QBASE Mark III mains distributor. Audiovector’s stunning seven driver R8 Arreté loudspeakers completed things in style.
We were also treated to glimpse of Nordost’s legendary Vidar 2 cable burn in service machine, which can be custom tuned for a range of the brand’s cables to ensure they’re optimised for your system (and yes, we did try to set those dials to 88mph).
Ear candy was also on the menu thanks to Bowers & Wilkins with its Px8 looking resplendent for the Ascot crowd in royal burgundy and gold finish, alongside the new Px7 S2e in ocean blue colour scheme.
Where else would you see such a selection of SME turntables under one roof? From left to right, a Model 12 joins a Model 20, under the watchful eye of the brand’s latest and greatest Model 60, which was also on demo in glorious honeycomb anodised blue livery.
While this may look like a blast from the past, this Garrard 301 has been fully overhauled by SME to its uncompromising standards. Presented as a new Advanced package (with SME now owning the Garrard brand) this was the model’s first global outing.
The moniker refers to its advanced polymer resin plinth which features internal isolation alongside adjustable feet and, of course, a flagship SME tonearm. And for purists, much of the original design has also been retained, right down to the original recipe for the platter mat.
The vintage vibe continued aplenty thanks to Lowther’s room with Howes’ custom valve amps and Gekko cables, all immaculately presented.
Top quality accessories were in abundance too from Russ Andrews, including its soon to be released Clarity Pro 2.0 system enhancer. Sales and New Product head honcho Peter Bevir was on hand to answer a range of questions and customer requests, keeping the team busy across the weekend.
This system from Sound Fowndations was quite special. At its centre sits Clear Audio’s Reference Jubilee turntable with DS Audio pick-up. The large record weight is actually DS’s centring device, which makes aligning your precious vinyl both easy and pinpoint accurate.
One of the most recognisable faces in hi-end hifi, PS Audio’s Paul McGowan was a welcome guest throughout the show thanks to Signature Audio Systems. If you’ve yet to subscribe to Paul’s hugely popular YouTube channel you’ve been missing out!
Befitting an event on this scale, Absolute Sounds rolled out its audio red carpet with this system, featuring Robert Koda K360 and Constellation Centaur II 500 power amps driving Magico S3 speakers. Source components included a Döhmann Helix One Mk3 turntable and HSE Masterline 7 phono stage, while on the digital side of things a dCS Rossini stack did the talking, and it was a delightful voice to hear.
PMC’s very own Peter Thomas reveals his latest Prodigy loudspeakers and seeing inside the cabinets reveals just how unique each transmission line model needs to be. Look out for an upcoming review of the prodigy1 in the coming months.
Despite being a relative newcomer to the tonearm game, Supatrac is already causing quite a positive stir. Its latest Blackbird Farpoint arm was on demo showcasing how it can bring sonic benefits to a range of decks from legacy to modern, with packed demonstrations all weekend.
Origin Live had a warm welcome to its family of turntables, here David Baker and mum Lorna proudly present the company’s Voyager model which looked superb.
It’s always a delight seeing the Chord Company team at these shows, and for this year its PowerARAY and PowerHAUS mains conditioning and distribution really caught our eye for their quality fit and feel.
This year’s headphone zone was as impressive as ever, and JBL’s Tour Pro 2 might just be the only noise cancelling buds on the market with their own with smart screen, helping to avoid the app faffery.
Brinkmann’s Mattias Lück proudly displaying the brand’s latest 12.0 tonearm alongside its Oasis (left) and Taurus (right) turntables. Unlike most turntable controllers, The Taurus’s (front left) is essentially a remote control that’s unattached and can be placed wherever a user chooses. Smart eh?
Fresh in to Ascot, Austrian Audio’s latest flagship headphones The Composer and matching Full Score one headphone amp were ready to rock. With detachable external cables and lightweight materials (under 400g for the cans) they felt both well made and well thought out.
Launched only a couple of weeks ago, Musical Fidelity’s revived and improved M8xTT turntable really is a sight to behold. A contender for the coolest deck of the show? I think so.
Show-goers were invited to step back in time into Tim Jarman’s vintage village with this forty year old Philips full system. And despite the decades past, the motional-feedback tech in those speakers still remains cutting edge.
Hailing from Germany, Audio Art’s Glöbel Divin Marquis loudspeakers were big on visual drama as well as sounds, with proprietary 12 and 8 inch bass and midrange drivers, married to an AMT tweeter with aluminium wave guide.
Thanks to Paul Miller and all the organisers, staff, distributors, brands and visitors that made The UK Hi-Fi Show Live such a weekend to remember.