Show report: The Hi-Fi Show Live 2018

Now in its sixth and final year at the Beaumont Estate in Windsor, the Hi-Fi Show Live burst at the seams with the cream of 2018’s high-end audio. Exclusive UK product launches were unveiled by iconic brands including Metronome, dCS, Mark Levinson, Wilson, Melco, Chord, ELAC and many others. The big White House, Windsor, Lancaster, Buckingham and Kensington suites provided the ideal environment for many unforgettable demos while our Workshops, hosted by Ken Kessler and Germany’s Stereo magazine editor Matthias Böde, were typically left with standing room only. If you missed this unique high-end audio extravaganza, then here’s a taster of the event.

Fans of the hottest hi-fi filled the Icon Audio’s room to hear its MB81 push-pull monoblock amps, with massive GU81 transmitter tube and external PSU, connected to designer David Shaw’s replica TAD horns. These speakers feature a JBL compression driver and 15in bass!

ELAC chose The Hi-Fi Show Live to launch its new Vela 400 series of loudspeakers, illustrated here by the elegant FS 407 floorstanders. This range features an improved version of the (Air Motion Transformer) JET 5 tweeter and sounded both open and delicate via the Miracord 90 Anniversary turntable and Alchemy electronics.

Flanked by an imposing pair of ‘Foundary Edition’ Reference 5 floorstanders from KEF, David Mugford of Pioneer and Onkyo Europe demo’d Esoteric’s Tidal/DSD-compatible N-03T network streaming transport with the K-03Xs SACD player and F-03A integrated amp. Power, interconnect and speaker cables were all from Nordost.

It bears repeating that high-end hi-fi would never have got off the ground in the late ’70s without the vision of distributor Ricardo Franassovici, seen here with Wilson Audio’s Peter McGrath and the new Sasha DAW loudspeaker. Auditioned with a choice of ARC REF160M or D’Agostino Momentum 400 monos the expansive and seemingly poignant sound of this system was a counterpoint to the power of the Constellation/Magico duet next door.

KEF made light work of filling the cavernous space of the Kensington building courtesy of the latest iteration of its Muon flagship floorstanders aided – in their worldwide debut – by the astonishingly powerful ULTIMA pre and power from Chord. Not just the ‘biggest’ sound of the show, this was a full-blown concert.;

Kevin Akam [right] of distributor Signature Audio Systems demo’d PS Audio’s DS Memory player/DAC, Signature preamp and 300W BHK Signature monoblocks with Vandersteen’s Treo CT (Carbon Tweeter) speakers. But it was guest Dr Edgar Choueiri with his Theoretica BACCH-SP dio ‘3D Sound’ processor that stole this corner of the show, immersing visitors in their own holographic soundfields.

Computer Audio Design’s Isabel Whitley, Luke Milnes (right) from Wilson Benesch and Quadraspire’s Alester Kells delivered an amazing sound with CAD’s CAT/CAD transport/DAC, CH Precision amps and Endeavour speakers.

Tracing its hi-fi roots back over 43 years, Japanese IT giant Melco has the ideal heritage to facilitate PC-free digital audio. Two new music libraries were unveiled at the Hi-Fi Show Live – the ‘entry level’ N100 and the ‘extreme performance’ two-box N10 that separates signal processing and storage from its multiple PSUs.

Magico’s Peter Mackay travelled to the Hi-Fi Show Live to unveil the new M6 floorstanders which sounded utterly magnificent regardless of whether they were driven via the new Constellation Audio Centaur II 500 power amp [centre] or the pair of Jadis JA 200s tube amps seated either side. Front-end [inset] included the Continuum Obsidian turntable with Viper tonearm, Kalista DreamPlay CD/DAC [HFN Nov ’17] and streamer, Constellation Virgo III and Jadis JP80 MC preamps.

New to the UK, courtesy of importers Sound Fowndations, the range-topping Larsen 9 loudspeakers from Sweden are designed to stand flush against the wall, using surface reflections to ‘enrich the listening experience’ – a promise they delivered to impressive effect even in the large Windsor 2 Suite. In the driving seat was a new deck from Clearaudio equipped with DS Audio’s DS-W2 optical cartridge and Mimas integrated amp from Aesthetix.