Show report: Bristol Sound & Vision 2011 pt1

February 28, 2011 — Article

Bristol’s Marriott City hotel once again played host to the UK’s biggest dedicated hi-fi and AV show.

This year the Sound & Vision Show didn’t appear to be quite as packed as it has been in the past, but there was still some brisk passing trade and several exhibitors reporting that while there may have been less visitors, those that did make it seemed to be genuinely interested in buying, despite the recession.
Among the trends were several brands once known for high-end products producing more affordable products aimed at the mass market, with the likes of Focal and Dali introducing products that cost hundreds rather than their more customary thousands of pounds.
Wireless streaming was also breaking big at the show, with a wide range of products and technologies making it easier than ever to pass your music (and video) around your home.

Paradigm MilleniaSub subwoofer

The Toronto-based low-end specialist revealed this ‘flat’ subwoofer which can be placed on its side with a stand, flat on the floor so it can be pushed under a sofa or even wall-mounted via a dedicated bracket. The back-to-back dual driver design offers 300 watts RMS of low-end grunt and each of its 14in cones with a corrugated surround offering greater travel. It’s available in black or white.

Paradigm MilleniaOne satellite speaker
£225 each

Intended for use with the MilleniaSub, each of these two-way satellite speakers comes in a rear-ported custom die cast aluminium cabinet with 4in bass/mid driver and a 1in aluminium dome tweeter. They can be used in 2.1 or 5.1 configurations and like the sub, they’re also available in either black or white.

SIM2 dual stack 3D projector system

Projector specialist SIM2 showed off its dual stack system using two C3X Lumis 1080p three-chip DLP projectors (£3,000 each). The idea is that there’s a projector for each eye – one has a cyan filter, the other has a magenta filter, and when both are showing the same 3D film at once, the result is considerably brighter than standard 3D projection and also has less flicker, so it’s easier on the eye.

Focal Viva Utopia standmount speaker
£7,699 each, £8,358 with stand

The latest model in Focal’s Utopia III range is a hefty three-way standmount that can be used as a stereo pair or incorporated into a surround sound home cinema system (it can be mounted on its side to serve as a centre channel and the tweeter can be rotated). It includes a pair of 8in woofers surrounding a 6.5in midrange and pure beryllium inverted dome tweeter inside a lacquered MDF cabinet. Each driver is angled for optimum timing and it promises “extreme clarity of the midrange, high efficiency and power handling and very low directivity on the horizontal axis for perfect control of phase and 3D image”. An extra £350 will get you a dedicated stand – total price for a stereo pair with stands is £16,716.

Focal Little Bird 2.1 system and transmitter
£679 (£599 without transmitter)

Focal’s Little Bird is a hi-fi wireless streaming system based on Kleer technology and includes a pair of Little Bird bookshelf loudspeakers with a Power Bird amp and bass enclosure with 6.5in subwoofer. It comes with a wireless USB transmitter for iPod/iPhone/iPad as well as an optional USB version for PC or Mac. The amplifier can pump out 2 x 35 watts of power and comes with its own remote control. It can support up to 20 different sources and there’s a dedicated iPod dock planned for later this year.

Focal XS Book desktop speaker

Focal’s two-way desktop speaker includes 4in Polyglass cone bass/mid driver and aluminium dome tweeter. Inside one cabinet is a 2 x 20-watt amplifier and power supply and it’s available with an option booster stand. The speaker’s relatively low price point marks a shift in focus for the French company which is planning more ‘affordable’ models to go alongside its high-end speaker ranges.

Dali ME9 concept speaker
Not much information on this concept speaker being shown by Danish manufacturer Dali except that it’s called the Eminent, features woofers both top and bottom and could perhaps exist in the real world by this time next year.

Dali Zensor 1 budget speaker

The lowest priced speaker in Dali’s range is due to hit the shops in May. The compact bookshelf speaker includes a 5.25in wood fibre cone mid/bass driver and a 1in tweeter. Despite the low price it includes bass reflex design and gold-plated cable terminals.

Conran Audio iPod dock

Sir Terence Conran’s stylish iPod/iPhone dock is available from Armour Home and includes ‘apt-X’ Bluetooth streaming technology for connecting smart phones and laptops. The dock rotates so you can watch films in widescreen mode and the audio technology is supplied by Q Acoustics, with optimised sound settings for different room types. There’s a pair each of 75mm bass/mid drivers and 25mm tweeters plus a 2 x 15-watt amplifier.

Simple Audio streamer

This unprepossessing little black box offers to stream 24-bit/192kHz audio from your computer around your home. You connect the box to your computer via Ethernet cable, but rather than Wi-Fi, it uses your mains wiring to stream MP3, Aiff, Flac, Wav, AAC or Apple Lossless files to up to 16 different zones. Inside is a 25-watt amplifier and a ‘high-end’ DAC and there’s also a USB port allowing you to connect directly to a digital music player. there’s also optical and electrical digital outputs and a subwoofer out, though it doesn’t come with speakers (the Q Acoustics pair in the picture are just for show). It’s available with a dedicated touch-screen controller for £329 or you can download a free iPhone/iPad remote control app. It should be available in early summer though the final name is yet to be announced.

Show report: Bristol Sound & Vision 2011 pt3

Show report: Bristol Sound & Vision 2011 pt2

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DALI Loudspeakers
Q Acoustics