One of the mains reasons for visiting Bristol was to see and hear the new Benchmark DAC3 DX and the AHB2 power amp. These were being demonstrated in the distributor – SCV – room. The downside was that the DAC and amp were being used to drive two pairs of Focal floorstanders in a dem on audio isolation feet for speakers.
Our Benchmark session was soon hi-jacked into a hard-sell for bookshelf speaker isolation platforms. And the A/B speaker dem? Sorry, I thought it was two alternative ‘bads’. The questions I did ask about the DAC – did it have parallel analogue outputs – couldn’t be immediately answered by the rep who was more concerned I get my 15% show discount and that I buy the product now. Nice people but what a shame to get all these product messages confused.
I’d no expectations from the ELAC room as they are better known to me as a loudspeaker drive-unit manufacturer though the company is enjoying a 90th anniversary. I was unexpectedly drawn into a demonstration of its new Element EA101EQ-G amplifier and Discovery music server. To wind the story back at little, ELAC recently acquired Audio Alchemy, the well-regarded Californian hi-fi company and was playing this equipment at the show through the new concentric driver floor-standing speakers which both looked and sounded good. Switching from £6000 of electronics to a £625 integrated may seem a dumb move but the sound retained its fundamental clarity and drive.
The EA101EQ is a flexible system amplifier for non-hi-fi people. You can label its inputs dynamically – if you want it to read ‘Dad’s TT’ for one of the inputs, no problem. It has built-in adjustable hi-pass filters for subwoofers and a very neat room EQ. Sweep tone the speaker with your iPhone, sweep tone the listening seat and EQ is done. Very quick to do and a clear improvement – in fact the EA101 and UF-5 Slim made one of the best show sounds I heard: clean, articulate with no boom or overhung bass. All for just over £1800.
ELAC’s big surprise for me was the parity of sound from its Miracord turntable – I should say ‘record player’ as it comes fitted with an arm and cartridge (an Audio Technica moving magnet).
And though this blog is largely about my journey to the digital side I have to say how impressive Rega’s vinyl system was at making high quality, musical sounds from the new P3 turntable (with I suspect an Elys cartridge) into the very handsome Brio integrated amplifier playing through what I think were RX-3 loudspeakers. Front end about £660 with cartridge, a £550 amp and under £1300 speakers – brilliant vinyl alternative with none of the vinyl paranoia that come with operating so many other turntables.
AVM I got to see but could tell much from the system paired with small box PCM speakers. Hegel too was demonstrating anything other than music every time I dropped into the room (cones under the amplifier, a lecture on circuit topography). Shame I didn’t get to hear what was said by others to be a great sound. At least they use the room on the cross rather than length ways which shows a greater understanding!