Musical Event No3 Review

Stephen Harper – Audio Consultants - Thursday, October 29, 2015

We had a steady flow of visitors over the two days of the 17th and 18th October and many stayed for 2-3 hours at a time, despite the temptation of the quarter-finals of the rugby that weekend. We created a superb sound within the conference room at the Holiday Inn at Winnersh, near Reading. Almost certainly our best yet and all that came were impressed. Some were generous enough to voice the following views:

“The music was just floating in the air within a huge soundstage.”

“The electronics and the speakers were just not there, completely out of the way. Just pure music.”

“The speakers sounded excellent, particularly the HRS –130. Of course the partnering equipment, stands and cables were excellent too and all of it was contributing.”

“This is the first time I have understood what a soundstage is.”

“The sound achieved in that room was excellent, especially with vinyl playing.”

“The sound you produced was better than 90% of the rooms exhibiting at the National Audio Show at Whittlebury Hall in September. And quite a few of those systems cost many times more.”

“This type of event is more informative and more useful than the large audio shows. You cannot hear a good sound at those shows.”

The German Physiks loudspeakers acquitted themselves marvellously, managing to fill the large space (approximately 5.5m x 7.5m) with ease. Especially so with the HRS -130, but the smaller Unlimited Mk II did a fine job too, other than for the lowest bass frequencies. In a smaller volume this difference would not have been so evident. The soundstage was wall-to-wall and very deep. The sound did not appear to be coming from the speakers at all – as one visitor said, “It was just floating in the air”. The speakers do not have a “hot-spot” so all could enjoy the concert-like presentation from any seat.

Robert Kelly, the International Sales Manager for German Physiks, was on hand throughout the 2-day event and explained in detail how the unique omnidirectional DDD driver was developed and how it solves a few of the problems associated with the more usual dynamic, forward firing speaker designs. Most notable is the phase coherence, since the majority of the frequency range is generated by one driver and the cross-over point is well below the mid-range where our ears are most sensitive. He also assisted in the setting up of the system and without his help this Musical Event would not have been the success it was.

We played both vinyl and CDs and almost all visitors brought some samples of their own music, which we were happy to play.

The vinyl system was fronted by the new SME Model 15, with the new optical cartridge from DS Audio. This delivered a very impressive sound in terms of speed, tonal correctness and size of soundstage. This was especially demonstrated with quality orchestral recordings where the holography was most apparent, not only in terms of width and depth but also height differentiation of the different sections of the orchestra: just like a concert hall experience.

The CD player was the Aesthetix Rhea. This is not a product we represent, but it delivered an exceptional soundstage on a par with that produced from the vinyl replay. The overall sound was remarkably close in terms of tonal balance, speed and soundstage size, whenever we switched between the two sources.

The CDs we used were all standard issue Red Book discs – not audiophile pressings – and the LPs a selection of good recordings, some of the older recordings on reissue labels. Many commented on how refreshing it was to hear good music, popular, jazz and classical, rather than the usual “hifi” demonstration discs. We did not play “Dark Side of the Moon” or any Dire Straits!

The amplification was the Edge Electronics: the pre-amplifier was the NL1.2 Signature and the power amplifier was the NL10.2. The pre-amplifier, in addition to a normal AC mode, has a battery mode which completely decouples the unit from mains AC, resulting in a very audible reduction in the noise floor, allowing more detail to be more easily heard. We used the pre-amplifier exclusively in battery mode. The power amplifier is essentially two mono amplifiers in one chassis and is able to delivery very high levels of current, as well as significant watts. This was noticeable in the speed of transients, not only on rise time but also recovery time. Fast recovery contributes significantly to rhythm and timing, which was evident on fast and complex musical passages which become much easier to follow.

All the equipment was supported on HRS frames, which included the isolation bases and Nimbus resonance control components throughout. This all helped with reducing the noise floor and improving transparency.

All signal cables and power cords were from the Canadian company GutWire Cables. These make a big difference in terms of not “adding” to the sound being transmitted. In the case of their power cords, they do not reduce dynamics nor compress the soundstage. This is a very common problem with many famous-name cable brands and the GutWire is the one we have found does “least damage” to sound. They try not to get in the way.

The room acoustics were admirably controlled by the Acustica Applicata DAAD products. We were playing into a large volume and without their contribution the sound would not have been so controlled, or as focused. We were able to shape the soundstage to fill the space behind the loudspeakers without being a forward or bright presentation.

We also had the Audiodesksysteme ultrasonic vinyl cleaner on show and many were able to see this superb machine in action. It proved fascinating to watch and to understand how it cleans LPs so efficiently.

We were very impressed by the venue. This Holiday Inn is of a very high standard, one of the best hotels we have been to, and the hotel staff were extremely helpful especially with getting our crew moving the equipment in and out of the conference centre. We are encouraged to do another such Musical Event in the future and shall be using this venue again.