Bristol Sound & Vision 2014

Show report
Bristol Sound & Vision 2014

Moving away from loudspeakers, a firm Hi-Fi+ favourite, Computer Audio Design has announced the CAT (Computer Audio Transport). Following his concepts in computer ‘tweaking’, CAD’s Scott Berry put his mind to establishing a thorough audio basis from which to work. It’s a Windows PC, but in the process redefines ‘thorough’ when it comes to modification. Computers don’t often have four power supplies (right down to four different plugs) for the appropriate stages, and few people modify their PC down to such a degree. While the choice of storage is yours, the base model transport is £3,980.

Digital streaming was very popular at the show, with hardly any CD material being played even if there were CD players in the system. Even belt-drive CD player maker BMC was more commonly running digital files. Of particular note here, was the first UK showing of the Sony HAPZ1ES and TA-A1ES high-resolution player and amp, plus the SSNA 2 speakers, made a fair impression. In addition, Lumin was showing its A-1 streamer so successfully launched last year, and Primare was showing final prototypes of its Pre60 and A60 processor amplifier package (£6,500 per unit).

But perhaps the biggest digital products were the smallest. The AudioQuest Dragonfly is already well-known, but in its 1.2 version guise, and having a significant price cut to just £129, it was proving hard to beat. The AudioQuest team were also extremely helpful and acted more like a computer audio ‘how to’ service as they were selling their own services. As a consequence, it was one of the busiest rooms in the show, regardless of whether there was music playing.

And then there is Geek. The crowdfunded Geek Out is almost ready to ship to its first investors. The rest of us might need to wait a little longer to receive this small, high performance DAC, priced between £199 for the basic 450mW model up to £299 for the 1W Geek 1000. Available in four colours, it’s up for fine-tuning prior to launch, but if the last stages sound as promising, I began to wonder why I hadn’t become an early investor about 30 seconds into listening to the device.

This wasn’t the only headphone product at the show, but the potential star of the headphone and more world was the PureDAC by BMC Audio. A magnificently-made, plays everything digital preamplifier with a balanced headphone socket, and is priced at £1,290, which on paper is about one-third what most would charge for something this good.