Bath Audio Fest 2013

Show report

Clearaudio’s new distributor was demonstrating the Master Innovation turntable, with a Universal 12’ arm and a Da Vinci cartridge, driving into an Aesthetix Io Eclipse into an Atlas Signature Stereo power amp to Sonus Faber Amati Futura loudspeakers, all wired with Flux Series Furutech cables and sitting on a lovely looking Tabula Rasa equipment table. In fact, it all looked so good, I forgot to press the shutter! 

Two of Cool Gales’ regulars are Scheu turntables and Thomas Meyer amplifiers, both from Germany. Scheu was showcasing the new Cello Classic line Timbre turntable, which manages to combine panzerholtz wood with slate on the more conventional chassis. This was using the company’s 9” Tacco arm and MC Scheu S version of a Benz Micro Ace. This was payed through the custom built Octal line preamp, and matching MC phono stage into a two-box power amp using the 6CB5 power tube, all not a pair of Audiaurum loudspeakers from France. This had to be one of the most natural, unforced and just damn enjoyable vinyl sounds around, and something we must explore deeper at length.

Ivan at Cool Gales regularly puts on a lecture or two, with an industry expert (or a close approximation) discussing their area of specialism at length. Sometimes ‘at length’ can mean just that - last year, asking turntable specialist Franck Schroeder to discuss ‘all things turntable’ ran well into an hour and a half, and he’d barely got past headshell design. This year, it was my turn, and the topic for discussion was room treatment for beginners. Armed with a complete GiK Acoustics kit of four corner traps, two side wall treatments (and a ceiling trap that didn’t get used) and a large rear wall trap, I both explained and demonstrated just how important and overlooked this aspect of audio is for the domestic user. The lecture room itself was disturbingly large (about 30ft long, 20ft wide and at least 15ft high), we were in a room with omni-directional speakers that seem to need less treatment than many more conventional designs, and I was concerned that putting bass traps in such a room would be woefully ineffective, but I didn’t need to be an apologist; they proved far more effective than I expected. So much so, as well as “I didn’t know it could be that good” comments from the public, one of the members of the audio industry attending the talk reckoned the room treatment company could pitch up at the next hi-fi show with a 18-wheeler full of room kits and just see how many audio companies would be won over at how good their systems could sound. 

The UK audiophile still lags behind many of his continental and especially American peers with regard to understanding the importance of room treatment (this may have something to do with the small rooms we live in), but this demonstration - along with a few similar demonstrations from other acoustic treatment brands - are beginning to win even the most curmudgeonly of British hi-fi enthusiasts over. There’s still a long way to go, but we are beginning to see the light here.

Ultimately Cool Gales regular Audio Fest is a small, fun affair, with its heart in the right place, smack bang in the middle of the music. Several years in, and in spite of a shift from the height of Summer to the start of Autumn, it continues to gain momentum.

For good reason.

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