In this Jubilee year, the year the Olympics comes to London, it’s sometimes hard to find manufacturers that are truly British; designed and built in the UK, by a British-owned company. While we live in a truly global society, occasionally it’s great to fly the flag and cheer for the home team. The 10 companies listed below we feel are our Gold Medalists; they make products that are the world’s best in their particular event. There are others; let’s cheer them on at www.facebook.com/HiFiPlus
Based in Hove in East Sussex, Audio Note makes a vast array of sources, valve amplifiers, loudspeakers and even cables, at a range of prices that run from the affordable to the kind of price tags even billionaires would struggle with. The company has a fiercely loyal following too, because it does things differently and is almost pathologically unable to make a bad sound. Chances are strong that if you have a single-ended triode amp or a NOS DAC, you will have – or have considered – an Audio Note product.
Kent-based Chord Electronics has been at the forefront of high-technology two-channel and multichannel electronics for decades. Known initially for its powerful, yet compact switch-mode power amplifiers (designed originally for the BBC), Chord has diversified into all aspects of audio electronics. From its world-class Reference range, to its tomorrow-friendly (and wallet-friendly) Chordette modular system, the company keeps pushing the limits of what’s possible in audio technology.
Perhaps the most recognisable product line in audio’s history, Cambridge-based Cyrus’ long-lived line-up of half-size ‘singing shoeboxes’ has come to dominate the UK audio scene. Cyrus electronics offer a clear and affordable upgrade path that can take an owner from a humble CD player and integrated amplifier to a sophisticated array of components, each driven by its own dedicated power supply unit. A hugely popular choice, especially for the home market.
From its beginnings in the pro-audio world, dCS has long defined the boundaries of what can be resolved from digital audio. Redefining the possibilities of ultra-high-end stereo CD and SACD replay, the Cambridgeshire-based high-technology company produces a series of digital components, from integrated CD/SACD units right up to multi-box players. Recently, the company has set a high bar for computer audio replay with its Debussy DAC… and there’s more to come.
The brainchild of two ex-BBC engineers, Leema produces several ranges of high-technology electronics and domestic monitor loudspeakers from its factory in Welshpool in Wales. With a line-up ranging from traditional high-end audio electronics (including the unique, multiple-DAC Antilla IIS Eco CD player), right down to its value-driven small form factor Elements range, despite being the youngest brand in this list, Leema is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with world-wide.
Based in Glasgow, Scotland, Linn Products needs little introduction; its classic Sondek LP12 turntable has been the subject of an almost infinite number of upgrades, options and third-party customization right from the get-go, nearly 40 years ago. It’s still made today, but Linn wouldn’t have won a Queen’s Award for Export this year on the basis of a turntable alone; Linn today is just as well known for its excellent line of state of the art Digital Streaming products, amps and loudspeakers.
Another ex-BBC engineer, Pete Thomas, co-founded the Professional Monitor Company 20 years ago. Since then, the Bedfordshire-based company has gone from strength to strength, producing products that perfectly span the divide between pro and domestic. PMC’s client base reads like a who’s who of the music business. Recently, however, PMC has created a couple of lines designed specifically for domestic use (and you can read about one of those on page 55) and the international success of this new generation products means PMC is going to be around for another 20 years and beyond.
The seaside resort of Southend-on-Sea in Essex may be known as the place where London goes to play, but for audiophiles it offers more than arcade games and whelks. Rega Research is also based in the town. Starting with a single Planar 3 turntable in the late 1970s, Rega’s range has grown to encompass every aspect of modern audio, and – while originally best known for its lower-priced products – Rega’s recent launch into the high end has been extremely well received at home and abroad. Its older products are still prized on eBay, but its latest range really is the best the world has to offer.
The engineer’s engineering company, in our world SME only makes turntables and tonearms… It just makes them better than everyone else. Starting in the late 1950s, the family owned company based out of Steyning, East Sussex has a reputation for old-school, do-it-right precision engineering that the British are justly famous for. The company’s products are not for sprints, but for marathons, because when you buy an SME, your great grandchildren will still be using it.
Proudly based in Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, Wilson Benesch proves to the world that loudspeaker technology need not be old technology. The company works closely with the engineering and materials science departments of many top UK universities (including nearby Sheffield Hallam) to develop a range of loudspeakers that are as state-of-the-art as they sound. The UK is an international centre of excellence for carbon-fibre manufacture, and Wilson Benesch is at the forefront of that excellence. From high-performance, deceptively conventional looking box loudspeakers to radical multi-way tower speakers and beyond, the company is our ambassador of high-tech.