Two smart ideas from Manchester (Hi-Fi+)

Two smart ideas from Manchester (Hi-Fi+)

Last weekend, there was an audio show in Manchester, England. Although very successful in its own right, a lot of the equipment on demonstration there had been seen before, was very home theater oriented or was of limited interest to US readers. There were exciting new products that are truly intercontinetal – such as the replacement to the ProAc Studio 140 (and the promise of a new carbon-fiber based flagship from the brand next year) – but many products (like the new Cyrus 8 XP d integrated amp and DAC) are virtually unheard in the US.

However, Russ Andrews (distributor for Kimber Kable in the UK) has struck up a very clever deal with Meridian Sooloos, which could be the perfect model for supplying music servers around the world. In addition to the standard cost of product and installation, and providing an option to upload the owner’s collection, Russ Andrews supplies a pre-loaded collection, taken from the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (and its classical counterpart), as optional extras. These albums – less the ones you already own – are ripped in FLAC and stored, at a cost of £10 per disc (about $16.50, or roughly half way between budget and full-priced CDs in the UK). These can then be bought back from the owner for £5 ($8.25) each. Many companies offer a disc-ripping service, but few also offer the discs as well and as the collections of albums are comprehensive and intelligently collated, it seems this is one collection people might want to buy into.

Quite incidental to the Manchester Sound & Vision show, AudioWorks of Cheadle, south Manchester, designed what might just be one of the best ways to introduce new music lovers to high-end audio. Larry Ogden, proprietor of the AudioWorks store is also a patron of Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra. From its Bridgewater Hall venue, the Hallé – under musical director and conductor Sir Mark Elder – has once again earned a place at the top table of concert orchestras.

AudioWorks invited 50 other patrons of the Hallé to an exclusive rehearsal of the Hallé Orchestra and Choir playing Elgar’s The Kingdom. Having spent an hour in a sneak preview of the next day’s presentation, the patrons were invited into the large Green Room for drinks, canapés… and the chance to listen to the Hallé once more, this time through one of the best audio systems around.

Larry, working with a team from both dCS and Focal put together a system comprising a four-box dCS Scarlatti CD/SACD playing front-end, a Spectral DMC-30 preamplifier and DMA-100S power amplifier into a pair of Focal Maestro Utopia loudspeakers. Naturally, all the cables were from MIT (Spectral insists on this) and everything was resting on the award-winning MusicWorks ReVo acrylic support system.

The hour-long audiophile session proved more successful than anyone could have expected, and although it’s the sort of demonstration that doesn’t necessarily end with immediate sales, it sent ripples through the classical community in the area. The music-lovers in the audience came away with the germ of an interest in audio quality; and as a patron of the arts is usually a lover of the art they patronize, that pretty much meant everyone.

There are many musical patrons in the audio business. However, those patrons rarely capitalize on their ‘in’ with that musical fraternity, and in so doing are underselling their wares. While we don’t need the foyer of every concert hall turning into a bazaar for high-end manufacturers and dealers, the concert-going music-lover can clearly become a receptive candidate for high-quality audio, if the job’s done properly.

Perhaps its time for the high-end to start reaching high.

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