LA Audio Show Report #5, The British Sound Still Sounds Like Music

It was in college that I first became familiar with audio components from Great Britain. Back then, I was most familiar with QUAD, KEF, Spendor, and Rogers. Over the years, I have been exposed to more and more musical components from the British Isles. There were several great rooms at the LA Audio Show that were mostly British. Let’s start with a couple of rooms that featured Harbeth speakers.

Venice Audio

In the Los Angeles retailer Venice Audio room, I found the Harbeth Super HL5plus loudspeakers ($7,495). The source was one of the best turntables for the money on the market, the Well Tempered Lab Amadeus Versalex ($4,450) with one of my favorite cartridges, the EMT TSD15 ($1,950). The electronics, which were from Naim, included a SuperLine Reference MC phonostage ($4,195), an NAC-N272 preamplifier with a built in streamer ($5,995), an NAP 250-DR power amplifier ($6,995) with an XPS-DR power supply upgrade, and a HiCap-DR power supply ($2,595). The system took me back to my old Linn/Naim system from years ago. The sound was much more transparent and had a better soundstage, but there was still that wonderful combination of richness and tunefulness.

Gene Rubin Audio and Fidelis Distribution

In the Gene Rubin Audio and Fidelis Distribution room, there was a pair of Harbeth Monitor 30.1 two-way speakers ($5,495/pair). There are two things about the Monitor 30s, and now the 30.1s, that have always amazed me. First, is how small they are, and second is how great they sound. I have always preferred the Monitor 30s to the 40s.

The amp was an LFD NCSE Mk.II Plus integrated amplifier ($6,795) and an LFD LE/SE phonostage ($1,790). The source was a beautiful Acoustic Signature Challenger Mk.III turntable ($4,995) with their TA 2000 9″ tonearm ($2,395) and a DynaVector 20X2 cartridge ($995).

This system has all of the positives of the very best British systems. They don’t make the sound overly beautiful, but unlike some monitors, they aren’t overly detailed and etched. I think they come very close to being just right like Goldilock’s porridge.

Cambridge Audio

The Cambridge Audio room proudly declared Great British Sound is coming to America. They had two pairs of speakers. The ones on the stands were a pair of Aeromax 2 bookshelves ($599/pair), and next to them was a pair of Aeromax 6 floor standing speakers ($1,299/pair). The source was a CXC dedicated transport ($449). The amplifier was a CXA80 80Wpc integrated amplifier with DAC ($999).

At $2,350 with the bookshelf speakers, this was quite a nice sounding system. No, it wasn’t in the same league with either of the Harbeth systems, but it was very listenable.

Austin Hifi

I have always enjoyed the sound in the Austin Hifi rooms at shows. The system they were playing was mostly British with German speakers that have somewhat of a British sound. The system had a vintage Linn Sondek LP12 turntable with Ittok LVII tonearm. The amplification was a Crimson CS 710 preamplifier with a MM/MC phono ($7,000), Crimson CS 640E-III mono amplifiers (two pairs; $6,000/pair. The speakers were the Tocaro Model 42 loudspeakers and stands ($14,000/pair). Everything was connected by Crimson cables.

This system has the clarity and punch of the very best Naim systems I have heard combined with a very natural sound. This is a system that I found exceptionally listenable. I think this is a system that more audiophiles need to hear; it is a very musically and emotionally involving sound.

Additional Coverage of the LA Audio Show:

Getting Ready for the Los Angeles Audio Show
LA Audio Show Day 1, Part 1
LA Audio Show Day 1, Part 2
Pictures from the LA Audio Show, Day 1, Part 3
LA Audio Show Day Two, Part 1
LA Audio Show Day Two, Part 2
LA Audio Show Day Two, Part 3
LA Audio Show, Headphones and Other Stuff
LA Audio Show Report #1 – Both Ends of the Price Spectrum
Turntable Eye Candy from LA Audio Show, Part 1
LA Audio Show #2 – Jaw-Dropping Sound at the LA Audio Show
Turntable Eye Candy from LA Audio Show, Part 2
LA Audio Show Report #3 – Rooms That Impressed
LA Audio Show, #4, Best Speaker Under $20,000
LA Audio Show Report #6, Is $100,000 the New Normal? – System 1
LA Audio Show Report #7, High Water Sound wins Beatnik Bongo Award for Best Room Under $100K
LA Audio Show Report #8, Optimal Enchantment and MBL; Two $100K Plus Rooms that Impressed
LA Audio Show Report #9, Audio Vista Points You Have to See
LA Audio Show Report #10, Systems from $14,000 Down to $400
LA Audio Show Report #11, The Vinnie Rossi/Spatial Audio/Anticables Room Wins the Beatnik Bongo Award for Best Room Under $50,000
LA Audio Show Report #12, VAC/Von Schweikert Audio Wins the Beatnik Bongo Award for Best Room Over $100,000