Chromey Has A Sit Down With SolidSteel Stands.

Solid Steel Stands, is one of the oldest Italian brands in the Hi-Fi with 28 years in the business. It is very rare that we find a speaker stand interesting enough to decide to blog about, the SolidSteel stands really have caught our attention with their industrial look and charm.

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Solid Steel has a background in professional grade welding, this reflects in their products with their seamless and unmatched welding techniques. Their history entailed welding vehicle parts for Ducatti motorcycles. With such a prestigious background and high level of demand for workmanship, which meant making loudspeaker stands was like a piece of tiramisu. (Bad cake joke - Ed)

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 Above we have the  SS-Vintage  stands in black and raw steel.

Above we have the SS-Vintage stands in black and raw steel.

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The construction of the stands are of a tripod design, meeting at the top is a base plate, decoupled by mounting perfectly on polished ball bearings on which the speaker sits. The Weld spots are seamless with almost a hint or artistic flare. It is interesting to spare a thought for the time, effort and skill spent to infuse different pieces of metal in such a way that is acoustically isolated and has an artistic element in mind.

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To hear a significant audible difference in the stands would be no exaggeration, instantly from the offset, bass was tighter and the midrange ever so slightly cleaner.

If you want to have a listen and appreciate these stands in the steel (flesh) come along to Audio T Manchester.

All the best from the Dave, Mike, Munir, Simon and Haden.

The Quad Artera Solus Makes Us Sit Up And Pay Attention

Here at Audio T Cardiff we have many opportunities to listen to to some great Hi-Fi but every now and again something new will come along that makes you sit up and listen. The Quad Artera Solus all-in-one was just one of these!

What is a Quad Artera Solus you may ask? The Solus takes elements of the existing Artera range and shrinks them down to a single box unit. It continues along the classic Quad Hi-Fi lines but with a modern touch and enters a market where the one box hi-fi system has a lot of interest.

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The Quad Solus is fitted with all the things you would would expect on a modern day all-in-one system.

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You get five digital input, two coaxial, two optical and a USB-B connection. The USB-A socket you see on the rear panel is just for software updates. These are partnered with both an optical and coax outputs. All the decoding is handled by a ESS Sabre DAC. You then get an additional two RCA line inputs and a line output.

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Taking a look at the front panel here you will see the Quad veers slightly from the norm. in place of an internet radio or network streamer you have a CD mechanism on a slot loading transport. Quite a smart move we think as although we are told that CD sales are in decline there are many of you out there with a vast CD collection. Add this to the versatile USB-B socket that is compatible with a variety of networked attached storage (NAS) drives, the Apt-X Bluetooth, you have quite a versatile system.

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There is also a streaming platform in the pipeline that will only add to the impressive features already on-board.

The Amp delivers a beefy 75W RMS into 8ohms backed by an equally impressive 15 amps of current, so not much of a struggle here with most similarly priced loudspeakers. It’s a class A/B design with the pre-amplifier also being completely analogue and constructed of mainly discrete components. This puts the Quad in good stead as your choice of speakers will not be limited.

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As for the design, the Solus is quite unlike anything else on the market. There are no visible controls apart from the power and eject buttons. The indented solid metal chassis with its removable glass plate that is flush with the top only adds to the elegant look of the unit. A silver finish is also available. The supplied remote control is also good quality with direct command buttons for all functions and is logical and easy to use.

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We have the Solus on demonstration at the moment hooked up to a pair of Spendor A4 loudspeakers. So come in and have a listen we can assure you, you will be in for a treat.

Quad Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T: BrentwoodBrightonCardiffCheltenhamEnfieldManchesterOxfordPortsmouthPrestonSouthamptonSwansea, Swindon

We Compare The Naim NDX 2 To The NDX - Is It Worth The Extra?

We were very excited when the eagerly awaited Naim NDX 2 arrived a couple of weeks ago in Portsmouth. Despite our enthusiasm we took our time after unboxing and let the it run in the background before sitting down for a serious listen. We set it up with a NAC202 NAP250 DR and FlatCap with a pair of PMC Twenty5 24 speakers.

 From top - NAC202, NDX2, Flatcap, NAP250DR, and NDX

From top - NAC202, NDX2, Flatcap, NAP250DR, and NDX

On the third day we turned it up. As Naim fans we were expecting to like it, but we were unprepared for just how good it sounds. It is AWESOME, even considering the near £5000 price, tag approximately £1200 more than the NDX! But how much better is than the already fabulous NDX it replaces?

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Naim System with PMC Twenty5 24 speakers

The short answer is the NDX 2 is easily worth the extra money over the NDX. It is not a subtle improvement. In a back to back comparison using Tidal as our source, the difference is immediate. It’s startling that so much more detail and realism can be extracted from the music streamed straight from the internet. Using one of our favourite demo tracks - Uncle Lucius - Keep The Wolves Away - the clarity of the guitar and the way the sound projects into the room makes it feel far more like watching a live act, not listening to a hi-fi system, which is exactly what any music fan is trying to achieve.

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Naim NDX 2 Rear

After listening to the NDX 2 it’s easy to see why customers and manufacturers are moving away from CD and towards a streaming option - it sounds fantastic, setting up the NDX 2 to work with Tidal or Spotify is easy, and at £10-20 a month it’s not super expensive for a constantly updated record collection. Of course the NDX 2 can also be used with a UPNP source like the Naim UnitiCore, and has internet radio built in, but I suspect many will find the simplicity of a streamed service the most attractive option.

Naim Hi-Fi products are available from all branches of Audio T

The New Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series Range Of Loudspeakers Arrive At Audio T Preston

We love it when new products arrive, so we couldn't help but get a little excited when the new Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series speakers were delivered. What will the 6th generation of this multi- award winning speaker range be like? We are about to find out…

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First we opened the B&W 606's, and were immediately drawn to the new look facia. B&W have removed the speaker grill pegs and replaced them with magnetic anchor points. They have also moved the bass port to the rear of the cabinet, giving the speakers a much cleaner and stylish appearance.

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Another shocker is that after 40 years of service the iconic yellow kevlar driver units have been retired. They have been replaced with cutting edge continuum cone technology, a driver that was eight years in development and first used in the 800 series Diamond models.

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The new silver driver units look great with the brushed silver finish surrounding the decoupled double dome tweeter.

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Next, we unboxed the mighty 603 floor standers, standing at just over 40” high this is a speaker well suited for the larger listening room, while supplying that tight controlled bass Bowers & Wilkins always produce.

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We have the full range in-store 603/607/606/ & HTM6 all ready to demo, straight out of the box this new range from Bowers & Wilkins does not disappoint and will continue to improve the more we play them.

We look forward to playing them for you soon.

Thanks for reading. Ian, Gavin and Andy. - Audio T Preston

Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers are available at the following branches of Audio T: BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffEnfieldManchesterOxfordPortsmouthPrestonSouthamptonSwanseaSwindon

ATC Loudspeakers Come On Song At Brighton

We are very pleased to have added ATC loudspeakers to our range as they are extremely good and complement our existing equipment perfectly. The Entry Series comprise six models and we have chosen to begin with the four passive loudspeakers.

All Entry Series loudspeakers use the New ATC designed and built 25mm soft dome HF unit with precision alloy wave guide. A sophisticated and beguiling high frequency driver whilst being revealing too.

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There are three stand mount models, SCM7, SCM11 and SCM19 and a three way floor stander SCM40, all offering refinement and energy and a rather more interesting shape than is usual.

Well worth coming along and having a listen to.

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Available in Cherry, Black or White finishes.

For our Naim ND555 roadshow we chose to use the ATC SCM50 from the Classic Series and they were extremely well received. Part of a pretty serious Naim 500 Series Hi-Fi system that performed admirably.

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Call 01273 609431 or email brighton@audio-t.co.uk and come and have a listen.

ATC loudspeakers are available at the following branches of Audio T:
BrightonBristolCheltenhamPortsmouth

Believe The Hype! Audio T Swansea Review The Chord Electronics Blu MKII CD Transport

We've waxed lyrical about Chord's DAVE DAC in the past, probably boring the pants off you with the inevitability of it all; talk of digital sound with us, DAVE enters the conversation and promptly ends it. Here we go again then...

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Launching the Blu MK II transport, Chord have not done anything as predictable as move the goalposts; they've picked up the ball and run, inventing a new game to play. This progenitor, this alpha, this improvement over the original Blu (no slouch by any means), is the addition of something called an M Scaler.

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The output from this transport to a DAC, (ideally a Chord Electronics DAVE) is via single or twin AES sockets and single or twin BNCs. Twin BNC is the only way to get the full-fat (or is that phat?) 705.6kHz up-sampled data stream into your DAVE.

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Despite being billed as a CD transport, the Blu MKII has digital inputs (x1 USB B and x1 BNC S/PDIF) enabling the user to access the M Scaler technology from a variety of digital sources. This makes us very happy indeed.

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This is the best we've ever heard from CD by a country mile and its treatment of external sources is sublime.

So what does this partnership do? Everything you'd want. Deep insight, accuracy, speed, remarkable timing and a sense of solid, unflappable control; that calmness you experience with an exceptional vinyl replay system.

But what does it actually do though?

Music.

Come and have a listened and we know you'll be hooked. Thanks for reading. Nic, Adrian, and Chris at Audio T Swansea

Chord Electronics Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffEnfieldManchesterOnlineOxfordPortsmouthPrestonReadingSouthamptonSwanseaSwindon - check with stores for availability as not all products are available from every store.

A Shop Refit And A Major Hi-Fi Brand Coming To Audio T Reading Soon

For the last couple of months we have been rather busy creating a new look for our store. We thought it was time to freshen things up so as you can see, we’ve moved away from bright colours to a more contemporary white.

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 New Naim Uniti / Muso wall

New Naim Uniti / Muso wall

This is complemented with brand new air conditioning, ceiling, lighting, and a dedicated Naim wall greatly enhancing the look and feel.

However we are far from finished; imminent changes to shelving and new carpeting (long overdue) will complete the storefront.

In progress right now however is a complete overhaul of our lower AV demo room. This is to become a solely 2-channel room dedicated to one completely new brand to Audio-T that we have been auditioning over the past 10 months or so, for this we are incredibly exited and are confident our customers will be too.

 Work in progress; saying goodbye to green!

Work in progress; saying goodbye to green!

 Still awaiting updated shelving

Still awaiting updated shelving

We are not quite ready to state which Hi-Fi brand just yet as we intend to make an official announcement along with a launch event in the near future, however visitors with a keen eye have spotted various goodies!

For everyone else in the meantime, here are some teaser shots. Feel free to pop in to take a closer look and maybe a sneaky audition.

PMC enCORe (Did You See What We Did There?!)

At the risk of banging on about the PMC Cor again and saying we told you so...  Well, we told you so... or rather here is what one of our customers wrote to PMC after reading all about Cor on our store blog:

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"Just ordered the Cor amp from Audio T Southampton after a home trial. What a stunning piece of kit. I knew my PMC Fact8s were capable of more but never thought I would be able to afford an amp good enough to really make them sing. As soon as I saw their blog about it I was straight over!!

The review in The Ear told me it was wonderful. It just ISN'T THERE.!!!!  IT'S MAGIC.

Both CD and FM are transformed. Don't know what the wait time is but it won't matter as it is incredible.

Hope you sell lots of them. At the price they should fly off the shelf 'cos they beat anything else in that price bracket out of sight."

- Mr. F, United Kingdom

Mr F didn't have to wait very long and is now the very happy owner of a brand new PMC Cor amplifier.  Our demo Cor is back in store, ready for anyone else wanting to experience the magic, either here or on a home trial.  You really won't want to miss out on this one!

See you soon,

Alan, John and Wayne

The Latest News From Audio T Cheltenham

This is a bit of a break from the normal specific product related blog as we're not blogging on one particular Hi-Fi topic! This time around the intention is to keep you up to date with a number of things that are new or about to happen.

The first thing is...........

Naim 555 Network Player Summer Roadshow

We are very excited to have the opportunity (alongside our Bristol store) to host one of the Naim summer roadshows to launch the amazing new ND555 Network Player/Streamer. Tickets are available to book from the We Got Tickets website and they are FREE!!

A not to be missed opportunity to hear what is being hailed as the best streamer in the world being put through it's paces by the guys from Naim in person! If you have any Naim type questions of your own this will be the place to be!

The event takes place at the Gables Hotel in Falfield on Thursday 6th of September at 7:00 pm which is just off Junction 14 on the M5.......it's got to be a fun evening!! I will not add any more except to advise you to read the previous two blogs from the Brighton and Oxford stores for lots of in depth stuff to whet your appetite. 

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The second thing is...........

We now have the rather lovely Spendor A7 floorstanding loudspeakers in store and available for demonstration. We think they are the best thing Spendor have made for a while and that's really saying something!

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The third thing is...........

We are rather proud to announce that we now have ATC loudspeakers in store! 

We have three models in total the little SCM7 the slightly bigger SCM11 and the floorstanding SCM40 all of which sound great and are running in nicely.... see the picture below....

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The fourth thing is...........

We have totally redecorated our AV demo room and given the shop a fresh coat of paint. Our AV demo room now has a 9ft fixed frame screen and an Optoma UHD65 4K projector looking rather lovely, in fact the best picture we have ever had in our dem room! Come and see!! There is always something playing and it always looks great and sounds even better!!! By now you'll probably have noticed that I like exclamation marks!!!

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And fifth and finally...........

One of those "you really must listen to this" moments. 

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This is a fairly recent album by the Yes legend Jon Anderson and Flower Kings Guitar maestro Roine Stolte. It sounds more like Yes than Yes have done since the 1970's and I'm not making that up .......it's true!! This comes across as a companion piece to the work of genius that is Tales From Topographic Oceans and if that was ever your fave Yes LP then you will adore this one.  It is called Invention Of Knowledge and does not have a dull second on it. If you thought Yes were no more then think again!! There go those exclamation marks again!!! 

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Well that's it for this blog ....I'm off to play this on the new ATC SCM40 floorstanders to put them through their paces properly. You are always welcome to bring in some of your favourite music too and do the same .... you will be forever smitten!!

ATC Loudspeakers are available from the following branches of Audio T: BrightonBristolCheltenhamPortsmouth

Spendor loudspeakers are available from the following branches of Audio T: CardiffCheltenhamPortsmouthSwindon

Audio T Cardiff's New 'Walk-in' Home Cinema!

A home cinema or theatre setup, is something that many people don’t have much experience of, but done well it can further enhance your enjoyment of TV and films. We love introducing people to home cinema sound and have decided to put together a ‘walk in’ home cinema on the shop floor, which can be experienced by anyone without the need to book an appointment!

In this month’s blog we will take you through the home cinema system we have put together and how it could be a perfect addition to your film and TV programme watching pleasure.

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We start off our home cinema experience by looking at Panasonic's brand new 55” OLED 4k television, the catchily named TX55FZ802. This is the best TV screen Panasonic have made and is one of the most affordable OLED screens on the market. Anyone yearning for the old days of plasma need look no further as OLED is finally delivering on its promise with Panasonic really at the forefront of this new technology. Panasonic consulted experts in Hollywood while the set was in development to make sure the result was as close to the vision directors have of their films as possible and you can tell! The colours are rich, detailed and realistic with some of the most incredible blacks we have ever seen. This is because of the new Studio colour HCX2 processor which Panasonic describes as ‘the pinnacle image processing expertise’, tuned to show off the best quality colours, blacks and brightness. The set has multiple high dynamic range (HDR) support - HDR has been developed to offer greater picture quality by allowing more contrast - and has no problem with the various standards that are around at the moment.

It is a smart TV as is standard these days, so comes with all the online services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and many more. Finally the build quality and design of this set is exceptional, the incredibly thin screen takes up the whole of the set with very little bezel either side. This TV really does give you an experience you really don’t want to miss out on.

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Connected to the Panasonic via HDMI we have the new Denon AVR-X2500H AV receiver as the central hub of our setup. We were huge fans of its predecessor the X2400H and Denon have made it ever better! This new offering retains the myriad of connections and features of the model before it while adding even more. On the front panel you have your volume and input selector knobs alongside buttons for basic functionality as well as a headphone output, input for the setup microphone and handy HDMI input. The back presents you with a huge amount of options including eight HDCP 2.2 equipped HDMI inputs, optical and coaxial digital inputs and your old school analogue inputs.

The x2500 is marketed as a 7.2 channel receiver and while this is accurate it hides the amount of options that this gives you, after your front speakers are sorted you have two extra pairs to have as either rears, sides or both. You could have a pair of height speakers for Dolby Atmos or assign a pair to zone two to use as a stereo pair in another room; this versatility is exactly what you want in an AV receiver. The amp is capable of powering a large range of speakers so you can really customise your setup to the way you want it.

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There aren’t many formats that the Denon will struggle with, as we mentioned it can handle Dolby Atmos but also DTS:X and DTS Virtual:X when it comes to audio as well as Dolby Vision, HDR, HLG and naturally 4k up scaling. The Denon has multiple ways of streaming audio; it has Bluetooth and WIFI streaming for services such as Spotify, Tidal and Amazon music. As it is part of Denon’s HEOS range you can also multi-room it to other HEOS devices such as stereo amps or powered speakers to have both your TV sound and music in different rooms in your house simultaneously. The build quality seems to be even better than Denon's already high standards, it seems more robust and solid somehow, an all round excellent AV receiver for the money.

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The AVR x2500 is capable of powering a huge variety of speaker setups and of course as it is running on our shop floor we can easily and quickly swap speakers out if any of our customers wish to hear something specific, however on a day to day basis the speakers we have chosen to have running in our little cinema are Dali’s Zensor range. Specifically Zensor 7 floorstanders at the front either side of the Zensor Vokal centre speaker, the stand mount Zensor 1’s at the rear and the E-12 F subwoofer with its 12” driver. This setup can be purchased as a package which is why we chose although you could easily swap out any of the pairs of speakers for the larger Stand mount Zensor 3 or the smaller floor standing Zensor 5. We have reviewed the Zensor series before on this blog so we won’t go into too much detail here except to say that the whole Dali Zensor range is absurdly good value for money and provides you a fantastically fun listening experience for both movies and music.

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The important question of course is what is the result of all of this equipment put together? We have been using Oppo’s excellent UDP-203 4K player as a source to watch and listen to a huge variety of films and music and nothing has failed to impress. One of the greatest joys of a surround sound setup is watching well mixed concerts and one of the best is Hanz Zimmer’s recent ‘Live in Prague’. Featuring one of the most talented set of musicians you will ever see, the system takes you right into the music as if you were sitting on the concert hall yourself. It is an unforgettable experience and everyone should have the chance to hear the theme from the movie ‘Gladiator’ in a 5.1 setup, the word epic doesn’t do it justice. Another must when it comes to music is to experience Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ in surround sound, the intro to ‘Time’ being a particular highlight.

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The system takes you right into the action when it comes to movies with dialogue being crisp and clear, action scenes being huge and involving and movies that are particularly well mixed for surround sound such as the Morten Tyldum directed ‘Passengers’ use the medium to their advantage so much so that you will think you are in outer space! Our party piece for showing off how good the Panasonic television is has got to be the BBC’s ‘Planet Earth’ which is simply breathtaking in its vivid colours and detail and shows you everything that OLED technology has got to offer.

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There nothing like experiencing a system like this in person and we have it running continually while the shop is open, all you need to do is pop in, no appointment necessary, have a seat on our comfy sofa and see what all the fuss is about. We look forward to seeing you!

Panasonic and Denon products can be ordered at all branches of Audio T.

Dali Products are available in the following branches of Audio T: Brentwood, Cardiff