Close this search box.

UK Hi-fi Show 2023

UK Hi-fi Show
Ascot, September 2023

Press Day was quiet on the Friday 29th of this three day Hi Fi show, which suited us just fine, enjoying great exhibits and many almost private demos. The glassy Ascot venue sparkled in the morning sunshine and as we decoded our notes we were guided along and down the many terraces of this famous grandstand. We headed up to the top terrace for Absolute Sounds seeking new prestige product launches from the likes of Robert Koda, Constellation, Wilson Audio and Magico, to name but a few.

Absolute Sounds

With a huge arena for static displays of their massive range of brands Absolute Sounds also fielded two substantial demonstration rooms highlighting Magico and Wilson Audio. I had experienced Dave Wilson’s first version (the WATT-PUPPY) in the mid 1980’s, and have now, albeit temporarily, experienced the latest incarnation which for some years now has been dubbed the Sasha, and is presented in Version V. I felt that the inclusion of classic Alnico magnet formulation driving the voice coil contributed to the sweet, yet transparent midrange, bringing this quality which we heard to be so well expressed in the towering XVX. At times two matching subs were added, adding scale and air but seemingly without an obvious increase in bass per se; subtle stuff this. The dynamics on the Peter McGrath piano recording were stunning with this latest Sasha.


In the second room the centrepiece was the new Magico S3 ‘202’3 whose exceptional tonal purity and integration was evident from the moment you entered the room, and it was visually striking in red lacquer. Randomly seated I was forming a promising impression, but when I grabbed the central hot seat the sound quality was almost overwhelming. In my time I have heard quite a few loudspeakers and have been impressed by some. But it’s fair to say that for a booth in an exhibition venue the sound quality from this red hot lacquered number was massively memorable. It was abundantly obvious that the noise floor, a residual inherent issue for operating loudspeakers, had been reduced to an extraordinary minimum. Cone loudspeakers have powerful motors which kick the cones (and domes) around and reaction forces are generated which correspondingly impact on the whole loudspeaker structure resulting in spurious anharmonic noise. This latest S3 the 2023 edition has an exceptionally low noise floor endowing it with heart stopping micro-dynamics and excellent transparency. If you know your music just a few notes here could seal the deal. There’s loads more to tell but that must wait for a review. With much left to do I had to drag myself away. And that was with the Constellation amplification. If a still more intimate experience would be appropriate, the Robert Kodas are said to take the S3 2023 still further down the path to audio nirvana.


Another genuinely audiophile experience came in an unlikely setting, a massive room for several product lines but dominated by Danish brand Dali. I was first shown some sophisticated Dali cordless headphones with pleasing sound quality and was further intrigued in a discussion with audio engineer Krestian Pedersen on his work with advanced alloys for lower distortion magnet technology for loudspeakers. Then my attention was drawn to some huge floor monitors. The largest of these was already in production while a slimmer newcomer could also be seen in the lineup. Wishing to experience this latest work with the new motor magnets, Krestian powered up the pair: I had had control and the best seat in the house. Not only was this the best sound from a tall column design that I had experienced at a show, this Epikore 11 was undeniably very good in its own right, overturning my preconceptions concerning tall arrays.. Beautifully integrated, this improbably high, seven driver tower, working in this large space, was well focused, and was also convincingly dynamic, neutral and transparent, another close-your-eyes moment.
Dali Epikore 11

Klipsch Cornwall

In a huge room the Klipsch Cornwall three-way horn design was king. Dynamic yet relaxed, I have never heard them better, really natural seemingly effortless dynamics and well balanced , they loved this space. (Henly)

A wondrous array of YG Acoustics loudspeakers, all aluminium alloy designs, with still more beyond this viewpoint


The KiiSEVEN: almost impossibly small for the mighty performance we heard at Ascot
Kii had a new active DSP compact, the KiiSEVEN. HIFICRITIC had favourably reviewed the earlier model KiiTHREE in December 2020 and aside for setting a remarkably high standard for active loudspeakers. Again operating with very compact enclosures, exemplified by the new SEVEN, it might seem like the usual bookcase compact, that is until you hear it. It plays way beyond expectation of its size and eyes closed it could be a very big speaker indeed. Detailed and focused it had very good bass, not just for its size, just very good bass period, with power, extension, tunefulness, and expressive dynamics. Presented as a wireless loudspeaker, a three-way active, you only need a mains cable and Wi-Fi connectivity. I was shocked as to how far accepted design boundaries could be extended to deliver so much high-quality acoustic power, and from such a small footprint. With gusty power down to 35Hz the response flatness claim of 100Hz-10kHz: +/- 0.5dB is astonishing in itself but could well be true as our review of the KiiTHREE met similarly exceptional tolerances. Active amplification totals a humungous 600W per channel. …….something of a game changer in its field. Qobuz, ROON and Tidal ready, it is expected to cost £7,000 a pair…..

PS Audio

Paul McGowan of PS Audio had come over from the States to personally demonstrate his flagship loudspeaker the PSB Aspen AR30 which benefits from unusual thinking, employing a varied range of custom planar drivers. I am glad I did not know this in advance, as the sound quality was truly impressive with very low coloration. Timbre was natural while this speaker simply got out of the way of the music played, which is just as it should be. I was not sure what to expect with more than eleven ‘drivers’ per channel, but the result was truly impressive, not just for the excellent dynamic range and very wide bandwidth, but also for the fine image focus and seemingly effortless recovery of the finer structures in the music chosen.

Aspen AR 30 by PSB
Aspen AR30 with matching PS Audio BHK 600 power amplifier and PS Audio active line conditioner
Martin Colloms listening to the AR30, with founder-designer Paul Barton interrogating his remote


In a modest room KEF let two models speak for themselves, namely the LS60 Wireless, and then the Blade 2 Meta passive driven by a Hegel H600 integrated amplifier. From the outset the LS 60 was doing great, as that total wireless active package, but the Hegel/Blade 2 combo was something else, sure more money, but it delivered. Deep spacious and well-focused imaging partnered subtle low level detail for an impressive well balanced result.

Monitor Audio

I had fallen out of touch with this company in recent years while keeping an eye on events but could not have fail to notice the introduction of their extraordinary flagship, Hyphn. Of memorable appearance, founded on two slim conjoined pillars of full height, imagination alone could not have produced this design. It is acoustical engineering led, where successful solutions have been translated to highly finessed engineered forms, guided by powerful COMSOL electroacoustic modelling tools.
Bridging the two composite pillars at the upper level is an unusual configuration of no less than nine mid and treble drivers dubbed the M-Array. Then, hidden away in the pillars, are four force-cancelled vent loaded 210mm bass drivers, and in this close coupled arrangement the effective low frequency driver area is roughly equivalent to a massive 13 inch, 330mm unit per channel.
Monitor Audio Hyphn
It was early in the day and I picked a good seat for the demonstration. Powered by fine sounding monobloc electronics from Vitus, all elements of the music composition were in place. Close your eyes and the visually arresting appearance fades from your consciousness to a point where you feel immersed in a coherent sound stage, beautifully balanced, with fine imaging and excellent detail. There was no sense of an acoustic signature, of that ‘techno’ appearance, rather a satisfyingly musical coherence with extended bass and natural scale and dimensionality. Genuinely High End at some £70,000 a pair ….. I could have stayed much longer…

Bowers and Wilkins

B&W latest 801 D4 Signature three-way was on display in a fabulous veneer, contrasting with a Conolly leather top section and a deep black gloss enamel head unit: it weighs 100kg and specifies a massive 1000W short term maximum power rating. (£45,000 a pair)
Bowers and Wilkins 801 D4 Signature

Some rooms were still closed when I visited, others had private dealer demonstrations, understandably as this was the trade day. I had aimed to catch some highlights and enjoyed what I heard. My apologies to those I was unable to visit.

7 Responses

  1. Hello Martin, posted a comment but did not get listed for some reason. Many thanks for sharing your impressions. The new S3 seems to be very special. I noticed you said that you have loads more tell but must for a review. Does this mean that you will be back publishing reviews again and if so, which magazine and when? It will definitely be wonderful to have access to your highly professional, detailed and informative reviews again. Kind Regards

    1. Thanks Ash for your kind remarks.

      You will see my recent efforts soon in publication, I have not quit the audio scene yet.

      Kind regards , Martin

      1. That is fantastic new Martin. Really looking forward to having your reviews back again and wishing you great success with your new venture. Many thanks for the feedback.

  2. Martin, just read your review of the new Naim 250 amp in Stereophile, simply outstanding! Will you be doing regular reviews for them?

Return to HIFICRITIC News


This site uses only essential cookies, as explained in the Privacy Policy.