Bristol Hi-Fi Show: the coolest audio gadgets headed to your ears

It's that wonderful time of the year when avid audiophiles from around the world descend upon South-West England, to feast their ears on the wonderful tech on display at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show

We were lucky enough to head down to the annual audio get-together, and we were able to sample some of the finest sonic gadgets available to buy now. 

From spellbinding speakers that cost an arm and a leg to surprisingly adept budget earphones, we saw it all in Bristol.

So, without further ado, here's our roundup of the very best audio tech we saw at the 2019 show:

Focal Stellia Headphones

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

 French audio brand Focal is known for its super high end, luxury headphones, and its latest model, the Focal Stellia, is no exception.   

With an eye-watering $3000 (£2799 / around AU$4200) price tag, you'd probably have to be a hardcore audiophile to consider purchasing these closed back, over-ear headphones.

When we tested them at the show, we were extremely impressed by their luxurious feel, both in the craftsmanship of the headphones, and the sound quality they produce.

JBL L100 Classic Loudspeaker

Just look at that shag rug Image credit: JBL

Originally released in 1970, the L100 quickly became JBL's best selling speaker in the audio company's history. 

Now it's been reimagined for the modern age, with a 1-inch titanium dome tweeter, 5-inch midrange driver, and and a 12-inch cast-frame cone woofer in a bass-reflex enclosure – in other words, this speaker should be able to truly fill any room with sound. 

The new L100 Classic does retain some of its cool 70's features however, with that bright orange foam grille and walnut veneer. 

Klipsch R6i II in-ear headphones

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

In the short time we spent with them, we were really impressed by the Klipsch R6i IIs – and even more impressed by their low price.

One of the most striking things about the R6i IIs is the size of the buds; the housings are incredibly compact, which could be ideal if you prefer a discreet-looking earbud.

The earphones also make use of Klipsch's patented oval ear tips, which the company says are "anatomically designed to accurately fit inside the human ear canal" – and we thought they were very comfortable when we tested them. 

Ruark R5 Hi-Fi Music System

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

British audio company Ruark's latest product, the R5 High Fidelity Music System, is designed to appeal to music and design enthusiasts alike, with a combination of cool mid-century design and state-of-the-art audio tech. 

We really liked the retro design, and we could imagine it being an attractive focal point in most homes. 

At $1300, it's by no means cheap, but audiophiles may be able to justify that price based on the amount of audio tech that's built into the music system – and when we tested it, it felt like the combination of neodymium magnets, stereo amplifiers, the long throw subwoofer, and the specially tuned cabinet really paid off sonically.

Tri-Art Audio S-Series TA-0.5 turntable

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

We were completely bamboo-zled when we saw this strange-looking turntable at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show this year.

Crafted from (you guessed it) bamboo soaked in hemp and bees wax, audio company Tri-Art says that its use of the material isn't just to create a natural look, explaining on its website that bamboo is "very stiff, for excellent rigidity with the ability to dampen vibration."

With House of Marley recently launching its first smart speaker, which is also made from recycled and natural materials, we wonder whether eco-friendly gadgets could be the next big trend in audio. 

Klipsch The Three with Google Assistant speaker

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

In the short time we spent with The Three with Google Assistant, we got a pretty clear idea of the smart speaker's character; fun, brash, and unabashedly loud. 

That's not to say that the speaker doesn't have a well-balanced sound. The audio quality was generally very impressive, with a good amount of separation amongst the different frequencies.

As well as impressive sound quality, you also get all the smarts of Google Assistant, as well as the smart home connectivity the voice assistant brings with it.

Sennheiser CX Sports wireless earphones

Sennheiser's CX Sports are all about that bass – which could be perfect if you're looking for a pair of headphones that will bolster your running performance. 

However, when we tested them, we were equally impressed by the clarity they provide to treble frequencies, and we liked the sporty neon accents that make them unmistakably designed for running and working out. 

While Sennheiser is certainly following the trend for true wireless earbuds with its Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless, it's reassuring to see new wireless earphones that don't entirely ditch the cable for those who want it.

Dynaudio Confidence series

The Confidence 20, 30, 50, and 60 Image credit: Dynaudio

Dynaudio has updated its Confidence range with "precision-machined" drivers, soft dome tweeters, and an all-new cabinet design – and we finally got the chance to see them at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show.

Particularly noteworthy is the Confidence 60. With two neodymium woofers, two midrange drivers, and a high-spec tweeters, this mighty loudspeaker costs a very expensive $39,999 (£35,000 / around AU$64,000 based on current conversion rates). 

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.