NEBO 5 | A Grand Day Out

Saturday 10th of January 2015 saw the fifth North East (hi-fi) Bake Off at the Windmill just outside of Hartlepool. It nearly didn’t happen to be honest as i was growing a bit concerned that people may be growing a little bored with the NEBO meetings so it was with a little trepidation that i organized a fifth event. How wrong i was! Not even gale force winds dissuaded the hardy enthusiasts and by late morning attendees traveling from afar started to arrive.

Being first on scene i started preparing the room and liaising with the management who i owe my deepest gratitude. Their accommodating acceptance of our meetings really have given NEBO a home and hopefully they will continue to do so in the future.

Ken Wynn’s system. celesion 66 and tannoy Cheviots. Lovely.

First to arrive was Ken Wynn who setup his Tannoy Cheviot speakers which he connected to a six channel Rotel AV power amplifier controlled with the pre-amp stages of his Sugden A21a integrated. ken also brought with him his Celestion 66 speakers which we played throughout the day. Ken’s system acquitted itself nicely and induced quite a technical debate afterwards.

Rega man at Regafest

Following ken was Rega man himself Rich Britton with his full Rega lash up. I do have to admit that this system made some pretty nice noises though Rage Against The Machine was pushing the envelope for me. The Brio amp and Rega DAC really worked well together and as someone pointed out, sometimes it pays off buying a system consisting of components all from the same manufacturer.

Team vinyl Junkie

Ali Tait’s valve emporium

Scotsman Ali Tait traveled all the way from Glasgow braving some powerful winds with his car full of hi-fi goodies. Ali brought some great 300b mono blocks to the party which we connected up to my Ruark Crusader III’s playing music via his Tandberg reel to reel. A very pleasing sound ensued and i could have listened to this system all day. Of note was Ali’s Alchemist Kraken amp which left many people scratching their heads in disbelief. A little fem if ever there was one. ali also brought along a World Audio integrated which needed a little fettling, it was sorted later in the afternoon.

As the day went on people kept arriving not least stalwart and hi-fi cult legend Les Wolstenholme arrived with no agenda other than to enjoy the day, give some tips and bask in the music. It’s always great to have Les around. We were also lucky to have Mr Long Dog himself Nick Gorham who brought us a Music First pre amp and his reference phono stage, some ten grands worth. These were played later in the evening when the box swapping and general mixing it up made NEBO 5 one of the most exciting yet.

Croft 25/Golden Note Koala

Just after lunch (nice carvery by the way) Steve Okeefe arrived and set up his Croft 25 integrated and lovely Golden Note Koala CD player driving Richie’s Rega RS5 speakers. To be honest i would have like to have heard the Croft driving a fuller sounding speaker and i think partnered with Ken’s Cheviot’s would have been a match made in Heaven. It was great to hear Can again after many years though. i sensed that the Koala CD player was something a little special.

Steve Sheills, inspiring.

It was great to to have Steve Sheills with us who inspires me a lot. His home made open baffle speakers which included a 18″ bass driver, a ribbon tweeter and also for good measure a pair of super tweeters (one of which we discovered had not been working). These were driven my Steve DIY valve amp using PX 25 driver valves putting out a max of 5 watts. Music was played via a DVD player. This system i thought sounded stunning. It put out a soundstage that you could walk around. Amazing.

Dave and Mike’s active system. Big up for the bass.

As the afternoon moved on and light started to fade Dave and Mike who had traveled from Leeds set up their system cosisting of a rather aging though modified Arcam CD player a home made pre- amplifier  and a modified Grand GL50 power amplifier. These were driving some very impressive speakers with active X/overs. Sadly i didn’t get the opportunity to chat to the guys long enough to find out more but i do hope they return in the future to entertain us some more with this excellent system.

Alan Towell. he alays gets it right!

As many vampires would tell you a lot of the interesting stuff happens after dark and NEBO 5 was no exception. As we lost the day light some adventurous lighting was utilized to set the mood for a fabulous evening of music and variety. By this time like every good rock and roller i was suffering heavily at the hands of excessive alcohol and prescription drugs as well as cold and flu remedy. This in no way prevented me from enjoying what was to be the most enjoyable event so far. Earlier in the day Alan Towell had blown the crowd away with his Tascam BR20 R2R playing his now signature Eric Bibb recording. This was via his amazing DIY Voyager amplifiers. Fitting then that their designer was in the room.

NEBO 5 via beer goggles.

Alan’s Voyagers and pre-amp became the core of the main system and what a system it became. Waiting patiently all day was James (Jimbo) who had traveled all the way from Stourbridge. James delighted us by swapping out Alan’s pre-amp and playing his Croft Micro 25R pre-amp. I was mightily impressed and the wait was worth it. For the majority of the main systems time we just used my trusty Ruark Crusader III speakers which seemed to work well with the majority of equipment. Fun was had swapping phono stages from Alan Towell’s Paradise to Ali Tait’s two box Firebottle and eventually Nick Gorham’s monster reference beast which as you would imagine was something else!

Evening system

Turntables used for this event were Alan’s Pioneer DD with 12″ Jelco and Ortofon Kontrapunkt b and Marco’s heavily modified Technics SL1210 c/w Ortofon 21D tonearm and Denon DLS1 cartridge and Paul Haynes power supply. Marco (Art Of Sound site owner) changed my whole thinking of the 1210 and i have to say that listening to his turntable via the various phono stages on offer was a treat. Marco had also traveled a significant distance to attend and i am really glad he did. I have some personal highlights throughout the day and this was one of them.

Mind blowing


Technics Nirvana


As people started to leave and make there way home the die hards and hard liners came alive. Mik Rik the king of surprises always his joker last thing. Fun was had with his Quad ESL 57’s being played via a wildly inexpensive pre amp all the way from China, Ali’s 300B mono’s and files from Richie’s laptop via an equally inexpensive DAC. A fantastic merge of old and new technologies. It worked though and with a little experimentation with speaker positioning made some great sounds. As i was fast becoming a corpse my sold turned up yo take me home and the end of the best NEBO meeting ever drew to a successful close.

Mik Rik plays his joker.

Musically i would have to site London Grammar, The Sheffield lab pressing of Supertramp’s Crime of the Century and one of Steve Sheill’s tracks as highlights, But for me, having people like Les Wolstenholme, Alan Towell and Nick Gorham as well as some fabulous engineers and music lovers in the room is a highlight in itself. I was listening to a debate about role models with regards to football the morning after this event and i couldn’t help thinking that people like those mentioned above are more suitable role models. Great minds with team spirit spreading joy with their endeavors and keeping a part of our rich heritage and the strive for excellence alive.

There are very few Hi-Fi dealers left up and down the country and the whole ethos of acquiring decent audio equipment is changing. Up and down the country events just like NEBO are happening. I think it’s time that the remaining dealers get on board with such events and support them in any way they can as these events are keeping the spirit alive and inspiring people to visit their local dealer.

To see much better reviews with much better pictures please visit the Art of Sound forum. Under the heading Community Network.



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