High-End Audio / Audiophile Equipment
Reviews And Think Pieces
Articulating the many aspects of beauty in hi-fi audio.
By Dr. Jules L. Coleman
audiophiles are a diverse and peculiar lot. So much so that some might think
that self-identification is the only thing we share. If there is something
distinctive about being an audiophile, what is it? Sometime last year, I found myself contemplating this question
when reflecting on the untimely death of Art Dudley. I did not know Art
particularly well, but I had a kinship with him dating back to his days at the
helm of Listener
magazine. No one could read anything Art had a hand in
without coming away impressed not just by his love of music but also by the fact
that he had given a great deal of thought to what he wanted from an audio system
and why. Others on the Listener staff were similarly inclined. For me,
this ongoing iterative reflection about the nature and value of audio made Listener
the most interesting read in audio when they were in business.
---> Articulating the many aspects of beauty in hi-fi audio.
Things That Audiophiles Do, But Shouldn't
Roger Skoff seeks to foil some 'philes' feckless foibles.
By Roger Skoff
a long year ago, when I was probably about sixteen, my father went over to the
home of his friend, Ozzie Palermo, to hear his new Hi-Fi set. (Yeah, Hi-Fi
set; that was back when the hot setup for everybody other than us early
Hi-Fi Crazies, was a one-piece "console" radio-phonograph with built-in
speakers.) Ozzie had just bought it, and was showing it off to anyone who would
listen. (Judging by when this probably happened, it might even have been "a
stereo", which, in itself, would have been both an oddity and a bragging-point
in those days). After my father got there, listened, and dutifully said "ooh"
and "aah" at appropriate intervals, Ozzie apparently asked him something like "Say,
isn't your son a Hi-Fi Fan, too?"
that audiophiles do, but shouldn't.
Music Has A Lot To Say...
If you're willing to listen.
Review By Mike Perez
What kind of headspace are you in when you are listening to music? Are you working out?
Relaxing in your favorite chair sipping a cocktail? Driving down a lonely road deep in thought? Or getting ready to dance the night away at your favorite club or hangout? Wherever you are, music always has some type of roll to play. As I write this, I have one of my go-to playlists working in the background because the ambient sound always helps me to get words on the page. The reasoning behind this article is that I was stricken with curiosity. I want to know what some of my friends, colleagues, and HiFi Industry Professionals are listening to at the
---> Music Has A Lot To
Delivering A Glorious Musical Experience
A love of music and commitment drives everything we do at Impex.
Article By Abey Fonn, Founder Of Impex Records
200 plus titles that Cisco Music and Impex Records released in the last
twenty-five years, I can confidently say all but a dozen-plus were cut using
original analog master tapes. Sometimes the recordings are not in great
condition, where baking the tapes plus lots of TLC cannot make it usable for
mastering. Some reels were not returned to the owner after a re-issue
production. Many more were lost to high-profile warehouse fires (a tragedy). The
scarcity of original sources is becoming more common in the audiophile industry.
---> Learn more about Abey Fonn / Impex
What are they, and how can they help you to feel
Article By Becky Pell
humans have a range of different brain wave states and speeds, each relating to
a different state of consciousness, be it waking, sleeping, or somewhere in
between. Binaural beats are a phenomenon whereby we can voluntarily create
different brain waves using external sound sources, thereby inducing the
associated mental state. First, let's take a look at the different states of
consciousness which we most commonly experience.
---> Read Becky Pell's Binaural Beats article.
CH Precision A Postscript
Three months after the dust settled on last
issue's marathon project covering CH Precision's all analogue A1.5, P1, L1, X1 amplifier system, some more aspects came to
Review By Martin Colloms
While I was in the thick of considering the CH Precision A1.5, P1, L1 and X1
late last year, such was the complexity and range of settings and modes and connections, and not least power supply options, that a considered overview was somehow just out of reach. Moreover, those continued and complex evaluations were inevitably constrained by particular circumstances in that more extended trial and error methods to establish quality limits could have added value, for example exchanging multiple cables in all positions, signal, and loudspeaker, and also mains connection methods, whether central or extended line. Then there is the matter of optimising the choices and subsequent alignment of anti-vibration frames and optional intermediary
CH Precision A Postscript.
Avantgarde Acoustic Duo XD Hornspeaker
Blow Up! With the Duo XD, Avantgarde Acoustic shows what horn technology and a perfectly matched active woofers... are able to do to the sound.
Review By Matthias Böde
Yes, you have read the measurement results
from our lab correctly (in case you checked them): For 94 decibels of sound
pressure at a distance of one meter, this speaker needs just 0.07 Watts of
power. Seven Watts would be somewhat normal, 0.7 Watts already a sensation
but 0.07 Watts reads like a typo. It is completely true though! This is made
possible by the large horn at the top end of the Duo XD, coming from the
specialist Avantgarde Acoustic, based in a small town in the Odenwald mountain
range in southwestern Germany. This horn is connected directly to the amplifier
without any intermediate crossover and visually symbolizes the phenomenal
efficiency with its huge opening of 67 centimeters.
Avantgarde Acoustic Duo XD hornspeaker review.
Gryphon Audio Essence Preamplifier
And Essence Stereo Power Amplifier Review
Blown away by an amazing musical performance!
Review By Tom Lyle
Gryphon Essence preamplifier and Gryphon Stereo power amplifier are gorgeous
looking and beautiful sounding Danish high-end audio components. Those who can
afford either or both of these components will not only enjoy stellar sound
quality but most likely will also be able to enjoy the fact that they are the
epitome of audio equipment that has a look and "feel" of luxury goods. Gryphon
founder Flemming E. Rasmussen was responsible for the stunningly beautiful
exterior of the rather large (and heavy!) Gryphon Essence preamplifier and
Stereo Essence power amplifier. Good looks and operational refinement are
especially true of the Gryphon Essence preamplifier. Its weighty
infrared metal remote was only one indication of this Danish audio manufacturer's
recognition of many audiophile's appreciation of the intangibles that are
available on many preamps.
Gryphon Audio Essence preamplifier & Essence amplifier review.
Stereo Headphones Review
Following on from his review of the classic open-back HD 800 headphones from Sennheiser in the last issue of
HIFICRITIC, Keith Howard now assesses the closed-back version HD 820.
Review By Keith Howard
This is a
rhetorical question because I don't pretend to have an answer to it. Why did it
take Sennheiser so long, in the wake of the successful launch of the HD 800 in
2010, to develop a closed-back version? A glance at the HD 820 ($2399.95) is
enough to tell you that that's what it is but we had to wait a further eight
years for it. Could it be that Sennheiser was diverted into serving the
burgeoning mobile audio market? Or that developing a closed-back sibling to the
HD 800 proved tough? Having spent a month measuring and listening to the HD 820,
I reckon the latter is at least a realistic possibility. Because if you expect
the HD 820 to provide HD 800-like sound quality (but with improved isolation of
external sound), you're destined to be disappointed.
Sennheiser HD820 stereo headphones review.
Monitor Audio Bronze 200 & Fyne Audio F302
Which One is Right for You?
Review By Mads Malmbak
is the most important component in your stereo system? Most people struggle with
the answer because it probably doesn't seem that obvious; certainly not to
people who don't obsess over all things audio. The short answer is the room.
We will take a much closer look at this in future articles, but your room is the
single most important component in your system. It influences the sound and
dictates which loudspeakers are appropriate for your space. The size and
acoustics of my specific room favor floor-standing loudspeakers; and my wallet
requires that they are modestly priced. Enter two excellent but very different
sounding loudspeakers; the Fyne Audio F302 and Monitor Audio Bronze 200.
Monitor Audio Bronze 200 & Fyne Audio F302 loudspeaker review.
Clarus CODA DAC Review
Taking it with you.
In December of 2020, Clarus Cable
released the Coda DAC/headphone amplifier ($300), giving the audiophile
on-the-go a new and elevated option for taking music everywhere.
Utilizing the ESS Professional Series SABRE DAC, the CODA plugs directly
into your laptop via USB-A, and features a 3.5mm headphone jack on the
other end. Inside the solidly-constructed device are a high precision
audio grade clock designed to reduce digital jitter, audio grade film
capacitors, 1% tolerance metal film resistors, and tight power supply
regulation using multi-stage, low-noise, high ripple rejection CMOS-based
regulators, within a component the size of a pack of gum. All of this
results in a 124dB DNR and -112 THD+N.
---> Clarus CODA DAC
RAAL Requisite HSA-1b Headphone / Speaker Amplifier
The pinnacle of personal audio.
Review By Gary Peter Pialis
When RAAL Requisite released their true ribbon earfield
monitors last year, it literally took the world of personal audio by storm!
These headphones very quickly captured many raving reviews for their incredible
speed, transparency, and incredible sound staging capabilities. Our own Frank
them and noted "The RAAL-requisite SR1a Earfieled Headphone
Monitor is a crowning achievement of what is possible in headphone design.
The beautiful sound coming from the ribbon monitor was sensational. The
exceptional imaging made all performers come alive and made the equipment get
out of the way." Being a huge fan of near field speakers, but having a young
family, I longed for the sound staging that speakers could bring to so many of
my favourite recordings.
RAAL Requisite HSA-1b headamp / speaker amp review.
World Premiere Review!
Aric Audio Unlimited II Vacuum Tube Stereo
Igor never sounded so good!
Review By Paul Schumann
it, the year 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic has sucked. In addition to the
tragic loss of life, health, and financial security for many people, most of us
have been unable to easily connect with loved ones. Now, what we always
considered normal activities have been completely shut down. For the past few
years, my dad and I have been season ticket holders for the Austin Symphony
Orchestra. That meant, for nine wonderful Saturday evenings a year, we would
meet up, have a meal together, then go to the Symphony. It was a great way to
reconnect and enjoy our shared passion for music. With the advent of the
pandemic, all that was shut down. So instead of that, I have been trying other
ways to stay connected with my dad. The Aric Audio Unlimited II Preamplifier has
helped me in that effort.
---> Aric Audio Unlimited II vacuum tube stereo
America Premiere Review!
Canor AI 2.10 Hybrid Stereo Integrated Amplifier
Enjoying the smallest details, exactly like you would listening to a very fine performance.
Review By Ron Nagle
Coming from a land way far away let me introduce you to Canor Audio. A 25-year-old audio equipment manufacturer located in
Presov, a city in Slovakia. Canor Audio has been manufacturing Hi-end audio components for almost 25 years. The company first started as an audio tube equipment specialist. The prototype of their first serially produced TP101 integrated tube amplifier was shown at an exhibition held in the city of Brno in April 1995. Their current product line is comprised of six products. They make an all-tube Phono amplifier, two CD players, and three power amplifiers. Canor's AI 1.10 power amplifier produces 40 Watt per channel at 4 ohms via vacuum tube and solid-state hybrid
Canor AI 2.10 hybrid stereo integrated amplifier.
SOTA Nova VI Vinyl LP Turntable Review
The new Sota sound allows music to become tactile.
Review By Ron Nagle
There was a
time when my school shoes wore out; my mom would take them to the shoe
repairman. He would fix them like new with Cats-paw rubber heels. At about that
same time I remember when our Zenith console television died. My father
would go down to the local hardware store to use their tube tester. For three or
four dollars he would buy a new vacuum tube. Very soon we would be back to our
black and white TV bliss. I guess since then a few things have changed. But let
us now carry that forward to the present. Understand that for 20 years I spun
vinyl disks on my reliable reference, a Sota Sapphire 2, but alas time takes a
toll. So what can you do if you have something you can't part with?
---> SOTA Nova VI
vinyl LP turntable review.
Fear and Loathing in America:
The iBasso DC03 DAC / Headphone Amplifier
Helped Me Process The Capitol Assault
A portable USB DAC that plugs into your smartphone to improve the sound quality of headphone listening on-the-go.
Anyone who thought 2021 was going to be so much better than 2020 was not in Washington D.C. on January
6th (2021). Having travelled from New Jersey the day before to spend time with the folks at Linear Tube Audio (you can check out our coverage on Instagram) in Takoma Park, I decided to also pay a visit to my best friend from college who resides in the
city. I lived in Washington D.C. for almost 10 years and commuted through Union Station for work for almost two years. For those who
don't know the city well it sits less than two blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
iBasso DC03 DAC / headphone amplifier review.
IsoAcoustics GAIA I Speaker Isolators Review
Superb Performance and big time
Review By Robert S. Youman
I have a great deal of respect
for isolation devices, though certain caveats should always be considered. I
have reviewed and/or owned some of the most simple to the most sophisticated.
This includes designs from Butcher Block Acoustics, Solidsteel, Adona, Sound
Anchors, Silent Running Audio, Harmonic Resolution Systems, Rix Rax, Critical
Mass, and Grand Prix. You have heard it before, but virtually all will certainly
make a difference some for the good and some for the not so good. And like
all things audio, compatibility can be critical. With this in mind, the IsoAcoustics GAIA I speaker isolators
are something very special. There is real science and logic behind the design.
The results were immediate and quite easy to identify.
IsoAcoustics GAIA I Speaker Isolators review.
Noble Falcon Pro True Wireless
One of the best IEMs I have heard under $400.
Review By Gary Alan Barker
the short four years that I have been writing for Headphone.Guru, I have had
opportunity to listen to a host of Bluetooth IEMs, several of which I use on a
daily basis for telephone communication, but none that I would deign to use for
regular music listening despite the significant improvements that have been made
to Bluetooth over the last few years, preferring a wired option generally opting
for my Noble Katanas or Zephyrs. This all changed when Jim Moulton offered to
send me a pair of the new Noble Falcon Pro True Wireless IEMs, flagship model of
the FALCON series, utilizing a hybrid driver configuration featuring a 6mm
titanium coated driver for impactful sub-bass and bass, and two Knowles BA
drivers for mid and high frequencies.
Noble Falcon Pro True Wireless IEM review.
Music Lovers Win At Enjoy the
John Tampouratzis wins a Schiit Lyr 3 with Multibit DAC option!
By John Tampouratzis
During December 2020, Enjoy the Music.com and Schiit joined forces to
give away a Lyr 3 with Multibit DAC option valued at
$699! Here are a few words from John Tampouratzis in Greece, who won this wonderful
giveaway! I WON THE PRIZE!!! I'm feeling lucky!!! Since the advent of social media, the world has become smaller, and information, news, and knowledge more immediate. It was on the 4th of January when I received the email that
I've won. I looked at the sender and the CC notification....
---> John Tampouratzis wins a Schiit Lyr 3
with Multibit DAC!
Editorial By Art Dudley
Apart from reminding Listener's
readers how seldom I have been arrested compared to George W. Bush (the score stands at "zero" to "three that we know of"), I vow to keep the following observations as non-political as I
can. Today's concern goes to the heart of our hobby. Specifically, what should we, as audiophiles, be doing with our hi-fi gear? Should we use our stereos to lay bare every nuance of sound on our recordings, as faithfully and thoroughly as technology allows? Or should we use them as we would a drug, to achieve a musical bliss-out whenever the fancy strikes
us? And: Is it acceptable for us to even think of these as separate
---> The Intro by Art
Dudley of Listener magazine.
Article By Joe Roberts
From Sound Practices
Issue 9, Fall 1995
Way out on the paranoid
fringes of contemporary American thought, miles beyond even the craziest audiophiles, there are some scared technology worshippers who believe
that an international elite bad guy network of power-hungry conspirators has been conducting massively funded, wildly successful experiments with holographic
imaging technology. The claim is that gizmos exist for creating 100% real-looking motion
pictures in 3-D space, 4-D if you count time as a D. These infernal devices can materialize illusions that can pass through our senses as reality itself!
Yikes! The above-mentioned whistle blowers are trying to warn us that fancy hologram projectors
will play a central role in the ultimate power grab in all of human history, planned to go down at the turn of the millennium. Over the generations, many predictions
were made about the year 2001...
---> Grand Illusion
editorial by Joe Roberts.
Tech Tips And Other Unsolicited Advice
The 75 Minute Restoration
From VALVE Volume 2 Number 7 July 1995
Bill called a couple Saturdays ago to tell
me that he had traded a Mac 1700 (a hybrid receiver, with tube tuner and solid-state amp) for a Scott 340 receiver. The
person he traded with acknowledged a greater value for the Mac than the Scott and offered to pay a set amount for
service by yours truly to balance the deal. Would I be available this weekend to do check it
out? I asked Bill if it ran and he said yes. Knowing that the weak point on Scotts
was their coupling caps, I suggested he run it for a while, constantly monitoring
the output tubes for red plates. He called back a bit later and said that one tube's plate had started to glow red,
at which point he turned the 340 off. I said bring it by and I'd get it going.
---> Tech Tips And Other Unsolicited Advice.
World Premiere Review!
VAC Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V With MM/MC Phono Stage
For serious music lovers living at the cutting edge of what is possible.
VAC is not an abbreviation for vacuum, although the VAC Renaissance Mk V does
have five miniature twin triode vacuum tubes on board. The company banner is
actually an acronym for, Valve Amplification
Company. This Mk V preamplifier is something entirely new in the VAC
lineup for 2017. There is a basic MkV line stage preamplifier without the phono
stage that sells for $9990. That configuration uses just two miniature Dual
Triode tubes. The Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V, under evaluation here, contains an
optional MM/MC (moving magnet and moving coil) phono amplification stage that adds three additional 12AX7 tubes. With the
optional phono stage on board, the cost increases to $12,990.
VAC Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V with MM/MC phono stage review.
Oracle Delphi MK V Turntable
With Van den Hul's Grasshopper MC Phono Cartridge
Fun with analog audio!
By Steven R. Rochlin
The Led Zeppelin phrase
"Does anyone remember laughter" comes to mind, as have been through
what may be the normal evolution within high-end audio. For me, first came the revelation of
how great music can sound within the home. Blame it on my dad, as he
loved the stuff! This was when your local camera shop had a small audio store in the
back. Call it the early 1960s, or so he tells me, and between loving Leica
cameras and tube audio dad was a early day photography geek. He also loved
music. Fast forward to my personal explorations in my late
teens, where mixing and
matching brought about gains in my enjoyment of music. Sure there were
setbacks, equipment would sometimes break, and my dwindling bank account
would suffer accordingly. Discoveries in tweaks, room tuning devices, and
help from my local dealer further improved my music reproduction system.
Alas, after about a decade came burn out.
---> Oracle Delphi MK V
turntable review with Van den Hul's Grasshopper MC Phono cartridge.
Audio Research DAC9 Digital-To-Analog Converter
An organic sound that draws you into the music.
Review By Tom Lyle
past summer I was in a showroom auditioning a new line of speakers that included
a system that was made up of mostly Audio Research components. Even though I
heard four other products from that same line of speakers that day, it was their
smallest model that impressed me the most. As it just so happens, this system
included the Audio Research DAC9 digital-to-analog converter that is the focus
of this review. I heard Audio Research's DAC9 within other systems that day,
too, and I was so impressed that the next day I sent a request to obtain a
review sample. Those who know me are aware that I'm mostly an analog kind of
guy, and to have a music epiphany that included a digital component surprised
Audio Research DAC9 digital-to-analog converter review.
Audience aR6-T4 Power
With upgraded frontRow powerChords and standard powerChord
Review By Dr. Matthew Clott
The opportunity to review new models of
familiar equipment is similar to catching up with an old friend. I have
enjoyed, owned and respected Audience cables and conditioners since the
original Adept Response was released and the "Original"
powerChord first hit the proverbial scene. The Au24 power cables were
the epitome of neutrality and their speaker wire and interconnects
magically conveyed the full auditory picture in an inconceivably thin
cable that defied logic and belied current trends of bigger must be
better cable etiologies. Even then, the Adept Response conditioner was
something special and established itself as a premier product with few
equals. Over time, the "Original" powerChord grew into the
Au24, which then matured into the Au24s, Au24se, Au24se-i and now the
Au24sx series of power cables and audio cables; not to mention their new
reference level frontRow series.
Audience aR6-T4 power conditioner review.
Audiophile Gift 2020 December
Note: We have magazine issues dating back to 1999.
See our archives section for all reviews.