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High-End Audio / Audiophile Equipment Reviews And Think Pieces

May 2021

 

Opinion: Matter Of Trust Marc Rushton explores the delicate balance between press freedom and industry support.

Opinion: Matter Of Trust
Marc Rushton explores the delicate balance between press freedom and industry support.
Editorial By Marc Rushton, StereoNET Founder & Publisher
The hi-fi and home cinema industry has not traditionally partaken in paid-for reviews where manufacturers give money to 'journalists' to 'review' their products. That's partly down to the liberal publishing ethos that prevails in the English-speaking world and because hi-fi tends not to be sold on platforms such as Amazon, where this practice is commonplace. Until now, that is. StereoNET makes no secret that we are funded by the industry including retailers, manufacturers, and importers/distributors. That's because we are a commercial business with salaried staff and freelance contributors to pay, the latter being our major expense. We're proud of this, as the particular way it is done gives us the last word. We can review anything we like from anyone, and conversely, any brand can approach us to request a product review.
---> Opinion: Matter Of Trust by Marc Rushton.

 

 

That's Why It's Called a 'System' Roger Skoff writes about the most basic thing of all.

That's Why It's Called A 'System'
Roger Skoff writes about the most basic thing of all.
Article By Roger Skoff
Think about a chorus; The Robert Shaw Chorale, for example. Or maybe, to be a little more grandiose, the three hundred sixty voice Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Or go for broke, and think of all of the massed choruses of the Mahler Symphony #8 the "Symphony of a Thousand" in a full production. Now, think about one single voice among all those others and, finally, imagine that the chorus becomes silent while the single voice continues. Now you know all about hi-fi. A stereo system of any kind, good, bad, or indifferent is, in a number of important ways, both the single voice and the choir at the same time. Musically, that's obvious: Whatever the music is, regardless of its kind or the number of players involved, or the kind and number of instruments and performers....
---> That's why it's called a 'system'.

 

 

T.H.E. Human Side Award-Winning Documentary

T.H.E. Human Side Award-Winning Documentary
A short documentary about the human connections in hi-fi and music.
Video By T.H.E. Show And Produced / Directed By Rose City Media Group
T.H.E. Show's new award-earning video T.H.E. Human Side is a documentary short film about enjoying the music and what is means for you. In 2018, they were approached by an attendee of T.H.E. Show who was asking about podcasting for high-end audio. After sitting with him and hearing all of his stories, his adventures with his friends, and the incredible history behind all they spoke about, T.H.E. Show charged their production team with making a web series to chronicle their stories. At that time, they never could have known that the web series would take off the way it did and grow first into an award winning documentary short and now, soon to be a feature film! This documentary had a private, limited premiere at T.H.E. Show 2019 but has never been seen by the global public.
---> T.H.E. Human Side award-winning documentary.

 

 

Audiophiles KILLED High-End Audio

Audiophiles KILLED High-End Audio
And Young Audiophiles Answer 10 Hi-Fi Questions
According to Andrew Robinson, audiophiles "KILLED high-end audio" and the death of high-end audio. In what he's calling part two of his video entitled, "High-End Audio Isn't The Same Anymore", Andrew breaks down how audiophile and enthusiasts alike helped to kill the hobby we all claim to love and support so much. He says he's guilty as charged, are you? Plus we have young audiophiles answering 10 hi-fi questions by The Next Best Thing Studio on YouTube. Instead of Enjoy the Music.com adding more commentary here, best bet is to watch the video....
---> Audiophiles killed high-end audio.

 

 

Karan Acoustics KAS 600 Stereo Amplifier And KAL Reference MK3 Stereo Preamplifier Review

Karan Acoustics KAS 600 Stereo Amp And
KAL Reference MK3 Preamp Review
Enjoying all genres of music at the highest level of fidelity.
Review By Gregory Petan
It seems like a lifetime ago I reviewed the Karan Acoustics KAS 450 stereo amplifier. My conclusion was "This is an amplifier I could live with for the long haul," and was planning on adding it to my system. If not for a train wreck of an experience with a speaker manufacturer who took a $20,000 down payment for new speakers after I sold my reference, I would have happily added the KAS 450 to the system. Failing to fulfill his promise to deliver my new speaker in eight weeks, I had to sell one of my amplifiers in order to fill in the speaker gap left for the next 10 months. When the new speakers finally arrived, the varnish crackled not just once, not twice, but three times, each taking a month in between to fix.
---> Karan Acoustics KAS 600 amp & KAL Reference MK3 preamp review.

 

 

Charisma Audio Musiko Tonearm, Soundeck, And Audio Machina Accessories Review

World Premiere Review!
Charisma Audio Musiko Tonearm, Soundeck, And Audio Machina Accessories

A killer combination forced me to overcome my fear and buy the review sample.
Review By Rick Becker
Just when I thought I was done with my Linn Turntable Project, Bernard Li of Charisma Audio called and asked if I'd like to try his new Musiko tonearm, which conveniently was already on the USA side of the border. George Merrill had been playing with it on his new Gem Dandy PolyTable down in Tennessee. Bernard knew I was impressed with it when I saw it at the last Toronto and other shows during 2019. Dropshipping it from George would save two border crossings and give me a chance to hear it. Charisma Audio's Musiko arrived in a well-crafted wooden box. Inside, the various components and tools were neatly partitioned in foam. A long Plexiglas measuring tool was taped to the outside bottom of the box to be used in measuring and drilling a blank arm board to the proper specs. The 9.33" tonearm has a 222mm pivot to spindle distance, same as a Rega, but you will need to enlarge the main hole on a Rega table and drill new holes to mount the flange.
---> Charisma Audio Musiko tonearm, Soundeck, and Audio Machina accessories review.

 

 

Rogue Audio RP-9 Vacuum Tube Stereo Preamplifier Review

World Premiere Review!
Rogue Audio RP-9 Vacuum Tube Stereo Preamplifier

Exceeding the listener's expectations.
Review By Bob Grossman
Rogue Audio's RP-9 is the latest flagship preamplifier from the ingenious designs of the American manufacturing workshop of Mark O'Brien.  Having an interest in doing this review of the new RP-9 was a simple decision as a long-time user of the Rogue RP-7.  I have been using the remarkable powerhouse Rogue Apollo Dark Amps for several years as both a sonic and output upgrade to my previously owned Rogue 180 Amplifiers that were used to run Magnepan 3.6 speakers.  I replaced the Maggie 3.6 speakers with their 20.7 models several years ago and needed more powerful amps. I wondered if the increased musical experience of moving further up in the Rogue Amplifier line was going to be repeated with their new preamplifier by going from the RP-7 to the RP-9 model. However, before proceeding and hearing the RP-9, I wondered what was going on since the RP-7 has received numerous accolades, recognition, and rewards. Could designer Mark O'Brien improve upon the noteworthy RP-7 that I have been enjoying?
---> Rogue Audio RP-9 vacuum tube stereo preamplifier review.

 

 

Allnic Rose Moving Coil Phono Cartridge Review

Allnic Rose Moving Coil Phono Cartridge Review
The essential elements of what makes music sound so good!
Review By Tom Lyle
I agreed to review the Allnic Rose low-output moving coil cartridge largely because its reputation precedes it. This cartridge is designed and made by the same company that makes the award-winning Blue Note Best Of 2020 H-7000 vacuum tube phono stereo preamplifier that I reviewed that year. After listening to this phono cartridge for only a couple of weeks, I was already quite impressed, even before it was fully broken in.  During the first few weeks of listening to this phono cartridge, for some reason, I thought that its price was $5999, which I thought was fair, given how impressed I was so early in the review. One can imagine how surprised I was when I discovered that this Allnic Rose cartridge sells for $2900. I had to recalibrate my way of thinking. To make things easier on myself, I attempted not to think about how much this cartridge cost but simply reviewing the cartridge and telling you about my experience with it in my system.
---> Allnic Rose moving coil phono cartridge review.

 

 

Cambridge Evo 150 Integrated Streaming Amplifier Review

STEREO Exclusive First Worldwide Review!
Cambridge Evo 150 Integrated Streaming Amplifier Review
Remarkable. Truly remarkable.
Review By Tom Frantzen
Road To Perfection Cambridge Audio recently dropped quite a bombshell. Not in the literal sense, of course, but the newly presented Evo 150 simply has it all and could (r)evolutionize many a living room. STEREO reports to you with the exclusive, worldwide first review! The Cambridge Evo 150 is the larger of two models, both of which Cambridge Audio itself labels as "All-in-One". It comes at a price of around 2500 Euros, the very similar Evo 75 lacking the XLR input and having about half of the output power, which should still be sufficient in most cases will cost 500 Euros less. The likewise slightly different DACs in both devices are each hailing from the top supplier ESS Sabre. Going with our own naming conventions, what we have here should of course be thought of as an integrated amplifier with a built-in network player, an "integrated streaming amplifier" in short. It is worthy to note that the British company will also supply an optional, suitable CD drive with a proprietary interface in the course of this year.
---> Cambridge Evo 150 integrated streaming amplifier review.

 

 

Questyle CMA Twelve Flagship DAC / Headamp Review

Questyle CMA Twelve Flagship DAC / Headamp Review
Worthy of the flagship moniker.
Review By Eric Neff
Audiophiles can be snobs. No, really! It's true. They want their home amps to be Class A and they will secretly think (or loudly proclaim) that other amp styles are lesser constructs. This mindset can be a serious challenge for personal audio enthusiasts who can't or won't want to haul huge power-hungry devices with them on the go. So, it was with much enthusiasm when Questyle launched their Current Mode Amplification (CMA) as a new approach to Class A that not only could be used in desktop devices but could also be made easily transportable. One of my favorite portable players was Questyle's CMA Class A inaugural portable, the QP1r, a Guru product of the year winner.
---> Questyle CMA Twelve DAC / headamp review.

 

 

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M Review

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M Review
The Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M DAC / pre-amp / headphone amplifier might be the high-res audio hub you're looking for.
Review By Ian White
When one considers that tens of millions of consumers have been stuck at home for almost a year, most headphone manufacturers can't keep product in stock, and 99% of the population uses a wireless mobile device as their primary digital source it's probably a good time to explain to consumers why a DAC might elevate their listening experience in a very significant way. Some brands get it. Cambridge Audio clearly understands that consumers might pay for a one-box solution that they can connect to their phone, Sony PS5, headphones, laptop, Roku streamer, and their home stereo. If that applies to you The next generation Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M is a product you need to seriously consider.
---> Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M review.

 

 

Listener Magazine: When I first heard about the Internet, I thought it was a load of crap. Article By Art Dudley

Listener Magazine: The Intro
When I first heard about the Internet, I thought it was a load of crap.
Editorial By Art Dudley
When I was five years old, grocery stores began selling a product called Happy Nut, which I considered ingenious: peanut butter shaped into quarter-pound sticks, like butter, and filled with a core of grape jelly. With Happy Nut on the butter dish, one did not have to bother opening two jars (or even one!) before enjoying a healthy, satisfying meal: It was a simple and time-saving matter of dipping one's knife, spreading one's spread, and eating. The fact that the Happy Nut logo was a picture of a monkey was icing on the cake. To my five-year-old consumer consciousness, nothing made more sense: This was the pinnacle of modern achievement. From the moment I first saw it, I could not imagine life without Happy Nut. Then things changed. Up to a point my imagination had been the sole province of Happy Nut's benefits, but when the moment of truth arrived, those benefits proved fleeting. In fact they fleeted all to hell.
---> The Intro by Art Dudley of Listener magazine.

 

 

The Age Of Hyper-Reality Editorial From Sound Practices Issue 11

The Age Of Hyper-Reality
Editorial From Sound Practices Issue 11
In a nearly incomprehensible essay about our slow and steady drift away from reality as we knew it towards a fragmentary, unrooted, "virtual" existence, the post modernist Baudrillard observes that the deep problems of high-fidelity audio illuminate and embody the core principles of a universal crisis of being in the contemporary world. Baudrillard outlines a "stereophonic" model of social practice and argues that we have moved beyond old-fashioned cause and effect related history into a non-linear quasi-reality grounded only in simulation, the powerful legacy of modern communication technology and the profound capacities for re-production that our wondrous machines provide. He uses hi-fi as a metaphor to illustrate how we have gone beyond the "vanishing point" into the era of news over direct experience, digitally created collaborations over live ensemble playing, the triumph of represented experience, in all aspects of life.
---> The Age Of Hyper-Reality from Sound Practices.

 

 

Discovering The Lowther Acousta  --  VALVE Magazine

Discovering The Lowther Acousta
Article By Doug Grove
From VALVE Volume 2 Number 9
Whaat do I say when a fellow hi-fi enthusiast calls and asks if I know anything about Lowther speakers. He had just picked up a pair of Lowther Acoustas at a garage sale. Being totally unfamiliar with Lowther speakers I called Dan at VALVE who filled me in on the Lowther Voigt article in the Winter 94/95 (this is the current issue/) issue of Sound Practices. I had to see (and hopefully hear) what these obscure English loudspeakers were all about, so I went over to my friend's house for a look. The cabinets were scratched and dented, but still in one piece. The foam surrounds on the drivers had dissolved long ago. The cones had punctures, rips, and creases. The voice coils were distorted and scraping in their gaps. A resistance measurement of 10.5 Ohms indicated that restoration might be possible, if the voice coils were still intact. I left, disappointed that I could not hear them. Dan referred me to Tony Glynn in Salem Oregon. Tony represents Lowther state-side. After a lengthy and very informative telephone conversation Tony recommended re-coning each driver with a new Lowther cone assembly bolted to the original magnet structure.
---> Discovering the Lowther Acousta by VALVE magazine.

 

 

Magnepan MG 3.6 Magneplanar Loudspeaker Review

Magnepan MG 3.6 Magneplanar Loudspeaker Review
Getting thin for the summer.
Review By Steven R. Rochlin
Loudspeakers come in all shapes and sizes. From small stand mounted minimonitor to the huge room hogging 500 lbs. monolithic "Dream Reference Statement". Virtually every high-quality speaker has many areas it excels in and areas it leaves a bit to be desired. For it is only you who knows which part(s) of the music you can live with and without. Nothing is perfect my friend. Bassheads need not venture into Minimonitor Land while small jazz ensemble lovers probably can do without the 32 drivers per channel "Dream Reference Statement." Then there are people such as myself who want it all. From small duets during the quiet moment in life to big rave club action for those Saturday night techno parties. Can one pair of speakers suit all my needs... or yours? In the end is it true what they say, "size matters?" It is well known the optimum driver would be of extremely little weight, extremely rigid and have the ability to respond to electrical signals at blindingly fast rates without over or undershoot.
---> Magnepan MG 3.6 magneplanar loudspeaker review.

 

 

VAC Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V With MM/MC Phono Stage Review

World Premiere Review!
VAC Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V With MM/MC Phono Stage Review

For serious music lovers living at the cutting edge of what is possible.
Review By Ron Nagle
The letters 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. Interestingly, the VAC company are not very specific about the exact type of tubes required. The specification tells us that you can substitute the following, 6DJ8 / ECC88 / E88CC / 6922 / 7308 as these are once again all similar miniature dual/twin triode vacuum tubes.
---> VAC Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V with MM/MC phono stage review.

 

 

Synergistic Research Tweakfest With the Orange Duplex, Carbon Fiber Duplex Cover, Tranquility Pod, MiG SX footers and Ground Block. Review By Rick Becker

TBT: World Premiere Review!
Synergistic Research Tweakfest

With the Orange Duplex, Carbon Fiber Duplex Cover, Tranquility Pod, MiG SX footers and Ground Block.
Review By Rick Becker
Originally, I wanted to write an article about turning my aging speakers into a more contemporary version with the addition of some tweaks for tens of thousand dollars less than buying a new pair. I called up Andy Wiederspahn at Synergistic Research and gave him my wish list. Although he was willing to help, he politely twisted my arm and convinced me to first review the quartet of hot new products they have just released. How could I refuse? Conventional knowledge says you should only put one item for review into your system at a time, but to me, that's kind of like playing checkers. Chess is more challenging and to up the ante, Andy added their Ground Block for convenience. What could go wrong? After all, Synergistic Research is one of the cutting edge companies in high-end audio. I have a lot of their gear in my rig already and their 'house sound' aligns with my personal preferences for high resolution, vivid tonal color, and a glorious sense of spaciousness.
---> Synergistic Research Orange Duplex, Carbon Fiber Duplex Cover, Tranquility Pod, MiG SX footers and Ground Block review.

 

 

Bob Carver Cherry 180 Vacuum Tube Monoblock Amplifier Review

TBT: World Premiere Review!
Bob Carver Cherry 180 Tube Monoblock Amplifier
One of the most significant tube amplifiers of the past 60 years!
Review By Dick Olsher
Everyone, I'm sure, has by now heard that the innovative and dare I say legend in his own time, Bob Carver, is back! Carver LLC is about tube amplifiers, and soon loudspeakers. It is really the tale of two Bobs: Bob Carver the designer, and Bob Farinelli the business and marketing hub. Two tube monoblock amps are currently shipping: the Cherry 180 and Black Beauty 305. Both share the same chassis, but the 180 is optimized for a KT88 output stage while the 305 is designed specifically for the KT120. Although promoted as a nominal 180 Watt amp, Carver tells me that the Cherry 180 will deliver about 270 Watts. Although on the surface they may appear to be conventional push-pull Class AB power amps, there's much more here than meets the eye. They should be understood as Formula 1 racing car designs, optimized for high-power performance. Throughout this review I've taken the liberty of quoting from Bob Carver responses to my many questions.
---> Bob Carver Cherry 180 tube monoblock amplifier review.

 

 

First Watt Model SIT-1 Solid-State Monoblock Power Amplifier Review

First Watt Model SIT-1 Monoblock Power Amplifier Review
The power of the First Watt digs deeply into the fabric of music to communicate soul, drama, and passion.
Review By Dick Olsher
Imagine a single-ended Class A power amplifier comprising a single transistor, that is devoid of any feedback, and which behaves similarly to a power triode? Does this scenario sound too good to be true? Well, that's exactly what the First Watt SIT-1 is all about. It deploys a unique type of device, a variant of the JFET, referred to as a static induction transistor (SIT). It was invented in the early 1970s by Jun-ichi Nishizawa, a true genius who is considered the "father of Japanese microelectronics." The SIT enjoyed a brief audio career in power amplifiers by Yamaha and Sony, but has continued to evolve since then mainly for UHF and S-band applications in radar and communication satellite systems. It is a voltage controlled device whereby the signal modulates the electrostatic potential barrier produced by the gate the grid like element of the SIT. Unlike an ordinary FET whose current-voltage characteristics are pentode like, those of the SIT are triode like. One important consequence of this is the low output impedance even in single-ended operation. And because of its inherent low-voltage and high-current characteristics, no output transformer is required for matching the output stage to a loudspeaker.
---> First Watt Model SIT-1 monoblock power amplifier review.

 

 

Quad PA-One+ Triode Vacuum Tube DAC / Headamp Review

Quad PA-One+ Triode Vacuum Tube DAC / Headamp Review
The quintessential audiophile tube amp for headphones.
Review By Gary Alan Barker
When I reviewed the Quad ERA-1 Planar Magnetic Headphone I knew that Quad had made the occasional tube amp over the years, but considered them to be a speaker manufacturer, what I didn't know (until I had researched for the ERA-1 review) was that they had started as an amplifier company, such are the pitfalls of redefining loudspeaker technology and producing one of the best sounding and highest respected speakers of all time, the ESL (Electrostatic Loudspeaker). As fate would have it Quad is, in fact, an audiophile amplifier company who also designs and builds speakers, hence when I discovered the Quad PA-One+ at RMAF 2018, I agreed to hold onto the ERA-1 until a review sample could be sent.
---> Quad PA-One+ triode vacuum tube DAC / headamp review.

 

 

Understanding Digital Room Correction For Audiophiles Article By Mitch Barnett Of Accurate Sound

Understanding Digital Room Correction
Article By Mitch Barnett Of Accurate Sound
Modern Digital Room Correction (DRC) is an often misunderstood subject area. I have seen many articles written on the subject that don't answer basic questions such as what problem is DRC trying to solve? How does DRC work? And why, as an audiophile, should I care? This article endeavors to answer these questions. Let's start off with what problem DRC is trying to solve. One can identify the problem fairly quickly by listening to the bass response of your loudspeakers in your room. Try it along with me. Find some music that has a variety of bass notes. The more the variety, the more frequencies we are testing, just by listening to music.
---> Read more about understanding room correction.

 

 

Etsuro Urushi Bordeaux Moving Coil Phono Cartridge Review

Etsuro Urushi Bordeaux Moving Coil Phono Cartridge Review
Getting closer to the music etched into your LP's grooves.
Review By Tom Lyle
It was about a year ago that I reviewed the cartridge that's one step lower in Etsuro Urushi's line, their Cobalt Blue. In the review I said that the Cobalt Blue is "a super-transparent window into the recording that was etched into an LP's surface", praising this cartridge to the point where one might be led to believe that there is no better cartridge on the market. This is not the first time I've felt as though I have painted myself into a corner when reviewing a piece of high-end audio equipment, which happens more often than not when the equipment performs as well as the Cobalt Blue. In the back of my mind I must have known that there are better cartridges out there to be had, but the Cobalt Blue, with its excellent tracking, which I suppose has lots to do with its suppression of the record's surface noise, and just as importantly, its lifelike reproduction of instruments and voices, seduced me. How could it not? It seemed as if my favorite records never sounded better. I got lost in the music.
---> Etsuro Urushi Bordeaux moving coil phono cartridge review.

 

 

Abyss AB-1266 Planar Magnetic Headphones By JPS Labs Review

Abyss AB-1266 Planar Magnetic Headphones Review
The journey is the destination.
Review By Dave Hanson
The practice of building a home system and tweaking it to perfection is a time-honored tradition among music lovers and audiophiles. And I'm not just talking about buying equipment and is plainly evident within my review of the Abyss AB-1266 headphones and you'll soon learn. It's about perfecting the angle of the speaker. Damping the reflective surfaces of the room. Perhaps even rewiring the electrical sockets in search of that last one or two percent. Few understand this practice better than Joe Skubinski of JPS Labs, a man who has built a name for himself in the world of high-end cables... In his first headphone, the Abyss AB-1266 ($5495 for this Deluxe version and $4495 in Lite version), Skubinski has captured some of the magic of the personal journey to audio perfection and scaled it down to size.
---> Abyss AB-1266 planar magnetic headphones review.

 

 

 

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