At a gathering I was having a casual conversation with a friend of a friend about music and high-end audio. Eventually the discussion led to the Dan D'Agostino Momentum Integrated amplifier I was reviewing at the time for Enjoy The Music.com, and whether a $50,000 amplifier would be within any sane person's budget. He said to me that even though he is very well-off (he is about two-steps away from being the CEO at a financial company), he would never consider a purchase like that. I said to him that the D'Agostino's products were rather popular, and that some who have an extraordinary passion for music, combined the means, are willing to spend that amount of money. He was not convinced, and we ended up agreeing to disagree. Yet, I still feel that the combination of a love for music and some money in the bank not only applies to an opulent piece of gear like the Dan D'Agostino Lifestyle amplifier, but for just about any piece of high-end gear.
I remember once telling a non-audiophile that I purchased a $250 interconnect, and this non-audiophile was just about ready to make a phone call to have me carted away to a mental institution in a straight-jacket. But every audiophile that I have met has joined in on this pursuit because of their love of music. And I think we should keep this in mind when reading about very expensive equipment in Enjoy the Music.com. If one has the means, it must be more than nice to purchase high-end gear at the upper-end of the price spectrum.
Reading about this equipment is fun. Not only does it give us the thrill of reading about this expensive gear, we also might gain insights into how to assemble and then maximize the enjoyment of our own systems. The bottom line, at least to me, is the enjoyment of the music. And this time the pun is intended!
This month, besides having some great equipment reviews that I'll get to in a moment, one can read the many show reports we've produced in 2017. The proliferation of audio shows throughout not only North America, but the world, means that Enjoy the Music.com will report on even more shows, so one should expect us to cover even more as time goes on. In 2017 Enjoy the Music.com reported on twelve high-end audio shows, including shows in Toronto, Denver, Munich, Montreal, Los Angeles, Kuala Lumpur, Chicago, New York City, and high-end equipment at the annual CES in Las Vegas. There will be even more shows appearing within the virtual pages of Enjoy the Music.com in 2018!
Speaking of high-end gear, in this month's issue there's a world premier review, which means it is the first time it has been reviewed anywhere, by Ron Nagle of the Wells Audio Majestic integrated amplifier. This 150 Watts per channel solid-stage integrated amp has an optional phono stage, which impressed Ron so much so that I think any analog-loving audiophile will find it difficult to resist if they end up purchasing this integrated amplifier. The Majestic is a sweet looking amp made in Northern California that sells for less than $5000 – including the phono stage if one opts for it.
Dave Hanson reviews the MrSpeakers ĆON open back over-the-ear stereo headphones this month's edition. He says that it "may very well be the best total headphone packages under $1000". Last time out Dave reviewed ĆON's closed-back headphone, which ended up winning a 2017 Blue Note Award. So, I find no reason not to be excited about MrSpeakers' new entry into the headphone arena. Personally, I feel that a good set of headphones and a decent headphone amplifier to drive them should be part of every serious audiophile's arsenal.
I had the honor of living with and listening to two pieces of equipment by longtime high-end audio manufacturer Audio by Van Alstine. AVA has been around for quite a while, and has earned a reputation of offering high-performance high-end equipment for less than other's equivalently performing gear. They do away with some of the fancy equipment cabinets and other non-useful features that may festoon the pricier gear, but leave the top-notch sound quality intact.
The Audio by Van Alstine DVA 4/2 power amplifier can be used as either a 4- or 2-channel amp, delivering 125 Watts from each of its four channels, or 350 Wpc when used in stereo mode. I tested this solid-state power amplifier as a stereo unit because I don't have a home-theater set-up, and I doubt that I ever will. I much prefer listening to music on a two-channel system. That's just me. But I digress. AVA also sent me for review their DAC MK 5 digital-to-analog converter that can decode digital signals as high as DSD128 through its USB input. Both have rather plain looking cabinets, but aren't anywhere near plain sounding.
Enjoy The Music.com is honored to partner with many other high-end publications, including The Absolute Sound, Hi-Fi (Australia), Hi-fi+ (UK), HIFICRITIC (UK), HiFi Media (Croatia), Hi-Fi World (UK), NOVO (Canada), and Sound Practices. This month we feature from the January's issue of HIFICRITIC a review of Pass Labs XP-12 preamplifier and XA30.8 stereo amplifier. Those who are aware know that in my main system my reference power amplifier and phono preamplifier are both made by Pass Laboratories, and my headphone amplifier is also manufactured by Pass Labs, so I might be just a bit biased when it comes to judging gear made by this company.
This month we also have Jeremy Kipnis' PureAudioProject Quintet15 Horn1 modular open baffle loudspeaker review. Within it, he says "if you care about connecting with your music, then your going to have to give the PureAudioProject Quintet15 Horn1 an audition because it can (quite possibly) transform your listening experience." There's more reviews and of course Roger Skoff's monthly think piece. This month Roger asks is audio one hobby or many.
I'm not biased at all, as it's my job to be as objective as one can be when it comes to reviewing high-end audio equipment. And so far, so good. I enjoy reading about all audio equipment just as much as any other music loving audiophile, and to be able to read other's impressions of a fine-looking amp and preamp by Pass Labs is fun, even though the reviewer is using 220 Volts from their wall receptacles!
In the end what really matter is that you...