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High-End Audio / Audiophile Equipment Reviews And Think Pieces

April 2021


A Primer: Attending An Audio Show

A Primer: Attending An Audio Show
Plus a few tasty bits of insider info you need to know.
Article By Steven R. Rochlin
Hi guys and gals in AudioLand. With all these show reports contained within the Enjoy the Music.com pages, i felt you would be interested in what it takes to cover shows as a humble writer looking to get scoops on all the groovy gear. First comes making all the arrangements. The airline tickets, the hotel reservation, the rental car... Nothing hard with that except being a bit strenuous on your wallet. Have you seen what these hotel rooms cost? Almost 300 sheckles for the 'phile City show... each night! Hmmm, being short on cashola i guess it will be fun staying at the YMCA for me again this year....
--->A Primer: Attending an audio show.



Remember What High-End Audio You're There To Buy!

Remember What High-End Audio
You're There To Buy!
Roger Skoff writes about the best way to get what you pay for.
Article By Roger Skoff
With the possible exception of a few fanatic Drill Collectors (who knows, there might be some). There are certainly plenty of strange hobbies out there – look at ours, for example! Nobody ever buys a drill because he wants to own a drill. What he really wants is holes; the drill is just what you have to buy to make them. Our high-end audio hobby seems pretty much the same – or, at least, so we tell ourselves. What we want is music, and the only reason we buy all this stuff (equipment, recordings, room treatments, "tweaks", etc.) is because that's what we have to do to get it.
---> Remember what high-end audio you're there to buy!



10 Examples Of How RCA Was The Apple Of Its Day

10 Examples Of How RCA
Was The Apple Of Its Day
Article By Bobby Owsinski
A while back I read a great post on the Daily Beast about how the old RCA company (Radio Corporation of America) was actually Apple way before Apple came into existence. Of course, that means that there were numerous similarities between the company that were pretty impressive. For instance: RCA founder David Sarnoff was the original Steve Jobs. He willed his company to be the most innovative and technology driven company of its time. When Sarnoff retired in 1970, the company lost its way and diversified into food and real estate, eventually being acquired by GE. Obviously that hasn't happened with Apple after Jobs passing, but you can't deny that Jobs influence definitely made a difference in its products.
---> 10 examples of how RCA was the Apple of its day.



Digital Audio Consumption Grows, Even In A Pandemic Article By Ted Green, President Of The Stratecon Group, Inc.

Digital Audio Consumption Grows,
Even In A Pandemic
Article By Ted Green, President Of The Stratecon Group, Inc.
In new data from eMarketer, we learn that digital audio continues to grow even in the wake of a global pandemic. And by grow, they mean that the time users spend listening to this type of content continues to increase. Early in the pandemic, this didn't necessarily look like it would be the case, as homebound consumers turned to traditional TV or social media (or both) leading many researchers to suggest digital audio would lose some ground. Many market researchers, including eMarketer, had predicted that digital audio would be hit hard by the pandemic. Why would they think that? Because conventional wisdom had it that most users enjoyed listening to this kind of content during their commute to/from work.
---> Digital audio consumption grows...



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.



CH Precision — A Postscript

CH Precision — A Postscript Review
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 mind.
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 supports.
---> CH Precision — A Postscript.



Avantgarde Acoustic Duo XD Hornspeaker Review

Avantgarde Acoustic Duo XD Hornspeaker Review
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.



Radio Shack's Realistic System 200 Stereo Review

Radio Shack's Realistic System 200 Review
Tremendous features and an authentic value!
Review By Mark Rochlin
Today I received the most amazing unit to evaluate, the Realistic System 200! New for 1988, this unit represents a new peak of the Tandy / Radio Shack line and continues the tradition of quality and value that makes Radio Shack famous and guarantees their continued success. Their System 200's ingenious design revolves around both sonic excellence and ease of use. Styled in a custom made faux walnut-looking rack with matching speakers, this unit will enhance the style of your living room. Radio Shack has taken the unique approach of enclosing the entire unit within one single chassis. This allows them to invest into their system where it counts, the internal electronics.
---> Radio Shack's Realistic System 200 stereo review.



AGD The Audion MKII Monoblock Amplifier Review

World Premiere Review!
AGD The Audion MKII Monoblock Amplifier Review
The Audion MkII takes this prized monoblock to the next level.
Review By Rick Becker
To be a successful manufacturer it is imperative to know when to draw the line on product development and call it ready for production. The problem is most designers know the creative process can go on indefinitely. Technology rarely stands still. What is cleverly called "passion" often can be arguably described as an obsessive-compulsive addiction to perfection. Those who cannot draw the line and commit to even small-scale production become artisans of serial, unique products, no two of which are alike. A clever way to avoid this trap is modular construction. Alberto Guerra was thinking several chess moves in advance when he came out with his stunning Vivace monoblock Class D amplifiers with GaN MOSFET transistors.
---> AGD The Audion MKII monoblock amplifier review.



The Audiophile Car (TAC) :-)

Exotic Automobile Manufacturer Offers
The Audiophile Car

Audiophiles no longer need to hibernate at home!
Review By Steven R. Rochlin
For decades audiophiles have been stuck to the confines of their homes to reach musical bliss. In these, usually, darkened rooms they would toil away tweaking and tuning looking for the next nirvana. It brings me great joy to announce the very first auto manufacturer to satisfy the needs of audiophiles worldwide. This next generation vehicle will suit both those looking for style and substance. It is no secret that home audio is doomed from the beginning with lackluster alternating current. This problem is exacerbated with the use of dedicated power lines, power filters, regenerators, and balancers. The Audiophile Car, or TAC for short, removes this entire exercise by being 100% battery powered!
---> Exotic Automobile 'The Audiophile Car'.



Audience adeptResponse aR6-T4 Passive Power Conditioner Review With Audience's frontRow powerChord

Audience adeptResponse aR6-T4 Passive Power Conditioner With Audience's frontRow powerChord Review
Reacquaint yourself with the art of deep listening.
Review By Dr. Michael Bump
I recently came across an article written in early March 2020 by LA Times Staff Writer, Randall Roberts. The write-up, entitled, The Lost Art of Deep Listening: Choose an album. Lose the phone. Close your eyes, is offered as a challenge (to those who are otherwise not of an audiophile persuasion) to listen with all manner of intent as if binge-watching all seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy (which I admittedly have done now on three occasions). The assignment: Clear your schedule for the next three hours of all distractions. Choose three full recordings from your collection and put them in an ordered queue (as if you were programming a triple feature binge-watch). Then, close your eyes, and just listen... Roberts reflects, "There was a time when listeners treated the mere existence of recorded sound like a miracle – a wonder, a kind of time travel. Vintage images from the space age, recalling couples seated around their high-fidelity systems as if being warmed by a fireplace."
---> Audience adeptResponse aR6-T4 passive power conditioner with Audience's frontRow powerChord.



Tweaking Without Limits For your special April 1 celebration. Article By Jeff Poth

Tweaking Without Limits
For your special April 1 celebration.
Article By Jeff Poth
Sometimes, dear reader, we hear of tweaks that leave us scratching our heads — how could anyone be so foolish? The HST, or Head Scratch Threshold varies by person- some would lump cables in here (not me!) and some would say that the quantum effects touted by some are totally legit. Many times, perhaps even most of the time, these tweaks are as phoney as a stuffed mermaid. But in some cases, it is simply a lack of understanding that leads to dismissive attitudes. With audio cables, for example, we see an extremely tiny signal, one which crosses the 0V point repeatedly. Due to this tiny signal level and lack of an absolute bias, dielectric absorption and mechanical resonance (microphony) are much larger issues than they would be in a larger scale signal transmission.
---> Tweaking without limits, a special April celebration.



FiiO FD5 Flagship Dynamic In-Ear Monitors (IEM) Review

FiiO FD5 Flagship Dynamic In-Ear Monitors (IEM) Review
You can teach an old dog new tricks!
Review By Paul Schumann
As I approach the big 6-0, I have become more mindful of the choices I make and how I spend my time. I am constantly asking myself, "How can I get the most out of this day?" Sure, I still waste too much time on Facebook and YouTube, but I still try to block out some time each day for something that will challenge me in some way. It might be trying a new recipe, coming up with a new teaching strategy, working on a new audio equipment project, listening to a new challenging piece of music, attempting a new yoga pose, or watching a new show. Included in this endeavor is reviewing new and different pieces of equipment. Thanks to Steven's benevolent leadership, I have been able to listen to, and write about a wide variety of high-end pieces of equipment from all over the world.
---> FiiO FD5 flagship dynamic in-ear monitors (IEM) review.



Sennheiser HD820 Closed Back Stereo Headphones Review

Sennheiser HD820 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 Loudspeaker Review

Monitor Audio Bronze 200 & Fyne Audio F302 Loudspeakers Review
Which One is Right for You?
Review By Mads Malmbak
What 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

Clarus CODA DAC Review
Taking it with you.
Review By Michael Laurance
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 review.



RAAL Requisite HSA-1b Headphone / Speaker Amplifier Review

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 Iacone reviewed 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.



Listener Magazine: The Intro
Editorial By Art Dudley
Until eight or nine months ago, Listener Magazine rented office space U on the second floor of what used to be the Oddfellows Hall in Oneonta, New York. Our two rooms were toward the back of the building, right next to a spacious and well-equipped kitchen. judging from what we found in the building, hot meals were a key part of every Oddfellows meeting, along with a thoroughly bizarre ceremony involving elderly men dressed like David and Goliath and a skeleton in a black cardboard coffin. (And thus evaporated all mystery surrounding the group's name.) The important thing here is the kitchen, in which we kept a coffeemaker. One day it was my turn to wash it....
---> The Intro by Art Dudley of Listener magazine.



Not Your Father's Dyna... A poor man's SE Amp

Not Your Father's Dyna...
A poor man's SE Amp
Article By Dave McDonald and Matt Kamna
From Sound Practices Issue 10, Winter 1995
Dumpster diving Dyna fans take note!
How did I end up with a single-ended Dyna stereo 70? A little background will help to understand. As a kid I grew up with vacuum tubes — Knight Kit regenerative and superhet shortwave radios, 12W mono amplifiers, and later a Citation 30W integrated amp kit. There were solid state kits too, including an 80W stereo amp. I did a lot of tinkering in those early years, mostly making solid state radios, science projects, and the like. A couple of years ago over at my friend Matt's house, I was exposed to SE WE212E amps flooding the room with light and sound. The 212E amps were too expensive for my budget. I also assisted in the creation of 2A3 and 300B amps.
---> Not Your Father's Dyna... from Sound Practices.



Editor's Thing Article By Dan 'Doc B." Schmalle  --  VALVE Magazine

Editor's Thing
Article By Dan 'Doc B." Schmalle
From VALVE Volume 2 Number 8
Sitting here writing this in a heat wave. Somehow those pretty fire bottles that keep the basement shop warm in the winter seem like a real liability this 90 degree day. But if this isn't blues weather, I don't know what is. So I pull out Elmore, B. B. and Blind Lemon, and pretend I'm the third Blues brother. Man, after listening to stuff like Living Stereos and Telarcs, this stuff is funky. Makes your system sound like one of those Rockola's (you know, that was really the guy's name) with the tail fins. I love it. This is listening that has nothing to do with the word 'audiophile'. Yes, the Muddy Waters redo has fabulous so nice (by the way, I found the CD and the vinyl very close in quality) but a reissued 1951 Elmore James has the same stuff a 20 year old Bordeaux has, that real warm, soft velvety kind of presentation....
---> Editor's Thing article by Dan 'Doc B." Schmalle.



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.



Endow Audio T35 Point-Array Floorstanding Loudspeakers Review

World Premiere Review!
Endow Audio T35 Point-Array Loudspeakers

Exceptionally well made with impressive on- and off-axis sound.
Review By Brett Rudolph
Last month I had the fortune of being asked to review new speakers from Endow, which made their debut at the Florida Audio Expo 2020. Endow Audio's T35s loudspeakers, according to the company, represents the same quality at a substantially reduced price without cutting corners. Indeed, they are certainly visually a sight to behold.... The engineering itself was fascinating; Endow utilized multiple drivers in various phases and closed baffle in a very non-trivial design to allow for a very expansive off-axis listening field. Additionally, the speakers do not have any crossover built-in within the Point Array (read: no high pass filter), with the 12" woofer having a low pass filter. There are no filters above 100 Hz, which is a factor in sonic performance. These speakers do not suffer from the problems many speakers have where reproduction is hindered by crossover issues, which might negatively impact the overall sonics at specific points.
---> Endow Audio T35 point-array loudspeaker review.



EMM Labs CDSA SE Stereo SACD / CD Player Review

EMM Labs CDSA SE Stereo SACD / CD Player Review
The gold standard!
Review By Phil Gold
I'm going to say upfront that this machine is capable of the best digital sound it has been my pleasure to hear, the best by some margin. It will open your eyes to the stunning potential of SACD, so often hidden by mediocre implementations, and can go head to head with exotic vinyl spinners for ultimate fidelity. There is no aural sugar coating, artificial warmth or hyped up dynamics designed to impress in the showroom. This is the real McCoy — a machine dedicated to extracting the maximum accuracy from a two channel SACD signal. But it is not the user-friendliest piece of equipment, it won't do multi-channel or DVD-Audio, and who knows where SACD is heading!
---> EMM Labs CDSA SE stereo SACD / CD player 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
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.
---> VAC Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V with MM/MC phono stage review.




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