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1 MARCH THE HOME OF REAL HI-FI Exclusive VI VINYL ICON REVIEW N DAVID BOWIE Cutting-edge tinge dgeki kitf from the greatest show on Earth 2016 McIntosh C1100 Two-box tube preamp Budget Esoterica Mini hi-fi from Pro-Ject Air apparent Roksan s new Oxygene 30 Diamond update B&W s 803 re-imagined Naked digital CAD s filterless DAC INVESTIGATION PLUS 18 pages of music reviews & features VINYL RE-RELEASE Tubeway Army s Replicas on 180g OPINION 12 pages of letters & comment VINTAGE REVIEW Rotel s RCD-865 Bit Stream CD player SHOW BLOG We report from CES 2016 in Las Vegas READERS CLASSIFIEDS Hi-Fi bargains galore UK 4.50 US $12.99 Aus $10.99


3 CONTENTS VINYL & RECORD REVIEWS 74 Classical Companion Christopher Breunig s guide to classical music continues with his pick of the recordings made by concert pianist Maria João Pires 76 Vinyl Release Once a figure of fun, Gary Numan has the last laugh as Tubeway Army s Replicas LP is reissued on 180g vinyl. Steve Sutherland listens 78 Vinyl Icon Was this the album on which David Bowie revealed his true personality? Mike Barnes pays tribute to one of the 20th century s musical giants with a look at Low 84 Classic Rock Venues Steve Sutherland continues his tour of the world s iconic music venues with the story of Shea Stadium in the New York borough of Queens 90 Music Reviews Our selection of audiophile LP and hi-res downloads reviewed by our specialists alongside the latest rock, jazz and classical albums DEFINITIVE PRODUCT REVIEWS 32 Devialet Original d Atelier Limited to just 100 pieces, the French company s latest evolution of its innovative ADH amplifier technology boasts a 900W rating ABOVE: Designed and hand-built in Italy, the Sonus faber Venere Signature speaker, p56 36 B&W 803 D3 Is the most heavily revised model in B&W s new Diamond speaker series really a slimmed-down 802 D3? 40 Audiolab 8300CD/8300A A pedigree name aims for the price-conscious audiophile with a reworked CD player/dac and amp 44 Roksan Oxygene 30 Four-layer plinth, two-part platter and a Pro-Ject 9CC Evolution tonearm... Oxygene series gains a turntable 48 CAD CAT/1543MkII This CD ripper and filterless USB DAC offer a purist approach to PC audio. Deliciously addictive, but at a price McIntosh C1100C/T Two-chassis preamp packs no fewer than 12 tubes. A do-it-all design and, for Mac fans at least, the ultimate pre 56 Sonus faber Venere S Three-way speaker bridges the gap between the Venere and higher-end Olympica ranges. We re seduced 60 Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2 Tweaked flagship phones promise even greater musicality. But is it plaudits all round? We find out Pro-Ject Box Design DS We hear the Box Design DS CD player, amp and network player as a system 71 Atlas Mavros Ultra Copper alternative to flagship cable VINTAGE 118 Vintage Review How does the classic kit of yesteryear measure up today? We test Rotel s RCD bit CD player from From The Vault This month s dip into HFN s archive is from 1990 where Paul Miller assesses Kenwood s recordable CD system NEWS AND OPINION 13 Welcome A message from the editor 14 News Elac unveils Uni-Fi speakers with electronics to match, S-shaped arm from Pro-Ject, Clearaudio upgrades Statement turntable, Luxman debuts L-590AXII its finest integrated yet 16 Show Blog Paul Miller reports from CES 2016 where among heavyweight amps and strapping speakers, turntables and pick-ups were back to do battle 26 Investigation There s every chance the speakers used in your system use technology developed by the eminent engineer Siegfried Linkwitz. We talk to him Opinion Insider comment on the audio topics of the day from Paul Miller, Barry Fox, Jim Lesurf, Steve Harris and, writing from the US, Barry Willis 112 Sound Off Getting to grips with loudspeaker sweet-spots, the emotional appeal of vintage gear, reader s experiences with wet-cleaning records, plus output clipping and safe listening 138 Off The Leash This month sees talk of a revolution as Ken Kessler applauds a speaker of genuine high-end inventiveness from a brand some say time forgot ABOVE: Audio engineer Siegfried Linkwitz shares his thoughts on speaker design, p26 BSCRIBE! SUBSCRIBE! Special Christmas offer: FREE! Three AudioQuest issues for JitterBug just 3! USB filter worth 39! See p88 See page MARCH 16 MARCH

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6 Since 1984 Distributed in the UK and Ireland by: (0) Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2JD

7 UNCOMPROMISED INNOVATION 'Blade Two can be seen as much evolutionary as revolutionary.' Hi-Fi News, July 2015 The world s first single apparent source speakers deliver a sound so precise that it s virtually indistinguishable from a live performance. After three years of intensive development, and packed with cutting edge technologies, the groundbreaking original concept is now available in two sizes: Blade and Blade Two. If you really love your music, the result is a total delight. GP Acoustics (UK) Ltd, Eccleston Road, Tovil, Maidstone, Kent. Tel:

8 Revolution starts from within. Look at our new range of power amplifiers and you d be forgiven for thinking not much has changed. Only the DR badge on the rear panel hints at the revolutionary technology within. Inside, our new Naim DR (Discrete Regulation) power supply circuitry and the radical new NA009 transistors developed for our flagship power amplifier, the Statement NAP S1, enhance the fundamentals of pace, rhythm and timing for which the originals are so renowned. The result is an even more immersive and involving music experience. Listen and you ll feel the difference immediately. Discover more and book a demonstration with your nearest specialist retailer at Go Deeper



11 Criterion Audio is a new, premium hi-fi dealer in Cambridge. From vinyl and valves to the latest in streaming and headphones, we can help you find the perfect audio system to suit your budget and needs. We have a wide range of carefully selected products: from familiar brands to amazing manufacturers you will not find anywhere else in the UK. Come visit us and listen in one of our purpose-built demo rooms or relax in our dedicated headphone lounge. AND MANY MANY MORE!


13 MAR/16 JSTONE/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM RIGHT: Beyerdynamic has revoiced its flagship T1 headphones to offer a slightly warmer and fuller sound we test the next gen on p60 ABOVE: Bespoke CD ripping transport and filterless USB DAC from Computer Audio Design gets a comprehensive HFN review on p48 VINYL: We celebrate the passing of a legend with Bowie s Low as this month s Vinyl Icon (p78) while Steve Sutherland reveals his impact on Numan as Tubeway Army s Replicas is re-released on LP (p76) RIGHT: Hi-Fi News & RR is the UK s representative of EISA s Hi-Fi Expert Group. Editor Paul Miller is EISA s President-elect & Hi-Fi Group Manager Time flies when you are having fun and managing the world s oldest and arguably most respected hi-fi magazine certainly has its moments but I could swear the annual sojourn at CES comes about that little bit quicker every year. CES, once known as the Consumer Electronics Show and then International CES (perhaps because consumers are not admitted) and now just CES because there s also CES Asia, is still a very big deal. Whatever else it is, CES is not a hi-fi show. It s described as the world s largest innovation event and has exhibitors stretching out from the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Centre to many of the outlying hotels. So if a product has a plug, a battery or even a solar cell, then it s represented at CES. Somewhere. High Performance Audio, in CES parlance, necessarily occupies a small corner of this expanding electronics universe despite it largely filling over three floors of the Venetian Hotel as part of the Show s growing Tech West exhibition space. Nevertheless, there s no escaping the fact that manufacturers and distributors of high-end audio are arguably better served by the collective impact of the genuinely audiofocused events held elsewhere around the world. Hi-Fi News reports on at least one of these global happenings every month, the best of which include Munich s High End, the Hong Kong AV Show, Newport Beach in CA and I m bound to suggest our own Hi-Fi Show Live in Windsor, Oct th. CES is still very useful for flagging up hi-fi trends at the beginning of the season. I had never seen so many new turntables before at any CES Headphones have burned very brightly in recent years but while USB DACs, servers and media players nearly took over between , this year I had never seen so many new turntables. Technics is back in the game, as is Sony, and we saw exquisite new designs from Continuum, EAT, Clearaudio, Monaco, and some very affordable LP spinners from Pro-Ject and music moguls Mobile Fidelity. Read all about it from p16. PAUL MILLER EDITOR HI-FI NEWS EXPERT LINE UP: THE FINEST MINDS IN AUDIO JOURNALISM BRING THEIR EXPERIENCE TO BEAR ON ALL AREAS OF HI-FI & MUSIC BARRY FOX Investigative journalist supreme, Barry is the first with news of the latest developments in hi-fi and music technologies JOHN BAMFORD JB brings huge industry experience, a penchant for massive speakers and a love of hi-res audio in all its diverse guises KEN KESSLER is a long-serving contributor, luxury goods writer and champion for the renaissance in valves and vintage hi-fi KEITH HOWARD has written about hi-fi for 30 years, and edited Hi-Fi Answers for nine. KH performs our speaker and headphone lab tests STEVE HARRIS Former Editor of this very title from 1986 through to A lifetime in audio and a love of jazz makes Steve a goldmine ANDREW EVERARD has reviewed hi-fi for over 30 years and is still effortlessly enthusiastic about new technology, kit and discovering new music STEVE SUTHERLAND worked on Melody Maker and then edited NME from , the Britpop years. Steve brings a unique slant to our Vinyl Release pages MARCH

14 NEWS We reveal the latest products and upcoming events Elac s expansion MORE NEW AFFORDABLE LOUDSPEAKERS FROM ELAC WITH PARTNERING SEPARATES The announcement of designer Andrew Jones move from TAD to Elac America last year was swiftly followed by the launch of his aptly-named Debut loudspeaker range, comprising eight models. The Hi-Fi Show Live 2015 provided audiophiles a first chance to hear these designs, now joined by yet another series called Uni-Fi. Comprising the UB5 standmount, UF5 floorstander and UC5 centre channel, these speakers all feature a new dual-concentric driver (4in mid/1in treble) with a 5.25in aluminium woofer. Prices will be sub Joining these loudspeakers is a fresh range of electronics including the Discovery Music Server and Debut DA101EQ integrated amplifier [pictured]. Prices are anticipated to be around 700 and 500, respectively, the server based around Roon music playback software and designed to operate without the need for a laptop or PC. Compatibility with Tidal s streaming service is offered and, along with access to local content on an attached USB drive and/or NAS, your music is easily explored and played (including multi-room) via Elac s Discovery Roon App. Meanwhile, the DA101EQ is based around a new and very efficient BASH amplifier module [see Investigation, HFN Feb 15], with switchmode PSU, rated at 100W into 8 and 4ohm loads. The DA101EQ amp includes seven inputs, including analogue line, digital S/PDIF, asynchronous USB, and Bluetooth, as well as a dedicated sub output. All these new Elac products are expected to be generally available by the second quarter of ELAC Electroacustic GmbH, ; Another Statement CLEARAUDIO REVAMPS MASSIVE TURNTABLE Now ten years young, Clearaudio s flagship turntable the 350kg, 92.5k Statement has been refreshed with improved materials and power supply technology. The proprietary magnetic drive system is retained, with the upper platter coupled only to the lower, beltdriven platter(s) via a series of embedded and very powerful magnets. The platter material has been uprated to POM while the main bearing is now fashioned from a laser-hardened tungsten carbide. The supports feature a sandwich construction of aluminium plates filled with ballbearing-packed Panzerholz. Clearaudio Electronic GmbH, ; MQA UPDATE Meridian Audio s MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) used CES 2016 to announce agreements with Norwegian music download store 2L (which will offer an entire catalogue of MQA-encoded music) and playback partners Bluesound and Auralic. These reinforce previously announced partnerships with Pioneer, Onkyo and Mytek, while Berkeley Audio, dcs, Kripton and Ixion joined the official MQA supplier list. As a further proof of concept HTC also showed its latest smartphone equipped with MQA technology. PRO AUDIO BONO Polish equipment support brand PAB has announced a series of new feet, all equipped with self-lubricating ceramic bearings. Most affordable is the plywood version at 152 while those with magnesium alloy and nickel alloy bodies cost 166 and 302, respectively. PAB claims that its ceramic balls are mounted in such a way that the feet hang rather than sit on the supportive bearings. Art for your ears AUDIO-TECHNICA S NEW RANGE Price at 529 the new ATH-A2000Z headphones are the flagship of Audio-Technica s latest Art Monitor range. The closedback capsules are fashioned from lightweight but very rigid titanium while A-T s latest 53mm drivers are carboncoated to improve their stiffness and high frequency extension. In similar fashion, a lightweight but highly rigid magnesium baffle is employed to reduce unwanted colorations. A richer bass quality is also promised courtesy of its DADS (Double Air Damping System) while comfort is enhanced by its new 3D wing support and luxurious soft foam earpads. Sensitivity is rated at 101dB/mW, impedance 44ohm and weight 294g. A 3m 6N OFC dual-sided, four-core cable completes the package. Audio-Technica Ltd, ; MARCH 2016

15 We reveal the latest products and upcoming events NEWS YG Acoustics preview FIRST SIGHT NEARLY OF NEW FOUR-PIECE FLAGSHIP SPEAKER Pure Class A by Luxman ICONIC INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER GETS KEY UPDATES Described as its finest integrated amplifier yet, Luxman s 6995 L-590AXII is based on the earlier L-590AX model but benefits from numerous key refinements. The 88-step volume circuit borrows from Luxman s flagship C-900u preamplifier while the main power supply now has twice the reservoir capacitance and thicker primary transformer windings. The conservative 30W/8ohm Class A power rating is unchanged but the ballistics of the classic meters have been enhanced. Luxman Corp., Japan ; Just as Wilson Audio nearly showed us its (still) forthcoming WAMM mkii at CES 2015 [HFN Mar 15], this year was the chance for YG Acoustics to be similarly guarded. So here we have Kerry St James and company founder Yoav Geva standing in front of just one half of the new Sonja XV flagship loudspeaker system. Celebrating YG s 15th anniversary, this new Pro-Ject s new S-Shape 2 XPERIENCE SB TURNTABLE FITTED WITH NEW TONEARM Having already updated its popular 2 Xperience deck a year ago with a new motor and DC PSU, Pro-Ject has further tweaked its SB model for 2016 this time with an S-shaped tonearm. This bright anodised alloy tonearm offers an effective 230mm length and a moderately high 15g effective four-box behemoth is based around an improved version of the Sonja 1.3 [HFN Feb 16], now featuring new crossover inductors with custom-made frames. Each speaker is joined by a second bass tower that carries another three 260mm Billet Core woofers, effectively doubling the radiating area. YG Acoustics LLC, USA, ; mass, making it suitable for use with lower compliance MC pick-ups. The headshell is detachable, allowing cartridges to be switched with ease. Price for the Pro-Ject 2 Xperience SB S-Shape turntable is Pro-Ject Audio Systems, ; HI-FI NEWS? JUST ASK... If you can t always find a copy of this magazine, help is at hand! Complete this form, hand it in at your local store and they ll arrange for a copy of each issue to be reserved for you. Some stores may even be able to arrange for it to be delivered to your home. Just ask! Please reserve/deliver my copy of Hi-fi News on a regular basis, starting with issue... Title...First name... Surname... Address Postcode... Telephone number... IF YOU DON T WANT TO MISS AN ISSUE... Upcoming Events IMPORTANT DATES FOR YOUR HI-FI DIARY FEB Sound & Vision Show, Marriott City Centre Hotel, Bristol; MAY High End Show, Munich, Germany; JUN T.H.E. Show, The Hotel Irvine, Newport Beach, CA, USA SEP IFA Berlin, The International Funkausstellung, Germany OCT The Hi-Fi Show Live 2016, Beaumont Estate, Windsor; MARCH

16 SHOWBLOG Sights and sounds from around the globe CES 2016, Las Vegas Words & Pictures: Paul Miller Every year CES, the world s largest consumer electronics show (ironically not open to consumers ), evolves to reflect trends in all areas of technology. This year the exit polls just nudged ahead of the numbers for CES 2015 with more than 3800 exhibitors and 170,000 attendees, including over 50,000 from outside the United States. While most visitors were focused on innovations, from drones to immersive virtual reality headsets and other wearable technologies, the High Performance Audio exhibit at the Venetian Hotel, and breakaway suites at the Mirage Hotel, remained an oasis of calm, thanks to some of the best sounds high-end hi-fi has to offer. In marked contrast to previous years, where digital media players of every description were in the ascendant, CES rang in 2016 with more new turntables than we d seen in a decade. Vinyl ruled... When a marque as iconic as Continuum announces a new deck, especially a more affordable one, then we can surely expect something amazing. So here s the Obsidian, shown in early form with Viper and SAT tonearms. It features a high-torque DC motor driving a composite polymer/alloy/delrin platter that s partially supported by magnets. I d never heard MartinLogan s Neolith hybrid electrostatics 15in and 12in woofers with 48x22in mid/hf CLS XStat panel sounding quite so impressive. But then they were in the grip of Constellation s 1kW Hercules MkII monoblocks! Based on the topology of its tube preamplifier and stereo power amp, the leather-clad Absolare Passion integrated is a hybrid design. It combines a single-ended triode preamp section employing selected NOS 12AU7/ECC82 tubes driving a massive solid-state power amp. The latter has 12 power transistors and is rated at 200W/8ohm hence the CNC-machined alloy heatsinking that rises from the top surface! Price is just shy of $25k. While showing me DS Audio s upcoming flagship DS Master 1 optical pick-up, one of three new and revised models, Tetsuaki ( Aki ) Aoyagi also revealed his company was developing a non-contact optical pick-up/tonearm. Shades of the Finial laser turntable? Time will tell MARCH 2016

17 SHOWBLOG Sights and sounds from around the globe It s always worth a trek to the upper floors of the Venetian to hear a complete MBL system. The electronics are the 12k N31 CD player/dac, the 13.8k N51 integrated and 12.9k N21 power amps, here driving the movingcoil subwoofer section of the fabulous 101E mk2 Radialstrahler loudspeakers. The top melon-shaped omnidirectional drivers start with the big Radial TT100 above 105Hz which crosses over to the Radial MT50 at 600Hz and the Radial HT37/E at 3.5kHz. Once heard, never forgotten. Graham Nash, the N in CSN&Y, toured a select few exhibition rooms to hear tracks from his new album This Path Tonight (released April 16) on the cream of high-end hi-fi. Seen here with Vivid Audio s 18k 10th anniversary B1 loudspeakers, Graham was clearly astonished at the clarity on offer. After just one track he said, Sounds like I m back in the studio, playing live. Back to the future with Thorens as it introduces three belt-drive, suspended sub-chassis turntables the TD 903, 905 and 907. Reminiscent of the TD 150 and 160 classics, these new decks share the same three-spring sub-chassis design and AC motor with a newly developed controller. The weight and materials used in the platter improves up the range as does the plinth construction. William Firebaugh of Well Tempered was on hand to explain the reasoning behind this sand-filled 16in tonearm, seen here on his equally massive Royale 400 turntable. Eliminating the tracking error was not his key aim, instead Bill was more interested in reducing the need for bias compensation (proportional to the offset angle, which decreases with increasing arm length). MARCH

18 Everything you need. Nothing you don t. Music brings us so much joy. An audio system shouldn t reduce music s unique nearest authorised Rotel retailer. ROTEL.COM

19 SHOWBLOG Sights and sounds from around the globe Vinyl s new future was the tagline for Grand Prix Audio s v2.0 Monaco turntable. Costing $35-38k, depending on options, this directdrive model features an upgraded internal phosphor-bronze flywheel and higher torque motor claimed to achieve 33/45rpm within two revolutions. Seen here with Kuzma s 4Point tonearm. www. The plug-in USB headphone DAC that spawned a new product genre has now evolved into a range. AudioQuest s DragonFly Black replaces the original model at $99 and is now compatible with low-powered ios and Android phones. The $199 Red [pictured with JitterBug] is the new high-end version! While Metronome s Music Centre 1 has yet to hit the market, its 7980 CD8 S CD player/dac is now available. Featuring a modified Philips CDM12 Pro2 transport and AKM AK4490 DAC, it also handles DSD256 via USB. Here s Jozefína Lichtenegger with her new EAT turntable, a smaller version of the C-Sharp with a 9in rather than 10in C-Note tonearm. No, it s not the C-Minor, she frowned, I m calling it the C-Major. This slimline deck has a slightly smaller and lighter platter (and smaller clamp), an integrated PSU but uses the same AC motor as the C-Sharp. Price is 1990 with a Quintet Blue MM. From Cyprus came this Aries Cerat system comprising Concerto 65 single-ended 813/814 triode tube amps ($35k/pair) and new $125k Symphonia loudspeakers. This amazing design uses an external crossover to match a full-range Fostex driver with a horn-loaded 4in titanium mid and RAAL ribbon tweeter. Sharing a large suite with Chord Electronics bathing in the success of its Mojo USB DAC/headphone amp was Audeze with its new Reference Standard LCD-4 planar magnetic cans. Featuring thinner diaphragms and a dual magnetic array boasting a 1.5T flux density, these luxury ear warmers sounded exquisite. MARCH

20 The New Architecture for Preamps The CP-800 stereo preamp/processor are the direct descendants of preamps that were conceived decades ago in a pre-digital world. The CP-800 stereo preamp/ processor is something new. It combines the key circuit blocks of a high-end audio system in a unique way to improve and shorten the signal path. Analogue purity is preserved while digital sources acquire new processing features and higher performance than ever. computer can sound better than it would if played in the world s best Find out why. Then hear the CP-800 for yourself at your authorised Classé retailer. Classé every detail matters.

21 SHOWBLOG Sights and sounds from around the globe Technics was at CES in force, for not only was its parent Panasonic showing its new 4K OLED TVs at the Convention Centre but its re-born hi-fi marque [HFN Feb 15] had two rooms at the Venetian. Alongside the new turntable [p24], Technics formally unveiled its $1200 EAH-T700 headphones. Inside the capsules there s a 50mm dynamic driver plus a 14mm supertweeter with a 100kHz range... As an exercise in spatial economy, Naim has succeeded in squeezing no fewer than seven drivers (a woofer, two ABRs, two mid units and a pair of microfibre tweeters) into this miniaturised Mu-so Qb network-enabled music system. The 595 Mu-so Qb can be used between five rooms in the home to wirelessly stream music via Spotify Connect, Tidal, or Apple AirPlay. Flanking the granite-effect 700W Class D Status Voceterra amplifier are two new SV-series towers from RBH Sound. The speakers at the edge of my picture each comprise two boxes: the SV831 houses three 8in alloy mid cones plus AMT tweeter and sits atop the SV1212 with its pair of 12in coated-alloy woofers. Price is sub-$10k. Looking nothing like the cubist prototypes revealed at CES 2015 [HFN Mar 15] the 75k 250W HD Amp from Nagra was finally revealed alongside its new Classic DAC and Integrated. The HD Amp s MOSFET output stage is supported by a huge linear PSU with a 1.6kVA toroid and bank of custom Mundorf electrolytics. A room filled with EMM Labs kit is a sight and sound to behold and I wasn t disappointed by the new DA2 (top left). Claimed to be the world s first fully discrete DSD1024/16xDSD DAC, all 44.1kHz-centric inputs (up to DXD) are upsampled to 45MHz and 48kHz inputs to 49MHz. The TX2 SACD transport is alongside. Priced at just 449 this is the Vinyl Cleaner VC-S from Pro-Ject. Owner Heinz Lichtenegger explained that some wet cleaners leave a damp residue in the LP groove so the VC-S is equipped with a very powerful vacuum that sucks the vinyl dry within just one or two revolutions. And at 2-4secs per side, it s fast! MARCH

22 ver From the mid-range up, PS Audio s BHK Signature 300s go toe to toe with many amplifiers costing far more Michael Fremer - Stereophile Pioneering world class audio products Ever wanted to own the finest stereo amplifier in the world, but daunted by the huge price tag? All that is about to change as PS Audio launches yet another hi-fi revelation. Introducing The BHK Signature 250 and 300 power amplifiers. The culmination of one man s half-century search for perfection in music s reproduction, Bascom H. King has designed amplifiers for many companies, including Constellation Audio, Marantz, Infinity, and Conrad Johnson. But never has Bascom felt he could put his name to a product until now. It is his finest achievement in a lifetime of work. The BHK Signature Series power amplifiers are un-equalled in performance at any price. Available in both stereo and mono models, the Series is unparalleled in its ability to render details formerly lost in the music. Featuring a zero-loss vacuum tube input stage coupled to a high bias differentially balanced MOSFET output, this amplifier has few rivals in terms of sheer musicality, openness, tonal richness and accuracy. For an exclusive home demonstration... please contact your nearest PS Audio dealer at Distributed by Signature Audio Systems

23 SHOWBLOG Sights and sounds from around the globe Dan D Agostino promised us something bigger than his copperclad Momentum amps, and here it is the Progression 800 monoblock ($45k pair). Rated at 800W, 1.6kW and 3.2kW into 8, 4 and 2ohm, the design is fully balanced, employs 84 power transistors and a 4kVA PSU toroid. The case is machined from a solid billet of alloy much cheaper than copper but still features the venturi heatsinking. www. Feickert s Woodpecker turntable has witnessed several updates in recent years, including these eight MS58 brass inserts to mass-load its Delrin platter. It s seen here with the new Aquilar 10in tonearm, a derivative of the 12in Axiom model, both from Germany s Acoustical Systems. Designed by Grammy Award-winning recording engineer Allen Sides, the $31.5k Sausalito loudspeakers feature 12in and 8in alloy bass and midrange drivers plus a silk dome tweeter. These obelisks were driven to punchy-sounding effect by Viola Audio Lab s Crescendo preamp and 100W Class A/B Concerto power amps, the latter employing a chokeregulated power supply. With new LP spinners springing up all around, Lumin was seemingly in a minority with its albeit mightily impressive demo of the flagship S1 network music player. The little boxes are an outboard PSU and 2TB NAS drive while Ayre s Twenty pre/power combo provided the muscle. The rack? A new Artesania model. Denmark is not short of loudspeaker brands but Raidho is one of the more distinctive delivering a sound with real bite! Here are its new $65k D3.1 floorstanders featuring ceramic/alloy sandwich mid/bass drivers, each with a hard diamond coating. Above 3kHz the topmost cone hands over to a sealed ribbon tweeter. A Hi-Fi News fave for many years [HFN Oct 12] T+A s DAC 8 has now been comprehensively updated to include an entirely separate 1-bit converter of its own design to accommodate DSD512 files. The 3000 DAC 8 DSD also includes four 32-bit/384kHz DACs, a new headphone amp and new balanced preamp. MARCH

24 SHOWBLOG Sights and sounds from around the globe Pitched between the Alexia and top Alexandria, the new Wilson Audio Alexx is a highly adjustable multi-enclosure speaker system with proprietary (lower) mid and woofers, the latter 10.5in and 12.5in derivatives working in parallel. The new WAMM discussed at CES 2105 will finally launch in early Mark Levinson unveiled two key new products: the 526 preamp with a 585-inspired DAC stage plus a meticulously-engineered MM/MC phono stage with comprehensive gain/loading options. It s joined by the 519 CD/DAC/streaming solution with Class A headphone amp. Appearances are deceptive, for this new limited edition direct-drive turntable from Technics is no mere cosmetic makeover of the legendary SL The $4k Grand Class SL-1200GAE is driven by the massive, twin-rotor Hall Effect motor first seen at IFA Speed control is derived from its Blu-ray players while the brass/rubber/alloy platter and four-layer plinth assembly contribute to a deck that s anticipated to surpass the revered SP-10Mk2. Not a new solid-state monoblock but the AC Audio Power solution from Germany s Stromtank. Accounting for much of its 120kg bulk are sufficient LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) cells to sustain 5000Wh over a typical 5-8 hour service time. A built-in DC-to- 150/265V sine generator delivers the super-clean 45-65Hz AC, on or off the mains grid. Seen but not heard, Transparent Audio had its new XL and Reference series mains cables on display at the regular Mirage Hotel breakaway exhibit. Trickled down from the top Opus range, the body of the RF filter network each tuned to the length of the cable is fashioned from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP). Prices start at Peter Madnick poses with his Audio Alchemy PPA phono stage alongside a pair of concept standmounts from TAD. Known to its engineers as White Carat, the speakers are aimed at bringing CE1 technology [HFN Jan 15] down in price. The ADS port is retained but the magnesium/beryllium mid/treble unit is new MARCH 2016

25 SHOWBLOG Sights and sounds from around the globe Boulder by name... this massive 2120 do everything DAC/ streamer was shown as a multi-box prototype at CES 2015 before coalescing into the $65k single-chassis behemoth pictured here. The display is just that no touchscreen here and driven via the buttons alongside. These little orange wonders are not Crystal s well-reviewed Arabesque Minissimos [HFN Apr 15]. In fact, as Edwin Rijnveld explained, the new 16k Minissimo Diamonds are not an upgrade but an entirely new speaker. While the Arabesque cabinet shape is retained, a special diamond dome tweeter with silver voice coil is fitted along with a new crossover that accommodates bi-wiring/ amping. Auditioned with the Subissimo sub, they punched well above their weight! Makes sense for a record label to jump on the turntable bandwagon and that s exactly what Mobile Fidelity has done with this $1799 Ultradeck. It includes a 10in tonearm, MDF/alloy sandwich plinth and thick Delrin platter. There s a $999 Studiodeck too. There s more than meets the eye to EgglestonWorks 90k 750lb Ivy Signature floorstanders. Behind each of the 12in woofers is another 12in woofer mounted in isobaric configuration. Similarly, behind each of the four 6in mid/bass units are not one but a further pair of drivers, amounting to 12 per cabinet! The sound? Dynamic would be an understatement... Driven via a new and very elegant Questyle QP1R digital audio player, these $1190 Enigma Acoustics Dharma D1000 hybrid electrostatic/ dynamic headphones sounded superb. In each capsule a self-biasing Sopranino electrostatic tweeter is combined with a 52mm driver. www.; Alon Wolf decided against demo ing his flagships this year as both the new S1 (pictured) and S5 floorstanders took pride of place in the Magico room. Both speakers look similar to the mk1s but feature new S7-inspired 1in diamondcoated beryllium tweeters, new 7in mid/bass drivers and (S5 mk2) 10in alloy woofers. Next month Ken We reveal Kessler s the alternative winners of the CES EISA 2016 Awards Show Report! MARCH

26 INVESTIGATION Siegfried Linkwitz Barry Willis meets the legendary speaker designer in his California home RIGHT: Siegfried Linkwitz pictured in his office, north of San Francisco. Lab equipment includes many laptop PCs and one old tower running Windows 3.1 plus a reference library and several test instruments purpose-built for his work BELOW: A detail of the Linkwitz LXmini a small, high-excursion midrange/ woofer with dome tweeter in close proximity, at a 90º angle. Both drivers are open-baffle. The woofer down-fires into a tube packed with acoustical damping material. Called a diffraction body by the designer, the cylinder behind the tweeter works similarly Scientific pioneers are often immortalised by having their names attached to newly-discovered species and heavenly bodies. The equivalent engineering honor is a name that becomes synonymous with a device, process or formula. Siegfried Linkwitz is an engineer at this level. Co-developer of Linkwitz-Riley crossover networks used in almost all commercial loudspeakers, Linkwitz has devoted his life to pushing the boundaries of acoustical science and audio engineering. It s no exaggeration to say that he has probably done more to advance these twin endeavours than any other living individual. INNUMERABLE FANS Along the way, Linkwitz has accumulated many professional honours, most recently the Peter Barnett Memorial Award for Technical excellence, practical advancement, and education from the Londonbased Institute of Acoustics, which he was presented with in November Author of dozens of technical papers, he s accumulated hordes of admiring colleagues, innumerable fans, and unusual in a field rife with insupportable opinions Linkwitz s little home-brew set-up ranks among the best almost no dismissive sniping from the more mystical-magical end of the audiophile spectrum. Linkwitz guides me by cell phone to his hillside home, an elegant, solidly-constructed post-andbeam edifice in the town of Corte Madera, about 20 miles north of San Francisco. When we were shopping for a home 17 years ago, one of my primary requirements was that it had to be quiet, he says in an avuncular baritone still resonant of his native German. I sent my wife Eike out with a sound-pressure meter. The estate agents said they had never seen anyone do that before. A brief tour reveals an expansive patio. In one corner there s a lift of the type used in auto shops for hoisting transmissions and engines. He uses it on calm days to do free-air measurements of raw drivers and 26 MARCH 2016

27 experimental loudspeakers. Nearby is his cosy, neatly-organised office, with a stunning view of Mount Tamalpais. It s full of reference books a few going back to his student days and test equipment, some of it hand-made. Linkwitz has many laptop computers, most bearing the badge of Hewlett-Packard, where he spent his career. There s not an Apple in the bunch. I started with Apple but it was a closed system, he explains. It could not run MLSSA [loudspeaker analysis software]... Ever since I have used PCs because of the available software and plug-ins for engineering work. I am not as enamored with Apple as many people seem to be. THE STUFF OF LIFE His listening room is moderately lively, with hardwood floors and ceiling, an area rug, fully-loaded bookshelves, and expanses of glass on two sides. There s no roomacoustic treatment per se, nor would any of the room s furnishings appear out of the ordinary to normal visitors save the unusual loudspeakers flanking the brick fireplace. Linkwitz is not fond of room-correction systems. The problem is rarely the room, he asserts, but almost always the loudspeaker. Quoting legendary Harman International engineer Dr Floyd Toole, he says, Fill your home with the stuff of life. For our listening session, he sets up his LXmini, a little two-way open-baffle loudspeaker system he s put together using small drivers, two lengths of PVC tubing, rubber drainpipe joints, with what appear to be soup cans used as diffusers behind the tweeters. Crossover functions are all in the digital domain using MiniDSP processors ( Excellent... $500 each from Hong Kong. ) Other items in the system include a RIGHT: Linkwitz takes questions at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Show where he demoed his four-way LX521 Constant Directivity Monitor. Plans to build the speaker yourself cost $150 BELOW: The upper end of the LX521 an open-baffle speaker that simply stands on an isolation platform above low-frequency units. The shape of the baffle is derived from a combined need for maximum dispersion and low mechanical resonance ACOUSTICS AND CONTROVERSIES... Siegfried Linkwitz discusses current aspects of loudspeaker design with HFN s Keith Howard The audio arena is rife with long-running and recent controversies, including baffle and box design, room acoustic correction, digital signal processing, microphone placement, and much more. Keith Howard seeks answers... Your interest in achieving a natural, believable stereo image has led you from considerations of speaker design and room layout to suggesting a new mic arrangement the S+R array for recording in natural acoustics. Has there been much interest in this from professional recording engineers? Very little. But I have learned since about the restrictions that recording engineers are under. For instance, the conductor may require that a symphonic music recording follow the composer s score and not how the music would ever be heard from a good seat in the house. Karajan had similar ideas for recording the Berliner Philharmoniker. For other recording styles watch for example the discussion at: watch?v=9a_ichjbpci Your call for loudspeakers to have constant directivity across most of the audio band, so that the direct sound, early reflections and reverberant sound have similar spectra, echoes that of Daniel Queen in Are loudspeaker designers paying any more attention now than they did 36 years ago? When I look at current speaker designs I see no evidence that designers are paying more attention. They limit themselves to rounded cabinet edges and narrower baffles for the tweeter, but that is only to improve the on-axis frequency response. There are very few exceptions where designers endeavour to control the 2pi horizontal response and fewer yet where they try to control the 4pi spatial response. You don t seem to be very keen on DSP room correction. Does it have any place, do you consider, in a properly arranged domestic listening space with constantdirectivity (CD) loudspeakers? The room is only a problem when the loudspeaker illuminates it with uneven timbre. I have not found room equalisation to be necessary with CD loudspeakers. Our ear/brain apparatus is eminently capable in dealing with reflective spaces as long as the reflections and reverberation are consistent with the direct sound and delayed relative to it. MARCH

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29 INVESTIGATION Logitech Touch, an Oppo BDP-105 universal disc player, and three power amplifiers from ATI: models 602, 1202, and 1800 ( Very good sounding and very reliable ). There s also a vintage Thorens turntable hiding behind some other gear. Asked about it, Linkwitz waves his hand, saying I haven t used that in years. A complete LXmini system, minus amplifiers, can be assembled by any competent hobbyist for under $1200, he says. Cabling digital and analogue interconnects, speaker wires, power cords is all generic. Linkwitz is not a believer in exotic cables. Makers of such products have tried to convince him that they would make a difference. I am not interested in a difference, he states flatly, I am interested in accuracy. Nor is there a power conditioner or surge protector in his system: We have very few thunderstorms in California. If power supplies are properly designed there is no need for such devices. A REVELATION I sit front-row centre while he streams a wide variety of tunes via USB from a laptop running JRiver software. The first is a revelation: The King s Singers performing Simon and Garfunkel s classic The Boxer. Voices are clearly delineated across a wide, deep soundstage, with detail, transparency and an effortlessness that I have rarely heard from any system at any price. He follows this with a demonstration of dynamics, a live recording of the Ray Brown Trio, with an extended drum solo that comes right into the room. Pacing is exemplary with Paul Simon s Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, and Rebecca Pidgeon s interpretation of Leonard Cohen s masterwork Hallelujah is as RIGHT: Linkwitz stands with his LX521 (front) and LXmini (rear). Sonically stunning and visually unusual, Linkwitz speakers are the result of decades of persistent research FAR RIGHT: This unusual openbaffle woofer arrangement a V-formation offsets two high-excursion 10in woofers in a bid to cancel spurious vibration while maximising musical output in a spherical pattern BELOW: The soundstage is all-enveloping when Linkwitz demonstrates his LX521 with an eclectic selection of music played on a Hewlett- Packard laptop running JRiver software close to a religious experience as recorded music can get. Rooted in the European classical repertoire, Linkwitz exhibits surprisingly eclectic and non-judgmental taste in music. In three-plus decades of close involvement with every aspect of this industry, I have heard many amazing systems. I have to say that Linkwitz s little home-brew set-up ranks among the very best. The result of persistent application of logic, reason, detached observation, and extreme patience, it s an exemplar of real engineering: no voodoo, no make-believe, no need to join a cult. His big system, the LX521.4, wowed visitors to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in October It shares the same transparent, effortless quality of its smaller sibling, but with more weight and body, thanks largely to its 10in high-excursion open-baffle woofers, in a V configuration to cancel mechanical vibration. (The orange frames seen in the photos isolate the woofers from the midrange/high frequency units.) In his research, Linkwitz has been encouraged by the high performance now possible with His work now is with openbaffle dynamicdriver designs many transducers. Asked to list important improvements, he responded: Motor linearity, cone materials, breakup control, large excursion, frequency extension. In his view, forward development of drivers he favours SEAS hasn t been matched by other aspects of loudspeaker technology. He s especially dismayed by lack of improvement in speaker cabinets: Except for combining the outputs of various drivers to converge at one point in space, little progress has been made with baffle design. In his view, another nagging audio problem is the improper application of microphones in recording. GREATEST BARRIER Linkwitz cites inadequate attention to loudspeaker dispersion as the greatest barrier to better realism in the playback of recordings. Asked which speaker characteristics enhance realism, he states: Dispersion pattern, frequency response, power handling in that order. Regarding other loudspeaker technologies: Horns have their place in PA systems to reach high SPL. Electrostatic and magnetic panels MARCH

30 Take a look at legacy. Lovable traditional, sounds incredible. The new Dynaudio Emit series is the latest model range from Dynaudio and was conceived as an entry level high end loudspeaker series incorporating extraordinary levels of performance and technical innovation in an attractive Visit Listen to the new Emit Series.

31 INVESTIGATION LINKWITZ-RILEY CROSSOVER EXPLAINED Siegfried Linkwitz came to the audio industry s attention in 1976 when his paper Active Crossover Networks for Noncoincident Drivers was published in the Jan/Feb edition of the Journal Of The Audio Engineering Society. What it described would become known as the Linkwitz-Riley crossover although, for reasons which will shortly become apparent, it s also known as the double-butterworth or Butterworth-squared alignment. When he wrote the paper, Linkwitz was working for Hewlett-Packard in Santa Rosa, California. Realising that microwaves have similar wavelengths to sound in air, he looked at speaker design with the eye of someone used to visualising microwave radiation patterns. And he realised that conventional crossover networks were less than ideal because no account was taken of the fact that the two drivers, between which the audio signal is shared, are usually physically separate from one another, ie, noncoincident. Even-order crossovers with Butterworth (maximally flat) low-pass [red, Figs 1&2] and high-pass [cyan] sections were shunned because the low- and high-pass outputs do not sum to a flat response through crossover. Taking the second-order example [Fig 1], there is a cancellation notch [green] at the crossover frequency if the drivers are connected in phase (ie, with the same polarity) or a 3dB peak if they are connected in antiphase [black]. For this reason third-order crossovers were often preferred, which did sum to a flat response through crossover. But, ABOVE: Fig 1 (top) conventional second-order crossover; Fig 2 (below) Linkwitz-Riley model Linkwitz realised, this was because the low-pass and high-pass outputs were in phase quadrature (out of phase by 90º), which meant that somewhere off-axis where the difference in path length between the two drivers brought the low-pass and high-pass outputs into phase alignment there would be a 3dB peak at the crossover frequency. In effect, the speaker axis was being tilted through the crossover region. What was needed were lowpass and high-pass filters that were complementary in both amplitude and phase, so that they would sum to a flat response without generating an off-axis peak. Linkwitz explained this to his HP colleague Russ Riley, who came up with the solution: even-order networks in which the low-pass and high-pass sections are cascades of two Butterworth filters of half the required order. So conceptually if not necessarily physically in a secondorder Linkwitz-Riley crossover (12dB per octave slopes) the low-pass and high-pass sections each comprise two first-order (6dB per octave) Butterworth sections, and in a fourthorder version (24dB per octave slopes) each comprise two second-order Butterworth sections. At the crossover frequency, the low-pass [red] and high-pass [cyan] responses are both 6dB [Fig 2] rather than 3dB for Butterworth crossovers. In the second-order case the two drivers have to be connected in antiphase (with opposite polarity) to ensure a flat response [black], whereas in the fourth-order case the drivers are connected in-phase. Although Linkwitz s original paper dealt with active crossovers, passive crossovers (which he covered later) can be configured the same way. The Linkwitz-Riley crossover thus quickly became a favoured means of controlling loudspeaker off-axis behaviour but it isn t the only option. Joseph D Appolito later suggested a geometrical solution (often called the D Appolito array) in which three drivers are used rather than two, typically two midrange drivers disposed to either side of a central tweeter, an arrangement alternatively termed MTM (midrange-tweeter-midrange). KH circumvent the spurious radiation problems of boxes, but have their own problems with dispersion pattern and room interaction. EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY All of Linkwitz s work now is with open-baffle dynamic-driver designs work that s been almost universally well received by music lovers who ve been lucky enough to hear the results. In a widereaching statement, he says without animosity, The audiophile market has been badly misguided for decades. Listening to his creations drives this home. An evening of listening with a true genius, especially one as affable and humble as Siegfried Linkwitz, can make even the most opinionated audiophile reconsider his assumptions. It s an honour to be in his presence. Linkwitz celebrated his 80th birthday in late November 2015 in a weeklong fete with family. His career has encompassed and enabled the rapid development of electronics technology in general and audio in particular. Can the pace be sustained? When asked where we might be sound-wise one hundred years from now, he replies, I have no idea. I only hope that people can get the same enjoyment from sound as I do today. RIGHT: Siegfried Linkwitz wants everyone to enjoy great sound. Learn more at his website, which can be found at www. What's new Basics The Magic in 2- Channel Sound Issues in speaker design Dipole models Active filters Microphone FAQ's Loudspeakers Crossovers Room acoustics Stereo Recording and Rendering Audio production Projects LXmini LXstudio LX521.4 LX521 reference ORION challenge ORION-3.4 PLUTO-2.1 WATSON-SEL PLUTO+ subwoofer THOR subwoofer PHOENIX dipole speaker B u i l d y o u r l a s t l o u d s p e a k e r s y o u r s e l f Description --- Supplies --- FAQ --- Photos/Comments DSP challenge --- System --- LX521 - Reference Loudspeaker Sound as close to Live - as the Recording provides! For many years now I have refined, lived with and enjoyed the ORION (2002) and PLUTO (2005) loudspeakers. I have learned that the loudspeaker's radiation pattern and placement in the room are more important than the acoustics of the room Ever since I started building loudspeakers with cone-type drivers on open baffles several decades ago, I tried to find the optimum shape for those baffles given the drivers available. For ORION the drivers were selected primarily for their volume displacement and low distortion capabilities when used in a 3-way, active system. The LX521 evolved from experimentation with minimal width baffles, which can provide a more uniform dipolar radiation pattern at higher frequencies, if also suitable drivers are available. Inevitably this leads to a 4-way design, which I mostly tried to avoid in the past. The shape of the midrange/tweeter baffle was arrived at empirically for the chosen SEAS drivers and after many acoustic free-field measurements. The two SEAS woofer drivers are housed in a V-frame baffle, which exhibits reduced resonance above the operating range of the woofer and some force cancellation. A bridge over the woofer isolates the midrange/tweeter baffle from woofer cabinet vibrations. Woofer and midrange/tweeter baffles can be angled independently from each other. The bridge could also be built taller and the midrange/tweeter baffle tilted downwards to aim at the listener in front of a mixing desk. The woofer baffle must rest on the floor for ground plane reinforcement of its output. The LX521 Analog Signal Processor splits the broadband line level input signal into woofer, mid and tweeter frequency bands. It equalizes driver and baffle response for each channel and filters it with LR4 response. The midrange signal is split after the power amplifier by a passive crossover filter into lower mid and upper mid driver inputs. Frequency response on upper midrange axis and horizontal dipolar response in the frontal hemisphere are designed for neutral timbre of the the stereo phantom scene, when the loudspeakers are placed in the room as suggested. The aural scene is rendered with clarity and detail, both spatially and tonally. MARCH

32 INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER Integrated ADH bridged mono amplifier. Rated at 900W/6ohm Made by: Devialet SAS, Paris, France Supplied by: Devialet UK Ltd Telephone: Web: Price: 22,900 Devialet Original d Atelier Six years on from HFN s review of Devialet s inaugural D-Premier amplifier, the brand s new flagship fairly bristles with connectivity and boasts three times the power Review & Lab: Paul Miller Blink and you ll have missed the latest firmware update, feature release or new product to have slipped from the digital divas in uptown Paris. While all attention has been focused on the brand s astonishing all-inone Phantom music player/loudspeaker, Devialet s engineers have not ceased refining the core technology that launched its inaugural D-Premier ADH (Analogue/ Digital Hybrid) amplifier [HFN Apr 10] to such overwhelming acclaim. Greater flexibility, a revised digital amp stage and PSU to deliver more power, and a glorious rose/copper-gold mirror coating are the headline features of this new, limited edition model dubbed the Original d Atelier (literally, studio or workshop). Only 100 samples of this Wi-Fi enabled and DSD-compatible 22,900 amplifier will be produced, and this is likely to be the only in-depth review, but we ve featured it for one very important reason: almost every new advance flagged by Devialet is inevitably trickled-down through its Expert range in very smart order... TAKING THE HEAT In common with the silver-mirrored Le 800 monoblocks, the Original d Atelier s milled-from-solid casework is culled from a solid billet of alloy, affording it better heatsinking over the slimmer 120, 200 and 400 models. Externally the chassis is readily distinguished by the aforementioned copper-gold finish, a glorious colour that s extended to Devialet s iconic table-top RF remote with its weighted rotary. Internally, however, the thermal performance of the 900W/6ohm-rated Original d Atelier has been further reinforced by a new cast alloy enclosure for the switchmode PSU (the fluted black box, top left in our inside shot) and a doubling of the thermal exchange area between the key PCBs and internal metal surfaces. Devialet s DPM (Dynamic Power Management) utility allows its custom switchmode supply to track the demands of the audio signal it s the green option and assists in reducing waste heat, but even sitting idle the Original d Atelier can get very warm. If you switch DPM off, it s worth physically separating the two units. Two other key facilities significantly extend the versatility of this and Devialet s other top Expert amps. SAM, or Speaker Active Matching, now in v2 guise, allows users to implement a software model of their loudspeaker s low frequency performance, provided it s one of the 600+ currently listed on Devialet s website. SAM adapts the audio data in real time to accommodate issues of group delay, low frequency extension and maximum output. RAM, by contrast, stands for Record Active Matching and is a fine-tuning utility for a similarly huge number of MM and MC pick-ups. It even includes standard RIAA (1953 and 76) alongside 11 other legacy equalisation curves! DEFINE YOUR DEVIALET The operation of the Original d Atelier may be extensively customised via Devialet s online Configurator [see com/configurator/welcome]. Not least, this graphical web script allows owners to define the three pairs of RCAs (analogue line/phono, digital input or output), the maximum power output, and Wi-Fi network settings for the AIR module. The Wi-Fi antenna is visible through the top surface of the amp and while I ve used this option to achieve glitch-free streaming of music files up to 96kHz/24-bit I d still recommend sticking with the hard-wired network or USB connections for serious listening. RIGHT: Devialet s Analogue/Digital Hybrid output sits at the heart of this amp, surrounded by an equally innovative switchmode PSU (top left), network and USB inputs (bottom right) 32 MARCH 2016

33 Owners are able to save their personal settings onto an SD card which is loaded into a reader on the rear of the amp. Using the middle Bass button on the remote control it s also possible to adjust various of these settings on the fly including the SAM level (0-100%), mute, absolute phase, subsonic filter, ICM (Intelligent Cinema Mode), DPM, high pass and input trim for line inputs, and RAM (eq, input sensitivity and loading) for the MM/MC phono input. Enabling or disabling inputs, however, can only be achieved via the Configurator utility. I have found some slight subjective advantage in disabling the Wi-Fi, S/PDIF, network and analogue functions when intending to use either this amp, or the Le 800, via its USB port with, in this instance, the Melco N1A media library [HFN Aug 15]. Depending on the range of inputs you really intend to use, it s worth defeating the rest. Oh, and I ve one request of Devialet when are we going to see THE MAGIC WIRE It s a digital instrument that projects a huge analogue vista some visual feedback of level or input on that big, blank space in the centre of the handset s dial? POWER WITH PANACHE Interestingly, I felt less inclined to invoke Devialet s Speaker Active Matching already available for B&W s 802 D3 loudspeakers [HFN Dec 15] with the Original d Atelier than I had with its lowerpowered Expert stablemates. Sure enough the deep, almost subsonic bass rhythm and thrilling samples that bind Massive Attack s Unfinished Symphony [Blue Lines (2012 remaster), 96kHz/ 24-bit download] ripped from my B&W 802 D3s as if it were preparing to tear the drivers from their frames. With SAM, of course, the amplifier is programmed to take the loudspeaker to its limits, but never beyond, and yet the performance was just a little freer, more refreshing with SAM removed from the configuration. Bass, you see, is neither in All Devialet s ADH amplifiers represent a unique twist on Quad s feedforward Class A/B Current Dumping technique, first applied in its 405 power amp over 40 years ago [Wireless World, Dec 75]. In this new-age implementation, a very high quality analogue Class A (voltage) amplifier is directly coupled to the speaker while a digital Class D stage provides the current to maintain this voltage across the speaker load. Hence the term ADH or Analogue/Digital Hybrid. In practice the Class A preamp is a transconductance stage that converts the current output of the amplifier s PCM1792 DACs into a voltage. By keeping all its processing in the digital domain until the final output, Devialet has engineered an analogue stage with a minuscule signal path. It calls this its Magic Wire. It s this Class A voltage preamp not the rugged Class D dumpers that defines the quality and performance of the amplifier as a whole, and this includes the filtering of its switched PWM output. So, unlike conventional Class D amps, the Original d Atelier is free of an invasive LC filter network just ahead of its speaker outputs and its performance remains unaffected by speaker load impedance. ABOVE: Each rose-gold coated Original d Atelier case is fashioned from a single alloy casting 32mm thick, gently radiused and polished to a perfect mirror finish. White gloves are supplied! short supply or under-damped with this hugely capable incarnation of ADH in the driving seat. Midband clarity, too, is typically breathtaking. This particular quality of the Original d Atelier s CV was illustrated by two tracks in particular Livingston Taylor s Isn t She Lovely [World s Greatest... Chesky 96kHz/24-bit download] and Gregory Porter s God Bless The Child from Be Good [Motéma ]. The closed-miked, whistled harmonies of the former sounded exquisitely realistic, and it took little very imagination to feel his breath tickling my cheek as it passed by. Porter s throaty baritone, by contrast, I could feel in my chest, the tails of each word revealing a dark and ambient acoustic lit only by the booming power of his voice. Once again, the Devialet amp and B&W 802 D3s crafted an astonishingly open and polished sound, sharply focused but never sharp, always in control but never coerced. The resonant colour of instruments and voices alike were painted true-to-life, its depiction that of a large format photograph rather than the euphony of an impressionist oil. READY, STEADY, GO... Moreover, the Original d Atelier has an indefatigable energy, a robustness that refuses to be blunted by the most ferocious of recordings. And by ferocious I don t mean messy, although it ll unpick the densest of recordings with the best of em. Listen to Yello s Touch [Polydor, 48kHz/ 24-bit DVD-A rip] and the terrifying pace of reimagined classics like The Race (2008) will, loudspeakers permitting, thunder forth with a disarming intensity. MARCH

34 Let s Play GamuT is a Danish creator of high end CD-players, cables and connections.

35 LAB REPORT ABOVE: Three pairs of RCA sockets are configurable as digital ins or line/phono analogue ins. Other digital ins include USB, Ethernet (RJ45), AES/EBU (XLR), optical (Toslink and 3.5mm socket). Single sets of 4mm speaker cable binding posts are included alongside SD card slots (configuration/firmware updates) and trigger ports Modern scores do not come more taxing than the cinematic output of Hans Zimmer, and that written to accompany Inception and Interstellar in particular [Silva Screen SILCD 1362; Sony Music ]. The former with its roaring trombone theme and tempo based on subdivisions and multiplications of Edith Piaf s Non, je ne regrette rien runs the gamut of emotions from hope to dread, all explicitly conveyed by the Original d Atelier. Interstellar s ensemble is more complex still, combining 34 strings, 24 woodwinds, four pianos, and 60 choir singers plus a 1926 four-manual Harrison & Harrison organ that will scatter any less than capable amp/loudspeaker combination to the four winds. In this instance, and in front of the 802 D3s, I was utterly transfixed by the sheer scale of this work and by the Original d Atelier s almost casual ability to delineate every thread, every nuance of Zimmer s spectacularly vivid imagination. On more than one occasion I blinked in a game of chicken played with the Devialet s most powerful amp to date was I going to be mowed down by the sheer momentum of the music as its mass and energy swelled by the second? I would reach for the tabletop remote ready to spin the dial anticlockwise only to pull away at the last moment. The Original ABOVE: Each Original d Atelier s copper baseplate is numbered and signed by chief architect Pierre-Emmanuel Calmel d Atelier will take you right to the edge, its sound so palpable, so visceral, so fast and yet it ll stop and turn on a sixpence. A NEW ORTHODOXY Devialet has engineered an amplifier that delivers a controlled intensity as every note, every synthesised sound is locked into its space within a realistically proportioned soundstage. There s no bloom or blur, no intermodulation between instruments or performers to clutter the soundfield. It does what any modern amplifier should do: take digits in at one end and project a precise analogue vista out the other. But it does this with such style and panache that it regularly outstrips the old-school orthodoxy. Fortunately, the audiophile world is an inclusive and inherently forgiving environment, so I don t imagine any of these established analogue amplifier technologies going extinct any time soon! But once heard, especially heard loud, the grand rose gold Original d Atelier is not an experience easily forgotten. Mine was delivered, then collected again and sold within a few weeks. Ah, but parting is such sweet sorrow... HI-FI NEWS VERDICT The original D-Premier offered 165W, so the fact this new kingpin can sustain 640W from within ostensibly identical, slimline casework is testament to the pace of Devialet s technical evolution. In practice, all its Expert amps are exemplars of the digital art, their combination of features, flexibility and performance both unique and outstanding at the price. And the rose-gold Original d Atelier is a stunning flagship. Sound Quality: 90% DEVIALET ORIGINAL D ATELIER Astonishing though it seems for an amplifier of such slim stature, and regardless of the ADH technology s efficiency, Devialet s 900W/6ohm specification for its Original D Atelier is broadly met at 640W/8ohm, increasing to 650W, 1.13kW and 1.5kW into 8, 4 and 2ohm under dynamic conditions. Into 1ohm, however, the limit is 670W the same as recorded for the smaller Devialet 170 [HFN Sep 13]. Nevertheless, the fact that distortion barely increases with reducing load impedance beyond 0.003% [see Graph 1, below] is quite spectacular, as is the vanishingly low ~0.003ohm output impedance. Frequency response is unchanged by loading analogue (sampled at 192kHz) and digital inputs yielding the same 5.2dB/90kHz treble extension. Digital media inputs do exhibit a slight treble lift, however, amounting to +0.2dB/20kHz and +0.25dB/30kHz with 44.1/48kHz and 96/192kHz sample rates, respectively. There s a slight difference in S/N ratio too: 92dB (analogue) versus 95dB (digital) re. 0dBW or 115dB re. 100W/8ohm. Through bass and mid frequencies, digital distortion is lower than that of the analogue inputs, the former achieving % as opposed to ~0.0015% for the same 1kHz/10W/8ohm output. The opposite occurs at very high frequencies where the line input reaches 0.006%/20kHz and the digital inputs, regardless of sample rate, increase to 0.04%/20kHz (10W/8ohm). Jitter is very low and PSU-related at ~85psec/10W via both S/PDIF and USB inputs [see Graph 2] but increases at lower power (350psec/1W) and higher frequencies. Readers may view an in-depth QC Suite report for Devialet s Original d Atelier by navigating to and clicking on the red download button. PM ABOVE: Dynamic power output versus distortion into 8ohm (black trace), 4ohm (red), 2ohm (blue) and 1ohm (green) loads. THD is lower still via digital ins ABOVE: High resolution 48kHz/24-bit jitter plots. USB input (red) versus S/PDIF input (black) at 10W/8ohm HI-FI NEWS SPECIFICATIONS Continuous power (<1% THD, 8/4ohm) 640W / 860W Dynamic power (<1% THD, 8/4/2/1ohm) 650W / 1130W / 1500W / 670W Output impedance (20Hz 20kHz) ohm Freq. resp. (20Hz 20kHz/90kHz) 0.0 to +0.12dB / to 5.2dB Digital jitter (S/PDIF / USB at 48kHz) 84psec / 89psec A-wtd S/N ratio (re. 0dBW/0dBFs) 92.0dB (Analogue) / 94.8dB (Dig) Distortion (20Hz-20kHz; An/Dig 10W) %/ % Power consumption (idle/640w) 58W / 700W (each) Dimensions (WHD) / Weight 383x40x383mm / 8kg (each) MARCH

36 LOUDSPEAKER Three-way reflex-loaded floorstanding loudspeaker Made by: B&W Group Ltd, West Sussex Supplied by: B&W Group Ltd Telephone: Web: Price: 12,500 B&W 803 D3 Is the most heavily revised model in B&W s new 800 Diamond Series really a slimmed-down 802 D3? Review: James Parker Lab: Keith Howard The Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond Series is much more than just a revamp of the previous flagship line-up, as the company is at pains to stress: in fact, very little has been carried over beyond the diamond dome tweeter diaphragm, the terminals and a few other mechanical parts. But the 803 D3, at 12,500 a pair currently the second most expensive model (until the 22, D3 arrives later this year), is the most radically altered model in the new range. In developing this speaker, even more extensive rethinking was involved. Whereas the old 803 was a fairly conventional box-shaped floorstander, albeit one with a Nautilus tube topmounted to house the tweeter, for the new model the company has adopted a scaled-down version of the Turbine midrange housing also seen on the 802 D3 [HFN Dec 15] and to come on the range-topping 800 D3. More on that head in the boxout, but suffice it to say that the new model looks very different from the old. IMPRESSIVE HEAVYWEIGHT That s not just due to the new head, but also new shoulders. So, in place of the conventional box if one with curved panels of the old model, the 803 D3 has gained the more extreme version of the curvaceous reverse wrap cabinet, also used for the 802 D3. In fact, the manufacturer describes it as a completely new speaker, and it becomes the most compact headed speaker the Worthing company has made. Compact the 803 D3 may be, but it s neither especially small nor exactly a featherweight. Standing some 1160mm tall, it has an imposing in-room presence, but only after you have shifted its equally impressive mass into place. The speaker itself weighs 65.5kg, plus around 20kg of packing, making the process of getting The 803 D3s have a bass with real weight and conviction the speakers into one s home more than a little challenging. Even in my set-up, where the desired position is a relatively straight run from my front door, a fair degree of huffing and puffing was involved. Fortunately things are a little simpler once you cut the shipping straps from the boxes, thanks to some well-thoughtthrough packaging. The top of the box lifts off, and then two three-sided constructions can be removed to reveal the speaker sitting on a hefty platform. Remove one section of this, and install a clever ramp built into the packaging, and the 803 D3 can be coaxed down on its integral castors and then trundled into position without any more heavy lifting. Beyond that, set-up is pretty simple: two transit bolts at the back of the Turbine head are removed (Allen key provided), allowing the head to float, and a disc-shaped trim panel slots into place to cover their fixings. Pull off a couple of pieces of foam supporting the Nautilus tube atop the head, fit the supplied jumper cables to the substantial terminals (unless you re bi-wiring or bi-amping), and you re just about there. Like the castors, the 803 D3 s floorspikes are pre-installed in the massive plinth on which the speaker stands: glorified wing-nuts allow them to be wound down, jacking the speaker up off its wheels, while a miniature tommy bar is supplied to lock the spikes in place once the speaker is levelled. Both of these operations are possible without the need to tilt the speaker which is fortunate given that the aluminium head is pretty hefty, and could make the speaker a little unwieldy with too much of a tilt and RIGHT: 803 D3 cabinet is the new reverse wrap design, so structural rings mount the Aerofoil bass units to the curved front baffle, while the Turbine head and Nautilus tweeter tube are decoupled from the main enclosure 36 MARCH 2016

37 GETTING AHEAD The technology of the 803 D3 will be familiar from the larger 802 D3 model, [HFN Dec 15], but the braced aluminium Turbine head is of a unique design for this speaker, being smaller and lighter than the version used further up the range though it still weighs 11kg! And fitting the reshaped head (which is made complete with bracing as a one-piece casting) to the new speakers wasn t just a matter of fixing it in place like the old Marlan design. This head sits lower into the shoulders of the main enclosure than it did on the old 802, so the first step in developing it was to take a chainsaw to one of the old cabinets, and start experimenting from there. The decision to go for a headed design for the 803 D3 rather than the conventional box of the previous generation was taken purely on the grounds of elevating performance, and as in all the speakers, the midrange driver uses the company s new Continuum construction. However, that wasn t the initial thinking: as Senior Product Manager Andy Kerr explains it, there was an early discussion about making a midrange using the same Diamond technology as the tweeter, But when the costs became clear, it was a very short discussion! spike cups are attached magnetically inside the plinth, for use on floors in need of protection. If you have especially thick carpets the castors can be removed, but for that you will need to tilt the speaker, which is definitely a two-person job. With the speakers in place, and without the supplied grilles for the midrange and bass units fitted, you can take stock of what the 803 D3 is all about and yes, it does look like a (slightly) scaled-down 802 D3. The principal differences are in the size of the drivers, and thus the Turbine head used to house the Continuum midrange unit. The diamond dome is the same 25mm unit used in all the 800 Series Diamond speakers, but the midrange is a 130mm unit against the 150mm in the 802 D3, and in the bass section twin 180mm Aerofoil drivers mirror the larger speaker s 200mm units. Interestingly the claimed specs are very similar, Bowers & Wilkins stating a 90dB sensitivity for both, and giving the impedance as 8ohm nominal, 3ohm minimum [but see Lab Report, p39]. DISAPPEARING ACT I was able to use the 803 D3 speakers for an extended period, and on the end of a variety of systems from the kind of equipment one might expect to combine with speakers at this level right down to very modest set-ups one might expect not to work (especially in light of the Lab Report!). Yes, they do thrive on the end of amplification able to deliver a healthy dose of power, but they re equally impressive when used with quite modest amplifiers. I was intrigued to see that Marantz Japan has been demonstrating its new 799 miniature amplifier, the HD-AMP1, via a pair of 803 D3s (Marantz has for many years distributed Bowers & Wilkins in Japan), despite its 35W/8ohm rating, or 70W/4ohm. That tempted me to try the same thing with a sample I had to hand, and the combination proved remarkably felicitous, allowing the big speakers to develop a lucid, unforced and three-dimensional sound on the end of what was, by comparison, an almost comically tiny amp. And that s the essence of the 803 D3s presentation: they have bass with real weight and conviction allied to a beautifully integrated midband and treble. Above all they communicate the music to the point where the speakers disappear (at least in the aural sense). One thing I did notice was that the review pair, even after a couple of months use, seemed rather prone to changes in the ambient temperature. After I went away for a week, with the central heating set low, the speakers sounded rather hard and brash, but soon regained their composure when the house was allowed to return to its normal temperature. That aside, the 803 D3s proved entirely fuss-free in use. Located well out into the room, a good metre clear of rear and side walls, they produced a superbly focused sonic picture across a wide range of music, and displayed both refinement and subtlety, along with a no shortage of the old boogie factor when required. Above all, the direct way in which these speakers communicate music MARCH

38 Introducing the DAC 8 DSD Super-HD all-in-one digital audio solution Equipped with our unique T+A converters, the new DAC 8 DSD features separate converters for DSD and PCM. The True 1-bit Converter processes DSD files up to DSD 512, while the Quadruple Converter (8 x 32-bit) handles PCM files up to 384 kips.but that s not all. Its superb pre-amplifier, outstanding headphone amplifier and sophisticated volume control makes it equally at home driving very high-quality amplification or active speakers, enabling it to take its place as the High-End command centre of a complete system. The perfect DAC then? T+A elektroakustik GmbH & Co. KG Planckstraße Herford Germany Hand built in Germany, the DAC 8 DSD from T+A is available in the UK now. For more information or to arrange a demonstration, please contact: KOG Audio Ltd +44 (0)

39 makes them a compelling listen with everything from solo classical works all the way to charging rock. Firing up what is now sadly Motörhead s last album, Bad Magic [UDR 057P18], the 803 D3s slammed out the charging full-on rock as if to challenge all those who suggested in the wake of Lemmy s passing that the band was a one-hit wonder. Here the hoarse vocals were kept in sharp focus against the powering guitar, bass and drums, the speakers deep, fast bass ensuring Sympathy For The Devil never lacked drive, and prompting a constant encouragement to crank up the level just a little bit more. Backing things down a bit with Bowie s pre-released Blackstar single [Columbia], the speakers wideopen view of the music revealed all the layers of the epic near-10min recording. And it made it very clear that, as he approached his 69th birthday, with his illness unknown to fans, Bowie still appeared to LEFT: Metal spine is much more than a stiffener for the cabinet: the crossovers are mounted directly to it, allowing it to act as a heatsink. Jumper cables are supplied for the 4mm terminals have a good set of pipes on him. The pattering percussion, the trippy instrumentation and of course that voice: all shine through with the 803 D3s in harness. JUST CARRIED ALONG Vocal and instrumental timbres are a real strength here, though based on my brief listening to the 802 D3s I d say these less expensive speakers deliver a more euphonic, less analytical, sound than that of their big brothers, making it hard not to be carried along by the music. Listening to Martha Argerich s 1967 recording of Chopin and Liszt piano concertos with LSO/Abbado, in DSD64 [DG Japan UCGG 9026], the speakers make an excellent job of conveying the warmth and artistry of the performance, as well as the skilful balance between soloist and orchestra, with every touch of finger on key beautifully resolved and the dynamics unrestrained. The same ability is also apparent with the classic Bill Evans Trio s 1961 Sunday At The Village Vanguard, [DSD64 from Concord UCGO 9042], which is delivered with a lovely unforced live presence, against which Evans s piano, LaFaro s deft bass and Motion s restrained drumming are revealed in an entirely credible soundstage picture. It s this winning combination of smoothness and resolution that really sets the 803 D3s apart. HI-FI NEWS VERDICT Although the lab report makes it clear the 803 D3 is far from a shrunken 802 D3, it s hard not conclude this is a hugely enjoyable design in its own right, despite its idiosyncratic styling and pretty hefty price hike over the last-generation 803. Of course, the extent of the re-engineering here is even more extensive than that across the rest of the new range, but the work has certainly paid off. Sound Quality: 84% LAB REPORT B&W 803 D3 B&W claims 90dB sensitivity for the 803 D3 but our measured pink noise and music figures of 89.1dB and 89.0dB suggest that perceived sensitivity will be a little lower. Part of the recipe for achieving this is a challenging impedance characteristic. Although B&W quotes a nominal impedance of 8ohm at odds with its specification of a 3.0ohm minimum this does little to convey how tough a load the 803 D3 presents. We measured a minimum modulus a little lower than specified at 2.8ohm but the real killer is the low-frequency impedance phase angle which reaches 75 o at 51Hz. The resulting EPDR (equivalent peak dissipation resistance) dips to a low of 1.1ohm at 82Hz, with a further dip to 1.6ohm at 900Hz. Although B&W says it used some relatively modest amplification in the course of developing the new 800 series, this result suggests that the 803 should only be partnered with amplifiers capable of driving unusually low impedances. The forward frequency response [Graph 1, below], measured on the axis of the midrange driver, shows that the 803 D3 repeats a feature of older-generation B&Ws in having a treble that s shelved up by about 3dB. Partly as a result, response errors are unimpressive at ±3.6 and ±4.2dB respectively. Because of tweeter disparities, the pair matching error is also disappointing at ±1.7dB over the same 200Hz- 20kHz span, but falls to an impressive ±0.5dB below 10kHz. Bass extension proved impossible to determine because of the impracticality of accessing the downward-firing port. The CSD waterfall [Graph 2, below] shows mostly fast decay in the treble albeit with some low-level resonances above 3-4kHz. KH ABOVE: Like some earlier B&W designs, the new 803 D3 has an emphasised presence/treble beyond 3kHz db Frequency in Hz >> HI-FI NEWS SPECIFICATIONS msec ABOVE: Cabinet resonances are well controlled but mild midrange driver resonances are visible >4kHz Sensitivity (SPL/1m/2.83Vrms Mean/IEC/Music) Impedance modulus min/max (20Hz 20kHz) Impedance phase min/max (20Hz 20kHz) Pair matching/resp. Error (200Hz 20kHz) LF/HF extension ( 6dB ref 200Hz/10kHz) 90.1dB/89.1dB/89.0dB 120Hz 42Hz 75 51Hz kHz ±1.7dB / ±3.6dB/±4.2dB See text / >40kHz/22.8kHz THD 100Hz/1kHz/10kHz (for 90dB SPL/1m) 0.1% / <0.1% / 0.1% Dimensions (HWD) 1160x334x498mm MARCH

40 CD PLAYER/DAC & AMPLIFIER CD player/dac and integrated amp. Rated at 70W Made by: International Audio Group, China Supplied by: IAG Ltd, Cambs Telephone: Web: Prices (8300CD/8300A): 1000/ 900 Audiolab 8300CD/8300A Aimed at audiophiles on a budget, this newly revamped CD player/dac and integrated amplifier combination provides a plethora of facilities, and serious sound quality too Review: Nick Tate Lab: Paul Miller Why should hi-fi buyers care if yet another sub integrated amplifier and CD player are launched? Aren t there enough of them around already? Well yes and part of the reason for this is the amazing sales success of the distant ancestor of the amp which you see here. The original 8000A was launched in 1983, and soon gained a reputation for superb reliability and fine sound. It made the Audiolab brand what it is today: synonymous with affordable quality. Unsurprisingly, the new 8300 series continues the theme, offering impressive build for the money (the 8300A integrated amplifier costs 900, the 8300CD silver disc spinner and DAC is 1000) and a welter of facilities. Designed to drive a wide range of loudspeakers, the new 8300A amplifier puts out a claimed 70W/8ohm [see PM s Lab Report, p43]. This is more than both its 1980s antecedent, which initially made a claimed 50W, and the 8200A that it replaces, which was rated at 60W. Stylistically, its 8200A predecessor was a close facsimile of the 1990s Audiolab 8000S (an 8000A minus tone controls), but the new 8300A brings a whole new look, sleeker and more modern. Indeed, this amplifier is more than just a restyle, according to designer Jan Ertner, who explains, the intention was to introduce a new, updated aesthetic, while offering the best CD player and integrated amplifier that Audiolab has ever made For the first time, the Audiolab integrated gets a display a rather snazzy OLED affair that shows volume and selected input. The amp can be switched to work either as an integrated amplifier, preamplifier or power amplifier via a front panel knob. Under the hood, the power amplifier output stage is said to offer improved linearity and thermal stability, with the idle current staying independent of the temperature of the output transistors. Meanwhile Audiolab s microprocessor controlled Active Current Drive lets the amp supply higher currents into complex loads if need be. Much of the amplifier s considerable weight is down to the large 300VA toroidal transformer. SLOT-LOADING CD PLAYER The old 8000A s phono stage was rather good, and Audiolab has resurrected the idea with the 8300A doing a two-stage op-amp based affair, with the input part using a bipolar amplifier and the main filter stage a FET/bipolar hybrid. The chips are said to be carefully chosen, and the stage caters for both MM and MC cartridges. To this, you can add five line inputs, one balanced XLR and, interestingly (counter to almost every rival), it does not have USB. Ertner says, we were always going to stay true to the legacy of the 8000A and make a high-quality stereo integrated amp with fully optimised analogue circuitry. Should you crave a versatile digital source, then Audiolab will be pleased to sell you the partnering 8300CD. This is more of a subtle evolution of the 8200CD that preceded it than a new design. The most obvious change is the slot-loading CD drive: that wobbly old plastic tray of its predecessor will not be missed, but Ertner says that the new loader has a reduced susceptibility to resonance too. Along with a new digital buffer circuit, full preamplifier functionality is now standard, which means that the new machine effectively takes over from the 8200CDP (the more expensive preampequipped version of the old CD player) and a handy balanced XLR output is added. Digitally, the 8300CD stays with the respected ESS Sabre 9018 DACs, but gets a better USB input capable of handling 384kHz/32-bit rather than its predecessor s 96kHz/24-bit, plus DSD playback via USB. Although there isn t a massive amount of DSD material around yet, this may change if major labels push the format. The new Audiolab is also gifted four extra digital filter settings for DSD, joining RIGHT: Redesigned inside and out, the new 8000-series amp is dual mono with two pairs of output devices per channel mounted onto internal heatsinking. Note large linear PSU 40 MARCH 2016

41 the seven existing ones for PCM files. Their effect is subtle, and largely down to taste and ancillaries. Two coaxial and two optical digital inputs are retained, along with an improved synchronous USB, plus single coaxial and optical digital outputs, singleended RCA outs and a 12V trigger loop. In use, both Audiolabs are as swish as you could expect for the money. The last range felt retro in a clunky way, but this new generation is obviously classier and better finished. The slot-loading disc drive on the 8300CD makes a world of difference to the experience of playing discs, and the new control system for the 8300A does the same in its own way. The cases are finely finished aluminium (with some slightly sharp edges, truth be told), and feel more expensive than price rivals. The refreshing absence of shiny brushed metal gives a more Apple look to these hi-fi separates than before, lessening the boxy feel to some degree. A NEW ANIMATED STYLE Traditionally, the Audiolab sound isn t the sort of experience that goes well with a glass of good sherry and a fine cigar in THE TEST OF TIME fact, it s more of an espresso coffee. One shouldn t expect a fat, sumptuous sound that wafts gently around the listening room. Rather, it s quite spry, crisp and dry things are explicitly laid out in front of you in plain view, with little romance, mystery or intrigue. Indeed, you could characterise it as strong and matter-of-fact, or even slightly analytical. This new amplifier/cd player retains this sense, but brings a more animated and emotionally engaging style to the way it does things. Any cursory listen will tell you that both 8300 series components are useful improvements over their predecessors, even if they re not radical reinventions of the company s traditional style. First, taken in isolation, the 8300CD is clearly the better performer relative to its market rivals. This is in no small part because its 8200CD predecessor, on which it is closely based, was so capable. Indeed, if you didn t mind its slightly colourless sound, one would probably declare it the When launched in 1983, the original Audiolab 8000A received lukewarm reviews in the UK hi-fi press, on account of its rather sedentary sound. However, it was powerful (by the standards of the day), being able to push out 50W per side and drive 2ohm loads without going pop something few rivals could claim! As a result, it was often bought to drive power-hungry 80s speakers. Audiolab didn t rest on its laurels and had a policy of continuous improvement. Indeed, designer Philip Swift remembers, there were 256 parts in the amplifier, and only one single component was used right throughout the production run the little round red MM/MC pushbutton selector at the back. By the early 90s, the 8000A had been refined to deliver more power with better sound, while getting a colour change from dark grey to a more imposing black. By 1993 it was able to hold its own against some of the best sounding amps in its class including the Naim Nait 3 while offering even more power and superior reliability. By the late 90s, its reputation was extremely high, and because it typically withstood whatever punishment its owners meted out, most 8000As are still around today. At this price point there s nothing to touch Audiolab s 8300CD player ABOVE: Both feature crisp OLED displays. The 8300CD has a slick, slot-loading CD drive while the 8300A brings a new look with knobs for source, volume and pre/power/integrated use best performer at the price. Here was a lower-mid-price CD player that gave much of the detail and insight of some far more expensive designs, yet didn t look obviously cheaper and nastier either. The 8300CD is an altogether more attractive and nicer-touse product, that s just a teensy bit more musical and natural sounding across all digital formats. For example, feed it with a well-produced slice of classic pop from The Police, and Wrapped Around Your Finger [Synchronicity; A&M ) sounds breathtakingly open and confident. There s a wealth of detail, from the strong central image of the vocals to the powerful, expressive drum kit and firm, propulsive bass. The player offers a truly sophisticated and nuanced sound, giving a lovely texture to the backing synthesiser which washes all round, and then takes you right to the back of the mix, throwing out the backing vocals with ease. Tonally, it s consummately neutral, with a dry but strong bass, smooth and subtle midband and a well resolved but not bright treble. A COMPETITIVE EDGE Of course, put the Audiolab up against the best machines at a few hundred pounds more like Roksan s 1300 K3 CD DI and you re quickly reminded that in absolute terms, the 8300CD is just a little dynamically flat and tonally dry. The latter invests the music with more passion, and a little more colour. Go back down to its price point though, and there is nothing that can touch the Audiolab. You can t MARCH


43 LAB REPORT ABOVE: The 8300CD [lower unit] has XLR and RCA line outs with AES/EBU, two optical, coax and one USB digital input. The 8300A [above] has pairs of 4mm speaker outs and two preamp outs plus one balanced XLR in, phono and five RCA line inputs quite say the same about the 8300A amplifier however, which is a very fine design but not absolutely unbeatable against rivals like Arcam s FMJ A29 but this merely highlights the star quality of its partnering digital source. RESOLUTELY OPEN Hook up the 8300A to a stout pair of floorstanders, such as the ATC SCM40s, and it delivers an admirable rendition of Sly And Robbie s Make Em Move [Language Barrier; Island ). This is a brilliant workout for any amplifier and speaker combination, and the sealed box ATCs make life hard for whatever is driving them. The Audiolab proved more than up to the job, pushing out high volumes without showing any particular signs of strain, despite the song s massive bassline and crunching LinnDrums. Indeed, it was unfazed even when the song started its crescendo, locating elements in the mix accurately in space, and staying resolutely open and detailed. The overall effect was impressive, marking this amp out as a worthy load-lugger, capable of conjuring up a large, controlled sound when called upon so to do. Indeed, this defines the 8300A s character: whenever you need lots of clean power, it is there to oblige. Give it a large-scale classical recording, such as Bernard Haitink s reading of Vaughan Williams s London Symphony [EMI CDC ], and the London Philharmonic Orchestra is revealed in all its pomp. The Audiolab shows fine soundstaging, hanging images in space accurately and projecting them well. Although giving a satisfyingly expansive sound from left to right, it is a little two-dimensional in absolute terms, failing to provide the sort of depth perspective that the occasion demands. This is why people spend twice as much on a truly capable integrated but for the price, this amp does perfectly well, thanks very much. In one respect it is highly detailed, giving a lucid and welletched midband with lots of feel for the massed strings, but their tonal richness seems to have been diluted slightly, imbuing them with a subtly processed feel. Taken as a pair, though, the Audiolabs are an impressive proposition. Bass is taut and tight if not overly sumptuous midband is crisp and open and the treble region is detailed and extended. This combo offers an excellent mixture of grip and focus that unlocks any recording from Sonny Rollins soulful rendition of Alfie s Theme [Alfie OST; Impulse MCAD-39107] to expansive power pop from Coldplay in the shape of Speed Of Sound [X&Y; Parlophone ]. The digital processing of the 8300CD is superb, giving excellent high-res playback. Kate Bush s Snowflake [50 Words For Snow; 96kHz/24-bit FLAC] was profoundly more powerful and expansive than via its CD version. Sweet, smooth and spacious, Miles Davis s Kind Of Blue on DSD was a joy, too. HI-FI NEWS VERDICT Audiolab s 8300CD player/dac is tough to beat at its price, just as the 8300A amp is a very strong performer although neither sounds especially sweet, majoring instead on power and precision. The combo plays a vast range of file formats, offers wide digital connectivity, plenty of power and a pleasing user experience allied to excellent build and finish. It s impossible not to highly recommend this dynamic duo. Sound Quality: 84% AUDIOLAB 8300CD/8300A There s plenty of trickle-through from Audiolab s M-DAC to its sophisticated 8300CD player/dac. The balanced output offers a full 4.23V from a vanishingly low 0.25ohm source impedance, so not only will the 8300CD prove immune to long, reactive interconnects but it ll also make a great headphone preamp! Moreover, the A-wtd S/N ratio is a huge 113dB, channel separation is >140dB, digital jitter <65psec (all sample rates from 44.1kHz to 192kHz) and distortion a minuscule ~0.0004% at 0dBFs [see Graph 1, below]. As ever, the various filter options represent a trade-off between stopband rejection (and aliasing distortion), response and time domain distortions. With CD/48kHz inputs the Sharp filter offers a 122dB rejection of digital images, a 0.2dB/20kHz response but obvious pre/post impulse ripples. Slow offers little rejection (6.4dB), a rolled-off high treble ( 3.2dB/20kHz) but very minor time-domain ripples. Optimal Transient XD and DD are the most extreme with zero attenuation of stopband images, a 3.3dB/20kHz response but near perfect time-domain behaviour. There s no doubt the partnering 8300A is a very loadtolerant amplifier with a dynamic power output of 104W, 190W, 300W into 8, 4 and 2ohm loads [see Graph 2], falling to 163W (12.8A) into 1ohm. However the 2x79W/8ohm and 2x123W/4ohm continuous power is only a little over Audiolab s 70W/115W rating. The A-wtd S/N ratio is generous at 89dB (re. 0dBW) and the response very extended, reaching 1Hz-70kHz (±1dB). Distortion, however, while very low at ~0.0008% through bass and mid frequencies, increases relatively steeply to 0.026%/20kHz and 0.12%/40kHz. Readers may download full QC Suite reports for the 8300CD/A via PM ABOVE: THD vs. digital level (1kHz via S/PDIF, red; via CD, black and 20kHz via S/PDIF, blue; via CD, green) ABOVE: Dynamic power output versus distortion into 8ohm (black trace), 4ohm (red), 2ohm (blue) and 1ohm (green) speaker loads. Current limit is 12.8A HI-FI NEWS SPECIFICATIONS Power output (<1% THD, 8/4ohm) 79W / 123W Dynamic power (<1% THD, 8/4/2/1ohm) 104W / 190W / 300W / 163W Output imp. (20Hz 20kHz, CD/Amp) 0.3ohm / ohm Freq. resp. (20Hz 20kHz, CD/Amp) +0.0 to 0.3dB/+0.0 to 0.10dB A-wtd S/N ratio (8300CD/8300A) 112.9dB (0dBFs) / 88.8dB (0dBW) Distortion (20Hz-20kHz, CD/Amp) % / % Digital jitter (CD, S/PDIF, USB) 125psec / 63psec / 55psec Power consumption (CD/Amp) 19W/240W (18W idle) Dimensions (WHD, 8300CD/8300A) 444x88x317/444x80x330mm MARCH

44 TURNTABLE Belt-driven turntable with electronic speed control Made by: Roksan Audio Ltd, London Supplied by: Henley Designs Ltd, Oxford Telephone: ; Web: Price (inc. Pro-Ject 9CC Evolution arm): 2500 Roksan Oxygene 30 Roksan s sleek Oxygene range has been boosted by the arrival of a matching turntable. Promising fine performance with effortless style, does it sound as good as it looks? Review: Adam Smith Lab: Paul Miller Fashion is over quickly. Style is forever. The words of iconic designer Ralph Lauren could just as easily be aimed at our audiophile universe where, until recently, aesthetic style was often traded for engineering expediency. Roksan played its part in reversing this trend with the launch of its curvaceous Oxygene range [HFN Aug 13] and while the styling was a bold move for the company it successfully attracted an entirely new audience for the brand. The latest addition to this sleek family is the Oxygene 30 turntable, launched to coincide with Roksan s 30th birthday. Priced at 2500, this new deck slots in between the Radius 5.2 [HFN Mar 10] and the Xerxes 20 Plus [HFN Dec 11] but is currently only offered as a complete package with the Pro-Ject 9CC Evolution tonearm and Roksan XPS-7 power supply. However, distributor Henley Designs has suggested that alternative tonearm/psu combinations will be available on request. THE LIFT-OFF SPINDLE CAP Although visually an excellent match for the companion amplifier and CD player, the turntable necessarily differs in its material design. The 30 s plinth is made from four layers of high density cast polycarbonate that are selectively decoupled from each other in the same manner as the plinth used by the Xerxes 20 Plus. The base is the main support for the whole deck and assists in isolating the other layers from external noise. Above this sits a sub-plinth that carries the main bearing and tonearm. The cutout surrounding this layer is instantly reminiscent of the original Xerxes although in this case its shape has been refined by Finite Element Analysis. The upper, visible plinth layer sits around the outside of the sub-plinth and is machined to follow its contours perfectly while never actually making contact. The final layer is really the armboard, machined from Delrin and designed to help isolate the tonearm from the sub-plinth. The bearing assembly is another familiar concept, and is based around Roksan s proven self-aligning design. The bearing sleeve is machined from phosphor bronze and the only contact it makes with the platter spindle is via a small ball at its base. This spindle is formed from hardened steel and precisely fits into the machined aluminium sub-platter through an exact taper. Both outer and inner platter are machined, not cast, and then finished to a very high standard. Another traditional feature of the deck is Roksan s removable spindle cap again a carry-over from the original Xerxes. The idea is that the cap is fitted to locate the record on the platter and then removed. This eliminates any direct contact between the record and the bearing, thus reducing mechanical interference. The platter is topped with Roksan s R-MAT 7 record mat, which has six central cut-outs, allowing the record label to sit in a slight recess while making sure the playing surface is fully supported. Finally, a custom 24-pole synchronous AC motor drives the platter via a precision belt. This motor is located in a high-mass mounting block, machined from T4 aircraft-grade aluminium, and uses Roksan s traditional spring-mounted arrangement to maintain optimum belt tension and help absorb transient speed changes. OUTBOARD POWER SUPPLY Power to the Oxygene 30 comes from Roksan s XPS-7 outboard PSU. This simple black box looks perhaps a little dowdy beside the Oxygene 30 and while it might easily be tucked away, access is needed for both its front and rear switches. Annoyingly, the front selects the turntable speed but the platter runs for as long as the rear-mounted power switch is on. RIGHT: The carbon fibre Pro-Ject arm is an excellent stylistic match for the turntable. Clearly visible is the top plate cut-out that dates back to Roksan s original Xerxes design 44 MARCH 2016

45 As mentioned, the Oxygene 30 is offered as a package, in the UK at least, with a Pro-Ject 9CC Evolution tonearm instead of one of Roksan s own designs, such as the Nima or the new Pug. Henley Designs, also the distributor for Pro-Ject, first experimented with the pairing and Roksan subsequently concurred that the Oxygene 30/9CC Evolution worked superbly together and promptly designed a new armboard to suit. Unfortunately, this armboard dispenses with Pro-Ject s own mounting collar so the arm s locking bolt is now below the deck s top surface with no side access. Consequently, in order to alter the cartridge VTA, the entire arm mounting plate must be removed from the deck, which is a disappointing outcome. Naturally, fit and finish is superb but it should be noted that gloss white is currently the only colour option for the new turntable. (Based on the Artora designs by Bo Christensen, the earlier CD transport and integrated amplifier also came with black and brushed silver chrome finish options.) TAKING THE AIR The Oxygene 30/9CC simply cuts to the heart of the music Encouragingly though, the 30 does come with one of those all-too-often missing essentials a lid. It s not a hinged one on this occasion but, rather, fits into the recesses that can be seen along each the side of the plinth. Setup of the Oxygene 30 is not difficult, aside from the usual care necessary when levelling the plinth and platter for optimum performance, and the manual details each step clearly and concisely. For my listening I set the deck up on an Atacama Equinox rack and utilised both Ortofon 2M Black moving-magnet [HFN Mar 11] and Ortofon Kontrapunkt b moving-coil cartridges. EFFORTLESS SCALE With the Oxygene 30 warmed up and running, it did not take long to detect the brand s DNA informing its sound. There is more than a suggestion of its Xerxes forebears in the 30 s pleasingly even-handed approach to music-making. This is no bad thing at all, The Oxygene range was first launched in 2013 and marked a stylistic departure for Roksan. While already known for high quality equipment, the company s products had generally been quite traditionally styled, so the appearance of the new components came as a shock to many. With their minimalist design, beautifully machined aluminium cases and large displays, the Oxygene amplifier and CD player were real head-turners. A turntable was always intended to feature in the range but Roksan held off for another two years so that it would arrive in time to celebrate the company s 30th birthday hence the Oxygene 30 moniker. Under the skin, a great deal of technology dating back to the original Xerxes has been utilised (including the XPS-7 power supply, pictured above). On top, however, the 30 is right up to date and a perfect aesthetic match for its range companions. ABOVE: The multi-layer plinth is formed from polycarbonate and beautifully finished, with isolation between each layer. Three machined feet are fitted, adjustable for levelling as the Xerxes is one of the most enjoyable record players I know, and the Oxygene 30 not only echoes its bigger brother s strengths but has a few neat tricks of its own up its sleeve. The result is a turntable with a broad range of abilities and no glaring weaknesses at the price, as the Oxygene 30 simply cuts to the heart of music while seeming to favour no particular style or genre. Whatever you feed it, it returns an effortlessly musical and emotionally satisfying performance, but with a little extra pizzazz courtesy, I d suggest, of the Pro-Ject arm. The Roksan combo certainly pulled the very best from the Ortofon 2M Black. It filled the space between my loudspeakers with an effortless sense of scale and with fine image stability, its soundstage stretching pleasingly wide as the Oxygene 30 gently drew the music out into the room. There was no hanging anything back and no forceful overrepresentation, just a sense that I was hearing what was intended. At the low end, the Roksan offered plenty of impact and bite, but with no sense of looseness. It didn t quite have the bass authority of, say, a Michell Orbe, but it never sounded lightweight, plodding or uncertain. The Pro-Ject arm is a great help here as its improved resonance damping [see PM s Lab Report, p47] has seemingly enhanced the authority of upper bass/lower midrange detail. The upshot was a typically taut bass line, illustrated MARCH

46 SEE US AT T Find out more at Distributed by Henley Designs Ltd. T: +44 (0) E: W:

47 LAB REPORT ABOVE: Pro-Ject s detachable Connect-IT Phono 5P-SI cable is supplied with RCA plugs to match the 9CC Evolution tonearm. The 24-pole motor is fed from Roksan s XPS-7 outboard PSU [see picture, p45] which connects to the deck s rear 5-pin DIN socket by Helen Watson s You re Not The Rule (You re The Exception) from her Blue Slipper album [EMI SCX6710], striding through the performance with weight and scale. Equally, her vocal performance wasn t lost behind the partnering instrumentation something I have heard with this album on more than one occasion. Rather, the Oxygene 30 pulled Helen Watson s voice neatly from the mix although I do have to say I ve heard her held more solidly centre-stage before. So although the Oxygene 30 offers a broad swathe of sound, a little more central image focus would not have gone amiss. FROM MM TO MC On the other hand, the Oxygene 30 proved something of a wizard in coaxing the best from lesser recordings. Bedroom Eyes from Dum Dum Girls 2011 LP Only In Dreams [Sub-Pop SP950] is another track that is rather densely recorded, if not quite a sonic mess, but the Oxygene 30 cut through this with apparent ease, lifting the music out of the mire and sending it bounding merrily on its way. Changing the 2M Black for the Kontrapunkt gave further improvements, for while the deck s compelling, flowing easiness was retained, the new moving-coil brought extra insights as its treble performance most definitely moved up a gear. Cymbals sounded more realistically metallic, and hi-hats snapped into focus even if when I revisited some of those poorer recordings they now sounded just slightly edgy. The Pro-Ject 9CC arm is a lowmass design and arguably best suited to moderate/high compliance pick-ups, but provided your record collection is pristine and full of high quality pressings, then a more explicit transducer may be selected without fear. However, if you have a collection of well-worn ex-juke box singles then a little caution is advised with pick-up matching. Across the midband, the Roksan/ Pro-Ject pairing proved to be highly tolerant and very even-mannered regardless of the quality of vinyl or recording in play. Acoustic, unplugged recordings were typically an atmospheric delight with real form within the soundstage, just as electronica flourished, with synthesisers taking on a palpable weight and richness. The occasional ominous notes lurking in the background of Malia And Boris Blank s Raising Venus from their Convergence album [Universal ] had a menacing immediacy about them appearing and then audibly vanishing just as promptly. All in all, it was difficult to find any significant fault with the Oxygene 30 on any level at its price. The Pro-Ject 9CC Evolution tonearm is clearly a fine match, injecting a little life into the deck, and helping realise a fine music-making experience. That said, I would love to hear the Oxygene 30 sporting a Roksan Artemiz HI-FI NEWS VERDICT By combining many of the key mechanical design features of its longstanding Xerxes models with a similarly tried-and-tested Pro-Ject arm, Roksan has worked wonders with its new analogue offering. So it s perhaps no surprise that the Oxygene 30 s slick technical performance is reflected in an engagingly foot-tapping sound. Frankly, its curvaceous styling is simply the icing on the cake. Sound Quality: 84% ROKSAN OXYGENE 30 Key aspects of the Oxygene 30 s design the decoupled plinth arrangement, long 11:1 main bearing, two-piece alloy platter with very deep label recess and the removable spindle cap are evidently inspired by the bigger Xerxes 20 Plus [HFN Dec 11]. The idea is to isolate the LP from as much of the bearing s mechanical noise as possible, and here Roksan has been very successful with a through-groove rumble of just 69.4dB and a through-bearing rumble (measured via the detachable spindle cap) falling to just 72.3dB. The 24-pole synchronous motor is spring-tensioned in a similar fashion to earlier Roksan (and some current Pro-Ject) decks and performs well here, offering a 0.02% peak wow and 0.04% peak flutter [see Graph 1, below] a result not dissimilar to the costlier Xerxes! The ±100Hz flutter sidebands are associated with the outboard XPS-7 PSU. The partnering Pro-Ject 9CC Evolution tonearm shares the same basic design as the 10CC [HFN Jan 16] with its lightweight but very rigid, woven carbon fibre tube. Despite being 1in shorter, the 9CC shares the same 195Hz main bending mode but its harmonics are shifted to 350Hz, 510Hz and 615Hz, the latter moderately high-q but quickly damped [see Graph 2, below]. Effective mass is just 8g, making it ideal for compliant MMs, and the four ABEC 7 tolerance ball races offer very low (<10mg) levels of friction. Tested with its medium counterweight, the 9CC s downforce proved to read about 10% over the actual value, with an expected 2g measuring closer to 1.8g. If in doubt, overcompensate slightly. Readers can view QC Suite reports for Roksan s Oxygene 30 turntable and Pro-Ject s 9CC Evolution tonearm by navigating to and clicking on the red download button. PM ABOVE: Wow and flutter re. 3150Hz tone at 5cm/sec (plotted ±150Hz, 5Hz per minor division) ABOVE: Cumulative tonearm resonant decay spectrum, illustrating various bearing, pillar and tube vibration modes spanning 100Hz-10kHz over 40msec HI-FI NEWS SPECIFICATIONS Turntable speed error at 33.33rpm 33.40rpm (+0.19%) Time to audible stabilisation 6sec Peak Wow/Flutter 0.02% / 0.04% Rumble (silent groove, DIN B wtd) 69.4dB Rumble (through bearing, DIN B wtd) 72.3dB Hum & Noise (unwtd, rel. to 5cm/sec) 54.2dB Power Consumption 4-6W Dimensions (WHD) / Weight 430x80x350mm / 11kg MARCH

48 CD RIPPER/USB DAC CD ripper/transport and USB DAC Made by: Computer Audio Design Ltd, Surrey Supplied by: Computer Audio Design Ltd Telephone: Web: Price (CD transport/dac): 6300/ 7250 CAD CAT/1543MkII Systems for computer-based music playback don t get much more purist than this CD ripper and filterless DAC, but does its novel approach pay off in audio performance? Review: Andrew Everard Lab: Paul Miller Those who suggest storing files on a computer and playing them into your hi-fi system via a DAC as a means of simplifying a set-up underestimate the ability of the audio industry to complicate matters. Thus we have servers, dedicated audio USB cables some of which aren t actually USB cables [see HFN Jul 13 & Jul 14] plus devices designed to improve the USB signal, and all manner of different DAC technologies, all to get the best possible performance. The products here, from Surrey-based Computer Audio Design, cover most of those bases: the CAT is a 6300 transport, able to rip and store music then play it out via USB or Ethernet, while the 1543MkII, at 7250, is the latest version of the company s minimalist DAC, with just a single digital input on a USB socket and Philips-based filterless/non-oversampling conversion within. Filterless DACs are a rarity and it s worth noting that the last DAC of this kind reviewed in these pages was the Metrum Acoustics HEX [HFN Jun 13]. Right back to its earliest players Philips used oversampling filters, and Sony rapidly adopted the technology in its second generation machines back in the early 1980s. PM discusses the pros and cons of filterless designs in his Lab Report [p51]. The final part of the CAD system as supplied for review is the company s 480 USB cable, which separates its signal and power lines into two connections between the fitted plugs. Nevertheless I m bound to say that what the CAD duo seems to offer is at least on paper perfectly achievable with more conventional components for a fraction of the cost. I ve recently bought a secondhand MacMini with built-in DVD/CD drive to act as a dedicated music device, and that cost me 250 plus 35 for an 8GB memory upgrade; bolt on a 1TB SSD for storage and you re probably into around 700 all up, including a housing for the drive if you don t fancy surgery on the Mac. CUSTOM-BUILT TO ORDER And DACs? Well, the excellent little Chord Mojo [HFN Jan 16] is 400, and even if you want to spend money on an audiophile USB cable to connect the two, about 50 should do the trick. Call it about 1200 tops, leaving you a lot of cash to experiment with add-ons such as a linear PSU for the MacMini, which start from about 300 or so, plus a bit of time spent in computer surgery. The manufacturers of such devices say the (reversible) PSU modification can be done in about 10min. So what does the CAD combination offer beyond these DIY solutions? Well, the transport may, at its heart, be a PC with a disc drive for ripping CDs and 1TB of internal SSD storage, but CAD has gone to great lengths to optimise it for the task in hand. For a start there s its use of a hefty external linear power supply, with four separate voltage rails, in place of a standard switch-mode computer supply, while the Windows OS, which runs on a separate SSD, has also been optimised for music playback, as has the device s motherboard. Ripping is via a customised version of the widely-used dbpoweramp, with automatic look-up of metadata if the CAT is connected to the Internet, and rips can be stored either to the internal storage or an external NAS unit. The physical customisation extends to an enhanced USB output, the default means of playback for the CAT, although there s also an Ethernet connection to allow the pre-loaded JRiver Media Centre to be controlled from a computer or handheld device running control point software such as Kazoo, Kinsky or Bubble UPnP. You can also use a conventional mouse/screen setup if required, or even use a TV connected via HDMI as the display. The Ethernet connection can also make the content it stores visible to a network player, as well as simplifying the transfer of music to the internal storage. On which subject, in common with other CAD products the CAT is built to RIGHT: Multiple linear power supplies feed the USB input board and a total of 16 stereo TDA1543N2 DACs pinned under a heatsink (top left of picture). Note the large AC coupling capacitors on the single-ended analogue output 48 MARCH 2016

49 order, so the buyer can specify additional SSD storage up to a nominal 4TB but when I spoke to company founder Scott Berry he was working on a 6TB version requested by a customer. It s also possible to build-in access to streaming services as required after all, this is basically a Windows computer! Furthermore you can have the USB output replaced by an audio-optimised Ethernet connection, allowing the CAT to be used directly into a network player, as is the case with Melco s digital libraries [HFN Feb & Aug 15]. Other design elements here include mechanical vibration isolation, high-purity audiophile internal cabling and proprietary EMI/RFI isolation, but as with the other CAD products, details of these measures are somewhat scant. What CAD S SCOTT BERRY There s a wideopen view of what else is going on in the mix is known is that the 1543MkII, as the name suggests, uses a digital-to-analogue conversion solution based around 16 of Philips venerable TDA1543/N2 DAC chips (introduced in 1991) with their oversampling disabled and no analogue output filtering added. This design allows the 1543MkII to handle files at up to 24-bit and at 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz and 192kHz, although I found the DAC occasionally failed to lock onto 192kHz tracks played via Audirvana from my Mac, and was better considered as a device p y with 176.4kHz capability. Berry doesn t see this as a problem, as he explains in our boxout, and of course most common player software used on a computer connected to the CAD DAC Talking to Scott Berry, the founder and driving force behind CAD, it soon becomes clear that what you re buying is a very personal project, developed by a small team there are just five and a half of us fully aware they re flying in the face of the digital audio industry. Right now the market is flooded with DACs, Berry says, with a lot of companies going for the big numbers when it comes to format compatibility, but not bothering to get the basics right. Berry s belief is that the arms race in ever higher DSD and PCM sampling rates is missing the point: he feels the sweet spot for music is at CD-quality or perhaps up to 96kHz, but that music begins to sound less natural at higher sampling rates. Instead, he concentrates on getting the replay chain right for those with big CD collections, ctions, addressing the causes of noise on signal and ground planes as he has with the new four-layer DAC board used in the MkII 1543 rather than chasing the numbers. ABOVE: Not much to see beyond the illuminated CAD logos and slot drive [CAT, below]. Both products sit on Black Ravioli Big Pad isolation feet, available as a 250/set option will allow content to be downsampled or converted to suit. The 1543MkII has five power supplies built-in, each with its own custom transformers, as well as proprietary mains conditioning (the mains cable is captive), along with similar EMI/RFI-busting measures to those used on the CAT transport, and full galvanic isolation for its asynchronous USB input. The casework, another custom design, is all-acrylic. Like so much here, it s the expensive, purist way of doing things, and it sits on Black Ravioli Big Pad feet. HYPER-DETAILED DUO As you might imagine given all the above, getting one s head around what the CAD combination here can do is a little tricky, so after a couple of days listening to the 1543MkII on the end of my audio Mac (running Audirvana and Roon players and CAD s own audio optimisation script, designed to shut down background processes on the computer), I decided to stick to the simpler option of running the transport and DAC as a complete player. And the first thing to be noted is that the sound the CAD pairing delivers is hyper- detailed, exceptionally clean and entirely satisfying on all kinds of hi-fi levels. There s no arguing with the sheer resolution on offer, whether playing CD-quality music MARCH

50 The Audio Consultants Reading, RG7 8JN Cool Gales Bath, BA6 2LU MCRU Huddersfield, HD1 4SB www. Contact

51 LAB REPORT ABOVE: The CAT CD ripper/transport (lower box) is based around a matx PC solution and connects to the CAD 1543MkII via USB. RCA analogue outs only (top box) or higher resolutions up to the 176.4kHz maximum with which the 1543MkII seemed most happy. Taking on board Berry s view that CD-quality up to 96kHz is the sweet spot for audio, I nevertheless did some experimentation with CD upsampled to 176.4kHz, with the hope that so doing would help push any aliasing noise created in the conversion way out of the audible band, which should be beneficial with this filterless DAC design. Unsurprisingly, the effects of this strategy were hardly consistent, with the benefits masked in some cases by the quality of the recording itself, but at its very best I felt a layer of sheen was removed from the music when upsampled, allowing the timbres of voices and instruments to be heard more easily. IN THE ROOM PRESENCE However, the effect was subtle, and while intriguing I am sure many will feel it not worth the considerable effort, especially should one have a large music collection. More to the point is that the same effects (at least) are brought to bear when comparing commercial releases at CD quality and beyond: David Bowie s Blackstar album [ISO/Columbia/ Sony ] sounded somewhat dull and lacking in space and air when played from a CD rip through the CAD system, with the percussion decidedly spongy and lacking attack, but it opened up appreciably, allowing the scoring and performances better expression, when the 96kHz/24-bit Qobuz download was substituted. At its best, the CAD combination can be strikingly good: playing the Brodsky Quartet recording of Shostakovich s Waltz No 2 [Chandos CHAN 10708], the intertwining instrumental lines were beautifully delineated. Similarly with the Count Basie Orchestra s April In Paris [Basie Is Back Live In Japan; Eighty Eights VRCL 18833], the CAD duo showed its ability to drive rhythm sections hard, while giving a wide-open view of what s going on elsewhere in the mix. It delivers prodigious bass too, and often when one is least expecting it, such as in the Game Is On section of David Arnold and Michael Price s soundtrack from the first series of Sherlock [Silva Screen SILCD 1377], or when conveying the scale and body of the two pianos on the Dena Piano Duet s Hommage à Grieg album [2L-094-SABD]. What s more, let it loose on a superbly recorded track such as Lake Street Dive s cover of I Want You Back [Fun Machine; Signature Sounds SIG 2048], and the CAD pairing can really drop the jaw with the sheer in the room presence it delivers, from the up close string bass to the subtle percussion and trumpet, and with Rachael Price s vocal sounding more luminously gorgeous than ever before. And that s what you re paying for with the CAD transport and DAC. HI-FI NEWS VERDICT The sonic ability of this pairing is deliciously addictive, but that elephant in the room needs to be addressed: what you re getting here is a low-volume, customised, no-compromise, built-to-order digital music system, which has cost implications. This is almost always the way in the world of high-end audio. As it is, the CAD transport and DAC combination is very definitely in the top flight of digital music playback solutions. Sound Quality: 86% CAD CAT/1543MKII DAC CAD s use of 16 parallel TDA1543N2 DACs supports a moderate 1.65V peak output (re. 1kHz/0dBFs) with a 16-bit A-wtd S/N ratio of 95dB without the need for an additional gain stage. Any DC offset is removed via a pair of 5μF Duelund Coherent Audio pure foil VSF audio capacitors while the high-ish white noise floor also buries any residual jitter to an impressive ~20psec [see Graph 2]. So, not only is there no digital oversampling, neither is there any analogue filtering or buffering prior to the output where the 125ohm output impedance increases to 655ohm at low bass frequencies (20Hz). A full 2V output is possible from 16xTDA1543 DACs but 1.65V was chosen to achieve the optimum distortion vs. level: peaking at 0.65% at 0dBFs before falling to a minimum of ~0.03% from 15dBFs to 40dBFs [see Graph 1, below]. This is around 10x higher than might be achieved with a modern DAC implementation just as intermodulation distortions from digital aliasing track back into the audioband at up to 0.6%. This is the principal drawback of a filterless DAC solution, particularly with lower (44.1/48kHz) sample rates where the frequency response also rolls away through the treble from 0.8dB/10kHz to 3.1dB/20kHz. The advantage of zero filtering is zero time domain distortion, so impulse tests show no pre or post ringing (echo). The best of both worlds is realised at higher sample rates where the response reaches out to 0.1dB/20kHz, 0.7dB/45kHz and 3.2dB/90kHz (192kHz media) and where aliasing distortions are pushed well out of the audio band. Readers may download full QC Suite reports for Computer Audio Design s USB DAC performance by navigating to www. and clicking on the red download button. PM ABOVE: Distortion vs. digital level over a 120dB range with 48kHz/24bit data at 1kHz (black) and 20kHz (blue) ABOVE: High resolution jitter plot with 24-bit/48kHz data white noise floor obscures jitter sidebands HI-FI NEWS SPECIFICATIONS Maximum output level 1.65Vrms at ohm A-wtd S/N Ratio 94.7dB Distortion (1kHz, 0dBFs/ 30dBFs) 0.65% / 0.027% Dist. & Noise (20kHz, 0dBFs/ 30dBFs) 0.22% / 0.038% Freq. resp. (20Hz-20kHz/45kHz/90kHz) +0.0 to 2.6dB/ 3.3dB/ 3.2dB Digital jitter (48kHz/24-bit data) <20psec 90dB / 100dB +0.3dB / +1.4dB Power consumption 20W Dimensions (WHD) / Weight (DAC only) 430x85x270mm / 8.2kg MARCH

52 PREAMPLIFIER Two-chassis control/tube preamplifier Made by: McIntosh Laboratory inc., Binghamton, NY, USA Supplied by: Jordan Acoustics Ltd, Dorset, UK Telephone: Web: Price: 12,995 McIntosh C1100C/T One of the world s most expensive preamplifiers, this two-box package offers a sophisticated mix of traditional and modern, blending tubes with outboard switching Review: Nick Tate Lab: Paul Miller If the object of an amplifier, as Quad s Peter Walker once astutely observed, is to be a length of wire with gain, then McIntosh s flagship preamplifier is a very long and impressive looking piece of wire indeed. Furthermore, it has plenty of gain too, but any prospective purchaser might be just a little wary about the very concept of the 12,995 C1100C/T. It s a massively complex, two-box behemoth with almost every feature under the sun, a sophisticated microprocessorcontrolled user interface and a large complement of vacuum tubes inside plus of course, lots of the aforementioned wire. A STATEMENT PRODUCT In a world where minimalism is the direction in which many audiophile preamplifiers go, where does this grand American design fit in? The C1100 is not from the school of less is more. Rather, think of it as a universal, do-it-all design that forms the glamorous heart of a high-end hi-fi. Possible buyers will include folk with large systems in need of serious switching capabilities. To wit, the McIntosh comfortably takes care of any number of line-level source components and turntables, working in either balanced or unbalanced mode. Being a tube-design it s a natural partner to big valve power amplifiers, while solid-state power amp owners may seek it out to add additional smoothness to their systems. Finally, existing McIntosh owners will be drawn to this vast preamplifier package like a moth to a flame many will want it because it is one of the world s most evocative brands as far as valves are concerned. Essentially then, this is many people s idea of the ultimate preamplifier: not in spite of its obvious complexity and sophistication, but because of it. It makes a bold statement about itself, its purchaser and the system it works in The package consists of the C1100C Controller box and the C1100T Vacuum Tube Preamplifier, the idea being to isolate the control and power sections from the audio circuits. Both boxes are dual-mono in configuration and special shielded umbilical cables join the two components. These use old computer-type DB25 connectors, but it s obvious that the wiring is of another order from that used to commune with 1990s printers! Indeed, everything about the design from the way it hooks up, to the obvious complexity and operational sophistication shows tremendous attention to detail. The C1100C sports the power control, data ports and external control connections. It runs a microprocessor to manage the user interface and switching, It serves up a soupçon of the valve magic that audiophiles crave letting the C1100T handle the bits it was created for. This has socketry for no fewer than 12 analogue inputs six balanced, four unbalanced, plus user-configurable MM and MC phono inputs. There are two sets of balanced and two sets of unbalanced outputs. Inside the box, the big McIntosh C1100T runs six 12AX7A and six 12AT7 tubes. There s also a nod to the growing headphone community, with its Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD), which adds an interesting new dimension to canned music. As you d expect, Home Theatre Pass Through to integrate with a home cinema system is also provided. It s unusual to see a two-chassis preamplifier, and all the more visually imposing for it. McIntosh fans will love the RIGHT: Illuminated by green LEDs to indicate full operation, the C1100T s six 12AX7A and 12AT7 triodes 12 in total are visible from the front and top, along with a circuit schematic 52 MARCH 2016

53 classic look, something that hasn t changed now for many decades, but others might think it a bit over the top. On switch-on you re immediately greeted by the vast bank of tubes backlit by amber LEDs, and the words TUBE WARMUP on the decidedly retro dot-matrix display. Ten seconds or so later, the LED illumination changes to green, and you re good to go. This, allied to the green backlit panel legends and largish blue level meters (which, incidentally, have curiously slow ballistics), makes for an impressive light show that s heightened further by the big control knobs and metal end caps. Pressing the Setup button lets you scroll through the various options, from user-configurable WORLD OF MCINTOSH input names to IR control codes and automatic shut-off. Overall, the C1100C/T presents itself as a large and imposing product that flaunts its lofty status. THE BEST OF TWO WORLDS No preamplifier is perfectly neutral all deviate in some way from the sonic straight and narrow so the question becomes, in what way do they transgress? Most people buy valve preamps in the expectation of their adding a smidgen of warmth and sweetness without losing the energy and scale of the original recording and that s a fair summation of the McIntosh. In other words, it serves up a soupçon of the old valve magic that many audiophiles crave When American Frank H McIntosh decided to develop an amplifier, he hired Canadian Gordon Gow MBE to help. Together they created the Unity Coupled transformer. Applications were filed for five basic patents, and granted in They started a company that year to produce the McIntosh 50W1 Amplifier, which punched out 50W per channel with less than 1% distortion from 20Hz to 20kHz. Sidney A Corderman took charge of engineering, and a litany of classic amps followed, including the MC30 and MC225. The MC2505 was the first transistor power amp, and it introduced the company s now-familiar glass front panel and level meters and the new Autoformer offering 4, 8 and 16ohm taps. In 1977 Gordon Gow became president when McIntosh retired. Later, the company was sold to Clarion for 29 million, then to D&M Holdings in In 2012, it was acquired by the Fine Sounds Group of Milan Sonus faber and Audio Research owner which evolved into World of McIntosh in December ABOVE: Around the central fluorescent dotmatrix display are knobs for volume, input, trim and adjust alongside buttons for set-up, on/off, mute and HXD headphone effects processing without colouring the sound excessively. The downside is that it simply isn t quite as translucent as the best solid-state designs, losing a touch of openness and detail. That said, it sacrifices surprisingly little and there s no sense of it being an unnaturally romantic device with an artificially warm and fluffy feel. The C1100C/T largely manages to blend the best of both worlds, without fully committing itself to either. Spin-up the title track of The Eurythmics Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This [RCA RCD 25447], and it s clear that the McIntosh is a very high resolution device. It vividly recreates the soundstage yet doesn t throw things into overly sharp relief. It s incisive, yet not too forensic in the way that some solid-state designs can be. So the C1100C/T delivers a tuneful and engaging musical performance, with a powerful yet easy sensibility that, as many audiophiles profess, can only come from a properly designed tube preamplifier. Even if it doesn t quite have the vice-like grip of rival solid-state or passive designs, showing a slightly less taut low bass than is ideal, the Mac majors instead on midrange fluency and scale, presenting the music in an ordered and tidy way that flows MARCH

54 +44(0) New New +44(0)

55 LAB REPORT ABOVE: The C1100C (lower box) communicates all control functions via two DB25 connectors to the C1100T preamp. Six analogue ins inc. three balanced XLRs, two on RCAs and an adjustable MM/MC phono. Balanced XLR and RCA outs are included well and pulls the listener in. High frequencies sound beguilingly silky, too. Thus the McIntosh favours some types of music over others. PACE AND DETAIL Feed it largely acoustic programme material such as the title track from Glen Campbell s Wichita Lineman [Capitol Records ST 103] and you could enjoy that wonderfully wide yet well focused soundstage, and commendable depth. Tonally pretty neutral, it threw lots of detail out at this listener without assaulting anyone, and pushed the song along in an engaging way. Campbell s voice was creamy, and the song s beautiful string arrangements were deftly carried, with a fine sense of space stretching right up to the sky. Yet move to more dense, electronic music and the McIntosh wasn t quite so surefooted. Goldie s Angel [Timeless, FFRR ] was still enjoyable, with the same trademark evenness and scale, yet it didn t quite catch the emotional intensity of the song, but delivered a more middle-of-the-road rendition that was unerringly pleasant to listen to but still not as gripping as with some other preamplifiers. Some tube amps garnish the sound to the point where it s practically unrecognisable, but the C1100C/T remains one of the more neutral of such designs that I ve heard. It introduces the slightest touch of warmth to the sound, taking the sharpest of edges off instruments and smoothing vocals in a subtle way. Still, it manages to reproduce large amounts of detail and unlock complex recordings when called upon so to do. The big McIntosh proves most at home with more laid-back programme material, such as the smoky jazz of Say You re Mine from Donald Byrd [The Cat Walk, Blue Note ] via its fine MC phono input, for example. Here it suddenly got its mojo working, digging into the song s syncopations in a most realistic manner. It proved adept at tracking the subtle dynamic inflections of the musicians, too. Ultimately though, classical music is where the McIntosh shines brightest, being able to showcase its excellent three-dimensional soundstaging ability. Bernard Haitink s superb reading of Vaughan Williams s Symphony No 2 [EMI CDC ] sounded wonderfully atmospheric with a beautifully tactile string sound. Stereo images were located in the recorded acoustic with riflebolt precision, giving the listener a crisp and panoramic view of the proceedings. It didn t push you up too close to the performance, maintaining a dignified distance where one could take everything in while enjoying the atmosphere of the recorded sound itself. HI-FI NEWS VERDICT With dramatic styling, extensive facilities and fine sound, this big Mac is an impressive package. There are preamplifiers around with more detail and insight, yet this works convincingly on its own terms, serving up a characteristically smooth yet powerful sound. Factor in build quality that s hard to argue with, and many audiophiles especially aficionados of the brand will find this their ultimate preamp. Sound Quality: 83% McINTOSH C1100C/T With a combined weight of 23.6kg and with its (digital) control logic and analogue preamplifier stages separated into two heavily screened enclosures, the C1100C/T combination from McIntosh serves to illustrate that a pure triode tube amp is capable of both very low noise and exceptionally low distortion. Via its line inputs the maximum gain is +15.1dB (0dB trim, balanced in/out) which is both generous and also higher than with many other contemporary preamplifiers. Full output is 24V while a 4.9V balanced output reads 0dB on the C1100T s display with 1.5V for 10dB and 0.46V for 20dB all of which demonstrates a reliable meter calibration. Distortion is very low indeed at just % (1V output, 20Hz-20kHz), the figure increasing at subsonic frequencies to 0.019%/5Hz and very slightly at extremely high frequencies to 0.001%/40kHz [see Graph 2, below]. The increase in subsonic distortion is mirrored by an increase in the C1100T s (balanced) output impedance from ~100ohm through mid and treble frequencies to 112ohm/100Hz and 217ohm/25Hz. The response shows a similar sub-bass tailoring from 0.1dB/20Hz down to a 3dB point at 3Hz [see Graph 1, below] while the top-end stretches out to 0.1dB/20kHz and 1.9dB/100kHz. Channel balance is digitally governed to within ±0.01dB while separation is typically better than 90dB from 20Hz-20kHz. Noise is impressively low for the tube-count, amounting to a wide 101dB A-wtd S/N ratio (re. 0dBV). Readers are invited to view a comprehensive QC Suite test report for the McIntosh C1100C controller and C1100T preamplifier by navigating to and clicking on the red download button. PM ABOVE: Extended frequency response (5Hz-100kHz, black) versus output impedance (20Hz-100kHz, red) ABOVE: Distortion versus extended frequency from 5Hz-40kHz at 0dBV (left, black; right, red) HI-FI NEWS SPECIFICATIONS Maximum output (<1% THD, 47kohm) 24Vrms (Balanced) Maximum input level (<1% THD) >10Vrms (Balanced) Output impedance (20Hz 20kHz) ohm (Balanced) Frequency response (20Hz 100kHz) 0.10dB to 0.11dB Input sensitivity 177mV (Balanced) A-wtd S/N ratio (re. 0dBV) 101.0dB Distortion (20Hz-20kHz re. 0dBV) % Power consumption 57W (1W standby) Dimensions (WHD) / Weight (C/T) 445x152x483mm / 12.3/11.3kg MARCH

56 LOUDSPEAKER Three-way floorstanding loudspeaker Made by: Sonus faber SpA (Fine Sounds Group), Italy Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd Telephone: Web: Price: (black, white/wood finishes) Sonus faber Venere Signature Sonus faber s Venere Signature, at the top of the Venere family, closes the fiscal gap with its costlier siblings Review: Ken Kessler Lab: Keith Howard Added to the top of an existing, well-received range, Sonus faber s Venere Signature (or S for short) faces great expectations. Exacerbating the challenge is looking like a baby version of its siblings in the company s much dearer collections. But with prices ranging between 4000 and 4200 depending on your choice of black, white or walnut, this falls into the lower third of the Sonus faber catalogue. It joins the existing Venere 1.5 and models 2.0, 2.5 and 3.0 [HFN Sep 13, Mar 14 and Jan 14] there are also wallmount and centre channel versions to complete a home cinema with an extra woofer and larger cabinet than the 3.0. According to Sonus faber, the Venere S completes the series. After a few disruptive Sonus faber models not made in Italy, the Venere range regained both the old audience and found a new one. Inescapably, the Venere S is influenced as much by the brand s past as it is by post- The Sonus faber models [see HFN Feb 11]. Purists, who (like me) have been in love with the brand since it arrived over 30 years ago to single-handedly redefine the aesthetic of the box-type enclosure, will delight in its being entirely designed and hand-assembled in the factory in Arcugnano, in Northern Italy. Semantics plays a part here as this is the first time Sonus faber has dubbed a model Signature. In Sonus faber parlance, the term defines a speaker that is a complete rethink, despite it fitting into an existing family the aesthetics as much as the price point ensure that it belongs exactly where they ve positioned it, as a bridge between the Venere and Olympica series. A major change that distances it from the smaller 3.0 and the rest of the range is a newly-designed reflex port removed from the front baffle, where the earlier models have a slot at the bottom. Instead, the circular port for Venere S is located beneath the speaker and thus aimed at the floor. This was to reduce interaction with the listening room but it differs if you have hard floors or carpets. Lateral thinking allows you to experiment: with the former floor material try a small square of carpet below the port; with the latter, a small floor tile will suffice. LEVELLING IS CRITICAL It also complicates set-up in another way as the speaker s integral stand actually more of a frame has adjustable spikes, so its height setting also fine-tunes the bass. We re only talking about millimetres, but I also learned that the port works best if the bottom surface of the Venere S is perfectly parallel to the floor. Unfortunately, because the top of the speaker is sloped, a spirit level is of no use! While this might not sound critical, it affects bass quality primarily in terms of absolute control, if not extension. This isn t rocket science, it s just a matter of a ruler and the willingness to adjust the spikes to the millimetre. Trickling down from the Olympica range are the free compression baskets for the drivers, custom-made in die-cast metal. The three 180mm woofers use aluminium cones, chosen for the material s lightness and stiffness, ensuring a fast transient response at low frequencies. For the midband, the 150mm cone driver uses Sonus faber s Curv membrane, a thermoformed polypropylene fibre that provides the ideal solution for an absolutely natural reproduction of the main part of the audio spectrum. Unlike the dearer ranges, which feature the familiar Arrow Point tweeter, the RIGHT: Three 180mm aluminium-coned bass units are joined by a 150mm polypropylene/textile midrange driver and 29mm soft dome tweeter all mounted behind alloy rings to conceal fixing screws 56 MARCH 2016

57 FLOORSTANDERS REDUX? Is there a cult or backlash forming? Have speaker builders said enough was enough, and decided that small two-way boxes are for wimps? Clearly, the latter isn t true, because the best-value speakers of recent years MartinLogan s Motion 15, the Quad S-1, KEF s LS50 are standmounts. But Sonus faber seems obsessed with floorstanders of late. Since the The Sonus faber arrived, the company has delivered a steady flow of towers, and the Venere Signature is evidence that the brand is staying true to its promise to exercise trickle-down evolution. The Venere Signature, from its sloped top panel to its severely narrowed back, is clearly the baby sister to the Lilium, Aida, Il Cremonese and the aforementioned, eponymous flagship. If only Sonus faber was indulging in towers, I wouldn t hint at a tall speaker revival. But with Quad and even B&O throwing (dimensional) caution to the wind this season, maybe it s safe for the big boys to come out and play? Venere S uses a soft dome type with a silk membrane. Sonus faber decouples the tweeter from the cabinet through the use of a resilient material to render the driver immune to micro-vibrations generated by the intense activity of the other drivers. It claims this will improve the precision and micro-dynamics that helps achieve an extremely focused soundstage. While bi-wiring and bi-amping seem to have faded of late from the audiophile consciousness, the easy-to-drive Venere S is fitted with four multi-way binding posts to allow both. I chose single wiring, using Yter cables to the Audio Research REF 75 power amp [HFN Nov 12]. Soundstage recreation is where the Venere S increases set-up concerns, as it is hypercritical of the amount of toe-in applied. I didn t find this floorstanding speaker to be unusual in its placement relative to the walls, where its behaviour was consistent (the downward-firing port is oblivious to wall proximity) but the narrow-ish line array baffle needed aiming at the listener. Some Sonus fabers of yore worked best if the line of sight crossed just in front of the hot seat. These were more like Wilsons that work best with the baffle facing the listener, so when viewed from the seat one does not see the sides of the enclosures. This was the most critical aspect of set-up, because the soundstage almost monos when the drivers fire straight ahead. The Venere S employs the lyre shape used by Sonus faber for decades to avoid parallel inner surfaces. In addition to the structural integrity and sonic gains, the form results in a shape which is pleasing to the eye. The review pair was finished in walnut and looked like fine furniture. The top It unveiled new sensations in tracks I ve played a 1000 times was inset with a black glass panel, which also added to the air of luxury. WARMTH AND ATTACK Via the Audio Research REF 75 fed by a REF 5SE preamp, Marantz DV8300 SACD/ DVD player, SME 30/12 turntable/arm [HFN Mar 11], EAT E-Glo phono stage and Clearaudio Goldfinger MC [HFN Jan 15], it was straight into my current fetish: protodisco. I enjoyed repeated playings on CD and vinyl of The Detroit Emeralds Feel The Need [Greatest Hits, Westbound CDSEWD 119 (CD) and Feel The Need Atlantic K50372 (LP)] and Rock The Boat by The Hues Corporation [The Very Best Of The Hues Corporation, Camden (CD) and Freedom For The Stallion RCA APL (LP)]. Of course, these are similar in feel and vintage, but The Hues Corporation sounds silkier, The Detroit Emeralds funkier. The opening percussion salvo of conga, the obligatory whucka-whucka guitar, lush strings and equally lush harmonies of Rock The Boat ensured it was the track that set the tone for the Venere S: it should have been a recipe for cloying, warmth n fuzziness because both track and speakers are to the ears what kittens are to the Internet. But I loved it. What saves the song from being too sickly is that slicing guitar-work, and it allowed the Venere S to juggle effortlessly both warmth and attack. So coherent and of-a-whole is the Venere S s portrayal of the sonic picture that such contrasts enjoy even greater impact without destroying the net impression. It s always the details in the vocals that convince (or not) a listener of the singers presence. Contesting my initial belief MARCH


59 that the Venere S was too gentle or too forgiving was the steady flow of precisely-captured details. In this case, it was the singers breath control while the massed voices formed a harmonising whole while remaining distinct enough for the forensically-inclined listener to separate them. With The Detroit Emeralds Feel The Need, the presentation was more aggressive, more forceful, so following The Hues Corporation with that track, I expected it to sound subdued. Again, the Venere S surprised me by putting on its wide lapels, flared trousers and bling medallion by delivering brass that sliced through the air. That dome tweeter need fear nothing when LEFT: This is a three-way design so the bi-wire/bi-amp terminals address the bass and mid/high frequency sections of the crossover, respectively. Metal outriggers improve stability of lyre-shaped cabinet compared to its pointy siblings: the clarity was a blissful balance between speed, precision and an absence of sibilance that I associate with electrostatics. ALL THINGS ITALIAN Both tracks excelled in demonstrating the worth of a floorstanding cabinet, a correctlypositioned port and all those woofers. I am spoiled, living with Wilson Alexias [HFN Mar 13], when it comes to deep, controlled bass. So to experience lower registers nearly as satisfying in a system a fifth the size and a tenth the cost was as vivid a proof of the Law of Diminishing Returns as I ve ever heard. My ultimate test remains Lou Rawls At Last [Blue Note CDP ]. Rawls throaty, rich Satchmo-esque textures countered by Dianne Reeves soaring, crystalline riposte? This is boot camp for midrange drivers. And behind them? Vibes, keyboards and bass played by maestri. The Venere S did what I thought was impossible: it unveiled, in a track I ve played at least 1000 times, completely new sensations. It was entirely down to presentation rather than excellence in specific areas: what I heard was the Italianness of the speaker, an indescribable deftness of touch that makes me prefer Italian wines, food, luggage, cars and indeed culture to all others. HI-FI NEWS VERDICT Quite why I ve fallen in love with the Venere Signature is hard for me to clarify. It s almost too lush, too nice, too easy like an old valve amplifier or comfy slippers. Everything I played through it sounded natural, yet seductive, detailed but nonaggressive. It s as if the designer said, Basta! Listening to music should not be hard work! If not for the bass, I d swear I fired-up my trusty old Quad 57s. Sound Quality: 87% LAB REPORT SONUS FABER VENERE SIGNATURE Sonus faber claims a 90dB sensitivity for the Venere S, close to our measured 89.5dB pink noise figure. Remarkably, this high sensitivity is achieved without recourse to low impedance. Sonus faber specifies a 4ohm nominal figure, with our results showing a minimum of 3.9ohm at 44Hz, but what sets the Venere S apart is its unusually well-contained impedance phase angles. Whereas phase angles in excess of 50 o are not unusual, the Venere S s largest absolute phase angle is just 28 o. As a result the minimum EPDR (equivalent peak dissipation resistance), over the same 20Hz-20kHz, is 2.7ohm a full 1ohm higher than typical of floorstanders of this size and class. As modern speakers go, the Venere S is unusually easy to drive. Forward frequency response [Graph 1, below], measured at tweeter height, evinces a mildly rising trend up to 10kHz, after which output falls by 4dB at 20kHz and dives thereafter. But the response error of just ±2.2dB for both speakers of the pair (300Hz-20kHz) is a fine result, especially for a speaker of this price. (Ignore the response fall-off below 350Hz which is an artefact of a shorter than usual measurement time window.) No less remarkable is a pair matching error of just ±0.6dB over the same frequency range. The diffraction-corrected nearfield measurement showed the Venere S s bass extension to be 53Hz ( 6dB re. 200Hz), a typical figure for a floorstander of this size and sensitivity. Because the response falls off a cliff above 20kHz, extension to ultrasonic frequencies is less impressive. The cumulative spectral decay waterfall [Graph 2, below] shows fast initial decay at treble frequencies albeit with a low-level resonance visible at 2.5kHz. KH ABOVE: Forward response is slightly lifted through presence and treble but drops steeply above 20kHz db Frequency in Hz >> HI-FI NEWS SPECIFICATIONS msec ABOVE: Cabinet resonances are quickly damped leaving a very mild (midrange) driver mode at 2.5kHz Sensitivity (SPL/1m/2.83Vrms Mean/IEC/Music) Impedance modulus min/max (20Hz 20kHz) Impedance phase min/max (20Hz 20kHz) Pair matching/response Error (300Hz 20kHz) LF/HF extension ( 6dB ref 200Hz/10kHz) 90.2dB/89.5dB/89.4dB 44Hz 2.2kHz 28 23Hz kHz ±0.6dB / ±2.2dB/±2.2dB 53Hz / 21.9kHz/26.1kHz THD 100Hz/1kHz/10kHz (for 90dB SPL/1m) 0.2% / 0.2% / 0.1% Dimensions (HWD) 1236x391x448mm MARCH

60 HEADPHONES Circumaural semi open-back dynamic headphone Made by: Beyerdynamic GmbH & Co. KG, Germany Supplied by: Polaraudio Ltd, UK Telephone: Web: Price: 855 Beyerdynamic T1 Generation 2 You know the adage: if it isn t broken, don t fix it. Beyerdynamic s top-of-the-range T1 was already excellent, but despite that it has been improved anyway. Or has it? Review & Lab: Keith Howard I must have been having fun. When I heard from Polar Audio that there was new version of Beyerdynamic s top T1 headphone I thought: Already?. But then I checked when we d reviewed the original [HFN Aug 13] and realised that time has been rushing by, and maybe now is an appropriate juncture for the T1 to be breathed on. Having said which, I liked it so much the first time around that I couldn t readily imagine what could be done to improve it. What Beyerdynamic says it has done to the 855 T1 Generation 2 is tweak its tonal balance the dynamic and clean sound of the original, says the press release, has been enhanced with a touch more warmth and musicality. In other words, the T1 g2 has taken a step towards the type of tonal balance that is becoming increasingly fashionable, with somewhat boosted lowermidrange and bass and pegged back lower treble (presence band). I say somewhat because there is no question of Beyerdynamic having gone the whole Harman hog in shelving up the lower frequencies, but comparison of the diffusefield-corrected responses of the old and new models [see Lab Report, p63] shows the T1 g2 to have a 2dB hike at 100Hz and about 1dB less output immediately above 1kHz. So its tonal cast should indeed be warmer but by the same token there s also the risk that the sound will be less crisp and engaging than it was. Clearly, other changes have been wrought to the T1 in making it the g2 but Beyerdynamic makes it less than obvious what these are. What I can say from the measurements is that higher sensitivity has been squeezed from the Tesla driver, to the tune of a 1.7dB increase in voltage sensitivity at 1kHz and a 1dB betterment of the already exceptional current sensitivity [see box-out, opposite page]. But because of its 600ohm nominal impedance the T1 g2 continues to offer a voltage sensitivity 10-20dB lower than is typical of medium-impedance phones, which is immediately obvious in the need to increase the volume setting to achieve a given loudness. But provided that your source has sufficient voltage capability to achieve the replay level you want, because of its high current sensitivity the T1 g2 is easy to drive and, with mobile devices, may even help extend battery life. BALANCED CABLE OPTION It s also notable in the context of the drive unit that impedance variations over the audible range have been substantially decreased, and a narrow peak in the impedance versus frequency graph of the old T1 at 7.5kHz suggestive of a resonance of some sort has been suppressed in the new g2 model. And whereas we recorded the weight of the original as 520g including cable and ¼in jack adapter, the T1 g2 tips the scales at just 426g. RIGHT: Within the large semi-open-back capsules modified 600ohm Tesla drivers afford the g2 higher sensitivity than the original T1 Beyerdynamic has opted for a more mainstream balance here This has not, I m pleased to report, been at any apparent cost to the resonance performance of the headband. As usual, I wore the headphone for the impedance test and could detect no coloration of the pink-noise test signal or migration of sound from the active left capsule to the inactive right, so the headband appears to be as vibrationally inert as one would hope for. Other points of difference with the first iteration include the fact that the ostentatious aluminium presentation box has been replaced with a more prosaic but utilitarian hardshell zip-up carrying case. Because the T1 s capsules don t fold flat, let alone fold up within the headband, this case is way too big (it measures about 280x210x135mm) to fit in a jacket pocket or even most coat pockets, and it also defeated my large briefcase. The message is clear: the T1 g2 may provide mini-jack connectivity but it isn t intended for use on the move it s a home-lover. More significantly for some audiophile users, the T1 g2 has a detachable cable that connects separately to each capsule via mini-jack sockets, whereas the Y-cable of its forebear was captive. This means that the T1 g2 can be used in balanced mode with headphone amplifiers offering balanced outputs. The supplied unbalanced cable is 3.1m in length and terminated in a 3.5mm mini-jack plug which can be converted to a ¼in jack using the goldplated screw-on sleeve adapter provided. A shorter 1.4m equivalent is available as an accessory for when the T1 g2 is used with hand-held music sources, and there s a 3m balanced cable option terminated in a four-pin XLR plug. Balanced headphone outputs that use twin 3-pin XLR sockets are not catered for. Incidentally, the change to a detachable cable has also been exploited to make identification of the channels easier, as the cable no longer 60 MARCH 2016

61 LEFT: Cosmetically the g2 is very like before but for a new plug-in cable. As well as allowing for use with balanced output headphone amplifiers, it aids channel identification The product that I described as magical informative and engaging to listen to across the gamut of musical genres has been massaged into something less pointedly revealing but also, arguably, less distinguished-sounding. By turning up the bass and lower midrange and turning down the presence band, Beyerdynamic has made what was an addictive purveyor of musical enjoyment into a somewhat safer listen. emerges from the bottom centre of each capsule but from a point further back, from where it is angled forward. I didn t have both old and new models to hand for this assessment, but judging from the photos accompanying our 2013 review cosmetically all else is the same. Likewise, the drivers remain angled in their housings, although this is not apparent externally, and as before semi-open-back loading is achieved by inserting acoustic resistance in the form of a fine mesh between the back of the diaphragm and the outside world. This is intended to provide the ideal compromise: some of the sound isolation of a closed-back headphone married to the spacious imaging of an open-back model. NEWFOUND SMOOTHNESS Listening was conducted using my usual Teac HA-501 headphone amplifier [HFN Apr 14]. At the front of my mind when assessing the T1 g2 s sound quality was the obvious question: have the changes to its tonal balance improved an already impressive headphone, or is it a case of swings and roundabouts? Opinions are bound to differ on this, of course, as always with headphones, but to my ears and sensibilities and as I ve said I didn t have the old and new models to hand for direct comparison Beyerdynamic has opted for a more mainstream balance. CURRENT AFFAIRS SANTANA AND ITS MOJO A good test of any audiophile headphone, perverse as it sounds, is to play material that is far from audiophile in quality itself. Without any tonal exaggeration to spoil better-recorded material, a top-notch headphone will elucidate poorer quality recordings in a way that not only sheds light where there was previously a murky gloom but in the process make the music more enjoyable. So one of the first items I played over the T1 g2 was Jingo from Santana [96kHz/24-bit download from HDtracks]. Latin percussion rhythms drive Santana s music and if they are dulled or fudged it loses its unique, trademark energy. Unfortunately, Columbia made a pretty average job of capturing this on tape for the classic Santana albums, so any item in a replay system that adds additional warmth might prove unwelcome. To a degree the T1 g2 did just this, and Jingo lost a suggestion of its mojo as a consequence. There s not so much as a hint of Latin rhythm in Mozart s sublime Clarinet Concerto, but the same characteristic could be heard on the recording made In any moving-coil driver, three parameters determine the force applied to the diaphragm: B, the flux density in the magnet gap; l, the effective length of voice coil wire immersed in the magnetic field; and i, the current passing through it. The product of the first parameters, Bl, gives us the force factor a measure of how well the motor converts current into force. But this is not what we examine when we measure a headphone s voltage sensitivity. That determines the volume control setting needed to achieve a given output level, but not the efficacy of the motor design. To do that we have to convert to current sensitivity. If we put 5mA (RMS) of signal current through the T1 g2 at 1kHz, where it has an impedance of 580ohm, it is the equivalent of applying 2.9V, and the SPL generated will be 110.5dB. If we do the same with two other recent designs, we find the same current would generate 104.3dB SPL from the Kennerton Magister [HFN Feb 16] or 102.3dB SPL from the Audio-Technica ATH-W1000Z [HFN Jan 16]. So despite the T1 g2 s low voltage sensitivity, its Tesla motor wins hands down. MARCH

62 Mains electricity is distorted by numerous factors as it travels from the power station to your home, eroding your system s performance and your listening pleasure. The EVO3 Mosaic Genesis from IsoTek totally rebuilds a new AC mains sine wave, allowing your system to deliver class-leading performance with dramatically improved sound and picture quality. Protect your valuable equipment from power surges and voltage spikes with IsoTek.* FULL AC MAINS SINE WAVE GENERATION Standard AC mains supply Powerful Innovation * Protection against power surges and voltage spikes relates specifically to IsoTek power conditioners and not the IsoTek power cable range. Output sine wave from Mosaic Genesis I plugged the Mosaic Genesis in not expecting much... I was wrong. It brought about an improvement of the scale I had not envisaged. HI-FI CHOICE It brings out the best in your system. Once heard it s hard to live without. Highly recommended. HI-FI+ New website, visit: Download EVO3 Mosaic Genesis Full mains sine wave generation system combined with the high current, low impedance Direct Coupled circuit from the multi award winning IsoTek Titan. Removes Common mode noise. Removes Differential mode noise. Exceeds 85dB noise reduction, extending down to zero Hz. 99,000A progressive protection. 150W sine wave generation. 4600W high current supply. LED Display. Find out more about IsoTek s award winning range of power cleaners, and for your free brochure, please contact:

63 HEADPHONES RIGHT: The original aluminium presentation box has become a hard-shell zip-up carrying case but it s way too large to pocket with Musical Fidelity s Antony Michaelson as soloist. This Tony Faulkner recording [ripped from Musical Fidelity MF017] can sound a little distant and indistinct if not afforded the transparency and detail retrieval it deserves. While the T1 g2 s newfound warmth and smoothness was attractive it also somewhat understated the recording s energy. Via the best headphones including the original T1 the playing will sound vital and committed and the recording natural, albeit unexaggerated. A WELCOME SOFTENING Don t ask me how I came to buy Elena Paparizou s Brisko To Logo Na Zo [Sony BMG ] suffice it to say that it wasn t for the music, which one might class as Euro pop pap. As a modern, overly EQ d and aggressively compressed pop recording, though, it illustrates why Beyerdynamic, along with so many other brands, is voicing its headphones to be as palatable as possible with the vast majority of modern material. Certainly by being less than icily explicit they succeed in making tracks like Eisai H Fonh, with its excruciatingly squashed chorus, sound less objectionable than they really are. Here, its slightly softened tonal balance was a welcome asset. A recording which certainly has a wide and natural dynamic range is the opening track of the live performance of The ReWrite Of Spring [Dacapo Records download], a jazz reinterpretation of Stravinsky s ballet by Lars Møller and the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra. It opens with tuned and untuned percussion, to the accompaniment of hum and buzz from the PA system, before Dave Liebman s soprano sax punctures the air with a soulful (baleful?) rendering of Stravinsky s haunting opening bassoon theme. It s replete with the best type of musical tension but that depends on the atmosphere of the recording venue (Copenhagen s Jazzhouse) being meticulously reproduced. And here the T1 g2 conveyed this rather better than I was anticipating, with a notably spacious image. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I think I d have preferred the more upfront yet still refined quality of its predecessor. Others, no doubt, will be gently persuaded by the more luxurious tonal cast of this next generation model. HI-FI NEWS VERDICT Opinions about Beyerdynamic s tweaks to the T1 are certain to be polarised between those who welcome the g2 s added tonal warmth and those who prefer the more explicit sound of the original. So the T1 g2 may not reinvigorate older or more reticent recordings, but its onestep-back tonal balance does wonders to smooth the passage of uber-squashed pop. It s at its best with clean, hi-res material. Sound Quality: 82% LAB REPORT BEYERDYNAMIC T1 GENERATION 2 Beyerdynamic claims a sensitivity (although it calls it a nominal sound pressure level ) of 102dB at 500Hz for an input power of 1mW. At the nominal impedance of 600ohm that translates into 104.2dB for 1V, somewhat higher than the 101.3dB we recorded, averaged for the two capsules, at 1kHz. This compares with the 99.6dB we measured from the original T1 [HFN Aug 13], suggesting that Beyerdynamic has succeeded is squeezing a little more sensitivity from the T1 s Tesla drive unit. Voltage sensitivity remains low by the standards of medium-impedance headphones but current sensitivity tells a different story [box-out p61]. Provided your signal source can provide sufficient voltage, the T1 is an easy headphone to drive and even easier than the nominal impedance suggests we measured an impedance range from a low of 567ohm to a high of 907ohm (20Hz-20kHz). Although this is proportionately a large variation (albeit smaller than the original T1 s), because of the high impedance it results in negligible changes in frequency response due to finite source impedance just 0.06dB for a 10ohm source, or 0.16dB for a 30ohm source. Comparison of the old and new models frequency responses backs up Beyerdynamic s claim to have added warmth to the tonal balance. The T1 g2 s uncorrected response [Graph 1, below] is mildly convex below 1kHz whereas previously it was slightly shelved down and almost flat. The result in the diffuse-field corrected response [green trace, Graph 2 below], is a greater shelving up of lower-midrange and bass output, to the tune of +5.2dB at 100Hz whereas the original was +3.4dB at 100Hz (both re. 1kHz). Concomitant with this, presence band output has been reduced by a db or two although there is now a marked peak around 6kHz that was absent previously. This suggests a warmer, less analytical sound than before. KH ABOVE: Beyerdynamic has warmed-up the sound of its 2nd gen. T1 by bolstering its response between Hz (see also DF-corrected response, below) ABOVE: Third-octave freq. resp. (red = uncorrected; cyan = FF corrected; green = DF corrected) HI-FI NEWS SPECIFICATIONS Sensitivity (SPL at 1kHz for 1Vrms input) 101.3dB Impedance modulus min/max (20Hz-20kHz) 3.3kHz 95Hz Capsule matching (40Hz-10kHz) ±5.8dB LF extension ( 6dB ref. 200Hz) 14Hz Distortion 100Hz/1kHz (for 90dB SPL) 0.1% / <0.1% Weight (inc cable and 0.25in connector) 426g MARCH

64 CD, NETWORK PLAYER & AMP CD player, network player and amplifier. Rated at 40W/8ohm Made by: Pro-Ject Audio Systems, Austria Supplied by: Henley Designs Ltd, UK Telephone: Web: Prices (CD Box/Stream Box/Amp): 425/ 699/ 699 Pro-Ject Box Design DS system Pro-Ject s Box Design mini hi-fi component range has grown to offer a wide choice of products to suit many needs, but how well do they work as a system? Review: Andrew Everard Lab: Paul Miller It s not often that a manufacturer starts with a single product to fill a gap in its catalogue, and finds itself with a whole range on its hands, but that s just how the Box Design line-up has evolved. It began with a simple phono stage to complement the ever-expanding Pro-Ject turntable offerings, and now runs to over 60 products. Along the way the Phono Box range has sold hundreds of thousands of units, and the entire Box Design range covers everything from digital and analogue sources to amplification, power supplies and even a pair of speakers. PLUG-IN POWER SUPPLIES It s a frankly baffling list there are 11 phono stages alone but broadly it falls into a number of ranges, of which the DS models we have here are pretty mid-market. The 699 MaiA DS is the upgraded version of the original MaiA compact amplifier [HFN Nov 14], the 699 Stream Box DS Net the most affordable of four streaming products the company offers and the CD Box DS the company s midrange CD player, at 425. All of them share similar dimensions, being fitted into half-width casework 206mm wide and with high-quality aluminium faceplates 72mm tall in either black or silver, although the main box remains black whichever colour front you choose. It s also worth noting that, although all three units come with similarlooking plugtop power supplies, each runs on a different voltage, so some care must be taken to use the right supply with each product even though the input sockets look the same. As an aside, Box Design does offer a power supply upgrade for the amplifier, the Power Box MaiA DS. This wasn t available for review, but it can power the amp while increasing its output from a quoted 55W/4ohm to 80W/4ohm, as well as having supplies for five DS source components, including a Pro-Ject turntable if required. Pro-Ject s free Box Control app can also be used with these components, running on Android or ios devices, both to control the usual streamer functions and also work as a centralised remote handset. More on that in our boxout [opposite page], but it s worth noting that, while these apps normally require the company s Remote Box to drive Box Design components, the MaiA DS amplifier has a built-in infrared blaster, so once the app is connected to it via Bluetooth, it s able to control other devices by re-broadcasting IR commands. Let s take a closer look at what the components here are, and what they do, The CD player is the star here, and has a peppy presentation starting with the amplifier itself. Yes, the MaiA DS is a bigger, more powerful version of the ultra-compact original MiaA amp ( 400). It s twice as tall, and rated at 40W/8ohm and 55W/4ohm, as mentioned, against the smaller model s 25W/37W specification [but see PM s Lab Report, p69]. AMPLE INPUTS It s a dual-mono design, using separate Flying Mole Class D amplifier devices for each channel, a motorised pot for remote volume control, and that offboard power supply. There s a healthy range of inputs, with three analogue line-ins, a separate board adding MM/MC phono, and other boards yielding digital inputs (on USB, RCAs and two Toslink optical RIGHT: The heart of Pro-Ject s Stream Box DS Net is the very popular and widely-used BridgeCo processor-based network audio solution (including display) from StreamUnlimited 64 MARCH 2016

65 connections) and aptx-capable Bluetooth. The digital input capability runs to 192kHz/24-bit via a Burr-Brown PCM1796 DAC which also accommodates DSD in its single, dual and quad-rate (64/2.8MHz, 128/5.6MHz and 256/11.2MHz) variants. As well as its single set of speaker outputs, the MaiA DS also has fixed and variable-level preamp outputs, so could be used, for example, into Box Design s 340 Amp Box DS Mono monoblock, to bi-amp suitable speakers, or with an active subwoofer. There s also a headphone output, powered from its own dedicated stage, and the amp has its own remote handset, as do all the DS components here. The StreamBox DS Net is the simplest of the company s revised range of three DS streamers which all began with the original DS model [HFN Jan 12]. The step-up DS+ version has digital and analogue inputs and variable-level analogue outs, enabling it to be used straight into a power amp or active speakers, while the DSA, as the designation suggests, has built-in power amplification. The DS Net has no more than single RCA line and coaxial digital outputs, plus networking via Wi-Fi and Ethernet. It is compatible with Internet radio and UPnP, as well LEFT: The three units share dimensions, but differing displays betray their somewhat piecemeal nature. Stream Box (top) has the characteristic StreamUnlimited display panel as Spotify Connect and Tidal (if you have appropriate accounts), and also has Box Control compatibility to allow everything to be handled from a smartphone or tablet running Android or ios. The large colour TFT display a hallmark of the third-party StreamUnlimited platform dominates the fascia, and there s also a USB input on the front panel for USB memory and ios devices, plus another to the rear. Power comes from a plug-top supply, and a remote handset [see p69] is provided as standard. Finally, the CD Box DS CD player is the most conventional of the three components here. Analogue and coaxial digital outputs are provided, and the slot-loader serves a suspended mechanism again feeding a Burr-Brown PCM1796 DAC chip. The CD drive/decoder platform is the Blue Tiger board, again from StreamUnlimited, the power supply is another external plug top device, and a remote is provided or of course you can drive the player using the Box Control app. STIFF COMPETITION Though both the heading of this review and the styling of the Box Design DS components suggests a system, in practice the three units here can seem more like a stack of components than a fully unified set-up, even though the Box Control app does help tie them together a little more convincingly at least in operational terms. The Lab Report [p69] tells its own story about the performance of these components but listening reveals a set-up that s perhaps more inoffensive than PRO-JECT S APPS inspiring. At the heart of the Box Design range is the company s Box The CD player Control app, available for both Android and ios devices. A is the star of the free download, it can control all the functions of the Stream show, with a peppy Box DS, including Tidal and Spotify Connect, via the player s yet substantial network link, and can also connect to the MaiA DS via presentation, but Bluetooth to allow control of the amplifier s functions and even this is not those of other Box Design components. This latter ability is without competition made possible by the inclusion of infrared remote control emitters, or blasters from more conventionally-proportioned in the amplifier, which can then convey commands to the likes of the CD Box DS hi-fi separates, and the same goes for both CD player. In those systems without the MaiA DS, a separate controller box can the amplifier and the network player. be bought to interface with the app: the Remote Box sells for 299, connects via The main problem is that the two Ethernet, and can be controlled using the app, or via Mac, Windows and Linux parts of the system one might hope to computers. It can also learn remote commands for non-pro-ject components. shine fall slightly flat, with the network player arguably the weakest link. Whereas MARCH

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67 HEINZ LICHTENEGGER ABOVE: Externally powered, Pro-Ject s MaiA DS integrated is served by a pair of bridged Flying Mole Class D amplifier modules, see in the bottom left of this picture. Note the motorised volume control once the Stream Box was an interesting product challenging price perceptions in the computer music market as well as being compact and having that bright StreamUnlimited display these days it s slightly off the pace, despite the addition of system control, Spotify Connect and Tidal. And that s not least because the likes of Marantz and Pioneer now have network music products to more than rival it on specification and price. It has all the toys, but its sound is rather parched and bleached, lacking much sense of finesse or involvement whether playing Internet radio, streaming services or music stored on the home network. With ABOVE: StreamUnlimited also makes CD player solutions, here equipped with TI PCM1796 DACs some good-time rock courtesy of one of Gov t Mule s off the desk live recordings [48kHz/24-bit from or a high-quality classical recording such as Vaughn Jones s set of solo violin works by Vilsmaÿr, Pisendel and Biber [96kHz/24-bit; First Hand Records FHR38], the result is the same: the musical essentials are there, but the sound lacks spark and vitality. BACK TO BACK COMPARISONS The violin programme is a particular case in point. Recorded in an intimate smallchurch acoustic, it has superb presence and ambience when served off a revealing network player, but here sounds rather thin and anonymous. The Mule set fares a little better, but lacks some of its characteristic drive, impetus and all-round good time atmosphere. What should sound like a tight ensemble on Whipping Post goes rather too wall of sound via the DS Net. Unfortunately, even routing the streamer s digital output through the MaiA DS s digital input doesn t help much, for while the sound gains a little more conviction in the bass, and a shade more midband/treble sparkle, in general terms it s still less than entirely enticing, and is bettered comprehensively by the performance of the CD player here. Playing back-to-back comparisons between the CD Box DS and Stream Box DS Net, using the original CD in the player and rips, either streamed or from USB storage via the network player, reveals the disc Pro-Ject/Box Design founder Heinz Lichtenegger is a man on a mission: having founded the company almost 25 years ago with the intention of reviving interest in turntables, he s now intent on winning back the iphone generation to proper hi-fi. The Box Design range plays a major role here, delivering space-efficient audio components to appeal to these new buyers: Products like MaiA help the next generation buy an affordable amplifier that fits into their home, offering hi-fi quality. Though we believe the trend back to high-quality audio in the home is increasing, the old philosophy of traditional hi-fi rack products isn t what a lot of modern listeners want. They want something neat, and built to a high standard, which they don t have to adjust their home to accommodate. This is the whole philosophy of Box Design, and MaiA DS is a perfect representation of that. He justifies the company s generous range of streaming products by suggesting that each model has its own appeal. The philosophy of Box Design is customer-centric we don t want them to miss out on a great product because we only have one offering. Remind him of plans unveiled at the company s 20th anniversary event for a flat system a slimline turntable with stacking audio components designed to lock together into one unit and he says We are still working on that intensively: the challenge is the turntable and tonearm. But stay tuned it ll come. MARCH

68 Internal processing 5,6 MHz, 72 bits Formats PCM 24 bits up to 384 khz, DXD, DSD 2x Nagra HD DAC converter. High definition, unlimited emotion! It is time to rediscover the pleasure of listening to music, whatever the format, from red-book CD to DSD 2x. Swiss Made R.T.Services AUDIO SALES DISTRIBUTION. ESTABLISHED IN 1986 Accuphase Leben Nagra Peak Consult Tel: +44 (0) Web:

69 machine gives greater insight into recordings as well as delivering better substance and impetus. The metronomic bass on Kyle Eastwood s The View From Here [Jazz Village ] has better depth and texture direct from CD, while the subtler percussion touches and the interplay between sax and trumpet are more thrilling. Via the network player it s just a bit too easy-listening. JACK THE GIANT KILLER? The MaiA DS amplifier, suitably partnered, is reasonably impressive. It s no stump-pulling powerhouse, and those hoping for the ability to breathe some fire into Wagner or searing rock recordings should perhaps look elsewhere. But within its limits, and used with relatively modest speakers, it does well enough. I found it more than adequate with the little Neat Iotas I use on my desk, but it showed little of the giant-killing ability available elsewhere for this kind of money when used with the likes of Dali s Menuets or even KEF s Reference 1s [HFN Apr 16]. It is at its best when being used as an analogue amplifier, and hooking up a DSD-playing computer brings very little to the party. Play the epic, dramatic Night Thoughts, the latest album from Suede [Warner LEFT: The Stream and CD DS Boxes offer simple RCA analogue and S/PDIF digital outs while the busy-looking MaiA can accommodate nine separate sources, including MM/MC phono, three line and five digital on optical, coax, Bluetooth and USB Music WEA 496], and while the little amp takes a fair crack at the scale of weight of the music, string section and all, it gets more than a little confused by the sheer complexity on offer. So when things get all retroguitar-bandy, as on No Tomorrow, it s on marginally safer ground but, as the density is wound up, the ultimate lack of resolution here is pretty apparent. True, this music has the ability to challenge even much more ambitious amplification, but it s still slightly disappointing to find the MaiA s limitations quite so apparent and that s even before it gets wound up to room-shaking levels. I started this review by wondering if this was a stack of components or a true system, impressive though some parts are notably the CD player and, within its limits, the amplifier. And although the Box Control set-up works well, there are clear signs of more work being needed to turn the merely good into something truly great. HI-FI NEWS VERDICT The Stream Box DS is the weakest link here unfortunately so, as this could be a component able to stand on its own merits, not just as part of the system. The CD Box DS is by far the most accomplished of the trio, as one might expect from a mature technology that s eased rather than shoehorned into a modest sized enclosure, while the MaiA DS is just a perfectly competent amp with good input flexibility. Sound Quality: 75% LAB REPORT PRO-JECT DS SYSTEM Although Pro-Ject rates its MaiA DS integrated at 40W/55W into 8/4ohm, in practice it delivers closer to 32W/56W at up to 1% THD, while the Class D architecture necessarily limits any dynamic headroom to a similar figure specifically 32W, 58W, 96W and 62W into 8, 4, 2 and 1ohm loads [see Graph 1, below]. The filter network is also tuned to deliver the flattest frequency response into ~6ohm loads but with variations of +0.5dB/20kHz/8ohm and 0.7dB/20kHz/4ohm, the MaiA DS/ speaker system response will vary according to the impedance trend of the loudspeaker: the tougher its (HF) load, the more rolled-off will be the overall response. The 83dB A-wtd S/N ratio (re. 0dBW) is to be expected from such a compact solution but distortion is reasonably high, increasing from 0.035% at 1W to 0.18% at 20W through the midrange and from 0.04% to 0.5% from 1kHz to 20kHz at just 5W/8ohm. When it comes to playing digital media the CD Box DS offers by far the better performance despite the DS Net offering compatibility with 32-bit floating-point files up to 192kHz. The former offers a full 2V output (and wide 109dB A-wtd S/N ratio) from a 97ohm source impedance while the latter delivers just 0.79V and a 15-bit A-wtd S/N ratio of 90dB from a high kohm source impedance. The DS Net is based around a compact StreamUnlimited network audio board and needs more refinement the massive psec jitter (48-192kHz sample rates) and 10dB linearity error at 100dBFs compare poorly with the CD Box DS s 135psec and ±0.2dB, respectively. Readers may view full QC Suite test reports for the featured Pro-Ject Box DS series by navigating to and clicking on the red download button. PM ABOVE: Dynamic output vs. THD into 8ohm (black), 4ohm (red), 2ohm (blue) and 1ohm (green) loads ABOVE: THD vs digital signal level (1kHz = CD Box DS, red; Stream, black; 20kHz = CD, cyan; Stream, green) HI-FI NEWS SPECIFICATIONS Power output (<1% THD, 8/4ohm) 32W / 56W Dynamic power (<1% THD, 8/4/2/1ohm) 32W / 58W / 96W / 62W Output imp. (20Hz 20kHz, CD/Amp) 97ohm / ohm Freq. resp. (20Hz 20kHz, CD/Amp) 0.0 to +0.18dB/ 0.4 to +0.5dB A-wtd S/N ratio (CD / Amp) 108.6dB (0dBFs) / 82.6dB (0dBW) Distortion (20Hz-20kHz, CD/Amp) % / % Digital jitter (CD / Network player) 135psec / psec Power consumption (CD/Net/Amp) 7W/4W/75W (10W idle) Dimensions (WHD, CD/Net / Amp) 206x72x194 / 206x72x150mm MARCH


71 RCA and XLR-terminated interconnect cables Made by: Atlas (Scotland) Ltd, Kilmarnock Supplied by: Atlas Cables Telephone: Web: Price: 875 (1m RCA stereo set) INTERCONNECTS Atlas Mavros Ultra With the same construction as its flagship Asimi Ultra, but trading silver for copper, Atlas s Mavros interconnect is a third the price. Review: Paul Miller Can t stretch to silver? Interconnects made from this noble metal, including Crystal s Absolute Dream [HFN Jun 12] and the Atlas Asimi Ultra [HFN Dec 14], remain HFN favourites, albeit at a premium price. So I was intrigued to discover that Atlas s partnering Mavros range includes both RCA and balanced XLR-equipped interconnects that share the Asimi Ultra s construction, dielectrics and geometry but trade silver for OCC (Ohno Continuous Casting) copper. So what is the gap in price and performance between silver and copper versions? The price of entry is still considerable Atlas offers a range of 0.5m, 1.0m ( 875 RCA/ 1000 XLR), 2.0m ( 1315 RCA/ 1440 XLR) and 3.0m ( 1755 RCA/ 1880 XLR) lengths but it works out to be about a third that of the Asimi Ultra. QUALITY INGREDIENTS The RCA Mavros is equipped with Atlas s exquisite Ultra phono plugs which feature snug-fitting silver-plated OCC copper contacts. As with its Asimi, Atlas has chosen a microporous PTFE tape covered by an extruded polyethylene layer as the supporting dielectric. Held within are identical signal and return cores comprising six bundles of 12 OCC copper strands surrounding a thicker copper wire. The twisted signal/return pair is covered by a continuous copper-mylar electrostatic screen combined with two symmetrical drain wires which are attached 180 o apart on the plug. The outer sheath is made from PVC and covered by a black cotton jacket. Silver betters both copper and gold for electrical conductivity, as reflected in the Mavros s 70mohm/m loop resistance, slightly higher than the Asimi s 56mohm. Otherwise, the Mavros Ultra offers a lower capacitance and, usefully, lower inductance at 82pF/m (86pF, Asimi) and 0.25μH/m (0.45μH), respectively. So the Mavros Ultra remains a fine choice for long runs. A CABLE OF CALIBRE I auditioned the XLR-terminated Mavros Ultra between my Oppo BDP-105D player/ DAC and Krell S-1500 amp and quickly appreciated the smooth and deliciously dark quality it brought to the system. While the Oppo could never be described as untidy, with the Mavros in tow its music sounded that bit better ordered, with dense tracks like Gov t Mule s live Shine On... [Dark Side Of The Mule (Deluxe); Evil Teen 11217] delivered with a rare intelligibility almost in spite of Warren Haynes s fierce vocal and the crushing tsunami of guitars. The deep black acoustic that LEFT: The Mavros Ultra interconnect is terminated with Atlas s own solder-free Ultra phono plugs with self-cleaning contacts ABOVE: The Mavros Ultra interconnect is also available as the Mavros Symmetrical which is terminated with cold-welded Atlas XLRs accompanies Gregory Porter s Hey Laura [Liquid Spirit; 96kHz/24-bit FLAC] sounded especially velvety, the brush of cymbals tailing off into a whisper of noise as his voice gripped at the air with a mixture of subtlety and conviction. Atlas s Mavros Ultra is not inexpensive, but it can certainly make other cables sound cheap. HI-FI NEWS VERDICT Atlas s Asimi Ultra had already dispelled the myth that all silver cables sound bright but the copper-infused Mavros Ultra succeeds in sounding smoother still. It helps instil a settled quietness to musical backgrounds, the system sounding free of grit and grain and yet not so luxuriant or sweet that the shimmering edge of percussion or brass is polished away. This is a supremely well-balanced cable with a standard of construction and finish to match. Sound Quality: 88% MARCH

72 mbl C21 Stereo mbl C11 mbl C31 CD Player / DAC

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74 Classical Companion BEHIND THE MUSIC WITH HI-FI NEWS & RECORD REVIEW Maria João Pires Concert pianist PHOTO: BIS RECORDS AB Not many classical musicians are filmed in an incident that later went viral, but it happened in 1998 When Maria met Riccardo, as Christopher Breunig explains If you missed the story: in a 1998 film by cinematographer Frank Scheffer we see the Portuguese soloist Maria João Pires seated in preparation for a Mozart piano concerto in an informal Amsterdam Concertgebouw concert conducted by Riccardo Chailly. As he starts the orchestral exposition to the D-minor Concerto, K466, we see Pires more and more disconcerted holding her head in disbelief. I cannot do this, she says. She had prepared for a different work, but Chailly goes blithely on. He says, afterwards, that she managed the whole performance without a single mistake! And somehow this became a viral hit in 2013 [ watch?v=cjxnyml_sua]. In fact, Pires was playing concertos by Mozart at the age of seven; two years later she was given a Portuguese award recognising èmaria Pires recorded all the Mozart piano sonatas in PCM stereo for Denon LPs, later reissued on CD í A child prodigy, Maria João Pires was born in Lisbon in 1944 her young musicianship. That year (1953) she began studies at the Lisbon Conservatory, moving later to the Munich Academy where Kempff became an inspiration for her. Then in Hanover she was taught by Karl Engel best known on records as an accompanist. In 1970 Pires won the Brussels Piano Competition and began an international career although she didn t appear here until 1986: a Queen Elizabeth Hall debut. The 1970s brought her first recorded cycle of the Mozart piano sonatas [now in the bargain Brilliant Classics CD series: 94271BR]. These were for Denon and produced as PCM digital LPs. At the time they seemed to escape the notice of both the Gramophone catalogue and the Penguin Guide series. As last month s Investigation feature noted, Denon was a pioneer in digital recording, and you can see one of its early 14-bit machines at amb/cd25years.html#pcm. When Decca and DG announced their first digital LPs in 1979/80, with more of a flourish, EMI took the rather odd decision to start I don t like to be alone on stage. For me, life is in a group a team remastering perfectly good analogue material as digital some entrenched in the Linn/Naim camp declared you couldn t tell a cello from a trombone! EDUCATION PROJECTS Maria João Pires is a not infrequent visitor to the UK. She returned to The Barbican last December with Daniel Harding and the LSO, ending visits to Italy and Germany together. In October she performed Mozart s K595 with Chailly and the Leipzig Orchestra, prompting The Telegraph critic to observe she found a special tone, veiled and aloof. It was beyond moving like the enigmatic smile on a Greek Statue s face. (In a somewhat blissful video, Pires s UK management company Askonas Holt has a clip from Pires accompanied by Chailly in Bach s Concerto BWV1035.) And back in October 2013 she had appeared with Haitink and the Orchestra Mozart when, sadly, Claudio Abbado was too ill to conduct. She then played Beethoven s Concerto No 2, which they repeated last February with the LSO see this month s Classical music reviews [p98]. Besides her performances, Pires has the keenest interest in musical education and has a Brussels-based Partitura project where currently she works with seven young pianists they gave a Beethoven cycle together in Japan last year. She says: The Partitura project should not stay only on stage, it should be in social projects, it should be in prisons and hospitals and places where children have problems. We want to take music to people who never go to concerts MARCH 2016

75 PHOTO: MARCO CASSELLI NIRMAL/DG This echoes her Belgais-Centre arts project which she devised in 1999 to help underprivileged children, but which prompted hostile press comment. Government funding was withdrawn in 2006 and she then exiled herself from her native Portugal. A UNIQUE COLOURIST Pires s repertoire is essentially from the Vienna classical period, but with a generous helping of Chopin. Her 1996 set of the Nocturnes [DG ] is predictably among Gramophone s Top Ten Chopin recordings. I must confess to getting rid of my set, as I found the interpretations too wilful but sensibly I recanted and bought the box again! In a 2007 interview Pires said: I don t like to be a soloist, I don t like to be alone on stage. I like to live in groups. For me, life is in a group a family, a team. She likes working with cellist Antonio Meneses and her former partner Augustin Dumay (they lived together for two years). Meneses s talents as a young cellist were recognised by Karajan, who engaged him for his final recording of Strauss s Don Quixote in With Dumay she has recorded the sonatas by Brahms and Beethoven we had terrible fights each of us wanted different things. So you learn to compromise but not on the important things. You suddenly find another way to do it, she told David Patrick Stearns. Listen to the opening of the Franck Violin Sonata with Dumay [DG ] and you hear how Pires immediately creates an aura of calm: she seems to ground the edgier, more volatile violinist. This CD seems to be her only recording of music by Ravel (the Pièce En Forme De Habanera, etc) and with Pires unique ability to colour keyboard èin 2014 Pires left DG to record for the Onyx label: this Beethoven Piano Concertos coupling was an Album Choice in our 2015 Yearbook ë Maria João Pires playing with Orchestra Mozart and Claudio Abbado ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS sound, you wish she had recorded some of the solo works. In the slow movement of Mozart s C major Concerto, K467, with Abbado and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE), the thrumming left-hand chords really sing in a unique way. This is, I d say, a perfect concerto CD [the so-called Elvira Madigan with K453 DG ]. I was reminded of a TV documentary where musicologist Hans Keller said that only medicore composers don t make mistakes Mozart excepted, of course. (Also with Abbado: K449/537, VPO; 466/595, Orchestra Mozart.) Maria Pires is a fine Schubert interpreter too. Her 1997 set of the Impromptus, D899, 935 and Complete Concerto Recordings DG (five discs) This set has six Mozart piano concertos with Abbado and K466 with Brüggen; Chopin Nos 1 and 2 with COE/Krivine, RPO/Previn; and a fine Schumann, again with Abbado and the COE. The Complete Erato Recordings Erato (17 discs) This set from contains concertos and solo works by JS Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Schubert, and Schumann, most but not all of it re-recorded for DG. Beethoven Sonatas Opp.27 and 109 DG (44.1kHz/16-bit download only) As lovely an account of the Moonlight as you 946 [DG ], was subtitled Le Voyage Magnifique and was universally praised except by those who found Pires s chosen selections from a wide range of sources a poor substitute for analytical notes! Pires has now left Deutsche Grammophon. Dedicated to the memory of Abbado, her Onyx debut CD with Daniel Harding [4125] is of Beethoven Concertos Nos 3 and 4, an excellent partnership and with the Steinway pianoforte beautifully recorded. Pires seems to be at a musical peak here, every phrase is full of subtle observations, I suggested [HFN Nov 14]. I see the Emperor is listed as in her repertoire too: will there be a recording, one day? will find, with its companion quasi Fantasia E-flat sonata. The late Op.109 does not wholly convince (nor did Grimaud s). The CD s arty packaging was like a Chinese puzzle to open! Mozart Piano Sonatas (complete) DG E (44.1kHz/16-bit download) Pires second cycle was issued as separate CDs most still listed but here you can choose tracks ad lib from this 6hrs 35m set. Schubert Piano Sonatas, D845 and D960 DG It s playing any pianophile will want to hear, I wrote in our 2014 Yearbook. Resolute and subtly nuanced every detail has its own colouring and dynamic. MARCH

76 Vinyl Release BEHIND THE MUSIC WITH HI-FI NEWS & RECORD REVIEW Tubeway Army STEVE SUTHERLAND Steve edited NME from , the Britpop years, launching and reviving the NME Awards. Previously he was Assistant Editor on Melody Maker. Among his many adventures he has been physically threatened by Axl Rose, hung out awhile with Jerry Garcia and had a drink or two with Keith Richards... Replicas (180g vinyl) Cockney geek by day, synth-pop pioneer by night... Steve Sutherland reassesses the career of Gary Numan as Tubeway Army s final studio LP appears on 180g vinyl I don t know about you but, over the many years and usually over a few drinks, I ve discovered myself occasionally involved in a debate as to whether it s OK to appreciate great work done by bad people. Back in my intellectual college days, we d be talking about the likes of, say, Albert Speer, the architect who created heroic art deco designs under the personal commission of Adolf Hitler. Did the fact that his buildings were Nazi constructions mean they were artistically as well as morally reprehensible? OFF THE PLAYLIST More recently, the subject would most likely be one of a number of early 70s British pop stars whose hits are now exiled by every radio station you d care to mention due to the uncovering of ghastly crimes. The argument here is clearer in that no decent-minded individual is likely to wish airplay royalties to fall into said artists coffers so there are financial considerations to beef up the moral and artistic ones. But what of those who occupy a step far lower down the naughty stair from evil? What about the twits? The twerps? The dickheads? This is where Anthony James Webb, better known and probably loathed by you as Gary Numan, comes in. Despite his enormous early success, just about everything about Gary what he said, the way he acted seemed to make it extremely difficult to like the stuff that he did. Even though some of it was pretty super-dooper. Accident or design? Well, the amazing thing is, to this very day it would seem he still remains hell bent on putting us off his achievements, though thankfully, now he s not remotely so famous, we re don t really care what he gets up to. Back in the day, though, young Gary broke just about every rule of pop stardom with such clumsy finesse that it bordered on genius. For a start, he revealed pretty early on that he got his stage name from Bowie took one look at him and had him kicked off the show A Neumann, a plumber he came across in Yellow Pages. So much for mystique! He then confessed that he was a total sci-fi freak in total thrall to Philip K Dick and that most of his lyrical ideas came from reading that troubled author s dystopian masterpiece Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?. Compared with the complexity of his source material, the Machmen (androids cloned with human skin) and the Greymen (the officials who rule the world) who populate Gary s Replicas seem a wee bit kindergarten-y. Then there was the way he looked and moved. Here he managed to double goofup. Not only did he let slip that the famous white face/black eyes shtick he peddled was just the result of him trying to cover up his acne, he also admitted that the expressionless, stiff-limbed robot stance he employed to perform was just the result of him being awkward, not knowing what to do and suffering stage fright. Again, this honest self-appraisal was hardly the myth-making stuff of which pop legends are made. MITCH SCHNEIDER ORGANIZATION The singer poses for a press shot to promote his album Dead Sun Rising, released in ì Born in London in 1958, Numan secured his first record deal with Beggars Banquet in 1978 SAD TO NOTE You d think he would have learned as much from the example of his personal idol, the late David Bowie [celebrated on p78], who was the total guvnor when it came to all the smoke and mirrors stuff that kept the fans salivating. But Gary, the numpty, just didn t have it in him and it s a little sad to note that the one time Gary got the chance to meet his idol, backstage at a recording of The Kenny Everett Television Show in 1980, Bowie took one look at him and had him kicked off the show. What else? Gary didn t do drink or drugs. Not very rock n roll. Oh, and then there was the very public boasting of the hair transplants to stave off premature baldness the kind of thing surely all great pop stars would keep under wraps. Not 76 MARCH 2016

77 ì Priced 14.99, the limited edition180g vinyl reissue of Gary Numan s Replicas is available to order online at Gary. He s happy for you to know he s had five new weaves at the last count. And the facelifts! Gary s more than happy to show the scars behind his ears where his jowls have been lifted. Then there s the Tory stuff. Back in the 80s, while a good many musicians were raging against her draconian regime, Gary came out as a Thatcherite, boasting he d rather have a Ferrari than a Mini (he had a Corvette and a Range Rover too), that he owned two or three private planes and that he was most definitely, not a Socialist; I don t believe in sharing my money. SOUNDS THRILLING Post-punk, it was hard to forgive such an elitist attitude and it was surely no coincidence that, rightly or wrongly, Gary swiftly plummeted from No 1 to nowhere, which is where he remains to this day. Not so, though, his music. Time, they say, is a great healer and, whoever they are, they re actually right. Totally divorced from Gary himself, Replicas, the album we re here to celebrate, is partly at least, a thing of some genius. Released in 1979 as the second long-playing effort from a band called Tubeway Army, this was basically young Gary making the transition from guitar-based, heavy post-punk posturing to, er, synthesiser-based heavy cybertronic posturing the likes of which no-one, except those familiar with Bowie s more obscure B-sides, had ever heard before. The big hit single was Are Friends Electric?. It sounds thrillingly, monolithically, futuristically gothic to this very day. The song s so great, it surely needs no introduction nor much reappraisal but I d just like to put it on record that Gary s crystalline cyber-cockney vocal is up there with any of the great chart-topping vocals you care to recall. As I said, Replicas is the sound of an artist in transition. I say artist because Tubeway Army were really just Gary and some other geezers and, as soon as Friends hit big, he ditched them, and went solo for the equally epic Cars. Anyway, the tracks on Replicas fall into roughly three categories. Some, like The Machman, Praying To The Aliens and It Must Have Been Years are pretty boring throwbacks to Gary s rockier past and lack the frosty synth sheen needed to frame his icy vocal in the appropriate flickering neon. Then there are the almost-good tracks the ones that straddle his dull past and his sparkling future. The album s title track falls into this category. ALTERNATIVE WORLD And then there are the ones that make it worthwhile writing this piece: the opening track, Me! I Disconnect From You (scary, breezy, Human League-y), the idiotically titled I Nearly Married A Human which miraculously survives its name to paint a stark, refrigerated landscape, and best of all, Down In The Park, which finally achieves what Gary set out to do and creates a spooky, totally believable alternative world. The mighty equal of Friends, Park is the one that Foo Fighters and Marilyn Manson chose to cover; both mercifully ignorant of Gary s personal baggage that might otherwise have rendered it taboo. As a footnote, I d just like to add that my 15-year-old daughter Molly is a big fan of Gary s best bits. She neither knows nor cares about the sins of his past (and present, quitting the UK for California cos, post the recent London riots, Britain s apparently gone to the dogs!). So how did she discover him? Via the TV show The Mighty Boosh. Not just his ironic guest appearance on the programme either. Take a listen to Loose Tapestries, the band Boosh presenter Noel Fielding and Kasabian s Serge Pizzorno put together to soundtrack Luxury Comedy. Pure Gary. Deliciously daft but somehow incredibly something greater. RE-RELEASE VERDICT Vinyl 180 is a relatively new label and a British-based company to boot. Remastered from the original analogue tapes, this 180g reissue comes in a sleeve made from heavyweight 350g double white board sporting faithfully reproduced artwork. The LP itself carries picture labels and resides in a heavyweight inner bag. Sonics were just as impressive, with a fine balance between the acoustic instruments and at times complex multilayered Moog synths. This reissue is limited to 5000 copies, so be quick. HFN Sound Quality: 90% MARCH

78 VINYL ICONS BEHIND THE MUSIC WITH HI-FI NEWS & RECORD REVIEW David Bowie Low There s old wave, there s new wave, and there s David Bowie... went RCA s slogan in the late 1970s. Following the passing of the singer in January this year, we pay our own quiet tribute with a look at an LP that put self-conviction above commercial success Words: Mike Barnes 78 MARCH 2016

79 JSTONE/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM Nineteen-seventy-six was a strange year for David Bowie. His album Station To Station was released in the January followed by a tour during which he unveiled his Thin White Duke persona. A return visit to the UK from his adoptive home of Los Angeles was blighted by his infamous and since contested Nazi salute given from the back of an open-topped car at Victoria Station, while in interviews he had already called for a far right government to clean up society. He had a chronic cocaine habit and an interview with Russell Harty aired on London Weekend Television that year showed him to be remote and distracted. He had also become obsessed with occult matters and had begun drawing pentagrams on the floor for protection. UPPED STICKS Bowie later admitted that the only foreseeable end to this particular lifestyle would have been complete physical and mental collapse. So he upped sticks and moved to Berlin where he enjoyed relative anonymity. And while the presence of Iggy Pop as sometime flatmate hardly encouraged temperance and sobriety, after some crazy situations he began to pull his life around. Bowie had been absorbing a lot of German electronic music from bands such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Label of ì original UK LP release bearing two different catalogue numbers (see p83) ìryko Records publicity shot of the singer from 1976 ìrca promo shot from 1977 of Bowie by Japanese photographer Masayoshi Sukita. It was an outtake of the Heroes LP cover shoot ìfilm poster for the 1976 film release of The Man Who Fell To Earth í Bowie sings live on NBC s Today Show at Rockefeller Plaza in New York in September 2003 Dream whose Edgar Froese had organised the lease on Bowie s Berlin flat Harmonia, and the Motorik rock of Neu!. He had also become fascinated by Brian Eno s recent albums, Discreet Music and Another Green World. This was the sort of musical territory that Bowie was keen to explore. He had music left over from his rejected soundtrack to Nicolas Roeg s The Man Who Fell To Earth, which had been released in March 1976 and in which he had starred. In late 1976, Bowie asked Eno to come over to the studio at the Chateau D Hérouville, near Paris, and record with him. Eno maintains that his input was shaping music that was, in the main, already formulated, but his influence on Low was still significant. Nowadays Low features in many polls of best albums of the 70s and is generally regarded as one of Low was an audacious move, and viewed with horror by RCA Bowie s most original, but back in early 1977 many people didn t know what to make of it. This was understandable. Bowie had famously played with personae, from the conceptual alien pop stars of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane to the purveyor of plastic soul on 1975 s Young Americans, to the more sinister, aloof Thin White Duke of Station To Station, with his extravagant, narcissistic vocalese. PUREST HATRED But on Low, Bowie presented a persona or non-persona which went too far for astute Bowie-watcher, NME journalist Charles Shaar Murray. More a fan of the vital communiques of the best rock n roll, Murray balked at what he saw as its offhand ennui and apparent fetishising of blankness. He wrote: It s an act of purest hatred and destructiveness. It s decadent in the sense that it glamourises and glorifies passive decay... it stinks of artfully counterfeited spiritual defeat and futility and emptiness. Fellow journalist Ian MacDonald wrote a review in the same issue of MARCH


81 VINYL ICONS PRODUCTION NOTES The recording of Low began at Studio Hérouville with Bowie drafting in producer Tony Visconti for a month and involving the other musicians on the understanding that this new experimental music might never be released. Guitarist Carlos Alomar, drummer Dennis Davis and bass player George Murray were retained from Station To Station. With his constant quest to effect change Eno had the brass neck to get these accomplished musicians to run through some of his ideas by making them play chords he randomly pointed to on a blackboard. More conventionally, Eno added synthesisers to Art Decade, thus salvaging a piano piece that Bowie had rejected. He treated instruments electronically most audibly Ricky Gardiner s lead guitar on Always Crashing In The Same Car and played most of the instruments on Warszawa on his own while Bowie was away attending a court hearing regarding his manager. Ever pragmatic Eno took the first notes of the main theme from something that Visconti s young son had been playing on a studio piano. Meanwhile, Bowie is said to have written the phonetic lyrics in a matter of minutes and recorded the vocals in a series of first takes. The most significant development on Low was the use of the Eventide Harmonizer, which gave a strange compressed kind of sound with a slight wobble to Davis s snare drum. What makes the drum sound even more lopsided is that on What In The World, most of the sound of the tom-toms has been removed from the mix, leaving strange gaps when Davis plays around the kit. The harmonizer was also used to great effect by Visconti on the choral sections of side two. Regarded as the first of Bowie s Berlin Trilogy, the album was completed and mixed at that city s Hansa Tonstudio. NME in which he stated that Low is the only contemporary rock album, although how much MacDonald actually liked it is hard to gauge. Some tracks display a vulgar garishness that accentuates a feeling of distance and withdrawal. Sound And Vision is a particular example. It kicks off into a mutated disco groove with hissing electronics and a cheesy, high in the mix, descending synth line that spreads across the track like a big dumb grin before Bowie describes his existence as Grey blinds drawn all day/nothing to do, nothing to say. The song became a hit single. Low s strange mix of sonics makes the album sound oddly futuristic even today. The uptempo songs are an at-times uneasy blend of funk, soul and R&B grooves, with electronics and instrumental treatments and the offhand sketchiness of Bowie s vocal lines. ALMOST COMICAL The feeling of detachment is embodied in the video made to accompany Be My Wife. Against a stark white background an utterly vacant-looking and solitary Bowie carelessly mimes on a guitar to guitarist Ricky Gardiner s smooth, sustained lead lines. This makes his pleas for love and matrimony over Roy Young s clumping honky-tonk piano sound almost comical. Was this video deliberately risible or a joke at the audience s expense? Part of the problem for some listeners was the preponderance of instrumentals six of the 11 tracks had either no vocals or featured episodes of Bowie singing phonetically. This format was partly influenced by Eno s Another Green Bowie rammed his dealer s car with Iggy in the passenger seat World, with its mix of songs and instrumental mood pieces. It was an audacious move by Bowie at the height of his commercial success and was viewed with horror by his record label, RCA because it was asking the listener to have faith in him as a composer of electronic music, something in which he d had no previous track record. DISTINCT SIDES The album had originally been called New Music Night And Day and the idea of having two stylistically distinct sides was inspired by Neu! s Neu! 75. This further accentuated the problem, in that side one comprises the generally uptempo songs and side two the slow instrumentals. And some people found it difficult to come to terms with the wordless incantations that Bowie offered on Warszawa, Wailing Wall and Subterraneans. It s a lot easier to make sense of the album with hindsight. Bowie was in a difficult phase: he was kicking his cocaine addiction, his marriage was breaking down and he was involved in a battle to gain custody of his son. Breaking Glass makes a droll reference to his pentagram paranoia ( Don t look at the carpet/i drew something awful on it ). Always Crashing In The Same Car is a sober recollection of an early Berlin escapade when Bowie rammed his dealer s parked car before driving at dangerously high éthe building in Berlin on Hauptstraße 155 where Bowie lived from 1976 to 1978 ëbowie, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp record Heroes, the second album in the Berlin Trilogy íbowie and classical music sound engineer Eduard Meyer in the Meistersaal recording hall at the Hansa Tonstudio. Meyer worked as a translator during the Low sessions êbowie in Berlin in the late 70s MARCH

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83 Alternate Format Discography given the nature of the format, it features a different running order from that of the LP with Warszawa split into two parts. ìbowie pictured in the booklet from the bit EMI CD speed around the car park with Iggy Pop in the passenger seat. The apparent narcotic numbness of Sound And Vision and What In The World nevertheless gives rise to inspired vocal performances, like a stirring into action from the desperate states they describe. Even the half-hearted confessional and chat-up lines of Be My Wife carry a feeling of deep pathos and loneliness. There s an awful lot of pain on Low, Bowie told Details magazine in RENEWED HOPE One of the songs Eno persuaded Bowie to leave without vocals is A New Career In A New Town, but its meaning is obvious from its title and with its plaintive harmonica it feels like a nocturnal car ride to a place of renewed hope, with sparkly synth lines glittering like distant city lights. Overall the album carries a feeling of starting over, of renewal, particularly when it comes to the instrumentals on side two. The grave, magisterial Warszawa opens the side while in contrast to this track s grand themes is Wailing Wall with its percolating tuned percussion and elements of Steve Reich-like systems music. These enigmatic compositions are wonderfully realised and the closing track Subterraneans reworked from The Man Who Fell To Earth soundtrack feels almost redemptive with its slow descending keyboard line surmounted by exquisite high string synths and Bowie s phonetic singing. It s one of his most affecting creations. Indeed, far from being difficult or obtuse, with Bowie s masks cast aside, these instrumentals are some of the most direct and personal statements he ever made. ORIGINAL LP Low was released in January 1977 on RCA Victor with a number of different versions appearing in the UK. The sleeve of the original UK release bears the catalogue number PL while the labels have two catalogue numbers: PL and CPL This pressing came with a 12in insert with credits, and a black and white booklet advertising the official David Bowie Fan Club and back catalogue. Most copies have a sticker with the tracks listed from 1 to 11 on the rear. Another UK version was released in 1977, the difference being that this was manufactured in the UK and came with black RCA labels rather than the yellow/ orange ones. There is no mention of the CLP catalogue number on either the sleeve or labels of this version. The US version [CPL1 2030] was also released with a 12in credits insert and a sticker with tracklisting on the back cover. Some of these also contained fanclub information. 8-TRACK CARTRIDGE An 8-track Cartridge came out in the US in 1977 on RCA [CPS1-2030]. Perhaps unsurprisingly CASSETTE RELEASES A Dolby cassette version was released on RCA in the US in 1977 [CPK-12030]. Unusually this came in a cardboard box rather than the more standard plastic case. The cassette came with paper labels, which carried a red RCA logo. The UK version arrived in a plastic case, a grey cassette with printed black writing [PK ]. ORIGINAL CD AND REMASTERS Low was originally released in CD in 1984 on RCA in Europe [PD 83856] and the US [PCD1-2030]. A remastered CD was then put out in 1991 on Rykodisc [RCD 10142] in the US [pictured top right], which also came out in the US and Canada in longbox format and in a green jewel case with inner tray art, with the same catalogue number. Both 1991 releases feature three extra tracks. There is a longer 1991 remix of Sound And Vision and two Bowie/Eno compositions from sessions recorded between 1976 and 79 : an outtake from the Low sessions titled Some Are and All Saints, whose origins remain obscure. It is thought to have been either from a later session or a reworked fragment from the Low sessions. The UK release was on EMI [CDEMD 1027] and came with a lyrics booklet. A numbered, limited edition 24k gold 20-bit master was released in the US in 1996 on Rykodisc [RCD 80142] while in the same year the Japanese were treated to a plain vanilla version of the album on the EMI label [pictured above] but with the three extra tracks [TOCP-8872]. The next significant phase of CD remastering took place in 1999 at Abbey Road Studios by Peter Mew and Nigel Reeve with an Enhanced CD made for the 24-bit David Bowie Remasters series on EMI, although sadly the three extra tracks had been removed. The original analogue masters were digitally transferred at 24-bit resolution and mastered to 16-bit for the CD. The catalogue number worldwide is , with used for European territories. It was issued in a clear tray jewel case with a cover sticker and 12-page booklet. The Enhanced content includes a slideshow and, if played on a PC, the disc connected to bowienet. Again, this release features only the original tracklisting. The David Bowie Series, reissued in 2014 on Parlophone, included a straight re-press of the 1999 Enhanced Low CD. European catalogue numbers are and VINYL REISSUES AND REMASTERS The vinyl LP was re-released in December 1980 with some pressings dated In the UK it came out on RCA International with the dual catalogue number INTS 5065 and N L The 1980 US version was AYL These reissues had the tracklisting printed on the rear sleeve. The first remastering of Low took place in 1981 and was overseen by Piero Mannucci a mastering and cutting engineer based at RCA studios in Rome. The LP was released on RCA [YL 13856]. An LP version came out in 1991 based on the first major digital remastering of the original tapes, which took place at Northeastern Digital in Massachusetts by Dr Toby Mountain and Jonathan Wyner. The remastered LP [EMD 1027] was released by EMI in a gatefold sleeve, included the three extra tracks and was also released on cassette. MARCH

84 CLASSIC VENUES BEHIND THE MUSIC WITH HI-FI NEWS & RECORD REVIEW Shea Stadium, Queens, NY The Beatles record-breaking appearance at a multi-purpose sports arena in one of the most densly populated boroughs of New York was to kick-start a revolution known as stadium rock. Steve Sutherland brings you the tale of Shea Stadium in Queens Overpaid, oversexed and over here that s the phrase we Brits coined to describe the American servicemen who were fortunate enough to be stationed in the British Isles during World War II. Attractively affluent compared to us ration-starved natives, the Yanks made a fuss of the ladies and one of their lucky number, young New Yorker Sid Bernstein, is where our story begins. Not that we re here to recollect Sid s amorous escapades but rather to recognise the undervalued part he played in the history of rock n roll. POP SENSATION Back in the Apple after Armistice, Sid began a career in show business, acting as manager to Puerto Rican mambo ace Esy Morales and booking agent for Dion and Chubby Checker. Sid also kept his options open, taking a Social Studies course on the side which urged him into regularly reading the English newspapers. And it was here that Sid, already an enthusiastic Anglophile, began to encounter frothy write-ups of this new pop sensation, The Beatles. The more Sid read the rabid prose, the more he became convinced that the Fab Four would do the business Stateside so he grasped the nettle, picked up the phone and called Brian Epstein at ì Shea Stadium at Flushing Meadows, pictured in 2007 ílove them or loathe them, Grand Funk Railroad sold out Shea in just 72 hours his home in Liverpool. The Beatles manager was not convinced his band would appeal across the Atlantic and was worried about ticket sales, but Sid dangled a date at the prestigious Carnegie Hall and when Epstein took the bait, set about borrowing the dosh to make the gig happen. Sandwiched between the famous Ed Sullivan TV Show appearances in February 1964, Sid s gig sold out so rapidly that, when he overheard the box office manager joke that he should have booked 30 appearances instead of the measly two-in-onenight, he immediately tried to talk Epstein into booking the boys into Madison Square Garden. Eppy demurred. And this is really where Sid made his move into greatness. Undeterred by Epstein s caution, Sid made a counter-offer of outrageous and game-changing magnitude. Sid proposed that he book the band into Shea Stadium, a multipurpose sports arena in outlying Flushing Meadows with the capacity to entertain over 50,000 fans in one go. Shea officially the William A Shea Stadium had opened on the 17th of April 1964 as the home of the New York Mets baseball team, the arena named after the lawyer who, on seeing the Brooklyn Dodgers quit the city for Los Angeles and the Giants leave for San Francisco, formed the Continental League and had the venue built. BRUTAL WINTERS Home also to the New York Jets football team, Shea had taken 29 months and $28.5 million to construct and had actually opened two years behind schedule due to a couple of brutal winters and 17 different labour strikes interrupting the build, but by the time Sid had his epiphany, it was ready to rock. Again Epstein stalled so Sid did his calculations, decided to price his tickets between $4.50 and $5.65 and offered the nervous manager $10 for every unsold seat. Epstein shook on it and within two weeks all 55,600 tickets had been shifted, 84 MARCH 2016

85 grossing $304,000, up to that point the biggest box office in the history of show business. The gig took place on Sunday the 15th of August 1965, the band being flown in by helicopter onto the adjacent rooftop Port Authority Heliport, then transferred to a Wells Fargo armoured truck to deliver them to the stadium crammed with hysterical screamagers. A couple of thousand security guards did their utmost to keep the crowd in the stands and away from the tiny stage built on second base. Vox had especially designed a phalanx of 100W amps for the occasion, but they just weren t loud enough to transmit the sound around the stadium so it was decided to use the house PA instead. Support acts Killer Joe Piro & The Discoteque Dancers, Cannibal & The Headhunters, Brenda Holloway, King Curtis and Sounds Incorporated did their utmost to keep the hysteria at bay until Ed Sullivan took the mic to introduce the headliners: Now ladies and gentlemen, honoured by their country, decorated by their queen, loved here in America, here are The Beatles! Cue pandemonium. The band couldn t hear themselves above the mass shrieking and played a pretty shoddy but extremely exciting half-hour set which kicked off with Twist & Shout and climaxed 11 songs later with I m Down, John Lennon playing organ on stage for the first time and hamming it up à la Jerry Lee Lewis. Among the crowd, hunkered down in the away team s dugout, were Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards who were in town lounging around on future manager Allen Klein s luxury yacht, while a dozen cameras ëthe Young Rascals, who were later known simply as The Rascals, headlined the stadium in 1966 The Fab ì Four pictured in the mid 1960s and original ticket for their 1965 show ê Original poster for The Beatles 1965 appearance at Shea. Within two weeks all 55,600 tickets had been sold a box office record captured the event for posterity and an ABC TV special shown early the following year after the band had secretly re-recorded the songs in a London studio to provide an acceptable soundtrack. NO GOING BACK Viola! Stadium rock! There was no going back. Sid was in his element now. He put The Young Rascals into Shea in June 66, promoted a Batman gig there too actors Adam West and Riddler Frank Gorshin hamming it up for a sparse crowd before doing solo crooning spots in civvies and The Beatles returned on the 23rd of August 66 as part of their third US tour. By now, though, the band was under heavy manners after Lennon s Bigger Than Jesus debacle and 11,000 tickets remained unsold for the show that also featured The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes. The Beatles never toured again, but the box office record they set at their Shea debut remained unchallenged until July 1971 when a band pretty much forgotten now sold out the venue in 72 hours flat. It was the biggest box office in show business history That band was Grand Funk Railroad, a power trio from Flint, Michegan headed up by guitarist Mark Farner who were obviously loved by the people but derided by the press. Their Machiavellian manager Terry Knight had arranged a press conference to announce the gig and invited 150 journalists. Six turned up. Still, the band shifted all 55,000 tickets via the venue box office (no mail order involved!) and the gig, supported by the group Humble Pie, set the new record. Other notable Shea shows include the Summer Festival Of Peace, which took place in August 1970, an all-day fundraiser organised by Peter Yarrow of the folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary to raise funds for anti-vietnam war political candidates. The line-up was pretty awesome Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Gang, Miles Davis, Sha Na Na, Johnny Winter, Poco, Steppenwolf and Janis Joplin who showed up to jam with her old buddies Big Brother & The Holding Company. It was to be one of Janis last shows she OD-d two months later. Also on the bill was Paul Simon, doing a solo stint because Art Garfunkel refused to join him, but the sound was no good, the 15,000 strong crowd couldn t hear and MARCH

86 David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief On behalf of the creative community at Positive Feedback Online, and in recognition of significant contributions to the audio arts in 2014, this award is hereby presented to PS Audio for the DirectStream DAC in order to encourage further excellence in fine audio, to the greater good of all who love it. December 1, 2014 A.D. Dave Clark, Editor This already excellent sounding DAC continues to get better over time ver Chris Martens, hifi + Pioneering world class audio products Have you listened to the DAC of the Year yet? PS Audio s DirectStream DAC wins yet another prestigious award (HiFi + Dac of the Year). Renowned reviewers from across the world are united in their conclusion that DirectStream is a truly exceptional DAC Product of the Year 2014 Recommended Component au dio tr ea m PFO Brutus Award, 2014 For existing PS Audio customers who already own a Perfect Wave DAC Mk2 an upgrade path Greatest Bits DirectStream DAC is available for you. Please contact your approved PS Audio dealer, listed below, for more information. Why is DirectStream unique? pure analogue - directly in to your power or preamplifier. Reviewers and customers agree that DirectStream gets your digital music closer to an analogue sound than ever before. You can add PS Audio s Network Bridge ii to create a music streamer. Upgrades to DirectStream have wowed listeners each and every time. Once you own a DirectStream, the upgrades will ensure it is future-proof. What s more, these operating system upgrades are free. It s time to re-discover your music with DirectStream. To hear how the DAC of the Year can transform your music, find your dealer at to organise a home demonstration. Distributed by Signature Audio Systems

87 CLASSIC VENUES KEVIN MAZUR the singer was reportedly booed off after three numbers. Another act who found Shea rough going were Jethro Tull who headlined in July 76. Although the band had Tullvision installed one of the earliest uses of video screens to bring the crowd closer to the band the sound was still shocking and often drowned out by planes coming in and out of near-by LaGuardia airport. It also poured with rain and Ian Anderson, who d been soaked with urine from a bottle chucked at the band as they made their way to the stage, has since nominated it as his worst gigging experience ever. FINAL TOUR The Who fared a bit better. They played Shea on the 12th and 13th of October 1982 in support of their largely forgotten It s Hard LP on what they announced at the time would be their final tour. In homage to The Beatles, they played I Saw Her Standing There and Twist & Shout. The support act were The Clash who, according to many, blew Townshend and his old-timers offstage. The Police also acknowledged the Fabs when they played Shea in August 83. Supported by REM and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, they were on their Synchronicity jaunt, and jetted in from a mansion in Bridgehampton, Sting announcing: Springsteen s late 80s shows were not without controversy We d like to thank The Beatles for lending us their stadium. Simon eventually reunited with Garfunkel at Shea during the same month as part of the duo s first tour together in 13 years, The Rolling Stones brought their Steel Wheels extravaganza to the stadium for six nights in October 1989 on a 36-city tour that saw them guaranteed $70 million upfront by new promoter Michael Cohn, and Bruce Springsteen arrived with The E Street Band for three nights in October 2003 at the end of a 14-month, 82 city tour in support of his 12th studio album, The Rising. The shows were not without controversy. Bruce had been granted a boat escort to the first gig by the NYPD but after he chose to perform American Skin (41 Shots), a song critical of the shooting of Amadou Diallo by four cops in a case of mistaken identity that had occurred in 1999, New York s finest t withdrew their escort as protest. Security was only reinstated ed after Mayor Bloomberg intervened. ned. The show closed with a guest appearance by Bob Dylan who joined Bruce for a rousing rendition of his Highway 61 Revisited but the writing was on the wall. Shea was earmarked for demolition to create parking space for the swankier Citi i Field Stadium, the new home of the Mets. But before the hammers fell, there was The Last Play At Shea, a grand finale over two nights in July 2008 headlined by Billy Joel and documented for a film of the same name. It featured such guests as Roger Daltrey, Tony Bennett, Don Henley, Steven Tyler and Paul McCartney, who closed the thing down with an emotional Let It Be. ONLY REGRET Shea was rubble by the summer of Sid Bernstein passed away four years later at the ripe old age of 95. His only regret? He never managed to get The Beatles to reform, no matter how many millions he offered and how many good causes he proffered. The man lived and died a trier. éthe Boss, whose 2003 show upset the NYPD ëin July 2008 Billy Joel headlined the venue s final concert. The Last Play At Shea a film of the event was released in 2010 ì On stage together for the first time in 13 years Simon & Garfunkel í Police box... in 1983 Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers topped the Shea bill MARCH

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90 ALBUM REVIEWS ALBUM REVIEWS: VINYL DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES Private Eyes Mobile Fidelity MFSL (180g vinyl) Although this was recorded in an era when over-engineering just about everything was the norm, the SACD still earned a worthy 89% last August. It was, after all, originally released two years before CD launched outside of Japan, back in 1981, so perhaps the process of mastering to LP 35 years ago ameliorated the inherent, ultra-crisp edginess: MoFi s SACD certainly caused no listener fatigue. For fans of this duo, who took rock-infused, blue-eyed soul to new heights, this vinyl transfer offers even sweeter highs. But who cares? This contains I Can t Go For That (No Can Do) and the title track, which were both No 1s, as well as Did It In A Minute, so the music should be reason enough to rush out and buy a copy. KK Sound Quality: 91% THE MIDNIGHTERS Their Greatest Hits Sundazed LP5435 (mono; 180g vinyl) The sound of this LP is so-so mono of its era: the 1950s. This precludes a score you would otherwise think worthy for what could easily have been the LP of the Month, because the music is groundbreaking and essential listening for any lover of R&B. This is material so important to the birth of rock n roll and post-blues/ R&B soul that it ranks with Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly. Look who numbered among its members: Hank Ballard, Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John, Levi Stubbs that s the vocal equivalent of guitarists who played in the Yardbirds! Salacious, raw R&B, including Work With Me Annie and Sexy Ways it s rock s Rosetta Stone. KK Sound Quality: 80% MARCOS VALLE & STACEY KENT Ao Vivo Pure Pleasure PPAN LPs (180g vinyl) Are double LPs with a Latin soul now Stacey Kent s preferred genre? Here the jazz singer has teamed up with songwriter/ arranger/singer/musician Marcos Valle (think: Quincy Jones Goes To Rio) to create a 50th anniversary celebration of the Brazilian s career, and the meeting of the two Americas works. All compositions are by Valle, once a member of what would become Sérgio Mendes Brasil 66, but he isn t afraid to blend jazz, samba, pop, rock and bossa nova. This is, unapologetically, a world music effort with a predominantly unplugged feel, exhibiting inescapable use of audiophile tropes (though I have no reason to believe it was deliberate). KK Sound Quality: 88% VARIOUS Soho Scene 63 History of R&B Records R&B6-180 (180g vinyl) Subtitled Jazz Goes Mod, that and the date tell you this sequel to Soho Scene 62 chronicles the period when that concentrated segment of London was the place to be for absorbing the hippest music, at venues like The Marquee, Klooks Kleek, The Flamingo, Ronnie Scott s and the 100 Club. This is a musical document of that period told in a mix of tracks by British musicians and the American heroes one yearns for a Blu-ray telling the same tale, should enough footage exist. Among the artists represented here are Hank Crawford, Damita Jo, Brother Jack McDuff, Bobby Powell, Johnny Scott Quartet and others both memorable and forgotten. KK Sound Quality: 86% MARCH 2016

91 AUDIOPHILE: DIGITAL COMPACT DISC SUPERAUDIO DVD BLU-RAY VINYL DOWNLOAD DEAN MARTIN Dream With Dean Analogue Productions CAPP076SA Arguably one of Dino s most satisfying albums, this was a concept of sorts that found him covering standards with the dependable Ken Lane on piano, drummer Irv Cottler, bassist Red Mitchell and guitarist Barney Kessel doing a superb job of suggesting a late-night gig in a half-empty bar. That should be enough to tempt you to hear Dino as he out-sinatras Frank with Blue Moon, Smile, Fools Rush In, et al, but the gem is the earlier, sparse version of Everybody Loves Somebody. Because the hit 45 came out before this was released, Reprise issued a rush-job compilation on the same day containing the chart version. This utterly slaughters it. KK Sound Quality: 90% ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK Close Encounters Of The Third Kind Audio Fidelity AFZ226 Not a soundtrack collector, I was surprised to learn how coveted is this album. Then again, it is a John Williams score to a Spielberg film, so it enjoys a cult comprised of those in love with soundtracks, SF movies and fans of the composer. Not having seen the film in a few decades, I was staggered by the familiarity and not just the tones played to communicate with the aliens. The music is both majestic and intimate at the same time, a rare combination that makes Williams scores ideal for Spielberg flicks because that s what the filmmaker does even with subjects of a monumental scale. I dare you not to turn it up when it comes to those five notes. KK Sound Quality: 90% LYN STANLEY Interludes A T Music LLC 3104 As I wait for the vinyl version to arrive, this will prepare me for it but so good is the sound, I cannot imagine what the LP can add. We shall see. With material in the same vein as the Dino set here, Stanley grows more confident as a superior interpreter of standards, the only illadvised moment being a torch version of Led Zeppelin s Whole Lotta Love. Some songs do not survive outside of their core genre (no criticism of Ms Stanley: even Tina Turner struggled with it). The best tracks are Nice n Easy and It s Crazy, but all will delight. And if this tickles your disc spinner, note that her two previous releases are also now available as SACDs. KK Sound Quality: 89% PAUL BUTTERFIELD Complete Albums Rhino (14 discs) Yes, the British did precede the Americans in reviving the blues. The difference is that Paul Butterfield a relative latecomer by 1965 did it so much better. OK: the UK boasts Green, Clapton, Mayall, etc, but Butterfield s debut and its sequel defined modern blues by absorbing a rock energy, later adding raga, jazz and other inputs. He was an intense harp blower and his first lead guitarist, Mike Bloomfield, is for this admittedly non-guitarist one of the five best blues guitarists ever. Bob Dylan agrees. This stunning box contains his first ten studio LPs, two live sets (one a double and one previously unreleased) and the lost sessions CD. Sound quality varies over so many titles but, overall, simply amazing. KK Sound Quality: 91% MARCH

92 ALBUM REVIEWS HI-RES DOWNLOADS LIZZ WRIGHT Freedom & Surrender (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC) Concord Records CRE Take an artist known for her velvety, soulful voice, add in some class musicians and acclaimed producer Larry Klein, who s worked with the likes of Tracy Chapman, Madeleine Peyroux, Melody Gardot and Joni Mitchell, and you re probably onto a winner. That s exactly the case with this, Lizz Wright s fifth album, mixing a number of self-composed numbers with two covers: a gospelled-up version of the Bee Gees hit To Love Somebody and an unnerving take on Nick Drake s River Man, accompanied by Till Brönner on flugelhorn. Wright s classy, expressive vocals are well-served by Klein s clean production, imbuing the set with a warm, generous sound. Musicians include Dean Parks and Klein on guitars, Pete Kuzma and Kenny Banks on keyboards, Dan Lutz on bass, and Vinnia Colaiuta and Pete Korpula on drums and percussion. This is gorgeous stuff, from start to finish. AE Sound Quality: 90% KENDRICK SCOTT ORACLE We Are The Drum (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC) Blue Note BLU B OK, so Scott Oracle s début album for the famous Blue Note jazz label lives up to its title by opening with drums, but this isn t a typical drummer s album, with the tub-thumping all but dominating the mix to the detriment of the other performers. Yes, there are the inevitable drum solos, but this is much more of an ensemble set, with Scott joined by saxophonist John Ellis, keyboardist Taylor Eigsti, guitarist Mike Moreno, and bassist Joe Sanders, along with vocalist Lizz Wright. Scott seemed happy to play his part in the band rather than being the star turn. As he puts it, The accent is on we in the title. There is a lot of space for each player to have their say. That s something the crisp, clean recording emphasises, with excellent instrumental textures even in what become quite dense mixes, and lots to both please the ear and tap the foot. AE Sound Quality: 85% OUR PROMISE Following our Investigation feature [HFN, Jun 11] where we examined the claimed quality of high-resolution downloads, Hi-Fi News & Record Review is now measuring the true sample rate and bit-depth of the HD music downloads reviewed on these pages. These unique reviews will be a regular source of information for those seeking new and re-mastered recordings offered at high sample rates and with the promise of delivering the very best sound quality. (Note: asterisk in headings denotes technical reservation explained below.) PM LAB REPORT Recorded via a vintage Neve console and Pro Tools HDX system, this 96kHz rendering shows slightly higher levels of noise than might be anticipated from an all-digital set-up, but its dynamic range/ compression is sensitively managed. PM LAB REPORT Recording notes are sketchy but there is a deal of ultrasonic noise and spuriae associated with, but not originating from, the drum feed (absent on trk 11, the solo keyboard version of trk 7 in green). Dynamic range is healthy, however. PM 92 MARCH 2016

93 COMPACT DISC SUPERAUDIO DVD BLU-RAY VINYL DOWNLOAD BEETHOVEN Triple Concerto; Overtures Coriolan; Egmont; Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus Giuliano Carmignola, Sol Gabetta, Dejan Lazic, Basel CO/Giovanni Antonini (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC) Sony The Milanese Giovanni Antonini, like Frans Brüggen, came to conducting via the baroque recorder; he was also cofounder of Il Giardino Armonico. So it s not surprising to find his Beethoven the very antithesis of Karajan s: a dry attack with sharp dynamic differentiation. (Wonderful how the concerto steals in from nowhere!) Recorded in the modern Luxembourg Philharmonie, the players patently give their all for him. The two serious overtures are the most satisfying tracks here, but that s only because Sony has frequently given the soloists too much prominence in the Triple Concerto Gabetta being one of its star signings. This is especially so in the slow movement but note the inconsistency as the finale starts. CB Sound Quality: 80% GIOVINCELLO Cello Concertos by Boccherini, Graziana, Haydn, Platti and Vivaldi; Edgar Moreau, Il Pomo d Oro/Riccardo Minasi (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC) Warner Classics (Erato) The young Paris Conservatoire trained cellist s 2014 debut CD Play was of salon pieces. A year on Moreau almost 21 he tackles 18th-century concertos with a period orchestra [see also HFN Album Choice Mar 15]. The punning title means young lad. With the finale taken at a real lick, the Haydn C major is the one well-known work here. More to my taste, the Vivaldi (RV419) has a rather lovely Andante and zesty concluding Allegro, while the Graziana, a premiere recording, has both charm and energy; clarinets are heard in the Larghetto. In all, a programme with more variety than you d anticipate. (An Erato promo video hosted by Presto Classical doesn t reveal much more than the multiplicity of mics for the sessions at a modest hall in Lonigo, N. Italy.) CB Sound Quality: 80% ARVO PÄRT Fratres (two versions); Tabula Rasa; Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten Various artists (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)* ECM Perhaps reissued to mark Arvo Pärt s recent 80th birthday, this was a ground-breaking album release on LP in 1984 and some of the music was soon taken up by other artists: fellow Estonian Neeme Järvi with Cantus, Tasmin Litle with Fratres. ECM s programme has 12 Berlin Philharmonic cellists playing it and the violin/piano version with Gidon Kremer and Keith Jarrett. Tabula rasa is for two solo violins, prepared piano (Schnittke playing, no less) and small orchestra. Cantus, a threnody with strings and final tolling bell, written in memory of Britten, especially had a cult following (though it doesn t inspire me!). These variously sourced recordings, , sound mainly clean and open, although strings can become edgy as the dynamics increase. HRA provides a booklet PDF. CB Sound Quality: 75% LAB REPORT LAB REPORT LAB REPORT Digitally recorded at 96kHz at the Philharmonie, Luxembourg in 2015, the mix is very clean (aside from a 19.8kHz drone, buried here). Low noise, a wide dynamic range and full 40kHz+ bandwidth are all well used. PM Intended for release on CD, the master was evidently recorded and mixed at 96kHz as revealed by this high resolution download. Harmonics from the violins, cello and clarinet stretch beyond the audioband [trk 4 Allegro, see Graph]. PM Remastered for 2015 but spectral analysis clearly shows Cantus and Fratres (both versions) are 96kHz upsamples of 44.1kHz files, presumably from the 2008 CD release [see Graph]. The Tabula Rasa is a 48kHz-to-96kHz upsample. PM MARCH

94 NEW FROM AUDIO RESEARCH REFERENCE 75 SE VALVE STEREO POWER AMPLIFIER (75 WATTS) AT OXFORD AUDIO The Reference 75 SE from Audio Research is a stunning amplifier in every way performance, styling and reliability combined to elevate your music listening to a new experience. To find out more and hear the Reference 75 SE for yourself, call or Oxford Audio to arrange a demonstration. FINANCE: ASK ABOUT OUR BUY NOW PAY LATER SCHEME. 0% APR NO DEPOSIT. OXFORD AUDIO CONSULTANTS TELEPHONE WEBSITE ADDRESS Cantay House Park End Street Oxford OX1 1JD Follow us on: BUSINESS HOURS 10am to 6pm Mon-Fri 10am to 5pm Sat Closed Sunday & Bank Holidays UPCOMING EVENTS Please see our website for dates and details. Have you visited the NEW Oxford Audio web site yet?

95 ALBUM REVIEWS ROCK COMPACT DISC SUPERAUDIO DVD BLU-RAY VINYL DOWNLOAD PARLOUR TRICKS Broken Hearts/Bones Bar/None Records BRN-CD-232 This is ridiculously wonderful. New York s Parlour Tricks are restoring pop music to the respectable status it had before the guitar overkill of the early 70s. Leader Lily Cato steers the sextet with a firm hand, keeping her hook-infested melodies and smart lyrics front and centre, but always allows the band to decorate that core with shiny vocal harmonies, perky electronica, rhythmic guitars and solid danceable beats. Any of the ten cuts would work as singles, but Lovesongs, Requiem and The Storm all deserve to be multi-platinum global smashes. Producer Emery Dobyns merits a special mention, for keeping every element spatially located so that everything is audible and yet nothing is cluttered. JBk Sound Quality: 95% JEB LOY NICHOLS Long Time Traveller On U Sound ONUDL130 That an ex-pat American white boy living in Wales should successfully channel the spirits of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Johnny Nash seems ludicrous, but that s what Nichols has done with this album. Consistently hailed as a great country-blues performer and songwriter, this extraordinary 11th album was pieced together in three days with revered dub and EDM producer Adrian Sherwood using previously recorded reggae backing tracks. Amazingly, the end result is little short of fabulous, because Nichols songs and voice fit the tracks to perfection. Nichols will probably never make another reggae album so get this super-chilled magic while you can. JBk Sound Quality: 91% OLD DOMINION Meat And Candy RCA Records So, you ve heard this kind of slick, rockin country crossover sound a zillion times but, trust me, you ve rarely heard it done this well, and certainly not with the subtle hip-hop inflections that give it a shade more edge. Old Dominion is a coming together of five hot-shot Nashville songwriters whose previous compositions delivered huge hits for Keith Urban, The Band Perry, Kenny Chesney and more. They ve already scored a US No1 Country Airplay hit with Break Up With Him, and it s just a matter of time before cuts like Snapback and Half Empty do similar business. I want to hate them for being so slick, but I can t stop myself from singing their choruses. JBk Sound Quality: 92% BLAUE BLUME Syzygy Brillante Records With prog rock no longer a dirty word, Denmark s Blaue Blume (blue flower) could do well with their exotically lush sonic soup of influences from Yes, Genesis, The Cocteau Twins and Radiohead. The freewheeling vocal calisthenics of singer Jonas Smith suggest he spent his infancy in a cot hardwired into a stereo playing non-stop Jon Anderson, Jeff Buckley and Elizabeth Fraser; and the twinkly guitars of Robert Jensen Buhl often recall the dream pop stylings of Robin Guthrie. In Denmark this has been hailed as album of the year but I suspect that here it will become a cult classic, adored by a minority, but too complex to win a mainstream audience. JBk Sound Quality: 89% MARCH


97 ALBUM REVIEWS JAZZ COMPACT DISC SUPERAUDIO DVD BLU-RAY VINYL DOWNLOAD MALIJA The Day I Had Everything Edition Records EDN 1064 This drummerless all-star trio actually formed three-fifths part of saxophonist Mark Lockheart s quintet on In Deep in 2009, Phronesis bassist Jasper Hoiby once again teaming up superbly with pianist Liam Noble. They play as if they ve been together forever, yet with fresh inspiration on every track. Squared opens with a hint of Guiffre s Train And The River but quickly moves on, while The Pianist sounds as if it s going to be a slow, grinding blues, but soon becomes more lyrical, and Hoiby s harmonically-gorgeous Wayne s World is far from metallic. With just a few discreet overdubs, the recorded sound is rich, warm and rewarding, like the music. SH Sound Quality: 90% HAKON KORNSTAD Tenor Battle Jazzland Tenor doesn t just mean a saxophone here. Norwegian jazz star Kornstad has used electronics and added a clarinet mouthpiece to a flute, but his greatest new instrument is his own operatic singing voice. He started vocal training in 2009 and has now graduated from the Norwegian Opera Academy. Here he plays and sings arias from Massenet, Gluck and others, including Bizet s Je Crois Entendre Encore from The Pearl Fishers. The subdued accompaniment of (mainly) harmonium and cimbalon can begin to seem lugubrious, but Kornstad closes on a cheery L ultima Canzone. More like an unexpected embrace than a battle. SH Sound Quality: 85% MIKE WESTBROOK & COMPANY A Bigger Show Live ASC Records asccd (two discs) Recorded live in July 2015, this double album contains a new work of epic proportions that s described as a jazz/rock oratorio, the words written and intoned (rather than sung) by Kate Westbrook with vocal support from Martine Walter and Billy Bottle. They front a 21-piece band with too many talented young soloists to list here, and there is a lot of fine playing. As a theatrical presentation, complete with audience interaction, this recording isn t really tailored for repeated listening. But as it s set for release in time for Mike Westbrook s 80th birthday in March 2016, it s a fitting reminder of his great long-term contribution to the British jazz scene. SH Sound Quality: 80% CORRIE DICK Impossible Things Chaos Collective CC006 Glasgow-born, London-based Corrie Dick has been the inspiring drummer in many groups, notably alongside Laura Jurd and Lauren Kinsella in Blue Eyed Hawk. Jurd and Dick also co-founded the Chaos Collective label to showcase improvising musicians and composers in the UK. Here it showcases Dick s own compositions, with a larger group including the saxes of Joe Wright and George Crowley as well as Jurd s trumpet, vocals from Alice Zawadzki as well as Kinsella, organist Joe Webb as well as pianist Matt Robinson, bassist Conor Chaplin and percussionist Felix Higginbottom. Every tune is a fresh surprise, and everyone gets a chance to solo and shine, in an album born of happy collaboration. SH Sound Quality: 90% MARCH

98 ALBUM REVIEWS CLASSICAL COMPACT DISC SUPERAUDIO DVD BLU-RAY VINYL DOWNLOAD VLADIMIR HOROWITZ Return to Chicago (recital and interviews) DG (two discs; downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution) What an old charmer Horowitz could be! There are 40m of radio interviews (the longer one with Mrs Horowitz proving an undercurrent of interruptions) associated with this Orchestra Hall recital given on 26th October His Schumann Träumerei and Moszkowski Étincelles party-pieces follow Scarlatti sonatas, Mozart, Scriabin, Liszt, Schumann again (the Arabeske) and a Chopin group culminating in the B-flat Scherzo, where the fingerwork is scarcely credible. His two Mazurkas suggest a finer interpreter than Rubinstein and the Mozart which includes the daunting B-minor Adagio and Sonata K330 banishing memories of his rather awful concertos CD with Giulini. But it s the conversations that held me in thrall. CB Sound Quality: 90% BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No 2 Maria João Pires, LSO/Bernard Haitink LSO Live LSO0245 (96kHz/24-bit download; MP3 only) Unusually, LSO Live is marketing this 33m 53s album as a download only (high-res 4.99 at its own site more expensive elsewhere!). It was recorded at the Barbican in Feb 13 with a Bruckner Symphony No 9 already on SACD. What makes it exceptional is Pires s revelatory playing of solo passages towards the end of the Adagio (elsewhere she s bright and clear) and the way Haitink tailors the LSO dynamics to set the piano in the best light. With movement timings close to those on the 1986 Perahia/Haitink CBS LP it s perhaps too sober an account for all tastes; the stereo Serkin/Ormandy (1965) remains my benchmark reading. CB Sound Quality: 85% SIBELIUS Symphonies Nos1-7 Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Okko Kamu BIS BS-2076 (three discs; downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution) Okko Kamu won the 1969 Karajan conducting prize and his Helsinki recordings of three symphonies made up a complete DG LP set with HvK s Nos 4-7. But he never completed a cycle until these midpriced BIS recordings, from the lovely Sibelius Concert Hall, Lahti. As the openings of No 3 and (even more powerfully) No 4 spread across the soundstage you almost feel as if you are in the acoustic, with every detail perfectly clear. This is a wholly consistent cycle well, perhaps No 6 stands out entirely free of the conducting ego you found with, say, Maazel or Bernstein and played with total dedication. CB Sound Quality: 90% R STRAUSS Also Sprach Zarathustra; Don Quixote Pierre Fournier, VPO/Herbert von Karajan Orfeo C B (mono) These recordings from the 1964 Salzburg Festival make a disc for Karajan completists that s because Also Sprach Zarathustra, in particular, has a dimly restricted sound. It comes well after the studio LP marking Karajan s Decca debut, and there s a fine 1965 Berlin/DG Don Quixote with the artistocratic Fournier. But these live performances reveal a rather freer interpreter eg, in the protracted Zarathustra intro than the studio perfectionist. The sheep, for instance, in Don Quixote have surely never bleated so rowdily! And you can readily appreciate the fine VPO string playing in both works. CB Sound Quality: 65% MARCH 2016

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102 NuWave Phono Converter 40 years in the making, the NPC is the ultimate in vinyl and analogue reproduction. Complete Complete control control of of your your vinyl collection play, record, enjoy. enjoy. The NPC combines a state-of-the-art pure analogue phono pre-amplifier with a high-end analogue PCM/DSD converter. Play anything from your turntable or analogue source via the NPC into your pre-amp. Or record your vinyl collection through the NPC onto your computer and play it back via a DAC. The result? Your new digital vinyl collection brought to you in the original analogue sound. Price: 1, Comparing these files back-to-back with the vinyl LP versions revealed that the NPC s digital replicas remained true to the original vinyl versions. What was also apparent was how the NPC managed to retain the character of the analogue recording. Andrew Simpson Hi-Fi News Find your nearest dealer at to organise a home demonstration. Distributed by: Signature Audio Systems

103 OPINION Paul Miller Editor Technician and writer on all things audio for some 30 years, Paul Miller took over the editor s chair in He invented the QC Suite, used across the audio industry The art of vinyl As a new generation of music lovers enjoys the ritual of handling and cueing-up a precious vinyl LP, so too they are being exposed to the suggestive power of the sleeve s artwork, says Paul Miller As 2015 rolled into 2016 the music industry lost two of its epochal figures Ian (Lemmy) Kilmister and David Bowie, the latter celebrated by way of our Vinyl Icon this month [p78]. While there may have been little crossover between the musical output of Lemmy s Motörhead and Bowie s glam rock and electronica though a case could be made for Hawkwind s rock psychedelia both men defined not only their own genres but also an entire half century of music. Both also inspired countless acts and performers that followed in their wake. Both also had style (Bowie s continually reinvented), a vocal and performancedriven personality that not only ensured their music was and will remain instantly recognisable but also informed the artwork of their LP covers. EYE OF THE BEHOLDER As Lemmy took rock n roll to a new level, the cover of early album Overkill featured Joe Petagno s now-legendary Snaggletooth creature. This arresting cover art marked a defining moment in the evolution of heavy metal in much the same way as images of Bowie s Ziggy, Aladdin Sane and Thin White Duke personas would chart his progress away from folk, rock through glam to the New Wave. Glorious cover illustrations were especially important in the pre-music video era while CD reduced the media s physicality and inevitably diluted the impact of its artwork. Today, streamed music can be utterly devoid of the visual stimulus that would accompany every play of a choice LP. So another spin-off of the vinyl revival, perhaps, is a renewed appreciation of sleeve art and the bonus gifted to music lovers by gatefolds. Arresting LP cover art has defined moments in musical history ABOVE: David Gilmour s Rattle That Lock took first place in the 2015 Best Art Vinyl competition with Drenge s Undertow [right] second and Tame Impala s Currents [below] a worthy third The most compelling artwork is celebrated every year by the Best Art Vinyl Awards, a competition started a decade ago by the canny people behind the play and display wall-hanging LP frames. Fitted with a UV-filtering acrylic window, these 40 frames keep your favourite LP artwork on show within easy reach of the turntable. I spoke with Managing Director Andrew Heep about the success of the awards. Initially we did the judging ourselves but now the 50 annual nominations are compiled by the cream of record sleeve design [including previous winners Rob Crane, Scott Bendall and Gerard Saint] before being voted on by the public. VINYL WINS A retrospective of the best vinyl art is planned for display at the Munich High End Show in May while the winners and shortlisted entries for 2015 are on show in the main window of Belgraves Hotel, Belgravia until the end of April. Why not visit and check out the collection? And if you want to take part in voting then the 2016 awards process begins this November. Previous winners have included Dan Hillier s stunning illustration for the eponymous debut by Royal Blood and Michael Kagan s painting entitled Pilot 2 used on White Lies Big TV. Neither Bowie nor Motörhead were ever nominated their art having arguably peaked in the decades before. MARCH


105 Barry Paul Miller Fox Technology Editor journalist OPINION Barry Technician Fox trained and writer in electronics all things with audio the RAF for and over worked 25 years, as Paul a patent Miller agent, took over but he gave the editor s that up chair to enter in journalism. He invented He is one the of QC the Suite, world s used top across technology the audio writers industry Code of silence How do online music retailers store the different quality files they sell? Are they pre-encoded then uploaded to a server for you to download, or are they transcoded on the fly? Barry Fox finds out Some early CDs sounded rough because they had been mastered from heavily equalised LP masters. Pressure from the hi-fi press forced the music industry into using a logo system: ADD standing for Analogue recording, Digital mixing and Digital transfer to digital disc; DDD for all digital, and so on. This was better than nothing, of course, but only just. The third D is redundant because all CDs are digital, and there was no guidance on source provenance. STRONG ON CLAIMS There s now a quality jungle online and it s not just a question of data rate. Since the early days of MP3, encoding software has continually improved, to squeeze more quality from fewer bits. Encoding unwanted noise in the original soaks up bits that could be better spent on the music. But sucking noise out of the source can also suck the life out of the music. The rival online services are strong on claims but volunteer very little in the way of hard fact. Some of the supposedly higher quality material I ve heard sounds suspiciously poor, and the rival choice of material seems very samey. Could there be some source sharing, and even up-scaling, going on? Let s face it, over the years the music industry has been dismissive of what it sees as hi-fi nutters. Remember the bad old days of ever-thinner and warped LPs pressed from recycled vinyl, sometimes with the paper labels ground into the mix. Remember those CDs peppered with reflective pin holes. What we need is a logo scheme for online tracks how they were encoded and from what source. Meridian s MQA There s now a quality jungle online and it s not just a question of data rate (Master Quality Authenticated) does just that, but MQA still needs to be adopted by a major vendor [see News, p14]. At the Audio Renaissance conference held last year, no-one seriously addressed these issues in open session. But afterwards British company Omnifone talked frankly. Omnifone has been doing online licensing deals with all the major record labels since 2007, and became the backroom provider for cloud music services marketed by Sony, Samsung and Sirius satellite radio. Omnifone currently has 49 million tracks on tap and is adding half a million per month, now from record labels in the Far East and Asia. Ex-studio engineer Matt White is Director of User Experience. He says he learned early on to refuse material from labels that was already encoded, because he had no control over the type of encoder used. He also had no idea how the material had been sourced. Sometimes tracks had been copied from budget compilations. Provenance is the key, says Matt White, and I now ask for masters at Red Book 44.1kHz/16-bit WAV standard, or better. We have already re-encoded our catalogue three times to keep pace with quality trends. Usually the material is stored in duplicate form at different bit rates, because transcoding on the fly introduces delay and the public expects near instant delivery response. Kim Campbell, Head of Linn Records, is equally clear on online policy: We upload the FLAC files to our server in 192kHz (if available), 96kHz or the highest sample rate and CD quality. Our back-end then makes the ALAC files and MP3 files (which come from the CD quality audio). They are stored in these formats, not down-coded on the fly. This is the process for everything we ve sold on ABOVE: Music industry quality control an LP pressed with its label in the playing area I also asked several of the other major online suppliers what their highest quality content is and whether different quality versions are separately stored. Says 7Digital: The highest quality files we offer are 192kHz/24-bit that s a FLAC codec with PCM audio data. All files are stored separately and none are transcoded on the fly. Spotify says all its formats and bitrates are pre-generated and separately stored, with Ogg/Vorbis at 320kb/s being the highest quality. ANSWERS PROMISED I heard nothing back from Deezer and nothing from Qobuz, a service that promotes itself on quality. I also heard nothing from Tidal, despite asking over a period of months and being promised answers on whether the service is going back to the studio masters and individually re-coding or using material that someone else has encoded. Draw your own conclusions, but the sooner we get MQA or a reliable online logo scheme, the better. MARCH


107 w Barry Paul Miller Willis Journalist Editor for top American audio-video publications OPINION While Technician his main and interest writer on is high-end all things audio, for Barry some Willis 30 also years, writes Paul about Miller the took culinary over industry, the editor s visual chair art in and theatre He invented for a huge the variety QC Suite, of US used newspapers across the and audio magazines industry Hidden industry When was the last time you saw high-end audio advertised on TV or in popular media? It s little wonder our passion lacks credibility, argues Barry Willis, when to most folks hi-fi is now invisible Say audio engineer or sound reinforcement to any decentlyeducated civilian, and he or she will probably have some idea what these terms mean. Say highperformance audio to anyone not familiar with this journal, and you re likely to draw a blank stare in response. The words sound like normal English, but the phrase makes no sense. The lack of public recognition that haunts our market niche is compounded by what sometimes feels to be an almost conspiratorial lack of acknowledgement by mainstream journalists people who should know better. To take just one example, look at the lukewarm reception that was given to KEF s EISA-Award winning LS50 loudspeaker [HFN Jul 12]. An excellent product, it won nearly-unanimous praise in the audiophile press across the globe but generated only indifferent shrugs from mainstream reviewers. CREDIBILITY PROBLEM High-performance audio has a huge credibility problem. Ordinary music fans and mainstream journalists alike have never heard of any of the brand names bandied about in HFN or any other audio journal. The few who have are apt to make snide comments about grossly overpriced speaker cables. Years ago I had an exchange with the then principal technology guru of the Wall Street Journal, the world s most influential business publication. I asked him why, in his reviews of printers and digital cameras, he always mentioned image quality, but in his reviews of products with audio capabilities, he mentioned only features while ignoring sound quality. He RIGHT: Designed to celebrate the company s 50th anniversary, the KEF LS50 was released in 2012 and went on to pick up countless awards for sound quality. Since November 2015 they have been available in three new finishes: Titanium Grey, Frosted Black and the Racing Red seen here If people aren t reminded something is desirable, it will lose its appeal answered, quite collegially, that he didn t know how to evaluate sound quality. You can learn, I replied. His response: I don t want to learn. I don t care about sound quality and I don t think our readers do either. This, in a publication that regularly reviews exotic automobiles and fine watches, and whose experts can go on at length about the nuances of fancy wines. Our credibility problem stems from the fact that audio companies (other than Bose, in the US) long ago deserted the ranks of advertisers in popular media. Throughout most of the late 20th century, quality audio products were advertised in general interest publications and on television alongside automobiles, fine home furnishings, and other signifiers of the good life. In the public mind, a decent sound system was a luxury essential to civilised existence. This mainstream advertising was largely erased by the rise of the Internet. The net s highly-focused target marketing may have been a more effective means for manufacturers to reach their customers, but in the larger market, it resulted in a lack of visibility for the audio industry. In an advert-driven world, if people aren t constantly reminded that something is desirable, it quickly loses its appeal. Sonos, the wildly successful wireless loudspeaker company, has bucked this trend with some gorgeous television spots maybe the best-ever visual depictions of luscious, all-enveloping sound. So has the maker of Beats headphones, by emphasising fashionata aspects over audio quality alone. NOT DEAD YET Their efforts are paying off: in an early-december marketing study published by research firm Parks & Associates, 15% of US households (60% of whom cite smartphones as their dominant audio source) said they plan to buy wireless speakers in the coming year. And 16% plan to buy headphones. We are seeing a willingness among consumers to spend on connected equipment to enhance the audio experience... said a Parks analyst. Interest in quality audio is clearly not dead, but we are a long way from the era when classic brands like McIntosh regularly occupied entire pages in Esquire and Sports Illustrated. We may never return to those glory days, but we might have a fighting chance by looking beyond our own closed borders. MARCH

108 The Ultra 6 is a state-of-the-art isolation device. Deploy it under an audio chassis and it will disclose addictive new layers of detail and harmonic richness - in addition to improvements in dynamics and just about anything else that contributes to the lifelike reproduction of music. Product of the Year Awards 2015, The Absolute Sound Zero-compromise isolation technology A necessity not an accessory. Stillpoints for yourself, please contact your local stockist. Analogue Seduction Peterborough Lotus Hifi Weybridge Audio Destination Tiverton Lintone Audio Newcastle Choice Hifi Richmond Martins Hifi Norwich Criterion Audio Cambridge Rayleigh Hifi Rayleigh Homesound Edinburgh Sonic Synergy Swansea KJ West One Marylebone Studio AV Eton Distributed by KOG AUDIO

109 OPINION Jim Lesurf Science Journalist Jim Lesurf has spent a lifetime in audio, both as an engineer at UK hi-fi company Armstrong and reader in Physics and Electronics at St Andrew s University Thanks for the memories Disappearing documentation is not just a problem that afflicts the audio industry, but without historical information on older components, consumers and companies suffer, says Jim Lesurf Decades ago I realised that knowledge of one particular hi-fi company Armstrong Audio was being forgotten. Since I d worked for the firm, I decided to do something about it. The result was a set of webpages devoted to the company that I ve been slowly adding to ever since. For a long time I had assumed that the disappearance of information concerning Armstrong had occurred because it had ceased manufacturing. However, it has become clear to me recently that companies that still make equipment can suffer with the same issue. On a couple of occasions in the past few months I ve tried to obtain technical details of older hi-fi kit from established brand names. One company has always been based outside the UK. The other started in the UK but had been bought up and production shifted abroad. GONE ABROAD Alas, neither could help me. In one case I was told all those involved had retired and the relevant division sold off. The other company said the information had gone abroad. No-one in the UK could say what had happened to it. This concerns me for two reasons. One is the practical difficulty this brings when servicing old equipment. The other is the way we may be losing our memories of our past achievements. The brand names live on, but a detailed understanding of why these companies became well regarded is being lost. At one level this is understandable. In effect, the company simply isn t the original organisation it once was. Time moves on and the only link between the old firm and the new is the brand name. RIGHT: Ensuring circuit diagrams and technical information is stored safely and made available for future generations means we can build on past successes and maintain older equipment that still gives us musical enjoyment I was told all those involved had retired and the relevant division sold off But for those who want to go on using the old equipment, or like myself to be able to document the history of audio engineering, this raises problems. Ideally, circuit details, etc, of such orphaned old equipment should be made openly available for anyone who would find it useful. After all, if the company who owned the original design now has no interest in it, why not make it available? Doing so could only enhance its reputation. Perhaps it s time we started asking companies to help ensure that documentation is preserved by museums and enthusiasts for us all to be able to access and understand. The snag, of course, is that the details may have already been lost. Or perhaps disposed of by someone with no appreciation of their later value. Still, how can a modern incarnation of a company expect to derive benefit from a brand built up over decades if it now apparently neither knows nor cares about older items that carry its name? When you buy something sold under a well known and established name, are you just buying that unit? Or are you also buying into a reputation and a history? There is a maxim that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. Engineers learn both from past mistakes and from being able to build on successes. Not being able to track the history of engineering developments may make it harder for us to really appreciate the achievements of those who built up the audio we can enjoy today. HAPPILY FORGOTTEN? Fifty years ago it was routine for a buyer of a specialist hi-fi unit to get a copy of the circuit diagram and technical data along with their exciting new purchase. The Sansui 5000A receiver tested in last month s Vintage Review came with its circuit diagram tucked into an envelope pasted to the bottom of the cabinet. Perhaps we need that culture back again. The user may not understand the details, but they may need them to show to a service engineer years later, and having this documentation would also enhance secondhand values. I also wonder if the people developing the kit of today would be happy to be forgotten, or if they would prefer to be appreciated in future for their contributions toward improving our ability to enjoy music. What s in a name if we lose our memories? MARCH

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111 OPINION Steve Harris Contributing Editor Steve Harris edited Hi-Fi News between 1986 and He loves jazz, blues music, vinyl and vintage hi-fi and anything that makes good music come to life Don t fight the music Digital spats, direct-to-disc cuts and a small innovative 70s British record label that still thrives... Steve Harris on the divisions among audiophiles caused by the analogue-versus-digital debate Looking back to the late 1970s [see Investigation, Jan and Feb] it does seem remarkable that the same brief period saw both the rise of the small labels that promoted direct-cut recording, and the rapid emergence of digital recording. Of course, the underlying factor was the strength of the record industry itself. Although the hi-fi business had shot itself in the foot with quadraphonic, and consumers were now being distracted by video recorders, record sales would hold up well until the great recession of Yet the intense activity of the 1970s brought with it the beginning of an embittered analogue-versus-digital debate, particularly in America. CONTROVERSIAL ADDRESS Surely no-one can have documented this better than Greg Milner, in his celebrated and essential book Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story Of Recorded Music [Granta Books, 2009]. He tells, for example, what happened when Jules Bloomenthal of Soundstream responded to another engineer s request for a demonstration of the digital system in an LA studio. When Bloomenthal played him some music, The man politely said he expected the machine to sound bad, but not this bad. Milner reveals: That was Doug Sax, Sheffield s president, a notorious antidigital crusader who often wore a T-shirt emblazoned with Stop The Digital Madness. Another prominent antidigital figure was Dr John Diamond, the Australianborn, New York-based psychiatrist and music therapist, who denounced digital recording in a controversial address at an AES Convention in Sax often wore a T-shirt emblazoned with Stop The Digital Madness According to Milner, Dr Diamond claimed that just prior to that AES meeting, Tom Stockham s wife Martha had told him My husband gets a headache every time he listens to his records. Says Milner, Martha Stockham denies that her husband, who died in 2004, ever experienced any physical ailments caused by listening to Soundstream records, denies ever telling Diamond that he did, and says that Tom was convinced that Diamond was a shill for people pushing direct-to-disc analogue recording. While all those fisticuffs were going on the US, one small but innovative English label was making its own advances, first in analogue, then in digital. Nimbus Records would become the first manufacturer of CDs in the UK and still thrives today. It was founded in Birmingham in 1972 and in 1975 acquired the big Herefordshire country house of Wyastone Leys, which allowed the company to set up its own pressing plant and focus on producing high-quality vinyl discs. Later, Nimbus was to record Bernard Roberts playing all the Beethoven piano sonatas direct-to-disc, quite an achievement for any pianist, to say the least. But by 1980, the company was advocating digital recording. For anyone that wanted to blind test themselves, Nimbus issued a 5LP box set called Comparisons, offering A comparison of digital, directcut and super analogue master recording techniques. The same performance of Beethoven s Hammerklavier sonata by Bernard Roberts was repeated on three sets of three sides, all cut at 45rpm. However, In order that these comparisons are not invalidated by preconceptions, the three mastering systems were not identified, but only described as System 1, 2 and 3. Making ABOVE: Greg Milner s Perfecting Sound Forever... costs 9.99 from up the total of ten sides was a 78rpm recording of the fourth movement, which filled side 7. SOMETHING ODD Barry Fox, writing in New Scientist, 6 August 1981, said The pundits have preferred to ignore the Nimbus comparisons and continue to hear something odd in any recording that they know to be of digital origin. In the 1990s, Bernard Roberts recorded the Beethoven sonatas again, for Nimbus to release on CD. Roberts is said to have thought the direct-to-disc performances were a little subdued, but perhaps that s not surprising. It s more surprising, perhaps, that the extraordinary three-format box set seems to have been totally forgotten. With the vastly-better record players we have now, it would make some very interesting Comparisons indeed. MARCH

112 YOUR VIEWS Send in your views to: Sound Off, Hi-Fi News, AVTech Media Ltd, Enterprise House, Enterprise Way, Edenbridge, Kent TN8 6HF or your views to: please use Sound Off in your subject field Correspondents express their own opinions, not those of Hi-Fi News. We reserve the right to edit letters for publication. Correspondents using are asked to give their full postal address (which won t be published). Letters seeking advice will be answered in print on our Sound Off pages, but due to time constraints we regret we re unable to answer questions on buying items of hi-fi or any other hi-fi queries by telephone, post or via . FROM LAB TO LOUNGE TURNING TEST RESULTS INTO BETTER SOUND I really enjoyed the review of the Chord Hugo TT DAC in the December 2015 issue. However, I wonder if you could be a little more consumer friendly in your admittedly technical lab report? The lab report says that at full volume there is clipping and that the safe output is 12.4dBV. But I have no way to test whether I have set the volume at, or below, this level as I do not have an extensive testing laboratory. Would it be possible to relate the safe level to the Chord s volume setting, which in this case is indicated by a series of colours on the volume wheel? In that way we mere mortals can make sense of your excellent laboratory results. For example, is the default colour when using the Chord DAC as a line source into an amp already set too high? Bill Sturman, via Paul Miller replies: While it s very rare indeed for any DAC USB, S/PDIF or network player to suffer clipping at its line output, the same cannot be said for all headphone outputs. In the case of the Chord Hugo TT, and the more recent Mojo [HFN Jan 16], their headphone outs are capable of realising nearly 6V with a 0dBFs input and with the volume raised to max. As this is sufficient to overload most headphones, if not destroy your hearing, then the fact that the output is actually clipped at this point is rather moot! Nevertheless, for academic interest, backing off the volume control will reduce the DAC s headphone output voltage to a point below clipping with a 0dBFs digital input. In this case it s around +13.4dBV (4.66V or 36mW/600ohm) while current limiting defines the TT s and Mojo s output into lower impedances to around 600mW and 550mW into 25ohm, respectively. Importantly, the Chord Hugo TT s balanced line output achieves a full 5.07V at just % distortion and with a superb 114dB A-wtd S/N ratio. So you can use this heavyweight portable as a digital source into your amp as you might any other USB DAC. As I ve said, the fact that the TT s headphone amp clips ahead of full volume is not unusual In-Akustik s Amp No.1 [HFN May 15] behaves similarly. But if you really own the least sensitive headphones in the world and want to achieve the TT s maximum dynamic range, then back its volume down from white/violet (maximum) to the point where both volume balls are a light violet. A nominal 2V output is achieved when both balls are a deep violet colour. But take great care, Bill you only have one set of ears... The value of a PC for fans of radio BENEFITS OF ONLINE RADIO WHEN FM RECEPTION IS STRONG Martin Phillips letter in January s Sound Off pages on the subject of poor FM reception in his part of rural Sussex described a typical dilemma facing some audiophiles. And Andrew Everard s reply was spot on. Where I live, FM reception isn t a problem, but I still have a laptop permanently installed in my system which enables me to listen to a wide variety of radio stations that broadcast online. The only thing I would share with other readers is that I have also installed Apowersoft s free Streaming Audio Recorder on the PC [www.]. This will record audio as it streams from online radio stations. And don t forget that most laptops can still play CDs too. Mike Bickley, via Andrew Everard replies: I still have an FM tuner an old but excellent Audiolab 8000T, with a high-quality roof aerial but most listening these days is digital, via the computer or hi-fi devices able to access Internet services. And the BBC services, at least in their 320kb/s HD form, are typically more than acceptable. WhitWorld OUR HI-FI WORLD THROUGH THE EYES OF WHITWORTH ABOVE: The Chord Hugo TT s output can be configured as variable or fixed MARCH 2016

113 YOUR VIEWS JITTERBUG USB Filter Wash n go MORE READER TIPS ON CLEANING RECORDS I read Rainer Meise s letter on cleaning vinyl [see HFN Jan 16] with great interest. Vacuum-based cleaning machines are considered to be the gold standard by many, so my own experience may be of interest. For many years I have used a vertical bath in the form of Knosti s disco-antistat. At one stage I seriously considered buying a vacuum-based machine, but before raiding my savings decided to try a local retailer offering a cleaning service that used a vacuum-based unit. I first listened to ten of my LPs that I had already cleaned using the Knosti and carefully rated each one for sound quality and surface noise on a scale of one to ten. I then had the same discs cleaned at the shop, and repeated the listening process without sight of my original ratings. A before-and-after comparison showed slight variations, but no consistent benefit from the shop cleaning. This limited experiment led me to settle with the Knosti. However, I do vary from the standard instructions given with the Knosti when cleaning my LPs. The whole process averages around three minutes per record. Rather than Knosti s own Disco Anti Static Record Cleaning Fluid at 15 a litre I have settled on liquid from L Art du Son. This may seem expensive at around 30 for a single bottle of concentrate but when diluted it cleans hundreds of records. The Knosti allows a maximum of one half turn of the record at a time. I do 12 of these (ie, six full turns) then turn the Knosti around, lift the record out, replace it, and repeat the process. The reason for removing and replacing the record is that the bristles of the cleaning brush become aligned in the direction of the first turns, making it difficult to then turn the record in the reverse direction. This bi-directional RIGHT: Find concentrated L Art du Son cleaning fluid for sale at ABOVE: The Knosti disco-antistat record cleaner costs from cleaning means that any specks of dust or dirt in the groove are attacked from both directions. Each record is then placed in the draining rack supplied with the kit, and when the batch is complete the diluted cleaning fluid is retained for the next time after being filtered via the supplied funnel. I rinse using de-ionised water, usually from CarPlan, which can be bought from most supermarkets at less than 1.50 for 2.5 litres. The exact same cleaning process is then repeated but, unlike the cleaning fluid, the de-ionised water is replaced with fresh every five records or so. I don t leave the records to dry naturally in the Knosti rack. Instead, an absorbent synthetic cloth is placed on an old but clean towel laid on a firm surface (eg, kitchen worktop). Laying the record on it, each side is dried in turn with a microfibre cloth using firm circumferential strokes (ie, following the direction of the grooves), until slippery dry. David Deeks, via Christopher Breunig replies: That sounds an admirable if arduous procedure. It s some years since I went down a similar road. I used to use the Cantorian kit. It involved applying fluid preferably using a rotating disc I had an old Linn subchassis and inner platter then spraying with distilled water, lifting the liquid with a brush which you then pressed into a silk covered pad. More distilled water was needed and the disc finally allowed to dry. Over the years, few chemists sold distilled water and other types were deemed unsuitable. Can a 39 insect make all your CD files sound better than Hi-Res? Yes and no: Using the same equipment and a quality DAC, a 24/96 file (for example) will always sound better than a CD 16/44.1 file but, even a single JitterBug will often allow a CD file to be more musical and more emotionally stimulating than a Hi-Res file without the benefit of a JitterBug. Noise is the problem. Real noise the kind you can t hear directly. Most often, the word noise is used to describe tape hiss or a scratch on a record, but these sounds aren t noise; they are properly reproduced sounds that we wish weren t there. Problem noise is essentially random, resonant or parasitic energy, which has no meaning. It can t be turned into discrete sounds, but it does compromise signal integrity and the performance of everything it touches. JitterBug s dual-function lineconditioning circuitry greatly reduces the noise and ringing that plague both the data and power lines of USB ports, whether on a computer, streamer, home stereo or car audio front-panel USB input. A single JitterBug is used in between devices (i.e., in series) as shown below. For an additional wow experience, try a second JitterBug into another USB port on the same device (such as a computer). Whether the second port is vacant, or is feeding a printer or charging a phone, JitterBug s noise-reduction ability is likely to surprise you. No, the printer won t be affected only the audio! While a JitterBug helps MP3s sound a lot more like music, high-sample-rate files have the most noise vulnerability. Try a JitterBug or two on all your equipment, but never more than two per USB bus. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. MARCH


115 YOUR VIEWS Vintage kit: heart or head? TEASING OUT THE REAL APPEAL OF YESTERDAY S HI-FI HEROES... AROUND-THE-EAR SEMI-OPEN HEADPHONES I really look forward to the Vintage tests and features in each issue of Hi-Fi News, but recently a thought struck me. Is it the look of this classic equipment the wood and metal, the materials that are too costly to be used these days that is the true appeal? Or is it the memories these components evoke? Or is it that they do indeed have a sound of their own? Francis Leyva, via Adam Smith replies: This is a very valid question, Francis, as I think that people are often interested in vintage audio for the memories it evokes, as much as the sound quality. So many components appeal both to the head and the heart and I think it is wonderful to see classic items being saved and restored. Having been obsessed with hi-fi for as long as I can remember, much of the Smith collection has been purchased to try out, purely because I read about it many years ago and fancied seeing if it was as good as I hoped. Many items were subsequently sold on, but many have stayed some because they represent the likes of things we will never see again. The items I own that appeal more to the heart are mainly exotic turntables, such as the ADC Accutrac 4000 computerised deck with track selection and memory, and the Thorens TD-224 auto-changer that I recently acquired. In addition, the Bang & Olufsen Beosound 9000 six-disc CD player which my wife bought not long after we were married will always have a place in our lounge as it is a beautiful thing to look at and use. It also happens to sound decent! ABOVE: ADC Accutrac 4000 computerised turntable from 1976 [see HFN Mar 13] ABOVE: The Garrard 301 was launched in 1954 and is still in great demand today There are also components that have proven themselves to be spectacularly good sonically. I have owned a Marantz CD-94/CDA-94 CD player and DAC for over 15 years and I never tire of listening to it. To my ears, it still sees off a good few modern players out there. Equally, the Alphason HR-100S tonearm that finds regular use on a number of my turntables can still punch above its weight and is also an elegant item to look at. In addition, my monster Leak 3090 loudspeakers never fail to raise a grin on my face, so they won t be going anywhere anytime soon. Admittedly this is mainly because I m the only member of the household with the strength to move them, but still... If I had to pick the one product I own that stands above all others, then the choice is easy. It was bought new by my uncle in 1964 and was his pride and joy. As a young hi-fi obsessed boy it captivated me every time I visited his home. One day I arrived to find it gone from the lounge. It turned out that my uncle had given up on vinyl and had carefully stored the item in an upstairs cupboard. After some discussion regarding its fate, my uncle offered it to me on the condition that I looked after it as well as he had done. Over 25 years later, I like to think that I have kept my end of the deal. The item in question, a Garrard 301 turntable, is still my pride and joy. My uncle has since passed away, but every time I look at the Garrard I think of him, and how he turned my strange fascination with record players into a full-blown hi-fi obsession. What s more, it was the first turntable I owned that would lead me to seriously question the alleged sonic superiority of my compact disc player. Remarkably comfortable NightHawk headphones not only don t feel like most headphones, they also don t give you that all-too-common it s all happening inside my head claustrophobia. Listening through NightHawk is like listening to a pair of astonishingly coherent nearnear-field speakers. Emotionally compelling and totally immersive. In addition to proprietary new design elements and materials, NightHawk is the first headphone to apply many of the most advanced technologies previously only used in a few of the very best loudspeakers. Please give NightHawk a listen! MARCH

116 YOUR VIEWS Direct-to-disc uncovered READER REMEMBERS TEST LP WITH CLASSICAL RECORDINGS FROM THE EARLY 60S Having read Steve Harris s feature on the early days of audiophile record labels [see HFN Jan 16] in which he mentioned direct-to-disc recordings made in the 60s and 70s, I thought you d be interested in a direct-to-disc recording that predates those from Sheffield Lab by a few years. I often forget I have this record, but the mention of Sheffield Lab always reminds me of it. The LP in question was released in 1963 by the US magazine HiFi/Stereo Review, now called Sound & Vision. Admittedly, only half the record the B side is music and recorded direct-to-disc because the A side is a stereo test record described as being for home and laboratory use. The B side was meant to be a demo of a different recording method. There are two pieces of music, both for brass instruments, obviously for affect. The first cut is Fanfares Liturgiques by Henri Tomasi. The second is the Ricercar from The Musical Offering by J S Bach. I didn t realise how special side B was for many years. It was only the arrival of the early Sheffield direct-todisc records that one day it hit me and I remembered the description of the second side of this disc. And, unlike the Sheffield recordings where each side was recorded live without any pauses, the two cuts on the test LP were recorded separately, making it necessary to get up between the two pieces to lift the stylus from the first cut to the second an unfortunate result of the direct-to-disc process. ABOVE: Lincoln Mayorga plays Chopin live for this Sheffield Lab recording released in 1991 ABOVE: Released in 1963 by the magazine HiFi/Stereo Review, this test record came with the bonus of two classical music selections on the B side, both of which were recorded direct-to-disc And since Ken Kessler was discussing vinyl in his Off The Leash column of the same month I d thought I d throw in another potential plus for the ol black stuff. As a storage format, vinyl probably has far greater longevity than magnetic and optical alternatives. With time, both magnetic and optical encoding deteriorates. But if played with good gear, vinyl merely wears slightly. Many older master tapes are now in poor condition and there are surely concerns regarding the ageing of all magnetic storage formats, including computer disc storage. And we ve all heard of optical discs going bad. Perhaps future generations will depend on old vinyl to hear what we ve enjoyed in the first century or so of recording. Or perhaps we need to begin scheduling constant, repeated backups of digital music and data. Allen Edelstein, USA Steve Harris replies: History relates, or at least the history page on the Sheffield Lab website tells us, that Lincoln Mayorga and Doug Sax actually made their first direct-to-disc recording even earlier than 1963! Mayorga didn t like modern piano recordings, and he and Sax, along with Sax s engineer brother Sherwood Sax, concluded that the use of tape must be the problem. Here s the full story: One afternoon in 1959 they decided to pay a visit to the oldest recording studio in Los Angeles, Electrovox. The studio was run by the original owner Bert Gottschalk and his son Allen. Since the studio appeared to be unchanged since the 1940s, Doug and Lincoln asked the Gottschalks if they still had lines from the studio control room to the lathe room where the records were cut, and, without first recording on tape, would it be possible to cut a record of music played on the studio piano? Mr Gottschalk said yes. Then came the difficult question: how much would it cost? The answer was ten dollars, and, between them, that was exactly what Doug and Lincoln had in their wallets! You can still buy a Sheffield concert recording of Mayorga playing Chopin preludes live in But I wonder if the 16in acetate he cut that day in 1959 still survives? Ken Kessler replies: Allen raises an interesting point, concerning one of the few upsides to vinyl s non-biodegradeability! I hadn t thought about what the record labels will be doing 50 years hence, as I doubt there will be a reissue market for physical media if everyone turns to streaming. Listeners will merely access some vast library in the Cloud. However, access to the original recordings may be needed on occasion, so one hopes that the record companies back up digital originals and digital copies of analogue masters on a regular basis. How amusing it would be if one of today s frowned-upon practices CDs mastered from vinyl LPs by less-than-scrupulous companies becomes the salvation of the industry in 2066, if all magnetic media perishes sufficiently to render the music stored on it unlistenable MARCH 2016

117 In search of sweet freedom ESCAPING THE LISTENING HOT SEAT WHEN ITS RANGE IS CONSIDERED TOO CONSTRAINED Having owned a pair of B&W 803 loudspeakers and being annoyed by the need to be seated in the sweet-spot to enjoy the sound fully, I visited a dealer and listened to a pair of B&W 802s. Yes, they were better than their smaller siblings but, to my ears, they had the same flaw. So I bought a pair of Marten Getz floorstanders, which had great dispersion. However, after a while I began to find their presentation too clinical. I then changed to the Marten Django XL and found less dispersion but an enjoyable sound. To me, listening to music is often a social activity, so a sweet-spot for one person is not optimal. David Eguide, via Keith Howard replies: Wave Field Synthesis and higher-order Ambisonics are two recording/reproduction technologies capable of capturing and recreating a soundfield over quite a large area within a domestic listening room. With these it is thus possible to have an expanded listening space in which everyone enjoys good sound with realistic ABOVE: Marten s Django XL loudspeaker hits the sweet-spot for reader David Eguide perspective. But both these technologies require a large number of channels and, given music buyers demonstrable lack of enthusiasm for even the simplest surround sound regimes, they are unlikely ever to become mainstream. Two-channel stereo doesn t recreate the original soundfield but does or can produce a reasonably convincing sense of space provided that the listener accepts that they have to listen within a tightly constrained area. Theoretically it is possible to design and align a pair of speakers in such a way that a wider listening area is created through timeintensity trading, whereby the further loudspeaker becomes sufficiently louder as you move sideways from the traditional hot seat for it to counter the later arrival of its sound. But ex-hfn Editor John Crabbe showed many years ago in these pages that a loudspeaker would have to have unprecedentedly closely controlled directivity for this to be achieved. More often the opposite is recommended to those who wish to establish a wider listening area: omnidirectional (in practice, often multidirectional) loudspeakers that create a more generous sense of spaciousness. But this is no panacea: the stereo image may appear to hold up better as you move about in the room but it is usually more generalised and less precise. Indeed, images become spacious even when they shouldn t be. In my experience, omnis are always characterised by a lack of precision to their sound that becomes increasingly frustrating once you are no longer in thrall to their expansive soundstaging. What I m saying here, Mr Eguide, is that you are expecting from two-channel stereo something that it is not equipped to deliver. Therefore it is wrong to describe a constrained sweet-spot as a loudspeaker flaw unless, perhaps, it is almost impractically small, as has been the case with some large panel speakers. It is possible that a speaker with wider directivity might deliver more of what you seek, but don t be surprised if it s at a cost to other aspects of sound quality. You could also try three-speaker stereo with Trifield processing, as offered by Meridian. This not only stabilises the stereo image but expands the area over which it holds up. EXTREME? IT IS NOW! MARCH

118 VINTAGE HI-FI Rotel RCD bit CD player Launched before Philips own CD840, Rotel s RCD-865 was the first 1-bit Bit Stream CD player to reach the market. How does this earliest adopter stack-up today? Review: Tim Jarman Lab: Paul Miller From the outset it was quickly recognised that cost was a potential hindrance to the success and growth of the CD format. The first generation models, typified by the Philips CD100 and the Sony CDP-101 [see HFN Oct 11 and Jan 12], were really just statement pieces to prove that the system worked. After that, the pressure was on to come up with lower-priced offerings that regular consumers, not just committed audiophiles, would be able to buy. Sony started quickly with the D-50 portable [HFN Jan 13] while Philips savagely built its 14-bit machines down to a cost to come up with the lightweight CD150. By this stage, the public were showing greater interest in the format, but research still continued into ways that consumers might be able play CDs on machines that were more affordable still. PULSE DENSITY MODULATION One of the fruits of this work was the Philips Bit Stream DAC, which did away with the need to produce the accurately scaled chains of resistors that form the heart of a traditional multi-bit component. Instead, the analogue output signal was constructed by varying the density of fixed-length pulses within a fixed window of time, a method known as Pulse Density Modulation (PDM). Such a process can be implemented almost entirely in the digital domain, making devices that support it less variable and easier to manufacture. Although initially intended for low-cost applications, it was soon noticed that one advantage of PDM was that all of the 65,535 steps that make up the analogue output of a 16-bit system ended up being ABOVE: HFN/RR reviewed Rotel s RCD-865 CD player alongside other players from Philips, Sony and Yamaha in the Oct 90 issue. Rotel promoted both its 16-bit RCD-855 and 1-bit RCD-865 in 1990/91 exactly the same size, something that was nearly impossible to achieve with the previous topology used. This eliminated the distortion that results from non-linearity in the conversion process, making the Bit Stream converter naturally monotonic. While it sounds simple, the mathematics that made this process viable for high-quality audio were far from trivial. It called for high-speed data processing that pushed the limits of late 80s digital techniques. It thus comes as a surprise that this revolutionary technique did not appear first in a grandiose player from Philips but in a modest offering from a lesser-known brand: Rotel. Rotel s players had traditionally been Philips-based. Early models such as the RCD-820 had been stock re-packages of Philips parts, although the more expensive versions had included reworked analogue filters in a bid to improve performance. By 1989 Rotel was offering a pair of standard-looking CD players, the most conventional of which was the RCD-855. This was a midrange machine based on a Taiwanese-made version of the single-board Philips OEM CD package. It employed a CDM4 series swing-arm transport and the classic Philips 16-bit chipset, including the 4x oversampling SAA7220 digital filter and the famous TDA1541A DAC. IDENTICAL BUT SPECIAL Quality components were used where it mattered: film capacitors around the DAC and Black Gate electrolytics in the audio stages, for example. This was a popular LEFT: At a glance the Rotel could be any late 80s CD player, but the words High Linearity PDM System on the disc drawer give a clue to the revolutionary technology hidden inside MARCH 2016

119 player that sold well. The other part of the pairing was the RCD-865, an almost identical machine, which nevertheless hid some very special stuff inside. To make the RCD-865, Rotel did a remarkable thing. It took the same PCB used in the RCD-855 but only fitted some of the components. The digital filter, DAC and all the analogue stages were left unpopulated, meaning that the RCD-855 circuit stopped just after the SAA7210 error-correcting stage. Then, supported on long headers soldered into some of the pins of the now vacant SAA7220 and TDA1541A positions, an extra PCB was fitted. This contained the first Philips Bit Stream DAC the SAA7320 and the post-filtering components required to reconstruct the audio signal. The audio which resulted was then taken back to the original board via short screened cables, where it then passed through the original muting stage and then out to the sockets located on the rear of the machine. Since the S/PDIF output that the RCD-855 had offered was derived from the digital filter stage this too had to be The soon-to-be familiar Philips Bit Stream logo does not appear removed, but other than that the external changes between the two models were minimal, confined to the labels on the back and the printed legends on the front. The words High Linearity PDM System appeared on the drawer and the original High Performance Dual D/A Converter script was changed to Bit Stream Dual D/A Converter. The soon-to-be familiar Philips Bit Stream logo did not appear anywhere. This was an amazingly efficient method of construction, for with ABOVE: No glitz, no glamour, no Bit Stream logo the RCD-865 could not be more discreet in its appearance. The stock Philips display gives a big clue as to the machine s origins minimal engineering effort a fully operational player could be quickly released onto the market. In fact the first use of the SAA7320 DAC was demonstrated very quietly by Sony in its TA-F630ESD amplifier in early 1989, while Philips first Bit Stream player, the CD840 arrived later and was quite different in construction to the RCD-865. Next came the Philips CD850 with twin SAA7321 stereo DACs, one fed with an inverted digital signal. Differential amplifiers in the analogue stages turned the difference in the output of the two DACs in each channel back into an audio signal, thus cancelling some of the evenorder distortions that occurred in the conversion process. The later CD850mkII was different again, showing the rapid progress being made at the time. MAXIMUM OUTPUT Rotel chose not to make full use of the analogue gain stages built into the SAA7320 DAC and so the player s maximum output was in the order of 0.8V, less than half the 2V standard [see PM s Lab Report, p123]. Other than that, it appeared to be just like every other CD player of the era: a slim, drawer-loading black box that plugged into the line-level input of pretty much any amplifier. The unusual construction method used to produce the RCD-865 would not last for long. The player was soon replaced BELOW: [Left] Philips original technical documents from Dec 88 and Jan 91 introduce the Bit Stream concept. [Right] Paul Miller explains the differences between conventional 16-bit, 1-bit Bit Stream PDM and bitstream MASH DAC technologies in Hi-Fi Choice Dec 89 MARCH

120 A U D I O S Y S T E M S 2 Xperience SB DC SEE US AT The Ultimate Xperience The 2 Xperience SB DC takes the core design principles from one of our most popular turntables of recent years, and adds a variety of enhancements to achieve a new performance standard. The striking plinth, available in four stylish finishes, is accented by the thick vinyl-topped platter, which spins on a high-quality bearing and accommodates a light screw-on record clamp. The new motor is powered by the built-in automatic speed control and finished with a precision-engineered exposed pulley. The established 9CC Evolution carbon fibre tonearm, with advanced anti-resonance technology and preinstalled Ortofon 2M Silver cartridge, completes the package to a true audiophile standard. Available Now for 1, (UK SRP) Distributed by Henley Designs Ltd. T: +44 (0) E: W:

121 VINTAGE HI-FI RIGHT: A look under the lid and the additional board housing the SAA7320 DAC is clearly visible. Also note the vacant holes beneath it where the 16-bit components once lived by the RCD-865BX, which used a more conventional circuit and layout based around the newer SAA7321 DAC. The low output of the RCD-865 is no problem for most amps since it is about the same as that produced by a tuner or cassette deck. It may end up sounding a little quiet though, at least with early, non- digitally re-mastered CD pressings, due to the wider dynamic range of CD. With some vintage amplifiers this may prove a blessing, the full 2V in some cases making the action of the volume control a bit abrupt. No problems were encountered when it came to using the player with my Cyrus 6A amp and Monitor Audio PL100 loudspeakers. It s an easy machine to operate and the absence of a digital output is no problem given that the Rotel is a player one would presumably only buy for its special built-in DAC. TIM LISTENS This was a review I approached with some trepidation since I am a long-term happy user of the previous generation of TDA1541A-based players. I find their particular take on how CD should sound to be very hard to beat. It could be argued that the development of bitstream DACs as a whole was initially rooted in a desire for economy rather than performance, but once this player appeared on the market the true potential of the technology began to be realised and The RCD-865 brought the Trio s voices right to the fore it developed very rapidly. Thus it comes as no surprise that sonically the RCD-865 is initially a bit of a disappointment. The basic Philips character is still there, evidenced by a slightly plump bass and a pleasing fluffiness to the treble. However, the total impression is of a sound that is smaller and more constricted than might be expected of a 16-bit Philips player, both in terms of its tonal extension and the size of the soundstage generated. Philips promoted its early 1990s digital offerings with the album On Every Street by Dire Straits [Vertigo ] and so I couldn t resist giving it a spin in the Rotel (it s a bit like playing the band s previous album Brothers In Arms every time I get my hands on a Philips CD104). The opening guitar chords on Calling Elvis sounded clean, but the backing percussion came over as sunken and diffuse not something that used to happen with the better incarnations of the 16-bit chipset. The rendering of mid detail, especially around vocals, struck me as certainly above average but overall the Rotel s performance lacked drive and drama, a forte of its immediate forbears. The album contains a variety of styles, for example the moody and laid-back You And Your Friend. Here the Rotel fared better, sounding articulate and polished without a hint of grain. Again, the percussion was a bit lost. With the Dire Straits recording, this seemed to be the RCD-865 s Achilles heel. RELAXING LISTEN With this established, I swapped styles and slipped in The Sensual World by Kate Bush [EMI CDP ], which made better use of the Rotel s talents. One of my favourite songs The Fog complemented the early Bitstream DACs strengths, everything being well scaled and in its proper place. Kate s vocals are recorded in such a way that they always sound a little sibilant but the absence of excess sheen that is a part of the RCD- 865 s nature meant that this sibilance was kept in check for most of the time, making for a relaxing listen. Only the rather cramped soundstage, both left to right and front to back, LEFT: Flow diagrams showing key stages within the original SAA7320 PDM DAC used in the RCD-865 and [right] of the oversampling and noise-shaping sections in particular MARCH

122 t: Silver Streak produces masses of detail with no strain or unpleasant edge to the sound. The music is reproduced with excellent accuracy and clarity. The bass is tight and well controlled and the hi-hats are crisp and ringing without being edgy. Hi Fi Choice, Jan 16 FROM RUSS ANDREWS BUY YOURS NOW! Kimber Silver Streak analogue interconnect From 221 for 0.5m pair Call: or visit 60 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE CABLE UPGRADE SCHEME WARRANTY 25 YEAR WARRANTY Mail Order Direct 60 Day Money Back Guarantee Cable Upgrade Scheme Free Delivery (orders over 100 within UK Mainland)

123 VINTAGE HI-FI ABOVE: Unlike the 16-bit RCD-855 which was produced at the same time, the rear panel of this first-gen Bit Stream player has analogue RCAs but no S/PDIF digital out marked the player down with this recording. Likewise, the track Deeper Understanding revealed plenty of vocal detail, most notably in the sections sung by the Trio Bulgarka. With richer and more dramatic-sounding players this fascinating part of the work can be lost in the rest of the mix, but the Rotel ensured the voices of the Trio were brought right to the fore. Listening to the disc all the way through reminded me of when I first heard a Bit Stream player all those years ago. Compact Disc was growing up and changing its ways. Eighties glitz and sparkle, a novelty after years of soggy-sounding records and tapes, was out. It was to be replaced with an altogether gentler approach, befitting a format which would dominate serious listening throughout the 1990s. But then, as now, I was not convinced that this technology was the complete answer, which probably explains why I put so much time and energy into keeping my old 16-bit players up and running! BUYING SECONDHAND Finding an original RCD-865 (non-bx) is a challenge. They were not in production for long and basiclooking players of this era tend to get ignored. So despite its historical significance, this model isn t widely appreciated on the vintage scene. Problems are the same as for any Philips machine of the era, the key one being the durability of the CDM4/19 transport. The good news is that this deck was pretty ubiquitous at the time, so finding a donor player of another type ABOVE: Rotel s CD-specific RRT-4 IR handset was also used with the RCD-855 shouldn t be that difficult if you wish to resurrect a worn out example. Do ensure the previous owner hasn t maxed out the laser current adjustment before fitting the replacement, otherwise it will soon go the same way as the old one. Poor soldering around the voltage regulators is the most commonly encountered problem with Philips-based machines of this type. The power supply section is a simple linear design and easy to check out. It is not unknown for the SAA7210 decoder/error correction IC to fail in Philips-based players of this era; this will stop the machine from doing much except illuminating the display. The associated RAM chip can also go wrong. The disc will rotate and time will be displayed, but there will be no sound. Replacing a failed SAA7320 DAC may prove more of a challenge as it was not widely used or distributed. A donor RCD-855 (still quite common) is a useful source of most of the cabinet parts so broken keys, dented top covers and scratched display windows need not be a major issue. The two machines also share the same remote handset, which is nice to have since it gives direct access to tracks via a numbered keypad. HI-FI NEWS VERDICT Despite not being a sonic improvement over its direct predecessor in absolute terms, the Rotel is gentle with sibilance and can make for a fatigue-free listen. On the other hand, the technology used in making the player means that it is a landmark machine that deserves a place in any serious CD player collection. Tracking down the rare original version will become more difficult by the day, so start looking! Sound Quality: 70% LAB REPORT ROTEL RCD-865 (Vintage) Borrowing the same Philips transport and servo electronics used in its 16-bit RCD-855, Rotel s RCD-865 features various power supply revisions to suit its first-generation 1-bit SAA7320 PDM DAC. Both internal op-amps are pressed into service so distortion and noise are very slightly degraded but Rotel has minimised this by running the chip 2dB or so below peak output. As no external gain stages are employed the final output of the RCD-865 is relatively low at just 810mV which, along with the spurious idle pattern tones at 333Hz ( 89dBV) and 585Hz ( 97dBV), knocks the overall A-wtd S/N ratio back to just 88dB. (Referenced to 2V and without the tones, the A-wtd S/N ratio would have been closer to 100dB.) In theory, a 1-bit DAC offers the prospect of true monotonic conversion as all its 2 16 or 65,536 steps are multiples of the same, single LSB (Least Significant Bit). In practice, the RCD-865 s low-level linearity becomes adrift below 80dBFs with an error of +5dB at 90dBFs, suggesting a realistic resolution of some 15-bits, while digital jitter and data-induced jitter at that is disappointingly high at ~2500psec [see Graph 2, below]. Because Rotel used the earliest SAA7320 chip in singleended mode, distortion is higher at % (re. 0dBFs, 20Hz-20kHz) than recorded for differential-mode players. Nevertheless, THD tracks very consistently across the same 20Hz-20kHz below 10dBFs which, subjectively, is a very good thing [see Graph 1, below]. Finally, the RCD-865 s response has a ±0.05dB passband ripple but is otherwise very flat in trend. Readers may view a full QC Suite test report for Rotel s RCD-865 vintage Bit Stream CD player by navigating to www. and clicking on the red Download button. PM ABOVE: Distortion versus 16-bit digital signal level over a 120dB range (1kHz = black; 20kHz = blue) ABOVE: High resolution jitter spectrum showing sidebands and digital noise (44.1kHz/16-bit data) HI-FI NEWS SPECIFICATIONS Maximum output level / Impedance 0.81Vrms at 72ohm A-wtd S/N ratio 88.3dB Distortion (1kHz, 0dBFs/ 30dBFs) % / 0.047% Distortion & Noise (20kHz, 0dBFs/ 30dBFs) 0.029% / 0.015% Frequency response (20Hz-20kHz) 0.05dB to +0.05dB Digital jitter 2490psec 90dB 4.9dB Power consumption 8W Dimensions (WHD) 444x86x346mm MARCH

124 FROM THE VAULT Making the write noises Write-once recordable CD is now a reality and Kenwood is offering what may be the most cost-effective package to date. Paul Miller reports... Hi-Fi News Nov 1990 Each month HFN will bring you an article from our vast archive of features and reviews from yesteryear More flexible and rather cheaper than competing CD-WO equipment available from Sony or Yamaha, Kenwood s 7000-series CD-Write Once recording suite looks to be something of a breakthrough. The R&D of this relatively cost-effective and modular sys tem has been made possible through Kenwood s dual-role as a manufacturer of CDorientated test equipment as well as domestic hardware. In common with Sony s CD-R system, the Kenwood suite relies upon pregrooved blank discs from Taiyo Yuden, as opposed to Fuji s indium/germanium discs preferred by Yamaha. In its most basic form the suite consists of a DA-7000 CD Encoder ( 7500), DD-7200 CD Writer ( 5400) and PC controller (any of the PC-98 series), bringing the total cost to 12,900, excluding the personal computer. The blank Taiyo discs are expected to retail in the region of 16, by the way. Optional components are or will be available to expand the basic system: these include a U-matic VCR and proces sor (Sony DMR-4000/ PCM-1630), DC-3510 A/D converter, CD-ROM and CD-I formatter, and a CD-Graphics editor and formatter. It is conceivable that all these components will be synchronised via a General Purpose Interface Bus (GP-IB) conforming to IEEE-488 and controlled by proprietary PC software routines. Since the 7000-series was first demonstrated, Kenwood increased ABOVE: The DD-7200 CD writer heads up the suite and sports small LEDs to indicate play, record and pause modes its versatility by complying with Orange Book II (CD-R, Sept 89 revision) guidelines as to the possibility of partial or inconclusive recording modes. It should therefore be possible to return to a partially recorded disc, add further tracks and subsequently update the disc s Table of Contents (TOC) buried within Mode 1 of the Q-subcode. INSTALLATION The 7000-series units were specially flown in for this review, having been shown at press and industry gatherings in several countries. I must admit that receiving four anonymous boxes, bristling with ports and sockets of every description, devoid of intelligible instructions or specifications had me climbing the wall in frustration. Yet perseverance, conversations with the designer, Mr Takai, of Kenwood Japan and a following wind helped stir the 7000-series suite into life! Trivialities aside, several genuine setbacks were encountered. The first was traced to a bug within the software routine which actually prohibited partial recording. Attempts to add sequential tracks w.h MARCH 2016

125 after initial and successful recording caused the temporary TOC to be over-written and duly scrambled. Such discs were then rejected by the CD player. Future suites will be equipped with version 1.2 software. Furthermore, though it was possible to address the input source select submenu, attempts to bypass the ADC and utilise the Encoder s EIAJ/ EBU digital input were thwarted. Of course, though direct digital-todigital recording is theoretically possible it does raise the spectre of copyright, and the need for a Serial Copy Management System ( Solocopy ) such as that which has now finally been agreed upon for domestic DAT players. Taiyo s blank discs are currently being manufactured in limited quantities under laboratory conditions, but it seems that some are still contaminated by dust within the polycarbonate layer. As such there is an ATIP-related rejection rate of between 10-20%, much higher than the 0.1% predicted for production batches. However, I found that this rejection rate increased from 10% to 60% subsequent to the CD-writer being switched-on for more than 4hrs, reaching 90% rejection after 5-6hrs. Unblemished discs were In its most basic form, the cost of the Kenwood suite is 12,900 almost always rejected immediately following a long cutting sequence (more than 45mins), indicating that the CD-writer itself is thermally unstable. Switching the CD-writer off for 20mins or so usually solved this. TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION At the head of Kenwood s 7000-series suite, a PC is linked by a serial GP-IB to the DA-7000 CD Encoder and the DD-7200 CD Writer. The optional DC-3510 AID converter is linked directly to the encoder via a hard-wired 25-pin connector and is selected as the desired input source via the PC s on-screen menu. ABOVE: Original pregrooved blank discs made by Taiyo Yuden and supplied with the Kenwood suite. At the time, they were being made in limited quantities under laboratory conditions BELOW: A cosmetic match for the CD writer, the DA-7000 encoder is devoid of controls but the rear sports a wealth of communication socketry NEC PC-9081T 32-bit PC: The control program is divided into three principal sections, dealing with the system parameter status, subcode menu and CD-R cutting menu. Further commands enable the CD writer to be used as a conventional CD player in playback mode. The system parameters include communication housekeeping such as the drive and encoder GP-IB addresses together with specific adjustments for laser power ( mW with max of 10mW), lead-out cutting time ( = 30 seconds) and input source select (A/D, AES/EBU digital, DAT or INT). The subcode menu determines the minimum track and catalogue number together with the ISR code (disabled on this program). Most important is the CD or SMPTE time code menu which is incorporated into Mode 1 of the Q-subcode within the disc s lead-in area. This determines the cutting start time beginning with P.START followed by individual M.START and M.STOP (M = Music or track) points, INDEX points and finally P.STOP (which closes the TOC). This unique combination can then be stored as a TOC TITLE for later recall. P stands for POINT, an initiator or terminator cue within the TOC. All values are input in mins/secs/frames, there being 75 frame intervals running from 00 to 74 per second. The maximum permissible cutting time is or 1sec under an hour and 20mins. In practice the track cutting time is secured within an envelope that includes time for cutting the lead-in TOC (133secs) and lead out (set here to 30secs ), the latter distinguishing between partial or conclusive MARCH 125

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127 recording modes. Ordinarily a blemish-free disc will contain sufficient surface area for around 63mins 35secs of cutting time. Thirdly, there is the CD-R cutting program itself. This includes facilities for partial and conclusive recording, according to Orange Book II. DC-3510 A/D converter: This large if plain-looking box is equipped with two entirely separate analogueto-digital converters, requiring an input of 500mVrms per channel to maximise its dynamic range. Initial passive filters are followed by steep, dual-mono anti-aliasing filters from murata. This is output to an Analogic MP260 sample-and-hold IC followed by sealed Zeltex ZAD 7400 ( Uverter ) 16-bit ADCs. This is a sophisticated unit and more than a match for professional ADCs used in commercial recording studios. DA-7000 CD Encoder: The DA-7000 has been designed to complement the partnering CD-writer. Its solid, matt black fascia is devoid of all controls but the rear is cluttered with communication socketry (GP-IB, RS-422, parallel and 25-pin J2 ) in addition to a balanced XLR digital input (EIAJ/EBU standard). BNCs are included for Word Sync Out (PCM), CH1/2 In (SDIF, both TTL level), EFM Out, Fs Out and E.Start ln. The latter three are utilised directly with the CD-writer in this instance. Furthermore, an external clock input is fitted if the internal MHz reference is to be bypassed. ABOVE: Lab test results for the Kenwood CD-WO suite. Fig 1: record/ replay frequency response; Fig 2: 1kHz at 70dBFs showing THD and noise; Fig 3: spurious output up to 100kHz as revealed by a 20Hz-20kHz sweep; Fig 4: 20kHz at 0dBFs showing THD and noise Inside the chassis there is accommodation for four parallel PCBs which would enable four alternative signal sources (such as the ADC, DAT player, PCM processor and CD-ROM formatter) to be drawn upon independently. At the heart of each single board, however, are two principal LSIs. One is the Toshiba TC23SC240ES, a 100-leg Red Book encoder chip linked to an MHz crystal and able to perform all the appropriate CIRC/EFM data calculations. Pride of place is reserved for Kenwood s own TC17G014AF gate array (manufactured by Toshiba), a decoder for the digital input/output interface that is fully compatible with the AES/EBU data format. DD-7200 CD Writer: This is the business end of Kenwood s suite and looks just like a rugged proorientated CD player. It is even equipped with balanced digital and analogue outputs for use in conventional playback mode. A yellow fluorescent display is sub-divided into quadrants catering for track number (A, indicating Absolute time, is displayed during track cutting sequence), elapsed minutes, seconds and frames. Small status LEDs indicate play, record and pause modes and highlight the final condition of the disc, Astonishingly, certain tracks were deemed to sound sweeter ie, unrecorded (blank), partially recorded or conclusively recorded. No further transport facilities are included because, both in record and playback mode, control over the DD-7200 is exercised by the PC. In record mode the CLV (Constant Linear Velocity) of the blank disc is maintained by referring to ATIP (Absolute Time In Pre-groove) data, this derived from the blank disc s pregroove Wobble signal. Other parameters such as the optimum laser power and lead-in/lead-out start times are also derived from the pre-groove prior to recording. Naturally, in playback mode the disc s CLV is linked to the EFM symbol rate via a PLO. The internal architecture of the DD-7200 is reminiscent of a conventional player with a robust CD transport, Horizontal beamstyle disc clamp and linear-tracking laser assembly. A Sony CXA1081 offers full focus and tracking control with an EFM comparator and APC ( auto power control) circuit for the laser assembly. Meanwhile, a Sony CXA1244 servo signal processor is employed while, on the decoder section, there is a NPC SM5813AP followed by two oversampled 16-bit Burr-Brown PCM56 DACs. Nothing pretentious but all tried-and-tested stuff. LAB REPORT Test discs were fabricated via the DC-3510 A/D converter using a Sony CDP-X77ES CD player. The CD-WO encode/decode linearity is surprisingly good, drifting by just 0.22dB at 80dBFs with a maximum error of 4.1dB at 100dBFs (dithered). This, in conjunction with the 102dB S/N ratio suggests a practical resolution in line with that of established 16-bit coding. At peak level (0dBFs = 1.91V) the encode/decode response demonstrates a mild rise to +0.3dB at 6kHz falling to 0.5dB at 20Hz and 0.4dB at 20kHz, irregular by modern CD standards if subjectively innocuous. Distortion was slightly higher than average across the 20Hz-20kHz band, settling between % and % at 0dBFs and increasing to 0.1% at 60dBFs. THD MARCH 127

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129 is primarily composed of 2nd, 3rd and 6th harmonics at 0dB. This unusual 6th harmonic dominates at progressively lower levels. At 30dBFs the 2nd-5th harmonics reside at 68.3dB even though the overall THD is pushed up to 60.0dB with inclusion of the isolated 6th harmonic. Hence THD at 90dBFs approaches 100%, falling to 10.1dB (31.5%) across the 2nd/5th harmonics. This phenomenon is revealed on the 2D plot of 1kHz at 70dBFs, which also shows spurious digitally related products at 3390Hz ( 97dB), 15.3kHz and 19.3kHz. The brick-wall action of the DC-3510 ADC s anti-aliasing filter is also revealed. Once again, the initial action of the filter is shown on the 2D plot of 20kHz at 0dBFs. Of greater interest here is the 3rd-order sampling IM product (4.1kHz at 67.2dB), which can also be seen tracking boldly from R to L across the accompanying 3D plot. This is given by F s 2F 0-20k and is joined by the 4th-order routes 3F 0-20k F s (15.9kHz at 73.4dB on the conventional plot) and 5th-order 4F 0-20k F s. Throughout, the stopband suppression of these digital artefacts is a superb 100dB, while the 2nd harmonic (2F 0-20k) is seen to peak at 75dB between 5kHz- 11kHz. So, aside from the presence of sampling IM products in the passband, the overall technical performance of the ADC/encoder/writer combination is little short of tremendous. SOUND QUALITY Recordings were made using a Teac P-10 transport/deltec PDM-2 DAC feeding the DC-3510 ADC. Replayed via the same equipment, these CD-WO discs sounded remarkably faithful to the original. There was a hint of softness in the bass, but the general openness and transparency of the midrange combined with the detail resolution and smoothness found in the treble, was delightful. Astonishingly, certain tracks were deemed to sound sweeter and more musical via the 2nd generation CD-WO disc! Specifically, there was an added richness to the timbre of strings, the guitar from This may seem illogical: after all, data can only be corrupted Wet Wet Wet s Maggie May taking on a greater depth of texture and resonance. Similarly the light and dextrous percussion from Jim Hall s Cross Court was just slightly freer and more expressive, opening up the broadest of soundstages with the simplest of brush strokes. This may seem illogical: after all, data can only be corrupted by the ensuing D/A-A/D-D/A chain, rendering it less precise than the original 16-bit code. However, as the data is effectively passing through the same PDM system twice, any subtle yet euphonic coloration may be duly magnified. Remember, the PDM-2 has a mild treble loss of 1.25dB/20kHz. This loss would be increased to 2.90dB via the CD-WO disc sufficient, perhaps, to account for some additional sweetness or reduction in treble grain. In a system dedicated to the pursuit of neutrality, the prospect of subjectively attractive PDMcoloration is a frightening one! Yet its audibility is a tribute to the transparency of the Kenwood suite. For most consumers the prospect of affordable CD-R is still a long way off, while a practical erasable version is even further from commercial reality. Yet Kenwood s proprietary CD-WO system brings the entire concept one step closer. For the professional user, with all but the most modest of budgets, the future has already arrived. ABOVE: Original pages from the November 1990 issue of Hi-Fi News which saw Paul Miller clear the lab bench for Kenwood s four-box CD-Write Once recordable CD system Also in HFN this month in 1990 BEYOND YOUR KEN Win Kessler s 3000 system in this free competition. THE HI-FI SHOW This year bigger than ever: we bring you a full report. THE MAN BEHIND BITSTREAM Interview with Sunil Nethisinghe of Philips Components, Japan. SME MODEL 30 Ken Kessler on what may be the last great turntable design. DENON DOES DAT Beating rivals to be the first in the UK, Denon offers the DTR DAT recorder, as Trevor Butler reports. MERIDIAN 206 BITSTREAM Christopher Breunig assesses the Meridian 206B CD player. THREE CD COST-CUTTERS We test three budget players: the Aiwa XC-777, Marantz CD40 and Yamaha CD-X730. CLASSIC KEF Steve Harris assesses the KEF C45 loudspeaker. JVC EDGES AHEAD JVC edges ahead with Pulse Edge Modulation in the low-cost JVC XL-V231 CD player. Report by Paul Miller. MARCH 129

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REDUCED used 449 TEAC V8000S, superb, REDUCED used 249 TEAC CDRW 890, brand new sealed, due in used Call TEAC X1000M, serviced, superb used 599 Technics RS1500 in flightcase near mint used 2499 Amplifiers Arcam Alpha 8P, vgc+ boxed REDUCED used 179 Art Audio Jota 520b, excellent used 3999 Audia Flight Pre and Flight 50 Class A power dem 3999 Audio Analogue Bellini VB and Donizetti Cento, superb used 2499 Audio Analogue Maestro Settanta v2 used 999 Audio Project ap60 integrated dem Call Audio Research VS115, excellent boxed used 2499 Audio Research Ref 610 Monos, vgc boxed REDUCED used Audio Research D240 Power, excellent boxed used 749 Audio Research SP9 Preamplifier, VGC+, MM phono used 749 Audio Research LS26 Preamplifier, excellent boxed used 2249 Audio Research Ref 3 Preamplifier, AS serviced, boxed used 3749 Audiolab 8000Ms, UK versions, vgc, REDUCED used 449 Audiolab 8000S excellent UK version with remote used 249 Audion Sterling Plus KT88 Integrated boxed dem 499 BAT VK55 Power Amplifier, excellent boxed used 1599 Beard P101, excellent boxed, just serviced, REDUCED used 699 Bryston B100sst excellent boxed, REDUCED used 1999 Boulder 1010/1060 Pre/Power, near mint boxed used Cambridge Audio Minx XI, excellent used 249 Chord Electronics 1200E Power Amplifier, ex boxed used 2999 Classe CAP2100 Integrated with phono, ex boxed used 1999 Consonance Cyber 211 (Pavane), Monos, REDUCED dem 2749 Consonance Ref 8.8 Integrated, boxed, REDUCED dem 799 Creek OBH21, excellent used 119 Cyrus IIIi, excellent boxed remote used 199 Cyrus X Power, excellent boxed, REDUCED used 499 Cyrus 6DAC Integrated, boxed, REDUCED used 649 DartZeel NHB108B, excellent 20+k new used 7999 Denon POA 6600A, Class A monoblocks, vgc+ used 899 Esoteric C03X, ex demo boxed, superb used 5499 Esoteric A03, ex demo boxed used 4499 Esoteric C03/A03, pre/power ex demo boxed used 8999 Graaf GM50B Mk2 Integrated, ex dealer demo dem 2999 Jolida Envoy 211 Monoblocks, 7k new, superb, vgc used 1999 Lavardin C62/AP150 pre/power and interconnects used 5499 Leema Hydra 2, vgc+ boxed, REDUCED used 1749 Leema Tucana 2, excellent, REDUCED used 1749 LFD LS1 linestage, reasonable shape used 299 Luxman CL-32 & MQ3600 Pre/Power combo, due in used Call Luxman L550 monster retro integrated, rose cheeks etc used 999 Marantz SM7, great retro power, REDUCED used 849 McIntosh C22/MC275 Commemorative, REDUCED used 6499 Meridian 501 preamplifier, excellent used 299 Meridian 551 Integrated, excellent used 399 Micromega IA100, great integrated, boxed REDUCED dem 449 Moon W7RS, excellent used 4499 Musical Fidelity M6i, near mint boxed, REDUCED used 1099 Musical Fidelity A308CR Pre/Power, excellent boxed used 1499 Musical Fidelity Pre 8 and 2 x MA65 chrome fronted used 799 NAD C320, excellent used 149 NAIM NAC32, vgc+ used 299 NAIM NAP160, vgc+ used 449 NAIM NAP300/PS, Dec 2013 mint boxed used 3999 NAIM NAC42.5/NAP110, vgc used 349 NAIM NAC202, excellent boxed REDUCED used 1099 NAIM NAP150x, excellent boxed used 449 NAIM NAP180, excellent boxed, serviced 2010 used 599 NAIM NAC22/NAP120 classic and rare pre/power used 499 NAIM NAIT 5Si, excellent boxed used 749 NAIM NAP200, excellent boxed used 999 Onix OA32 Integrated, excellent, REDUCED used 249 Onix OA25 Integrated, excellent, REDUCED used 349 Pathos Logos Integrated, excellent, REDUCED used 1499 Placette Audio Passive Linestage, REDUCED dem 499 Pioneer A50s, boxed near mint used 249 Quad 66 Preamplifier, excellent used 499 Quad 405, from used 199 Quad 33/303, vgc, serviced used 299 Renaisance RA02 Monos, vgc and excellent, REDUCED used 449 Roksan Kandy K2 Power amp, ex demo dem 399 Sugden A21a line Integrated dem 999 Sugden Masterclass Pre/Monos in Graphite REDUCED used 5749 Sugden Masterclass Integrated in Titanium dem 2749 Talk Electronics Hurricane/Tornado Pre/Power used Call Tandberg TPA3003 Power amplifier, excellent! used 499 Tannoy TA1400, excellent boxed REDUCED used 499 TEAC Distinction A1000 Integrated, mint, REDUCED dem 549 Trio LO7C preamplifier good condition used 249 Vincent SAV200 6 Channel monster, REDUCED used 699 XTC Pre 1 & Pow 2, Pre/Power combo, excellent used 799 XTC Pow 2, Power amplifier, excellent used 499 Yamaha A-S3000, nr mint boxed dem 1999 Digital Accuphase DP55V, excellent condition boxed used 999 Arcam Alpha 8se, excellent boxed, REDUCED used 149 Arcam IR DAC, Russ Andrews PSU excellent boxed used 399 Arcam CD17, excellent used 279 Arcam CD192, excellent boxed used 349 Atoll 100SE DAC, excellent boxed new 299 Audiolab 8000CDM/DAC combo used 399 Audio Analogue Crescendo, end of line new 499 Audio Research CD5, excellent boxed used 1999 Ayre Evolution DVD, mint boxed REDUCED dem 1749 Cayin CD50T, excellent boxed used 499 Chapter Audio Sonnet CD & Nevo REDUCED dem 1699 Chord Hugo TT DAC/Headphone amp, as new used 2199 Chord One CD player excellent! used 1799 Chord DAC 64, excellent boxed dem 699 Chord DAC 64 mk2, excellent boxed used 899 Consonance CD2.2, new sealed new Call Creek Destiny CD player, boxed used 699 Cyrus Discmaster/Dacmaster, vgc+ used 399 Cyrus CDXTse, boxed remote, REDUCED used 399 Cyrus DAC XP, excellent boxed used 599 Cyrus Discmaster/Dacmaster vgc+, remote used 399 Denon DNP720AE, near mint boxed used 199 EAR Acute 3, mint boxed dem 3749 Esoteric X03Se, near mint boxed, REDUCED used 1999 Leema Elements CD player sealed box, REDUCED new 699 Linn Karik 3, excellent boxed remote, REDUCED used 449 Marantz NA7004, remote, excellent boxed used 299 Marantz CD17, remote, excellent boxed used 299 Marantz CD63Ki, remote, boxed excellent used 149 Marantz CD6005, remote, boxed excellent used 249 Marantz CD60, TDA1541A chip, boxed excellent used 99 Meridian 506/20 with MSR used 399 Meridian G08, msr boxed, used 1199 Micromega CD30, excellent boxed, REDUCED used 449 Micromega MyDac, excellent boxed, REDUCED used 149 Micromega Leader, remote used 99 Moon Eclipse CD/DAC/PSU, near mint, REDUCED used 2249 Musical Fidelity A1008CD CD Pro, excellent boxed used 999 Musical Fidelity M1 DAC, excellent boxed REDUCED used 199 Musical Fidelity A308CR CD, excellent boxed used 649 Musical Fidelity V link Dac, excellent used 99 Myryad Z20DAC, excellent boxed REDUCED used 119 Myryad MC100, excellent used 99 NAD C525Bee, excellent with remote REDUCED used 99 NAD C524, excellent used 99 NAIM CD5X, excellent boxed used 599 NAIM CD5, recent new laser, upgradeable used 499 NAIM HDX, upgradeable, as new dem Call Orelle CD100Evo, near mint REDUCED used 349 Peachtree DACit, excellent dem 199 Prima Luna Prologue 8, ex demo boxed, REDUCED dem 1199 Project Stream Box, excellent boxed, REDUCED used 299 PS Audio Digital link III, excellent boxed used 399 Rega Apollo R, excellent used 449 Resolution Audio Opus 21, excellent crated used 1199 Roksan Kandy K2 CD, ex demo boxed dem 499 Sansui WLD201 Streamer, mint boxed REDUCED used 119 Shanling CDT80 excellent boxed used 299 Sugden Masterclass CD original version REDUCED used 899 TEAC Distinction CD3000, ex boxed, REDUCED used 549 Unison Research Unico CD, excellent with remote used 499 Yamaha CDR-HD1300, excellent boxed used 199 Yamaha CD-S3000 near mint dem 2249 Accessories/Cables Audeze LCDXC excellent dem 899 Audiodesk Systeme CD Sound impover REDUCED used 349 Audiodesk Systeme Disc Cleaner REDUCED used 199 Isotek Nova, excellent boxed with cable used 799 Isotek Titan boxed with cable used 799 Elemental Audio speaker stands dem 499 MIT Cables - various used Call Musical Fidelity M1 HPAB dem 399 NAIM Naxo 2-4 used 199 NAIM XPS, excellent boxed used 1499 NAIM HiCap, various Olive/Chrome, starting at used 249 Nordost Flatline Gold speaker cable used 199 Nordost Thor, distribution centre, boxed used 799 ProAudio Bono Reference Platform dem 399 Quadraspire racks various used Call Stax, closed back phones & energiser, rare due in used Call Loudspeakers Acoustic Energy Aegis One used 49 Apogee Duetta Signature (Reality rebuilt) Superb used 3249 Art Audio Stiletto in Maple, boxed, REDUCED dem 549 Aspara Acoustics HL6 in Oak, REDUCED new 1749 Dali Zensor 3, excellent boxed used 199 Dali Zensor 5, excellent boxed used 349 Dynaudio Contour 1.1, excellent in maple used 399 Edwards Audio Apprentice, excellent boxed, REDUCED used 279 Ferguson Hill FH007&8 desktop audio set boxed used 349 Focal Chorus 714, excellent boxed used 349 Focal Electra 1008, mint boxed dem 2249 Focal Electra 1028, mint boxed dem 2749 Gallo Nucleus Reference 2, rare, superb & boxed used 1999 Grundig Audiorama, in great condition used 299 Heco Statement in gloss black, 3k new dem 1499 Kef Reference Three-Two, vgc+, REDUCED used 949 Kef X300a, due in used Call Kef R700, superb condition, boxed dem Call Kudos X2, excellent boxed used 699 Kudos C10, boxed vgc, REDUCED used 949 Kudos C20, excellent in Walnut used 1199 Leema Xandia Mk1 in black new 2499 Le ConToure Mobile 160, excellent boxed, REDUCED used 1399 Linn Kan 5, excellent boxed in cherry used 299 Magneplanar MG1.7 mint boxed REDUCED dem 1499 Martin Logan SL3, excellent condition in black used 999 Martin Logan Quest, superb sound, REDUCED used 1199 Martin Logan Prodigy, excellent used 3499 Martin Logan Ethos, near mint boxed used 3499 Martin Logan Vantage, superb active bass, REDUCED used 1999 Monitor Audio BX2, brand new new 179 Monitor Audio GX300, ebony near mint boxed new 1999 Monitor Audio GSXW Subwoofer mint boxed new 749 Monitor Audio BX5, nr mint boxed dem 349 Monitor Audio Platinum PL300 near mint crated dem 3999 Monitor Audio Platinum PL200 mint crated, REDUCED new 2625 Monitor Audio Platinum PL100 mint crated, REDUCED new 1199 Monitor Audio Platinum PLW15 mint crated new Call Monopulse Model S, mint boxed REDUCED new 679 Monopulse Model A, mint boxed REDUCED new 1249 Musical Fidelity MC6 Floorstanders, boxed, REDUCED used 499 NAIM SBL, vgc+, REDUCED used 649 Nola Micro Grand Reference inc stands, 15k new dem 5495 PMC PB1i, boxed, best walnut finish, REDUCED used 3249 Proac D28, excellent boxed dem 1999 Proac Studio 115, excellent boxed dem 749 Quad 25L Classic ex dealer demo boxed used 999 Quad 11L2, excellent boxed used 249 Red Rose Rosebud 2.5k new with (used) stands dem 799 REL T-7 Subwoofer, sealed box used 299 Revolver Music 1, excellent boxed used 299 Revolver Cygnis Gold in Black, 14k new dem 4995 Ruark Etude, excellent in black used 179 Sonus Faber Elipsa, superb boxed, REDUCED used 5699 Sonus Faber Electa Amator 2, superb used 1749 Sonus Faber Venere 2.5, excellent boxed used 999 Spendor S8e, near mnt boxed used 799 Spendor BC1, fair, due in used Call Tannoy Turnberry SE, near mint boxed used 2249 Tannoy Prestige Autograph Mini, ex boxed used 999 Thiel CS7.2, fair condition, sonic bargain! used 1999 Totem Mani 2, boxed near mint REDUCED used 1599 Totem Mani Signature, boxed near mint REDUCED used 1999 Totem Mite in black, ex dealer demo REDUCED dem 399 Totem Sttaf, near mint boxed new 999 Townshend Maximum Supertweeters, excellent boxed used 499 Usher Mini Dancer 1, excellent boxed REDUCED dem 1599 Usher S520, excellent boxed dem 249 Vandersteen Quattro, accessories, transformers etc used 2999 Veritas H3 (Lowther drivers) in gloss black, 100db dem 2999 Wilson Benesch Actor floorstanders, REDUCED used 1599 XTC mk2, vgc+ in gloss black used 299 Special system deals Consonance Ping CD/AMP dem 599 Linn Classik Movie 05, excellent boxed used 699 Luxman 300 series CD/Tuner/Pre/Power, ACE! used 999 NAIM Uniti 2, excellent ex demo used 2299 Orelle EVO CD and Amp was 2700, REDUCED used 749 Yamaha CXA5000/MXA5000 as new boxed dem Call Tel: or



136 Dealer Directory All You Need In One Place Premium Loudspeaker Drivers Highest Quality Crossover Parts Crossover Design and Assembly DIY Speaker Kits Wire and Terminals Expert Advice Some of our Brands: Accuton Audax Aurasound Eton Fostex HiVi Research Peerless SB Acoustics Scan-Speak Seas Raal Your Worldwide Provider of High End Loudspeaker Parts DB HIFI SUFFOLK All About The Music Digital & Analogue Audio Specialists & Record Review EDITORIAL TEAM Editor Paul Miller Art Editor Steve Powell Features Editor Patrick Fraser Reviews Editor Chris Breunig Test & Measurement Paul Miller PHOTOGRAPHY Andrew Sydenham MANAGEMENT TEAM Group Editor Paul Miller Group Art Editor John Rook Group Advertising Manager Rhona Bolger Subscriptions Manager Kate Hall Chief Executive Owen Davies Chairman Peter Harkness ADVERTISEMENT TEAM Advertising Sales Sonia Smart Tel SUBSCRIPTIONS New, renewals and enquiries... UK: Tel USA/Canada: Tel (001) Rest of World: Tel +44(0) WE LIVE AT... AVTech Media Ltd, Enterprise House, Enterprise Way, Edenbridge, Kent TN8 6HF UK and Overseas: Tel +44 (0) HI-FI NEWS & RECORD REVIEW, ISSN , is published monthly with an additional issue in January by AVTech Media Ltd, a division of MYTIMEMEDIA Ltd, Enterprise House, Enterprise Way, Edenbridge, Kent TN8 6HF, UK. The US annual subscription price is 65GBP (equivalent to approximately 108USD). Airfreight and mailing in the USA by agent named Air Business Ltd, c/o Worldnet Shipping Inc., , 146th Avenue, 2nd Floor, Jamaica, NY 11434, USA. Periodicals postage paid at Jamaica NY US Postmaster: Send address changes to HI-FI NEWS & RECORD REVIEW, Worldnet Shipping Inc., , 146th Avenue, 2nd Floor, Jamaica, NY 11434, USA. Subscription records are maintained at, 3 Queensbridge, The Lakes, Northampton, NN4 7BF. Air Business Ltd is acting as our mailing agent.


138 LAST WORD OFF THE LEASH! KEN KESSLER ER TELLS IT LIKE IT IS.... As an Oscar-winner turns to vinyl, Ken Kessler looks afresh at a brand he d once dismissed... Fear not: I am not about to go on another of my rants about the actual size of the vinyl revival versus the feverish imaginings of analogue fantasists. Far too many appearances of record decks in unlikely situations have taken place of late, abetted by seasonal promotion of turntable sales on the part of amazon and others, for me to plead ignorance. (Note, however, that the mighty amazon is pushing plastic USB turntables with little indication that they also stock proper decks.) UNLIKELY QUARTERS Here s where I try to take a broader view than my solipsistic, or should that be analogically-retentive colleagues: it is my feeling that we should welcome this phenomenon as something that is as encouraging for hi-fi as a whole as it is solely for vinyl. Hi-fi needs all the help it can get, even if it comes from unlikely quarters, such as an increase in sales of turntables made from plastic and with a voracious appetite for black vinyl records. (Idea for Kickstarter: a mini-vacuum to suck up the swarf coming off LPs chewed up by cheap decks and nasty styli.) Bluntly put, vinyl takes more of a commitment than streaming or even playing CDs, and records cost money whereas those of low moral fibre can find ways to stream Here, at last, was a loudspeaker of genuine high-end inventiveness for free. But would it not be a blessing if those charmed by the coolness of record decks, even if they ve no intention of raiding their parents attics for LPs, were to consider moving on from ear-buds to separates? While I am not yet ready to shout it from the rooftops, I was amused to see, in a boutique window in London a few weeks before Christmas, a display of around 30 turntables. All were vertically-mounted to create a wall of white, and most were actually playing, like those displays in the old days that Dual used to create to show how they could track LPs in defiance of gravity. For those of you who must know, the decks were Regas or Pro-Jects I didn t have the time to examine them and the display looked like something out of a hi-fi show circa Whether or not the wall of LP spinners sold many frocks or handbags I cannot tell, but it certainly attracted the odd hipster for a closer look. I would like to think that a number of observers born after, say, Blair was elected, asked, What are those spinning things, Dad? On the way home, that same day in early December when I saw the wall of decks, I noticed this in the Daily Mail: Dashing actor Eddie Redmayne once admitted to watching trashy TV after a long day of filming, so it s good to know the Old Etonian also has more discerning tastes. For the first time in my life I ve got a turntable, like a gramophone. We were given it as a wedding present by a friend, and I m beginning to stock up on proper old records, says Redmayne, who married Hannah Bagshawe last year. It feels like the actual band is locked away in a cupboard and they re playing live for you. Do we now have an Oscar-winner in the ranks of audiophiles? How eloquent was his description of the format s appeal! Redmayne, it should be noted, is 33, so he may have childhood memories of his parents playing LPs. I await hearing someone born in this century expressing such enthusiasm for sound quality. INSPIRED ANEW I did say unlikely quarters, and that includes a major brand for which I have shown little respect as regards the sonic merits of its products: Bang & Olufsen. Well, blow me down if I don t drop by the recentlyrelocated B&O Centre in Canterbury stunning premises by any measure to see and hear the 50,000-plus BeoLab 90. It must be said that my visit was not prompted by the speaker so much as saying hello to Jonathan Hill, the proprietor of the B&O Centre, and a colleague of many decades standing. Moreover, I had just returned from experiencing what must be the most incredible high-end store on the planet, the World of McIntosh venue in New York, and have been inspired anew to champion classy retail outlets and to savage those recalling a typical Hi-Fi Markets outlet circa While I am not about to chuck Wilson Alexias for BeoLab 90s, I will pay the latter the highest compliment: they did not make me want to pour hot lead in my ears nor rend my garments. They were impressive, and one could not deny that here, at last, was a speaker of genuine high-end inventiveness, performance and price, placed in front of people who 1) could afford high-end prices, yet 2) would never set foot in a traditional hi-fi store. Goodness gracious: I never thought this particular revolution would happen. Finally, audio vendors are addressing people who can actually afford the stuff. Apr Issue on sale 11 th MAR EXCLUSIVE TESTS: î Clearaudio Statement v2 turntable î Teac UD-503 DAC/headphone amp î Luxman L-590AXII integrated amplifier î KEF Reference One standmount loudspeakers î PS Audio NuWave DSD USB DAC PLUS: î Vintage Review: Aurex 15-series micro system î Show Blog: KK s best of CES 2016 î Classical Companion: Eduard van Beinum î From The Vault: We crack open HFN s archive î Vinyl Icons: Wings Band On The Run MARCH 2016

139 All amplifiers are not created equal. To say the Continuum S2 comes highly recommended is putting it mildly this is the kind of amplifier I could happily live with and never feel the need to upgrade ever again Alan Sircom Editor HiFi Plus Continuum S2 625 S2 power amp This is an impressive amplifier that can be highly recommended to audiophiles wishing to build a luxurious system without having to auction the family jewels. I loved it to bits! John Bamford - HiFi News For more information and a professional demonstration on Jeff Rowland products please contact one of these dealers: Audio Consultants High End Cable Phase 3 Audio DB Hi-Fi Distributed by: Signature Audio Systems

140 WILSON AUDIO ALEXIA IS QUITE SIMPLY AN OUTSTANDING EXAMPLE OF AUDIO EXCELLENCE - HIFI CRITIC / MARTIN COLLOMS / ALEXIA REVIEW SAY HELLO TO MY NEW REFERENCE - HI FI NEWS / KEN KESSLER / ALEXIA REVIEW HAVE YOU EVER HAD THE FEELING OF TRANSCENDENCY, SOMETHING THAT GOES BEYOND CONSCIOUSNESS? - HIFICLUBE.NET / JOSE VITOR HENRIQUES /ALEXIA / CONSTELLATION SYSTEM REVIEW Wilson Audio s Alexia is a compact and uncompromising design of extraordinary technical and material innovations, delivering new bass dimensions, dramatic midrange clarity, unyielding dynamics and unrestricted detail. Taking sound into a new and rarefied plane, the Alexia joins Wilson s other world-class designs such as the bookshelf Duette 2, the floorstanding Sophia 3 and the peerless Alexandria XLF. Speakers without compromise, brought to you by Absolute Sounds: premier importer of the world s finest hi-fi. absolute sounds ltd. International Distributors & Consultants of Specialised Hi-End Audio & Video Systems 58 Durham Road, London, SW20 0TW T: +44 (0) W: E:

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