Yamaha’s A-S3200 Integrated Amplifier $7,500 Review

April 20, 2021 § Leave a comment


Yamaha’s A-S3200 is a flawless performer. This product is even more stunning in person than our photos or the ones from Yamaha suggest. This is a quality product in every way: great sound, rock-solid build, fantastic execution. The level of sonic quality on tap with this and a few other excellent choices in this price range is staggering compared to 5 or 6 years ago, when most audiophiles would have turned their noses up at the suggestion of a single box doing everything. All but the most obsessed can live happily ever after with the Yamaha A-S3200.

There is one thing to take serious note of, should you buy an A-S3200 for yourself. The idea of component break in is somewhat contentious, and anything dreadful out of the box doesn’t transform into wonderful 1000 hours down the road. These aren’t butterflies. However, the A-3200 is slightly dry and stiff sounding out of the box. Not a deal killer, but after about 200 hours of continuous play, it opens up tremendously. Further than I’ve experienced with other solid-state amplifiers, which makes me wonder if my test unit was up on a shelf in a warehouse for some time before it made its way here. So, my only suggestion is that when you take delivery on your A-S3200, give it a couple of weeks play time before you judge it completely.


April 20, 2021 § Leave a comment


The Franco Serblin Accordo is a sumptuous looking loudspeaker with a sound that at once harks back to some of the best small speakers ever produced, yet does so without becoming a rose-tinted wayback machine and has a clean and extended treble that’s as modern as they come without sounding harsh or brash. It’s also a deceptive looking loudspeaker because it looks smaller than it is, and it’s very much a deceptive sounding loudspeaker because it sounds bigger than it is! But, most and best of all, it’s as entertaining to listen to as it is to look at.

Magico’s $750K M9 speakers

April 20, 2021 § Leave a comment

VPI Prime 21+ Belt-driven Turntable Review

April 18, 2021 § Leave a comment


Gerry Rafferty’s ‘On A Night Like This’ from North And South [London Records LONLP55] had me grinning from ear to ear. Rafferty’s voice was strong and focused, but best of all was the backing percussion. This bounds around behind the main instruments like an excited puppy. Bongos on the right? Check. Kick-drum slightly left of centre? Absolutely. The Prime 21+ captured these elements with ease and highlighted them, albeit with subtlety, making it a delight to follow their appearance as the track unfolded. The bass line also had a pleasing presence, underpinning the song in a fluid and easy manner.

Finally, I swapped the Shyla cartridge for my regular Clearaudio MC Essence [HFN Aug ’17]. The Clearaudio pick-up’s excellent bass tightened up the lower registers very slightly, even though it didn’t disguise the deck’s signature upper-bass warmth. It also revealed a little more treble sparkle than the Shyla, at the expense of the latter’s rich midband quality and its more general sense of cohesion. Clearly, VPI has voiced its cartridge well – the Prime 21/tonearm/Shyla trio making for a compelling one-stop vinyl-playing solution for the enthusiast on the upgrade trail.

KEF LS50 Wireless II Review

April 18, 2021 § Leave a comment


We listen to Adrienne Lenker’s Symbol and it is a more captivating affair through the Wireless IIs. The extra space between her vocal and the strings is in relative contrast to the originals, where it sounds as though they’re fighting against one another for attention. That extra spaciousness isn’t at the expense of cohesiveness either – a hallmark quality of the Uni-Q driver’s tweeter-inside-the-mid/bass-cone design.

The new KEFs lay bare more intricacies in the guitar work, while disclosing the distinctive fragilities in her vocal. Similar sharpness and attention to detail is evident as we switch to Peter Broderick’s Moment, the piano sequence aching with meticulously written melody as the LS50 Wireless IIs more deftly define the start and finish of notes.

THX Onyx review

April 18, 2021 § Leave a comment

ExaSound Delta Music Server $3000 Review

April 17, 2021 § Leave a comment


The Delta Music Server is the most capable server I have used, but it is far from the most expensive. The base price is $3000, in silver or black. The addition of a 1TB SSD for local storage adds $150, and the 7″ touch-screen adds $280. If you are capable and motivated, perhaps you’d prefer to build something like this yourself; you probably could do it for less money. The only caveat I can think of is that it is dedicated to Roon and will not support other software. The Delta is, in my opinion, what a Roon server should be

Karan Acoustics KAS 600 Stereo Amplifier and KAL Reference MK3 Preamplifier $28,000 Review

April 17, 2021 § Leave a comment

I love being able to revisit a manufacturer after years between products. In the case of Karan, it’s clear the advancements made to the KAS 600 amplifier and the KAL REF MK3 preamplifier have been more evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The essential character of the combo definitely harkens back to its lineage. I like that. Why mess with the secret sauce? The areas of improvement heard by these ears while wracking my failing memory are to be found in transparency and speed from top to bottom. They seem more efficient and effortless at passing the signal than their ancestors. It strikes me it would be very difficult to find precisely what the Karan duo offers in other products. At least that’s how I hear it. The Karan sound remains unmistakable, yet very difficult to pin an overt coloration too.

As I always do with any component I review, I let my fangs out and try to come up with a reason for someone who can afford the asking price not to add the components to their system. In this case, I simply can’t come up with anything. The lack of remote input switching? The lack balance control? No, those are not not game changers when such wonderful sound is provided by the Karan KAS 600 amplifier and KAL REF MK3 preamplifier. I cannot imagine a scenario where this combo would need to be replaced for years  to come if enjoying music, all genres of music at the highest level of fidelity, not obsessing about gear, is the priority. 

Gryphon Antileon EVO solid-state dual-mono amplifier $38,350 Review

April 16, 2021 § Leave a comment

The front panel of the Antileon Evo is mostly acrylic and has six buttons. The far left button is an ON/STANDBY button that, when pressed, activates the amp and reveals a red display behind clear acrylic. This also initiates a self-check that takes approximately 15 seconds and lets you know if there are issues with the amp. The CHECK button at the far right allows you to run the self-check while in full operation. There is also a MUTE button that does exactly that — mutes the sound — which is handy when you want to change out some cables without turning the amp off. However, the remaining three buttons are the most interesting to the dedicated audiophile.

The remaining three front-panel buttons allow you to choose between three bias settings: Bias L (low), M (medium) and H (high). Bias L provides 25 wpc of class A power. This setting is fine for listening at low levels or when simply playing background music, and to my ears sounds better than the vast majority of A/B amps. I mostly used this setting to keep the Evo warm during the day so that it would be ready to play in Bias M or Bias H mode at a moment’s notice in the evening. Bias M and H were the settings I used for serious listening. Bias M delivers 50 wpc of class A power, which I use when blasting certain rock or other highly in-your-face music. Bias H delivers a sumptuous 150 wpc of class A power. I used this for most really serious listening sessions, even most rock, but especially when the music is vocal, orchestral, moody or sophisticated (I’ll expand on this below).


April 16, 2021 § Leave a comment

I also asked Naim about this. They say the pre-amp outputs can be used for a subwoofer, and while true, the output is not labeled such on the back panel and there is no mention of how to hook up a sub in the included documentation. Naim says they will update the documentation as well. All in all, Naim is to be praised for seeing these issues when pointed out and taking proactive steps to correct them. Many companies would just ignore the criticisms.

Once your speakers are ready to go, plug in a network cable or put the unit on your local Wi-Fi network. If you are streaming high-resolution files, a direct network connection is your best bet.

Using the app, you can set up Tidal or whatever streaming service you have. The app allows more control than the included remote, so I found it was best to keep my iPhone handy.

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