iFi ZEN CAN headphone amplifier & ZEN DAC Signature V2 D/A processor Review

January 24, 2022 § Leave a comment


I was surprised that these ZEN Signature sets, used as directed, produced too much volume with the recommended headphones. Once that was fixed, with the iFi iEMatch attenuator, the ZEN Signature sets delivered highly resolved, clean, pristine, dynamic sound. The amplifiers are powerful. Backgrounds black as a new-moon nighttime sky brought musical details to the foreground. These two components sounded more expensive than they are and offer impressive sound quality—and a bit of style—for not a lot of money.

Pro-Ject Debut PRO record player Review

January 24, 2022 § Leave a comment


The Pro-Ject Debut PRO looks classy, minimalist, unassuming. It’s available in just one color: black. An aluminum toggle switch on its front left corner turns it on and off and selects the rotation speed: left for 33 1/3 rpm; right for 45 or 78rpm, depending on the belt fitted and the pulley used. On the back panel, there’s a grounding screw, a pair of gold-plated RCA jacks—a 1m pair of Pro-Ject manufactured copper interconnects is supplied—and a power receptacle. By default, that receptacle connects to a “universal” (multivoltage, multifrequency) power supply. The Power Box DS2 is available as an upgrade. Support is provided by those height-adjustable feet, which are PTE-damped, nickel-coated aluminum.

Pro-Ject offers the best quick-start, step-by-step turntable setup guide I’ve ever seen, with excellent photographs featuring small green arrows signifying this goes there. It’s available at their website. Pro-Ject gets analog hi-fi, which helps explain their longstanding significance in the market. An in-depth manual, which provides a deep dive into setting VTA, VTF, azimuth, and antiskate, is also available on the Pro-Ject website.

Sonus faber Lumina V Loudspeakers Review

January 24, 2022 § Leave a comment

The midrange was not left out of this equation. All too often, manufacturers will take a small woofer from their stand-mount offerings and use it as the “midrange” in their entry-level tower loudspeakers. This is not the case in the Lumina V. Sonus faber chose to use a specialized, dedicated midrange driver for the critical frequencies our ears are most sensitive to. Midrange drivers are often overlooked in today’s loudspeakers since woofers, and mid-woofers have gotten more advanced, which makes them easier to cross over directly to a tweeter.

Even though they look like woofers, dedicated midrange drivers are built differently. Since they will not produce the extreme wavelengths woofers do, midrange drivers often use lighter-weight cones and smaller voice coils. This combination makes the whole motor/cone assembly weigh less, improving efficiency and transient response. Woofers utilize the cone movement for cooling the voice coil. Midranges do not have this luxury. Typically, midrange drivers utilize tighter tolerances, like that of a tweeter, to improve thermal performance reducing power compression and distortion.

Entry-level or not, there are no details missed in the design of the Sonus faber Lumina V. After unearthing these details, the most imp

Alta Audio Alec Loudspeakers $10,000  Review

January 23, 2022 § Leave a comment


During the two-and-a-half decades that I’ve been reviewing audio gear, I’ve probably assessed more speakers than any other component type. One reason for this is, in my experience, there tends to be greater sonic variety among the different speaker models than there is within any other product genre. So I find loudspeakers more interesting to review than, say, source components. And although the process of setting up a pair of speakers takes longer than, for instance, an amplifier, speakers are usually easier to write about than other products—at least for me—because each pair has such a distinct sound fingerprint. It was therefore a bit perplexing that, even after about a week of casual listening to the Alta Audio Alecs, I didn’t feel I had even a partial measure of their sound.

Shure Aonic 5 $499  Review

January 23, 2022 § Leave a comment


‘Bright’ does exactly what it says on the tin – but for us, it overcooks things. The emphasis on the top end is quite marked with highs sounding more cutting and less pleasant, in our opinion. The strings and electric guitar in Mac Miller’s Cinderella sound quite brash and the track makes for uncomfortable listening.

While it’s a stark jump from ‘balanced’ to ‘bright’, the extra impact and fullness switching to ‘warm’ are a little easier to live with. The situation doesn’t feel quite as unbalanced and you can hear an increase in weight and substance although it is quite subtle. Bass notes don’t become overbearing, but after to-ing and fro-ing between the trio of tips, we’d still suggest sticking with the balanced nozzles, for the best, er, balance of weight, agility, detail and refinement.

Mark Levinson № 5909 Headphone Review

January 23, 2022 § Leave a comment

Technics Reference Class SU-R1000 Integrated Amplifier-DAC $9499 Review

January 22, 2022 § Leave a comment


There was excellent delineation between the lead and backing vocals and synthesized instrumentation on the frenetic “Sledgehammer,” but it was the SU-R1000’s ability to make the voices appear holographically in space before me with arresting realism that made me really take notice. The vocals of Gabriel and Kate Bush on “Don’t Give Up” sounded smoother and more natural than I am used to hearing them on this track, even when compared to high-resolution digital files. Bush’s translucent vocals floated gracefully between the speakers, while Gabriel’s less melodic but emotive voice provided a more solid but equally affecting aural image. There was a richness and fluidity to Tony Levin’s unhurried bass line that infused the entire track with a melancholy, but perfectly timed, foundation. And while the SU-R1000 was able to deftly convey that measured but slightly muted character of Levin’s bass, it was also able to make the electronic keyboards on “That Voice Again” sparkle with remarkable clarity. Playing back DSD64 files of tracks from So provided better low-frequency control and slightly more precise imaging, but the smooth, more relaxed sound that the SU-R1000 wrought from vinyl was always beguiling and quite remarkable, considering the relatively modest Pro-Ject turntable and cartridge

Focal Celestee Headphones $999 Review

January 22, 2022 § Leave a comment


When comparing the sound of the Focal headphones with several models of varying designs from other manufacturers he happened to have on hand, Brent proclaimed that the Celestees sounded “at least as neutral and natural as any of the other headphones when it came to tonal balance” and that he “couldn’t find anything to complain about.” And he concluded his review by stating that although the Celestees are not for “audiophiles who want to max out on detail” or “bassheads,” they are “comparable in sound quality to any high-end, closed-back headphones” that he’s heard, and that “they’re the kind of headphones that the vast majority of listeners will enjoy.” Brent’s high praise earned the Celestee headphones a Reviewers’ Choice award when the review was published, and now has merited a Recommended Reference Component award—making them the third set of Focal headphones to receive this honor.

Balanced Audio Technology VK-80 Preamplifier Review

January 22, 2022 § Leave a comment

Cabasse Pearl Akoya Powered DSP $1900 Each Loudspeaker Review

January 21, 2022 § Leave a comment

The question implied at the outset of this article still looms. Is Cabasse’s Pearl Akoya “lifestyle?” Is it a true portable? Is it really high end? It’s actually the sum of all those things. And it’s something more—add a high-resolution streaming service, and it becomes a fully self-contained, high-performance system, and with that, you’re done, fini. And that’s a very attractive proposition whether you’re burning the midnight oil in a home office, kicking back at an outdoor BBQ, or just spending an evening relaxing to your favorite playlist in your den. If these scenarios describe you, Cabasse’s “go anywhere, go anytime” Pearl Akoya may be just the system you’ve been looking for. Heartily recommended.

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