Denon PMA-1700NE stereo integrated amplifier 

September 24, 2022 § Leave a comment

Gryphon Apex Stereo power amplifier $99,000 Review

September 23, 2022 § Leave a comment

I don’t think I’ve ever used the old audiophile acronym PRaT (pace, rhythm, and timing), so I’ll use it now, in my final Stereophile review: The Apex Stereo amp has PRaT, but the Apex–Commander combo has it in spades. The Apex Stereo amp, alone and combined with the Commander preamp, seems to up the pace of everything, as if your turntable is running fast, while simultaneously digging further down into each musical instant, making each gesture live longer, with precise attack, generous sustain, and long decay. The amp simultaneously speeds things up and slows things down. A neat trick. That’s the long and the short of it.

Rotel Diamond Series RA-6000 stereo integrated amp Review

September 19, 2022 § Leave a comment

D’Agostino M400MxV Power Amplifier $30,000 Review

September 13, 2022 § Leave a comment

Recorded in 1956, Josh White Comes A-Visitin’ [Livingston Master Tape Treasury T-1085] captured the folk-blues legend with a small group in one of those early stereo situations where multi-tracking and too many microphones were yet to infect the industry. The sound wasn’t merely captivating or convincing. It was mesmerising, the experience all the more noteworthy because my fellow listener was an ex-BBC engineer with a golden ear and four decades’ worth of pedigree.

We both agreed: a new level had been reached in realism, authenticity and sheer transparency. Truly dumbstruck at the recreation of the studio space, the harmonic overtones on the acoustic instruments, and the reproduction of White’s voice… I am humbled.

Musical Fidelity M8xi Review

September 9, 2022 § Leave a comment

Switching to a fairly new pair of PMC twenty5.26i loudspeakers which have a lower sensitivity than the 802s but offer an easier load the sound initially seemed a little dry from a tonal perspective. After a few tunes this characteristic took a back seat to the spectacular combination of timing and muscle on offer from the M8xi, with track after track offering up oodles of detail in a very coherent and engaging manner. Even an orchestral Schubert piece was delivered with the tempo in full effect, this didn’t take precedence over the dynamics however which were delivered with gusto yet without any discomfort in crescendos. All that power really counts when you are trying to reproduce a ‘big band’ with real world loudspeakers, and it matters with smaller stuff too. Somewhat controversially I put on Nils Lofgren’s rather overplayed dem favourite ‘Keith Don’t Go’, just for old times sake you understand, and heard a fabulous acoustic guitar, a croaky voice and the energy of a live event in surprisingly convincing virtual reality.

McIntosh MA9500 Integrated Amplifier $15,000 Review

September 7, 2022 § Leave a comment

The MA9500 is a memorable all-round package, one that’s distinctively and originally styled, highly versatile and hugely powerful too. Most importantly, it is engaging across a wide range of musical genres while its three output taps invite subtle sound tuning. Best partnered with smooth, warmish-sounding speakers, this mammoth Mac should make many prospective purchasers very happy indeed.

Peachtree Audio preDAC and GaN400 Review

September 7, 2022 § Leave a comment

Regular Class D amplifiers generally offer a lot of power for the money. The GaN400 does too, but adds to it a level of sonic sophistication that left this Class D sceptic thoughtful and marginally disorientated. Driven by the accompanying Peachtree pre-amp the GaN400 gave a better, more rounded and believable musical performance than I associate with even the best of MOSFET Class D amplification. 

When the Icon4 Pro passive line stage was used in place of the preDAC the GaN400 revealed itself to be capable of better still performance, with generous servings of the immediacy, dynamic expression, timing acuity and spatial detail that we expect as audiophiles. I have no hesitation in observing that thus paired, the GaN400 is truly competitive with Class AB stereo power amplifiers at a similar price point or higher and is therefore well-deserving of consideration. Audiophile Class D may be truly coming of age.

Usher R-1.5 Stereo Amplifier $3990 Review

September 1, 2022 § Leave a comment

As mentioned earlier, it’s probably best matched with a solid-state preamplifier possessing a very neutral, detailed or sharper signature, as using a warmer tube line stage may yield a presentation that’s too buttery and a tad soft on linearity.

That said, getting a reference level, Class A design oozing so much power, presence, and finesse at this price point is a bargain (remember, it was designed to drive any consumer speaker) and worthy of serious consideration.

As a reviewer, I rely on the extra bit of detail, resolution and neutrality afforded by the X150.8 in order to properly assess gear that I am reviewing. However, if that’s not a concern, at $3990, the Usher R-1.5 amplifier is an overachiever and one that I can heartily recommend.


August 28, 2022 § Leave a comment

 The exceptional clarity of the ISP Core 16 had the added benefit of improving the sense of imaging and sound-staging, which further drew me into the source material. While the core sound signature of the ISP Core 16 was completely neutral, you could easily tailor the sound to your liking by adjusting the target curve via Dirac Live. Despite its amazing degree of customizability, the ISP Core 16 proved surprisingly easy to configure and operate via a web browser or the StormRemote app. The fact that the Core 16 is upgradeable to HDMI 2.1 shortly is just icing on the cake. If you don’t think you’ll ever need more than 16 channels, the ISP Core 16 is the sweet spot in StormAudio’s lineup and a bargain in the reference-level preamp category. The PA 16 MK2 amplifier was equally impressive, driving my 13 speakers with authority from a single slim chassis. The PA 16 MK2 did little to color the sound, instead simply presenting things as they were on the source. If you are looking for absolute top-tier performance in your theater system, I highly recommend taking a look at the StormAudio ISP Core 16 pre/pro and PA 16 MK2 amplifier. I did NOT want to ship these babies back.

Marantz Model 40n Streaming Integrated Amplifier $2,499 Review

August 26, 2022 § Leave a comment

Alexis Cole’s “Something So Right,” from The World’s Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recordings, Volume 2 (16/44.1 FLAC), sounded sophisticated and gorgeous. Cole’s voice, backed by the warm sound of Marvin Sewell’s guitar strings, came across as relaxed and liquid with beautiful midrange bloom. All of the sonic images were large and solidly planted against a quiet background. At the same time, the high-frequency glissando of Sewell’s fingers sliding between notes was cleanly reproduced without being grating, a common failing of components that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

If pushed to identify a minor quibble I had with the Model 40n’s sound, it would be that it produced a smidgeon less detail than some of its competitors. NAD’s C 399 integrated streaming amp, which I reviewed for the June/July 2022 issue and still have in-house, reproduced Sewell’s guitar strings on “Something So Right” with slightly more vibrational spring, though the difference was subtle and would likely go unnoticed without a contemporaneous comparison. Indeed, absent such a comparison, the long and metallic low-level dynamics of cymbal decays seemed fully resolved on the title track from Billy Cobham’s Total Eclipse album

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