Constellation Revelation Series Monoblock Power Amplifier Review

July 14, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“It may seem like an obvious observation, but the Taurus paired with either the Pictor or Virgo III was particularly felicitous. Of course preamps and power amps made by the same manufacturer should sound good together, but this is especially true with Constellation pairings. Constellation’s preamps have a bit higher gain (26dB) than a lot of preamps and have such precision between the two phases of the balanced output signal that the preamp output can drive the amplifier’s Constellation Direct input that bypasses the power amp’s input stage. The typical buffering and assuring of perfect symmetry between the two phases of the balanced signal are simply not necessary when the amp is used with a Constellation preamp (in balanced mode). The sonic improvements yielded by using the Constellation Direct input are worthwhile. The soundscape opens up more, dynamic immediacy improves, and resolution becomes even finer. You have to turn up the volume to compensate for the bypassed initial gain stage, but I heard only sonic improvements in this configuration—no downsides or compromises.”

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Primare I35 Prisma Integrated Amplifier Review

July 13, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“Given the sophistication of today’s streamer amps, organization is key. For the I35 that responsibility is mostly handled by the Prisma app—a free download onto a smart device such as an iPad or comparable Android tablet. I connected an Ethernet cable to my router, and in the time it takes to say “Swedish meatballs” I was off to the races. With my NAS drive automatically configured, I was effortlessly streaming content from Spotify, Tidal, and TunedIn within the Chromecast folder. Fortunately, the configurable world of the I35 keys well off the Prisma app. The graphical interface is nicely sorted out for selecting input sources and streaming services; it’s stable and, after brief experience, intuitive to navigate. It controls volume, renames source inputs, and even adjusts input gain per source with a swipe or the touch of a virtual button. More than likely you will end up putting the traditional remote control in a drawer. But don’t lose it—it comes in handy when your teenager makes off with the iPad.

A couple of minor quibbles: The characters of the OLED display are perfectly legible up close, but so tiny that you’ll need a pair of binoculars to read them from more than a few feet away. The front-panel menu interface on the I35 needs updating, and users are much better off getting cozy with the comprehensive Prisma app. Finally, Chromecast worked well (the more Google Home stuff the better) but, on occasion, toggling between the Prisma app and a streaming service like Tidal caused the audio output to default to the iPad’s internal speakers. It took only a moment to reselect the I35 output, but this was a reminder of the complexity of these systems.”

VALVET A4e Monoblock amplifier $9,890 Review

July 10, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“The Valvet A4e Mono-Blocks mated with my highly efficient (98dB!) Tekton Double Impacts wonderfully. Even with a solid state preamp in the mix, the music felt very relaxed, rich and sounded, in a word, lush. Each note was delivered with panache over the brute force of other power amplifiers and in a way that subtly coaxes and charms the listener to continue their musical journey rather than submit to over-arched and brutally dynamic intensity. These Valvet a4e’s are the real deal… get where I’m coming from?”

Primare Prisma I15 Integrated Amplifier/Dac $1,999 Review

July 9, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“Leaving to one side the late French maître’s insistent and occasionally heavy-handed Catholic mysticism and bird- song obsessions, Messiaen’s cornucopia of colorful sonic delights is nearly boundless. Listening to a performance of Eclairs sur l’Au Delà (Lightning over the Hereafter) , a late orchestral work, I was stunned by its ninth section, an astonishing, rhythmically free representation of forest birdsong that may well be the best musical representation of a naturalistic soundscape ever composed. The tumbling, teetering jumble of high woodwinds—flutes, piccolos, clarinets—demanded clarity, treble finesse, and top-octave air in great quantities, and the Prisma I15’s digital-to-analog and amplifying processes delivered these unrestricted for one of those literally hair-raising listening moments.

Aric Audio Alpha 300B Push Pull Amplifier World Premiere Review

July 7, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“Since I had warming tubes in front of me, and a room full of vinyl, my choice was obvious. A quick cleaning cycle on the OkkiNokki Record Cleaning Machine and Beth Hart’s “37 Days” album was ready for a spin. It was time for my favorite choice, and of the three turntables the Pro-Ject RPM 5 Carbon gets the nod. Have spent the past several weeks with a turntable / preamp / amplifier setup I enjoyed via the Pro-Ject turntables, Parasound pre-amp and Bryston amp. Swapping the Bryston amplifier for the Aric Audio amplifier was the most logical way to begin the review session.

Connections from the Pro-Ject RPM 5 Carbon turntable to the Parasound JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamp were completed with the Audioquest Big Sir RCA cables. The Audioquest Mackenzie (XLR) balanced cables fed the signal to the balancing inputs on the Audio Research LS27 preamplifier (coming from the Parasound JC3 jr outputs). Normally, I would connect to the Bryston amplifier with Audioquest Mackenzie (XLR) balanced cables. As mentioned earlier, the XLR’s were swapped for the Audioquest Big Sir RCA cables.”

Accustic Arts Amp II Mk 3 Stereo Power Amplifier $20,900 Review

July 6, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“I’d be engaging in a stretcher, as Huck Finn likes to put, if I didn’t confess to indulging in playing some CDs and LPs by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd at what might be safely termed robust levels. Pushed to these volumes when driving the Wilson Audio WAMMs, the amp didn’t falter but I did pick up on a hint of fatigue. Driven to reasonable SPLs, I never experienced any sense of the Amp II faltering. Rather, it offered a wealth of tonal colors and detail that made it a delight to listen to for hours on end.

When time came to part with the amp, I did so not with a heavy heart—my far more expensive Ypsilon Hyperion monoblock amplifiers are superior, which is what you would expect—but with respect and admiration for a musical amplifier that is punching beyond its weight class. This Amp II is a classic example of what Germany has become the envy of the world for—its Mittelstand, or medium-sized industry, that produces reliable and high-quality products. For anyone seeking a reasonably priced, as the high-end goes, amplifier, the Accustic Arts offers an extremely enticing design.”

Ayon Audio Crossfire III PA Power Amplifier Review

July 4, 2019 § Leave a comment

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The SET amplifier circuit dates back to the beginning of the electronic age and has generally been discarded in favor of the higher-power push-pull circuit. But Ayon has proven that, if you devote sufficient resources, it’s possible to build an SET amplifier that can overcome most of the shortcomings of the genre and that can drive a much wider range of speakers. The Crossfire still needs thoughtful loudspeaker-matching, but the amp is much more flexible than most SETs. It handily exceeded all my expectations.

Normally, I try to avoid listening to really expensive gear because I’m afraid I’ll like it enough to wreak havoc on my budget. But sometimes I let an expensive item like the Crossfire III PA slip past my guard. And as I said earlier, there are a lot of amps way more expensive than $12k. Few, if any, of those are as attractive as the Crossfire III PA. Even more important than how it looks, in my system the Ayon Crossfire III PA power amp is easily the best amplifier I’ve ever heard. It effortlessly jumped through all the usual audiophile hoops, but, most significantly, it genuinely enhanced my music-listening experience. Frankly, listening to hi-fi had been getting a bit stale and boring lately, but the Ayon Crossfire III PA made it fun again—and I truly needed that. If it fits your budget and your speakers, I urge you to audition it. It’s a great amplifier.”

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