NAD C399 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier $1999 Review

January 30, 2023 § Leave a comment

During the evaluation period two audiophile friends dropped in to listen a few times, both of whom have outstanding systems. The first was so impressed he asked if I could bring the C399 over so that he could hear it in his system, which consists in electronics that total over four times the price of the NAD. The other, who is into extremely expensive equipment, was so gobsmacked by what he heard as to leave him totally shaken, mumbling how that level of performance could come out of a unit this unpretentious in size, weight, appearance, and price. He visited again a week later, then again a few weeks after that, each time departing in a similar state of disbelief. Let me reassure you that with both friends, and myself, our reactions are most definitely not an instance of Dr. Johnson’s dancing dog—you know, it’s not that the dance is so good, it’s that a dog is doing it.


Halcro dm58 monoblock Review

January 29, 2023 § Leave a comment

It loved the Wilson WATT/Puppies, and a few minutes with the Apogees showed it to be oblivious to loads. Quad electrostatics? No sizzle, no sting, and a dose of control that had me fantasising about how these would sound in the SME Music Room.

Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t look at the reviews, or pay attention to the stories about the stunning amp from Down Under. It’s so good that the £20,750 per pair seems a veritable snip. So, here’s another amp to add to KK‘s Lottery Win list, alongside the ARC REF600. And to think DTS uses nine of ’em plus five of Halcro’s larger dm68s for multichannel…

Pathos InPol Remix MkII integrated amplifier $5395 Review

January 28, 2023 § Leave a comment

But the Remix doesn’t draw attention to what it lacks; rather, its lighthearted, sparkling mien makes all formats and styles of music satisfying and fun. It is immediate, resolving, and spacious, dependably delivering a big soundstage with an emphasis on that clean, full-bodied midrange, and its treble.

The Remix MkII is accurately named: It’s an interesting mix of tube and solid state traits. Its class-A, feedback-free output stage puts out modest power, with a specified impedance that’s high for a solid state amplifier (which, strictly speaking, it is not, so it probably works best with speakers of reasonably high sensitivity). Recommended for music lovers.

Pass Labs X250.8 Review

January 27, 2023 § Leave a comment

Rogue Audio Pharaoh II integrated amplifier $3995 Review

January 25, 2023 § Leave a comment

The headphone the Pharaoh liked best was Meze Audio’s new $4000 Elite—an open-back, planar-magnetic design. Powered by the Pharaoh, the 32 ohm, 101dB/mW Elite delivered music with relaxed, pristine clarity. The Rogue–Elite pairing played Ledbetter live in Austin with an air of well-structured authority that said, “Who cares if the headphones cost as much as the amp? The sound is dang near perfect.”

The headphone the Pharaoh II liked almost as much was Sony’s $1799 MDR-Z1R, the closed-back I have used more than any other headphone since I reviewed it in GD16. Because they are so comfortable, durable, natural-sounding, and easy to drive, the 64 ohm, 100dB/mW Z1Rs have never stopped being my paint-splattered daily headset. They employ fast, 70mm magnesium domes that never hint that they’re made of metal. Powered by the Pharaoh II, those domes sounded like they were made of paper: not too soft or hard, space and detail displayed with an appealing tube-like sheen. A recommendable match.

 Zesto Audio Eros 500 Select Class A Monoblocks $35,000 World Premier Review

January 21, 2023 § Leave a comment

I am at a loss for words to describe my excitement listening to the groundbreaking Eros 500 monoblocks. I was expecting excellence, but not ball-busting greatness. Plus, from all the worldwide tube manufacturers of note and history, it is Zesto Audio in Southern California that creates these masterpieces.

Congratulations to George Counnas and Zesto Audio for bringing to us, the audiophiles of the world, the best tube amplifier (and maybe any amplifier) ever. You must hear the Zesto Audio Eros 500 Select Class A monoblocks if you are even contemplating cost-is-no-object or high-end high-powered amplifiers for your system. These are the best amplifiers yet devised, in my humble opinion.  

Schiit Audio Tyr monoblock power amplifier $3198 Review

January 20, 2023 § Leave a comment

While I described the audible differences I found between the Schiit Tyr and the two amplifiers with which I compared it, I must admit that these differences were relatively minor. I find it increasingly difficult to characterize the sounds of modern solid state amplifiers. Unlike many tube designs, which have a readily identifiable sonic character, solid state amplifiers are benefiting from a process of convergent evolution that pushes noise and distortion below audibility.

Schiit’s Tyr is a perfect example of such a thoroughly modern amplifier. It offers high power, is not fazed by low impedances, sounded superb with the three pairs of loudspeakers that I used for this review, and is competitively priced. Strongly recommended

Audio Analogue Bellini Anniversary and Donizetti Anniversary £11,000 Review

January 19, 2023 § Leave a comment

The spectre of audio’s rose-tinted view of the past should be exorcised. We sometimes prize those classic big pre/power combinations from the 1980s, but if we listened to them today on a level playing field, I suspect a few of the Anointed Ones of audio wouldn’t hold a candle to this Audio Analogue pairing. It’s gentle, refined and sophisticated touch with music – that not only rolls with the punches but can also deliver a neat haymaker when required – is extremely alluring, especially for those who do not simply choose audiophile-approved recordings. The Audio Analogue Bellini Anniversary and Donizetti Anniversary is the pre/power combo that puts a smile on your face.

Primare A35.8 8-channel power amplifier Review

January 14, 2023 § Leave a comment

The Primare A35.8 amplifier surprised me. Its performance in my system corroborated Primare’s claim that they can make a great amplifier from Ncore modules, one that can rival amplifiers based on the newer Purifi technology as well as amplifiers utilizing traditional, nonswitching technology. Its eight channels and bridged gain options endow it with tremendous versatility. To me, the Primare A35.8 is worthy of an audition in any multichannel setup. It is a pleasure to use and to listen to.

Boulder 866 Integrated Amplifier $14,250 Review

January 13, 2023 § Leave a comment

Gentle Ben is one of my most favorite albums in my entire high resolution jazz collection. The 866 DAC grabs this digital file and makes it something special. On the first track, “Ben’s Blues,” Ben Webster on saxophone and Tete Montoliu on piano provide the perfect balance of urgency and despair for this beautiful blues ballad. Again, we have the suddenness and dynamic contrast that only the very best components can bring to the table. These musicians and these instruments were now in the room! I also have the outstanding 45 RPM vinyl pressing from Analogue Productions. This was one of the few times that digital was able to really satisfy all that this recording can offer.

Final Thoughts

The Boulder 866 is a star performer and a true standard of excellence. With its superb industrial design and musical presentation, the 866 can easily be the center piece of the very best sound systems. The optional integrated DAC provides tremendous value and performance and competes well with DACs many times it price. Bottom line. The 866 indisputably pushes the envelope for what current integrated amplifiers can now provide—even for the most sophisticated Audiophiles. Highly recommended!

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