July 30, 2021 § Leave a comment
By any standards, the latest Classé Delta amps are a triumph, combining a hugely flexible and ultra clean-sounding preamplifier with power amplifiers as capable of mighty clout as they are revealing of the smallest of detail. They look the part, are superbly engineered and constructed to impeccable standards, and can cope with even the most complex of systems without any signs of compromise in their performance.
July 28, 2021 § Leave a comment
You might be surprised at how much of the music you feel is unlistenable because you find it overly compressed, is actually running your amp and speakers out of power. Your room size, and speaker sensitivity will play a big part in this, but again, 82db isn’t exactly concert hall levels. Even turning the volume down lower to a 76db average level, is still generating 100db peaks on a lot of tunes. The 150 watts per channel that the MC1502 deliver comes in handy, and at much lower listening levels than you might think.
July 25, 2021 § Leave a comment
What’s immediately apparent is how the Atom HE’s presentation opens up over the Atom, allowing for greater separation of instruments and extra space for even more superb levels of detail to fill. More refinement takes away some of the original Atom’s comparative crudeness and directness, and that goes hand-in-hand with a greater sense of control to create a more sophisticated soundstage. The headphones we use in testing have different characters and demands, and the Naim confidently feeds each with power and poise.
We play The Tallest Man on Earth’s There’s No Leaving Now and the Atom HE offers a notably wider window into the recording. Compared with the original Atom, there is extra subtlety to get under the texture and dynamic lilts of the piano keys, while also peeling another layer or two from his nasal vocals. Its extra insight better communicates the atmosphere of the production – the distant creaks of the space he’s recording in and the slight echo around his vocal. And the piano chords that later join to ride beneath his delivery are that bit more shapely, too. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable headphone experience.
July 24, 2021 § Leave a comment
Forgive me if I exclude any others in the top-tier integrated category, but the Gryphon Diablo 300, Dartzeel CTH-8550 mk2, Constellation Argo, Ypsilon Phaethon, Vitus MP-I201 (significantly more expensive than the Humboldt) and SIA-030, Pilium Leonidas, Absolare Integrated SE, Soulution 530, CH Precision I1 are all world class. The mighty Vitus MP-I201 sits regally at around $120k and, sadly, I have never heard it, so I cannot comment on its performance or value. Price-wise, the Humboldt sits at the penultimate price position, with the others ranging from the mid-$20k’s to the high $40k’s. Sonically, the Humboldt offers pure neutrality, an insanely low noise floor, and supreme dynamic prowess, while conveying music with passion, soul, and energy. The other choices I listed are all damn good, and range in personality from warm and engulfing, to ultra-dynamic, to hyper-accurate and resolving. I’d put the $40k Leonidas and the $40k Vitus SIA-030 as the most comparable tonally. Your listening tastes, budget, and current equipment will help to define which direction you need to look in. As a reviewer, it’s not my job to tell you what’s better or worse, or what to buy. It is my job to tell you what the review subject sounds like, and what’s worth an audition, and if it’s something I would consider purchasing. Well, the Humboldt is unquestionably worth listening to and absolutely worth buying if you have the means. I was sad to see it go, and even sadder the following day when it was no longer in my room. Highly recommended.
July 23, 2021 § Leave a comment
While the phono stage’s 47ohm moving magnet input impedance will work well with pretty much any cartridge of that type, it’s a little odd that Yamaha has chosen to go with a 50ohm value for the moving coil option. While MCs vary in terms of their loading requirements, a 100ohm value would have suited many more cartridges. It’s not a make-or-break situation, but you’ll need to be careful with the cartridge choice if you want optimal results.
July 22, 2021 § Leave a comment
How did the Parasounds perform on more delicate fare? You’ll get few quibbles from me, friends. There were moments when I was simply startled by the finesse that they offered. On Louis Bellson’s album Thunderbird, for example, I was smitten by the rendition of the Neal Hefti standard “Softly With Feeling.” The Parasounds were able to provide the hushed backing of the winds with total control, endowing the song with a sense of realism that it would otherwise have lacked. This was one of those times when this LP on the Impulse! label really sounded opened up rather than claustrophobic. I mean talk about pristine. Suffice it to say, that the Parasounds conveyed, or appeared to convey, just about every last little nuance the cartridge excavated from the black grooves.
But even on the delicate passages, the sound was never wispy. Take the magnificent album Festival of Trumpets [Nonesuch]. It was mastered in 1974 by Bob Ludwig and features the New York Trumpet Ensemble, directed by Gerard Schwarz. I was riveted, among other things, by a lovely Sonatina by the baroque composer Johann Christoph Pezel, who himself played trumpet and violin. The gossamer-like trumpet playing of Schwarz and Louis Ranger sounded very enticing, but it was the accompaniment of the bassoon and harpsichord that really caught my ear. It’s easy for them to get lost in the mix. But here it was easy to hear the pleasingly sonorous sound of the bassoon as it puffed along, as well as the soft and deliberate plucks of the harpsichord. If I had to pick a nit, it would be in the treble. It’s not that the sound ever became hard or dirty—the Parasound always has a rich, warm, inviting sound on top—rather, the amp could sometimes be less slightly transparent and pellucid on top than some of its far-pricier brethren.
July 21, 2021 § Leave a comment
There was a loss of the last micron of detail in hall presence, and vocal reproduction had a slightly thick layer about it. The realism of overall reproduction was a quarter-wavelength of a gamma ray away from perfection. All these phenomena occurred at an almost imperceptibly low level, but combined, they added up to a sound that intermittently exposed its electro-mechanical origin rather than one that instantly made you forget you were listening to anything other than music itself. Keep in mind that I’m desperately grasping at straws to find these “faults,” and these criticisms are only in comparison to the highest-resolution, best-performing, most insanely expensive amps and preamps I have ever heard. Omitting the standard reference to particular pieces of music that highlight this or that, I can comfortably say that changing a cable will affect the sonic integrity of the signal more than adding the Humboldt will.