June 16, 2021 § Leave a comment
I discovered that in addition to a wide soundstage, definite strengths of the Bartók are transient attack and driving rhythmic energy, so I cued up Winds of War and Peace [Wilson Audio WCD-8823], with its (in)famous bass-drum explosions during “Liberty Fanfare.” The monstrous bass drum at the 1:00 mark was ultra clean and powerful. With the Bartók, I was hearing better separation of mallet strike, the drum head and bass-drum body resonance than I’d heard before, maybe even better than in the rooms using Wilson speakers at AXPONA. My modest system will never match the big Wilson speakers’ bass power, sheer volume or unflappable dynamics, but with the Bartók in the system, I was able to re-create a better impression of bass-drum tone. As an aside, I play trumpet in some local concert bands and I’ve performed “Liberty Fanfare” for several patriotic concerts. I’m always disappointed when our bass drum isn’t as awe-inspiring as the crushing whacks Lowell Graham and the National Symphonic Winds produced on this great Wilson Audio recording.
June 10, 2021 § Leave a comment
The balanced amplifier circuit is a variation of the 2009 design, although it is now compatible with lower impedance loads. The PRE-GAIN stage implemented in the Violectric headphone amplifiers ensures not only a low noise floor, but also precise control of output levels due to the ability to tailor the sensitivity of the pre-amplifier stage. The volume control is an impressive piece of engineering, as the ability to execute a 256-step volume control with .4 dB increments is nothing short of amazing. Finally, the HPA V550 PRO is a solidly designed preamplifier, and can function equally well in a traditional two channel audio system. If you are searching for a high-performance headphone amplifier then give the Violectric HPA VM550 PRO serious consideration, as there are very few products in the audio world that are built to this level of sophistication.
May 29, 2021 § Leave a comment
The xDuoo XA-10 has Qualcomm’s flagship-tier CSR8675. It supports LDAC and aptX HD. LDAC is currently one of the best Bluetooth codecs, in terms of performance. It is good to see that the XA-10 supports this codec. You can hook this DAC & AMP directly to your active speakers and control the playback through your phone, over-the-air. Bluetooth is always nice to have on these devices. Bluetooth range is also quite good, I had no drop-outs or any stability issues during my time with it. I want to say a couple of bits about controlling the device here. You already know that I can trade sluggish navigation for aesthetics but I wonder why xDuoo did not implement remote support to this beautiful-looking DAC. It would make things easier for us. In the menu, there are two subcategories only. Filter and gain setting. Upon spending around 2 hours fiddling with the filters, I can say that I haven’t heard any difference at all. Note that I am using the balanced output and streaming MQA files. There is no auto-standby setting either.
May 28, 2021 § Leave a comment
The HA2-SF can drive as good as all headphones on the market and because of the gain switch option, the VU meters now more easily dance around no matter what headphone you connect to it. With the Nirvana this is one of the downsides as it’s so powerful that the meters only move with really hard to drive headphones, or when you’re deaf and up the volume way too much. It’s nice to see that Auris listened to the market feedback, and know we have lovely moving VU meters on the front for most of the headphones you hook up to it in low gain.
May 24, 2021 § Leave a comment
Naim’s unique music-streaming platform serves up incredible sound quality, allowing you to escape into your own digital music collection, services such as Qobuz, TIDAL and Spotify, and a world of Internet radio – including a curated collection of HD stations – and podcasts. AirPlay 2 support, Chromecast built-in and Roon Ready status add even more streaming options, while analogue and digital inputs mean you can connect many other sources, too – including turntables – and a USB input supports playback from sticks/drives. Enjoy a huge range of music file formats, in resolutions up to 32bit/384kHz.
In addition, Uniti Atom Headphone Edition features a completely new transformer design, dedicated to providing – in true Naim tradition – the very best power supply to the headphone amplification circuitry. The new discrete transistor circuit design enables Uniti Atom Headphone Edition to gain balanced headphone outputs, on both 4 pin XLR and Pentaconn, maximising the performance of high-end headphones with those connections. There is also a standard 6.3mm output.
May 18, 2021 § Leave a comment
The PRE-GAIN stage implemented in the Violectric headphone amplifiers ensures not only a low noise floor, but also precise control of output levels due to the ability to tailor the sensitivity of the pre-amplifier stage. The volume control is an impressive piece of engineering, as the ability to execute a 256-step volume control with .4 dB increments is nothing short of amazing. Finally, the HPA V550 PRO is a solidly designed preamplifier, and can function equally well in a traditional two channel audio system. If you are searching for a high-performance headphone amplifier then give the Violectric HPA VM550 PRO serious consideration, as there are very few products in the audio world that are built to this level of sophistication.
April 25, 2021 § Leave a comment
I threw a number of genres and headphones at the CMA Twelve and the results were all good. It is worthy of the flagship moniker. The option of single-ended and two balanced connection styles makes it accessible to a wide array of headphone choices. The switchable BIAS allows for an even wider choice of headphone or two-channel pre-amp options. The DAC is very clear without being overly bright and uses a favorite DAC of mine, the AKM 4490. I came to enjoy the front panel LED layout as it did not take long to be able to glance at it and know the type and bit rate of the file being played. A good thing for a Roon radio user. Given the build quality and track record of Questyle, I would expect the CMA Twelve to have pride of place in your headphone listening space for many years to come. Highly recommended.
April 24, 2021 § Leave a comment
I do not report these tube-rolling observations to criticize the Vali 2+’s performance as delivered and tested, nor to second-guess Stoddard’s choice of tube. The new-old-stock GE/CGE 6BQ7A is a tube of the highest quality. The stock Vali 2+ is an excellent amp, which exceeded my highest expectations. I mention this little tube-rolling experiment to remind everybody that, just as Jason Stoddard suggested in this column’s opening quote, experimenting with tubes is the Vali 2+’s raison d’être.