PS AUDIO STELLAR GAINCELL PREAMP/DAC $1,699 REVIEW

August 11, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“The PS Audio GainCell preamp/DAC is a winner in every respect. It is an excellently built versatile preamplifier that can handle both the analog and digital signal switching equally well. Not only that, but it can also serve as a very capable headphone amplifier. Its audiophile quality is obvious in every aspect of its sonic performance. Transparent, great tonal balance, and good dynamics are some of the nice traits of the sonic characteristics of the GCD. As a DAC, it is capable of handling both PCM and DSD high-resolution music signals, which adds to its repertoire of capabilities. Considering that this versatile great-sounding product can be had for only $1699, the GainCell preamp/DAC truly represents a great bargain in the hi-fi world. Moreover, with 30 days home-trial offer and generous trade-in policy, this is a must audition product for someone looking for modern affordable preamp/DAC. The GCD easily earns my highest recommendation!”

Chord Ultima Pre 2/Ultima 2 Pre/Power Amplifier Review

August 10, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“If the Ultima flagship is a costly ‘technology demonstrator’ then these Ultima 2 offsprings are a textbook illustration of trickledown in action. Frankly, if you were enthralled by the debut Ultimas and have been saving ever since then cash in your chips now, buy the Ultima 2s instead and spend the excess £40k on new floorstanders and music. Yes, the Ultima Pre 2 and Ultima 2 really are that good.”

McIntosh Laboratory C1100 Preamplifier $14,000 Review

August 9, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“McIntosh Laboratory’s C1100 is a captivating-sounding preamplifier, and a worthy successor to the C500 and C1000. Designed to be the center of any high-quality audio rig, the C1100 offers myriad analog and control connections, MC and MM phono stages, exemplary build quality, luxurious yet intuitive ergonomics, and a rich, inviting sound. Moreover, the C1100 is very competitively priced; at $14,000, it costs $3000 less than the C1000, and to get the same level of functionality from other preamplifiers of this ilk, you’d likely have to pay more. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the C1100; it spoiled me every time I touched it, and captivated me every time I listened to it. Highly recommended.”

CHORD ELECTRONICS HUEI PHONOSTAGE £990 REVIEW

August 2, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“The Huei is not without criticism, but the criticism is functionality-led rather than performance-led. The polychromatic colour-coded controls are a clear indicator of set-up but do require a look-up table to determine precisely what ‘orange’ denotes in terms of loading. Also, even though they can be dimmed, this means the often fit-and-forget phono stage is potentially the most illuminated and colourful part of a whole system. Finally, there’s the power supply. In fact, Huei has a secondary switching power supply internally to create the operating voltages from the external supply, so whether you use linear or switch mode external it doesn’t matter; although changing the power supply will void the warranty! Not many people realise, and it’s not clear anywhere, really, that the main power supply is inside the unit and Chord just uses the external brick to feed ‘raw’ power into the product; the external power supply doesn’t directly power any of the audio electronics. However, the fact remains that audiophiles are allergic to ‘wall-warts’ and I hope this doesn’t put people off what is a stunning phono stage.”

EMM Labs DV2 DAC-Preamplifier $30,000 Review

July 30, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“It took a little while for me to understand and acclimate to how music was now being re-created in my room, but the more I listened and the deeper I dug, the more I liked what I heard. While the soundstage was a bit smaller, bass a smidge less pronounced, and images a tad freer, the DV2 was now better at limning the boundaries of the recording venue, refining the textural nuances of various bass instruments, and presenting images with the finest balance of precision and warmth I’ve heard in my room. “Hold On,” from McLachlan’s Mirrorball (16/44.1 FLAC, Nettwerk), had an uncanny sense of liveliness chock full of inner details and nuances I hadn’t heard before. For example, at the beginning of the track, as McLachlan plucks her acoustic guitar, I could better hear the crackle of applause and, as the audience quieted, one intricately delineated person still clapping on the left, who before had been barely audible, was now obvious. The senses of definition and distance that were communicated were uncanny, and they continued throughout the track, letting me further relish the taps of Ashwin Sood’s brass, their long decays, and the fervor with which McLachlan melodiously imbues every note she sings.”

Wells Audio Commander Level II Preamplifier Review

July 29, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“Recording after recording, music through the Commander Level II was at all times without noise or artifacts. I never felt that this preamp was coloring the signal in any way. All of the desirable tubal tonality was there, but it was never overly lush or burnished, as is heard from other tubed models. There was also tremendous extension and detail at both frequency extremes, with no bottom-end bloat or top-end glare.”

Chord Ultima Pre 2/Ultima 2 Pre/Power Amplifier £18,360 Review

July 28, 2020 § Leave a comment

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If the Ultima flagship is a costly ‘technology demonstrator’ then these Ultima 2 offsprings are a textbook illustration of trickledown in action. Frankly, if you were enthralled by the debut Ultimas and have been saving ever since then cash in your chips now, buy the Ultima 2s instead and spend the excess £40k on new floorstanders and music. Yes, the Ultima Pre 2 and Ultima 2 really are that good.”

Lindemann Musicbook Source & Power 1000 Network DAC/Pre and Power Amp Review

July 20, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“There are plenty of good looking compact systems around, but not so many that I’ve been comfortable listening to over a protracted period of time. Happily the Lindemann’s Musicbook Source/Power 1000 combination succeeds by serving up an enjoyable and engaging musical performance. It might not match up to some conventional – less attractive and more bulky – hi-fi separates, but still proves genuinely satisfying to listen to. Essentially, it is clean, detailed and articulate – with a good deal of drive and power, too.”

MBL Noble Line N11 line preamplifier $14,600 Review

July 2, 2020 § Leave a comment

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I switched to Nordost Titanium Sort Kones under the HDPlex LPS that powers my Roon Nucleus+ music server/streamer, external USB hub, and the final Sonore optical Module—MBL’s N11 preamp seemed an ideal match. Engaging Unity Gain provided the best bass control I’d ever heard from my system, save when I used the far more expensive D’Agostino Momentum HD preamp ($40,000), which in my opinion deserves a Product of the Year award. The N11’s Unity Gain also toned down the noisy top ends of some recordings, making for easier listening. Tonalities were spot on, the range of colors varied and intriguing, and the listening experience a joy.

Valve Amplification Corporation (VAC) Signature Mk IIa SE Line Stage w/Phono $26,000 REVIEW

June 29, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“When I finally got my hands on the VAC Signature Mk IIa SE line stage (w/phono), it triggered a few memories and I immediately began to pull together some interesting amplifiers for this review. This includes one of my most dependable and telling benchmarks, the Pass Labs XA100.5 Class A monoblock amplifier. I always keep a Pass Labs XA.5 or XA.8 amplifier in the stable as a reference point.

I also thought it would be appropriate to match up the VAC with a top flight Class A/B solid state amp. A close friend has been living with the Ayre Acoustics MX-R Twenty monoblock amplifier for over a year and has been extremely happy. I have spent a considerable amount of time in his listening room and it truly is a wonderful amp. He left it with me for an extended stay and for another comparison”

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