Cocktail Audio HA500H MQA DAC, pre-amp and HP ampc Review

August 16, 2019 § Leave a comment


Audia Flight Strumento No1 mk2/No4 mk2 Pre & power amplifier Review

August 10, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“That’s much in evidence with the Living Stereo SACD of Dvořák’s ‘New World’ Symphony [BMG Classics 82876-66376-2], with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner. This recording dates back to 1957, and is hardly the most subtle, with seemingly enormous musical forces and a real sense of bombast about it. Add to that an SACD mastered very ‘hot’ – in other words damn loud – and you have a test disc that majors on attack rather than subtlety. The Strumento No1/No4 amplifiers deliver this set in all its full-blooded pomp, and while the sound is necessarily vintage, there’s no denying it’s loud, proud and intriguingly odd.

By contrast a much more recent recording, of Mozart’s Serenade in B flat, K361, seems to hit the Italian amplifiers’ sweet spot. This Gran Partita set, by the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble conducted by Trevor Pinnock [Linn CKD 516; 192kHz/24-bit], sounds gorgeously rich and fluid, while instrumental tones are glorious. Or as someone once described this recording to me, ‘It’s a lovely noise’.


D’Agostino Momentum Phono $28,000 Review

July 31, 2019 § Leave a comment


“Next up was Beethoven: Violin Sonata from Wilson Audiophile recordings. It was Father’s Day, and I was enjoying a moment in my listening room. I had a conversation with Daryl Wilson the day prior and I was remembering his late father and thought the best way to honor David Wilson was to listen to one of his best recordings. The truth is that I hadn’t listen to this LP since a few days after RMAF 2013 when David and I had spoken, and he was so kind to sign the cover. If you love chamber music, I encourage you to dust off this LP. I could feel the presence of the piano and violin’s wood in my room as I closed my eyes. The background was pitch black and tonality of the instruments was potentially the best I had heard in my room. It brought out the best of my Wilson Audio Alexia Series-2.”

Parasound Zphono XRM Phono Preamplifier Review

July 29, 2019 § Leave a comment

Valve Amplification Company Master Preamplifier $28,000 Review

July 26, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“After a shower, I decided that the Master excelled at producing air and spaciousness around large and usually solid instrumental images (save with orchestral music, which is notoriously difficult if not impossible to reproduce), superbly delineating different timbres and defining aural images, and reproducing rich textures, all on deep, broad soundstages, with great punch and timing. It was just a pleasure to listen to, making music that was immersive and sensuous that could reach out from the soundstage and just grab you. Though it was easy to pick out all the items on the usual audiophile checklist, mostly I just leaned back and reveled in the gorgeous worlds of its precisely animated soundfield.”

Valve Amplification Company Master Preamplifier

July 20, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“To compare the sounds of the Signature Mk.IIa SE and Master, I listened to the Roy Hargrove Quintet’s Earfood again and with particular care to “I’m Not So Sure,” the track that had been so gorgeous through the Master. Overall, it sounded similar in terms of tones, soundstage depth and breadth, and air around instruments. The timbres of the trumpet and alto sax were also similar in character and sensuousness. But I could tell that the impacts of drumstrokes and bass plucks were softer, not as crisp or explosive. Hargrove’s trumpet was certainly as clear as through the Master, but not as dimensional in terms of its metallic sheen or blattiness. Finally, although Justin Robinson’s alto sax still sounded fluid and expressive, it wasn’t as piercing in the highs or dynamic peaks. There was a marked difference in extension, resolution, snap, and punch.

Listening again to Florilegium’s recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.3 confirmed all of this. Though string tone was fine and the separation of sections impressive, microdetails were not quite as refined. I couldn’t pick out single instruments as easily — something I’d very much enjoyed doing with the Master. Pace, rhythm, and timing were good with the Signature Mk.IIa SE — the attacks of instruments were precisely together in this performance’s myriad tight entrances — but I couldn’t “see” as deeply into and among the aural images of the violins and viola da gamba. Yet with the Signature Mk.IIa SE, the strings were expressive and open, tutti energetic and thrilling, and harmonies bountiful.

PrimaLuna EVO 400 preamplifier Review

July 15, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“We all know our father’s jazz records were about the sounds of acoustic bass, saxophone, and piano. In response to all that unamplified acousticness, Ventures’ records—especially those on the Dolton label—were all about the new, powerful, driving sound of electric guitars. (The Ventures, along with Chet Atkins and Link Wray, played a significant role in making electric guitars the most important instruments in 1960s popular music.) Therefore, any playback of their recordings that doesn’t convey the expressive reality of those guitars and their associated tubed amplifiers is a fail. The all-tube EVO 400 preamp and the ProLogue Premium amplifier triumphed: They brought the Ventures’ incomparable guitar sound to ravishing new life. The PrimaLuna tubes let the Ventures’ reverb-soaked essence fill my room; they made me feel like a “ho-dad” (a greaser/hot-rodder) and let me go “ten-over” until I wiped out.

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