Simaudio MOON 740P/860A v2 Pre/Power Amplifier Review

May 25, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“There’s excellent control and grip, even with relaxed-sounding speakers such as the Sonus faber Olympica Nova V [reviewed next month] and while the MOON amps can’t quite overcome the strong sonic signature of these big Italian speakers, they do make a fine fist of trying to get them moving, injecting a good dose of rhythmic pep. Partnered with a truly insightful monitor like the resident B&W 800 D3s [HFN Oct ’16] and, given the size and output specifications of the 860A v2, it delivers a big-boned, muscular sound, playing loud without effort and delivering the dynamics of music in a highly convincing fashion.

320sim.remThe bass is perhaps a little dry at times, but what it lacks in warmth it more than makes up for in its ability to slam hard. Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic in his ‘Symphonic Dances from West Side Story’ [from Bernstein conducts Bernstein; Sony Classics SRGR 755; DSD64] is treated to subtlety in the more lyrical parts, but real fire and speed in the ‘Rumble’ section, which sounds thrillingly molto allegro.

The sound here is highly detailed”

Gryphon Audio Designs Zena Preamplifier $17,500 Reviews

May 20, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“Gryphon Audio Designs, that’s who, and even in this crowded market, their comeback to North America is welcome. If you want an impeccably designed and built preamplifier with exquisite sound quality, and an aesthetic that blends the badass attitude of a 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda (in black, of course) with the sleek lines of an alien spacecraft, the Gryphon Zena is your preamp. Let’s just hope it comes in peace.”

Nagra Classic Preamplifier $17,500 Review

May 19, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“Listening to the opening track on St. Vincent’s Love This Giant, the big bass drum is more robust, more locked down with the Classic. Rolling through a long playlist of bass-heavy tracks, it’s easy to hear that there is more texture, life, and definition, along with a little more speed to the bass line. Nagra has done a lot to update the power supply in the Classic, so this makes perfect sense.

Switching to vocal tracks and music showing off the other end of the frequency scale, the same observations are made. Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Elish both come further out of the speakers, feeling more convincing and natural. Cymbals have more sheen, and the soundfield created by the Classic is larger in all dimensions. The Jazz feels a little small when you go back to it, but still very listenable. However, those asking the familiar “should I upgrade to the new box” question, I’d say that if it doesn’t cause any undue financial strain, it’s definitely a worthwhile upgrade. Sell your Jazz to a friend that isn’t versed in the way of Nagra yet!”

PS Audio Stellar Phono Preamplifier Review

May 8, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“The Stellar needed little time to break in, and its core sonic performance didn’t change significantly over time. Once I was confident that the Stellar was operating at its peak, I immediately noticed an overall sound that was very quiet and smooth. The Mactone amps, for example, have an exceptionally live character that might be a tad overstated with the wrong ancillaries, but whenever the PS Audio Stellar was in the system, those razor-sharp transients were placed in a much larger context within the soundstage. That doesn’t mean that the Stellar smoothed out the vivacious sound of the Mactones, but rather it supplied a comfy place for these Japanese tube amplifiers to sit and converse with the listener in a meaningful way.

Like the XP17, the PS Audio Stellar was so quiet that it was difficult to pick out its character in the context of the system. It’s been a long time since I’ve used a phono preamplifier with noise issues so that’s not that remarkable on its own, but I do notice when a product is quieter than usual, quitter than I would consider the norm. Over the last few months the reference system has gone through a transformation, thanks to so many wonderful products that have come in for review, that I’m now focused on the concept of supreme quiet. For years I never really identified with reviewers who talk constantly about velvety black silences from which the music emerges, probably because I didn’t have a lot of that in my own system. Now I can listen to products and appreciate how they preserve that preternaturally low noise floor. The Stellar certainly preserved that sense of tranquility, especially with the Palmer 2.5/Audio Origami combo—a combo that I can best describe as both majestic and musical.”

Audio Analogue Bellini/ Donizetti Anniversary Pre/Power Amplifier Review

April 23, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“Where the Audio Analogue duo definitely came out on top was with its handling of recordings that varied in their quality. The Corrs’ ‘Only When I Sleep’ from their 1997 album Talk On Corners [Atlantic Recordings 7567-83051-2] is something of a sonic mess, sounding steely at best and clearly mixed to make it radio-friendly. Yet never have I heard it sound better than when played via the Bellini and Donizetti Anniversary pre/power. The amps simply cut through the nastiness, managing to impart a sense of order to the proceedings and even bring a hint of purity to the ragged top end.

They repeated this trick again and again, with all sorts of sonic disasters. So if you’re seeking a pre/power pairing that is not only kind to less-than-well-produced recordings but also able to serve them up with sweetness and not a little polish, then look no further.”

Parasound Halo P 6 Preamplifier & DAC Review

April 9, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“For digital inputs, the P 6 features a pair of SPDIF optical inputs, coaxial SPDIF input, as well as a USB input. It should be noted that if you choose to use any of the SPDIF input options, you’ll be limited to PCM audio only, up to 192kHz/24-bit. Only the USB input allows you to take advantage of 384kHz/32-bit PCM and DSD up to quad rate.

With that said, for most of my listening, I fed the P 6 digital audio from my desktop computer to one of its optical inputs. This is my preferred connection when using a computer as a source due to Toslink’s inherent galvanic isolation. I do realize the relative limitations of using this input option, though, so to test DSD functionality, I did connect via USB for a short period of time.”


April 6, 2020 § Leave a comment

“McIntosh has always made great preamps, and their latest solid-state flagship not only carries on the tradition but does so with a full eight-band analog equalizer! One might fear that the full feature set provided with the C53 would interfere with the preamplifier’s tonality or transparency. Nope – This preamp runs with the best in the business in both categories. If you want McIntosh’s flagship stereo preamplifier, the C53 is for you!

The McIntosh C53 Stereo Preamplifier brings an exceptional level of control to a prospective owner without sacrificing sound quality. This is a difficult achievement because more active circuitry increases the risk of damage to the sound’s delicacy, flat frequency response, and imaging. This is why the majority of audiophile preamplifiers cling to the straight-wire-with-gain design philosophy. But McIntosh, ever the rebel, still offers this control center design that competes at the very top level. With but minor quibbles, this is one of the very best preamplifiers you can buy.”

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