October 7, 2020 § Leave a comment
“The dCS Bartok is probably the best sounding integrated DAC and headphone amplifier I have reviewed to date in the 10 years we have been operating this website. That is some statement but I will not future proof it because, well, the Bartok is modular, it is firmware upgradeable, and has plenty of legs in it to go on for a few years more and still stay relevant.
The Ring DAC may well be the star of the show but the Class A amp is no slouch either. Right now, the Bartok delivers a rich and powerful sounding component with a smooth delivery and tons of dynamic range with just about every headphone I tested it with.
Where other systems refine and distill to give you that perfect sound, the Bartok opts to give the rawest most realistic sound possible. Throw in all the mod cons of networked streaming, save for BT and built-in WiFi, and a very useable free app, and it is perfectly poised to cope with the digital streaming era.
Yes, the Bartok is huge, weighty, and oh so very expensive. However, it is likely all you could ever need for a high-end headphone setup and honestly, it could well be all downhill from here unless there is a Bartok 2 in the pipeline. Please do not do that dCS, stick to the firmware upgrades and people will appreciate this beautiful example of engineering a lot more in the long run. ”
April 1, 2020 § Leave a comment
“Another test favourite, Lake Street Dive’s stripped-back take on ‘I Want You Back’, from Fun Machine [Signature Sounds SIG2032], is also well within the speakers’ comfort zone, and they treat it to deep, tight bass and crisp percussion, combining with the lone trumpet to underpin Rachael Price’s vocals perfectly.
So when these speakers are good, they’re very good, as a listen to the opening ‘Funeral For A Friend’/’Love Lies Bleeding’ sequence from Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road [Mercury/Rocket 981 320-5] makes clear with its combination of atmosphere and serious low-end grunt. However, to hear them at their best, you have to choose your recordings very carefully indeed.”
January 27, 2020 § Leave a comment
“Auditioning the 101 X’s was a virtual replay of their original sojourn in my room. Then as now I can’t stop listening to the things. Then as now visitors—friends, colleagues, and manufacturers—think they are the best transducers they’ve ever heard (as do I), and eachof them has had the same slack-jawed initial reaction to hearing them, expressed in almost exactly the same words: “Where are the speakers?”
Despite any shortcomings (and I will come to these), the MBL 101 X’s (properly situated and adjusted) sound less like loudspeakers than any other system I’ve heard. As I wrote the first time around, “all of the various ways in which conventional transducers betray that their sound is being projected in narrower or broader dispersion patterns by individual drivers in resonant enclosures simply aren’t present.” What you hear, instead, as I’ve already repeatedly noted, is a soundfield that seems to have been magically imported in toto from some other place—from a concert hall or a studio—and plopped down in your listening room with all three of its dimensions intact. To quote again from my first review, “where other transducers sound the way a film looks—like a two-dimensional medium imitating a three-dimensional reality—the 101 X-tremes sound the way a theatrical play looks—no ersatz third dimension, but actual people on an actual stage right there in front of you.
November 25, 2019 § Leave a comment
“As music lovers and audiophiles, we live in an astonishingly exciting time. Today we are able to select from so many truly affordable speakers, electronics, and source products, all capable of producing more accurate and engaging sound than was possible from even the very best and most costly products in the early 1970s—the period that marks the start of what has become the high-end audio world we know today, as well as the start of my own audiophile quest. In addition to the number and excellence of affordable products, there have never before been so many luxury-class products capable of expanding the boundaries of what can be accomplished in the reconstruction of a live performance.
The trailblazing work that VSA is doing under the direction of its current chief designer, Leif Swanson, and CEO Damon Von Schweikert, building upon the groundbreaking work of the company founder, Albert Von Schweikert, epitomizes what can be done to recreate an authentic musical experience in the home. A product like the Ultra 9 elevates listening to music to the level of an enormously enjoyable event. At every turn, from its remarkably inert and voiceless enclosure, to its fabulously coherent drivers, to its distinct, serene, and transparent dividing network, to its extraordinary ambience, and speaker array with its unparalleled room-integration capabilities, we see how the Ultra 9 can deliver this exceptional musical expressiveness, with such heightened transparency and vanishingly low self-generated noise.”
November 15, 2019 § Leave a comment
“If the Phonitor has a noticeable sound, it is in a more conceptual sense. The perception of a low noise background is very good, and there is an exceptional degree of smoothness to the sound. The smoothness is not the result of dulled transients, but rather a sense of space and depth to individual sounds that rather than emphasizing instrumental separation, seems to draw my attention to the musical presentation as a whole. Despite possessing the resolution capability to act as an audio microscope, I never lost the forest for the trees in any music when listening to the Phonitor amp. This exceptional smoothness and sense of space meant it also worked with somewhat forward or brighter headphones that typically don’t get along well with solid state. I could experience sensitive dynamics with the SPL that previously had only ever really spoken to me when run on tube or hybrid gear “