BorderPatrol P21 EXD power amplifier $14,450 – Review

June 22, 2018 § Leave a comment

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“As a for-hire Stereophile scribe, my job is to communicate my impressions of the sound of the audio component I’m assigned to review, warts and all. If I can’t describe an amplifier’s sound in a clear, concise, convincing, and hopefully somewhat entertaining manner, I’m not worth what Stereophile pays me. I like to think that, most of the time, I get it right—my 22 years of hi-fi reviewing put me in good stead: in the black, not the red. But for all my juggling of sources and speakers, spinning numerous LPs, and quizzing Gary Dews until he was ready to bust, any characteristic sound that the BorderPatrol P21 EXD may have had evaded my ears, at least at first. Its standout trait seemed to be its unerring transparency. But is any audio component truly transparent, imposing on the music no personality of its own and thus influencing the listener’s perception of that music not at all? Balderdash, I say. Nonetheless, I heard what I heard—or didn’t hear


Wilson Audio Alexia Series 2 loudspeaker $57,900 Review

June 21, 2018 § Leave a comment

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“Yes, I’m an engineer, but I don’t mistake the road for the destination. Designers can and do take many roads, but their ultimate destination is the same: to allow listeners to be transported by their music to that place where worldly cares cease to exist. And that the Alexia Series 2 did to perfection—without smoothing over the recordings’ imperfections, without bowdlerizing the meanings of the music. I can’t pretend that the life of a magazine editor is not stressful—I knew it was going into it. But evening after evening, after taking the subway home from the office, I cracked open a beer—Dale’s Pale Ale, or New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale, or Firestone-Walker Union Jack IPA, or Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, or even Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA from Flying Dog Brewery (footnote 1)—settled back in my listening chair, fired up my iPad, set the Roon app to its random-play Radio function, and let the Wilson Alexia Series 2s take me far, far away. That is what great speakers do.”

Audio Research REF 75SE $10,000 REVIEW

June 20, 2018 § Leave a comment

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“One of the toughest parts of the musical spectrum for tube power amplifiers to reproduce is the lowest register. More often than not, tube amplifiers don’t have that last bit of grip that the best solid-state amplifiers do, yet some solid-state designs can come across over damped at times. Hair-splitting for sure, yet the 75SE produces a hefty amount of bass extension, combined with control and definition. Listening to Jaco Pastorius tear up and down the fretboard on his self-titled album, the 75SE gives an exciting and engaging performance, full of low bass grunt, combined with the harmonics of Pastorius’ complicated technique.”

Sound Lab Ultimate 545 electrostatic loudspeakers $29,995 Review

June 19, 2018 § Leave a comment

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“I had hoped for the dawn of a technology that would lead to the development of midget speakers capable of large scale orchestral reproduction without sacrificing the ability to reenact the gentleness and lightness in Vladimir Horowitz’ playful Moscow live concert recording. But if the sonically and visually tantalizing Sound Lab curved panels are what we have to contend with, I don’t see a problem. For the mere fact that the Sound Lab Ultimate 545 was able to produce tonality of such freshness and clarity that it had cemented its position as the ultimate transducer; never-minding the occasional electrostatic crackling of the panel, a happenstance resulting from a slightly greedy increase of the panel bias, which only added to an already hopelessly fun ownership experience.”

Magico M3 Loudspeaker $75,000 Review

June 17, 2018 § Leave a comment

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“Obviously the M3 gets my highest recommendation. It is as good a dynamic loudspeaker as you can buy. Do remember, though, that to elicit the very best from one of the most accurate and realistic transducers on the market you’ll need electronics that are just as high in resolution and as low in distortion/coloration as the M3s. In my experience that means something solid-state from the Swiss contingent (i.e., Soulution or CH Precision) or from the best American marques (Constellation, D’Agostino, etc.). I haven’t tried the M3s with tubes, but Magicos typically don’t fare as well with glass bottles as they do with silicon semiconductors (Convergent Audio Technology being the exception). All of this means that M3s aren’t just a loudspeaker purchase; they are a system purchase (including cabling, BTW). In other words, they are for the wealthy.”

Sony WH-1000XM2 Headphones Review

June 17, 2018 § Leave a comment

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“Right now, the wireless headphone market is a win-win-win scenario for the customer looking for a noise cancelling full-sized cans. Between the Sennheiser, PSB, and Sony you really can’t go wrong. You might be able to audition all three, as well as the Bose QC 35 II, at your local big box electronics store, and if you can, I suggest you do just that. These are all great options that likely will come down to personal preference. ”

Focal Clear Headphone Review

June 16, 2018 § Leave a comment

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“While it would have been ideal to have a pair of Utopias and a pair of Elears lying around for A/B comparisons with the new Clear, I had to rely on my listening notes. And since those notes are more than a couple of months old, I will admit from the outset that if you are looking for a mano a mano between the Clear and Utopia, I can’t help you. They have very similar sonic presentations, but whether the Utopia’s additional cost (due primarily to parts’ costs according to the manufacturer) is “worth it” is a discussion for another place and time.”

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