Chord Ultima Pre 3/Ultima 6 18,900 Review

September 19, 2022 § Leave a comment

Listening to Massive Attack’s Atlas Air track shows that these Chords are good though not class-leading when it comes to communicating the music’s momentum. The combo sounds surefooted rather than overtly exciting. Instead, our attention is drawn to the effortless way this pairing steps out of the way and lets us focus on the music. Their presentation may be supremely insightful but it doesn’t try to highlight that fact in some kind of showy ‘look at me’ way. We also love the midrange clarity and focus with voices, and the way each sound element is given space to breathe even when the mix becomes complicated

Sony Xperia 10 IV Review

September 19, 2022 § Leave a comment

Sound on the Xperia 10 IV comes in two very different halves. Starting with the loudspeaker, Sony’s mono speaker is thin, compressed and should generally be avoided at all costs if you can help it. SBTRKT and Sampha’s Trials Of The Past lacks practically any bass and features a claustrophobic arrangement. It feels like all aspects of the track are fighting for dominance over the phone’s measly single speaker. While it may suffice for some short TV and movie watching, that may be about all we can recommend for this speaker.

Thankfully, headphone performance is a completely different story. Plug some cans in and you get an impressively clear and detailed vocal performance, snappy timing and a spacious arrangement that makes listening to music on the Xperia very enjoyable. This is good sound by general smartphone standards, let alone smartphones at this sort of price.

Magico A1 $10,000 Review

September 17, 2022 § Leave a comment

As we’d expect from a cabinet of this size, the standmount excels when it comes to reproducing vocals. And not because the midband is anyway emphasised at the expense of the bass and treble. Sure, it can’t quite match the ‘in-you-head’ illusion of demo-quality vocals displayed by the likes of Avantgarde horns, but challenges such as Gregory Porter’s Hey Laura and Richard Burton’s spoken word introduction at the beginning of Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds are deftly handled, revealing a seamless all-of-a-piece integration that is deeply impressive.

Even lower frequencies – so often the Achilles’ heel of even the best standmounts – keep up the good work. Listening to the Volle Dynamik remix of Yello’s Oh Yeah, taken from the 2009 album The Race sees the bass delivered with effortless drive with no sign of artificial bloom or boom. It simply descends very smoothly and then quietly exits so the absence of that missing octave goes by barely noticed. And while a glance at the specs suggests that the Magico isn’t the most sensitive of speakers, the A1 still manages to soak up plenty of power and push out those SPLs as if its very existence depends upon it.

SME Model 60/Series VA Turntable $50,000 Review

September 17, 2022 § Leave a comment

This astonishing, incredible level of detail never once left the Model 60 sounding like a surgical instrument heartlessly dissecting the music. Rather, its level of insight worked to knit the music together as a whole. Detail is definitely not the enemy; I’ve always found that more information equals more musical enjoyment, and the Model 60 showcased this theory exquisitely.

The sense of sumptuous clarity continued into the top end, with vocal performances in particular an absolute joy to behold. On the a cappella version of ‘Too Many Walls’ [12in single; Polydor CATHX 4], Cathy Dennis was a clear and vivid presence, her singing given a scale greater than I have ever heard. Even more striking was the reproduction of the track’s few vocal plosives, although – again – rather than being a distraction this just added to the sense of realism on offer.


September 16, 2022 § Leave a comment

I mentioned it a couple of times already but I have to tell you that I am in love with the design of the M15 once again here in this closing section. The M15 offers one of the most sophisticated designs in the industry and it is an absolute eye candy with its stellar build and material quality.

It is a capable, great-sounding little device that can dish out a serious amount of juice into demanding cans despite its small size. Overall, I am really pleased to see Questyle implementing their CMA technology into a pocketable device and I recommend you to give it a listen if you are in the market for a dongle.

Q Acoustics Concept 50 loudspeaker $2999 Review

September 16, 2022 § Leave a comment

A while back I wrote that $7000/pair was becoming the sweet price spot for affordable tower speakers, offering excellent sound quality and measured performance without much in the way of compromise. The Q Acoustics Concept 50 lowers that sweet spot to $3000/pair. Okay, the fact that it’s made in China will contribute to the lowering of the sweet spot price, but this immaculate-looking, -sounding, and -measuring loudspeaker gets a strong recommendation from me for use in moderate-sized rooms like mine. Just make sure you can place it close to the wall behind it.

Acelec Model One Loudspeaker Review

September 15, 2022 § Leave a comment

Designer Cees Ruijtenberg’s words to represent his speakers, “Model One is possibly the most transparent conventional loudspeaker available today.” reminds me of Robert Duvall’s outlaw character to John Wayne at the final gunfight in True Grit, “I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man!”. That said, the bold talk has a lot of merits. There’s some real magic going on here. Careful design, choice parts and everything well implemented. With the result, you may hear what Ruijtenberg does. The Model Ones certainly are transparent and dynamic bookshelf speakers that can live in many musical settings. And at the introductory price, a steal. Have a listen before the price goes up. Very highly recommended.


September 14, 2022 § Leave a comment

iFi GO Bar has the classic iFi Audio sound in a small footprint. It’s clean sounding with good clarity, resolution and stereo imaging. The unit is a bit dry in the bass and midrange, which is not surprising from a device from iFi Audio. It’s somewhat a bit sterile, light in the bass and mids, and crisp in the treble region.

It does nothing in an aggressive manner though, it’s not too bright, but it’s not muffled or veiled either. It’s a well-balanced and well-controlled device, with excellent background blackness. The sound-stage is reasonably good, with very good imaging and separation.

The bass is a bit light but with very good pace and decay, the midrange is clean with good tonality and clarity, and the treble is crisp with good air and extension. I can also say that the midrange is a bit forward.

D’Agostino M400MxV Power Amplifier $30,000 Review

September 13, 2022 § Leave a comment

Recorded in 1956, Josh White Comes A-Visitin’ [Livingston Master Tape Treasury T-1085] captured the folk-blues legend with a small group in one of those early stereo situations where multi-tracking and too many microphones were yet to infect the industry. The sound wasn’t merely captivating or convincing. It was mesmerising, the experience all the more noteworthy because my fellow listener was an ex-BBC engineer with a golden ear and four decades’ worth of pedigree.

We both agreed: a new level had been reached in realism, authenticity and sheer transparency. Truly dumbstruck at the recreation of the studio space, the harmonic overtones on the acoustic instruments, and the reproduction of White’s voice… I am humbled.

Aurender N200 Network Audio Transport Review

September 13, 2022 § Leave a comment

Just as powerful was Mitsuko Uchida’s recording of Beethoven’s ‘Diabelli Variations’ [Decca 4852731; 192kHz/24-bit], in which the N200 revealed even the slightest touch of finger on key as well as the complexities and intricacies of the writing. Meanwhile, the speed and definition of the sound here – even in the complexity of the Variation 33 fugue, with notes tumbling over each other – was quite breathtaking.

This characteristic was also readily apparent in another fugue, the massive piece concluding Britten’s ‘Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra’, in the Michael Stern/Kansas City Symphony Britten’s Orchestra recording [Reference Recordings RR-120SACD; DSD64] This is one of my go-to test pieces, and remains hugely enjoyable even on repeated listening. Through the Aurender/iFi Audio combination the instruments sounded wonderfully well-shaped, and the drama of the crashing finale is of a quality to have you turning it up and listening again.

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