December 2014 - Devialet Phantom - Calling it a boom box would be a bit coarse but in a high-end luxury sense, the Phantom is a compact Devialet with two opposing convex mid/woofers and a front-firing tweeter driven by the company's hybrid class A/class D amplification technology. Two models are announced, the €1'690 standard Phantom with 750 watts of onboard power; and the €1'990 Silver Phantom with 3KW of go juice for higher SPL. Whilst the marketing lingo presently surrounding the Phantom is admittedly colourful, if anyone aside from Bang & Olufsen can design a hi-tech 'boom box', it's Devialet, never mind all their talk of bass implosion speakers, cybernetic intelligence and the rest of it.

December 2014 - Schiit storm - "2 years after launching the original Magni and Modi, we’re changing the game again. Announcing Magni 2 and Modi and their Uber partners! In total, four products encompass the second-gen Magni/Modi line:  
Magni 2. All-new discrete headphone amp with 1.2W RMS per channel and switchable high/low gain, together with a refined constant-feedback gain stage. The update of what's arguably the most popular headphone amp, ever. $99. 
Magni 2 Uber. All-new discrete headphone amp with 1.5W RMS per channel, switchable high/low gain, preamp outputs, and even more sophisticated constant-feedback gain stage. Also includes new 24VA wall transformer (3x larger than Magni) and aluminium top chassis and knob. $149.
Modi 2All-new USB asynchronous DAC with switchable USB Class 1 and Class 2 modes. USB Class 1 remains driverless for all supported computers, USB Class 2 adds 24/192 capability but requires drivers for Windows. The update of one of the most popular USB DACs ever. $99.
Modi 2 Uber. All-new USB, optical, and coaxial three-input DAC running full USB Class 2 for 24/192 capability through all inputs. Essentially a mini Bifrost. AC linear power supply with included 8VA wall transformer. Aluminium push button and top chassis. $149

December 2014 - More physikal germans - German Physiks' Unlimited MkII Ultimate is "a luxury edition of our award-winning Unlimited MkII.  It uses the same wide-bandwidth DDD driver combined with an 8-inch downfiring woofer but the cabinet is finished in high-quality deep gloss polyester. Colours available are yellow, white, red and black. In Germany this loudspeaker is priced at €12'500/pair. The DDD driver is proprietary to German Physiks. It's a wide-bandwidth omni. In the Unlimited Mk II it covers from 200Hz to 24kH. This eliminates a crossover in the midrange for a major improvement in clarity. The DDD has a very low moving mass so the transient response is excellent. In addition it is phase linear across its operating range, giving very high timbral accuracy. Because the DDD is omnidirectional, it produces well-focused stereo images that can be enjoyed from a wide range of positions in the listening room just like in a concert. This contrasts with the small sweet spot that most conventional loudspeaker designs produce."

December 2014 - Supertronic - Graham Tricker's new Tron Atlantic is a £6'750 300B stereo amp with C-core output transformers and C-core chokes, a D3a driver stage and ElectroHarmonix output glass plus 5AR4 tube rectification. The tube bases are Teflon, the input RCAs by CMC and the signal path is said to be exceptionally short. Delivered in a special flight case, the Atlantic is available in silver/black as shown, gold/black or gold/red. Output power is 9wpc.

December 2014 - More virtuous conductor - Burson's Conductor Virtuoso adds the three earlier missing pieces to its preamp puzzle: more finely stepped volume, a numerical display and remote control. Otherwise it's still a 4wpc into 16-ohms drive-anything headphone amp, 24/192 ESS Sabre or BurrBrown DAC with USB, coax and Toslink inputs and a compact preamp with 1 x RCA line input and fixed DAC and variable pre outputs. The new remote wand is machined from solid aluminium stock and the display is a two-digit numerical sort with pin-prick blue LEDs like first seen on NuForce desktop gear. The volume control now spans 100 discrete steps and the DAC modules are user-replaceable to make choosing between the two boards a fuss-free option. Pricing for the Conductor Virtuoso is $1'995/€1'850 with the Sabre 9018 board and $1'495/€1'451 with the PCM1793 board. The enclosure remains Burson's trademark 6mm solid aluminium vault.

December 2014 - Thiel Audio TT1 - Bearing obviously no resemblance whatsoever to the classic Thiel style, this 2015 model for $5'798/pr endeavours to take the brand's renewal under its new ownership to the next level. As part of the new 3rd Avenue Collection, the press release describes the TT1 as "a 4-driver array with multi-order crossover network in a heavily braced vented MDF enclosure. The sculpted elliptical side panels are created with proprietary tooling to achieve the most refined visual presentation. The rigid baffle construction and midrange mounting architecture have been engineered with a focus on back-wave optimization, resulting in unusually flat response and overall clarity. Another critical aspect of the TT1 is the sophisticated manufacturing process, designed to ensure that each production loudspeaker meets the exacting performance specifications of the reference design."

December 2014 - Join the CIA? - US Crayon Audio importer Jeff Crane of StereoDesk let slip that they're working on a 33wpc integrated amplifier which, without phono, will sell for ~$3'300 and with phono for about $800 more. Presumably that makes CIA into Crayon integrated amplifier? No matter, it'll be a new low for the brand whose existing models are rather pricier. I reckon we'll find out for sure sooner than later...

December 2014 - Stenheim news - Jean-Pascal Panchard reports the opening of a new Stenheim showroom in Vétroz of Switzerland's Valais region "where we have built a beautiful listening room and technical lab. We will use it for our development and for demonstrations to our dealers and distributors. In parallel we will open it to the audiophile public and the official launch will be at the end of this week." Demonstrator electronics include CH Precision, Le Son, Nagra and Neukomm.

December 2014 - More enigma - The California company ENIGMAcoustics is working on a more efficient electrostatic super tweeter to expand the benefits of their current Sopranino to high-efficiency widebander and horn speakers. This concept rendering shows one possible outcome...
December 2014 - Master Quality Authenticated - MQA is a new codec from Meridian's Bob Stuart said to guarantee that the master file approved by the recording engineer and artist arrives that way at your ears. The associated 'white paper' is scarce on details but says this: "Every last subtlety of the master recording is captured using a new sampling method that can resolve the finest time divisions we can hear and deliver them in your player. We call the process 'Encapsulation': it is informed by the latest neuroscience and psychoacoustic research that shows how we identify and locate sounds, and that timing details of a few microseconds are important. This new technique combines this extreme level of time accuracy with authentic dynamic range. MQA also uses innovative lossless processing to build a file or stream which also delivers sophisticated metadata: details of the recording, instructions for the decoder and D/A converters plus how to create an authenticated exact reconstruction of the original analogue signal. MQA can be delivered inside any lossless container, e.g. as ALAC, FLAC or WAV. Unlike the huge files from super-high-sample-rate systems, the MQA file is extremely efficiently encoded and yet it contains and protects all the sound of the original. MQA is decoded by a simple decoder which can be an app, a software player or hardware. It reconstructs the exact sound approved in the studio along with an indicator to authenticate that what you are hearing is a true rendition of the original master recording. It works for all masters between 44.1 and 768kHz. MQA has another unique feature: the decoder gives the highest possible sound quality but you may not yet have a decoder everywhere you listen. In the meantime the MQA file plays on normal equipment but instead of ‘studio’ you get ‘CD’ quality. MQA may be used for downloads or streaming."

December 2014 - Explorer 2 - Meridian also bow the $299 successor to their debut portable DAC, with the new model featuring "significantly more powerful DSP to decode and render the MQA format. The elegant all-metal enclosure houses a 6-layer circuit board and the compact 50g unit upsamples all input signal to 176.4/192kHz and includes Meridian’s proprietary apodizing filter."



December 2014 - Schiit's Fulla - "Our new $79 combo DAC/amp plugs into virtually any computer, delivers 24/96 high definition audio, 10 x the output power of your typical laptop headphone socket and sports a real analog volume knob. No fiddling with software, no fumbling at push buttons and no drivers, period. Just plug into any PC or Mac, most Linux machines, some Chromebooks, the Sony PS4, and, with external power cables, iPhones and Android phones. And did we say this was made in the USA from aluminum and steel?" Fulla uses many of the same parts as other Schiit products, from the CM6631A asynchronous USB input receiver to the AK4396 digital to analog converter combined with high-quality thin-film resistors and precision Analog Devices ADA4610 and AD8397 output devices."

December 2014 - Raidho amplifier - The Aavik Acoustics U-300 integrated amplifier [€24'000] from the Raidho team combines a 24/192 DAC with 2 each Toslink, coax and USB inputs with adjustable phono and three line-level inputs; 3/6/12dB adjustable gain assignable to each line input; and class D Pascal power modules for 300/600wpc into 8/4 ohms said to be unconditionally stable into lower impedances.


December 2014 - Japanese impedance/back-EMF corrector/absorber - In the best tradition of the black box albeit finished in Spruce wood, SPEC Corp.'s revised RSP-901EX has been improved with new Green Cactus paper-in-oil capacitors and other enhancements to offer superior performance to the predecessor. The purpose of this device is to, as shown, connect in parallel to the speaker binding posts to linearize the impedance seen by the amplifier whilst also shielding the amp from the back electromotive force generated by the speaker's drivers. Particularly amplifiers with global feedback tend to incur phase errors from back EMF. The RSP-901EX is said to be an effective antidote.

December 2014 - FakeWatt M2 - If you come across amplifiers on eBay advertised as M2-X from Thailand and looking virtually identical to Nelson Pass' FirstWatt M2, from the circuit to the chassis, that's because they are clones. Asking Mr. Pass about whether these were authorized (i.e. involved proper licensing fees to him), "it’s a guy who was banned from Several years ago he apparently had some clone chassis made and has been trying to flog them since. I am under the impression that he has not been successful at it. Previously he had been shut down on eBay for trademark infringement and I note that the pc boards read 'uncopyrighted' but that is not the case. It's always somebody..."

November 2014 - Italian hybrid - Care Orchestra's Celestial Voice integrated amplifier combines 2 x 12BH7 with two quads of SC5200 and SA1943 transistors each to generate 90/140wpc into 8/4 ohms of class AB power. Bandwidth is 8Hz - 125kHz ±1.5dB, NFB is 10dB. Inputs are 2 pairs each of RCA and XLR. Weight is 20kg. Finish is lacquered wood with leather.



November 2014 - Liquid wood headphones - As Finnish active monitor experts Genelec have, AudioQuest are embracing the liquid wood composite - except not for loudspeakers but headphones. The forthcoming Night Hawk is heralded as an engineering-intensive effort. An around-the-ear semi-open design with purpose-designed cable, there's a biocellulose diaphragm to transcend typical Mylar equivalents; a split-gap motor; balanced equitangential airflow; a diamond-pattern grille that acts as an acoustic diffusor and must be 3D printed; and an elastomeric coating on the internally braced cups' inner surfaces. Expect a launch in 2015.

November 2014 - Get roasted - The Are Audio Dark Roasts are described as "when precision craftsmanship, a keen understanding of acoustics and beautiful clean design all met over a cup of warm wonderful coffee, the Dark Roast monitors were born. They are the big brother of the Light Roasts. They are a similarly designed cabinet built around a larger six-inch woofer, which gives greater efficiency and bass extension. Paired with a silk dome tweeter and point-to-point first order network, these are a choice speaker for anyone from recording professionals and hi-fi enthusiasts to casual listeners. You can have them customized in any colour and with any hardwood you want."

November 2014 - Artesania go Krion - As fellow Spaniards Vibex have for the casings of their AC/DC filters, equipment rack experts Artesania Audio add a Krion option to their existing bonded-glass shelves for turntables and amp racks. Krion is a composite material of the Porcelanosa Group which consists of 2/3rd aluminium trihydride and high-resistance resins. Krion is said to have excellent vibration attenuation qualities relevant to high-end audio applications.

In the Exoteryic rack for example, an owner could replace the existing triple-bonded glass support for the turntable with the slab of Krion shown; use thinner smaller variants for the individual component supports inside the rack; and do the same for the turntable support's amp versions sitting on the floor.

November 2014 - Prague beckons in the spring - Daniel Březina wants to drum up exhibitor support for the rebranded show formerly known as High End Praha which in 2015 will take place on the weekend of March 27th and is expected to integrate smart-home and video products for appeal beyond just traditional hifi.

November 2014 - Pimp your AC - The new IsoTek EVO3 Mosaic Genesis [ £5'995] "is a five-way mains conditioning unit in a half-width format, featuring three outlets for front-end source components and preamplifiers and two for high-current amplifiers, subwoofers and the like. The front-end is driven by a mains regenerator to build a completely new mains waveform amplified by a class AB amplifier fed to an output transformer with copper foil between primary and secondary to prevent noise or distortion. The result is continuous output of 150W (300W peak) of pristine regenerated power. The EVO3 Mosaic Genesis also controls the mains voltage at 230V±2%. The two high-current outlets feature IsoTek’s Direct-Coupled© technology which provides optimal high-current low impedance filtering whilst maintaining the transient and dynamic performance of power amplifiers, active loudspeakers and subwoofers. This high-current network provides a 75dB reduction in RFI while delivering 3'680W of continuous power.

November 2014 - Stylish DAC/pre - The COS Engineering D1 from Taiwan combines a 16V-max preamp with 256 x 0.25dB precision resistor/relay analog volume and a 24/192 DAC with proprietary linear-phase FIR filter. All digital signal is upsampled to 176.4/192kHz with a 4096/32-bit processor, then buffered and reclocked with a <1ps precision clock. The fully balanced circuitry gets dual power supplies and mono DACs. One analog input on RCA/XLR complements RCA/XLR analog outputs whilst digital inputs are 2 x coax, 2 x Toslink and 1 x selectable USB 1.0/2.0.

November 2014 - Paralyzed to perfection - Germany's Paralyse Audio combat mechanical resonances with a thru-engineered equipment support system. The L-shaped frame is 2cm cold-rolled steel subsequently heat-treated to remove molecular tensions. Four floor dampers adjustable up to 10cm allow for leveling and terminate in semi-spherical heads and ball races. Height-adjustable suspended shelf rails use self-centring vibration-coupler needles for the inverted semi-spherical races at the bottom of the 4cm bamboo-composite shelves. Plastic dampers insert between the shelves and rails. The shelves contain additional metallic oscillation dampers. With this system, the Germans mean to compete against similarly engineered racks from Finite Elemente, Grand Prix Audio, HRS, Silent Running & Co.

November 2014 - Classy D - From St. Petersburg/Florida comes the Essence DPA-440 [$1'299] "using the latest Class D topology (not Hypex or ICEpower but our own) to provide a highly efficient and nearly ideal amplifier with distortion below measurement, ultra-high damping factor and unconditional stability with any speaker. The DPA-440 is capable of up to 400 watts of dynamic power per channel @ 2 ohms. It features both XLR and RCA outputs, deluxe WBT Insulated 5-way binding posts, user adjustable gain controls and is silent in operation because there's no fan. Available in black or silver, the DPA-440 is made in the US."

November 2014 - Goat hair - Originally developed by SFC of Japan, the patented SK-III electrostatic brush now branded Furutech [£110] "is a new and improved version of the earlier SK-II. By using the SK-III to lightly brush the surface of LPs, CDs or DVDs in a circular motion, the sound and/or picture quality can be improved due to the effective removal of both tiny dust particles and electrostatic charge. The SK-III uses a combination of natural goat hair surrounded by patented static discharge fibres made from specially structured and treated acrylic. The SK-III also features a new rhodium-coated metal grounding sleeve for enhanced conductivity as well as 10% more super-fine static discharge fibres compared to its predecessor."

November 2014 - Akiko - The Dutch firm bows their €149/1.5m HQ power cord. "This cable is composed of four copper conductors insulated with polyethylene (XLPE). Polyethylene has excellent isolation qualities, much better than the often used PVC. The HQ (High Quality) cable is double shielded with aluminium foil and a copper braid. We also use a double symmetric grounding against EMI/RFI radiation. It comes with three different Akiko Audio connectors: copper, gold or rhodium."

November 2014 - AURALiC tie Tidal knot - The hardware firm from Beijing and the subscription content provider from Norway announce a collaboration whereby the former's Aries streamer bridge shown integrates the latter's full-resolution streaming service without user need for a computer (though a Wifi tablet remote and app remain necessary for navigation - iPad screen shot shown). Tidal's 25'000'000+ tracks can now be tapped and managed from the Aries in either 16/55 FLAC or ALAC formats.



November 2014 - ALO phono - The companion $1'895 phono stage to ALO Audio's massive Studio Six tube headphone amplifier is a 3-stage class A triode affair with 2 x 12AX7 and 1 x 6SN7 tubes, passive RIAA equalization, zero feedback, independent channel multi-stage power supply filtering, a 3-position input load switch and support for MM and high-output MC cartridges between 1-10mV of output.

November 2014 - Cables - Audio4soul announce worldwide distribution of their OCC IT! Xtreme v.2 speaker cables. "Employing the finest single crystal pure OCC copper made by the famous Ohno casting method, these OCC cables digs deeper into the music truth and are completely hand-made with real world pricing.

November 2014 - Recital - Alexandre Chamagne announces the Recital Icone model with two 16cm long-throw Magnesium drivers and a 29mm tweeter crossed in at 1'160Hz. Sensitivity is 91dB, nominal impedance 6 ohms, claimed bandwidth 35Hz - 25kHz -3dB. Overall dimensions are 1540x220x400mm, weight is 35kg. As the photo shows, many different paint finishes are available combined with a solid Ash plinth.

November 2014 - Sommovigo price shocker - To kick off his kitchen-table After Hours Audio project, Chris Sommovigo is releasing an exclusive run of 25 x 1.5m Warlord power cords for $375 + $1 shipping each. Many years ago this design in a heavy form was slated to be released under the Dragon brand for $6'000, later as a lighter version for $3'000. "Two coaxes with a pure silver internal wire and a helically-wrapped shell made up of hundreds and hundreds of very fine Mil-Spec silver-plated copper wires run internal insulation of low density PTFE (aka Teflon™, and the insulator around the shell conductors is normal density PTFE. There are two solid-core 17awg silver-plated copper conductors and one overall pure copper shield continuous with earth ground. The 15A US plug is a Furutech FI-11M.

November 2014 - New plug-in - Dan Bellity of La Rosita reports that "a new plugin is available. Apple and Yosemite brought us a great new operating system. Audio and video are now considered a priority by Apple. The new La Rosita Plugin comes to serve Yosemite and the combination of iTunes, Yosemite and La Rosita plugin is an advancement in streaming music reproduction."

November 2014 - Swiss perfection? - Vice president and design director Robert Kwolek reports that Swiss speaker company Eversound from Schaffhausen is readying their latest model, "the Essence active sound system, a very compact active speaker system which features an internal 24/96USB DAC designed for us by Gordon Rankin of Audioquest Dragonfly fame. It was designed to be the world’s best computer speaker system but is also perfect for TVs and other digital sources or those with small rooms. It uses an in-house developed 4.5" coaxial driver, a unique die-cast aluminium enclosure with modular assembly method to eliminate resonances and 50wpc ICEpower amplification. Dimensions are 12 x 19.5 x 18cm, response is 48-30'000Hz. Pricing hasn't been finalized yet as production won't commence until early next year but is expected to come in around $2'600."

November 2014 - The shit hits the fan - Because Jason Stoddard's press releases are always colourful, here is his latest completely uncensored: "Schiit’s branching out into 2-channel continues with the new Ragnarok Intelligent Amplifier [$1'699], the first truly universal power amp for IEMs to speakers—using the same inherently balanced circlotron-style gain stage and no resistor attenuation for the headphone outputs. Ragnarok delivers up to 100Wrms per channel into 4-ohm speakers and yet still delivers the low noise floor and fine-grained flexibility you need for sensitive headphones. But it’s not just a powerful, quiet amplifier—it’s a complete reinvention of the integrated amplifier, with full microprocessor control of all operational points, DC offset, switching, gain and volume. This microprocessor control allows us to dispense with both coupling capacitors and DC servos for a uniquely pure analog signal path and locked-in-stone operational points for dead-consistent performance. Ragnarok also provides exceptional flexibility:
• Three different gain levels (20, 5 and 1)
• A relay-switched discrete resistor ladder attenuator with 64 x 1dB steps
• Five inputs (two balanced, three single-ended)
• Balanced and single-ended preamp outputs"

November 2014 - Life of Pi moves uptown - Voxativ's Inès Adler announces a cosmetic revision for their rear-hornloaded single-driver Pi model which sells for €11'900/pr in black gloss paint as shown, stands included and wood-cone drivers standard.

November 2014 - Herus ups its game - The new Resonessence Labs Herus+ adds these features to the standard Herus: a redesigned PCB; the ability to select between two digital filters to optimize the listening experience; low-power mode for iPhone and Android cell phone users; improved volume control sensitivity levels (this feature will shortly be made available to existing Herus owners); improved ESD tolerance; increased on-board memory. The price for the Herus+ is $425.

November 2014 - Anti go antier - Anti Cable Audio Company launch their new "top-tier interconnect cables Level 5.2 Pure by pairing the world’s best-performing RCA connectors sourced from KLE Innovations with the finest-sounding wire all offered factory direct. The Level 5.2 RCA interconnect uses AntiCable’s ACElectrum™ signal wire made from a proprietary silver and gold alloy." Pricing is $310 for a 1m pair, $285 for a 0.75m pair and $260 for a 0.5m pair. A no–risk 30 day guarantee applies.
November 2014 - Happier NCore - Merrill Audio launch the $2'500 Taranis stereo amp with a 400/600w into 8/4 ohms rating "powered by the same NCore technology as our $12,000 Veritas monoblocks. SN/R is 130dB, THD better than 0.005%. A fully differential state-of-the-art ultra-fast input stage with 100k input impedance custom developed for the Taranis provides 26db of voltage gain. A steel chassis limits EMI/RFI in and out, an LED meter shows power for each channel, LED indicators show power on, ready, clipping, over current and fatal error, silver-plated pure copper speaker posts allow for bananas and spades,  a gold-plated IEC from Furutech and Cardas silver over copper XLR inputs complete the connections. Upgrade options available are Stillpoints Ultra Mini Riser footers, Waveform Fidelity power cords and Synergistic fuses."
November 2014 - Go frosty - KEF's well-liked affordable super monitor called LS50 has gone gloss white and blue driver in this cosmetic alter ego of the original blackinese with coppery coax. Specs and pricing remain unchanged. This is purely a new look for the white Apple generation and yours truly who loves to hate all things black hifi.

October 2014 - JansZen active - The JansZen zA2.1 electrostatic hybrid loudspeaker has a new sibling: the self-amplified floorstanding electrostatic hybrid zA2.1A, utilizing JansZen’s new Act of Nature (AoN) drive system.

"Aside from being compact and convenient, the new active zA2.1A offers sonic improvements over the passive zA2.1 as driven by a range of fine amplifiers. We've discovered that the clarity, timbre, tonal balance and most importantly, the connection to the music are all significantly enhanced."

The zA2.1A is an internally biamplified system where each cabinet houses 2 x 190W/8Ω amplifiers. JansZen’s AoN system is formed by mating these amplifiers to built-in DSP to create an 8th order 48dB/octave xover whose Bessel characteristics result in very low ripple and phase skew. The zA2.1A has a balanced input easily adapted to single ended if needed. On the back there's a gain control to match the scale of any source output for best S/N ratio. For those with high-grade portable sources, JansZen’s AoN system is designed with enough gain to produce full volume when connected directly to sources with as little as 1V RMS maximum output. Pricing ranges from $11'745/pr depending on finish and options.

October 2014 - I do my best work after dark - Chris Sommovigo's new After Hours Audio "is a special place tucked away down a virtual alley where only stray cats and those in the know dare go. If you've made it this far, you're probably a diehard and intrepid audiophile looking for something outside the box. This is my extracurricular area, a place where I can offer up a few things that are not going to fit in the standard lineup. Some designs might be just a bit too outside while other things will be made from legacy material that I won't be producing again. In each case there will be a limited supply (sometimes very limited). Once that supply is gone, it's gone. I might also put up some used audio gear from time to time. You never know. The key here is that these cables will be selling for a fraction of what they would have to sell for in the ordinary audiophile marketplace. This is not only a chance to get some extraordinary designs for your system but to do it at prices that are far below what the market will bear. Make sure to visit the blog. That's where I'll be posting the latest designs. First come, first served so check back frequently. I'll try to hit a once-a-month frequency but might just put something up in the middle of the month because my fancy was tickled."
October 2014 - Walker - Walker Audio announce the Procession Phono Amp [$8'000] with dual mono continuously variable linear cartridge loading for moving coil cartridges. "This two-piece component has two dials, one for each channel, which can be adjusted during play and set to anywhere between 0 and 2.5kohms, making this the easiest-to-use phono amp ever."
October 2014 - Aluminati - This machine shop has served OEM and DIY clients with fancy aluminium casings and of late specialized in providing enclosures for nCore and IcePower modules. This has now led to a production amplifier called the X2 [$2'499] which is based on a Pascal class D power module similar to what Gato Audio use in their DIA-250/400 models. "The X2 chassis is machined from 6061 aluminium. The X2 can drive 4-ohm speakers in mono/BTL mode. Balanced inputs are standard and offer the best link for superior sonic performance and noise rejection. SE inputs can be used with an adaptor (not supplied). WBT binding posts with silver-plated hook up wire for the best signal path to your speakers.  Power specs are 250/500wpc into 8/4 ohms. Bridged mode produces 1KW into both 8/4 ohms. Voltage gain is 26dB, input impedance is 50K, response is 5Hz-70kHz -3dB, dynamic range is 120dB. The amplifier weighs 21lbs, measures 4.75 x 11.75 x 16.25" and comes with black or silver face plates."
October 2014 - Clearaudio rethink phono - The Absolute Phono and Absolute Phono Inside [£8,995 each] phonostages address a common problem - that of a tiny signal traveling undue distances. The Absolute Phono moves its moving-coil stage inside the active head shell to reduce the signal path of 1-2m down to 1-2cm. Naturally this invention is specific to Clearaudio tone arms. The main gain is said to be a reduction of noise by 10dB across the audible range. To transfer this solution to non-Clearaudio arms, the Inside version still applies current amplification to alleviate the need for cartridge loading and all capacitors and resistors outside the RIAA stage. Both models incorporate an anti-resonance sandwich construction machined from solid blocks of aluminium and panzerholz.  Their power supply is located in a separate matching chassis to keep mains interference to a minimum.  Resistors and capacitors, which thanks to current amplification are required only in the RIAA equalisation stage, are Clearaudio Silver Glimmer capacitors and non-magnetic Dale resistors. For ease of use and a sleek finish, the Absolute Phono and Absolute Phono Inside are equipped with a bright blue single multi-function switch for ‘On’, ‘Off’, ‘Mute’ and ‘Standby’ modes. Standby power consumption follows the latest EU directive and is below 0.5 Watts. The circuitry of both the Absolute Phono and Absolute Phono Inside is designed to work perfectly with any moving coil cartridge from any manufacturer with no need to set the correct load resistance or capacitance.

October 2014 - JCAT USB - "The new JCAT Reference is our flagship series of cables for the most discerning audiophiles. These cables utilize newly developed triple-shielded silver-plated conductors and double-shielded nickel-plated copper/aluminium connectors to provide much better protection against EMI." As a dual-header design, this USB cable uses separate leads for the data and power lines. Standard length is 1 meter and price is €499 (€449 for JPlay customers). Worldwide shipping is €10 regardless of cable quantity.

October 2014 - Jay-Sho - As one of the earlier nCore 1200 OEMs packaged as their Atsah monaural power amps, Acoustic Imagery have now added a fully balanced autoformer volume control passive preamp to their portfolio called Jay-Sho. It ties to the Atsah cosmetics by duplicating the stylized eagle-head logo on the big volume knob. The Jay-Sho appears conceptually very similar to a balanced Bent Audio Tap X including its remote. For i/o connectivity it thus offers 6 x XLR in, 2 x XLR variable out and 1 x XLR fixed out. The remote control offers volume, balance, input selection, mute and display/indicator LED on/off. The two-part enclosure is milled from solid aluminium billet. Step size of the volume control is 1dB from -52dB up to +7dB.  Folks not familiar with autoformer or transformer volume controls can also find them in preamps from Bent Audio, Music First Audio, Purity Audio, Thrax and as an option in the new Vinnie Rossi Lio. Unlike resistive pots which burn off unused signal as heat, an AVC or TVC simply converts voltage to current. This is accomplished by wiring a step-down transformer or autoformer with multiple secondaries, each of which is tapped for one corresponding volume level. In this case there's even up to 7dB of passive step-up gain. With their fully balanced Atsah monos offering high voltage gain already, Acoustic Imagery's fully balanced passive would seem an ideal complement to maximize S/N ratio.
October 2014 - Peachtree tradeup - "Peachtree Audio are proud to announce that for a limited time, current Peachtree integrated amp owners can easily trade up from their old Nova or Decco series integrated amp to a new and improved novaSE model. Customers receive a generous credit for their current Peachtree integrated when they trade in towards a new nova125SE or nova220SE without the hassles of selling their old amp.

"This past summer Peachtree launched the novaSE series, the latest evolution in the popular line of integrated amplifiers with built-in high-performance USB DACs. The novaSE family ushers in trickle-down preamplifier design from Peachtree’s $4,500 Grand Integrated X-1. The two most powerful novaSE models, the 125wpc nova125SE and 220wpc nova220SE are available as part of this promotion."

"We want to provide an easy and affordable way for our customers to move up to our latest generation of integrated amplifiers," Peachtree Audio president Andrew Clark stated. "Over the years, we have refined and improved every aspect of our integrated amplifiers from the DAC through the power amplifier with the most recent improvements realized in the preamplifier section," continued Clark. "The novaSE family represents a significant audible improvement from everything that came before them, especially our earliest models," concluded Clark. The trade up promotion runs through Friday November 14th. Eligible trade-in models include the Decco, Decco2, iDecco, decco65, Nova, iNova and nova125. Some restrictions apply. The promotion is available at participating retailers and through
October 2014 - Dynaudio goes Chinese - "GoerTek Inc. a leading hi-tech consumer electronics company based in Weifang, China, has acquired the majority shares of Dynaudio. Wilfried Ehrenholz, the founder of Dynaudio, will remain as a minority shareholder and continue to participate in Dynaudio's product and marketing strategy. With the investment of GoerTek Inc., Dynaudio will be able to accelerate its product development, innovation and growth strategy. Wilfried Ehrenholz: GoerTek is the ideal partner to guide Dynaudio into a prospering future. Its founder Bryan Jiang is an ambitious entrepreneur like myself and has an excellent understanding of Dynaudio's potential and our position as a premium brand. By combining Dynaudio's and GoerTek’' know-how, we will be able to develop some very exciting products for our customers in the future. Within the recent years, Dynaudio has launched some very ambitious products. This spring, we launched the second generation of the world’s first true wireless high-end loudspeaker Xe, and just now, Dynaudio is launching Focus XD, the most powerful and precise speaker ever made, which is based completely on a digital platform. I’m convinced that Dynaudio is heading for a very exciting future.

At GoerTek Inc. the excitement is also great. Bryan Jiang: I have a lot of respect for the competencies within Dynaudio and it is important to us to maintain and continue to develop these competencies. With GoerTek's strengths in electronic hardware and software design in the smart audio area to be combined with Dynaudio's leading speaker technology and premium branding in hifi audio market, we are able to bring customers lots of exciting innovations in the near future. I look forward to accelerating the growth along with the team at Dynaudio."

October 2014 - Zu Event MkII - Zu's classic all-silver interconnect cable has become available in MkII guise with German WBT low-mass connectors as shown. The left and right channels share a common dielectric for perfectly matched behaviour housed in a single sleeve which only splits into pigtails at the ends. The insulation is virgin clear PTFE (Teflon) and air.

October 2014 - Naim - Overhauling their interface app n-Stream dedicated to iOS gear, Naim have crafted the updated naim app to also serve Android kit. This app controls all current Naim network players, the all-in-one player of the Uniti range and the new wireless soundbar mu-so as well as navigate music libraries. Use requirements are Naim firmware 3.22, iOS 7.1, Android 4.0 or higher. The app is available through iTunes or GooglePlay.

October 2014 - Chord stack - Chord Electronics from the UK launch the Choral Ensemble, a solid aluminium support for their Choral range. "The new equipment support is based on a finely machined 30mm aircraft-grade aluminium plate supported by four stackable 50mm diameter solid aluminium legs. Its high-mass design offers the optimum environment for our electronics." The Choral Ensemble can be configured to any height and the Integra leg system allows any component from the Choral range to be combined with Chord Electronics’ full-sized equipment. It enables users to select from Chord’s Reference, Standard and Choral ranges in one vertically aligned system. Each leg base has three ball-shaped rubber feet and each leg top has three precision-machined hemispherical dimples. When two tiers are coupled together, the legs give a precise and secure fit between each module plus a useful degree of damping between the high-mass platforms. Pictured is a specially selected five-component system of Chord’s flagship CD transport, a high-resolution streamer, Chord’s flagship phono stage plus a flexible pre and 100-watt power amp.
Single tier with Integra legs: £1'350
Single top-mount tier with Integra feet: £1'215


October 2014 - Omuni omni - Eric Cross' Omuni just became available in a Supreme version. The basic concept remains a two-way in which a downfiring 8" woofer is mated to an upfiring 3" wideband tweeter whose rear wave is loaded into a dispersion lens with slot openings in each quadrant. The enclosure is built in New Zealand from multiplex Spruce whilst the faceted head assembly is a solid laminated block of 7kg. The woofer loads into an aperiodic labyrinth. The filter network consists of only two parts with Mundorf silver/gold capacitors and no matching resistors. Internal wiring is Kimber. Response is given as 28Hz - 20kHz -3dB, sensitivity as 89dB and nominal impedance as 8 ohms. Omuni models are available from $6'800/pr NZ.

October 2014 - Job monos - Goldmund's Rodolphe Boulanger confirmed today that first production of the announced monaural amps [$1'699/ea. sold direct] is scheduled for the end of November. More details will be revealed in our forthcoming review.

October 2014 - Schiit go vinyl - "It’s time for us to branch out a bit - into phono playback, specifically. Please welcome the Mani phono preamp, the most flexible affordable phono preamp available today. With a fully passive RIAA implementation and two separately switchable high-precision, low-noise amplification stages, Mani offers 30, 42, 48 and 59dB gain levels so it’s ready for anything from Deccas to low-output moving coil cartridges. It’s a great way for almost anyone to get into vinyl at only $129. And here’s the kicker. Mani was designed by Mike Moffat. Yes, the 'father of audiophile digital' is going back to his roots! Many people forget his pre-Theta Digital days when he did tube electronics, phono preamps and power amps."

As our Australian correspondent John Darko reported from the RMAF show, Schiit are also readying their flagship Yggdrasil converter [$2'299] which he says uses "a Western Electric algorithm from 1918 which throws away none of the original samples. The only new samples created are those that sit between the originals. Not impressed? Think of it this way: the parts cost of Yggdrasil’s filter alone sums to more than the total parts cost of the entire Bifrost DAC. The second point of difference is that Schiit aren’t using an off-the-shelf decoder chip. Moffat has opted for unspecified silicon from medical electronics and weapons systems, a pair of which are deployed in each channel. The output stage is all discrete FETs, transistors and film caps."

Doesn't the unspecified silicon from medical electronics and weapons systems sound like Metrum Acoustics? Score another one for mystery chips.
October 2014 - Piega Classics - Known for aluminium speaker enclosures, Swiss ribbon speaker house Piega just bowed their 3-deep Classic range in a nod at their company beginnings. These floorstanders introduce a new cosmetic with a Sonus faber type slanted top, boat-hull curvatures and veneer or gloss black/white finishing. The biggest model gets the firm's largest dual-concentric ribbon array, the middle unit gets a smaller coaxial version thereof and the entry-level box limits itself to a ribbon tweeter. 93dB efficiencies promise successful drive with smaller amps.
October 2014 - Baby aria - DigiBit of Spain have bowed the aria mini music server [starting at €2'000], "a no-compromise music server supporting an unlimited number of extended metadata fields for any music genre. In spite of its small size, aria mini incorporates a fanless design with ultra-low power consumption. The aria mini’s practical dock allows you to recharge your iPad via its built-in USB port. aria mini is available in three configurations: diskless, 2TB HDD and 1TB SSD. Additional capacity can be provided with an external HDD or a NAS. An optional external DVD-R drive allows fully automatic ripping providing error-free data retrieval and fast rips as well as metadata retrieval with automatic access to Rovi, GD3, SonataDB, FreeDB and Musicbrainz. Its built-in DAC supports DSD64/128 and up to 32bits/384KHz PCM. There is bit perfect retrieval, gapless playback and support for WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, MP3 and AAC. aria mini can play different music programs in different rooms by streaming to Airplay™ and DLNA™ compatible devices. You may also listen your music collection with headphones streamed to your iPad. Furthermore, you can stream your favorite internet radio or music services available on your iPad to the aria mini server. The free multi language iPad app controller is extremely easy to use and very powerful with unique music library views, playlists management, intelligent search engine and tagging capability."

October 2014 - Expensive gainclone sighting - For €2'250 in black or white, Peter Reinders' 20wpc LM1875-based chip amp called Blok20 is point-to-point wired, gets ultra-fast recovery rectifiers and a 300VA power toroid housed in a 17x17.5x20cm HxWxD Corian box weighing 8kg. For less than half and delivered globally, there are Clone Audio's competitors from Hong Kong. Either way, good sound from minimalist circuits based on op-amp outputs continues to be popular.

October 2014 - Gruensch not grinch - The MSL linestage from this German firm bills itself as an ultimate statement effort based on a single-stage zero-feedback class A JFET gain circuit for 4-ohm output impedance. Reed relays switch precision resistors for volume. To avoid switching transients, an intermediary circuit takes over during changes, then removes itself once the new value is set. An outboard power supply is based on constant current tech. Minimal remaining THD behaviour is predominantly 2nd and very low 3rd order with no higher-order components at all. The full-metal remote controls volume, phase and mute. For socketry, the MSL offers 5:3 RCA/XLR inputs, 4:3 RCA/XLR variable outputs and one each fixed outputs. Bandwidth is 0.5Hz to 370kHz -3dB, channel balance is better than 0.01dB at all level settings, stereo separation is -117dB and SNR -105dBA. Input sensitivity is switchable from 1 to 6 to 11dB. Max output voltage is 6Vrms.

October 2014 - Pangea - Pangea Audio have announced the their MFI-tested, Apple-certified Lightning cables for use with the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5/5S/5C, iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina and all Lightning-equipped Apple devices. Pangea Lightning cables are an extra-long 5-feet in length—42% longer than Apple’s standard Lightning cable—and feature "superior shielding, robust 27-gauge signal conductors, heavy-duty 21-gauge power conductors and Apple’s newest thinnest C48 Lightning connector on one end, with a USB ‘A’ connector on the other end. Pangea has utilized high-grade copper, with wire gauges that are significantly thicker than a typical Apple-type cable in order to deliver accurate signal and steady power despite the longer cable length. Five available colors (Black, Blue, Green, Pink, or White) are designed to match your iPhone, iPad Mini or other Apple device." MSRP for the Pangea Lightning cables is $29.95 however they are available now from and Amazon at the low introductory price of $19.95.

October 2014 - CEntrance iPhone sleeve - The new i5 Audiophile Case™ [$599] combines a sound card and extended battery built right into an iPhone casing and works with the iPhone 5, 5S and iPod Touch 5G models. It streams asynchronous audio directly from the phone's Lightning jack into a 24/192 DAC and headphone amp with 11 hours of battery life.

October 2014 - ModWright Elyse shipping - Dan Wright's 6922-based tube-rectified D/A converter is now in full production. Basic specs include BurrBrown PCM1794 conversion chips; FPGA-based custom data/clock buffering; dual-frequency clocks; future DSD ability; Lundahl transformer coupling for the in/outputs to avoid all signal-path capacitors; separate regulated power supplies for the analog and digital sections; a current-regulated tube filament supply; true balanced XLR and RCA outputs; RCA, BNC, AES/EBU and 24/192 asynchronous USB inputs. Tube rolling options include the rectifiers 5AR4, 5R4GY, 5U4G, 5U4GB, 5V4G, 5V4GB and 217 whilst the driver tubes may be 6922, 6DJ8 or 7308.

October 2014 - UK phono - The Music First Audio dual-mono Reference phono stage [£8208] uses a low-noise pentode front end, dual-triode gain stage and inductive T-network RIAA equalization plus a shunt-regulated high-voltage power supply spread over two chassis.


October 2014 - Lambert Company - The Audio Nerd, U.S. distributor of Lambert Company audio products from New Zealand, will demonstrate the Play It By Ear headphone amplifier [$499] at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. This is a class A design and part of the Small Wonder range offered by Lambert. The Audio Nerd will also display pre-production working prototypes of the complete line as a set of compatible components which can be used individually or in various combinations as a complete system. A basic system consists of the Control preamp with Bluetooth 4.0; the 50wpc Force ICEpower amplifier; and The Last Word/The Bottom Line 2.1 speaker system. Even greater system performance is provided by The Full Force mono amplifiers which feature bridged ICEpower modules to produce 100w/8ohms and 170w/4ohms from a relatively small package.

October 2014 - Polish audio show - As it does every year, the Warsaw show organized by Adam Mokrzycki Services takes place in November, this year on the weekend of the 8th & 9th spread out over three hotels, the Bristol, Kyriad and Sobieski. With 6moons having attending three prior installments and booked again to cover it this year, in our opinion this event has become #2 in Europe right after the Munich Highend show. And don't let the language dissuade you. Nearly everyone there speaks English. We should know. Our Polish is a perfect zero.

October 2014 - Axis of beauty - Our Australian contributor Edgar Kramer reports that the new Axis VoiceBox S speaker marks the return of Axis Loudspeakers as a highly respected Australian brand that has been in hiatus for a number of years. Industry stalwarts John Reilly and Brad Serhan—friendly but strong competitors in the past—now together revive the dormant brand with a new design. Reilly, a music lover, musician and discriminating audiophile with decades of experience in retail and distribution; and Serhan who’s peerless engineering and critical discernment has produced a number of highly-successful designs, team up to produce the Axis VoiceBox S. The new speaker is a mini-monitor sized 2-way using a high-quality ribbon crossing over to a 5.25-inch paper mid/woofer. Specifications encompass an impressive-for-the-size frequency response of 45Hz to 20kHz (1/3 octave pink noise +/-3dB), a 5-ohm impedance and 83dB sensitivity. The speaker features an immaculate multi-layer piano black finish and a decorative perforated aluminium grille that should be removed for critical listening. "Early tests in my reference rig have shown a seamless crossover and blending between ribbon and main driver, stunning imaging accuracy, profound detail/microdynamic retrieval and surprising dynamic output. I will be reviewing this outstanding design soon." The Axis VoiceBox S has also been chosen as a monitor by highly-respected local mastering engineer Don Bartley at his Benchmark Mastering facility. The Axis VoiceBox S retails for $2'495/pr and will be on display from October 10-12 2014 at the RMAF Show in room 2017 of Colleen Cardas Imports.

October 2014 - Alpha Prime - Dan Clark's new top dawg headphone is called the Alpha Prime [$999] though looking at it, you'd not know. It looks like the $699 Alpha, with the same 3D-printed ear cups and leather headband. The relevant makeover attacked the invisible bits by completely rebuilding the Fostex driver in excess of what the Alpha did. Promised sonic improvements from "the full teardown, modification and rebuild of the driver" include a "big increase in soundstage size, clarity, tone and texture, distortion reduction, dynamics, bass and more".

October 2014 - Dynaudio - The Danes at Dynaudio go active and fully digital with their new Focus XD range. The initial plan calls for 3 models - the 200XD compact and the floorstanders 400XD and 600XD. Built-in class D power scales from 300 to 450 and 600 watts as these models increase in size. Inputs are 24/192 coax and analog which undergoes A/D conversion inside. Volume control is built in to decommission a separate preamp; and DSP adjustments allow compensation to taste and room. For expanded connectivity there is the Dynaudio Hub with two more analog inputs and digital coax and Toslink. Further details and pricing on the DX range remain TBA.

October 2014 - Chord - The British Hugo headphone amp/DAC had become available in a satin black anodized finish. Price remains £1'400 as it's been for the original silver unit.