Audacious Audio

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jun 26, 2015 4 comments
Stereophile normally doesn't review audio systems. We review individual components. We've made an exception for the Bel Canto Black system because it deserves to be evaluated as such. It consists of three dense, almost identically sized cases of black-anodized aluminum. One, the ASC1 Asynchronous Stream Controller, is what in a conventional system would be called a "preamplifier." The other two, a pair of MPS1 Mono PowerStreams, would in a conventional system be called "monoblock power amplifiers."
Robert J. Reina Posted: Jun 05, 2015 7 comments
For me, the highlights of any audio show are finding a room with great sound and visiting it often throughout the show, to relax and absorb a wide range of great music. At the NY Audio Show in April 2012 in New York City, it was the room occupied by the Valve Amplification Company. There, I fell in love with the sound coming through the Signature Mk IIa line-stage preamplifier, and remembered that while I'd heard many VAC products at audio shows over the past two decades, and had enjoyed the sound every time, I'd never had a VAC product in my house. I requested a review sample.
Robert Harley Posted: May 07, 2015 Published: Jun 01, 1991 0 comments
666wawaWadia2000.1250.jpgDuring my reviews of digital processors in the past year or so, I've made comparisons with the Wadia 2000 Digital Decoding Computer first reviewed by Arnis Balgalvis in Vol.13 No.1. I've felt that, as good as the 2000 is, other processors—many costing less than the 2000's $8500 price tag—are now superior.

However, a visiting Wadia representative looked inside our sample and used the word "ancient" to describe its circuitry in relation to current production. In addition, I was never able to audition the 2000 with a glass fiber-optical interface, standard equipment on Wadia's transports. Similarly, the $2000 Wadia X-32 had undergone a minor circuit revision, including the inclusion of the glass optical input. Consequently, a follow-up of these two excellent processors seemed in order.

Michael Fremer Posted: May 01, 2015 8 comments
Google Bricasti and all that comes up are sites relating to Bricasti Design products. The name must be fanciful—it sounds Italian, but cofounders Brian Zolner and Casey Dowdell most likely are not, and the company's headquarters are not in Milan or Turin but in Massachusetts.

While its name might be whimsical, nothing else about Bricasti is. As John Marks reported in his review of Bricasti's M1 DAC in the August 2011 issue, both founders previously worked at Lexicon: Dowdell as a DSP-software engineer, Zolner as international sales manager. Bricasti develops its products in conjunction with Aeyee Labs, formed by a group of ex-employees of Madrigal Audio Laboratories and based in New Haven, Connecticut.

Robert Harley Posted: Apr 17, 2015 Published: Nov 01, 1991 3 comments
"In the fields of observation, chance favors only the mind that is prepared."

When Louis Pasteur uttered these words more than a hundred years ago, he must have speculated that they would apply equally well to future circumstances as to the events of his day. What he couldn't anticipate, however, was the technology to which his insight now seems so appropriate.

Art Dudley Posted: Apr 03, 2015 0 comments
I was weak and easily led.

In 1978, after enduring four or five years of wretched music made by men with long hair and beards and tendencies toward eonic guitar solos, I suddenly discovered that the only music worth hearing was made by clean-shaven men of limited musical proficiency. I embraced the Clash, the Pistols, the New York Dolls, the Ramones, and the Buzzcocks. I cut my hair and gave away some of my old records. I even threw out my copy of Jethro Tull's A Passion Play—which, now that I think about it, wasn't that bad an idea.

Then I woke up and remembered: I'd left the baby in the bathwater.

Art Dudley Posted: Mar 05, 2015 2 comments
I've seen how most manufacturers work. They start out by making products they believe in—products consumers are likely to love. But after a while they begin listening to their dealers and distributors and marketing consultants, most of whom are inclined to say things like: "You need to make a six-figure turntable, to compete with all the other six-figure turntables." "You need to make a $1500 amplifier, to fill that price gap in your product line." "You need to make a small, stand-mounted loudspeaker."
Michael Fremer Posted: Mar 05, 2015 2 comments
Founded in 1984, Boulder Amplifiers is a conservative audio company that goes quietly about its business, choosing not to call attention to itself with marketing flash or acronym-laden features. Change comes slowly to such companies, which is why the just-retired 2010 preamplifier enjoyed a 17-year run.
Larry Greenhill Posted: Feb 26, 2015 11 comments
Several seconds after I began listening to it, I knew that Theta Digital's Prometheus monoblock amplifier ($12,000/pair) was different from other amplifiers. The violins and brass were more dynamic, and had more pace. The orchestra sounded more three-dimensional, depicted in relief by a degree of hall ambience I hadn't heard when I played the same recording through my reference solid-state stereo amplifier, a Mark Levinson No.334.
Larry Greenhill Posted: Feb 12, 2015 0 comments
Powerful, massive, and expensive, Revel's Ultima Rhythm2 subwoofer ($10,000) swept me off my feet when I first saw it in Harman International's suite at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. It outsizes, by 49 lbs and 2.6 cubic feet, Revel's previous flagship model, the Ultima Sub30, which I reviewed in the November 2004 issue. Its specs read like no other sub's: 196 lbs; 18" cast-frame woofer; dual 4" voice-coils; 4kW peak power from twin internal amplifiers that generate 1kW RMS; 115dB peak acoustic output; a fully configurable, high-resolution, 10-band parametric equalizer (PEQ); an internal crossover with high- and low-pass outputs; and PC-based setup via USB. The Rhythm2's patent-pending design is said to let just enough air move in and out of the cabinet to prevent any distortion-inducing pressure due to heating of the voice-coils. And its veneer, shape, beveled top edges, and bottom plinth exude the quality found in Revel's top-of-the-line floorstanding speaker, the Ultima Salon2, with which I was familiar.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 29, 2015 0 comments
Do you travel? Commute, perhaps? Just like to listen to music privately around the house? No matter—the Astell&Kern AK240 is the luxury choice in high-resolution portable music players (footnote 1). It even comes with a lovely leather case that beautifully cradles its angular beauty. The AK240 can play all of your PCM files, up to a resolution of 24-bit/192kHz, as well as DXD and single- and double-rate DSD, natively, and can do so from its internal storage, from a microSD card, or from your computer via WiFi or a wired connection. It can also function as a DAC or USB-to-TosLink converter. I'm not so sure there's much left wanting.
Art Dudley Posted: Dec 24, 2014 1 comments
There may have been a time when vacuum tubes and microprocessors seemed strange bedfellows. But nowadays—given the countless digital processors with tubed output stages, and an even greater number of tubed amps and preamps whose insides are crawling with the latest solid-state devices—we're more or less used to the idea. Here as elsewhere, hybrids are no big deal.
Sam Tellig Posted: Dec 24, 2014 Published: Nov 01, 2000 4 comments
Can an $18,000 power amplifier be a bargain?

Can an $18,000 wristwatch?

John Atkinson Posted: Nov 26, 2014 5 comments
The experience left me doubting my ears. After I'd performed all the measurements of Ayre Acoustics' KX-R preamplifier ($18,500) to accompany Wes Phillips's review in our November 2008 issue, I spent a weekend listening to it. To my astonishment, the sound of my system with a Transporter D/A processor feeding the preamplifier was better than when the DAC fed the power amplifier directly. Through the KX-R, images sounded more tangible, and the sound was better focused, despite the signal's having been passed through not just another set of interconnects but also through the preamp's input and output socketry, switches, a volume control, printed circuit-board traces, and active and passive parts. Logically, you'd think that having nothing in the signal path would have less of a degrading effect than so many somethings. But no, that was not what I heard, much as I would have preferred otherwise.
Michael Fremer Posted: Nov 13, 2014 4 comments
Can a power-supply upgrade produce audible sonic benefits? If you've upgraded the power supply of a phono preamplifier, you probably don't need to be convinced that it does, and those usually cost only a small percentage of the price of the model they power. But to add Simaudio's Moon Evolution 820S power supply ($8000) to the Moon Evolution 650D DAC–CD transport ($9000), which I reviewed in the November 2011 issue, almost doubles the latter's cost—though the 820S can be used to simultaneously power two Moon Evolution components, like the 750D DAC ($14,000), 740P preamplifier ($9500), and 610LP ($7500) and 810LP phono preamplifier ($13,000).

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