Audacious Audio

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Michael Fremer  |  Oct 17, 2019  |  44 comments
What's the point of reviewing a pair of monoblock amplifiers that costs more than most people spend on two or even several cars— and far more than most audiophiles spend on an entire music system? That's a good question. Another is: Why should I write this review when, just seven years ago, I reviewed a pair of darTZeel monoblocks that look exactly like this new pair?

I realize that products such as the darTZeel NHB-468 ($170,000/pair) are for the very few, but the very few include far more people throughout the world than you may realize— people who can afford such costly audio products and who do buy them. I know, because in my travels I've met a lot of them, and they deserve to read reviews of products they're considering buying—things most of us can only dream of owning.

Brian Damkroger  |  Jul 04, 2019  |  33 comments
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of afternoons listening to a system built around the late David Wilson's magnum opus, the Wilson Audio WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker ($685,000/pair), which Jason Victor Serinus reported on in December 2016. In addition to the joy of simply listening to music on such exotic speakers, the experience provided insight into just how well the Master Chronosonics would work in a relatively normal-sized listening room—in this case, one measuring 21.5 feet long by a little over 18 feet wide, with a ceiling height of a little over 9.5 feet: not small in an absolute sense, but a lot smaller than the sort of space usually associated with speakers this large.
Michael Fremer  |  Jun 25, 2019  |  43 comments
CH Precision's massive, versatile, technologically sophisticated, 165 lb M1.1 power amplifier ($54,000 configured for stereo) can easily crush your foot if you're not careful when installing it. But the more important consideration is this: Can this cool gray techno-square sing and dance without stepping on its own feet?
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 25, 2019  |  70 comments
I first encountered Verity Audio's Monsalvat Amp-60 stereo power amplifier ($58,000) in October 2017, in one of the largest single-system rooms at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. After hearing the Amp-60 and Verity's Monsalvat Pre-2 preamplifier drive Verity's Lohengrin IIS loudspeakers ($133,000/pair), I enthused about the "most impressive range of colors and supreme sense of spaciousness" that contributed to the system's "absolutely beguiling" sound.
Art Dudley  |  Dec 20, 2018  |  5 comments
There's no place for fashion in epidemiology, aeronautical engineering, or the mining and storage of uranium. Fortunately, domestic audio is less serious, its goals more scattered and ambiguous, than those and a thousand other pursuits.

And so, throughout the 20th century, any number of trends in domestic audio popped up their heads, some remembered as fads, others as legitimate approaches to playback. Among the latter are amplifiers whose output sections operate in single-ended mode, in which the entire signal waveform is amplified by a single device.

Anthony H. Cordesman  |  Nov 15, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1986  |  4 comments
Some audio products deliver truly superb sound of a kind that really makes all the frustrations of building a high-end system worthwhile; they also require exceptional attention and care. The Counterpoint SA-4 is a case in point. With the right speakers, it competes for the title of "Most Transparent Amplifier Available at Any Price." On the other hand, this amplifier steadily loses output power as speaker impedance drops; it must be carefully matched to the right speaker. Then, and only then, can it produce one of the finest musical experiences available.
Steve Watkinson  |  Nov 13, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1986  |  0 comments
The great debate that has long separated audiophiles is tubes vs solid-state. Other topics, CD for example, may temporarily steal the spotlight, but year-in and year-out no other subject is the cause of as much controversy as whether tubed or solid-state circuitry produces the more accurate sound. As is typical with long-standing feuds, the split runs deep, and tempers often flare.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 18, 2018  |  35 comments
Doug White, of Philadelphia-area retailer The Voice That Is, has been a fixture at US audio shows the past few years, where he always gets great sound using loudspeakers from Tidal Audio. (There is no connection between the German audio manufacturer and the music-streaming service owned by Jay Z and Sprint.) In early 2017, Herb Reichert, Jana Dagdagan, and I visited White and spent a delightful afternoon listening to Tidal's then-new Akira loudspeakers. I promised myself to review the Akira, which costs a wallet-straining $215,000/pair, when my schedule opened up. As things turned out, it was more than a year before that opportunity presented itself.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 25, 2018  |  34 comments
I am finding hard to grasp that it is almost 50 years since I first went to a hi-fi show. That show, held at London's Olympia exhibition center, was notable both for Yamaha's launch of a loudspeaker with a speaker diaphragm shaped like a human ear, and for being the first time I saw the drop-dead gorgeous Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference turntable, which was later featured in the film A Clockwork Orange. The most recent show I attended was AXPONA, held last April in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg. There I saw no ear-shaped drive-units, but the final room I visited featured sound that the 1969 me could have only fantasized about.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 18, 2018  |  42 comments
In 1959, in their musical revue At the Drop of a Hat, the British musical-comedy team of Flanders and Swann sang their "Song of Reproduction." It's not about sex. The song mocks audiophiles (you thought this was something recent?) for how we spend "all of that money to get the exact effect of an orchestra actually playing in their sitting room." Before launching into the song, Flanders quips, "Personally, I can't think of anything I should hate more than having an orchestra playing in my sitting room!"
Art Dudley  |  Aug 16, 2018  |  80 comments
Some of my reviewer colleagues would have you believe that negative reviews are the most difficult of all to write, and that positive reviews fairly write themselves. What nonsense!

As I write this, my copy deadline is three days away, yet I've succeeded at crafting little more than my heading (easy enough: it's just the product's name, followed by my name) and my Associated Equipment sidebar (also easy), leaving a great expanse of nothing in between. That's mostly because the Kalista DreamPlay One, a two-box CD player whose $43,000 price might once have kept me from even considering it as a real-world product, has stunned me into a sort of paralysis: I feel that anything I write will be inadequate to the task.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 26, 2018  |  51 comments
Not everyone needs a power amplifier that can deliver 888W RMS into 8 ohms or 1776W into 4 ohms. You could say that no one needs one of these—or two, if you want to listen in stereo. Most household AC systems can't even provide enough current to deliver all that power. But Simaudio does build Moon 888 monoblocks, and people do buy them, whether or not they need an amp that weighs about 250 lb each and costs $118,888/pair.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 24, 2018  |  42 comments
It was almost seven years ago that Nelson Pass, whose talks and exhibits I'd covered at many a Bay Area Burning Amp DIY event and audio show, surprised me with a loan of two Pass Laboratories' XA 160.5 class-A monoblock amplifiers. Ten months later, after I'd commented that my system had challenged the XA 160.5s in the bass department, he sent me a pair of XA200.5 monos. I connected those bigger babies to Wilson Audio Sophia 3 loudspeakers and some now-discontinued digital components with Nordost Odin 1 interconnects and speaker cables. Then came my way, toward the end of 2016, the XA200.8 monoblocks ($42,000/pair).

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 22, 2018  |  18 comments
Designers of hybrid amplifiers can use solid-state devices in an amp's input stage and tubes in its driver and output stages, as Music Reference's Roger Modjeski did in his RM-200 Mk.II—or they can use tubes in the input and transistors in the output, as Ypsilon Electronics' Demetris Baklavas prefers.

The advantage of solid-state at the input stage can be lower noise. In the RM-200 Mk.II's fully balanced design, carefully matched input devices result in high common-mode rejection and low-noise operation close to the levels achieved with the best input transformers. The RM-200 Mk.II's signal/noise ratio measured a healthy 95.4dB.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 01, 2018  |  16 comments
"How natural the sound," wrote Jonathan Scull in March 1994, in his Follow-Up on the original Jadis JA 200 monoblock amplifier, which then cost $18,990/pair. "How easy it was to follow the musical line and fall into the music. How deep, controlled, tight, and satisfying the bass. How magnifique the midrange—the traditional strength of the Jadis presentation. How full and satisfying the lower midrange. How open, airy, how right the highs—not at all hard, but very extended and natural. How involving their presentation. How full, how harmonically correct, how wonderfully compelling. How magical."

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