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High-End Audio / Audiophile Equipment Reviews And Think Pieces

March 2021 


Audio Aesthetics Articulating the many aspects of beauty in hi-fi audio. Dr. Jules L. Coleman

Audio Aesthetics
Articulating the many aspects of beauty in hi-fi audio.
Article By Dr. Jules L. Coleman
We audiophiles are a diverse and peculiar lot. So much so that some might think that self-identification is the only thing we share. If there is something distinctive about being an audiophile, what is it? Sometime last year, I found myself contemplating this question when reflecting on the untimely death of Art Dudley. I did not know Art particularly well, but I had a kinship with him dating back to his days at the helm of Listener magazine. No one could read anything Art had a hand in without coming away impressed not just by his love of music but also by the fact that he had given a great deal of thought to what he wanted from an audio system and why. Others on the Listener staff were similarly inclined. For me, this ongoing iterative reflection about the nature and value of audio made Listener the most interesting read in audio when they were in business.
---> Articulating the many aspects of beauty in hi-fi audio.



Things That Audiophiles Do, But Shouldn't

Things That Audiophiles Do, But Shouldn't
Roger Skoff seeks to foil some 'philes' feckless foibles.
Article By Roger Skoff
Many a long year ago, when I was probably about sixteen, my father went over to the home of his friend, Ozzie Palermo, to hear his new Hi-Fi set. (Yeah, Hi-Fi set; that was back when the hot set–up for everybody other than us early Hi-Fi Crazies, was a one-piece "console" radio-phonograph with built-in speakers.) Ozzie had just bought it, and was showing it off to anyone who would listen. (Judging by when this probably happened, it might even have been "a stereo", which, in itself, would have been both an oddity and a bragging-point in those days). After my father got there, listened, and dutifully said "ooh" and "aah" at appropriate intervals, Ozzie apparently asked him something like "Say, isn't your son a Hi-Fi Fan, too?"
---> Things that audiophiles do, but shouldn't.



Music Has A Lot To Say... If you're willing to listen. Article By Mike Perez

Music Has A Lot To Say...
If you're willing to listen.
Review By Mike Perez
What kind of headspace are you in when you are listening to music? Are you working out?
Relaxing in your favorite chair sipping a cocktail? Driving down a lonely road deep in thought? Or getting ready to dance the night away at your favorite club or hangout? Wherever you are, music always has some type of roll to play. As I write this, I have one of my go-to playlists working in the background because the ambient sound always helps me to get words on the page. The reasoning behind this article is that I was stricken with curiosity. I want to know what some of my friends, colleagues, and HiFi Industry Professionals are listening to at the moment.
---> Music Has A Lot To Say...



Delivering A Glorious Musical Experience A love of music and commitment drives everything we do at Impex. Article By Abey Fonn, Founder Of Impex Records

Delivering A Glorious Musical Experience
A love of music and commitment drives everything we do at Impex.
Article By Abey Fonn, Founder Of Impex Records
In the 200 plus titles that Cisco Music and Impex Records released in the last twenty-five years, I can confidently say all but a dozen-plus were cut using original analog master tapes. Sometimes the recordings are not in great condition, where baking the tapes plus lots of TLC cannot make it usable for mastering. Some reels were not returned to the owner after a re-issue production. Many more were lost to high-profile warehouse fires (a tragedy). The scarcity of original sources is becoming more common in the audiophile industry.
---> Learn more about Abey Fonn / Impex Records.



Binaural Beats What are they, and how can they help you to feel good? Article By Becky Pell

Binaural Beats
What are they, and how can they help you to feel good?
Article By Becky Pell
We humans have a range of different brain wave states and speeds, each relating to a different state of consciousness, be it waking, sleeping, or somewhere in between. Binaural beats are a phenomenon whereby we can voluntarily create different brain waves using external sound sources, thereby inducing the associated mental state. First, let's take a look at the different states of consciousness which we most commonly experience.
---> Read Becky Pell's Binaural Beats article.



CH Precision — A Postscript

CH Precision — A Postscript Review
Three months after the dust settled on last issue's marathon project covering CH Precision's all analogue A1.5, P1, L1, X1 amplifier system, some more aspects came to mind.
Review By Martin Colloms
While I was in the thick of considering the CH Precision A1.5, P1, L1 and X1 late last year, such was the complexity and range of settings and modes and connections, and not least power supply options, that a considered overview was somehow just out of reach. Moreover, those continued and complex evaluations were inevitably constrained by particular circumstances in that more extended trial and error methods to establish quality limits could have added value, for example exchanging multiple cables in all positions, signal, and loudspeaker, and also mains connection methods, whether central or extended line. Then there is the matter of optimising the choices and subsequent alignment of anti-vibration frames and optional intermediary supports.
---> CH Precision — A Postscript.



Gryphon Audio Essence Preamplifier And Essence Stereo Power Amplifier Review

Gryphon Audio Essence Preamplifier
And Essence Stereo Power Amplifier Review
Blown away by an amazing musical performance!
Review By Tom Lyle
The Gryphon Essence preamplifier and Gryphon Stereo power amplifier are gorgeous looking and beautiful sounding Danish high-end audio components. Those who can afford either or both of these components will not only enjoy stellar sound quality but most likely will also be able to enjoy the fact that they are the epitome of audio equipment that has a look and "feel" of luxury goods. Gryphon founder Flemming E. Rasmussen was responsible for the stunningly beautiful exterior of the rather large (and heavy!) Gryphon Essence preamplifier and Stereo Essence power amplifier. Good looks and operational refinement are especially true of the Gryphon Essence preamplifier. Its weighty infrared metal remote was only one indication of this Danish audio manufacturer's recognition of many audiophile's appreciation of the intangibles that are available on many preamps.
---> Gryphon Audio Essence preamplifier & Essence amplifier review.



Sennheiser HD820 Closed Back Stereo Headphones Review

Sennheiser HD820 Stereo Headphones Review
Following on from his review of the classic open-back HD 800 headphones from Sennheiser in the last issue of HIFICRITIC, Keith Howard now assesses the closed-back version HD 820.
Review By Keith Howard
This is a rhetorical question because I don't pretend to have an answer to it. Why did it take Sennheiser so long, in the wake of the successful launch of the HD 800 in 2010, to develop a closed-back version? A glance at the HD 820 ($2399.95) is enough to tell you that that's what it is – but we had to wait a further eight years for it. Could it be that Sennheiser was diverted into serving the burgeoning mobile audio market? Or that developing a closed-back sibling to the HD 800 proved tough? Having spent a month measuring and listening to the HD 820, I reckon the latter is at least a realistic possibility. Because if you expect the HD 820 to provide HD 800-like sound quality (but with improved isolation of external sound), you're destined to be disappointed.
---> Sennheiser HD820 stereo headphones review.



RAAL Requisite HSA-1b Headphone / Speaker Amplifier Review

RAAL Requisite HSA-1b Headphone / Speaker Amplifier
The pinnacle of personal audio.
Review By Gary Peter Pialis
When RAAL Requisite released their true ribbon earfield monitors last year, it literally took the world of personal audio by storm! These headphones very quickly captured many raving reviews for their incredible speed, transparency, and incredible sound staging capabilities. Our own Frank Iacone reviewed them and noted "The RAAL-requisite SR1a Earfieled Headphone Monitor is a crowning achievement of what is possible in headphone design. The beautiful sound coming from the ribbon monitor was sensational. The exceptional imaging made all performers come alive and made the equipment get out of the way." Being a huge fan of near field speakers, but having a young family, I longed for the sound staging that speakers could bring to so many of my favourite recordings.
---> RAAL Requisite HSA-1b headamp / speaker amp review.



Aric Audio Unlimited II Vacuum Tube Stereo Preamplifier Review

World Premiere Review!
Aric Audio Unlimited II Vacuum Tube Stereo Preamplifier Review

Igor never sounded so good!
Review By Paul Schumann
Let's face it, the year 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic has sucked. In addition to the tragic loss of life, health, and financial security for many people, most of us have been unable to easily connect with loved ones. Now, what we always considered normal activities have been completely shut down. For the past few years, my dad and I have been season ticket holders for the Austin Symphony Orchestra. That meant, for nine wonderful Saturday evenings a year, we would meet up, have a meal together, then go to the Symphony. It was a great way to reconnect and enjoy our shared passion for music. With the advent of the pandemic, all that was shut down. So instead of that, I have been trying other ways to stay connected with my dad. The Aric Audio Unlimited II Preamplifier has helped me in that effort.
---> Aric Audio Unlimited II vacuum tube stereo preamplifier review.



Canor AI 2.10 Hybrid Stereo Integrated Amplifier Review

North America Premiere Review!
Canor AI 2.10 Hybrid Stereo Integrated Amplifier

Enjoying the smallest details, exactly like you would listening to a very fine performance.
Review By Ron Nagle
Coming from a land way far away let me introduce you to Canor Audio. A 25-year-old audio equipment manufacturer located in Presov, a city in Slovakia. Canor Audio has been manufacturing Hi-end audio components for almost 25 years. The company first started as an audio tube equipment specialist. The prototype of their first serially produced TP101 integrated tube amplifier was shown at an exhibition held in the city of Brno in April 1995. Their current product line is comprised of six products. They make an all-tube Phono amplifier, two CD players, and three power amplifiers. Canor's AI 1.10 power amplifier produces 40 Watt per channel at 4 ohms via vacuum tube and solid-state hybrid amplification.
---> Canor AI 2.10 hybrid stereo integrated amplifier.



SOTA Nova VI Vinyl LP Turntable Review

World Premiere Review!
SOTA Nova VI Vinyl LP Turntable Review
The new Sota sound allows music to become tactile.
Review By Ron Nagle
There was a time when my school shoes wore out; my mom would take them to the shoe repairman. He would fix them like new with Cats-paw rubber heels. At about that same time I remember when our Zenith console television died. My father would go down to the local hardware store to use their tube tester. For three or four dollars he would buy a new vacuum tube. Very soon we would be back to our black and white TV bliss. I guess since then a few things have changed. But let us now carry that forward to the present. Understand that for 20 years I spun vinyl disks on my reliable reference, a Sota Sapphire 2, but alas time takes a toll. So what can you do if you have something you can't part with?
---> SOTA Nova VI vinyl LP turntable review.



iBasso DC03 DAC / Headphone Amplifier Review

Fear and Loathing in America:
How The iBasso DC03 DAC / Headphone Amplifier
Helped Me Process The Capitol Assault

A portable USB DAC that plugs into your smartphone to improve the sound quality of headphone listening on-the-go.
Review By Ian White
Anyone who thought 2021 was going to be so much better than 2020 was not in Washington D.C. on January 6th (2021). Having travelled from New Jersey the day before to spend time with the folks at Linear Tube Audio (you can check out our coverage on Instagram) in Takoma Park, I decided to also pay a visit to my best friend from college who resides in the city. I lived in Washington D.C. for almost 10 years and commuted through Union Station for work for almost two years. For those who don't know the city well – it sits less than two blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
---> iBasso DC03 DAC / headphone amplifier review.



IsoAcoustics GAIA I Speaker Isolators Review

IsoAcoustics GAIA I Speaker Isolators Review
Superb Performance and big time value.
Review By Robert S. Youman
I have a great deal of respect for isolation devices, though certain caveats should always be considered. I have reviewed and/or owned some of the most simple to the most sophisticated. This includes designs from Butcher Block Acoustics, Solidsteel, Adona, Sound Anchors, Silent Running Audio, Harmonic Resolution Systems, Rix Rax, Critical Mass, and Grand Prix. You have heard it before, but virtually all will certainly make a difference — some for the good and some for the not so good. And like all things audio, compatibility can be critical. With this in mind, the IsoAcoustics GAIA I speaker isolators are something very special. There is real science and logic behind the design. The results were immediate and quite easy to identify.
---> IsoAcoustics GAIA I Speaker Isolators review.



Noble Falcon Pro True Wireless IEM Review

Noble Falcon Pro True Wireless IEM Review
One of the best IEMs I have heard under $400.
Review By Gary Alan Barker
In the short four years that I have been writing for Headphone.Guru, I have had opportunity to listen to a host of Bluetooth IEMs, several of which I use on a daily basis for telephone communication, but none that I would deign to use for regular music listening despite the significant improvements that have been made to Bluetooth over the last few years, preferring a wired option generally opting for my Noble Katanas or Zephyrs. This all changed when Jim Moulton offered to send me a pair of the new Noble Falcon Pro True Wireless IEMs, flagship model of the FALCON series, utilizing a hybrid driver configuration featuring a 6mm titanium coated driver for impactful sub-bass and bass, and two Knowles BA drivers for mid and high frequencies.
---> Noble Falcon Pro True Wireless IEM review.



John Tampouratzis wins a Schiit Lyr 3 with Multibit DAC option valued at $699

Music Lovers Win At Enjoy the Music.com!
John Tampouratzis wins a Schiit Lyr 3 with Multibit DAC option!
Review By John Tampouratzis
During December 2020, Enjoy the Music.com and Schiit joined forces to give away a Lyr 3 with Multibit DAC option valued at $699! Here are a few words from John Tampouratzis in Greece, who won this wonderful giveaway! I WON THE PRIZE!!! I'm feeling lucky!!! Since the advent of social media, the world has become smaller, and information, news, and knowledge more immediate. It was on the 4th of January when I received the email that I've won. I looked at the sender and the CC notification....
---> John Tampouratzis wins a Schiit Lyr 3 with Multibit DAC!



Listener The Intro By Art Dudley

The Intro
Editorial By Art Dudley
Apart from reminding Listener's readers how seldom I have been arrested compared to George W. Bush (the score stands at "zero" to "three that we know of"), I vow to keep the following observations as non-political as I can. Today's concern goes to the heart of our hobby. Specifically, what should we, as audiophiles, be doing with our hi-fi gear? Should we use our stereos to lay bare every nuance of sound on our recordings, as faithfully and thoroughly as technology allows? Or should we use them as we would a drug, to achieve a musical bliss-out whenever the fancy strikes us? And: Is it acceptable for us to even think of these as separate goals?
---> The Intro by Art Dudley of Listener magazine.



Grank Ilusion Editorial By Joe Roberts

Grand Illusion
Article By Joe Roberts
From Sound Practices Issue 9, Fall 1995
Way out on the paranoid fringes of contemporary American thought, miles beyond even the craziest audiophiles, there are some scared technology worshippers who believe that an international elite bad guy network of power-hungry conspirators has been conducting massively funded, wildly successful experiments with holographic imaging technology. The claim is that gizmos exist for creating 100% real-looking motion pictures in 3-D space, 4-D if you count time as a D. These infernal devices can materialize illusions that can pass through our senses as reality itself! Yikes! The above-mentioned whistle blowers are trying to warn us that fancy hologram projectors will play a central role in the ultimate power grab in all of human history, planned to go down at the turn of the millennium. Over the generations, many predictions were made about the year 2001...
---> Grand Illusion editorial by Joe Roberts.



Tech Tips And Other Unsolicited Advice  --  VALVE Magazine

Tech Tips And Other Unsolicited Advice
The 75 Minute Restoration
From VALVE Volume 2 Number 7 July 1995
Bill called a couple Saturdays ago to tell me that he had traded a Mac 1700 (a hybrid receiver, with tube tuner and solid-state amp) for a Scott 340 receiver. The person he traded with acknowledged a greater value for the Mac than the Scott and offered to pay a set amount for service by yours truly to balance the deal. Would I be available this weekend to do check it out? I asked Bill if it ran and he said yes. Knowing that the weak point on Scotts was their coupling caps, I suggested he run it for a while, constantly monitoring the output tubes for red plates. He called back a bit later and said that one tube's plate had started to glow red, at which point he turned the 340 off. I said bring it by and I'd get it going.
---> Tech Tips And Other Unsolicited Advice.



Audience aR6-T4 Power Conditioner Review

Audience aR6-T4 Power Conditioner Review
With upgraded frontRow powerChords and standard powerChord SE-i.
Review By Dr. Matthew Clott
The opportunity to review new models of familiar equipment is similar to catching up with an old friend. I have enjoyed, owned and respected Audience cables and conditioners since the original Adept Response was released and the "Original" powerChord first hit the proverbial scene. The Au24 power cables were the epitome of neutrality and their speaker wire and interconnects magically conveyed the full auditory picture in an inconceivably thin cable that defied logic and belied current trends of bigger must be better cable etiologies. Even then, the Adept Response conditioner was something special and established itself as a premier product with few equals. Over time, the "Original" powerChord grew into the Au24, which then matured into the Au24s, Au24se, Au24se-i and now the Au24sx series of power cables and audio cables; not to mention their new reference level frontRow series.
---> Audience aR6-T4 power conditioner review.



Dynamic Sounds Associates Pre I Linestage Review

World Premiere Review!
Dynamic Sounds Associates Pre I Linestage Review

Articulate, smooth and magically engaging.
Review By Greg Weaver
I First met Doug Hurlburt, the man behind Dynamic Sounds Associates, some 20 years ago now; we were members of the same extended southern Maryland listening group. Doug has designed and built audio equipment for his own uses since his high school days. On my first visit to his home in (then) Potomac, MD, I was impressed by his clearly advanced comprehension of electronics and his passionate love of music. He had recently done an incredible mod, rebuilding his KEF CS5 loudspeakers, including totally redesigned crossover networks. This rebuild led to his rewriting Richard Small's theory of passive radiator loudspeakers, all published in the March 2000 issue of the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society. Further, and more to the point here, he had already built and installed his own end table sized amplifiers, that, to be blunt, sounded wonderful.
---> Dynamic Sounds Associates Pre I linestage review.



YG Acoustics Hailey 2.2 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review

YG Acoustics Hailey 2.2 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review
The middleweight contender....
Review By Phil Gold
Cards on the table. I've owned the YG Carmel and the YG Carmel 2, each of which I've reviewed in these pages in January 2012 and July 2015 respectively. You can read them here and weep. I'm addicted to the ultra-high resolution, low distortion, lightning reflexes, dynamic range and the holographic imaging of the Carmel speakers.  They are not for everyone. Due to the particular way they are constructed from billets of aircraft grade aluminum, they cost a lot of money, and due to their relatively small size, they don't reach down all that deep. The sealed box design does provide a superbly fast accurate bass, but while the quality is high, the quantity is limited.
---> YG Acoustics Hailey 2.2 loudspeaker review.



Stromtank S2500 Battery Power Supply

World Premiere Review!
Stromtank S2500 Battery Power Supply

The joys of a pure sine wave with battery power.
Review By Tom Lyle
I've been stricken with something I like to call an "audiophile illusion of grandeur" for quite some time. It started long ago, when I first discovered that the AC power supplied to my stereo system was less than adequate. This wasn't too difficult to figure out, because in the daytime my system sounded lousy, at least compared to how it sounded at night. This continues to this day. This is because my home shares the power my electric company provides with many customers, including commercial establishments, homes, and more. As a result, the sound of my system suffers. At about 6:00 PM the system begins to sound better. After 9:00 PM my system sounds even better, and can transport me to sonic nirvana, as if I can aurally detect the source of the recording, as if I've traveled in some sort of sonic time machine.
---> Stromtank S2500 battery power supply review.



Enjoy the Music.com And MAYORS Celebrates Luxury Timepieces During Florida Audio Expo 2020

Enjoy the Music.com And MAYORS Celebrates Luxury Timepieces During Florida Audio Expo 2020
Report By Steven R. Rochlin
In 2020 Enjoy the Music.com is celebrating our 25th Anniversary and wanted to do something extra special. During the Florida Audio Expo we worked closely with MAYORS Jewellers, the Southeast's leading multi-brand retailer of jewelry and luxury timepieces retailer, for an exciting evening devoted to mechanical timepieces. For those unfamiliar, MAYORS has 17 stores within Florida and Georgia and is owned by Watches Of Switzerland, a leading luxury timepiece and jewelry company for over 50 (!) years, and so it took a bit of doing to make this event happen.
---> Enjoy the Music.com and MAYORS celebrates luxury timepieces during the Florida Audio Expo 2020.



CH Precision I1 Universal Integrated Amplifier Review

CH Precision I1 Universal Integrated Amplifier Review
A new paradigm for the integrated amplifier platform.
Review By Greg Weaver
CH Precision was founded by Florian Cossy and Thierry Heeb, two alumni of the highly influential and innovative Swiss high-end audio firm Goldmund. Given the wide-reaching acclaim and the host of industry awards they have garnered since their founding, it is hard to believe this company is just rounding out its first decade! For reasons that will become clearer as you get further into this evaluation, I must preface this examination by noting that my experiences with their early offerings had left me somewhat wanting.
---> CH Precision I1 universal integrated amplifier review.



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