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HIFICRITIC     July / August / September 2020


HIFICRITIC Volume 14 Number 3 July / August / September 2020


Reviews & Articles Within This Issue
2 The HIFICRITIC Team Of Reviewers And Journalists
Continuing our investigation and writing....
Editorial By Martin Colloms, Editor-In-Chief


4 Ricardo Franassovici
The Absolute Sounds founder looks back on high-end culture wars and the early days of his company, and explains what really matters when it comes to extracting maximum musical enjoyment. He tells some tales, shares some philosophy, and answers the question 'How have you been spending your lockdown?' His reply? Listening to much more music, of course!


8 Stan's Safari
Stan's not convinced by expensive streaming hardware, simply because he doesn't think you get that sufficient bang for your buck when you invest heavily in the technology. Why's that? Well, he says it's all in the hands of the software, with all its vagaries and foibles – it isn't like this in the analogue domain! And he reviews the latest edition of a classic textbook on amplifier design.


11 Dartzeel NHB-18NS / NHB-108 Model 2
In this issue's feature review, Martin Colloms achieves a long-held ambition to get his hands on this handbuilt pre/power amplifier combination from Swiss designer Hervé Delétraz. He looks into the company's technology of zero feedback, the cleanest possible signal paths and dedicated interconnects, and finds much to like in the captivating sound of the duo. We also hear from the designer himself about the genesis of the remarkable preamplifier.


23 Pickup Cartridge Alignment
Getting your record player's cartridge aligned perfectly for accurate tracking of the record groove isn't just a nicety – rather it's vital if you're to optimise performance. Keith Howard explains it's all a matter of science, not black art, mythology or 'having the knack': he explores why it makes a difference, and the simple steps you need to take to make sure you've got it right.


Having interviewed PMC founder Peter Thomas for the last issue of HIFICRITIC, Kevin Fiske found himself intrigued enough to try some of the company's speakers. Never one to do things by half, he opted for the latest iteration of one of its best-known studio monitor designs.


35 Bryston BP-173 / 3B3
With the PMC MB2se speakers on order, Kevin Fiske began to wonder about driving them properly. A muscular pre/power amplifier combination from Bryston's 'Cubed' range was soon on its way.


HIFICRITIC Volume 14 Number 3 July / August / September 2020


39 Focal Stellia, Clear, And Archie
French company Focal has a striking range of headphones. Chris Frankland opens our headphone special with two of its latest models, and a DAC / amplifier to drive them.


42 Audeze LCD-X
The American company's headphones have been widely acclaimed, both by hi-fi enthusiasts and professionals. This planar magnetic design shows why.



Novafidelity / Cocktail Audio HA500H Review

42 Novafidelity / Cocktail Audio HA500H
Made by Novatron in Korea.

Best-known for its range of network audio products, the Korean manufacturer has now turned its attention to this valve/solid state DAC/headphone amplifier, with no less than spectacular results. Made by Novatron in Korea, the Novafidelity line is sold in the rest of the world as Cocktail Audio. The company is known for its range of network audio products, but the HA500H is its first dedicated headphone amplifier / DAC / preamp. And there is plenty of interest here. First off is the fact that it is a hybrid design and can be operated in either valve (ECC82) or solid-state modes.
---> Read the Novafidelity / Cocktail Audio HA500H review.



Headphone Shake-Up

46 Headphone Shake-Up
Keith Howard supplements his headphone experience with a kick in the posterior, and find himself shaken by the results.
Review By Keith Howard Of HIFICRITIC
Bolting a low-frequency shaker to his chair gives Keith Howard's headphone listening a much-needed kick in the pants. It's a well-worn cliché that headphone listening can never match the sheer impact of using speakers because only our ears are engaged, not our whole body. In a soundfield we are subject to music-related vibrations that reach us via the air itself and via structure-borne sound, conveyed through the floor to where we are standing or sitting. We may not always be conscious of these vibrations but, the trope goes, they have a significant effect on our perception of live or reproduced music – an effect that headphone listening necessarily lacks.
---> Read the Headphone Shake-Up review.


50 T+A Solitare P / HA 200
The German manufacturer's début headphones and DAC / amp are a no-holds barred statement of technical intent. Ed Selley listens.


53 Keith Monks Prodigy
Compact, quite and competitively priced, the latest Keith Monks record cleaning machine is an attractive buy – it even has a built-in lightshow!


56 Prima Luna Evolution 300
Coming back to valves after an extended hiatus, Chris Kelly, finds he likes what he hears from this elegant amplifier.


58 Music
Our critics round up their pick of the classical and jazz releases – and some great secondhand buys.


64 Sound Stage
The inside track on the DSD revival from NativeDSD's Floor van der Holst.





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