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July 21st: The next UHF coverminicover95
     With the photography done, we've put together the cover of the next issue of UHF, No. 95. The amplifier which seems to be floating against a bright blue sky with fluffy clouds, is a Liszt Prelude from Canadian speaker maker Focus Audio. It's one of two tube amplifiers reviewed in the issue, the other being from Copland of Denmark.
     Also reviewed in that issue are a number of cables, and Simaudio's MIND media streamer. And the issue will also feature a major article on using a computer as a music source.
     The other pictures are done, and we're writing up a storm so that we can send the magazine to the printer.
     You can see the cover full-sized over at The Reading Room, and you can see the table of contents as well. Naturally, you can also preorder the new issue.
     You can expect to see the magazine's famous
Audiophile Store transformed as well. We have dropped some products, including some we have offered for a long time, and we have added new ones. As always, anything in the store -- recordings, cables, accessories, full-sized gear -- is something we would be happy to tell our best friends about.

June 27th: Photos done for UHF 95focuschart
     Nearly everything is in place for us to finish putting UHF No. 95 together: the review sessions (there's an if in there, and we'll tell you about it by and by), and most of the actual writing.
    And the product photos, handled, as usual, by Albert Simon. Hiding behind the color chart in this picture is a Focus Audio Liszt Prelude, one of two tube amplifiers we are featuring in the new issue. Indeed, it will be on the cover, which we'll put up on our site shortly.
     The main feature, which we are assembling, is a multi-part guide to what we know so far about using a computer as a music source. We use one in own system, not just because it's convenient, but because it's better. The feature is in a magazine rather than a book, because computer-based audio is shifting rapidly, and what we "know" now may not be what we're thinking a couple of years from now.
     Even if a computer is
already your major digital source, we think you'll want to read it.

BY THE WAY: Another
Flash Sale is on. We celebrated the return of a long-time favorite loudspeaker cable.


Have you dropped by our Audiophile Boutique?
It's loaded with new and refurbished Moon products from Simaudio.
Amplifiers, preamplifiers, monoblocks, DACs, CD players,
all with factory warranty.

 

June 20th: A new super connectorft212a
     It has now been a number of years since Australian audio maven Keith Eichmann came up with an interesting discovery: putting a great big hunk of metal on the end of a speaker cable or an interconnect cable had a bad effect on the sound. His better way: using a small amount of pure copper, covered with gold to inhibit tarnishing. Sure enough his Bullet and Bayonet connectors sounded demonstrably better than even very expensive conventional connectors.
     Then came WBT's nextgen series, which followed Eichmann's example, using lots of plastic and the minimum amount of pure metal.
     Now comes Furutech's answer, and it doesn't look anything like the connectors from the other two brands. The FT212 looks as though it has a massive body shell, but that shell is not connected electrically to the cable. It's there for rigidity and protection. It's a little more finicky to install than the others, but the result is worth it. Like the WBT, it has a locking collar so that it connects under pressure.
     The new connector is now in stock on our
Connectors page, in both gold and rhodium versions, and it is available on either our new Alpha S4 single-crystal cable or the Atlas Hyper Bi-Wire cable, which you'll see here.
     There's a low-mass spade, too.

BY THE WAY: There's an eye-popping Flash Sale going on, but only until Monday morning.

June 19th: Updating the storecablepage
     What you see at right is the new look of our Audiophile Store, or at least the beginning of it. It looks nearly the way it has for years, but with an updated logo, and with pull-down menus for negotiating the entire UHF site.
     We're doing the updates a page at a time, and so you'll see the new format gradually appearing right across our site. The page you see here is the store's cable page. We've been busy listening to new cables, and negotiating to buy stock of old favorites. We're happy to say that we've been successful in getting new stock of selected Atlas cables from Scotlland. But we have also begun adding cables from BIS Audio, made about 25 km from our own headquarters. As usual, we won't list anything we haven't listened to.
     Later today we will be updating the connectors page, since our connector lineup has changed almost completely. In particular, we have a new low-mass banana from Furutech we're enthusiastic about.

June 17th: New cables at the storealphas4
     
It's no secret that our next issue will include a number of cable tests. There won't be only cable tests, of course, but we've been overhauling our Audiophile Store, and we needed to listen to a number of new cables. As you probably know, we won't list anything we don't like, and therefore anything we haven't heard ourselves.
     Among the new cables is the Alpha S4 speaker cable, shown here. It replaces the Atlas Hyper 2, which is now pretty much out of stock, and at $37.95/metre, it is nearly the same price. One major difference: the S4 is made from continuous-cast copper, which means each strand is a single crystal of metal. You don't expect that for that sort of price. Yes, we've put it through one of our blind tests, and it passed with high marks.
     You can choose among several connectors, with prices ranging from free to $120 per set of four. The S4 and the other cables are on our cable page right now. We'll be adding more cables, including new digital cables, later this week.

June 13th: Working on the new issuemacmini
     Our equipment tests are pretty much done, and we're working hard to finish up our mammoth guide to using your computer as a music source. We want to help audiophiles who have no idea that a computer can be a music source, but we want to supply useful information to readers whose computers are already a major source of music. That's coming together nicely.
     In the meantime, we've had to retire the ancient MacBook Pro that was in our own reference system. We picked up a brand new Mac mini for not much more than a used one. Properly configured, it's purring along...only without the purring sound, since it has no fan.
     It also has no disc drive. More on that in our new issue.
     In the meantime, we are rebuilding our Audiophile Store, which has long been a major source of income enabling us to maintain an independent editorial policy. A lot of products are gone, far more are coming.


Have you dropped by our Audiophile Boutique?
It's loaded with new and refurbished Moon products from Simaudio.
Amplifiers, preamplifiers, monoblocks, DACs, CD players,
all with factory warranty.

 

June 2nd: Test sessions done (we think)coplandamp
     
The Copland CTA-506 is a tube amplifier from a long-time favorite Danish designer. It uses KT120 output tubes, part of the venerable 6L6 family, but one that didn't exist until recently. It's a power amp, not an integrated: that central button is a power switch.
     We think we're done, because there's one more product that didn't work out, and we are, as yet, not sure what to do about it. There was another tube amplifier, from Focus Audio, in the series, plus a bewildering array of cables.
     We're a bit lighter on equipment reviews in our next issue, because we are putting together a guide to using a computer as a music source, containing everything we know so far. You told us you wanted to see all of that in one place, and we've listened.
     By an odd coincidence, this past week, the aging MacBook Pro that was our own resident computer began to fail, one of its fans sounding like a rip saw (the second fan had actually stopped altogether). We picked up a new Mac mini at a rather low price, and we'll tell you how you can do it too.

May 23rd: Four days of listening testsLisztPrelude
     We're getting UHF No. 95 ready for production, and we had a lot of gear to listen to. Last week and into this week, we spent four days in intense listening.
     The amplifier you see here, the Focus Audio Liszt Prelude, was one subject of our sessions. It's from the people who make Focus speakers. It's an integrated tube amplifier with decidedly upscale features, built in Canada. We threw it a major challenge, and it did better than just survive. All the details in our next issue.
     We also listened to a lot of cables: digital cables, speaker cables, interconnects. We'll have a full report on all of them. Some will also turn up on our
Audiophile Store.

BY THE WAY: We've been running a 10-day version of our Flash Sale, adding new items every day or two. There will be more to come as well. But it all ends Monday at 10 am, so it may be worth dropping by a couple of times.

May 15th: Great amps at the Audiophile Boutiquemastersound
     The
hardware section of The Audiophile Boutique, our special purchase and bargain section, has picked up two new amplifiers. But there's just one of each...just sayin'. One of them is the remarkable Mastersound 845, a superb Italian amplifier we raved about in UHF No. 92. We picked it up for a song (actually for a lot of songs). It's the one we actually reviewed. It's retubed and checked out.
     Somewhat less expensive is the second amplifier, the legendary Moon W-3, which was part of our cinema reference system. It's in mint condition.
     And of course there is a plethora of discontinued Moon amplifiers, preamplifiers, and even a CD player. A CD player with a digital input.
     Coming up tomorrow is an extended Flash Sale, which will run right through the long weekend, and through the following weekend.We'll start light, and we'll be adding more products as we go.

May 9th: Is Apple Buying Beats?beatsphones
     It was all over the news yesterday. Apple, which normally buys small technology companies at relatively low prices, was going to spend $3.2 billion to buy Beats, most famous for its expensive headphones. The phones are sold in Apple Stores, but why?
     That grabbed our interest, because we know something about Beats that most other media do not.
     The original Beats phones were supposedly designed to the satisfaction of rapper Dr. Dre. We were present at the launch (so was Dr. Dre and Monster's Noel Lee), and we were sent a sample of the phones. We loved them, and we said so in our review in UHF No. 86. Somewhat later, however, less flattering reviews came out, and the New York Times called the Beats the worst headphones ever made. Huh?
     Two years ago, we talked with the Beats people, who admitted that production had changed after the first phones were produced, and later models were much less good. They sold anyway, apparently fuelled by their styling, and Beats expanded, bringing out Bluetooth speakers, car gear, ear buds, etc. A controlling interest was bought by HTC, the Taiwanese company, whose Android phones supposedly used Beats technology for its tiny speakers.
     The Beats phones are fashionably styled, but so is Apple's gear, so why would Apple want this headphone company?
     One clue (unless the whole story is bogus) is that Beats is also in the music streaming business. So is Apple, but its iTunes Radio has not taken off. Beats Music includes a major asset, CEO Jimmy Iovine, who is also a record label executive (Interscope, Geffen, A&M) and has a lot of other record company execs on speed dial. He was also a friend of Steve Jobs, and had tried to talk him into launching a music streaming service.
     Is that worth over three billion?

May 8th: Rebuilding Liberty Tradinglibertyroom
     Liberty Trading is the successor to the late Nizar Akhrass's May Audio Marketing, headed by his son Nabil. Through all of its incarnations, it has been a familiar anchor at various shows, such as the Montreal Salon, with a large room selling recordings, accessories, etc. It had the usual room at the Montreal Salon Son&Image in late March, but signs of trouble were already present.
     After Nizar's death, in April of 2010, Nabil began dividing his time between Toronto and Niagara Falls, New York. In retrospect, it was a mistake, and it would have been better to hand the keys over to the bank. You can't operate without capital, and Liberty Trading had less and less of it. We could see trouble coming, as we placed orders with them (we were a major Liberty customer) and they didn't come.
     To make matters worse, disaster struck Liberty's best-selling brand, Target. Stands made in the Far East were substandard. Production was moved to Canada, but the new stands were no better. Yet another manufacturer was found, but the new stands are weeks away.
     We talked with Nabil this morning, and here's the situation. Liberty has no debt with either the bank or the taxman. It is cutting back ruthlessly on its brands, and especially its music brands. However it is continuing with such major gear as Quad, April Music and LSA. And of course Target, whose arrival will give the company oxygen.

May 6th: New cables at the Audiophile Storemaestrobis
     We've been listening to some new cables
, including interconnects, speaker cables, and digital cables. They'll be featured in the next issue of UHF Magazine, and we will be adding them gradually to our Audiophile Store. We're excited about this, but we're a little sad too.
     For some years, we've been recommending (and using ourselves) cables from Atlas of Scotland. We've gotten them from several sources, most recently from Liberty Trading. Now the bad news: Liberty is gone, its capital wasted on a quixotic effort to keep its sister company, May Audio Marketing afloat. Its deliveries were late, and then non-existent. At the Montreal Salon, its usual big room was filled predominantly with old products it had been unable to sell.
     A minute of silence is in order. (Update: it's not quite gone, but it will be rebuilding around distribution of one brand: Target. Our fingers are crossed.)
     Now the better news. For more than a year, we've been diversifying the sources of products at The Audiophile Store. We have new cables, new connectors, and new recordings too. We should have stock of even more products soon, and we'll give you a heads up. One of them is the BIS Audio Maestro, the top cable from...well, BIS Audio, shown at right. We should have stock this week.
     In case you're wondering, yes, we have contacted Atlas to see whether they want to continue with us. On the evidence, they don't care.

May 2nd: Harman-Kardon and Sony at workhtcphone
     Have you noticed that both "stereo" and "high fidelity" have become rather devalued of late? Tiny "stereo" speakers have two drivers all but glued together, and some, indeed, have only one driver. As for "subwoofers," many of them barely woof.
     So here's the new HTC One M8 phone, with "high fidelity" speakers by none other than Harman-Kardon.
     HTC, for what it's worth, is a Taiwanese phone company that has a record of getting great reviews...but no sales. This one, it is claimed, has HK speakers and can decode lossless FLAC files, for sound six times better than a CD, and reproduce them through...
     But don't get us started.
     As for Sony, in the US it will be putting mini-Sony stores into Best Buy stores, just as Apple and Windows have done. They'll be featuring Sony TVs...but isn't Sony getting out of that business? And the e-reader business? And the computer business? They do make pretty good cameras, and we wish them well.

BY THE WAY: Want to get a foothold into digital audio, but you don't yet want to get in with both feet? Check out this weekend's
Flash Sale. (Sorry, it's over, but a new one arrives Friday at 3 pm.)

April 25th: Hi-res music at iTunes?iTuneslogo
     Ever since its inception, Apple's iTunes store, which would become the world's largest music retailer, has been selling music in lossy compressed format. Originally the compression was severe: 128 kbps. The data rate was bumped up to 256 kbps, albeit at higher cost. That was an improvement, but it was a long way from "CD quality," which would be over 1,400 kbps. And we rather like higher-resolution music, in fact. Apple developed its own lossless codec, with the descriptive name of "Apple Lossless," but it doesn't sell music in that format. Will it ever?
     According to the rumor mill, yes And as we know, rumors about Apple are always accurate, right?
     For a long time, now, Apple has been asking record companies to submit their music in 24-bit/96 kHz resolution. Ostensibly, it did so in order to handle the transcoding to AAC itself, to guarantee higher quality. According to the rumors, Apple will announce at the Worldwide Developers' Conference in June that the iTunes store will begin offering the high-resolution files to its customers. That would make it the world's biggest on-line source of high-resolution music.
     Will the hi-res music cost more? Well, d'oh! But everyone else charges extra for high resolution too.


Each time we play an LP, we decide whether it deserves the very best record sleeve.
If it does, we slip it into one of our Japanese sleeves.
Made of plasticized rice paper, it is soft and easy to handle.
Unlike polyethylene, it doesn't generate static electricity.
We love them. You will too.
 
 

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