December 6th: UHF 94 going to bed
The magazine is
essentially done, now, except for the inevitable last-moment ads we
need to squeeze in. The final corrections were done this morning. The
printer will have it Monday morning. Via Internet, as usual.
It's not our usual printer this time, because
with the holidays coming up we're not the only ones needing press time.
The magazine will be printed in Saint-Leonard, on the island of
Montreal, and not in Beauceville.
There is another change too. Some specialty
magazines have been cutting the number of their pages drastically,
sometimes by as much as 50%. We had always resisted, but the postal
service has forced our hand. Recent issues weighed some 220
grams, and the mailing rates are downright punitive. Sending an
issue outside Canada and the US, for instance, now costs nearly $15.
With 76 pages instead of 84, and slightly thinner paper, we can get
below 200 g for the magazine plus an envelope.
Of course, if you're subscribed to Maggie's electronic version, our mailing rate is much cheaper, no matter where you live.
November 29th: UHF No. 94 almost ready for the presses
We have just a few pages to finish up, and we're sending the latest edition of UHF Magazine to press. Press date is Friday the 6th, with delivery date to be announced.
We've already mentioned the two loudspeakers
on the cover. They are, respectively, the Küdos Super 10 (don't be
fooled by the umlaut -- it's British, not Scandivavian), and the
Gershman Idol. One is small but fairly expensive, and the other is
large but affordable (go figure). We liked them both, and we hope to
help you decide which is better for you (click on the image to see the
There will also reviews of digital products,
including DACs and USB interfaces, as well as a neat integrated amp
which (did you see this coming?) has a DAC aboard. And those are just
the equipment reviews.
We sent out the snail mail subscription
renewal forms last week, and renewals have begun trickling in. If you
have a subscription to Maggie's magic electronic version, you may be
getting a renewal notice too, but of course it will be by e-mail.
All this isn't keeping us from laying out
issue 95, coming after the holidays. We have some terrific stuff lined
up, and we'll tell you all about it soon.
November 27th: All about Black Friday
November 26th: Bryston's USB interface
Today is Thansgiving in the US. And
that means Friday will be Black Friday. That day is marked by
incredible bargains on all sorts of merchandise, people being trampled
to death at Walmart (a black Friday indeed!), etc. Since only the US
celebrates Thanksgiving on that day, it was only the US that marked
Black Friday. However, the Internet having pretty much shrunk the
world, the tradition has spread across the Globe. But why "black"?
The usual explanation is that retail merchants have
worked all year at a loss, and have now reached the break-even point.
From Black Friday on, the ledger (do they still have those?) will be
written in black ink rather than red ink.
That sounds rather dire, and in fact it's only part of the story.
Clothing stores, which change inventory four
times a year, figured it out first. Let's say you bought a thousand
shirts at $50 each. You've spent $50,000. Now let's say you sell them
for $80 each. Once you've sold 625 of them at that price, you've made
back your $50,000, and those shirts are paid for. You can now afford to
blow them out at any price that will clear them out, say $30. You're
thinking the store is losing money on them, but in fact it has already
earned back what it paid. If it sells the remaining 375 shirts at $30
each, it now earns another $11,250. That is its profit.
Well, not quite in fact, because that doesn't
account for rent, salaries and other expenses. However, if the stock is
paid for, it can be blown out at any price.
We're joining the Black Friday parade with an extended version of our Flash Sale.
You'll see electronic equipment and music recordings, including SACD/CD
hybrids, at price you're not likely to see again. It begins at 5 p.m.
tonight, and ends Monday morning.
It's not much of a secret that
most digital-to-analog converters, however good they may be, have lousy
USB circuits. Not long ago, they didn't have USB circuits at all. You'd
connect to whatever source you had via coaxial, AES/EBU or optical
cable. The best way to connect to a nearby computer is, however, via
USB. And manufacturers got mostly caught flatfooted. In our own
reference system, we use a separate USB interface box, the Stello U3.
Now there's a new USB box from Bryston, the BUC-1.
It rather looks like a complete DAC, but in fact it's just a USB
interface, with outputs via coaxial, BNC (the same thing but with a
different connector), and AES/EBU. The BUC-1 is not powered by the
computer's USB bus, and accepts a standard IEC power cord.
Of course, it's not likely to be needed by
Bryston's own DAC, but help is needed by an awful lot of units, for the
moment at least. List price in Canada is $799.
November 15th: Preamps and amps at the Audiophile Boutique
We don't usually offer high-end audio
components at The Audiophile Boutique, but we've gotten a good
consignment of Moon preamplifiers and preamplifiers. And if you've been
thinking of an upgrade to your electronics (perhaps even your final upgrade), you might want to get a look while the bargains last.
Yes, bargains, because of course we negotiated
a special price. This superb 350P preamp sold for $3400, but you can
get it from us for $2475. And that's for a preamp with MM/MC phono
input and a full 24/192 high-resolution DAC, built right in.
We also have the Moon 330A power amplifier
brand new for $2550 (that's $900 off), or even less for the
factory-refurbished version with five-year warranty.
But if you want something better yet, pick up
a couple of Moon 400M monoblocks (400 watts each) for $5200. That's
$1700 off. Brand new stock, with free shipping in Canada. See it all at
The Audiophile Boutique's hardware page.
BY THE WAY: The weekend Flash Sale is on, and is not to be missed.
November 8th: Don't wait for the Blu-ray
We don't usually
review films that are in cinemas, because that's not our bailiwick.
With the right attention to detail, you can get a home experience far
superior to what the majority of popcorn and Big Gulp palaces can offer
you. However, here's a movie you need to see on the big screen, in 3D,
preferably in a real IMAX cinema.
You probably already know that the story of Gravity
is set in orbit, at the International Space Station. We've always been
aware of the dangers astronauts face, and some bad things have
happened, for instance to the Challenger and Columbia space shuttles.
This is every bit as scary.
Because the setting is so realistic, the
suspense is greater than in most action movies, and especially
fantasies. It needs to be seen in 3D because 3D is the language of the
film. The direction by Alfonso Cuarón is awesome in the true sense, as
is the script, from Cuarón and his son Jonás. Though 3D can be used to
communicate the sense of space, it can also make you feel
claustrophobic. Imagine being sealed in a space suit that is running
out of oxygen. And that's as close to a spoiler as we're going to get.
It's hard to see how the Academy can refuse to
give Sandra Bullock the Oscar. George Clooney is likely to have one
too. Best film? Possibly. Best cinematography? It's a lock. And if
there were an Oscar for the best final shot (not final scene, but final
image), Gravity would get that too.
See it while it's still in IMAX 3D. But
don't schedule anything right after, because your head will be spinning
for a while.
BY THE WAY: If moving up to a true high end Moon system is in your plans, don't overlook this weekend's extended Flash Sale. Till Tuesday, and then it's gone.
November 6th: Wrapping up the Toronto show
We've just spent a
bit of time in Toronto, attending TAVES, the third Toronto Audio Video
Entertainment show. And our blog from the show is now complete.
We wish it had been bigger, that there had
been more of the usual names present. But it was slickly organized, a
pleasure to navigate, and both visitors and exhibitors we talked to
Oh...the amplifier at right? It's called
Simply Italy. No really, that's its name, Simply Italy. It is, of
course, Italian, and it gets plenty of points for cuteness. It's from
The next show we'll be covering will, of course, be International CES in Las Vegas, in early January
(our plane, badge, hotel and limo are all booked). And then Montreal's
Salon Son&Image arrives the last week of March. It is now owned by
the Chester Group of the UK. However, Sarah Tremblay, long the
co-organizer of the Salon, will be at the helm.
And now back to work. We have a magazine to finish up.
October 30th: Off to TAVES
That's the Toronto Audio Video Entertainment
Show, which starts Friday and runs through Sunday (that's November 1st
through 3rd). Three of us are on our way there. The TAVES blog is already on line, and of course you should check back for updates from now through next week.
This is the third TAVES. It's at the same venue, the King Edward Hotel,
at 37 King Street east, near Yonge, and right across from the subway.
The picture shown here is what the hotel
looked like when it was built at the turn of the century. Today it's
part of the Meridien chain, and it's still pretty spiffy.
By the way, don't reserve your tickets till you've visited our blog. Just sayin'.
October 25th: New amplifiers in our Kappa system
Well, not new exactly. Our Kappa reference
system is our cinema setup. For a long time the left and right front
channels have been driven by Simaudio's Moon W-3, one of the best power
amplifiers it had ever made. Much as we loved it, we have now replaced
it with a pair of Van den Hul M-1 monoblocks.
That calls for a little explanation.
You probably know Van den Hul for its
excellent audio cables and phono cartridges. Less well known is that,
in Europe, A. J. van den Hul long ago designed and marketed top-drawer
electronics. Some years ago he built a North American version of his
preamplifier, his stereo amplifier, and his two monoblocks. It was a
tough market to crack, and VdH failed. The gear was featured in our Audiophile Boutique at about half the original price (which was close to $8000 in the case of the M-1's), and it all sold.
all. We were left with a pair of not-quite-identical amps that would be
awkward to sell, and we have now pressed them into service, where they
are performing admirably.
Which probably means we'll shine up the W-3 and sell it. We'll be sad to see it go, though.
BY THE WAY: Speaking of Simaudio and The Audiophile Boutique, we have some eye-popping specials over at this weekend's Flash Sale. But only until Monday morning.
October 19th: The Swiss army knife of audio
is it? It's the ADL GT40 from Furutech of Japan. You know Furuech for
quality cables, connectors, and lots more. Now see what its engineers
can do with hardware! This unit is being reviewed in issue No. 94 of UHF Magazine, but we didn't want to make you wait.
How is it a Swiss Army knife? Well, let's see what's in it.
1) It's a high-quality USB DAC. A lot of
USB DACs are just awful. Not this one. It gives you 24/96 resolution
from your computer.
2) It's a high-grade phono preamp,
switchable for MM and MC, without the awful artefacts of most low-cost
3) It's a headphone amplifier too. It has
plenty of gain, and it is wonderfully smooth and natural.
4) Last but by no means least, it
contains an anaog-to-digital converter, so that you can use it to
digitize your LPs, cassettes or other analog material. Just pick up a
free copy of Audacity software, or pretty much any other recording
See the GT4 at either our analog or our digital page, and get an advance look at our review.
October 18th: Over-the-top audio
may have mentioned the Opera Only amplifier before, and we guarantee it
will never be mentioned again. This amplifier is the creation of Andrea
Pivetta of Italy, who is shown here standing next to his ridiculous
creation. Ridiculous? Judge for yourself.
The Opera Only is...large. Really
large. It weighs a tonne and a half, about the same as a Toyota
Corolla, and it needs to be large. because it is an 18-channel surround
amp, operating in pure class A. Did you say heat? Let's not even
go there. Twelve of the amp sections put out a "mere" 10,000 watts
each, but the other six can develop 20,000 watts each. We suppose its
pupose is home theatre, but once you've installed the Opera Only, where
do you put the screen?
When we cover
shows such as CES in Vegas, we do get to see lots of over-the-top audio
products, with prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some are
very good, most are not. Many couldn't be brought into your house
without removal of a wall. The Opera Only certainly wouldn't fit
through the door of any normal house, though it might have its place at
Versailles. Price? How about 1.5 million Euros? Eat your heart out VAC, Boulder and VTL!
Why is this the last time we will ever
mention the Opera Only? It's because Pivetta is now flooding our
inboxes with two press releases a week for this preposterous product,
and he has no unsubscribe link (not that those ever work anyway). You can look up his product on YouTube, but we're opting out.
BY THE WAY:
Yes, it's Flash
Sale time again. If you're looking for a DAC for your system, or
if you're looking for a new CD player, we can furnish both in one
bargain-priced unit. And do we ever know how to sweeten a deal!
But...until Monday morning only.
October 11th: Super Moon integrated amp at The Audiophile Boutique
year our Audiophile Boutique featured the Moon i3.3 amplifier, both new
and factory-refurbished. We sold them all, and you told us you loved
them. Now we've received stock of the 13.3's successor, the 340i. And
they're fully loaded, with Moon phono preamp (MM/MC) and 24/192 DAC.
Oh, and a balanced input too. We have brand new ones, and also some of
Simaudio's carefully refurbished ones, with five-year warranty. They're
on the Hardware page of our Audiophile Boutique.
BY THE WAY:
The Flash Sale is on all weekend (till Tuesday morning. Would you like one of our favorite interconnect cables for free? We thought you might.
October 10th: Panasonic dropping plasma?
first saw it stated as fact, and then as a rumor. Panasonic, whose
business model is apparently not working out as well as it would like,
would be dropping plasma televisions in favor of the ubiquitous LCD
screens, albeit backlit by light-emitting diodes.
Now, we should repeat a famous principle:
if a headline ends with a question mark, as ours does, the answer to
the question is almost always no.
story originated with Japan's Neikki news agency, which quotes an
unnamed source. It says plasma production will end at the end of the
current fiscal year, at the end of the next March. Whats more, its
plasma plant will then be for sale.
asked Barry Murray, director of AV marketing for Panasonic Canada, who
issued one of those non-denial denials, saying that "Our official
position is that we don't comment on unofficial stories,"
If the story is true, it's not good news
for cinephiles, who find plasma vastly superior and more "filmlike"
than LCD. The best choices in plasma remain Panasonic and Samsung.
Well, we[d always have Samsung -- our reference set is a Samsung -- but
lack of choice is always worrisome.
October 4th: News from CEDIA
weekend saw the 2013 edition of CEDIA (that stands for Custom Home
Theater Installation Contractors) in Denver. Meant mainly for those
people who come to your home and install complete turnkey entertainment
systems, with cables and speakers in the walls, CEDIA is also a venue
where some of the innovations that will later show up at CES are first
Rotel was at CEDIA with a whole set of
products, including the RSP-1572, shown here. It lookslike a receiver,
but it contains no power amplifiers. It does include 3D-ready Faroudja
DCDi video processing, and up to 7.1 channels (two of them derived, as
usual). That USB connection at the front can take a digital signal from
our iPhone, iPad, etc. The price of the unit is $2199.
Bryston, which now makes loudspeakers as
well as electronics, was at CEDIA showing a new speaker series, dubbed
Model A (Model T is the original series). The presentation can be seen here.
Note that there's a new spokesman, Gary Dayton. James Tanner says he's
feeling his age, though we wouldn't be surprised to see him at the
Toronto show at the end of the month.
And we're sorry we missed Linn's press
conference, presenting the Limited Edition Sondek LP12 turntable. There
are only 40 of them, each encased in a whisky wood plinth and combined
with a 40-year old Highland Park single malt whisky. How's that for high-end sound?
BY THE WAY: We posted yesterday about new Moon products available at our Audiophile Boutique.
But this weekend's Flash Sale offers a heck of a bonus.
October 3rd: Amps and preamps at The Audiophile Boutique
is our centre for special purchases and one-off offers. Among our
recent offers have been products from Simaudio's Moon series (as you
know, a number of them can be found in our reference systems). We had
never, until now, included a preamplifier...
It's a 350P preamp, and it's fully
loaded, with Moon's own DAC and MM/MC phono preamplifier. It can handle
anything you can throw at it. Originally $3400, these brand new
preamps, with 10-year factory warranty, are just $2475. See it on our hardware page.
We have power amplifiers too: the 330A
125 W/channel stereo power amp, or the 400M monoblock (named for its
output power: 400 watts into 8 ohms).
We have both black and silver versions of most products, but the quantities are very limited.
September 27th: Looking back at a masterpiece
at the same time we're introducing a new team member, long-time editor,
writer and translator (and music lover) Kathe Lieber. Kathe was our
proofreader on issue No. 93. She's working the same magic with
issue 94 (coming soon), but she has also contributed this major article.
We long ago noticed, as you probably have too, that Hollywood just doesn't get
serious music composers. Chopin? Beethoven? Liszt? Tchaikovsky? Films
made about them have been unbelievable trash. There's one exception to
the rule, and it's Amadeus.
Based on a hit play by Peter Shaffer,
this highly fictionalized take of Mozart and his great rival Salieri
was turned into a genuine masterpiece. Nearly 30 years later, it
remains a pinnacle of cinema.
Kathe looks at its making, its story, and
especially its music, to determine why director Milos Forman engaged us
with a truly thrilling story when pretty much everyone else had failed.
BY THE WAY: It's Flash Sale
time again. We've just received the remaining stock of the Moon 300D
DAC, the one we use as reference. We have both new ones and
factory-refurbished models. During the sale, we are bundling with
bargains you're unlikely ever to see again.
September 20th: A modern amplifier
We're approaching the time when we'll be sending issue No. 94 of UHF Magazine to
press, and section after section is now being proofread. One of the
latest is of what we call a thoroughly modern integrated amplifier.
It's the Van Medevoort MA260, a 50
watt/channel class A amplifier from the Netherlands, with an
eye-popping price of $1990. Granted, it's an introductory price, and a
shift in the value of the Euro could knock that into a cocked hat
(remember cocked hats? What a shame they went out of fashion!).
But what makes it modern?
Well, it's this. The MA260 has only two analog inputs, but a whole set of digital
inputs. Yes, it has a full-fledged DAC built right in. Connect it to a
CD player or transport, connect it to your computer, or connect it to
an Airport Express, and you don't need to spend more for a separate DAC.
Or perhaps you don't. We liked it a lot, but you'll want to read the full review to see whether it's likely to be the amplifier you want.
Actually, there are a lot
of digital products in our reviews of issue No. 94, as well as two
loudspeakers...which are about as analog as you can get.
BY THE WAY:
The weekly Flash Sale is now on, and runs through Monday. We have a great price on the first two discs of the famed Jazz at the Pawnshop
SACDs. We were going to offer a special on an upscale power cord, and
then realized we had only one left. We're offering it anyway...until
someone snaps it up.
September 20th: Montreal show sold
told you in mid-June that the CEO of Montreal's successful long-running
high-end show, Le Salon Son&Image, was leaving to become director
of sales and marketing for Plurison (known in the US as Audio Plus
Services). He passed the torch to his partner in the organization,
But things have moved along. The Salon has now been bought
by a UK show organizer, the Chester Group. Chester has been doing
high-end shows in its native UK, as well as in Sweden and Australia,
and last April it launched a show in New York (yes, another one).
Sarah is not leaving, however, and in
fact she will be taking over management of the New York show (scheduled
for next Spring, on a date to be announced) as well as Montreal's
Salon. Chester says everything else stays the same. The next Salon will
be at the Hotel Bonaventure March 28th to 30th.
September 16th: Inside the CD
the Compact Disc dying? There are lots of media articles writing it off
these days. Our point of view is that, although CD players
are pretty much done, the CD format has some precious time left. In our
next issue, Paul Bergman looks closely at the CD format: how it works,
how and why it was developed, why it doesn't sound as good as music
stored on a hard drive, but also why downloading hasn't totally taken
In the same issue, we look at
using a big-name receiver as a video processor in a high-end
home-cinema system. Suffice it to say that you don't just open the
user's manual and do everything it says, even if you can figure out
what it all means.
We've been listening to a lot of products
having to do with digital audio, including two USB-to-coaxial interface
boxes, and an inexpensive but surprisingly good standlone USB DAC (the
perfect companion to your computer, possibly). We'll have an
inexpensive integrated amp with a complete DAC built right in. We have
a neat product meant for headphone lovers, essentially a DAC and a
high-end headphone amp. But we also have reviews of two loudspeakers,
both of which -- we can tell you this much already -- we much enjoyed
spending quality time with.
You can of course see the next cover and the table of contents over at The Reading Room. In the meantime we're working to complete the issue and send it to the printer. And of course to Maggie's download site.
September 13th: Ray Dolby dies
Dolby, whose name became synonymous with several of his products, was
more than an entrepreneur. He was an inventor, and his impact on audio
and home cinema was huge. He set up his company, Dolby Labs, in 1964,
and developed his famous method for reducing hiss on professional tape
recording, Dolby Noise Reduction. Unlike the competing DBX system,
Dolby NR was reversible, and did not mess up the dynamics of music. He
would later develop Dolby B and C, which made cassettes into a
reasonable hi-fi medium.
worked on movie sound, developing Dolby Stereo, a way to put three
channels onto film, and then Dolby Surround, a technology based on the
SQ quadraphonic system of the 70's. Dolby Labs developed the first
multichannel sound system for the DVD and, later, Blu-ray.
Ray Dolby suffered from Alzheimer's and
lukemia. He died in San Francisco at the age of 80.
September 13th: Buying your own router
one time, you got a DSL high-speed Internet modem from your phone or
cable company, and then you would buy a Wi-Fi router and connect it up,
so that you could have wireless Internet all over the house. Today, the
company's modem actually includes Wi-Fi. Something for free, right?
Well, yes, but there may be an argument
for telling your provider to leave its Wi-Fi turned off, and connecting
up your own router.
Speed may be one reason. An older router
(and phone/cable companies are none too quick to tell you that you need
an upgrade) may be using an old protocol, known as 802.11b (that's the
name of the standard). Some older gear needs this standard, but most
now uses the newer 801.11n standard. Those old modems may also use WEP
Wired Equivalent Privacy) (protection against intruders, which even
children know how to get around. WAP2 is a better protection. But if
you're routing high-quality music over the air, as we do, you'll want
something better yet.
Why would you send music over the air?
You will if your computer is not right next to your music system. And
if you do, there's something more you need to know about routers: their
There are, at present, two frequency
bands used for Wi-Fi, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Since nearly all routers use
the 2.4 GHz band, it's plenty crowded unless you live in a remote
farmhouse. Don't be too surprised if your music pauses now and then,
while the router looks for its turn to use the pipeline. The higher 5
GHz band is much less crowded, and it includes more non-overlapping
channels anyway. What's more, for a reason we don't really understand,
music over Wi-Fi sounds considerably better on that band.
But you may not want to go exclusively
onto 5 GHz, because you may have older gear, such as a phone, that
can't use it. What you need to look for is a router that can broadcast
over both bands at the same time. Apple's Airport Extreme was the
original one, but all the major companies now have simultaneous
September 5th: A deal on a great phono preamp at The Audiophile Boutique
We've been adding plenty of great Moon products to our Audiophile Boutique,
at special prices of course. We cherry pick them, because, as usual, we
won't offer you something we wouldn't recommend to our best friends.
The latest addition is a Moon LP5.3, a
phono preamp that is nearly identical to the 310LP, but is available
for $500 less. It's been checked and refurbished by Simaudio, and it
has a new box and a five-year factory warranty. See itt the Audiophile Boutique's hardware page.
While you're at it, check another
exclusive, the Audes Orpheus speakers which were on the cover of UHF No. 88. One pair only. And have a look at the Moon CD3.3 player, whose built-in DAC has a digital input, so you can connect it with your computer or an Airport Express.
There's more great stuff coming, but some is selling out as well. Have a look.
BY THE WAY:
At the weekend Flash Sale (until Monday), get our reference DAC plus a fantastic accessory pack.
September 4th: A terrific Audes speaker at The Audiophile Boutique
We've been adding new products to our Audiophile Boutique,
our site offering special purchases and clearances. We'll be adding far
more in the days ahead, but this is the biggest we've ever had:
It's the Audes Orpheus, the speaker that was on the cover of UHF No. 88. It cost $16,000 when we reviewed it, and rose to $18,000. What would you say to $9300, with free shipping in Canada, $200 extra in the US. But of course we have only one pair, so...first come, first served. NOTE: ALREADY SOLD.
While you're on the site's hardware page,
you may also notice an unusual CD player, Simaudio's Moon CD3.3. What's
unique is that it has a coaxial digital input, so that you can use it
with a computer, an Airport Express, or whatever.
Watch for lots more at the Boutique.
September 2nd: New stylus cleaner at The Audiophile Store
August 30th: Listening sessions completed
One of the small annoyances associated with
vinyl records is keeping the stylus clean. If you get a dust ball
you'll sure know it, but even a few fibres can make the music sound
rough. Before playing each side we brush off the stylus tip with a
special cleaner. But we haven't been happy with existing cleaners.
But, as you know, we have our own chem lab here at UHF.
We have long offered our LPC vinyl cleaner, for use with motorized
cleaning machines and wet/dry record brushes. Unlike most such
cleaners, ours does not use isopropyl alcohol, it contains a safe level
of solvant, and it uses a top-grade surfactant which leaves no residue.
Now we've done further research and come up with a stylus cleaner, Steyelus. The bottle holds 4 mL of the fluid, and of course its cap includes a convenient brush.
costs less than the others only because we make it ourselves. We
weren't prepared to launch it unless it outperformed the competition.
This one does. It's available now for $11.95 on our analog page.
In the next short while we will be adding
several interesting new products to The Audiophile Store. As usual,
these will be products we can recommend to our friends. If we don't
like it, you won't see it here.
Some of the
listening sessions for our equipment reviews go quickly. We can even
include two or three products in a single session (well, three is quite
rare). We did in fact include three products in our final session. Two
of them are shown here. They're from a Taiwanese company with the
redundant name of Kingrex. The ones you see are USB interfaces,
allowing you to connect the USB circuit of a computer to the coaxial
input on a DAC. In short, they do exactly the same thing as the Stello
U3 interface, which is part of our reference system. Of course you can
guess what we were thinking. Could we get the performance of the Stello
at lesser cost?
Well, no in fact, though we wish it were so. However there is a Kingrex digital product we will be recommending…and perhaps picking up for ourselves.
We have lots more to tell you about our findings, so drop back soon.
August 19th: Omega system back in service
When we are in the midst of equipment reviews, what we really don't
want to have happen is for a major part of a reference system to break
down. But that is what happened earlier this month. The Moon P-8
amplifier which is at the heart of our Omega reference system, began
blowing fuses. Why? We couldn't find the cause, and so we bundled the
two impossibly-heavy chassis over to Simaudio, which, fortunately, is
not very far away.
We just got the P-8 back this morning, all
fixed, with a firmware update besides. The cause: a damaged power
supply cable, which led to a short circuit. While it was at the clinic,
we redesigned the system's AC supply system, something we should have
done some months ago, truth to tell.
On Friday we reviewed an integrated amplifier,
the van Medevoort MA260. That session was done with our Alpha reference
system, whose Living Voice Avatar loudspeakers are better suited to the
amplifier than our large Reference 3a Supremas. The MA260 did itself
proud, we might mention in passing. The fact that it has a high-grade
DAC aboard is a terrific bonus, too.
We have two more sessions coming this week, on Wednesday and Friday.
August 15th: UHF 94 cover on line
Work is continuing apace on the next issue of UHF, and the preview is already on line over at The Reading Room.
The thumbnail of the new cover is shown here, but you can view it
full-sized, and you can already read the table of contents. We think
you'll like what you see.
We've been running behind because of a freak
failure of our Moon P-8, the preamplifier we use in our Omega reference
system. The power supply suffered considerable damage from an unknown
cause. It has now been repaired, but is still "under observation," as
they say at the emergency ward.
In the meantime, we have another listening
session scheduled for tomorrow. Fortunately, it would in any case have
been done in our Alpha system, It's of a class A integrated
amplifier from the Netherlands, which has a full digital-to-analog
converter aboard. It is, you might say, ready for anything. This will
be a long session, because we will be listening to it as an analog
amplifier, and then we will ask it to handle digital signals from both
its coaxial and USB inputs.
We hope to complete the sessions next week, and we'll keep you up to date on what we find.
August 13th: Happy birthday, cassette
Yes, it was a half century yesterday that Lou
Ottens, who then worked for Philips, launched the Compact Cassette,
which then became known simply as the cassette.
There had been other intermediate media between open-reel analog
tape and this new medium. There was the four-track Fidelipac
endless-loop cartridge, a half-speed version of the "carts" used by
radio stations for commercials and jingles. And there was the awful
8-track, which squeezed...yes, eight tiny tracks onto the narrow tape.
The tape would stretch a little with each play. North Americans bought
tons of them for their cars, whereas everywhere else in the world the
cassette was king. And rightly so.
Not that the cassette was a true high fidelity
medium, and "pre-recorded" commercial cassettes were especially evil.
There were attempts to make it do what Philips had never envisaged.
B.I.S, brought out a line of cassette machines that ran at double
speed, but of course half the time. And Sony launched the Elcaset, a
larger cassette with wider tape running at higher speed, with better
mechanical design. Like most Sony formats, the Elcaset went nowhere and
is now sought after only by enthusiasts, who trade tips on where to buy
tapes and parts for their failing machines.
Before downloading of music files, the RIAA
and its counterparts around the world would warn that copying music
onto cassette was "killing music." LPs would bear tiny logos, with the
cassette modified to look like a skull, with crossbones below it.
Ottens, by the way, listens mostly to CDs.
"The cassette is history," he told TIME, "I like when something new
August 2nd: More than just the fuse
We had hoped to
get going on more equipment reviews this week, especially because we're
taking a bit of R&R ourselves (there will be the usual skeleton
crew here next week). It was not to be, because our beloved Moon P-8
preamplifier continues to blow fuses.
Certainly we did have good reasons to redo the
Omega system's electrical circuitry. We've long recommended you do that
now and then, so why don't we? We found cables we had forgotten about,
and other stuff that needed replacing. The system will probably sound
better than ever...if we can awaken the preamp from its coma. Simaudio
has been on vacation the past few days, but as soon as we get back...
That doesn't mean we won't be doing anything
until the preamp is repaired. We have another reference system, the one
in the Alpha room. It will be used anyway for one of the reviews, that
of a small integrated amplifier from the Netherlands. We don't want to
impose our Reference 3a Supreme loudspeakers on it, and the Living
Voice Avatars in the Alpha room will be a better choice.
We'll let you know what happens.
BY THE WAY: Our usual weekend Flash Sale lasts more than one weekend this time around. Drop by and have a look.
July 26th: Photography done for UHF 94
And a good thing too, because Albert Simon,
who -- aside from his other duties -- does the product photography, was
packing to travel overseas. He has, despite his haste, done his usual
terrific job. Check the example at right.
The loudspeaker is the one we mentioned in the last blog post, the Nexüs Super 10. The stand is not
from Nexüs, though it has the same distributor as Nexüs. It's a Track
Audio Precision stand. It's impressive to look at, and gorgeously
built. It also costs about the same as some pretty good speakers. All
that to say that you won't be putting them under speakers that come
from Best Buy.
Unfortunately we ran into a problem with our
tests -- we had expected to put in another full day. When we connected
some of the gear to be reviewed, our Moon P-8 preamplifier blew its
fuse. And the replacement
fuse. Was it failing? A quick check with a voltmeter detected a small
but significant AC voltage (6.2 volts) which should have been zero
volts. Oh oh!
Our Omega system has a lot of gear in it, and
a lot of power cords, plus a power filter, and possibly stuff we had
forgotten about. It's all being taken apart and tested.
The system we're talking about is the Omega
system, which is in a large room. We could have done these reviews with
the Alpha system, and indeed some of it will be done in that system, but of course we want everything to work right.
We've pretty much finished up the cover of the
next issue, and we'll have the Reading Room preview up shortly.
July 12th: Two days of listening
Why should a small
loudspeaker costs $7000? If you buy your speakers by weight, then
obviously the Küdos Super 10's are no bargain. However we spent
Thuesday with a pair of them, in an all-LP session, and we had a really
good time. We want a speaker to have life and render all the musical
values, holding our interest. Check! These British speakers will be
featured in the next issue of UHF.
On Wednesday we had a session with a
much larger but also much lower-priced speaker, the Gershman Idol (see
our previous blog entry). We liked the Idol when we heard it at the
Montreal show, and we liked it in another all-LP session too. Building
any speaker to a price is difficult, and building a large
speaker to a price is overwhelmingly difficult. Lots of companies,
including Gershman itself, has foundered on those rocks. More, much more, in UHF No. 93.
Our listening sessions continue next week.
We're expecting a new amplifier, which we'll tell you about shortly,
and we have some new digital products coming up as well.
July 5th: Listening sessions start next week
Work is under way on issue No. 94 of UHF, and on Wednesday we will begin our review sessions. We have a number of products undergoing break-in, and ready for listening.
The first product to be listened to is the
loudspeaker at right, the Gershman Idol. Gershman Acoustics is known
for large and expensive speakers, such as the Gap and the Black Swan.
The company has tried its hand at lower-cost speakers before. Some
early ones were not really comparable to the competition. A $3000 model
called the Soonogram (reviewed in UHF No. 81) was very good, but the price couldn't be maintained, and since then it has nearly doubled in price.
So now the Gershmans are trying again, with
the Idol, which is a good-sized floorstanding speaker, and costs $5
less than the Sonogram did. We heard it at the Montreal show, and asked
for a pair to review. The ones we have are in fact the very ones you
may have heard in Montreal.
There will be at least one other speaker in
that issue, a small but potent speaker from Denmark. There will be at
least two amplifiers. There will be an affordable DAC, and two other
products that are essential to a top-grade computer-grade music system.
Notwithstanding our espousal of the computer
as the (so far) ideal digital music source, we will take a critical
look at the Compact Disc, how it stores music, the technological magic
that solved the tough problems of early digital, and why a cheap
computer hard drive sounds better.
We'll let you know what we find.
BY THE WAY: The weekend Flash Sale is on, with some outstanding prices on certain recordings and accessories. You may also want to look in on our Audiophile Boutique, where you'll find bargains on discontinued and refurbished Moon gear.
June 14th: New cables at The Audiophile Store
For some years we've been recommending
(and offering) cables from Scotland's Atlas Cables. We still are.
However we've added two new interconnects, both
Canadian-made. The first, shown here, has a
name that may be familiar to you, Pierre Gabriel. Yes, Pierre Gabriel,
long absent from the store, but very much present in two of our three
reference systems, is back.
The Pierre Gabriel Artisan interconnect is not
some Far East wire rebranded. Pierre buys wire, not cable, and
assembles the cable you see here (an artisan, as you know, is a skilled
craftsman). Like the Pierre Gabriel cables we still use, these are made
from silver. The locking connectors are WBT nextgen, also silver,
though copper is available if money is tight. The sliding rings have
red hearts on them, indicating that these cables are a labor of love,
and the hearts also serve as directional arrows. We love it!
The other cable is from BIS Audio, whose
excellent USB cable we have been offering for some time. It's the BIS
Expression, which we reviewed in UHF No. 88 (you can read the review in PDF here).
Like Pierre Gabriel, BIS buys wire, not cable, and actually assembles
the finished wire. You may recognize the connectors, which are ETI's,
one of our faves. It's available in both 1m and 2m lengths.
We should add that we're not adding these two
cables just to please these small companies. We've been listening to a
number of cables over the past little while, and these two passed our
You can see them both, along with the usual array of recommended Atlas cables, on our cable page at The Audiophile Store.
June 13th: The Montreal show loses its boss
The Montreal audio show (now called the Salon Son & Image),
which this Spring had its 25th edition, has been a success from
its very start. In recent years, however, it has grown considerably
under the tutelage of Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay. The two were
also co-organizers of the first Toronto show in many years, TAVES 2011.
But now Michel is leaving.
His organizational talents have een evident
since the start, and he's been noticed by audio distributor Plurison
(Audio Plus Services in the US), which has recruited him. In July he will become director of sales and marketing.
Plurison distributes such high-end brands as Focal, Micromega, Cambridge Audio, Rega and Pathos.
Where does that leave the Salon?
Well, Sarah Tremblay has been director of
operations for several years, and she will now become CEO as well.
Sarah knows the show inside and out, needless to say, and exhibitors
know her. We wish her and her colleagues continuing success, and our
good wishes go with Michel as well.
May 31st: IMAX for home
You've been seeing ads for 4K-ready TV sets,
televisions with twice the usual resolution in both vertical and
horizontal dimensions. But there's no material for 4K, is there?
Well, yes. Canada's IMAX Corporation. which
expanded from those huge purpose-built cinemas to oversized screens in
cineplexes, can put its big-screen experience into your home. For a price.
Its' not for the average living room, as you
can see from this rendering. Back of the projection window are two
projectors, about 1.5 m tall. The 7.1-channel speakers are
laser-aligned and redo their own alignment daily. Movies will cost
about $500 each.
Ah, but how much is the whole installation? It
will cost between a million and two million, depending on which report
you believe, but we doubt that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise
(two of the prospective customers according to The Wall Street Journal)
are going to quibble. Besides, IMAX is offering 24/7 support with
five-minute response time, which is more than your ISP will offer you.