HiDiamond D3 Balanced & D7 Single-Ended Interconnect & D7 Speaker Cables

Audio cable prices continue to sky rocket with statement pieces often costing as much, if not more, than the rest of a music system combined. Competing technologies continue to proliferate at a rate matched only by often garish advertising and boastful claims of patent (-ed) superiority. Cables are, of course, a crucial means of transferring those precious signals from your source to your speakers but are so system dependent that reviewing them causes me some trepidation in seeking to do so.

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SPEC Corporation RSA-M3EX Integrated Amplifier

The first time I was called an “audio-maniac” was as I was trying to put my left shoe on my right foot at a sake restaurant after a night out in Tokyo with Junji Kimura, the master craftsman of then underground Japanese brand 47 Laboratory. It was the mid-1990s and this then student had travelled to Berlin to study, of all things, Japanese law. But yours truly had an ulterior motive: to stop over in Tokyo on the way home and, with the help of Yoshi Segoshi, the US distributor for 47 Labs, go hang out with Kimura-san and convince him to sell me a Gaincard amplifier and a Flatfish CD transport and Progression DAC at a ‘student’ discount price.

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Wilson Audio Specialties Alexia Series 2 Loudspeakers

Suddenly, as the large Advance Audio van edges up the driveway, I’m shrouded in a heavy blanket of déjà vu, my subconscious harking back to four years ago, when the same scene quenched my anxious anticipation as the Alexia speakers, then a totally new model in the Wilson Audio Specialties line up, were delivered. Subsequently, these most revealing instruments heightened this writer’s reviewing exactness while increasing my listening pleasure and enjoyment of music to levels previously unattained. Alexia plugged the gap between the Sasha W/P (the splendid reinvention of the classic WATT/Puppy) and the large scale MAXX and, as befitting its stature within the line, it employed a number of technologies, drivers and time-alignment techniques trickled down from MAXX and Alexandria XLF. Alexia became an instant hit and, even back then, challenged the market penetration of the high-selling Sasha W/P despite the considerably higher ownership cost. In fact, in the conclusion of my Alexia review for Audio Esoterica magazine I wrote “Alexia will be a landmark product for Wilson Audio, of that I have little doubt, and may even outsell the smaller and less expensive Sasha.” So, a pertinent question can understandably be posed; How to improve on such an advanced and philosophically-extended concept?

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Chord Electronics Hugo 2 Transportable DAC/Headphone Amplifier – Digital Playback at the Cutting Edge

The two main growth areas of audio playback right now are digital-to-analogue converters and the headphone/headphone amplifier space. For those wanting a better, higher fidelity experience, headphone sound quality can be dramatically improved by combining the two. And a DAC can also have anything from a mundane to a revelatory influence on a high-end audio system. So what is the result of an undertaking to combine both ‘disciplines’ when the company involved is Chord Electronics, a leader in high-tech engineering and pioneer of several proprietary technologies which place it at the cutting edge of digital playback?

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Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins produces some of the most desirable audio products in the industry. The company spans its considerable engineering and marketing prowess across a wide range of speaker lines encompassing all major price points while applying the same ideal to its evolving personal audio/headphone and ‘life style’ wireless speaker products (an expanding high-end car audio line specialises in systems for luxury models for BMW, Maserati, Volvo and more). But to this writer, it’s especially gratifying to know that the company has a tremendous impetus in its model for nurturing musicians and their art. Bowers & Wilkins’ Society of Sound is a platform for many international artists to showcase their talent and creativity to music lovers across the globe.

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Audio Research Foundation LS28 Preamplifier and VT80 Amplifier

There are few more respected names in Audio than that of Audio Research. I won't go into the long history of the 47 year old, Plymouth Minnesota based company here (it's easily available with a simple search online after all) but, suffice to say, Audio Research's credentials are impeccable when it comes to its well established success, technical prowess, diversity and, more importantly, sound quality.

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SGR Audio Signature Hi-Fi Rack Visco-Elastic Vibration Isolators

Melbourne’s SGR Audio is an established and growing concern with an expanding line of superbly-designed products ranging from source to speakers – the latter both passive and active. In fact, SoundStage! awarded a ‘Best of Show’ commendation to SGR’s superbly-designed Discovery series speakers at High-End Munich 2017 – see write-up here. The company also makes the outstanding modular Signature Hi-Fi Rack that is not only aesthetically beautiful but also features solid engineering principles. Now, SGR Audio has launched a Visco-Elastic Vibration Isolator upgrade that promises further performance benefits.

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Harbeth P3ESR Loudspeakers

The Harbeth P3ESR mini-monitor traces its origins to the iconic BBC-designed LS3/5a although it’s anything but a legacy product. In 2017, the Harbeth loudspeaker company is celebrating its 40th anniversary, a testament to the sonic staying power of the still independent UK company founded by the late Dudley Harwood who was then head of the BBC’s legendary loudspeaker R & D team. Since the mid-1980s, it has been singularly steered by Alan Shaw, also a former BBC employee, intent on radically advancing the art of loudspeaker design while building on traditional BBC advanced learning.

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Devialet Expert 440 Pro Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Multitasking. Buzz word of recent times and yet, seemingly, when talking ‘tech time’, ages old too. And it’s the zeitgeist of the smart-device in an era where all is contained within a single entity – one ring to rule them all. This new ‘functionality culture’ permeates into other areas of technology where apparent simplicity belies the power of the single device that… encompasses the paradox delivering complex tasks… a multitude of complex tasks.

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VTL MB-185 Series III Monoblock Amplifiers

According to the late, great Harvey Rosenberg, Buddha is said to have said: “I would rather have a cup of tone, than an ocean of power”. Well, in the VTL MB-185 Series III Signature monoblock power amplifier, we may have just found both. VTL, short for Vacuum Tube Logic, have been in the business of making high quality tube-based amplification (and only tube-based amplification) since 1987. The VTL MB-185 Series III Signature monoblock power amplifier is the latest and best iteration of an increasingly refined lineage that can be traced back to the classic VTL Deluxe 225, a power amplifier that, like the subject VTL, achieved its legendary status by applying the company’s cutting edge technology to the uniquely musical qualities of the EL34 valve power tube.

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Audia Flight FLS4 Stereo Power Amplifier

As much as many consider the preamplifier to be the heart of a high-end audio system – direct feed from source notwithstanding as that is an entire new argument – the amplifier takes the blood that’s pumped from the heart and feeds it to our system in order to operate the mechanics of moving parts that transfer energy to the air, hence, making the sound of the music we hear and love. Audia Flight’s newest FSL series stereo power amplifier promises to ‘flow the blood’ in a most robust way…

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