Magico A3 Loudspeakers

In the pursuit of the perfect loudspeaker design, audio engineers are faced with a number of imposing challenges. Obviously, careful thought must be devoted to the proper design of a driver complement, understanding the way in which those drivers, each manipulating or moving air within a given frequency range, will interact with one another in the final design. This complex interaction will in no small part also depend on the nature, components and execution of the crossover network and of course, the partnering or driving electronics (the amplifier) to which the speaker will be connected.

Read more ...

Cary Audio SLI-100 Integrated Amplifier

Austere, stark, unembellished… yet aesthetically truthful, functionally honest. They’re the terms which came to my mind as I unboxed the matter-of-fact SLI-100 integrated amplifier from Cary Audio. The design seems non-superfluous, stripped of excess and devoid of unnecessary decoration. But with a purposeful, regimented functionality to provide music. Does the SLI-100 deliver on its direct, straightforward promise?

Read more ...

Balanced Audio Technology VK-655SE Power Amplifier

The big, black BAT sat staring back at me with the same undeniable presence as “The Object” on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s album of the same name. The Editor had just left, having indeed delivered, as he had promised, “the flagship solid state Balanced Audio Technology amplifier”. Heeding the Call Up, we continued to eyeball each other as I scrounged around for another power cord to plug into its hulking, monolithic, dual mono chassis. The whole planet’s on fire, not least our sunburnt country right now, so what use did I have for all this grid-draining, solid-state fire-power?

Read more ...

Focal Sopra N° 2 Loudspeakers

Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, Focal was, originally, first and foremost a driver manufacturer. The company’s continual pursuit of excellence has meant investing heavily in R&D, along with state-of-the-art tools to test and evaluate its designs. Confirmation comes via its superb factory and facilities. Not surprisingly, when moving into designing complete speaker systems, the prevailing philosophy was to start with, and to perfect, the drivers first thus avoid the deleterious effects of complex crossover networks. As a result, Focal speakers are typically amplifier friendly and are therefore likely to perform consistently across a wide variety of equipment, giving the owner more freedom to enjoy their favored amplification. The Sopra range embodies the key technologies that Focal developed for its flagship Utopia range, but in a more compact and affordable package, allowing a wider audience to appreciate Focal’s signature sound. Here, we examine the mid-point in the penultimate range – the Sopra N° 2 loudspeakers.

Read more ...

McIntosh Laboratory MTI100 Integrated Turntable

I’ve never actually owned any McIntosh audio gear, but when I think of the brand the words ‘classic’ and ‘classy’ spring to mind, and in the case of their new MTI100 so does ‘cool’. As an audiophile, I’ve had positive experiences on occasions where I’ve heard McIntosh amplifiers powering speakers like B&W’s 800D and Sonus faber’s Amati Homage. From the moment I first laid eyes on the MTI100 in my local audio store, I’d been eager to review it – when companies like McIntosh, Linn and Naim turn their efforts to unique products such as this, new benchmarks are often set, the whole industry moves forward and everyone who listens to music benefits.

Read more ...

Weiss Engineering DAC502 Digital-to-Analogue Converter

Weiss Engineering is a venerable technology company with leading experience and engineering in the digital domain. Daniel Weiss joined Willi Studer of Studer fame in Switzerland as an electronics engineer in 1979. His work included the design of a sampling frequency converter and the digital signal processing electronics for digital audio recorders. In 1985 Weiss founded the company “Weiss Engineering Ltd”. From the outset the company concentrated on the design and manufacture of digital audio equipment for Mastering Studios. How will Weiss Engineering’s professional expertise fare with the DAC502, a consumer level Digital-to-Analogue Converter?

Read more ...

Hulgich Audio Duke Loudspeakers – Editor’s Follow-Up

Back in July 2019, our writer Tom Waters reviewed very favourably the impressively-built Duke loudspeakers from Australian manufacturer Hulgich Audio (read the review here). Prior to Tom getting the review samples delivered to his home, the Duke speakers had a three-week spell at SoundStage! Australia HQ. Over that period I evaluated the design’s engineering while inspecting, with deserved admiration, the substantial construction merits of Nicolas Hulgich’s and Swedish consulting designer Göran Niréus’ flagship creation. During that stint I also evaluated at length the considerable resolution powers of this tremendous design. Subsequently, Hulgich asked if I could provide him with a second opinion, with my findings meriting a ‘Follow-Up’ article… so here goes.

Read more ...

Chord Electronics Ultima 2 Monoblock Amplifiers

For the last few years, Chord Electronics has had a relentless limelight-follow-spot firmly set on its every move in the digital-to-analogue converter space. ‘Tapped’ to ever-escalating numbers, Chord’s FPGA formula has advanced the company to one of the leading positions in digital technology, with its latest DAC products – and the tricked-out M Scaler – receiving a veritable pouring of appreciation from gratified users. The audio press has heaped nothing but the highest praise too, while from stage-left we imagine the competition glaring with covetous squints. Now, with the new ‘Ultima’ line of high-end amplifiers, and with the Ultima 2 monoblocks as the subjects of this review, Chord Electronics has its sights firmly set on the ne plus ultra.

Read more ...

Harbeth Audio Compact 7ES-3 40th Anniversary Edition Loudspeakers

While the approach a designer adopts in the making of a loudspeaker may be different to piers from around the globe in terms of components used, differing priorities, construction methodologies, etc., the core engineering principles are a converging factor no matter the designer’s country of origin. Physics and electroacoustics laws are universal. Having said that, a designer’s own aural biases, his/her interpretation, may differ and therefore diverge a speaker’s sonic tuning, sometimes dramatically. This is far less so nowadays than a few decades ago when the ‘British’ and ‘American East/West Coast’ sounds were at discordant cross-purposes, splitting audio enthusiasts into tribal camps. Has British loudspeaker maker Harbeth Audio, with its new Compact 7ES-3 40th Anniversary Edition, made a valiant shot at bridging the divide between the analytical and the musical?

Read more ...

Krell K-300i Integrated Amplifier

You’ve seen it many times in the movies. A prodigal son, or a lone cowboy, or a legendary warrior returns from what was really a self-inflicted exile. A long time ago he was the best, but something happened and he lost his way for a while. Now he’s with us again. Everyone cheers, hats fly into the air and an old friend throws a welcoming arm around his shoulders and in a soft, moving voice says: “Welcome back!” Enter Krell’s new high-tech K-300i integrated amplifier.

Read more ...

Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3 Prestige Edition Loudspeakers

Just over a couple of years ago, the release of the new Bowers & Wilkins 800 series was accompanied by much PR fanfare supported by subsequent press acclaim followed by fervent consumer applause. Deservedly so, considering the importance – to the industry as a whole, in fact – of the company’s flagship range which announced a whole lot of new tech, highlighted by the introduction of the superb Continuum driver. Carrying through the entire range is DNA emphasising excellent engineering and exemplary fit and finish. Couple these with nigh-on universal approval in terms of sonic performance and, yes, the perception is of relative value for the investment. Then, Bowers & Wilkins announced its ‘Prestige Edition’ models which are identical to the standard units as far as engineering, however, these premium versions sport a lavish glossed veneer that elevate them to the industry’s highest levels of luxury.

Read more ...

Döhmann Audio Helix Two Turntable

Over a decade ago, as vinyl began its unstoppable bloom, I had the privilege of being one of the first reviewers to enjoy a private audition of a new revolutionary Australian über high-end turntable. That landmark product was the Continuum Caliburn and it subsequently rocked the top-end-of-town in analogue playback. A collaborative creation, the Caliburn was the offspring of advanced engineering by some of the best specialist minds in the industry. At that session, I interviewed one of its key designers, Mark Döhmann, who generously shared detailed insights while also enlightening me on the profound and innovative engineering he applied across many aspects of that unique product. Now, after much water under the bridge and having risen Phoenix-like, Döhmann returns with a new endeavour and yet another innovative design which promises, once again, to elevate analogue playback around the globe.

Read more ...