Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones

Last year, when I wrote about the Sennheiser HDV 820 DAC and headphone amplifier (review here), the headfi world was frothing at the prospect of a new 8xx series headphone. But rather than replace the HD 800 and HD 800 S, both superior open back designs, Sennheiser unexpectedly delivered a closed back alternative in the rarefied High End series, the HD 820.

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in-akustik Referenz LS-4004 AIR Loudspeaker Cable

There are few, if any, cable manufacturing companies that can lay claim to producing cables for over 40 years. In Ballrechten-Dottingen, Germany in-akustik has been doing precisely that. in-akustik’s wide range of cable products are fabricated in-house via advanced manufacturing processes while the company has also been nurturing long-standing partnerships with quality record labels and high-end audio specialists such as Piega and Primare. From in-akustik’s top-flight Referenz range, we take a look at the uniquely-designed flagship LS-4004 AIR loudspeaker cable.

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MAG-LEV Audio ML1 Magnetic Levitation Turntable

In an industry which has only relatively recently come out of a conservative period in terms of product styling – Devialet, D’Agostino, first come to mind as among the first to break out – and also its technology evolution, along comes a new company, headquartered in an unlikely location and hitting the market with a sole product offering a unique take on the record spinning concept. The MAG-LEV ML1 is a turntable that literally breathes fresh air…

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Shelter Audio Harmony Moving Coil Cartridge

On the surface, a cartridge would seem a simple enough device, whether it’s designed based on a magnet system or, alternatively, one with a coil driven by a magnet system. Whatever path has been chosen by the designer, the delicate relationships between each of the cartridge's miniscule elements requires a balanced, precise and extremely mindful execution. Quality cartridge manufacturers stem from around the globe, with many respected makers originating from the USA, Germany and Switzerland. However, in terms of brands, Japan has the biggest concentration of producers, a literal ‘who’s who’ of some of the world’s most lustfully-desired and highly regarded cartridges. Shelter Audio’s heritage and extensive product line firmly places it among some of the very best.

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SGR Audio Model V Statement Hi-Fi Equipment Rack

The audio ‘limelight’ is, by and large, monopolised by the often outrageous industrial designs of components flashing chrome and gold plating, sporting sharply styled (and edged) heatsink metalwork or by those exuding the warm seduction of glowing glass. The less glamorous racking system which, critically, provides support to the various audio apparatus, is often naively seen as a secondary player. However, a high quality Hi-Fi equipment rack is of extreme importance within the context of a well-sorted high-end audio system. If solidly-engineered, an audio rack can provide discernable sonic gains by isolating and/or coupling your expensive electronics allowing the expression of their full potential. Here, in the flagship SGR Audio Model V Statement, I examine one of the very best in terms of technical design, build quality, finish options and, most importantly, its facilitation and communication of music.

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Wilson Audio Specialties TuneTot Loudspeakers

Predominantly, Wilson Audio Specialties has achieved an enviable reputation and has garnered universal acclaim for its engineering excellence of massive full-range loudspeaker systems. Paradoxically, this has occurred despite the company’s breakthrough product being the iconic WATT (Wilson Audio Tiny Tot), a high precision 2-way monitor that, in a subsequent iteration, ‘grew’ up to be a near full-range speaker via the addition of the ‘Puppy’ dedicated bass module. And while Wilson Audio Specialties’ uncompromising trickle down technology advanced its subsequent smaller floorstanding designs, the lessons learnt with ‘the big ones’ have consequently also led to exceptional standmount loudspeakers – generations of CUB and Duette – that, while being necessarily simpler in execution, have enjoyed the substantial benefits of the engineering team’s continuous research. Now, under the Wilson Special Applications Engineering (WSAE) division, we see a new monitor in the diminutive TuneTot.

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M8audio Sweet Maxwell Loudspeakers

How big a speaker do you really need? Well, that really depends on a number of factors. If you have a very large listening room, like to listen at volume levels that would scare possums in the next block, or have a primordial craving for bass depth and bass power, then perhaps small speakers are not for you. That said the M8audio Sweet Maxwell speakers perform surprisingly well when high-jumping criteria that are typically hostile to smaller speakers. In many normal home situations, you may well achieve better sound with high quality stand-mount speakers like the Sweet Maxwell than with similarly priced floorstanding speakers that superficially appear impressive but, may in fact, be poorly constructed and braced and/or may be the product of compromises in the design of the crossovers or may incorporate low quality drivers.

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REL Acoustics 212/SE Active Subwoofer

Listening to music is an experience for the emotions. It’s a practice that needs to engage, to connect and to seize the listener allowing him or her to share in the visions of its creators. At its most beautiful and captivating, it can be an escape… a transport into the realms of the imagination. But for the facsimile to approach the ‘live’ event, the reproducing apparatus needs to reflect music’s full potential in terms of frequency span, even if, its true dynamic power is as yet unobtainable. So, in order to convey the full emotional – and even physical – spectrum of music, you’ll need the practical means by which to experience ‘full range’ reproduction. And that, is only accurately available via a very large floorstanding, high power loudspeaker or a true subwoofer. Enter the REL Acoustics 212/SE…

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Chord Electronics Qutest Digital-to-Analogue Converter

It’s an exciting time to be an audiophile. Digital technology is continually evolving and bringing with it a multitude of features and the possibility of serious improvements in the quality of signal handling and processing. Today we can see base level functionality in many audio products which, less than a generation ago, either never existed or may only have existed in the highest echelons or recording studios.

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REDGUM Audio RGDAC8 Digital-to-Analogue Converter & RGMP8 Media Player

While many manufacturers are making valiant attempts at simplifying the multi-facetted computer audio playback methodology, there’s little doubt that barring those somewhat narrow choices, drawing the most out of ‘CA’ entails embarking on a steep learning curve in terms of computer language, culture and the methodology’s general machinations. To the uninitiated audio enthusiast the entire methodology presents a daunting task – to varying degrees, of course, depending on your general computer knowledge and navigation skills, with some gear requiring near-IT expertise. No wonder there’s a strong movement back to physical media. Oh, the simplicity of Compact Disc… But then, products like the REDGUM Audio RGDAC8 and RGMP8 digital playback system come along and may just change the playing field.

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Sennheiser HD 660 S Headphones

I love headphones. I mean, how else can you finish off your day listening to some of your favourite tunes without waking up everyone in the house? The only caveat is that you have a sufficiently capable amplifier and a set of headphones with enough muscle to wrestle the sonic wonders out of your CD, LP and FLAC, WAV, AIFF and other files. Which is why I was excited about receiving the latest Sennheiser audiophile model, the HD 660 S, to spend hours relaxing while engaging in the review process.

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Bowers & Wilkins DB2D Active Subwoofer

To an even greater extent than the development, and subsequent adoption, of high-tech materials in the fabrication of loudspeaker transducers, the subwoofer space has benefitted from the advancements in DSP and the general digital manipulation of the audio signal’s low frequencies. Further digitalisation has been incorporated in subwoofer functionality via Wi-Fi’s ubiquitousness, Bluetooth and the employment of smart device Apps. A thoroughly refined adoption of these and other technologies has been cunningly implemented in the new high-tech Bowers & Wilkins DB2D subwoofer.

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