Copland CSA 100 Hybrid Integrated Amplifier

Copland is a Danish electronics company. Its products consist of integrated amplifiers, preamps and power amps, along with a high-end DAC. Most of the amps are valve-based. But the CSA 100 seems to be the entry level integrated amp and is a hybrid model. That is, line amplification is handled by a single double-triode tube, with a MOSFET circuit providing the grunt needed to drive loudspeakers.

Read more ...

Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3

Digital technology has advanced in quantum jumps over the last few years. Intergalactic leap-frogging. Despite this evolutionary path, or perhaps because of it, it’s alleged in some circles that only a few hundred green ones are required to provide as-good-as-it-gets sonic performance. Ones and zeros are said to be… well, just ones and zeros. This school of thought is represented via semi-generic brands, many of which manage to provide decent enough build and sound quality. Definitive audio performance? Umm… Yeah, Nah. Not even. Notwithstanding this narrow view of the universe, there are many specialist companies producing truly exceptional digital playback systems at the actual state-of-the-art. Both in terms of excellence in applied technologies and engineering while aiming for the highest levels of audio performance. Among these is Berkeley Audio Design’s Alpha DAC Reference Series 3, an all-out assault on digital playback.

Read more ...

Wilson Audio SabrinaX Loudspeakers

The new SabrinaX may look just about identical to its predecessor – there are visually-subtle yet substantial performance-based upgrades – but in updating the Sabrina platform the Wilson Audio engineering team, led by dynamic duo Daryl Wilson and Vern Credille, have carpe diem’ed. The significantly revised SabrinaX is the recipient of Wilson Audio’s latest technologies and design credo. As crowned most recently by the flagship Chronosonic XVX, the stream of philosophical and engineering concepts that permeate Wilson Audio’s latest offerings are, ultimately, stimuli inspired by the no compromise limited-run WAMM Chronosonic. That the company has adopted many of these doctrines and practical elements to SabrinaX, the floorstanding entry point, shows engineering generosity besting mere trickle-down interpretations and potential oversimplifications. What super-incentive for exploration…

Read more ...

Revel PerformaBe F328Be Loudspeakers

When Sydney Harman’s Revel hit the high-end loudspeaker market in the late 1990s, the company created quite the stir with its distinctive Gem, a beautifully-styled and high-performing standmount which garnered rave reviews globally. To round-out the flagship Ultima line, the remarkable Studio and Salon floorstanders followed and, again, were deservedly considered among the very best loudspeakers available. This writer loved the unusual styling which featured heroically-fabricated main cabinets with strikingly-fashioned interchangeable side panels available in a selection of beautiful finishes. The design presented users with a variety of mix-and-match options to suit any décor. Then there were the custom drivers and the overall engineering prowess. And the sound was… revelicious.

Read more ...

Vermouth Audio Reference DIN to RCA Phono Cable

What is a ‘reference’ if not an absolute truth, an ultimate goal? It’s a word tagged to products encapsulating a company’s best technologies and, mostly, flagship products. The audio industry certainly has dozens of brands using the term. Then, subsequent to developing a superior product, terms like ‘Signature’, ‘Designer’s Reference’ and so on appear as creative expressions which shoot ever upwards, seemingly transcending the concept of a definitive ‘reference’. Here at SoundStage! Australia HQ, we’ve been using all manner of upmarket cable types and brands including Vermouth Audio’s outstanding Reference line. Recently, we received the company’s latest Reference series creation, the superbly well-made Phono cable. Will this latest offering live up to the lofty term ‘reference’?

Read more ...

McIntosh Laboratory MA352 Integrated Amplifier

There’s always a sense of both eager anticipation and excitement for the arrival of any McIntosh Laboratory product slated for review. The company’s products are uniquely and gorgeously styled, immaculately built and, as far as our experience goes, they have always performed. When we heard the new MA352 integrated amplifier had been sent to SoundStage! Australia HQ after only just landing by local distributor Synergy Audio, we feverishly went about making preparations for embedding it into our reference system. Cables were carefully run from source and dedicated circuit’s power outlets, supporting platforms were anchored down and a comprehensive list of auditioning software was enthusiastically curated. When the MA352 finally arrived and was fervently unpacked, its sheer beauty had us immediately smitten. In Yoda voice: In love, was I. But is this striking amplifier’s magnificence more than skin deep? Read on…

Read more ...

Magico A5 Loudspeakers

It takes highly refined skills to adapt state-of-the-art technologies and design philosophies incorporated in a company’s upmarket models to far more affordable products. Doing so while keeping the integrity of not just the upper-tier products, but of the company ideology itself, is a juggling act that requires intelligent engineering and strategic wisdom. With the A series, Magico has managed to balance streamlined construction and revised design elements on to products which maximise performance and heighten affordability. As the culmination of Magico’s entry level ‘A’ line, the A5 is the archetypal embodiment of trickle down and re-engineered concepts.

Read more ...

HANA ML and MH Moving Coil Cartridges

When you really think of it, there’s no particular reason why something like a gramophone and its records weren’t invented centuries ago by, say, Galileo, or Hero of Alexandria, or someone even earlier. The concept is so simple and elegant that it’s truly timeless, so much so that if an asteroid hits the Earth tomorrow, or if we blow up the planet, it is my firm belief that the only technology able to reproduce the sounds of yesteryears will be mechanical, based on vinyl and shellac records. Just because of that fact alone we should treasure these records, these plastic marvels that reproduce music every bit as good as a CD player or a streamer but fell out of favour in a world obsessed with convenience. Two cartridges that go a long way in pursuit of this noble goal are HANA’s MH and ML.

Read more ...

Nordost QPoint Resonance Synchroniser & QSource Linear Power Supply

High-end audio enjoys some of the best engineering and innovative technologies which are the equal to any industry at large. As highly developed as audio products are, there’s also a healthy space for ancillaries aimed at wringing the last drop of performance from electronics and loudspeakers. Some are mere ‘tweaks’ which contribute varying degrees of effectiveness. Some may even have dubious scientific merit. There are supplementary products with known benefits, such as those aimed at reducing vibrational distortions by coupling, grounding or isolating. These can be inert platforms, cones, complex ceramic and metal bearing devices and a cornucopia of variations on the theme. Others, like power conditioners and regenerators, are designed to eliminate AC distortions via an interface between electronics and the grid. Nordost, maker of some of the very best cable solutions in the industry, has applied its engineering know-how to its QRT products which the company refers to as ‘Audio Enhancers’. The steadily-growing range is now joined by the unique QPoint Resonance Synchroniser and dedicated QSource Linear Power Supply.

Read more ...

REDGUM Audio Articulata Integrated Amplifier

River Red Gums are very large, fast-growing, spreading trees with huge trunks that can extend more than five metres around. As the name implies, they grow along rivers and their wood when freshly exposed is a bright red, almost blood-coloured. Apparently Red River Gum trees can live for up to 700 years. I dare say that might be longer than today’s REDGUM Audio electronics products would last but you never know – the company’s Articulata looks pretty indestructible too. And both are quite unique and native to Australia.

Read more ...

Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature Edition Loudspeakers

Like many advanced undertakings, high-end audio presents the opportunity to develop technologies, to progress the engineering of advanced materials and composites and to adopt fabrication methodologies expressing to fruition the imagination of the industry’s creative minds. These advances are, usually, firstly showcased in statement products. In 2017, Bowers & Wilkins launched its 700 S2 series of loudspeakers with new and also trickled down technologies first expressed in the company’s flagship 800 series. The new line was greeted with tremendous market success. Now in 2020, Bowers & Wilkins fine-tunes a key model, the 702 S2 (read our review here), with a tweaked crossover and a jaw-dropping new finish warranting a more illustrious moniker – the 702 Signature Edition.

Read more ...

Line Magnetic LM-845 Premium Integrated Amplifier

I’m a man of many wants. One of them was a decent listen in my own man-cave to a nice tube amp, ‘musica uninterruptus’. But not just any tube amp – one that exists in the realms of mere mortals but that wasn’t an entry level type where the design trade-offs are more significant. Enter the Line Magnetic LM-845 Premium – a Chinese-designed and built single-ended triode integrated amplifier.

Read more ...