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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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APL DSD-SR Digital-to-Analogue Converter

APL Hi-Fi is the brainchild of talented audio engineer and designer, Alex Peychev. He founded his company in his homeland of Bulgaria in 1988. APL Hi-Fi originally started as an award winning modifier of products, but soon after and presently, APL Hi-Fi solely designs and builds its own products. All APL Hi-Fi ILLUMI-FI products are unique and individually handcrafted with a build quality that surpasses typical boutique and achieves a new standard altogether. Alex’s goal is to produce true and natural sounding products that fulfil his company’s motto “No Boundaries”.

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Lumin U1 Mini Network Player

Lumin Audio burst onto the scene in 2012 with the first DSD compatible network audio streamer. Such a sophisticated and well sorted first product hinted at a longer engineering heritage. It turns out the parent company, Pixel Magic Systems Ltd, which was founded in 2003 with offices in Hong Kong and the United States, quickly became a market leader in video processing (they developed the first Linux based video processor). Rave reviews followed and Lumin went from strength to strength expanding their range of Network Players to include the U1 Mini reviewed here.

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Hulgich Audio Duke Loudspeakers

“It’s all about balance”, said Nick Hulgich of Hulgich Audio. He’d just picked up my new Scotty Cameron golf putter and was giving it a few practice strokes. It seems he’s a keen golfer too but has difficulty finding the time to play. He expressed he could feel the engineering and beauty in the blade on each stroke. When he said that, my mind was still revelling in what I’d heard earlier from his new flagship speakers, the Dukes, which we’d setup in my room. I was thinking that the Dukes too, are all about balance and beauty.

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Yamaha C-5000 Preamplifier & M-5000 Stereo Power Amplifier

Yamaha’s near-one-and-a-half century-old heritage has seen the company evolve, from humble beginnings, to a multi-faceted constitution across the music and audio spaces. As the world’s largest instrument maker, Yamaha creates the means by which to inspire artists’ imagination, enabling the creation of music. The company’s products encompassing studio technology also provide the conduit for art to be captured for perpetuity. Further, Yamaha also manufactures the pro gear used to replay music in live venues, from intimate club to massive arenas. And finally, via the company’s consumer hardware, music lovers in homes around the world, are empowered to delight in the fruits of musical artistry. So when Yamaha presents the world with a new all-out effort aimed squarely at penetrating the high-end audio space, astute music lovers should, and do, pay strict attention. Enter, in all their lushly-designed glory, Yamaha’s C-5000 and M-5000 flagship preamplifier and stereo power amplifier combo.

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