Michi P5 Preamplifier & M8 Monoblock Power Amplifiers

Throughout audio history there have been high profile companies who, after success in the affordable ‘mainstream’ space, have amassed their R&D, engineering and manufacturing might to produce products catering to the high-end market. Some have given the new luxury products distinctive appellations, as a form of distinct separation from its mainstream fare, while others went about launching disassociated alternative brands with a less obvious resonance to the parent company. Back in the early 1990s, armed with an enviable reputation in affordable quality Hi-Fi and wanting to embark on a new path, Rotel fired an authoritative round squarely at the high-end by way of the Michi statement brand (A.K.A. ‘Michi by Rotel’). As successful as Michi was, Rotel in its wisdom phased the brand out of the market. Subsequently, the select Michi products became highly sought-after classics. Now, after a hiatus lasting near on 30 years, the term ‘Michi’ is once again part of the luxury audio lexicon.

Read more ...

JL Audio Fathom f110v2 Powered Subwoofer

Bass. We all love it. Come on, you know you do! You can muse audiophilic to your heart’s content on “accuracy” and “neutrality” but when you’re cranking Led Zep or Yello to 11, all talk of “balance” goes down the gurgler in an intense sensory wave of low-end pleasure. Fun so it Hertz. But what if I told you about a low frequency generator which is capable of both supreme accuracy and all-out visceral joy? All in a pretty and small package. Well, I be talking JL Audio Fathom f110v2. Yes, it will play nice and audiophile-like with your super-precise high-end mains and, should you desire some outright fun, it’ll also test the construction integrity of your house… and your neighbour’s house.

Read more ...

Audia Flight FL CD Three S CD Player

A Swiss Army Knife inside a Pandora's Box. We reviewers do so love our metaphors and I've brewed-up a doozy in that previous sentence. It's about as mixed as they get and yet, it's what sums up this interesting player from the Italian audio house of Audia Flight. Features abound and it truly is a “jack of all trades”. CD player? Yep. DAC? Yep. Transport? Of course. USB DAC? We have you covered Sir. Oh? Your system is balanced you say? Not a problem Sir. We have balanced outputs along with our five (yes five) different digital inputs and high-resolution playback. Sir doesn't use a preamplifier? We anticipated that and there's remote volume (in the digital domain naturally).

Read more ...

Yamaha GT-5000 Turntable & Tonearm

What enthusiast with an appreciation of audio history and who values music, from its creation to its recreation, would not love to own a beautifully designed and superbly engineered music-playing component with the tag ‘Gigantic and Tremendous’? Images of a looming multi-driver Gojira-like loudspeaker come to mind but Yamaha, the world’s oldest music company, has revived this sensational term – coined decades ago in the GT prefix for descendants GT-1000 and GT-2000 – to moniker its new flagship turntable, the GT-5000. And yes, Yamaha’s new vinyl spinner sits comfortably with that overt descriptor. The muscular GT-5000 fits the bill by not only featuring Yamaha’s updated engineering and latest refinements of proprietary technologies, but by also being rather… Tremendously Gigantic.

Read more ...

Rega Research Aethos Integrated Amplifier

British firm Rega Research is known for one product category above all: turntables. But the Rega Aethos is not one of those. It’s an integrated amplifier. Indeed, it doesn’t even have a phono input. But even so, the Rega Aethos is definitely an amplifier for the lover of analogue music.

Read more ...

MSB Technology Premier Digital-to-Analogue Converter

Once much maligned, digital audio is now the most likely to be at the vanguard of advancing the state of the art in high-end audio. In this endeavour, there can be few companies with as distinguished and successful a pedigree as MSB Technology. Since its DIY beginnings in the 1980s and still family owned the company has continued to grow, stunning the competition with stratospherically priced fare like the Reference and Select line of Digital-to-Analogue Converters. Hearing the flagship Select in unfamiliar territory at recent audio shows and demonstrations, it took me no time at all to appreciate that I was in the presence of sonic greatness. For most of us, however, no matter how incredible the sound quality of these exalted devices, they remain the realm of aspirational fantasy. When MSB recently introduced the more affordable Discrete DAC and its bigger brother (sister?), the Premier DAC, I jumped at the chance to experience in my own system MSB’s trickle down technology in action.

Read more ...

Fischer & Fischer SN/SL 370AMT Loudspeakers

It was with some trepidation that I awaited delivery of the Fischer & Fischer SN/SL 370AMT loudspeakers. While many old and new audio delicacies have graced my room (with many now tucked away in cupboards and corners, awaiting that day), I can honestly say I'd never had a pair of Rock speakers through the door. I say "Rock" with a capital "R", because I'm not referring to the musical genre, but rather to the construction of the cabinets. Yes folks, just when you thought this hobby couldn't get any more esoteric, along comes German boutique manufacturer Fischer & Fischer with a pair of floorstanding speakers made of slate! Half a billion year old slate in fact, although what acoustic benefits the age of the slate may impart remains unknown. But do read on…

Read more ...

Mark Levinson N° 526 Preamplifier with DAC & N° 534 Power Amplifier

It’s near-winter mid-May and the Blue Mountains are now splashed with hues of red and covered in brittle tree-fall. It’s conducive to calm, cosy music listening. In able assistance is the latest Mark Levinson pre/power combo in for review. I’m immersed in its analysis. Through that time, I ponder on the genesis of high-end audio, what products and personalities were responsible for its most forceful bloom in the early 1970s. Also in my thoughts are the joys of my own experiences with the brand and, just as joyfully, my many engaging conversations with Mark Levinson the man so many years ago now. Then, as I conclude an engaging four hour listening session, in as unexpected a way as fate could muster, a WhatsApp notice pops up on my iPhone. After so many years, the man himself, Mark Levinson is on the line…

Read more ...

EGM Audio Black ML Reference AC Power Cable

I once had the attitude – not that long ago – that life was too short to compare, let alone strictly A/B, AC power cables. After all, given a well-designed cable featuring good amounts of copper and appropriate shielding, AC power should be delivered to your device in a way that would suit its function. Especially in the case of good amplification where astute engineering makes full use of inherent elements such as extensive filtering, regulation and massive supporting power supplies. But in fact, it may be because of these design elements that I subsequently discovered (after finally spending some time comparing AC cables) the sonic differences AC power cables can make. Yes, often subtle but present nevertheless. Sharing the point of view that AC cables can indeed make a noticeable difference is Australian cable specialist EGM Audio. We take a look at the company’s high value flagship offerings in the new Black ML Reference AC cables.

Read more ...

Stax SRM-700S Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier

If I had one Hi-Fi story to pass on to the new generations, it would go something like this: “Dear young people, we live in a world full of magical devices. They let us do wonderful things and if our grand-grand-grandparents saw us they’d think we’re all wizards. But looks can be deceptive. Long ago people could only listen to the music with their own ears, but although these days we can play any song, sonata or symphony by just tapping on a screen, the real sound of a guitar, violin or any other instrument is a mystery to many of us. We hear reproduced approximation of the sound and we’re happy with it. We seldom hear “the real thing”, live and vibrant! The best example of this are the headphones you use. There are so many of them… earbuds, over-the-ear, wireless, noise-cancelling, what have you. Some are cheap, some cost quite a bit, some sound nice, some sound better, some are ugly, some look good… but 99% of them are not even close to the real thing!

Read more ...

SB Acoustics Rinjani BE Loudspeaker Kit

It’s been my experience that audio sees very rare true bargains. Yes, there’s gear that presents varying degrees of value-for-money for different reasons. It may be due to an unexpectedly high build and parts quality at the asking price. Sometimes, components may be widely perceived to perform beyond expectations. There may be reasons attached to a company’s reputation or a given product’s legacy which may automatically bestow added worth. But a genuine bargain from a product that offers most of the above, and considerably more in a number of important areas, is akin to the sighting of Bigfoot… or if in the Aussie bush, the spotting of the mythical Yowie. The SB Acoustics Rinjani BE debunks the myth – Yowies do exist after all.

Read more ...

Simaudio Moon 680D Network Player/DAC

What do you want from your audio gear? Usability and convenience? An absence of aggravation? Or supreme audio quality? The magic that can sometimes be realised in a fine stereo system? Sometimes these two considerations can be at odds. But not, it seems, with Canadian Hi-Fi maker Simaudio. I’ve now put two of its Moon-branded products through their paces and both have been glorious in their acoustic performance while being delights to use. The first was merely a straightforward DAC. But achieving similar effectiveness in a combined DAC and Network Streamer is a harder ask. Yet the Moon 680D has achieved just that.

Read more ...