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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Linn Selekt DSM + Katalyst Network Music Player

Aside from your choice of speaker, it is, in most cases, the room that has the next biggest influence on the overall sound of your system. With the digital technology and processing power available today there’s almost no excuse for having to ‘put up with’ room imposed limitations to one’s audio system’s performance. Linn’s approach, called ‘Space Optimisation’, uses a mathematical approach to achieve the appropriate correction.

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Microphase Audio Design SAT Mk.II Signature Loudspeakers

In my view, if you call yourself a normal human being you have to be crazy about something. Jean-Marie Liere is crazy about speakers, which also gives an additional meaning to the name of his company “Microphase Audio Design”. This diagnosis must have been accurate since Jean-Marie’s early days when he created the minuscule audio monitor speakers (“Microphase SAT” model) that attracted quite a following due to their great sound, their beauty and the quality of their build. Many years (and many speakers) later, the most recent product to come out of Jean-Marie’s design workshop is the “SAT MkII Signature” speaker that continues on this philosophy of small size and high quality.

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Crystal Cable Future Dream Interconnect and Speaker Cables

I dream of a future where audio thrives with vibrant and passionate young music lovers, where the high-end is inclusive and open and is free of cultural elitism. I imagine a future where the ranks of hobbyists, gear-heads and pure music lovers are united in sharing a singular passion: the art of music. This ideal audio world is not, in my opinion, a far-fetched fantasy but a scenario which presents a real opportunity… and may even be a prospective saviour. Back in reality, Crystal Cable’s über high-end Future Dream cables provide a small but important step to realising this altruistic ideal. Future Dream cables are luxury items, yes, in all the senses of the word, but they offer an important… glimmer. A spark to light the fire of advancement.

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Sonus faber Electa Amator III Loudspeakers

You just know, in your brain and heart, when you are in the presence of pure beauty. Yes, some things are beautiful to varying degrees, provoking a spectrum of subjective quantifications. But true, pure beauty, as indescribable by mere language as it is, is universally known. On a basic instinctive level. And for me, after hastily unboxing the new Electa Amator III speakers from Italian audio artisan Sonus faber… well, my senses knew instinctively that I was looking at the purest of designs. Then, beyond emotions, solely intellectually, I wondered… Will this ethereal beauty merge with practical function to produce musical substance?

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Dynaudio Confidence 20 Loudspeakers

Back in the late 1980s, an Australian company had the rights to use the Dynaudio moniker across a line of exceptional locally-manufactured speakers sporting full Danish driver arrays – head-to-toe metal jacket. Including the fabulous Esotar tweeter (in those days, Dynaudio supplied its state-of-the-art drivers to the OEM and DIY spaces). I lusted after those beautifully-finished designs. Especially after hearing them several times at a Sydney city store but, alas, at the time I was a student and the price of admission, despite the great value offered, was way beyond my financial capabilities.

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Meridian 857 Reference Two Channel Power Amplifier

Meridian Audio is a name known to most if not all audiophiles. It’s an established audio company that dates back to 1977 – only a handful of high-profile, high-end audio companies can tout a longer history. But longevity in the audio business doesn’t, on its own, keep the doors open. Meridian Audio has continually succeeded by being one of the best audio and acoustic engineering companies in a market known for intense competition.

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