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Edifier Stax Spirit S3

As you are reading this in an audiophile context, some clarification is called for. The Stax Spirit S3 Bluetooth headphone is Edifier’s flagship portable audio headphone. Edifier took over Stax in 2012 and the Spirit carries that name, but this isn’t a Stax product.

The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 comes supplied in slick stiff-card packaging, with a useful clamshell case for travelling. It has a no-nonsense yet stylish look and that, plus the array of strictly useful case candy that comes in the box means the S3 scores highly on the ‘yum’ chart. Any company that supplies two sets of earpads to accommodate different comfort requirements ticks all the right boxes, plus wired cables, USB-C charging cable, and an assortment of adaptors for 6.35mm and two-jack in-flight entertainment as standard is making all the right noises.

Planar Magnetic

Edifier’s Stax Spirit S3 features its own EqualMass planar magnetic drive units with Fluxor magnetic structures in a closed-back design. This last has just enough venting at the top of the earpieces to make them at once easy to wear and hard to leak. And if the Fluxor part rings a bell, yes… the driver tech is built under license from Audeze.

Edifier Stax Spirit S3

The earcups (both the pre-fitted lambskin ones and the cooler mesh ones) are smaller than average but unless your face can be used as a satellite dish, this shouldn’t be an issue.

As the S3 are relatively light and the headband doesn’t hold you in a vice-like grip, you can wear them comfortably for long periods. The battery life helps here too. You can get 80 hours between charges. The absence of noise cancellation probably helps battery life and – while there’s little leakage – it’s possibly the only thing I missed from these otherwise excellent headphones.

Pairing up to two Bluetooth devices is easy, reliable and quick. It supports aptX HD, but not aptX adaptive. There is also an App that controls the S3s settings, comes with a wealth of meditative and relaxing musical vibes and chill-out sounds of the forest, and links to the online manual for those unwilling to read the tiny, printed manual provided.

The app also includes three mild tone-shaping modes; the default ‘Classic’ setting gives good bass and scoops the mids slightly. Meanwhile ‘hi-fi’ gives a flatter overall response making the S3 more even-handed and ‘Stax’ gives a distinct top-end tilt to try to replicate the energy of Stax electrostatic ‘Earspeakers’. I’d like a bit of user adjustability here.

Fine overall balance

Regardless of mode though, the performance is excellent. Planar magnetics are comparatively rare in the wireless, portable audio space, and the clarity they bring is a welcome change. And in this case, the S3 are dynamic, exciting sounding, with tight but focused imaging. They are also extremely detailed and with a fine overall balance. Vocal clarity is excellent. Bass is good too, although lacking a touch of the energy and drive of the best dynamic driver headphones. Best of all, there is almost no difference in performance between wired and wireless, which is exceptionally rare. You do need to keep the headphone powered up even when wired, however, but with so much battery life to hand, that’s not a big deal.

Edifier Stax Spirit S3

I am always wary of recommending wireless Bluetooth headphones for audio enthusiasts because they rarely come up to code. The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 is different. It’s without doubt the best I’ve heard to date. Use it with the app and it’s a musical joy, especially for travelling, despite the lack of noise cancellation and user adjustable EQ. Put simply, the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 raises the bar for portable audio.

Technical specifications

  • Bluetooth version V5.2
  • Audio codecs Qualcomm® aptX™ Adaptive, Qualcomm® aptX™ HD, Qualcomm® aptX™, SBC
  • Driver unit 89x70mm Planar Magnetic Driver
  • Playtime 80hrs
  • Charging time 1.5 hours
  • Charging port USB-TypeC
  • Battery capacity 1500mAh
  • Input 5V/1.5A
  • Microphone Type / Size MEMS/ 3.50×2.6 ×0.98mm
  • Microphone Sensitivity -37dBFS±1dBFS
  • Frequency response 20Hz~40KHz
  • Sound pressure level 94±3dB SPL (A)
  • Impedance 24Ω
  • Weight 329g
  • Dimension (L×W×H) 208 × 110 × 255mm
  • Price £399.99

Manufacturer

Edifier

edifier.com

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Connected Fidelity AC-2K Reference

It always comes back to the mains. Perhaps one consolation of living in these densely populated British Isles is that a majority of the population lives within a few stones’ throw of a distribution sub‑station. And we have a well-regulated supply that usually stays well within tolerance of the mandated 230V AC +10/–6 % and 50 Hz ±1 %. But the amount of RF noise riding on the mains is only going up as the modern world relies on increased use of radio and microwave communications, outside and in the home.

One way to counter such unwanted interference is to convert the conventional mains feeding the system electronics into a balanced mains supply, using the same principle as balanced signal interconnections via XLR socketry between devices – creating phase and anti-phase waveforms that can cancel out external intrusion through common-mode noise rejection.

Turning Live

In the case of mains power, that means turning Live and Neutral lines into ±120V AC, and using a centre-tapped earth on a transformer as a new 0V ground connection. Balanced mains solutions are already used in hospitals and recording studios and the technology is becoming more popular for home audio systems. To power a complete system does demand a decent-sized transformer with capacity to spare, which usually means a large and massive box weighing tens of kilos.

From new brand Connected Fidelity we have the AC-2K, a balanced mains transformer built into a sturdy aluminium chassis with output voltage indicator on its front. Connected Fidelity is a sub-brand of distributor Air Audio, founded by Michael Osborn and better known as the founder of Astin Trew, and latterly the importer of Hana moving-coil cartridges from Japan.

The AC-2K’s 2000VA-spec toroidal transformer should have the headroom to allow not just low-power source components but amplifiers too up to a few hundred watts of rated power. In fact, and in defiance of many mains treatment solutions I’ve tried with power amps, from the outset it was the amplifier that responded most positively to this new balanced supply.

The black anodised case with brushed natural front is large but not huge at 23cm wide and 18cm high, extending back 33cm, and at almost 17kg it is still relatively man-liftable. The rear panel as standard has just one UK mains outlet and a 20A IEC power inlet. Other options are available to order, including two UK mains outlets, and EU or US outlets.

Power cord? Nein danke

There’s no power cord provided with AC-2K; Connected Fidelity is primarily a cable company so upsell opportunities are available. The test unit was supplied with a new cable just added to the range, the Chronos 2 (£840). It’s based on a braided weave of cryogenically treated multistrand UP/OCC copper and silver-plated copper wires, totalling 12 square millimetre for each of the two power lines, terminated with Furutech IEC and MS HD Power UK plugs.

Inside the box, protection circuitry on the balanced output side is specified as two residual current circuit breakers with overcurrent protection (RCBO). On the input side is a soft-start relay switch to reduce switch-on surge. The toroidal transformer is mounted on a compliant anti-vibration support plate, with transit screws to secure the mass when packed for shipping. And in a bid to extract the best performance from this transformer, it undergoes deep cryogenic treatment prior to installation in AC-2K, cycled by a commercial specialist down to –195 °C in a process that is said to benefit the ferrous core of the transformer by increasing the proportion of martensite and decreasing austensite in the steel’s crystalline structure. And since the toroid is treated complete with its copper wiring, there may be positive effects of cold annealing on the primary and secondary windings.

Cryogenic treatment is also advertised for the internal fuse and wiring as well as the PCB and its components, but not the Chtai mini circuit breakers or Songle soft-start relay, which would not safely survive a deep-freeze treatment.

In use the AC-2K remained blissfully silent, with no trace of background hum from its transformer. Nor did it trip the consumer unit on switch-on, which I’ve encountered with other balanced mains solutions. Inspired by pro units like the Equitech Model Q, there’s a voltage output display, thankfully switchable and kept off for listening, with even the company admitting it has an impact on sound quality. Referenced to other voltage meters it also seemed not particularly accurate either, consistently reading over 4V too high. There is a bare-bones ‘Studio’ version of the AC‑2K (£1,995) without the chocolate teapot read-out although this version also lacks the circuit breaker safety features and decoupled transformer mounting.

Sound quality

While sorting out the power supply to a system is vital for good sound, there are plenty of mains treatment products that subtract as much from performance as they add. Excessive or the wrong kind of mains filters, for example, that add networks of resistors, capacitors and inductors in the interest of removing noise, may do so at the expense of ‘slowing’ down the sound, robbing dynamics or slam as they go. They may exist, but similarly, in my experience I’ve not found a shielded mains cable that has done anything other than collapse the drama and dynamics from the music either.

This balanced mains supply is altogether different, and despite my best efforts to wrong foot it, the essential timing and dynamics remained intact – while the overall sound was in respects showing the kind of night-and-day differences that makes comparisons swift and decisive.

Limited by the solitary UK mains outlet, the AC-2K was first wired into the system with a six-way distribution board, a Nordost QB6 with V2 mains cable, which serves a Chord SPM 1200C power amp and Rothwell Signature One phono stage. Playing vinyl from Clearaudio Innovation, the major transformation was the way that instrumental colour was fleshed out, making a return to unbalanced mains appear as grey and flatter in timbre. Working through an old favourite of the Peddlers’ Birthday album, the classical guitar that unusually provides the main accompaniment in the opening track ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’ appeared more vital, more in the room and now quite naturally placed in its space. A shimmer of tambourine was unveiled fresher and cleaner, and along with Roy Philips’ vocals, was now clearly being fed through some classic plate reverb for that 70s production. Image height was shifted upwards, along with the sense of air as you find as noise floors are lowered. Playing the next track ‘Little Red Rooster’ with Philips behind his signature Hammond B3, the drawbars seemed to find a new position, one I’d have to describe as the rippling-funky-gospel setting.

Given some solo piano recordings, changes were perhaps not so manifest, and while Kempff’s playing of the Beethoven Pathétique didn’t so easily show off the changes there was undeniably more delicacy and nuance. A switch back to standard mains now showed a flatter depth perspective and a sense that fast finger runs that punctuate the first movement were not so fluently played. And that’s one of the treasures of improving the quality of sound reproduction – as fidelity is increased, so too can be the quality of musicianship as appreciated by the listener.

The AC-2K was acquitting itself of the usual sins of mains treatment – the robbing of pace, slewing of timing or subtraction of micro-details – but with my system at least there was a small matter of addition, and that was in bass richness. While it would keep the pace ticking along from prog rock to trip hop, I felt it could tickle up the mid-bass with a touch of euphony.

Played at suitable concert volume, the Floyd live CD performance of The Wall kept the architectural solidity from the rhythm section foundation, with added focus to vocal parts, and in the background acoustic of a more convincingly cavernous Earls Court.

Happy hogging

This final result was only after trying various wiring combinations of DAC and upsampler plugged into either the same distribution board as the power amp from AC-2K; on their own direct from the wall; or with just the digital source components on the balanced supply. As suggested in previous trials, the Chord DAC/upsampler combo, with their pesky laptop SMPS supplies, do not make easy mains-sharing bedfellows with the amp and other analogue electronics, so were once again relegated to their own outlets without the blessing of balanced mains. Or to put it another way: the Chord SPM 1200C power amp was at its happiest when hogging the AC-2K alone.

Balanced mains from the AC-2K must count as one of those one-way dems, where the sonic benefits make switching back to the old normal an unwelcome journey. It offers cleaner, more highly resolving sound along with a mid-band declutter, without any fundamental cramping of pace and dynamics.

Technical specifications

  • 2.0 kVA screened balanced transformer
  • 4 x rubber isolation mounts
  • UP/OCC internal wiring
  • Deep cryogenic treatment for transformer, fuse, wiring and PCB
  • Input socket 16 A IEC C20, gold-plated
  • Output socket UK 3-pin, gold-plated
  • Soft-start relay and resettable RCBO
  • Dimensions 230 × 185 × 330 mm (whd)
  • Weight 17.3 kg
  • Price £2,890

Manufacturer

Connected Fidelity

connected-fidelity.com

UK Distributor

Air Audio

airaudio.co.uk

+44 (0)1491 629629

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Vermeer Audio Model THREE D

Here, we were enthused about the Vermeer Audio Model TWO. But the Model TWO is a heavy hitter; not everyone needs that kind of firepower in their systems. Perhaps you have a smaller system without the need for analogue inputs. Maybe all you need is a streamer or DAC. And you want these things without compromising quality. Say ‘bonjour’ to the Vermeer Audio Model THREE D streaming DAC!

The Vermeer apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Much of what went into the Model TWO trickled down to the Model THREE D. This also means the Model THREE D pulls in a great deal from the late, lamented Audio Aero LaFontaine. I’d love to say this conclusion came from painstaking listening, comparing circuits and background research. But I can’t; Vermeer Audio makes this clear on its own site. “The Model THREE D is entirely based on the Model TWO and the components that have made this uncompromising unit a success.”

Lighter case

Like Model TWO, it supports 32bit, 384kHZ PCM audio and DSD128 through its USB and LAN connections. The Vermeer Audio Model THREE D goes up to 24bit, 192kHz and DSD64 on S/PDIF and AES/EBU. The big differences between the two are removing analogue inputs and using a far lighter case.

Vermeer Audio Model THREE

Let’s not underplay that ‘lighter case’, however. It doesn’t mean the DAC is lightweight or that its trio of armour-piercing cones don’t add up to powerful build quality in and of itself. However, unlike Model TWO, anything shy of ‘battleship build’ is found wanting. The difference is you can lift the Model THREE D out of its box without visiting an osteopath.

Having no analogue inputs benefits the Vermeer Audio Model THREE D as it allows full Leedh integration. Leedh processing is an innovative all-digital volume control. It came about because digital audio still suffers from volume controls that degrade the sound signal by modifying its shape.

Circular logic?

A digital volume control’s problem sounds circular but is lost information caused by itself. That lost information is related to modifying the amplitude of a digital datastream, known as ‘truncation’ or even ‘bit chopping’. How this truncation appears to the listener is a drop in low amplitude signal, making the sound appear ‘flat’ and ‘lacking warmth’; some of the baseline general criticisms of ‘digital audio’ often said by analogue music lovers.

What if some of those limitations of digital audio were purely functions of trying to make a no-noise digital volume control? This would go some way to explain the peculiar aspect of high-end audio that while good digital players often have digital volume controls, many audiophiles still prefer passing the signal through an analogue preamplifier. This intrinsically adds noise but is made due to the pragmatic decision that it simply sounds better.

Vermeer Audio Model THREE

Leedh attempts to address this well-documented problem by creating a volume algorithm to minimise the number of additional bits in a datastream to reduce truncation loss. This is an extraordinarily clever – and extremely complex – way of modifying the amplitude without changing the waveform used by some of the brightest stars in the digital heavens, such as Lumin, Métronome, Soulution… and Vermeer.

Hushed tones

So, why is it Vermeer Audio isn’t spoken of with the same hushed tones people apply when discussing the best of those other Leedh sign-ups? If you told a fellow audio traveller you owned one of those other three names, you’d get a nod of recognition and respect for your discerning choice. Do the same with Vermeer Audio, and you will probably get a ‘who?’ Partly, it’s for all the right reasons; even in an industry with a reputation for a bespoke build, Vermeer Audio’s products are resolutely hand-made. The company is small enough to ensure one engineer can follow a product from inception to final sign-off, testing and aligning precisely along the way. Where other companies of Vermeer’s size usually have one or two people in marketing and sales, it’s all about building the best they can.

In that way, Vermeer Audio operates like Henry Poole & Co. This small Savile Row tailor is famously understated (it doesn’t even have its own label to sew into its garments), yet invented the dinner suit and had Winston Churchill, Napoleon III, and lists numerous Kings, Queens, Emperors and Princes as clients. Personally, I’d take timeless craftsmanship and understatement over flashy and trashy!

Of course, just as a tailor is only as good as its last stitch, so Vermeer Audio relies on the quality of its two products, and the Model THREE D is more than good enough. However, there are a couple of operational ‘quirks’ such as the rear-mounted headphone socket. From an aesthetic perspective, I approve as it makes the front panel’s lines look clean and uncluttered, but from a logistical position, having to reach around the back of the Model THREE D – especially if it isn’t on the top shelf of your system – isn’t the best option.

Decisions, Decisions

I’m wary of going over old ground here, but so much of what applies to the Vermeer Audio Model TWO applies to the performance of the Model THREE D. It uses the same quality boards, substantial PCB tracks and high-grade components. I didn’t have both products to hand, so relying on a long-standing aural memory of fundamentally similar products is difficult. Still, I think the differences in performance are relatively slight. Model TWO mostly adds weight and line inputs… and makes a bigger hole in the bank balance. This is an outstanding achievement for Model THREE D because Model TWO was a stellar digital replay device, and this gets within “a midge’s minim” or “a gnat’s crotchet” (thank you, Humph, and the I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue team) of the Big Boy’s performance. In particular, Model THREE D retains that ‘drawing you in’ property that pulls you closer to the music, virtually regardless of file type or musical genre. I found myself listening to a wide range of listening pleasures and enjoying and understanding them perfectly.

Mentioning ‘Clue’ above was for a reason; it’s a deep pool of decades of silly, freely available and readily streamable half-hour slices of fried gold via BBC Sounds, and I found myself chuckling along to some classic early evening stupidity (singing the lyrics of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ to the tune of ‘The Muppet Show’) and double entendre (“Samantha has to nip out now as she’s got a new job working in the sound archive as the manager. It’s her first day, so apparently she’s going to give a speech in the back room and hand jobs out in the office”). Toward the end of his life, former host Humphrey Lyttleton’s voice became a little indistinct. Model THREE D helps bring out enough vocal quality to listen joyously. You feel as if you are part of the audience and even more party to the jokes.

Vermeer Audio Model THREE

I read through the Model TWO review and did the same thing; I spent time discussing a BBC broadcast. There’s a good reason for this and one that I didn’t necessarily notice the first time around. The Vermeer just stayed on all the time. You play Model THREE D at every opportunity. It accompanies your digital music and makes a very fluid, engaging and attractive sound. This digital replay device is on the full side rather than stark, with an effortless rhythm and plenty of detail. Still, ultimately none of those things is as important as just how many hours you log with the Model THREE D. And this listening during the demise (pronounced ‘dem-EEZ’ instead of ‘de-MIZE’) of the Crown, where all things British went maudlin.

Good times bad times!

There’s only so much of that one can take, and periodically one’s pipes need a good cleanout. Nothing seemed more appropriate than playing all of the first eponymous Led Zeppelin [Atlantic] album from one end to the other, starting with ‘Good Times Bad Times’… and it sounded like it was the first time I had ever heard it. Wow!

THREE D by name, THREE D by nature. The Vermeer Model THREE D produces an extremely holographic soundstage. If that were all, it would probably be enough, but as it follows closely in the footsteps trodden by its bigger brother, at a fraction of the cost and one-third the weight, it’s a hard thing not to love.

Technical specifications

  • Digital inputs Asynchronous USB, AES/EBU (XLR), S/PDIF (optical and BNC coaxial)
  • Analogue outputs Single-ended RCA, Balanced XLR
  • Digital precision to 32bit, 384kHz PCM (using Vermeer Audio resampling module), DSD 64/2.8Mhz
  • Output Voltage 2, 3 or 4Vrms in fixed output mode. Up to 7Vrms in variable output mode
  • Output Impedance 100Ω
  • Signal-to-noise ratio 129dB
  • THD < 0.1%
  • Dimensions (W×H×D) 450 × 130 × 440mm
  • Weight 9kg
  • Price £13,995

Manufacturer

Vermeer Audio

vermeeraudio.com

Manufacturer

The Audiophile Club

theac.co.uk

+44 (0) 20 8882 2822

Back to Reviews

EgglestonWorks Emma Evo

Earlier this year, in issue 205, I reviewed the EgglestonWorks Nico Evo stand-mount loudspeaker. It’s the only stand-mounter in the current EgglestonWorks lineup and at £6,500, including stands, the least expensive model they make. But many of their dealers apparently view the £7,900 Emma Evo as the entry level EgglestonWorks model. I got to wondering about this; is the Nico Evo the odd-man-out? Does the Emma Evo sound somehow more ‘EgglestonWorks’ than the Nico? Is there a presumption that EgglestonWorks customers aren’t really stand-mount people? Only one way to find out, really…

The Emma Evos duly arrived, finished neatly in a silver-grey automotive gloss finish that will probably blend into a wide range of décor styles. Visually, they draw very much on the Nico Evo, a tapering upper cabinet, tiny top plate with a ‘fastback’ downward-sloping rear, and the familiar backward-leaning EgglestonWorks stance. The metal front plate now houses a second bass/mid unit to the Nico’s one, but the actual tweeter and bass/mid drivers are the same for Nico and for Emma. Forever ago, it seems now, I commented that the supplied stand did the Nico Evo few favours, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the floorstander shapes up.

EgglestonWorks Emma Eco

EgglestonWorks have now had stand-mount designs in their range for almost a decade, the Nico Evo being descended from the original Nico, but drawing on lessons learned from the much more expensive Viginti. The Emma Evo took many design elements from the Nico Evo, notably in terms of cabinet construction, the use of the slotted reflex port, and crossover technology. So if we’re looking for a lineage here, Emma is a bigger Nico, rather than Nico being a stand-mount Emma.

It’s not a particularly large loudspeaker, it’s the smallest floorstander EgglestonWorks offers, but neither is it the sort of model you can unobtrusively drop into a small room without a moment’s thought. Clever design means it hides its bulk well, but it’s taller and deeper than you appreciate at first glance, and a good deal heavier than some of its peers at the price. It’s big enough that you are entitled to expect a bit of useful heft in its performance, but it’s not the sort of bruiser that needs some room around it if it isn’t to dominate the space. In short, it shows every sign of being potentially in that Goldilocks zone for a good range of UK-sized rooms. After my positive experience with its smaller sibling, I had high hopes for this one.

Of babies and bathwater

So many makers of highly regarded stand-mount loudspeakers seem to stumble when developing a floorstander. There’s a magic something that so often gets lost in the transition from small and agile, with pinpoint imaging, to scale, weight and generous dynamics. It happens so often, it’s easy to think these are mutually exclusive traits and the best you can do is reach an acceptable compromise, that you’re always going to throw out the ‘disappearing loudspeaker’ baby in the ’scale and dynamics’ bathwater. Partly, perhaps, the challenges of cabinet design are easier to resolve in a smaller enclosure; maybe a full range design exposes the less expensive drivers you can get away with in a bandwidth-limited mini monitor. Or just possibly, what we are hearing so often is the designer’s journey on the big loudspeaker learning curve.

Compromise, what compromise?

Whatever the reason, the Emma Evo doesn’t suffer from this malaise. The baby has been bathed, and remains intact. Similar drive units are used further up the EgglestonWorks food chain, and the port design and crossover technology derives from that used in the £46,000 Viginti. There are tradeoffs, obviously you can’t make an £8,000 loudspeaker the way you make a £46,000 loudspeaker. But EgglestonWorks tell me a lot of that they learned when developing the cabinet for the Viginti has found its way, via the Nico Evo, into the Emma Evo. So I think that, price aside, it’s not particularly helpful to think of the Emma as an entry-level model, and at the price they face some stiff competition so let’s just assess them on their own terms. That’s in keeping with EgglestonWorks’ own expressed philosophy, to let each model be the best it can be, and not to obsess over fitting it into a range at a price point.

EgglestonWorks Emma Eco

As expected, the Emma Evo fills in more of the bottom octave than the Nico Evo, it brings scale and weight commensurate with the bigger cabinet and driver surface area; gratifyingly, though, it concedes very little to the Nico in terms of that disappearing act that small cabinet loudspeakers can achieve.

Lucid

If single-word reviews ever become fashionable, my choice for the EgglestonWorks Emma Evo would be ‘lucid’. But so long as our esteemed editor sees fit to commission a further 1999 words, I’m happy to oblige. What I mean by ‘lucid’ is that the loudspeaker reveals insights deep into the music. There’s clarity and articulation to the presentation; a subtle vagueness has been disposed of, almost as though a light well has been cut into the soundstage, the better to illuminate those denser, innermost regions. To use another visual analogy, it’s as though the loudspeakers found a depth of field you didn’t realise was available.

Take Freddy Kempf, playing Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto with the Bergen Philharmonic [BIS, SACD]: I was struck by how much more clearly I could follow the inner workings of the orchestra. When you attend a live performance, the orchestra is arrayed before you and it’s easy enough to follow an instrumental line, or a phrase, pretty much at will. Whereas even very good hi-fi often dissolves into a more impressionistic view, you experience the orchestra as an entity, with only the more prominent lines being available for inspection. The Emmas approached this aspect of the live experience more closely than anything I can recall at this price, with textures and tunefulness well beyond the norm.

EgglestonWorks Emma Evo

And it all works on smaller-scale music, too. Antonio Forcione Live [Naim] and ‘Tarantella’ gave me textures and timbres, intimacy and ebullience; it was very clear how important every member of this small ensemble was to the whole of the musical event here. It does help turn music back into an event – that sense of performance, of a group of people with a common aim, that can often be overlooked, sadly, by systems which don’t resolve as well as the Emmas can. Timing is fundamentally important here, too. ‘Maurizio’s Party’ from the same album: bass notes from the cello were tight and tuneful, solidly underpinning the music; the percussion is fast, but also fully-textured, the shapes of the notes have time to fully develop, they aren’t cut off in the interests of pace or dynamics. Olafur Arnalds ‘This place was a shelter’ from For now I am Winter [Mercury Classics] was full of fine-boned detail, wonderfully contrasting the sonorous piano and ethereal electronica with tight, sinewy playing from the string quartet. This loudspeaker seems to revel in bringing out the full, lush detail and colour in a performance, but not candy-coated – there’s a firm grip on reality here, in all its multi-layered complexity.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an advocate of simple, first order crossovers, and the importance of preserving the phase relationships to the benefit of timing, and imaging. Yet here I am, marvelling at a loudspeaker so generously endowed with strengths in so many of the areas I value, and it has a <checks notes> fourth-order crossover. Umm. The crossover technology has trickled down from the much bigger, much more expensive Viginti, so clearly some very useful lessons have been learned.

Along came a spider

If I had a criticism, I would note that the lower treble can on occasion draw attention to itself. It’s not really bright – this is a fabric dome tweeter after all– but now and again there’s a slight fizz at the top of the midrange. I noticed it first on Elbow’s ‘One day like this’ from The Seldom Seen Kid [Geffen] when Guy Garvey’s vocals exhibited more than his customary level of softly silken sibilance, and the occasional slightly acid edge to a note here and there. But here’s the thing: I’d take off both the magnetic grilles and a three-pronged metal ‘spider’ that protects the tweeter. I’d also toed the speakers in much as I usually do. Refitting the spider and adjusting the speaker placement to more or less straight down the room dealt with a lot of this upper midrange artefact. Resting the speaker spikes on AcouPlex discs in place of the metal cups that were provided also paid dividends in terms of the sense of flow and musicality. This is clearly a loudspeaker that rewards a little experimentation in placement and setup. Oh, and I also discovered I was often listening quite unfeasibly loud, perhaps 3 or 4 dB louder than my customary level. I probably owe my neighbours a bottle of something nice.

This in some respects reflects just how clean these loudspeakers are, as other than that slightly ‘hot’ upper midrange, the sort of distortion artefacts that often give cues as to loudness were largely absent. EgglestonWorks don’t make any recommendations as to power handling, the drivers are ‘robust’ and will cope with pretty much anything you throw at them, apparently, and as I found with the Nico Evo, I do think the Emma Evos appreciate a good dollop of quality power. Stanley Clarke’s ‘Bass Folk Song No. 5’ from The Stanley Clarke Band [Heads Up] didn’t have quite the ultimate degree of ‘push’ in the funky bit and there’s perhaps a temptation to turn it up a little more to compensate. Perhaps this is where the compromise is found. If so, it’s a fairly well-chosen one.

EgglestonWorks Emma Evo

The EgglestonWorks Emma Evo has perhaps the most lucid, limpid and insightful presentation of any loudspeaker at its price that I’ve yet heard. Time and again I found myself marvelling at the sheer depth of field this loudspeaker could reproduce. Take Jacques Loussier, ‘Pastorale in C Minor’ from Plays Bach [Telarc]: there’s generous spatial separation between the trio, with solid, stable and convincing images of the players. Instrumental colour is vivid, and consistent, timing tight and precise. There’s an oddity in the way André Arpino plays percussion on this track, consistently just behind the beat for whole sections of the music. It’s quite disconcerting, but clearly intentional; the Emma Evo shows the percussion to be set well back in the soundstage, but that’s not why he’s a little late, he’s very clearly doing this on purpose because he locks-in to other sections of the same track. It’s these sorts of insights that elevate the Emmas above the competition.

So where the Nico Evo exemplified the best in a smallish, standmounting loudspeaker – coherence, speed, imaging, invisibility – the Emma Evo takes those qualities and adds scale, weight and another layer of colour and texture. You still get all the pace, coherence and clarity, the limpid, lucid vision into the heart of the music, but you also get a bit more of that heart. It’s pretty clear that if there’s a ‘house sound,’ both the Emma and the Nico Evos conform to it. The Emma Evo isn’t a large loudspeaker, though neither is it small, but because of the sheer levels of insight and detail there’s no real sense that you’re being short-changed on large-scale performances, and small-scale stuff just invites you right in to share in the intimate, immersive music-making experience. They respond to a little tweaking, and they’ll reward quality in the upstream elements of your system, they’re just so very communicative of what’s going on. They are proof that in moving from stand-mount to floorstander you don’t have to compromise on the strengths of a superlative small loudspeaker, you can just add other qualities on top if you do it right.

Technical specifications

  • Type Two-way floorstanding, reflex-loaded loudspeaker with rearward-facing slotted port
  • Driver complement 1× 1” fabric dome tweeter, 2× 6” poly composite mid/woofer
  • Power handling no upper limit specified
  • Crossover frequency 2.1kHz
  • Crossover type Single-wired, low pass and high pass crossover 4th order Linkwitz Riley Acoustic slope via a 2nd order electrical circuit
  • Frequency response (in-room, typical) 30Hz-24kHz +/-3dB
  • Impedance 6 Ohms nominal, 4.1 Ohms minimum at 150Hz
  • Sensitivity 88dB for 1 Watt at 1 Metre
  • Dimensions (H×W×D) 1090 × 190 × 400mm
  • Weight 31 Kg each
  • Finishes white, silver or black high gloss finish. Any automotive paint colour by arrangement (extra cost option)
  • Price £7,900/pair

Manufacturer

EgglestonWorks

www.egglestonworks.com

UK Distributor

Auden Distribution

www.audendistribution.co.uk

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Enjoy the Music.com Sponsors T.H.E. Show SoCal 2023 Media & Exhibitor Party

(May 30, 2023) Enjoy the Music.com, premium audio’s critically-acclaimed site for 28 years and a leader in providing luxury audio and music industry news, highly respected hardware reviews, and sensational show reports, is excited to announce that we’re sponsoring T.H.E. Show SoCal’s Thursday night media and exhibitor party! To be held from Friday, June 9th through Sunday, June 11th at the Hilton Orange County Costa Mesa, both show exhibitors and members of the press are invited to join us for drinks, music, and good times. For decades, T.H.E. Show has been the must-attend event for Southern California music enthusiasts, audiophiles, and hi-fi devotees alike.

T.H.E. Show SoCal 2023 is an upscale luxury event for those who truly value music within their homes and on the go too. Operated in part by award-earning musicians and music enthusiasts, T.H.E. Show SoCal 2023 will be the place to experience the very best premium audio / video products. This year’s event will feature many leading brands of high-fidelity audio gear, plus there will be educational seminars and special features planned. This year’s event is not to be missed!

“T.H.E. Show is delighted to have Enjoy the Music.com as part of our ever-expanding audio journey,” said Emiko Carlin, Senior Vice President of T.H.E. Show. “We’re excited to have so many exhibitor brands and dealers this June including folks from Europe and Asia, showcasing the very best hi-fi and audio in the world, serving California and the entire Western United States of America. We are grateful for Enjoy the Music.com‘s continued support – not just of T.H.E. Show but of our entire industry and our beloved community.”

Enjoy the Music.com is honored to be working alongside T.H.E. Show for their Orange County California event,” says Enjoy the Music.com‘s Creative Director Steven R. Rochlin. “This year’s event will highlight a broad range of exhibitors showcasing the best in premium audio and luxurious video gear from around the world. Enjoy the Music.com‘s continued support strengthens our vibrant and growing industry filled with passionate music lovers from all around the world. With major growth and continued strength in music consumption over the recent years, many music enthusiasts continue to seek out the very finest in both home and personal portable consumer electronics audio gear. T.H.E. Show SoCal 2023 is the perfect place to find the best sound system that exceeds your expectations and brings more excitement into your life.”

 

More About T.H.E. Show 2023
After a bit of a hiatus, T.H.E. Show is excited to announce that the automotive portion is back and better than ever! You can expect classical cars, vintage cars, supercars, and specialty cars on exhibit! An expanded and dynamic seminar schedule is planned with industry experts giving attendees valuable information. Gourmet food trucks will keep everyone happy and well-fed.

T.H.E. Vinylonium
T.H.E. Show will have an expanded vinyl section this year called T.H.E. Vinylonium. It will feature an extensive variety of pressings including everything from vintage and budget to rare and high-end audiophile editions. This is all in thanks to our vinyl exhibitors who are with us annually, yet this year T.H.E. Show is introducing a very large presence from their friends at the OC Record Show! T.H.E. Vinylonium will be in a special section of the hotel, our new venue, the Hilton Orange County Costa Mesa so if you’re a vinyl junkie or collector, you will want to check this out!

T.H.E. Headphonium Presented By eCoustics

T.H.E. Headphonium Presented By eCoustics
T.H.E. Headphonium is a dedicated space within T.H.E. Show featuring headphones and personal / portable audio. Presented by audio and home theater publication eCoustics, T.H.E. Headphonium will offer to show attendees a more engaging and unique experience including the opportunity to listen to a wide cross-section of the world’s best headphones and portable audio equipment. Attendees will have access to a lifestyle lounge, bespoke professional photo shoots, live social media events, and more.

T.H.E. Music Group And T.H.E. Radio Show
T.H.E. Show has just announced the launch of their record label, T.H.E Music Group. During their SoCal show, this initiative will be accompanied by a radio show and marks a new era within the hi-fi audio industry. This innovative venture will promote exceptional musical talent while providing listeners with unparalleled audio experiences, thus bringing up-and-coming artists in search of new fans together with audiophiles searching for new music.

The accompanying radio show, T.H.E. Radio Show, will provide an engaging and immersive experience for listeners. Set to air weekly on Thursday evenings at 8pm PST on KWSS 93.9 and 99.5 FM. Their radio programs promises to be a sonic journey, showcasing the hottest tracks from the label’s artists, offering insightful interviews, behind-the-scenes stories, plus hi-fi audio news and content.

Learn more and see our T.H.E. Show SoCal 2023 event coverage at this link.

About T.H.E. Show
Founded in 1998, T.H.E. Show (The Home Entertainment Show) has the honor of being the longest-running high-end audio and luxury hi-fi show open to the public in the United States of America. T.H.E. Show’s mission, to encourage and educate the community through elevated listening experiences, can be seen and heard firsthand with its 125+ exhibitors, T.H.E. Headphonium,™ (presented by Enjoy the Music partner publication eCoustics) a brand new section called T.H.E Vinylonium™, and award-winning documentary film, T.H.E. Human Side, membership lifestyle ecosystem, T.H.E. Group, and VIP curated events. T.H.E. Show’s team lives by the values that hi-fi and music are for everyone, no matter where they are in their journey of audio discovery, thus curating T.H.E. Show to reflect this and have exhibits and experiences for all music lovers.

T.H.E. Show, on an ever-expanding mission to bring hi-fi to as many people as possible, will be announcing exciting new outreach initiatives leading up to and at T.H.E. Show SoCal 2023. All who love music are welcome at T.H.E. Show and we look forward to seeing you at our brand new venue, the Hilton Orange County Costa Mesa, California from June 9th through 11th, 2023!

More Information About T.H.E. Show: TheShowNow.com

More Information About T.H.E. Group: TheGroup.life

New Burmester products and concepts: Burmester 232 Integrated Amplifier

  • First product in the new Burmester aesthetic design
  • New D/A converter
  • New rotary encoder (knob!) with haptic feedback (customizable) for volume, input selection, etc.
  • Modular design (phono module, DAC are available at purchase or retro upgradeable)
  • Supports current streaming providers
  • New operation app
  • New high-quality display housed behind a mirrored finish
  • New audio concept for preamplifier (incl. volume control) and headphones
  • High quality operational amplifiers at the input for sound performance
  • Extra short and low-noise signal path for minimal signal interference
  • New dedicated headphone amplifier designed for low distortion and low noise level
  • New input transistors of the power amplifiers with almost perfect pair equality (NPN, PNP) for minimal distortion
  • Very high quality, carefully selected components in Class A/B circuit
  • Each amplifier has its own independent power supply, which means that the supply voltage for each channel is kept stable and independent.
Alan Sircom & Stefan Größler
Alan Sircom & Stefan Größler discuss the new Burmester 232

Control device: The aim of the new operating concept was to directly simplify the control of a versatile – and thus also complex – device. The new operating concept combines the new Burmester control app with operation on the device (HMI) or via remote control. The approach of reducing the number of operating steps was employed across all control options.

Burmester Control
Burmester Control

New Rotary Encoder (Knob!)

In addition to the app and remote control, the new Burmester rotary encoder serves as the main control element of the 232 and equips the integrated amplifier with an innovative haptic feedback technology. The haptic feedback adapts to the respective functions. This includes features such as resistance to rotation, number and spacing of ticks. In addition to controlling classic functions such as input selection, volume adjustment or scrolling through playlists, it also replaces the power switch.

Specs:

Note: Power output, release date and price to be specified at later point

Audio-Inputsanalog2 balanced XLR
Digitale1 USB-BAt DAC Modul
1 USB-CCan be used with DAC module (at SBC)
1 HDMICan be used with DAC module (at SBC)
1 elektrical RCAAt DAC module
1 optical (TOSLINK)At DAC module
1 AES EBUAt DAC module
Audio-Outputsanalog1 Stereo XLR
1 Mono Sum Sub Out
digital1 electrical RCA, 1 optical (TOSLINK)At DAC module
Loudspeaker1 Stereo
Headphone6,3 mm stereo-jack
DA-Wandler (optionales Modul) SPDIF/PCMUp to 32-bit 768 kHz
DSDDSD256 via DoP and native DSD512
BluetoothStandard5.4
CodecsA2DP (Audio)Can be used with DAC module (at SBC)
Module DACPhono MC
Loudspeaker connection oxygen free copper, gold plated, compatible with cable lug
Connectivity Compatible with typical SmartHome solutions from the audio sector
Measurements [mm] 450 x 450 x 177
Weight [kg] 29
Connections Burlink
operation Burmester Conduct App, remote control, Touch-Sensors und rotary encoder
Streaming Unterstützt alle gängigen Streaming Anbieter
Standard versions Silver, black (Aluminium anodized) Dieter Burmester

X-amp

X-Amp1

 

Burmester X-Amp upgrade

The original X-Amp technology was first developed by Dieter Burmester for use in the 870 and 877 amplifiers and subsequently employed in a variety of products up to today.

The X-AMP 3 is a three-stage, fully complementary signal amplifier that features outstanding audio characteristics thanks to targeted compensation techniques. The very high linearity even without negative feedback as well as the almost complete independence of all sound-relevant characteristics from all environmental or operating conditions are to be emphasized.

All components used are within a very narrow tolerance range and are selected according to the highest standards, especially the transistors used are closely selected. In addition, the shielding aluminum cover protects the sensitive electronics from external interference. Thus, the fully analog circuit is fully designed for a long life.

Sustainability idea with X-Amp  (111 example)

The purchase of a Burmester product has always been a long-term investment in outstanding sound quality. For this reason, Burmester makes the technology of the future portfolio also available to the Reference Line 111 Musiccenter within the scope of a modification.

The reduction of the form factor compared to the previous versions is a necessary step in order to be able to use the X-AMP in future new equipment developments under more challenging space conditions. In order to ensure full compatibility with existing equipment, individual, virtually lossless adapter boards have been developed for use in existing equipment.

BC150 Ferrari Red
BC150 Ferrari Red

Bespoke Concept:

Burmester introduces ‘Bespoke’ concept, making a truly exclusive product. At Munich were two examples of bespoke design featuring partnerships with Alcantara (a contact that was heralded by Ferrari partnership):

A BC150 was shown in all in black with decorative parts in Ferrari-red Alcantara®, combined with a black high-gloss front panel envokes the experience of driving in a Purosangue whilst enjoying music in your own living room. The contrast between brushed aluminum and the softness of the Alcantara® finishes invites you on a uniquely exciting journey of discovery.

Burmester Silver

and exclusive German silversmiths Robbe & Berking:

To celebrate the upcoming 150th anniversary of the silver manufacturer Robbe & Berking, we created a very special product that was developed jointly in both companies’ facilities. Robbe and Berking is not only known for its high-quality silverware but is also active in the field of regattas. The latter both as a sponsor and initiator of the well-known Sterling Cup, as well as in the restoration of highly exclusive historic sailing yachts.

The jointly designed speaker reflects the history of the silver manufacturing in a unique way. The side panels are veneered with original wood from the winning yacht’s deck. The chrome front, which encloses the tweeter and midrange, is adorned with the relief specially designed for the anniversary year.

To find out more visit: Burmester

Click Here For More Burmester Reviews from hi-fi+

A new reference: introducing the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom

From the iFi Audio press release:

iFi’s new flagship analogue headphone amplifier delivers reference-quality sound with everything from hyper-sensitive in-ear monitors to the most power-hungry electrostatic headphones 

Southport, England – Since its formation in 2012, iFi has consistently delivered headphone amplifiers that are rated at the top of their class, from small and affordable portable devices to high-performance amps to use at home. 

For the past seven years, the Pro iCAN and subsequent Pro iCAN Signature have represented the pinnacle of iFi’s range, widely recognised to be among the finest headphone amps on the planet owing to their mix of useful versatility, excellent circuit design and supremely engaging performance. But summer 2023 sees the Pro’s crown usurped by an even mightier headphone amp champ – the new iCAN Phantom. 

iFi’s new reference-class analogue headphone amp takes the Pro iCAN, refines and enhances every element of its circuitry to further elevate its performance, incorporates technology from the Pro iESL – previously a separate component – for electrostatic headphones, and adds a new, advanced user interface and network-connected control system.  

The result is a headphone amp truly worthy of its flagship status, with exemplary build quality, sophisticated technology, an unrivalled specification and remarkable versatility, expertly engineered to drive every headphone type to its full sonic potential. From ultra-sensitive IEMs, to the finest dynamic driver and planar magnetic headphones, to the most power-hungry electrostatic designs, the iCAN Phantom delivers a truly exceptional headphone experience – exquisitely tailored to the requirements of the listener. 

Another string to the iCAN Phantom’s bow is its ability to perform as a high-end hi-fi preamplifier, enabling headphones and speakers to be combined in a single high-performance audio system. Whether you use your favourite headphones to plug yourself into an intoxicating private musical universe or engage your speakers to fill the room with glorious sound, the iCAN Phantom is brilliantly engineered to place at the heart of a home audio system for the most discerning of music lovers. 

What’s in a name? 

Ever since the press dubbed a newly developed Rolls-Royce “Silver Ghost” in the early 20th century, the famous automobile marque has given its models ghostly names, evoking qualities that are so extraordinary as to seem supernatural. There has been a “Phantom” in the Rolls-Royce range since 1925, always revered for the remarkable quality of its engineering, its distinguished appearance and eerily smooth, quiet ride. 

These are qualities that iFi sought to reflect in its new flagship headphone amp, which is why the company named it the iCAN Phantom – the Rolls-Royce of headphone amplifiers. It exemplifies engineering excellence to deliver exceptional, ultra-low-noise audio performance, coupled with a distinctive external design and dual-level black and silver finish that echoes the two-tone colour schemes adorning many Rolls-Royce cars for decades. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
Supremely built with a dual-level black and silver finish, the iCAN Phantom is the Rolls-Royce of headphone amps.

Building a flagship 

A flagship audio component should be built and finished to an exceptional standard and the iCAN Phantom certainly fits the bill. It looks unlike any other headphone amp; its design gives the appearance of two units, but it is in fact a single, dual-level device, the full height of which is fully utilised by its multi-layer circuit design. Its enclosure measures 256x120x185mm (WxHxD) and is sturdily constructed from aluminium, with the bottom layer sporting cable connections front and back, and the top layer offering tactile controls and a colourful OLED display. 

The top of the iCAN Phantom incorporates a flush-fitting smoked glass panel, through which the amp’s circuitry – including its glowing audio valves – can be glimpsed. Circular aluminium vents protrude from the glass, ensuring the circuitry within does not overheat. Clever design touches abound; for example, when not in use the sockets at the front or back can be hidden by a neat aluminium panel that attaches magnetically. (This panel also holds the data cards for the electrostatic bias voltage settings – these are described later in the press release.) The iCAN Phantom also comes with an attractive, easy to use aluminium remote control that puts the handsets supplied with many audio components to shame. 

Valve or solid state – a tale of two input stages

Like the Pro iCAN before it, the iCAN Phantom sports several unique features that set it apart from other headphone amps. One such facility is the incorporation of two input stages – one valve/tube-based, the other solid state – enabling the user to switch between the two in real time. These input stages are entirely separate, which means they can be kept short and direct for optimal purity rather than complicating the signal path (for example, by switching tubes in and out of a single circuit). 

The fully discrete Class A solid-state input stage uses J-FETs, while the all-valve Class A circuit features a hand-selected, computer-matched pair of General Electric 5670 tubes (a premium variant of the 6922). This stage has two selectable modes – Tube and Tube+. The latter minimises overall loop-gain and thus negative feedback, giving a different trade-off between the tube’s natural harmonics and the transient performance. The effect is like three amplifiers in one, each with a different sonic presentation. 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The switch to the left of the OLED display is used to select between Solid State, Tube and Tube+

While it’s certainly fun to be able to compare the differences between vacuum tube and solid-state sound in real time, the inclusion of these two separate input stages is much more than a gimmick. With different source devices, varying music styles and an abundance of headphone and speaker types available to listeners, each of these circuits come into their own and may be preferred at different times. For example, the solid-state stage offers pace and immediacy; the Tube mode adds fluidity and a free-breathing dynamic quality; and Tube+ accentuates the sonic influence of the valves, delivering a spellbinding romantic warmth that may suit, for example, acoustic and vocal musical styles.

The supplied GE 5670 tubes have an expected lifespan of around 100,000 hours. When eventually the time comes to replace them, the iCAN Phantom’s glass top is easily removed to provide access. The amp is also compatible with 6922 tubes (an adapter for the 6922’s pinout is included). 

PureWavePRO – reference-class fully balanced circuit design for the purest sound 

Balanced circuit design has long been considered a righteous path to audio excellence in high-end amp design, but the term ‘balanced’ is used in different ways and does not always mean the same thing. The iCAN Phantom takes balanced circuit design to the extreme – fully differential from input to output, minimising noise and crosstalk in the signal path for ultimate sonic purity. 

Essentially, ‘fully differential’ circuit design – or True Differential Balanced, as iFi calls it – means that each channel (left and right) is fully separated in the circuit design, and each of these channels has two separate signals of equal level but opposite polarity (positive and negative). This requires four separate amp circuits, two for the left channel and two for the right channel – much more costly and complex to implement than single-ended circuit designs, but the sonic dividends are hugely worthwhile. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The iCAN Phantom’s meticulous, multi-level circuit board layout features True Differential Balanced design

 

The iCAN Phantom’s True Differential Balanced circuitry is coupled to a volume control with six decks – two decks for each channel (positive and negative) with the final two decks used for monitoring the volume control operation. The motorised volume control potentiometer is custom-made by ALPS in Japan and is of exceptional quality. 

Because the two halves of the volume control and the two halves of the amplification operate differentially, they effectively become a single stage. So, although the circuitry is elaborately implemented, it boils down to the simplest design possible for a headphone amplifier – a volume control, a gain stage and a current buffer. 

iFi has championed balanced circuit design for years and many of its current amp devices at all manner of prices incorporate balanced circuit principles. Since 2020, iFi’s most advanced balanced circuit concepts have been collectively dubbed PureWave, referring to the sonic purity they achieve thanks to exceptional linearity and infinitesimally low levels of noise and distortion. The iCAN Phantom’s True Differential Balanced circuit design, utilising the highest quality circuit components, is the ultimate expression of these principles – that’s why iFi calls it PureWavePRO.

iESL technology – for electrostatic headphones and more

Most headphones create sound by using dynamic (or moving coil) drivers to move air. A smaller number use planar magnetic diaphragms, which are different in form and operation, but still use magnetic fields to cause motion. At the high end of the headphone scene there is another, rare but fabulous sounding driver type – electrostatic headphones. These incorporate an electrically charged diaphragm placed between two conductive plates or electrodes; whilst dynamic and planar headphones tend to deliver stronger bass response, nothing can beat the open soundstaging and magical high frequencies of a top-quality electrostatic design. 

For many headphone users there is a significant drawback – electrostatic drivers have extremely high impedance, which means they need specialised amplifiers to boost the voltage of the audio signal far, far higher than that required by other headphone types whilst also dropping the current of the signal to safe levels. One way of doing this is to add a separate unit called an electrostatic ‘energiser’ to a regular amplifier; this is the approach iFi took with its previous-generation Pro Series, which gave the option of adding the Pro iESL energiser to the Pro iCAN headphone amp. 

iFi has chosen to incorporate its iESL energiser technology within the iCAN Phantom, thereby making a single amplifier that can handle every headphone type with aplomb. But it’s not only owners of electrostatic headphones who benefit from this endeavour – the component quality and clever circuit design required to deliver such a high level of performance with electrostatic headphones elevates the amp’s performance with other headphone types too. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The bottom level of the multi-layer PCB layout contains the PPCTs – seen here on the left in their shielded enclosures

Transformer quality is critical to sound quality, which is why the iCAN Phantom incorporates custom-made PPCTs (Pinstripe Permalloy Core Transformer). These incorporate a GOSS/Mu-Metal hybrid core and complicated multi-section winding with both vertical and horizontal sectioning, using extremely thin wire that is hand-wound with great precision. This transformer is capable of exceptionally wide bandwidth, ultra-low distortion and perfect linearity. 

The attention to every circuit detail is extreme, from input to output. For example, gold-plated silver contact relays, filled with an inert gas, ensure perfect performance over a long lifespan, and meticulously engineered semiconductors, shielded from noise in gold-plated copper cases, deliver consistent, distortion-free sound. 

Powerful amplification delivers musical gratification 

The iCAN Phantom is an extraordinarily powerful headphone amplifier, capable of delivering more than 15,000mW from its balanced outputs and more than 5,760mW from its single-ended outputs into 16 ohms. In terms of voltage, it can supply more than 27V into a 600-ohm load; when it comes to electrostatic headphones, it delivers up to 640V. 

The iCAN Phantom’s capacitive battery power supply, originally developed for the Pro iESL and further enhanced here, is intrinsic to its high level of performance. Rather than relying on a mains-powered switched-mode step-up circuit, a large battery of custom-made film capacitors rated at 1,000V DC is charged and occasionally topped up using mains power. This ‘virtual battery pack’ delivers pure DC, completely free of AC and switching noise – the ideal high-voltage supply for electrostatic headphones. 

Two independent circuits deliver the electrostatic bias voltage – one for 230V ‘normal’ bias and the other adjustable between 500V and 640V to deliver a perfect fit for every electrostatic headphone on the planet. (There’s more information about selecting ‘custom’ bias voltages below.) 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
A neat selection of switches, buttons and dials allow the user to custom-tune the amp’s performance

Sonic tailoring for an immaculate fit 

The choice between solid-state and valve-based input stages isn’t the only way to ensure the iCAN Phantom’s performance perfectly matches your headphone selection and the music you play. A range of adjustable settings let you dial in the perfect performance – here’s a summary: 

For dynamic and planar magnetic headphones and IEMs: 

  • Adjustable gain Three settings – 0dB, 9dB and 18dB – enable the amp to precisely match the connected headphones. Unity gain (0dB) is useful to ensure low noise with more sensitive headphones and IEMs, while the higher gain settings make the most of tougher headphone loads, delivering excellent dynamic headroom. 7 
  •  IEMatch This proprietary iFi circuit attenuates the output to better suit high-sensitivity IEMs (in-ear monitors), removing potential background noise and increasing the usable volume range. This can be optionally applied to the 3.5mm and balanced 4.4mm outputs. 
  • XBass analogue processing This proprietary circuit can be engaged to enhance low frequencies, its sophistication enabling it to do so whilst maintaining bass definition and without muddying the midrange. This is useful with, for example, some open-back headphones that sound bass-light; it ‘corrects’ the bass so that the listener hears low frequencies as the artist intended. The iCAN Phantom offers three XBass steps – 10Hz, 20Hz and 40Hz – or it can be switched out of the signal path altogether. 
  • XSpace analogue processing Another proprietary analogue processing mode, XSpace is designed to enhance soundstage width and depth. The iCAN Phantom includes two XSpace matrices, one for headphones and the other for speakers, with automatic switching between the two. XSpace for Headphones compensates for the ‘in-head localisation’ effect that can occur when listening to music that was mixed using speakers, widening the headphone soundstage to deliver a more spacious and speaker-like experience. XSpace for Speakers increases the width of the apparent soundstage beyond the width dictated by speaker placement. Both forms of XSpace feature multiple levels that may be selected according to preference or switched out of the signal path completely. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
Six data cards allow bias voltage to be set precisely for every pair of electrostatic headphones

For electrostatic headphones: 

  • Custom bias voltage cards Electrostatic headphones have varying requirement when it comes to bias voltage. The iCAN Phantom has two outputs for electrostatics – one set at the ‘normal’ bias voltage of 230V, the other offering variable bias voltage between 500V and 640V, selected by the user. It is possible to damage the headphones if the wrong voltage is selected; to make this far less likely, iFi has created a series of data cards that specify different bias voltages (these are supplied with the amp). Simply select the card that matches the headphone’s specification and pop it in the card slot – there are cards for 500V, 540V, 580V, 600V, 620V and 640V, each with a handy guide on the back showing which headphone brand is compatible with that voltage.
  • Load impedance The impedance response can be adjusted from 16 ohms to 96 ohms. Lower impedance settings create a greater step-up and will produce a louder sound level at the same volume setting. 
  • AC termination This low- and high-impedance setting for the shared node between the channels for bias affects a complex set of parameters, but most noticeably the width and depth of the soundstage. 

iFi Nexus – network-connected control 

The iCAN Phantom is the first product to incorporate iFi’s Nexus module, which combines with an app to provide a comprehensive, scalable network-connected control system. The features that Nexus offers will grow over time; at launch, the Nexus app enables your Android or iOS device to act as a ‘super remote control’ for the iCAN Phantom, providing access to additional features not accessible via the amp’s fascia or standard remote control. 

The app can display diagnostic information and allow the user to monitor the iCAN Phantom’s operational condition in real time – for example, voltages, the condition and projected life span of the vacuum tubes and so on. It can also be used to apply over-the-air updates to the iCAN Phantom’s firmware, downloading and installing update files via your home Wi-Fi network. 

Nexus will be incorporated into more iFi devices over time – for example, several new mid- and top-tier DAC/amps set to arrive later this year will support it. As the number of Nexus-compatible iFi devices grows and the app’s functionality expands, a network-connected iFi ‘ecosystem’ will develop – one app for all your requirements, like a concierge service for iFi customers. It will enable additional software-driven functionality to be delivered and shared across existing iFi devices, as well as providing a direct technical support service and even potentially an online store within the app. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The iCAN Phantom’s black lower section offers a plethora of connection options front and back

 

Every connection – iFi’s got it covered 

The iCAN Phantom supplies an array of balanced and single-ended connection options. The headphone outputs are at the front, with the source inputs and preamp outputs at the rear. Here’s a summary:

Headphone outputs (dynamic/planar) Source inputs 
1x 3-pin balanced XLR (L/R) 1x balanced XLR (L/R) 
1x 4-pin balanced XLR 3x RCA (L/R) 
1x 4.4mm balanced Preamp outputs 
1x 6.3mm (positive phase) 1x balanced XLR (L/R) 
1x 6.3mm (inverted phase) 1x RCA (L/R) 
1x 3.5mm (S-Balanced) 
Headphone outputs (electrostatic) 
1x 5-pin normal bias 
1x 5-pin custom bias 

Price and availability 

The iCAN Phantom is available from selected retailers at an RRP of £3,749. Pre-orders are now open, with retail stock expected to arrive at the end of June. 

www.ifi-audio.com

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Lindemann Audio Musicbook Combo

Trying to predict the future is impossible. The lack of lottery wins, flying cars, or dystopian post-apocalyptic hellscapes is a bit of a giveaway. But, when it comes to audio, predicting the near future is possible, and a big chunk of tomorrow’s audio is likely Lindemann Musicbook Combo shaped!

The Musicbook Combo addresses a gap in modern audio; the small, high-performance integrated amplifier with a good audio streamer. The audio world needs a small box to sit on a bookshelf rather than a dedicated stand. It also requires a product that’s easy to install and operate. And it needs to sound good. The Lindemann Musicbook Combo does all those things.

Does it all

Lindemann’s elegant little box is a deceptively powerful and flexible device. Delivering a healthy 70W into eight ohms, the amp includes a network player, DAC, MM phono stage, and two line-level analogue inputs. You can connect it to A2DP-compatible Bluetooth devices, local networks, and online streaming services via a router. You can play thumb drives or CDs from a CD-ROM drive inserted into the rear USB connector. There’s a good-quality headphone socket.

Lindemann Audio Combo

Everything is driven from Lindemann’s iOS or Android app, and there’s a healthily sized yellow OLED read-out on the front panel. The amp’s control is minimal, just a power button and a jog wheel, but this last double up as volume and source selector. There is also a mini-remote with track-handling functionality, but consider this an adjunct to the app.

Once you go deeper, you begin to see why the Musicbook Combo is so powerful. First, it upconverts any PCM signal to DSD as standard (using an AK4137 upsampler), but this can be deactivated, and any PCM signals are kept bit-perfect to the twin AK4493 DACs and synchronised against an ultraprecise MEMS-Femtoclock. It can be run wired or wirelessly (within 10m from a wireless router) into your Local Area Network. It’s entirely Roon Ready and works with Tidal Connect, Qobuz, High Res Audio.com, Spotify Connect, Deezer and more. If you like the pitter-patter of tiny Lindemanns around the house, there is also a multi-room feature.

Appiness is a warm iPad

While it’s notionally possible to operate the Musicbook Combo without a smartphone or tablet, it is like asking a ballet dancer to dance Swan Lake in leg irons. The absolute joy of the Lindemann design and why it justifies that ‘it’s the future’ epithet is how well it works with its app (and apps like Roon). This is something we occasionally struggle to reconcile; a product like the Musicbook Combo must live in that app-based ecosystem today.

Sadly, too many audio companies seem to be more about ‘pivoting’ toward the place Lindemann already occupies. The industry is perhaps universally guilty of being behind the curve here; we, as audio writers, are more wrapped up in the hardware than in the interaction between that hardware and the app. In the real world, people care more about how that app works and how the product interacts with the app. In our defence, the app is often still a work in progress when the product gets into our hands, but again in the real world, such a halfway house is indefensible. Rant mode: disengaged.

Lindemann Audio Combo

Fortunately, the Lindemann app is a joy to use. It’s just the right balance of ‘informative’ without being ‘busy’, and it responds quickly. Once set up (no big deal), the Combo also handshakes with other apps like Tidal or Roon, meaning they do all the heavy lifting, and the Combo reacts appropriately. I’d put this on a par with the better company-made apps out there; it’s not as intuitive as Sonos (few are), but it’s certainly easy to navigate and highly reactive.

Wired or wireless

I tried connecting the Lindemann Musicbook Combo in both wired and wireless LAN settings, but in fairness, my wireless router is only about 1.5m from the Combo’s twin aerials. This means I could detect no sound quality or latency differences between wired and wireless connections. If pressed, I’d opt for the wired connection, but that’s more to do with personal preference than observed differences. The Combo seems to make no distinctions either way.

Running Lindemann’s own Streaming 4.0 platform and app, the Combo worked like a charm. The app gently guides you to building playlists in a more considered way than track aggregation, but only because I found playlist creation is more in retrospect and made from the last-played option. I prefer this more reflective approach; it acts a little more like Roon. Streaming 4.0 and Roon work very nicely together, and I found myself in that Roon space a lot here.

Lindemann Audio Combo

The sound of the Combo is evident and clean, cutting a delicate balance and always staying on the right side of ‘clinical’. Perhaps most noticeable is that this ‘spring water’ sound applies universally; there’s no point where the sound warms up or blurs across the board. While that might sound like it would deter valve-amp users and their seeming love of euphony, I think they would like the clarity and focus of that Lindemann sound.

Go-to albums

My go-to albums for testing midrange clarity and bass – Stella di Napoli by Joyce DiDonato [Erato] and The Last Resort by Trentemøller [Poker Flat] – highlighted precisely what the Lindemann Musicbook Combo does so well, as they delivered all the detail and insight required to make the former album come alive and all the precision and drive needed to make the latter sound scary. But, in fairness, what the Combo did right, it did right universally.

There’s a reason we use these discs over and over. While hugely enjoyable to hear, I’m not going to extract review-grade information from a Half Man Half Biscuit album, but Achtung Bono [Probe Plus] needs something accurate to serve up the lyrics of ‘Joy Division Oven Gloves’ without it sounding too spikey and raw while retaining the wonderful belt-fed surrealist sarcasm dripping from every line. And Lindemann’s Combo makes short work of lines like ‘Nero fiddles while Gordon Burns/In his Joy Division Oven Gloves.’

Everything I played was given a fair hearing by the Lindemann Musicbook Combo, which is extremely rare at this level. The clean, precise sound makes the Lindemann so musically flexible. I went from operetta to electro to sarky post-punk from the Wirral and then to Bach inventions, back via Dylan’s Desire [Capitol], over to some classic early 1990s Acid Jazz, and so it went on.

Class act

Getting that much from a small box without it going into melt-down mode can only mean one thing – Class D power amp operation. And this will cause some audiophiles to press the ejector seat on principle. More fool them; they are missing a precise, accurate, musically focused, detailed, articulate and highly dynamic sound, especially when the target loudspeaker audience is considered.

Lindemann Audio Combo

With spiralling fuel bills meaning the running costs of a pure Class A amplifier begin to get a little noticeable, the great sound and cool running Lindemann makes a robust case for itself. I feel what’s inside the box is functionally unimportant as long as it works well; how it sounds and operates matters.

Don’t diss

So, are there any downsides to the Musicbook Combo? Surprisingly few, unless you are in the habit of ‘dissing’ things for being something they weren’t intended to be. It’s not meant to drive £300,000 tower loudspeakers with an impedance plot that eats amplifiers, but I used the Combo with KEF’s LS50 Meta, and the two worked together so well, so I felt no need to look further. I want moving coil compatibility alongside moving magnet, but not if it sacrifices the performance of the MM stage as it stands. I’d also prefer if its Bluetooth connection included aptX HD (which can support up to 24bit, 48kHz PCM) alongside A2DP, but this is far from a deal-breaker. And realistically, that’s about it!

The Lindemann Musicbook Combo is one of the ways good audio reaches those it cannot. It’s small enough to be domestically acceptable. It’s powerful enough to drive the loudspeakers it will most likely partner with and sounds good. It’s made to be app-chummy and live happily in that domain, and the app works exceptionally well. If this is the face of audio’s future, it’s bright and rosy!

 

Technical specifications

  • Type streaming integrated amplifier
  • Power output 2×130W into 4Ω, 2× 70W into 8Ω
  • Analogue inputs MM cartridge (RCA), two line-level (RCA)
  • Analogue outputs one line-level (RCA), 6.35mm headphone jack, 2× BFA speaker terminals
  • MM specifications 47kΩ, 150pF, 40dB gain
  • Digital inputs Coaxial and optical S/PDIF, USB 2.0, 100Mbits/s RJ45 LAN, 2× antenna (Bluetooth, WLAN)
  • Bluetooth 4.2, A2DP
  • DAC resolution up to 768kHz, 32bit PCM and DSD 512
  • Supported codecs WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, DSD
  • Network UPnP and DLNA support
  • Dimensions (W×H×D) 28 × 22 × 6.3cm
  • Weight 3kg
  • Price £4,490

Manufacturer

Lindemann Audio

lindemann-audio.de

UK Distributor

Signature Audio Systems

signaturesystems.co.uk 

+44(0)7738 007776

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Vivid Audio Giya G1 Spirit

I managed to get away to Greece in late July last year, just as it was reaching Greek temperatures in the UK, and enjoyed two weeks of proper ‘scorchio’ weather. I noticed how much hotter the towns were (even in the shade) than the less densely populated areas, especially those without buildings. This is largely because the roads and buildings soak up heat and then slowly release it over the day. This is what high-mass cabinets do, albeit at a different frequency; they store the energy that comes from the drive units and release it over time, rather more time than it takes for the signal to be produced by the drivers. The heavier the loudspeaker cabinet, the more extreme this can get even if heavy speakers do have a solidity in the bass that quite appealing for the same reason.

With most wooden cabinets the energy is directly radiated by the panels of the box to some extent, the better the bracing the lower the radiation appears to be the rule. Vivid takes a wholly different approach to controlling radiation by making the cabinet as stiff and light as possible. The Giya G1 Spirit is a large speaker that stands just over five foot high and has a volume of 180 litres but it weighs less than 70 kilos. A Bowers & Wilkins 802, by comparison, is more than a foot shorter and weighs nearly 90 kilos.

Two skins

The Vivid Giya cabinets are made from two skins of vacuum-infused glass-reinforced composite, a sophisticated variant on fibre glass, with end grain balsa between the two skins to provide stiffness. A few manufacturers make bass drivers in a sandwich arrangement like this but they use foam as the filling; a speaker cabinet needs something a bit more solid. The distinctive shape of Giya is not a whim of the Vivid styling department but a genuine instance of form following function. The tubular ring at the top represents the end of the inverted horn that absorbs energy from the two bass drivers on either side of the cabinet. This is very similar to the tapered tube concept that Vivid designer Laurence Dickie created for Bowers & Wilkins in the original Nautilus loudspeaker, which has subsequently found its way into the 800 series models.

Vivid Audio Giya G1 Spirit

In Vivid loudspeakers, this tapered tube system is used with all the drivers. You can see where those for the tweeter, upper- and lower-midrange drivers terminate on the back of the cabinet where small hex bolts are visible. The bass drivers which produce the most energy and are thus most likely to vibrate the cabinet, are not fixed to it in the usual way. Instead they are physically braced against one another and held in place with a compliant mounting where the chassis meets the cabinet, this is an approach found in some of the better subwoofers, and I note, a concept speaker that Monitor Audio showed in Munich High-End 2022, and means that the bass system is solidly anchored with minimal risk of transmitting energy into the ‘box’.

This is still a reflex-loaded loudspeaker however; it’s just that like the bass drivers there are two reflex ports that look a bit like gills and sit opposite one another either side of the cabinet behind the bass drivers. This arrangement is used in order to balance the ports and let the bass system breathe evenly.

Breaking up the chain

Vivid develops and makes its own drive unts. This is the only way that Dickie could use domes that are not conventional hemispheres, instead they have a catenary shape which is the shape a chain forms when it’s hung between two posts. This shape was chosen because its break up point is notably higher than a regular dome even before you add the carbon fibre reinforcing ring to its perimeter. If Vivid’s measurements are to be believed, and Dickie is a first-rate engineer, the catenary shape has such clear advantages over regular domes that one wonders why no one else uses them, perhaps there’s a patent at work here.

The lower midrange is perhaps the most unusual driver on the Giya G1 Spirit, it has a large oblate sphere (doughnut shaped) central dome and very steep cone sides. The large central dome indicates that this 125mm driver has a 75mm voice coil, which is a rare ratio. Like the domes above it this driver has a carbon fibre reinforcement ring at the base of the dome, an arrangement not seen on any other driver including those in the Vivid range.

Vivid Audio Giya G1 Spirit

The G1 Spirit is available with a conventional onboard crossover or a separate outboard one. The latter comes in a relatively conventional rectilinear case made of the same material as the speaker, so it’s good and shiny with chamfered corners. Connection to the loudspeaker is via an umbilical that fixes right underneath the speaker, with the onboard crossover the cable terminals are also underneath the speaker. This makes for a very neat appearance but requires that the speaker be laid on its side in order to make the connections, which is true in both onboard and outboard crossovers. The advantage of the latter is easy speaker cable connection and less vibration for the crossover components to cope with, however it was originally conceived to allow the G1 Spirit to be actively driven, and this has been done with electronics from Linn, Devialet and Trinnov in the past.

Clean living

The sonic character of this loudspeaker is very distinct, inasmuch as it appears to have virtually none of its own. And yet because this is so much more obviously the case than with most other loudspeakers it really stands out. The first thing that hits you is that nothing hits you except the music, that is there are no sharp edges, no sense of grain or distortion. Dickie disagrees with that last word and prefers the term ‘coloration’ because that is the correct term, however the Giya G1 Spirit doesn’t just sound as though it has an even tonal response, it sounds as though it doesn’t have the sharp edges found with the vast majority of loudspeakers. If anything it is very much like an electrostatic, it has the same smoothness and ease as the best examples of the genre but this is combined with the low end power and dynamics of a reflex design.

It’s a speaker that warrants high quality and well matched amplification, I was able to offer this to an extent but not the full extent so suspect that even with the incredible results I got there is more to be heard from these extraordinary loudspeakers. Nonetheless having them in the system proved to be a totally revelatory experience the like of which I have rarely had the pleasure of. There is a good variety of very open sounding loudspeakers on the market today, the more advanced designers take into account the fact that you can’t get an even response in a normal room unless the sound that hits the side walls, floor and ceiling has the same balance as the direct sound from drivers to your ears. This wide dispersion approach requires great driver design and a cabinet that doesn’t hinder energy coming off those drivers in all directions, the Giya G1 Spirit cabinet is devoid of sharp edges so the signal has nothing to reflect off as it exits the speaker. This reduces sensitivity to an extent but also reduces coloration to a much greater extent, this speaker’s sensitivity is actually quite high at 92dB (2.83 VRMS at 1m) and its nominal impedance a relatively easy six Ohms. So Vivid has managed to keep coloration down without sacrificing ease of drive which is a rare achievement in itself.

Wide Dispersion

The wide dispersion is presumably one reason why this speaker sounds so relaxed, not the primary reason but a factor. It’s also why the image scale changes with every piece of music played, in fact everything about every recording played through the Giya G1 Spirit seems to be revealed. Give them a good acoustic recording such as Chasing the Dragon’s Mendelsohnn Octets and the sense of being there is more than palpable, it’s totally convincing. You get the openness of the high ceiling at the Henry Wood Hall where the recording was made and you get the timbre of the eight instruments layered and dare I say it, vivid, in front of you. What also struck me about this and many other pieces of music is how well the Vivids track level, that is the volume level of individual voices and instruments relative to one another in a given mix. Described as micro dynamics this is an area where the ultra low noise (because there is so little cabinet vibration) of these speakers puts them into another league. It allows the listener to follow and appreciate different performers within a group and to hear the way that different elements of a mix have been treated.

 

If that all sounds rather dry what it boils down to is a degree of transparency that is exceptional, and that means that more of the musical signal gets into the room without being colored or distorted. With Mari Samuelsen’s first solo album Mari [DG] it means that a large group of musicians appears in the room by some means of magic, the degree of realism is positively uncanny. This is a spectacular recording but just how spectacular became a lot clearer with the big Vivids, I’ve never heard string tone that’s so natural nor had a sense of the scale and nature of a studio acoustic that was so well reproduced. It makes the music she creates that much more powerful and moving, and it makes me realise that the Rega P10 turntable is even better than I thought it was, and I was pretty impressed in the first place.

With less natural recordings in the form of Frank Zappa’s live You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore [Zappa Music] releases, you can hear how he has built up these tracks using snippets from different performances, a guitar break here, a voice there. You can hear the joins but this does not get in the way of enjoying the brilliance of the music, Zappa had standards that not even his highly rehearsed bands could always live up to and by using the best bits spliced together he was able to construct the near as possible perfect concerts for those of us unable to attend the real thing. Having a loudspeaker that is capable of delivering that music at a suitable volume without any sense of effort and all of the bandwidth required is a very special experience that gets you as close as you can to being there.

Not a cartoon

The bass on the G1 Spirit is not obvious, that is like the rest of the bandwidth it doesn’t have sharpened leading edges that define it a bit like a cartoon. Rather the bass is three dimensional, it’s got depth and weight and moves with effortless speed. Essentially it’s extremely natural, and just as extended and powerful as the signal demands, so if that signal emanates from a synth or electric bass it can be very muscular indeed. But if it’s a piano or double bass there is more texture and depth of tone, more variety and colour. Whatever the source it’s very juicy and appealing and always bang on time.

Vivid Audio Giya G1 Spirit

The Vivid Giya G1 Spirit is an exceptional loudspeaker, thanks to the way that its drivers and cabinet have been executed it doesn’t have the problems associated with 99.9% of dynamic loudspeakers. Instead you get sound that’s as exciting, powerful and beautiful as the recording permits, and many of them permit an awful lot of all three. It’s a speaker that I could all too easily live with right up to the point where enthusiasm needed to be summoned for another loudspeaker review. It’s not a speaker for reviewers, it’s a speaker for music lovers who don’t have to make comparisons.

Technical specifications

  • Type 4-way, five-driver, reflex loaded floorstanding speaker
  • Driver complement One 26mm metal dome tweeter with Tapered Tube loading; one 50mm metal dome midrange driver with Tapered Tube loading; one 125mm alloy/carbon diaphragm lower-mid driver with 75mm voice coil, two 225mm alloy diaphragm bass drivers with 100mm voice coil in 45mm gap
  • Crossover frequencies 220Hz, 880Hz, 3.5kHz
  • Frequency response + / -2dB 29–33,000 Hz
  • Impedance 6 Ohms nominal, 3 Ohms minimum at 20 kHz
  • Sensitivity 92dB @ 2.83 VRMS at 1 m on axis
  • Dimensions (H×W×D) 1600 × 440 × 820mm
  • Weight 67.4kg/each
  • Finishes Piano black, Pearl white, Oyster matte plus premium colours
  • Price £82,500/pair

Manufacturer

Vivid Audio

www.vividaudio.com

Distributor

Vivid Audio UK LTD

www.vividaudio.com

Tel +44(0) 1403 713 125

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Sonus faber Stradivari

Get an in-depth look at the new Sonus faber Stradivari loudspeaker, just launched at High End Munich.

For more information about this product, click here.

There is a lot more audiophile content to see on the hi-fi+ YouTube channel, including dozens more product reviews, show reports, Audio Basics and much more.

You can find a world exclusive first listen of the Linn 360 family, as well as reviews of the Magnepan LRS+ or Magnepan Ultra-wideband Bass System woofer, stop what you’re doing and watch now!

You can also find reports from different audio shows around the world, including Audio Show Deluxe, Bristol Hi-Fi Show, Florida International Audio Expo, Warsaw Audio Video Show, Capital Audio Fest and much more. Soon you will be able to see new product launches and in-depth information on products featured at AXPONA 2023.

We don’t just do reports at audio shows spanning the globe, we also have product launches and inside info on products from many different manufacturers, including Focal Naim, Acora Acoustics, Schiit Audio, and Innuos, just to name a few.

There are informational series like Tea Time with Alan and Pete, where Hi-Fi+ Editor Alan Sircom and Publisher Pete Collingwood-Trewin talk about what’s happening in the high-end audio world, and reveal the 2022 Product of the Year.

Another series is History of Audio, which aims to teach viewers a little about the History of Audio, which might be a trip down memory lane for many. It also hopes those who watch will learn from the varying experiences of other audiophiles through their trials and tribulations with different equipment.

While you’re on our YouTube channel, be sure to check out our Audio Basics series. So far, this series has covered what makes a great stereo system and how to find a great stereo system.

Be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel so you don’t miss any episodes!

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DALI announce IO-12 headphones

*From the DALI news release

Building upon DALI’s four decades of award-winning audio expertise, the DALI IO-12 headphones offer stunning Hi-Fi quality sound, together with sumptuous levels of comfort.

Utilising the same material found in DALI’s high-end speakers, the DALI IO-12’s are the world’s first headphones to feature DALI’s patented Soft Magnetic Compound (SMC) magnet system. ​ When using conventional magnets in a speaker design, it is not unusual to experience a phenomenon known as hysteresis. ​ This introduces an unintended resistance to the voice-coil, which can lead to unwanted distortion in the audio signal. ​ DALI’s SMC technology, combined with their signature paper fibre cones, significantly reduces hysteresis, lowering uneven harmonic distortion drastically. The result is a crystal-clear sound with ultra-low distortion, delivering unrivalled depth and musicality.

DALI says, “By applying SMC to the IO-12s we have essentially achieved electrostatic levels of midrange clarity.”

Versatile and intuitive, the DALI IO-12 headphones have been designed to be used either wired or wirelessly. ​ Thanks to both aptX Adaptive Bluetooth, and supplied 3.5mm mini-jack and USB-C cables, you can listen to your music from a host of devices including: smartphones, Digital Audio Players (DAPs), PCs, games consoles and more. When using the supplied USB-C cable, dependent upon source and device, audio can be listened to at up to 24Bit/96kHz Hi-Res quality.

Adopting a simple, app-free operation, users can skip tracks, adjust the volume and more using the IO-12’s integrated buttons. ​ Cutting-edge Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) adds even more functionality and ensures — even in noisy environments — an immersive listening experience, where every musical detail is revealed.

With their comfortable design and long battery-life delivering 35 hours of fatigue-free listening, the DALI IO-12 headphones let you enjoy audio on the go like never before. ​ And, thanks to the high-quality integrated microphones, you can be heard clearly when making hands-free calls or voice-controlling your compatible device.

The DALI IO-12’s offer two sound profiles for listening to your music. Prefer to listen to your music as the artist intended, or perhaps you’re after a more punchy, bass-focused performance? The IO-12’s tailored ‘Hi-Fi’ and ‘Bass’ sound modes let you listen to your music just the way you want it.

With a foldable design that features a real leather headband and oversized square ear-pads, you’ll be able to enjoy hours of comfortable listening on the go with the new DALI IO-12’s.

IO-12 will launch in August 2023 priced at $1499, £999, €999.

KEY FEATURES:

  • World’s First Headphones with DALI’s patented Soft Magnetic Compound (SMC) Magnet System
  • True Hi-Fi Wireless Headphones
  • Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
  • Custom-developed 50mm SMC-based Drivers
  • Large-capacity Battery (Up to 35 Hours of Listening)
  • Detachable Square-shaped Ear-pads
  • Real Leather Ear-pads and Headband
  • Foldable Design
  • Bluetooth with aptX Adaptive Technology
  • USB-C Charging
  • Hi-Res (24Bit/96kHz) USB Audio
  • Voice Assist Support

INCLUDED IN THE BOX:

  • 1 x DALI IO-12 Headphones
  • 1 x USB-C Cable
  • 1 x 1.2m Stereo Mini-jack Cable
  • 1 x 3m Stereo Mini-jack Cable
  • 1 x 3.5mm Stereo Mini-jack to 6.35mm Jack Adaptor
  • 1 x Flight Adaptor
  • 1 x Luxury Travel Case

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DALI Epikore 11 launched to celebrate 40 years

With the new EPIKORE 11, DALI celebrates 40 years of loudspeaker research and development. ​ The natural evolution of the acclaimed DALI EPICON series — inheriting several new technologies from the DALI KORE flagship speaker — the EPIKORE 11 combines ultimate audio realism with luxurious craftmanship to create a truly exceptional musical experience.

KEY FEATURES:

  • 4½-way Design feat. Custom-made Drivers
  • SMC Gen-2 Technology for Ultra-low Distortion
  • EVO-K Hybrid Tweeter Module, comprising a 35mm Soft-dome Tweeter and a 55 x 10mm HF Ribbon Element
  • 1 x 6½-inch EPIKORE Midrange with SMC Gen-2 and Custom Paper and Wood Fibre Cone structure.
  • 4 x 8-inch EPIKORE Woofers with SMC Gen-2
  • New SMC KORE Crossover Inductors
  • Premium Grade Crossover Components
  • Adjustable Aluminium Outriggers
  • New High-end Binding Posts
  • Dual-flare Bass Reflex Ports
  • Die-cast Baffles
  • Available in 3 Exclusive High-gloss Finishes

The DALI EPIKORE 11 is a 4½-way floorstander that sets new standards for low-distortion loudspeaker design. The curved, real-wood veneer cabinet of houses four powerful 8-inch bass drivers, a highly dynamic 6½-inch midrange — each utilising DALI’s Soft Magnetic Compound Gen-2 (SMC Gen-2) magnet material — as well as DALI’s signature EVO-K Hybrid Tweeter Module.

When using conventional magnets in a speaker design, it is not unusual to experience a phenomenon known as hysteresis. This introduces an unintended resistance to the voice-coil, which can lead to unwanted distortion in the audio signal. Designed to significantly reduces hysteresis, SMC Gen-2 is the next generation of DALI’s patented SMC magnet material technology. Introduced in their flagship DALI KORE loudspeaker, SMC Gen-2 is incorporated into the EPIKORE 11 bass and midrange drivers, as well as in the crossover inductor cores, and offers significantly enhanced characteristics over the first-generation SMC, introduced in the EPICON series in 2014. The result is a further reduction in hysteresis, flux-modulation and eddy currents in the magnet system. ​ This translates to even lower loss and distortion, leading the EPIKORE 11 to deliver a highly dynamic and authentic sound reproduction.

dali epikore 11

The EPIKORE 11 features DALI’s signature Paper and Wood Fibre Cone Technology, which serves to reduce weight and adds stiffness; helping promote non-resonant break-up characteristics. With wood fibre cone technology, the EPIKORE 11 produces the finest musical detail and dynamics.

Developed originally for the DALI KORE, the EVO-K Hybrid Tweeter combines a large, in-house developed 35 mm soft dome tweeter and an improved version of DALI’s ultra-thin, high performance ribbon tweeter element. Together with the extremely powerful neodymium magnet motor systems, they deliver an astonishingly smooth and effortless high-frequency reproduction at any volume.

“The EPIKORE 11 is the natural progression of our award winning EPICON speaker, applying the learnings from our DALI KORE flagship.”, says DALI.

The newly developed 6½-inch EPIKORE Midrange Driver delivers outstanding performance. Featuring the complex embossed geometric structure of the paper and wood fibre diaphragm used in the DALI KORE, which — as well as helping to control the diaphragm modes — lowers distortion without adding additional weight. The titanium voice-coil, and DALI’s patented SMC Gen-2 magnet system lowers mechanical loss and distortion even further, allowing for an outstanding sonic performance.

Featuring exceptionally large and powerful magnet systems based on DALI’s SMC Gen-2 material, the Four 8-inch Woofers used in the EPIKORE 11 fill any room with a huge, extensive and precise low frequency reproduction. ​ From the lowest, deepest bass frequencies through to the seamless overlap to the midrange driver, the EPIKORE 11 woofers reproduce the finest musical details and dynamics, with very low loss of information.

First introduced in the DALI KORE, the SMC KORE Crossover Inductors used for the EPIKORE 11 feature the world’s first SMC Gen-2 inductor cores. ​ When compared with standard air-core inductors, this technology allows lower DC resistance, a shorter signal path and less vulnerability to crosstalk between the inductors, especially at high inductances. ​ These SMC KORE Crossover Inductors, together with hand-picked, high-end capacitors & resistors, ensure the EPIKORE 11’s World-class Crossovers are optimised exclusively for the speaker. ​ The properties of SMC Gen-2 material also results in around 12dB less current distortion than equivalent iron-powder core inductors.

Taking inspiration from earlier DALI loudspeakers, the EPIKORE 11 features All-new Bi-wire Capable Binding Posts which include oversize thumbscrews, allowing for better grip on bare wires and spade terminals. The EPIKORE 11 Die-cast Baffles are constructed from acoustically inert and extremely stiff materials that provide a solid and beautiful platform for the drivers, while eliminating unwanted cabinet resonance. Twin Dual-flare Bass Reflex Ports help the bass drivers deliver an exceptionally deep and distortion-free low frequency response.

Designed and built in-house, the DALI EPIKORE 11 exude the minimalism, elegance and style of classic Danish furniture design. With Adjustable Spike Feet Outriggers, ensuring solid, stable contact with the floor, and available in 3 Exclusive High-gloss Finishes (High Gloss Black, High Gloss Maroon and High Gloss Walnut), the new DALI EPIKORE 11 loudspeakers sound — and look — simply stunning.

Epikore 11 will launch in August 2023 priced at $60,000, £39,998, €39,998 per pair.

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