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Magellan Duetto 40th Anniversary edition

The Duetto 40th anniversary speaker offers a really clear sound and puts the music forward.

*From the TRIANGLE news release

Liveliness and dynamics are trademarks of TRIANGLE’s sound, and they are packed into this gem, the Duetto, a compact 2-way bookshelf speaker.

Superb piece of engineering, its horn-loaded tweeter TZ2900 is equipped with a next generation dome in magnesium alloy. This transducer highlights the finest details of your recordings and brings out the subtlety of the upper harmonics.

Its full-range 16 cm midrange/bass driver produces rich bass details. It features a new paper cone that reproduces any vocal register with great neutrality without the slightest coloration. The Duetto speaker offers a really clear sound and puts the music forward.

Its elaborate crossover, equipped with high quality components, optimizes the bass and treble phasing for an outstanding transparency.

This compact speaker fits perfectly in rooms of less than 30m2, a technological achievement for a speaker consisting of only two drivers, The Duetto is supplied with an accessory box for an adapted decoupling. The S08 speaker stand, designed specifically for this model, is available as an option.

Speaker stands: S08

Designed for the MAGELLAN Duetto 40th, these top-of-the-range stands incorporate a locking system that ensures the speaker is held securely in place. Positioning your speakers perfectly at ear level, the S08 ensure excellent sound reproduction. With their high stability, the stands absorb unwanted vibrations, thus preserving the neutrality and sound precision of your speakers.

duetto 40th speaker stand

The S08 have watertight tubes in which you can add granular sand or tiny steel balls to ballast the foot and increase stability. The stand is decoupled by three metal spikes, which are easily adjusted from the top. The center spike features SPEC technology for optimal vibration dissipation.

A cable management system at the back of the stand hides cables for a harmonious integration of your system in your living space.

TZ2900PM-MG tweeter

with a magnesium alloy dome

A major innovation of this 40th anniversary edition, the TZ2900PM tweeter is equipped with a next generation dome in magnesium alloy providing a significant improvement in terms of linearity and consistency.

Its horn is shaped to limit directivity, i.e., off-axis drop in high frequency level. Together with the phase plug, this pairing allows the frequency response to be linearized.
We also added a counter-cap to the motor to reduce rear waves reflections, limit distortion and control the upper end of the sound spectrum. The TZ2900PM-MG tweeter provides an exceptionally smooth and fluid musical quality whilst ensuring accurate sound reproduction.

Midrange/bass driver

with a paper diaphragm

With a cellulose pulp diaphragm and its “progressive” suspension, the midrange/bass driver has that rich, natural sound the brand is known for. Thanks to its suspension, there is no clear separation at the cone attachment, resulting in a seamless mid-range. The diaphragm houses an ultra-light anti-vortex polypropylene cone covered with a latex damping material to limit end of band irregularities.

duetto speaker midrange bass driver
Featuring a powerful motor and a perfectly matched voice coil, this driver is capable of reproducing firm and dynamic low frequencies while maintaining remarkable clarity and finesse in the vocal register.

For more information, click here.

Launch info https://www.scvdistribution.co.uk/news/2022-09-22/triangle-announce-magellan-40th-anniversary-range/?section=consumer

Product page https://www.scvdistribution.co.uk/product/triangle-magellan-40th-duetto-speakers/?section=consumer

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B.amp mono features special circuitry

B.audio launches B.amp mono

*From the B.audio news release

Specialist of high end audio electronics, the French manufacturer introduces its new reference mono power amplifier. The B.amp mono features all the technological innovations that have proved their worth on the B.amp stereo, in an exclusively symmetrical monophonic declination.

The B.amp mono is a class AB power amplifier that delivers 500W under 4ohm and 300W under 8 ohm. It is based on a special circuitry which reduces the crossover distortion below the measurement threshold. This makes it possible to enjoy the same sound quality at every volume level, while keeping a reasonable level of heat dissipation and power consumption.

b.amp mono rear view

The B.amp mono is available for sale immediately.

TECHNOLOGY

The operating scheme is the result of numerous computational simulations, followed by intensive listening tests. In particular, the Intelligent Output Drive (IOD) technology -which optimizes the use of local feedback at the most critical stages – allows perfectly linear operation under all working conditions.

To ensure perfect immunity towards loudspeakers-generated return currents, a specific design has been developed, which uses a class-A push-pull driver stage fitted with 6high performance transistors. This results in excellent accuracy in sound reproduction,while the over-sized output transistors provide a large power reserve.

For more information, click here.

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What’s new with the latest Audience 1+1?

Senior Reviewer Steven Stone gives an update on the changes the Audience 1+1 loudspeaker has undergone since its first iteration.

You can see this video and more on the Hi-Fi+ YouTube Channel, such as Tea Time with Alan and Pete.

Hi-Fi+ Editor Alan Sircom and Publisher Pete Collingwood-Trewin talk about what’s happening in the high-end audio world.

Tea Time with Alan and Pete is just one of several new series on the Hi-Fi+ YouTube channel designed for audiophiles of all levels.

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.

Soon, you can find reports from manufacturers at audio shows from around the world. You can see the likes of Aurender, Focal Naim, AudioThesis, Schiit Audio, and Magnepan, just to name a few. Right now, you can see what debuted at AXPONA 2022 and a bit from the Texas Audio Roundup, including background on the Magnepan LRS+. New videos from Pacific Audio Fest in Seattle are also being uploaded every week.

You can also see product reviews on the hi-fi+ YouTube channel coming soon.

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

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Shure releases Special Edition Purple SE215 Sound Isolating earphones

LONDON, September 20, 2022— The wait is over! Fans of the anticipated Shure Special Edition Purple SE215 can now purchase the Sound Isolating earphones online and via select retailers for £109 (UK RRP).

The purple colour was selected after a global vote across 60 countries, enabling the voice of every fan to be heard. By adding the purple earphones to the 215 lineup, listeners can express themselves with this trending colour, whether they are listening to music during their daily commute or on stage.

The Special Edition SE215 purple colour variation provides the same amazing audio quality and comfortable fit as the SE215 in other colour variations. Delivering clear sound and deep bass, along with Shure’s esteemed sound isolating design, the earphones keep noise out and provide an immersive audio experience in any location. The Special Edition purple SE215 earphones are also equipped with wired to wireless flexibility to ensure they fit users’ needs. 

About Shure

About Shure Shure (www.shure.com) has been making people sound extraordinary for nearly a century. Founded in 1925, the Company is a leading global manufacturer of audio equipment known for quality, performance, and durability. We make microphones, wireless microphone systems, in-ear monitors, earphones and headphones, conferencing systems, and more. For critical listening, or high-stakes moments on stage, in the studio, and from the meeting room, you can always rely on Shure.Shure Incorporated is headquartered in Niles, Illinois, in the United States. We have nearly 40 manufacturing facilities and regional sales offices throughout the Americas, EMEA, and Asia.

Shunyata Research announces ALTAIRA Ground System

Shunyata Research announces ALTAIRA Ground System

*From the Shunyata Research news release

After years of intense development, we are proud to introduce Shunyata Research’s most consequential system of products: the ALTAIRA Ground System.

The ALTAIRA Ground System is comprised of two discrete ALTAIRA Ground Hubs, a wide selection of custom-designed Ground Cables with interchangeable connections, and an array of innovative Ground Tail adapters that offer the best performance and connector selection in the industry. It’s an integrated system of finely calibrated components designed to work seamlessly to achieve a profound performance result.

Altaira ground system ends

We are asking dealers and distributors interested in representing the ALTAIRA Ground System to contact us directly to discuss training. Authorized dealers will undergo training and must demonstrate an understanding of the principles and process that accompanies an ALTAIRA system audition and integration. We will provide a suite of support materials for in-store and customer support. This System cannot be sold or demonstrated without specific training and all of the system components in place.Availability will be limited as we prioritize training and support through this release.

When properly applied, the system will yield jaw-dropping results that can be achieved in no other way. We would liken the benefit to replacing older, very affordable commodity power product with an Everest/Omega XC combination. In other words, the improvements are dramatic.

We have a low-cost dealer audition kit available for all interested, trained dealers.

Leema previews Quantum range with Audio T

Leema Quantum range to host special demonstration event

*From the Leema Acoustics news release

12th September 2022, Wales, UK: Following Leema Acoustics’ June 2022 announcement of the forthcoming Quantum range, the Welsh hi-fi manufacturer has teamed up with Audio T, Cardiff, to host a special Quantum demonstration event, ahead of the official launch later in the year.

Audio T Cardiff, together with Leema Acoustics’ UK distributor MIAN Audio, will be showcasing the new Quantum range Neutron preamp and Graviton power amp with several planned demonstrations through the afternoons of Thursday 15 and Friday 16 September.

leema quantum

Hosted by Leema’s/MIAN Audio’s Andy Moore, the demos will include an introduction to the Welsh-based brand as it nears its 25th anniversary in 2023, a Quantum product demonstration and an overview of the popular Tucana II Anniversary Edition integrated amplifier.

A second demonstration room will showcase Leema Acoustics’ compact Elements CD player and Elements integrated amplifier, highlighting the sonic abilities of this shoebox-sized range.

The event will be jointly hosted and offers visitors the chance to experience models from across the product ranges, all of which are hand-made just 110 miles away in Welshpool.

Several sessions are available on each day and attendees are advised to book directly with the Cardiff store on 029 2022 8565 or email [email protected]

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Hyperdrive 2 preamp introduced by Living Sounds Audio

Lahaina HI, September 15, 2022: Living Sounds Audio is pleased to announce the availability of Hyperdrive 2, a state of the art combination of a superb vacuum tube preamplifier with a 2-watt solid state headphone amp, capable of driving the most demanding headphones. The Hyperdrive 2 is priced at $999, direct from Underwood HiFi, but is presently available at introductory pricing of $799, delivered.

“The Hyperdrive 2 is half the width of standard components, perfect for a desktop headphone system —but the preamp is so good it can be used as the front end of a killer 2-channel system,” said Walter Liederman, owner of Living Sounds Audio and Underwood HiFi.

The Hyperdrive 2 is solidly built of powder-coated aluminum, and its construction and component quality would be impressive in a product at two or three times its price. At $999, it’s a steal. At $799—well, what’s beyond “a steal”? “Grand larceny”?

Features of the Hyperdrive 2:
-A smooth-turning Alps pot controls volume;
-A pair of E88CC triodes act as a Class A cathode follower buffer, providing smooth and spacious sound and allowing for tube-rolling with 6922 and 6DJ8 tubes;
-Gain can be selected at three levels (0/6/12 dB) by a front-panel toggle to match any source or headphone;
-The output stage utilizes the class-leading Texas Instruments TPA 1620A2 monolithic power amp, producing clear and fatigue-free sound at vanishingly low levels of distortion—0.005% with most headphone loads;
-Microprocessors control noise-free warm-up and shut-down, while solid state relays provide mute and output protection functions, and are quieter and more reliable than mechanical relays.

“We’ll package the Hyperdrive 2 with our Emerald Physics 600.2SE amp giving customers a terrific $999 vacuum tube preamp and a great $2500, 600 watt/channel ICEpower amp— for only $2499, ” said Liederman. “The performance is every bit as incredible as the deal. We’d put that pair up against anything at double the price. We can also package the HD-2 with our $799 HP-2 headphones, for $1449.  That’s another killer deal.” (The Hyperdrive 2/HP-2 combo is shown in the top image.)

The Hyperdrive 2 is now available and shipping anywhere in the world, exclusively from Underwood HiFi. The unit comes with a 2-year warranty, 6 months on tubes.

About Underwood HiFi: Founded in 1999 and still run by Walter Liederman, a 50-year audio industry veteran, Underwood HiFi was one of the first online-only audio dealerships, and is dedicated to providing extraordinary products at terrific prices, allied with unmatched customer service.

About Living Sounds Audio: LSA is one of three brands owned and sold direct by Underwood, with the others being Emerald Physics (speakers and electronics) and Core Power Technologies (AC line conditioning and cables). Elimination of middle-men enables these brands to be offered at amazingly low prices, backed by the reputation and service of Underwood Hifi.

Focal Utopia: Ultimate headphones get major upgrade

Focal Utopia headphones have gotten a major upgrade.

*From the Focal News Release

Focal has been innovating in audio for more than 40 years. Its flagship Utopia range – spanning from headphones and home hi-fi speakers to custom-install speaker designs and exceptional in-car audio solutions – is designed and hand-crafted in France.

Utopia are the ultimate Focal headphones – and they’ve just had a major upgrade, combining the best of the French brand’s technologies with upgraded design and comfort, to enhance your listening experience. Press release and data sheet attached, but to summarise key updates/points of difference.

  • Sonic upgrade: Focal’s audio experts have explored all the ways they could improve performance and delivered them. The M-shaped drivers and M-shaped grilles enable even clearer and more accurate musical reproduction. Their full-range, Beryllium, ‘M’-shaped speaker drivers are fully open-backed and run with no passive or active correction, from 5 Hz to over 50 kHz! The listening experience they deliver is strikingly real, precise and dynamic, with a soundstage that is both wide and deep.
  • New, more advanced voice coil design using a copper/aluminium alloy (was previously aluminium only.)
  • Lighter design for greater listening comfort – by using yokes forged from recycled carbon fibre.
  • Design overhaul, so this more clearly looks like the flagship model of Focal’s headphone family, with its distinctive honeycomb styling. This is NOT just about looking good: the honeycomb design enables a more open sound, with greater driver movement.
  • Handcrafted in France in Focal’s specialist headphone atelier.

Finally, why simply Focal Utopia, not ‘Focal Utopia 2’ or ‘Focal Utopia new edition’ etc? Because Focal feels this is a luxury product, and in the luxury sector the product names do not change, they simply evolve into new iterations. (Apple, of course, often do the same with iPad etc.) For sake of clarity, you may want to use the year of release, eg Focal Utopia (2022).

Pricing: UK £4699; €4999; USD $4999; Australia $6999.

Optical cartridge pioneer DS Audio replaces DS-W2 with the all-new third generation DS-W3

*From the DS Audio News Release

DS Audio’s inaugural optical cartridge, the ground-breaking DS-W1, was a genuine game changer when first launched in 2015. A year later, the brand announced the higher spec Master 1 and subsequently applied trickle-down technology to upgrade the ‘W’ model to the DS-W2. In 2020, a ‘third generation’ of optical cartridges was launched with the flagship Grand Master, from which trickle-down tech has again been applied to the ‘W’ model, to create the new DS-W3.

The DS-W3 optical cartridge sports a completely new design compared its predecessor and is very much an example of the brand’s ‘third generation’ technology first seen in the flagship Grand Master. Its optical system has been comprehensively re-engineered to deliver a number of benefits.

Independent LEDs and photo-detectors for the left and right channels deliver a significantly increased output voltage: now 70mV compared to the previous 40mV. This new independent design has also made it possible to eliminate crosstalk, greatly improving left and right channel separation. At the same time, the S/N ratio is much improved, resulting in an even lower noise floor.

DS Audio DS-W3

This new design also enables a smaller shading plate, which is reduced in both size and weight – from 1.56mg to 0.74mg – thanks to the use of 99.9% pure beryllium rather than the previous aluminium.

The DS-W3 combines a boron cantilever with a line contact stylus. The cartridge’s body is constructed from aluminum with a structure crafted for maximum rigidity, while the internal wiring is 1.6 times thicker than that of the earlier second generation model, thus reducing impedance.

Like all DS Audio optical cartridges, the DS-W3 requires its own equalizer / phono stage, which this new design also brings up to ‘third generation’ level. All internal components are optimized for third generation cartridge technology, the thickness of the circuit board has increased from 1.6mm to 2.0mm, and the thickness of the copper tracks have been doubled from 35µm to 70µm. The equalizer offers both unbalanced and balanced outputs with a choice of four different low-frequency roll-off points ensuring that the DS-W3 will partner seamlessly with any high-end hi-fi system.

 

Every DS Audio product is hand-made and quality assured, and every component part tested and evaluated, by the company’s own in-house team of technicians in Japan.

Technical specifications

DS-W3 optical cartridge

Body material Aluminium

Cantilever Boron

Stylus Line contact

Signal output Photo-electric conversion

Output signal level > 70mV

Channel separation > 27dB (@ 1kHz)

Weight 7.9g

DS-W3 phono stage/equalizer

Inputs RCA

Outputs RCA x 2, XLR x 2

Rated output voltage 500mV (@ 1kHz)

Output impedance RCA 120Ω, XLR 600Ω

Pre-amp input impedance > 10Ω

Dimensions 450 (w) x 120 (h) x 435 (d) mm

Weight 13.5kg

Pricing & availability

The DS Audio DS-W3 optical phono cartridge and phono stage/equalizer are available now, priced as follows (inc. VAT):

Cartridge and equalizer package price £12,995

Cartridge only £4,995

Equalizer only £9,495

DS Audio cartridges are fully compatible with any of the company’s accompanying phono stages/equalizers, allowing you to mix and match.

Phasemation PP-200

What is it with the Japanese and moving coil cartridges? There seem to be many companies in that part of the world that make this most precise of hi-fi components, certainly more per capita than anywhere else. I guess the reputation for attention to detail must be accurate as it would be very difficult to make cartridges if you hadn’t mastered this side of the equation. Then there’s the fact that a brand like Phasemation, whose history goes back to 1970, is virtually unknown on this side of the globe… what gives? Has the home market been saturated at last?

Phasemation didn’t start with that name. Its origins lie in Kyodo Denshi System, which specialised in electronic measurement devices before moving into magnetic testing. It wasn’t until the ‘90s that it got into the audio business, making MC step-up transformers and D/A and A/D converters on an OEM basis. How many companies have made both of those, I wonder? In 2002 it created the Phase Tech brand building the P-1 moving coil cartridge, adding a P-3 model two years later and branching out into equalizers and phono stages.

Phase Tech expanded into amplification and digital components, including one of the earliest USB DACs before changing its brand to Phasemation in 2010. Since then, the company has expanded the cartridge range but continues to build analogue electronics and step‑up devices, which have long been popular in Japan. The PP-200 is the most recent and least expensive stereo cartridge in the roster and can easily be differentiated by its blue finish, all the other models are Henry Ford’s favourite shade of very, very dark grey.

Range-topper

The PP-200 is said to be based on the PP-2000 range-topper and “contains its essence,” according to the company blurb. It’s built around a neodymium magnetic circuit which sits in a body shaped to control vibration and “achieve a direct sound quality”. Unusually for a cartridge at this price, it has a boron cantilever; as far as I’m aware, no one else makes a cartridge that has this compound of boron and aluminium performing the critical task of transmitting the vibrations that the stylus reads to the coils that sit inside the magnetic field within the cartridge at this price. Boron has several uses, including flatscreen TVs and neodymium magnets, but as a cantilever, it’s stiffer than most alternatives.

The boron rod used by Phasemation is only 0.26mm in diameter and has a line contact diamond tip on its visible end; visible, that is, if you get down and look at it from the side, you can’t see it from above, which would make lining it up a specific track difficult if there wasn’t a short vertical line on the front of the cartridge body. The body is extremely solid and made of machined Duralumin, an age-hardened aluminium alloy. In the PP-200, both the base and body are made of this material, contributing to an overall weight of 10.5g.

A recommended downforce range of 1.7–2g and medium compliance means this cartridge should be compatible with most modern tonearms. Being Japanese means you don’t get niceties such as threaded mounting holes. I’m not sure why this seems evident, and a convenient facility is not provided on many Japanese cartridges, but they don’t mind the extra fiddle factor involved with nuts and bolts. The PP-200 is supplied with black anodised aluminium fixings, but you get round collars with slots on either side rather than nuts. The bolts have a conventional hex head, but lord knows where you’d find a tool to hold the collars. They do look good, though, as does the leatherette case in which the cartridge is supplied, an appealing Japanese touch.

Low output impedance

This moving coil has an unusually low output impedance of four Ohms, so it theoretically requires a phono stage with a 40 Ohm load, which is far lower than can be found on any active amplifier. A step-up transformer from the Phasemation catalogue (they make four models) would presumably give the best results. I note that the entry-level T-320 is designed for output impedances from 1.5 to 40 Ohms. I have always struggled to get hum-free results with step-up, so I don’t have any in my armoury; instead, I set the mighty Tom Evans Groove+ SRX MkII MC phono stage’s loading to its 112 Ohm minimum and hoped for the best.

My faith was rewarded, but first I had to mount the PP-200 in the arm on my Rega Planar 10, a job which had me seeking a heavier counterweight because the Phasemation is near twice the weight of my usual Aphelion 2 MC. Anti-skate also required a significant increase related to the mass and stylus profile. I dialled in a downforce slightly higher than the midpoint in the range suggested and warmed up the cartridge over a few sides.

The result was impressively sophisticated for the asking price; the PP-200 gets a lot right in that it extracts vibrations from the groove and turns them into an electrical signal. Audible characteristics include a slight emphasis through the upper mid, which tends to bring up electric guitars, cymbals and many voices, plus a fullness in the low end that adds more welly to bass lines. This balance is easy to adjust for, and after a few records, it was less noticeable than at first. Climbing down from an MC at around three times the price will always be obvious, but it wasn’t a painful transition.

Phasemation PP-200

This is partly because the Phasemation has a smooth top end, you usually have to pay more to get treble extension without edginess, but perhaps because of the boron, there is nothing but clean, openness in the highs it delivers. Some might think it a little polite in the treble, which is often a trait of Japanese audio components, but unless you only listen to the finest recordings having a forgiving top end is nearly always a bonus. Partnering electronics will be a factor, and the Tom Evans is highly revealing, so smoothness is doubly appreciated. On Matthew Halsall’s latest live release [Salute to the Sun, Gondwana], his trumpet stands out as bold as er, brass, but doesn’t get in your face and is surrounded by the live atmosphere of the Hallé Hall in Manchester. Bass and percussion are strong, and the sax has a lovely tone; it’s reminiscent of Coltrane in his more soulful moments and stands firm in a remarkably three-dimensional soundstage between the Bowers and Wilkins 802 D4s.

Open and spacious

Dan Berkson’s Dialogues is more open and spacious; it’s not clear whether this is a natural or in-the-box effect, but it works very nicely. The piano sounds fresh but not flyaway, the lower notes ground it, and the tune is propelled by solid double bass with cymbals providing the ‘air’ for the sound to breathe. I challenged the Phasemation’s tracking skills by playing an ancient Atlantic red label copy of Déjà Vu (Crosby, Stills, Nash etc.). While it sounded a bit rough, there was no problem tracing the well-worn grooves and delivering the emotional power of ‘Carry On’. You try playing a scratched CD on anything, it will never give you this sense of time travel, assuming it will play at all.

This experience inspired me to try another oldie in ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ from the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers [Rolling Stones, zipper cover], here the big-boned bass guitar and off-kilter beat from the late, great Charlie Watts served to enhance that glorious riff. The Phasemation’s controlled delivery keeps everything in its right place, as Radiohead say, though I doubt they were talking about the ‘Stones. The following track, ‘You Gotta Move’, has Jagger appropriating the culture of the bluesmen that inspired him to fabulous effect. This band were always about the blues, after all.

I noticed at one point while contrasting the PP-200 with digital that needle-talk is appealingly low. You don’t hear the vibrations from the groove being amplified by the cartridge body when the sound is muted, which is a good thing. The contrasts with ‘digital generally’ favoured this MC; the bass is a little rich and the highs a shade smooth, but there was no chance you’d rather play the disc or file when this Phasemation could be dropped into a vinyl groove. Select Audio has found a rather good addition to the ranks of Japanese cartridges in Phasemation, and this one looks like excellent value.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Type: Low output moving coil phono cartridge
  • Stylus/Cantilever: Line contact diamond tip with boron cantilever
  • Tracking Force: 1.7g–2g
  • Load: Not specified
  • Compliance: 8.5µ/mN [8.5 × 10-6cm/dyne]
  • Output (1kHz 50mm/s horizontal direction): 0.3 mv
  • Weight: 10.5g (without stylus cover)
  • Price: £895

Manufacturer:

Phasemation

URL: phasemation.com

UK Distributor:

Select Audio

Tel: +(0)1900 601954

URL: selectaudio.co.uk

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Triangle Comète 40th Anniversary Edition

Triangle celebrated its 40th birthday recently. As luck would have it, the brand turned 40 in 2020, at a time when celebrating such things was strictly restricted. So, the Anniversary products celebrating that event – the stand-mount Comète and floorstanding Antal arrived at the end of the year after Triangle’s 40th.

It’s not hard to see why these two loudspeakers were chosen to carry the flag for this anniversary. However, they have seen many changes in their long lives. The Antal and the Comète were first introduced in 1994 and have remained popular. Also, while there is a burning temptation for a brand to just ‘max out’ its flagship product or product line (in Triangle’s case, the Magellan line), I admire Triangle for recognising the company’s success was born out of more affordable designs, and many, many people who made Triangle what it is today did so through buying loudspeakers like the Comète, and the Antal.

The ‘standard’ versions of both loudspeakers still exist in the Esprit EZ line, so these two special editions are not simply some recreations of past glory. Instead, the 40th Anniversary edition speakers take what’s made these loudspeakers so enduringly popular and build upon that without making the result wildly more expensive than the standard models.

Clean sheet design

In the Comète 40th Anniversary, Triangle’s engineers took the front-ported two-way enclosure as a starting place and considered almost everything else as a clean sheet. Most notably, the tweeter is a new rose-gold anodised, horn-loaded tweeter with – a first for Triangle – a magnesium dome. It retains the needle-like phase plug of the Esprit series models, which, coupled with the horn-loading, makes for a high-sensitivity 25mm tweeter with well-controlled directivity. Similarly, while the 165mm natural cellulose mid-bass looks notionally like the one in the standard Comète (the most obvious external difference is the colour of the surround trim, with the 40th Anniversary model also sporting some elegant rose gold), it’s a wholly new design with a redesigned suspension and motor.

Triangle Comète 40th Anniversary Edition

The larger magnet of the new motor also necessitated a change to that cone; where the standard model is a pure paper cone, this one needs to use more wood fibres in its construction to act as reinforcement without changing the characteristics of the cone or adding significantly to its overall mass. This means the Comète 40th Anniversary retains the same overall 90dB sensitivity and minimum 4.2Ω impedance as the Esprit model but adds a crucial couple of extra cycles to the bottom end and raises overall power handling slightly.

The changes don’t end with the drive units, however. The 40th Anniversary models have more than their fair share of luxury additions to the internal workings of the loudspeaker. The standard cabling has been replaced with the sort of high-end wiring loom you might find in the company’s Magellan flagship. The crossover components are both specially selected and chosen from high-grade suppliers, and the speakers’ sport air-core coils, metallised polyester-film capacitors, and ceramic resistors. Think of this as being like ‘blueprinting’ a car engine.

Triangle loudspeakers tend to set a higher crossover point than many of their rivals, and the Comète 40th Anniversary is no exception. On the rear panel is a metal plate signifying Triangle’s 40th Anniversary in a cursive script. This again echoes the rose-gold touches throughout the loudspeaker and sports a single pair of high-quality, five-way binding posts.

Real tree

The 40th Anniversary models come supplied in one of two real-tree finishes around that HDF enclosure; a light and matte Blond Sycamore and a high-gloss, darker Santos Rosewood. Judging by the Santos Rosewood model we received, this is an exceptionally pretty and well-built loudspeaker, and the finishes perfectly suit the classic lines of the monitor-sized design. The edges are gently rolled to give the loudspeaker a touch of class, making it impossible to see the joins in that real-wood veneer. There is a host of helpful ‘case candy’; feet are designed to mount to the matching stands or rest on more generic or conventional furniture. The matching stands include four plastic bags for mass loading, but being lazy, I used my pre-filled KEF LS50 stands, which did a fine job.

Triangle Comète 40th Anniversary Edition

Like many European loudspeaker makers, and to its credit, Triangle recommends the Comète 40th Anniversary be used in rooms of 25 square metres or smaller, making this loudspeaker a strong contender in metropolitan homes where space is always at a premium. Moreover, the loudspeaker’s overall efficiency and impedance plot make it undemanding of the amplifier; it responds well to amplifier ‘quality’ but doesn’t need amplifier ‘quantity’; no heavy-lifting muscle power amps are needed to make these Triangles sing. If anything, this loudspeaker sings sweetest with small, highly responsive integrated amps, especially valve amps.

The Triangle Comète 40th Anniversary is perhaps the perfect flag-carrier of the phrase “life begins at 40” because the first thing anyone says about the loudspeakers is ‘they’re lively.’ Those who like Triangle loudspeakers do so because they are fast and exciting but possess an extremely clean and articulate midrange. This comes across irrespective of musical genre or recording but becomes especially noticeable on drum parts.

For example, the notion that Ringo Starr ‘isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles’ is quickly put to bed when playing the solo from ‘The End’ [Abbey Road, Apple], but it’s actually ‘Carry That Weight’ earlier in that famous medley that shows what the Triangles do so well; here, it’s all about ‘the Ringo Swing’, that swampy high-hat brush that came from a left-handed drummer playing a right-handed kit. Through these speakers, that high-hat sound is energetic and fast enough to define the uniquely Ringo-ness of his playing easily, yet not so energetic to make it too accented. It’s a more direct interpretation of the mix than many speakers make, but not an overly aggressive one. But it does make some of the more universally respected designs sound a bit behind the beat in comparison.

Good bass

The bass is very good given both the loudspeaker and room size recommendations. The speed of the loudspeaker shines through; play ‘The Rat’ by Infected Mushroom [Army of Mushrooms, Dim Mak] and there’s enough bass for most, but the overall performance speed makes you nod your head furiously enough to give you a concussion. Yes, the more dubstep aspects of this album (remember dubstep?) are not given the last morsel of low-end wub-wubbiness required, but in context, deep bass in small rooms is more about window rattling than accurate low-end tones. More authoritative and deep bass would require a lot of bass trapping to keep it in check in this context, and Triangle’s fast, dry bass is a bonus in smaller rooms.

Triangle Comète 40th Anniversary Edition

These aspects of performance can be a double-edged sword. One person’s ‘lively’ is another’s ‘ragged’. Similarly, ‘exciting’ can be perceived as ‘bright’. A clean midrange to some might be lacking upper bass weight to others. On the other hand, these descriptors could also describe a dull, recessed, and muddied sound. Having just fitted a saddle to this fence I’m sitting on, I’m happy to report that both viewpoints are correct relative to the individual’s tastes. The Triangle Comète 40th Anniversary is the antithesis of that old-school Spendor BC1 style, with a very laid-back ‘pipe and slippers’ sound. Nothing is wrong with that; they are still highly accurate, just accurate to different parameters.

Peer performance

Most other aspects of the performance are in line with the Cométe 40th Anniversary’s peers. Soundstaging is very good, and dynamic range is good, too, although neither of these components of a good sound is firmly stated in the Triangle sound, so you will not be drawn to the sound if impressive staging or edge-of-the-seat dynamics are what you seek.

With the Comète 40th Anniversary, the company has returned to first principles. This is pure, unadulterated Triangle sound; lively, vivid, exciting, open and expressly detailed in the midrange. And that midrange-first sound does mean some limitations at the extremes, both in some top-end hardness and some bottom-end lightness. But those of us who love the Triangle sound won’t care because that all-important midrange, lower treble and upper bass are so fast and beguiling.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Type: Two-way, two-driver, bass-reflex stand-mount loudspeaker
  • Drive units: Horn-loaded gold-anodized magnesium 25mm dome tweeter, custom untreated paper 165mm mid-bass unit, both Triangle’s own designs
  • Sensitivity: 90dB/m
  • Frequency Response: 47Hz–22kHz ±3dB
  • Nominal impedance: 8Ω
  • Minimum impedance: 4.2Ω
  • Power handling: 90W
  • Finish options: Santos Rosewood, Blonde Sycamore
  • Dimensions (W×H×D): 20 × 40 × 32.4cm
  • Weight: 8.8kg per speaker
  • Price: £1,500 per pair

Manufacturer:

Triangle

URL: trianglehifi.com

UK Distributor:

SCV Distribution

URL: scvdistribution.co.uk

Tel: +44(0)3301 222 500

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Aavik Acoustics I-580

In our ongoing survey of the Danish Power Trio – Aavik, Ansuz, and Børresen – we finally come to the heart of the Aavik Acoustics I-580 integrated amplifier. The 580 line is the top of Aavik Acoustic’s tree (with the I-180 and I-280 below it). We still have a phono stage and a streamer in the 580 line to cover, but this is the significant link in the chain; if the amplifier isn’t up to scratch, the quality of front-ends, speakers, cables and everything in between can never catch up, and the sound quality suffers as a result.

The Aavik Acoustics I-580 integrated amplifier is always going to court controversy twice over. First, it’s a Class D amplifier, which in and of itself is often ‘dismissed’ by some audiophiles (‘dismissed’ being the polite term for ‘angry mob with pitchforks and burning torches’). Despite many high-end ‘wins’ – Bel Canto, Jeff Rowland, Merrill, Mola Mola and Primare being notable contenders – many enthusiasts reject Class D out of hand, often for vague notions of something intangible ‘wrong’ or ‘missing’ from the sound, compared to larger, older and less efficient designs.

Pascal power

Regardless, for its Class D engines, Aavik uses the Danish-designed UMAC amplifier modules from Pascal throughout. Pascal’s devices are relatively uncommon in the audiophile world. Still, they are gaining traction in Public Address systems, where their combination of high power, good loudspeaker compatibility and low distortion at higher frequencies make UMAC an increasingly popular choice for concert halls, churches and touring rock bands.

Why are they gaining ground against other Class D modules? Unlike traditional switching amplifiers that generate their PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) signal against a square wave, UMAC modules use sine waves instead; this makes for less high-frequency noise and requires less filtration at the output as a result. This has a knock-on effect of lowering the inductance of the output and giving the amplifier both a higher damping factor and provision to double its output as you move from eight Ohm to four Ohm loads. In other words, it drives loudspeakers with more authority, an early criticism of Class D designs.

Aavik Acoustics I-580

This is an inherently low noise design, but Aavik reduces that noise floor further by using ultra-low noise regulators to supply power to the amplifier’s circuitry. Aavik claims these regulators offer significantly lower noise than conventional regulators. The I-580s line stages also feature an inverted, virtual ground topology for greater stability and low signal-to-noise ratio irrespective of volume level. This last is seldom discussed, but often the signal-to-noise ratio is a snapshot of the amp’s performance that doesn’t take very high or very low volume levels into account. Many amps might sound dynamic, expressive, and accurate at normal listening levels (where they are measured), but things fall apart at very high or very low volumes.

As above, not so below

The other part of the I-580 controversy relates to how it justifies its place relative to the I-180 and I-280 below. An on-paper basic audit of the specifications of the three amplifiers shows them to use the same basic layout and amplifier module roll-out. They are all 300W amplifiers capable of delivering 600W into four-ohm loads, they are all single-ended only amplifiers with the same number of inputs and outputs, the same large multi-LED front panel and on surface inspection, a similar case. Looks can be deceptive, however, because the I-580 includes a copper inner chassis and titanium resonance control plates in the case that are not included in the other models.

However, perhaps the most significant change is the sheer number of Ansuz Active Tesla Coils in each device; for example, where the I-180 uses 132 such coils, the I-580 uses 348 (240 of which are the company’s square coils). Factor in more than double the amount of Aavik’s dither modules (five in the I-280, 11 in the I-580) and four of the company’s Anti Aerial Resonance Coils, and the I-580 is about as RF and EM interference-free as it is possible to make currently. Those who get hot under the collar about whether RF and EM interference is a blight on audio will grind off some tooth enamel at the thought of so much treatment.

Finally, and common to all models in the Aavik line, the I-580 has built Darkz-ready bases into the top and bottom plates allowing Ansuz’s clever mechanical vibration system to help eliminate yet another potential source of interference. Given the low heat output and the shielding of the amplifier, it’s perfectly acceptable to stack 580-series models on top of one another using a quartet of Darkz to separate each level.

Rest after moving

The amplifier itself does need some time to bed in. This isn’t so much ‘running in’ as ‘needing a bit of a rest after moving about’. I also found that cycling the power several times after changing loudspeakers or loudspeaker cables did seem to make the system more of a ‘match’. But regardless, after a few hours of amplifier pampering, it’s ready to fly!

I’ve heard several iterations of the Aavik amplifier now, from the hulking great U-380 Unity metal version with the large central dial and built-in DAC to the smaller but equally impressive U-150 Unity and now the I-580. With each iteration, they have got lighter in weight and better in sound. The difference in sound quality is not profound – more evolution than revolution, to harness the cliché – but it is better. The previous generations always had a deep, muscular bass and an extremely dynamic and transparent presentation, albeit with a small amount of soundstage limitation and some dry, slightly laid-back sound typical to Class D.

The I-580 expands that soundstage a lot while making that signature dryness less of a feature and more of just a Class D accent. The leading edges speed through this amplifier significantly, giving it a remarkable sense of ‘thereness’ that is hard to beat. Out came ‘Clara’ by Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales [Room 29, DG], and the combination of piano and slightly broken voice in a hotel suite was like you had been transported into the live event.

Volume sensitivity

This also showed up the volume sensitivity of the amplifier; I’ve been used to hearing some amps – especially Class D designs – have a distinct ‘goldilocks’ point on the dial, where ‘too much’ gets too hard and dry sounding and ‘too little’ breaks up the authenticity and integrity of the sound. Any such changes will be easy to hear because there’s no hiding place. But with the I-580, you could play whisper quiet or very loud with no sense of change in tonality at all.

The I-580 should silence the Class D naysayers because that flat, artificial, electronicky sound associated with the technology had all but disappeared back when the U-380 first dropped (sadly, literally; my sample ended up falling out of its box and narrowly missed flattening my foot). It’s gone now; the sound is still slightly dry and precise, but this is more like a focused sound than a musical desert.

Soundstaging is broader and deeper than I expected; the I-580 doesn’t have the lush imaging of the best valve amplifiers. However, one could argue the best valve amplifiers don’t have the ‘snap’ and imaging precision of the I-580. Couple that with almost no background hash or noise, and sounds are portrayed with near-textbook detail and accuracy, powerful dynamics, outstanding bass and an accurate, zing-and-sting-free top-end.

Aavik Acoustics I-580

This made me want to explore all of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom [Branford Marsalis, Sony], from the 1920s recreations like ‘Those Dogs of Mine’ to the atmospheric ‘Levee Confronts God’. And it all worked brilliantly. Even without the need for double entendre. And you know you are on to a good thing when you can play anything from Liszt to Led Zep in a single sitting and enjoy it all equally well.

While the inevitable and seemingly endless car analogies used in audio are now almost painfully overused, there is a surprisingly strong parallel between the audio and motoring world when it comes to damn good amplifiers; both fields are in that transition point between an old and a new technology (moving from petrol to electric in cars, Class A and AB to Class D in audio).

Perception shift

Just as driving a high-performance electric car requires a few slight tweaks on the driver’s part to accommodate and genuinely understand how an electric car performs, we are at a point where listeners are starting to shift their perceptions about how recorded music sounds through amplification. All of which means this amplifier is very likely the Tesla Model S Plaid of the audio world!

On the face of it, the fact the Aavik Acoustics I-180, I-280 and I-580 look similar and share a similar essential performance would make it seem that the big boy is a poor proposition. However, the proof is in the listening, and this is one of the best Class D amps out there, and one of the best amps irrespective of amp design. While understandably at its best in the sublime company of its Ansuz and Børresen peers, it’s both a remarkable performer and a perfect gateway into the company’s ethos… and probably many products from these companies.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Type: Integrated Class D amplifier
  • Inputs: 5× RCA stereo pairs
  • Outputs: 1× RCA stereo pair, speaker terminals
  • Volume Control: 76×1dB steps
  • Power output: 2x 300/8Ω, 2x 600/4Ω
  • THD+N: < 0.006% (1-100W, 1kHz, 8Ω)
  • IMD: < 0.002% (1x100W, 4Ω)
  • TIM: < 0.008% (1-100W, 4Ω)
  • Aavik Noise Reduction systems included (see text)
  • Dimensions(W×H×D): 40 × 10.2 × 38.4cm
  • Weight: 10.7kg
  • Price: £20,000

Manufacturer:

Aavik Acoustics

URL: audiogroupdenmark.com

Tel: +45 40 51 14 31

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