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T+A Solitaire T wireless headphones

Recent price increases in flagship wireless headphones have been one of the more notable changes to that market. We’ve abandoned that long-lasting ‘natural’ cap of £500. Models are now arriving brandishing four-figure price tags. The £1,200 T+A Solitaire T is the most expensive wireless headphone I’ve yet tested. I imagine that won’t be the case for too long.

What makes the Solitaire T notable, though, is that the on-paper specification doesn’t appear especially remarkable. A Qualcomm Bluetooth QCC 5127 5.1 platform supports aptX HD and AAC codecs on top of the standard SBC. This combines with a Sony-derived noise-cancelling program. Unlike some rivals ‘ more advanced reactive options, it allows it to switch on or off. This suite acts on a pair of 42mm drivers made from cellulose. Once again, you find cellulose drivers at terrestrial price points. It’s a far cry from the flagship Solitaire T’s extraordinary planar magnetic units.

T Time

Look a little closer though and the T+A becomes more interesting. The decoding path listed above is not the only one the Solitaire T possesses. Select ‘HQ mode’ and the decoding configuration changes markedly. The Sony chip powers off, and the Bluetooth signal heads to an ESS DAC for decoding and volume adjustment. It then proceeds to different amplification stages to those used in Bluetooth mode. An interesting secondary feature of this mode is that USB sources can connect to the T+A. This works via a USB C cable and decodes the signal as a USB DAC.

T+A Solitaire T

Nor is the Solitaire T done there. It has USB C (for charging and signal) and analogue input as a 2.5mm connection. T+A supplies the Solitaire T with a balanced 2.5mm to 4.4mm cable and a more conventional 2.5mm to 3.5mm one. What T+A is at pains to stress about this arrangement is that it is both entirely passive and that the signal path is different again to the powered ones for noise cancelling and HQ modes. Connect the Solitaire T to a respectable headphone source; you will experience its performance and character.

The fact that the Solitaire T is effectively three headphones in one goes some way to explaining the asking price but a more definitive answer comes from unboxing them. Here, they are closer to the flagships regarding approach and aesthetics, and I think the decision is good. The Solitaire T is made from conventional substances rather than going after the more exotic ends of the material spectrum. Instead, it focuses on putting them together wholly confidently and inspiringly. The result manages to feel solid and ‘worth’ their significant outlay. A decent carry case is supplied as well as the two cables.

Reassuringly comfortable

How T+A assemble the Solitaire T gives wearers – and listeners – a reassuring feeling. Comfort is excellent, helped by a decent range of adjustments and well-judged spring force on the head. You can exclusively control the Solitaire T from the headphones, too. A control app is in the works but I prefer the means to make quick alterations without reaching for my phone and the Solitaire T is simple too.

The battery life is also impressive. T+A claims no less than 70 hours in standard mode (and a still pretty reasonable 35 in HQ mode) which should be enough for all but the furthest trips into the unknown. Bluetooth stability is also extremely good, and the re-connection is flawless when powered on. Crucial to the proposition the T+A makes is the Solitaire T doesn’t leave you wanting when you need to commute somewhere and limit your exposure to other people.

T+A Solitaire T

How Solitaire T blocks out voices is as mechanical as software-based. The noise cancelling is effective enough but the significantly less expensive Bowers & Wilkins PX8 is realistically better. The basics of drowning out cabin noise and avoiding altering the music’s tonal balance are all handled well, though. The frenzied piano work in Nils Frahm’s ‘Hammers’ on his Spaces live set keeps its richness and intensity, even in noise cancelling mode. Absolute bass extension feels slightly curtailed compared to the most talented rivals but is articulate, detailed and well-integrated into the upper registers.

No Processing Here

There is more to be had from the Solitaire T though. With no processing at work, the T+A does an excellent job of cutting ambient noise, and it makes more sense here. On a train with lower noise levels, you can switch the Solitaire T to HQ mode, still not hear the guy on the phone next to you and start to reap some of the benefits of the Solitaire T’s split personality. Frahm’s piano gains weight and presence and the space around him becomes something you are more palpably aware of.

T+A Solitaire T

With vocals, the effect is even more pronounced. Emily King’s acoustic version of ‘Can’t Hold Me Now’, has an immediacy and sheer realism enough to make you forget there’s no wire between you and the source. The standard caveat that not all Bluetooth is created equal applies. This means Android owners with aptX phones will be more impressed than iPhone owners making do on AAC. But it’s still a seriously impressive performance.

And there’s more…

And we still aren’t done there either. I have no idea what the size of the market where people come home and wire their cans to an existing system is, but the Solitaire T is exceptional. With most of the T+A’s significant rivals, the use of an analogue to USB cable tells the story the decoding of the headphones will be involved and, however transparent it seeks to be, that will have an effect. The T+A completely avoids this.

With a Chord Hugo2 and 2Go in play, how the Solitaire T handles Fink’s ‘Maker’ reflects the pair’s potency. Play the same track via the rather warmer Yamaha R-N2000A and this makes itself felt in the presentation without any alteration on the part of the Solitaire T. I suspect it would be possible to use it as a device to test a group of headphone amps and make an objectively sound decision as to which one is best.

Worth and Value

Judging the ‘worth’ of the T+A as a value proposition comes down to how many configurations you see yourself using. I’m willing to stick my neck out and say that, treated strictly as a passive, wired headphone, the T+A will keep Focal’s Celestee honest. Given that the Celestee is a significant chunk of the total cost of the T+A, that’s no mean feat. Both are closed-back designs that give enough of a feeling of space and three-dimensionality to their performance to make them viable for home use. The idea that the Solitaire T can mix it with the Focal – headphones I like very much – is deeply impressive.

T+A Solitaire T

Like the T+A, the Focal has more than respectable mechanical isolation. However, I do no doubt which of the two I’d pack for a flight. The Solitaire T has become the (current) peak of wireless headphone pricing. But that headline obscures that it isn’t the wireless functionality that is the real story here. T+A has built a headphone that genuinely warrants the term ‘multirole.’ Used passive wired or with wireless noise cancelling, the most talented dedicated rivals will realistically best it. But even they have no response to the T+A’s ability to switch to become something else entirely. Then, in its highest-quality wireless mode, the Solitaire T raises the bar further. It genuinely gives the best wireless performance I’ve yet to experience. This is a fascinating and deeply accomplished headphone that can do many things and excel in most.

Technical specifications

  • Type Closed-back, over-ear wireless and wired headphones with wired, wireless and ‘HQ Wireless’ modes
  • Weight 322g
  • Features 42 mm ‘Low tolerance’ dynamic driver
  • Supports Apt-X LL, AAC and SBC Bluetooth
  • Frequency response 4Hz 22kHz
  • Price £1,200


T+A Elektroakoustik


UK distributor

The Audio Business


+44(0)1249 704669

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Galion Audio TS120 SE integrated amplifier

The logo on the front and top of the Galion Audio TS120 SE valve/tube integrated amplifier says a lot. It says ‘Galion’ but comes with a logo that looks like three sails on the main mast of a blue water heavily-armed cargo carrier of the 16th–18th Century. That ship type is a ‘Galleon.’ French speakers spell it ‘Galion.’ And sure enough, Galion Audio is based in Québec, Canada.

That’s not all. The prefix ‘TS’ comes from ‘Thomas & Stereo’ the YouTube channel of Thomas Tan; the man behind the Galion. ‘120’ comes from its ability to run the relatively new KT120s. However, it has two matched pairs of Pavane KT88s as standard. The ‘SE’ suffix separates the standard warmer and punchier-sounding model from the Special Edition’s more neutral, textured bass. The amplifier is also a fast and capable integrated design that packs a punch, even in its SE guise. So, however you choose to spell the name, ‘Galion’ is apt.

Fancy tickling

Let’s avoid the semiotics of amplifier names and look at the amplifier itself. Built to Thomas Tan’s requirements, the TS120 SE is made in China by electronics manufacturer Doge. Tan wanted a pure valve/tube amplifier with the power and drive of solid-state bass. This tickled the fancy of Doge’s lead designer – Mr Liu – especially as Tan suggested Doge approach the project with no budgetary constraints. If the amp costs a fortune, so be it.

With 30 years of amplifier design under his belt, Mr Liu designed an integrated amplifier sub-divided into preamplifer, power amplifier and separate power supply in the same box… and the Galion TS120 was born.

Galion Audio TS120 SE

Or almost. Tan had to convince the Jupiter Condenser Company of Ohio (which sounds like it comes straight out of 1950s sci-fi but is a bunch of like-minded audio enthusiasts) to build custom capacitors for the TS120 while running auditioning and listening tests. But eventually Tan completed the voicing with the new capacitors – adding Clarity caps in the SE version – and the amp was finally ready to launch.

Corporate world? No thanks!

The design and development of Galion’s TS120 is far from the usual process today. We live in a more corporate world, with companies considering balance sheets and the bottom line. Thomas Tan’s company isn’t that kind of audio maker; this is a pure, unadulterated audio nerd at its finest—a product born out of passion rather than range-filling or necessity.

The amp uses a pair of 12AT7 and a pair of 12AX7 double-triodes, with the latter interchangeable with ECC83 and 702S tubes. The amplifier can use two pairs of KT88s (as supplied), 6550s or KT120s for the power pentodes. Tube-rolling is not frowned upon by Galion… as I said, it is led by enthusiasts.

For an all-tube amp design, the specifications are comprehensive. It features four line inputs with a Home Theatre bypass input and tape and two subwoofer outputs, all using gold-plated RCAs of solid stock. It has taps for four and eight-ohm loudspeakers. Both flavours of TS120 include a microprocessor-driven auto-bias circuit, but to ensure it isn’t constantly in the circuit dragging the performance down, this sits outside the signal path. You operate it by pressing the ‘change’ then ‘bias’ button (on the front panel and replicated on the remote), and you watch a quartet of red LEDs turn to blue LEDs on the front panel as it runs through its auto-bias, then it powers off. For the same reasons, you flip between Class A and Class AB by pressing the ‘change’ button before the ‘Class’ button.

Time for TAB

There are tone controls on the amplifier that work surprisingly well but can also be defeated, by moving from ‘T’ to ‘A’ or ‘B’ on a rotary knob on the front panel. Setting ‘A’ and ‘B’ have different levels of global feedback, I preferred ‘A’. Neither the tone controls nor this ‘TAB’ knob are replicated on the hefty remote handset.

Galion Audio TS120 SE

The amp has a solid look and feel, vaguely reminiscent of Ayon Audio in its curved side cheeks but lacking the shiny chrome round transformer cans. I think it looks classic.


Power it up, give it 30 seconds to soft-start and another 20 minutes to come up to its thermal happy place and the TS120 SE starts to sing. It’s not the most obvious ‘tube-ampy’ sound, but in a very good way; the amplifier delivers excellent bass and the overly thick and rich, syrupy warmth often associated with ‘hollow-state’ technology is not there. Sure, it’s ‘airy’ with a lively and lovely sounding treble and a lithe and vivid midrange, which you can almost certainly put down to the sound of valves. The Galion TS120 SE also has the characteristic ‘wide, deep’ soundstage properties so often associated with good tubes. But that sense of control, grip, and authority in the bass sounds like a fine solid-state amplifier. The combination of the two is an excellent mix and extremely alluring.

I don’t want to make this sound like an amplifier with a dual personality, though. The bass, mid and treble integrate well and the sense of top-to-bottom coherence is excellent. That grip over the bottom end could easily cause the amplifier to sound like two designs. But while the control over the bottom end is excellent, it’s also entirely in keeping with the overall tonality of the TS120 SE, which is fundamentally accurate in approach.

Not the usual suspects

I was thinking about how to express this in musical terms, using ‘the usual suspects’ in my regular collection of recordings to evaluate equipment. Still, I didn’t need to go that far. The first track I played when the amp was warmed up encapsulated everything the TS120 SE did right; ‘Five Years’ by David Bowie [The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, MCA]. Perhaps the seminal ‘opener’ to an album, the slow build from the minimalist drums building to a crescendo of screaming with Mick Ronson’s distorted guitar playing before fading out to the drum sounds once more.

Galion Audio TS120 SE

Those drums had depth and intensity but were never ‘flabby’ or ‘flapping about’. Bowie’s voice was originally articulate and impassioned, but as the vocal histrionics and the Spiders joined, the sound was allowed to break free. All the while every instrument was preserved in its three-dimensional space.

Never grow up

I grew up with this record, which still gives up a few nuances on each listen. The TS120 SE didn’t disappoint in unravelling the track a little more. It also helps that the tonality of the amplifier invites long and deep listening sessions.

The downsides are trivial. It runs very hot, but it’s a tube amplifier so that’s like printing ‘warning: contents hot’ on a coffee cup. It needs a good few hundred hours of running in before it comes on song (allegedly… my sample already had enough miles on the clock). There’s a warning against using Svetlana or TAD Winged C 6550 tubes, as the company has had some issues with them. Then there’s the tube cage, which is technically required in some countries and is not that pretty (in fairness to Galion, it’s rare to find a tube cage that isn’t the red-haired stepchild of the audio industry and the TS120’s cage is no better or worse than most). Finally, like many all-tube amplifiers, powering the TS120 up without loudspeakers connected is not recommended. However, the manual mentions this (in French and English).

Rebuilding the vacated high-end

Galion’s integrated amplifier occupies a space in the market that many high-end brands have vacated. It’s also got what got people into high-end years ago and will get a new generation into high-end. In all the good ways, I was extremely surprised by the Galion Audio TS120 SE. No wonder it has become something of a YouTube ‘darling’. That combination of tight, well-controlled bass, sublime openness and soaring, accurate treble makes it an amp to remember.

Some will discover the Galion TS120 SE amplifier as their first experience of what true high-end can offer. Others know their way around high-end sound but don’t relish the radical cashectomy that usually comes with the territory. Regardless, this isn’t the last we hear of Galion, and expect the TS120 SE to fire a few broadsides into your favourite amplifier of choice.

Technical specifications

  • Type All-tube Class A/AB integrated amplifier
  • Power output 30W per channel (Class A); 50W per channel (Class AB)
  • Frequency Response 12Hz-80kHz (Class A); 17Hz–65kHz (Class AB)
  • THD (1kHz, at full power) ≤0.15% (Class A); ≤0.25% (Class AB)
  • Damping factor (‘A’ Setting) 10.8 (Class A), 9.3 (Class AB)
  • Damping factor (‘B’ Setting) 6.5 (Class A), 5.6 (Class AB)
  • Signal-to-noise ratio ≥90dB
  • Inputs 4× line (RCA stereo pair); 1× HT (RCA stereo pair)
  • Input Impedance 50kΩ
  • Line input sensitivity 420mV
  • Outputs 2x subwoofer (RCA), tape outputs (RCA stereo pair); loudspeaker terminals (4Ω/8Ω taps)
  • Standard tube complement 2× 12AX7, 2× 12AT7, 4× KT88
  • Dimensions (W×H×D) 43 × 21 × 36cm
  • Weight 30kg
  • Price $4,495 USD ($450 USD deposit)


Galion Audio



UK demonstration facility

Art + Sound


+44(0)7711 569 999

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Vimberg Amea stand-mount loudspeaker

Vimberg is the sister brand to TIDAL of TIDAL Audio GmbH. TIDAL is a German high-end manufacturer making top-end electronics and loudspeakers since the late 1990s. How ‘top’ is ‘top end’? Three words sum that up: “TIDAL for Bugatti”. It could be easy to make the more attainably priced Vimberg a diffusion brand, offering little of what TIDAL delivers beyond a name. But that isn’t what Vimberg is about. However, as the only stand-mount loudspeaker in either company’s range, the Vimberg Amea proves otherwise. This isn’t an opening gambit in a very high-end game. It’s much—much more.

The Amea is an elegant, back-swept design angled to look good and reduce internal standing waves inside that aluminium-reinforced HDF cabinet. It’s a two-way design with a rear-firing passive woofer, using a 220mm Accuton woofer with a diaphragm made from aluminium. Accuton also provides the main mid-bass unit itself; a 173mm ceramic unit, and this sits on the same thick aluminium baffle plate as the 30mm ceramic tweeter (or the 30mm ‘pure diamond’ tweeter in the higher-spec Amea D). Like all Accuton drivers, the metal mesh grills are a permanent fixture, and they are designed to accommodate this protection, sonically.

The best of both worlds

There is an inevitable balance of trade-offs in a loudspeaker of this size. How the designer resolves that balance of trade-offs is vital in making a loudspeaker sound good. One could argue this applies universally, but getting this balance right is crucial in making extremely high-performance stand-mount loudspeakers. For example, a port is the usual way to get around the limitations of cabinet volume inherent to stand-mount loudspeakers. But ports come at a sonic cost.

Using a rear-firing passive woofer delivers a more sonically correct sound, but increases that cabinet’s cost and structural demands. HDF for that cabinet is a good choice to meet those demands but can sound over-damped if used alone. Using aluminium is also a good choice, but can be a potential source of resonance due to the hysteresis effect. Combining the two could bring out the worst in both materials, but in the case of the Amea, it brings out the best.

British Bias Conclusion

Vimberg Amea

It’s time to bust a myth long held in some circles of audio: British loudspeaker makers still ‘own’ the stand-mount loudspeaker. Like most myths, fairness is built around a kernel of truth. Back in the 1960s, the development of small monitor loudspeakers by the British Broadcasting Corporation did set a very high standard for stand-mounts, and many of those big names in loudspeaker designs that continued that trend were both British and often featured designers who ‘made their bones’ in the BBC. Those days are long past, but the myth still holds. In some circles that myth only holds back loudspeaker development, as some seem trapped in a post-BBC design brief. Loudspeakers like the Vimberg Amea show just how much more can be had from a good stand-mount loudspeaker.

To do or not to do

It’s perhaps odd to begin talking about a loudspeaker’s sound quality by first defining what it doesn’t do. However, such a definition is important in the case of the Vimberg Amea. The Amea doesn’t try to emulate a big loudspeaker, nor does it try the ‘small loudspeaker made big’ trick. Instead, it makes a correctly scaled sound for a loudspeaker of its size. What’s surprising in listening to the Amea is how many loudspeakers of a similar proposition and size fail to reach this goal.

Vimberg Amea

What the Amea does so well is to create a sense of poise in everything it touches; from its musical presentation to its stereo staging and easy, effortless sense of rhythm. This does rely on an exceptional set of up-stream electronics and a first-class installation. It also doesn’t suffer fools gladly; mediocre recordings or poor quality transfers are easy to spot; the Amea doesn’t make these recordings unpalatable; just register up their limitations. However, with good equipment (it’s more about quality than quantity, and a good 50W amp with a ‘stiff’ power supply will sound better than something more powerful but less controlled), you have a stunningly good sound.

Vimberg Amea


Speed and accuracy

The ‘stunningly good’ part is down to transient speed and accuracy. Even something as simple as a strummed acoustic guitar highlights this speed and accuracy perfectly, the attack of pick (or fingers) hitting the strings, the resonance of the sound box and the decay of those first notes while others come along all combine to give the listener an uncanny sense of hearing a live musician in a live space, and an excellent dynamic range aids this. Yes, played against the real instrument, you can hear the difference, but we won’t hear Nic Jones playing his guitar after that fateful accident in 1982 that left him unable to play. Hence ‘Canadee-I-O’ from Penguin Eggs [Topic] remains an impossible bit of drop-tuning finger-picking and the intervening 43 years since its recording melt away when played through the Amea.

The Vimberg Amea also scales well. Moving from the deft touch of Nic Jones’ folk playing and singing to large orchestral pieces such as Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances [Zinman, Baltimore SO, Telarc] the sound grows in size and stature. Swap that for Mahler’s Eighth [Solti, Chicago SO, Decca] and the sound grows to match. Drop back to smoky jazz clubs of the 1950s, or raw New York studios of the 1970s and once again the Amea ‘right-sizes’ the sound. Note, that this is not simply the image size we’re discussing here, but the sense of believability the loudspeakers can deliver.

Detailed by default

A loudspeaker at this level (and featuring the drive units it does) is detailed by default. The Vimberg Amea is no exception; so much information is on tap. And, while some of that information is about the status of the system and the quality of the recording, it’s always on the right side of sounding harsh or aggressive. This is a rare find and an equally rare balance; so many loudspeakers are either too soft and laid-back sounding to deliver any useful information about the inner detail of the music, or are so powerfully fixated on information delivery that listening to the most insipid dinner jazz is an edge-of-the-seat experience. The Amea gives you all the energy and detail you can pull from a recording without making that experience tiring or ‘edgy’.

Perhaps best of all, the Vimberg Amea does all this on any music you play through the loudspeakers… I know, I tried. OK, I didn’t play any Noh or throat-singing (or, for that matter, the sound of a washing machine as part of a modern Musique Concrète performance – see pages 104-108 of this issue), but everything from opera to grime and all points in between.

Few things phased the loudspeakers. The nature of the drivers arguably prevents playing at amplifier melt-down levels, but the speaker is comfy everything from a whisper to a near-roar. But realistically… that’s about it!

The Little Big Question

The Amea asks – and answers – a question about the limits of high-performance stand-mount loudspeakers: Can a high-end stand-mount cut it? “Absolutely!” says the Amea. Although the most affordable loudspeaker from both Vimberg and TIDAL, the Amea is still a significant investment by stand-mount standards, especially if one goes for the diamond tweeter, piano gloss finish, stands and optional copper or brass faceplate. Most gravitate toward a larger floorstander design at this price point, but the Amea offers a viable alternative. This is especially important in metropolitan homes where tower loudspeakers are too large for consideration.

Vimberg Amea colours

‘Close your eyes and the speakers disappear’ is often heard more in the breach than in the observance. Often, it’s taken to mean ‘these speakers sound bigger than you would expect’, but that’s not the case here. The Vimberg Amea does disappear; you aren’t hearing a small or a large loudspeaker. It’s a design that equally loves a bit of Mozart, Mahler, Miles Davis and Metallica. While not ear-splittingly loud, it can be a bit of an animal. Yet it can also deliver remarkable refinement when moving to something more cerebral. To most, having a loudspeaker this capable is just an illusory fantasy. But, it’s all in a day’s work for Vimberg’s awesome Amea.

Technical specifications

  • Type Two-way full-range stand-mount loudspeaker
  • Cabinet Vimberg MRD-cabinet with decoupled aluminium high-midrange mounting plate
  • Drivers 1 × 30 mm Accuton Cell ceramic tweeter, 1 × 173 mm Accuton ceramic midrange woofer, 1 × 220 mm Accuton passive radiator. Optional 30mm Accuton Cell diamond tweeter (Amea D), also upgradeable anytime later
  • Wiring and connections Mogami speaker cable wiring inside, Argento pure silver binding posts
  • Efficiency at 2.83V/1m/1KHz 86dB
  • Nominal impedance 5 ohm (lowest point 5.2 ohm at 100Hz)
  • Finishes Summit White, Jet Black, Slate Grey, Sonoma Orange, Amethyst and other colours on request. Vimberg real piano lacquer summit white or jet black
  • Dimensions (W×H×D) 51 ×  62 × 71cm
  • Weight 20kg per loudspeakers
  • Price From £13,800 per pair




UK distributor

Kog Audio


+44(0)24 7722 0650

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Introducing Mezzo CSC Center Channel

Bringing home the passionate impact of live, un-amplified music through two-channel reproduction has been the cultural compass of Wilson Audio since its inception more than five decades ago. Applying the same focus and expertise to Multi-Channel Audio systems has been a natural extension of that passion.

Wilson Audio approaches a new product release with the utmost care and consideration; every factor is examined, including the choice of materials, the aesthetic appeal, the technological advancements, and, most importantly, the auditory experience it delivers. A mere singular modification is not sufficient to warrant a new launch; instead, a multitude of enhancements must be present. That is exactly what you get with Mezzo CSC. We strive to push the boundaries of what is possible to deliver an unparalleled listening experience. We continue the legacy of “Excellence in All Things” with Mezzo CSC, combining cutting-edge technology and meticulous craftsmanship to create a loudspeaker that transcends expectations.

Wilson Audio debuted the innovative rear-wave chamber technology with the Convergent Synergy Carbon (CSC) Tweeter in the Alexx V. The CSC tweeter stood as a testament to the continued development of cutting-edge technology, delivering extended high-frequency detail, impeccable linearity, and lush harmonic detail. The CSC tweeter is now incorporated into the designs of most of Wilson Audio’s loudspeakers, including the Alexia V, Sasha V, and Alida CSC.

In addition to the CSC tweeter, the Mezzo CSC now has a fully adjustable tweeter module that allows you to customize your center channel’s alignment to any unique installation environment. Whether the Mezzo CSC is installed directly on the floor, on one-of-two custom-designed Stands or in a custom cabinet, the Mezzo CSC’s drivers can be properly aligned to accommodate any of these scenarios in any room and any configuration.

In the Main Module, Mezzo CSC’s two woofers are mounted horizontally, flanking a very familiar midrange driver. First introduced in the Chronosonic XVX, Mezzo CSC features the same 7” Alnico (Aluminum-Nickel-Cobalt) QuadraMag midrange, coupled with an S-Material baffle. With 6% more internal volume for our midrange enclosure, you hear an even more spacious and lifelike midrange sound.

Mezzo CSC has been intentionally engineered with the highest quality and best-performing components. This obsession with the ideal has led to Mezzo CSC weighing in at 200 pounds of world-class capability. As well as the exotic enclosure material, here are a few of the carefully chosen hardware elements:

Custom-built Wilson Audio binding posts have now also been integrated into Mezzo CSC. Both banana plug termination and traditional spade connections can be used with this binding post. This premier binding post offers a clean signal path with an upgraded and larger contact surface area for your speaker cables.

Mezzo CSC is a work of art that not only sounds extraordinary, but complements your living space with elegance. You can install the Mezzo CSC directly on the ground or raise the loudspeaker height on a purpose-built Wilson Audio Stand.

Upgrade your multi-channel experience with outstanding sound.

For an in-depth understanding of the Mezzo CSC, we invite you to visit the official product webpage, where more detailed information and specifications can be found; click here.

Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems Introduces Second Generation Momentum Integrated – the Momentum MxV integrated Amplifier

ARIZONA, USA — The Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier by Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems achieves a level of performance never before possible in an integrated amplifier.

Combining the front-end technology from the Momentum HD Preamplifier and the power section of the Momentum S250 MxV Stereo Amplifier, it delivers Momentum Series performance in a compact framework only hinting at the advanced circuitry within. Employing a configurable, modular design, the core line stage section can be augmented to include a digital streaming and/or a phono stage module. When fully equipped, the Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier topology is a seamless circuit working as one from input to output, optimizing performance in a way otherwise not possible.

Benefiting from extensive development previously applied to the Momentum Series separate components, the Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier executes on the potential that an integrated solution offers. The Momentum MxV integrated Amplifier is a modular design that is configurable to a listener’s preferences. The core line stage preamplifier section can be augmented to include a digital streaming and/or a phono stage module. When fully equipped, the Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier topology is a seamless circuit working as one from input to output. Each internal section is highly specialized but knowing the exact complement of power supply, control, and audio circuitry being used together, affords engineering a vison of the system that is typically not possible.

Our engineering team has taken the inherent benefits of an integrated design and elevated it to a new level of sonic performance,” said Bill McKiegan, President of Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems. “We’ve incorporated key circuitry elements from the Momentum HD Preamplifier, Momentum MxV Stereo Amplifier, and Relentless models resulting in a listening experience that truly sets a new standard for integrated amplifier sound quality.”

Power Supply

Defying its compact size, the Momentum MxV Integrated is a powerhouse amplifier. The backbone is a new ultra-quiet 2,000VA linear transformer. A unique toroidal winding technology delivers greater power output than from a similarly sized conventional transformer. Surprisingly small for its capability, this engine drives a nearly 60,000ⲙF capacitor bank resulting in 250/500/1,000W power output into 8/4/2Ω speaker loads. Internal circuitry filters RF noise from the AC powerline and compensates for asymmetric power waveforms and DC on the mains.

The scope of the Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier design requires the use of two separate chassis – a dedicated audio chassis and a separate power supply. The two chassis interlock through special mechanisms in the mounting feet of each chassis. Thirty pin interlocking 30-amp, gold plated connectors eliminate wiring normally used for these applications and the associated anomalies that can occur. This distinctive construction isolates the audio signal completely, both physically and electrically from the power supply section. Physical isolation offers additional room to maximize both power and audio circuitry.

Audio Circuitry

Every major section of the integrated amplifier has been touched by technology advancements pioneered in the Relentless and Momentum MxV series models. Starting with the preamplifier section, six individual left and right circuit boards make up the input, volume control, and output sections. The core topologies have been appropriated from the Momentum HD Preamplifier including an innovative FET-based input stage.

The distinct advantage of an integrated amplifier is the direct connection of the preamplifier stage to the amplifier input section. This pure path eliminates connector and cable anomalies that potentially impact electrical and sonic performance. Critical to the new circuit are the bipolar transistors powering the front end of the amplifier – these wider bandwidth, higher power components extend low and high frequency performance with reduced distortion in both frequency extremes. Energizing the driver stage is a new bias stability circuit providing an almost 50 per cent increase in operating bias – increasing Class A operation directly correlates to better sound quality.

With the new MxV circuit topology and our unique Copper/Aluminum thermal engine heatsink, heat issues are not a practical concern in the Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier. The new bias scheme ensures bias consistency, preventing excessive temperatures even under the greatest demand. Additional power transistors in the output stage reduce the workload for each individual device, ensuring the entire output section works more efficiently. The result is a richer, more dynamic, intimate presentation regardless of musical genre.

The final output stage features new output transistors that were originally sourced for the flagship Relentless Monoblock Amplifier. 28 high speed, high-output transistors are used in the Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier, with each transistor mounted directly to the copper heat sinks. A capacitor/resistor network connected to the base of each transistor ensures stability even at high frequencies and with low-impedance speakers. Additionally, every output transistor is measured and only devices that match the required performance specifications are included in the production of the Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier. As with all D’Agostino models, the Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier features discrete, direct-coupled balanced circuitry, the most accurate circuit platform possible.

Digital Streaming and Phono Module

An optional digital module vaults the Momentum MxV Integrated into the cutting edge of today’s digital listening environment. The digital enhancement adds connectivity for legacy sources, both source and host USB functionality, and premier streaming functionality. Field upgradeable, the digital module adds S/PDIF coaxial, optical, and USB-A for legacy digital components and Ethernet and Wi-Fi for network-based music. A dedicated iOS D’Agostino DSM app provides built-in Tidal, Qobuz, MQA decoding, plus complete unit control. PCM signals up to 32-bit/192kHz and DSD up to DSD1024 are supported.

The optional phono module adds vinyl playback capability to the Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier. Low output moving coil cartridges are supported with over 60dB of gain and loading options from 100Ω-47kΩ.

Available in silver, black, or custom painted finishes, every Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier is hand-built and individually tested in D’Agostino’s Arizona factory by our team of technicians and craftsmen.

The UK RRP is £73,998 inc. VAT, while the digital and phono modules add £11,398 and £5,698 to the price respectively. As with all Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems products, the Momentum MxV Integrated Amplifier is brought to the UK by Absolute Sounds.

For more information on Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems and its products, please visit dandagostino.com.


New PowerHAUS P6 is Chord Company’s most affordable yet

14 November 2023, Wiltshire, England: Chord Company’s proprietary PowerHAUS power distribution technology is now more affordable than ever, following the introduction of the new entry level PowerHAUS P6 £600.

Designed to reduce noise and improve the performance of hi-fi, home cinema and CI systems, the PowerHAUS P6 draws on Chord Company’s near-40-year expertise in wiring design, engineering and manufacturing techniques.

The PowerHAUS P6 follows the flagship PowerHAUS M6 and S6 distribution devices (launched in 2022) and continues the PowerHAUS philosophy of uncompromising design expertise, versatility, high-level build and proprietary ARAY noise-reduction technology.

The PowerHAUS P6 uses heavy-gauge internal cables and high-quality sockets, both chosen for their sound performance. These are complemented by a 16 amp IEC input socket suitable for even the most demanding systems.

PowerHAUS technology avoids the use of serial filters, switches and neon power indicators which can generate noise and compromise performance. The solid construction also provides the optimum environment for the sophisticated internal circuitry.

Chord Company has minimised the interaction between the internal live, neutral and earth cables and tried to maintain, wherever possible, a clean earth supply, based on experience gained developing the company’s proprietary noise-reducing ARAY technology.

Handmade in England, the PowerHAUS P6 distils Chord Company’s decades-long understanding of signal and power transfer into a highly affordable upgrade for AV systems.

It is supplied with a standard, straight connector 16 A IEC power cable, but can be upgraded with factory options, such as the Clearway Power cable with right-angle connectors.

PowerHAUS P6 Development background (further information)

The PowerHAUS P6 is the result of many years building power distribution blocks for systems in Chord Company’s demo rooms, hi-fi shows and more. Chord Company has been demonstrating cables and systems since 1985 and early PowerHAUS development started 20 years ago, as far back as 2003.

Quality of power is a fundamental and defining element of a system’s performance. Chord Company has tested dozens of different wiring techniques, including heavy-duty cables, multicore and solid core cables, screened and unscreened cables, specialist connectors, filters and hard-wiring methods.

The different technologies and approaches produced various minor improvements, but unfortunately, many of the resulting designs would not meet current electrical safety regulations.  The PowerHAUS P6’s heavy-gauge internal cables and high-quality sockets, chosen for their sound performance, offer a time-proven solution to providing clean power for AV systems.

PowerHAUS mains blocks perform on a variety of surfaces including wood, carpet, and tiles, but further performance benefits can be gained if placed upon a rigid and isolated surface, such as a spare shelf on a hi-fi rack.


Six output sockets (UK or Euro)
Input socket: 16 amp IEC
Outlet ratings: 13 amp (UK)/16 amp (EU)
Rated power and/or current: max 16 A
Supply voltage: 100-250 V
Frequency: 50/60 Hz
Dimensions: 520 mm x W 112 mm x H 65 mm (LxWxH)

Price and availability

PowerHAUS P6: £600. Available now.

The new Rotel RAS-5000 Stereo Integrated Amplifier with comprehensive built-in streaming functions and HDMI-ARC connectivity

Tokyo, Japan (November 14, 2023) – Rotel is introducing an extended and enhanced audio solution with the launch of the new Rotel RAS-5000 Stereo Integrated Amplifier – specially designed to simplify the entertainment space.

The RAS-5000 is an exceptional quality, high power stereo integrated amplifier that effortlessly plays favorite music at the highest quality from Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Airplay 2, Google Cast, Qobuz and thousands of Internet Radio stations -while seamlessly expanding connectivity options by integrating HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) connectivity.

The RAS-5000 is the perfect fusion of Rotel’s heritage, high-quality audio performance combined with key modern conveniences!

As a classic Rotel Stereo Integrated Amplifier, the RAS-5000 offers a comprehensive range of features.

In addition to HDMI ARC, there’s a wide array of traditional source inputs including Coaxial, Optical, RCA Analog, PC-USB and aptXTM HD Bluetooth.

Both high resolution 24-bit 192kHz music and MQA audio files are rendered with ultimate precision through a bespoke Rotel digital section featuring a premium ESS Digital to Analog converter.

The HDMI ARC connection expands the scope of the RAS-5000 by also offering the highest resolution sound for your favorite TV shows, movies, and games directly from the TV.

Audio quality is guaranteed by careful selection of top-grade components including the traditional, Rotel specified over-sized toroidal transformer, allowing the RAS-5000 to effortlessly and consistently deliver a true 220 watts of Class AB output power into 4 ohms.

The specially selected power supply delivers ultra-low-noise power to all critical circuits, with large current reserves for the amplifier output transistors to ensure audio is delivered with deep, controlled bass energy with exceptional fidelity.

The sleek, attractive design of the RAS-5000 is available in a choice of stylish black or sophisticated silver and seamlessly blends into any décor, while the large, high-quality colour display and user-friendly interface ensures effortless operation.

The RAS-5000 extends, enhances and simplifies the entertainment experience while delivering the highest quality, effortless, immerse sound.

Quiescent T100SPA power amplifier

In the world of power delivery, it has long been recognised that reducing noise is the key to better sound quality. After all electrical power is the lifeblood of any piece of audio equipment and its condition will inevitably affect the sound. Likewise in streaming audio more and more manufacturers are realising that noise is the limiting factor, it’s a core reason why streamed audio doesn’t always sound as good as it should. When it comes to amplifiers however, where power regulation has been the main means of smoothing out the problems in the electrical juice, the realisation that the main sources of noise need to be addressed more comprehensively seems to be less well accepted in most quarters.

Quiescent realised that radio frequency interference (RFI), electromagnetic interference (EMI) and vibration are major factors in the sound quality of an amplifier. These two pernicious sources of bad sound are everywhere, ever-increasing and evidently not helped by circuits based on old technologies that have been refined but not overhauled over time. Although other technologies are available, the best-known exception is Class D, where switching power supplies have taken over from the established linear alternative but switched mode power supplies (SMPS) have their own problems. This type of supply is found in virtually every household appliance today because it’s cheaper and more efficient, but it also produces huge amounts of noise that pollutes the mains that supplies our systems.


Quiescent is the butterfly that metamorphosed from VertexAQ, its MD Nigel Payne (interviewed in issue 196) decided to take the anti-noise tech that was developed under that brand and build it into far more serious and impressively housed components. Quiescent makes a range of devices that are designed to reduce noise and microphony in an audio system, these include loudspeaker modules, balanced mains supplies and a wide range of cables. Many of these are updated versions of the VertexAQ products yet thanks to superbly machined casework look totally different. What’s brand new to Quiescent is this range audio electronics, of which there are two power amplifiers – one essentially a doubling of the other into monoblocks – and a streamer.

Quiescent T100SPA

The T100SPA is Quiescent’s stereo power amplifier and it’s a substantial beauty where every conceivable means of keeping noise and mechanical vibration at bay has been employed. On the outside you can see that the heatsinks are custom made with cooling tubes running down either flank. Look inside these tubes and there is a helical shape cut into the wall, this is done to break up vibration and differs in each of the 16 cooling tunnels. The top of the chassis is not aluminium, but a composite material called Trespa, they use this in order to avoid creating a Faraday cage which traps RFI produced within the amplifier. This may be the reason why components with non-metal cabinets often sound more relaxed and natural than the conventional alternatives.

Inside this 27kg lump, things get more interesting not least by the virtue of the fact that most elements have their own internal casings and the power transformer has a cap on top of it that forms an absorption matrix. This asymmetric plate is designed to do three things: absorb high frequency noise, disrupt the field around the transformer and kill RF in the bolt that fixes it to the chassis. The cases elsewhere are not metal but are lined with an absorption material to stop interference getting in, they contain Audio Note (UK) Kaisei capacitors for the power supply, DC blocking devices, stacked rectifier bridges with anti-vibration treatment and anti-reflection devices to reduce HF noise. There is only one pair of MOSFETs for each channel, presumably this avoids the timing issues around precisely matching with multiple devices. They produce 130 Watts per channel into eight Ohms which goes up to 200W when the impedance halves to four Ohms. Not a huge number of Watts for the money but this figure is not an indicator of quality, and that is far more important than quantity as you will be aware.

Quiescent T100SPA heatsink

Back panel connections are very high quality WBT types, specifically that brand’s Nextgen Ag silver series where metal is kept to a minimum. The speaker cable terminals are from the same range. There are two extra connections on the T100SPA in the form of an RCA socket and a binding post, both of which are provided for grounding purposes which is a Quiescent speciality, I suspect that this is another area that we will see increase in popularity in the future.

As a mouse

It is immediately obvious that the T100SPA is a quiet amplifier from the moment you press play, I was genuinely surprised by how much quieter it is than pretty well all the other amplifiers I have used in recent times. Modern solid-state amplifiers are all pretty good in this respect, none of them hiss or buzz, but this is not as important as the noise floor underneath the music they reproduce. That’s where all the fine detail is hidden in many amplifiers. You don’t hear it as noise rather it is perceived as coarseness, as a lack of nuance, essentially as a mask to the things that make an amplifier sound transparent. What you get with this amplifier is a clean yet not clinical sound that lets so much detail through and presents it in a totally natural and effortless fashion.

The second thing that hits you is that there appears to be limitless headroom, which is not usually the case with a 130W amplifier unless it’s driving 96dB/w/m loudspeakers, e.g., speakers that do not need more than a few Watts. The Quiescent achieves this with Vivid Kaya S12s (87dB) which are not very big, thus not theoretically capable of high sound pressure levels. In fact, it did it with all the speakers I tried including Bowers & Wilkins 802 D3s with their tricky low frequency load. This, one suspects, is because there is so little noise being amplified along with the signal, it gives such a strong sense of ease that the normal cues about loudness, which is essentially perceived distortion, are just not there. This degree of calmness is very rare and usually only achieved with huge amounts of power.


The Quiescent makes other amps sound hurried, anxious to get through the music to the next track, and this sense of propulsion can be exciting and entertaining with certain types of music, but it is ultimately a colouration that gets in the way of transparency, reducing it to this degree is quite a revelation. It opens the music up superbly, revealing the depth and dimensionality of the voices and instruments whilst allowing each to be fully expressed, the calmness of the electronics allows the energy of the music to dominate proceedings. I also love the way it reveals layers in good recordings, there are far more than expected in many recent releases.

There are two switches on the back of the T100SPA, one selects between XLR and RCA inputs the other turns the LED in the power switch on and off. I was encouraged to try the latter and was shocked that getting rid of one tiny LED opened up the soundstage so dramatically and increased the sense of ease. I guess you need an indication that the amplifier is on but never felt to turn the LED back on.

Quiescent T100SPA

Timing is also a strongpoint; there are a number of calm and relaxed amplifiers around that trip up on this critical front, more power often seems to undermine nimbleness and this may be why the T100SPA has a modest output for its class. Whatever the reason the groove was utterly delightful on so many tracks that it was easy to get carried away, this presumably because there is so little noise to blur the transitions between notes and because it has more than enough power to control the loudspeakers in use. It also delivers a huge amount of detail from familiar recordings, stuff that had literally never surfaced before, even on large systems, the shimmer of bells, the timbre of acoustic instruments and voices and the ripples in low bass on favourite pieces.

Audio cake

Quiescent have got to the crux of what it takes to make a truly revealing and even-handed amplifier in the T100SPA. Don’t look at its power rating and think you need more, listen to its effortless control of the loudspeaker, and wonder why you would ever need more. That the build quality is also premium grade is the icing on a very tasty audio cake, if I had the funds there would be a real danger of investing in an amplifier that would make so many others sound crude. As a reviewer it would be a disaster.

Technical specifications

  • Type Solid state stereo power amplifier
  • Analogue inputs One pair WBT nextgen Ag silver single ended (via RCA jacks), one pair WBT nextgen Ag silver balanced (via XLR jacks)
  • Analogue outputs One pair of WBT nextgen Ag silver speaker taps (via 5-way binding posts)
  • Power output 130Wpc @ 8 Ohms, 200Wpc @ 4 Ohms
  • Bandwidth Not specified
  • Sensitivity 1.6V
  • Distortion 0.03% at 24W into 8ohm, input 1kHz
  • Signal to Noise Ratio 120dB
  • Dimensions (H×W×D) 140 × 440 × 400mm
  • Weight 27kg
  • Price £20,000


Quiescent Ltd


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Aqua Acoustic Quality La Diva M2 CD transport

To paraphrase the much misquoted Mark Twain, reports that CD is dead are an exaggeration. It may no longer be the format of choice on the high street but among the musical cognoscenti, that’s us, it remains a very popular format. It’s not hard to see why; for a start, a lot of audio enthusiasts have thousands of CDs many of which are not available on streaming services. Then there’s the intrinsic simplicity of playing them; no need for a smartphone or tablet, just press the button and you’re away.

The drop in mainstream popularity has had one clear effect, and that’s to reduce the number of players on the market. Where once dozens were released across all price points every year now we are down to one a month at the most. So, it’s heartening to see that Italian brand Aqua Acoustic Quality has updated its La Diva CD transport and continue to offer a high quality disc spinner to the many audio enthusiasts who enjoy the format.

Aqua La Diva M2

La Diva M2 looks exactly like its predecessor, which is very good indeed, it simply oozes quality with attention to detail at a very high level, and fit and finish in the premier league (music loving footballers take note). I love the Nextel finish on the casework and magnetic puck, and ditto the levers in place of buttons. These operate like buttons by springing up after they are pressed, but have a very definite action and immediate consequences in terms of the transport’s behaviour. This is something that CD lovers take for granted but is less common in the world of streaming where a processor has to jump in with every command.

Of delight

The transport mechanism or disc drive sits beneath a lovely sliding lid on top of the machine. This has pros and cons. On the plus side, there is no drawer mechanism to go wrong and the process is a bit like playing a record. But on the inconvenience front, it requires top-shelf positioning if you are to be able to place and extract discs with ease. I have a turntable on the top shelf of my rack and used a reasonably high (eight-inch) space on the next shelf down. This was a bit of a fiddle, not least because you need to remove and replace the magnetic puck. On one occasion, I wasn’t paying attention and the disc slid into the machine to the left of the drive bay; it didn’t disappear but I was more careful thereafter. I guess that dedicated CD users will afford La Diva M2 the top spot and thus avoid this sort of malarkey.


Aqua is keen to point out that La Diva M2 is a “pure CD machine”; it is dedicated to the humble Red Book CD and doesn’t dally with the likes of SACD or even DVD‑Audio (if anyone remembers that). This is largely because the latter is dead and buried, and there is no protocol for digital connections with the DSD format that underpins SACD. La Diva M2 uses a modified CD Pro-8S transport mechanism from the optical division of Stream Unlimited, with an aluminium chassis and carbon-fibre turntable. Aqua developed the coding and wrote it to FPGA, which controls signal feed to the various outputs on the back of the machine, among which the AQLink I2S is their proprietary connection for Aqua DACs.

Aqua La Diva M2

Those with DACs from other brands have a good choice of connections to pick from; alongside S/PDIF on coaxial and (preferably) BNC connectors, there is AES/EBU on XLR and an AT&T fibre output. It doesn’t have USB output and would probably be the only CD transport to do so if it did, but given that this is often the best input on modern DACs it’s something that might be worth investigating. Those looking for ultimate digital synchronicity will be pleased to see a word clock output on a BNC connector, if your DAC has the same facility this is one area which warrants closer inspection, that is if the price of a decent clock isn’t too frightening.

I mentioned attention to detail in the appearance of La Diva M2 so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see that this continues inside the box. Here you will find a multi-stage voltage regulator for accurate disc drive control, tracking and focus, two low noise power transformers running the digital and servo sides separately, and fully floating galvanically and magnetic isolation between drive system and digital outputs.

Precise and compelling

I have to admit that my days of playing discs on a regular basis are long gone, but I still have a good collection of CDs and would prefer to listen to rips of those discs than to a streaming service. And going back to spinning polycarbonate proved to be a highly rewarding experience, with Aqua’s La Diva M2 delivering a precise and compelling result through two very different digital to analogue converters.

La Diva M2 is very clear and definite in its presentation; there is no vagueness or blurring of leading edges and transients, and it seems a lot more calm and collected than the CD players I used in recent times. You really feel that, on the one hand, the noise floor is extremely low and on the other, that the transport is extracting an awful lot of what the disc has to offer. CD’s only real advantage over streaming is that it doesn’t have to deal with noise coming in from a network connection, the technology comes from an era when this stuff didn’t exist in audio and was developed in a cleaner electrical environment. Players still have to deal with noise on the mains, which has undoubtedly increased, but you don’t often find a streamer with sonic backgrounds that are as quiet as you get with La Diva M2.

This is very good for producing leading edges without grain or blur, which give you all the attack of a note in clear and definite fashion. And that in turn means strong timing without any of the digital edginess that can afflict this format. I was very impressed with the dynamics on offer from the Aqua; it really makes the most of dynamic contrasts so when a quiet intro is used to give the following crescendo impact you know all about it. The sound is not dissimilar to the sort of thing you hear in pro audio, it has that no nonsense solidity of delivery, it’s a confidence inspiring approach because it handles transients so well, nothing seems to phase it.

Keith Jarrett’s live album Testament was recorded in London and Paris, and recorded really well at that. The piano has real body and weight and this much is clear on La Diva M2, it gives you a strong sense of the hardwood and steel of the instrument, and of the way that Jarrett could combine power and restraint in his improvisation. All of which is underpinned by compelling rhythm, here there is no apparent emphasis but it always comes to the fore. Something that will vary with different DACs of course but something that La Diva M2 is clearly very proficient at.

Aqua La Diva M2

It makes my similarly priced streaming source, a Melco N10 server, sound a little soft and laid back, the Aqua having an impetus, a get up and go that the music files lack. Each suits different tastes and systems of course and as a rule the Melco is combined with a streamer but it’s an interesting contrast. If you want to feel the power and energy of a well recorded drum set La Diva M2 makes a very good case for itself, here the transient speed and power of each impulse is very realistic. The drums on Tortoise’s ‘Ry Cooder’ are all about attack and with this transport that quality is particularly well served. On the upbeat ‘Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes’ [Paul Simon, Graceland] the bass line really pops while the voice and guitars are as open as you like, the steel strings have real zing. The rhythm is of course infectious, don’t even try to sit down.

Sticking with the silver disc

CD is clearly in much better health than disc sales would suggest, it’s now a format for afficionados who realise that it’s not only more straightforward but quite possibly the least expensive option available to the sound quality conscious. The Aqua La Diva M2 is a superb piece of kit that makes a very strong case for sticking with the silver disc, it combines very high build quality with a strong, compelling sound that few who use their ears could resist.

Technical specifications

  • Type Solid-state CD transport
  • Disc Types CD, CD-R
  • Digital Outputs Two S/PDIF (one coaxial RCA, one coaxial BNC), one AES/EBU (via XLR), one AT&T ST fibre optic, one AQLink Pro I2S (via etherCON RJ45).
  • Frequency response N/A
  • Distortion Not specified
  • Signal to Noise Ratio Not specified
  • Dimensions (H×W×D)  100 × 450 × 370mm
  • Weight 10kg
  • Price £8,960


Aqua Acoustic Quality


UK distributor

Elite Audio UK


+44 (0)845 060 9395

0800 464 7274 (UK only)

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Wilson Audio Alexx V floorstanding loudspeakers

Damn those Romans! Whenever you see the capital letter ‘V’ after a name, you think it’s a suffix, denoting ‘the fifth’. It summons up the ‘Band of Brothers’ speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V, the Saturn V rocket that put men on the moon in 1969, the Supermarine Spitfire Mk V, and so on. So, naturally, seeing the name ‘Alexx V’, you expect the Wilson Audio floorstanding titan to be the fifth version of the loudspeaker design. And you expect wrong; the ‘V’ stands for ‘V-Material’, so it’s pronounced ‘Alexx Vee’ not ‘Alexx Five’. I’m not admonishing anyone here but writing it down like this might be the only way I can push thinking of it as ‘Alexx Five’ out of my brain.

Wilson Alexx V

As you can probably guess by the name pointing to V-Material, a new proprietary formulation joins the already secret vibration-isolating ‘X-Material’ used throughout Wilson Audio enclosures and the more naturally vibration-transmissive – but equally proprietary – ‘S-Material’ used almost exclusively in the company’s front baffles. The new V-Material is used in the interfaces between enclosures to better absorb vibration. Most notably, the new material is used in the top panel of the bass cabinet, to limit the vibration from that large, air-moving box from activating vibration or resonance in the gantry-mounted upper enclosures for midrange and treble. It’s also used in the new footers, that are supplied as standard on the Alexx V and are available for other loudspeakers in the range as the optional ‘Acoustic Diode’. V-Material is also core to the new range of Pedestal footers designed for electronics.

It’s not just good, it’s Austenitic!

Incidentally, both the Acoustic Diodes and the Pedestal footers use V-Material with Austenitic Stainless Steel. This is a ‘face-centred cubic’ steel alloy that is used in medical, automotive, and aerospace because it’s exceptionally resistant to corrosion, very strong and yet formable, and – because it can’t be hardened by heat treatment – extremely heat resistant. And the reason I mention all this is nothing whatsoever to do with ‘Austenitic’ being named after an English metallurgist with the delightfully Victorian name of ‘Sir William Chandler Roberts-Austin’ who was Assayer to the Royal Mint, and who rocked some exceptionally good ‘mutton chops’ facial hair. Nope… it’s all about the steel for me, honest.

Wilson Audio Acoustic Diode

When it comes to the meaty bits of the Alexx V, everything changes. Except for the wholly new tweeter, all the drive units have been seen before in other Wilson Audio loudspeakers, although none have been used in previous Alexx models. There’s nothing wrong with this; it represents a coming together of disparate threads in Wilson Audio designs.

The tweeter, however, is new for the Alexx V. The Convergent Synergy Carbon (CSC) tweeter builds on the previous Convergent Synergy motor while featuring a unique rear-wave housing (above). This tweeter also benefits from the company’s expansion into 3D printing as the carbon-fibre design is manufactured in-house. This new tweeter design is claimed to produce even more linear high-frequencies than its predecessors.

I am reluctant to gloss over the changes to the other loudspeaker drivers just because they appeared in other designs. Take the 7” midrange driver, for example. Yes, if you follow Wilson Audio designs closely, you’ll notice that this is the same ‘QuadraMag’ design first used in the Chronosonic XVX. But, that’s worth restating. This driver uses an Alnico magnet (aluminium, nickel and cobalt) in place of rare-earth metals. Alnico was the magnetic material of choice for some of the finest loudspeaker drivers ever made from the 1930s until the mid 1970s. It has seen something of a comeback of late as people discovered that it wasn’t just that they are less brittle than rare-earth magnets; they sound damn good too!

Convergent Synergy Carbon high-frequency unit

Similarly, the in-house designed and manufactured AudioCapX-WA capacitors (also first seen in the Chronosonic XVX and more recently the SabrinaX) are used in the crossover of the Alexx V.

Perhaps the most visible change between the original Alexx and this new second iteration is the use of an open-architecture gantry, as used in the WAMM Master Chronosonic and Chronosonic XVX. Perhaps surprisingly, the new open side panels of the Alexx V are more rigid than the solid gantry of the previous Alexx. They also minimise pressure build-up behind the upper mid and treble enclosures, and – of course – make installation and adjustment considerably easier.

I see the light!

A useful tool for installers that will likely stay in place long after the process is finished is the new Coolfall Sono 1 lighting solution. A cross-brace at the rear of the gantry is illuminated, which makes module set-up and time-alignment fine-tuning a little easier. It also looks the part; it’s like rim-lighting your loudspeakers! And just as other aspects of Wilson Audio design filter up and down the line, I expect this to be seen in later iterations of Wilson’s higher-end models.

Light show notwithstanding, installation shouldn’t be a problem, because you shouldn’t be involved in the installation process! This isn’t because it’s some sort of dark art, but instead it’s a precise application of positioning and micrometer adjustment of midrange and treble cabinets within the upper gantry that is best done by trained experts. Installation is more predictable and repeatable as a result. In fact, the only real downside for installers that I can see is because those gantries are now open, it’s the installer equivalent of ‘show your working’. If you do a sloppy job of dressing cables, it’s now on show for all to see.

Wilson Audio Alexx V module alignment block

It also means that the Alexx V can fit into some surprisingly small spaces, as the time-alignment of the drivers allows for relatively near-field listening. OK, let’s be honest, a pair of loudspeakers that stand as tall as Scarlett Johansson are not going to disappear in a tiny room. Also, in any such room, a full-range loudspeaker is an exercise in bass management. But, unlike many similarly specified loudspeakers, the Alexx V’s ability to be adjusted to the listener’s position makes them more likely than most to be sonically acceptable in far smaller spaces than you might first imagine.

The WASP (Wilson Audio Set-up Procedure) finds the ideal position for loudspeakers in a room, and that spot does not change as the loudspeakers increase in size. The footprint of the Alexx V is some eight centimetres deeper than the new Alexia V, but notionally if an Alexia V fits comfortably in room, an Alexx V might also be possible.

Sense and sensitivity

A loudspeaker like the Wilson Audio Alexx V is notionally easy to drive. A rated sensitivity of 92dB and nominal impedance of four ohms means – from a surface reading of the specs at least – the loudspeaker seems as if it could be driven with almost any amplifier on the market today. However, the loudspeaker’s impedance plot drops to two ohms at 250Hz, and that means it needs some power behind the throne. It doesn’t automatically mean a beefy solid-state amplifier. Even if many Wilson loudspeakers today are demonstrated in the company of D’Agostino solid-state amps, dCS digital electronics, Transparent Audio cables and Artesania equipment supports, that doesn’t make such systems mandatory for the Alexx V; I used them with the larger Karan Acoustics Master Collection amplifiers, but I’ve also heard them (and heard of them) working well with VTL, Robert Koda, Audio Research, Vitus and more.

Part of the reason I mention so many amp names is that one of the big changes to have happened to Wilson Audio loudspeakers is they have become far more amplifier-supportive than previous iterations. You get the feeling of more of a collaboration between amplifier and loudspeaker, rather than the loudspeaker exposing the limitations of the amplifier or imposing its signature on the system. That’s not to say the Alexx V is somehow colourless or that previous editions exhibited some form of coloration.

In all cases, the Alexx V has common elements of a sublime image size and expansiveness coupled with a seemingly endless ability to be driven as hard as your ears or your amps can take. This might read like I’m embracing my inner caveman, but that unburstability is not just there for playing loud, it’s for playing with full-thickness dynamic range at any listening level. That’s an exceptionally rare achievement in ‘cone-and-dome’ loudspeakers and something more akin to electrostatic loudspeakers, but without their inherent dynamic limitations imposed on the sound. I’ve heard this a couple of times before and it was in the humbling experience felt from the WAMM Master Chronosonic and Chronosonic XVX.

Wilson Audio Alexx V

Play something powerfully dynamic – the ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven’s Ninth symphony for example – and it can fall apart when played too loud or too quiet. But not here; the scale doesn’t change, the tonality remains constant. Played quiet, it doesn’t sound like two-thirds of an orchestra, a smaller orchestra, an orchestra playing pianissimo or one that’s far away; it’s the full orchestra, just quieter. And that’s remarkable.

That’s just the jumping off point for this loudspeaker. The staging is impressive too. Impressive not simply in size, scale and transparency; it’s the sort of sound that’s impressive in tone and that elusive sense of realism that so few loudspeakers achieve in the real world.

And once more, the loudspeaker has that ‘left me speechless’ property that the Chronosonic XVX and WAMM Master Chronosonic have. Play something that is both superbly-recorded and that you know really, really well. For me, that’s Joyce DiDonato [Stella Di Napoli, Erato], Duke Ellington/Ray Brown’s [This One’s For Blanton!!, Pablo], Lana Del Ray [Norman Fucking Rockwell, Polydor] and –guilty pleasure time – Joe Sample, Ray Brown (again) and Shelly Manne [The Three, Inner City]. Each album has been played hundreds or even thousands of times by me to assess equipment, and each album sounded shiny and new like the first time I heard them.

It’s all about balance

There is a sense of balance to the sound of the Alexx V that makes that renewal possible. Everything is in good order and equally so. The tonal balance is intrinsically ‘right’, expressive and articulate from the deepest bass to the highest treble. The dynamic range is nothing short of thrilling, even to the point of pressure-loading the room with every bass drum beat and the combination of macro and micro-dynamics (as in the big scale loud-to-soft movements of the music and its ability to resolve tiny details in the mix while doing so) are little short of astounding. Stereo staging is also an elegant balance of being extremely big and impressive and yet unobtrusive; this sounds like an oxymoron until you hear it. It’s clean, fast, expressive and supremely detailed. It also keeps good time; while perhaps a secondary concern when compared to some of the more rhythm-obsessed ‘Brit-Fi’ boxes, the Alexx V has a more ordered sense of rhythm and greater temporal drive than its predecessor!

V for Victory!

Perhaps the lone concession in the Alexx V sound is the change in tonal balance from the previous Alexx from that new tweeter, but it brings the design more in line with current Wilson designs. The tweeter, however, is also the most noticeable difference between the Alexx V and the really big guns in the Wilson Audio arsenal; the tweeter is effortless and resolving by normal standards, but no match for the extraordinary levels of detail retrieval from the Chronosonic XVX. I don’t see that as a downside; if anything it’s a victory given the price differential.

The Alexx V is an important loudspeaker for Wilson Audio as it the ‘realistic’ step up for owners of Alexias and even owners of Sashas. Beyond the Alexx V, the sheer physical size of the loudspeaker means it demands a larger, ideally dedicated, listening room. The footprint of the Alexx V means it can be almost a straight swap for the Sasha and Alexia. But to be a worthy contender for that upgrade market, it needs to deliver the goods and represent a substantial improvement over both of these loudspeakers… and the Alexx it replaces. Fortunately for Wilson Audio, it does that brilliantly. In fact, it’s a baby Chronosonic XVX!

Technical specifications

  • Type Four-way, five-driver dynamic loudspeaker
  • Driver complement One 320mm woofer, one 270mm woofer, one 180mm lower midrange, one 150mm upper midrange, one 25mm tweeter
  • Loading XLF port, front- or rear-firing (woofer); rear vented (lower-midrange module); rear vented (upper-midrange module)
  • Frequency response 20Hz–32kHz ±3dB
  • Sensitivity 92dB/1W/1m at 1kHz
  • Nominal impedance 4 ohms, 2.0 ohms minimum at 250Hz
  • Minimum amplifier power 50Wpc
  • Dimensions (W×H×D) 40 × 161 × 71cm
  • Weight 227kg per speaker
  • Price £149,998 per pair (standard colours; upgrade, custom, and premium colours at additional charge)


Wilson Audio Specialties


UK distributor

Absolute Sounds


+44(0)208 971 3909

Back to Reviews

Perlisten S4b, D12s and SSLR‑HGB

I got it wrong when I first reviewed the Perlisten S4b stand-mount loudspeaker. I was not wholly wrong, but in hindsight, I underplayed its bass performance. And, paradoxically, it took a subwoofer to show me how wrong I was.

The name Perlisten is a portmanteau of ‘PERceptual LISTENing’, the company’s core consideration in designing and manufacturing its loudspeakers and subwoofers. The results of this Perceptual Listening programme centres around creating a loudspeaker that transcends the room in which it is playing. This is related to the DPC (directivity pattern control) array, which in the S4b combines a 28mm beryllium dome tweeter sandwiched by a pair of 28mm ‘Textreme’ thin-ply carbon diaphragm (TPCD) midrange units, all in an acoustical lens waveguide. This is joined by a 180mm TPCD bass unit, with the woven thin-ply diaphragm said to be almost a third lighter than carbon-fibre drivers of the same diameter. These sit in a CNC-machined front baffle.

This sealed cabinet is cleverly internally braced allowing the mid-bass unit to be isolated from the mid-tweeter-mid array, and every aspect of the cabinet – from the dish shape of the glass-reinforced plastic waveguide to the placement of the drivers in the cabinet – has been the subject of some intensive computer modelling.

Bring on the subwoofer

The D12s is Perlisten’s smallest subwoofer, with a 300mm carbon-fibre bass unit and an amplifier that can deliver 1.5kW short-term power. The sealed sub is controlled by a 48-bit data bath DSP and 32-bit ARM M4 Cortex processor. It includes a 2.4” LCD touchscreen and can be controlled by Perlisten’s App. For home cinema enthusiasts, two of them achieve THX Dominus specifications.

Perlisten D12s

I’m used to active subs in audio systems running from high-level outputs from the loudspeaker terminals. However, in the case of the D12s, Perlisten only has XLR and RCA inputs, requiring a spare preamplifier output. Even so, Perlisten has a lengthy and highly technical argument to say why line-level is correct, and – in fairness – it makes a good point.

Stand and deliver

Perlisten’s distributor Karma AV also supplied a pair of dedicated loudspeaker stands. These SSLR-HGB stands offer a slight back-tilt for the S4b, which adds a tiny degree of time alignment. They are also, to use the technical terms, ‘bloody heavy’! I don’t want to place too much accent on the stands as it’s easy to fall into ‘the speakers only work with X’ pigeon-holing. But they are a good match and I’d recommend using them if possible.

Harking back to the Issue 220 review, Perlisten’s approach to marketing and promotion is a rare oasis of sanity in the crazy world of high-end. There are no components made from spun unicorn hair or hippogriff feathers. The technology is based on science, not science fiction. No one has woken up with a loudspeaker design lodged in their dreamcatcher. This is a refreshing, no-frills way of showcasing a product, based on its performance alone. How novel!

It’s that honesty that led me down an erroneous path. The loudspeakers start their roll-off at around 100Hz, which should put them into ‘satellite’ territory in a ‘satellite/subwoofer’ system. And yes, the sound reinforcement from a subwoofer – especially the D12s – makes a lot of sense. But it’s nowhere near as vital as I first thought. I only really shook off the description in print when I turned on, and then turned off, the D12s. But that comes later.

However, trying the full Perlisten system with the sub and the stands was one of those audio moments of epiphany.

I mentioned in the last review how the Perlisten is a bastion of truth in audio reproduction, but that’s worth reiterating and shouting about loudly. Remember the term ‘hi-fi’? It means ‘high-fidelity’; components that have high fidelity to the recorded sound. Somewhere down the line, we’ve settled for compromises, especially in the loudspeaker. This is understandable; reducing distortion, and improving dispersion and flat in-room response, while maintaining dynamic range and headroom in loudspeakers is difficult. At best, companies nail a few of these important aspects at the expense of one or more of the others. The Perlisten system is the closest you can get to ticking all those boxes without throwing the cost of a Mercedes S-Class at the project.

‘Neutrality’ and ‘honesty’ in loudspeakers is not something we hear often; consequently, it can be dismissed as ‘boring’ or ‘sterile’ sounding. But five minutes in front of this Perlisten system paints a very different picture. It’s uncannily like the real deal. Voices have dimensionality and texture. Instruments have solidity and the complex mix of resonance and harmonic richness in stringed instruments shines through. Basses have depth and ‘shape’ to the notes (if you want to know why bassists choose specific types of electric bass, the Perlisten package will give you the low-down on the low end).

Perlisten D12s

I’ve found that, for the best audio, highlighting the performance with musical examples seems churlish. It’s like singling out pieces of music when the equipment reacts equally well to the whole musical canon… as it should. The telling thing about the Perlisten performance is that the word ‘musicality’ never needs mentioning because you quickly realise that element is baked into the performance, not the replay chain. In Perlisten’s world, if a loudspeaker is called out for its musicality in one track, it might highlight an error in the loudspeaker that manifests on other tracks.

Once again, this sounds like damning the Perlisten with faint praise, but the ear-opening performance of this loudspeaker is nothing to be faint about. It’s like direct coupling the studio to your ears!

Here’s the odd bit!

After several days of enjoying the full-blown Perlisten system, I turned the sub off, as part of a loin-girding preparation for lifting over 40kg of subwoofer back into its box. And, because the loudspeakers are so beguiling, I gave them a second listen. At that point, I realised I had painted myself into a corner in the last review. These are not satellites searching for a sub, but extraordinarily competent loudspeakers in their own right. At first, I thought this odd; the bass was clean and precise and deeper than I expected, given these speakers begin their roll-off at 100Hz. There was nothing missing here.

I turned the sub back on, and the reinforcement was fast, precise, and solid. It wasn’t as needed as I thought last time, but it was great to be there for backup. The performance of the D12s is wonderful; it has the gutsy drive needed to make cinematic soundtracks come alive and the dynamism and energy it delivers in that setting is first-rate. But in a setting where it is just there to gently coax a little more bottom end out of the music, it has the subtlety and grace needed to control that bass perfectly. It’s also an ideal match for the S4b. Even the speaker stands contributed to the performance of the loudspeakers. It’s all good.

Perlsiten S4b

Perhaps most important is the potential this speaker system offers those willing to take the next steps in audio. Not only is this an extremely honest and accurate sounding loudspeaker, but Perlisten’s considered approach to design – and in particular loudspeaker directivity – makes this speaker system a blank canvas for sophisticated DSP room correction and treatment. I feel room correction can be limited by the idiosyncrasies of the loudspeaker and when those idiosyncrasies are held at bay, DSP can shine.

In truth, this loudspeaker has fewer idiosyncrasies than most, and consequently is a rare beasty in a crowded field. The Perlisten S4b/D12s combination’s qualities make it an ideal choice for extracting the maximum emotional purchase in-room with or without DSP, but surely it would present a perfect partner for the likes of Trinnov and its excellent room analysis and digital compensation, if that’s your bag.

Love the honesty

The Perlisten S4b is an awesome speaker. When you add the subwoofer and stands, what was world-class suddenly moves to another level. This is one of the best examples of those metropolitan loudspeaker systems we discuss here at hi-fi+. This system squeezes a quart in a pint pot and sounds great. If you think there is such a thing as ‘too much honesty’ in audio, the Perlistens will show you precisely where you are wrong, and you’ll love it for that honesty.

Technical specifications

S4b stand-mount loudspeaker

  • Type three-way acoustic suspension stand-mount loudspeaker
  • Drivers DPC Array (28mm beryllium dome tweeter with 2× 28mm textreme TPCD midrange), 180mm Textreme TPCD woofer
  • Sensitivity (2pi) 85dB @ 2.83v/1m
  • Impedance 4Ω nominal, 3.2Ω minimum
  • Frequency response 100Hz–20kHz ±1.5dB, 36Hz–37kHz -10dB
  • Typical in-room bass extension 30Hz
  • Finish Piano black, gloss white as standard, High Gloss Ebony, Natural Cherry, Natural Ebony, Natural Black Cherry available for an additional £1,520. Pantone colours on request
  • Dimensions (H×W×D) 42 × 24 × 18.5cm
  • Weight 11kg
  • Price from £7,600, $7,990 per pair


  • Dimensions (H×W×D) 51 × 37 × 47cm
  • Weight 17.5 kg each
  • Price £1,500, $2,750 pair

D12s subwoofer

  • Enclosure Sealed box, acoustic suspension subwoofer
  • Driver 300mm carbon fibre long-throw bass unit
  • Inputs XLR (×2), RCA (×2)
  • Amplifier power 1.5kW
  • Display interface 2.4” LCD colour touchscreen
  • Dimensions (H×W×D) 45 × 42 × 45cm
  • Weight 41kg
  • Price £4,000, $4,995




UK distributor

Karma AV


+44(0)1423 358846

Back to Reviews


Renaissance is about to embark upon a U.K. roadshow to showcase its fabulous products. A series of special events will be held at Renaissance’s retail partners’ stores where guests will be able to enjoy MOON’s new North Collection at the heart of set-ups featuring Audiovector’s loudspeakers, VPI’s legendary turntables and Nordost’s expansive range of vital audio accessories.

MOON’s new North Collection will be of special interest as the roadshow will represent the first opportunity for many music lovers to hear it. From the London press launch earlier this year, to hi-fi shows in destinations as varied as Ascot, Munich, Toronto and Warsaw, the range has delighted all those that have listened.

The North Collection consists of three levels: the 600 series (681 network player/DAC and 641 integrated amplifier); the 700 series (791 network player/preamplifier and 761 power amplifier); and the 800 series (891 network player/preamplifier and 861 power amp).

The six new products all feature ground-breaking new technologies, each of which is a first for the industry. Beautiful new graphic colour screens feature on four of the products, and these advanced displays showcase cover art, song, and album titles, plus artist names, all in brilliant detail. The screens also sport a detailed volume and setup menu.

The new MOON BRM-1 remote features a luxurious MOON volume knob, ground-breaking touch controls and lavish refinement. This exceptional remote is already being talked about as perhaps being the best in the industry.

Created to express the finest nuances in every recording and to offer unrivalled listening pleasure, the North Collection sets new standards in hi-fi listening.

John Carroll, Renaissance’s managing director, will be hosting each event. He will deliver an entertaining and enthralling presentation as he demonstrates the ground-breaking audio capabilities of this special system. John’s presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.



MORE DATES WILL BE ANNOUNCED SOON                                                        

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