The Rogers LS3/5A SE maintains the BBC legacy while adding to it just enough to make the speaker that bit more exciting sounding, yet not so much as to undermine what makes the speaker so beloved. Meanwhile the stand will make a group that often dismisses such things sit up and take notice. And the combination of the two makes a LS3/5A sound that I always wanted to hear, but never quite worked out in the real-world.
The balance here was more mid-forward, which meant that voices and brass were more prominent but not to the detriment of the musical whole. The quiet atmospherics at the start of Michael Chapman’s ‘Aviator’ [Fully Qualified Survivor, Harvest] seemed so natural and intriguing with lots of depth in the violin and bass, the amp raising this song up and revealing its sad beauty in full effect.
Good tube amplification puts back what the recording, mastering and pressing process leaves out. It may do this thanks to what are in essence subtle colorations to the sound that can be picked up on the test bench, but they are not perceived as distortions by the ear, and the effect is more of an enhancement. This Line Magnetic pairing is a lot of amplifier for the money, even at the official price, definitely one to hear if you want to get to the heart and soul of your music collection.
Type: Valve-driven line-stage preamplifier
Valve complement: Two RCA 22DE4, two 6922, two Mullard 6KZ8 valves
Analogue inputs: Three pairs of single-ended inputs (via RCA jacks), one pair of balanced inputs (via XLR connectors)
Analogue outputs: One pair of balanced outputs (via XLR connectors), one pair of single-ended outputs (via RCA jacks)
And it’s not like the Argon 3S lacks heart. They will make very good use of lots of high quality power. Patricia Barber, ‘Mourning Grace’ from Café Blue UN-mastered [Premonition] went antisocially loud without getting hard or shouty, retaining all the important nuance and the interplay between what are very obviously superlative musicians. ‘The Moon’ from Mythologies [Blue Note] shows her very much at the top of her game; atmospheric, driving, urgent and compelling, Barber’s piano is agile, tuneful and the subtleties of her phrasing very apparent; this is a convincing and involving musical event.
So if there’s a tradeoff, it is perhaps on the continuum between speed and agility, or scale and ultimate depth, but in reality, in normal sized rooms, this represents a relatively small shifting in one direction or the other. And the other strengths both loudspeakers have, in terms of an overall coherence, an ability to get out of the way and let the music speak for itself, the easy, natural way they draw you in to the performance, that was there in bucketloads in both designs. Don’t dismiss the Amphion Argon 3S, and don’t assume it can’t make sense in a high end system. It has reminded me that enough of all the important things is actually plenty.
Type: Two way, standmount loudspeaker with passive bass radiator
Young’s latest release in the Neil Young Archives Performance Series is Young Shakespeare, a live solo acoustic performance recorded on January 22, 1971 at the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut. It was a part of the Journey Through The Past tour, recorded just three days after the Toronto, Canada concert released in 2007 as Live At Massey Hall 1971 and only a couple of months after release of Young’s third album After The Gold Rush. This concert was recorded on film for German television broadcast and is being release simultaneously as a single LP and a package with the LP, a CD and a DVD of the concert film. This is the first official release of the music, little of which has found its way to bootlegs. A short while ago, in advance of the release, Young posted to his blog that in his opinion the concert was superior to the Massey Hall recording, “I say this is the best ever. Young Shakespeare is the performance of that era. Personal and emotional, for me, it defines that time.”
The 12-song set list is shorter than Massey Hall’s 17 songs, and eleven of the songs overlap. Half the songs were new to the audience, having not yet been released on an album. And what a song list! Twelve songs drawn from Young’s most creative period. ‘Tell Me Why’, ‘Old Man’, ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’, ‘A Man Needs a Maid/Heart Of Gold (Medley)’ – you get the picture. A collection of greatest hits performed before anyone had ever heard most of them. And when they were officially released, they were built up with a band, produced in a studio with most of the warts burned off. Here, the songs are stripped down both acoustically and sometimes lyrically. Even more than in the Massey Hall concert, this is a more intimate Neil Young, more fragile and introspective. Part of that effect is the way the two recordings document the crowd noise—Massey Hall’s audience response up front and loud compared to the distant and more muted crowd noise in the barn like Shakespeare Theatre. Part of that fragile impression comes from the more out of tune piano used in Connecticut and the greater number of wrong notes struck there, as though Young was searching for a sound he had not quite identified. Notwithstanding these more technical explanations, Young seems to have shifted his approach and squeezed more angst from the lyrics. The biggest surprise is ‘A Man Needs A Maid’. The song, first appearing as a studio release on Harvest previously left me cold, with Young coming off a bit of a misogynist, a lazy bastard unable to pick up after himself. With slightly expanded lyrics and a more contemplative mood here, he presents as a likeable guy struggling with insecurity. On ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’ Young’s stage banter has been refined and his sincerity carries over into the diffident performance. In ‘Old Man’ Young seems to have wiped the earlier sneer off his face referring to the 70-year-old caretaker of his ranch, a sentiment he probably feels more comfortable with now that he is past that mark.
The recording was made by a German television crew, and the recording engineer was Dutch counterculture photographer and film and television director Wim van der Linden. It is a very well recorded concert, but not the equal of the Massey Hall concert. Or even the UCLA concert eight days later, used to pull ‘Needle And The Damage Done’ for Harvest. Much of the blame goes to the venue, with a Shakespeare Theatre being an inferior place for recording music. The voice is a little thin by comparison. The guitar lacks the three dimensional ‘you are there’ fullness found on the Massey Hall recording, but that is a tough comparison.
Unlike so much of Young’s output, this is not all analogue. Chris Bellman of Bernie Grundman used 192/24 bit Plangent-processed masters, a fact refreshingly disclosed on the back cover and record label. The 150‑gram pressing from Record Industry in The Netherlands was flat and quiet. This is an essential part of any Neil Young collection. Even if you have the Massey Hall LP set, this concert packs a more distilled punch. If it falls short of the Massey Hall acoustics, it shows Young growing up quick over just three days!
In use, however, I found they are so good at soundstaging, you tend to want to accent that. I found myself repositioning the speakers so that they fire across the room rather than down. This meant they were wider than usual with a sharp toe-in. In so doing, I created a very wide, but incredibly detailed, soundstage. The worry here with most loudspeakers is that added space comes at the expense of some energy and rhythmic pace, but here that was never a problem. The 01 Silver Supreme Edition just does everything right.
I started this review with a cinematic joke about trailers, so it’s fitting I end this review with a line from a cinematic joke: The Godfather Part III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” But that’s a different Michael speaking; Corleone not Børresen. Just when I thought the two-way stand-mount loudspeaker had reached its peak, Børresen comes along and pulls me back in by re-drawing the landscape with the 01 Silver Supreme Edition. While the notion of a two-way stand-mount loudspeaker hitting this price point is going to raise some eyebrows, those of us who can only dream of products at the lofty price point should think of this review as a ‘proof of concept’; the reduction of induction made by the ironless motor system, increased still further by swapping copper for silver in the pole ring, has significant benefits for the listener, and those benefits must be capable of filtering down to more attainably priced products in the future. In listening to the Børresen 01 Silver Supreme Edition, I think we are actually listening to the sound of audio’s tomorrow being forged.
Another way of looking at this is it takes what the already excellent Linn Klimax DSM did and tears up that product’s rules of musical engagement in a very positive way. The older Klimax DSM got out of the way of the music better than most, but the new model makes that performance sound intrusive, arch, and overly mechanical by comparison. It’s still a world-class streamer, but the new model pushes those boundaries way further than ever.
The Linn Klimax DSM is one of those ultra-rare products that resets what you thought possible from a component, in this case streaming. If you are already down the top-tier Linn rabbit hole then this is a ‘must include’ on your wish list. But even those with absolutely nothing from the Scottish brand should put this on their ‘must hear’ list, simply because it gives you an insight into what streaming is truly capable of. Let’s not mince words; this is the best streaming audio component I’ve ever reviewed.
Digital Inputs: Toslink: × 1, RCA S/PDIF: × 2 (1 configurable as an output), USB Type: B × 1, HDMI: × 4, HDMI ARC × 1 (via HDMI out), Ethernet: × 1 (1000BASE-T RJ45), Optical Ethernet: × 1 (SFP socket), Wi-Fi (802.11ac), Bluetooth (4.2)
John McDonald has been designing and building top-quality high end audio components and cables for many years. His zeal for innovation and passion for music have garnered praise from industry peers and audiophiles alike. McDonald met the late Richard Smith (fellow designer and music lover) in 1972, and the two formed Sidereal Akustic Audio Systems in 1979. In 1997 they teamed up with design engineer Roger Sheker and founded Audience. McDonald has also gained a reputation for bucking trends and resisting features serving only as marketing fodder, opting instead for highly researched scientific methodologies.
The Au24SE is the upgrade to Audience’s acclaimed Au24e cable series. The cable uses continuous cast high-purity OCC copper and Audience’s proprietary geometry configuration, which seemingly aides in its remarkable detail retrieval capabilities. Au24SX offers further advancements over SE, and, “represents the biggest transformation in cable performance ever achieved by Audience.” These are strong words, which SX’s sonic performance backs up with gusto.
SX incorporates purer OCC copper, “now six nines” according to Audience, as well as higher quality insulation, via an XLPE dielectric. Additionally, SX is cryogenically treated in Audience’s in-house cryo lab. Both cables are fantastically resolving and fast. Transients ping across the soundstage with speed and precision. Their handling of harmonic subtleties and sense of finesse is exquisite. SX outshines SE in this regard, producing a level of transparency that is absolutely window-like (and large windows at that).
Musical details, both micro and macro, are clearly rendered and colourful. SE and SX both reproduce natural, believable timbres and tonalities, with SX going a step further, offering an even more organic presentation. There’s warmth here, but not so much that it masks or overly shades the audio signal. Audience has two winners on its hands with its Au24SE and SX headphone cables. Bravo.
Price: From £1,300/1.5m (Au24SE), from £1,699/1.5m (Au24SX)
Moon’s goal for the 680D was to provide as much of the capability of the flagship 780Dv2 for a lot less money, which – given the 780Dv2’s reputation for high performance – is no small achievement. However, Moon’s 680D more than delivers the goods. The 680D is also an expensive piece of audio equipment and the engineering team is very aware of the investment being made by their customers. Their goal was to give the end user many years of high-end sound with low maintenance or fuss. I like the idea of years of set it and forget it. I would heartily agree that they accomplished their mission. The 680D is certainly not inexpensive, yet after spending time with it you wonder how much farther could you go for better sound and at what price? Add to that the now required function of streaming and a ten-year warranty with an essentially obsolescence proof upgrade path and you have the beating heart of a modern high-end system. Do yourself a favour and seek out a Moon dealer for an audition. This one should go home with you and stay there for a long time.
Type: Streaming digital converter
Digital inputs: USB, AES/EBU, SPDIF, Optical, Ethernet,
Wi-Fi and aptX audio for Bluetooth
Music providers supported: Spotify Connect, Tidal Masters, Deezer Hi-Fi and Qobuz Sublime+ Music Services, HighResAudio (where available)
Attempting to identify your system’s ideal interconnects is a valid, if not entirely mainstream, pastime. Yes, there’s a hint of ‘tinkering’ to it, and it’s all too possible to get stuck in a loop of chopping and changing. But if you’re judicious, and if you accept that sounding ‘different’ isn’t automatically the same as sounding ‘better’, it’s possible to wring every penny’s-worth of performance from your set-up. There’s no doubt the new Atlas Element can help you hear where your money has gone.
Place a component you know well on or in the StandArt, and it simply sounds more like itself. Of course, that might be good or bad, but it’s hard to ignore the simple truth that the Gryphon rack is letting you hear more of (or more about) the products it supports than it intrudes itself. Install your whole system, and the StandArt goes a long way towards reminding you just why you bought each of those components and the system as a whole. The sound comes up fresh and direct, expressive and communicative – just like somebody opened the musical taps. The combination of unforced clarity and musical organisation, rhythmic flexibility and dynamic shading combine to free the music from the system producing it. The stand also eliminates the thickened low-frequency fog belts or etched transparency, smeared harmonics and collapsed tonality that seems to afflict all but the best equipment supports. Instead, the Gryphon rack succeeds in eradicating its contribution, both on a macro and equipment interface. It’s effective at draining away energy generated within your components, and it achieves that without falling prey to an overall resonant signature of its own.
Practically speaking, at 498 × 448mm the StandArt’s shelves might be considered small, although they’re large enough for most purposes, even the deep chassis dimensions of CH Precision components. Overall I’d describe them as nicely judged, with a depth dimension that helps maintain an overall compact footprint. Gryphon offers a couple of larger shelves for bigger units to suit either their Antileon Evo or Mephisto amps, so one of those should suffice. Meanwhile, even a fully loaded four-shelf unit over a metre tall retains the outstanding, planted rigidity characterising the range.
For once, the simple solution is also the one that works. If the perfect rack is one that can be seen but not heard, then the Gryphon StandArt is getting pretty darned close to that ideal. Add to that it’s practicality, sound engineering, robust construction and resilient materials and you’ve got the promise of serious longevity, both in terms of its adaptability and its overall appearance. If you want a rack that’s truly fit and forget, then look no further. If you want a rack that’ll make the most of your system, then this is it. And if you want a rack that does all that and looks great doing it, the Gryphon StandArt does exactly what it says on the tin: It comes from Gryphon, it’s a stand, and it’s a work of art, functionally and musically!
Type: High-mass component stand
Shelf Construction: Kerrock/HDF constrained layer
Uprights: Double cell aluminium, sand filled
Shelf Dimensions (W×D): 498 x 448mm
Heights: 548mm, 800mm or 1124mm
Prices: Amp stand £3,350-£3,850
StandArt Racks £5,900 (two shelf 548)-£18,750 (twin four shelf 1024)
Astell&Kern, the global leader in premium high-resolution audio devices debuts the ACRO BE100 Bluetooth wireless speaker. The result of Astell&Kern’s advances in audio technology evolved over decades, this speaker delivers superior room-filling, hi-fi calibre stereo sound that belies it compact profile. Boasting a dedicated 32-bit DAC and support for the latest 24-bit hi-res quality wireless streaming codecs, the ACRO BE100 is the Bluetooth speaker of choice for audiophiles and music enthusiasts alike.
Astell&Kern ACRO BE100 key features include:
Unique light and shadow effect design.
Dedicated 32-bit hi-fi grade DAC.
Support for 24-bit hi-res codecs aptX™HD and LDAC.
Superior stereo sound from a custom 4″ Kevlar woofer and 1.5″ silk dome tweeters.
Onboard Class-D amplifier with 55W of total power.
Ability to adjust treble and bass sound settings.
Arrives in stylish white or black finishes to fit into any interior space.
Design for life
Sporting Astell&Kern’s recognisable signature angled design, influenced by the reflective interplay of shadow and light, the ACRO BE100 makes a striking design statement that can seamlessly fit into any living space. The triangular shapes on front metal-grille mesh compliments the premium faux leather finish of main unit, while the top aluminium-hewn knurling-patterned knob allows accurate fine tuning of the volume, level-by-level, with a gentle touch.
The area below the volume control illuminates and acts as an indicator, flashing different colours for each mode or volume level, helping users to easily identify the speaker status and control it intuitively.
Declaring its hi-fi sound credentials, the BE100 arrives with an onboard 32-bit high-quality DAC (digital-to-analogue converter). Where most common Bluetooth speakers rely on the limited DAC embedded into the Bluetooth chipset, the BE100’s dedicated DAC is based on the technology from Astell&Kern award-winning portable digital audio players. The separate internal circuitry ensures it has the capabilities to deliver a superior and detailed audio performance beyond its rivals.
To help realise this class-leading sonic performance, the mid/bass driver and 2x tweeters have been custom-built. The 4-inch mid-bass cone is made from ultra-durable yet lightweight Kevlar fabric to improve response speed and timing and provide a more accurate bass sound. Furthermore, the rear port is installed to extend the speaker’s bass response. The two silk dome tweeters produce crystal clear high-frequencies, while sound-absorbing material inside the wooden cabinet reduces resonance by completely sealing the interior, enabling a full, rich fidelity.
Poorly designed amplifiers can produce clipping sounds at maximum volume. Employing its renowned expertise in amp design technology, Astell&Kern has developed a Class-D amplifier that guarantees consistent sound quality without distortion even at top volume.
The amp’s onboard digital crossover also ensures a clear and precisely timed sound by splitting the audio signal into different frequency range. In addition, dynamic range control (DRC) is used to protect the speaker unit as it hits maximum output power. To minimise jitter – the undesired deviation in time from the transmitted signal – the Bluetooth chipset is equipped with a 50ps clock to enable incredibly accurate sound.
The latest high-definition wireless connectivity options are covered with the ACRO BE100 boasting Bluetooth® 5.0, providing greater range and a more stable wireless connection when streaming from a compatible device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Support for 24-bit aptX™ HD (48khz) and LDAC (96khz) codecs, offers the best possible wireless sound quality.
Elsewhere, music fans can tweak the sound with the onboard five-level treble and bass settings, while a 3.5mm AUX input allows the connection of Astell&Kern’s portable digital audio players and similar devices.
Please note a version of the ACRO BE100 featuring FM radio is available in selected countries.
The D1 CD/SACD player/transport was CH Precision’s first ever product, a discrete multi-channel capable machine that established the Company’s now familiar, user configurable, upgradable, card-cage construction. For over a decade, along with the C1 DAC, it has set the standard for high-resolution disc replay, even though, these days the focus for many listeners has switched to high-res streaming.
Yet, with the constant development of new production techniques, materials and even formats, optical disc has never sounded so good. The emergence of Glass CD, SHM discs, UHQCD and new formats such as MQA-CD, has improved performance, giving disc replay a renewed relevance – while millions of existing discs still offer superb performance(s). But at the same time, the quality of replay hardware has diminished significantly, undermining those advances and masking their real value.
Time to revisit disc replay – Swiss style
To match improving digital standards we have developed our own, mechanically damped, high-mass MORSe transport mechanism. We have revised the optional on-board upsampling, updating it with our proprietary PEtER spline filter algorithm. We have added MQA replay capability, while also allowing users the choice of optimized MQA digital output when connected to an external, MQA capable DAC, avoiding on-the-fly sample-rate switching.
Meet the D1.5: same face; same precision engineering and flawless finish; same versatile, configurable, upgradable character; still the foundation stone of the CH digital eco-system – but now delivering a whole new level of performance! Owners could start with a single-box D1.5 player and grow it by stages and without cost penalty, all the way up to a nine-chassis, state-of-the-art digital front-end! Of course, they can also stop at two-boxes, three-boxes or any number of boxes up to nine – the ultimate example of upgradability.
Features and Functionality
With an almost identical form-factor and operational interface, the D1.5 continues the established CH aesthetic, fitting in perfectly with existing and future systems. However, internally it is a completely different machine, based around our own, all-new, proprietary transport mechanism.
That means that existing D1s cannot be physically upgraded to D1.5 status – but in keeping with CH Precision’s upgradable/future-proof ethos, a factory trade-in scheme and compatibility with all existing CH digital products ensures existing owners a cost-effective path to the substantially improved performance offered by the D1.5.
In-house designed and built Mechanically Optimized Reading System (MORSe) disc transport.
Optical pick-up and motor are precision mounted on a machined brass ‘sled that weighs almost 1kg, which is in turn isolated on a sophisticated alpha-gel suspension, fine-tuned to filter vibration down to AC Mains frequencies. This prevents vibrations generated by the spinning of the disc from reaching sensitive electronic boards, as well as low frequency vibrations originating in the power supply or chassis disturbing the accurate tracking of the laser mechanism.
Massive, ultra rigid support frame, constructed from almost 2kg of machined billet aluminum and direct coupled to the chassis base plate, with its improved four-point mechanical grounding and levelling system.
Fully compatible with SACD, CD and MQA-CD discs.
CH Link HD, AES/EBU, S/PDIF and TosLink digital outputs mounted as standard.
Optional dual mono DACs and Sync IO board allow users to specify or adapt unit for uses as a transport or player, with or without external clocking.
On-board upsampling employs state-of-the-art PEtER spline filter algorithm for CD replay.
Users can configure digital outputs to optimize replay of MQA-CDs with an MQA capable DAC, avoiding on-the-fly sample-rate switching.
Fully compatible with CH Precision’s C1 and C1 Mono DACs, the I1 integrated amplifier, as well as the T1 Time Reference master clock and X1 External Power Supply
Prices vary with country, but the US dollar and Euro prices are as follows:
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