Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.

Russ Andrews RANS-1 Network Switch

My sample came pre-used through the review circuit (we’re not the first to review the RANS-1, and the box it came in free from instructions and was more ad hoc than we’ve come to expect from Russ Andrews), so there was no need for running in and the box was good from the get-go. I used it to connect the Linn Klimax DSM tested in this issue, both to the outside world and to a range of servers (Naim and Melco) during the test. I also compared it with the Melco S100 switch and a baseline Netgear eight-porter. Finally, I compared it to the Network Acoustics ENO filter and used that in and out of the digital chain.

The RANS-1 fared extremely well in all settings, demonstrating a quieter, more controlled sound throughout. Naturally, its biggest differences were heard comparing this to the Netgear baseline switch. This budget device seemed to give the sound a nasality and unsatisfying forward-brightness to the sound that might seem initially ‘clean’ but was ultimately ‘grating’. This applied whether streaming locally or online. Swapping that Netgear box out for the Russ Andrews
RANS-1 switch (with no other changes) was a subtle shift in the right direction, making music more approachable and listenable. It replaced that fake ‘clean’ sound with a sense of balance and musical order.

The results were less clear cut between the Melco and the RANS-1, with the Melco going more for the sheer detail of performance and the Russ Andrews going for a more sonorous and relaxed approach. Both were extremely musical sounding, just musical in different directions. Finally, in the ‘compare and contrast’ part, the ENO filter levelled the playing field somewhat, making all three options less marked in performance boosts. Nevertheless, the combination of ENO+RANS-1 works extremely well… and sounds like a German experimental album title from the 1970s.

Russ Andrews RANS-1
A Kimber Kable joins the two sections of the switch

Taken on its own, the Russ Andrews RANS-1 really does demonstrate just why the audiophile network switch is a viable product in today’s audio. It’s a subtle performer, gently and quietly improving the lot of streamed audio by making it sound more ‘human’. Backgrounds are distinctly quieter, the treble is more refined and less harsh and forced sounding. There’s a sweetness and ease to the sound, but it’s one with a gently-focused sense of rhythm too. In a medium that is often accused of being loud and shouty at times, the RANS-1 shows it’s possible to be deft and delicate, without being ‘flaky’ sounding.

In truth, I’ve been sort of avoiding the whole audiophile switch due to my own digital preconceptions. Packetised data should be unfazed by its transfer through a network, but the RANS-1 makes a convincing argument that there’s more to the topic than it first appears. This is a true eye-opener.

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Type: Network Switch with external power supply
  • Ports: 8 RJ45 gigabit ethernet ports with additional shielding and damping
  • Clock: internal re-clocking with custom made Trichord unit
  • Internal wiring: Kimber Kable
    Russ Andrews 0.3m DC link cable made with Kimber PBJ and locking connectors
    4mm grounding socket
  • Casing: Custom, matching ABS cases
  • Dimensions (W×H×D): 187 × 47 × 130mm per unit
  • Price: £956.50

Manufacturer: Russ Andrews

URL: russandrews.com

Tel: +44(0)1539 797300

REL Serie T/7x subwoofer

Set-up remains the same for audio purposes; use the Speakon cable and high-level input, with the cables connected to the left and right positive and a single negative terminal of your power amplifier. Now use a vocal recording and dial the subwoofer down until it is just past audibility. Then confirm with a record with good bass; you can combine the two if you use ‘Ballad of the Runaway Horse’ by Rob Wasserman and Jennifer Warnes [Duets, Universal]. Now come back a week later and turn it down a notch, then make a cup of tea or coffee, sit back down to your system, and be a bit amazed!

So far, so REL. What the T/7x does is introduce some extra speed and weight to the bass, the sort of performance normally expected from more upmarket models in the line. Weight here is a difficult subject because the Serie T/7x does not make a small speaker seem ‘weightier’, just ‘bigger’ and more importantly ‘better’ across the midrange. I used this in particular with the Rogers LS3/5A SE tested in this issue and this proved to be both an ideal test subject and an ideal candidate for the Serie T/7x. The REL added depth to the sound, but not in the way that it changed the tonality of this well-known speaker system; more that it filled in the bottom end in the same way the SE version fills in the midrange over the original; thoroughly, but paradoxically almost imperceptibly.. The REL was fast enough to pass the Trentemøller test [‘Chameleon’, The Last Resort, Poker Flat] and provided enough reinforcement to make out a few more left-hand piano notes on the Liszt B-minor Piano Sonata played by Martha Argerich’s during her Début Recital {DG], but more importantly on this recording, it also gave that recording the sense of space and gravitas needed to make it something truly outstanding. Switch the sub off and seemingly not a lot happens to the sound, but the sound also collapses and becomes insubstantial. Put it back in and the bass is not overt or oppressive, in fact, it’s almost not there, but the way the T/7x delivers that ‘almost not there’ bass makes all the difference. And, if you compare that bass delivery to previous REL designs under about £1,500, the new T/7x has both more substance and form and less intrusion into the sound of the speakers.

REL Serie T/7x rear panel
The REL controls are easy to navigate

The speed of the Serie T/7x is an outstanding feature. Few do bass depth and bass speed like this subwoofer at anything like the same price, and for that alone it deserves very high praise because that means the REL sub can keep up with fast musical transients played through equally fast and reactive loudspeakers. Couple that with the sort of depth to fill out floorstanders in this category and it’s an exciting addition to the audio canon.

While we aren’t geared up for home cinema here, it must be noted that the REL Serie T/7x is not just for us music lovers. When used as a bass channel instead of bass reinforcement, it has the sharp transient response and directness that makes it so good for two-channel, but with more of an oomph needed to resolve what home cinema does so well. In fact, I’d argue that where previous REL subs at this price point were hi-fi subs that could be used in cinema, the Serie T/7x straddles the divide almost perfectly; home cinema enthusiasts will view this as a powerful sub that can also do two-channel music, where two-channel enthusiasts see this as the audiophile’s friend that can also speak cinema.

In audio settings, a good subwoofer should be seen and not heard like a Victorian schoolchild. REL has consistently been one of the few subwoofer brands to achieve that goal, and the REL Serie T/7x does it better than before. No, it’s not going to out-do a No. 25 or the big 212/SX from the brand, but it does draw heavily from the S/510. While in absolute terms, the S/510 is a better sub all round, the gap has closed significantly. The Serie T/7x at £999 throws down a gauntlet to other subwoofers. It’s the one to beat right now.

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Type: Front-firing active woofer, down-firing passive radiator
  • Inputs: Hi Level Neutrik Speakon, Lo Level single phono, LFE phono
  • Active drive unit: FibreAlloy™, 200mm long-throw, inverted alloy dust cap, steel chassis
  • Passive radiator unit: 254mm long-throw, inverted dust cap
  • Power output: 200w (RMS)
  • Lower frequency response: 31Hz at -6dB
  • Gain control range: 80dB
  • Dimensions (W×H×D): 36 × 32  ×36cm
  • Weight: 17.5kg
  • Price: £999

 

Manufactured by: REL Acoustics

URL: rel.net

Tel: +44(0)1656 768777

Back to Reviews

Enleum AMP-23R integrated amplifier

This amplifier does all the hi-fi stuff well; it images precisely, has plenty of punch and delivers voices like you wouldn’t believe. I put on the first Nicks/Buckingham Fleetwood Mac [Fleetwood Mac, Warner] album to hear ‘Landslide’ which was lovely but decided that ‘World Keep Turning’ is equally good, that never seemed the case in the past. And that’s a rare and valuable quality in any piece of audio gear, showing the listener just how good the music really is. A lot of stuff makes the better recordings sound great but fails to reveal the musical beauty of less polished productions, but the Enleum gets to the heart and soul of the matter in a very convincing style. Its low power output does limit speaker choice to an extent and headbangers will have to find really sensitive models to get their fix. But music lovers are catered for very well indeed, and that’s before we hear what Enleum’s proprietary connectors can do.

Enleum AMP-23R back panel
The rear panel of the AMP-23R shows you can fit a quart in a pint pot after all!

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Type: Solid-state, 2-channel integrated amplifier with built-in headphone amplifier
  • Analogue inputs: Two single-ended line-level inputs (via RCA jacks), one ‘current’ input (via BNC connectors)
  • Digital inputs: N/A
  • Analogue outputs: Five way loudspeaker binding posts
  • Input impedance:
    Line-level: 10kOhms
    Enlink: 10 Ohms
  • Output impedance (preamp): N/A
  • Headphone Loads: Not specified
  • Power Output: 25Wpc @ 8 Ohms, 45 Watts @ 4 Ohms
  • Bandwidth: Not specified
  • Distortion: Not specified
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: Not specified
  • Dimensions (H×W×D): 55 × 230 × 230mm, H with isolation 82.5mm
  • Weight: 4kg
  • Price: £5,495

Manufacturer: Enleum

homepage – https://enleum.com

product – https://enleum.com/

Store – https://enleum.com/product/amp-23r/

Back to Reviews

 

Lindemann Musicbook Source II and Power II

From the Lindemann press release

Following the recently announced Musicbook POWER II, the Musicbook SOURCE is now available from LINDEMANN in its second generation as well. Both models have been carefully revised and now, as a team, offer even more musical information together with an amazing sense for timing and interplay. Sound quality at the limits of technical feasibility! 

Important to know: despite considerable bottlenecks of the electronics market LINDEMANN continues to manufacture the musicbooks in series. The production is secured for the upcoming years! This works not least owing to 100% made in Germany. 

POWER II 

In its current version, the Musicbook POWER II has become some kind of hybrid amplifier: The voltage amplification is largely provided by an ultra quality analogue J-FET gain stage; the adaptation to the speakers is handled by proven N-Core circuit technology which is used as a power buffer. The result is impressive: sparkling verve and a wealth of detail, combined with total control over the loudspeaker. 

Prices: Musicbook POWER II 500 = EUR 2,690.– / Musicbook POWER II 1000 = 3,590.– 

SOURCE II 

Likewise, the Musicbook SOURCE II has been systematically developed further – with a focus on the analogue preamp. The headphone output sounds even better now and can also drive 16-ohm headphones. 

Even more effort was put by LINDEMANN into the further development of the firmware where initial bug fixes and patches have finally turned into a completely new stack. The most important novelties are the implementation of Spotify Connect and TIDAL Connect. Moreover, there are minor and major new features such as the elimination of the lipsync problem when connecting a TV set, network standby, fixed-level line output with analogue volume control bypass, dB-linear volume control in 80 incremental steps, sampling rate display for the digital inputs, Spotify selection via remote control without using the app and many others. 

Lindemann Musicbook Source II
Lindemann’s latest preamplifier in the Musicbook line: Source II

Owing to 1-bit re-sampling, the great-sounding AKM converter modules and the upgraded preamp, the new Musicbook SOURCE II once again raises the sound benchmark for the best streaming DACs. By the way: despite worldwide supply shortages LINDEMANN will also in the future relies on the probably best converter modules from AKM and the already legendary 1-bit re-sampling process for the SOURCE II! 

Prices: Musicbook SOURCE II = EUR 3,590.– / Musicbook SOURCE II CD = 3,890.— 

LAST BUT NOT LEAST 

As you may well expect from LINDEMANN, “ancient“ models – as far as possible – can always be kept up to date. Since early November existing users of the Limetree BRIDGE, Limetree NETWORK and Musicbook SOURCE I models can also enjoy almost all features of the SOURCE II with a general and, as usual, free firmware update (if not already present)! 

For more information see www.lindemann-audio.com 

 

Back to News

Rogers LS3/5A SE stand-mount loudspeakers

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.

 

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Type: Two-way infinite baffle stand-mount loudspeaker

  • Frequency response: 80Hz–20KHz +/-3dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 15 Ohms
  • Bass/midrange: 110mm Bextrene cone
  • Tweeter: 19mm Mylar dome
  • Crossover frequency: 3KHz
  • Sensitivity: 82.5dB/W/M
  • Recommended amplifier range:
    30-80 Watts
  • Finish: Amazaque (other finishes on request)
  • Grille: Black Tygan
  • Dimensions (H×W×D): 305 × 190 × 165mm
  • Weight: 4.9Kg (per speaker)
  • Price: £3,499 per pair

Type: dedicated loudspeaker stands

  • Base plate: 210mm (W) × 290mm (D)
  • Top plate: 190mm (W) × 160mm (D)
  • Height: including base and top plate 610mm excluding spikes
  • Weight: 4.3 Kg each, excluding spikes
  • Construction: Panzerholz wood
  • Finish/: Black
  • Price: £1,499 per pair

 

Manufactured by: Rogers International UK Ltd

Tel: +44(0)333 533 0135

URL: rogers-hifi.uk

Reproduced from Issue 195

Back to Reviews

Line Magnetic LM-512 CA preamp/LM-845 Premium integrated/power amp

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.

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

LM-512 CA

  • 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)
  • Input impedance: 600kOhms (RCA)
  • Output impedance: Not specified
  • Bandwidth: 17Hz–100kHz (–3dB, RCA)
  • Gain: 24dB
  • Distortion: 0.5dB (1kHz)
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 90dB
  • Dimensions (H×W×D): 196 × 430 × 383mm
  • Weight: 20kg
  • Price: £8,499

LM-845 Premium

  • Type: Valve-driven stereo integrated/power amplifier
  • Valve complement: Two 12AX7, two 310A, two 300B, two 845 valves
  • Analogue inputs: Three pairs single ended (via RCA jacks), one pair balanced (via XLR), one preamplifier input (via RCA jacks)
  • Analogue outputs: Two sets of speaker taps for 4, 8, and 16 Ohm loads (via 5-way binding posts)
  • Power output: 30Wpc
  • Bandwidth: 15Hz–35kHz (-1.5dB)
  • Sensitivity: Line 250mV, pre in 1V
  • Distortion: 1% THD
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 87dB
  • Dimensions (H×W×D):
    Control Chassis: 460 × 435 × 456 mm
    Output Chassis: 165 × 435 × 410 mm
  • Weight: 40kg + 20kg
  • Price: £9,999

Manufacturer: Line Magnetic Audio Co. Ltd

URL: line-magnetic.eu

UK Distributor: VAL HiFi

Tel: 0333 577 2005

URL: valhifi.co.uk

 

Reproduced from Issue 195

Back to Reviews

 

Amphion Argon 3S stand-mount loudspeaker

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.

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Type: Two way, standmount loudspeaker with passive bass radiator
  • Driver complement: 1 × 1” titanium tweeter; 1 × 6.5” aluminium woofer
  • Crossover frequencies: 1600 Hz
  • Frequency response: 38 Hz–25,000 Hz (-6dB)
  • Impedance: 8Ω
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB
  • Power handling: 50–150 W (recommended)
  • Dimensions (H×W×D): 380 × 191 × 305 mm
  • Weight: 12Kg
  • Finishes: white (accent colour options available for driver grilles); black; walnut
  • Price: £2,000 (white/black); £2,200 (walnut)

 

Manufacturer: Amphion Loudspeakers Ltd

Tel: +358 17 2882 100

URL: amphion.fi

 

UK sales: Auden Distribution

Tel: +44 (0) 7917 685759

URL: audendistribution.co.uk

Reproduced from Issue 195

Back to Reviews

 

Young Shakespeare by Neil Young

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!

Børresen Acoustics 01 Silver Supreme Edition stand‑mount loudspeaker

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.

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Type: Two-way bass reflex stand-mount loudspeaker
  • Drivers: Børresen planar ribbon tweeter, Børresen 114mm iron-free bass/midrange driver
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz–50kHz
  • Sensitivity: 86dB/1W
  • Impedance: >6Ω
  • Amplifier recommendations: >50W
  • Finish: Walnut
  • Dimensions (incl stand, W×H×D):
    25.8 × 110.3 × 25.8cm
  • Weight (incl stands): 18kg per loudspeaker
  • Price: €43,000 per pair

 

Manufacturer: Børresen Acoustics

URL: borresen-acoustics.com

 

UK Distributor: Auditorium Hi-Fi

URL: auditoriumhifi.co.uk

Tel: +44(0)7539 499449

Reproduced from Issue 195

Back to Reviews

Linn Klimax DSM network streaming preamplifier

Linn has famously made its products as open-source as possible (which might explain why the closed-loop of MQA remains anathema to Linn). Meaning that while you are strongly encouraged to use the Klimax DSM with the Linn App to control it, Linn Kazoo to select, search, and play your music, Linn Kazoo Server to store that music and Linn Konfig to set-up and manage your system, you could forge your own path… ish. I’d say trying to set-up a Linn Klimax DSM without using Linn Konfig is a bit like trying to sew on a button with a hammer, and I would also say that unless you have a pathological dislike of using Linn’s own software, use the damn programs. That being said, I’d like to see the Linn App speak to Android phones and tablets, and I hope Kazoo Media can one-day work with Apple M1-chip computers and more than just QNAP NAS drives. Fortunately, my older Mac Book Pro is still serviceable and was pressed into service as a server. Although ‘Roon Tested’ rather than ‘Roon Ready,’ Linn and Roon work well together.

Linn’s streamers have a characteristic sound that still holds here. It’s dry… like a good martini, not a desert. That gives the music a sense of directness and focus, but can trade speed for space, creating a tight ball of sound that sits between the loudspeakers. In the Klimax, however, you get both that precision of speed and good spatial properties, without sacrificing the ‘… like a good martini’ part. No extra padding, no euphonic ‘niceness’ or anything like that is added to the sound, because it’s not needed to be added to the sound. Who needs ‘padding’ when you’ve got ‘direct’?

That directness has always been a strong Linn streamer suit, but it takes on powerful proportions here. I played one of the more challenging classical pieces I’ve heard in years; Orange by Caroline Shaw and the Attacca Quartet [New Am/Nonesuch]. The composition is inspired by gardening, and while some parts are beautiful and refined, others are dense, woody and wild. Often, it sounds like no garden you’d want to be in, but here the whole performance sounds more contiguous and whole. Yes it has the same dynamic range and can get more than a little screechy, but you do get the sense of someone trying to make music more synesthetic and include colour, smell and the physical aspects of the outside world. It’s oddly relaxing inside an album that often gets turned off after about a minute for sounding too much like a string quartet pretending to be seagulls. That’s not to say the Linn is laidback or the sound is polite; when called on, the angular sound of this recording is harsh and powerful, but the Linn gets beyond that surface sound to make something far more musically interesting, and places you at the heart of the music in a way I’ve not heard before from the album. It’s truly inspiring.

A reviewer’s job is to trip products up, but the best products trip us up instead. When this happens, we play music that we think will show limitations in a device, and they end up highlighting their strengths instead. So it was with the Klimax DSM; I played the Overture to The Pirates of Penzance [D’Oyly Carte, Decca] which is a great test for imaging, but ended up being so musically bouncy and fun (as it should be) I felt like I should have mutton-chops and be wearing a smoking jacket. I played ‘Back In Black’ by AC/DC [Atlantic] on Tidal and air-guitared my way to dislocating a shoulder and I played some Miles Davis to check on that complex interplay on Shhh/Peaceful [In A Silent Way, Columbia] and now I have a $1,000 per day coke habit. And that’s the big thing about the Linn Klimax DSM; you feel rolling out the same old terms for audio performance when you are dealing with a product that is so very much about the music isn’t just wrong, it’s positively asinine. Of course, it ticks all the audiophile boxes of good soundstaging, outstanding levels of detail, excellent vocal articulation, superb image solidity and dynamic range and fluidity of sound that could give a turntable a run for its money, but that’s just par for the course in high-end streaming. What this gives over and above that is a sense of being as one with the musical intentions of the composer or musicians.

Audience Au24SE and Au24SX headphone cables

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)

audience-av.com

Reproduced from Issue 166

Back to reviews

Moon by Simaudio 680D streaming DAC

I also asked Dominique about the collaboration necessary to integrate Roon and MQA into Moon’s products. He said that both companies were very attentive to manufacturer differences when integrating their technologies into Moon products. An example with Roon centred around how the volume control programming was written at Roon did not function well with the Moon volume control. They worked together to write new software to correctly meld Roon, MiND2 and the 680D DAC function when using Simlink and a Moon preamplifier. That tight collaboration between vendors ultimately works for the benefit of music lovers.

Enough preamble! How does it sound? In fact, the preamble gets you through the few weeks of burn-in you should spend before opening up the 680D’s throttle for some critical listening. First up after the burn, was ‘Miss Marlene’ from Donald Fagen’s Solo album Sunken Condos [Warner Music]. Fagen sets a strong groove with this song that really drives the music. The guitar work is crisp and precise. Fagen’s control of the sound space is well represented. Clear spatial definition outlines each instrument within the whole. The bass guitar and drums provide a funky strong rhythm that gives the song a jump that engages the listener. The 680D opens up the song smoothly and allows the band to bring the listener along for a great sonic ride.

Next up was the new Evanescence album, The Bitter Truth [BMG] and the song ‘The Game is Over’. Amy Lee is one of my favourite female singers. Her voice can be powerful, subtle and bewitching. Combine her vocal prowess with hard crunching metal guitar work and you get a symphonic rock sound that is wonderful. ‘The Game is Over’ showcases her soaring operatic power to full effect. The 680D gave perfect shape to her impressive range while framing it with the crunch and growl of the drop D guitar assaults. The presentation is at times kaleidoscopic and thrilling. Ultimately, I listened to the entire album enthralled by the 680D’s wonderful presentation of this great new work by Amy and the band.

One evening listening with the 680D and Roon radio up popped Duncan Sheik’s ‘Barely Breathing’ [Duncan Sheik, Atlantic]. I have always enjoyed this breezy song. What I took notice of was once again the clarity of the presentation. Duncan’s voice was smooth and relaxed. The band was presented in a near 3D sonic field. The song is now twenty-five years old, and it still sounds fresh and new, and it sounded as grain free and pure as I have ever heard it. Coming across as a random stream it was exciting to have a sit up and take notice moment that I place at the feet of the 680D’s exceptional technology. I expect recordings that are hi-res and directed at audiophiles to sound pristine but to have 16/44 older recordings be transformed is outstanding.