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Latest Hi-Fi systems reviews

Virtue Audio Sensation M451 Integrated Amplifier and Piano M1 CD Player

Virtue Audio Sensation M451 Integrated Amplifier and Piano M1 CD Player

Curiosity is an interesting thing. As an engineer I find myself drawn to new ways of building a standard design. Virtue Audio products may not be
completely “out-of-the-box” but at the very least the Sensation M451 and Piano M1 offer a fresh perspective. This past July I was visiting with the founder of Affordable$$Audio Mark Marcantonio. and as we were each savoring a bottle of Fat Tire beer and listening (myself transfixed) to a pair of modified Magnepan 1.6’s with Skiing Ninja crossovers I spied a half-sized black piece of gear in his rack. After an offer to pay for the pizza that would soon arrive I was able to secure the Virtue Audio Sensation M451 integrated amplifier for a weekend audition. Those two days have turned into four fascinating months.

Staff writer Stew Nelless (in italics) had already written up his impressions of the M451 as well as the Piano M1 compact disc player. After securing a Piano M1 myself the review morphed into a twofer, with the perspectives of both Stew and myself. read more…

Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 Digital to Analog Converter

Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 Digital to Analog Converter

When it comes to music, whether live or recorded, I’m best (self-)described as an aesthete… an aficionado… or up to and including an avaricious glutton. Looking at my insatiable appetite in another context, one might recall Edgar Allen Poe’s famous line, “Quoth the Maven, ‘Evermore!’” So what’s this little bit of literary folderol got to do with a DAC review, you ask? Fair question. It’s simply my un-simple way of announcing I approach equipment reviews based solely on their interaction with, and impact on, music—I’m not an engineer. Technical information is always available on the manufacturers’ websites… in this case, www.mav-audio.com. read more…

Muse 6N11 Class A Tube Hybrid Headphone Amplifier

Muse 6N11 Class A Tube Hybrid Headphone Amplifier

From the time I was a kid I was fascinated with vacuum tubes. Maybe it was the filament glow coming from the otherwise darkened cabinet, or the precision of having to set the pins in just the right direction. Whatever the case may be, I could not help to have a passing thought of Thomas Edison going thru hundreds of different filament materials before finding one that actually worked. Move ahead to FDR’s fireside chats and the tens of millions of Americans who found hope in the warmly conveyed words of the President thru a tabletop radio-vacuum tubes and their yellowish glow unquestionably bespeaks “Americana.”

Specifications:

Frequency response: 10Hz-60KHz +/- 0.25dB
Signal/Noise Ra@o: >91dB
Dynamic range: 84.6dBA(300 ohm) 89.8dBA(33 ohm)
THD: 0.016%(300 ohm) 0.45%(33 ohm)
IMD + Noise: 0.045(300 ohm) 0.42(33ohm)
Dimensions: 79mm (D) X 79mm (W) X 44mm (H) // 3.1” x 3.1” x 1.75”
Shipping Weight: 0.55 kg // 1.2 lbs. read more…

Firestone Audio Fireye Mini: A Mini-Review of a Mini Headphone Amplifier

Firestone Audio Fireye Mini: A Mini-Review of a Mini Headphone Amplifier

Portable music players and smart phones have allowed us carry our favorite digital music files on the go. For example, I love my iPhone loaded with all my favorite Apple lossless audio files. It is easy, convenient, and takes up far less room than my old Walkman with tapes. However, being the pursuer of high-fidelity audio reproduction that I am, I knew that I wanted a little more out of my on-the-go sound quality. There are a few “audiophile grade” digital players on the market that can playback FLAC files, have custom internal DACs, as well as higher driving voltages than your average player or phone. These devices however tend to be expensive, as well as you still have to carry around your phone and your music player; not convenient. But improving the sound quality of an iPhone or digital music player could be as easy as a battery powered, in-line headphone amplifier. Having many choices available to the consumer on the market, I wondered where to begin until an email showed up in my inbox from Firestone Audio of Taiwan with their newest offering.

Specifications:

Amplifier: Class-A / B amplifier Power: Built in battery power supply Headphone Impedence : 32 ohm to 600 ohm
Usage Time : With 100% full battery arround 24hrs, depending on volume.
Charging Method : Using PC or USB adapter to charge
dB-Weighed Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz): 40Hz +0.1dB, 15kHz -1.67dB Noise level (1kHz, A-Weighted) : -110.5dB
THD% : 0.0068%
Stereo crosstalk : -96.0dB
Dimensions : 40 x 24 x 9 mm (D x W x H).
Weight : 14 gram (without cables)

read more…

Topping TP30 & Topping TP31 Headphone DAC Amplifiers

Topping TP30 & Topping TP31 Headphone DAC Amplifiers

For many audio hobbyists the biggest kick comes not from being able to buy something very expensive, (though I do hope to experience this someday) but rather from discovering a really good value. With my enthusiasm growing for headgear the opportunity to find such bargains is turning into a quest. One of the first products in the category is the Topping TP31 and it’s sibling, the TP30. The difference between the two is that the TP30 has a USB input, while the TP31 is Coaxial.

Specifications:
Inputs: Coaxial, RCA Line in L/R
Outputs: Line out RCA L/R, Headphone
Jack, Speakers L/R
Amplifier: Class-T Tripath TA 2024 BTL

Configuration
Output Power 2 x 15W @ 4ohm, 2 x
10W @ 8ohm
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) 98dB
Dynamic Range 98dB
IHF-IM Distortion 0.1% @ 1W, 4ohm
THD Distortion:
0.03% @ 9W, 4ohm
0.1% @ 11W 4ohm
0.1% @ 6W 8ohm
10% @ 15W 4ohm
10% @ 10W 8ohm
Power Efficiency: 81% @ 15W, 4ohm, 90% @ 10W, 8ohm
Input Sensitivity: 200mV
Power socket:
TP-30 DAC: TP30 uses the 2704 with 16 bit 48khz
TP-31 DAC: Built-in high-fidelity coaxial DAC (PCM1793) – support for 32kHz-192kHz 16-24bit PCM format digital coaxial signal
Headphone Output: 3.5mm 16-200 ohm
Face plate: 8mm thick CNC machined aluminum
Connectors: High quality Gold Plated RCA
Size: 4 inches wide x 8 inches deep x 1 ¾ inches high
Weight: Main unit only 720g

read more…

Fritz Grove Loudspeakers

Fritz Grove Loudspeakers

Some trees grow in a jungle, some grow in a forest, and in California, where Fritz lives, the larger more majestic trees (the Giant Sequoia and the Redwood) grow in groves. All speakers in the Fritz lineup are hand-built in the US using high-quality drivers; the prices range from just under a grand per pair up to just over two grand per pair for the REV-5 model. The Grove sits happily in the center of that lineup while still using quality components throughout.

Specifications:

Frequency Response: 42 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 3 db
Sensitivity: 86 dB (at 1 watt, 2.83V, @1 meter)
Bass/Midrange Driver: 6 1/2 inch one piece polypropylene cone, 3 inch under-hung voice coil, butyl rubber surround, die cast frame. Bass reflex loaded-rear port

Tweeter: 1 inch ferrofluid cooled specially treated silk dome with high power hexagonal shaped Aluminum voice coil wire and damped acoustic rear chamber, Aluminum face plate. Crossover: Series crossover without any capacitors in the circuit with the tweeter.

Dimensions/Weight: 16″ High, 9″ Wide, 12″ Deep, 28 lbs.
Recommended Amplifiers: 25 to 150 watts

read more…

Audioengine D1 USB DAC

Audioengine D1 USB DAC

How quickly do things change? Just a couple of years ago a headphone enthusiast could count the number of headphone DACs in a handful of seconds. Now, in the early months of 2012 the list is significantly larger and growing with each passing day.

Specifications:

DAC type: Dual Mode USB and Optical (SPDIF)
Inputs: USB/Optical (SPDIF)
Outputs: RCA stereo/3.5mm headphone
D/A converter: AKM4396
Optical receiver: CS8416
USB controller: TI1020B
USB: Type 1.1 or above
Full-scale output: 2.0V RMS (RCA and Headphone)
Output impedance: 47 ohms RCA, 10 ohms headphone
Power source: USB 5V
Power requirements: 200mA
USB power filtering: 2-stage redundant regulation
SNR: >110db
THD+N: <0.002%
Crosstalk: <-85db
Frequency response: 10Hz – 25KHz +/- 0.5db
Input bit depth: up to 24 bits
Input data rate: up to 192kpbs (optical), 96kpbs (USB)
Product dimensions: 3.5” x 4” x 1″ Shipping weight: 1.0lbs (0.5kg)

read more…

Musiland Monitor 01 US / USB DAC

Musiland Monitor 01 US / USB DAC

Budget USB-powered outboard DAC’s seem to be coming all the rage. At a recent meeting with a client at a coffee shop in a rather bohemian-style section of Portland, Oregon I counted four people using such devices. Even before then I would spot one among all the customers using smart phones for personal music. The size of these units goes from that of a memory stick, to the size of a deck of cards. The Musiland Monitor 01 US/USB is equal to the latter.

Specifications:

  • High Speed USB Connection
  • Independent APU MU6010 for 24 bit/192kHz audio processing
  • Optical toslink digital output
  • Stereo RCA, 3.5mm headphone analog output PLUSE high quality digital power management Support 24bit/192kHz digital output
  • Specialized ASIO driver – support Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7
  • Aluminum alloy chassis for minimum interference
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Maximum sampling rate: 24bit/192kHz
  • Digital output: Optical toslink
  • Analog output: Stereo RCA, 3.5mm headphone
  • Digital S/N: 140dB (A-weighted)
  • Digital dynamic range: 140dB (A-weighted)
  • Distributor: Gateshop on Amazon.com
  • Price: $107.99

read more…

An Amplifier for all Mankind: Class D Audio SDS-440C Amplifier Review

An Amplifier for all Mankind: Class D Audio SDS-440C Amplifier Review

Specifications:

  • Two Channel Amplifier with adjustable gain
  • 220W RMS Per Channel into 8 ohms
  • 440W RMS Per Channel into 4 ohms
  • Size: 12″ X 12″ X 3.5″
  • Shipping Weight: 20 Pounds
  • MSRP: $665.00

read more…

A Quick Review Of A Few Entry-Level Dacs

A Quick Review Of A Few Entry-Level Dacs

Publisher’s Note: This comparison originally appeared on the Polk Audio Forum. It appears hear courtesy of the author.

A few months ago I set out on a mission to do a comprehensive comparison of as many entry-level DACs as I could get my hands on. I use the term “entry-level” loosely, as I was looking at models under $500. Many people may not consider $500 an entry level price point for a DAC, and I’d agree that the dollar threshold is debatable. Nonetheless, there were DACs nearing the $500 mark I wanted to include and so I set that as the somewhat arbitrary price limit. read more…

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