Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

Neko Audio D100 Stereo Digital to Analog Converter

Neko Audio D100 Stereo Digital to Analog Converter

Specifications

  • Inputs: optical and coaxial S/PDIF
  • Outputs: balanced XLR to XLR, or unbalanced XLR to RCA Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz (+0 -0.10dB); 3Hz – 22kHz
  • (-3dB) @ 44.1kHz
  • (-3dB) @ 96kHz
  • 20Hz – 20kHz (+0 -0.05dB); 3Hz – 31kHz
  • THD+N: <0.020% @ 20Hz -0dBFS
  • <0.005% typical -0dBFS
  • 16-bit and 24-bit, 44.1kHz – 192kHz audio. Optical and transformer isolated coaxial inputs. Dual PCM1794 chips in mono configuration. Passive transformer-based analog output stage. Tantalum capacitors, 0.1% output resistors.
  • Gold plated input and output connectors. High quality steel enclosure.
  • Toroidal power transformer in separate shielded compartment. Price: $1295

The World of DAC

In an ideal world, the digital to analog converter that you have connected to your digital source would not matter. Since digital information can ideally be read as perfectly as it was written, all it takes is a little converter to read the information and turn the stream into something more than a protocol droid can understand. In fact, since some protocol droids are fluent in over six-million forms of communication, getting one might be the ideal DAC; but that is for a different article. However, we all know that nothing is perfect in this world, high-fidelity audio included. There are little things called jitter, distortion, etc, and all of these nuisances can make the read digital data not true to the source. This is one reason that we have literally a boat load of different DACs on the market, each one reading and interpreting that digital data a little differently. As this truly is a nuisance, it also make the sampling and use of digital audio equipment fun as you try different units and decide what subtleties and sound best fit you and your rig. Neko Audio now offers one of those pieces of equipment that is worth trying. read more…

Zebra XLR Interconnect Cables

Zebra XLR Interconnect Cables

Specifications

  • AES/EBU Digital Audio Cable Specifications: Made from Belden’s 1800F Cable
  • Total Number of Conductors: 2
  • 24 AWG .024″ stranded bare copper conductor
  • FHDPE -Foam High Density Polyethylene
  • 95% tinned copper french braid shield, PVC jacket
  • Nom. Impedance: 110 Ohms
  • Nom. Inductance: 0.18 µH/ft Nom. Capacitance: 12 pF/ft Connector Choices: Vampire Wire XLR Male and XLR Female connectors
  • Price: $37.50 for 3ft, with XLR terminantions, $2.75 each additional foot. NOTE: Pricing is per cable; if you need pairs, you must order two.

I recently purchased a Krell KAV 400xi integrated amplifier and had for the first time the opportunity to utilize a set of balanced interconnects to run between my Krell and Primare D30.2 CD player. Having been pleased with the performance of my Zebra SP14 DBI speaker cables I decided to try a pair of Zebra Cables XLR interconnects. So shot off an e-mail to Scott Burns the proprietor of Zebra Cables, he promised to make me a set of interconnects using Belden OFC wire and Vampire connectors and send them to me ASAP. Within a few days I received the XLR interconnects and upon opening the package I was pleased to find the well made pair of cables nicely packaged for safe shipment. read more…

Grant Fidelity SPT-100 Super Tweeter

Grant Fidelity SPT-100 Super Tweeter

Specifications:

  • Crossover options: 12kHz and 15kHz
  • Frequency Response range: 10kHz -40kHz (by theory it will go up to
  • 100kHz)
  • Sensitivity option: 86dB or 92dB Finish: Silver or Gold.
  • Weight: 3.6kg per pair Net.
  • Optional connection 5N copper speaker cables -5 ft in length at extra cost.
  • Comes with a rigid aluminum carrying case. Weight: 9 lb
  • Price: $749

Over time I had begun to notice that my pair of Polk LSi9 monitors were lacking the top end that so many of the review speakers I was getting in had. Part of the difference was due to the Vifa tweeter being a low noise/hiss emitter. I had no problem with that, but the more I listened the more obvious it became that in Polk’s attempts to control the tweeter, they had constrained the sonics. The balance of the monitor’s sound was impressive, therefore, I began to seek out options. After some searching, I remembered that Grant Fidelity had a high quality super tweeter that might just be the solution. A return email from Ian Grant contained both good and bad news; yes, he’d be happy to send me out a sample of their SPT-100, but they were currently out of stock and it may be 6-8 weeks before he’d have a pair to send me. I told him I’d happily wait. read more…

Emotiva ERM-1 and ERD-1 Loudspeakers

Emotiva ERM-1 and ERD-1 Loudspeakers

Specifications:

ERM-1

  • Speaker type: Sealed MTM Bookshelf Frequency Range: 80-20Khz +/-2db Sensitivity: 89dB
  • Dimensions: 13.5”h X 7.75”w X 9.5”d
  • Woofer: 2 – 5¼”
  • Tweeter: 1 – 1” Silk Dome
  • Weight 21 lbs Each (Boxed in felt bag) Enclosure: MDF -Braced and highly damped
  • Non-reflective black satin lacquer finish
  • Price: $199.00 (Each 3 Reviewed)

ERD-1

  • Speaker type: Sealed Bipole/Dipole Switching
  • Frequency Range: Frequency response: 80-20Khz +/-2db
  • Sensitivity: 89dB
  • Dimensions: 9.5”h X 13”w X 4.25” d
  • Woofer: 1- 5¼”
  • Tweeter: 1 – 1” Silk Dome
  • Weight: 11 Pounds Each (Unboxed)
  • Enclosure: MDF – Braced and highly damped
  • Non-reflective black satin lacquer finish
  • Price: $249.00 (Per Pair)
  • Package total price: $846.00 (3 ERM-1 and 1 pair ERD-1)

Everyone you meet changes your life in some way. Some people make small changes that last only moments and others make changes that last a lifetime. I never guessed that the pretty blonde I met in a small coffee house would someday be my wife, just like I never guessed that friendly coworker would suck me into a hobby that could take over my life. Well the coworker has passed now but this crazy hobby lives on. I came to this hobby sort of through the back door. Starting with a nice pair of speakers that grew in to a spectacular home theater. My first lesson in audio (taught by said coworker) was that there isn’t another piece of equipment that the listener actually hears other then the loudspeakers. With that in mind I’ve always been picky about loudspeakers. read more…

AV123 x-omni Mini-tower: The Offbeat Cousin

AV123 x-omni Mini-tower: The Offbeat Cousin

Specifications

  • System: Two way, two driver direct-radiating system, vented enclosure with rearfiring flared port
  • Drivers: 1″ treated fabric dome and two custom 6.5″ curvilinear shaped treated paper cone woofers with polymer chassis
  • Frequency response is 45 -20khz +/- 2dB Low freq -3dB at 40 hz 8 Ohms
  • Efficiency-86 dB.
  • Dimensions: 38.5 inches H (with grill and base) x 8 inches wide, x 8 inches deep
  • Weight: Coming Soon!
  • Finishes: Satin Black, Cherry veneer, Natural Moho veneer
  • Price: $549 pr.

Last month I got a call from our publisher, Mark Marcantonio. “You up for some fun, Dan?” Well, when comes to audio gear, I’m always ready for being entertained. But a little voice in the back of my head told me that Mark had something up his sleeve and I should prepare myself for anything. In the living room stood a pair of black mini-towers with the oddest-looking grill. Since the sunlight was streaming in behind the speakers a back lighting effect took place keeping me from being able to accurately figure out the design. A wire mesh grill came down the front just 5 inches from the front, but at the top bent 90 degrees to cover the entire top. The music from Journey’s Greatest Hits was playing and I could feel the forward push of the quite impressive sound. Yet I could not see where the driver was located. And there, under the mesh facing the ceiling was 6.5 inch driver. I was truly intrigued and knew I had to pry these satin black sentinels away from Mark. read more…

Rega Apollo CD Player

Rega Apollo CD Player

Specifications:

  • Laser : Semiconductor Laser
  • Wavelength: 780nm
  • Line Output Maximum Level: 2V-(load impedance minimum10k-ohm)
  • Digital Output Maximum Level: 0.5V (load impedance 75-ohm)
  • Digital Sampling Frequency: 44.1kHz
  • Mains Voltages: 230V (minimum190V maximum 250V) @50/60Hz
  • 115V (minimum 95V maximum 125V) @50/60Hz
  • Power Consumption: 2W
  • Dimensions: 435(mm)Wx100(mm)Hx270(mm)D
  • Required Space for Operation: 435W(mm)x180(mm)Hx315(mm)D Weight: Eight pounds
  • Mains Fuses: 230V @250mA
  • 115V @500mA
  • CDP Remote Batteries: AAA (1.5) x 2
  • Price: $995

Rega Research Ltd was founded in 1973 by Tony Relph and Roy Gandy. Take the first two letters of each of their last names, put them together and you have Re & ga or Rega, the company name. Rega is based in the United Kingdom where it makes high-end audio equipment and was initially recognized for its production of quality turntables. Starting in the 1990’s Rega expanded its line to become a full range audio company. Looking at their website you can see they now make turntables, loudspeakers, amplifiers, tuners, cartridges, tonearms, a phono stage, plus a host of other accessories as well as two cd players. Their first cd player called the Planet went into production in 1996 for $995 and received rave reviews from the audio press. The Apollo, the subject for todays review, is the company’s new entry level player. Their top of the line cd player,the Saturn, retails for $2595. When first introduced Rega initially priced the Apollo at $995. Later the price inched up to $1195 as costs rose, but now has recently been reduced back to the original $995 mark. This price reduction was made by their US Distributor, The Sound Organization, in an effort to make it extremely competitive in today’s high-end audio Cd player market and to reflect the current exchange rate. read more…

Nuforce P-8S Preamp and 8.5V2 Power Amp

Nuforce P-8S Preamp and 8.5V2 Power Amp

Specifications:

  • 4 x RCA inputs.
  • 1 x RCA, 1 x unbalanced XLR outs
  • 12V DC Tigger Out.
  • Digitally-controlled switched attenuator. Volume Range: +30dB to –70dB with 0.5dB steps
  • Dynamic Range: > 100dB
  • Input Impedance: 4K ohm
  • Output Impedance: 40 ohm
  • THD+N at 1kHz: < 0.01%, typically 0.003-0.005% S/N Ratio > 85dB
  • Frequency Response at 20-20kHz = +0dB/-0.2dB at 20-170kHz = +0db/-3dB Maximum output = 8V RMS
  • Dimensions: 1.75”H x 8.5”W x 16”D Weight: 6 lbs. Power Requirements: 90-240VAC, auto select.
  • Stereo 8.5 V2 Per Channel
  • Watts Per Channel: 160w @ 8ohms, 200 @ 4ohms, 200 @ 2 ohms
  • Power bandwidth: 100 to 20 kHz +/- 0.8 db 10 Hz -0.5 db 60 kHz -3 db
  • THD+N = 0.03%, 1kHz, 10W
  • Input impedance: 45K ohm
  • Gain: 27 db
  • SNR = 100 db at 100W
  • Dimension: 8.5″ x 14″ x 1.8″ (height does not include feet)
  • Worldwide AC voltage (84VAC to 264VAC). No need for AC regulator if the AC voltage falls within the specified range.
  • Weight: 9 lb

read more…

Shure E2C

Shure E2C

Shure has an impressive record of service in the field of hi-fi. Many (world famous) artists use these products’ including their in ear monitors. read more…

Focal CMS65 Compact Powered Monitor

Focal CMS65 Compact Powered Monitor

French monitor speaker manufacturer Focal has gained a solid reputation for producing both drivers for other manufacturers as well as its own range of professional and hi-fi speakers.

Its high-end studio monitors have many fans, and I count myself amongst them, so it is with some interest that I had an opportunity to audition a new monitor that fits in a range aimed at the project studio market — the CMS range. It was the Focal CMS65 ($950 each) that I got to try.

read more…

JBL Control 2P Powered Desktop Monitors

JBL Control 2P Powered Desktop Monitors

JBL has hit the sweet spot with the versatile Control 2P ($249 list), a compact powered monitor that fits multiple applications from audio production to AV, electronic instruments, and home entertainment. read more…

Audience Cables: Conductor e Series Interconnects, Speaker Cables, & PowerChord

Audience Cables: Conductor e Series Interconnects, Speaker Cables, & PowerChord

Specifications:

  • $391 for 1 meter pair
  • $399 for 1.5 meter pair
  • Conductor e speaker cable:

Specifications:

  • $601 for a three meter pair
  • powerChord e power cable:

Specifications:

  • $674 for one six foot length Telephone 800-565-4390

Having heard wonderful things about Audience products, especially their cables, I have long since wondered what they would sound like in my review system. My keen interest in their products stem from a time long before I started writing reviews for A$$A and I am happy today to finally have a chance to satisfy my desire to explore some of the fine products. Audience has been around since 1997 starting out under the guidance of its two co-founders, John McDonald and the late Richard Smith. Although Audience is known for its fabulous cables they also make a new line of loudspeakers, power amplifiers, preamplifiers, power conditioners, loudspeaker drivers, a disc treatment system, and of course their famous high resolution capacitors. Having had the pleasure of talking to Mr. McDonald on the phone I can say he has both a wealth of knowledge and a great deal of enthusiasm for his products. He was kind enough to offer to outfit my entire system with Audience cables in order that I might get the full effect of using his products. I was sent four power cords, for the power conditioning strips and mono block amplifiers, a three meter length of speaker cables and three sets of interconnects. The company makes only one power cord so the choice there was easy. As for the interconnects and speaker cables, Audience offers three different models. The cables I choose were the entry-level Conductor e series. The next model up is called the Maestro and finally the most expensive is the Au24 e series. The “e” signifies the enhanced version of the product. read more…

Budget DAC Comparison: Zhaolu D2.5, CityPulse 7.2X, Musiland MD10

Budget DAC Comparison: Zhaolu D2.5, CityPulse 7.2X, Musiland MD10

Being an audiophile certainly has its joys, but the hobby also comes with its share of frustrations. I am sure many of you have made the mistakeof talking to a friend or family member about your system, and instead of focusing only on the music (as you probably should have), you tried to walk them through the various components. Most of the pieces might appear sensible enough to the uninitiated. Speakers, amplifiers…blah blah blah. As long as you stayed away from a discussion of the aftermarket power cords, you should escape unscathed, right?

No. Try to explain a benefit of an external DAC to someone who is just pretending to be interested in your hobby. Instead of connecting the computer/CD player/music server directly to the amplifier (which of course, you can do), you first run the signal to this little box over here (after buying additional jewelry…er, cables), and that makes everything sound better! Even if your victim is paying close attention, you run the risk of him or her noticing that the computer/CD player/music server has its own DAC! Yes, but an external one is usually better, right?

I certainly think so. Despite the debates that rage in audio forms (presumably populated by enthusiasts/converts instead of incredulous friends and relatives of audiophiles), most of us agree that a $250 external DAC can usually provide a substantial improvement in sound quality when connected to the digital output of a computer, budget DVD player, or music streaming device (Squeezebox or Sonos or similar). Even older CD players (or transports to us audio hobbyists) can be given new life by using a good external DAC, saving the trouble and expense of replacing the entire player.

Modifying CD players with replacement parts used to be quite popular before these inexpensive outboard DACs became so common. However, rejuvenating old CD players is not the primary reason why the DAC segment of the audio marketplace is red hot right now. Instead, it has been fueled by the emergence of good music serving hardware and software. Perhaps even more interesting than the DAC market itself is a subcategory of DAC that is becoming increasingly popular. DAC/preamp combinations that add a volume control (and possibility input switching) to the party make for a real revolution. Allowing the user to bridge the gap between digital sources and a poweramp buys tremendous flexibility, and can be a really inexpensive way to build a very musical system.

And that brings us to this mini-shootout between three similarly priced, similarly endowed DACs; the Zhaolu D2.5 (it is apparently pronounced “Chow-loo”), the CityPulse 7.2X, and the Musiland MD-10 (previously reviewed by A$$A’s Mark Marcantonio in issue 29 last May). All three units upsample, accommodate multiple digital inputs and provide both line-level and variable analogue output to headphones and power amplifiers, effectively making them DAC/ preamp (or more accurately but less colloquially, DAC/linestage) combinations. All three of the little boxes hail from China, all three are available in North America through on-line retailers, and all three are also readily available on eBay directly from China. read more…

Cardas Crosslink Interconnects

Cardas Crosslink Interconnects

Specifications:

  • Outside Diameter: .305
  • Dielectric Type: Teflon® RCA Capacitance: 36.9 pf/ft XLR Capacitance: 22.8 pf/ft Discrete Conductors: 68
  • Cable AWG: 20.5
  • Shield Type: Double
  • Conductor Type: Golden Ratio, Constant Q, Crossfield, Pure
  • Copper Litz
  • Price: $128 1m Pair

read more…

Sennheiser CX300

Sennheiser CX300

Sennheiser is almost equivalent to quality in head phones. This German company has to keep up its reputation when it comes to high-end audio gear. Which makes it all the more unusual that Sennheiser did not have an in ear model until recently. Now they have introduced the CX300 (obtainable in black and silver). read more…

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