Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

The GINI LS3/5A

The GINI LS3/5A

 Specifications:

  • Frequency Response: 50-20Khz
  • Sensitivity: 86 db Impedence: 8 Ohm Maximum Power: 50 watts
  • Drive Units: 1” soft dome tweeter; 5” cone woofer
  • Dimensions: 12”H x 7.5” W x 6.25”D
  • Price: $560 assembled

B+ Bass Stand

  • Frequency Response: 35-60hz
  • Sensitivity: 86 db Impedence: 8 Ohm Maximum Power: 50 watts Drive Units: 5” cone woofer
  • Dimensions: 24”H x 7.5” W x 6.25”D
  • Price: $630

The British Broadcasting Corporation LS3/5A speaker project is a legendary tale, and this speaker has almost a universal appeal to enthusiasts throughout the different segments of the audio community. The story behind the LS3/5A speaker system is fascinating, and this diminutive speaker basically charted the course for the development of the compact British speaker movement for many years. One telling sign of the success of this speaker system is the number of companies that have chosen to follow the BBC blueprint. Other companies offer monitors that are directly influenced by the design characteristics of this speaker, and their products are basically a modern interpretation of the original design. Companies that have offered authentic LS3/5A speakers, or developed a variant include Harbeth, KEF, Stirling, Chartwell, and Spendor.1 These companies make up the backbone of the British speaker industry, and their acceptance of the LS3/5A design is a testament to the overall sound quality of this unassuming loudspeaker. Many audio enthusiasts still value the sonic abilities of the Rogers LS3/5A, and actively search for this speaker on the pre-owned market. A well preserved set of original Rogers LS3/5A speakers are capable of commanding in excess of $1000 a pair. As a general rule, these speakers do not come up for sale often, so finding a good pair can be a difficult task. The combination of high selling price and overall scarcity of well preserved speakers means that the everyday audio enthusiast will not have the opportunity to experience the performance of these superb monitors. read more…

Tec-on Model “55” Integrated Amp/USB DAC

Tec-on Model “55” Integrated Amp/USB DAC

Specifications

  • RCA single-ended inputs
  • USB DAC (accepts 16-bit 44.1/48kHz)
  • EL84 x 2 output tubes [fitted with 6P14 “Beijing” in current production]
  • 5755 Raytheon NOS driver tube
  • Self-biasing
  • Zero global negative feedback
  • Choke input filter
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) @ 1kHz, 8 Ohm less than 1% at 4.5 Watts
  • Frequency Response: 17Hz – 27kHz (-3 dB); 30Hz – 17 kHz (-1 dB) Input Impedance: 47 KOhms
  • Power Source: 115/230VAC switchable Power Consumption: 80 Watts Dimension: 7 1/2″ (W) x 10″ (D) x 7″ (H) Weight: 13 lbs
  • Price: $749, currently on special for $398 with free shipping in USA

Confessions

Let me start by stating that I am not a tube guy. It’s not that I have anything against the little glass bottles of fire, or that I think sand amps have any inherent sonic benefit. In fact, some of the best systems I’ve heard have been tube based, not to mention that I love the warm glow when listening in the dark. I’ve also dabbled with hybrid power amps in the past, specifically the long-gone Counterpoint designs in which their MOSFET solid-state output probably colored the music more so than the tube input stage. I even toyed with a couple of DIY tube preamps, albeit with mixed results most likely stemming from my all-thumbs abilities with a soldering iron. But for one reason or another, I myself have never ventured headlong down the valve audio path.

Bottom line – I’m no tube guru that will wax rhapsodic about topologies, transformers and rolling the lastest NOS finds from Ebay. On the contrary, my penchant for Magnepan speakers has directed me towards monster-power solid-state amps given that I do not have the wherewithal to invest in the kind of tube power needed to drive these hungry, lowefficiency transducers. More recently, I’ve embraced the new generation of Pulse-Width Modulated (PWM) amps which are more commonly, though perhaps incorrectly, identified as “digital” amps. I love their typically neutral sound (though some may think of it as overly analytical) that is detailed and effortless combined with remarkable bass extension and control. I bring all this up as a point of reference to properly frame the following review. read more…

Book Review: This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science Of A Human Obsession

Book Review: This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science Of A Human Obsession

This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science Of A Human Obsession, Daniel Levitin, 2007, New York: Plume Books (Penguin). ISBN 978-0-452-28852-2, $15.00.

For audiophiles, the importance of the listening context is never doubted. We recognize that components sound different in various spaces and, after some time in the hobby, the importance of room acoustics to the complete audio reproductive system (music, components, environment and listener) is accepted. What is less recognized is the importance of what lies within us as listeners, our cognitive architecture, and the role it plays in our enjoyment of sounds. Once you accept that experience can teach you to discriminate reliably between components, rather like an expert in other domains of perceptual experience can learn to distinguish styles and tastes (food and wine palates, for example) you are in a position to benefit from an investment in the single most important component in appreciating music, yourself. read more…

Totem Acoustic Mite 5.1 Home Theater w/ Storm Subwoofer

Totem Acoustic Mite 5.1 Home Theater w/ Storm Subwoofer

Specifications:

Mites (Front and Rear)

  • Frequency Response: 50 Hz -20 kHz ± 3dB (with proper room positioning)
  • Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 87 db w/ maximum sound pressure 102 db before dynamic compression
  • Crossover Frequency: 3.2 kHz Recommended Power: 20-100 wpc Woofer: 5.5 in granulated
  • Tweeter: 1 in. soft dome
  • Dimensions: 6 x 10.8 x 8.4″ / 153 x 275 x 214 mm

Mite T Center Channel

  • Frequency Response: 46 Hz -20 kHz ± 3dB (with proper room positioning)
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 88 db w/ maximum sound pressure 105 db before dynamic compression
  • Crossover Frequency: 3.2 kHz Recommended Power: 20-80 wpc Woofer: 2 x 5.5 in granulated Tweeter: 1 in. soft dome
  • Dimensions: 20.6 x 6.1 x 8.4″ / 523 x 155 x 213 mm

Storm Subwoofer

  • Frequency Response: 26Hz – 250 kHz
  • Amplification: 300 watts
  • Driver: 8″ / 200 mm cast frame unit, special concave cone and dust cap. Passive Radiator: 2 x 8″ / 200 mm cast frame unit, special concave cone and dust cap.
  • Dimensions: 11 x 12 x 13.8″ / 280 x 305 x 350 mm
  • System Price: approx $2700

As much as I favor two-channel for music, I enjoy the impact that a home theater 5.1 system provides for the movie or video concert. Last fall I reviewed a budget version by Aperion Audio and was favorably impressed. But I recognized that moving up a couple of notches would provide for a tremendous sonic treat. The question became, what company could provide the best experience without having to rearrange the family room as set down in the rules of my better half. read more…

Mini-review: Emotiva XPA-2: Meaner Than a Junkyard Dog!

Mini-review: Emotiva XPA-2: Meaner Than a Junkyard Dog!

Specifications:

  • Number of channels: 2
  • Amplifier Class: Short signal path A/B
  • Output design: Triple Darlington with Toshiba output stages
  • Differential Drive: Dual Differential input
  • Types of inputs: Both Balanced (XLR) and Unbalanced (RCA)
  • Type of outputs: Audiophile quality 5 way binding post
  • Display type: Digital VU meters
  • Metering: 14) Blue LEDS and 1) red per channel Power output: 250 watts RMS/ channel into 8 ohms, 500 watts RMS/ channel into 4 ohms and 1000 watts RMS bridged.
  • THD+N at rated power output: 0.007% S/N ratio: >100db
  • Frequency response: 10 to 120Khz (-3db) and 20 to 20 (with less than .15db deviation)
  • Gain structure: 32db
  • Transformer size: 1600va mounted in a super structure
  • Secondary capacitance: 180,000uF Weight: Approximately 75 pounds Retail price: $799.00
  • Dimensions: 17” W x 7.75” H x 19” D

From the very first note there’s one thing that definitely stands out about the XPA-2-it’s got balls! This amp has more bass and more kick in the guts to it than any other amp I’ve owned (and I’ve had a few). In fact, music hits hard, real hard. The XPA-2 is not an amp for the average guy. So send the wife and kids to grandma’s house, blow the dust off your air guitar, and crank it up! read more…

JVC XL-Z1050TN CD Player

JVC XL-Z1050TN CD Player

Specifications:

  • P-E-M, D-D (Converter Pulse Edge Modulation Differential Linearity error lens converter) Phone jack with level and output level,
  • Display off & mode,
  • Random, repeat, editing mode, side A/B, Program, manual search,
  • Fixed & variable outputs,
  • Digital and Coaxial out with on/off switch, Index, fade, volume.
  • Size: 17-3/4″W x 13-1/2D x 4-1/2H, Weight 18 lbs.

Few people would argue with the premise that the sound quality of compact disc players has steadily improved over the years. The audio community is a diverse crowd, and there is a niche of hobbyists who appreciate the attributes of vintage electronics. Actually, any enthusiast who has been around this hobby for a while, or knows of the history of audio can appreciate certain historical components. In spite of technical advances or the passage of time, the audio community has consistently held certain pieces of equipment in high regard. Very few individuals would disagree with the “classic” tag given to the Quad ESL-57 loudspeaker, or the Mark Levinson ML-2 amplifier. The Linn LP-12 is still considered by many to be a benchmark for analog playback, and Koetsu cartridges built by the elder Sugano are highly prized by the discriminating analog aficionado. read more…

Juicy Music Tercel Phono Preamplifier

Juicy Music Tercel Phono Preamplifier

Specifications

Phono Stage

  • Topology:3-stage Class A Triode with passive

RIAA filters, zero feedback

  • Tubes:2 x 12AT7 Dual Triodes; 1 x 12AX7

Dual Triode

  • Gain:42dB in MM; 62dB with optional LOMC

installed

  • RIAA:+/- 0.2dB 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Hum and Noise:75dB
  • Input impedance:MM= 22k – 68k ohms adjustable + 0pF – 50pF loading; LOMC = 90 ohms
  • Output Impedance:160 ohms
  • Max Output Voltage:2.5V rms @ 1kHz

Inputs/Outputs

  • Phono Inputs:2 MM std; 1MM + 1 LOMC Opt.
  • Main Output:1 RCA Power Supply
  • Primary Voltage:120VAC std. 240VAC opt.
  • Line Cord:IEC Connector/6-foot cord
  • B+ Supply:Unregulated C-L-C with 1,380uF

storage

  • Filaments:Regulated 6.30VDC Physical
  • Dimensions:14-1/2″W x 3″H x 10″D
  • Weight:12lbs
  • Packed:16″W x 16″L x 10″H Options
  • LOMC:Optional LOMC transformers with 20dB additional gain

Kit Construction

  • Experience Level:Intermediate/Advanced
  • Construction Time:About 12 hours

Available in Kit form or factory assembled:

  • Tercel kit with 2 MM inputs: $495.00
  • Adding the LOMC (low output moving coil) to that kit is $345.

Without even looking at their website if someone were to say juicy, I would think peach. First thing you see product wise when you look at their website is the Peach II Line Stage Preamplifier. This is an excellent marketing idea, and also lots of fun. This review however is not about the Peach II.

Today I would love to introduce you to the all-new redesigned Tercel Tube Phono stage preamplifier. The Tercel is a phono only preamp for use with an integrated amplifier or line section preamp (AUX level). This is the same exact phono circuit used in their top of the line full function BlueBerry Xtreme II preamp that has gotten such great reviews. I mated this with my Oracle Delphi MK I turntable with Grace 707 tonearm and Denon 301 II MC cartridge. Since the Denon is a low output Moving Coil cartridge the Tercel needed to be fitted with the LOMC option for an additional cost of only $345. LOMC stands for low output moving coil also referred to by Mark as the “cream”. When I inquired to know further details about this LOMC option Mark Deneen sent me the following note: read more…

Monarchy Audio M150 2000 Watt AC Power Supply

Monarchy Audio M150 2000 Watt AC Power Supply

Specifications:

  • AC In/Out: 110 to 120 Volts, 20 Amps
  • NEMA Outlets: 12
  • Maximum load: 2,000 Watts
  • Overload Protection: (2) Two pole 15 Amp electromagnetic
  • circuit breakers, one per section of 6 receptacles
  • Height 3.5 ” Depth 17″
  • Width 19″Weight: 75 lbs
  • Cabinet: 16 gauge
  • A note from Monarchy Audio: For optimal performance, we recommend plugging
  • this AC Supply into a devoted AC Outlet with at least 20 amps rating. Please ensure the AC socket has clean metal contact surfaces. If in doubt, consult Monarchy Audio
  • Retail price $980

For those of you not yet familiar with Monarchy Audio you should mark this day on your calendar. Discovering Monarchy Audio products for the first time is like going to that first dance. You are there having a great time, overwhelmed by the whole experience, never realizing until many years later just how special that moment really was.

read more…

AV123 ELT525M Monitors

AV123 ELT525M Monitors

Specifications:

  • System: 2-way, 2-driver direct radiating vented enclosure with rear-firing flared ports.
  • Drivers: One (1) custom 5.25″ woofer and one (1) 1″ tweeter
  • Frequency Response: ± 3dB to 20KHz with -3dB at 60Hz
  • Crossover Point: 2200Hz Slope: 2nd order acoustic Impedance: 8 ohms Efficiency: 83dB @ 1w/1m Video Shielding: Yes
  • Wall Mounting: Yes, via two threaded inserts. One on the back and one on the bottom. Size: 1/4-20. Suggest using the Peerless PM732 wall mount. Dimensions: 6.12″ W x 11.25″ H x 9.81″ D / 15.5cm W x 28.7cm H x 25cm D
  • Weight: 26lbs per pair shipped
  • Component Retail: $299 / pair in cherry or rosewood satin

AV123 has a track record for producing affordable loudspeakers that offer great sound at unbelievably low prices. Their popular two-way monitor, the X-LS, won our 2007 Product of the Year award in the affordable loudspeaker category. The over achieving X-LS is just one of many astounding values to leap from the AV123 woodwork in recent years. Even though the X-LS tipped the price/performance scales upside down, one of the few drawbacks to its design was its relatively large size. Recognizing the need for a more life-style oriented loudspeaker, Mark Schifter and Danny Ritchie set out to create a significantly smaller monitor capable of delivering performance worthy enough to rival the accomplished X-LS at nearly the same exact price point.

read more…

Ideal Innovations Elite 80+ Amplifier

Ideal Innovations Elite 80+ Amplifier

Specifications:

  • 20 Watts r.m.s. per channel, class A/B Ultra-Linear Circuitry,
  • 6-way binding posts for 8 Ohms speakers
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (T.H.D.) @ 1kHz, 8 Ohms: Less than 1% at 15 Watts
  • Frequency Response: 25Hz -22 kHz (-1 dB) Background Noise Level: Less than 1.5 mV r.m.s.at 8 Ohms
  • Signal to noise ratio: 90 dB
  • Input sensitivity: 1.2 volt RMS signal will provide full output
  • Input Impedance: 100 KOhms
  • Output Impedance: 8 Ohms standard 4 and 16 Ohm taps available
  • Power Source: 120VAC
  • Power Consumption: 85 Watts at idle no less the 150 Watts at full output
  • Dimension: 12″ (W) x 8.75″ (D) x 7.5″ (H) Weight: 28 lbs
  • Tube Complements 6AV5GA x 4 12AX7 or equivalent x 2
  • Price:$679 Retail (Often on sale for $550)

I am so sick of hearing “…what do you want for $600…” from people in audio. Well I want a well-built, nice sounding, 20 watt tube amp. I want it to be at least partially point-to-point construction, and hand-made in North America. I want it to have quality components; including an independent volume control for the left and right channels. I want all of this for $600! Well Syd Beaumont of Ideal Innovations said “No problem, I’ll send you one by the end of the week!” Now that’s what I call service! While the actual retail price of the amp being reviewed is $679, it is frequently on sale for much closer to $550.

read more…

Anti-Cable Speaker Wire & Interconnects

Anti-Cable Speaker Wire & Interconnects

Specifications:

Anti-Cable Speaker wire:

With the two wires spaced about 6-12 inches away from each other:

  • Resistance = 0.00318 Ohms/foot run
  • Inductance = 0.82uH/foot run
  • Capacitance = 0.002nF/foot run

With the two wires twisted 3-4 full turns per foot the specifications change to this:

  • Resistance = 0.00318 Ohms/foot run
  • Inductance = 0.30uH/foot run
  • Capacitance = 0.048nF/foot run
  • $100 for a 10’ stereo set
  • We will make a Stereo pair set of them any length you need at $10/foot ($25 minimum). 

Anti-Jumpers:

  • Used to strap bi-wireable speaker when single wiring
  • Accommodates post spacing from 1-6 inches
  • Longer lengths available on request (great for Maggie owners)
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Banana plugs available (see order page)
  • A high performance, low cost solution
  • $25 set (Spades)
  • $45 set (Banana)

Anti-Cable Interconnects:

“The Anti-ICs use the same design concept as the Anti-Cables . . . They utilize the same red coated wire, but of a much smaller gauge.”

  • $100 for a 1 meter set terminated with Neutrik RCA plugs
  • $150 with Eichmann Bullet plugs, and $200 Balanced with Neutrik XLR plugs (1 meter pairs)

Right off the bat the Anti-Cables sparked my interest. One of the first things you learn in writing is to have an opening sentence that grabs the listener and pulls them into the story. When I hear “anti” anything the rebel in me wakes up. Why, I was born in 1951, a baby boomer. I graduated High School in 1969, a member of the flower power generation. I was even at Woodstock for the original concert not the later event done a short while ago. I even bought a three-day ticket, which sadly has long since been lost. I remember sitting in my fifth grade science class and being told to believe nothing unless it could be proven to me. My science teacher was a little bit of a radical and I liked him. So when I heard of something called Anti-Cables I was naturally drawn towards their website. Paul Speltz came up with the name because he felt his products offered a solution to the usual sonic signatures, hyperbole, and high prices of today’s cables. It was “Anti” cable establishment. I like that. read more…

Eficion Ficion F200 Loudspeaker System

Eficion Ficion F200 Loudspeaker System

Specification:

  • Design: 2-way vented-box. Frequency Response: 38Hz-40kHz. Sensitivity: 88dB/2.83V/1m.
  • Impedance: 8 ohms (minimum 6.4 ohms).
  • Tweeter: Purified aluminum ribbon tweeter with innovative honeycomb structure.* Woofer: 6.5″, non-woven carbon fiber sandwich cone, massive 2″ voice coil has an innovative copper shorting ring and a damping coil. **
  • Crossover: 2kHz.
  • Dimensions (HWD): 17″ X 10″ X 13.6″ .
  • Price: $3400 pr.

The Eficion F200 two way monitor is a high end, high quality speaker system I heard for the first time at the VSAC 2008 show in Vancouver Washington. The speakers were driven by high quality Balance Audio Technology electronics and impressed me with their smooth sound and beautiful build quality. The Eficion room was always so full at the Vancouver Hilton I owing to the great sound that I had to ask for a review sample to get a better listen. Fortunately Eficion is located in Samamish Washington just a short 20 mile drive from my home and Peigen Jiang the owner and designer of Eficion loudspeakers was able to meet with me and supply a set speakers for evaluation. read more…

Back to the Future: The Aura Note CD/Amp Completer

Back to the Future: The Aura Note CD/Amp Completer

Specifications:

Preamp & Power Amp Section

  • Input: AUX (RCA) x 1, USB-A x 1(for MP3, WMA, OGG file), USB-B x 1(for PC)
  • Output: Speaker and Headphone
  • Volume: Cirrus Logic CS3310 (0.001%THD, 116dB Dynamic range)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz -25kHz (-0.5dB) Output: 50W + 50W (8 Ohms)
  • Power Amp: MosFet Single Ended Push Pull

CD/DAC

  • Type: Top loading mechanism
  • Media: CD / MP3 CD / USB Memory
  • D/A Conversion: Cirrus Logic CS4398, 120dB, 192kHz
  • Digital Filter: Proprietary 3rd order filter
  • Memory Buffer: RAM Buffer Playback 16MB SRAM
  • 10sec ESP

Tuner

  • Band: FM / AM
  • Preset: 20 Stations

USB

  • Decoder: Micronas USB CODEC
  • Playback Format: MP3 / WMA / OGG (UPTO 192K BPS) Recording Format: MP3 128K BPS (FIXED)
  • Playback File: 44.1kHz / 16bit -96kHz/24bit

Dimensions

  • Size: W278 x H84 x D278mm (W10.94 x H3.3 x D10.94 inch) Weight: 7kg (15.4lb. Net)
  • Power Consumption: 11W (standby), 30W (nominal), 200W (max)

Additional Features 

  • Credit Card Remote IEC/Detachable Power Cord Manufacturer: April Music of Korea
  • US Distributor for review: AV123.com
  • Price: $2350

Over the years one thing could be counted on in audio, exterior designs were consistent enough that even the most non-audio person could identify the rectangular box. That is until Bang and Olufsen came along with their sleek Scandinavian designs. The low profile, brushed aluminum and rosewood vinyl rectangles with hidden control panels brought a cult following and more than one urban legend about a home being burglarized but the B&O left behind because the thief had no idea of what it was. Unfortunately, that design is only available on the used market now….

read more…

Audioengine W1 Wireless USB Adaptor

Audioengine W1 Wireless USB Adaptor

Specifications:

  • Transmission Protocol 802.11
  • Wireless Audio Sender Wireless Audio Receiver USB AC power adapter RCA adapter “Y” cable
  • Mini-jack (3.5mm) audio cables (20″) Setup Guide
  • Price: $149

Is there nothing the USB cannot do? This little rectangular male/female connection has changed how we work with electronic items. Its ability to plug in and out on the fly makes it easy for even the most non-techy individual to use with comfort. iPods and now cell phones now recharge their batteries via USB instead of a separate port. Unfortunately, the traditional audio world has lagged behind in adopting USB into it’s equipment designs. Luckily, in the past year due to the pressure of computer-based audio, mainstream stereo manufacturers are including USB ports into their products.

One company, Audioengine has always been ahead of this curve. Their A5 powered speakers were designed to work using wireless communication from ideally an Apple Airport Express. The A5’s have been a terrific hit and have become the standard for many in this arena.

Recently, the gang at Audioengine took on the challenge of broadcasting music wirelessly using the general concept of Bluetooth. Out came the AW1, a two-piece USB design (not including the wall wart power cord), with designated Sender and Receiver units. In typical classy Audioengine fashion, they also include different mini-jack output adaptors, one a male-to-male cord going from iPod or other mp3 device to the input jack of the Audioengine W1 Sender. read more…

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