Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

Avantone Active Mixcube Studio Reference Monitors

Avantone Active Mixcube Studio Reference Monitors

Now that you’ve installed your new subwoofer and networked ‘intelligent’ monitors, what else could you possibly need to add to your monitoring system? Some 5-inch, full-range mini-monitors, of course!

The standard single-driver, full-range studio monitor has always been the Auratone 5C. And today, it will be the Avantone Active Mixcubes from Avant Electronics. Referencing ‘real world’ playback has never been this cute … or this smart.

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Firestone Little Country 3 – 6922 Heaphone Amplifier/ Pre Amplifier – Whats new vs LC2?

Firestone Little Country 3 – 6922 Heaphone Amplifier/ Pre Amplifier – Whats new vs LC2?

The Little Country III is Proof You Don’t Have To Spend $1000 or More on na Tube Headphone Amp to Get That Coveted Audiophile Sound!

“If you’re like many audiophiles you spend a lot of time critically listening and are forever analyzing everything. But how about this instead, you put on your favorite music, relax into your most comfortable chair, and experience pure musical bliss without any tweaking or tinkering – The Little Country III lets you do just this”

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Oehlbach XXL Phono Preamplifier

Oehlbach XXL Phono Preamplifier

Specifications:

  • Amplification at 1kHz: 35 dB MM 60 dB MC
  • Input Impedance: 47 kΩ MM 100 Ω for MC S/N ratio: >100 dB MM > 74 dB
  • MC Dimensions: W 137mm x H 49mm x D 10mm Weight: 480g

For the past six months I have not listened to music. By that, I don’t mean that I have lived in a world where music has not existed, but that I haven’t really had the time to sit down and seriously listen. Too many things have been going on, too many of my hours have been spent working, and what’s more, I just haven’t been in the mood. Which is a little strange perhaps, because music almost always helps my mood. But not this time, or maybe that should be these times. read more…

Spendor SP2/3e speakers

Spendor SP2/3e speakers

Specifications:

  • Mid Size 2 Way Monitor
  • Drive Units HF 19 mm soft dome, ferrofluid cooled
  • Drive Units LF 200 mm polypropylene cone, 40 mm coil
  • Frequency Response 60 Hz to 20 kHz ± 3 dB Pair Matching Within 1 dB
  • Impedance nominal 8 ohms
  • Crossover point 3 kHz
  • Power handling 100 Watts
  • Dimensions H x W x D 545 mm x 275 mm x 325 mm
  • Cabinet weight 14.3 kg
  • Price: $3800

In my search for tube friendly speakers for my Leben CS-600, I reviewed the Vandersteen 1C last month. The Vandersteen was the fifth pair of speakers I’d tried over the last year to date since purchasing the CS-600. While the Vandersteen 1C were the best pair thus far, they ultimately had one fatal flaw. They were consistently unable to involve me in the music. In hindsight, I think the Vandersteen really prefer more power than 30 tube watts, and higher damping factor solid state ones at that. Consequently, I continued my search by purchasing a used pair of Spendor SP2/3e. read more…

Polk Audio RTi A3 Monitors

Polk Audio RTi A3 Monitors

Tradition is a big part of the audio experience with audio buyers. Certain companies have a specific “sound” that buyers go back to as their personal reference point. For my money the traditional Polk Audio sound is their RTi lineup. It reminds me in many ways to the original monitor sound from the late 1970’s-80’s. In the past few months Polk has updated the RTi lineup, using a new teardrop cabinet while keeping their well-regarded Powerport design. The result is the RTi A series for 2008. Having owned a pair of the RTi 38’s a few years ago I was intrigued by what its newest incarnation could do. After a few emails to find the contact person for review models since Paul DiComo left Polk’s operation to join the mother ship of Definitive Technology, I was rewarded with a pair of the cherry veneer RTi A3’s in short order.

Specifications:

  • Mid/Woofer: 1 – 6-1/2″ Diameter (16.51cm) Polymer Composite Tweeter: 1 – 1″ Diameter (2.54cm) Silk Polymer Composite Dome
  • Overall Frequency Response: 40Hz-27kHz
  • Lower -3dB Limit: 50Hz Upper -3dB Limit: 26kHz Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms
  • Recommended Amplifier Power: 20-125 w/channel
  • Efficiency: 89 dB
  • Crossover: 2.8kHz, 12dB/octave high and low pass
  • Inputs: 5-way binding posts
  • Finish: Brown Cherry or Black Oak veneer Dimensions: 14-3/4″ H x 8-7/16″ W x 14″ D (37.47cm H x 21.43cm W x 35.56cm D)
  • Enclosure Type: Vented with PowerPort and Arc Port
  • Product Weight: 16.00 lbs. (7.26kgs) Shipping unit: Pair
  • Total Shipping Weight: 35.00 lbs. (15.88kgs)
  • Warranty: 5 years parts and labor (original purchaser) Designed in USA, Manufactured in PRC
  • Price: $459

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Bass in Yo’ Face!: The Benefits of Stereo Subwoofers

Bass in Yo’ Face!: The Benefits of Stereo Subwoofers

On a whim I purchased a couple of DIY passive subwoofers in order to experiment with stereo bass on my 2-channel system. The drivers are 10″ Ascendant Audio Arsenal subwoofers. I’ve owned two different Ascendant Audio drivers before, so I know they are top notch performers. At first, I was skeptical about getting small drivers, but I didn’t have the space near my front speakers for larger ones, so I figured I’d take a chance and try these out. The seller made the cabinets from 3/4″ plywood and they are heavily damped. The subs are 17″ tall, 23″ deep, and 12″ wide with a textured finish. They definitely have that DIY look to them, but who cares?

Anyway, I’m temporarily powering them with the 6th & 7th channels of my multichannel amp (Emotiva LPA-1). It’s only 95 wpc into 4 ohms, but enough power for these particular drivers. I’m using a Reckhorn B-1 bass management controller. It’s a great little device, and perhaps the subject of a subsequent review. The subs are hooked up to the line outs on my Emotiva LMC-1 pre/pro. read more…

Audio Magic Pulse Gen ZX: A Multi-Writer Review

Audio Magic Pulse Gen ZX: A Multi-Writer Review

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 1.75 x 2.75 x 1
  • Price: $400

JH: The Audio-Magic Stealth series of line conditioners have carved out a cozy niche in the ultra-competitive power conditioner market. A key component to the Stealth conditioners is the pulse generator and the activator modules. These units emit an RF and an EMI canceling signal that effectively deals with these issues without being in direct contact with the current flow. Jerry Ramsey has developed a new application for these modules. The Pulse Gen ZX is a black box that contains both of these noise-canceling circuits. These modules are designed to be installed in any audio component, and work their magic right at the board level of a component.

I should state that I am not a fan of tweaks. I view all of these audio widgets with a great deal of skepticism. When I reviewed the Audio-Magic Mini Reference power conditioner last May, I wasn’t convinced that the pulse generator and the activator modules were responsible for its excellent performance. At that time, I felt that the wiring and the IPF circuit were the primary reasons the great sound of the Mini-Reference. When Jerry told me of this new application for the pulse generator, I decided to be open-minded and give it a shot. I installed the Gen ZX module inside the chassis of my Audio Magic Kukama DAC.

Thirty seconds into the first song, I knew that Jerry was onto something here. The first track I played was “Trans-Island Skyway” [Kamakiriad; Reprise 9 45230-2] by Donald Fagen. The bass performance of my system had become transformed with this module installed in my DAC. Bass extension increased dramatically, and became surprisingly deep and powerful. The clarity of the bass line also underwent a significant improvement. The combination of these improvements literally transformed the nature of my system. [1] Just this single improvement makes the Pulse GEN ZX module worth every penny of its asking price. read more…

VMPS 626 JR Speakers

VMPS 626 JR Speakers

Traditional planar speakers have a set of sonic attributes that are not often emulated by other designs using conventional drivers. Planar speakers are highly detailed, produce a huge soundstage, and are not plagued with cabinet resonance issues. On the downside, these speakers are physically large, can be difficult to place in a room, and have limited dynamic range. These speakers need to be placed several feet from room boundaries, due to reflection issues created by the rear wave coming off the driver panel. Only the largest specimens of planar speakers are capable of reproducing the lower registers of music in a believable manner. In spite of these limitations, planar speakers offer a sublime listening experience, and many audio enthusiasts are willing to face the challenges presented by this type of design.

Specifications:

  • Dehorned Spiral Ribbon Tweeter (7 kHz-20 kHz) Push-pull neodymium planar mid (280Hz up)
  • 6.5″ poly/mica cone woofer w/20oz magnet, 4 layer VC and cast frame
  • SR71/BH5 cabinet damping
  • CDWG -the Constant Directivity Waveguide for 180 degree dispersion full range
  • Fully CD equalized polpropylene crossover
  • 200W rms power handling, 89dB/1W/1m sensitivity
  • 8 Ohms with 4.6 Ohm minimum impedance
  • Price: $998

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McIntosh MC275 Tube Amplifier (original 1960’s version)

McIntosh MC275 Tube Amplifier (original 1960’s version)

The original McIntosh MC275 stereo tube power amplifier is a thing of beauty. Looking at it one can only stare in awe at its craftsmanship and design. That alone would not be enough if it did not perform equally well to the task of reproducing music with grace and power.

Specifications:

  • Stereo or twin amplifier
  • 75-watts as stereo
  • 150-watts as monophonic
  • Harmonic Distortion >0.5% at 20Hz through 20,000 kHz
  • Noise and Hum 90db or more below rated output
  • Voltage Amplifier-one 12AX7 tube (drives both amps)
  • Phase Inverter-Two 12AU7 tubes Drive Amplifier-Two 12BH7 tubes Cathode Follower Drive-Two 12AT7 or 12AZ7
  • Output-Four KT88 or 6550 tubes
  • Weight 67 ½ lbs
  • Original price $444

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Audio Nirvana Super 8 DIY Loudspeaker System

Audio Nirvana Super 8 DIY Loudspeaker System

The Audio Nirvana Super Eight is a nice, high quality driver that is manufactured in China to Audio Nirvana Specs. These high efficency drivers were designed with the do-it-yourself crowd in mind. This modestly priced $148.00 per pair driver caught my eye when my son was looking for a DIY speaker project to build for his high school senior project. After reading John Hoffman’s review in A$$A, he decided to use the Audio Nirvana Super Eight driver.

Specifications:

  • Frequency response: 37hz-20khz
  • Efficiency: 98db
  • Nominal Impedence; 8ohms Maximum wattage: 50 wpc Driver weight: 7.8lbs
  • Price: $148

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DIY Paradise: Monica III DAC

DIY Paradise: Monica III DAC

Specifications:

  • 1 digital input, 1 analog Output
  • Non-oversampling TDA 1545A DAC Chip Asynchronous Reclocking
  • Dimensions H 2 x W 2 x D 4 inches
  • Weight ~2 lbs
  • Price: ~$375.00 (Depends on exchange rate.)

I have had a wonderful extended interview with a beautiful supermodel that has had amazing exposure on the web these last few years. I arranged the meeting with her manager, Yeo of DIY Paradise, and from the moment she arrived in my home there has been a warmer and cleaner sense to every piece of music she touches. Wait, supermodels don’t work with music? Well, after seeing this cute little DAC in action, it is easy to see why Yeo refers to his signature DAC as Monica, and speaks of her like she is a true lady. The equipment has all the right characteristics. It is talented, warm, and friendly–and not a bad looker, either. read more…

Vandersteen 1C Speakers

Vandersteen 1C Speakers

Specifications:

  • Tweeter: 1″ critically damped, dual chamber, metal alloy dome Ferrofluid voice coil cooling
  • Woofer: 8″ die-cast basket with curvilinear polycon 1 1/2″ two-layer voice coil with ventilated aluminum former 40 oz. focuse gap magnet structure
  • Impedance: 6.8 ohms 2 ohms
  • Efficiency: 90dB with 2.83 volts of pink noise input at 1 meter on axis.
  • Recommended Amplification: 20 to 100 watts per channel
  • Frequency Response: 38Hz to 22,500Hz +or-3dB Dispersion: 38Hz to 15,800Hz 3dB at 30 degrees off axis
  • Crossover Frequency: 2800Hz, 6dB per octave
  • Video Applications: Main or surround speakers The Model One is not magnetically shielded and should be positioned at least 10 inches away from a direct view television set.
  • Dimensions: 36″ high, 12″ wide, 10″ deep 44# net, 51# gross, each
  • Warranty: One year, extendable to five years by registering the free optional warranty within
  • 30 days of purchase. Price: $ 995 pair

Preface

I went from a solid-state amplifier and preamplifier to a Leben CS-600 tubed amplifier several months ago. With only 30 push-pull watts at my disposal, I also needed more tube-friendly speakers than the very insensitive Harbeth HL-P3es2 I owned at the time. Consequently, I have had several loudspeakers in my room for extended evaluation over this time period.

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DALI Mentor 5 Tower Loudspeakers

DALI Mentor 5 Tower Loudspeakers

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: +/- 3 dB 42Hz – 34KHz
  • Sensitivity: (2.83v/1m) 88.0 dB Nominal Impedance: 6 ohms
  • Crossover Frequencies: 3KHz / 12KHz Enclosure type: Bass Reflex Connection inputs: Bi-Wire
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 34.6 x 6.4 x 9.9
  • Weight (each): 29.8 lb
  • Component Retail: $3100.00 / pair (cherry and black)

Since 1983, Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries (DALI) has been crafting high quality loudspeakers for a primarily European audience. Only within the past few years has Dali begun to turn its attention towards American shores. The latest line to enter US waters is the new Mentor series, which positions itself soundly between the Ikon and Helicon lines. Each model from the Mentor series is lovingly hand-built and assembled in Denmark. Combining high quality parts with top notch craftsmanship, the Mentor series was designed to give an uncompromising Dali experience at prices mere mortals can afford.

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Harman Kardon Citation II Tube Amplifier

Harman Kardon Citation II Tube Amplifier

Original Specifications:

  • Manufactured between 1959-1962
  • Power Output: 60 watts/channel
  • Frequency Response @ 60W: 18Hz to 40,000 Hz +0, /-1.0 dB
  • Frequency Response @ 20W: 18Hz to 60,000 Hz +0, /-1.0 dB
  • Frequency Response @ 1W: 2Hz to 80,000 Hz+0, /-1.0 dB
  • Frequency Response (Power Amplifier): 10Hz to 80,000Hz +/-1.0 Db
  • Harmonic Distortion: Less than 0.5% @60W;
  • less than 0.2% @ 20W Damping Factor:>18
  • Output Impedence: 4, 8 & 16 ohms
  • Hum & Noise: >90dB below rated output
  • Power Source: 117 VAC 60Hz
  • Tube Complement: (4) KT88 + (6) 12BY7A
  • Dimensions: 16-3/8”W x 9”H x 11.5” D Weight: approx. 70 lbs unboxed
  • Original price in kit form $159.95 or factory-wired for $229.95

Back in the late 50s-early 60s, Harman Kardon manufactured a 60-watt push-pull tube powerhouse called the Citation II. It was designed by Stewart Hegeman and weighed 70 pounds. The Citation was advertised as being the world’s first high bandwidth power amplifier, going beyond the range of human hearing. This was a concept way ahead of its time and not widely accepted in 1959. The Citation II is also known for its three massive transformers (built by the Freed company out of New York), located in a straight line in the rear of the amp. (Be very careful when lifting this, as the weight is almost all back loaded, making it awkward to carry. Take care when setting it down so as to not get your fingers caught under the rear of the amp where most of its 70lbs rests).

The Citation is highly sought after in the used market today and getting one is like panning for gold in a Californian mountain stream. It takes some time and effort, but the end result is a find of pure 24K gold. My friend, Steve Willman, loaned me his restored amp for this review. Cosmetically, the front faceplate was painted brown to match the amp, and the biasing meter on the rear was replaced with one that is slightly larger. Other than that, the only other change is the modification in the rear to accommodate larger spades for speaker wire connections. All tubes tested good to excellent on my Heathkit tube tester. In return, I have agreed to temporarily part with a pair of my Dignity Audio DA08SE monoblock SET amps. Steve loves tube amps and has been eyeing these powerful 8-watt SET babies for a while now, so I guess this is the perfect time to loan them out. read more…

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