Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

Musiland MD10 USB DAC

Musiland MD10 USB DAC

If 2007 wasn’t, then for sure 2008 is the year for music servers. Add-on products are popping up right and left, leading to a myriad of choices and some definite confusion among music server newbies. One of the most fascinating DAC units is the multi-purpose Musiland MD10. It has a tremendous feature set for a small form factor unit that looked quite at home on top of the Underwood modified PS Audio Trio C-100 or the Jolida JD100 cdp.

Specifications:

  • 24bit System, up to 192kHz Sampling Frequency
  • BNC, Coax, USB or Toslink inputs
  • Microcomputer Control, LCD Display, OSD Menu Line or Earphone Analog Audio Output Interface Class A Earphone Amplifier
  • Sampling Frequencies: 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz
  • 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz or, 192kHz Analog Audio Output Interface: RCA 3.5 mm Phone Socket
  • CIRRUS CS4398 D/A Chip, Up to 120Db SNR Dual digital filtering: 102 db or 75 db
  • Balance Analog Filter class A AMP.
  • LCD Display Real-time to Show Sampling Rate
  • Dimensions: (inches) 6.25. w x 8.5d x 2h
  • Price: $299
  • Manufacturer: DIYEDEN

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Audiophile Output on Mac OSX

Audiophile Output on Mac OSX

Well, I was reading a bit about the Core Audio driver, which is the heart of the Macintosh OSX audio system. This driver is one hell of a trick piece of kit; in fact it has been optimised for use in studios i.e. capable of some pretty nifty bits of trick, with a host of options that once discovered, reveal some startling quality and flexibility. For some reason, I’d never even investigated the settings for either the audio driver or iTunes, which for someone who fiddles as much as me is unusual. Usually I walk every path until I find one I’m happy with.

Now my DAC is capable of accepting several different sample rates on the input side, which it then clocks twice (once per clock) and then upsamples to either 176.4Khz or 192Khz, whichever relates to the input. Apparently, according to the tech guys at Apogee, whatever input is used (i.e. Toslink, Coax, AES, Firewire, etc., etc.), the results will always be the same. I’m mildly sceptical as I just changed my Toslink cable yesterday, and once again, another lift in quality. Maybe once they release the Leopard Firewire drivers, I will receive another happy augmentation in the quality department. read more…

Radii ALP-01R Remote Line Preamplifier

Radii ALP-01R Remote Line Preamplifier

Specifications:

  • Output Impedance: 800 ohm
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz to 100,000Hz
  • Harmonic Distortion: less than 0.1% Tube Complement: 12AU7 x3, 5AR4 x1
  • S/N Ratio: -85dB
  • Power Consumption: 30W
  • Dimension(W x D x H): 275 x 280 x 185mm
  • Weight: 7Kg (16 lbs)
  • Features: IR Remote Control Volume UP, DOWN and MUTE Price: $ 799

The simplest of all components……..

Ah, the preamp, how could something so simple be the bane of so many audiophiles’ enjoyment? It has long been a personal headache of mine. There are many great ones with proud price tags. As a matter of principle, I am least likely to shell out a lot of money for one. Don’t ask me why. I know they are the heart of every great system, and one of the most important components. The principle is simple: take a small signal and make it louder, while offering volume attenuation and source switching without mucking up or coloring the original input signal.

Keeping with that thought, I decided to do just that, obtain a simple line-level preamplifier that seemed to offer good value and a simple circuit. Based on the success and value of the Vista i84 tube amp, I emailed Boris Sasic of Vista Audio. Vista is the sole USA Distributor of Radii products and Boris feels the line fits right in with his highly praised Vista offerings.

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Solid State Logic Matrix

Solid State Logic Matrix

Giant consoles are certainly not extinct. They remain an invaluable resource to making certain kinds of productions and to making certain stages of productions.

Sometimes the most innovative products are at first the most misunderstood. Through my process of reviewing the new small-format SSL Matrix console, I realized what a gaping hole of functionality there has been in project studio land ever since the diminutive DAW replaced the console as the producer’s production centerpiece. SSL calls Matrix “the new standard in project studio integration,” and I agree. There are other audiophile-quality analog/digital hybrid systems that interface with DAWs to a finite degree of repeatability and automation, as are there a multitude of dedicated digital audio workstation controllers. Matrix is the first offering from a top console manufacturer surgically aimed at the professional project-studio-based producer whose analog gear and DAW are equally integral to making records.

Matrix will most immediately appeal to those who aspire to use or have used fullfeatured control surfaces or mixing consoles, but it might just convert some serious mouse draggers, too. read more…

KCI Cables & Interconnects review (Mandarina, Firefly, Silkworm )

KCI Cables & Interconnects review (Mandarina, Firefly, Silkworm )

Only a precious few earth dwellers dabble in the world of high-end stereo. The cold, hard truth is that most folks either don’t know or could not give a s#*t about the effort to pursue better sound. That’s fine. Leave the uninitiated to their Best Buy and Wal Mart specials while we audiophiles bask in a land rich in fine crafted component jewelry. After all, not everyone was meant to ‘get it’ /< insert snub face with nose in the air /<. Yet within this special interest group some refer to as Audiophilia, there exists heavy debate over something considered by many as voodoo. I’m talkin’ about high end cables.

Ah yes, cables – the one topic guaranteed to tickle the hairs on the neck of even the most liberal of audio veterans. It’s the one component in the audio chain that draws a distinctive line in the sand between the gospel and the cynics. For all intents and purposes, however, this article is not designed to act as the great equalizing parchment drawn to bring peace throughout audio land. Instead, this article observes, nay, even illustrates, the differences of some very well respected interconnects. So hear ye, huddled masses of the converted and non-converted alike, I bring to thee a comparison of KCI’s finest. read more…

Bolder Cable Company Squeezebox Modifications

Bolder Cable Company Squeezebox Modifications

Modifications:

  • 8 total choices from $125-$1000

Convenience and high quality audio performance are two attributes that rarely co-exist in an audio component. Audiophiles have an innate distrust of any piece of gear that touts its ease-of-use as a selling feature. For instance, in the eyes of discriminating audiophiles, CD changers are often regarded as inferior to a single disc player. Since the transport is a critical step in correctly reading the data off a disc, it stands to reason that a high quality single disc mechanism will audibly outperform the complicated carousel design. However, there are exceptions to every rule, and in some cases a high-end piece of audio gear can actually simplify the process of listening to music. The Squeezebox SB3 is a device that allows an audio enthusiast to conveniently interface a conventional audio system with a computer. A music library is stored on a computer hard drive, and the Squeezebox uses a wireless signal to transmit the information to the stereo system. A stock Squeezebox can be categorized as a “lifestyle” component, yet it can be turned into a high-resolution digital source with a properly designed modification package.

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PS Audio GCP-200 preamplifier with External Power Supply

PS Audio GCP-200 preamplifier with External Power Supply

PS Audio is a name that has been around now for several decades, in one form or another, even disappearing for awhile before coming back again headed up by chief Paul McGowan (the P of PS), who brought the company name back into existence with a range of new power products in the late1990s. Most people now associate the company with its well-regarded range of line conditioners, cables, and perhaps with their latest range of half-sized gain cell amps amps and DACs that have garnered positive reviews far and wide. PS Audio also offers a range of full-sized amplifiers, covering all the bases: integrated, two-channel and multi-channel power amps and, the subject of this review, their stand-alone preamp, the GCP-200.

Specifications:

  • 6 inputs
  • HT Bypass
  • Polarity control
  • 5 RCA 1 XLR
  • Separate subwoofer output XLR output and RCA output Remote control
  • Programable gain for each channel
  • Price: Starting at $2195

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JBL LSR4312SP Linear Spatial Reference Powered Subwoofer

JBL LSR4312SP Linear Spatial Reference Powered Subwoofer

The LSR 4300 series of monitors from JBL — including the 4326 and 4328 with 6- and 8-inch woofers, respectively — have been widely praised for their sound quality and modernistic networking features. They first gained my attention in 2006, when I test-drove a 4328 pair (sans sub) and found the monitors quite pleasing in both timbre and construction. I thought the RMC (Room Mode Correction, JBL’s system of reducing low-frequency room resonances) was interesting, but ultimately useless to me as I had a 15-inch powered sub from another manufacturer that could not be controlled by the software. Philosophically and practically, I insisted on full-range monitoring, so I knew that I had to wait until JBL had an LSR sub that could truly complete the system. This brings us to today.

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Threshold 800a review

Threshold 800a review

Specifications:

  • Class A operation, Designed by Nelson
  • Pass
  • Output: 200 wpc
  • Time Built: 1975-77

You know what is great about vintage gear? Well, you can buy it, use it for whatever time frame you prefer, and still get what you paid for it (or very close to). You know what is not so great about vintage gear? You have to hunt it down, take the chance it might need restoration, and deal with all your non-audiophile friends asking why you bought something that old. I must admit I fall into the category of loving to hunt down and toy with older gear. Sometimes I build an entire system of 20-plus-year-old equipment, and other times I add one piece of vintage to three or four pieces of modern. read more…

Skiing Ninja crossovers for Onix Rocket RS450 Speakers

Skiing Ninja crossovers for Onix Rocket RS450 Speakers

Specifications:

  • Point to point connections. No wiring in the signal path. Sonicap Capacitors
  • When appropriate, capacitors are bypassed by a 0.1 Sonicap
  • Alpha Core 16ga copper foil inductors
  • Mills resistors
  • Full Onix IT-001 12ga OFC RED wire
  • Heat Shrink tubing applied to applicable connections
  • Vampire silver solder used for all connections
  • 60 durometer rubber washers to eliminate vibrations from the crossover to cabinet
  • SPAX screws are supplied for easy installation

Ok, I admit it, I’m fascinated with the art of modifications. Maybe it goes back to my teacher mindset, where lesson plans are routinely improved upon over the years. Sometimes it’s just a tweak. In other instances, a large modification is in order. Whatever the case may be, mods are an outlet by which owners can improve upon their rig without giving up a favorite piece.

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Grant Fidelity A-534B Integrated Tube Amplifier

Grant Fidelity A-534B Integrated Tube Amplifier

Peas and carrots, beer and pizza, cheese and burger, some things just go together. The Grant Fidelity A534B tube amp sounds so good with women vocalists that it is just like peas and carrots. Rated at 10 watts, using EL34 driver tubes in conjunction with a pair of 300B output tubes, this is obviously not a head banger’s amp. But it reaches the sublime with female vocalists of all types. But I am getting ahead of myself here.

Tube Compliment:

  • 2 Shuguang 300B, 2 Shuguang EL34B
  • 2 Shugang Chinese 12AX7s, 1 Electro Harmonix 5U4GB Output: 10 wpc
  • Weight: 60 lbs
  • Price: $1979

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Harman Kardon 3470 Stereo Receiver

Harman Kardon 3470 Stereo Receiver

Every once in awhile, it’s good therapy to cleanse the audiophile spirit by suspending routine high end explorations and pay homage to affordable components of yore that truly got the fundamentals of music reproduction right. One of the first major stepping stones in my foray into audio was the Harman Kardon 3470 stereo receiver. Found on the shelves of Circuit City, this product carried little street cred and nearly zero hi-fi appeal. After all, what self-respecting audiophile would dare entertain the idea of bringing home a receiver so accessible that even the next door neighbor can stop by Circuit City and pick one up before grabbing some take-out? How plebian!

Specifications:

  • Product Dimensions: 16:3 x 17.4 x 6.1 inches
  • Weight: 26.8 pounds
  • Power Output: 100wpc into 8 ohms from
  • 20Hz-20kHz @ <0.07% THD
  • 135wpc into 4 ohms from
  • 20Hz-20kHz @ <0.2% THD
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 110kHz
  • Input Sensitivity: 200mV Input Impedance: 47k Ohms
  • Power Consumption: 72 watts at idle, 332 watts maximum (both channels driven)

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Audio Nirvana Super 12 Driver

Audio Nirvana Super 12 Driver

 There are several distinct benefits to a speaker system that utilizes a single driver per side. Blending two or more drivers together through a crossover network is a difficult task. A multidriver speaker has issues with crossover slopes, speaker phase, impedance matching, and differing sound radiation patterns. A full range driver in a properly executed design will sidestep the problems associated with a traditional multi-driver speaker. Common-Sense Audio offers the Audio Nirvana line of full range drivers. The smallest driver in the Audio Nirvana family is a 6.5-inch speaker. Recently, a 12-inch full range behemoth has been added to the line-up. In February 2007, we reviewed the Audio Nirvana Super 8 driver. This speaker had several commendable traits, and offered s rock solid value to the frugal audio enthusiast. When David Dicks announced the addition of the Super 12 to the Audio Nirvana lineup, I immediately ordered a pair of these drivers for review. read more…

Acculine A3 Speakers

Acculine A3 Speakers

The Acculine brand of speakers is a value-oriented series sold through The Audio Insider website alongside some much pricier offerings from Gamut, Swans and Dana. Though their A1 monitor did not take the top honors in the blind monitor shootout detailed in the October ‘07 edition of Affordable$$Audio, it did receive much praise for its remarkable sound quality as one of the lowest-priced entries in that competition. I was originally contacted to review the A1 monitor, but instead decided to give the floor-standing A3 a try, since this would free me from the complications of locating appropriate stands. Besides, the $250 bump in price seems like a fair trade-off, since it eliminates the cost of stands and gives you an extra mid-woofer in each cabinet for presumably deeper output.

Specifications

  • 3″ wideband planar-magnetic flat-panel high frequency unit
  • Dual high-excursion aluminum 135mm mid-woofers
  • Bass reflex acoustic alignment
  • Magnetically shielded
  • Frequency Response: 45Hz-22kHz
  • Sensitivity: 89dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Power Handling: 10-150W
  • Finish: Simulated black ash PVC Dimensions: 39.8” x 9.1” x 9.7” Net Weight: 35lbs each
  • Price per pair: $499

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