Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

Shugaung S-8 Tube Amplifier

Shugaung S-8 Tube Amplifier

Audio buffs have often referred to the time period of 1940 to1960 as the “Golden Age of Tube Audio”. During this time period every home audio amplifier in production contained vacuum tubes. In 1947, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain developed the point transistor, which eventually had a profound effect on the audio world. While the transistor was an engineering novelty at this stage, in 1950 William Shockley developed the “bi-polar junction” transistor. This new design is the blueprint for the current generation of transistors, and contains the same basic architecture as a modern component. The age of solid state was ushered in, and vacuum tubes were now considered obsolete. Over the years there were audio companies that kept this archaic technology alive, and continued to produce vacuum tube amplifiers and pre-amplifiers. The audio community recognized the unique sonic qualities of these components, and continued to buy them despite their hefty price tags. Over the years, the tube audio niche has prospered, and even increased in size. Proponents of vacuum tube electronics would argue that we have entered the “Second Golden Age” of tube audio. The number of manufacturers that offer tube based equipment is far greater than any other time frame since the 1950’s. read more…

Emotiva RPA-1 amplifier – A Great Achievement

Emotiva RPA-1 amplifier – A Great Achievement

I’m not going to lie – I had wanted to review the Emotiva RPA-1 amplifier even before it hit the market. The cool looks, the power, the build quality, and the price – all of these factors appeared to be consistent with the qualities that readers of Affordable Audio can appreciate in an audio component. Besides, everybody who sells amps thinks their products are the best in their price range. I wanted to know firsthand if a ridiculously low priced, high quality amp could actually sound as good as Emotiva says it does. read more…

Odyssey Audio Epiphany II Monitors

Odyssey Audio Epiphany II Monitors

“Tell it like it is” transducers are nothing new. Recent trends in loudspeaker design suggest that there is a widespread embrace of this design philosophy that has many listeners ditching their less than ruler flat speakers in favor for something with a more even and linear frequency response. Still, there are those that feel the path towards musical truth does not rest within transparency and neutrality. As speakers with stand out character begin to take a back seat along the hi-fi boulevard, you can always count on someone to buck the trend. read more…

The Swiss Army Knife Shanling PCD300A CD player

The Swiss Army Knife Shanling PCD300A CD player

At the Montreal Festival Son & Image show back in March, I was very impressed with all the new gear that Charisma Audio had on display at prices most people could buy. Their new stylish Shanling MC-30 (CD player, iPod dock and 3 watt stereo amp all remote controlled) was the star but supply was short. I’ve seen this little device called the PCD300A for the first time and was curious about it because at 599$ (Canadian currency), half size, good looking component that trickled down technology from the vast array of successful CD players Shanling offers it could be a great component. Was it even more interesting is the fact that it has a built-in remote volume control which means you can add this feature to a system or drive directly a power amplifier without the need of a preamplifier if your system has only this source. If this wasn’t enough, it has a coaxial digital output if you wish to upgrade it later. By the way did I mention the headphone amplifier on the front panel? read more…

A Rare Find: Sound Dynamics 50Ti Loudspeakers

A Rare Find: Sound Dynamics 50Ti Loudspeakers

For those that don’t know the history of Canadian loudspeakers, API is one of the Canadian loudspeaker industry’s grand daddies (and PSB, a major competitor). Over the years they have purchased, and torn down many a great loudspeaker manufacturer: Paisley, and Sound Dynamics to name a couple. API operated these companies, and Mirage, ASM, and the Energy brands simultaneously. But as markets shrunk, and changed, API allowed certain brand names to die off. It had nothing to do with the quality of the products being produced. I don’t know this for a fact, but Klipsch did buy them and the company was “re-structured” and pared down to a more manageable three brands. The Sound Dynamics brand was a value leader and many a less than well-healed audiophile or enthusiast have been well served by these brands. Presently Athena Technologies occupies the value leader slot within API’s structure.

  • Manufacturer: Audio Products International website: Energy Loudspeakers
  • Year produced: 1989-1992
  • 2 Way mini loudspeaker stereo pair, ported
  • Drivers: 5-1/4” foam surround mid-bass driver, 1” gold /titanium coloured cloth dome tweeter
  • Enclosure: MDF enclosure, approximately 7.25 litres or. 256 ft3 in volume, Black wood grain vinyl wrap, ext. dimensions: 18.2cm X 18.6 cm X 31.2 cm (7.16” X 7.33” X 12.28”), 3 way binding posts
  • Pricing (new): USD$220, CAD$300
  • Value in 2007 dollars, new: USD$327, CAD $435 (using historical data)
  • Purchase price 2007 dollars: CAD $10, USD$10 (Sept 26th 2007 value) read more…
Trends Audio TA-10.1 Class T Amplifier

Trends Audio TA-10.1 Class T Amplifier

Is this a great hobby or what? Recently I came across another fantastic audiophile bargain, the $149.00 Trends Audio TA-10.1 Class T amplifier. Lots of great sound for the money! Trends Audio which sells products via the internet, is based in Hong Kong and utilizes the same TriPath TA2024 output module in the manufacture of the TA 10.1 that is used in the Sonic Impact Super T. Since both amplifiers are based on the same Class D technology they share a very similar sonic signature. However just like every competing audio product there are some significant differences, which did I prefer? You’ll have to read on to find out. read more…

PS Audio Quintet

PS Audio Quintet

Growing up along the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, three things were absolutes: One, sooner or later your car was going to have hailstone dings and dents, two, lightning is a fascinating, but evil foe to electronic equipment. Three, a quality surge protector is an absolute must. As a one employee of a couple of different electronics outlets, I can’t tell you how many times I worked with customers buying all new electronics to replace their fried components after their property was hit by a bolt. read more…

Springs and Roundabouts

Springs and Roundabouts

It’s been an interesting week or so in this Viennese household. No sooner had I laid claim to our sitting room by placing the latest hi-fi project on and around the coffee table, than my wife had decided that now was the time to do the family accounts. She carefully, and precisely, dropped mountains of receipts and assorted invoices around said table, including those sacred places in front of the loudspeakers and by the equipment rack, and in addition took over vast areas of floor in our somewhat cramped home. It was time to give up. When the small Norwegian speaks, this Brit has no choice but to listen. Accounts it was, and the playing of music had to take place during the odd moment when the rustling of paper could not be heard, or when the Viking queen had taken leave of her apartment kingdom. Which is a shame, because this particular hi-fi project had just begun to sing when the paper hit the floor. And, what’s more, it’s her record player we’re talking about.

We picked up our Thorens TD150 at a hi-fi jumble about five years ago for about $60, and it had then been lent to a friend while we pontificated on where we should live. After we moved to Vienna it remained in London until only a few months ago, and now it’s with us at last, and ready to become a workhorse. read more…

LiTe Dac Ah – Revisited.

LiTe Dac Ah – Revisited.

As a transport I used the Cambridge 640Cv2 that in it’s own right had received many accolades and “Best Buys” from the hi-fi press.

My impression of the LiTe was that it presented music in a different way to those players and Dac’s that used oversampling, particularly the Cambridge. The Cambridge is a very accomplished player, but those “difficult” discs are still…well “difficult”. I suppose you could say that it doesn’t suffer fools gladly. There was, for me, something about the LiTe that sounded more musical and seemed to get to the heart of the music. read more…

Cheap Tweaks Part IV, Fuses

Cheap Tweaks Part IV, Fuses

HiFi Tuning Fuses: 29.95-34.95$ USD. I’ve been in the audiophile scene since my teenager years; I’ve seen some weird concept, bizarre trends, voodoo stuff and other crazy things. The hi-end fuse concept seems a bit too strange, even for me but I still gave it a try. It almost happens as an accident, I was ordering tubes for my Cayin amp and I’ve stumble upon the page for HiFi Tuning fuses on the same website, I taught that a 30$ try wasn’t too bad. read more…

Precious Metals: A Review of MAC Cables

Precious Metals: A Review of MAC Cables

A few weeks ago I recall saying to myself, “I don’t know what happened, but my system has never sounded better.” Over the past couple of months, I’ve changed out speaker cables and both power cords just for the hell of it. That’s it. Lateral moves price-wise. These changes offered big improvements. Now I can “hear” the recording studio, I can determine the quality of the microphone, I can tell if the microphones are positioned correctly on specific instruments, and I can even hear how much reverberation the sound engineer is adding to the vocals. But, of course, being an ardent tweaker, I want more.

I decided that since I was already content with the amp (Marsh A400), pre (Promitheus TVC), and CD player (modded Bada HD-22 tube CDP), the only thing left to experiment with were the interconnects. I began by purchasing a MAC HC Sound Pipe power cord to replace a PS Audio Prelude PC on my amp. read more…

Setton RS-440 Receiver

Setton RS-440 Receiver

A Little Background:

I’ll be the second to admit it (my wife would be the first): I’m a cheapskate. There’s nothing I like better than getting a deal, a proclivity that has made me a lifetime connoisseur of thrift shops, flea markets, junk stores, stoop sales, and (since I moved to New York City) stuff left out on the curb on recycling day. So when, a few years ago, I felt the need to upgrade my 80’s craptastic stereo system, I was naturally drawn to secondhand gear.

It started with a pair of Boston Acoustics A60s, $25 on Craigslist with the woofer surrounds shot. Another $20 later for new surrounds and I was off. Next came a minty Sherwood 7100A for $10 at a stoop sale. The Sherwood, at 17 beefy watts per channel, blew the doors off my 80-wpc JVC surround receiver, bought new in 1989 for what seemed at the time an exorbitant $250. The She wood sounded great, but it had something else as well: it looked cool. It reminded me of all the shiny aluminum-cased stereo components my better-off friends had back in the 70s, when I was stuck spinning records on a plastic JC Penney suitcase record player and changing stations on our kitchen clock radio when Mom and Dad weren’t home. Well, I had turned 40 around this time, and I guess my midlife crisis coalesced around the search for the ghost of stereo systems past – what my wife refers to as my constant pursuit of the stereo I couldn’t afford when I was seventeen. Add to that my growing realization that, for a few bucks and a little legwork, I could own a stereo that would have cost thousands of dollars new, I was hooked – I had become a vintage stereo buff. read more…

Mark and Daniel Topaz Monitors

Mark and Daniel Topaz Monitors

Every month, new audio products are born and released into the competitive wilds of the high fidelity market. It’s been this way since well before I came into this world and, God willing, that’s how things will remain long after I’m gone. Passing glances into the cascading landscape of hi-fi transducers uncover a trove of offerings that range drastically in design, form and function. Yet when it comes to compact stand mount monitors, there’s a sense of sameness. After all, the audio cookbook already has a number of concrete recipes on how to make a great sounding, audiophile approved miniature loudspeaker. As with all things, it is only a matter of time until someone sets to break tradition by creating a custom recipe of their own.

In 2004, Mark Wong and Daniel Lee did just that by coming up with a design aimed to challenge the notions of what is possible from a compact monitor. It has long been established that without major tweaks, small speakers typically produce small dynamics and bass. Leaving cheap parlor tricks at the door, Mark and Daniel sought to transcend these bounds in a way no other company has done before. In 2006, waves of reviews began crashing onto hi-fi shores, singing songs of praise and admiration for these new compact speakers. Word of their performance spread quickly, eventually getting to yours truly. It is now my pleasure to share with you, my impressions of Mark and Daniels latest product to enter the line up, the Topaz. read more…

Eminent Technology LFT-16 Planar Monitor

Eminent Technology LFT-16 Planar Monitor

The category of loudspeaker is perhaps the most diverse niche in the audio world. Electrostatics, ribbons, or quasi-ribbons are all different variations of the box-less design that is commonly referred to as planar speakers. Planar speakers have a distinctive appearance that draws the attention of both the audio enthusiast and the casual observer. Most planar speakers are monolithic in appearance, and tend to dominate the room they are located in. While the visual appearance of these speakers may not appeal to everyone, the unique sonic presentation will capture the attention of anyone who appreciates well-reproduced music. In the late 19080’s there was a large number of manufacturers building this style of speaker. Although several of the prominent manufacturers of this time period have closed their doors, there are still several companies that continue to advance this type of technology. read more…

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