Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

Audio Art Interconnect IC-3 and SC-5 Speaker Cables: A System Approach

Audio Art Interconnect IC-3 and SC-5 Speaker Cables: A System Approach

A while ago I did a review of the Audio Art IC-3 and IC-5 interconnects, affordable cables that have gained a reputation for great sound and stellar value. I really believe in a system approach regarding cabling, so I asked for a review sample of the loudspeaker cable that Rick Fritz has to offer. After some initial struggles to “re-connect” with Rick, finally we were able to get together. read more…

Mapletree Audio 2SE Preamplifier

Mapletree Audio 2SE Preamplifier

Genuine honesty is an attribute that quite often gets lost in the audio manufacturing world. In the age of slick marketing campaigns, a simple description about circuit design can be spun into a mythological tale of heroic proportions. Writers of advertising copy would have the reader believe that the design team had to glean the secrets of ancient magi in order to find the incantations necessary to create their latest offering. It is a refreshing change when an audio manufacturer steps up and provides a straightforward description of how their product is designed. Dr. Lloyd Peppard who owns Mapletree Audio is willing to lay on the table all the design parameters of his products. The following quote is from the design goals statement regarding the Mapletree 2SE preamplifier.

“An electronic preamplifier is not a new product; the basic design has been around for close to 100 years. The design decisions must be viewed in this light. In other words, the issues are more concerned with economics (e.g. high performance/price ratio) and manufacturability (e.g. suitable for small scale production) than with technical innovation. Of course, there are some technical matters that must also be addressed (e.g. evaluating alternative circuits, operating parameters, and components). The following initial design decisions are mainly subjective, based on experience and preference.”

read more…

The Planet10-HiFi “Fonkens”: A mini enclosure that makes music (with a nice little driver to boot!)

The Planet10-HiFi “Fonkens”: A mini enclosure that makes music (with a nice little driver to boot!)

Specifications:

  • Full range, modified Fostex 127 driven Onken style enclosure, cherry veneer, with dark walnut “Phi” insignia Dimensions: 14″ X 8-5/8″ X 11-3/4″
  • (356mm X 219mm X 208mm)
  • Price as tested: $800.00 (CAD)
  • Typical price : $700.00 (CAD)

How’s that for an intro? Now beam me up Scotty!

To begin with, and without repeating items that I have included in my interview with Dave Dlugos (aka Planet10), I will attempt to explain the “Onken” style enclosure. These enclosure types work well with many drivers, from the monstrous Altecs, JBLs, etc, to the diminutive little buggers installed in the particular set that I have had at home for review. For those of you that aren’t into reading interviews, I’ll provide this brief overview of Dave: Planet10 has been a resource for a few years on the Internet. Dave has been a moderator and a topposter on many sites and always brings his (well informed) take on things to discussions. He has developed a box library of some interesting designs (not all his) and has, in my opinion been near the forefront of DIY loudspeaker design and service to the audio community. And he gives credit where it is due, he’s the first to point out that he has two left thumbs and relies on his partner in crime (Chris) to actually do practical construction, and others (Scott Lindgren for example) for some technical help as well. Enough said about that. Now onto some info and the review. read more…

Music ‘Apple’ Style: The Ferguson Hill FH007 Mini System

Music ‘Apple’ Style: The Ferguson Hill FH007 Mini System

Specifications:

  • 2 Horn speaker 8 Ohms
  • 2 Bass speakers 8 Ohms
  • Integrated Amplifier – Bi-amped Class AB 16W
  • x 4 channels
  • Frequency response: 75Hz-20kHz ± 5 dB
  • 1195$ MSRP

Let me first tell you that I love style. When I was younger, I wanted to be a designer, a good one, with exotic cars or space shuttle stuff. Well, very few people are lucky enough to do that. But things changes, we move on. Fast forward 2006, browsing the web, I came across a quite striking piece of gear consisting of four speakers that blew me away. I was very intrigued to know more, especially in the context of a hi-fi system. Let me tell you that if Apple would build Hi-Fi components to complement their iPods, this would probably be their speaker system. Enter the Ferguson Hill FH-007 system. read more…

AV123 x-cs Center Channel Speaker

AV123 x-cs Center Channel Speaker

  • System: Two way, three driver directradiating system, sealed enclosure
  • Drivers: 1″ treated fabric dome and two custom 6.5″ curvilinear shaped treated paper cone woofers with polymer chassis
  • Crossover: 2100Hz, 2nd order Frequency Response: 65 Hz to 20 KHz (± 3 dB) Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal
  • Efficiency: 90.5 dB (@ 1 watt / 1 meter)
  • Dimensions: Horizontally Oriented: 8.5″ H x 20.0″ W x 15.5″ D; Vertically
  • Oriented: 20.0″ H x 8.5″ W x 15.5″ D
  • Weight: 33lbs each; ship weight = 41 lbs
  • Warranty: Three Years
  • Price: $139 each

AV123 is a company that should need no introduction to Affordable$$Audio readers. Helmed by Mark Schifter (a champion of quality, budget audio since he founded Audio Alchemy back in the early ‘90s), a number of AV123 products have graced the virtual pages of our humble ‘zine, consistently receiving glowing reviews. read more…

Fostex FE206 Driver / FE208 Sigma Cabinet

Fostex FE206 Driver / FE208 Sigma Cabinet

 Specifications:

  • FE206E Frequency response f0 – 20khz Sound Pressure Level 96db Rated Input 30w
  • Music Power 90w Overall Diameter 208mm Baffle Hole Diameter 185mm Depth 87.5mm
  • Specifications FE126E
  • Frequency response fs – 25Khz
  • Sound Pressure Level 93db Rated Input 15w Music Power 45w Overall Diameter 142mm Baffle Hole Diameter 104mm Depth 61mm

I like a bargain.

I am sure that most of you do too. However there is always lurking in the back of our minds “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. One way to accelerate your way up the Hi Fi ladder is to diy it. If you choose the components you intend to make, carefully, you can in most cases end up with something that sounds as good, if not better than similar manufactured units. The main reason to DIY is that you can save yourself a whole bucket load of money. read more…

Vista Audio i84 Integrated Amplifier

Vista Audio i84 Integrated Amplifier

Specifications

  • Stereo Push-Pull Integrated Amplifier
  • Power: 15Wpc Class AB operation with extended class A (0-8W in pure class A)
  • Bandwidth: 15Hz-30kHz Inputs: CD, Tuner, Aux. Outputs: 4 and 8 ohm Input sensitivity: 1.0Vpk
  • Tubes: 2xECC83S, 4x EL84
  • Toroidal transformers Gold plated terminals Stainless steel chassis
  • Dimensions: 14in W x 12in D x 6in H Weight: 16lbs
  • Component Retail: $729.00
  • Made in Serbia

A few years ago; all I knew of tubes was that they were something popular among people my father’s age. Whenever I mentioned tubes to an older music lover, they would often speak fondly of the experience as if reciting stories of old love. Yet as with most things in life, true appreciation and understanding can only come with experience. My first experience arrived in the form of a Dynakit ST-35. What followed then was an awakening of sort. In just a matter of moments, I understood those wide smiles and distant stares. aNever before had I felt so engaged with the music. It had more than just a pretty sound – it had soul – it had life! Maybe those old guys weren’t crazy after all. I was smitten. read more…

An Affordable System for Music Lovers

An Affordable System for Music Lovers

An affordable audio system is a term that to some people in the mainstream audio press means a system that is obtainable for a few thousand dollars. To the average person with an average income, children to raise and bills to pay, thousands of dollars to spend on a hobby is a considerable sum. Hence the mission of this publication is to explore musically affordable products that every man and woman can afford. I have been extremely blessed over the years to be able to obtain a very nice reference system that could be considered by some as high end but, yes it cost thousands of dollars to assemble. However my audiophile roots started with very humble beginnings, when I purchased my first mid-fi quality system in High School. From that moment on I was always tweaking it to try and improve upon its musicality.

Today the budding audiophile has more equipment choices available than ever before and at extremely reasonable prices. With that in mind I assembled a killer sounding system for less than $1000.00. If you are as lucky as I was you can find a few of these items used and save a few dollars more! read more…

JoLida JD-1501A Integrated Hybrid Amplifier

JoLida JD-1501A Integrated Hybrid Amplifier

Specifications

  • Rated Output Power: 100 W per channel at 8 ohms,
  • 22Hz to 19KHz
  • Frequency Response: (at 1 watt into 8 ohms) 5Hz to
  • 100KHz + 1dB
  • Bandwidth: 22Hz to 19kHz + 3dB; 0dB 100 W 1KHz Distortion THD: Less than 0.1% at 90 W output, 22Hz to 18KHz
  • Input Impedance: 47Kohms
  • Input Sensitivity: 500mV at 1KHz and 8 ohms for 100 watt output
  • Noise and Hum: 90dB below rated output
  • Tube Complement: 2 pcs. 12AX7 for the preamplifier. Power Requirements: 110V-120 VAC 60Hz 180 watts-standby, 450 watts maximum (220 VAC 50Hz option). Dimensions: 17 inches wide by 13 inches deep by 4.5 inches high high.
  • Weight: 32 pounds net, approximately 35 pounds packaged.
  • Warranty: 18 months limited parts and labor. Six months or 1000 hours whichever comes first on Jolida Tubes.
  • Price: $675
  • Designed in USA, manufactured in China.

“The warmth of tubes, or the power of solid state, which is better?” That argument has been going on longer than most of us have been actively involved in audio. Yet, surprisingly very few companies have caught on to the idea that audiophiles have been practicing for years, mixing of tube preamps and solidstate amplifiers. One of the few that have crossing the path is JoLida Corporation. Run by Michael Allen, and dedicated to the quality sound need not take a second mortgage. JoLida has enjoyed several years of loyal following based on that simple assumption. read more…

ACI Force/Force XL Subwoofer

ACI Force/Force XL Subwoofer

Specifications

  • Driver: 10” down firing, proprietary ultra long throw
  • Bass Loading: sealed with a system Q < .6
  • Frequency Response: 20-250Hz ±3db
  • Low Pass Crossover: dual adjustable filters from 35-
  • 250Hz, each 12db/oct. for 24db/oct. total
  • High Pass Crossover: fixed 100Hz 12db/oct., left and right line level RCA outputs
  • Volume: continuously variable input level
  • Phase Control: continuously variable 0-180º
  • Line Level Inputs: right and left RCA inputs (also used for high level inputs using speaker level converters)
  • Theater Direct Input: RCA input bypassing volume control
  • Special Circuitry: protection and woofer behavior control
  • Supplied Accessories: Subwoofer Setup CD, speaker level converters (RCA to wire connectors with built-in resistance)
  • Dimensions: 13.5” H x 16.75” W x 12.5” D (original model), 15.75″ x 13.75” x 13.75 (new Force XL) Price: $750 (satin black), $850 (inlaid cherry), $950 (piano black)

I have a love/hate relationship with subwoofers. I love the sense of dynamics, fullness and space that they add to the music by extending my system’s response down into the bottom octave. But I sometimes hate the hoops you have to jump through to get them set up just right, representing yet another component I will inevitably obsess over whether or not I’ve fully optimized. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other. Although the set up of almost any subwoofer can be tedious and requires painstaking trial and error (newer self-calibrating subs notwithstanding), the sonic benefits delivered by a high-quality subwoofer such as the ACI Force XL are well worth that extra effort. read more…

Benchmark DAC1 USB

Benchmark DAC1 USB

Specifications

  • USB, XLR balanced, BNC coaxial, and TOSLINK optical digital inputs
  • Compatible with Windows Vista/XP/2000 and Mac OS X without driver installation
  • Elected low-impedance 10, 20, or 30 db pads on bal- anced outputs
  • Jumper-selected low-impedance 10, 20, or 30 dB pads on balanced outputs
  • -10 dBV unbalanced RCA analog outputs, +13.5 dBu maximum output level
  • Two HPA2™ high-current, 0-Ohm, high-output 1/4″ headphone outputs
  • HPA2™ gain jumpers to match gain to headphone sen- sitivity
  • Front-panel volume control for headphone outputs Front-panel volume control of all analog outputs (in “Variable” mode)
  • Rear-panel “Variable/Calibrated” mode switch enables volume control of analog outputs
  • Rear-panel “Variable/Calibrated” mode switch includes a mute position
  • XLR outputs are preset to +4dBu at 0 dBFS in “Calibrated” mode (20-dB Pad enabled)”
  • Automatic “Standby Mode” -activated after 15 seconds of loss of digital input signal
  • Instant wake-up from “Standby Mode” –
  • THD+N = -107 dB, 0.00045% @ -3 dBFS input, -105 dB, 0.00056% @ 0 dBFS input
  • Automatic de-emphasis in response to consumer pre-emphasis bit (44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz)
  • 115 V, 230 V, 50-60 Hz international power supply
  • Low radiation toroidal power transformer Dimensions: 9.5in W x 1.725in H x 9.33in D Weight: 7 lbs
  • Price: $1,275.00
  • Manufactured in USA

For several years the world of digital audio has been going through a metamorphosis. Audio enthusiasts have seen the creation of several high resolution encoding formats. However, the state of these formats is uncertain, and it is quite probable that all of the current high-resolution formats will fade from the audio landscape. Still, the standard compact disc soldiers on, and comprises large portion of most enthusiast’s music library. Even though it is a mature technology, the audio community is still finding ways to tease higher levels of performance from this format. One of the recent trends in digital audio is the storage of music on large computer hard drives. In these systems, the traditional CD transport is completely eliminated. The cost of large hard drives have fallen dramatically over the last few years, and have become a cost effective way to feed a high quality signal to a digital to analog converter. From a practical standpoint, the hard drive will rival the signal quality of a very expensive stand-alone transport. The tricky part of this process is interfacing the hard drive with the audio system. read more…

Sherwood RX-4103 Receiver

Sherwood RX-4103 Receiver

Specifications

  • 2 Channels
  • Stereo Mode Power 105 Watt @ 8 ohm, 40 Hz – 20 kHz, THD: 0.9% Inputs / Outputs
  • Rear Input Connectors
  • RCA (2 Audio Channels) x 4
  • Rear Output Connectors
  • RCA (2 Audio Channels) x 2
  • Front A/V Connections
  • Headphones x 1
  • Speaker Impedance: 8 Ohm • 16 Ohm
  • Speaker Selection: A+B or A/B Tuner Presets: 30 Channels Tone Controls: Bass & Treble
  • Remote Control
  • Dimensions 17.4Wx13Dx5H (inches) Weight 18.0 lb.
  • Price Paid: $88

About 7 months ago I finished our basement, after the better part of two years of on and off work. One of the spaces is a dedicated movie room for the family. The other is a rec room for our daughters, ages 11, 9 and 6. My two older girls both have iPod Nano’s, but I wanted them to experience music without headphones. Originally, I was going to pick up a garage sale receiver, but my wife wanted the ability to silence the music at her discretion. read more…

Celestion F38 Loudspeakers

Celestion F38 Loudspeakers

Specifications:

  • 200W power handling
  • Drivers One 8″ & one 6.5″ doped paper cone driver
  • Tweeter1″ neodymium aluminum dome
  • Impedence: 8 Ohms
  • Freq Response: 40 Hz–20 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 90 dB SPL: 109 dB
  • Design: Bass reflex, Magnetically shielded
  • Rear 4mm gold binding posts
  • Warranty: 5-year Finish: Dark Apple Price: $500 pair Manufactured in China

The Celestion F38 is a floorstanding speaker at mini-monitor prices. At a retail price of $500 per pair, it compares favorably with speakers costing 2-3 times as much.

Designed in Engand yet made in China, the savings is passed on to the consumer. I was impressed with the build quality, as was in my experience, products made in China are of low quality. The cabinets are solid and carefully tuned to eliminate distortion, and it sounds like this is true. read more…

“Silver Era” Pioneer SX-780 Receiver

“Silver Era” Pioneer SX-780 Receiver

Specifications

  • Continuous Power Output: 45 watts per channel (8 ohms from 20Hz-20kHz with no more than 0.05% total harmonic distortion), 45 watts per channel (4 ohms from 20Hz-20kHz with no more than 0.08% total harmonic distortion)
  • Damping Factor: 30 (20Hz-20kHz, 8 ohms)
  • Line Input Sensitivity/Impedance: 150mV/50k ohms Phono Input Sensitivity/Impedance: 2.5mV/50k ohms Frequency
  • Response (Line): 5Hz-80kHz +0,-1dB Frequency Response (Phono): 20Hz-20kHZ ±0.2dB Hum and Noise (IHF, short-circuited, A network, rated power): 76dB (phono), 95dB (line)
  • Bass control: +8dB, -7dB (100Hz) Treble control: +7dB, -6dB (10kHz)
  • Loudness Contour (volume @ -40dB): +6dB (100Hz), +3dB (10kHz)
  • Low Filter: 15Hz (6dB/oct.)
  • Power Requirements: 120V, 60Hz
  • Power Consumption: 150W
  • Dimensions: 18-7/8(W) x 5-1/2(H) x 12-5/8(D) in. Weight: 24lb. 11oz

The first real audio system I ever experience was on a family vacation to my Uncle’s home. I don’t recall much about his system other than lots of silver faceplates and analog meters, but the look and sound stuck with me all the way home. After a year’s worth of cutting lawns and washing dishes I purchased my first stereo system—a Pioneer SX-680 receiver, EPI 100 speakers and a Technics SLB3 turntable (the receiver and speakers are long gone, but the turntable still does its thing in my basement system). read more…

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