Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

Speaker Comparison: Audio Concepts Sapphire XL vs. Stone Image Audio Rothschilde A2 Part 1

Speaker Comparison: Audio Concepts Sapphire XL vs. Stone Image Audio Rothschilde A2 Part 1

Specifications:

ACI Sapphire XL

  • FR (anechoic) 48-20khz (-3db) Impedance 6 ohm Sensitivity 85.5 db
  • Tweeter 1” Silk Dome
  • Woofer 5.5” Long Throw Paper Cone
  • Dimensions: 12”H, 8.5”W, 12”D Bi Wire capable: No
  • Weight 22 lbs
  • Price $ 1500pr

Stone Image Audio Rothschilde A2

  • FR (anechoic) 45-30khz (-3db) Impedance 8 ohm Sensitivity 88.2 db
  • Tweeter 1.12” Titanium
  • Woofer 5.5” Long-throw Poly Cone
  • Dimensions: 12”H, 7”W, 9.5”D Bi Wire capable: Yes
  • Weight 19 lbs
  • Price $1335pr

A Short Intro

Lately I’ve had a massive grin on my face. No, it’s not from spiked egg nog. Nor is it because I just saved a ton of money by switching to Geico. It’s because I have been smitten with two very special minimonitors; the Sapphire XL from Audio Concepts, Inc, and the Rothschilde A2 from Stone Image Audio. I often find myself attracted to products that carry an exotic pedigree which stray far from the pack of casual garden variety hi-fi. For yours truly, part of the allure hides within the thrill of the venturing out into the wilds unknown – shuffling around in hopes of securing a lovingly crafted piece that few others have laid eyes or ears on. While I love sundry exotica, I also love components that are able to convey the fundamental spirit and soul of the music. I could care less whether or not a product can satisfy measured standards. For these non-golden ears, all that matters is the rhythm – and baby do these two have it.

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Selah Audio MF7 Speakers

Selah Audio MF7 Speakers

First Impressions

My first experience with Selah Audio was at the ’07 AudioKarma Fest last spring. I’ve always been intrigued by this company’s speaker offerings as they have some of the finest finishes I’ve seen and a reputation for equally fine sound quality. Their product line is fairly extensive including several large floor standers that impress the eyes as well as the ears. However, it was their small MF7 monitors that caught my attention with their excellent price-to-performance ratio, so I jumped at the chance to conduct an extended audition of these speakers.

Specifications

  • Design: 2-way ported, coaxial driver Frequency Response: 55-20,000 hz ±3db Bass Extension F10 (-10db): 41 hz Sensitivity: 85 dB (2.83v/1 m)
  • Minimum impedance: 6.6 ohms Average impedance: 8 ohms Suggested Power: 30-100 watts
  • Dimensions: 15” x 8” x 11” (H x W x D) Shipping Weight: 45 pounds per pair
  • Finish: maple, cherry or black ash
  • Price per pair: $595 (shipping included to the lower 48 U.S.)

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Monarchy M24 Tube Digital Audio Converter

Monarchy M24 Tube Digital Audio Converter

Twenty-four years have passed since the introduction of the compact disc player. In 1982, Sony and Phillips brought the first machines to the market place, and provided music listeners with a format that was far more convenient to use than vinyl records, or cassette tapes. The compact disc format was full of promise in those early days, and one company used the advertising slogan of “perfect sound forever.” This was not to be the case, and the early generation machines had several significant flaws in their overall sound. Not to be deterred, audio manufacturers began the process of improving the compact disc player. Every year brought another level of refinement to these machines, and digital audio reproduction became easier to listen toOne startling development was the introduction of the stand-alone digital to analog converter. These converters promised state of the art sound, and were universally embraced as the answer to the limitations of digital reproduction. Audiophiles would carefully select a D to A converter, and then a transport to read the compact disc. The interface between the two units was made with a single digital interconnect. This arrangement of digital reproduction allowed the user to carefully mix and match components to reach their personal nirvana of audio sound. Putting together a digital rig in this manner required a lot of cash, and since digital performance was marching forward at a dizzying rate, many audio enthusiasts could not afford to keep up with the care and feeding of a top of the line digital source.

Specifications:

  • DAC and Line Amp in one single package (to drive power amps direct) 24/96 capable, superior performance for 44.1KHz CD’s
  • Tube Analog stage in DAC section
  • Plays all conventional CD’s (at 44.1KHz) and all 24/96 CD’s
  • Digital Display to indicate the Sampling Frequency
  • Military Grade 6DJ8 used in both the DAC and
  • Line Amp sections (4 pcs)
  • Audiophile Grade Volume Control on Solid Stainless Steel knob
  • 10 Sections of fully regulated power supplies Separate toroidal transformers for the Digital and Analog sections.
  • Separate Line Amp can be used with other external inputs (Tape or Tuner, Etc.) Gain = 16 dB
  • DAC Direct Output for use with other Preamps or Control Centers. Burr Brown select grade PCM63P-K used with DF1704 digital filter for the most accurate decoding. 117 or 230 Volt version
  • Price $1,490

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Inside-Out: Harman Kardon Citation 16 Amplifier

Inside-Out: Harman Kardon Citation 16 Amplifier

Every high-quality manufacturer has their bread and butter products and their cost-no object flagship line. Ford has Lincoln. GM has Cadillac. Mercedes Benz has Maybach. Harman /Kardon has Citation. Since the mid 1960’s, Citation has been h/k’s prestige line, components of uncompromising design and quality, yet remaining tastefully discrete and utterly reliable and generally a better value than their more esoteric counterparts. The model Sixteen was introduced in 1976 along with h/k’s second generation Twin Powered receiver lineup. read more…

Aperion Audio Intimus 632-LR Monitors

Aperion Audio Intimus 632-LR Monitors

By now, most of you know that I have a bit of an infatuation towards monitors. Maybe, it’s due to all the years of moving my large Infinity RSa’s, then Polk 10B’s that make me appreciate the smaller size of today’s cabinets. To think of the room, not to mention energy I would have saved carrying something the size of a large bread box, versus the monster microwavesized cases of years gone by. The flexibility that they offer in placement, not to mention the WAF of their small visibility (stands not included), make them an ideal choice for many. Whatever the reasons, for monitor fans the choices have never been more varied, or better.

Specifications:

  • Dimensions (LR): 15″ H x 7-7/8″ W x 12-3/4″ D Weight (each): 26 lbs
  • Sensitivity: 86dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms 
  • Frequency Response: 46 Hz to 20 kHz Recommended Power: 50 – 200 Watts Per Channel
  • Enclosure Type: 2-Way Vented, Video Shielded
  • Warranty: 10 years
  • Price $598pr

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Time To Get Reel: Technics RS-1506

Time To Get Reel: Technics RS-1506

My fascination with reel-to-reel tape recorders goes back to the ‘70’s when I was a teenager. I was working as a busboy at a Red Lobster restaurant making $2 per hour and capable of spending at a rate much higher than that. I played drums in a garage band with some friends from school and we really wanted to make a demo tape so that we could put together a promo pack that would put us on the fast track to making rock & roll history. It had to be a 4-track/4 channel machine that allowed us to record one instrument at a time and add instruments as we went along. The TEAC 3340S was the top of the line machine for home studio use at a price of around $1400. I was better off financially than the other guys in the band so it fell on me to buy the equipment that would make us stars. Well a quick calculation told me that I would have to work 700 hours to pay for said machine. My standards started dropping faster than the DOW on Black Friday and I settled for a Dokorder 7140 at about half the cost of the mighty TEAC. It did almost everything that the pricier machine did … just not as well. And it was kind of clunky. The band was cohesive enough to make one tape of about 8 cover songs and I think that 10 must have been required to become rock stars because obviously there can be no other explanation for the demise of the band. read more…

My Last Speaker Purchase – VMPS Tower II SE

My Last Speaker Purchase – VMPS Tower II SE

Yep. I said it. And given my track record, I’ll understand if you don’t believe me. But these speakers are my last major HT speaker purchase for a loooonnnng time. There’s absolutely no reason to upgrade anymore because this is perhaps as good as it gets (in my price range).

I suppose you’re wondering what kind of speakers I recently acquired? Oh yeah, they are…. a fantastic pair of VMPS Tower II speakers read more…

RudiStor NX-02 Sistema Headphone Amp, Ultrasone ProLine 2500 Headphones

RudiStor NX-02 Sistema Headphone Amp, Ultrasone ProLine 2500 Headphones

In this day and time where most new music listeners develop their tastes by way of ear buds, it’s been nice to see resurgence in the desire for quality headphones. Having grown up in a time when self-paced lessons included wearing plastic headsets that had the comfort level of vise grips, its always pleasant to put on a comfortable pair of “cans” and push those painful memories deeper in the grey matter of distant memories. Recently, I received an email offering me the possibility of reviewing a “Sistema”, a very peculiar audio combination, something that could be called “a Dynamic Headphone System”. It is an amp/ headphone combo. From one side the amp made by RudiStor, a small Italian based company, and maker of some of the most highly regarded headphone amplifiers available (including electrostatic ones). They teamed together with Ultrasone, the German headphone manufacturer (another European based company) and designed an amp specifically tuned for the Ultrasone’s PROLines 2500 open-air headphones.

Specifications:

  • Rudistor NX-02
  • Maximum Output (Voltage Swing): 17Vpp
  • Slew Rate >4VuSec
  • Bandwidth: 0-100.000 Hz 0.05db
  • Output Impedance: 0.01 Ohm to 1200
  • THD: 0.002% (3Vpp on 32 Ohm)
  • Gain: 14dB
  • Input Impedance: 47 Kohm Technology: IC and Bipolar Discrete Input : RCA golden
  • S/N: 115db
  • Output: 2 * jack full size
  • Dimensions (cm): 24*30*7
  • Humm Level: Not measurable
  • Weight (Kg): 4.0
  • Price $ Not yet announced.
  • Ultrasone ProLine 2500
  • S-Logic™ Natural Surround Sound
  • Dynamic principle
  • Frequency range 8-35.000 Hz
  • Impedance 40 Ohm
  • Sound pressure level 94 dB
  • MU Metal bufferboard, reduced field emissions in accordance with ULE standard
  • Driver 40 mm titanium-plated
  • Weight 292 g (without cord)
  • Price $399

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Through the years…. a look at where loudspeakers have been and where they are going.

Through the years…. a look at where loudspeakers have been and where they are going.

Sound systems 50 years from now will probably be a logical outgrowth of what we see today. One reason I think this is because today’s electrodynamic loudspeaker driver, in a form that would be clearly recognized by its inventors, was developed in 1926 by Rice and Kellogg at General Electric, and is still going, and going after 75 years. Maybe the next 50 years will better that technology, but just like hard disks that keep getting better every time something comes along that challenges their hegemony, that may well happen in loudspeakers, too. read more…

Drawmer Six-Pack Multichannel Compressor/Limiter.

Drawmer Six-Pack Multichannel Compressor/Limiter.

One of the biggest problems I have had since my beginning days of surround mixing has been that, unless you were mixing on an SSL of some sort, there was really no good way to compress a multichannel mix. Except for jury rigging, an effective, linkable multichannel compressor was just not available. Now all of that has changed with the introduction of the new Drawmer Six-Pack, an analog multichannel compressor/limiter that’s really built with multichannel applications in mind. read more…

41Hz Amp6 Basic Kit Tripath amplifier Part 2

41Hz Amp6 Basic Kit Tripath amplifier Part 2

Last month some may have read about my misadventures in the “lets see if we can start an electronic fire” DIY build of the 41Hz Amp6 Basic kit. As I have previously stated, thankfully Jan was kind enough to send me another one. Thanks Jan. I have since learned a number of lessons regarding Jan’s kit:

  • Soldering really small stuff isn’t that hard. It’s struggling to hold a circuit board while soldering small parts that is. So I bought myself an inexpensive “third hand” thingy with a magnifying glass. Cost, about $10 Canuck or $8.50USD.
  • A new, finer soldering tip makes a huge improvement in one’s ability to solder small parts.
  • The few surface mount parts are pretty easy to solder, but use lead based solder (I couldn’t get lead free solder to work, I tried).
  • Use respectable quality connectors, cause you won’t want to take it apart once you’ve built it.
  • Planning and implementing a decent enclosure takes more skill than one imagines.
  • Small glitches may happen, and re-soldering some components may be required, but don’t give up.

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An Overview of using a PC as a Music Source

An Overview of using a PC as a Music Source

“I tried using my computer as a player. I achieved good results, but not as good as my dCS gear.” – quote from a member of an on-line forum.

A person would have to know a little context about the quote above to realize why it may be of interest. The context is as follows: The author of the quote was comparing a personal computer equipped with an above average six hundred dollar sound card and quiet case, against roughly forty thousand dollars worth of dCS gear composed of a separate digital transport, upsampler, wordclock, and digital to analog converter. I’m not surprised that the dCS gear was preferred as much as I am surprised that the owner of the gear thought the comparison was worthwhile . An interesting outcome of the comparison was that the owner kept the wordclock, upsampler and DAC but no longer uses the transport. The computer now performs the duties of a digital audio transport.

There are a number of benefits that can be realized by using a computer as a digital music source, as well as a few problems that need to be overcome. Some of the benefits are as follows: read more…

Outlaw Audio ICBM

Outlaw Audio ICBM

It seems like just yesterdIn my main surround setup, a core of consumer hardware feeds a pro-level Tannoy 5.1 system. As with many pro applications, high-performance consumer gear is an affordable alternative to the even higher stack of professional hardware necessary to handle multiple formats and media. Although the hardware situation is gradually changing for the better, there are no hard and fast rules as to where bass management will be implemented and with what degree of flexibility. For Dolby Digital and DTS encoded product, digital domain bass management in my Denon receiver works fine. I chose a Denon DVD-A/V player partly for its built-in bass management, but there was still the need to crossover my SACD player’s outputs. When I first added the Sony SACD player, a demo Genelec surround system was capably handling all the bass management chores at the end of the chain, but once the Genelec PowerPak system was returned, I needed an external bass manager to properly accommodate the SACD player’s analog outputs. read more…

Polk Audio LSi7 Monitor Speakers

Polk Audio LSi7 Monitor Speakers

Twenty-six years ago I walked into Profound Sound in Lakewood, Colorado. I was fixated on buying a certain speaker, as I had been reading/drooling about it for months, sadly, for the wrong reason. For you see, my grandfather had built me a solid oak stereo stand, and having my mother’s taste for visual appeal I wanted speakers to match. Upon announcing what I was looking for, the salesman, Foote (a legend in Denver-Boulder audio sales), quickly ushered me to the speakers of my choice. He played a few selections for me and I quickly agreed these were the speakers I wanted. As Foote went to the back to grab the boxes, another salesman switched over to a different set of speakers. Suddenly, I heard some of the sweetest sound I had ever encountered. I pivoted back around and was greeted by rather ugly burgundy vinyl rectangles. But the sound, oh that sound. I was enamored to say the least. Upon Foote’s return I asked about the speakers that were playing, he excitedly replied that they were the Polk Audio 10’s and they sold for $600. Unfortunately, $175 more than I had to spend. Focusing back on the beautiful oak veneer, I shook off my buyer’s remorse and went home with what I came into purchase.

Specifications:

Driver Complement

  • Mid/Woofer 1 – 5-1/4″ Diameter (13.34cm) Tweeter 1 – 1″ Diameter (2.54cm) Ring Radiator Overall Frequency Response 45Hz – 27kHz Lower -3dB Limit 53Hz
  • Upper -3dB Limit 26kHz Nominal Impedance 4 ohms Recommended Amplifier Power 20 -150 w/ channel
  • Efficiency 88 dB
  • Crossover 2.4kHz; HPF 18dB/oct, LPF 12dB/oct.
  • Inputs Dual 5-way binding posts for bi-amp/bi-wire
  • Dimensions 13-5/8″ H x 8-5/8″ W x 10-1/4″ D
  • Mounting Options Bookshelf, stand, on-wall with built-in keyhole slot
  • Enclosure Type Vented via rear-mounted Power Port and a single front mounted ARC port
  • Product Weight 21.00 lbs. (9.53kgs) each
  • Side panel finishes: medium cherry or ebony
  • Price $919 retail

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