hi-fi systems review

Stereo Knight Ultimate Magnetic Silverstone B&R Preamplifier

Stereo Knight Ultimate Magnetic Silverstone B&R Preamplifier

Specifications

  • Inputs: 2 Balanced and 3 Unbalanced
  • Outputs: 2 Balanced and 2 Unbalanced
  • Attenuation: 33 steps via four silver-wound transformers
  • Dimensions: 18″ W x 12″ D x 7” H
  • Power Requirements: 110v -60Hz
  • Weight: 25 lbs net; 35 lbs shipping
  • Warranty: 3 years parts and labor MSRP: $2550

I’ve had an obsession with passive preamplifiers lately. I do not know whether it’s the simple nature of them, the path of least resistance, or the fact that I like class A solid state amplifiers and I feel that those two designs have synergy together; not to mention I don’t need a second component sucking juice next to the class A bias. I had heard of Stereo Knight a few times before as I had seen one of their passive preamps floating around the HIFI classifieds. Along with their current line up of four passive preamplifiers, they also have three vacuum tube driven preamplifiers that use the same transformer attenuation technology, and KT88 tube integrate amplifier and pair of 100wpc tube monoblocks. When I got the opportunity to review a rather unknown passive preamp, the Stereo Knight Ultimate Magnetic Silverstone B&R, I definitely jumped at the offer. read more…

Kenwood KR-4600 AM/FM Receiver

Kenwood KR-4600 AM/FM Receiver

Specifications:

  • POWER OUTPUT: 30 watts per channel @ 0.3% THD?
  • VINTAGE: ~1977
  • INPUTS:
  • PHONO 1 & 2 (both moving magnet) TAPE MONITORS 1 & 2
  • AUXILLARY FEATURES:
  • PREAMP/POWER AMP JUMPERS BASS & TREBLE CONTROLS LOUDNESS & HIGH FILTER BUTTONS MODE: MONO/STEREO (with FM muting) VOLUME & BALANCE CONTROLS
  • SIGNAL STRENGTH & CENTER CHANNEL TUNING METERS HEADPHONE JACK
  • SPEAKER SELECTOR: A,B, A+B
  • METAL CASE WITH WALNUT ENDCAPS DIMENSIONS:
  • APPROX. 19 3/4”W X 5 3/4”H X 13” D APPROX. 25 LBS.

Let us observe a moment of silence for Kenwood, a once great company that has since abandoned the American home audio market (I believe they still sell car stereos). From the early seventies to the mid-eighties Kenwood (originally known as Trio) battled toe-to-toe with the likes of Pioneer, Marantz, Sansui, and Technics among others, for marketplace dominance. Oddly enough, while they were known early on for having superior tuner sections, their receivers somehow never garnered the acclaim that their fine integrated amplifiers received. I find this puzzling on two counts: first, I always thought that their receivers in general and this series in particular were among the best looking on the market in an understated sort of way, they were far less ornate than the Pioneer’s or Sansui’s and less industrial than the Marantz line. Secondly, having rehabbed both their receivers and their integrated amps, I can attest that the receivers were built in the same fashion as their amps. read more…

Aperion Audio Intimus 6B Monitors

Aperion Audio Intimus 6B Monitors

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: (+/- 3dB) 48-20,000 Hz — (+/- 6dB) 42-22,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 82 dB
  • Recommended Power: 50 -200 Watts Amplifier Power
  • Tweeter: 1″ Audiophile-grade Silk-Dome Tweeter
  • Midrange Woofer: 6.5″ Woven-Fiberglass Composite Woofer
  • Driver Configuration: 2-Way Enclosure Type: 1″ HDF, Ported Dimensions: 15″ H x 8.3″ W x 12.8″ D Warranty: 10 years
  • Weight: 26 lbs ea.
  • Price: $690 pr.

Internet-direct audio companies are either evil or a blessing depending on whom you ask. Now I love brick and mortar mom and pop shops and over the years I’ve tried to support them in whatever field of retailing before submitting myself to the obnoxiousness of big boxes. The economic purging of such businesses, especially audio has left consumers all the poorer for it. With fewer storefronts, many upstart manufacturers had little choice but to go the Internet-direct route. The beginning of this decade was a definite shake down period as how to make this type of marketing work. By all accounts on the various audio forums Aperion Audio has found success and respect.

I’ve lived about 10 minutes from Aperion Audio’s headquarters for several years now, but never visited. Aperion is proud of their Portland, Oregon roots, but doesn’t broadcast it locally. It must have something to do with their very calm philosophy. In doing some research on the forums about Aperion Audio, those who have visited their offices, or dealt with staff on the phone all seem to describe a very calm, efficient, friendly, and relaxed atmosphere. read more…

TTWeights Audio Kit

TTWeights Audio Kit

Specifications:

  • TTSuperWeight Stainless Version 1.8 lbs Internally dampened $289
  • TTCopperCarbon ULTIMATT – 1.570 KG/3.5lbs $469
  • TTOuter Stabilizing Ring 600 Gram Version Solid Copper Nickel Plated-Silver Finish $569
  • Package deal at $999

Vinyl playback just never seems to go out of fashion among audiophiles and it’s often remarked that this is in fact a golden era for turntable design with new models reaching previously unimaginable heights of accuracy and musicality. It’s certainly a golden time for expensive tables, some can cost more than a house or a luxury car, but one lives in hope that the engineering insights gained eventually trickle down. While there are mods and extras one can add to almost any component in the audio chain (see my Aug review of HAL’s special dampers for interconnect cables), tables and vinyl reproduction generally have always been a playground for those who want to eke out the last bit of performance from their electro-mechanical toys. Mats, cleaning fluids, anti-static guns, software set-up tools, counterweights, VTA shims, motor controllers, vibration-killing rubber balls and so forth, from stylus tip to plinth, there’s a product somewhere to help you fine tune your table’s ability to trace those grooves. I don’t know who invented the first periphery ring but it’s not unusual now to find tables with these extras, most noticeably the higher end VPI tables, but their application still seems in its infancy. Adding a ring to my rig has intrigued me in a way that simultaneously made me a little uncomfortable. Just what could adding a weighty ring to the circumference of an LP actually accomplish? I understand the possibility of flattening a slightly warped record, though I am not sure this is really the best way to do it, but I could not easily overcome my anxiety about piling on weight to a spinning motor, or worse, the possibility of having my precious stylus find itself in intimate contact with unforgiving and non-compliant metal. read more…

Wyred4Sound STP SE Preamplifier

Wyred4Sound STP SE Preamplifier

Specifications:

  • Typical Distortion
  • THD+N (20-20kHz / 2V) <0.003%
  • THD+N Noise (A-weighted / VOL = 63) < 6 µV
  • Noise (A-weighted / VOL = 64) < 18 µV
  • Noise (20-20kHz / VOL = 63) < 9 µV Noise (20-20kHz / VOL = 64) < 27 µV
  • Frequency Response (20-20kHz / 2V) +/- 0.02 db
  • Channel Tracking (All Steps) < +/- 0.05 db IMD < 0.002%
  • Crosstalk (20-20kHz / VOL = 63) >106 db
  • Crosstalk (20-20kHz / VOL = 64) > 96 db
  • Output Impedance (VOL ? 63) 113 Ù
  • Output Impedance (VOL ? 64) 78 Ù
  • Input Impedance 60.4kÙ
  • Maximum Output Voltage 9V RMS
  • *Vol = 63 (gain stage not engaged)
  • *Vol = 64 (gain stage engaged)
  • Manufacturer: Cullen Circuits read more…
Sony XDR-F1HD FM HD Tuner

Sony XDR-F1HD FM HD Tuner

Specifications

  • Antenna System : 75 ohm for FM, AM
  • Frequency Range : AM: 530 — 1,710 kHz, FM: 87.5 — 108 MHz
  • Dimensions (Approx.) : 7 1/8 x 2 3/8 x 6 3/8 inches (180 x 60 x 160mm) (w/h/d) not including projecting parts and controls
  • Weight (Approx.) : 2lb 6.8oz (1.1kg) Price: $99.99

Working from home on a pretty regular basis allows me to listen to music from a wide variety of sources. A few years back I had all but given up on radio in the home, the difference in sound quality was enough to question its value. Then came the promise of HD radio. A coworker has a Polk Audio radio in his office and once I heard it I had hopes for radio’s rebirth.

A$$A’s founder, Mark Marcantonio, received the Sony XDR-F1HD tuner from a reader for a suggested review. Knowing my taste, Mark asked me to take it on. No problem on my end, as I could decide in a final manner whether HD radio is worthy of it’s potential as a music source when I work from home. read more…

Yamaha A1000 Integrated Stereo Amplifier

Yamaha A1000 Integrated Stereo Amplifier

Specifications:

  • POWER OUTPUT: 120 WPC INTO 8
  • OHMS FROM 20 – 20,OOO HZ.
  • RATED DISTORTION: < 0.005% T.H.D. < 0.002% I.M.D.
  • RATED IHF DYNAMIC POWER: 320 WPC INTO 4 OHMS; 340 WPC INTO 3 OHMS
  • AMPLIFIER CLASS: CLASS AB OR AUTO CLASS A TO 10W / CLASS AB (SWITCHABLE)
  • DAMPING FACTOR: 90 ( 1 kHz, 8 ohms)
  • POWER BANDWIDTH: 10 – 100,000 Hz ( ½ power, 0.03% THD, 8 ohms) S/N RATIO: -106 dB (line inputs)
  • (IHF A NETWORK) -80dB PHONO MC -94 dB PHONO MM
  • DIMENSIONS: 17 1/8” W X 5 3/4” H X 16 3/4” D
  • WEIGHT: 28 LBS. 10 OZ.
  • PURCHASE PRICE: $600 IN 1984

The Yamaha A1000 integrated amp was their top model from 1982-1984, and offered almost all of the flexibility and performance of separates at a very attractive price. The fact that I still use it daily 25 years later speaks volumes for its build quality and durability*. In today’s market, an integrated amp with this level of performance would cost $2,000 or more. read more…

Magnum Dynalab Indoor FM Antenna’s

Magnum Dynalab Indoor FM Antenna’s

Specifications

SR-100 Silver Ribbon Tunable FM Antenna

  • An indoor Antenna for both enhanced FM performance and HDTV broadcasts
  • Specifications
  • Base measures 3.5” width x 2.5” deep x 3/4” high Maximum height of antenna fully extended: approx. 37.5” Maximum width of antenna fully spread: approx. 32”
  • Cord is approx. 3′ long
  • Warranty: twenty four month limited warranty applies to the first end user
  • Price: $35

MD-205 Signal Sleuth FM signal Antenna

  • According to Magnum Dynalab “In an independent test, using a commercially available FM tuner, the following percentile improvements were attained with the SLEUTH on line:
  • Sensitivity (under 1dB limiting) -170% Spurious Response Rejection -90% Image Rejection -380%
  • Ultimate Sensitivity was rated at 70dB+ Also, the total harmonic distortion (THD) remained unchanged indicating the Sleuth added no measurable distortion of its own.” Specifications
  • Circuit: 3 varactor-tuned RF stages Gain: VARIABLE -30dB thru +30dB Tuning Range: 88-110 MHz Bandwidth: Better than 400KHz Noise: Less than 4dB
  • Distortion: 0%
  • Antenna Input: 75 ohms
  • Power Required: 230/240/110 volts
  • Size: 17” x 1.75′ x 6”
  • 43.18cm x 4.45cm x 15.24cm
  • Weight: 6 lbs/ 2.65KG
  • Warranty: twenty four month limited warranty applies to the first end user
  • Price: $435
  • Company Information
  • Magnum Dynalab Ltd.
  • 8 Strathearn Avenue, Unit 9
  • Brampton, Ontario
  • Canada
  • L6T 4L9
  • Telephone: (905) 791-5888
  • Toll free in North America 1-800-551-1430
  • Fax: (905) 791-5583
  • International Fax: (1) (905) 791-5583
  • US Contact Telephone, toll free: 1-800-551-4130

Looking back twenty-five years ago to 1984, we see a time when Magnum Dynalab introduced its very first product, the Signal Sleuth, which was designed to boost and stabilize FM signals. According to Larry Zurowski, the president of Magnum Dynalab, the biggest difference between that Signal Sleuth and today’s model is that the gain curve is now more consistent across the FM band. Later, in September of 1985, the company marketed the FT 101, which was heralded as their first FM tuner. Magnum Dynalab now makes FM tuners, an integrated FM receiver, an integrated amplifier as well as a selection of both indoor and outdoor antennas. Having recently, in the June 2009 issue of “Affordable Audio”, taken a look back at the 1960’s McIntosh MR67 tube tuners I can only wish I’d had today’s Magnum Dynalab products around to help with the review. read more…

Swan D3.2F+ Speakers

Swan D3.2F+ Speakers

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 34Hz – 20kHz (-6dB) Sensitivity: (2.83v/1m) 90 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 4 ohms Crossover Frequencies: 3KHz Connection inputs: Bi-Wire
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 42.7″ x 9.4″ x 13.4″ Weight (each): 57.3 lb
  • Component Retail: $1827 / pair (Luxurious Walnut Finish)

When I was a kid, I had a set of little plastic cars that had “Made In China” molded into the bottom of them. They were fun to play with, but pretty cheaply made and not nearly the quality of the much more expensive Hot Wheels. Now I haven’t been able to find a “Made In China” sticker anywhere on the Swan D3.2F+, but they are made by our Chinese friends over seas and there is nothing cheaply made about these speakers. The quality is top-notch top to bottom, and inside to out. read more…

Polk Audio Instant Home Theater

Polk Audio Instant Home Theater

Specifications

  • System Power: 130 Watts total
  • Dimensions:
  • SurroundBar SDA – 3 7/8″ H x 31 3/4″ W x 4 5/8″ D
  • Subwoofer – 10″ H x 10 1/4″ W x 10 1/4″ D
  • Weight:
  • SurroundBar SDA – 8.7 lbs
  • Subwoofer – 9.1 lbs
  • Power Rating:
  • SurroundBar SDA – 24 Vdc, 2.7 A
  • Wireless Subwoofer – 100-240 Vac, 50/60 Hz, 1A MSRP: $499.95

As much as I have always loved a home theater, it is significantly more work and more equipment than I want to deal with at times. For a long time however, the only options available to a consumer were piecing together a quality home theater from a company like Polk Audio, or buying a “home theater in a box”; which has never been the first choice of audiophile for many reasons. In the last few years, Polk Audio has pioneered another option for the sound enthusiast in the form of the SurroundBar. Their first offering was the original SurroundBar which consisted of seven 3.5″ composite cone drivers with three 0.75-inch silk/polymer composite dome tweeters packed into 42″ of simulated surround sound goodness. Since then, Polk Audio has released three more varieties of SurroundBars including the IHT (Instant Home Theater). Down sized a little from the original model, the stereo IHT has one 2.5″ Composite Midrange, one 2.5″ Composite Dimensional Bass Driver, and one 0.5″ Silk Dome Tweeter per channel. Couple this with the wireless 6.5″ Dynamic Balance long throw subwoofer, and you have the makings of a one of a kind home theater experience. Polk seems to have created a successful new piece of the home theater market. read more…

Polk Audio SDA-2 Loudspeakers

Polk Audio SDA-2 Loudspeakers

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Dimensions: 39 1/2″ H BY 16″ W BY 12″ D Shipping Weight: 80 lbs. each
  • Drivers: 1″ Soft Dome tweeter; 6 1/2″ mid-woofers; 12″ passive radiator speaker
  • Mirror imaged pairs
  • Tweeter is fused-protected
  • Frequency Response: 16-26,000 Hz. (no tolerance given)
  • Sensitivity: 92 dB / w / m Nominal Impedence: 4 ohms Suggested Amplification: 10-500 watts continuous;common ground amplifiers only
  • Price: $1,200.00 (1984 Cost) ~$300.00 (Current Used Cost)

Polk Audio speakers have a long-standing reputation for providing very good sound quality at very reasonable prices. They may lack a certain “cache” in the high-end audio press but their owners are as passionately enthusiastic as any I’ve encountered surfing the various web sites. The wildest enthusiasm is reserved for the SDA models, the subject of this review. read more…

Tweak City Audio Gizmo V1.0M Integrated mini-amplifier

Tweak City Audio Gizmo V1.0M Integrated mini-amplifier

Specifications

  • Output Connections: L/R channel speakers
  • Subwoofer out (RCA connection) Power Rating: 25WPC x 2 @ 4 ohms Class D amplifier
  • Voltage: 110V/220V
  • Shipping weight: 7 lbs (approx) Dimensions: 8″D x 2.5″H x 4.5″W Additional Features:
  • Digital Display
  • Separate Bass and Treble Controls
  • Subwoofer out
  • Rosewood cap
  • True 100 Hz crossover built-in
  • Volume +/-, Mute, Standby and Bass/Treble controls
  • Price: $119

Class D amplification has, in all honesty, a love/hate relationship in the audio community. On one hand, it is admired for what it can do with subwoofers, and in spaces where room is at a premium, i.e. the office. At the same time it is ripped by those who feel that power from a silicon chip has all the subtlety of a redneck neighbor. I’ll be the first to admit, that I don’t have a preference either way, I just want to hear the best sound possible for the dollars that have been exchanged. A month ago, I was presented with one of the more unique-looking integrated amps on the market, the Gizmo V1.0M. The amp is collaboration between Craig Chase and designer Doug Goldberg. It is the first product for Craig’s new company, Tweak City Audio. Some of you may recognize the screen moniker “Craigsub” on various forums, yes, it’s the same guy. Long time readers of A$$A may remember Craig as the guest writer and host of the blind speaker shootout printed some two years ago in the October issue. read more…

Kimber Kable Interconnects and Speaker Cables

Kimber Kable Interconnects and Speaker Cables

Specifications:

Tonik 1.0 meter Interconnect with Ultratike RCA type connectors:

  • Varistrand(Trademark) Ultra-pure copper
  • Tri-braid geometry
  • PE dielectric
  • (Cp) parallel capacitance: 52.0 pF @ 20kHz
  • (LS) series inductance: 0.772 micro henry @ 20kHz
  • (Rdc) dc resistance: 0.055 ohms
  • (Xt) total reactance: 0.098 ohms @ 20kHz Frequency response + /- 0.5 db dc-2.8 MHz price: $74

Hero 1.0 meter Interconnect with WBT 0144 RCA type connectors:

  • Varistrand(Trademark) Hyper-pure copper
  • GyroQuadratic(Trademark) geometry
  • Dual Teflon ® dielectric
  • (Cp) parallel capacitance: 76.5 pF @ 20kHz
  • (LS) series inductance: 0.401 micro henry @ 20kHz
  • (Rdc) dc resistance: 0.033 ohms
  • (Xt) total reactance: 0.051 ohms @ 20kHz Frequency response + /- 0.5 db dc-8 MHz price: $262

4PR Loudspeaker Cables 2.5 meter bare wire ends:

  • High purity copper
  • 2 x 14 AWG conductors
  • Special formula PE dielectric
  • (Cp) parallel capacitance: 312.0 pF @ 20kHz
  • (LS) series inductance: 0.654 micro henry @ 20kHz
  • (Rdc) dc resistance: 0.041 ohms
  • (Xt) total reactance: 0.0825 ohms @ 20kHz Frequency response + /- 0.5 db dc-100 kHz price: $76.40
  • price as reviewed: 4.5 meter banana-spade (SBAN-SPD) $149 optional six inch 4PR Bi-Wire binding-post jumpers: $75.80

4TC Loudspeaker Cables 2.5 meter bare wire ends:

  • Varistrand Hyper-pure copper
  • 2 X 13 AWG conductors
  • Clear & white Teflon ® dielectric
  • (Cp) parallel capacitance: 362.0 pF @ 20kHz
  • (LS) series inductance: 0.715 micro henry @ 20kHz
  • (Rdc) dc resistance: 0.038 ohms
  • (Xt) total reactance: 0.071 ohms @ 20kHz Frequency response + /- 0.5 db dc-500 kHz price: $206
  • price as reviewed: 4.5 meter banana -spade (SBAN-SPD) $360 optional six inch 4TC -Wire binding-post jumpers: $92

Company Information:

  • 2752 South 1900 West
  • Ogden, UT 84401
  • Telephone: 801-621-5530
  • Fax: 801-627-6980

Ray Kimber, the founder and developer of Kimber Kable products, first brought his cables to market in 1979. The very first product was the Kimber Kable 4PR loudspeaker cable which is one of the pieces up for review today. Kimber Kable products are designed using what they term the OSCaR(TM) engineering process, which stands for Objective, Subjective, Correlation and Results. The theory here is to not only use scientific measurements but also listening impressions to aide in the development of the final overall product. They quite proudly state their simple philosophy, “develop and manufacture cables that offer the highest correlation of performance and price”. Back when the first Kimber Kable product was released there was not a great deal of cable manufactures on the market like there are today. I remember when I first purchased high-end cables only to have my friends laugh at the very thought of spending that type of money on something so simple as a cable. I wish I could say I had bought the 4PR back then but I did not yet hear of Ray Kimber. Later however when the very first Kimber Kable PBJ interconnects hit the market I was one of the first to purchase them. In fact I bought two pair with their basic RCA connectors that I still proudly own and use in my dedicated home theater room today. I have gone through quite a few cables in my years but have never seen the need to replace the PBJ’s from Kimber as I found them that good. Brett Terry over at Kimber Kable informed me that the basic PBJ unshielded interconnects I bought back then are the same as the product the company produces today. There is something to be said for consistency especially if a product is made right the first time. They makes interconnects, plus cables for both loudspeakers and subwoofers as well as power cords. Kimber products also include various optical, HDMI cables, an HDMI Switcher box, phono cables, some DIY hobbyist kits (for those so inclined) and more. When you look at their thirty-five page price book you realize just how big of a company they really are. read more…

Wyred 4 Sound SX-500 Mono Amplifiers

Wyred 4 Sound SX-500 Mono Amplifiers

Specifications

  • MONO AMPLIFIERS SX-500
  • Typical THD+N 8Ω (10W out) 0.0027%
  • Power Output 8Ω @ 0.2% THD+N 250W
  • Power Output 8Ω @ 1.0% THD+N 330W
  • Output Idle Noise 80uV
  • Efficiency 4Ω 81% @ 500W Efficiency 8Ω 78% @ 200W
  • Frequency Response 20Hz–20kHz ± 0.3db
  • Lower Bandwidth 3.3Hz all loads
  • Balanced Input Impedance 60.4kΩ
  • Unbalanced Input Impedance 60.4kΩ
  • Dynamic Range 115db
  • Gain 27db
  • Sensitivity 2.1V
  • Output Impedance 5mΩ
  • Min Load 2Ω
  • Damping Factor (100Hz 8Ω) 2000
  • Max Output Current 35A
  • Price: $899.00 (Each mono)

A consensus is a relatively rare thing among audiophiles. Every now and then, reviewers actually agree about a given product. For example, the latest Magico (Model 6) speakers seem to be universally adored. Personally, I find that rather boring. Sure, I would happily take delivery on a pair, but as an audio journalist, reviewing such a product is not particularly interesting. The price tag alone ($160K!) means that review better be a rave! Anything short of that would be a huge disappointment.

In contrast, I find products that are both controversial and affordable to be very interesting. The new line of Wyred-4-Sound amplifiers meets both criteria nicely. By high-end standards, they are certainly affordable. At the bottom of their range, the ST-250 stereo amplifier delivers 125WPC into 8 ohms, with a retail price of $999 USD. For twice the money ($1999 USD), you can 4.5x as much power, 570 WPC! The current monoblock amplifiers offer 250 WPC, priced at $899/each. The dollar/watt ratio is impressive, all throughout the line. Even more appealing than that, the amps use the same Class-D switching module (the B&O Ice module) as many much more expensive products, such as those made my Jeff Rowland Design Group, Bel Canto, Red Dragon Audio, H2O audio, Acoustic Reality…and the list goes on. read more…

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