hi-fi systems review

Acoustic Revive: RIQ-5010, RIQ-5010W Insulators

Acoustic Revive: RIQ-5010, RIQ-5010W Insulators

Specifications: 

  • Diameter: 50mm Thickness: 10mm
  • Load Resistance: 200kg (1 pieces)
  • Please take care that the RIQ-5010 is weak in an acute-angled load
  • Four pieces to a package
  • Price: $625
  • RIQ-5010W Pure Quartz Insulator

Specifications: 

  • Diameter: 30mm Thickness: 10mm
  • Load Resistance: 200kg (1 pieces) Four pieces to a package
  • Price: $625
  • QR-8 Quartz Resonator Specifications: Diameter:10mm X 3mm Weight: 0.6g
  • Eight pieces to a package
  • Eight replacement adhesive sheet attached
  • Price: $125

Once more I am looking at some fine products from the Japanese manufacturer Acoustic Revive. Today we are going to examine a few somewhat more pricier audio accessories with the quartz RIQ-5010 and RIQ-5010W insulators, as each set of four retails for $625. To balance this out I will also examine the QR-8 quartz resonators, that come eight a package for only $125 a box. Sometimes with audio equipment it pays to wait when judging price until you weight it against actual performance per dollar. While $625 is not inexpensive if it makes a worthwhile improvement in audio quality then it is worth purchasing. Each Acoustic Revive product that I have reviewed, so far, seems to compliment the others in their approach to bringing a truly organic, relaxed sound to my audio system. When I was asked to have a chance to experience these products in my review system I naturally agreed and awaited their arrival with great anticipation. I must say that at $625 for a set of only four insulators I had my reservations, but still I reminded myself to keep an open mind because after all these were Acoustic Revive audio accessories. read more…

Revising My Reference System

Revising My Reference System

As an , part of my nature is to tweak my system continually to improve the sound and hence get closer to the music. Until recently my reference system has consisted of a VPI HW-19 MKIV turntable, Audio Research SP16 vacuum tube preamplifier, Conrad Johnson MV60SE vacuum tube amplifier, Primare D30.2 CD player and Paradigm Signature S2 monitors mounted on Target, lead and sand filled stands. Additionally my speaker cables of choice are a 10 foot pair of Discovery Cables Essential speaker cables and I also use Discovery Essence interconnects throughout the system. I have had my turntable set up using a Rega RB600 tone arm and a Benz Ruby 2 MC Cartridge running through a Quicksilver Audio MC step up transformer. My listening room is located in our basement which is 13’ X 18’ with 7’8” H ceilings. I have positioned the speakers out from the rear wall 32” and away from the side walls about a foot, toed in sharply, on axis to the listening position. read more…

Audioengine AW2 Wireless iPod Transmitter/Receiver

Audioengine AW2 Wireless iPod Transmitter/Receiver

Specifications:

  • Range (typical): 30ft (9 meters) THD+N (A+weighted) < 0.03%
  • Wi-Fi Frequency Band: 2.4-2.4835 GHz
  • Latency: < 20mSec
  • Dimensions (each): 100 x 30 x 10 mm
  • Audio frequency response: 20Hz to 22KHz (+/- 1.5 dB) Output Voltage: 830 mV
  • Channel Separation: 65 dB Price: $169

Some companies just like some people have it, a knack, an ability to hit just the right button at the right time. Making them the envy of everyone around them. My best friend has mojo, as does Apple Inc., BMW in this decade has ridden the mojo express as well. In audio, the call is much tougher, but I would like to nominate Audioengine for this distinction. The gang from one of the three places I like to live in America, Fort Collins, Colorado, have an absolute knack for hitting the bull’s eye on everything they bring to market, both in design and sales. Their first three products, the A5 and A2 powered speakers and the AW1 wireless transmitter, have received unqualified praise throughout the audio/iPod community.

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SVSound SBS-01 Loudspeakers

SVSound SBS-01 Loudspeakers

Specifications:

  • Speaker type: Sealed Bookshelf
  • Frequency Range: 68Hz – 20kHz ± 3dB Sensitivity: 85dB
  • Dimensions: 12” X 7” X 9.5” Woofer: 1 – 5¼”
  • Tweeter: 1 – 1” Silk Dome
  • Weight 11 lbs (Each)
  • Enclosure: MDF laminated with textured vinyl
  • Price: $225.00

I am not a frequent poster to the large assortment message boards available to people these days. I do read them while I don’t have enough free time be a particularly active participant. While reading the A$$A Circle on AudioCircle.com one night I stumbled across the “What you would like to see reviewed” section. I thought it was pretty cool that I already had the DIY Paradise Monica DAC that had been requested, but I scanned the rest to see if anything else caught my eye. During this time I was also looking for a loudspeaker company whose products were in the ultra-affordable category for another project that never really materialized, so the request for an SVS review struck my fancy. I’m sure a complete home theater review would have made the manufacturer happier. I was looking for an inexpensive pair of sealed 2-way bookshelf speakers. Being the frugal audiophile I really wanted to know what a couple hundred bucks could get me. read more…

Homegrown Audio Silver Lace and DNA Interconnects

Homegrown Audio Silver Lace and DNA Interconnects

Specifications:

  • DNA proprietary substrate that optimizes conductor placement and reduces microphonic vibrations all natural cotton dielectric used throughout solid silver 99.997% pure conductors
  • LOK Silver Point termination (single ended) or Neutrik Silver plated
  • XLR (balanced)
  • Each set of DNA cables is given an individual serial number for quality assurance
  • Price: .5 meter $525, 1 meter $575 (LOK)
  • Silver Lace
  • Optimized 8 strand braided geometry
  • Individually insulated, ultra fine solid silver conductors
  • FEP Teflon dielectric
  • LOK™ rhodium over silver plated locking-barrel RCA connectors
  • Price: .5 meter $245pr, 1 meter $280pr

 

 

Homegrown Audio is one of a handful of companies that have brought silver audio cables within the financial reach of the everyday audio enthusiast. During the early years of its existence, HGA sold a lot of product to the DIY market. As a whole, the DIY crowd is a tough group to please, and their acceptance of HGA wire is a testament to the overall quality of their merchandise. In a phone conversation, Holly Frye relayed stories about the beginnings of Homegrown Audio. It was a captivating story of how an enterprising group of college students formed a successful audio company.1 As its name implies, Homegrown Audio has a philosophy that is markedly different than other “big-time” cable manufacturers. Homegrown Audio’s strategy is to keep the prices of its products affordable, and reinvest its profits into the company. If you turn the pages on any major audio print magazine, you will not find any glossy color ads for their products. Cable manufacturers are often accused of soldering ends on “off the reel” wire, hiding it in a fancy jacket, and raking in the profits. Homegrown Audio offers a well-crafted product that is built in-house, and pricing it within the reach of the average audio enthusiast. read more…

Paradigm Monitor 7 v6 Floor Standing Speakers

Paradigm Monitor 7 v6 Floor Standing Speakers

Specifications:

  • Design MagneShieldTM optional for Black Ash only, 4-driver, 2-1/2-way bass reflex, quasi-3rd-order resistive port
  • Crossover 3rd-order electro-acoustic at 2.0 kHz, 2nd-order electro-acoustic at 700 Hz (lower bass drivers)
  • High-Frequency Driver 25-mm (1 in) H-PTDTM dome, ferrofluid cooled
  • Bass / Midrange Driver(s) 140-mm (5-1/2 in) M-ICPTM cone, 25-mm (1 in) voice coil, GRIPTM chassis
  • Bass Driver Two 140-mm (5-1/2 in) carbon-infused polypropylene cones, 25-mm (1 in) voice coils, GRIPTM chassis Low Frequency Extension 41 Hz (DIN) Frequency Response:
  • On-Axis ±2 dB from 54 Hz -20 kHz
  • 30° Off-Axis ±2 dB from 54 Hz – 15 kHz Sensitivity – Room / Anechoic 94 dB / 91 dB Suitable Amplifier Power Range 15 – 180 watts Maximum Input Power 130 watts
  • Impedance Compatible with 8 ohms
  • Internal Volume 25.7 L / 0.90 cu ft
  • Height, Width, Depth 93.8 cm x 16.5 cm x 29.8 cm
  • 36-15/16 in x 6-1/2 in x 11-3/4 in
  • Weight (Unpacked) 33.6 kg / 74 lb per pair Finishes Wengé, Cherry, Rosenut, Black Ash Price: $750

Many years ago, I owned a pair of Paradigm Export Monitors that I bought from a college student. He had done a bit too much partying and discovered that you can’t pay rent with deposit money from beer cans. I remember being very pleased with my purchase and I enjoyed them right up to the day they went into storage. I never saw them again, as my locker, along with a few others, was broken into while I was on a 6 month job site out of state. Wanting to start fresh, I went with another brand of speakers and equipment when I got the insurance money. Since then, much has happened with both Paradigm and myself.

read more…

Aperion Audio 4T Two Channel and Hybrid 5.1 Speaker System

Aperion Audio 4T Two Channel and Hybrid 5.1 Speaker System

Specifications

4T Towers

  • Frequency Response (+/- 3dB) 55Hz -20,000Hz (+/- 6dB) 45Hz -22,000Hz Impedance 6 Ohms Sensitivity 86 dB
  • Recommended Power 25 – 150 Watts Tweeter1″ Audiophile-grade Silk-Dome Tweeter Midrange/Woofer 2 4″ Woven Fiberglass Composite Woofers
  • Driver Configuration 2-Way
  • Enclosure Type 3/4″ HDF, Ported
  • Dimensions 34″ H x 5″ W x 7.5″ D (Base: 8.25″ x 10″)
  • Weight 19 lbs
  • Price $325 ea.

Bravus 8” Subwoofer

  • Frequency Response -3dB, 35Hz – 180Hz — -6dB,
  • 30Hz – 180Hz
  • Amplifier Power 150W
  • Woofer Dual 8″ Aluminum Cone Drivers
  • Driver Configuration Dual Drivers
  • Enclosure Type Sealed and Internally Braced 3/4″ HDF Dimensions 13.5″ H x 12″ W x 12″ D (with feet at- tached)
  • Weight 33lbs
  • Price: $499

4B Rear Channel Speakers

  • Frequency Response (+/- 3dB) 120-20,000 Hz (+/- 6dB) 100-22,000 Hz
  • Impedance 8 Ohms
  • Sensitivity 84 dB
  • Recommended Power 50-150 watts
  • Tweeter1″ Audiophile-grade Silk-Dome Tweeter
  • Midrange/Woofer 4″ Woven-Fiberglass Composite Woofer
  • Driver Configuration 2-Way Enclosure Type 3/4″ HDF, sealed Dimensions 8.75″ H x 5.33″ W x 5.5″ D Weight 6.5 lbs
  • Price: $130ea

4C Center Channel

  • Frequency Response (+/- 3dB) 80-20,000 Hz — (+/- 6dB) 70-22,000 Hz
  • Impedance 8 Ohms
  • Sensitivity 84 dB
  • Recommended Power 25-150 Watts
  • Tweeter1″ Audiophile-grade Silk-Dome Tweeter
  • Midrange/Woofer 4″ Woven-Fiberglass Composite Woofer
  • Driver Configuration 2-Way
  • Enclosure Type 3/4″ HDF, sealed with one passive radiator
  • Dimensions 5.33″ H x 12.8″ W x 5.5″ D Weight 8 lbs
  • Price: $160

One of the interesting side benefits of doing audio reviews is that you get to find out ahead of the general public when new models and an entire series is being upgraded. Sometimes the manufacturer with reveal some of the details in an “off the record” conversation. I honor these requests, as I’m a firm believer that in order for society as a whole to become better it must start with keeping one’s own gentleman’s agreements. Last spring I was at Aperion Audio’s headquarters filling in the details for my review of the 533T’s. At that time John Wanderscheid informed me that the entire lineup of Aperion speakers were to be refreshed with all new components, only the cabinets would stay the same, except for a new subwoofer styling. read more…

Almarro A205A MKII Single-Ended Pentode Integrated Tube Amplifier

Almarro A205A MKII Single-Ended Pentode Integrated Tube Amplifier

Specifications:

  • Class of operation: A
  • Tube complement: 2x6BQ5/EL84, 1x12AX7
  • Connections: 2 RCA inputs, 8/16-ohm outputs, headphone output
  • Frequency response: Output power: 5wpc Power consumption:
  • Dimensions: 11.4″ W x 5.2″ H x 9.6″ D Weight: 16 lb
  • Available finishes: Flat black,
  • Price $960

Almarro audio products are the work of designer and founder Yoshihiro Muramatsu. The company is located in the small town of Iida-shi in the Nagano prefecture of Japan where there are twelve workers under Muramatsu-San’s guidance. Two of those workers are his sons and his wife. Even though it is a relatively small company it is making a big splash in the high-end audio field with their reasonably priced, yet well designed, product line of tube gear and speakers.

Almarro is a small company with a fascinating story. Muramatsu’s father had a woodworking shop that the company now takes full advantage of with its use of Ash and Cherry wood found in the Almarro product line. Before he started Almarro Muramatsu-San used to build traditional farmhouses and in fact still lives in one of them. Almarro’s sister company, Network Supply Corporation, designs and builds electronic communication devices. This contact gives them access to suppliers of electronic parts and a wide range of special vendor catalogs for use with the Almarro products. As Muramatsu-San has been known to say he prefers using these industrial parts in his products because they have good quality control. His thought is to use parts that are readily available, will last long, do the job both reliably and safely while maintaining an affordable price. read more…

A Fun Comparison: Three Fine Monitors

A Fun Comparison: Three Fine Monitors

There is a saying in Willamette valley of Oregon that fall is great, until mid-October, then the rains come and everyone disappears indoors until spring. During this time over the course of a few weekends I got a wild hair and decided to do a non-shootout comparison between three sets of fine budget monitors I had on hand: The Era Design 5’s, Polk LSi9’s, and the Totem Rainmakers.

One of the things that I wanted to try was getting immediate feedback when listening to all three. So, I crawled up into the rafters and dug out my Adcom GFS-3 speaker selector. Then I rounded up all the 12 gauge wire I had on hand and evened out the lengths. At this point I faced my first obvious variable, I have three sets of stands, each unique, and in three levels of quality: The reference Celestion si stands that are sand-filled. A pair of twin-metal post stands that work in a pinch; and finally, a cheap wooden pair. In order to be fair each speaker would get an opportunity to be heard on all three stands.

Now I can hear some of you already mentioning amplification. Luckily, I have tube, solid-state, and class d chip amp on hand. The source unit was my coveted modified Jolida JD100 cd player. Near the end of the experiment I added in the Totem Storm subwoofer, the Design 5’s and the Rainmakers showed the most improvement in richness and bass response.

With a research project of this type I recognized that multiple days would be needed in order to fairly compare. Mental fatigue is can be a significant issue when doing serious listening. I do my best to limit myself to two hours at a shot. Having the switch box saved a great deal of time as I didn’t need to spend time running back and forth swapping speaker connections.

read more…

Pathos Acoustics Classic One MKIII integrated Hybrid Amplifier

Pathos Acoustics Classic One MKIII integrated Hybrid Amplifier

Specifications:

  • Type: Integrated amplifier with remote in Class A/AB, hybrid circuit with input tube stage, bridgeable
  • Output Power: 2 x 70W @ 8 Ohm, 2 x 130W @ 4 Ohm, 270W in bridged mode (mono)
  • Inputs: 5 line, including one balanced (XLR) Frequency response: 2Hz ÷ 100kHz
  • THD: <0.05% Signal/noise ratio: 90dB Input impedance: 100kOhm Retail Price: $2995
  • Warranty: Three years parts and labor (check with manufacturer for details)

U.S. Distributor:

  • Musical Surroundings
  • 5662 Shattuck Ave. Oakland, CA 94609 phone: 510.547.5006 fax: 510.547.5009

Italy is well known for its Ancient Roman architecture, rolling hills, fine wines, exquisite paintings, exotic cars, movie directors, clothing designers, incredible cities, romantic language, and friendly down to earth people. You may now add Pathos Acoustics to that illustrious list. Since I’m Italian, my wife has been after me for years to take some time off to fly our family over to Italy. When I do I will try my best to visit the city of Vicenza and hopefully meet with Gaetano Zanini, Gianni Borinato, and Paul Andriolo, the founders of Pathos Acoustics. They are building a new factory that will be five times as large as their existing one. The research laboratory will now be much larger allowing for the various production departments such as woodworking and metal craftsman to have their own spaces in which to work. The city of Vicenza is in the northeastern part of Italy 50 meters above sea level surrounded by hills and mountains. It has a population of about 119,000 people and is less than a one hours drive from Venice’s Marco Polo airport. Vicenza is well known for its ancient churches, palaces and other buildings as well as a wall that is still partially standing and at one time surrounded the entire city. If you get the chance go online and see the many beautiful pictures of the city of Vicenza. Peder Beckman of Musical Surroundings, their US distributor, sent me this picture of the Teatro Olimpico or “Olympic Theatre”, designed by Andrea Palladio. This was his last work, built in 1585, and is today the oldest surviving Renaissance Theater. I mention all this to give you an idea of the environment of a longstanding tradition of excellence in which Pathos Acoustics is working under. Knowing this it should be no surprise when you see this glorious integrated amplifier that is not only functional but also created with an eye towards beauty as well. Pathos Acoustics produces audio gear with looks that are magnificently inspired like an ancient palace, or an old stone church done in the tradition of the old renaissance masters.

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Grant Fidelity B-283 Tube Processor/Buffer

Grant Fidelity B-283 Tube Processor/Buffer

Specifications:

  • Tube Compliment: (2) 6J1
  • RCA Input & Output
  • Weight: 6 lb.
  • Dimensions: 8in W x 4in D x 6in H List price: $219
  • Sale price: $150

Addiction is a hard thing to break free of, especially when audio is involved. It all comes down to craving a certain type of presentation, sound, and tone. I’m no different than anybody else, in that I find my sonic craving is best filled when those three characteristics are covered in some fashion. My biggest addiction is the “warmth” that tubes impart on the musical signal. I’ve heard several explanations as to the cause of this auditory signature, so I won’t attempt to explain, etc., it just isn’t worth the hassle to be honest.

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Bolder Cable Ultimate IV Squeezebox Power Supply

Bolder Cable Ultimate IV Squeezebox Power Supply

Specifications:

  • ACME Audio Silver Plated IEC connector, ACME Audio Silver Plated fuse holder, ACME Audio Silver Plated ceramic fuse, EI core transformer, He-Fred rectifiers, Jensen four pole capacitors and a Linear Tecnologies regulator. Includes the Nirvana Regulator upgrade.
  • Price $950

The application of power supply design is a topic that is frequently not fully appreciated by the typical audio enthusiast. Even individuals who are adventurous enough to pop the hood on their gear may yet have a limited grasp on what they are looking at. It is often assumed that if a piece of equipment has a large transformer and chunky filter caps, then it must have a high-grade power supply. While these two sub-components play an important role in the performance of a power supply, there are several other considerations that must be addressed in the overall architecture of the component layout. Designers must work through an appropriate grounding scheme, and smooth the ripple characteristics of AC current with the bridge rectification assembly. The electrical current needs of the circuit must be taken into account, and the power supply filter capacitance requirements are then generated. A high quality power supply directly affects the sonic characteristics of a component; therefore every part within the power supply has an influence on the overall sound. During the design process, it is necessary to listen to the effects of the parts used within a power supply, and find the appropriate blend of parts to achieve maximum performance. Since the audio circuit of any component manipulates the DC output of a power supply, it can be inferred that the overall performance of a piece is determined by the quality of the power supply stage.

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Blue Circle Power Line Product

Blue Circle Power Line Product

Blue Circle Audio BC86MKIII Power Line Pillow $180

Technical Information:

  • 4 distinct wide ‘Q’ filters covering a wide range of frequencies.
  • Fully enclosed in a steel chassis for RF rejection.
  • Filtering is cumulative with the addition of one or more additional BC86s
  • MKII-broader range of filtration than the original BC86
  • MKIII-eliminated PC board hard wired -double the filtration of the MKII.

Blue Circle Audio BC86PUG filtered outlet cord

  • $180 USD
  • Technical Information:
  • The Pug is a BC86MKIII with a receptacle that allows it to be used with a component with a hardwired power cord

Blue Circle Audio BC86PC filtered power cord $180 USD

Technical Information:

  • The BC86PC is simply a BC86MKIII inserted in a hospital grade power cord with an IEC connector on one end
  • Blue Circle Audio BC62 power cord 6 feet (1.83 m) long
  • $280 USD plus $30 per foot for additional feet

Technical Information:

  • 10-gauge basic power cord with a hospital grade male plug on one end and in IEC plug on the other
  • Blue Circle Audio RR2
  • Innerkip, Ontario, Canada NOJ 1MO
  • Telephone +1 (519) 469-3215
  • Fax +(519) 469-3782

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away . . .”(quote from the original Star Wars movie) To the north of a country called America lived a young man who for 20 years toiled to design and manufacture quality handcrafted audio products for the forces of good (audiophiles) against the forces of evil (companies of mass produced products seeking profit over quality). This young man, Gilbert Yeung, with the power of his force through his philosophy of “Simplicity, Artistry, and Music” raged war against the evil empire.

Blue Circle Audio is a company located in a little town in Canada called Innerkip. Looking at a map it is near Lake Erie about equal distance between Toronto, Canada and Buffalo, New York. I asked him how he managed to set-up his factory in Innerkip when he told me the following story.

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Stager Silver Solids Interconnects

Stager Silver Solids Interconnects

Specifications:

  • Design: Unshielded symmetrical pair Ultra low 11 pF/ft. Capacitance.
  • Wire: .999 pure silver 24 ga. (.020″ diameter) solid core wire.
  • Insulator: Translucent Teflon.
  • Connectors: Canare F-10 RCA connectors. Machined solid brass center, Teflon insulator, 24K gold plated contacts, spring strain relief.
  • Construction: Lead free silver solder at all contacts. Color coded Polyolefin heat shrink at ends. Caig ProGold coating applied to silver for lasting anti-tarnish protection, and to connectors for perfect electrical contact.
  • Price: $129.00 -1 Meter Pair ($80.00 per additional meter)

When a product is designed correctly and does everything right, you really don’t need to mess with it much. It seems to me that should be the way things are supposed to work, and I love those types of products. The Stager Silver solids have been built the same way using the same products by the same guy for over a decade and they sound awesome. A question that will go unanswered not only in this review but also likely for the rest of my life I believe is “Why do companies constantly create new product lines?” I think the answer is that people want the latest greatest product, but is it truly better and at what cost in the long run? read more…

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