HifiZine
The enthusiast's audio webzine

Ice Age Audio Power Cables

Patrick Dillon explores the range of cables from father-and-son business IceAge Audio in his own rigs. Impressed by their performance-price quotient, he nominates them as a new value leader. “No magic here, no spoof science, just well chosen material, solid workmanship, and really sane prices.” The review concludes with a short Q&A with proprietor Rick Parker.

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How to Network your Mac music system with the Raspberry Pi and HiFiBerry – Part 3

John Reekie wraps up his three-part series on an inexpensive music streamer built from a Raspberry Pi and a HifiBerry DIGI+ interface card. This instalment covers a range of topics that didn’t fit in the first two instalments: more controller apps, Wi-Fi, Airplay, use with an Android tablet, and various questions and thoughts about power supplies and DACs. As a bonus, he briefly covers how to use the PiStreamer with JRiver Media Center.

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Tisbury Audio Mini Passive Preamplifier II

“Sometimes, it’s the little things that drive you crazy… take, for example, gain. It seems there’s always too much or too little, never the perfect Goldilocks amount.” Oliver Masciarotte test-drives the Tisbury Audio Mini Passive with adjustable gain switches as a solution. “For modest or minimalist systems, the Mini Passive is a no–brainer; versatile, compact, low cost and aurally unobtrusive.”

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PranaFidelity Fifty90 loudspeakers

“A couple of years ago at RMAF I lucked into a room on the quieter Sunday morning session… the sonics were excellent, the music interesting, and the vibe relaxed…” Patrick Dillon continues the journey by spending quality time with the PranaFidelity Fifty90 standmounts in his own listening rooms, concluding that “the Fifty90s are among the most memorable pairs I’ve had the good fortune to spend unhurried listening time with in my own home.”

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How to Network your Mac music system with the Raspberry Pi and HiFiBerry – Part 2

“Networked music playback can be a bit… confusing,” writes John Reekie as he begins the second article in his series on the “PiStreamer.” He decides to use a simple (ish) architecture with a music server running on a Mac and a controller app running on an iPad, and shows how to set up the various components.

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Gauder Akustik Arcona 40

High style and higher fidelity, the ARCONA 40’s exceptional voice draws you into an ever deeper infatuation with your music; It commands, “Just sit still and listen!” Oliver Masciarotte reports.

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Raven Audio Blackhawk Limited Edition

Patrick Dillon listens to the Blackhawk Limited Edition amplifier, the upgraded version of the Raven Audio Nighthawk reviewed earlier in HifiZine, and enjoys its fuss-free operation and excellent sonics. “In a world of mass-marketed, cookie-cutter products, the Raven Audio Blackhawk LE offers something a little different, and in my view, something a whole lot better.”

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How to Network your Mac music system with the Raspberry Pi and HiFiBerry – Part 1

“In this article, I’m going to take a bit of a right turn…” writes John Reekie, as he prepares to sort out a streaming music solution based on a $35 credit-card sized computer. Add a digital interface board, a case, a power supply, a Wifi card… OK for a bit over a hundred dollars, “there’s no reason every Mac user shouldn’t just get one to play with.”

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Audioengine B2 Bluetooth speaker system: another listener’s experience

Patrick Dillon takes a look at the Audioengine B2 speaker previously reviewed by Oliver Masciarotte in HifiZine. Less versed than Oliver in the wiles and ways of digital music, Patrick comments: “I want to add a few more listening and use observations from the perspective of someone dipping their toes into digital convenience.”

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The Four Ages of a Music Library

“All the world’s a stage,” wrote Shakespeare in the introduction to the monologue on the seven ages of man. Dan Gravell writes about the lifecycle of a computer music library based on his twenty years of experience in managing music libraries. Over the course of the “four ages” of a music library, he covers file formats, tagging, and security.

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Canorama — Four Value–priced Earphones

Thinking of buying headphones? Here are four In–Ear Phones from thinksound, Etymotic, RHA and Ultimate Ears to consider. Each is exemplary for their cost and represents “excellent value in their class.” Read what $60 to $400 buys you in terms of fit, finish, features and sound quality…

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Geek Out 1000 by LH Labs

The USB dongle form factor for DACs has become not quite common, but certainly not a surprise. With the fairly rapid appearance of DXD and multi–rate DSD downloads, many consumers desire a future–proof purchase that will play everything. To address that market, LH Labs decided to… get weird! Oliver Masciarotte reports that “It’s a tiny techno tour de force, and a bargain to boot… highly recommended!”

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Raven Audio Nighthawk Integrated Amp

“All of my audiophile life, I’ve been a solid state guy…” writes Patrick Dillon in his review of the Raven Audio Nighthawk integrated tube amplifier. From budget speakers through to his high-end reference, Patrick experiences the joys of the Nighthawk. “Everything seemed just right: smooth vocals, a sufficient sense of space, clear instrumental lines, and a vibe that just made listening effortless.”

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Audioengine B2… Fun in a Box

“A long time ago, there were ‘radios,'” writes Oliver Masciarotte in opening his review of the Audioengine B2 Bluetooth speaker, a genre he considers the “modern equivalent of a hi-fi clock radio, without the clock.” A step up from battery-powered portables, most of which fail to meet his expectations, Oliver considers the B2 “a tough one to beat.”

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Small things matter: Furutech’s La Source 101 headshell leads

“Setting up a turntable is not always the simplest of tasks… ” Patrick Dillon challenges his fingers, eyesight, and patience installing the Furutech La Source 101 headshell leads and auditioning with multiple cartridges, and concludes: “The La Source 101 leads brought obvious improvements in all areas of reproduction… Unhesitatingly recommended.”

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The Rational Audio System

Richard Thompson proposes that we take a rational approach to high-fidelity sound reproduction: “My argument is that we should simply ditch every arbitrary distortion of the signal if we can” and not continue to “dress up traditional compromises with exotic materials and pointless over-engineering.” He tests the concept with an active system based on low-cost components and linear-phase crossovers implemented in PC software.

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Steve Holt, Garry Lambert, and Small Wonder audio componentry

“I’ve done a few interviews related to crowdfunding campaigns for audiophile components…” writes John Reekie. The latest campaign to catch his eye is for the Small Wonder series of audio components from Garry Lambert of the Lambert Company and Steve Holt of The Audio Nerd. Compact, stylish, and designed to work together, this campaign offers a refreshing take on hifi components for everyone.

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Phono cables from Purist Audio Design and Furutech

Phono cables might carry the most delicate signals in an audio system, connecting the minute outputs of a cartridge to an amplification or step up stage. Patrick Dillon tries a couple of higher-end offerings from Purist Audio and Furutech in his rig and finds that some cables really do make a difference.

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California Audio Show 2014

Now in its fifth year, the California Audio Show provides an ears–on listening experience for the nerdiest region of our nation. Of particular interest were local and lesser known brands, along with a few product debuts. Since all work and no play makes for a desultory OMas, a late night field report is also on offer.

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Mini Convertible: Crossover

In the second installment of the series on the Mini Convertible active loudspeaker project, John Reekie walks through the crossover design. Each step is explained and detailed measurements taken to illustrate the process.

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Audioquest USB cables

“The computer audio revolution marches forward… and I’ve got my marching boots on,” writes Thad Aerts as he continues his investigation into computer-based audio. Three mid-line USB cables from AudioQuest provide the basis for another round of extensive comparisons into USB cabling… but with an interesting footnote. And what does this have to do with beer? Read on….

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DAC Maraschino Mono Amps

“You may be surprised every now and then by a product that defies the imagined rules,” writes Patrick Dillon in opening his review of the Maraschino Class D monoblock amplifiers from Digital Amplifier Company. After months of putting the Maraschinos through their paces, Patrick concludes “I find myself seduced by the quality of music provided by the Maraschinos. Recommended for music lovers.”

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Air Apparent

Supertweeters have gone in and out of vogue over the years, with moving coils, ribbons, quasi–ribbons and piezos to choose from.” writes Oliver Masciarotte in his review of the ENIGMAcoustics Sopranino supertweeter. “… Why bother with ultrasonics?” Oliver discovers the sonic effects of a modern implementation of the concept with three different loudspeakers.

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The miniDSP nanoAVR – a case study

“I’ve always been more of a two-channel audio enthusiast than a home theater enthusiast,” writes John Reekie, “and the idea of spending a lot of money on our home theater system or a lot of time optimizing it has never been particularly appealing.” Nonetheless, he delves into applying miniDSP’s new HDMI audio processor, the nanoAVR, in his home theater system.

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Bryston Mini-T Loudspeakers

“Mini by name but not by nature” writes Patrick Dillon of the latest foray by the renowned Bryston company. He continues “If I had to characterize the sound of these speakers in a word, it would be ‘smooth’. The Mini-Ts present the most even, coherent, full-range sound I’ve heard from a non-floorstander.”

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Bits are bits… or are they?

“I am not a Bits Are Bits kinda guy,” writes Oliver Masciarotte. “Just because I do not yet have a theory that explains the underlying mechanism of an effect, that doesn’t invalidate my sensory experiences.” Oliver dives into the perplexing world of USB cables and concludes that “The VU-1 is an affordable tweak that really does improve any USB source.”

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AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2

Thad Aerts dives into the world of computer audio and evaluates the “v1.2” update to the AudioQuest DragonFly DAC/headphone amp. “Recommending the DragonFly is an absolute no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. I would readily recommend it to folks not well versed in the world of audiophile jargon as well… buy one.”

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Minus K BM-8 Isolation Platform

“As vinyl addicts know, the search for sonic satisfaction via LP involves a seemingly endless and interacting series of variables that must be controlled, driving perfectionists to distraction and putting the faint-of-heart off the medium completely.” Patrick Dillon weighs in with his assessment of the vibration isolation platforms from specialist manufacturer Minus K.

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Micromega MyDAC — Quelle Joyeaux

“The diminutive MyDAC is Micromega’s first foray into the standalone DAC market ” writes Oliver Masciarotte in his evaluation. “This is not a ‘me too’ product, but yields a high level of performance at an entry level price. Its welcome ability to extract the essence of a file is a beautiful thing… MyDAC is a strikingly tremendous performer.”

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The Silent Desktop

“I recall a former workplace where, at the end of the day, I would shut down the tower computer under my desk and suddenly be struck by the whine of the hard drives and fans spinning down…” writes John Reekie on the motivation for his quest to make his listening desktop completely silent, and comes to some unexpected conclusions.

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SVS Ultra Towers

“There seems to be no end of new, state-of-the-art designs that are beyond the reach of most people. Open any glossy audiophile magazine and you will routinely find models that hit six-figure prices,” writes Patrick Dillon. He looks instead at the SVS Ultra Towers, aimed at those seeking audiophile quality sound on a budget: “Impressive value, great looks, and easy set-up; the cost of entry to full-size high end speakers is lower than ever.”

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Magnepan Incorporated—A Tiny Giant

“There is a giant living amongst the modest homes, strip malls and wetlands: the venerable Magnepan, Incorporated, known for the quality and value of their relatively large planar loudspeakers.” Oliver Masciarotte tours the Magnepan factory with Wendell Diller on the hottest day of summer, and survives to report back for HifiZine with his insights into the processes and values of this family-run company.

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The Mini Convertible active loudspeaker: design

John Reekie describes the design of the HifiZine Mini Convertible, an active loudspeaker project using drivers from Seas of Norway and a miniDSP plate amp with B&O ICEPower for amplification and DSP crossover. The speaker can be configured as a small sealed monitor, or the base plate can be removed and replaced with a hollow stand, turning the speaker into a ported floor-standing speaker. This is the first artlcle in a series of three.

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Cyrus 8 Qx DAC

“I have a confession to make: When it comes to amplification, I have always been a power freak…” Peter D’Amario downsizes to the top-of-the-line Cyrus 8 Qx DAC integrated amplifier and concludes: “If you like your music to sound like, well, music, you desire efficiency and you want a device that dispenses with frills and gives you what you need, then this little Cyrus may be the ticket to happiness.”

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A Conversation with Peter Bartlett, Technical Director of Cyrus

Peter D’Amario talks with Peter Bartlett, technical director of Cyrus Audio, about the Cyrus approach to product design and development. Designed and manufactured in the UK, Cyrus approaches their product line with embedded “audiophile DNA” thinking that allows owners to upgrade and evolve their investment. “When one buys a piece of Cyrus gear, one is tapping into a bloodline that is long and well-developed.”

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PS Audio PerfectWave PowerBase

One of the lessons you learn as an audiophile is to give some thought to placing your components for optimal performance. The choices can bewilder even the most enthusiastic of audiophiles. While there are countless approaches to platforms, shelves and footers, nobody has combined an isolation platform with a line conditioner… nobody that is, until the clever folks at PS Audio developed the PowerBase. Patrick Dillon investigates.

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Plugins for Audiophile Music Players

Oliver Masciarotte surveys the field of “plugins” for audiophile music players, explaining what they are and how they can benefit your listening experience. From shufflers and measurement tools to the dreaded EQ, there is much benefit available to the open-minded audiophile willing to explore the possibilities. Oliver lists his favorites and recommendations, from free to not-so-free, and explains how to evaluate plugin quality.

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Active speakers with Pure Music and FabFilter Pro-Q: a Primer

Of the music players available for the Mac, Pure Music stands out as the one with the most comprehensive feature set. One of those features is its active crossover, which can be used to implement an active speaker system of up to four ways. John Reekie explains how to use the Pure Music active crossover, together with the FabFilter Pro-Q equalization plugin for correcting driver and room response.

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Absolute Fidelity Power Interfaces

Patrick Dillon, weary of power cable swaps, resolves to evaluate Gary Koh’s new Absolute Fidelity power cords, or interfaces, and discovers a renewed enthusiasm for the right cord with the right component. “The Absolute Fidelity power interface made such an instant impact on the sound that I almost doubted what I was hearing… I find myself thinking my next upgrades have to be Absolute Fidelity cords.”

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Legacy Audio Studio HD

Patrick Dillon takes a look at the Legacy Audio Studio HD. Offering an 8″ woofer and folded ribbon tweeter in a compact cabinet, the Studio HD is the baby of the Legacy lineup. He concludes that the Studio HDs “soundstage extremely well, offer great resolution across most of the important frequency ranges, good timbre and easy placement” but has reservations about their performance with rock: “bass can overwhelm or lag behind the nimble response of the upper frequencies…”

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The Electrostatic “Sonic Panel” – Interview with Charlie van Dongen and Rob Mackinlay

“I was intrigued recently to learn of a new electrostatic panel from Australian company Involve Audio,” writes John Reekie. Now available as a standalone panel together with the necessary power supplies and stepup transformer, the electrostatic panel offers interesting possibilities for the DIY speaker builder. John asks Charlie Van Dongen, chief designer of Involve Audio, and Rob Mackinlay of E R Audio, also involved in the design of the panel, for some inside info.

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Interview with Ryan Scott, Vapor Audio

A relatively new entrant in the speaker market is Vapor Audio, notable for the use of top-quality drivers and an extremely solid cabinet construction method using laminated Baltic Birch ply. As a direct-sales manufacturer, their pricing also suggests outstanding value. John Reekie asks Ryan Scott, the designer and principal, if he would share his insights on loudspeaker design and his experiences on the path to become a speaker manufacturer.

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MOTU Microbook II

John Reekie continues his quest for the perfect audio interface for acoustic measurements on a reasonable budget. He picks the MOTU MicroBook II because of its precise input gain control, but discovers that the MicroBook is useful for much more than originally anticipated. John writes: “the MicroBook II is an audio geek’s Swiss Army knife: an incredibly handy set of tools in a compact package… if you don’t mind a learning curve and have an inclination to tinker and experiment.”

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Mid-priced DACs – how to choose

“These days, DACs come in a wide variety of packages and price points, with a broad range of features and sometimes questionable benefits,” writes Oliver Masciarotte is his opening salvo in demystifying the vast range of DACs in the $500 – $2000 range now on the market. He looks at the key features that make a DAC worthy of consideration for a two-channel hifi enthusiast, and why, based on his inside knowledge of studio and mastering practices.

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Roger Eno – Ted Sheldrake

“I find it hard to believe that my original LP copy of Apollo (Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno) will be thirty years old in 2013, but there it is – one of the great albums of the ambient music genre. When I think of Roger Eno’s music over the years, three words come to mind: thoughtful, quirky, and sometimes playful. Whether lyric or instrumental, Eno’s works tell stories that can either be tightly sewn threads or loosely knitted yarns.” Walker Burns reviews Roger Eno’s latest.

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Von Schweikert VR22

“Over several decades of listening to and buying audio gear I’ve learned that price is only mildly correlated with sonic quality.” Patrick Dillon examines the new low-cost offering from Von Schweikert Audio, the VR-22. Available only factory-direct, Patrick concludes that they are “a great introduction to the qualities of high-end speakers.”

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Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

“I needed to come up with a recommendation for a USB audio interface for people interested in doing acoustic measurements”, writes John Reekie in his review of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. He tests out the Focusrite for this purpose on Windows and Mac, and concludes that the performance, ease of use, and reasonable price make the 2i2 well worthy of consideration.

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Subwoofer Origami

“There are so many variants of the open-baffle subwoofer…” writes John Reekie of his quest to find a suitable form with which to replace his dipole subwoofer prototype. He explores the different ways in which an open-baffle subwoofer can be “folded” to make it more compact. Each configuration has its own strengths and weaknesses.

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Luminous Audio Technology Axiom II

No tubes, no transistors, no bells, no whistles and no power cords because there’s no power. If less is more, than this is a whole lot of less, er… or more. Thad Aerts delves into Luminous Audio’s new and improved offering to the passive preamp world with their Axiom II, and concludes, “I highly recommend the single-input Axiom II.”

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Dayton EMM-6 measurement microphone, calibrated by Cross-Spectrum Labs

Perhaps because it’s not a part of the system per se, the price of a basic measurement setup can be something of a barrier to audiophiles. So it’s good to know that there’s an inexpensive alternative to professional-grade measurement microphones, in the form of these mics calibrated by Cross-Spectrum Labs. John Reekie measures one up.

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Almost Charlie – Tomorrow’s Yesterday

“Almost Charlie has returned after three years with more beautifully crafted and skillfully recorded songs,” writes Walker Burns of Almost Charlies followup work to The Plural Of Yes. “There are marvelous wordplays, edges of wit and subtle metaphors in the lyrics resulting in another collection of musical gems.”

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BSG qøl Signal Completion Stage

“Of all the exciting new products, innovations, and breakthroughs in audio science that are claimed for 2012, BSG’s qøl Signal Completion Stage will be the most talked about by year end. Already the subject of numerous reviews, mostly positive, skeptics are having a field day with this unique component.” Patrick Dillon investigates in depth.

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Adventures in power treatments – part 1

“You don’t have to spend a long time among audiophiles before realizing that electricity, particularly the clean supply of sufficient electricity to power your components, is a topic of some interest. We seek to reduce noise, stifle radiation, recalibrate voltage and suppress electro-magnetic radiation.” Patrick Dillon continues.

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João Gilberto – White Album

Notable (among other things) for having Wendy Carlos as sound engineer, the 1973 Brazil-released version of João Gilberto – more commonly known as Gilberto’s “White Album” – was reissued in CD format in the late ‘80s, and has recently been released on vinyl by Klimt records.

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High Fidelity CT-1 Cables

“For his new line, Rick marshalls the intricacies of magnetic forces in a way that is far less hazardous to limbs and much more attractive to the eye,” writes Patrick Dillon in the review of Rick Schultz’ new cables. The technology may be obscure, but the result is clear: “the new High Fidelity Cables do something that others I have tried do not, they simply enable my system to reproduce music as well as I’ve ever heard in my room.”

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Lorenzo Feliciati – Frequent Flyer

Walker Burns writes of Italian bassist Lorenzo Feliciati’s new album: “Frequent Flyer is an energetic, musical and diverse album to explore… This is an album that blurs genres of Rock, Fusion, Funk, Jazz and includes the edges of Latin and Afro-Cuban sounds. I always enjoy being pushed into new musical territories and Lorenzo Feliciati’s travels with a talented group of musicians is a great introduction to his work and influences.”

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Interview with a Jazz Maven: Michael Cuscuna

Peter D’Amario interviews Michael Cuscuna of Mosaic records, one of the preeminent jazz reissue labels, to get his thoughts on the history of Mosaic, the jazz music scene and the future of the recorded music industry. “On the future of jazz: Color him optimistic. He sees tremendous talent among the new generation of jazz musicians, noting that he is observing wonderfully talented artists coming up the curve.”

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Aktimate Micro

“It’s a funny thing, being an audiophile. We are constantly chasing elusive goals…” The Aktimate Micro brings it all back down to earth for John Reekie, who explores getting the most musical enjoyment from this budget all-in-one desktop hifi system. “Overall, the Micro presents a compelling, inexpensive package that is undoubtedly ‘greater than the sum of its parts’.”

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Bass Integration Guide – Part 3

Paul Spencer completes the Bass Integration Guide series with part 3, which covers speaker placement, bass management and EQ, building on the measurement and acoustic treatment from parts 1 and 2. “All your favourite bass tracks are likely to come out as you rediscover bass that is tight and controlled and maintains a balance that sounds right to you.”

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Rick Schultz Interview

Accompanying his review of the High Fidelity cables in this issue, Patrick Dillon interviews their creator Rick Schultz, previously of Virtual Dynamics. Rick gives us the lowdown on his work, the industry and his views of the music scene. “Music is unquestionably one of the greatest things life has to offer. Music is universal and almost everyone enjoys it.”

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Vienna Acoustics Haydn

“A confession: I’ve always preferred full-range speakers,” writes Peter D’Amario in his review of the Vienna Acoustics Haydn. He explores the realities of real-sizing with these small monitor louspeakers, and concludes: “Buy some stands, ensure that you have adequate amplification, and you will find that these are speakers with which you can live happily ever after.”

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Eastern Electric M88

“The last two pairs of speakers that I reviewed are tube-friendly designs. So tube-friendly, in fact, that their designers would go so far as to suggest that it be preferable to drive their speakers with just one, solitary tube per speaker.” Thad Aerts goes in search of more “oomph” than SET, and discovers the Eastern Electric M88 integrated amplifier.

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M. Ostermeier – The Rules of Another Small World

“I was first intrigued with this album because of its cover, images of an abandoned sci-fi pod-style housing project in northern San-Zhr,” writes Walker Burns of M. Ostermeier’s most recent album. “It sounds as if one is exploring the environs of what is depicted on the album’s cover… this is music-on-the-edges of consciousness or the fringe of a dream.”

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Wywires Cables: a whole system rewired

Patrick Dillon explores the concept of doing a complete system rewire with cables from a single manufacturer. “The theory, if we may call it such, is that the true benefit of cable changes are found when one employs the same manufacturer’s cables for the complete rig rather than cherry picking different cables for different components.” The results? Read on…

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Fostex HP-A3 DAC and Headphone Amp

“My relationship with headphones and associated equipment has been pretty hit-and-miss over the years. Headphone listening has always been a definite second choice…” John Reekie goes in search of a more enjoyable listening experience with headphones, and settles on the little-known USB-powered Fostex HP-A3 DAC and headphone amplifier.

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On Dipole Subwoofer Placement

John Reekie measures the effect of dipole subwoofer placement with respect to listener and wall distance. While he had earlier obtained good results with nearby placement of a diple subwoofer, he asks “Can these results be generalized into a recommendation for others to try?” This series of measurements suggests that they can.

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Harbeth P3ESR

After encountering the Harbeth P3ESRs at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, Patrick Dillon had to hear them again on his home turf. Here he takes a pair through their paces. “There is something ineffably right about these speakers… If someone told me now that I had $2k to spend on speakers and I would have to live with my choice for years without chance of exchange, I’d buy these Harbeths on the spot.”

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Sonic Studio’s Amarra Computer Music Player

“In the world of high-end audio, ‘computer audio’ is now almost as common as a CD player. Software applications that bypass a computer’s native OS audio process and provide their own method of processing an audio file are referred to as music players.” Sonic Studio’s Amarra was one of the first such players on the market. Joe Quinn reviews Amarra 2.3.

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Listening-Room Reflections and the Energy-Time Curve

In our listening rooms reflected sounds – sounds that bounce off walls and other objects – are more often louder than the direct sound from our loudspeakers. Nyal Mellor and Jeff Hedback explain how reflections affect our perception of sound, and how the Energy-Time Curve (ETC) can be used to assess the nature of reflections in a given listening room.

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Sonist Concerto 3

“This review has been a long, long, long time in the making,” writes Thad Aerts of this review of the Sonist Concerto 3 loudspeaker. While designed for use with single-ended triode (SET) amplifiers, Thad exercises it with the AMC hybrid push-pull amplifier. “They have the ability to seduce you away from what you are doing and get you to sit down in front of them to listen to music.”

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Grant Fidelity W-30GT Integrated amplifier

“I have also grown tired of many components being connected by many wires in a large jumble in my living room.” Jake Montzingo explores joys of simplicity and high-fidelity with the Grant Fidelity W-30GT integrated amplifier… “an amplifier that I could enjoy listening to every day for the rest of my life; and that’s better than perfection.”

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Harold Budd – In The Mist

“It was an early morning in the studio in late April, 1980. Black turned to indigo, then to purple, red-orange and finally a golden sun was in through the high studio windows. It was the first light of the morning, and “First Light” from Harold Budd & Brian Eno’s Ambient 2 – The Plateaux of Mirror was playing. This was my introduction to the first of many Harold Budd works,” writes Walker Burns.

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Perreaux Audiant 80i Integrated Amp

“This smallish, heavy, elegant box offers you an on-ramp to musical enjoyment without the hassle of multiple purchases and match-making.” The new Audiant 80i from New Zealand’s Perreaux, offering an upsampling DAC, a MM phono stage, and connections for USB and TOSLINK, is put through its paces by Patrick Dillon.

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Bass Integration Guide – Part 2

This article is the second in Paul Spencer’s three-part series on bass integration, covering all major aspects of accurate bass reproduction in domestic listening rooms. After the measurements in Part 1, acoustic treatment is now introduced as the first step towards improving bass performance.

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My Ten Favorite Blue Notes

Blue Note Records has, in a long and distinguished history, recorded most of the important musicians in the “hard bop” style of jazz. Jim Goulding looks through his catalog to bring you this list of his ten favorite albums from Blue Note Records.

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Pete Riggle Engineering and Audio String Theory “The Woody” Tonearm – Part 2

“It is, hands down, the best tonearm I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing…. This tonearm is one of the few that are handmade specifically to meet the requirements of the cartridge that will be attached to them.” Thad Aerts continues his review of the Pete Riggle Engineering “The Woody” tonearm, with an update on the Anti-Skate Measurement System, and his listening impressions.

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Digital Direct – the miniDSP Stack

The miniDSP “stack,” consisting of three boards called miniDSP, miniDIGI, and miniAMP, is an interesting little platform for the audio experimenter, offering digital and analog inputs and outputs, comprehensive crossover and digital equalization functionality, and four channels of amplification. John Reekie takes a look at this offering, and walks us through assembly of the stack.

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Oysterband : Deserters

The recent breakthrough of Bellowhead in the UK is yet another of those moments when the English discover that they have a vibrant, deep and long musical heritage. ‘Deserters,’ from the indefatigable Oysterband, is as good an entry point to this world as any, giving a taste of the old and new, the mellow and the energetic spiced with a lyrical style that is political without being polemical. Mike Barnes tells.

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Pete Riggle Engineering and Audio Stringtheory “Woody” Tonearm

In part one of his review, Thad Aerts discusses the design concepts and installation of Pete Riggle’s Stringtheory “Woody” tonearm. These attractive and cleverly simple tonearms are handmade specifically for each owner’s cartridge, and feature vertical tracking angle and azimuth adjustments as a record plays.

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Bass Integration Guide – Part 1

Exceptional bass is nearly always the exception in high-end audio. You can buy great midrange, but truly accurate bass reproduction requires a room-specific solution. The investment and effort involved is considerable. In the first of a three-part series, Paul Spencer shows us how to assess our current bass performance.

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Interview with Steve McCormack of SMc Audio

Best known for his classic Mod Squad and McCormack lines of amplification, Steve McCormack now runs SMc Audio, his own design and upgrade company. Here he talks to Patrick Dillon about his work, the nature of great sound, and the future of high-end audio from a manufacturer’s perspective.

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Benz Micro Glider SL Cartridge

“What is the most important single component in determining your system’s sound?” asks Peter D’Amario. Perhaps not the cartridge… but a close second? Peter test-drives the S-class low-output version of the Benz Glider with his VPI Classic turntable.

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Musical Surroundings Nova Phonomena Phono Preamplifier

Designed by Michael Yee, and manufactured in California, the Nova Phonomena occupies mid-point in Musical Surroundings’ offering of phono stages. Peter D’Amario reports on this highly-configurable “honest broker” of the music.

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The Woden Design Dunideer

“While these speakers will not blow you away, they will throw a huge soundstage that will satisfyingly bombard your senses.” The Woden Design Dunideer, using the Mark Audio Alpair 6 driver, is Kris’ third single-driver loudspeaker in his quest for sonic and DIY perfection.

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The Bryston BDA-1 DAC

“Do you really need a new DAC?” asks Patrick Dillon. At $2k, the Bryston BDA-1 faces competition from innumerable cheaper alternatives, so what can it do to justify that price? Patrick tries it out on several players, from a cheap Denon to a state-of-the-art PS Audio transport, to learn just what is possible.

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The Audio-GD NFB-7 DAC

Digital is a strange thing in the audio world, and the topic of many heated conversations between anyone with a pair of ears and an interest in audio reproduction. Jake Montzingo ponders this question and others in his review of the Sabre32-based NFB-7 from Audio-GD.

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Refining a 4-way open-baffle speaker with the miniDSP 2×4

“These diminutive units have won me over as a practical and affordable solution for all kinds of applications in an audio system,” writes John Reekie of the miniDSP 2×4 crossover/eq. This article continues his tutorial series on the miniDSP, with measurement and refinement of his 4-way open-baffle speaker.

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Sound correction in the frequency and time domain

When we play a hi-fidelity recording in our listening room, the sound that we hear is the product of many things: the performers, the recording environment and the skill of the recording engineers, the quality of our playback electronics and loudspeakers, and the room/acoustic environment in which we are listening.

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Interview with Albert Von Schweikert, Part 2

Given the response to the Albert von Schweikert interview in the very first issue of Hifi Zine, we decided to pose a few more questions to Albert. Fresh back from RMAF where his VR-33 and VR-35 designs were drawing many positive reactions, we invited other owners and interested parties to ask questions.

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Prototyping a 4-way open-baffle speaker with the miniDSP 2×4

This article, the second in a series of tutorials on the miniDSP, demonstrates how to use the miniDSP as a crossover/eq for a 4-way loudspeaker. The speaker is an open-baffle loudspeaker, a configuration that has been gaining popularity in DIY circles in recent years.

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The Unease of the Audiophile

Music and its accurate reproduction can provide some of life’s great pleasures. Beautiful art meets wonderous technology, and fanatics find communities of fellowship and glossy magazines with which their desires are regularly stoked. Patrick Dillon ponders the ins and outs of this hobby.

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Three Acoustical Issues that Room Correction Can’t Correct

This article by Nyal Mellor introduces three fundamental acoustical issues that room correction cannot address. They can only be addressed through good design, appropriate use of acoustic treatment, and appropriate system setup techniques.

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The Bryston BDP-1 – Interview with James Tanner

With the imminent availability of the BDP-1 digital player from Bryston Limited, Bryston VP James Tanner responds to some questions from us about this new unit.

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Interview with Albert Von Schweikert

Albert Von Schweikert, award-winning designer of speakers from budget to cost-no-object, has spent nearly four decades in the industry. Here he talks with Patrick Dillon about his experiences and thoughts on speaker design and the hi-fi industry.

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The Controlled-Pattern Offset Bipole Loudspeaker

Duke LeJeune of AudioKinesis explains the theory behind the controlled-pattern offset bipole loudspeaker, and demonstrates how this configuration can – if used correctly – lower room-related frequency response anomalies.

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A Paradigm Shift in Hi-fi

The DEQX HDP-3 preamp-crossover-equalizer is an incredibly powerful tool for building and fine-tuning your own active loudspeakers. Tyson Neidig describes his active loudspeaker journey and the place of the DEQX.

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The Salk Signature Soundscape

Jim Salk and Dennis Murphy, from Salk Signature Sound, talk about their new flagship loudspeaker. “These speakers do not stand out in any way. All you will hear is the music… nothing more, nothing less. Once you hear them, you will understand.”

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The Virtue Audio Sensation

Seth Krinsky, of Virtue Audio, talks about his newly-released Sensation amplifier, based on the Tripath chip and packaged into a no-compromises design and chassis. Along the way, he learned a few things that he shares with us here…

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For the Love of Opera

“One aria fills me with gladness and yet another leaves me wistfully longing for a tender moment, long forgotten in my past.” Rim Yi explains the history and his enjoyment of the artform that incorporates music, literature and stage.

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Roon Server on ODroid H2

John Reekie tests out the ODroid H2 SBC (single board computer) as a Roon Server. “Ever since I discovered how easy it is to set up a DLNA music server on a Raspberry Pi or an ODroid HC1, I’ve been reluctant to dedicate a ‘proper’ computer as a music server,” he writes, to explain the appeal of this inexpensive x86 computer. After walking through the install, he runs some UI tests.

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How to stream Qobuz to almost anything

John Reekie decides it’s time to branch out from the Raspberry Pi and start streaming to a greater variety of devices. He summarizes the architecture that enables Qobuz to stream to “almost anything” and how to set it up. As a bonus, he provides installation instructions to turn any Linux SBC into a compatible audio player.

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Spatial Audio M3 Triode Master + interview with designer Clayton Shaw

Oliver Masciarotte spends time with the Spatial Audio M3 Triode Master open baffle speaker, and quizzes designer Clayton Shaw about his design choices. Oliver concludes: “The M3 Triode Master is a outstanding example of OB design; exacting imaging combined with broad uncolored off-axis coverage and an airy, expansive soundstage. It… lends itself nicely to rooms large and small.”

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RME ADI-2 Pro : Modes and Audio Routing

John Reekie takes a deep dive into the “modes” of the RME ADI-2 Pro. “The modes can be considered as a sort of shorthand that gets you close to a solution, which you can then tailor by adjusting parameters away from the default or automatic selections.” He provides diagrams that illustrate the signal routing through the ADI-2 Pro in each mode, and also discusses clocking.

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Syncing a music library to a Droidisk (or PiDisk)

John Reekie goes all GUI to sync up his droidisk server with music files on a Mac or PC. Well, apart from installation on the ODroid or Raspberry Pi. Compared to his previous rsync-based method, this is “a better solution that is cross-platform, easier to set up, and more flexible.”

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Audioengine A5+ Wireless Speakers

Patrick Dillon enjoys a change of pace with the Audioengine A5+ wireless speakers, trying them out both with bluetooth and wired via computer and external DAC. His conclusion? “I could envisage a pair of these serving as an almost one-stop audiophile rig, paired with whatever digital device you have. Throw in some stands and you could be rockin’ the joint and having personal late night sounds for comparative chump change in the audiophile universe.”

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RME ADI-2 Pro : a Technical Overview

“I recently found myself intrigued by an interface from the pro-sound world, the RME ADI-2 Pro,” writes John Reekie. This line-level convertor and audio interface is billed as RME’s “reference” A/D and D/A convertor, but also has a solid complement of onboard processing, two powerful headphone amps, and technical performance good enough for use as a measurement front end.

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Droidisk – Playing music

John Reekie wraps up his articles on inexpensive SBC-based music servers, with instructions on how to install music-related services on the ODroid HC1. This time, he’s also using an Android tablet as the renderer.

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Music In The Mountains

“In year’s past, the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) has been hampered by an aging, rather stale venue, and backward looking management. This year, things were looking up with the hosting hotel being newly refreshed and the exhibitors better able to cope with the remodeled rooms.” Oliver Masciarotte provides his retrospective of the 2017 show.

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Droidisk – An inexpensive compact music server

John Reekie revisits his Raspberry Pi based music server with a new offering: the ODroid HC1 (“home compute server”). “The HC1 has the distinguishing feature of a SATA port, so that it connects to a hard drive without going through USB. It also has a Gigabit Ethernet port and a much faster processor than the Pi.” Get ready to sharpen your command line skills!

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