LATEST ADDITIONS

Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
Along with the Spendor A6, Dynaudio’s Focus 220 – now in Mk II guise – is the most conservative looking speaker here. Whether you consider that a merit or demerit will depend on both your taste and your décor. Also like the Spendor it is a two-way, although in this case the soft dome tweeter is accompanied by twin bass-mid units operating in parallel. In common with all the other speakers here the 220 II is reflex loaded in the bass, with a port venting on the cabinet’s rear panel.
Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
Tallest and slimmest of the speakers here, Pioneer’s S-81 is also one of the boldest, both aesthetically and technically. Its curvaceous cabinet looks a million dollars in the supplied black lacquer finish (it is also available in ash veneer) and the narrow front baffle incorporates no fewer than five drive units, although the coaxial 130mm midrange driver and 25mm titanium dome tweeter share the same chassis. Pioneer has a long history of enabling and advocating high sampling rates and researching the effect of ultrasonic frequencies, and so – uniquely here – the S-81 incorporates a transformerless ribbon supertweeter with a response which is said to reach out to 100kHz. Twin 130mm woofers (effective diameter about 108mm) handle the bass in conjunction with a single forward-firing port.
Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
If you haven’t heard of PSB before it’s not because the company is a young one – it was established as long ago as 1972, when founder Paul Barton was still at high school. But PSB’s products, well respected in its native Canada and elsewhere in North America, are only now coming to our attention in the UK, with the Armour Group (responsible for NAD and many other brands) having been appointed UK distributor. As an emissary, the Synchrony One is impressive even given that it is the most expensive speaker in this test. Almost as tall as the Pioneer but broader, it also features five drivers but in a three-way configuration: a 25mm titanium dome tweeter, 102mm cone midrange and no fewer than three 165mm bass drivers (effective diameter about 153mm) positioned at the top, middle and bottom of the cabinet.
Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
As well as being the smallest speaker in this test, the Spendor A6 is also the simplest. Like the Dynaudio it is a two-way design but with only one bass-mid driver, not two. Spendor manufactures its own bass-mid units, this nominally 180mm version (effective cone diameter about 135mm) claiming low coloration and high power handling, its most eye-catching feature being that it has a transparent cone. Crossover to the soft dome tweeter is at 4kHz, and unusually is linear-phase.
Andy Whittle and Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
Vienna Acoustics was established in 1989 by Peter Gansterer in, believe it or not, Vienna. The city has some of the finest concert halls in the world, and may be considered as the birth-place of Classical (or Western Art) music. Peter lived in Vienna whilst studying acoustics… So no prizes for guessing how this ends up: a fine range of speakers named after classical composers, most of whom worked in Vienna. At the top of the Grand series is the Mahler, followed by the Beethoven Concert Grand, the Beethoven Baby Grand, the Mozart Grand and, finally, the Bach Grand.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Aug 17, 2009
Class A operation has a noble history. Thanks to the always-on nature of the topology and the removal of an entire type of distortion, allied to sound that excels in low-level detail, superb dynamics and transparency, its devotees are more than happy to put up with low efficiency and heat. From Sugden to Levinson to Krell, and here to Belles, it’s a choice for connoisseurs. Should the escape of all that heat come to the attention of Brussels, the EU might then outlaw Class A amps as they have light bulbs.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Aug 06, 2009
It’s been almost two years since Hi-Fi News had the pleasure of auditioning a CD player and integrated amplifier from the Italian Audia company [see HFN September 2007]. With just a select range of amplifiers and a couple of CD players in its product portfolio, Audia may barely register as a blip on the radar of British audiophiles. On the European specialist audio scene, on the other hand, Audia has carved out a name for itself as a manufacturer to be taken most seriously in the high-end arena, its products regularly garnering accolades in French and German magazines as well as on its home turf in Italy, naturally. Talking of carving out a name, you just know that Audia’s products aren’t going to come without a fairly substantial price ticket attached to them when you see the build quality.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Aug 06, 2009
Some electronics manufacturers manage to move upmarket just by adding more elaborate casework, a few audiophile components and, if you are lucky, a bigger transformer. Not so with the Cambridge Azur range. With these products, it seems the company set out to leapfrog the competition in technology and technical performance. And so, at the top of the Azur line, we have a truly sophisticated preamp, the 840E, and a truly muscular power amp, the 840W, at a total price of £2000.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Aug 06, 2009
John Howes has been tweaking, modifying and restoring vintage hi-fi equipment long enough to have a healthy approach to the purity of spot-on restorations. It’s a philosophy he applies to the customising of Quad’s classic II mono valve power amplifier. Because he’s also a realist, he also knows how to recognise if a product is a basket-case, useful only as a donor for spares. As the original sold well over many years, there are sufficient beyond salvation.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Aug 05, 2009
There’s something about the look of Wadia components that says, ‘This is mighty serious’. It goes without saying that at £6500 – which is a pretty penny for an integrated player – the 381 is indeed a serious piece of work. But then Wadia CD transports and DACs (and players) have always cost top dollar, much like the products from those cutting-edge British digital specialists dCS. So this is actually Wadia’s ‘budget’ offering, a cost-down version of the £9800 581se CD/SACD player.

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