LATEST ADDITIONS

Keith Howard  |  Apr 08, 2011
It might look like more of the same, yet this Q series loudspeaker boasts some new features at front and back The Q900 may be top of KEF’s brand, spanking new Q series – the meat and potatoes of its range – but to look at, inside and out, it appears in some ways to represent a step backwards, certainly in respect of KEF’s rich technological history. The Q900 effectively replaces the previous iQ90, a speaker which bowled me over when winning a group test just over a year ago [HFN Mar ’10]. One of the notable aspects of the iQ90 was its curved cabinet, a feature of more than aesthetic significance since it stiffens the enclosure, whereas the large side panels of a conventional box cabinet are prone to resonance. It was a surprise, then, to find the Q900 has what KEF rather grandly terms a ‘rectilinear’ cabinet – what you and I would call a standard, slab-sided box.
Ken Kessler and Paul Miller  |  Mar 10, 2011
A CD player with a valve displayed in the front panel: Luxman references its own past for the D-38u, a machine that oozes retro, right down to its chunky wooden sleeve Compact Disc was only launched in 1982/3, which – though its demise is perhaps now in sight – doesn’t seem that long ago. Yet here is Luxman with a player that is decidedly two-channel-only, its digital outputs are limited to coaxial and Toslink optical, it arrives with a wooden case, and it features a design touch that refers directly to one of its ancestors. If that’s not retro, what is? But Luxman, cleverly, has never been shoehorned into a genre, having excelled in every area save speaker manufacture. Its amps have a cult following, as did the vacuum-hold-down turntables, and the company always delivered decent CD players.
Keith Howard  |  Mar 10, 2011
This innovative Dutch company provides an active audiophile speaker which is unusually styled and also features sophisticated onboard Digital Signal Processing So, Grimm Audio is not the most propitious name, in English, for a hi-fi manufacturer. But once the schoolboy giggles have subsided, there are two very good reasons to take this Dutch company, and its new LS1 loudspeaker, seriously. Firstly, there are the people involved. The second reason is the LS1 itself, because run-of-the-mill it is not.
Paul Miller and Keith Howard  |  Mar 10, 2011
After a long absence, Magnepan's iconic 'room screen' panel speakers are finally back in the UK Firsts linger long in the memory. That first school, first car, first kiss. . .
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
If only for his relentless persistence in the face of all the evidence that the world doesn’t need this sort of thing anymore, it’s hard not to harbour a sneaking affection, maybe even admiration, for Meat Loaf. A huge drum beat leads into a portentously cacophonous orchestral intro, after which it’s business as usual – double-scoops of the Jim Steinman patented blend of bar-room boogie mixed with gothic operatic bombast, decorated with tongue-in-cheek lyrics like, ‘Next time you stab me in the back you better do it to my face’. Steinman, however, isn’t involved so the whole thing’s just a knowing pastiche. Still, as a wiser man than me once said, this is the sort of thing you’ll like if you like this sort of thing.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Like the title says, this is part of APO’s astonishing direct-to-disc series, but for me, it’s also the culmination of a decade-long plea for this label to record the R&B legend. It’s here I must declare personal involvement: I wrote the liner notes, explaining how it came about. Chad Kassem’s efforts have resulted in a delicious live session which justifies my nagging. Tate reaches down to the soles of his shoes to deliver exquisite takes of two trademark songs from his classic Verve LP, ‘Look At Granny Run Run’ and ‘Ain’t Nobody Home’, plus four others.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
These bracing readings differ only slightly from Sir Charles’s late-1980s Prague/Telarc set (same producer: James Mallinson), which had even more brio in some places: eg, the ‘Linz’ finale. And one irritating feature is repeated: the juxtaposing of both slow movements for the ‘Paris’, when by coupling 32 with ‘Haffner’ and ‘Linz’ (CD2), timings would have allowed complete alternate three-movement versions to avoid fiddling with programe remote. The playing of the SCO could not be more responsive, but there’s a schoolmasterly severity about Sir Charles’s Mozart – enough to send me scurrying to Pinnock’s warmer view. Sound Quality: 72% .
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
You don’t need me to tell you that the Jimmy Webb songbook includes a bunch of timelessly great classics, like ‘Wichita Lineman’, ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’ and ‘Galveston’. What Webb has done here is not just to re-interpret those songs with the assistance of superstar chums Billy Joel, Glen Campbell and Lucinda Williams, but also to take the opportunity to accord the same treatment to some of his lesser-known compositions, most notably ‘PF Sloan’ as a duet with Jackson Browne, and ‘If You See Me Getting Smaller’ with Willie Nelson. It’s not consistently wonderful, largely because Webb has never had much of a voice, but at its best it’s pretty darned wonderful. Sound Quality: 90% .
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
This is a charmingly odd collection of tracks recorded (and rejected) by eccentric New York folk-rock experimentalists Department Of Eagles prior to making their second album, In Ear Park. They were laid down in January 2006 in far from ideal conditions but, nevertheless, the collection boasts several appealing melodies with imaginative lyrics and free-wheeling musical arrangements, interspersed with several wilfully odd snippets described as Practice Room Sketches. It’s all very cerebral and sometimes sonically challenging but well worth wading through to get to sublimely bizarre moments like ‘While We’re Young’, ‘Brightest Minds’ and ‘Golden Apple’. Sound Quality: 80% .
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
Now this is very special indeed. Joy Kills Sorrow are a contemporary folk-bluegrass Boston quintet and this, their debut album, is unutterably superb. Not only is the banjo and mandolin playing astonishing, but the singing (both in terms of soloists and harmonies) is gorgeous, and the songs themselves are true earworms – they get in there and lodge themselves firmly, demanding that you take the CD to the car and play it out there as well. Making bluegrass sound new, fresh and exciting is certainly a challenge these days, but Joy Kills Sorrow do it with ease.

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