Lab: Paul Miller

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 20, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingHot on the heels of VAC's flagship separates stack on our March '21 cover comes the more affordable derivative, the integrated VAC Sigma 170i – is it a true Mini-Me?

If I wasn't averse to tattoos, I'd have one that says, 'Always Read The Owner's Manual First'. I spent so much time trying to illuminate the VAC Sigma 170i's iQ warning lights that I was wondering if the review sample was a dud. Doh: in this application, the £10,000 single-chassis alternative to the Signature stack [HFN Mar '21], they don't light up at switch-on. Here they only work when something is amiss. Blast it! I never did see them in action.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 16, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe evergreen Uniti Atom all-in-one platform, complete with custom streaming solution, is adapted to service the needs of the most demanding headphone users

Never let it be said the product name isn't long enough – in the 12 years since Naim launched its network audio all-in-one, to which the buyer need only add speakers, it's grown from the simple NaimUniti of the initial model, all the way to this, the £2399 Naim Audio Uniti Atom Headphone Edition. And yet here, less is more.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 09, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingLinn's 'most affordable' route into the world of the iconic Sondek LP12 turntable is all the more convenient now its Majik deck is packaged with Clearaudio-sourced Krane arm

Meet the latest 'entry level' Linn Sondek LP12. As you can see, things have changed since 1973, where the first model came out of the (then) new company's Glasgow factory, complete with a fluted Afrormosia hardwood plinth and tinted Perspex dustcover. Or have they? Rather like the newest Porsche 911 sports car that looks similar to the original '70s icon, this has many of the visual clues of the first Sondek but much has changed under the skin – almost entirely for the better.

Review: Ed Selley, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 06, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThere are three two-way standmounts in Spendor's 1970s-inspired Classic range, and the 3/1 is the centre model. Is this entirely UK-built model the sweetspot of the series?

Rather than follow tradition in everything it does, Spendor has wisely divided its loudspeakers into different categories. The company's A-Line and D-Line models aim to reflect changes in consumer tastes by combining fresh in-house design thinking with engineering philosophies it has spent years refining. Alongside these sits the Classic Series which, as the name suggests, sees the brand build upon proven technologies from its earliest days with an eye to keeping the flame of its renowned '70s designs alive.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 02, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingLaunched three years ago but only now released for review, PMC's flagship fenestria is a towering statement

The PMC fact fenestria – the British brand's flagship 'domestic' speaker (note lower case f) – was launched at a packed press conference at Munich's High End Show. That's the 2018 High End Show, and it's taken over three years for it to arrive for review – in which time the price has risen from the inaugural £45,000 to the £54,995 for the pair you see here. In the intervening period there's actually only been one Munich show – that in 2019, at which the company launched its smaller 'fact signature' models: the 2020 show fell victim to the pandemic, as did this year's at least twice, being rescheduled from May to September, then cancelled completely.

Review: Ed Selley, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 27, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThe third portable player in A&K's 'alloy brick' KANN series boasts extended battery life, a higher powered headphone amplifier and compatibility with Bluetooth 5.0

With modern smartphones able to offer high-resolution audio playback, the market for dedicated portable audio players is now fairly niche. One of the biggest fish in this relatively small pond is Astell&Kern, which offers an extensive range of models priced between £625 and £3400. These are divided into four lines – KANN, A&norma, A&futura and A&ultima – with the £1099 KANN Alpha being the latest addition to the KANN series and slotting in between the existing KANN and KANN Cube players on price.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 26, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWith deep roots in 'professional audio' and a novel discrete op-amp module as a key driving force, SPL is looking to bring a splash of colour to our audiophile universe

Well, it makes a change from the usual choice of silver or black… Yes, you can have the German-made SPL Phonitor xe USB DAC/headphone amp, which starts from £1899 depending on specification, in either of those colours if you want, but it's also available in the bright red anodised finish you see here. Not that it needs colour to catch the eye for the unusual battery of features makes it either intriguing or something of a head-scratcher: what do all those knobs and switches do? And then there's the pair of illuminated, retro-looking VU meters – this is clearly not your common or garden DAC/headphone amp.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 24, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnvintageThis second-generation 16-bit machine hit the sweet spot for many when it came to sheer value for money, but does it make a bargain vintage buy? It's time to find out...

Has the 'perfect' CD player ever existed? While one model may boast the best transport, another the best DAC and yet another the most perfectly resolved ergonomics, so far I've yet to find all of these elements present in one machine. Sharp's DX-411H

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 23, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThis flagship, fully balanced preamplifier comes with Bryston's BDA-3-inspired DAC plus updated BDP streaming platform and full network control. It's busier than it looks!

There's so much functionality under the bonnet of Bryston's BR-20 that you might wonder where to start. I would suggest the manual – this £7500 networked USB DAC/preamplifier isn't, it must be said, the most instantly intuitive of system hubs I've ever auditioned. But the effort is worth it though, because what the BR-20 can do, and how it does it, is quite special.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 19, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedTop integrated in Rotel's flagship Michi series leverages much of the P5 preamp and S5 power amp technology to realise a taller, heavier amp that aims to upstage the X3

Expect the unexpected: it will be the first lesson in the book if I ever get round to writing Hi-Fi Reviewing For Dummies. You see, just because something seems like something else, it doesn't follow that it is... Too many times I've stumbled across a speaker sitting in the middle of a range, and apparently using the same recipe of drive-units, that turns out to be a complete outlier – for good or bad – in the way it plays music. The same happens with amplifiers, too. So, just because one model seems little more than a bigger version of another, don't expect it to have the same kind of balance of qualities, only 'more so'.

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