Lab: Paul Miller

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 20, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingTiny, solidly made, UK-built and now even more capable, is this compact USB DAC/headphone amp from Chord Electronics still the one to beat below £500?

Inundated as we are with pocket-money portable headphone amp/DACs, Chord's Mojo 2 asks the question: why drop £449 on a portable headphone DAC? Once you hear it, you'll understand, especially if top-quality sound on the move matters to you. The Mojo 2 is an upgrade on the top-drawer Mojo [HFN Jan '16], the battery-powered, smaller-than-a-deck-of-cards DAC/headphone amp. It arrives with only a £50 price increase that doesn't even correspond to real-world inflation. Even without the Mojo 2 improvements, the original Mojo should retail for £470 in 2022 just for the inflation, so Chord has somehow managed to squeeze in a host of upgrades with but a nominal price hike.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 19, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingFans of the brand know that when Audio Research adds an 'SE' suffix, the changes go beyond the cosmetic. The latest to earn this upgrade is the Reference Phono 3

Let's talk about names. Audio Research's abiding Reference range has long been subject to shorthand – even the factory calls the models 'REF' for brevity – while updated (mk2) components are now defined by 'SE'. And that now applies to the £17,500 Reference Phono 3SE. In this case the revisions are retrofittable and, at £3500 and given my delight with every SE model I've tried, especially with the REF 6 and REF 75, I suspect most existing owners will want the upgrade. My optimism was fuelled by Audio Research's CEO Dave Gordon who told us, 'The SE changes incorporated in both the REF 6 and the REF Phono 3 are almost identical, involving many of the same passive component upgrades'.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 16, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWhile Marantz's new 40 series shares its industrial design with the Class D Model 30, its core networking and Class A/B amp technology borrows from an earlier generation

By all accounts stylish, network-attached amps, including Cambridge Audio's Evo 150 [HFN Nov '21] or the compact NAD M10 and C 700 [HFN Jun '19 & Feb '22], are carving themselves a successful niche. So it's not surprising that Sound United, parent of Marantz, is making its own pitch. Marantz traditionalists needn't fret, however, for while the new £2199 Model 40n includes high-res wired/wireless streaming, USB and HDMI ARC inputs, the chassis is properly hi-fi-sized and the aesthetics are pure 'Marantz'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 12, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingLaunched to mark Sumiko's 40th, this latest version of the 'Celebration' moving-coil takes its cues from the mkII Pearwood, albeit with Plumwood to invoke a unique hue...

This celebratory model, marking 40 years, recalls a bygone time, its perfectly apt wooden box and body inadvertently honouring a specific Japanese MC cartridge with the greatest claim to establishing the genre in the West: the original Koetsu [HFN Nov '80]. What doesn't evoke the 1980s is the £3199 price tag, although this is perhaps not so forbidding when we can list a dozen £10,000-plus cartridges, aimed at those who quaff Petrus at every meal…

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 05, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingNew kid on the block, Perlisten Audio, is creating a stir straight out of the gates. We test the flagship floorstander

There's a perception that the US, the home of muscle cars, foot-long hot dogs and canyons a mile deep, is also the home of monster-sized loudspeakers. And not, it must be said, without good reason – there are various American manufacturers that frequently put the floor into 'floorstander', building models that require considerable carpet space and suit large listening rooms. So it wasn't much of a surprise to discover Perlisten Audio, a new brand from Verona, Wisconsin, kicking things off with the S7t, an almost 1.3m-tall seven-driver tower weighing in at 55kg.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 28, 2022  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThe most comprehensively-equipped component of Roksan's Attessa quartet combines phono, line and digital inputs with a BluOS streaming platform and beefy amplifier

So it turns out that network amplifiers built around BluOS streaming technology are like buses. No sooner had we waved goodbye to the £1299 NAD C 700 [HFN Feb '22], then up popped the Attessa Streaming Amplifier from Roksan, a little more expensive at £1495 but cut from the same just-add-speakers cloth. This joins a competitive market alongside not only NAD's device but Bluesound's £850 BluOS-based Powernode, plus other streaming integrateds including Cambridge Audio's Evo 75 and Audiolab's Omnia. Handy for Roksan, then, that it has a lot going for it.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 26, 2022  |  0 comments
hfncommendedWith powerful battery pack and styling inspired by the Mars rover, the CA1000 aims to squeeze the performance of a full-sized 'digital' headphone amp into a portable player

The new Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000 desktop player/DAC/headphone amplifier, selling for £1999, has a raft of functionality built-in – and yet I'm still not quite sure who it's for… Of course, this is far from the first step beyond its core expertise in high-quality pocket music players taken by the company. After all, it's already given us the extraordinary AK500 stack system [HFN Apr '15], active speakers and the chunky ACRO L1000, its first desktop headphone amp/DAC.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 25, 2022  |  0 comments
hfncommendedKorea's Citech group is ploughing its considerable in-house hardware and software resource into a series of network-attached players. Here's its most compact all-in-one

One of the great advantages offered by network-capable audio hardware is that, once a platform has been designed, it can be rolled out across a number of products, re-purposed and scaled depending on the target market. We've seen the same from brands as diverse as AVM [HFN Dec '21], Cambridge Audio [HFN Nov '21] and Naim [HFN Aug '21], and now recent arrival HiFi Rose is following the same path with high-end players designed to be used in existing systems all the way through to one-box soundbar set-ups.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 21, 2022  |  0 comments
hfncommendedNot all audiophiles have massive listening rooms... System Audio comes to the rescue with an on-wall 'LCR' loudspeaker aimed at both AV and two-channel enthusiasts

If you're looking at System Audio's Legend 7.2 and thinking 'Why would I want to hang a loudspeaker on my wall?' then it's probably not the model for you. And that would be understandable. Many hi-fi enthusiasts have the space and flexibility to accommodate floorstanding or standmount speakers, and no need to pinch real estate from any surface other than their living room floor. For those, an on-wall speaker is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 18, 2022  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThis boutique brand from Sweden has quietly been making a name for itself with a classically-styled, modular integrated amp. We test the 'tickled up' Reference version

Anyone who spends time idly clicking between websites will be familiar with the HTTP 404 error, which occurs when a browser can't find what it was looking for. Coincidentally, the Moonriver Model 404 Reference amplifier, which is priced from £4495, has a similar 'error': there may be a USB-B port on its rear panel, offering the prospect of connecting a computer to play music, but there's nothing behind it, due to circumstances beyond the control of the amp's Swedish manufacturer.

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