Lab: Paul Miller

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Mar 04, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingPreviewed at the UK Hi-Fi Show Live '23, Musical Fidelity's much anticipated Nu-Vista front-end components – a DAC and phono preamp – see the latter leading the charge

Visitors to Henley Audio's room at the UK Hi-Fi Show Live at Ascot's Grandstand back in Sept '23 will already have seen three new items from Musical Fidelity, all partnering the Nu-Vista PRE and PAS amplifiers [HFN Mar '23]. The new M8xTT turntable [HFN Dec '23] has already premiered in these pages and this is followed here by the Nu-Vista Vinyl 2 phono stage and Nu-Vista DAC, both priced £9999.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Mar 01, 2024  |  0 comments
Unusual, if not unique – does this Canadian company's idea of stacking two speakers for each channel pay sonic dividends?

The idea of stacked speakers is nothing new: SME founder Alastair Robertson-Aikman was famed for using double-decker Quad ELS57 electrostatics [HFN Sep '77 & Dec '01] and the idea was even endorsed by the speaker company which provided instructions to achieve the same thing, with the upper speaker mounted in a frame upside down above the lower. Even the late brand ambassador, Ken Ishiwata, was for a while demonstrating his Marantz electronics with stacked pairs of Mordaunt-Short Performance 6 speakers mounted in frames he'd spec'd and had custom-made.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Feb 26, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingKEF's R series adopts all the 'acoustic principles' of its far costlier Reference range, but is the big R11 Meta a 'disruptor'

How to make sense of the KEF speaker range? A sideways glance helps no end: comparing ostensibly similar models from across the company's four mainstream lineups – five, if you count the highly polished Muon flagship [HFN May '08] – will give a clearer idea of the way these various loudspeaker series dovetail together, even when the similarities seem greater than the differences.

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Feb 22, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingDeveloped from the phono stage debuted in the Makua preamp and Kula integrated, the Lupe is a deceptively simple-looking but hugely flexible, app-driven phono preamp

In recent years Dutch firm Mola Mola has spread its wings from the Bruno Putzeys-designed pre/power amplifiers it debuted at CES in 2013 to include partnering separates. The first of these was the innovative Tambaqui DAC [HFN Nov '19], which fleshed out the company's optional digital module into a standalone design, and into the Kula integrated [HFN Oct '21]. These are now joined by the £7299 Lupe phono preamplifier named, in typical Mola Mola fashion, after a fish – 'Lupe' being the Hawaiian name for the broad stingray.

Review: Jamie Biesemans,  |  Feb 19, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingFirst the Nu-Vista series, and now the iconic 'Class A' A1 integrated is reimagined by Musical Fidelity's new owners. How close to the original is this modern version?

Now that Heinz Lichtenegger, president of parent brand Audio Tuning, is comfortably behind the wheel of Musical Fidelity and the marque is churning out a steady flow of new products, including the rather notable Nu-Vista amplifiers [HFN Mar & Aug '23], it's good to see the full history of this British brand being revisited. The £1499 reissue of the 'griddle plate' A1 integrated amplifier is a case in point. Without losing sight of the past – or the original A1's flaws – it has been reworked by Simon Quarry, the engineer in charge of most new Musical Fidelity designs. The result is a fully symmetrical, Class A-biased amplifier that looks, and sounds, true to the original – it is not simply a vintage lookalike with unconvincing innards.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Feb 15, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingRotel's 'entry-level' Michi integrated, now in Series 2 guise, features multiple component updates – including switching to an ESS DAC – while retaining its huge power output

Listening to Rotel's Michi X3 Series 2 reminds me of that popular paranormal radio series Uncanny: I'm sure the amplifier's all-black, slightly menacing presence is in my listening room, though the sceptical view says it shouldn't exist. After all, some months back Rotel reorganised its distribution in mainland Europe, but with no mention of what was happening in the UK. A conversation with Rotel's distributor at the time, Bowers & Wilkins, had indicated that the lawyers were busy, and things were set to change.

Review: Ken Kessler,  |  Feb 12, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThis new heavyweight integrated blends inspiration from D'Agostino's Momentum HD preamp and MxV power amp into an app-controlled design with modular upgrade path

Integrated amplifiers are a matter of lifestyle choice, and we've all heard the arguments about why they are either better or worse than separate pre/power combinations. Whatever the sales pitch, pro or anti, the bottom line is that you are choosing space-saving over possible audiophile preferences. With the Momentum MxV Integrated – the other one in the family being the less-costly Progression [HFN Nov '20] – founder and chief engineer Dan D'Agostino is giving you absolutely everything in a single box, for a heady £73,998 in silver or black.

Review: Tim Jarman,  |  Feb 09, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnvintageAutomatic arm, quartz-locked motor and a chassis that was a challenge to design... How will this one-time, top-tier direct-drive turntable from 1979 shape up today?

Every keen LP listener should try to experience the joys of a quality direct-drive turntable in their system at least once. Everyone knows the popular favourites, but in the past all the big Japanese names made one or two decks that should still fit the bill.

Review: Mark Craven,  |  Feb 08, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe latest addition to PS Audio's Stellar range is a back-to-basics USB/I2S DAC with the emphasis on performance rather than frippery. But it does have a gold 'go faster' stripe!

Following a slew of recent high-end designs including its aspen FR30 and FR20 speakers [HFN Jun '22 & Apr '23], the BHK M600 monoblock amplifiers [HFN Dec '22], and DirectStream DAC Mk2 [HFN Jun '23], Colorado's PS Audio has refocused attention on its more affordable Stellar series, where the mantra is making 'audio bliss attainable'. Yet the new StellarGold DAC, auditioned here and selling for £3999, isn't a straightforward new addition to the line.

Review: Ken Kessler,  |  Feb 05, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingConceived to replace the Master 1, but with all the 'third generation' technology unveiled in the Grand Master, the Master 3 is described as a 'semi-flagship' pick-up...

To borrow a phrase from the Buffalo Springfield (though it defined a far graver situation than a change of cantilever), 'there's something happening here – what it is ain't exactly clear'. DS Audio has released yet another cartridge in the Master series, the Master 3 (£8330 without PSU/equaliser) and I fear it's going to be an even bigger disruptor than the Grand Master EX [HFN Oct '23].

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