Lab: Paul Miller

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 30, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe no-nonsense mountain-inspired aesthetic is unmistakable, but despite the heady pricing this pre/power amp combo is from one of Boulder's more affordable ranges

It's the style of the Boulder 1100 series amplification that grabs you first – very different from the common image of US-made high-end hi-fi, even if the £30,000 1160 stereo power amp lives up to at least some of the stereotype with its 61.2kg mass. Instead of the usual scattergun buttons, grab-handles and menacing – not to mention finger-slicing – heatsinks so common in products of this type, seemingly built with no concession to domestic acceptability, the Boulder power amp and its matching £22,500 1110 line-only preamp have a much softer look.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 27, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedWell, one thing's for sure: the new SACD/CD player/DAC from McIntosh looks quite unlike any other machine of its kind. So, does the sound live up to the unique style?

Take a quick look at the £4995 McIntosh MCD85, and you'd probably think it was another in the seemingly endless line of amplifier variations emerging from the Binghamton factory in upstate New York. In fact, the first sign that this isn't actually a power amp is the weight. Thanks to their hefty transformers and solidity of build, the company's powerhouses tend to be back-achingly heavy, and arrive on pallets – the new MA1200 integrated amp, for example, weighs in at a shade under 49kg, and the MC901 monoblock is getting on for twice that. By contrast, the MCD85 is a manageable 12.5kg boxed, and a positively featherweight 9.3kg in the buff.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 24, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnvintageAn outlier in its day, this preamp was marketed as a match for products from rival brands yet its real purpose was to drive the company's MFB speakers. We fire it up...

The Philips Motional Feedback loudspeaker was one of the great advances in audio technology. Launched in 1975, the series would eventually encompass four distinct generations and remain in production for over a decade, its key technologies jealously guarded by Philips patents [HFN Jul '13]. However, the partnering equipment designed to help these speakers perform at their best is less well known, arguably due to Philips endorsing the use of third-party sources and amplifiers.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 23, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedMost compact SA floorstander is not only offered in fully active 'Silverback' guise, but now supports 'RAM Tweaks'

System building and component matching is the backbone of hi-fi. Sure, it might seem a never-ending process, each change yielding new results and then more experimentation, but it's an enjoyable one. The Legend 40.2 Silverback tested here, an active three-way floorstander with digital crossover, Analog Devices DSP and integrated DAC, bypasses a lot of that journey – and if combined with the optional wireless Stereo Hub (£400 when purchased with the speakers, £700 separately), removes the need for any cabling except a mains lead. Yet Danish manufacturer System Audio (SA) then uses the Silverback's digital architecture to offer its own take on audiophile fine-tuning, via a newly-launched range of DSP upgrades it calls 'RAM Tweaks'.

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.

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