Review: Ken Kessler

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: 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].

Review: Ken Kessler,  |  Jan 22, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe latest addition to Absolute Sounds' boutique 'Ten' range – the Trafomatic Rhapsody from Serbia – is a single-ended, 300B-based triode tube amp rated at a mighty 20W

As far-fetched as this may seem, given that most post-Millennials have yet to embrace hi-fi, we are living in another audio 'Golden Age'. This isn't the place to rattle off a list of gems that have crossed my path just since the Covid moratorium ended, but the Western Electric WE-91B [HFN Feb '23], a trio of DeVore speakers [HFN Apr '21, Mar & Aug '23], and family of DS Audio optical cartridges [HFN Oct '21 & Oct '23] are among the many that beg my repeating of the homily, 'You've never had it so good'. Trafomatic's Rhapsody (M2-15 Anniversary stereo PSE 300B tube) integrated amplifier joins them, and emphatically so.

Review: Ken Kessler,  |  Dec 21, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingFrom Japan's Soulnote comes one of the most flexible phono preamps ever developed – RIAA, plus no fewer than 144 legacy playback curves, and support for 'optical' pick-ups!

In the quest for a universal phono stage, designers have to accommodate all manner of cartridges, but for most of us they fall into just two categories: moving-coil (MC) and moving-magnet (MM). Even within those types, however, there are plenty of variants such as moving-iron, moving-flux, whatever you call Deccas, both high- and low-output MCs and even low-output MMs. The list is endless, but Soulnote's E-2 phono amplifier handles all of the above configurations plus DS Audio optical cartridges via a built-in energiser and equaliser.

Review: Ken Kessler,  |  Dec 18, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingIt wouldn't be a PMC loudspeaker without transmission line bass loading, and the diminutive prodigy1 is no exception

One of my secret loves has long been transmission line speakers. I miss IMF (named after the designer, Irving M. Fried), the doyen of the genre, although the technology has been used by other brands – most notably PMC. You can therefore imagine my delight when the prodigy1 arrived at a mere £1250. I'd been hearing about it for months, as the prodigy1 (with lowercase 'p') was a talked-about launch at the 2023 Munich High-End Show.

Review: Ken Kessler,  |  Nov 16, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingHow to upgrade the 'ultimate' optical pick-up? By fitting the Grand Master with a single-piece diamond cantilever and stylus. We take the GM Extreme for a drive...

It's too easy to presume, just because only one change separates a new model from an earlier one, that assessing it will be a breeze. DS Audio's £18,995 Grand Master Extreme optical cartridge differs from its stablemate solely in its cantilever/stylus assembly. Aside from a different body colour for easier identification, I wrongly imagined that a side-by-side shoot-out with the earlier Grand Master [HFN Feb '21] would suffice, and that a couple of LPs' worth of listening would reveal all. Silly me.

Review: Ken Kessler,  |  Nov 13, 2023  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThe baby of MartinLogan's Motion range features a compact version of the brand's second-generation 'Folded Motion Tweeter' – this little box is full of big surprises!

How time flies: it's just over a decade since MartinLogan applied its expertise with hybrids to box-type systems instead of the usual electrostatic-panel-plus-cone-woofer which defined most of its models. Even though MartinLogan started out with a full-range ESL – the legendary CLS [HFN Feb '87] – its engineers swiftly excelled in the black arts of combining two speaker technologies, so the Motion range created a whole new field for them to plough. In this case, it's a cone woofer and a 'Generation 2 Folded Motion Tweeter', found here in the £1395-per-pair Motion B10 standmount model.

Review: Ken Kessler,  |  Oct 09, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWith technology drawn from its flagship Chronosonic XVX, and already implemented in the Alexx V and Alexia V, the Sasha V is now the most affordable of this new series

Those of an historical bent will know that Wilson Audio's Sasha V isn't merely the fourth-generation Sasha, nor is it simply 'Sasha DAW 2.0'. This two-box floorstander is to the original WATT Puppy [HFN Nov '90] what the current Porsche 911 is to the 911 of 1964: a carefully-developed, decades-long evolution of a brilliant initial concept.

Review: Ken Kessler,  |  Sep 04, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingDeVore's 'Orangutan' loudspeaker range now has a funky sibling – the aptly-named O/baby that extends the brand's high sensitivity DNA into a very compact cabinet

Even the name sounds like a clarion call: 'O/baby!', straight out of Austin Powers. It resides 'one from the bottom' in DeVore Fidelity's Orangutan range, with only the minuscule, 25x25x25cm micr/O sealed cube below it. But the O/baby is the one that screams 'Buy me!' at this jaded hack. How so? This trickle-down gem from DeVore, smaller than the O/93 [HFN Mar '23], just may be the answer to my bucket list dreams. Or would be, had I the £6298 for a pair. And £1398 more for the stands.

Review: Ken Kessler,  |  Aug 03, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingFrom the man behind the iconic Continuum turntable comes this next-generation range, under his own brand, incorporating a 'negative-stiffness mechanism' suspension

Australia is not only home to some of the world's most fascinating animals but it's also the stomping ground of high-end heavyweights Halcro [HFN May '23] and Döhmann Audio, the latter responsible for the finely-engineered, and robustly elegant, turntable that graces the pages of this month's feature review. For Mark Döhmann, Director of Design, the 'Two' – one of a pair of decks in the Helix range, now in Mk3 guise – represents his latest thinking on the art and science of vinyl replay.

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