Review: Ken Kessler

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 23, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingUpdating the DS-W2 with a host of trickle-down technology from the brand's flagship 'dual mono' Grand Master, the new DS-W3 'optical' pick-up looks to steal the limelight

An object lesson in how to create a monopoly: make something no-one else can copy. As tricky to manufacture as CD players, electric cars, digital cameras and quartz watches might have been at the outset, competitors soon emerged for each. Not so DS Audio's 'optical' cartridges, which have captivated the high-end since arriving in 2015. Imitators have yet to emerge.

Review: Ken Kessler, Review: Paul Miller  |  Dec 26, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnedchoiceEver worried about off-centre LP pressings? Neither did we – until we tried DS Audio's mind-boggling ES-001 Eccentricity Detection (and correction) Stabiliser

As I stated in a recent column: I'll no longer be making apologies for high-end pricing. So £5500 is needed to acquire the DS Audio ES-001 Eccentricity Detection Stabiliser, a highly specialised device that allows for the correction of off-centre pressings. It is, I believe, the first attempt at resolving this issue since the demise of Nakamichi's TX-1000 and Dragon CT turntables (1982-1993), which tackled the issue mechanically using a sliding two-part platter [see Vintage Review, HFN Aug '16].

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 15, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingCrafted as part of Clearaudio's 40th anniversary celebrations, the Jubilee MC features the brand's proven moving-coil mechanism housed in a 'bullet-proof' jacket

How time flies: Clearaudio was born during the height of analogue playback, survived the arrival of digital, stuck to its guns and is now enjoying the fruits of its loyalty to the vinyl cause. Along with a vast array of record decks, Clearaudio has 16 moving-coil cartridges in its catalogue – yes, sixteen. To mark its 40th birthday, the company has added one more to the middle of the group of MCs, those featuring the distinctive 'flower' top plate as seen on the flagship Goldfinger Statement [HFN Jan '15]. The new Jubilee MC, however, is a third of the Goldfinger's cost at £4460.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 08, 2022  |  0 comments
One-time royalty of the horn-loaded full-range driver, Lowther is reclaiming its crown. We hear the 'princess'

Although I am no devotee of horns, I adore two of the genre's specialists, Lowther and Klipsch, and recall the delights of the former's Bicor and Acousta. But I had thought Lowther had joined other defunct brands until I met Martin Thornton in late 2019, at the last pre-Covid Tonbridge Audiojumble. I was overjoyed to hear that he had acquired the company's remnants, designs, name and everything else needed to relaunch it. Three years on, and he's arrived with an all-new Lowther, dubbed the Almira.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 01, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingA new dawn? Audio Research's first fresh integrated amp in seven years shows a change of direction while still maintaining a grip on the brand's sonic virtues. Enter the I/50...

Few companies have been as resistant to styling changes as Audio Research. Even after a decade-plus under the ownership of fashion-conscious Italians, ARC products still suggest they belong in studios or government laboratories. Can you imagine the shock, then, when news releases arrived showing a swoopy integrated amplifier available in six colourways?

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 27, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingMoving-coil pick-ups are inherently 'balanced' and Pro-Ject is determined to reveal them at their best with this balanced-wired version of the X2 deck and phono preamp

One burning question is begged by the arrival of Pro-Ject's X2 B turntable and Phono Box S3 B phono stage: why did it take so long for the industry to simplify a balanced vinyl-playing front-end? It's not like balanced operation wasn't adopted by high-end listeners decades ago as superior to single-ended for both line-level sources – DACs and top-flight CD players – and pre-to-power amp connections. MC cartridges are inherently balanced. So why the wait?

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 13, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingNot all Wilson Audio's loudspeakers are man-sized floorstanders and its most compact models have been crying out for a partnering, flexible active subwoofer. Meet LōKē...

Wilson Audio's product naming strategy has always raised eyebrows, but the new LōKē reinforces its love for puns. This £9500 powered subwoofer's moniker either shows that it's the baby sister to Wilson's gigantic Thor's Hammer, or it's a play on 'Low Key'. Or maybe not. Whatever the rationale, its pronunciation is helped by diacritical marks to ensure we do not rhyme its name with 'woke'…

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 12, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingBased on Vertere's flagship RG-1 Reference Groove turntable, and differing only in the bearing and platter, there's a host of innovation in the brand's SG-1 Super Groove...

Anyone who has followed Vertere's founder Touraj Moghaddam, all the way back to the early days of Roksan, cannot fail to have been impressed with his iconoclasm. A lifetime later, he's still making cutting-edge turntables from left-field. I knew he hadn't mellowed as soon as he dissuaded me from using a clamp or a weight on the LP, before removing the spindle with a flourish. That was my introduction to the SG-1 Super Groove, one model below the flagship RG-1 Reference Groove.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 02, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingA bigger PSU, more power transistors and a new input/driver stage – all inspired by the 'Relentless experience' – gives D'Agostino's M400MxV monoblocks more Momentum!

Avoirdupois aside, Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems' Momentum M400MxV monoblock just may be the least fussy or fiddly power amp one can aspire to in the extreme high-end. Of course, something cute and tiny like a PS Audio Sprout [HFN Feb '15] or Quad Vena [HFN Jan '15] can be lifted with one hand and requires no degrees in electronics, but that's 'real world' gear. At £90,000 per pair, the M400MxVs are as exclusive as it gets, and such a strong physical presence is de rigueur.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 18, 2022  |  0 comments
hfncommendedAurorasound's VIDA (Vinyl Disk Amplifier), launched in 2011, has marked its first decade with a number of revisions to merit MkII status. How does it stack up in 2022?

Small Japanese specialist brands always fascinate me, due in part to my delight that they can co-exist with the Sony- and Panasonic-sized manufacturers. While every nation has its bijou marques, there's an uncanny aura to the likes of 47Lab, Shindo, Air Tight and Kondo, plus countless MC cartridge makers, that differentiates them from equally exotic producers from the UK, USA, Italy, Germany and beyond. Aurorasound could also only be Japanese, its VIDA MkII, an evolution of the VIDA [HFN Jul '13], ticking every box.

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