Review: Ken Kessler

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 02, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedLuxman has re-introduced what just may be the dream desktop rig, comprising the new NeoClassico CD player and tube integrated amplifier – or is it much more?

Can we agree that it's possible to love more than one system, as you would savour more than one type of whisky or wine? Masseto and Tignanello are simply not mutually exclusive. Luxman's re-imagined NeoClassico series is appropriately costly but not saddled with a 'high-end' price, so at £2500 for the D-N150 CD/DAC and £3000 for the SQ-N150 integrated amp, it is not an alternative to, nor a substitute for a high-end, high-power system. It is not out to usurp the role of your D'Agostino.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 19, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingAlways fancied a pair of mighty monoblocks? From Constellation's 'entry-level' Inspiration series, these self-effacing cubes offer power a-plenty and awesome sound

Surprises, at my age, could prove fatal, so I neither invite nor encourage them. Even pleasant ones. Neither do I relish my preconceptions being challenged: 'Old dogs, new tricks...' That said, and despite spending countless hours listening to assorted Constellation systems over the years, I must admit to being unexpectedly bowled over by these Inspiration Mono 1.0 power amplifiers.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 17, 2019  |  0 comments
hfncommendedTaking its cues from the PD-171 turntable, but with a more elegant aesthetic, the PD-151 is Luxman's first new deck in eight years. Does it sound as clean as it looks?

How deliciously ironic: two turntables this month from companies with vast experience in vacuum hold-down of the LP, yet neither of them possesses it. Continuum's Obsidian is a complete departure from its LP-sucking forebears, while Luxman's PD-151 is fundamentally a simplified PD-171 [HFN Dec '13] – the model which revived the brand's turntable line in 2011, but minus the vacuum function of yore.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 11, 2019  |  0 comments
hfncommendedContinuum's third LP-spinning package, the Obsidian and Viper, departs from the template of its vacuum-equipped predecessors. Can the brand do 'conventional'?

Looks can be deceiving, especially if you first see a Continuum Obsidian turntable and Viper arm fully-assembled. Its three-legged, dust-coverless design recalls innumerable open-plan decks from affordable up to high-five-figure absurdity. Then you note the Continuum's price tag and realise it's of the latter: the Obsidian sells for £39,998, the Viper £11,998. Generously, you can save a grand buying the pair for £49,998.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 29, 2019  |  0 comments
At a third of the price of the Nirvana headphone amplifier reviewed in June, Auris Audio's Euterpe promises valve, er, Nirvana for solo listeners with lighter pockets

As one approaches gear at lower price points, every pound matters that much more. It's simply a fact of life: the customer for Auris Audio's Nirvana high-end headphone amp [HFN Jun '19], at £4900, might be cavalier about issues such as value-for-money, features, finish or other details. Not so the prospective client for Auris Audio's £1499 Euterpe, because the market is over-burdened with serious competitors and money is more of a determinant.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 09, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingLess of a 'Special Edition' than a cosmetic refresh, six years of continuous production has still brought changes to bear in ARC's flagship digital offering. We investigate...

At this stage in the decline of Compact Disc's popularity, is there still a demand for CD players like the Audio Research REF CD9 SE at a heady £14,500? Apparently so, as the original REF CD9 [HFN May '13] remains popular enough to warrant an update. The addition of the esteemed 'SE' suffix on this occasion, however, does not signal as radical a change as seen, for example, in the move from the REF 75 power amp to the REF 75SE. But what Audio Research has done makes it just different enough to warrant the new badge.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 04, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingTraditional 'resistor ladder' DACs are rarely seen these days but California-based MSB has made the technology its own and elevated performance to an entirely new level

Despite persistent rumours of the standalone DAC's demise, the industry continues to provide us with converters with capabilities far in excess of any digital sources commonly available. MSB's DACs fall into this category, and given the sheer brilliance of the Premier we're reviewing here, it's hard to fathom that this isn't even the top rung of the MSB family, coming in below the flagship Select and the Reference, and above the Discrete. That said, the bare-bones version is £19,500. Ulp.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Sep 25, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstanding35 years on from Sonus faber's birth, a blessed return to the values on which it was founded: the Electa Amator III

Two blasts from the past in one month, both small two-way monitors, both with a massive presence in my hi-fi history, but so dissimilar that loving both seems like a case of schizophrenia. As with the LS3/5a, I have been a devotee of Sonus faber for over 30 years, though of late the passion has cooled. But something tells me that the company has again found its mojo, and the Electa Amator III is its herald.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Sep 12, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingLike buses, you wait and wait for genuine LS3/5as and then two come along – now Rogers is back with a re-engineered version of the milestone, to our reviewer's delight

Throughout my hi-fi career, I have manifested three fixations: valves, Decca cartridges and BBC LS3/5as, all of which faced sell-by dates 40 years ago. My pessimism was unfounded. Valves have never been stronger, and London maintained the Deccas. But LS3/5as? Aside from occasional facsimiles using non-KEF drivers, the LS3/5a was history. Yet now we have two new proper LS3/5as, a rebirth I never anticipated.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 04, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingMobile Fidelity, champion of audiophile vinyl, has succumbed to the lure of producing its own turntables, like record labels of the past: enter the MoFi UltraDeck

Back in the early days of audio, numerous record labels had electronics divisions, or vice versa. You would see the logos of EMI, Philips, RCA, Decca, JVC and others on both LPs sleeves and hardware. The logic was that they originated the material and could also control the entire chain, from artist to listener. So, who better to introduce its own turntables than Mobile Fidelity, for decades the most prolific source of audiophile LPs? Now you can spin its platters on, well, its platters.

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