Review: Ken Kessler

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 19, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingFans of the brand know that when Audio Research adds an 'SE' suffix, the changes go beyond the cosmetic. The latest to earn this upgrade is the Reference Phono 3

Let's talk about names. Audio Research's abiding Reference range has long been subject to shorthand – even the factory calls the models 'REF' for brevity – while updated (mk2) components are now defined by 'SE'. And that now applies to the £17,500 Reference Phono 3SE. In this case the revisions are retrofittable and, at £3500 and given my delight with every SE model I've tried, especially with the REF 6 and REF 75, I suspect most existing owners will want the upgrade. My optimism was fuelled by Audio Research's CEO Dave Gordon who told us, 'The SE changes incorporated in both the REF 6 and the REF Phono 3 are almost identical, involving many of the same passive component upgrades'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 12, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingLaunched to mark Sumiko's 40th, this latest version of the 'Celebration' moving-coil takes its cues from the mkII Pearwood, albeit with Plumwood to invoke a unique hue...

This celebratory model, marking 40 years, recalls a bygone time, its perfectly apt wooden box and body inadvertently honouring a specific Japanese MC cartridge with the greatest claim to establishing the genre in the West: the original Koetsu [HFN Nov '80]. What doesn't evoke the 1980s is the £3199 price tag, although this is perhaps not so forbidding when we can list a dozen £10,000-plus cartridges, aimed at those who quaff Petrus at every meal…

Review: Ken Kessler  |  Apr 15, 2022  |  Published: Mar 01, 2003  |  0 comments
hfnvintageThe British company has unveiled a system with the same stunning livery as its highly successful DAC64. Ken Kessler reaches for the blue yonder

Sometimes manufacturers do listen! After Chord Electronics' DAC64 proved to be such an immediate hit, the company decided to figure out why everyone fell in love with it. Sure, it sounded wonderful. Yes, it had neat features like balanced and single-ended operation and its three-setting, user-adjustable RAM buffering. But that wasn't it.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 14, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingA handful of turntable brands lay claim to the first suspended subchassis model, but few, unlike Thorens' TD 150 from 1965, were mass produced. Here's its great grandson

Thorens CEO Gunter Kürten is true to his word: when we first met at the Tokyo High End Show in 2019, he hinted that the hugely-important, wildly-popular three-point suspended-subchassis, belt-drive TD 150 of 1965 might make a return in updated form. This wasn't your typical case of just exploiting retro because the TD 150 was more than a best-seller for Thorens. It was a breakthrough in the evolution of turntables.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 07, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingPrecision manufacturing, state-of-the-art materials and magnet technologies combine in this new addition to the 'Exclusives' MC range – the ultimate blend of art and science?

Talk about alpha to omega: we've looked at two Ortofon cartridges this month, the £295 2M Bronze supplied with Thorens' TD 1500 and now the MC Verismo moving-coil, at £5349. It's the latest MC in Ortofon's 'Exclusives' series, which already includes the £6999 MC Anna Diamond [HFN Oct '19] and £3799 MC Windfeld Ti [HFN Jan '18], but with an open body shape first pioneered in this Danish brand's MC A90 [HFN Sep '09].

Review: Ken Kessler, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 04, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingIt's taken three years, but it was worth the wait: D'Agostino's Relentless Preamplifier has arrived, and it's as much of a revelation as the matching power amplifiers

You gotta love items with absolutely perfect names: 'Land Rover Defender', 'Rolex Explorer', 'Fender Jazzmaster'. When founder and chief engineer, Dan D'Agostino, dubbed his assault on the high-end 'Relentless', with cost-no-object flagship monoblock power amps [HFN Mar '20], he might have been referring to himself, as that is how he approached the task. With this matching three-chassis Relentless Preamplifier (£159,500), he's raised the bar once more.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 22, 2022  |  0 comments
hfncommendedStateside tube specialist, ModWright, trickles down tech from its Reference PH 150 into a more affordable all-valve MM/MC phono preamp, featuring an outboard PSU

Nothing yet has convinced me that we have seen any period, since hi-fi separates became a 'thing', when there were more phono stages than we have right now. I say this because the ModWright PH 9.0's price of £2900 puts it smack in the middle of an inordinately crowded sector. I'm obviously being naïve here, or just pretending that you can still go into any number of hi-fi shops and ask, 'Can I compare a few phono stages?'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 18, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingHot on the heels of its tube hybrid integrateds comes this altogether cooler solid-state amplifier from Danish brand Copland. It packs on the style while also packing a punch

Nothing causes more consternation than a product seemingly 180 degrees at odds with a company's core philosophy, whether hi-fi, cars, watches, what-have-you. Audio Research dealt with the repercussions of its first solid-state amp… but an all-transistor amp from the equally tube-centric Copland? Not its first – these were the mid-'90s CSA8/CSA18 – so the CSA70 probably won't cause too much of a ruckus despite the absence of bottles.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 11, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThis Brit-brand's range of audiophile pick-ups grows yet again with a sub-£1000 model slotting between its entry-level MM and flagship MC. Will the Sabre cut through?

In the heated-up marketplace that is 'LP Playback Circa 2022', and as with the ModWright PH 9.0 phono stage, we are also experiencing a surfeit of cartridges, tonearms and decks. With so crowded a playing field as this, Vertere – about as iconoclastic a manufacturer as analogue has seen in recent times – has to make its Sabre cartridge stand out from the rest. The company has chosen to address a usually neglected niche: true high-end moving-magnet designs.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 22, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingPrimaLuna's tradition of user-tweakable tube amps continues, this time by 'tweaking' its own EVO 300 model with a solid-state output stage. Welcome, PL's first hybrid...

OK, OK, there are those who think 'hybrid' is a dirty word. If your glass is half-empty, it signifies compromise, or – worse – indecisiveness. If you're a cynic, then it's purely a commercial choice. But if your glass is half-full, then it's a convenient solution to various problems. As PrimaLuna has only ever made all-valve amplifiers, the company's first hybrid needs some explaining. More to the point, at £6198, the PrimaLuna EVO 300 Hybrid – clearly related to the all-tube EVO 300 [HFN Mar '21] – is its costliest product.

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