Review: Ken Kessler

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 04, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWith a range of affordable turntables and a trio of MM pick-ups already in its catalogue, the launch of a premium MC has been long-anticipated from this supremo of the vinyl LP

One thought dominated my recent rediscovery of the old Decca (now London) cartridges: there was much to be said for record labels also manufacturing playback equipment. As had Decca, EMI, RCA, and a few others in the past, Mobile Fidelity, aka MoFi, has continued to demonstrate this synergy through its portfolio of turntables [HFN Jul '19 and Jan '20], phono stages [HFN Mar '20] and three MM cartridges. The UltraGold is the first MoFi MC, and at £1499, it raises the brand's price point.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 01, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingNot 'version 5' – the 'V' here refers to Wilson's cabinet material. In fact, the Alexx V is a 'v2' and it's a masterpiece

True to form, Wilson Audio allowed five years to pass before revising its Alexx floorstander [HFN Nov '16], avoiding that old high-end crisis of perceived obsolescence. As I always say, what was fine last Tuesday is still fine today, but Wilson tends to upgrade its models with major leaps, not tiny steps, and so it is with the Alexx V (£139,000).

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 27, 2022  |  0 comments
hfncommendedSometimes, only an integrated amplifier will do, even if you've £15k burning a hole in your pocket. AVID's gargantuan Sigsum is here to challenge any bias toward separates

Maybe one grows less ornery with age, or perhaps there was a nice guy inside of me waiting to crawl out from my crotchety self. It's just that, only a few years ago, the frustrating elements of AVID's Sigsum integrated amplifier would have had me cursing Editor PM for asking me to review it. So, there's minimalism here, and there's contrariness, and that's just the lack of a remote control. In a product a fiver short of £15,000.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 20, 2022  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingFew brands can wrestle the combination of performance and adaptability from tube circuits with the flair of Manley Labs, and those skills are at the fore in the Chinook

It may be hard to believe, but I'm certain that the 2020s will be regarded as the golden age of standalone phono stages. How so? Simply by virtue of their plenitude, especially when you consider that this is vinyl's second time around. Manley's Chinook, continually refined during its near-decade in production, creates a phono amp sweet spot at £2699, blending fine sound with broad compatibility.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 06, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingExposure returns to its roots with a full-width integrated inspired by the improved circuit design of the recent 5010 monoblock power amps. Does 'old school' still cut it?

Nostalgia doesn't come any better than this: an integrated amplifier that looks like it escaped from the 1980s, all minimalist and line-level and 440mm wide. But Exposure has been around for close to 50 years, so this isn't some exercise in retro from an arriviste brand with cod heritage. Rather, the 3510 is a device for reminding people like me of (hi-fi) life in simpler times.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 24, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedSince its birth, devotees of the LS3/5A have craved more bass – does the answer lie in Rogers' active AB3a sub?

Delayed because of the pandemic, Rogers' AB3a subwoofer is one year off being able to claim it's the 25th anniversary celebration of its passive predecessor, 1995's AB1. Yes, the gap between them has been that long. The postponement doesn't, however, diminish the delight LS3/5A users will show for the arrival of a dedicated active subwoofer for one of the most celebrated small monitors in the history of hi-fi. It's here, and it's a honey.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 04, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWith the DS 003, DS Audio delivers its 3rd generation technology in a system one-tenth the price of its flagship Grand Master. Can it hope to offer a taste of its authority?

Attesting to what I firmly believe is a 'hi-fi truth' – that differing technologies have innate sonic traits, eg, valve vs transistor – is this latest DS Audio 'optical' cartridge, the £4995 DS 003 with matching energiser. It replaces the £5050 DS 002 [HFN Jun '17], so there's even a slight price reduction.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 25, 2021  |  0 comments
Dubbed the 'most audiophile' Debut turntable yet, this deck/arm/cartridge solution takes over from last year's Debut Carbon model with a host of detail refinements

Like the Land Rover and Ray-Ban sunglasses, the Pro-Ject Debut comes in many flavours. What started as a pure entry-level product has been joined by enough siblings over the last 20 years that the new Debut PRO reviewed here can be regarded as the range's flagship and crowning glory. The numerous improvements elevate the price to £699, but even that hasn't undermined this record deck's bargain status.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 04, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingFrom California via London comes the shapely form of Zesto's Andros phono preamp – all tubes and transformers and now, courtesy of an uprated PSU, in 'Deluxe II' guise

If you demand full control over your cartridges, an all-singing/all-dancing phono preamp like the Zesto Andros Deluxe II is the only thing that will suffice. At £7500, it occupies the lower reaches of the extreme phono stage market – there are £40k-plus units if you're inspired to go further – but one should still be hyper-critical when the market is awash with exceptional, fully-adjustable phono amps for under £1000.

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.

Pages

X