Review: Ken Kessler

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 13, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingMobile Fidelity, champion of audiophile vinyl, has now wrapped up an EISA Award for its flagship UltraDeck – does the more affordable StudioDeck give much away?

It might seem that we played this one in reverse, reviewing Mobile Fidelity's dearer UltraDeck turntable first [HFN Jul '19], before working backward. A buzz in the underground, however, suggested that MoFi's less-costly, entry-level StudioDeck might be something of a 'sweet spot' candidate, so what could have been an anti-climax is anything but.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 05, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingHigh-end headphone amps for connoisseurs of cans require total adjustability – has Manley Laboratories delivered the goods with the Absolute Headphone Amplifier?

Veteran makers of headphone amplifiers for studios, Manley Laboratories is taking on the extreme high-end of the domestic genre with a £4500 unit – the Absolute – that marries audiophiles' sonic requirements with the total control demanded of professionals. Company CEO Eveanna Manley says, bluntly, 'Our goal was simply to produce the most awesome-sounding and sonically flexible vacuum tube headphone amplifier!'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 27, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingReplacing the longstanding, and long-popular 834P, EAR's new PhonoBox is still tube-powered and comes with MC and volume options in addition to a 'deluxe' chrome finish

Acat among the pigeons: at a time when we are being treated to a range of superb phono stages at modest prices, what for me is the true milestone of the genre has just appeared in what must be its fourth or fifth generation. The new EAR-Yoshino PhonoBox (also called the Phonobox or Phono Box) is the replacement for the venerable 834P [HFN Jun '94], which has seen a few tweaks and variants over the years, most notably restyles to smarten up the otherwise purely functional styling.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 17, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingAfter wowing the audio community with the Jo No5 moving-coil cartridge, EAT has unleashed the second in the family – the Jo No8. And it's an even bigger knock-out

Having previously dipped its toe in the water with the Yosegi moving-coil cartridge [HFN Mar '12] – effectively a rebodied-in-wood Japanese design – EAT stunned us last year with the Jo No5 [HFN Dec '18], selling at a sane £799. There's no shortage of amazing moving-coil cartridges on the market, but this was blatantly head-and-shoulders above the pack. It heralded a new range of MCs to complement EAT's expanding catalogue of turntables, arms, phono stages and its recently-unveiled integrated amplifier.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 30, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnedchoiceLike a winery with one grape but a dozen variants, Koetsu's latest Urushis challenge moving-coil veterans with subtleties – will the Vermillion leave us seeing red?

Urushi and I? We go wa-a-y back. It was in the April 1990 issue that I reviewed my first, never having seen such gorgeous lacquer on anything, let alone an MC cartridge. As with Sonus faber rewriting speaker design language, the Urushi was 'something else'. It wasn't the first time high-end cartridges exhibited aesthetics beyond the style of a cool profile – the body of Goldbug's Mr Brier [HFN May' 86] was egg-shaped wood, and pastel-anodised metal had been around for years – but this was jewellery.

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.

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