Review: Andrew Everard

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Nov 01, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWith radical styling, serious room-heating ability and possibly the highest price per Watt ever seen in these pages, these Swedish power amps are the result of a family obsession

To misquote Sly & The Family Stone just a little, Swedish hi-fi company Engström – it only makes tube amplifiers – is a family affair. Founded by engineer Lars Engström and his industrial designer nephew Timo as recently as 2008, the company is based in Lund, just northeast of Malmö, and has its R&D HQ some 600km away in Nacka, south of Uppsala on the Baltic Sea coast. The division of labour in the company sees Lars Engström as chief engineer, having given up work in fields as diverse as navigation, microcomputing and railway signalling systems in 2001 to concentrate on amplifier development, while his nephew is responsible for the look of the products, and the company operations.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Oct 18, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingIf it isn't broken, don't fix it... but Simaudio's MOON 280D outboard DAC is certainly enhanced by the addition of the updated MiND 2 streaming module and app

There are two ways to make a network music player. One is to take a streaming platform and integrate a DAC to provide analogue outputs, while the other is to start with a DAC and then build in the network playback capability. The two approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. Typically, the network player with DAC will be just what it says: a full-featured machine, usually complete with a display, but with limited connectivity for external digital sources. The DAC with streaming, meanwhile, will commonly have more digital ins, but sometimes less network audio capability.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Oct 11, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThe middle model in Scansonic's trio of M-series loudspeakers is one of the growing breed of 'compact floorstanders'

Take a look at these Scansonic floorstanders, and you'll notice they look big and impressive, especially for speakers selling for a sensible £1499 in very on-trend black or white silk finishes. But don't let our photographs of the M20 fool you for those mid/bass drivers are just 10cm in diameter – or four inches in old money – and the baffle a few cm wider still. Recalibrate your view based on those figures, and you'll realise these speakers are well short of a metre tall – 93.5cm, in fact – and that, if not quite knee-high to a grasshopper, means these aren't what you'd call 'room-dominating'.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Sep 30, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe no-nonsense mountain-inspired aesthetic is unmistakable, but despite the heady pricing this pre/power amp combo is from one of Boulder's more affordable ranges

It's the style of the Boulder 1100 series amplification that grabs you first – very different from the common image of US-made high-end hi-fi, even if the £30,000 1160 stereo power amp lives up to at least some of the stereotype with its 61.2kg mass. Instead of the usual scattergun buttons, grab-handles and menacing – not to mention finger-slicing – heatsinks so common in products of this type, seemingly built with no concession to domestic acceptability, the Boulder power amp and its matching £22,500 1110 line-only preamp have a much softer look.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Sep 16, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe evergreen Uniti Atom all-in-one platform, complete with custom streaming solution, is adapted to service the needs of the most demanding headphone users

Never let it be said the product name isn't long enough – in the 12 years since Naim launched its network audio all-in-one, to which the buyer need only add speakers, it's grown from the simple NaimUniti of the initial model, all the way to this, the £2399 Naim Audio Uniti Atom Headphone Edition. And yet here, less is more.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Sep 02, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingLaunched three years ago but only now released for review, PMC's flagship fenestria is a towering statement

The PMC fact fenestria – the British brand's flagship 'domestic' speaker (note lower case f) – was launched at a packed press conference at Munich's High End Show. That's the 2018 High End Show, and it's taken over three years for it to arrive for review – in which time the price has risen from the inaugural £45,000 to the £54,995 for the pair you see here. In the intervening period there's actually only been one Munich show – that in 2019, at which the company launched its smaller 'fact signature' models: the 2020 show fell victim to the pandemic, as did this year's at least twice, being rescheduled from May to September, then cancelled completely.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Aug 26, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWith deep roots in 'professional audio' and a novel discrete op-amp module as a key driving force, SPL is looking to bring a splash of colour to our audiophile universe

Well, it makes a change from the usual choice of silver or black… Yes, you can have the German-made SPL Phonitor xe USB DAC/headphone amp, which starts from £1899 depending on specification, in either of those colours if you want, but it's also available in the bright red anodised finish you see here. Not that it needs colour to catch the eye for the unusual battery of features makes it either intriguing or something of a head-scratcher: what do all those knobs and switches do? And then there's the pair of illuminated, retro-looking VU meters – this is clearly not your common or garden DAC/headphone amp.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Aug 19, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedTop integrated in Rotel's flagship Michi series leverages much of the P5 preamp and S5 power amp technology to realise a taller, heavier amp that aims to upstage the X3

Expect the unexpected: it will be the first lesson in the book if I ever get round to writing Hi-Fi Reviewing For Dummies. You see, just because something seems like something else, it doesn't follow that it is... Too many times I've stumbled across a speaker sitting in the middle of a range, and apparently using the same recipe of drive-units, that turns out to be a complete outlier – for good or bad – in the way it plays music. The same happens with amplifiers, too. So, just because one model seems little more than a bigger version of another, don't expect it to have the same kind of balance of qualities, only 'more so'.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Jul 20, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThe latest in a lineage of DACs stretching back some 27 years has a name – 'DacMagic' – that's as memorable as the parent brand itself. Hey presto, here's the 200M...

The modern hi-fi market is not exactly short of affordable DAC/headphone amplifiers, but the £449 Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M has not only previous form, but an impressive pedigree on its side. Indeed, a full 27 years have passed since the arrival of the original DACMagic-1 as a slightly late, but very affordable and accomplished 'CD upgrade' DAC. Since then, the company's range of digital-to-analogue converters has been developed and refined, as well as adapted to the requirements of the changing hi-fi arena.

Review: Andrew Everard,  |  Jul 13, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedPowered by in-house hardware and software engineering from Korea's Citech group, the HiFi Rose brand combines slick visuals with the promise of state-of-the-art sound

One of the great benefits of the rise of streaming – be it network or online – is the flexibility it gives manufacturers to create just about any product they like. There are some basic formats, including the all-in-ones like the Naim Uniti [HFN Nov '17], NAD M-Series [HFN Aug '20] and the new Cambridge Audio Evo. There are also streaming amps and standalone playback components (network players or DACs), but within those parameters the engineers and designers have no shortage of freedom to create network audio devices in just about any shape they want…

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