Review: Adam Smith

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Feb 22, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingDeveloped from the phono stage debuted in the Makua preamp and Kula integrated, the Lupe is a deceptively simple-looking but hugely flexible, app-driven phono preamp

In recent years Dutch firm Mola Mola has spread its wings from the Bruno Putzeys-designed pre/power amplifiers it debuted at CES in 2013 to include partnering separates. The first of these was the innovative Tambaqui DAC [HFN Nov '19], which fleshed out the company's optional digital module into a standalone design, and into the Kula integrated [HFN Oct '21]. These are now joined by the £7299 Lupe phono preamplifier named, in typical Mola Mola fashion, after a fish – 'Lupe' being the Hawaiian name for the broad stingray.

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Jan 18, 2024  |  0 comments
hfncommendedInspired by Musical Fidelity's statuesque, near all-acrylic M1 turntable from 2004, the brand's new owners have reimagined the design to partner its massive Nu-Vista amps

There can be no doubt that retro is 'in'. From cars to kitchen appliances to hi-fi, many manufacturers are taking inspiration from the past and bringing famous and fondly remembered designs into the 21st century. The acquisition of the Musical Fidelity brand back in 2018 by Heinz Lichtenegger's Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH has given the company a very extensive and highly capable back-catalogue to mine. As a result, Audio Tuning (parent of the ubiquitous Pro-Ject marque), has taken the opportunity to boost its portfolio with a spot of retro fever.

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Jan 08, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWhen vinyl king, MoFi, finally made the move into hardware it sought out designers of proven pedigree – the MasterPhono is scripted by none other than Peter Madnick

MoFi Electronics has gone from strength to strength in the last few years, helped by the roster of designers drafted in to create its products. Spiral Groove's Allen Perkins worked on its UltraGold MC cartridge [HFN Jan '22] and MasterDeck turntable, while ex-TAD/ELAC Andrew Jones is responsible for its SourcePoint loudspeakers [HFN Apr & Aug '23]. Now comes the £5999 MasterPhono, a flagship phono stage from the pen of Peter Madnick, a designer best known for the iconic Audio Alchemy brand and his work as part of the Constellation Audio team.

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Nov 17, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnvintageSurprisingly advanced yet appealingly affordable, this semi-automatic flagship deck from 1985 sought to unseat Rega's market-leader. How does it sound today?

Vinyl fans in the early '80s were well catered for when it came to affordable turntables. If your budget was tight, the capable NAD 5120 made a fine starting point. But if you could stretch your funds a little further then there was only one choice: the Dual CS 505 [HFN Feb '13]. First introduced in 1981, it proved to be a robust and reliable performer at its bargain price of £75.

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Nov 06, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingNo citadel in the sky, these latest Castle speakers are firmly grounded in great sound courtesy of the FinkTeam

What do you get if you take a venerable British loudspeaker marque, mix with the (from 2007) owners' fabrication facility in China, stir in a highly respected German loudspeaker designer and top the whole creation with British assembly? In this case, it's the Castle Windsor Duke loudspeaker, an elegant £4500 standmount design that's the fruit of a truly worldwide network.

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Oct 17, 2023  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThoren's range of 'all-in-one' belt-driven turntables – complete with arm, cartridge and integral phono stage – tops out with the TD 204. It's a no-fuss solution for vinyl starters 

After a few years of uncertainty, turntable specialist Thorens has clearly regained its mojo. When Gunter Kürten, the former CEO of fellow German brand ELAC, took over the company in 2018, he felt its existing range was 'too broad, with far too many models and variants'. He also believed the quality of the finished products was not to a level that befitted a manufacturer that had, at the time, been making musical instruments for 137 years, and turntables for 92.

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Sep 22, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWhile unmistakably a 'Koetsu', this Coral stone-cloaked MC demonstrates that every one of the brand's mineral/stone-bodied pick-ups brings its own personality to the party

At the high-end of the hi-fi industry, there are companies that, while well-known to the audiophile cognoscenti, still remain something of an enigma. Japanese cartridge brand Koetsu fits that description – its name is often uttered in hushed, reverential tones, but if you're hoping for a quick Google to unleash a thorough technical insight into its products, as you might for Audio-Technica or Ortofon, then you're in for a disappointment. The £8498 Coralstone moving-coil tested here is one of Koetsu's top models, but flies in under the radar with minimal fanfare.

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Aug 10, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingInformed by the design of Audio-Technica's AT-OC9 pick-ups and tuned to 'hit the midrange', is VPI's latest cartridge collaboration a no-brainer for its turntable owners?

When New Jersey-based turntable brand VPI wanted a cartridge (or three) to complement its range of decks and tonearms it was not inclined to waste precious time, money and effort on something that somebody else had been doing for years. So, rather than stray from its own speciality in 'large scale' engineering, it instead went knocking on Audio-Technica's door for the construction of its new £1250 Goldy MC.

Review: Adam Smith,  |  Jun 15, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingSixty years since Hideo Matsushita founded Audio-Technica in a Tokyo suburb the brand continues its love affair with vinyl with the launch of a new ART series moving-coil

Celebrations have come thick and fast over the last couple of years, and to SME's 60th [HFN Jul '22], Clearaudio's 40th [HFN Nov '22] and Nagra's 70th [HFN Aug '22] we can add Audio-Technica's 'Diamond'. Naturally, the company has not missed the opportunity to mark the occasion by releasing a celebratory cartridge or two. There's the new £8900 flagship AT-MC2022 and the slightly more affordable AT-ART20 at £2749 that we have here.

Review: Adam Smith,  |  May 02, 2023  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThis artisan phono stage from Germany has been on a journey of refinement lasting rather longer than a decade, culminating, for the time being, in this Jubilee version

With the notable exception of flatscreen TVs and very high-end hi-fi, generally speaking, technology is enabling smaller product solutions. German brand Lehmannaudio has been leading the charge for bijou components since its founding, and the principle is perfectly illustrated by the Jubilee variant of its evergreen Decade phono stage, released to celebrate the brand's 30 years, and retailing for £3149.

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