Review: Mark Craven

Review: Mark Craven,  |  May 20, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingComplete with a new streaming module, T+A's latest network-attached DAC/preamp is the perfect partner for its PA 3100 HV integrated and A 3000 HV power amplifiers

Tipping the scales at a hefty 26kg, measuring a portly 46cm deep and 17cm tall, and selling for £14,900, T+A's PSD 3100 HV appears every inch the flagship DAC/streamer/preamp. Except that it isn't – that accolade is reserved for the German brand's SDV 3100 HV [HFN Oct '19], which has been deemed its 'reference' model since its arrival in 2019 and remains available for £26,040.

Review: Mark Craven,  |  May 13, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingBuilding on the earlier D2 platform, Lumin's equally compact D3 model features a new processor, new DAC, LeedH volume control and support for increased file sample rates

It's not only loudspeaker brands playing the trickle-down technology game. Lumin's D3, its new entry-level streaming DAC, borrows liberally from the Hong Kong manufacturer's costlier network hardware, utilising elements both inside and out to effect a comprehensive upgrade on the previous D2 [HFN Jul '20]. Its maker says the D3 'brings the audiophile potential of music streaming within everyone's reach', and while the £2195 price tag makes that somewhat debatable, it certainly has plenty of appeal.

Review: Mark Craven,  |  Apr 15, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe third and final component in Audiolab's three-strong 9000 series has landed – an app-driven network DAC with balanced outs. But what, if any, is the Lumin connection?

Arriving to crown Audiolab's top-flight 9000 series, which launched with the 9000A integrated amplifier and 9000CDT CD transport [HFN Aug '23], the 9000N is arguably the most intriguing model in the range. This streaming DAC, priced at £2499, and styled to match, marks a point of departure for the brand as its association with DTS Play-Fi is cut in favour of a new streaming platform and app.

Review: Mark Craven,  |  Mar 11, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingNestled at the heart of dCS's three-box Lina headphone amp solution is the Lina DAC, now refreshed with APEX-level firmware as a springboard into its mainstream range

When dCS was founded in 1987, the idea that hi-fi hardware could be comprehensively upgraded without the need to lug it back to the shop might have seemed the stuff of science-fiction. Skip forward some 40 years, however, and firmware updates – delivered over-the-air for networked products – have become the norm. They're often used to squash 'bugs' and tweak minor settings, but what the Cambridge-based company has done with its Lina Network DAC is more noteworthy.

Review: Mark Craven,  |  Mar 07, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingLess is very much more in BAT's flagship stereo power amp where its third-generation 'SuperPak+' PSU meets a fully balanced output stage featuring N-channel MOSFETs

Here's a fun game to play: look through the product catalogue of US manufacturer Balanced Audio Technology and try to spot the odd one out. It should only take you a matter of seconds because all of its current models, bar one, employ tubes in either their power or preamp stages. And if you still haven't realised I'm talking about the new REX 500 power amplifier, it's the one that's roughly twice as big as all the others.

Review: Mark Craven,  |  Feb 08, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe latest addition to PS Audio's Stellar range is a back-to-basics USB/I2S DAC with the emphasis on performance rather than frippery. But it does have a gold 'go faster' stripe!

Following a slew of recent high-end designs including its aspen FR30 and FR20 speakers [HFN Jun '22 & Apr '23], the BHK M600 monoblock amplifiers [HFN Dec '22], and DirectStream DAC Mk2 [HFN Jun '23], Colorado's PS Audio has refocused attention on its more affordable Stellar series, where the mantra is making 'audio bliss attainable'. Yet the new StellarGold DAC, auditioned here and selling for £3999, isn't a straightforward new addition to the line.

Review: Mark Craven,  |  Jan 23, 2024  |  0 comments
Pure in name and hi-fi heart, Matrix Audio's 10th anniversary Element X2 model loses its headphone amp but gains a pair of new, cutting-edge ESS Sabre DACs

While the list of 'legacy products' on Matrix Audio's website begins with the DA-100 Plus DAC, which debuted in 2006, the Chinese brand insists it only really began life in 2013 when it was registered as Matrix Electronic Technology Co. 'Before that, Matrix Audio existed in the form of a studio', says marketing manager Yang Tao. This explains why the literature for the new Element X2 Pure network DAC (and the sticker that graces the top of the unit) proclaims it a celebratory model, launched to mark the company's 10th anniversary.

Review: Mark Craven,  |  Jan 02, 2024  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingDerived from Perlisten's S7t flagship, and featuring the same DPC array, the S5t is simply more 'user-friendly'

Few loudspeaker brands come racing from the gate, but Perlisten, from Wisconsin, US, has gone from unheard of to a serious challenger in very short order. First up, in 2022, was the EISA Award-winning S7t floorstander [HFN Apr '22], which introduced the company as a high-end marque, and this was quickly followed by its second-tier R series [HFN Aug '22]. Now we get the S5t, essentially a slimmed down version of the S7t, with all the appeal that this entails.

Review: Mark Craven,  |  Dec 11, 2023  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWith solid-state and tube/transistor hybrid models in its range, Copland returns to its roots with an all-analogue, all-valve integrated that supports aftermarket tube upgrades

By Copland's own reckoning, its noughties-era CTA405 integrated amplifier [HFN Aug '07] was an 'object of desire for audiophiles worldwide'. Now, some 16 years later, it has taken the idea of that model and considerably overhauled it – the £6500 CTA407 is both recognisably a descendant of the '405 and also markedly different.

Review: Mark Craven,  |  Nov 09, 2023  |  0 comments
hfncommendedBased on the slimmer, lookalike TA1, the TA2 features twice as many output transistors, a far beefier PSU and three times the output... All this, a DAC/preamp and FM radio too

You shouldn't even need to see the £1099 price tag of Emotiva's BasX TA2 to understand it's one of the American manufacturer's entry-level products: the clue is in the name. Yet this integrated amplifier is about more than just covering off the 'basics', not least as it's positioned as a step up from the £669 BasX TA1 [HFN Nov '22].

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