2017 Editors' Choice: Portable Music Players

2017 Editors' Choice: Portable Music Players

Astell&Kern AK Jr $299 Unlike many portable players that include a balanced headphone output and claim to be able to drive every transducer that anyone has ever placed on his head, the Astell & Kern AK Jr is designed to power reasonably efficient headphones. Couple it with one of the many headphone options available in the $300 to $500 range, and for under $1000 you too can have a wonderful portable rig that delivers superb fidelity and simply slides in your pocket without any unsightly bulges. Indeed, the only things that are really junior about the AK Jr are is ...

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The Hot Club of San Francisco: John Paul George & Django

The Hot Club of San Francisco: John Paul George & Django

Ever wonder what Beatles tunes might sound like in the hands of Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, and the fabled Quintette du Hot Club de France? Witness then this Hot Club of San Francisco gypsy-jazz homage to the songs of Lennon-McCartney and George Harrison. Indicative of the concept’s success, these interpretations give even listeners well steeped in all things Beatles a greater appreciation of the structural and melodic perfection of the original repertoire while also impressing with an imaginative approach to same. Herein the HCOSF makes stops in almost every Beatles era save for Sgt. Pepper’s, with half the tunes emanating ...

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Onkyo USA Ships Two New Portable Digital Audio Players

Onkyo USA Ships Two New Portable Digital Audio Players

The following is a press release issued by Onkyo. UPPER SADDLE RIVER, NJ | May 16, 2017 – Expanding its offerings to address the growing demand for hi-res music, Onkyo USA today announced the availability of two new digital audio players: the DP-X1A, available for an MSRP $799.99 (USD) and $1,099.99 (CAD), and the DP-S1 available for an MSRP of $449.99 (USD) and $649.99 (CAD). Comprised of “audiophile-grade” components, the DP-X1A features a High-Capacity Conductive Polymer Capacitor that absorbs noise on high clock rates and better stabilizes the power supply, while the Discrete Thin Film Chip Resistor improves stability and ...

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Soulution 755 Phono Preamplifier

Soulution 755 Phono Preamplifier

This has been a very good year for phonostages chez Valin. Over the past twelve months or so I’ve had the opportunity to audition four outstanding units: the Audio Consulting Silver Rock, the Constellation Perseus, the VAC Statement, and the primary subject of this review, the Soulution 755. Although I could happily live with any of them, no two sound alike. While there are folks on our staff who would be dismayed by such sonic variety, I relish it. But then I’m not as doctrinaire as some. The world is filled with different kinds of listeners and different kinds of ...

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2017 Editors' Choice: Loudspeakers $10,000-$20,000

2017 Editors' Choice: Loudspeakers $10,000-$20,000

Sony SS-NA2ES $10,000 Inspired by the flagship Sony SS-AR1 and SS-AR2, but brought to a lower price, the NA2ES shares many virtues with its bigger brothers, and only limited losses from having to meet the lower price point, mostly in less emphasis on handcraftsmanship and some slight driver compromises. The high point is the new tweeter assembly, which offers exceptional high-frequency detail and clarity. Moderate in size, the NA2ES still has adequate dynamic power and bass extension for large-scale music in rooms of domestic size. Von Schweikert Audio UniField 2 MkII $10,000 The UniField Two is a 2.5-way design in ...

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Paradigm Persona 9H Loudspeaker

Paradigm Persona 9H Loudspeaker

Let me begin with the conclusion. The Paradigm Persona 9H is a new assault on the state of the art in speaker design by one of Canada’s leading companies. It may cost some $35,000 a pair, but it’s one of the best speaker systems I have ever had the opportunity to listen to or review. The Paradigm 9H has superb upper-octave and midrange response, and it can deliver flat, detailed, and room-corrected bass that normally requires a massive separate subwoofer. Soundstaging and imaging are equally excellent. As is the case with every top speaker, the nuances of its voicing and ...

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Merlin Deal Heralds Boost for Master Quality Authenticated (MQA)

Merlin Deal Heralds Boost for Master Quality Authenticated (MQA)

The following is a press release issued by MQA and Merlin. London | 15 May 2017 – MQA and Merlin, the global digital rights agency for the independent label sector, have today announced a multi-year agreement that will support the world’s best-known independent labels to encode their master recordings in MQA’s industry-leading technology. The partnership will boost the uptake and growth of master quality audio streaming, and paves the way for Merlin member labels and their artists to remain at the forefront of the market. MQA is an award-winning technology, which delivers master quality audio in a file small enough ...

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The Emperor's New Server

The Emperor's New Server

So much has been written so enthusiastically in this magazine and others about the manifest superiority of computer audio over “old-fashioned” optical-disc technologies (and, presumably, over even more old-fashioned analog ones) that even an LP hound like me couldn’t help but notice. Intrigued by what has been written and feeling guilty about letting what appears to be the future of high-end audio slip by without a hands-on tryout, I decided to take the computer-audio plunge and have spent the last twenty-four months auditioning “hi-res” files over a variety of pretty good DACs. Before I tell you what I’ve concluded, let’s ...

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LA Audio Show Debuts June 2-4

LA Audio Show Debuts June 2-4

You may have heard the news by now: There’s a new show on the block, the LA Audio Show that will be held June 2–4 at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel (not far from LAX). This debut event is presented in collaboration with the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society (LAOCAS), and its theme is “Hear to Make Music”—a way to unify the range of exhibitors showcasing the different ways music can be reproduced and enjoyed. At the helm is show director Marine Presson, former manager of T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, who says the LA Audio Show will serve as ...

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Jimmy Scott: A Story About Hoping and Dreaming

Jimmy Scott:  A Story About Hoping and Dreaming

Time was rarely on singer Jimmy Scott’s side. He launched a promising career in the early 1950s but saw it go dormant in the 60s. He experienced a comeback in the early 90s but was on death’s door by the time he recorded these collaborations. And he died in 2014, before the release of the documentary I Go Back Home, which yielded these 12 stirring tracks. Scott was in failing health when producer Ralf Kemper paired him with Joey DeFrancesco, Kenny Barron, Oscar Castro-Neves, James Moody, Dee Dee Bridgewater, the HDR Studio Symphony Orchestra, and others. But frailty was something ...

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Brahms Symphonies on Direct-to-Disc Vinyl

Brahms Symphonies on Direct-to-Disc Vinyl

Direct-to-disc vinyl recordings by major orchestras have always been rare, and the dearth of newly-recorded classical music on wax that followed the advent of CDs led to a decades-long gap between such releases. Naturally, then, ears perked up when the Berlin Philharmonic announced a 6-LP box set of D2D performances that used the Blumlein one-point stereo microphone technique. Conducted by Simon Rattle and available on Berlin Philharmoniker Records, Johannes Brahms Symphonies 1–4 is limited to 1833 copies, a number inspired by the year of Brahms’ birth. The album represents a return to the very roots of recording in a quest ...

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