Chord Electronics Hugo 2 Transportable DAC/Headphone Amplifier – Digital Playback at the Cutting Edge

The two main growth areas of audio playback right now are digital-to-analogue converters and the headphone/headphone amplifier space. For those wanting a better, higher fidelity experience, headphone sound quality can be dramatically improved by combining the two. And a DAC can also have anything from a mundane to a revelatory influence on a high-end audio system. So what is the result of an undertaking to combine both ‘disciplines’ when the company involved is Chord Electronics, a leader in high-tech engineering and pioneer of several proprietary technologies which place it at the cutting edge of digital playback?

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Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins produces some of the most desirable audio products in the industry. The company spans its considerable engineering and marketing prowess across a wide range of speaker lines encompassing all major price points while applying the same ideal to its evolving personal audio/headphone and ‘life style’ wireless speaker products (an expanding high-end car audio line specialises in systems for luxury models for BMW, Maserati, Volvo and more). But to this writer, it’s especially gratifying to know that the company has a tremendous impetus in its model for nurturing musicians and their art. Bowers & Wilkins’ Society of Sound is a platform for many international artists to showcase their talent and creativity to music lovers across the globe.

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Audio Research Foundation LS28 Preamplifier and VT80 Amplifier

There are few more respected names in Audio than that of Audio Research. I won't go into the long history of the 47 year old, Plymouth Minnesota based company here (it's easily available with a simple search online after all) but, suffice to say, Audio Research's credentials are impeccable when it comes to its well established success, technical prowess, diversity and, more importantly, sound quality.

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SGR Audio Signature Hi-Fi Rack Visco-Elastic Vibration Isolators

Melbourne’s SGR Audio is an established and growing concern with an expanding line of superbly-designed products ranging from source to speakers – the latter both passive and active. In fact, SoundStage! awarded a ‘Best of Show’ commendation to SGR’s superbly-designed Discovery series speakers at High-End Munich 2017 – see write-up here. The company also makes the outstanding modular Signature Hi-Fi Rack that is not only aesthetically beautiful but also features solid engineering principles. Now, SGR Audio has launched a Visco-Elastic Vibration Isolator upgrade that promises further performance benefits.

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Harbeth P3ESR Loudspeakers

The Harbeth P3ESR mini-monitor traces its origins to the iconic BBC-designed LS3/5a although it’s anything but a legacy product. In 2017, the Harbeth loudspeaker company is celebrating its 40th anniversary, a testament to the sonic staying power of the still independent UK company founded by the late Dudley Harwood who was then head of the BBC’s legendary loudspeaker R & D team. Since the mid-1980s, it has been singularly steered by Alan Shaw, also a former BBC employee, intent on radically advancing the art of loudspeaker design while building on traditional BBC advanced learning.

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Devialet Expert 440 Pro Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Multitasking. Buzz word of recent times and yet, seemingly, when talking ‘tech time’, ages old too. And it’s the zeitgeist of the smart-device in an era where all is contained within a single entity – one ring to rule them all. This new ‘functionality culture’ permeates into other areas of technology where apparent simplicity belies the power of the single device that… encompasses the paradox delivering complex tasks… a multitude of complex tasks.

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VTL MB-185 Series III Monoblock Amplifiers

According to the late, great Harvey Rosenberg, Buddha is said to have said: “I would rather have a cup of tone, than an ocean of power”. Well, in the VTL MB-185 Series III Signature monoblock power amplifier, we may have just found both. VTL, short for Vacuum Tube Logic, have been in the business of making high quality tube-based amplification (and only tube-based amplification) since 1987. The VTL MB-185 Series III Signature monoblock power amplifier is the latest and best iteration of an increasingly refined lineage that can be traced back to the classic VTL Deluxe 225, a power amplifier that, like the subject VTL, achieved its legendary status by applying the company’s cutting edge technology to the uniquely musical qualities of the EL34 valve power tube.

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Audia Flight FLS4 Stereo Power Amplifier

As much as many consider the preamplifier to be the heart of a high-end audio system – direct feed from source notwithstanding as that is an entire new argument – the amplifier takes the blood that’s pumped from the heart and feeds it to our system in order to operate the mechanics of moving parts that transfer energy to the air, hence, making the sound of the music we hear and love. Audia Flight’s newest FSL series stereo power amplifier promises to ‘flow the blood’ in a most robust way…

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Vermouth Audio Little Luccas Mk.II Limited Edition Loudspeakers

As audio enthusiasts we take for granted the audio powerhouses from the United States, Europe, Japan and even Australia. Indeed, we expect these countries to produce quality products whether they outsource elements of production, as is the case nowadays in order to save costs, or whether they are wholly manufactured at the country of origin. As may not be commonly known to the wider audio community, Indonesia has a vibrant audio manufacturing base and enthusiast community – it is after all a country with a massive population – and one of the shining examples of that country’s audio marques is Vermouth Audio who offers a large range of cables and an expanding line of quality speakers. Here we look at the flagship standmount in the attractively-styled Little Luccas Mk.II Limited Edition.

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KEF LS50 Wireless Loudspeakers

As a manufacturer, it must be incredibly difficult to not only keep ahead of the competition in the technology of products, but to also try and predict the needs and desires of the consumer. KEF has been at the front end of this race for more years than most. With a rich history dating back to before 1961, KEF has produced some of the most memorable speakers, drivers and components of the last 50. From the diminutive 1960's LS5/1a to the mighty MUON of today, KEF is a worldwide brand synonymous with quality sound. With the new LS50 Wireless KEF aims to encompass a new audience…

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Legend Acoustics Big Red Active Loudspeakers

The Big Red is the most powerful of the Australian kangaroos. It’s a heavy, muscled brute of an animal but yet it’s extremely agile, swiftly covering long distances at great speeds. Was this great marsupial what ex Linn Senior Acoustical Engineer Dr Rod Crawford, head of Legend Acoustics, had in mind when he came up with this sophisticated speaker’s designation?

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