Aqua Acoustic Quality Formula xHD DAC

For the past year and a half, my reference digital-to-analogue converter of choice has been the Aqua Acoustic Quality Formula xHD. It remains spell-binding, a source of constant pleasure and musical satisfaction, in an era when last month’s DAC-of-the-month is tomorrow’s landfill.

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Tellurium Q Silver Diamond Speaker Cables

Wikipedia states that Tellurium is one of the rarest elements on Earth and was discovered in a mine in Romania in the late 1700s. The article goes on to say that, when in crystalline form, it’s a ‘metalloid’ semiconductor that is very efficient at transmitting signal in a specific direction while being resistant to oxidisation. These are all aspects rather well-suited to the makings of a really good audio cable…

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Devialet Gold Phantom Digital Loudspeaker System

Devialet is a brand renowned not only for its highly innovative designs but also for the understated yet beautifully implemented finishes throughout their product range. Its amplifiers boast an impressive number of patented technologies, outstanding musical reproduction, and have been well reviewed since first introduced in 2007. I’d been wanting to try out one of their Phantom wireless speaker systems for some time and when an opportunity arose with the Phantom Gold system I seized it eagerly.

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Bowers & Wilkins 803 D3 Loudspeakers

Vision. That’s the ideology. Bowers & Wilkins’ famous – and indisputably iconic – Nautilus ‘Snail’ design was so ahead of its time that the basic foundation is still relevant now, 25 years after its introduction. As indelible as that speaker has become in the audio industry’s psyche, it is mainly seen by many enthusiasts as a beacon, a vanguard, for the 800 series which, effectively, may be considered the company’s flagship-bearing range. Over its many evolved generations, the entire 800 line-up has garnered a treasure trove of awards for its advanced engineering and exemplary performance. Bowers & Wilkins continues the evolution with the current D3-titled generation. The company’s de facto leader is the acclaimed 800 D3 but here, we take a look at what could be considered the sweet spot of the line, the beautifully-proportioned 803 D3.

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DS Audio DS-W2 Phono Cartridge & Equaliser

It’s Friday night. The working week is (hopefully) over. You sit down with a single malt, a Shiraz, some umeshu or maybe just a mug of chocolate milk. You then seek out one of your favourite albums, undertake your particular pre-play ritual and finally lower the cueing arm. Thus enters the DS Audio DS-W2 cartridge and equaliser combo…

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Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones

Last year, when I wrote about the Sennheiser HDV 820 DAC and headphone amplifier (review here), the headfi world was frothing at the prospect of a new 8xx series headphone. But rather than replace the HD 800 and HD 800 S, both superior open back designs, Sennheiser unexpectedly delivered a closed back alternative in the rarefied High End series, the HD 820.

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in-akustik Referenz LS-4004 AIR Loudspeaker Cable

There are few, if any, cable manufacturing companies that can lay claim to producing cables for over 40 years. In Ballrechten-Dottingen, Germany in-akustik has been doing precisely that. in-akustik’s wide range of cable products are fabricated in-house via advanced manufacturing processes while the company has also been nurturing long-standing partnerships with quality record labels and high-end audio specialists such as Piega and Primare. From in-akustik’s top-flight Referenz range, we take a look at the uniquely-designed flagship LS-4004 AIR loudspeaker cable.

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MAG-LEV Audio ML1 Magnetic Levitation Turntable

In an industry which has only relatively recently come out of a conservative period in terms of product styling – Devialet, D’Agostino, first come to mind as among the first to break out – and also its technology evolution, along comes a new company, headquartered in an unlikely location and hitting the market with a sole product offering a unique take on the record spinning concept. The MAG-LEV ML1 is a turntable that literally breathes fresh air…

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Shelter Audio Harmony Moving Coil Cartridge

On the surface, a cartridge would seem a simple enough device, whether it’s designed based on a magnet system or, alternatively, one with a coil driven by a magnet system. Whatever path has been chosen by the designer, the delicate relationships between each of the cartridge's miniscule elements requires a balanced, precise and extremely mindful execution. Quality cartridge manufacturers stem from around the globe, with many respected makers originating from the USA, Germany and Switzerland. However, in terms of brands, Japan has the biggest concentration of producers, a literal ‘who’s who’ of some of the world’s most lustfully-desired and highly regarded cartridges. Shelter Audio’s heritage and extensive product line firmly places it among some of the very best.

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SGR Audio Model V Statement Hi-Fi Equipment Rack

The audio ‘limelight’ is, by and large, monopolised by the often outrageous industrial designs of components flashing chrome and gold plating, sporting sharply styled (and edged) heatsink metalwork or by those exuding the warm seduction of glowing glass. The less glamorous racking system which, critically, provides support to the various audio apparatus, is often naively seen as a secondary player. However, a high quality Hi-Fi equipment rack is of extreme importance within the context of a well-sorted high-end audio system. If solidly-engineered, an audio rack can provide discernable sonic gains by isolating and/or coupling your expensive electronics allowing the expression of their full potential. Here, in the flagship SGR Audio Model V Statement, I examine one of the very best in terms of technical design, build quality, finish options and, most importantly, its facilitation and communication of music.

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Wilson Audio Specialties TuneTot Loudspeakers

Predominantly, Wilson Audio Specialties has achieved an enviable reputation and has garnered universal acclaim for its engineering excellence of massive full-range loudspeaker systems. Paradoxically, this has occurred despite the company’s breakthrough product being the iconic WATT (Wilson Audio Tiny Tot), a high precision 2-way monitor that, in a subsequent iteration, ‘grew’ up to be a near full-range speaker via the addition of the ‘Puppy’ dedicated bass module. And while Wilson Audio Specialties’ uncompromising trickle down technology advanced its subsequent smaller floorstanding designs, the lessons learnt with ‘the big ones’ have consequently also led to exceptional standmount loudspeakers – generations of CUB and Duette – that, while being necessarily simpler in execution, have enjoyed the substantial benefits of the engineering team’s continuous research. Now, under the Wilson Special Applications Engineering (WSAE) division, we see a new monitor in the diminutive TuneTot.

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M8audio Sweet Maxwell Loudspeakers

How big a speaker do you really need? Well, that really depends on a number of factors. If you have a very large listening room, like to listen at volume levels that would scare possums in the next block, or have a primordial craving for bass depth and bass power, then perhaps small speakers are not for you. That said the M8audio Sweet Maxwell speakers perform surprisingly well when high-jumping criteria that are typically hostile to smaller speakers. In many normal home situations, you may well achieve better sound with high quality stand-mount speakers like the Sweet Maxwell than with similarly priced floorstanding speakers that superficially appear impressive but, may in fact, be poorly constructed and braced and/or may be the product of compromises in the design of the crossovers or may incorporate low quality drivers.

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