Chord Electronics Qutest Digital-to-Analogue Converter

It’s an exciting time to be an audiophile. Digital technology is continually evolving and bringing with it a multitude of features and the possibility of serious improvements in the quality of signal handling and processing. Today we can see base level functionality in many audio products which, less than a generation ago, either never existed or may only have existed in the highest echelons or recording studios.

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REDGUM Audio RGDAC8 Digital-to-Analogue Converter & RGMP8 Media Player

While many manufacturers are making valiant attempts at simplifying the multi-facetted computer audio playback methodology, there’s little doubt that barring those somewhat narrow choices, drawing the most out of ‘CA’ entails embarking on a steep learning curve in terms of computer language, culture and the methodology’s general machinations. To the uninitiated audio enthusiast the entire methodology presents a daunting task – to varying degrees, of course, depending on your general computer knowledge and navigation skills, with some gear requiring near-IT expertise. No wonder there’s a strong movement back to physical media. Oh, the simplicity of Compact Disc… But then, products like the REDGUM Audio RGDAC8 and RGMP8 digital playback system come along and may just change the playing field.

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Sennheiser HD 660 S Headphones

I love headphones. I mean, how else can you finish off your day listening to some of your favourite tunes without waking up everyone in the house? The only caveat is that you have a sufficiently capable amplifier and a set of headphones with enough muscle to wrestle the sonic wonders out of your CD, LP and FLAC, WAV, AIFF and other files. Which is why I was excited about receiving the latest Sennheiser audiophile model, the HD 660 S, to spend hours relaxing while engaging in the review process.

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Bowers & Wilkins DB2D Active Subwoofer

To an even greater extent than the development, and subsequent adoption, of high-tech materials in the fabrication of loudspeaker transducers, the subwoofer space has benefitted from the advancements in DSP and the general digital manipulation of the audio signal’s low frequencies. Further digitalisation has been incorporated in subwoofer functionality via Wi-Fi’s ubiquitousness, Bluetooth and the employment of smart device Apps. A thoroughly refined adoption of these and other technologies has been cunningly implemented in the new high-tech Bowers & Wilkins DB2D subwoofer.

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Soulution 330 Integrated Amplifier

First of all, this is not your everyday high-end amplifier, DAC or Preamplifier. In fact, it's not your average anything and almost defies classification. This is an AU$25,000 entry (yes, entry as this is the least expensive Soulution unit) to the rarefied and fascinating world of Soulution Audio.

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Nordost QKore1 Ground Unit

When you power on your home audio system and turn it up, you don’t just bring the noise, chances are, you’ve got too much of it already in the form of AC-born (-/e) electrical noise. The AC power line is the lifeblood of a home audio system and its quality is critical to a system’s ultimate performance no matter how well designed the power supplies of your individual components. But what you are hearing (and therefore not hearing, as it were) is a function of the quality of your AC. Indeed, the perception that a hi-fi system often sounds appreciably better in the wee small hours after regular folk have stopped using as much electricity and gone to bed, is a recognised audiophile phenomenon, to this listener at least.

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TRIANGLE Esprit Australe EZ Loudspeakers

Earth is just within the extremities where life, as we know it, will flourish. Too close to the sun and it’s too hot, too far away and it’s too cold – those temperature extremities as measured from the sun fall just before Earth to mid-way between Earth and Mars. They call it the Goldilocks zone – it’s just right. That analogy applies equally well to the new TRIANGLE Australe Esprit EZ speaker system; the new reference in its new Esprit EZ series. For its RRP, it offers a lot of speaker. No one wants to pay 10K for speakers if they don’t really need to. Am I implying that the Australe Esprit EZ speakers compare sonically to speakers up to $10K?

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sILENzIO Interconnect, Loudspeaker, USB and AC power cables

For quite some time prior to this review of the new sILENzIO über cables from Danish manufacturer ZenSati, I had been using as part of my reference system the superb flagship Seraphim cables. These unusual cable designs of multiple air-suspended twisted gold plated solid core conductors were resoundingly neutral, nourishingly musical, beautifully assembled and ‘bling’ enough to fit into the most beautiful high-end system contexts (and yes, to many enthusiasts the cosmetic aspect is actually quite important, especially at the price point). Up until that point, the Seraphim cables were ZenSati’s top-level offering while sILENzIO, now an independent line of über cables, was but a twinkle in company Founder Mark Johansen’s third eye. Fast-forward a couple of years and right now, after several months within my reference rig where they often managed to dislocate my jaw, I give you sILENzIO…

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Vitus Audio RI-101 Integrated Amplifier

It’s the ‘Golden Age’ of the integrated amplifier. Just sayin’. Why? Catch a web wave to any of the major high-end electronics manufacturers and you’ll see what I mean. Me? I’ve had a number of integrated amplifiers in-house over the last couple of years that have unquestionably taken the entire category to an unprecedented level of all-round quality to rival that of many preamplifier and power amplifier combos. Take a look through recent SoundStage! Australia review pages too, to see many-a-shining example. Valve-, solid state-based and hybrid, austere and extravagant… even Johnny Strabler-leather-clad. A state-of-the-art integrated enjoys the fruits of contemporary advanced engineering allowing the implementation of superior power supplies and the adoption of higher-grade transformer designs. Further, manufacturing sophistication has resulted in finer, tighter tolerance chassis construction and the development of modular architecture, expanding the functionality horizons of the humble ‘integrated’.

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Absolare Signature Integrated Amplifier

Absolare, a company with facilities both within the USA and the Netherlands, is one of the brands that has made me cross a ‘divide’. From the introduction of its Passion series preamplifier and power amplifier separates in 2012, Absolare immediately positioned itself as a brand that was luxurious, bespoke and innovative.

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Gryphon Audio Designs Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier

High-end specialist Gryphon Audio Designs is renowned for the quality of its products in all aspects of design, be it style, engineering principles or sonic performance. Recently, the company has had considerable success with the astounding Diablo 300 integrated, a powerhouse offering which, as the name suggests, is rated at 300 watts per channel. The Diablo 300’s modular design is capable of accepting a top-shelf DAC and phono stage while bearing the usual Gryphon (for short) engineering and artistic design flair. Now, that glorious integrated amplifier sees the spawning of an offspring in the Diablo 120, a smaller sibling with just about half the power albeit with its bigger brother’s outstanding nuclear DNA running strongly through its circuit chromosomes.

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Trinnov Amethyst Preamplifier, DAC and Digital Processor

Here in the land Down Under, we’re in the homeland of DEQX. Due to their pricing and powerful local marketing, it’s likely hard for other manufacturers of competing products to get a foot in the market. For that reason, to me companies like Trinnov Audio and Holm Acoustics have always had a sense of mystique about them – you just don’t hear that much about them in this country. But once you start investigating on the web, you can find a great deal about the design and philosophy of Trinnov Audio.

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