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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REL Acoustics 212/SE Active Subwoofer

Listening to music is an experience for the emotions. It’s a practice that needs to engage, to connect and to seize the listener allowing him or her to share in the visions of its creators. At its most beautiful and captivating, it can be an escape… a transport into the realms of the imagination. But for the facsimile to approach the ‘live’ event, the reproducing apparatus needs to reflect music’s full potential in terms of frequency span, even if, its true dynamic power is as yet unobtainable. So, in order to convey the full emotional – and even physical – spectrum of music, you’ll need the practical means by which to experience ‘full range’ reproduction. And that, is only accurately available via a very large floorstanding, high power loudspeaker or a true subwoofer. Enter the REL Acoustics 212/SE…

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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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