McIntosh Laboratory MA352 Integrated Amplifier

There’s always a sense of both eager anticipation and excitement for the arrival of any McIntosh Laboratory product slated for review. The company’s products are uniquely and gorgeously styled, immaculately built and, as far as our experience goes, they have always performed. When we heard the new MA352 integrated amplifier had been sent to SoundStage! Australia HQ after only just landing by local distributor Synergy Audio, we feverishly went about making preparations for embedding it into our reference system. Cables were carefully run from source and dedicated circuit’s power outlets, supporting platforms were anchored down and a comprehensive list of auditioning software was enthusiastically curated. When the MA352 finally arrived and was fervently unpacked, its sheer beauty had us immediately smitten. In Yoda voice: In love, was I. But is this striking amplifier’s magnificence more than skin deep? Read on…

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Magico A5 Loudspeakers

It takes highly refined skills to adapt state-of-the-art technologies and design philosophies incorporated in a company’s upmarket models to far more affordable products. Doing so while keeping the integrity of not just the upper-tier products, but of the company ideology itself, is a juggling act that requires intelligent engineering and strategic wisdom. With the A series, Magico has managed to balance streamlined construction and revised design elements on to products which maximise performance and heighten affordability. As the culmination of Magico’s entry level ‘A’ line, the A5 is the archetypal embodiment of trickle down and re-engineered concepts.

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HANA ML and MH Moving Coil Cartridges

When you really think of it, there’s no particular reason why something like a gramophone and its records weren’t invented centuries ago by, say, Galileo, or Hero of Alexandria, or someone even earlier. The concept is so simple and elegant that it’s truly timeless, so much so that if an asteroid hits the Earth tomorrow, or if we blow up the planet, it is my firm belief that the only technology able to reproduce the sounds of yesteryears will be mechanical, based on vinyl and shellac records. Just because of that fact alone we should treasure these records, these plastic marvels that reproduce music every bit as good as a CD player or a streamer but fell out of favour in a world obsessed with convenience. Two cartridges that go a long way in pursuit of this noble goal are HANA’s MH and ML.

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Nordost QPoint Resonance Synchroniser & QSource Linear Power Supply

High-end audio enjoys some of the best engineering and innovative technologies which are the equal to any industry at large. As highly developed as audio products are, there’s also a healthy space for ancillaries aimed at wringing the last drop of performance from electronics and loudspeakers. Some are mere ‘tweaks’ which contribute varying degrees of effectiveness. Some may even have dubious scientific merit. There are supplementary products with known benefits, such as those aimed at reducing vibrational distortions by coupling, grounding or isolating. These can be inert platforms, cones, complex ceramic and metal bearing devices and a cornucopia of variations on the theme. Others, like power conditioners and regenerators, are designed to eliminate AC distortions via an interface between electronics and the grid. Nordost, maker of some of the very best cable solutions in the industry, has applied its engineering know-how to its QRT products which the company refers to as ‘Audio Enhancers’. The steadily-growing range is now joined by the unique QPoint Resonance Synchroniser and dedicated QSource Linear Power Supply.

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REDGUM Audio Articulata Integrated Amplifier

River Red Gums are very large, fast-growing, spreading trees with huge trunks that can extend more than five metres around. As the name implies, they grow along rivers and their wood when freshly exposed is a bright red, almost blood-coloured. Apparently Red River Gum trees can live for up to 700 years. I dare say that might be longer than today’s REDGUM Audio electronics products would last but you never know – the company’s Articulata looks pretty indestructible too. And both are quite unique and native to Australia.

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Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature Edition Loudspeakers

Like many advanced undertakings, high-end audio presents the opportunity to develop technologies, to progress the engineering of advanced materials and composites and to adopt fabrication methodologies expressing to fruition the imagination of the industry’s creative minds. These advances are, usually, firstly showcased in statement products. In 2017, Bowers & Wilkins launched its 700 S2 series of loudspeakers with new and also trickled down technologies first expressed in the company’s flagship 800 series. The new line was greeted with tremendous market success. Now in 2020, Bowers & Wilkins fine-tunes a key model, the 702 S2 (read our review here), with a tweaked crossover and a jaw-dropping new finish warranting a more illustrious moniker – the 702 Signature Edition.

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Line Magnetic LM-845 Premium Integrated Amplifier

I’m a man of many wants. One of them was a decent listen in my own man-cave to a nice tube amp, ‘musica uninterruptus’. But not just any tube amp – one that exists in the realms of mere mortals but that wasn’t an entry level type where the design trade-offs are more significant. Enter the Line Magnetic LM-845 Premium – a Chinese-designed and built single-ended triode integrated amplifier.

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Michi P5 Preamplifier & M8 Monoblock Power Amplifiers

Throughout audio history there have been high profile companies who, after success in the affordable ‘mainstream’ space, have amassed their R&D, engineering and manufacturing might to produce products catering to the high-end market. Some have given the new luxury products distinctive appellations, as a form of distinct separation from its mainstream fare, while others went about launching disassociated alternative brands with a less obvious resonance to the parent company. Back in the early 1990s, armed with an enviable reputation in affordable quality Hi-Fi and wanting to embark on a new path, Rotel fired an authoritative round squarely at the high-end by way of the Michi statement brand (A.K.A. ‘Michi by Rotel’). As successful as Michi was, Rotel in its wisdom phased the brand out of the market. Subsequently, the select Michi products became highly sought-after classics. Now, after a hiatus lasting near on 30 years, the term ‘Michi’ is once again part of the luxury audio lexicon.

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JL Audio Fathom f110v2 Powered Subwoofer

Bass. We all love it. Come on, you know you do! You can muse audiophilic to your heart’s content on “accuracy” and “neutrality” but when you’re cranking Led Zep or Yello to 11, all talk of “balance” goes down the gurgler in an intense sensory wave of low-end pleasure. Fun so it Hertz. But what if I told you about a low frequency generator which is capable of both supreme accuracy and all-out visceral joy? All in a pretty and small package. Well, I be talking JL Audio Fathom f110v2. Yes, it will play nice and audiophile-like with your super-precise high-end mains and, should you desire some outright fun, it’ll also test the construction integrity of your house… and your neighbour’s house.

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Audia Flight FL CD Three S CD Player

A Swiss Army Knife inside a Pandora's Box. We reviewers do so love our metaphors and I've brewed-up a doozy in that previous sentence. It's about as mixed as they get and yet, it's what sums up this interesting player from the Italian audio house of Audia Flight. Features abound and it truly is a “jack of all trades”. CD player? Yep. DAC? Yep. Transport? Of course. USB DAC? We have you covered Sir. Oh? Your system is balanced you say? Not a problem Sir. We have balanced outputs along with our five (yes five) different digital inputs and high-resolution playback. Sir doesn't use a preamplifier? We anticipated that and there's remote volume (in the digital domain naturally).

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Yamaha GT-5000 Turntable & Tonearm

What enthusiast with an appreciation of audio history and who values music, from its creation to its recreation, would not love to own a beautifully designed and superbly engineered music-playing component with the tag ‘Gigantic and Tremendous’? Images of a looming multi-driver Gojira-like loudspeaker come to mind but Yamaha, the world’s oldest music company, has revived this sensational term – coined decades ago in the GT prefix for descendants GT-1000 and GT-2000 – to moniker its new flagship turntable, the GT-5000. And yes, Yamaha’s new vinyl spinner sits comfortably with that overt descriptor. The muscular GT-5000 fits the bill by not only featuring Yamaha’s updated engineering and latest refinements of proprietary technologies, but by also being rather… Tremendously Gigantic.

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Rega Research Aethos Integrated Amplifier

British firm Rega Research is known for one product category above all: turntables. But the Rega Aethos is not one of those. It’s an integrated amplifier. Indeed, it doesn’t even have a phono input. But even so, the Rega Aethos is definitely an amplifier for the lover of analogue music.

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