The Audiophile Man Featuring Hi-Fi and Music news, reviews, features and interviews 2018-09-21T17:19:26Z https://theaudiophileman.com/feed/atom/ Paul Rigby http://www.theaudiophileman.com <![CDATA[Vinyl Releases: Black Sabbath & Warner Music]]> https://theaudiophileman.com/?p=27058 2018-09-21T17:19:26Z 2018-09-21T17:17:43Z Brief news of vinyl releases from Black Sabbath and Water Music… BLACK SABBATH ON 7 A new limited-edition 7” vinyl, pizza-style box set of 10 singles from the rock legends and the BMG label, spanning 1970-1978, it includes five rare single edits: Iron Man, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Am I Going Insane (Radio), Hard Road and Symptom Of The Universe plus 10 unique colour picture sleeves from around the world, either ultra-rare or exclusive to this box set. ALL THE HITS! Warner Music has released a host of Greatest Hits packages beginning with Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay Sessions which…isn’t. Kinda. The songs have been published before elsewhere but this LP is a sort of ‘what if’ LP. If the great man had not met his accident, that is… True blue hits packages do come from The Pogues (The Best of…; 1991), packing in 14 tracks.  Spandau Ballet’s unsurprisingly titled Gold covers two discs and 19 tracks (two bonus tracks that weren’t featured on the original CD edition) with a marginalised Tony Hadley falling off the edge of the sleeve (ah, politics). a-ha’s The Hits of… appears for the first time since 1991. Full of synth pop, it spans 14 […]

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Brief news of vinyl releases from Black Sabbath and Water Music…

BLACK SABBATH ON 7

A new limited-edition 7” vinyl, pizza-style box set of 10 singles from the rock legends and the BMG label, spanning 1970-1978, it includes five rare single edits: Iron Man, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Am I Going Insane (Radio), Hard Road and Symptom Of The Universe plus 10 unique colour picture sleeves from around the world, either ultra-rare or exclusive to this box set.

ALL THE HITS!

Warner Music has released a host of Greatest Hits packages beginning with Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay Sessions which…isn’t. Kinda. The songs have been published before elsewhere but this LP is a sort of ‘what if’ LP. If the great man had not met his accident, that is…

Vinyl Releases: Black Sabbath & Warner Music

True blue hits packages do come from The Pogues (The Best of…; 1991), packing in 14 tracks. 

Vinyl Releases: Black Sabbath & Warner Music

Spandau Ballet’s unsurprisingly titled Gold covers two discs and 19 tracks (two bonus tracks that weren’t featured on the original CD edition) with a marginalised Tony Hadley falling off the edge of the sleeve (ah, politics).

Vinyl Releases: Black Sabbath & Warner Music

a-ha’s The Hits of… appears for the first time since 1991. Full of synth pop, it spans 14 tracks. 

Vinyl Releases: Black Sabbath & Warner Music

Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits Vol.1 (1979; who was desperate to show us his bottom during just about every pop video of the included collection) features Da Ya Think I’m Sexy and Hot Legs.

Vinyl Releases: Black Sabbath & Warner Music

Finally, the Best of Bread (1973) includes If, Everything I Own and Make it With You.

Vinyl Releases: Black Sabbath & Warner Music

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Paul Rigby http://www.theaudiophileman.com <![CDATA[Compact 7ES-3: Harbeth 40th Anniversary ]]> https://theaudiophileman.com/?p=27048 2018-09-21T14:52:58Z 2018-09-21T14:48:52Z Harbeth Audio Ltd. has announced its fourth and final release in its limited-edition 40th Anniversary series The Compact 7ES-3 loudspeaker is now available to pre-order in Tamo Ash wood veneer, with the additional enhancements of Harbeth’s 40th Anniversary range including; the latest WBT-nextgen binding posts, British-made audio grade poly capacitors and Harbeth’s 40th Anniversary ultra-pure OFC internal cable. Each speaker will also include the exclusive Harbeth 40th Anniversary front and back badges and the metallic black and gold anniversary grille badge. To mark the occasion, Harbeth has partnered up with its exclusive London dealer – KJ West One – to launch the 40th Anniversary Compact 7ES-3 loudspeaker at their shop in central London on Thursday 25th October. The evening will consist of two demonstration sessions at 6pm and 8pm. Click here to register for this special event. For further information about Harbeth’s 40th Anniversary series visit www.harbeth.co.uk. [Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]

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Harbeth Audio Ltd. has announced its fourth and final release in its limited-edition 40th Anniversary series

The Compact 7ES-3 loudspeaker is now available to pre-order in Tamo Ash wood veneer, with the additional enhancements of Harbeth’s 40th Anniversary range including; the latest WBT-nextgen binding posts, British-made audio grade poly capacitors and Harbeth’s 40th Anniversary ultra-pure OFC internal cable.

Compact 7ES-3: Harbeth 40th Anniversary 

Each speaker will also include the exclusive Harbeth 40th Anniversary front and back badges and the metallic black and gold anniversary grille badge.

Compact 7ES-3: Harbeth 40th Anniversary 

To mark the occasion, Harbeth has partnered up with its exclusive London dealer – KJ West One – to launch the 40th Anniversary Compact 7ES-3 loudspeaker at their shop in central London on Thursday 25th October.

Compact 7ES-3: Harbeth 40th Anniversary 

The evening will consist of two demonstration sessions at 6pm and 8pm. Click here to register for this special event.

For further information about Harbeth’s 40th Anniversary series visit www.harbeth.co.uk.

[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]

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Paul Rigby http://www.theaudiophileman.com <![CDATA[6000A integrated amplifier From Audiolab ]]> https://theaudiophileman.com/?p=27036 2018-09-21T14:50:58Z 2018-09-21T13:52:09Z The new 6000A amp includes a DAC, Bluetooth, phono amp and headphone amps plus more An ES9018 Sabre32 Reference chip is included, utilising ESS Technology’s 32bit HyperStream architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator. The amp’s four S/PDIF digital inputs – two coaxial and two optical – handle hi-res PCM data up to 24bit/192kHz with digital filters: Fast Roll-Off, Slow Roll-Off and Minimum Phase. Bluetooth connectivity is also included.  The 6000A’s discrete Class AB power amp stage delivers 50W per channel into 8 Ohms, with a maximum current delivery of 9 Amps into difficult loads. The output stage of the discrete power amp circuits uses a CFB (Complementary Feedback) topology. A 200VA toroidal transformer, followed by 4x15000uF reservoir capacity (60000uF in total) is featured.  Much effort has gone into the physical layout of the 6000A’s circuitry, protecting the sensitive preamp section from noise interference. Audiolab has included a phono stage for moving magnet phono cartridges – a JFET-based circuit. A dedicated headphone amp with current-feedback circuitry is also included.  The 6000A’s offers three distinct operational modes. The primary mode is Integrated – this combines the pre and power amp stages, for the connection of digital and analogue sources to the amp’s inputs and a pair of speakers to its […]

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The new 6000A amp includes a DAC, Bluetooth, phono amp and headphone amps plus more

An ES9018 Sabre32 Reference chip is included, utilising ESS Technology’s 32bit HyperStream architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator. The amp’s four S/PDIF digital inputs – two coaxial and two optical – handle hi-res PCM data up to 24bit/192kHz with digital filters: Fast Roll-Off, Slow Roll-Off and Minimum Phase. Bluetooth connectivity is also included. 

6000A integrated amplifier From Audiolab 

The 6000A’s discrete Class AB power amp stage delivers 50W per channel into 8 Ohms, with a maximum current delivery of 9 Amps into difficult loads. The output stage of the discrete power amp circuits uses a CFB (Complementary Feedback) topology. A 200VA toroidal transformer, followed by 4x15000uF reservoir capacity (60000uF in total) is featured. 

6000A integrated amplifier From Audiolab 

Much effort has gone into the physical layout of the 6000A’s circuitry, protecting the sensitive preamp section from noise interference.

Audiolab has included a phono stage for moving magnet phono cartridges – a JFET-based circuit. A dedicated headphone amp with current-feedback circuitry is also included. 

6000A integrated amplifier From Audiolab 

The 6000A’s offers three distinct operational modes. The primary mode is Integrated – this combines the pre and power amp stages, for the connection of digital and analogue sources to the amp’s inputs and a pair of speakers to its binding posts.

6000A integrated amplifier From Audiolab 

Pre-Power Mode disconnects the pre and power amp stages. This allows the 6000A to be used solely as a power amp – for example, connected to an AV processor in a home cinema system. It also enables additional signal processing to be added, by connecting the 6000A’s preamp out socket to an external processor, then returning the processor’s output to the amp’s power amp in socket.

6000A integrated amplifier From Audiolab 

Finally, Pre Mode disables the power amp stage, turning the 6000A into a standalone preamp. This enables external power amplification to be added, thus providing a possible upgrade path. It is available from October in silver or black at £599.

For more information, click www.audiolab.co.uk

[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]

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Paul Rigby http://www.theaudiophileman.com <![CDATA[Idun earphones From Kinera: deceiving honesty]]> https://theaudiophileman.com/?p=27020 2018-09-21T12:52:11Z 2018-09-21T12:12:20Z Looking for earphones with a slightly exotic air? Paul Rigby reviews a likely subject, the Kinera Idun Looks can be deceiving and the Kinera Idun earphones certainly fit into that mould. Arriving in a hexagon box, I originally thought I’d been sent a box of chocolates to review: something in the region of wafer mints, perhaps? Even the gold lettering and design fripperies said ‘soft centres’ to me. Inside was a slightly bulging hockey puck box, slotted into moulded foam outer packing. And inside that? The Idun earphones. Again, though, looks were indeed deceiving because the earphones, which sit adjacent to two bags of spare ear tips, had that moulded jewel chassis look with twisted cabling that’s a dead giveaway for high-end earphone models. As you can see by the price below, that is not really the case either.  I only hoped that the sound quality would speak the truth. It was about time, to be honest. Nevertheless, the packaging screams quality and high end. Produced by Dongguan Yutai Electronics Co, Ltd, with the Kinera brand running since 2012, the 32 Ohm Idun utilises a hybrid 7mm dynamic driver (with N50 magnet) aimed at bass and midrange with a balanced […]

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Looking for earphones with a slightly exotic air? Paul Rigby reviews a likely subject, the Kinera Idun

Looks can be deceiving and the Kinera Idun earphones certainly fit into that mould. Arriving in a hexagon box, I originally thought I’d been sent a box of chocolates to review: something in the region of wafer mints, perhaps? Even the gold lettering and design fripperies said ‘soft centres’ to me. Inside was a slightly bulging hockey puck box, slotted into moulded foam outer packing. And inside that? The Idun earphones. Again, though, looks were indeed deceiving because the earphones, which sit adjacent to two bags of spare ear tips, had that moulded jewel chassis look with twisted cabling that’s a dead giveaway for high-end earphone models. As you can see by the price below, that is not really the case either. 

Idun earphones From Kinera : deceiving honesty

I only hoped that the sound quality would speak the truth. It was about time, to be honest. Nevertheless, the packaging screams quality and high end.

Produced by Dongguan Yutai Electronics Co, Ltd, with the Kinera brand running since 2012, the 32 Ohm Idun utilises a hybrid 7mm dynamic driver (with N50 magnet) aimed at bass and midrange with a balanced armature driver for the mids and treble.

The 1.2m cable uses a 8-core hybrid of copper and silver, twisted to reduce noise (a similar effect is common in full-size cable manufacturers) in a rope pattern effect that reminds me of Kimber’s Axios headphone cable pattern. To me, searching for sound quality, I didn’t see the cable as an issue but to my non-audiophile wife, she hated the hi-vis, lanyard-like, chunky nature of the cable design. 

Idun earphones From Kinera : deceiving honesty

The nicely finished 3.5mm termination plug is protected, at the rear, by a very small protective collar that looks like a secondary after-thought. I wonder, after a year’s use, if the cable will still be secure an unaffected by accidental pulling along with life’s knocks.

In terms of fit, the ear pieces are designed to fit in your ears and then loop over the top of the ear instead of the usual plug and drop-cable effect. Some users have complained about the moulding of the chassis, pointing at little knobbly bits in the chassis as a cause for discomfort. This is obviously a personal thing – we are all made differently. Maybe I have mutant ears because, for me, there was never an issue. I found the fit perfect and forgot that the earphones were even in place after a while. 

Idun earphones From Kinera : deceiving honesty

Knowing which earpiece to put in what ear is a slight challenge, though. Because there are no ‘R’ and ‘L’ position indicators, you need to look out for the colour coded plastic collar pieces where the cables fits into each chassis: Red being right and Blue being left. I found these coloured collars tough to find because they were almost entirely hidden on my samples. I had to hold them to the window, through which the sun dazzled, and peered closely to discover the colouring. A better bet is to learn how each cable loops back over each chassis. This memory-type wiring exiting from each chassis shows how it fits around the ear itself. Looking at this arrangement, it’s easy to see how each earphone piece fits into what ear.

So how do these earphones sound?

SOUND QUALITY

I began with a 16bit/44.1kHz CD WAV rip and indie fare from Grand National’s Talk Amongst Yourselves from the LP, Kicking the National Habit. 

In broad terms, from this relatively dynamic piece of music, I didn’t feel that the relative frequencies were undisciplined. Every sonic element seemed in its place with no excessive bass emphasis or upper frequency stridency to cause alarm.

Idun earphones From Kinera : deceiving honesty

Zooming into frequency specifics, I looked at the bass first, a bone of contention for some users on the Internet. I assume the relative performance of this frequency depends on ear fit because my ears accommodated the earphones perfectly, locking into position securely. As such, I found bass to be excellent from the Idun ‘phones. The bass effectively grounded the music, roaming across the soundstage and offering a secure foundation to the music as a whole. Associated with the percussion was the bass guitar which was large, massy and driving in nature. 

Idun earphones From Kinera : deceiving honesty

I was happy to hear that the bass did not overly swamp or bloom over midrange detail. The electric guitar offered a host of information while the rhythmic synths provided effective backing. Pointedly, I could easily detect ride cymbal strikes which added balance to the presentation. 

If anything, I found the midrange just a tad lively. The ‘blame’ for this was not to be wholly directed at the Idun easphones but the slightly compressed nature of the original CD. The Iduns didn’t attempt to soften the blow, mind you. There was no mercy here. Just plain honesty, “You give me a compressed source, sonny Jim, and I’ll give it straight back atcha!”

Idun earphones From Kinera : deceiving honesty

I wanted to convince myself that the honesty was just that and that the upper mids were not inherently strident. I turned to Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly With His Song at 24bit/192kHz. This track offers strong bass percussion and bass guitar but there’s a range of delicate harmonies, organ and secondary percussion such a bell strikes and tambourine plus acoustic guitar moments.

Even before I got to the frequencies, I was impressed that the Idun earphones noted the higher resolution. I was pleased to register the extra air and space in and around the soundstage. The grandeur of the soundstage contrasted in devastating manner to this relatively simple, intimate and highly emotional song. The space highlighted the stripped emotions of Flack’s performance. On a more prosaic level, the extra air was used to great effect to the backing harmonies. 

Idun earphones From Kinera : deceiving honesty

Bass was powerful and organic in approach while those secondary percussion effects were never swamped by the same. Acoustic guitar, bell strikes and tambourine were easily tracked. 

The frequencies were largely balanced in nature. No obvious stridency occurred although the mids did push towards the boundary. 

Finishing with the piano of Erik Satie and his Jack in the Box – Prelude, I found the piano both balanced and insightful here. Arguably the most difficult instrument of all for any hi-fi equipment to track properly, this potential chaotic piece of equipment was nicely handled by the Idun earphones, giving the piano enough space to manoeuvre but adding sufficient focus to keep on top of the information.    

CONCLUSION

What I liked about the Idun earphones was their response to source material. The better the source, the better they sounded. 44.1kHz sounded obviously lacking when compared to 192kHz, a situation that’s not always effectively underlined by some of the Idun’s competition.

The upper frequencies conveyed detail well. Yes, they could be a tad enthusiastic in doing so but the benefits were rich in detail and insight while bass was strong and characterful. For the price, you get an awful lot. Just don’t skimp on the source hardware. Show the Idun earphones respect in these terms and they’ll reward you with a top quality performance. 


KINERA IDUN EARPHONES

Price: £140

Tel: 01334 570 666

Web: www.eliteaudiouk.com

GOOD: midrange insight, bass strength, comfort, value for money

BAD: lively upper frequencies

RATING: 8 


 

[Don’t forget to check out my new Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]

REFERENCE

Sennheiser IE 60 earphones

Meze 12 Classics earphones 

Astel&Kern AK120 [Red Wine Audio modded] DAP

ATC HDA-P1 headphone amplifier

Chord Mojo headphone amplifier

Cozoy Aegis DAC

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Paul Rigby http://www.theaudiophileman.com <![CDATA[Model 1701 Power Amplifier From Ovation]]> https://theaudiophileman.com/?p=26996 2018-09-20T13:48:17Z 2018-09-20T12:08:29Z If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 100W Current Mode Topology, Class AB power amplifier from Ovation High Fidelity Some technologies work best as social animals. Cars, for example… computers too. Both work well with components clamped, cheek by jowl, with each other or, at best, in very close proximity. Not Hi-Fi. Despite the fact that Hi-Fi is replete with products whose chassis is packed to the gills with ‘stuff’, hi-fi is actually the Clint Eastwood of the technology world. It’s a loner. That is, separate components from each other, make sure there’s some distance between each component and the sound improves. There’s a host of reasons for this but, in general terms, it boil down to this: distance reduces noise (of all types) contaminating hi-fi bits and bobs. This is why phono amplifiers work best on their own and not as part of an integrated amplifier or in a turntable, why DACs work best when separated from a CD transport and why an amplifier works better when separated into a pre-amp and a power amp instead of an integrated amplifier. Ovation thinks the same, which […]

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If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 100W Current Mode Topology, Class AB power amplifier from Ovation High Fidelity

Some technologies work best as social animals. Cars, for example… computers too. Both work well with components clamped, cheek by jowl, with each other or, at best, in very close proximity. Not Hi-Fi. Despite the fact that Hi-Fi is replete with products whose chassis is packed to the gills with ‘stuff’, hi-fi is actually the Clint Eastwood of the technology world. It’s a loner. That is, separate components from each other, make sure there’s some distance between each component and the sound improves. There’s a host of reasons for this but, in general terms, it boil down to this: distance reduces noise (of all types) contaminating hi-fi bits and bobs. This is why phono amplifiers work best on their own and not as part of an integrated amplifier or in a turntable, why DACs work best when separated from a CD transport and why an amplifier works better when separated into a pre-amp and a power amp instead of an integrated amplifier.

Ovation thinks the same, which is why it’s offering this Class AB power amplifier for your delectation.

It’s a meaty beast too with a custom-wound 500W power supply that incorporates an inter-winding screen and a flux band to keep mains noise down, “Short term loudspeaker current demands in excess of 20A per channel are easily supported by means of an output stage that employs six matched 250W power transistors per channel,” said designer, Andrew Russell. “A large reservoir capacitor bank, rated at 15% above the highest expected mains voltage, provides huge instantaneous energy reserves that underpin the dynamic performance of this amplifier.”

If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 Ovation High Fidelity’s 100W Current Mode Topology class AB power amplifier

Protection circuitry monitors the amplifier for DC offsets and overcurrent situations, which if arising, will result in the speakers being instantly disconnected from the amplifier output. Connection between the amplifier output and the speaker terminals is by means of a solid-state relay using, “…ultra-low Rds(on) ‘Trench’ technology MOFET’s with a 200 J energy handling capability,” said Russell. “These devices operate at 5-10x the speed and 10x lower ON resistances of the conventional electro-magnetic relays (EMR) used by our competitors.”

If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 Ovation High Fidelity’s 100W Current Mode Topology class AB power amplifier

The Model 1701 can accept balanced or single ended inputs which are selected via a white, push-button switch located on the rear of the unit. This unit also acts as a useful mute button in operation. That is, if you are using singled ended cables, switch it to balanced to mute.

If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 Ovation High Fidelity’s 100W Current Mode Topology class AB power amplifier

The aluminium chassis features side-mounted cooling vents.

If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 Ovation High Fidelity’s 100W Current Mode Topology class AB power amplifier

Connection to the speakers uses WBT shrouded connectors, that can simultaneously accept 4mm banana plugs and/or 6mm spade lugs. A power swtich is resident on the front fascia.

SOUND QUALITY

I began in single-ended mode, using my reference RCA cables and took a rock-centric music approach and the Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds parody via the self-titled album from The Rutles and the track, Good Times Roll. Incidentally, although being a Beatles’ fan helps, this is an album of quite superb songs that actually stand up all on their own. But back to the plot. 

If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 Ovation High Fidelity’s 100W Current Mode Topology class AB power amplifier

First impression? The Model 1701 offered one of the most mature and confidant musical reproduction experiences I have had for quite a while from any amplifier under review. It was that good. 

If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 Ovation High Fidelity’s 100W Current Mode Topology class AB power amplifier

First up, the amp did all of the basics right. You’ve got to start here because if you immediately hear boomy bass or bright mids then you’re always playing catch-up. Not here. This amp took its time, made sure it set itself properly and took a deep breath before it even moved to the first note. A responsible amp. An amp to take home to meet your mother, you might say.

If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 Ovation High Fidelity’s 100W Current Mode Topology class AB power amplifier

Of course, avoiding tizzy and pinched treble and bass bloom is just the beginning, from this point onwards, the ambition of any amplifier shows itself and I was very pleased to see that the inherent design was one of low noise. The quality of the internal design was reflected by the sonic canvas. That is, the place the music emerged from because that’s all I heard here, music. At no time did the amplifier bring any noisy friends to damp or swamp detail. Hence, clarity was present in buckets while midrange transparent was a delight. 

Examples? Cymbal tapping was precise with transients to die for while a ride cymbal actually sounded like a ride cymbal and not like someone throwing a big piece of metal at a garage wall. 

Electric guitar sounded infused with electricity so an initial string pluck was infused with power. It offered tonality but also weight. 

If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 Ovation High Fidelity’s 100W Current Mode Topology class AB power amplifier

The instrumental separation also meant that each musician could be followed and tracked without any effort, the vocal providing emotive resonance but also plenty of understated detail.

Bass, meanwhile offered plenty of power – drums thundered when required and offered throbbing potential at other times. 

If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 Ovation High Fidelity’s 100W Current Mode Topology class AB power amplifier

So, you might say that the Model 1701 started fairly well then! I changed from RCA plugs to balanced cables, supplied by the company. Same music, though. 

In balanced mode, there is much more air and space that inhabits the soundstage but I best heard that with a pair of quality balanced cables from, in this case, Tellurium Q which enhanced the performance over and above the admirable cables supplied to me by Ovation. If you’re going to go balanced, seriously consider an outlay for specialist balanced cables to fully experience the effect. 

Enhancements included a multi-layered effect in and around the soundstage with that self-same soundstage being pushed backwards to add to the 3D imagery. Transients were further enhanced but reverb was too, giving extra life to all instruments but especially cymbals and piano. Vocals meanwhile offered enhanced accuracy, diction was exacting but also responsive to the instruments. 

If you need to marry some power to your Pre, Paul Rigby may have the answer as he reviews the Model 1701 Ovation High Fidelity’s 100W Current Mode Topology class AB power amplifier

So the balanced option is the best then? Not for me, no. Despite the sonic highlights brought to the fore via the balanced connection, I actually preferred the slightly smoother output from the single-ended option. Balanced is a super alternative for those looking for clarity combined with precision and extra focus but I thought the mids on the balanced slightly too etched for my taste and fell back to the neutral tones from the single-ended option. But that’s fine. There’s no criticism aimed at the balanced option. The choice is purely one of taste. It’s like receiving two amps in one. A good thing.

CONCLUSION

Well designed, the Model 1701 power amplifier reeks of value for money for those readers who are madly in love with music. That is, the prosaic design shouts that your money has been invested in the gubbins inside the case. Hence, every ounce of design effort has been committed to improving sound and not chrome fixings or funky cooling fans CNCd into the shape of a cuddly toy. Oh no, Ovation has its priorities right here. This is a power amp targeted at the music fan. Listening to this power amplifier, I can tell any music fan out there that they will have a fine time with this particular amp. Oh yes, a fine time indeed.  


OVATION HIGH FIDELITY MODEL 1701 POWER AMPLIFIER 

Price: £2,999

Website: www.ovationhifidelity.com


GOOD: cultured midrange, portentous bass, low noise, single-ended and balanced performance, value for money

BAD: nothing

RATING: 8


[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]

REFERENCE

Origin Live Sovereign turntable

Origin Live Enterprise 12″ arm

Van Den Hul Crimson XGW Stradivarius cartridge

Icon PS3 phono amplifier

Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp

Icon Audio MB845 Mk.II monoblock amplifiers

Quad ESL-57 speakers with One Thing upgrade

Vertex AQ, Gekko, Black Rhodium & Tellurium Q cable

Blue Horizon Professional Rack System

Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components

CAD GC1 Ground Controls

All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner

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Paul Rigby http://www.theaudiophileman.com <![CDATA[Nik Pascal: Adventures in the Electronic Wilderness]]> https://theaudiophileman.com/?p=26984 2018-09-19T16:34:33Z 2018-09-19T16:33:01Z Titles: Magnetic Web/Numbers/Beyond the End…Eternity/Zero Gravity Label: Wah Wah Dedicated, hard core Rolling Stones fans will know Nik Pascal as the guy who played percussion on the 1973 Stones LP, Goats Head Soup but even they might very well be shocked by the man’s own solo output.  Nik Pascal or Raicevik or Head or, as the guys down the pub knew him after a few beers, 107-34-8933 (it really was his alias for a while) was a man intrigued by early analogue synthesisers. He plowed his electronic furrows in the early 70s before he gave up and sold all of his kit to early ambient producer Steve Roach. Pascal – let’s call him that for now – inserted a host of drug references into his solo work and also integrated ‘Do not listen to this album if you are stoned’ leaflets under the LP shrink wraps. They have been duplicated within these nicely mastered reissues. Beyond the End…Eternity (1971) is stark, like an alien desert spanning a harsh planetary horizon. This is a soundtrack to a 60s Star Trek episode. A particularly dark episode at that. Numbers? (1973) Imagine NASA wanting to scare people and put off future astronauts. It’s Tomorrow’s World […]

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Titles: Magnetic Web/Numbers/Beyond the End…Eternity/Zero Gravity

Label: Wah Wah

Dedicated, hard core Rolling Stones fans will know Nik Pascal as the guy who played percussion on the 1973 Stones LP, Goats Head Soup but even they might very well be shocked by the man’s own solo output. 

Nik Pascal or Raicevik or Head or, as the guys down the pub knew him after a few beers, 107-34-8933 (it really was his alias for a while) was a man intrigued by early analogue synthesisers. He plowed his electronic furrows in the early 70s before he gave up and sold all of his kit to early ambient producer Steve Roach.

Pascal – let’s call him that for now – inserted a host of drug references into his solo work and also integrated ‘Do not listen to this album if you are stoned’ leaflets under the LP shrink wraps. They have been duplicated within these nicely mastered reissues.

Beyond the End…Eternity (1971) is stark, like an alien desert spanning a harsh planetary horizon. This is a soundtrack to a 60s Star Trek episode. A particularly dark episode at that.

Nik Pascal: Adventuring Within the Electronic Wilderness

Numbers? (1973) Imagine NASA wanting to scare people and put off future astronauts. It’s Tomorrow’s World and the Radiophonic Workshop with all of the buttons pressed in at once.

Nik Pascal: Adventuring Within the Electronic Wilderness

Magnetic Web (1973) wanders all over the place and often fives times at once with slightly discordant rhythms clashing, running parallel for a short time and then splintering off in another direction without warning. Based on primitive loops and melodic structures without much structure.

Nik Pascal: Adventuring Within the Electronic Wilderness

Zero Gravity (1975) offers more order, taking basic repeating beats and adding droplets of synthesised effects as grammar which are then changed in tone. Wonderfully vintage, yet I can imagine the futuristic awe generated after contemporary ears heard this one for the first time. 

107-34-8933…whatta guy.

[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]

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Paul Rigby http://www.theaudiophileman.com <![CDATA[Phantasmagoria Expansion for Curved Air]]> https://theaudiophileman.com/?p=26920 2018-09-19T16:07:31Z 2018-09-19T15:33:19Z Title: Phantasmagoria Label: Esoteric An expanded two disc edition of the original Phantasmagoria album. Originally released in 1972, the album was the first to feature the line-up of Sonja Kristina (vocals, acoustic guitar), Darryl Way (violin, piano), Francis Monkman (guitar, keyboards, VCS3), Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums) and new member Mike Wedgwood (bass, vocals). This expanded two-disc edition includes three bonus tracks, unreleased versions of Marie Anotinette and Melinda (More or Less) with French and Italian lyrics respectively and the non-album single Sarah’s Concern (released on CD for the first time). Curved Air were an innovative art rock outfit, exploring prog, jazz, the avant-garde and more. There was never anything staid or predictable about Curved Air and Phantasmagoria is a fantastic album full of superb vocals, under-stated musicianship In mastering terms, there is an interesting sheen of compression heard here, evenly applied to the general soundstage. Compressive spikes are not really evident. Upper mids and treble, for example, are not highlighted for special attention. These days, a CD production especially will be digitised and specific frequencies will be targeted for attention from the mastering engineer. The effects are akin to viewing a snail trace. I could be horribly wrong, of course, but […]

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Title: Phantasmagoria

Label: Esoteric

An expanded two disc edition of the original Phantasmagoria album. Originally released in 1972, the album was the first to feature the line-up of Sonja Kristina (vocals, acoustic guitar), Darryl Way (violin, piano), Francis Monkman (guitar, keyboards, VCS3), Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums) and new member Mike Wedgwood (bass, vocals).

This expanded two-disc edition includes three bonus tracks, unreleased versions of Marie Anotinette and Melinda (More or Less) with French and Italian lyrics respectively and the non-album single Sarah’s Concern (released on CD for the first time).

Phantasmagoria Expansion for Curved Air

Curved Air were an innovative art rock outfit, exploring prog, jazz, the avant-garde and more. There was never anything staid or predictable about Curved Air and Phantasmagoria is a fantastic album full of superb vocals, under-stated musicianship

In mastering terms, there is an interesting sheen of compression heard here, evenly applied to the general soundstage. Compressive spikes are not really evident. Upper mids and treble, for example, are not highlighted for special attention. These days, a CD production especially will be digitised and specific frequencies will be targeted for attention from the mastering engineer. The effects are akin to viewing a snail trace. I could be horribly wrong, of course, but this reissue sounds like its compression stems more from the original source. As if the original analogue stream was pushed through a compression box, en masse. Because of this, the compression is more easy dealt with. Backing off on the gain by three or four clicks on my pre-amp tamed the effects sufficiently. Once done, the music settled down nicely and the production could be thoroughly enjoyed. 

Phantasmagoria Expansion for Curved Air

Sonja Kristina Linwood (2nd from left) and fellow band members from Curved Air posed in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1972 (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot)

Full of energy, the CDs provided a busy and varied output with easily accessible detail combined with a range of beautifully translated sonic textures that never failed to entertain.

[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]

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Paul Rigby http://www.theaudiophileman.com <![CDATA[Elise Mk.II Headphone Amplifier From Feliks Audio]]> https://theaudiophileman.com/?p=26962 2018-09-19T13:49:10Z 2018-09-19T13:35:25Z Bursting with valves and, hence, an appealing aesthetic, Paul Rigby reviews the Feliks Elise Mk.II headphone amplifier Headphone amplifiers, external models that is, are much preferred to the built-in options often seen bundled inside amplifiers, DACs and the like. External headphone amplifiers offer improved sonics and lower noise. They also provide better quality selection of components, more chassis space to pack in more goodies plus imaginative designs and features. The use of valves, for example. Feliks, based in Lubliniec, Poland, has done that very thing. Initially launched in 2014 and recently the subject of a significant revision, the Mk.II includes an improved transformer, PsVane HiFi UK-6SN7 driver tubes and added safety features in the pre-amp circuit as well as a ‘soft cut-off power option. Hand-crafted in-house as a point to point construction, it also uses 6AS7G (or 6080) power tubes. Arriving with 32-600 Ohm impedance range, the Elise is covered by 36 months warranty (12 months for tubes) and free customer service support. SOUND QUALITY I began with a original pressing of Joe Jackson’s high energy jazz LP, Jumpin’ Jive and the track, Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid. My first impression of this head amp was its low key, rather introverted sonic nature. None of […]

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Bursting with valves and, hence, an appealing aesthetic, Paul Rigby reviews the Feliks Elise Mk.II headphone amplifier

Headphone amplifiers, external models that is, are much preferred to the built-in options often seen bundled inside amplifiers, DACs and the like.

Elise Mk.II Headphone Amplifier From Elise Audio

External headphone amplifiers offer improved sonics and lower noise. They also provide better quality selection of components, more chassis space to pack in more goodies plus imaginative designs and features. The use of valves, for example.

Elise Mk.II Headphone Amplifier From Elise Audio

Feliks, based in Lubliniec, Poland, has done that very thing. Initially launched in 2014 and recently the subject of a significant revision, the Mk.II includes an improved transformer, PsVane HiFi UK-6SN7 driver tubes and added safety features in the pre-amp circuit as well as a ‘soft cut-off power option.

Elise Mk.II Headphone Amplifier From Elise Audio

Hand-crafted in-house as a point to point construction, it also uses 6AS7G (or 6080) power tubes. Arriving with 32-600 Ohm impedance range, the Elise is covered by 36 months warranty (12 months for tubes) and free customer service support.

SOUND QUALITY

I began with a original pressing of Joe Jackson’s high energy jazz LP, Jumpin’ Jive and the track, Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid.

My first impression of this head amp was its low key, rather introverted sonic nature. None of the frequencies reached out to grab or dazzle me. What I had here was a relatively coloured, easy going, laid back sound that was entertaining and promised low or, indeed no listening fatigue. This is a sound that could be experienced for long periods without difficulty.

Elise Mk.II Headphone Amplifier From Elise Audio

The sax and clarinet on the first part of this track did lose ultimate dynamic extension and there seemed to be a slight roll-off at the extremities of both treble and midrange but these brass instruments were smoothly presented by the Elise with no danger of edge or brightness to offend the ear. Piano sounded warmly attractive with a pleasing approach. 

Elise Mk.II Headphone Amplifier From Elise Audio

Cymbals might have lacked air and space as well as transient attack while the drums may not have had the character that you might expect at this price point but it did retain its mass and rhythmic beat. 

Elise Mk.II Headphone Amplifier From Elise Audio

Although there was little emotive insight, Jackson’s vocal presentation remained attractive, the Elise provided a slightly sepia-tinged delivery that allowed Jackson to glide across the soundstage with no difficulties at all.   

Jazz is all about nuance, detail an subtlety and the Elise suffered a tad within this genre. Which is why I moved towards a rock-centric music approach and turned to the Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds parody via the self-titled album from The Rutles and the track, Good Times Roll.

Elise Mk.II Headphone Amplifier From Elise Audio

The extra energy surrounding the soundstage seemed to give the Elise head amp a bit of a push which helped the overall presentation, adding more life and ‘get and up go’. The upper mids remained rather warm, with a rolled off treble yet the newly infused bass provided a low frequency kick to the entire track. The overall effect was to affect a tapping of the feet where no tapping previously existed, adding to the musicality of the track. There might be a lack of overall clarity but the Elise appeared to enjoy a rocking good time. 

CONCLUSION

Although wrapped in a slightly claustrophobic soundstage, seemingly emanating from a room draped in heavy red velvet curtains, brocade cushions and large damping panels on the ceiling, the Elise still presented a nice, if rather cuddly, sound. This headphone amplifier needs a push to get going. Hence, music with action, pizazz and energy is ideal but hold the fragility. So I’,m talking about rock, for example. When this is delivered, the Elise wakes up and gives you a real performance. It’s easy on the ear, offers flowing vocalisations, provides good detail and is effortless in its instrumental performance.


FELIKS AUDIO ELISE MK.II HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER

Price is £1100 (UK readers contact www.theaudiobarn.co.uk)

Website: www.feliksaudio.pl & info@feliksaudio.pl plus facebook.com/feliksaudio


GOOD: easy going presentation, laid back mids, no listening fatigue, high energy rock music

BAD: price, high frequency roll-off, restricted dynamic extension

RATING: 7


[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!

REFERENCE

Origin Live Sovereign turntable
Origin Live Enterprise 12″ arm
Van Den Hul Crimson XGW Stradivarius cartridge
Sennheiser HD800S headphones
Sennheiser HD650 headphones
Icon PS3 phono amplifier
Leema Elements CD Player
Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp

Vertex AQ & Tellurium Q cable

Blue Horizon Professional Rack System

Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components

All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner

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Paul Rigby http://www.theaudiophileman.com <![CDATA[PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note]]> https://theaudiophileman.com/?p=26869 2018-09-18T12:32:49Z 2018-09-18T11:55:07Z Adding a few wrinkles of its own, Paul Rigby reviews Gold Note’s PH-10 phono amplifier  Possibly one of the least understood and under-estimated components in the entire hi-fi chain, the phono amplifier is a specialist amplifier that is designed to do one thing and one thing only, amplify the tiny signal emanating from your turntable’s cartridge. Generally speaking, once the signal gets to a certain level, then the main amplifier takes over from there.   The problem with phono amplifiers is that they are often seen as minor irritations by audiophiles rather than – what they are – a critical component. If the signal is cocked up here then forget the main amplifier and speakers. It’s damage limitation from this point onwards. A phono amplifier can make or break a vinyl performance.  The design of this particular phono amplifier is intriguing. Spanning 200 x 80 x 260mm and weighing in at 4kg, it reminds me of a modern network player in looks. Something from Naim perhaps? Well, Naim with added elegance. It doesn’t look like a phono amplifier, though. The angled cooling vents over the main body of the aluminium chassis, the colour TFT screen on the front and the […]

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Adding a few wrinkles of its own, Paul Rigby reviews Gold Note’s PH-10 phono amplifier 

Possibly one of the least understood and under-estimated components in the entire hi-fi chain, the phono amplifier is a specialist amplifier that is designed to do one thing and one thing only, amplify the tiny signal emanating from your turntable’s cartridge. Generally speaking, once the signal gets to a certain level, then the main amplifier takes over from there.  

The problem with phono amplifiers is that they are often seen as minor irritations by audiophiles rather than – what they are – a critical component. If the signal is cocked up here then forget the main amplifier and speakers. It’s damage limitation from this point onwards. A phono amplifier can make or break a vinyl performance. 

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

The design of this particular phono amplifier is intriguing. Spanning 200 x 80 x 260mm and weighing in at 4kg, it reminds me of a modern network player in looks. Something from Naim perhaps? Well, Naim with added elegance. It doesn’t look like a phono amplifier, though. The angled cooling vents over the main body of the aluminium chassis, the colour TFT screen on the front and the selector switch. The only thing I dislike is the gold logo sticker on the top left of the front fascia. It looks like gold foil covering of a chocolate coin. Something from a Christmas stocking. Tacky.

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

I am happy to shake the hands of the designers on one thing, though. The negation of DIP switches. Surely works of the devil, they are often used by phono amplifiers at this price point and under (come to thing of it…and over) for numerous and very sensible reasons but I still despise the finicky little switches that often need a night-school course at Bletchley Park to understand.

Instead of DIP switches, here you enter the loading and output via that front-mounted selector switch. You’re given nine loading options (10 Ohms to 47K Ohms) and four output figures (-3db to 6db) to choose from.

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

Connections on the rear include two sets of phono inputs (so two turntables can be attached at once), balanced or single-ended outputs plus a connection for an external dual-mono PSU-10 power supply – not reviewed here, I’m afraid. A USB port is featured for future upgrade purposes.

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

To use the unit, finished in black, silver or gold, you press the selector switch inwards for three seconds which brings the PH-10 out of stand-by. From that point, you can scroll through the options moving the switch left and right with a press inwards to select the option. Music is muted if you’re doing this while actively playing music. 

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

One of the available features is the selection of three different EQ curves: RIAA (the most often used EQ curve nowadays) plus Decca-London and American-Colombia. Useful if you care about such things. Despite the early adoption of RIAA, you’d be surprised at how many records there are out there, from around 1980 backwards, that don’t utilise RIAA. You see, there was a difference between agreeing to RIAA and actually doing something about it so some record labels were a bit tardy. Gold Note goes further by adding an ‘enhanced’ version of all three, something I also recently saw on a iFi phono amplifier, effectively giving you a full choice of six curves.

So what does it sound like?

SOUND QUALITY

I began with an MC configuration and a standard RIAA curve and a copy of Joe Jackson’s high energy jazz LP, Jumpin’ Jive and the track, Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid.

To begin, I ran the PH-10 at zero gain but found the unit was a tad sharp in the upper frequencies for my cartridge. It’s solid state approach a bit too edgy so I decided to ask the phono amp to back off a bit, reducing the gain to -3db. This exercise was a good one because it showed how the PH-10 could be changed on the fly and results could be compared instantaneously. Each change muted the music but a second or two after the change was instigated, back came the music and the alteration could be judged accordingly. Here, my gain reduction hit my cartridge’s sweet spot.

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

This resulted in a low noise output with a clarity that draws you into the music. Your ears feel free to roam around the inside of the soundstage, picking up nuggets of information at leisure. The PH-10 calmly did its job, so you never feel rushed or tense when listening. There was no cramped upper mids and no pinching of the treble so you tend to relax into music. 

Overall, the soundstage was neutral but never dull. Detail flowered across the soundstage like a well populated garden. Yes, compared to much more expensive phono amps, the very tip of the dynamic range was a touch blunted but I would be horribly picky to even see this as an issue. Actually, that comment is in itself a compliment because I’m hunting for problems even compared to expensive models. That is, the differences between the PH-10 and a phono amplifier at double the price are small indeed.

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

So, the lead vocal was beautifully emotive and textured, treble performance was sublime, piano and percussion around the midrange was calm, informative and transparent while bass offered a character that pushed the track onwards, ever onewards.

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

I then turned to Doris Day on the CBS label and the track, Night Life, from 1963’s LP, Love Him. To be frank, I had no idea if this LP was recorded using RIAA or Colombia’s own EQ curve but my own curiosity was peaked, so I gave it a go.

The difference could be heard immediately. At the beginning of this track, to contrast with the song’s title, the backing orchestra mimicked the busy, bustling, car horns and other noise of day time. This sequence, in RIAA mode, was horribly edgy and bright with the brass section barking its head off. Day’s vocal was also surprisingly offensive, her vibrato sounding pregnant with resonance while her crescendos actually attacked the ear. 

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

Changing the RIAA to American-Columbia was a great relief, I can tell you! I was able to up my main amplifier’s gain by a single click to bring the volume to a normal level, the soundstage opened up, the backing orchestra was now calm and informative while the brass section was no longer tense and harsh. Day, meanwhile, was her normal sultry self, easing into the song in a naturalistic manner. I was convinced that this LP had been mastered with a American-Colombia EQ.

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

I then selected the Enhanced version of the American-Colombia EQ which added a touch of emphasis. The music gained a bit of extra precision but was too sharp for me. I can see the appeal of this EQ but I preferred the original American-Colombia. That said, it’s nice to have the Enhanced option for individual LPs. You never know when it might come in useful for a American-Columbia EQ’d LPs that have been mastered  in an overly dampened fashion.

Next up? The moving magnet option and the Beatles parody LP, the self-titled album from The Rutles and the track, Cheese and Onions.

PH-10 Phono Amplifier from Gold Note

Again, the overall feel of the presentation was a neutral one although there was plenty of natural stress on particular words or phrases when required. Again, being picky, I would say that the MM option was delivered with slightly less panache than the MC route, adding a tad more edge. That said, there was nothing to disturb the ear here and, heard in isolation, the MM option performed well. Vocal emphasis was successfully tracked by the PH-10 within the midrange while the piano’s complex tonal information was also clearly heard, the lower frequency keys being nicely resonant. 

On this track, the violins and cellos were a growingly significant feature. The bow movements were easily heard here while the power of the cellos was successful translated. 

CONCLUSION

An excellent phono amplifier that not only sounds good but also offers a genuinely useful feature set. Well designed and built, easy to use and with a great price point, this phono amplifier offers value for money. 


GOLD NOTE PH-10 PHONO AMPLIFIER 

Price: 

Tel: 01420 544140

Website: www.goldnote.it & www.audiopinnacle.co.uk


GOOD: price, features, connectivity, on the fly changes, overall sound quality

BAD: nothing

RATING: 8


[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]

REFERENCE

Avid Acutus turntable

SME IV tonearm

Origin Live Aladdin moving iron cartridge

Origin Live Sovereign turntable

Origin Live Enterprise 12″ arm

Van Den Hul Crimson XGW Stradivarius cartridge

Icon PS3 phono amplifier

Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp

Icon Audio MB845 Mk.II monoblock amplifiers

Quad ESL-57 speakers with One Thing upgrade

Vertex AQ, Gekko, Black Rhodium & Tellurium Q cable

Blue Horizon Professional Rack System

Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components

CAD GC1 Ground Controls

All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner

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Paul Rigby http://www.theaudiophileman.com <![CDATA[Aladdin Cartridge From Origin Live]]> https://theaudiophileman.com/?p=26851 2018-09-18T12:06:38Z 2018-09-17T15:43:35Z Looking for a sonic genie? Give this moving iron a quick rub as Paul Rigby reviews Origin Live’s Aladdin Most vinyl fans are familiar with moving magnet and moving coil cartridges but there’s more to hi-fi life than those two stalwarts. The moving iron configuration lies somewhere in between those two classic design fixtures. This example, a custom-made variant of a Soundsmith design produced for Origin Live, is one of them. Dominated by a composite chassis, this 10.27g cartridge is a derivative of the Soundsmith Carmen but adds a rather nifty energy management system found in more expensive Soundsmith cartridges. Moving iron cartridges are intriguing things. The magnet inside stays still, as does the coil that sits alongside. What moves is the iron bit, fixed to the cantilever. This induces tiny voltages within the coils. The result? Firstly, the output is pretty high so you’d use this cartridge as you would a moving magnet  (i.e. 47k Ohms load resistance and 100pF load capacitance). The nude elliptical stylus on an aluminium cantilever is reported to be a pretty good tracker too. I was also intrigued to see that the cartridge tracks at just 1.4g. Two things of note during the installation. […]

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Looking for a sonic genie? Give this moving iron a quick rub as Paul Rigby reviews Origin Live’s Aladdin

Most vinyl fans are familiar with moving magnet and moving coil cartridges but there’s more to hi-fi life than those two stalwarts. The moving iron configuration lies somewhere in between those two classic design fixtures.

This example, a custom-made variant of a Soundsmith design produced for Origin Live, is one of them.

Aladdin Cartridge From Origin Live

Dominated by a composite chassis, this 10.27g cartridge is a derivative of the Soundsmith Carmen but adds a rather nifty energy management system found in more expensive Soundsmith cartridges.

Aladdin Cartridge From Origin Live

Moving iron cartridges are intriguing things. The magnet inside stays still, as does the coil that sits alongside. What moves is the iron bit, fixed to the cantilever. This induces tiny voltages within the coils. The result? Firstly, the output is pretty high so you’d use this cartridge as you would a moving magnet  (i.e. 47k Ohms load resistance and 100pF load capacitance).

Aladdin Cartridge From Origin Live

The nude elliptical stylus on an aluminium cantilever is reported to be a pretty good tracker too. I was also intrigued to see that the cartridge tracks at just 1.4g.

Two things of note during the installation. Firstly, the cartridge body features a screw thread – hurrah! Hence, there’s no need for fiddly screw nuts to come into play. Secondly, be aware that the cartridge pins run at a slight downward angle. You have to slightly alter how you attach the tonearm wires to the rear of the cart because of this. ‘In and up’, instead of plain and simple ‘push on’. I didn’t see this initially and wondered why my tonearm wires kept falling off.

First off, I decided to test the cartridge with a moving magnet, a slightly cheaper Goldring that is also a bit of a super-charged MM in approach. Just to see what similarities, if any, can be drawn from the MM technology.

Then I decided to test the Aladdin with a more expensive moving coil, just to see how far the Aladdin could be pushed. 

SOUND QUALITY

I began with the Goldring MM cartridge and a copy of Joe Jackson’s high energy jazz LP, Jumpin’ Jive and the track, Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid. This track is fast paced but packed with organic jazz instruments.

I have heard commentators declare that the Aladdin has ‘smooth mids’. On occasion, this pronouncement has been used as if to describe a disability. As if the mids were lacking in detail and mushy too boot. As such, these voices have the wrong end of the stick. The ‘smooth’ nature of the mids has the effect of softening the midrange detail, yes, but that’s the clue to up the gain because, in fact, the cartridge is busy lowering noise. I did this very thing, increasing my pre-amp gain by five clicks. Once done, the Aladdin entered into a new sonic phase.

Aladdin Cartridge From Origin Live

The effect of this gain increase was to enhance the bass, giving it a greater and more powerful role in the mix, spreading over the lower areas of the soundstage and offering a significant foundation to the song while adding a sense of force from the sax. That is, force from extra breath behind the sax during crescendos, giving that instrument a smooth (yes) but also organic and naturalistic manner. 

Aladdin Cartridge From Origin Live

Treble from the cymbals never lost the effective transient strike but did gain a sense of maturity. That is, the cymbals hits were not something that merely made a noise but reacted like a large piece of metal. The cymbal strike talked a more complex story via the Aladdin. This sense of being ‘grown up’, when compared to the moving magnet design, continued during the later vocal section. Both emotion and texture during the delivery was heard here but the most important aspect of the vocal performance was the ease and naturalistic flow. There was no apparent effort being made, which gave the impression that the singer was enjoying himself. The song was sung, in fact, with a smile.

Aladdin Cartridge From Origin Live

I then pushed the MC One moving coil into the picture and played that The Beatles parody LP, the self-titled album from The Rutles and the stone cold classic, Cheese and Onions.

Aladdin Cartridge From Origin Live

Compared to the moving coil, there might be a slight restriction in dynamic reach from the Aladdin and possibly a touch less precision in the upper mids, especially around the introductory piano, relating to that but there is also so much right with the Aladdin that the cartridge still came disturbingly close to the £1k moving coil design. The sheer insight of the midrange and the associated clarity was a real highlight, here. The percussion detail was excellent, especially as it blended well with the instrumental separation. This air and space around the midrange did wonderful things to the violins and cellos during the mid to later part of the song, allowing the ear to better hear bow strokes over the strings while the normally rather shy electric guitar was easily ‘visible’ here.

CONCLUSION

In short? A triumph! For the price, the Aladdin performs brilliantly, offering the ear detail and lucidity but doing so with a craft that can be quite stunning. Even when you remove the price as a factor the Aladdin is a real threat to the competition, even to more expensive moving coil designs. And all of this connected to a moving magnet phono amp? Make sure that phono amp is a top quality design, don’t skimp here if you want to see the Aladdin perform. Rub the Aladdin’s ego by doing that and the sonic treasure will indeed be yours. 


ORIGIN LIVE ALADDIN CARTRIDGE

Price: £630

Tel: 02380 578877 

Web: www.originlive.com

GOOD: clarity, midrange insight, price, bass detail, instrumental separation 

BAD: nothing

RATING: 9


[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]

REFERENCE

Avid Acutus turntable

SME IV tonearm

Van den Hul MC One Special cartridge

Goldring 1042 cartridge

Icon PS3 phono amplifier

Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp

Icon Audio MB845 Mk.II monoblock amplifiers

Quad ESL-57 speakers with One Thing upgrade

Vertex AQ, Gekko, Black Rhodium & Tellurium Q cable

Blue Horizon Professional Rack System

Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components

CAD GC1 Ground Controls

All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner

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