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Found 7 results

  1. Stradivari, what a name for a loudspeaker company. Stradivari made some of the most stunning violins ever and they are in huge demand by top violinists. The best were made 400 years ago and the demand and rarity are so high that the price of them is in the millions. They look superb and were made with specially treated wood and a really thick varnish to sound absolutely unique. Sonus Faber also had a top of the range speaker called the Stradivarius which looked and sounded superb. I have always wanted a pair and got within 30 mins of owning a used pair but was beaten to the punch. So, a loudspeaker company called Stradivari raises my expectations and biases. Stradivari loudspeakers are made in Holland under the expert eye of Frits Straatsma. He has been involved in audio for nearly 30 years and has developed many loudspeakers with his current range being the Amorat, the Pantera and the Magnus, which is here for review. The Magnus is a three-and-a-half-way speaker with two 6.5“ bass units, a 5” mid-range unit with a phase plug and a 25mm tweeter. And the really unusual thing is that Stradivari makes their own drive units. Yes, these are not bought in units from someone like Scanspeak but they are individually designed and built on the Stradivari premises for this specific purpose. These speakers are put into a superb looking piano black, boat-shaped loudspeaker that has the look of a real musical instrument. Of course, they do tend to be a fingerprint attractor much like a real piano. For an additional £1,000, you can have a high gloss wood finish. The speaker cones are made of paper with natural materials added to help absorption and damping. Frits does not like hard materials used in some speakers as they have very little internal absorption and he says they have a tendency to sound cold and lifeless. He also does not like aluminium, carbon fibre and fibreglass cone materials as they can sound cold, hard and sharp with ceramic materials and Kevlar getting the thumbs down as well, as he believes they sound lifeless, flat and shrill. We will see. The Magnus uses second order crossovers between the individual speaker units. The bass speakers use a long throw coil with a symmetrical magnetic field to help keep distortion low in the deep bass. The speakers are 90 dB efficient and as they do not have very low impedances or bad phase angles they do not need huge currents, so amplifiers that can double up are arc welders are not needed. The speaker units do not have dust caps in an effort to minimise compression. The 25mm tweeter has a surround made of real leather which is a nice detail to get better audio and looks. The specifications show a bass response of 22 Hz in the bass and for the top end 40 kHz, both at -6db. That bass is impressive from two 6.5” bass units even from a reflex ported speaker. I measured the speaker response in my room and got results that show the bass figure is about right. For the real geeks amongst us, there are many more design details on the Stradivari web page at: I was determined to get the best out of these speakers so selected the best-suited amplifier from my collection of Pass Labs A30.8, Allnic Integrated with 100w/ch using KT150s and a Unison Research S6 with its EL34’s in triode mode. For speaker cables, I tried my Cut Loose silver ribbon bi-wired cables, Chord Signature XLs (in for review) and a pair of Transparent Audio Supers MM2s. I ended up using the Audionote CD4T, Audionote DAC4.1, Pass Labs XP12 and XA30.8 with TA Super MM2s. How easily can our expectations be dashed? I am expecting from the name and my interest in the Sonus Faber Stradivari to hear a big warm cuddly sound. Nope. These are modern sounding speakers. They are clear, transparent and have a fast bass. And no they do not have that over the top modern monitor sound which is impressive with ultra-detail but gets wearing in time. In that respect, these speakers are really musical. They reproduce a huge amount of detail but without a wearing sound. So, listening to them for a long session is no problem. There were many occasions where I heard additional details but always as an integrated part of the music and voices were really clear. It was easy to hear song lyrics. So, I went through my ‘test list’ which I have recently modified from what I previously used. I now use tunes I like rather than audiophile music which can be brilliantly recorded but sounds dull, dull, dull. So, starting with Elsaine’s Vaporous from her Hybrid album: This is a modern electronic track with a lot of processing on her voice. The words she sings were easy to understand, the drums and bass were easy to follow with all of it bathed in a huge amount of reverb. Despite hearing all these elements, the music was not taken apart and remained an integrated whole. Ember’s WhoMadewho from the Ember EP is also an electronic track but with a more powerful bass. Again, this was an easy to follow track with a much more powerful and tighter bass than the Elsaine track that really showed off what these speakers could do with the low bass. I really enjoyed this track and it made a lot of musical sense. OK, for something completely different I played 2 Cellos and the Game of Thrones melody. This is a very close-miked recording with great cello string tone. The speakers played the slow build up to the powerful and easily remembered main tune had great power without the need for excessively loud volume levels. This musical drama builds you up for the film-like show that follows. Drama from fast and powerful music rather than just playing it loud. These speakers work well at low volumes. OK, ok I did use Tarova from Snarky Puppy’s Culcha Vulcha which some regard as audiophile jazz. But SP plays with great enthusiasm and have some interesting timings on the track. Everything was clear, dynamic and the bass fast and very well timed. It was easy to hear how changes to timings affected the impact of the track. These guys sounded as though they were really enjoying their music making and there was no inhibition in their playing. The speakers played that really well. Of course, I had to play something from Percy Plant and the boys’ first album. This was when Led Zep had a lot of real fire in their music and there was no holding back with their songs. Yes, it was not the most refined recording but boy is the playing dramatic and Rob Plant really lets rip with his singing. This was ideal for the Magnus fast, dramatic and powerful. The speakers let you hear that the recording was not brilliant but that did not stop the enjoyment of the music. I obviously played some more sedate female singing and the Magnus played them with great detail and delicacy. Their voices were very clear but there may have been a tad less humanness in Kasey Chambers’s Hell of a Way to go, Rhiannon Giddings’s Birmingham Sunday and Eilen Jewell live tracks, although Eilen’s live track Dusty Boxcar Wall (Live) really went along at a great pace and sounded very alive. I suspect a slightly different cable is all that is needed. I really liked how the speakers played the live version of Pink Floyd’s Careful with that Axe Eugene with Roger Waters’ screaming coming over really well even when the mike overloaded. That was good and scary. I finished with Hans Zimmer’s Why so Serious? and Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland. The Magnus reproduces classical music really well with the right amount of rasp to brass instruments and edge to string tone. The whole 3D effect (one real and one not) was easily heard with great layering. Good to hear it in the electronica and classical music. Not that Hans Zimmer is classical music of course but it made me jump in my seat. I finally topped that lot out with Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me which was really, really lovely and allowed me to get really immersed in that track. And then after these new test tracks were played I spent a good few hours with whatever music attracted my attention via Tidal. This few hours of music helped to reinforce what I had already heard but over a much wider range of music. I have to admit I went out of reviewer mode into audiophile mode. Always a good sign. And so it continued for the rest of my time with these speakers. So, any problems? Well, a couple of thoughts. The speakers sit on large round feet and they wobbled on the carpet. I assume that houses in Holland have solid wooden floors and these flat feet sit on them without any movement. But in carpeted rooms, they wobble. I tried to stop them wobbling and it tightened up the focus of the soundstage so I would recommend Stradivari either offer spikes or fit outrigger feet. They would not be that hard for a toddler or a dog to knock over. These speakers cost £7,127 with an extra £1K for the wood versions. There are some really good speakers in the £7K -£10K price range, so they are entering a competitive field. These speakers deserve to be in the top group of these speakers but there are some good ones. If you are looking for a modern sounding speaker with great attention paid to the details of how the speakers are built, that use their own very high-quality drivers and will not look out of place in most modern homes then you really must get to hear these speakers. And the even better news is they are being brought into the UK through Guildford Audio and I am sure Trevor and Gavin will ensure that you hear these speakers at their best. They sound very good, look good and will give the lucky buyers a great set of speakers. UK seller: MAGNUS Speaker specifications RMS power: 180 Watt continuous Impedance: 4 – 8 Ohm Sensitivity: 92 dB Frequency range 22 Hz – 40 kHz. Bass 2 x 136 cm2 Mid 1x 74 cm2 Tweeter 8 cm2 Crossover frequencies; Low: 22 Hz – 200 Hz Mid: 300 Hz – 3.5 kHz High: 3.5 kHz – 40 kHz Dimensions Height: 109 cm Width: 19.5 cm Depth: 35 cm Weight: 25 kg
  2. Audiozen Alchemy Reference Hybrid Integrated Amplifier. Available from – Elite Audio Price at time of review - £2570 First Impressions. First up, a little bit of background information about this Italian made amplifier; it’s a two-box affair but not in the way you’d normally expect, instead of being split into pre- and power amp units it comes as an integrated (with the pre and power section split both physically and electrically) in one unit and the other is a power supply. The power supply is by far the heftiest and outweighs the integrated section by near 2 to 1. The units side by side are a little larger than a standard 430mm hi-fi unit and I was, just, comfortable fitting them on the top shelf of my rack. Maybe I should go back a little first to the moment it arrived, it came in a sturdy wooden crate and was beautifully packed for an item at any price, for the money this amplifier sells for I’d say the packaging was exemplary. Each unit was surrounded by shock absorbing foam which also covered the inner faces of the crate, the remote is a functional unit with a decent range.[/img] The power supply has an IEC socket and two captive umbilical cords for separate DC supplies to the preamp and power amp sections in the main box. Inside the integrated amp box the pre-amp has a pair of E88CC valves that are kept ready for use when the amplifier is in standby mode, as to the power amp section it looks to be a chip amp configuration of some description attached to a large heatsink. As many “experts” believe valves have the biggest impact when placed in the pre-amp section this bodes well for the design when we get to the listening part of this review. The casework is good, it looks very similar to the Hifi2000 Galaxy range, nice and solid without being overly fancy. I started listening using my Bastanis Wildhorn which in hindsight was probably not the best choice at 100db sensitivity and an amp with 90 Watts per channel, at this point I had limited volume control so decided I’d try a less sensitive set of speakers. In came the Club-27 Kurt speakers, a very similar design to the Bastanis but with a 10” wideband driver and 1” compression tweeter. At 94db sensitivity these horn loaded, bottom firing speakers are a better match for the Audiozen and gave me much more control over listening levels. Hopefully my choice of speaker will give you a clue that I’m a valve amp kind of guy that had steered clear of most things solid state for a good while. How does it sound? I decided to start off with a selection of my old favourite tracks, one’s that I know inside out and have heard on a few different setups, these include “Sympathy for the Devil” (Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet) that has different percussion instruments coming from far left and right at the start, Micks voice then comes in slightly off centre followed by piano and electric guitar front and centre. It’s easy to forget how much I like this song sometimes as I’ve heard the percussion instruments sound a bit metallic, lacking in body or thin sounding sometimes, that’s certainly not the case with this amp and within moments I found it difficult to concentrate on listening to the amp as my foot was tapping madly to the beat and I found myself playing air guitar alongside Keith! I managed to drag my focus back, foot still tapping, to hear the echo on Micks voice in the latter chorus repeats, as good and possibly better handled than I’d heard before in my setup, that counts as a good start to the session in my books, I let the LP play through side one before moving on to something else and found my foot tapping along to the beat most of the time. Another favourite on this side is “Dear doctor” a plaintiff cry for help from a jilted groom, it makes me feel sorry for the redneck copping it from his unfaithful bride to be, the amp brought across the emotion, and humour I hear in this song whilst staying the right side of strident when the harmonica wails above the strumming of the acoustic guitars. During the initial listening session I worked my way through Ella Fitzgerald (Lady is a Tramp, Foggy Night in London Town), The Clash, Led Zeppelin and Nina Simone along with a few others. Was I trying to catch the amp out, not consciously as I quickly forgot about reviewing and was simply enjoying many old favourites. From this point on I left the amp in standby mode, put simply this keeps the valves warm and makes the amp sound better from the minute you start listening, this is great when family commitments sometimes cut listening sessions short, it often feels like a valve amp has just got into its stride when a certain 6 year olds bedtime routine stops a listening session, that’s less of a problem with the Audiozen Alchemy as it’s on full song after 10 minutes use from standby. It seems to have plenty of power in reserve even when faced with something a bit more tricky, to test this I decided to plug some early Linn Sara Isobariks that I have hanging around, these are 4 Ohm speakers that I think drop a bit below that on the tweeter and are probably mid 80's db in sensitivity, I wasn’t sure how the Audiozen would deal with lower impedance speakers as it has plenty of Watts but that's not always the full story, I shouldn’t have worried as it grabbed them by the cojones and made them sound pretty damn good (for Linn speakers anyway). Whatever I listened to the amp simply got on with the job of playing music, beats were delivered with foot tapping enthusiasm and bass was controlled and textured underpinning every type of music, the soundstage was wide and tall, it didn’t try to over emphasise any particular point of the musical spectrum and I was finding it difficult to find anything negative to say. The only thing I can point to is an occasional increase in sibilance and a very low level buzz that came from the power supply when the unit went from standby to supplying power (I spoke to the distributor who said it had been silent when tried in his own setup and could maybe be down to rough handling by the courier), it sounded like a transformer hum, something many of us have heard when high power toroidal transformers are used and it had no impact on my enjoyment as it was only audible with no volume being used and your ear a foot or so away from the power supply box. Conclusion. So it comes well packed, is a neat, well made piece of kit that doesn’t suffer from style over substance, it locks on to a beat and made my foot tap almost continuously whatever genre I tried. It refused to over emphasise any part of the music to the detriment of the others and had the tube sweetness in the midrange that I, and my speakers, like. My only criticism of it is that it has too much power, or gain for my setup, I’d happily replace my current valve amplifier with it in the summer. The rest of the year I like the heat, looks and the extra bit of midrange magic my current amplifier gives, without a doubt it is bested by the Audiozen Alchemy at the frequency extremes and the lack of heat and exposed valves makes it a much better bet with kids around. At all times during the review period it simply got out of the way and made me want to explore my music collection by giving a hint of valve midrange magic along side the bass solidity of a solid state amp, what more can you ask of a component than it encouraging you to listen to more music (and constantly tap your foot whilst singing along at full belt)? Product Specification. Power – 90 Watts into 8 Ohm, 170 Watts into 4 Ohms. SN Ratio – 98db Inputs – 4 (unbalanced) Total weight – 11.8kg (amp 4.5kg, psu 7.3kg) My setup. Speakers – Bastanis Wildhorn, Club-27 Kurt, Linn Sara isobaric. Turntable – Sony PS-6750 with AT OC9 cartridge and DIY Salas phono stage. Digital – Pioneer stable platter CD into DIY DDDac1794.
  3. Srajan Ebean at 6moons has recently reviewed the Audio Physic Codex loudspeakers, earning the prestigious Blue Moon Award. He was impressed with both the sound a look of the mighty loudspekers that have taken the award-winning Avanti model to a whole new level. "The last speaker that had me this excited—at twice the price—was the Vivid Audio Giya 4. So yes, the Codex has it; big time. This is a very special speaker!". Read the full review here. Interested in a pair of Audio Physic Codex loudspeakers? We're selling the Ebony High Gloss review pair, already burned in a nd ready to connect to your hi-fi system. Contact us on 020 3397 1119 or for more information.
  4. Gato Audio PWR-222 Monoblock Amplifiers, RRP: £11,180 Ken Kessler of Hi-Fi News recently got his hands on the Gato Audio PWR-222 Monoblock Amplifiers. After a thorough review and a lab test from Editor Paul Miller, the Class D amplifiers were given the "Outstanding Product" award. The full review can be read in the June 2017 issue of Hi-Fi News. Here are some highlights; "I had them up-and-running in three minutes flat once out of their boxes". "The title track from At Last...oozed with warmth, and the space around Rawls and Dianne Reeves was deliciously tube-like". "...I turned to the raunch of Led Zepplin's Celebration Day...and was rewarded with what I had hoped for: something grandiose". "It was a seductive sound, and I had no trouble listening for hours on end". "I'd say the Gato PWR-222s delivered some of the silkiest sounds I've heard in recent times, wrapped up in a (non-magnetic) suit that would do Savile Row proud". As well as an "Outsatnding Product" award, the Gato Audio PWR-222 Monoblocks were given a remarkable Sound Quality score of 87%. Elite Audio is the official UK distributor of Gato Audio. We offer an excellent 30-day, no risk trial on selected products allowing you to try out audio components at home with your own system. A generous part exchange is also available allowing you to upgrade for less. To find out how much your old hi-fi components are worth, take our part exchange challenge now. Alternatively, you can contact Elite Audio via email: or telephone: 020 3397 1119 for more information.
  5. With the Reviews section in abeyance I thought I would still go ahead and give you my thoughts on the little Khozmo passive preamplifier: It was twenty years ago that Sgt Pepper taught the band to play…… Well it was actually 34 years ago (yes 34 years!!) that CD hit the (audio) world. It brought a whole range of plusses and minuses that have been worked on for the last 34 years. Real progress has been made. It took some time but it has become the mainstay of music delivery even though now it is being overtaken by streaming. One of the possible plusses involves the audio bit of the DAC. Nearly all DACs use opamps or discrete components that provide an output of 2V. This has become an unofficial standard, although the XLR variant gives 4V. With power amplifiers requiring about 1V for full output this allows a change in the role of the preamplifier. If the output of CD/DACs was 2V and the power amplifier required 1V then all that was needed was to attenuate the output signal down to 1V or less. This brought about the possibility of using very simple single/two component (preamplifier with no amplification) attenuators. The birth of the passive preamplifier/attenuator. Making the thing less hair shirt some added source switching and heaven forbid……..remote control. Now this brought great promise. There would only be 1/2 components between the DAC and the power amp. How could it get any better? Stunning sound quality, cheap costs and every one would be smiling, bar preamp manufacturers. But it did not work out that way. Everyone and their dog built a pot in a box, one set of input and output connectors and stunning sound flowed………er not quite………or not always. For me I saw this happening and bought a CD player with the volume control built into the CD player itself. It had a digital volume controller. How could anything go wrong? It did and I preferred my active preamplifier. In fact, the in-built volume controller sounded terrible. Why? Well despite the great promise, the volume controller worked by ‘decimating’ the signal. It reduced the volume by chopping off some bits. Awful. They have got better now. OK along comes Creek who actually put together what I regard as a cracking item, the OBH 22 preamplifier. It has three inputs and two outputs. A source selector, a volume control and used a high quality Blue Alps pot, all with a natty remote control. With my ARC valves it required a really brilliant preamp to sound better. All it would do that was negative was to lose some bass impact and soften the overall dynamics. But it was incredibly natural, ultra-detailed and very easy to listen to even on rock music. However, occasionally it just did not work with some equipment and it sounded soft and quite mushy. Not often but it required care in matching impedances. Using long interconnects between the attenuator and the power amp could lead to problems. But taking care to keep interconnects short (1m) then all was OK. However, it is no more as Creek do not make them anymore. A pity. Recently there has been a huge interest in passive attenuators and that has produced many variations on a theme. There are many simple pots in a box. There are more sophisticated step attenuators where individual resistors are soldered onto the volume controllers and instead of the volume being continuously variable it is attenuated in steps. There are variations of even this type including shunt attenuators where one resistor is always in circuit and another is used to provide the steps of the volume control. There are Light Dependent Resistors where a change in the voltage of a small light source affects the LDR, it changes its resistance and it is connected to the output volume. And of course there are transformers that attenuate the signal either through Transformer Volume Controllers (TVC) or auto-formers. As you may expect all have their advocates. I am looking at the Khozmo Passive Preamplifier (Attenuator), which is a stepped shunt attenuator. This is a company I have not come across before. They are based in Poland and you buy direct from them via the internet. This is something that is becoming more common and promises to give good products at a reasonable price as the mark-ups from the distributer/shop are not added into the price. However, you have to buy blind and rely on any money back promises and reviews like this one and people’s experiences. It is possible to buy this shunt attenuator with different quality resistors for both the shunt resistor and the switched-in resistors. Khozmo sells the standard attenuator with Caddock and Vishay resistors with upgrades possible to the Takman Rex and Vishay Z foil resistors. They are sold with either 10/20/50/100/200Kohm input impedance and in my case the 10K variant was recommended as I was using it with the Nord Class D power amplifier. The attenuator goes from -60 to 0dB in 48 steps (2dB increments from 1-11 and 1dB from 12-48) with make-before-break switches, hard-gold contacts, ±0.1dB channel matching, just two resistors in the signal path at any given setting, CNC-machined PA11 aluminium bodies and a precision ball-bearing support. Everything is hard wired with solid silver core wire. Because I listen slightly off centre I asked for the dual mono version which is slightly less convenient than using a stereo version but you do get control over the balance. My attenuator had three input and two output with phono connections (which led to an odd problem later). The box is very well made. It is quite weighty and looks the part with wooden cheeks and the controls have a nice solid feel. Overall, including the attenuators, it is well-built and it is hand made to boot. If you buy the stereo version, it can be remotely controlled at extra cost. The really good news is the basic model costs $300. My model cost $400 which with postage made a landed priced of £320. So how did it sound? Well I wanted to use it with my Auralic/Aries+Audionote DAC2.1x front end, the Nord Class D power amp and Audionote E/HE speakers. I therefore had an issue with the power amp needing XLRs and the Khozmo I bought using phonos. Maybe I should have got the XLR variant. Anyway in goes two amorphous make XLR/Phono adaptors and I get a sound out that it is very good. But I can surely do better with a Cardas XLR adaptor? I buy a pair and things did not work out. So eventually I go for the Neutrik XLR/phono adaptor and all is now well. Well enough prevarication how did it damn well sound? Well as you may expect from having just a couple of resistors in the circuit extremely neutral and natural. The 3D soundstage is big and it has great width and depth and dare I say it height. It also shows up a lot of studio recordings as being very dry and artificial with their limited soundstages. I used the old demo favourite of Misa Criolla featuring Mercedes Sosa and you can hear the large acoustic it was recorded in and the echo fading away. As you may expect there is no noise coming from the speakers with a passive attenuator and an extremely low noise power amplifier. You can therefore easily hear the echo from the acoustic as it gently fades down to zero with no cut-off. The bass was big and powerful with no overhang. The bass tonality was very good. It was possible to easily hear the different types of bass and the tricks done in studios. Onto something musically different, Dystopian Overture from the new Dream Theater album in 24/96. The tricks used in this studio creation were easy to hear and very clear. In the middle of this track there is ‘kitchen sink’ moment where all sort of instruments are added and taken out of the mix. Their different added echo and layering is easy to hear. After listening to that section of music it feels like you have been on an audio assault course. You have been overwhelmed and given a feeling of being taken over which may have been what the band wanted to paint for this desolate future. Other preamps can become confused by this passage making it messy and less unnerving. Of course it is not perfect. Despite using high quality resistors the dynamics are not as sharp as those from active preamps and the high frequencies do not have the air of transformers or active preamps. Active preamps still have that huge drive and attack and this resistor based attenuator is a little softer. But for me it is more relaxed and easier to hear for longer periods of time. Maybe not as showy. If you are concerned about whether everything will work and need to check the impedances Arek is great with advice and always responded to my e-mails very quickly and allows return of the product if it does not work out for you, within a reasonable time period. In conclusion given that some of the other preamplifiers I used (Nuforce P9 active preamplifier, Audionote M6, Creek OBH 22) were far more expensive than the little Khozmo and it was not embarrassed or shown to be deficient apart from a few minor areas makes it a bit of a bargain. It is highly recommended and you can get any variant you want. So let me introduce to you The one and only……….Khozmo…..
  6. We have just released a new review of Linn's newest top streamer the Klimax DSM Mk3. Not only is this one of the first reviews of Linn's streamer but we are also introducing a new reviewer, Alex Colburn. Not only is this a good review of the design of the streamer but also a comprehensive subjective review. I managed to hear the streamer in a shop for a few hours and it was impressive and far better than what it replaced. Want to know more then go here:
  7. If you are interested in one of the best passive controllers (preamps) out there, here is a review. I believe it is one of the best but it is not ideal for every amp.