The Pass Labs XA30.8 is a seemingly “low power” amplifier that one of the most uncompromised, cost no object amplifiers ever made at its power output level. It offers stupendous performance that the 30 WPC specification cannot hope to describe.
The Rotel RC-1590 preamp and RB-1590 power amplifier are at the peak of the price-performance curve for stereo hifi separates. They offer excellent sound quality, loads of features, power to drive almost any loudspeaker in almost any room, all for a (relatively) modest price.
In this review, we take a look at a collection of portable headphone DAC/Amps, compatible with iOS devices: the Apogee One, CEntrance Mini-M8, Oppo HA-2 and V-MODA Vamp Verza. Every one of these products sounds dramatically better than my iPhone 5S by itself.
Class D (i.e., "Switching") amplifiers have been around for quite a while now. What's clear from models produced so far is they all sound different, even when using the same core technology. Like many amplifiers of the type, the NewClear NC1000L uses the Bang and Olufsen ICEPower module. What makes the NC1000L different isn't this module; it's how that module is implemented. NewClear Audio was started by Sean Brady to improve upon the sound of existing switching amplifiers. Sean had heard some very good amps based on ICEPower technology, but thought he could do even better. The question is, does the NC1000L deliver the goods compared to similarly priced, traditional Class A/B amplifiers?
Schiit Audio is an irreverent company that builds high quality electronics for headphone listeners entirely made in the USA. The Asgard 2 and Bifrost are Schiit's most popular headphone amp and DAC, and they sound and look far more expensive than they are.
If you've read any of my reviews before, you know I am a fan of Anthony Gallo Acoustics loudspeakers. I reviewed the original Strada loudspeaker and TR-3 subwoofer in 2010 and was so impressed I almost bought them. The only reason I didn't was because I knew the Reference 3.5 was coming. Those? I bought those, and they are still my reference loudspeaker (however, the 3.5 will be discontinued soon). Gallo claims the new Strada 2 loudspeakers are even better than the original Strada, and the TR-3D is an improvement over then TR3. Both new speakers use almost identical technology to that of the Reference 3.5. Another salvo by Gallo has leveled the paying field between the new Strada 2 and the Reference 3.5s even more. The price of the Strada 2 and TR-3D is identical to the earlier models. The complete system cost with stands weighs in at $4,417 (which includes two TR-3D subs). This used to be a lot cheaper than the $5,995 Reference 3.5. Gallo recently reduced the price of the Reference 3.5 to $3,995, plus an additional $749 for the amp. Now, the price of the two systems is almost identical, within less than $400. The question is, which is better? We will see.
I first found out about Crystal Cable's Arabesque speaker line from hifi show reports. Their Glass Master speaker cabinet is actually made from glass panels bonded together. At first this struck me as a gimmick, but then...
Sennheiser is a very well known name in the headphone game. My first good headphones, and the center of my first high end audio system, were the Sennheiser HD580s I had in college. The company has always been known for high quality over the ear headphone, but they also make In Ear Headphones, a.k.a., Earbuds, and that is what we review here, namely the Sennheiser's IE60.
Gallo loudspeakers have had a long history of exceptional sound quality. In both this publication and others, no one has much bad to say about Gallo's reference quality loudspeakers. I like them so much, I've owned several of their speakers, including my current Reference 3.5s. Opinions on styling are a different story.
Computer audio is quickly becoming the source of choice for high-resolution audio playback. A vast number of products focused on computer audio are available today, but most of the attention is paid to hardware: DACs and computer audio interfaces like the Bryston BDA-1 and Halide Design USB to SPDIF Bridge I reviewed last year. In all our reviews, we forget one key component of the playback chain: the software player. I have complained extensively about the difficulty of getting no-compromise audio playback from a computer.
In 2007, I reviewed the Gallo Reference 3.1 speakers along with Gallo's Reference AV center, A'Diva rears and the Reference SA subwoofer amplifier. I liked them so much I bought the entire system. Recently, Gallo has released the new Reference 3.5 speaker, replacing the venerable Reference 3.1.
I have always been a fan of integrated amplifiers, and they were the heart of all my audio systems up until recently. They offer the best value in terms of getting the most performance per dollar, but they take away one thing many audiophiles love: fooling around with their system. Several ultra-high end companies have recently introduced very serious integrated amps, for the audiophile who is done with fooling around.
2009 is a good time to be a headphone fan. The supply of high-end headphones is exploding. At the head of the pack is the new Sennheiser HD-800. This is a cost-no-object assault on the state of the art in headphone listening. They are more than twice as expensive as Sennheiser's previous top of the line, the HD-650.
Chris Groppi is a radio astronomer and electrical engineer working as an assistant professor at Arizona State University. He received his Bachelor's degree in astronomy from Cornell University in 1997, and his Ph.D. in astronomy with a concentration in electrical engineering from the University of Arizona in 2003. He studies how stars and planets form, and designs and builds millimeter-wave and terahertz receivers for radio telescopes. He became interested in HiFi during high school the first time he listened to a real high-end system (B&W 801s with Mark Levinson electronics). His first system in college was a Headroom headphone amplifier powering Sennheiser HD 580s, and graduated to a real HiFi system in graduate school. His first love has always been 2-channel audio, although his current system has added home theater capability.