July 2019
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Final introduces D8000 Pro Edition headphones

By | July 18th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , |

AFDS. Air Film Damping System — the technology found in Final’s flagship D8000 headphone where two perforated metal plates straddle a planar-magnetic driver to create an air chamber that aims to better control the driver’s low-frequency resonance and distortion. Final’s intent: to keep hold of the top-end precision of a planar driver but lend it the punch of a dynamic. Adjusting the size of the air gap between plate and driver, as well as the size of the plate’s perforations, gives Final’s engineers additional control over the D8000’s voicing.… Read the full article

Getting high on dynamic range with Jerry Harrison

By | July 16th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , |

Jerry Harrison’s solo album Casual Gods landed in British record store racks in February 1998 – just a few weeks ahead of Talking Heads’ Naked, with whom Harrison had played keyboards and guitar since he left Jonathan Richman’s Modern Lovers twelve years earlier. In 2019, Talking Heads’ swansong and Harrison’s sophomore solo album are both 31 years old.

Casual Gods’ striking cover art photography comes from Sebastião Salgado, about which the sleevenotes read: “This is not a scene from a movie.Read the full article

A short film about the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt

By | July 8th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

AudioQuest’s first DragonFly DAC was released in 2012. Its pocketable thumb-drive form factor brought better sound quality any computer user with a spare USB socket. The DragonFly extracts digital audio from a Mac or PC to execute its own D/A conversion. A conversion that sounds superior to the host computer’s own, either via headphones or connected to an amplifier or pair of powered loudspeakers.

Three years later, AudioQuest’s collaboration with Arizona’s Microchip Technology saw the development and release of two new and improved DragonFly models – the DragonFly Black (US$99) and DragonFly Red (US$199) – whose low power draw added smartphone connection capabilities via a short adapter cable.… Read the full article

A short film about the NAD M10

By | June 28th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Kallax-Fi: hi-fi hardware that sits comfortably inside an IKEA Kallax unit, arguably the world’s most popular (and affordable) vinyl storage system. Future-Fi: hi-fi hardware that sees multiple functions coalesce inside a single box that keeps at least one eye on handsome industrial design.

Announced in January at CES 2019, NAD’s M10 (US$2499/€2999) is both Kallax-Fi and Future-Fi. Its shoebox form factor is comfortably accommodated by the Kallax’s 33cm shelf width, height and 38cm depth. On the inside, the M10 marries BluOS/Roon/SpotifyConnect streaming functionality to a 100wpc Hypex nCore amplifier with external DAC inputs (no USB) and a pair of instantly digitised analogue inputs to keep pragmatic vinyl spinners in play.… Read the full article

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A short film about the Volumio Primo

By | June 18th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Holes — dug by little moles. Logitech and AURALiC. The former’s Squeezebox Touch – a frugalphile favourite – was discontinued in 2012. The latter’s Aries Mini – another goto entry-level streamer – quietly slipped away in 2018. Those are big holes to fill.

Stepping forward is Volumio, coders of the SBC OS of the same name. The Italian company’s first piece of hardware, the Primo network streamer (€379), mounts an ESS Sabre DAC board to an Asus Tinkerboard S to convert Ethernet or Wifi inputs to digital S/DPIF (up to 24bit/192kHz) or analogue (up to 24bit/192kHz, DSD128).… Read the full article

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OnSight: an afternoon at Berlin’s SENIC

By | June 16th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

The move from CDs to rips, downloads and cloud streaming has robbed us of the button pushes one used to open and close a CD player drawer, to play the CD, to pause it, to skip tracks and, in many cases, the immense satisfaction of using a rotary to adjust the volume. Many of us now control music playback and volume with a smartphone (and little else).

One downside (especially when the phone rings with an incoming call) is that we must pull the smartphone from a pocket, unlock it – with fingerprint, finger-drag or PIN – before launching the control app (Sonos, BluOS, Roon, etc.) that allows us to hit pause or finger-slide the volume downwards.… Read the full article

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A short film about the Amazon Echo Link

By | June 11th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , |

Formally introduced last year, the Echo Link from Amazon gives us Alexa-powered music streaming for US$199/€199. An Ethernet socket hardwires the Echo Link into a home network; the Amazon Alexa app facilitates a wireless connection. Round back, a pair of digital inputs – coaxial and TOSLINK – and analogue outputs allow this little black box to function as a standalone DAC; the circuit is built around a Cirrus Logic CS42526 chip.

It was in this D/A conversion scenario that I heard the Echo Link come up short on hundred-dollar DACs like the Schiit Modi 3 and the AudioQuest DragonFly Black.… Read the full article

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A short film about the HEDD Audio Type 20

By | June 4th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

Studio monitors vs. audiophile standmounts. What’s the difference? Is an active loudspeaker not an active loudspeaker, irrespective of its use case? The irony isn’t lost on me (and probably you) that housebound audiophiles who claim a thirst for accuracy often exclaim (!) a studio monitor as ‘too accurate!’.

Thinking of it another way, if all high-end loudspeakers sound different (and they do), only one can be accurate. Therefore, the majority of audiophiles are sitting at home with inaccurate playback.

Last month we visited Berlin’s HEDD Audio to get the low down on their Tower Mains active floorstanders.… Read the full article

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When accuracy is overrated

By | May 28th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

What do large chunks of modern pop music (and techno, house and indie rock) and Munich High-End have in common? Both are LOUD. Modern music suffers from high levels of dynamic range compression. The Munich show delivers high levels of background noise. Pointing a camera and its microphone at an audio show and its conversational roar, in Munich multiplied and distorted by the echo of the M.O.C.’s exhibition halls, might be faithful to the real event but wait: is it enjoyable to watch/hear?… Read the full article

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A short film about Munich High-End 2019

By | May 16th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , |

Enjoy the music? Not so easy when the loudest sounds at Munich High-End don’t spill from loudspeaker systems but people. For four days in May, the M.O.C. hosts 20K+ visitors and when a few hundred convene in the glass-lined atria or warehouse-like halls, the background din becomes a roar. A problem bent double (for some) when the music we’re exhorted to enjoy is mostly not to our taste or when even the quietest in-room conversation will interfere with a product demonstration.… Read the full article

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