Friday, February 23, 2007

Naim Audio high-end SUPERNAIT integrated amplifier

Naim has enhanced its integrated amplifier offering beyond NAIT 5i by announcing SUPERNAIT. It is part of Naim's reference series and features 85 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms, on-board DAC accepting sampling rates up to 96kHz and subwoofer output. Some reports have stated that it also has front panel 1/8 input (for e.g. iPod) and front panel headphone output. SUPERNAIT is (super)naturally upgradeable with FlatCap2x/HiCap2 or SuperCap power supply.

Available in April at Euro 4.500 (estimation).

Hint: why you need on-board DAC with various digital inputs? Think Sonos ZonePlayer 80 ...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Shunyata Research Hydra V-RAY

For quite many audiophiles SR's Hydra family of power distributors / conditioners has been the reference. In 2003 SR annouced their top dog Hydra Model-8 power condioner, and now Hydra V-RAY introduces further advancements. The V-Ray uses the same chassis and has the same number of outlet (8) than Model-8, but employs internally larger and more Venom filters (36 instead of Model-8's 12). Also new internally is the power-distribution buss system, which is made from pure CDA-101 copper.

Result, according to SR, is "Unprecedented levels of sonic resolution and a stunning black velvet background await the owner of the new Hydra V-Ray." Price USD 3.995, one review already on-line at Soundstage.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Shure E500 headphones

Soundstage has a review of Shure's top-of-the-line "in-ear-monitors", model E500PTH. Reviewer John Crossett concluded "... If your situation runs to needing a way to cut yourself off from the outside world while listening to your favorite music and you want to spend that time listening in the highest possible sonic fidelity, then the Shure E500s become a must-hear product -- and very possibly a no-brainer purchase. They met all my expectations and then exceeded them."

I read the review with some interest as I purchased Shure E500 for my 80GB iPod, replacing my previous earphones, Etymotic ER4P. Around the same time I sold my HE-rig headphones, 5 years old Stax SRM-T1S & Lambda Nova Signature earphone system. How do all these earphones rate in my subjective listening using iPod as a source?

In Stax case I connected iPod with Stax amp by a cheap cable consisting of 1/8" plug on one end and RCA jacks on the other. Using WAV-files I would rate without doubt Stax the best sounding in all audiophile terms, so lets give it the comparison rating of 100. Shure E500 comes at 85 and Etymotic ER4P 78. Comparison is of course not fair as I compare here iPod as a standalone product vs. Stax with its dedicated headphones amp. Stax's superiority would even be more evident were it connected with proper cabling, i.e. using AudioLineOut's special cable which takes benefit of iPod's dedicated audio line-out. See attached picture of AudioLineOut's iPod line-out - RCA cable.

Which brings me to the only thing which really annoys me with iPod, i.e. background noise, default which is highlighted with the high quality gear such as Shure E500. Only way to get better sonics is to capitalise on iPod's dedicated audio line-out situated in the bottom of the unit, like when it is placed in Apple docking station, thereby by-passing the player's low-grade headphone jack output. But then you need of course a dedicated headphone amplifier like HeadRoom Micro Amp.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

New Plinius products

I just spotted that Plinius audio from New Zealand has announced two significant new products. The first is KORU Phono Preamplifier, which has a curved chassis, divided in two sections allowing physical separation of the power supply from the amplification circuitry. Both single ended and balanced output signals are catered for, and Plinius highlights that "the power supply has received very detailed attention and boasts a virtual battery approach with over 100,000 micro Farads of capacitance and very sophisticated 2 stage regulation. This ensures the lowest impedance and consequently extreme accuracy of power delivery to the amplification stages."

The M8 pre-amplifier, which actually first used the same chassis as aforementioned KORU, has also single ended and balanced connections, allowing connection of up to 5 source components, including Processor Loop for full integration with AV system.

Pathos audio - new products

Pathos Audio continues to introduce, should I say, extravagant designs. Witness CES 2007 announcements. First is the Adrenalin, 150W in pure class A with zero feedback monoblocs. Estimated price 35.000 USD, available in June 2007. The second announcement was Digit, an integrated CD-player, which is shaped and sized to match Pathos' the Classic One integrated amplifier. The Digit "takes full advantage from the awarded reference CD player Endorphin, with which it shares most of the technology".

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Download "Master Tapes"

Stereophile's News Desk reports as following: "January 27, 2007 — Out of all the audiophile phrases, none stirs the hearts of music lovers like "true to the master tape"—not even "the absolute sound" of the original instruments, which even audio idealists realize is simply too much to demand. But true to the sound of the recorded master tape, now surely that's a goal within reach. "

And furthermore "Linn Records is taking a slightly different approach by offering select titles from its catalog as "Studio Master" 24-bit WMA lossless downloads. The label says the recordings "are what we used to produce the production version of our CD releases." No DRM is attached (yay!). The cost per track is $2.75; whole discs cost $24, no matter how many tracks are involved, which makes the 138 minute Messiah (Dublin version, 1742) by the Dunedin Consort a stone bargain."

I checked Linn Records site, and although cataloque is quite limited, access to "master tapes" is intriguing and shows that audiophiles should not see downloaded music and computer audio categorically evil.

The explanation of Linn Records' download formats is available here, but remember that most streaming media players akin Sonos ZP80 do have compability issues with 24/94 WAV-files.

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