So yeah… been a crazy year. Not as much reviewed as we had hoped for, but yes… a few items did pass through our doorway and into our system getting us all warm and fuzzy. For Carol and I, well, we like things we review to be not too pricey… more about reasonable and not anything we would have to take out a second if we decided to pull the string and make a purchase. So what we review falls more under say ten grand which is still a lot of cash to us here, but does allow for a lot of shiny shiny to be heard.
So to cut to the chase, here is what worked for us this year.
Auralic Aries Streamer $1595 HERE
Simply put, we liked this unit so much we have decided to make it a regular in the chain of boxes and widgets that comprise our system. It is too good to not use on a daily basis, plus it is reasonably priced, makes listening to our digital files that much more engagingly fun, and yeah, you can tweak the unit to your heart's desire—another selling point for me the proverbial tweak-head. Plus the folks at Auralic are constantly making Lightening DS better and better so the Aries is not stuck spinning its wheels by never moving forward ergonomically, and sonically. The future is bright for the Aries. Way cool.
PranaFidelity Vayu/fs Loudspeakers $6950 HERE
Holy crap. These are simply stupendously crazy good for the price. Screw that, they are stupendously crazy good for twice the price.
"Deep and powerful. Extended and clean. No hint of distress. It is there. Insane how low the Vayu/fs will play. Insane how they do it so cleanly and yet… with such grace and articulation. Fast. Start and stop. Weird as the woofers are moving and shaking all about like there's no tomorrow. These little drivers can really pump. They play loose, but they do it with style. Clarity and presence… though perhaps more laidback than my more forward Reimers.
The Vayu/fs are neither in your face nor really speaking from a distance. They pretty much are just there. That is, they present the music with little if any editorializing—like Steve, the Vayu/fs are honest and friendly. What goes in comes out. What he does is who he is. Nothing fake or phony. Same with the Vayu/fs… what you hear is what you get. What is there is what you are presented with. They present the music with respect and sense of organic oneness. That is, the music comes from a cohesive cloth of sonic bliss where nothing seems out place with anything else. Nothing is hidden and nothing is lost. The Vayu/fs are not tilted up or down. Sweet and musical. Way cool."
Certon Integrita C4 NAS $4300 HERE
Want to hear what your digital files can sound like with any streamer, computer, or renderer? Well, you can certainly make things better with the right NAS (the better Synologys and so on) and a quality linear power supply (yeah, sorry to rain on your parade, but solid stable beefy power makes a big difference and disposable wall-warts are not going to make that happen) along with various tweaks and such for isolation and other noisy 'what-evers,' but then one could just buy something like that from Certon and get to the finish line way earlier and with less trouble. Yeah, not what one would consider affordable at $4300, but then look what you get: a completely thought-out NAS to address any and all issues that any card carrying audiophile might come up with. And something that is built specifically for us with the look and feel of an audio-component. This is the real deal. It makes a significant difference here… to us… and with our music. And I mean significant. Did I say significant? Sorta-like going from a stand mount speaker to some full-range floor stander. Consider this a major upgrade.
Sablon Audio Panatela Cables HERE
Everyone that has heard this line of cables agrees… musical as all get out, wonderfully articulate, reasonably priced, quality galore… love the look and feel too. Flexible and well… they are simply stellar in every way. As good as some of the higher priced alternatives? No, I mean for sure in some cases spending might gets you way more, or less depending on what you are looking for. Both important for sure. More music, but less noise for example. The Skogrands do that to a stunningly great degree. Can add cables from WyWires here as well. The Sablons too… though not quite to the same level as that from Skogrand but differences become more an issue of perception and interpretation. But then the Sablons are a fraction of the price. So it is what it is. Even so, get some of the Sablon cables. Start with the power cords—way excellent. Move onto their speaker and interconnects—also way excellent. Then, if it fits your needs, move onto their network or USB cables. All are clear winners. All cut from the same cloth. Literally and figuratively. Music times ten.
Skogrand SC Beethoven Speaker $22,000 for a 2 meter pair (Add or subtract $1500 for each 0.5 meter over or under 2 meters) HERE
Yeah, damn fucking good. No, make that phenomenally fucking insanely spectacular. Sorry, but they are….deal with it. Expensive and stiff too. Sorry, but the best is going to cost you. These are freaky quiet and freaky good.
Acoustic Imagery Atsah Amplifiers $9995/pair HERE
At the price, well… for an amp based on Class D modules, these are too good to be true. Close to that of the amplifiers from Mola Mola at a fraction of the price. Loved them so much… well, the 500 amplifiers are here and well, my oh my.
"Yeah, well… the Atash/Jay-Sho was a mind blowing experience.
Bass was deep and powerful, solid and extended. Absent was the wooliness, lack of control, extension that too many Class D amplifiers bring to the table. But what I heard with the Atash/Jay-Sho combo, well I get that with the Cary/Clayton combo too. Differences here were rather moot though the Atash/Jay-Sho might have lacked a wee bit texture and push. Push in the sense of moving the air out and pressurizing the room, texture as in, well texture. The ability to feel and sense or visualize the bass in terms of it shape and dimensionality. Yeah, bass can do that… and the Atash/Jay-Sho seemed a bit rounder and less defined. But not an issue as to point this out takes one away from how the Atash/Jay-Sho combo presented the whole music and how this whole simply overpowered the pieces. Nit-picking trivial issues… too much music and not enough desire to do that, but then that is what many people need to hear. And so there it is and here is a bit more…"
Lino Phono Preamplifier by Channel D Review Soon
Review in the works but at this point… dynamically a stunner. Extended as all get out, dead quiet, slam and punch, coherency, tonally balanced… and for under $1200! Buying mine. Kapow! How did Rob do this in such a tiny box and one that runs off a wall-wart? Wait?! Could it be better with better power… should? Could? Rob says not. This is how it works as a piece. Interesting… perhaps I am misguided as to the mindset of “the better the power = the better the music”? Maybe… maybe in just this instance. Rob?!
DEQX PreMATE+ Processor $5995 Review Soon
Simply put... a must have. Having lived with the original MATE, then the PreMATE, and now the PreMATE+... it is getting better and better. Not sure I could live without the unit that is not only a DAC (stellar and competitive with anything under $6000, let alone my Playback MPS-5, which is close at $15k), a preamplifier (though I wish it had a few more analog inputs), and for speaker AND room correction. This makes our music so, SO good... more to come. Scary good. Can find NOTHING to nit pick with... well except the few analog in's!
WyWires USB Platinum Digital Cable $899 a meter Review Soon
My reference. Right along with the USB cable from Sablon Audio. Musical, clean, articulate, extended, dynamic... this beauty does it all. Nothing to draw attention to itself in that what character it might impart is washed away by the music. Get yourself one!
Now, just because we did not see it fit to award you something this year does not mean it did not rock us as hard as those above; for sure the Antipodes must be on anyone's very short list of servers/renderers for digital music playback, so perhaps next year we will recognize some of this year's omissions. Stay tuned ...later.