Thursday, 24 March 2011

Rega DAC report

One of our customers and friends has written an excellent report upon the Rega DAC on his blog, to view his impressions please click here

Friday, 18 March 2011

Edwards Audio headphone amplifier preview

I couldn't resist posting a couple of pics of the pre production Edwards Audio headphone amplifier that has just been dropped off by head honcho of Edwards Audio, Kevin.

The model shown here is anticipated to cost in the region of £400 and will also double as an active four input line level pre amp. Naturally I couldn't resist a sneaky listen and can confirm that even with the standard power supply (like all products from Edwards Audio it can be upgraded by adding larger power supply) it sounded quite superb (auditioned with Grado headphones via Consonance CD2.2 Reference Linear). In fact I liked it so much I wasn't going to let Kevin prise it out of my hands, so for a brief while it's available for audition here! 

A cheaper version will also be made in a more basic case, without the active pre amp stage and with only two inputs, if it sounds even half as good as this one, it should cause the competition a lot of sleepless nights.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Q Acoustics range

Our more affordable speaker range has have been proving a bit frustrating recently, a combination of some of our favourites going up in price, being discontinued or ‘improved’ (with dire sonic consequences) means we were left with a couple of holes in our range. I’ve recently written about the rather amazing Q Acoustics 2010 on the website, so wont repeat myself, but nary have we found a budget range that appears to have been so well thought through. Even the cheapest model is available in high quality finishes and the attention to detail below the surface is also rather impressive - small speakers being properly internally braced and featuring crossovers of quality normally seen in speakers of a much greater price, are good examples.
We now have the larger stand mounters (2020), the floorstanders (2050) and even the subwoofer, and still the attention to detail impresses. Just two quick examples - the speaker stands have a polystyrene core to their central column, this damps them and doesn’t add much mass (the latter probably as much to keep shipping costs down, but should have sonic benefits over a higher mass filler). The sub woofer is another good example, it has a choice of adjustable slope rates at its crossover point - an issue even one leading sub woofer maker seems oblivious of. This is something which I feel is a rather important consideration, different designs of speakers have different roll off rates (some plummet quickly at low frequencies whereas others roll off more gently), this sub allows you to switch between two of the most common slope rates - sealed box and reflex/ported (as pictured below), which to me shows that a lot of thought has gone into the series and also that they have intended the sub woofer to stand alone when used with other manufacturers speaker systems (as they don’t make a sealed box speaker themselves).
I’ll be slowly working my way through the range over the coming weeks as I get time to properly run them in and audition them fully, and will then write them up properly for the website.

In a future blog entry I will detail another exciting speaker range that we are embracing at the next price level up.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Croft integrated amplifiers announced!


Glenn Croft has just announced that there will be two integrated amplifiers joining the range next week. They will both be housed in the Micro 25 casework (pictured above), will feature the Series 7 power amplifier stage and there will be a choice of either an all line level input model (£850) or one with a phono stage included (£1,000).
Naturally we can't wait to get our hands on one, we will have the phono version on demonstration as soon as they're in production.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Audio World show March 26th & 27th

We've just booked a room at the Heathrow hifi show at the end of this month, it's a bit last minute so will undoubtedly be a mild panic (I'll be the one having the nervous breakdown in the corner), but we've wanted to get our name out there a bit more and this seems like the ideal opportunity.

We're in the process of choosing the system we'll be bringing along, so cannot confirm details just yet, but once we've chosen it I'll post post giving some more details.

We'll be in syndicate room number 1, are always happy to play any CDs and LPs you want to bring with you. Please come along and say hi!

Music: Kaki King

The temptation to write lots of blog entries about music might prove rather difficult to resist, and here on my third post is the start of a possibly slippery slope.

I love the way that one artist or piece of music can lead you into another, an evenings musical indulgence could well seem random to the observer, but often one piece of music will remind you of another - perhaps a riff will sound familiar, or the albums share a common musician or producer and before you know it LPs are sprawled across the floor and a musical journey has taken place.

This sums up my first experience of Kaki King, when I learnt that she performed with one of mine and my colleague Mark's all time favourites groups, the Mountain Goats (who I will no doubt eulogise about them here all too soon as the new album is imminent), she definitely warranted further investigation.

Whilst I'm sure that she is probably not that keen on the following videos existence, she wrote the music and played on Mosquito Repellent and despite, or perhaps because of the mishap this video is a firm favourite and to me captures that special energy a great gig can only achieve (if you expect only audiophile grade links from me you're going to be sorely disappointed!)
If you enjoyed that please check out 'Supergenesis' on youtube recorded at the same gig, which shows some very cool slide guitar work.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself, these performance were in 2008 and she'd already released three recording by that time (now up to 5 full length albums).

Away from such performances Kaki King is a songwriter, singer and guitar player and whilst very good at all three it's the latter that really makes her stand out. Whilst drawing parallels to similar artists is a very lazy thing to do, I can't help but think of the late Michael Hedges, whose style was similarly unusual and spectacular.

For me it's the earlier Kaki King albums that really stand out, the style of 'Everbody loves you' and 'legs to make us longer ' are refreshingly uncommercial and. seemingly uncompromising. This performance on Lettterman is a good taster of what to expect.

The 2008 album Dreaming of Revenge shows a style maturing into more conventional tracks, the guitar is still prominent but not the only focus. The video for 'Pull me out alive' gives a taster of the albums most commercial track. The video in itself is also well worth watching, their description of it is as follows:
"The video was made without film cameras -- it consists of over 5,000 still photographs shot on Nikon D30s. There are no special effects; all of the light trails were created by hand, with up to eight individual "light animators" flashing LEDs and flashlights on and off over a long (8 second) shot exposure."
I have only recently purchased the latest album 'Junior' and at this early stage I am a little under whelmed, it's almost as if some outside influence or perhaps desire to make a bigger name for herself has made it a more commercial rock oriented album, with the guitar playing taking something of a back seat and the quirkiness and originality of the earlier albums being diluted. On top of it all is has the curse of a very compressed sounding recording. Perhaps it will grow on me in time, and ultimately I’d have to say that an album by Kaki that doesn’t quite hit the spot is still well worth listening to.


Chris from Sound Fowndations visited me this week, he distributes Furutech products in the UK and was showing me some of their latest products.

Now I'm going to win no favours here with Chris, but I've never made it a secret that I struggle with the perceived value for money of some of the Furutech accessories, not their connectors - which when looked at closely show that a great deal of thought and time has gone into developing and making them, it's the slightly quirkier products that leave me scratching my increasingly balding scalp.

The Destat (the original hand held static reducer) was a perfect case in point, and this week I saw the new Destat II, which is at least prettier than the original (pictured below).

Neithers cheap looking plastic cases have the feel of a product that reflect their prices (if forget the exact amount but it was in the region of £350) and I cannot see what is so special (nay, costly) about a device that reduces static charges, this sort of thing is nothing particularly radical or new (or unique to the hifi industry), and their bumf does little to convince me otherwise. Even without getting my screwdrivers out they appear to be a fan blowing across some electrodes...

The literature describes it as "The powerful fan removes dust while the Destat II's balanced ion flow generator -releasing just the right balance of positive and negative ions -eliminates static"

I also remain unconvinced that it's the problem that requires this sort of expenditure to solve, sadly I didn't get to properly experience what the Destat II did to CDs (it has a handy locator for discs to be placed on top of it) as their was traffic noise and a dem going on upstairs at the time, but on a very quick try here, in the showroom system the difference was either very slight or non existent (you only get one shot of course, so no chance to compare it to the original). .

What however did amuse me immensely was the neat 'toy' Chris bought with him to show how effective the static eliminator was. Made by Sunhayato the 'Locator' was a small gizmo that gave a reading of kV of the static charge of surfaces bought near to it. This is the sort of item that could prevent me getting any work done for days on end, the fascination of reading the static charge on all sorts of random objects just didn't seem to grow old.
What it did show was that the Furutech Destat II did make an obvious reduction in the readings we got, effectively reducing them to background levels. It was also interesting to note that the static charge of the CD drawer was much higher than that of the discs we measured.

What was quite curious was the reading I got off a fairly new pair of speakers, these were only a couple of weeks old and repeatedly showed a charge of 7kv on their tops, the highest of anything I measured here. A hand placed on the surface would see the charge disappear down to normal levels (seemingly about 0.5 to 1kv) yet within moments of removing, the charge fully returned, other speakers with similar construction around the area didn't exhibit the same behaviour so can only assume it was due to a coating on the wood veneer or one of the finishing processes. It's almost certainly an irrelevance, but interesting to note this behaviour. I don't know why, but we didn't think to see if the charge could be removed more permanently with the Destat.

Is this likely to mean anything sonically? I cannot see it myself, but it doesn't stop it being quite fascinating.

I think I will have to get one of these gadgets as I can see a real use for it, especially for looking at ways to more effectively reduce static on turntables (where even the greatest doubter of such things should agree that here's a situation where static is not only irritating but also at times audible) and for further experiments with the Nordost Eco 3 spray which does seem to have the static reduction properties claimed.

Of course it's quite possible that when it arrives I'll be spending my time wandering around measuring a multitude of surfaces rather than getting any actual work done...

My first blog...

I've written a lot of stuff that doesn't seem to have a place on either our website, twitter or facebook so thought a blog might be a suitable home for it.

At the moment I'm not quite sure whether I'll have time in the evenings to keep it regularly updated, but will give it a go for a few weeks and see what happens. Naturally any feedback will be gratefully appreciated!