LATEST ADDITIONS

John Bamford and Paul Miller  |  Apr 10, 2011
The first product from a new Japanese high-end marque, this imposing hybrid power amplifier system employs a ‘DC reactor’ power supply housed in a separate chassis Rarely does an amplifier designer launch a new hi-fi company with such a bold high-end statement. ‘This is our vision of amplification’s ultimate form’, says designer Robert Koch of the imposing ‘tri-chassis’ Takumi K-70 power amplifier, designed and built in Japan, and the very first product to sport the Robert Koda brand name on its fascia. The Japanese ‘Takumi’ character can be translated as ‘maestro’, while the word ‘takumi’ actually means artisan – the naming of the Takumi K-70 being particularly apt as the amplifier is wholly hand-crafted, and manufacturing is limited to just 20 units per year. It’s a single-ended hybrid design employing some 32 power transistors and two 5842 triodes in each monoblock and one 6X5 rectifier tube per side in the power supply.
John Bamford and Paul Miller  |  Apr 10, 2011
For its appropriately named Classic series of turntables VPI Industries of New Jersey has gone back to basics – and should score a hit with today’s vinyl enthusiasts Is it because retro is cool? Perhaps it’s the appeal of its almost plug ’n’ play simplicity… Whatever the reason (and I suspect it’s a combination of many factors, not least the ability for vinyl enthusiasts all over the world to communicate in internet forums) it’s a fact that lovers of the black stuff seem mostly to love this big, bold and brutish turntable, one that’s undeniably a throwback to the good old days when proper turntables were: well, big, bold and brutish. If you look back to our Nov ’09 issue, where we reviewed VPI Industries’ venerable Aries Scout turntable (updated to MkII status with improved tonearm and 35mm-thick acrylic platter), you will surely agree that it looks sleek and modern – very much a deck of the 21st century, one with its motor separated from the main chassis to minimise breakthrough of deleterious vibrations to platter and tonearm. The latest Classic series of turntables, however, of which this Classic 1 is the entry model, couldn’t be more different. THIRTY YEARS ON Thirty years have passed since founder Harry Weisfeld launched his first record player (the company started in 1978 by making record cleaning machines, and there are now three current versions) and consequently the Classics are being marketed to celebrate this anniversary of turntable production.
Keith Howard  |  Apr 08, 2011
It might look like more of the same, yet this Q series loudspeaker boasts some new features at front and back The Q900 may be top of KEF’s brand, spanking new Q series – the meat and potatoes of its range – but to look at, inside and out, it appears in some ways to represent a step backwards, certainly in respect of KEF’s rich technological history. The Q900 effectively replaces the previous iQ90, a speaker which bowled me over when winning a group test just over a year ago [HFN Mar ’10]. One of the notable aspects of the iQ90 was its curved cabinet, a feature of more than aesthetic significance since it stiffens the enclosure, whereas the large side panels of a conventional box cabinet are prone to resonance. It was a surprise, then, to find the Q900 has what KEF rather grandly terms a ‘rectilinear’ cabinet – what you and I would call a standard, slab-sided box.
Ken Kessler and Paul Miller  |  Mar 10, 2011
A CD player with a valve displayed in the front panel: Luxman references its own past for the D-38u, a machine that oozes retro, right down to its chunky wooden sleeve Compact Disc was only launched in 1982/3, which – though its demise is perhaps now in sight – doesn’t seem that long ago. Yet here is Luxman with a player that is decidedly two-channel-only, its digital outputs are limited to coaxial and Toslink optical, it arrives with a wooden case, and it features a design touch that refers directly to one of its ancestors. If that’s not retro, what is? But Luxman, cleverly, has never been shoehorned into a genre, having excelled in every area save speaker manufacture. Its amps have a cult following, as did the vacuum-hold-down turntables, and the company always delivered decent CD players.
Keith Howard  |  Mar 10, 2011
This innovative Dutch company provides an active audiophile speaker which is unusually styled and also features sophisticated onboard Digital Signal Processing So, Grimm Audio is not the most propitious name, in English, for a hi-fi manufacturer. But once the schoolboy giggles have subsided, there are two very good reasons to take this Dutch company, and its new LS1 loudspeaker, seriously. Firstly, there are the people involved. The second reason is the LS1 itself, because run-of-the-mill it is not.
Paul Miller and Keith Howard  |  Mar 10, 2011
After a long absence, Magnepan's iconic 'room screen' panel speakers are finally back in the UK Firsts linger long in the memory. That first school, first car, first kiss. . .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Talk about a breakthrough: by 1973 with this, album number three, the Doobies had metamorphosed from a quasi-boogie/rock outfit, looking like Allman Brothers wannabees, into a slick Left Coast outfit able to segue country rock into blue-eyed soul. This particular set, possibly a career best, alternated hard rockers with rootsy ballads, handing us enough AOR masterpieces to ensure permanent rotation on American FM wavebands: ‘Natural Thing’, ‘Long Train Runnin’’, the immortal ‘China Grove’ and the lush title track… Most bands would kill to produce something this accomplished. And this SACD let’s you hear just how gorgeous it all was. Sound Quality: 88% .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
For some purists, especially those blessed enough to have seen The Band in concert, this live album, recorded on New Year’s Eve 1971-2, exposes more of the group’s heart and soul than any of their studio albums. Although consisting of material culled from their four studio efforts, the live experience (and a horn section with arrangements courtesy of New Orleans R&B hero Allen Toussaint) reveals an outfit so perfectly hewn by the road, and with such a deep love for rock ’n’ roll and R&B, that it seems to contradict their almost po-faced, scholarly image. January ’72 must’ve been a helluva month in NYC, with James Taylor’s gig recorded there three weeks later! Sound Quality: 90% . .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Founded by Czech refugee musicians in 1946, the Bamberg Orchestra has been working with its English conductor for a decade now, and they are part-way through a Mahler cycle. More akin to Bruno Walter’s than Georg Solti’s, Jonathan Notts’ ‘Resurrection’ proves more than the sum of its parts and is fascinatingly detailed. Climaxes sound huge, although the recording perhaps exaggerates the rawness of brass and the tenor voices. Lioba Braun’s ‘Urlicht’ suffices, but that’s all.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Playing a Steinway, Nelson Freire completed these mid-Dec ’09 recordings in the as yet unfamiliar acoustic of The Friary, Liverpool. He made his debut in the Chopin Preludes, aged 28 (CBS, 1972). ‘A hurricane of pianistic power’ then suggested the Saturday Review. The words that spring to mind now are ‘pianistic wisdom’ – Freire unfalteringly negotiates the often tortuous, enigmatically conceived paths of the Nocturnes, balancing their elements and attuned to the contrasts between them.

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