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Ken Kessler  |  Apr 26, 2019  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1989
Few specialist Japanese valve amps ever leave Honshu, so as the Air Tight ATC-1 and ATM-1 finally hit British shores, Ken Kessler is on standby...

For the past four years, I've been waiting impatiently for a stab at the electronics from Air Tight. I admit that the charm of the name, the absolute perfection of that moniker for a brand of valve amplifiers, caught my attention as much as did the obviously exquisite manufacture. The price, too, appealed, considering that these amplifiers promised peerless construction and attention to detail you just don't find this side west of a Jadis. At last there's a UK importer, so my wait is over.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 24, 2019
hfnoutstandingWith its aluminium-plated boron cantilever and precision elliptical diamond stylus, this hand-built Japanese moving-coil cartridge is a rare yet special thing to behold

All things considered, 1986 was an unlikely time to launch a high-end phono cartridge brand, and all the more so considering it happened in Japan. When I moved to Tokyo four years after Yasuo Ozawa started Shelter, what the Japanese call 'Analog Disc' was almost as dead as the proverbial Monty Python parrot. True, you could slum it around the seedier sides of downtown Shimokitazawa and Asagaya and find an isolated second-hand record shop, but the only news in town was the shiny new Compact Disc.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 23, 2019
hfncommendedFrom the company that's built itself a reputation as the go-to brand for personal audio devices, can this simplified xCAN headphone amplifier continue the success story?

Once only known for odd small USB or S/PDIF signal conditioning devices, iFi Audio has grown in stature to encompass a wide range of mainly digital products, and has plans to keep on expanding into new areas – including a highly innovative Bluetooth speaker on the stocks claiming very superior performance. However, two of the success stories of 2018 were its DSD products – the EISA Award-winning xDSD pocket DAC/headphone amp, and the very fine desktop Pro iDSD [HFN Sep '18].

Christopher Breunig  |  Apr 23, 2019

Kirill Petrenko's two September Prom concerts and, a few months earlier at The Barbican, a Mahler Seventh, suggest a promising new chapter opening for the Berliner Philharmoniker – as we Brits must learn to call it, the German title now unerlässlich.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 18, 2019
hfncommendedThe latest addition to the Italian manufacturer's range is said to be a ground-up design to make the most of its hybrid – valve preamp, solid-state power amp – configuration

Based in Treviso, Italy, Unison Research has long specialised in making very traditional looking tube amps with polished wooden chassis and rows of glowing bottles on display. At the same time its Unico series has adopted a more mainstream aesthetic and includes valve-based amplifiers that, well, don't really seem like valve amplifiers. Despite an outward appearance suggesting a completely conventional integrated amp, the Due – which sells for £2500 in standard silver with black available at a £100 premium – is very definitely a valve amp, or at least half of one.

Review: Christopher Breunig, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Apr 18, 2019
hfncommendedWith the Fostex T50RPmk3 as its donor chassis, headphone accessory brand Dekoni Audio breaks into the big time with a back-to-basics planar magnetic. It's blue too...

Now where did I put my headphones?' It's not a question you are likely to ask with the Dekoni Audio Blue, as it comes in the associated Japanese company Fostex's signature colour, with a boldly lettered headstrap. It's the first headphone product from Dekoni Audio – a New Jersey company specialising in replacement pads for a range of 'phones – and an obvious step for Dekoni to take.

Steve Sutherland  |  Apr 17, 2019
The greatest English pop lyric writers of the 1960s? Steve Sutherland argues his case as he reassesses this mono LP from 1968, recently reissued on 180g vinyl

Afew decades ago I read an interview with Tom Waits where he was asked about the art of songwriting. Tom thought about it for a second, then declared that in fact he found it very easy, thanks to a nine-word magic formula. Those words were: 'Things will be better when we get to Chicago…'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 16, 2019
hfnoutstandingEuropean Audio Team's (EAT) third E-Glo phono preamplifier is half the price and size of the second – can the E-Glo Petit redefine the entry-level/high-end phono stage?

As the most affordable of EAT's three MM/MC phono stages, the new E-Glo Petit has its work cut out, as there are plenty of killer phono stages at this £1249 price point. Nevertheless you should still prepare to revel in a transistor/tube hybrid phono stage bursting with facilities, in a package – not counting the 18V wall-wart power supply – with a footprint of only 226mm wide by 250mm deep, plus sockets and wooden cheeks.

Steve Sutherland  |  Apr 16, 2019
Veteran of the late '70s British pub rock scene, this UK-born guitarist began to hone his studio skills when appointed in-house producer for the fledgling Stiff Records label. Steve Sutherland traces the career of the self-effacing pop crafstman they call 'Basher'

What's the most embarrassing thing you've ever done? Snog the wrong person at the office Christmas party? Leave the house with your flies undone? Send an email meant for your partner to your boss by mistake?

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Apr 12, 2019
hfnoutstandingClassical horns do not come any more colourful, or compelling, than this 'entry-level' floorstander

Hi-fi can be such a confusing passion, with so many products to explore in the quest for better sound, but enthusiasts often start by upgrading their loudspeakers, as they're where the greatest subjective differences are typically to be found. Most will begin with conventional box speakers, but many then progress to more left-field approaches – the most striking being 'horns'.

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