Lab: Paul Miller

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 18, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingIf it isn't broken, don't fix it... but Simaudio's MOON 280D outboard DAC is certainly enhanced by the addition of the updated MiND 2 streaming module and app

There are two ways to make a network music player. One is to take a streaming platform and integrate a DAC to provide analogue outputs, while the other is to start with a DAC and then build in the network playback capability. The two approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. Typically, the network player with DAC will be just what it says: a full-featured machine, usually complete with a display, but with limited connectivity for external digital sources. The DAC with streaming, meanwhile, will commonly have more digital ins, but sometimes less network audio capability.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 14, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingPromising 'extraordinary power with exquisite tube finesse' BAT's new VK-3500 integrated marries the brand's REX 3 triode preamp with a robust solid-state output

Please indulge me while I discuss the design of BAT's (Balanced Audio Technology) VK-3500 amplifier. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that, but I'd be surprised to find anyone who didn't admire the styling of this hybrid integrated. Even without the 'BAT' logo conjuring images of Gotham City's caped crusader, it has a purposeful, high-quality look and feel. There's an argument that the appearance of a hi-fi product is unimportant, but at this price you expect some attention to detail and craftsmanship – and that's what you get. Of the silver and black finish options, the latter is the obvious choice if you really want to emphasise the Dark Knight vibe…

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 11, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThe middle model in Scansonic's trio of M-series loudspeakers is one of the growing breed of 'compact floorstanders'

Take a look at these Scansonic floorstanders, and you'll notice they look big and impressive, especially for speakers selling for a sensible £1499 in very on-trend black or white silk finishes. But don't let our photographs of the M20 fool you for those mid/bass drivers are just 10cm in diameter – or four inches in old money – and the baffle a few cm wider still. Recalibrate your view based on those figures, and you'll realise these speakers are well short of a metre tall – 93.5cm, in fact – and that, if not quite knee-high to a grasshopper, means these aren't what you'd call 'room-dominating'.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 07, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingIf there's one man synonymous with the 'custom DAC' it's Ed Meitner, who has crafted his own digital tech for 30 years. His latest outboard DAC is a chip off the digital block

Twenty years or so ago, standalone DACs were fast becoming an endangered species. The breed had a brief moment in the sun in the early '90s, with almost all CD player brands fitting digital outputs, but until the advent of USB audio, the add-on digital box was on the wane. Now, with the rise of digital streaming, network-attached DACs are the gift that keeps on giving, for hi-fi brands and buyers alike.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 04, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingFrom California via London comes the shapely form of Zesto's Andros phono preamp – all tubes and transformers and now, courtesy of an uprated PSU, in 'Deluxe II' guise

If you demand full control over your cartridges, an all-singing/all-dancing phono preamp like the Zesto Andros Deluxe II is the only thing that will suffice. At £7500, it occupies the lower reaches of the extreme phono stage market – there are £40k-plus units if you're inspired to go further – but one should still be hyper-critical when the market is awash with exceptional, fully-adjustable phono amps for under £1000.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedPromising the 'iconic JBL sound' from modern cabinets, we hear the flagship HDI floorstander

Some speakers are large, but manage to conceal their bulk through clever styling, but the £4000 HDI-3800 flagship of JBL's 'High-Definition Imaging' series manages to do exactly the opposite. It may only stand 1.1m tall, yet the combination of width and depth – 30cm and almost 42cm respectively – and a particularly upfront driver array makes this a rather imposing speaker to have in the room, with echoes of the company's PA range.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 30, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe no-nonsense mountain-inspired aesthetic is unmistakable, but despite the heady pricing this pre/power amp combo is from one of Boulder's more affordable ranges

It's the style of the Boulder 1100 series amplification that grabs you first – very different from the common image of US-made high-end hi-fi, even if the £30,000 1160 stereo power amp lives up to at least some of the stereotype with its 61.2kg mass. Instead of the usual scattergun buttons, grab-handles and menacing – not to mention finger-slicing – heatsinks so common in products of this type, seemingly built with no concession to domestic acceptability, the Boulder power amp and its matching £22,500 1110 line-only preamp have a much softer look.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 27, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedWell, one thing's for sure: the new SACD/CD player/DAC from McIntosh looks quite unlike any other machine of its kind. So, does the sound live up to the unique style?

Take a quick look at the £4995 McIntosh MCD85, and you'd probably think it was another in the seemingly endless line of amplifier variations emerging from the Binghamton factory in upstate New York. In fact, the first sign that this isn't actually a power amp is the weight. Thanks to their hefty transformers and solidity of build, the company's powerhouses tend to be back-achingly heavy, and arrive on pallets – the new MA1200 integrated amp, for example, weighs in at a shade under 49kg, and the MC901 monoblock is getting on for twice that. By contrast, the MCD85 is a manageable 12.5kg boxed, and a positively featherweight 9.3kg in the buff.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 24, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnvintageAn outlier in its day, this preamp was marketed as a match for products from rival brands yet its real purpose was to drive the company's MFB speakers. We fire it up...

The Philips Motional Feedback loudspeaker was one of the great advances in audio technology. Launched in 1975, the series would eventually encompass four distinct generations and remain in production for over a decade, its key technologies jealously guarded by Philips patents [HFN Jul '13]. However, the partnering equipment designed to help these speakers perform at their best is less well known, arguably due to Philips endorsing the use of third-party sources and amplifiers.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 23, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedMost compact SA floorstander is not only offered in fully active 'Silverback' guise, but now supports 'RAM Tweaks'

System building and component matching is the backbone of hi-fi. Sure, it might seem a never-ending process, each change yielding new results and then more experimentation, but it's an enjoyable one. The Legend 40.2 Silverback tested here, an active three-way floorstander with digital crossover, Analog Devices DSP and integrated DAC, bypasses a lot of that journey – and if combined with the optional wireless Stereo Hub (£400 when purchased with the speakers, £700 separately), removes the need for any cabling except a mains lead. Yet Danish manufacturer System Audio (SA) then uses the Silverback's digital architecture to offer its own take on audiophile fine-tuning, via a newly-launched range of DSP upgrades it calls 'RAM Tweaks'.

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