Lab: Paul Miller

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 17, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingClose on the heels of T+A's flagship Solitaire P headphone comes this appropriately luxurious partner combining familiar digital tech with a Class A headphone amplifier

Well, it seems everyone's doing it, so why shouldn't German high-end company T+A have its own headphone system? Hot on the heels of its first headphone offering, the Solitaire P planar magnetic design [HFN Jun '20], T+A also has a matching headphone amplifier, the HA 200 – and here it is. Even by the standards of some of the headphone exotica out there, the Solitaire P/HA 200 duo is pitched unashamedly high: the 'phones will set you back £4800, and this headphone amp £6600 in either black or silver finishes, making the whole system the thick end of £11,500. So you're going to have to be pretty serious about your headphone listening to consider it.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 14, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingA foundation range for two decades, MA's Bronze series goes for gold with the standmount 100

Is it brave to label a loudspeaker series 'Bronze', with the implication that its models are worse than second-best? Monitor Audio doesn't seem to think so, and has been using its precious metal hierarchy long enough for its Bronze lineup to now be relaunched in sixth-generation guise, five years after a previous update [HFN Feb '16]. The promise, as always, is of speakers that hit the price/performance sweet-spot via trickle-down driver tech, while looking good, too. Silver, Gold and Platinum are ranged above, and below you'll find the Monitor series, presumably because Copper felt like a step too far...

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 10, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingIn what is looking like it might be a trend – tube hybrid integrated amplifiers – Copland joins in with a Danish beauty at a sensible price, the all-singing, all-dancing CSA100

Three thoughts hit me as soon as I switched on the Copland CSA100 integrated amplifier. The first was that it was an all-embracing, do-everything tube/transistor hybrid like the Vinnie Rossi L2i-SE [HFN Jul '20], rated at a similar 100W/8ohm if at a fraction of the price, at £3498. The second was that I want it to kick off a fashion for cool, fully-loaded integrated hybrids because they are the smartest option for offering the best of the tube/solid-state worlds. The third is the realisation that I need to look deeper into hi-fi system building.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 07, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingEver at the cutting edge of both analogue and digital Class D amplification, NAD's new M33 is the first to utilise Purifi's groundbreaking modules. All this and streaming too...

Launched last year, NAD's M10 all-in-one streaming system [HFN Jun '19] was remarkable in two ways. One was that this compact 'just add speakers' package was actually part of the brand's elite Masters Series, more usually populated by high-end DACs and amplifiers, while the other was that this little system, selling for around £2000, was exceptionally good, receiving a glowing review in HFN before going on to win a 2019-20 EISA award as Best Smart Amplifier.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 04, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingAn air-bearing turntable and a parallel-tracking, air-bearing tonearm in a single, easy-to-use package for under £7000? Devotees of both will love the Holbo Airbearing

Every product type has its following, however focused. I am sure, for example, that there are devotees of hybrid amps with tube front-ends and solid-state output stages just as, among the niches in LP playback, audiophiles are tempted by air-bearing turntables and parallel-tracking tonearms. Made in Slovenia by Bostjan Holc, the Holbo Airbearing combines those two, and does so for an almost-inexplicable £6500.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 25, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnvintageWhile its looks belie its flagship status, this '80s CD player was designed with just one aim in mind: bring credibility to Philips' cutting-edge tech. How does it sound today?

The Philips CD960 of 1987 was part of a range that included the FA860 amplifier [HFN Feb '20]. As one of the company's occasional flirtations with the top end of hi-fi, this series was intended to demonstrate that the Dutch brand could offer components capable of state-of-the-art performance, as well as provide a boost in status to the more affordable models in the range.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 24, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWith its eye-catching looks, flexibility, solid engineering within and a remarkably grown-up sound, this entry-level DAC from iFi Audio is a conspicuous hi-fi bargain

We've come a long way since iFi Audio was started as an offshoot of high-end brand Abbingdon Music Research, building its initial reputation with its 'Purifier' products, designed to clean up digital signals. And if anyone was labouring under the delusion that these were devices designed to tackle non-existent problems – you know, the old 'digits is digits' thing – the company has since expanded into making everything from complete systems to some of the most cost-effective DACs and headphone amps around. After all, its excellent xDSD [HFN Jul '18], was a 2018-19 EISA Award-winner, following on from the 2014-15 winning footsteps of the nano iDSD [HFN Dec '14].

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 18, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingAlongside its range of turntables, Pro-Ject's diverse Box series of hi-fi separates – from streamers to phono preamps – has come to define the 'world vision' of its founder

One of the nicest by-products of the vinyl revival is the constant flow of affordable phono stages, essential to allow newcomers to adapt to LP playback the line-level-only integrated amps that have proliferated since 1983. Thorens, Mobile Fidelity, Musical Fidelity, NAD, Cambridge – there are too many to list, but the go-to brand for me is the one that also 'owns' the entry-level turntable market: Pro-Ject.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 14, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingArcam's flagship integrated amplifier combines Class G amplification with features including network streaming, AirPlay 2 and offboard Dirac Live room correction EQ

Arcam is still headquartered in Cambridge, from where it took its original name, but the audiophile marque is now part of Samsung's global consumer electronics empire, through the latter's acquisition of Harman International, which had added Arcam to its portfolio in 2016. And amid these management-level changes, Arcam's product line has also undergone a refresh. The brand has withdrawn, for the time being, from the peripherals market, jettisoning its R series of docks and DACs.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 13, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingDespite shedding all 'non-essential cosmetic adornments' EAT's B-Sharp still cuts a dash in the world of plug-and-play turntable solutions. Does it sound as slick as it looks?

Conditioning has, I believe, led the cynics among us to assume that 'plug 'n' play' is a sexy euphemism for 'lowest common denominator' or 'user-friendly-enough for anyone to appreciate'. After all, this is what freed normal souls from going crazy with pre-USB computer peripherals. Today, it welcomes newcomers to vinyl, referring almost exclusively, in a hi-fi context, to turnkey turntable/arm/cartridge packages, because every other audio source has always been plug 'n' play.

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