Lab: Paul Miller

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 11, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedFrom Japan comes an exquisitely finished flagship MC cartridge that's cooking on gas when it comes to serving up full-flavoured sound. Is value for money on the menu too?

By naming the flagship MC in its Hana pick-up range the Umami Red, Japanese cartridge maker Excel Sound has played a clever stroke. Glance at the £3399 cartridge's exquisitely lacquered body and there are no prizes for guessing why the name includes the word 'Red'. But 'Umami'? In Japanese, 'umami' is one of five tastes, along with sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness. It has been variously translated as 'delicious' and 'savoury', but umami is said to be quite difficult to detect on its own. Rather, it combines with other flavours to give a result that's far greater than the sum of all parts.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 08, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnvintageWith VFETs costing top dollar and facing stiff competition from other semiconductors, the late '70s saw Yamaha unveil a new pre/power amp duo. How does it sound today?

It's always intriguing to see how a company reacts to the realisation that a technology it has championed is reaching its sell-by date. This was the situation faced by Yamaha in the late 1970s. Since the middle of that decade, its top-end products had made use of Jun-ichi Nishizawa's Static Induction Transistor – more commonly known as the VFET – to great effect. This led to the development of designs such as the B-1 and B-2 power amplifiers, and C-1 preamplifier, all of which are still held in high regard.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 04, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe dedicated music server is in the ascendant, and every company has a different twist on the idea. In the case of Dutch company Grimm Audio, the twist is especially unusual

The continued rise of network audio has created a new game in the hi-fi world, best summed up as 'Yes, but what is it?'. You see, all sorts of network-capable devices exist right now, and it seems each of them has a somewhat different approach. For example, perhaps the best-known name in 'audiophile servers' or 'music libraries', Melco, started out by making products designed to feed network players over a network connection, paying close attention to the isolation and optimisation of the Ethernet feed. It then reinvented itself as a maker of network transports, connecting directly to a suitable DAC using a USB output, again with isolation strategies implemented.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 31, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingFive years on and Wilson Audio's Sabrina earns its 'X' – an overhaul that raises the bar for compact floorstanders

Five years – that's how long ago the Sabrina was launched and five years seems about right before making a new version of any model as good as the original was – and remains [HFN Aug '15]. Rightly, the upgrade is comprehensive, not a mere facelift, which is reassuring if you're wondering why a £15k per pair model is now priced at £21,500-£23,000. As for the price span, it covers three standard or three deluxe 'WilsonGloss' paint finishes, which can be co-ordinated with five grille colours. Our review sample is pictured here in the 'upgraded' gloss Ivory.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 24, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnvintageIn 1977, as Britain came alive to the sounds of jazz-funk and punk, a Japanese receiver arrived on UK shores promising unbeatable tech at the price. How does it sound now?

Say 'Aiwa' to most audiophiles and the chances are they'll think of cassette decks. The company was one of the first in Japan to take the format seriously and later went on to lead the field, selling machines not only under its own name but as OEM products for many other brands. So why not branch out into the rest of the audio field?

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 23, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedWith a heritage that can be traced back over 60 years, and still now only in its fourth generation, the Heresy is manna from heaven for the nonconformist audiophile

American loudspeaker marque Klipsch has a longer history than many, something emphasised by its new 'p***ing off the neighbours since 1946' slogan. And its Heresy model itself dates back to 1957, when company founder Paul W Klipsch first developed a compact three-way floorstander to act as a centre speaker within a stereo installation. It has remained part of the Klipsch stable ever since, undergoing revisions first in 1985 and then 2006. Now it has been relaunched as the Heresy IV, priced £3500 per pair and forming the entry point to the Klipsch Heritage range.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 21, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingBy extreme high-end standards, it's almost an 'entry level' product – so is Dan D'Agostino's Progression Integrated amplifier the perfect introduction to the brand?

After nearly four decades' worth of using Dan D'Agostino's designs, from Krells in the 1980s through to his more recent, eponymous models (I use a Momentum Stereo as my solid-state reference and love it to bits), I thought I knew what to expect. Silly me: surprise No 1 provided by the D'Agostino Progression Integrated was that I could lift it without any assistance. Surprise No 2 was a price under £20k.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 17, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedWith a rich heritage in the pro audio field, US brand Bricasti is paying closer attention to the high-end consumer market with this new, dual-mono pre/power combination

Few products passing through the HFN review process elicit quite as much discussion as has this Bricasti pairing – or at least one half of it. Our initial listening results were slightly puzzling, with a sound clearly doing many things right when interposed between editor PM's dCS Vivaldi One/Melco front-end [HFN Feb '18] and Bowers & Wilkins 800 D3 speakers [HFN Oct '16], and yet our musical souls were not entirely stirred. Was this an example of unpredictable system matching? Some judicious high-end separates swapping revealed the £19,500 M25 power amp was certainly able to deliver the goods in no uncertain fashion. But did the £13,500 M20 preamp sound just a little too smooth?

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 14, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe giants of small-scale audio solutions have just expanded the ZEN range of BT and USB DACs with a beefier, all-analogue 'drive anything' headphone amp. A bargain?

There's an air of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' about iFi Audio's ZEN CAN. The third model in the Merseyside-based company's affordable range of (non-portable) desktop devices, it shares the physical chassis design of the earlier £129 ZEN DAC and ZEN Blue models [HFN Jul '20] and promises the same mix of 'high-performance audio' and value for money. Yet there's arguably more to this cost-conscious headphone amplifier than meets the eye.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 11, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingSynonymous with top-end turntables for two decades, AVID has extended its 'Very Interesting Design' portfolio to include MC pick-ups. Here's its open-bodied flagship

Irrespective of having installed what must be thousands of cartridges in my life, AVID's Reference Ruby moving-coil brought me out in a cold sweat. The top model in a trio that also includes the £4000 Boron and the £2000 Ionic, its £6000 sticker price, allied to a completely exposed cantilever, reminded me of the first cartridge I ever destroyed. The irony was not lost on me: that honour goes to the Dynavector 23R, the first-ever cartridge with a ruby cantilever. But unlike AVID's ruby rod, it was also one of the shortest at just 2.3mm.

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