Review: Ken Kessler

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 21, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWhile we await the Relentless Preamp the 'HD' remains D'Agostino's top model, with its Bluetooth remote and raft of subtle enhancements culled from the MLife integrated

Ordinarily, I prefer to ignore the vexing topic of prices. My attitude is simple: if I can't afford something, I don't take it out on the world. I can't afford a Bugatti T57SC Atlantic, but I don't hate Ralph Lauren for owning one. So let's get two things out of the way, the first being that the D'Agostino Momentum HD Preamplifier costs £47,998, making it one of the most expensive control units on the planet.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 14, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingContinuing its modern take on traditional Japanese purist amplification, Luxman finally offers a MM/MC phono/line preamp partner for its ultra-retro MQ-300 valve amplifier

Just over three years ago I had my first taste of cost-no-object Luxman [HFN Nov '16] in an achingly long time. The company has had its ups-and-downs, but fortunately its new owners – IAG, home to Quad, Wharfedale, Audiolab and Castle Acoustics – realise what a plum brand Luxman is, so it was expected that the flagship MQ-300 power amplifier which so charmed me would be followed by a worthy preamp. Enter the alluring CL-1000, at £16,000 a grand more than the power amp and looking every penny of its price.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 12, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWith input from the designer behind MoFi's cutting lathes, the UltraPhono (and StudioPhono) were conceived as high value partners for its affordable turntables

Are we in the midst of a Golden Age of Analogue? If you're returning to, or just discovering the vinyl LP, then yes, we are. Mobile Fidelity's UltraPhono is an example of what the industry can deliver when inspired, and clearly this is a response to the need for affordable phono stages to render suitable 30 years' worth of post-CD integrated amplifiers without phono stages. At £499, it's not for the impoverished analogue neophyte, but neither is it horrendously expensive by any measure.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard, Review: Ken Kessler  |  May 08, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingIf you have an expectation of Audeze circumaural headphones that they are large and heavy and not something you'd want to schlep around, the LCD-1 is a mould-breaker

When we reviewed the LCD-2 [HFN Mar '13], Audeze was in the vanguard of what was to become the rebirth of isodynamic driver technology, more commonly known today as 'planar magnetic'. To those of us who'd lived through the high-profile launch of the original PM headphone, the futuristic looking Wharfedale Isodynamic, 40 years earlier, it came as a surprise.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 28, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe REF160M monoblocks were a radical change for the venerable Reference Series, and now they have been 'cut 'n pasted' into a single, spectacular stereo chassis

This should have been the simplest, swiftest review for me to undertake: I would simply drop the stereo version of the Audio Research Reference 160M [HFN Aug '18] into my system in place of the Reference 75SE. Double the number of KT150s and double the power, a price tag of two quid shy of twenty grand, fond memories of the monoblocks still tugging at me after 18 months: the Audio Research Reference 160S should have been a doddle, easy to anticipate. But it wasn't.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 13, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingMobile Fidelity, champion of audiophile vinyl, has now wrapped up an EISA Award for its flagship UltraDeck – does the more affordable StudioDeck give much away?

It might seem that we played this one in reverse, reviewing Mobile Fidelity's dearer UltraDeck turntable first [HFN Jul '19], before working backward. A buzz in the underground, however, suggested that MoFi's less-costly, entry-level StudioDeck might be something of a 'sweet spot' candidate, so what could have been an anti-climax is anything but.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 05, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingHigh-end headphone amps for connoisseurs of cans require total adjustability – has Manley Laboratories delivered the goods with the Absolute Headphone Amplifier?

Veteran makers of headphone amplifiers for studios, Manley Laboratories is taking on the extreme high-end of the domestic genre with a £4500 unit – the Absolute – that marries audiophiles' sonic requirements with the total control demanded of professionals. Company CEO Eveanna Manley says, bluntly, 'Our goal was simply to produce the most awesome-sounding and sonically flexible vacuum tube headphone amplifier!'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 27, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingReplacing the longstanding, and long-popular 834P, EAR's new PhonoBox is still tube-powered and comes with MC and volume options in addition to a 'deluxe' chrome finish

Acat among the pigeons: at a time when we are being treated to a range of superb phono stages at modest prices, what for me is the true milestone of the genre has just appeared in what must be its fourth or fifth generation. The new EAR-Yoshino PhonoBox (also called the Phonobox or Phono Box) is the replacement for the venerable 834P [HFN Jun '94], which has seen a few tweaks and variants over the years, most notably restyles to smarten up the otherwise purely functional styling.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 17, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingAfter wowing the audio community with the Jo No5 moving-coil cartridge, EAT has unleashed the second in the family – the Jo No8. And it's an even bigger knock-out

Having previously dipped its toe in the water with the Yosegi moving-coil cartridge [HFN Mar '12] – effectively a rebodied-in-wood Japanese design – EAT stunned us last year with the Jo No5 [HFN Dec '18], selling at a sane £799. There's no shortage of amazing moving-coil cartridges on the market, but this was blatantly head-and-shoulders above the pack. It heralded a new range of MCs to complement EAT's expanding catalogue of turntables, arms, phono stages and its recently-unveiled integrated amplifier.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 30, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnedchoiceLike a winery with one grape but a dozen variants, Koetsu's latest Urushis challenge moving-coil veterans with subtleties – will the Vermillion leave us seeing red?

Urushi and I? We go wa-a-y back. It was in the April 1990 issue that I reviewed my first, never having seen such gorgeous lacquer on anything, let alone an MC cartridge. As with Sonus faber rewriting speaker design language, the Urushi was 'something else'. It wasn't the first time high-end cartridges exhibited aesthetics beyond the style of a cool profile – the body of Goldbug's Mr Brier [HFN May' 86] was egg-shaped wood, and pastel-anodised metal had been around for years – but this was jewellery.

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