Review: Ken Kessler

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 13, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingTechDAS' Air Force III gets the Premium treatment, with upgrades throughout the design, a heavier platter and revised 'Air Condenser' – does it punch above its weight?

Positioned in the 'lower half' of the burgeoning TechDAS catalogue, the original Air Force III [HFN Sep '16] delivered more compact dimensions, the capability to handle up to four tonearms and a substantial saving over the One [HFN Jun '13] and Two [HFN Apr '15] turntables. Even with its new, performance-gap-closing fitments in Premium guise, the price is two quid shy of £29,000 – roughly a tenth the estimated cost of the forthcoming Air Force Zero flagship and £17,000 less than the Two Premium. A bargain, then?

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 24, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingFollowing a flow of revolutionary, hugely desirable but astronomically-priced 'optical' cartridges, DS Audio introduces the DS-E1 – could 'E' stand for 'Everyman'?

This is the second review this month that's been tough for me to write if, in this instance, for entirely positive reasons. You see, the DS Audio DS-E1 is actually too good, and the asking price of £2295 is the reason. I do not want to inflict any hardship upon DS Audio, which offers three models above this, but, like an entry-level Rolex, Leica CL camera or Porsche Cayman, it begs the question: why pay more?

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 16, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnedchoiceAffordable German turntables are looking set to repeat their dominance of the market they owned 50 years ago. Can Dual's top-of-the-range CS 600 raise the stakes?

A tough review for me to write, at least objectively: I'm rooting for the CS 600 to be something special because my first turntable was a Dual and I recall it with fondness. I want the CS 600 to be a champ like the all-conquering '505 was back in the days of the NAD 3020-based systems. But this new deck costs £1199 in black, or another £200 in gloss black or white (as reviewed), and the competition for turntables with tonearms is fierce around this price point.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 12, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingA modern integrated amp with the valve du jour, Copland's CTA408 leaves nothing out and delivers the lot – could this be the biggest bargain in high-end audio?

Of late, I have been banging on, to the dismay of many, about how high-end audio has priced itself beyond any regard for reality. That said, context is everything. So, if I tell you a burger can cost £18 in a London restaurant and that Copland's CTA408 integrated tube amp is actually a bit of a bargain at £6398, please accept that I'm painfully aware the latter sum is a fortune to many, but the former is highway robbery. Eighteen quid for a burger!

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 03, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingMarking the company's 40th birthday, the turntable mavens of VPI are right on song with an updated, deluxe version of their Classic direct-drive, the HW-40 Anniversary

Way back when, especially during the 1980s, direct-drive turntables were unloved by purists. How things change – just witness the high prices that vintage decks from Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer and especially Technics now change hands for. And with the latter's revived line of direct-drives turning out to be as hot as anything the high-end can offer circa 2019, the arrival of VPI's HW-40 Anniversary Edition direct-drive deck is doubly timely.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 14, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingA high-end, high-power, configurable tube/transistor hybrid integrated amplifier – tightly targeted but the Aesthetix Mimas could easily seduce the separates purist

Aaah, downsizing: if it keeps the high-end healthy, I'm all for it. US boutique brand Aesthetix's Mimas integrated amp joins a sector that's increasing in numbers if not dimensions, set to satisfy the modern affliction of space shortages, especially for city dwellers. Along with Wilson's TuneTot monitor [HFN Nov '18], the all-in-one SME Synergy turntable/phono stage package, TechDAS's Air Force V [HFN Jan '19], and other ultra-compact-yet-truly-high-end items, the Mimas demands little room.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 16, 2019  |  0 comments
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.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 29, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingWho knew that TechDAS could follow the remarkable Air Force III with an even less-expensive, air-bearing, vacuum hold-down turntable? We welcome the Air Force V

Reason to celebrate: at £12,500, TechDAS's latest turntable – the Air Force V – costs one-tenth the price of the current Air Force One [HFN Jun '13]. Re-read that sentence. It means that the glory of owning one of the true upper-echelon turntables has been reduced by 90%. And you still get 90% of the performance.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 21, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingAn audio fantasy realised: the return of a bona fide, BBC-approved LS3/5a to match the original – Falcon Acoustics applies provenance and purism to the project

Handing me a pair of 'new' LS3/5as always elicits mixed feelings. Part of me wants the speaker back in production so badly that I tend to go soft on the latest contender. My dark side says it's impossible without KEF drivers, but that was to overlook Falcon Acoustics' pedigree. This brand offers kits and drivers plus the reincarnated LS3/5a we have here, selling for £2350-£2500 per pair depending on finish. It also has a secret weapon in its gene pool: Malcolm Jones.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 05, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingReplacing the inaugural DS-W1 while benefiting from a host of trickle-down tech from the brand's flagship Master 1, the new DS-W2 'optical' pick-up is firmly in the limelight

When I first heard about DS Audio's optical cartridges, I wrote them off as 'dreamware' unlikely to end up chez Kessler. As it turns out, the audio gods smiled on me and I have, to my surprise and delight, managed to review just about all of them, watching the series evolve while using the Master 1 as my reference. Now, with the DS-W2 selling for £9995 with the equaliser/phono stage, the brand is delivering nearly all the performance of its flagship at half the price.

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