Review: Ken Kessler

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfncommended.pngKiseki’s first all-new moving-coil cartridge since its return in 2011 isn’t just a fine transducer, it’s also affordable by current standards – enter the Kiseki Blue N.S.

Back when moving-coil cartridges stalked the earth, Koetsu occupied the top of the heap, and did so for at least a decade. But this purveyor of hand-made cartridges did not go unchallenged and, to its credit, Koetsu opened the door for a plethora of Japanese artisan moving-coils with equally exotic-sounding names. Among the most highly-regarded were the various Kisekis, the name meaning ‘miracle’, which could be regarded as either cynical or optimistic, so great was Koetsu’s dominance.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfnvintage.pngWhile designed for the pro market, this rugged little workhorse of an amp from 1978 found its way into domestic systems of the day. How does it sound, 30 years on?

How sad. Last year was the 70th anniversary of the founding of Crown, and the event seems to have gone unmarked. The only notable occurrence was that its parent company, Harman International, was acquired by Samsung, which is a rather forlorn way for this most American of brands to celebrate seven decades.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfncommended.pngCompact yet comprehensively-equipped, beautifully-made, with balanced outputs, MM/MC capability and a sane price, what’s not to like in Bel Canto’s e.One Phono?

Awash as we are with terrific phono stages, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. From sub-£50 units to £30,000-plus fantasy hardware, there are probably as many standalone phono stages on offer today as during the Original Vinyl Era. What Bel Canto offers with its e.One Phono, in its more cost-effective range, is a way to enjoy the adjustability demanded by perfectionists, at a sane price.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfncommended.pngStill billed as 'The World's Most Powerful Integrated Amplifier', Perreaux's MOSFET flagship has been tickled-up with a new digital input module. And more power too...?

Side-by-side, you'd be forgiven for seeing no changes between the Perreaux Eloquence 255i integrated amplifier and the earlier 250i [HFN Aug '12]. Same rotary, same display, same number of buttons – even the price would leave you clueless, the six years between them inflating the £5695 of the earlier unit to £6895 in standard, line-level-only trim. Given the recent drop in the value of Sterling, that alone could account for the increase, so full marks to Perreaux.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfncommended.pngFocal’s latest luxo-headphone slots in between the Elear and Utopia models, in the hotly-contested ‘affordable high-end’ middle ground – we hear the sound of £1400

If I have learned anything about committing one’s thoughts to print, it is Never Make Predictions. They will invariably be wrong and will come back to haunt you. I am thus unwilling to hazard a guess as to the longevity of the boom in headphone sales and usage. As long as it continues, however, in the best ‘make hay while the sun shines’ manner, Focal is covering all its bases. The latest to join its high-end family is the £1399 Clear, between the dearer Utopia [HFN Feb ’17] and less costly Elear [HFN Apr ’17].

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jan 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfnoutstanding.pngAt long last, we get our hands on the iconic Franco Serblin Accordo. Does it redefine the small loudspeaker?

We may have waited over five years to review the Franco Serblin Accordo but, as I found within five seconds of switching them on, it was worth the hold-up. The Accordo is one of the late Franco Serblin’s last designs, chronologically falling in between the Ktema and the Lignea, and its appeal to the archetypal British audiophile is blatantly overwhelming. With its predecessor and follow-up both floorstanders, the Accordo differs as a petite two-way standmount, complete with a 740mm angled pedestal. The Accordo is sold in mirror-imaged pairs, in walnut for £7500 with the integral stands, or in high-gloss grey for an additional £300.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2017  |  0 comments
hfnedchoice.pngDS Audio’s flagship optical cartridge is one of the most expensive we’ve tested – but the £20k price tag includes a dedicated PSU/equaliser. KK rediscovers his LP collection...

Optical pick-ups were a dream in the 1960s and 1970s, but they were hamstrung by the light technology of the era. Weight, heat, power source – all mitigated against it. DS Audio, however, has the benefit of returning to the concept in the age of the LED, and its parent company is a global giant making optical sensors. Your £20k for the DS Audio Master 1 package, then, gets you cutting-edge design and manufacture rather than something a boffin cooked up in a garage. It also pays for the latest power supply-cum-phono stage, the cartridge not delivering a signal suitable for a conventional MM or MC phono input.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2017  |  0 comments
hfncommended.pngSomething for the high-end user with a sense of fun – Metaxas' Marquis 'Memento Mori' headphone amp marries form with function and the result is rather jolly. Er, Roger.

Headphones now rule – period – and as a vivid illustration of the current profusion of cans, I was staggered to see, at a store in Tokyo, a selection of something like 1500 headphones, and with plenty of high-end brands notable by their absence.

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