Review: Adam Smith

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: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 03, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingOne of the oldest and most revered names in vinyl's history is back, refreshed and under new ownership, and with a deck that mixes modern materials with classic design cues

How many audiophiles ten years ago would have thought that come 2020 you would be able to buy a brand new Leak amplifier and a pair of Wharfedale Linton speakers? Not many, I'd bet. And it's now possible to front a system comprising these components with a belt-drive, suspended subchassis turntable made by Thorens, and one with 'TD160' in its name. It seems the onward march of 'retro' is unstoppable!

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 05, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe front-end to Yamaha's 'Gigantic and Tremendous' 5000 series is not a digital player or DAC but a turntable, and one whose controversial arm harks back to the '80s

And then there were four... We enjoyed the Yamaha NS-5000 loudspeakers [HFN Jun '17] and were bowled over by the C-5000 preamplifier and M-5000 power amp [HFN Aug '20]. Now we have the source with which Yamaha has chosen to front its flagship 5000 series. Not only is it a return to high-end turntable manufacturing for the company, it also sees the reappearance of what is possibly the greatest model number prefix ever, the 'GT' standing for 'Gigantic and Tremendous'!

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 19, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingInspired by the flagship Acutus turntable, and bucking the trend for unsuspended decks with socially-distanced motors, the Volvere SP also comes with a familiar tonearm

Given that pretty much every component AVID has ever offered is still in production, it's clear company owner Conrad Mas does not chop and change designs on a whim. So it's no surprise that when it comes to turntables AVID has largely stuck with the thinking behind its very first deck, the Acutus, which was launched in 1999.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 24, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedMasters of retro chic, Yamaha has evolved its one-time flagship A-S3000 integrated amplifier into a fully-fledged pre/power. And there's not a digital input in sight...

Talk to audiophiles that grew up through the 1990s and the chances are they associate brands such as Sony, Yamaha, Onkyo, Pioneer and Denon with meaty AV receivers and, possibly, mini systems. The reason is that it was around this time that the major Japanese corporations began directing their energies into developing products for the burgeoning home cinema market, meaning these younger hi-fi enthusiasts never really saw them flex their design muscles in the stereo arena.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 17, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingSupplied with or without a partnering MM cartridge, this new 'entry-level' deck to the Vertere range comes equipped with a re-imagining of the archetypal flat tonearm

In a world of plug 'n' play convenience, having to manually configure a piece of equipment before it can be used is felt by some to be far too great a barrier to enjoyment. And perhaps in no area of hi-fi is this truer than vinyl replay. I know of many people who have consciously shied away from exploring the ol' black stuff because they believe it to be 'just too much hard work'. So any manufacturer able to help eliminate any of the perceived faff and complexity that comes with putting together and setting up a turntable – not to mention its arm – is onto a winner.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 09, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingPrimare's 'Prisma push' may have focused resources into network-enabling its amplifiers and CD players, but its new flagship phono pre proves its love of vinyl has not waned

Even the most ardent vinyl enthusiasts will admit that they can get bamboozled by the whole process of cartridge loading and gain matching. Some MMs and MCs can be quite particular about the load resistance and capacitance that they 'see', just as most phono stages will have a 'sweet spot' gain setting that varies from pick-up to pick-up. So there's a great deal to be said for a flexible phono stage that offers numerous adjustments. On the other hand I can appreciate the popularity of designs where the complexity extends to nothing more than an MM/MC switch!

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 26, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedNestling in the foothills of the Swabian Jura, southern Germany, the tiny municipality of Altdorf is home to some very big turntables from the boutique Acoustic Solid brand

Weighing 22kg, with a good deal of this mass being platter, the Wood Round MPX is the latest turntable from German company Acoustic Solid and fits neatly into its seven-strong 'Classic Line', sitting above the Classic Wood but below the Wood Referenz. The deck's appearance, with its three pillars, echoes the company's top 'Aluminium Line' models and also differentiates it from the rectangular decks that make up the rest of the Classic Line.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 08, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingOne-time distributor of Grace, Kiseki, Supex and other brands from the vinyl vault, Sumiko is also a manufacturer with a legacy. Here's its new open-bodied MC flagship

One testament to the continuing love for vinyl is that the steady trickle of brand new cartridges making their way onto the market shows no sign of abating. The latest company to pep up the party is US-based distributor and manufacturer Sumiko.

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