Review: James Parker

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 10, 2022  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThe latest all-in-one compact Class D streaming system from the German company features an enhanced network audio platform – but that's only the start of its appeal

As the model designation suggests, this isn't the first all-in-one network audio system from German high-end company AVM. Replacing its existing Inspiration CS 2.2 model, the new Inspiration CS 2.3, selling for £5250 in black or silver finishes, with a chrome 'Cellini' finish available as a somewhat glitzy extra-cost option, is based around the company's latest streaming platform.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 16, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThis London-based company may be a relative latecomer to the all-in-one streaming system market, but its debut models have style a-plenty – and performance to match

Given Cambridge Audio's track record in digital audio, it is perhaps a little surprising it's taken the company so long to enter the network systems arena. It was an early developer of add-on DACs in 1994 [see HFN Jun '21] and has been making streaming components for a good while, even going to the lengths of developing its own network audio hardware. The Cambridge catalogue currently caters for 'computer audio' enthusiasts with the entry-level £169 DacMagic 100 right up to the £4499 Edge NQ network preamp.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedPromising the 'iconic JBL sound' from modern cabinets, we hear the flagship HDI floorstander

Some speakers are large, but manage to conceal their bulk through clever styling, but the £4000 HDI-3800 flagship of JBL's 'High-Definition Imaging' series manages to do exactly the opposite. It may only stand 1.1m tall, yet the combination of width and depth – 30cm and almost 42cm respectively – and a particularly upfront driver array makes this a rather imposing speaker to have in the room, with echoes of the company's PA range.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 27, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedWell, one thing's for sure: the new SACD/CD player/DAC from McIntosh looks quite unlike any other machine of its kind. So, does the sound live up to the unique style?

Take a quick look at the £4995 McIntosh MCD85, and you'd probably think it was another in the seemingly endless line of amplifier variations emerging from the Binghamton factory in upstate New York. In fact, the first sign that this isn't actually a power amp is the weight. Thanks to their hefty transformers and solidity of build, the company's powerhouses tend to be back-achingly heavy, and arrive on pallets – the new MA1200 integrated amp, for example, weighs in at a shade under 49kg, and the MC901 monoblock is getting on for twice that. By contrast, the MCD85 is a manageable 12.5kg boxed, and a positively featherweight 9.3kg in the buff.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 12, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedHaving nailed the whole 'one box system with built-in speakers' category, T+A now shifts tack to a 'just add speakers' unit. It's on-trend, and with substance to match the style

Are we downsizing, simplifying, or just looking for more from less? Whatever the reasons, it seems the one-box system, to which one only needs add some speakers, is in the ascendant. There's no denying a movement is growing, with everything from 'more integrated' amps complete with onboard streaming through to complete systems such as the NAD M10/M33 [HFN Jun '19 & Aug '20], Naim's Uniti range [HFN Mar '11 & Nov '17] – which was in the vanguard of this trend back in 2009 – and the recently-announced Cambridge Audio Evo models [News, HFN Jun '21].

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 10, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedTop dog in a range of just two outboard DACs from Swiss brand Merason, the DAC1 is a modern-day example of 'less is more' audiophile thinking. We lift the lid and investigate

In common with a lot of HFN readers, I have a bit of a 'thing' about overly complex digital devices. I'm not referring to input flexibility – many of us will have systems in which different flavours of digital connection are accommodated, from USB links from a computer to good old S/PDIF from a CD player or the like. No, what I really find obstructive is devices bristling with digital-domain options, from filters to dither to PLL bandwidth and the like, all of which often look like an exercise in 'because we can' – a facilities arms-race – rather than being of any real-world assistance to the user.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 18, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnedchoiceTouted as the 'world's first multi-DAC DAP', Astell&Kern's premium portable takes tweaking-on-the-move to a new pace. We run to keep up with the features on offer

Once upon a time there was just Astell&Kern, the company building its reputation on superior digital audio players (or DAPs) aimed at those for whom playing music from their phone just wasn't enough. In an era when the multifunctional pocket device is designed to take over every task you could imagine, from browser, emailer, camera, music player and – well – phone, the idea of carrying a dedicated audio device around may seem like something of an anachronism. 'An MP3 player, grandad?'.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 23, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedBased on Arcam's 'FMJ' CDS27 CD/SACD disc spinner and network audio player, is the more affordable CDS50, complete with new DAC, the brand's best kept secret?

CD players, along with integrated amps, have long been such a mainstay of the Arcam product catalogue that it comes as something of a surprise that the CDS50 we have here, selling for £699, is now the sole silver disc spinner in its lineup. This, after all, was the company responsible, in 1986, for the first CD player both designed and manufactured in the UK, just four years after the format hit the shops and at a time when Linn and Naim were both sticking to their 'no good will come of this' guns.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 27, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedDenon's Design Series brings us this attractive-looking two-box system, combining disc playback with streaming. But does style and flexibility mean a compromised sound?

Each of Sound United's two mainstream hi-fi brands – Denon and Marantz – has its own take on compact, room-friendly separates. In the case of Marantz, it's a lineup comprising an integrated amp and a USB DAC/headphone amp, each styled in 'retro' casework designed to evoke memories of Marantz amps of the past.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Feb 14, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedThe latest compact speaker from Jamo blends designer appeal with solid audio engineering

The small speaker market is a fiercely fought arena, with every major speaker brand having at least one dog in the fight, and often several. It's not hard to see why: there's a tradition of speaker companies making over-achieving budget boxes, while the interior design appeal of small enclosures delivering a big sound has encouraged builders to develop the idea of the compact standmount/bookshelf speaker beyond the entry-level. The result is a choice of models with more expensive engineering – and hopefully even better performance – while still keeping the dimensions neat and tidy.

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