Review: Mark Craven

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 29, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedDubbed PS Audio's 'finest all-in-one music component', the Strata combines network streaming, USB and other digital audio inputs with a 'Gain Cell' pre and ICEpower amp

Browse the catalogue of Colorado's PS Audio and you'll find both monstrous and slimline monoblock amps – the BHK Mono 300 [HFN Jul '16] and Stellar M1200/M700 [HFN Jan '21 and Apr '20], respectively – together with stereo power amplifiers, streaming DACs, integrated amps and preamps. And then there's the Stellar Strata, which in some ways is a distillation of PS Audio's diverse product line and tech into one box.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 09, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedStyled after its classic 1970s studio monitors, but equipped with patented 21st century horn and compression driver technology, the 4349 is a not-so-compact fun factory

American loudspeaker company JBL has a 75-year history – and the work of founder James Bullough Lansing dates back even further. For HFN readers, who are in the know, it might seem odd that the brand is now more popular on the UK high street for its extensive range of affordable Bluetooth speakers and wireless headphones. Luckily for us the company still maintains a 'serious' side, and it's from there that its two-way 4349 monitor hails. A wide-baffle speaker with a compression mid/treble driver and 300mm woofer, it can trace its heritage all the way back to the company's first creations – and couldn't be more different from a pair of budget earbuds.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 08, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingEagerly anticipated, Audia Flight's 'starter' FLS series integrated accommodates a suite of optional modules. Could this be the high-end hub you've been waiting for?

A'synergy of sophisticated original circuit design and Italian style'. That's the promise of Audia Flight, the company established in 1996 by Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini. Arguably a 'boutique brand' by virtue of a product line focused almost entirely on amplifiers, the lone standout is a CD player in its entry-level 'FL Three S' range [HFN Sep '07]. We are testing its newest addition here: the FLS 9 stereo integrated which pledges to showcase the brand's audiophile philosophy at a price more manageable – beginning at £5950 – than that of its other high-end creations.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 01, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThis flagship monoblock is not only more powerful but features significant design enhancements over other Class D amplifiers in the Stellar range, including a tube input...

The best of both worlds' is an oft-used rallying cry in the hi-fi industry, rolled out to extol the virtues of everything from compact loudspeakers with big bass output to digital network players with phono stage inputs. It's also the self-proclaimed raison d'être of PS Audio's Stellar M1200 monoblock amp. Sold in pairs for £6000, this recent addition to the Stellar range combines a high-power Class D output stage with Class A vacuum tube input, in pursuit of both efficient speaker-driving muscle and spine-tingling musicality.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 25, 2021  |  0 comments
hfncommendedDesigned and handcrafted by the father and son team at Lu Kang Audio, the Spoey230 is the heavyweight flagship standmount of this artisan range from Taiwan's Taipei City

The last time you bought a television you probably came across no more than five or six different brands. But what about the last time you bought loudspeakers? It's one of the joyful aspects of hi-fi: the industry is very broad here, supporting a diverse range of manufacturers with different design ideals, resulting in an equally diverse choice for enthusiasts.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 18, 2021  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe typically modest, functional styling of this 'entry-level' mostly-Class A integrated amplifier belies its less-than-modest capabilities, with power and sound to spare...

There's something comforting about a product with a singular focus, and Pass Labs' INT-25 fits that bill. A line-only integrated, it steers clear of the digital inputs, network functionality and onboard phono stage offered by many competitors. Instead, it presents itself simply as a conduit between your source(s) and speakers, combining a FET-based preamp and Class A power amp and nothing else. If that sounds somewhat 'basic', Pass Labs' history and the amplifier's £7200 price tag should suggest it's anything but. As does its mastery of music – but I'm getting ahead of myself…

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 23, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedWith a heritage that can be traced back over 60 years, and still now only in its fourth generation, the Heresy is manna from heaven for the nonconformist audiophile

American loudspeaker marque Klipsch has a longer history than many, something emphasised by its new 'p***ing off the neighbours since 1946' slogan. And its Heresy model itself dates back to 1957, when company founder Paul W Klipsch first developed a compact three-way floorstander to act as a centre speaker within a stereo installation. It has remained part of the Klipsch stable ever since, undergoing revisions first in 1985 and then 2006. Now it has been relaunched as the Heresy IV, priced £3500 per pair and forming the entry point to the Klipsch Heritage range.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 14, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe giants of small-scale audio solutions have just expanded the ZEN range of BT and USB DACs with a beefier, all-analogue 'drive anything' headphone amp. A bargain?

There's an air of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' about iFi Audio's ZEN CAN. The third model in the Merseyside-based company's affordable range of (non-portable) desktop devices, it shares the physical chassis design of the earlier £129 ZEN DAC and ZEN Blue models [HFN Jul '20] and promises the same mix of 'high-performance audio' and value for money. Yet there's arguably more to this cost-conscious headphone amplifier than meets the eye.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 19, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingThe baby model in Paradigm's flagship loudspeaker range wants to prove good things can come in small packages

With its Persona series, Paradigm has taken the concept of a 'flagship' products to heart. This loudspeaker collection, launched in 2016, is not merely the Canadian manufacturer's most expensive, but one intended to represent 'the technological abilities of Paradigm engineering'. So what does that entail? Advanced driver and cabinet designs, a new-look aesthetic, and custom finish options across a range that drops from the £34,000-per-pair passive/active Persona 9H [HFN Dec '19], to the Persona B auditioned here.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 09, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedAn unchanged exterior hides PMC's crossover and driver upgrades made to its premium three-way floorstander

In The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again', Roger Daltrey memorably sings 'Meet the new boss – same as the old boss'. It's a phrase that sprang to my mind when confronted by PMC's twenty5.26i, as this floorstanding speaker is, outwardly, identical to its twenty5.26 predecessor launched in 2016, with cabinet dimensions matching to the millimetre. Yet PMC describes its new twenty5i series as a 'substantial re-engineering', improving performance without moving away from the signature sound of its forbear.

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