Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

The SoundStage! Network's mulit-author blog section related to hi-fi, home theater, and more.

Listening to the Gryphon Audio Designs Ethos CD Player and the Kronos Pro Turntable

On February 14, Andrew Singer, proprietor of Sound by Singer, an audio store in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, hosted Denmark’s Gryphon Audio Designs for a demonstration that asked a simple question: could Gryphon’s statement Ethos CD player/upsampling digital-to-analog converter ($39,000, all prices USD) compete with a high-end turntable?

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Howard’s January 2020 Trip to Japan: Technical Audio Devices Laboratories

Having only one unallocated day left to meet with audio manufacturers during my planned January 2020 trip to Japan, I called Andrew Jones, Elac’s vice president of engineering, for a manufacturer recommendation. Before joining Elac, Jones designed speakers for Japan’s Pioneer Corporation and its high-end subsidiary, Technical Audio Devices Laboratories, better known as TAD. Perhaps not surprisingly, Jones suggested that I contact TAD’s Tokyo headquarters, which I did. Shortly thereafter, January 16 was confirmed as the date of my visit.

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Howard’s January 2020 Trip to Japan: Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corporation (AKM)

I’m always on the lookout for interesting companies to tour when I visit Japan. On this last trip in January, I thought it would be informative to check out Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM), maker of, among other things, digital-to-analog converter (DAC) chips. AKM doesn’t sell directly to audiophiles, but rather to many audio manufacturers who incorporate the company’s products into their components. However, despite AKM’s industry-wide reach, it’s known only vaguely, if at all, to most audiophiles. As it turns out, I had no idea just how interesting my visit would be.

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Howard’s January 2020 Trip to Japan: Accuphase Laboratory

Thanks to an introduction made by Canadian distributor Audio Alliance, Accuphase Laboratory was the first stop on my January 2020 trip to Japan. Traveling from my hotel in Tokyo’s bustling Ueno area in the Taito district, I arrived at a local train station to meet Kohei Nishigawa, Accuphase’s international marketing supervisor. “I came to pick you up in the Accuphase car,” Nishigawa offered. Sure enough, he directed me to the station’s parking lot, where we got into a white Toyota SUV bearing orange Accuphase logos on its sides and rear.

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A Day at Synergistic Research

On December 16, 2019, I visited Synergistic Research’s headquarters and factory, located in Santa Ana, California. Glad to avoid the unwieldy Los Angeles International Airport for the smaller and virtually painless John Wayne Airport, which is located only about ten minutes from my destination, I was greeted curbside by Andy Wiederspahn, Synergistic Research’s general manager.

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First Look and Listen: Magico’s New A5 Loudspeaker

Shortly before the beginning of 2018, Soundstage! Network founder Doug Schneider visited Magico founder Alon Wolf at the company’s headquarters and factory in Hayward, California, to hear the then-new Magico A3 loudspeaker ($12,300/pair, all prices USD). On December 17, 2019, almost two years after Doug’s visit, I arrived at Magico to hear the company’s new A5 loudspeaker ($21,800/pr.).

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Dragonfire Acoustics and Theoretica Applied Physics Hold Shocking Demos at the Chelsea Wine Vault

I was back at New York City’s Chelsea Wine Vault on October 19, 2019, for another audio event, this time featuring product demonstrations by Dragonfire Acoustics and Theoretica Applied Physics. As I have written before, the Chelsea Wine Vault mixes a gorgeous retail wine store with high-end audio. Now-retired Wall Street tycoon Andrew Hoover III, who stores his wine collection in the Vault’s commercial wine-storage facility, has so many high-end audio systems that he uses the Vault as his system overflow space. High-end systems are everywhere!

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Grand Opening -- North America’s First Focal Powered by Naim Store

On October 31, 2019, I attended the grand opening of the first North American Focal Powered by Naim store, in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. With stores already open in Seoul, South Korea, and Lyon, France, Focal’s and Naim’s French parent corporation, Vervent Audio Group, seeks to further expand the global footprint of these two well-known European audio brands by building a worldwide network of stores to showcase their products. (The Lyon store is called La Boutique du Son.)

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More than 90% of a 780D v2 for 60% of Its Price -- the Inside Scoop on Simaudio’s New Moon 680D DAC-Streamer

At the 2019 Toronto Audio Fest, to be held October 18 to 20, Simaudio will publicly display for the first time its new Moon 680D DAC-streamer, which is priced at $9000 (all prices are USD). On October 2, however, I visited product manager Dominique Poupart at the company’s factory in Boucherville, Quebec, Canada, to see the first 680D that came off the production line and learn more about it. I felt it important to go there because Simaudio has long been known for producing some of the best-sounding digital-playback products in the world.

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Two Audiophile Societies Host Elac’s Andrew Jones

In August of this year, the New York and Long Island audiophile societies, respectively known as The Audiophile Society and The Audio Syndrome, hosted Andrew Jones, vice president of engineering for Elac. Each audio society’s events are typically well-attended; however, this meeting, held at a member’s home, was packed to the proverbial rafters. This was due not only to the attendance of members from both clubs, but the opportunity to witness Jones demonstrate Elac’s newest active speaker, the three-way, floorstanding Navis ARF-51 ($3999.96/pair, all prices USD), and provide insights concerning its design.

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What Amazon Music HD Means for Audiophiles

On September 17, the audio world sucked in its collective breath after Amazon announced a new streaming service offering lossless CD-resolution and high-resolution music. Amazon Music HD has over 50 million CD-resolution tracks, plus “millions” of “Ultra HD” tracks with higher-than-CD resolution, up to 24-bit/192kHz.

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A Visit with Muraudio’s Murray Harman and Rob Runolfson

A recent business trip took me to Canada’s national capital, Ottawa. In addition to being the political center of Canada, it’s the home of the National Research Council, where SoundStage! performs its loudspeaker measurements. It’s also the location of electrostatic loudspeaker manufacturer Muraudio.

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GT Audio Works, Zanden Audio Systems, and Triode Wire Labs Hold Demo at Sound Insight Audio Store

Thirty years ago, audio manufacturers often conducted product demonstrations at audio society meetings. At these demos, the manufacturers gained exposure for their products, had the time to discuss the products in some depth, and happily for all, offered the demo samples at a discount at the event’s conclusion. But at some point, it became harder and harder for many of the societies to find manufacturers who were willing to hold demos, and the number of them gradually decreased.

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Discogs and Audio-Technica Crate Diggers Record Fair and Concert

It was early in the morning of July 27, 2019, at New York City’s PlayStation Theater, when Aub Driver, Discog’s public relations lead, told me that he and his team, readied for the Crate Diggers Record Fair and Concert, were there for the long run. The event occurred in two parts. First, beginning at 10:00 a.m. and running throughout the day, an almost countless number of retailers sold records, tapes, CDs, and assorted musical paraphernalia from tables stacked with crates, thus the event’s name. That part of the event, which featured several live DJs, was free.

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Canvas Audio Hi-Fi OLED TV Sound Stand Pre-Launch Event at the Chelsea Wine Vault

In June of this year, I attended an interesting product pre-launch event at a unique venue. Let’s take the product first.

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