Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

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

Music-Appreciation Night in Montreal, O’Hanlon Style

It was probably the coldest, bleakest week of the year so far to travel to Montreal, Canada -- sunlight was minimal and temperatures dipped close to -30°C on some nights. But Philip O'Hanlon, owner of distribution company On a Higher Note, still saw it as his duty to travel from his home in Southern California to the Frozen North on January 23rd to conduct music and equipment demos over two nights at Coup de Foudre (CDF), which is his main dealer in the city. The modern-looking store is owned by Jennifer and Graeme Humfrey and is home to many well-known brands, including Luxman and Vivid Audio, which On a Higher Note distributes. There's also a mixing/mastering studio in the back -- so they know their sound.

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Caribbean-Vacation Companion: Hegel Super Headphone Amp-DAC

When I was preparing for my trip to Japan to see the 2013 Tokyo International Audio Show, I realized that I was missing two key elements from my headphone rig to make it a true audiophile-grade setup: an external headphone amp and a digital-to-analog converter (DAC). Not that I really needed them to simply listen to headphones, since every computer has a headphone amp and DAC of sorts built in. The problem is, what's in a computer isn't usually any good, so for serious listening you need more.

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Peter J. Moore on Everything

“I’m an audiophile first,” Peter J. Moore said when we first sat down for what was supposed to be a fairly quick interview in his Toronto, Ontario, studio on November 27. “I’m a modder to the nth degree -- nothing I have is stock. I use Black Gate caps, which you can’t get anymore, so I bought all of them I could get. There are military-grade parts in a lot of my gear, including my ½-inch tape players.”

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EMM Labs DAC2X vs. Meitner Audio MA-1 -- Big Small Differences

I'm rarely at a loss for words, but I was when it came to describing the differences between the EMM Labs DAC2X and Meitner Audio MA-1 digital-to-analog converters, which sell in the United States for $15,500 and $7000, respectively. (Note: Howard Kneller reviewed the DAC2X for SoundStage! Ultra earlier this year, while Uday Reddy reviewed the MA-1 for SoundStage! Hi-Fi last year, so see those reviews for more details on these products.) That's why it's taken me just over two months since the DAC2X arrived to come up with something to say on the subject!

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Toronto-to-Tokyo Travel Test: PSB M4U 2 Headphones

There's an old saying about not knowing a man until you walk a mile in his shoes. Likewise, you don't know how well a set of headphones will travel with you until you take them on a 14-hour flight from Toronto to Tokyo, which is what I did on October 30 with the PSB M4U 2 headphones.

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Japan Traveling Companion: PSB M4U 2 Headphones

I travel often, and I haven't boarded a flight in the last two years without my Bowers & Wilkins C5 earphones. These earphones, in concert with Air Canada's (my usual airline) excellent inflight entertainment system, have actually made flying fun -- there's usually an outstanding selection of new and old movies, in addition to plenty of TV programs and a decent music section.

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Attention to Detail: Crystal Cable

It's as sad as it is surprising that too many people at hi-fi companies don't "get it" when it comes to selling. They charge exorbitant prices for their products -- sometimes in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars -- yet their packaging and presentation are more appropriate for something being sold at Costco or Walmart. Can you imagine buying a Rolex watch and having it handed to you in a dirty, cheap cardboard box or the equivalent of a Ziploc bag?

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Landslide: EMM Labs' DAC2X Arrives Too!

Just when I thought everything that I had coming to me for the fall review season had arrived, something else did -- the EMM Labs DAC2X DAC. I received the DAC2X because I already had the Meitner Audio MA-1 DAC, which I wrote about previously, on hand. That originally arrived as a result of my discussion with Ed Meitner himself at CES 2013; after our talk, the folks at his firm wanted me to hear his gear. Ed founded both brands, but of the two, the EMM Labs brand features the pricier stuff, which is built to a higher standard.

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Better Late Than Never: Ayre’s VX-5 Arrives

When it comes to audio reviewing, sometimes things don't happen as quickly or easily as you'd like. Take the Ayre Acoustics VX-5 stereo amp for example: we covered it at CES 2013 in January, Ayre sent a review sample to Bascom King for measurements in April, Bascom returned it to Ayre later that month so it could be forwarded to me, and then it sat at the company because the folks at Ayre and I were working on other things. After that, time sort of flew by.

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And Now for Something Completely Different: Aurelia’s Cerica

Walk into my listening room and you'll see something that resembles a Hong Kong hi-fi shop -- there's equipment everywhere. What's more, the sheer amount of it, particularly loudspeakers, seems to be growing by the week, if not by the day. This week I already blogged about the arrival of Magico S5 and Polymer Audio Research MKS speakers, and now I'm going to add the Aurelia Cericas to that list.

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The $2900 Tweeter in the 275-Pound Loudspeaker

If you haven't heard of Polymer Audio Research yet, don't feel too bad -- the company is fairly new. I caught wind of Polymer a few years ago, but they flew off my radar until this year when their founder, Daniel Khesin, contacted me in order to reintroduce himself. Daniel was also the founder of DK Design Group, which was most famous for the VS.1 Reference integrated amp, something I reviewed back in 2005. The VS.1 was a pretty good piece for the price, but shortly after I reviewed it he sold DK off to someone else, which is mainly why we lost contact.

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The Magicos Have Moved In

Several years ago I vowed to review far fewer products and have the rest of our writers review more. That didn't work, but it's not because I was hogging any gear. As the SoundStage! Network grew, so too did the amount of equipment we review, so today our writers review more than ever, but so do I!

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Astell&Kern's AK120 in Prague

This is my first take on the new Astell&Kern AK120 media player (64GB, $1299 USD) from Iriver, a Korean company that claims its new product is capable of producing "Mastering Quality Sound" in a portable package (complete review forthcoming).

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Do You Know About These Siltechs?

When audiophiles think of Siltech, my guess is that they often have visions of audio cables that run into the many, many thousands of dollars. Everyone knows that this company from the Netherlands manufactures some of the best audio cables -- made from their proprietary blends of sliver and gold -- available at any price. And those prices can get quite dear, especially for their Royal Signature line.

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T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, 2013: Part 2

For this second part of my Newport coverage, I focused on outstanding demos, mainly from systems with established gear, but also including one hot new product in the personal-audio category. Interestingly, all but one system was analog-based or from the analog option in their setup. And all were at the Atrium Hotel. It did seem to me that, in general and for what it's worth, there tended to be better sound over at the Atrium than at the Hilton.

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