Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

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

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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T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, 2013: Part 1

Along with Top Audio in Milan, Italy, the T.H.E Show Newport Beach in California is my favorite for a few special reasons. It's exclusively audio-oriented (as opposed to the massive CES), it's user-friendly (like Rocky Mountain), and it's in a great part of the world (like Top Audio). I went to graduate school and lived along its beaches for about five years back in the early '80s, so not only do I know my way around, but I can always read the silvery alphabet of the sea in any glance across its suburban landscape. Besides, I can usually count on fine weather, excellent food, live music, entertaining distractions (a cigar bar, a car show), and some important product debuts. T.H.E. Show Newport Beach ran for three days, May 30 to June 2, and took place at two adjoining hotels -- the Hilton and the Atrium -- across the street from the John Wayne Airport in Orange County. For this two-part blog post, I'll mainly cover new products in Part 1, while mostly talking about standout demos of established gear in Part 2.

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Simaudio's New Moon Neo Series

I make it a point to visit as many companies as I can to see what's brand new, and to report it to our readers whenever I can. So on Thursday, May 30, I drove to the east side of Montreal, Canada, to a place called Boucherville, in order to visit Simaudio's factory. It was there that I met with Simaudio's VP of marketing, Lionel Goodfield, who guided me through the assembly area where they were making their new Moon Neo-series products.

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Bel Canto's Flagship Digital Arrives

Bel Canto Design has taken the concept of separates in high-end digital audio to perhaps its logical conclusion with their flagship three-box DAC/power-supply/digital-converter setup. The DAC3.5VB Mk.II ($3495) digital-to-analog converter is the heart of the system. The Virtual Battery Supply 1 (VBS1, $1495) upgrades the power supply of the DAC3.5VB Mk.II by adding increased power filtration and greater isolation from power-supply-induced noise. The highly regulated VBS1 comes in a chassis that mirrors that of the DAC itself. Lastly, the REFLink ($1495), also in the same-size chassis as the DAC and power supply, is a digital converter that you'll need if you use a USB digital output from your music server or computer-based system. The REFLink then sends the DAC3.5VB Mk.II a digital signal that it can decode.   

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No Sleep till Munich

In 1987 the Beastie Boys released the song "No Sleep till Brooklyn" on their Licensed to Ill album. Whenever I travel, I think about that phrase. Overseas traveling to a show like High End isn't as hard as it used to be in the old days, but it still isn't easy, particularly when you live in a place where there are hardly any international flights, so everywhere you go requires a connection, and no matter what you do, you can't sleep on a plane.

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