Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

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

The Estelon X Diamond Mk II Arrival Details

When the Estelon X Diamond Mk II loudspeakers ($78,000 USD per pair in standard finishes) arrived at my home, they were in two flight cases stacked atop each other and sitting on a plastic skid. Although the plastic skid had minor damage (most wooden ones do after a transatlantic flight from Estonia in northern Europe and truck delivery after landing in the US), the speakers’ flight cases and the plastic wrap surrounding them were perfect. Once I removed the wrap, I noticed a couple of interesting details.

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Revisiting NAD's Masters M17 with Modular Design Construction (MDC)

When I reviewed the original NAD Masters M17 surround-sound processor six years ago, I admired its exceptional sound and high quality of construction, but I found that the Audyssey MultEQ XT room correction was good with movies but just okay for music. It also didn’t support the recently announced Dolby Atmos object-based surround-sound format, so I thought it offered good but not outstanding value at the time. However, a couple of years ago, NAD introduced the M17 V2. I didn’t take much notice at the time, but I should have. Not only did the V2 version include Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based surround decoding, but it also featured Dirac Live room correction and support for the BluOS streaming system. And best of all, for those who had previously purchased the original M17, it was upgradable to V2 status simply by replacing two of its MDC modules, a refreshing change from the usual obsolescence of most surround-sound components after just a few years.

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Audio Research: When SE Is Really Special

Over the past decade of reviewing audio equipment, whether speakers, amplifiers, preamplifiers, or what have you, I’ve grown skeptical of products bearing an “SE” designation. While I will agree that “SE” often equates to the likes of a V2 or MkII of a product and doesn’t literally have to mean special edition, I do expect that these initials carry with them some meaning—and offer customers something noticeably special, unique, or superior beyond a higher price tag. Audio Research is a prime example of such a company. When it releases an SE version of a product, it’s typically aesthetically identical to the standard version yet dramatically different in terms of parts and performance.

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Unboxing DALI's Oberon Home-Theater Speaker System

For me, the key to most good unboxing experiences is the juxtaposition between expectations and initial impressions. Unfortunately, that put me at something of a disadvantage when I was tearing into the packaging for DALI’s new Oberon home-theater speaker system, comprising the Oberon 1 bookshelf speakers ($599/pair, all prices in USD), Vokal center ($549), and E-9 F subwoofer ($799). Given that this was my first hands-on experience with the manufacturer’s offerings, my expectations were nebulous, to say the least.

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How Well Do the Apple AirPods Max Headphones Measure?

The launch of the Apple AirPods Max on December 8 caused the biggest stir about a set of headphones that I’ve ever seen—partly because they’re the over-ear version of the hyper-popular Apple AirPods Pro earphones, partly because they look so different from anything else on the market, and partly because they’re from Apple. I don’t normally review big-hype, mass-market products like the AirPods Max headphones, but considering that they’re a radical design packed with advanced signal processing, I knew I couldn’t call myself an informed reviewer if I hadn’t spent some time with them.

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Details About Gryphon's New Vanta Cables That You Won't Find Elsewhere

Reasonable or not, we all have our biases. One of mine is that I am generally reluctant to buy an audio cable or power cord from a component manufacturer. Frankly, when someone mentions that they’ve done just that, I cringe a bit inside. But I always hold my tongue, especially if they have already completed the purchase.

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What Is the Rotel Michi Series?

Rotel originally released its Michi series of products in the Japanese market back in the early 1990s. The word michi, in Japanese, literally translates to the road, or path. In the 1990s, Michi products were primarily targeted toward the Japanese market, but the products quickly found global success, as they delivered a step up in audio performance over the company’s other lines. Michi also finished them with classic Japanese rosewood side panels and priced them competitively. The brand’s new products, while still competitively priced, pack a wallop of performance and look anything but traditional. They also don’t appear to be aimed at any specific market, so I asked Daren Orth, Rotel’s chief technical officer, what precipitated the development of the new line. Orth’s response was eloquent and informative:

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Sonus Faber: Enter the Maxima Amator

I’m closing in on almost 100 reviews for the SoundStage! Network, and for the very first time, I find myself in possession of a product before it has been officially announced. That, in and of itself, feels pretty good. But when a 224-pound pallet lands on your doorstep from Sonus Faber — shipped directly from the company’s factory in Arcugnano, in Italy’s Vicenza province — the satisfaction and expectation are all that much greater. Enter the third offering in SF’s Heritage Collection, the Maxima Amator ($15,000 per pair, all prices in USD).

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From Germany, Göbel High End

Since he was a small boy, Oliver Göbel, founder of Göbel High End, has loved music. His company is located in Alling, Germany. But unlike most in his family, who fell in love with music through playing an instrument, Göbel was more interested in designing the instrument that played the music. With a background in electronics and communications, Göbel got his first taste for designing loudspeakers while working for Siemens. Specializing in designing specific acoustic solutions for large OEM manufacturers and often focusing on loudspeaker designs, Göbel discovered bending wave technology while he was there. Fascinated by the science and driven by his passion for designing loudspeakers, he soon patented his own acoustic application for bending wave transducers.

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How PSB Is Bringing Higher Performance to On-Wall Speakers

Loudspeakers come in all shapes and sizes these days, with some of the most familiar ones being bookshelf and floorstanding models. One of the most overlooked types of speakers, by both the audiophile community and manufacturers alike, is the on-wall. This type of speaker hangs on your wall, usually through a bracket, as opposed to an in-wall speaker, which requires you to cut a hole in your drywall.

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Bose Announces New High-Output Line-Array Speakers

Chances are good that most musicians who perform gigs with their own PA system have at least a passing familiarity with the pro sound line of Bose products and with its L1 range of portable line-array speaker systems, in particular, a series the company invented 17 years ago. While a plethora of similarly designed systems from competing manufacturers now exist in the marketplace, Bose cites on its website the L1’s emphasis on high vocal projection and clarity, strong output levels over distance, and consistent coverage and tonal balance throughout venues of various sizes as the line’s key differentiators.

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Classé Audio Is Back in Business

In May of 2016, Bowers & Wilkins (B&W), parent company of Classé Audio at the time, was sold to EVA Automation. This acquisition proved detrimental to Classé Audio, as it was forced to lay off most of its staff and close the doors to its Montreal, Canada-based headquarters for the first time since opening them in 1980.

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Tweaking a Power Plug with Furutech

We audiophiles are a compulsive, persnickety bunch. We fuss, fiddle, tweak, adjust, calibrate, measure, tinker, and toil -- all to achieve the highest quality of sound reproduction possible. A generation ago, this obsession with getting everything just right was pretty much limited to the equipment itself. Most components came with captive or detachable power cords, the sufficiency of which was seldom questioned. Interconnects and speaker cables were also fairly basic affairs -- rarely did audiophiles feel the need to experiment with replacements. Then something happened: Early makers of cables -- e.g., Monster Cable, Cobra, Vampire Wire -- set out to convince us that wires could alter the sound of an audio system.

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Parasound Presents via Zoom at the Audiophile Society

On August 21, 2020, Richard Schram, the founder, president, and CEO of Parasound, gave a Zoom presentation to over 50 members of the New York-based Audiophile Society.

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KEF’s Classic Gets Updated: Introducing the LS50 Meta and Its New “Killer Feature”

I was in Munich at High End 2012 when KEF officially released the LS50 bookshelf-type loudspeaker, which the company designed to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It was being marketed as a modern-day version of the BBC’s LS3/5A minimonitor.

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