I’ve had a set of Monitor Audio Studio standmount speakers ($1400 per pair when available, all prices USD) anchoring my multipurpose music/movie/YouTube stereo system for a few years now. This two-way minimonitor (mini Monitor?) is a high-resolution transducer, what with its AMT tweeter and dual midrange-woofers—both drive units derived from the company’s costlier Platinum series of flagship loudspeakers. The thing they lack, though, is deep bass. That is of course where SVS comes in.
Here’s the second half of my coverage of the CanJam SoCal 2021 headphone show, which took place September 25 and 26 at the Irvine Marriott hotel in Irvine, California. I was surprised to see so much innovation at this show—not just new headphone and earphone models but also new technologies I’d never seen before. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised, because what else were audio product designers going to do when they were shut inside for months?
Audio shows are understandably but sadly rare in the COVID-19 era, but happily, the relatively small (and manageable) CanJam SoCal headphone show was able to take place, at the Irvine Marriott in Irvine, California, just south of Los Angeles. All show attendees were required to be vaccinated (on the honor system) and wear masks, and we could take some comfort in the fact that California currently has the lowest rate of COVID-19 transmission in the US. Most exhibitors were careful to clean the headphones and earphones with sterile wipes after every use, and hand sanitizer was readily available.
In my May 1, 2021, SoundStage! Ultra article, “What Matters Most in an Audio System: The Loudspeaker Drive Unit,” I interviewed Vivid Audio’s technical director, Laurence Dickie, one of the world’s preeminent loudspeaker designers. The interview was all about drivers, obviously, and their importance above all other single factors in the design of a finished loudspeaker. In that article, Dickie—whose Vivid loudspeakers such as the Giya series are legendary in the industry—said something important:
Rarely does high-end audio offer a value proposition like that seen in the SVS SB16-Ultra subwoofer ($1999.99, all prices USD). Now that might sound like a bold statement, but as I was unboxing this big, bad SVS sub, I couldn’t help thinking about just what was enclosed in the massive cardboard box my son and I had hoisted up into my listening room.
With its large, analog VU level meters and old-school design aesthetic—and considering Technics’ reputation for producing turntables like the legendary SL-1200—you might think that the Technics SU-R1000 is an all-analog integrated amplifier at first glance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lurking below its impeccably polished casework are a plethora of novel technologies, including an all-digital signal path and the company’s effort to take on the absolute state of the art with its Reference Class integrated amplifier.
Among the best-known British hi-fi brands, there are some much smaller “under-the-radar” companies that almost never receive the recognition or acclaim for the quality of products that they design and produce. Some of you may already be familiar with Temple Audio, but for those who are not, the company designs and creates a range of high-end products (most notably, amplification and power supplies) at their headquarters in Manchester, North West England.
The story of Audeze’s CRBN electrostatic headphones, which the company announced today, is unusual. And judging from the brief listen I got last week at Audeze’s Santa Ana, California, headquarters, so is the end result.
My visit to Magico LLC at its Hayward, California, factory on July 16, 2021, was all about the company’s new M9 flagship loudspeaker ($750,000 per pair; all prices USD). You’ve seen the M9 press release. Maybe you’ve seen a few of the available M9 photos. My goal was to dig into the heart of it. I wanted to see the guts of the M9: cabinet, drivers, nuts, and bolts. And once I had all of that digested, I wanted to hear it.
Music is universal and healing, and no one is more committed to using those qualities to promote harmony than Simeon “Sanch” Sandiford, a record executive, promoter, and music enthusiast. His love for the music of his native island, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is boundless, as is his belief that music can bring people together. On August 14, 2016, Sandiford organized a concert featuring pianist Felix Roach at the Little Carib Theatre in Port of Spain. Sandiford promoted the show to help call attention to Roach’s album Felix Roach Plays the Spirituals, which Sandiford’s record company, Sanch Electronix, had released on HDCD a few weeks earlier.
As I said in “Part 3” of this series, Monitor Audio sent a Gold W12 subwoofer ($3300 USD) to pair with the Gold 100 loudspeakers I had in for audition. I’ve owned Monitor’s discontinued Studio loudspeakers for several years, and I wondered what the logical next step up the Monitor line would be. The Gold 100 proved to be a worthy successor to the Studio, although the improvements were more subtle than groundbreaking—after all, the Studio is a fantastic speaker in its own right. Would the W12 take the Gold 100s to the next level?
Founded in 1997 by Ken Ishiguro, Acoustic Revive is a Japanese maker of audio cables and accessories that is headquartered in the city of Isesaki-shi, about 60 miles northwest of Tokyo. As a teenager growing up in Isesaki-shi during the 1970s, Ishiguro became swept up in the ten-year anniversary of the Beatles’ Japan invasion and frequently visited local audio shops to hear the band’s music.
Happy with the transition from a pair of Monitor Audio Studios to a pair of Monitor Audio Gold 100s, I wanted to see what it would take to get to the next level of sound quality with my A/V setup. The current system is powered by a vintage Coda Model 11 stereo amplifier capable of outputting 100Wpc in pure class A. The Coda is fed by an Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player using its analog RCA outputs and integral volume control. Cables are AmazonBasics speaker cables and RCA interconnects. The primary source for this system is an older Roku digital media player connected to the Oppo via an HDMI cable. I watch Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, YouTube, and FloSports over this system.
In “Part 1” of this four-part blog on my journey with Monitor Audio loudspeakers, I gave you a brief rundown of the physical and design differences between the Monitor Audio Studio ($1400 per pair, all prices USD), a pair of which I own, and the Gold 100 ($2300/pr.). I decided to compare the Gold 100 to the Studio for a couple of reasons: first, the Studio is now discontinued, and the Gold 100 is a logical purchase for someone in need of a reasonable-sized standmount speaker at a good price. Second, what audiophile would not enjoy the experience of comparing some closely matched loudspeakers?
Canada has had a relatively low per-capita death rate from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and when you adjust for population size, Canada currently boasts one of the highest percentages of single-dose vaccinations in the world. Despite these successes, provincial governments across Canada are still maintaining strict lockdown measures, in the hope of avoiding a fourth wave of coronavirus outbreaks and unnecessary deaths. But these lockdowns have kept many businesses closed and countless people out of work.
Monitor Audio’s Studio loudspeaker was introduced in 2018 and was touted as having Platinum-level drive units in a clean, simplified cabinet (Platinum is Monitor’s flagship speaker line). As I needed something to fill the (speaker) void left when I moved from my longtime residence to a rental house, while my family and I searched for a larger home, I promptly bought a pair. I detailed this purchase in “Jeff’s New Temporary Audio System,” published in May 2018 on SoundStage! Ultra. The $1400-per-pair Studios (all prices in USD) would be driven by a vintage Coda Model 11 class-A, 100Wpc stereo amplifier. When we moved into our current residence in summer 2018, the Monitors and the Coda moved, too. Although I built a new reference system, the Studios and the Model 11 were set up as part of a simple A/V system that I still use today for streaming movies and listening to music over YouTube.
I don’t do cable reviews very often. In fact, it’s been eight years since I reviewed some. I know some audiophiles go deep on cables and tweaks, but I’ve always been a set-it-and-forget-it kind of guy. So while my system as a whole has slowly moved upscale over the years, my hodgepodge of affordable cables from AudioQuest, DH Labs, and Dynamique Audio decidedly does not belong in the mix with my $11,000 Hegel Music Systems H590 integrated amplifier-DAC and $13,999.99/pr. KEF Reference 3 loudspeakers. Then the e-mail arrived: Siltech is updating its Classic Series of cables, and would I have interest in getting some in? Uh, I sure would.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my two-channel system is a veritable revolving door of integrated amplifier review units as of late. I recently took a deep dive into Marantz’s PM-KI Ruby, the last in a long line of Signature pieces personally tuned by brand ambassador Ken Ishiwata before he left the company in 2019. Last month, I followed that up with a look at Rotel’s A11 Tribute (you can read the full review here). A tribute to whom, you ask? The same Ken Ishiwata, who consulted with Rotel on a redesign of the popular budget int-amp before his passing in November of 2019.
The Revel Ultima2 Salon2 has been around since the beginning of high-end audio. OK, not really, but it feels like it. Doug Schneider reviewed it and made it his reference back in December of 2009, and it’s still his go-to speaker to this day. At $21,998 USD per pair, the flagship Revel represented to many the best you could do for 20 large back in the day. With the excellent Harman research and testing facilities and a design team led by industry stalwart Kevin Voecks, the Salon2 was part boutique high end, part corporate branding exercise, and part measurement reference for other companies to shoot for—it’s a high-end audio icon of sorts. The four-way, six-driver Salon2 is still a very competitive product by today’s standards—a testament to its design team if there ever was one—and you could do much worse than acquiring a new pair.
I’d love to tell you that we audio journalists are immune to buzz, that we’re dispassionate evaluators who pay no heed to the excitations of the enthusiast community. But the truth is, we’re enthusiasts, too. So, as Vincent Audio’s star has continued to rise over the past few years, I’ve grown increasingly intrigued by the brand and eager to put my front paws on one of its hybrid integrated amplifiers. Today is that day. The Vincent Audio SV-500 is now sitting in my two-channel audio system betwixt a pair of Paradigm Studio 100 v5 towers, warming up and getting ready to be fully reviewed on SoundStage! Access very soon.
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