Shelter from the Storm
Snow at 1500m in midwinter is expected but finding over 30 people in a 12 bunk hut (Mt Brewster) was a bit of a surprise but that’s why you carry a tent. Take it as a metaphor for the global situation as the team of 5 million take shelter in our comparative isolation but at the same time try to make the best of the situation.
The lifting of lockdown has seen us become unexpectedly busy with everyone looking to improve their systems. And as you’ll read there have been a slew of new components come in as deliveries resume.
First in was the NuPrime AMG STA. This is the matching power amplifier to the AMG PRA analogue preamplifier which impressed us so much at the start of the year. The STA is a remarkable component in its own right which advances NuPrime’s unique technologies.
Compact and cool running yet powerful, the STA has the most beautiful sound – relaxed and liquid with inner detail which I’ve not heard matched in any context. You’ll hear much more about this soon but in the meantime you can read NuPrime’s own description here.
I’ll admit to some trepidation in ordering the new KLEI flagship cables. Keith hasn’t held back with his very best analogue interconnect and AC mains cable at NZ$4500 and $2500 respectively. These are in stock right now.
It’s not often you can make a change within a system and know within minutes that is unequivocally better in every regard. But this is exactly what I have found. The context in which these cables are appropriate is much broader than you might expect.
You have probably made both a careful selection and a significant investment in your components. Given many systems will literally last a lifetime, it can often make much more sense to optimise what you have. This is where the KLEI cables really do make sense.
The qualities and design that go into the flagship models are still present in the entry level and it’s obvious from client feedback that the experience of these is directly comparable to what I’ve have just heard. So don’t just dream. Talk to me now about which KLEI cables will make the greatest improvement for you.
Home is where the heart is.
Everything you read about Tivoli will mention the rich sound. This is the legacy of the original designer, Henry Kloss. The sound of the new ‘Home Music System’ (NZ$1695) is especially so, deep and warm. This forms part of the full package of this affable audio system. It engenders a feeling of comfort, connection and safety.
Combining CD replay and radio with modern wifi access, this music system is truly the best of all worlds. Simple in use and with a comprehensive feature set, you’ll find this the perfect companion. Read more.
We’ve just had resupply of our favourite analogue components. The latest version of the Wax Engineturntable with both the new Consonance Allegro Tonearm (effectively a component in it’s own right) and the upgraded Well Tempered bearing and drive system. Remarkably the pre-Covid price remains unchanged at $1695 making the Wax Engine even more astonishing value.
Included in the shipment we’ve also got both of the Well Tempered Phono stages – the RIAA at just $660 and the definitively titled Phono Stagewhich we introduced you to earlier in the year.
The Nagaoka MP series phono cartridges have proved to be extremely popular over the last few months. As an upgrade for existing system or a means of resurrecting older turntables, these cartridges give you the best of all worlds. You’ll enjoy a rich involving sound, greatly reduced surface noise and economic styli replacement. You can select from a broad choice of models from $300 to $1500 delivering a special something for every vinyl enthusiast.
Just in – the new speaker binding posts and RCA sockets from Keith Eichmann. We’ll have a new page up on these shortly. The RCA sockets mirror design of Keith’s highly regarded Harmony RCA plugs, are extremely easy to fit and can’t fail to make a significant improvement. The speaker binding posts are even more radical being the complete opposite of most designs with an absolute minimum of metal but what there is, is extremely high conductivity copper or, in the case of the premium version, plated with silver alloy which takes performance further again. Combine these with the new KLEI Harmony speaker cable plugs and you have a complete high conductivity end to end system.
KLEI RCA Sockets – NZ$48 per pair (red and black)
KLEI Copper Speaker Binding posts – NZ$60 a pair (red and black)
My heart goes out to Italy. We can only watch from a distance and hope that somehow the country will get past the worst of this terrible virus.
This loads even more emotion into listening to the new Sonus faber Minima Amator II speakers which arrived here just last week.
These speakers are the embodiment of everything I’ve loved about Sonus faber from the very first time I heard a pair many years ago right through to the most recent modern designs.
While I’m working on a more complete story, take the time to read more about their slightly larger siblings, the Electa Amator III.
NuPrime AMG PRA Preamplifier
Read our two part review
In Part One we examine the performance of the NuPrime AMG PRA preamplifier in analogue systems. The PRA is almost a completely new design yet does draw upon previous NuPrime and NuForce models. Yet we’ve found the performance to be vastly better making the PRA something really special within the NuPrime range.
The NuPrime AMG PRA might, at its heart be an analogue component, yet it weaves magic into digital replay and shows us that music is what matters regardless of how it is stored or delivered. So in Part Two and you’ll learn how the PRA works with digital sources, how it compares to other options, and advice on matching with power amplifiers and cables.
The PRA is outstanding in terms of making music sound better in any separates system for both digital and analogue sources.
Zen Blue from ifi
Bluetooth is the most popular and easy means of getting music running wirelessly from your smartphone, yet it’s often seen as a compromise format in terms of sound quality.
We’ve been listening to the new Zen Blue (just NZ$280 including GST)from ifi and it proves that you can have all the practical benefits of bluetooth AND exceptional sound quality – it’s a bluetooth receiver with an excellent Sabre DAC built in so will enhance any system. And for the really serious, there are no-compromise digital outputs suitable for the highest performing components.
The Wicked Waxy
Notice anything different about the latest version of the Wax Engine turntable we featured just a couple of months ago? Yes, that’s a new tonearm and it has made the ‘Waxy’ even more formidable, yet the price remains unchanged at just $1695.
Combine this with the previous improvements and then mix it up with the new Well Tempered Phono Stage for a sensational analogue system.
New generation cable from Keith Eichmann
Keith Eichmann is obsessive about better sound quality. His KLEI (Keith Louis Eichmann Innovations) cables have grown into a comprehensive range with analogue and digital interconnects, speaker and power cables. Not to mention the highly evolved version of the Eichmann Bullet plug which started it all.
This passion for better sound drives Keith to continually improve his cables to the point that I sometimes struggle to keep up. The new QFlow series replace the previous gZero models. With new conductors and internal architecture, not to mention a rather attractive and distinctive green sleeving, the new QFlow1 analogue interconnects are your introduction to the new generation.
You’ll hear an ease and clarity with these cables that I’m still trying to find the right words for. As with all of Keith’s cables they improve with use and there’s something new every time we listen. At NZ$550 for a 1m pair, I know you’ll expect something special. Rest assured that you’ll be thrilled from the very first moment you hear them in your own system.
Nativ Vita – your path to new music
Chelsea Wolfe (pictured above – photo credit Bill Crisafi), is getting a lot of playtime on our Nativ Vita system. Streamed or downloaded from Bandcamp, her music runs from haunting acoustic to a metallic wash of feedback and doom that we’re finding addictive.
Whatever your musical tastes the Vita is enables you to explore and store an entire world of music with both ease of use and un-paralleled fidelity. The price of SSD storage has plummeted over the last 12 months making Vita even better value than it was when we introduced you to Nativ this time last year.
Even after writing 3 extensive articles on the Vita we’re still finding more it can do as the internal software improves and more music services come on-line. The high resolution touchscreen makes cover art come to life. It’s really the star of our digital range so talk to us now about getting your own Vita before Christmas!
Hear me roar!
The Nuprime X MCX-1 750 watt mono amplifiers redefine the relationship between audio quality and power. While upending many of the assumptions you may hold about what makes a better sounding amplifier.
When we introduced you to the MCX-2 a few months ago, I wondered just how much better could the more powerful mono versions be. The answer is a lot, but in surprising and unexpected ways.
As you can see they are slim and, despite our cat’s best efforts, cool running. And behind the outrageous power rating there are subtleties that make the MCX-1 a unique and compelling option, especially for owners of floor standing speakers. Click here to read our full review of the new MCX-1s.
Sonus faber Sonetto III – a review.
‘Some speaker designers strive for a form of accuracy that is the elimination of character. Ruler flat response and control of resonance by engineering. Which can produce technically ideal yet strangely un-involving results. Sonus faber intentionally work with materials and design to enhance their qualities. While you could call this a colouration, the flip side is that it can really bring music to life and this is what Sonetto does.
So you get remarkable projection of the midrange – there are layers peeled back in vocals especially and the sound carries out into the room in a way that every Sonus faber owner will appreciate. The emphasis on the ‘voice’ is paired with an organic softness to the sound.’ Read more.
The WTL Phono Stage.
The new Well Tempered Labs Phono Stage is the product of several lifetimes in high end audio. In both absolute performance and value for money it is quite simply the best phono stage I have heard. This is an assertion that obviously warrants qualification but bear with me and I’ll explain why…
It sets new standards in both value and performance. The unique implementation of RIAA processing provides a new and better interpretation of vinyl record replay which is, paradoxically, most striking when applied to moving magnet systems. In doing so it causes us to question the assumption of placing precedence of the cartridge over the phono stage. On top of this, The WTL Phono Stage also works it’s magic with low output moving coil cartridges, and with an extremely broad range of easy to adjust settings, is compatible and indeed optimal with virtually any phono cartridge and amplifier on the market today. The Well tempered Labs Phono – NZ$2100.
NuPrime have changed the way we think about amplifiers. What they look like, how they work and even how they sound. The NuPrime-X MCX series are the latest chapter in this story, redefining our expectations of power and how this ties in with sound quality. Massively powerful – they range from 300 to 750 watts per channel – the MCX power amplifiers are a series of 4 models all built on the same slim design platform.
In every case the MCX series represents unbeatable value at an introductory price of just NZ$2350 each including GST and delivery. (that’s the US$1295 price plus tax). The MCX-2, which we review here in depth, is the stereo power amplifier within the range (the others being mono, 3 and 4 channel). There is a great technical story behind this design but for me – and I would also hope you, the sound quality comes first so let’s explore that initially then see how the technical explanation ties in with what you’ll hear.
New Monitor Audio Gold 5G 300 loudspeakers
To introduce Monitor Audio’s new Gold 5G series we look closely at the largest floor stander – the substantial and handsome 300s. The Studio – which we reviewed this time last year – introduced real anomaly in the Monitor Audio range. Although less in cost than the Gold series speakers, it drew on Platinum level technology with significantly better components which delivered greater resolution.
The new Golds address this and restore the hierarchy of performance between the ranges – but as you read on you’ll find that it’s far more than this – the magnitude of improvement suggests that Monitor Audio have undertaken a greater program of development than originally intended and I suspect that this is why this range is being released now rather than in 2018 as originally intended.
While the previous changes to the Gold series have been iterative with subtle driver and grille changes, the new range is a complete reworking – all drivers changed and resized, the cabinets reshaped, refinished and a host of other details.
John’s review details why he believes these are the best loudspeaker that Monitor Audio have built. Read more here.
Nativ Vita – The epicentre of your music.
The new Nativ Vita is a world class music server and touchscreen control all wrapped into a perfectly engineered and beautifully finished package.
The Vita is the solution we have long been looking for to bring our digital music collection off the various computers, phones and CDs scattered around the house. It gets over a whole series of annoying compatibility and control issues. But most importantly, the Nativ Vita is the best sounding digital source we’ve heard. It delivers both the perfect foil for our best analogue systems as well as making an ideal match for the entire NuPrime range of DACs and digital amplifiers. Not to mention the new Vifa speaker systems.
Nativ Vita – and the other matching components within their range – have broad compatibility and so will enhance many systems. So whether you are an early adopter of digital and computer audio, or looking to finally move from CDs, or wanting to level the performance gap between a serious analogue setup and digital, Nativ Vita could well be the perfect product.
And finally having it here for ourselves, we’re thrilled with how it looks, how easy it is to use and set up, and how great it sounds. Read more here.
The Nuprime Evolution DAC and digital preamplifier.
The story of the NuPrime Evolution DAC is very much about unknown pleasures – in what it has revealed so far from recordings we know, to what the future still holds as we further improve the system around it, as the Evolution DAC continues to run in, and as our renewed enthusiasm for new music takes us to places unknown. Are you ready to come with us?
Have you ever wondered just how good recorded sound can be? And can we appreciate it with the realities of our hearing? What will be the cost of a system capable of rendering it?
The timely arrival of the Nuprime Evolution DAC – NZ$6000 including GST and delivery – just before the end of the year has brought these questions into focus, and it’s taken us down some unexpected pathways. More.
I’m in love… the new Sonus faber Electa Amator III.
Of all the Sonus faber models, these are the ones I want for myself – having experienced the earlier version, I’ve retained a clear memory of their unique sound. While two versions of the Cremona Auditor and the subsequent Olympica I have built upon this heritage, there is just something about this design with the larger bass driver and beautifully finished cabinet (yes – that’s Italian Carrara marble on the base and stands) that pulls at my heartstrings.
Officially released just a few days ago, these speakers will come in between the Olympica 1 and Guarneri Tradition. Expected NZ$ price is $18,000 the pair with stands included.Immerse yourself in Sonus faber’s own page here.
NuPrime CDP-9 CD player and DAC.
“The NuPrime CDP-9 clearly better than any CD Playing system we have sold previously over the last decade with the exception of the top end Meridian products. And even then it does bring something unique to the party. The CDP-9 is also better than our previous recommendations of transport (Oppo and Cambridge) and DAC combinations, both in performance and value for money. The quality and implementation of the new Sabre chipset surpass the digital performance of both NuPrime’s own IDA-8 and DAC-9.
There is also a certain irony going on here with the cycling of formats. CD was predicted to spell the end of vinyl and that’s come back. Streaming was supposed to spell the end of CD (and let’s not even start to talk about format changes with the little silver discs). But here we are with a new player from a forward looking company that breathes new life into the compact disc. If you have a CD collection, NuPrime are looking after you.”Read more.
New Dynavector MC cartridges.
Not one but two new models. We’ve just got the new DV17DX (replaces the D3) and DV10X5MkII moving coil cartridges. I’ve just done a full review of the 17DX .The 17D3 is completely re-engineered with a new body and magnet assembly – this now comes in at NZ$2700 and takes it past the DVXX-2 in performance – here’s the data sheet.The classic Dynavector entry level high output model – the 10X5 has been through even more changes over it’s lifespan and is now in MK2 form sporting a new Shibata III stylus for better detail retreival and other modifications for even better sound. At NZ$1100 the MK2 version is the same price as the previous model which makes it easily the best buy at this level. More here.
Monitor Audio Studio review.
We might have been first but now the new Studio loudspeakers are finding some real fans – Alan Sircom at HiFi+ writes “…the Studio is all about detail retrieval. If a guitarist uses a phaser pedal and they meant to use a anger (one of the differences between the sound of Jimi Hendrix’ and David Gilmore’s FX-laden sounds) you will hear the mistake effortlessly. If a singer needs a spot of AutoTune, you’ll quickly learn to recognise its processing engine’s sonic signature, even at subtle levels. Want to know if that was an alto sax playing low or tenor sax playing high? The Studio will let you into the mix. This is standard fare for more high-end designs, but something of a rarity in the £1,000 price range. Normally, at this point, you either get something effortlessly musical, but not very revealing, or a loudspeaker that equates ‘detail’ with ‘high-frequency energy’ and the Monitor Audio Studio is one of the rare exceptions to both.”Read the full review here.
The NuPrime Evolution One Mono Power Amplifiers.
NuPrime’s new flagship model – the Evolution One Mono power amplifier – sets new standards in audio fidelity, originality of design and value. In short, we think they sound absolutely amazing and if there were ever a product to stretch yourself for, these new amplifiers are it.
There is an openness and ease I’ve never heard before. With their Micro-pleat ribbon tweeter, and narrow profile the Monitor Audio Studios are set up to excel at sound-staging. Combined with the Evolution Ones, the soundstage is both cinematic and deep – every instrument and note has it’s place in space – full 3D space, not just a plane and right back to the listening position – it’s immersive in the better recordings. I’ve experienced fleeting moments of this with other systems but the Evolution Ones do this with a precision and consistency that shows how things should be done.I’ll try to put the Evolution Ones in context for you – The improvement I hear of these over all other amplifiers I have listened to is unequivocal: there are swathes of detail and information transmitted that have not been heard before – this is combined with more than ample power and control, a complete lack of artefact allows you to enjoy all of your music as never before.
Read our full review here.
Dynavector P75MK4 Phono stage NZ$1250
The Dynavector P75 has been the go-to phono stage in New Zealand since it’s introduction in 2003. Over time we’ve seen a series of significant upgrades and now we’re thrilled to introduce you to the MK4.
The new Dynavector P75MK4 is the most substantial re-working of the design with by far the greatest advance in performance. Outwardly the P75MK4 has been transformed from a very basic little box to a much more sophisticated construction, with curved aluminium extrusion side panels, a more appealing front and far better finish. Find out more here.
World first review – the Monitor Audio Studio
The Monitor Audio Studio has recalibrated my expectation of how a compact speaker can perform – the resolution levels and clarity are the best I’ve heard and lay bare everything that is happening in the system. The integration between the metal cone bass/mid drivers and ribbon tweeter is seamless. The speed, control and pace are exemplary.
At their best in an almost near field situation fitted to their dedicated stands, with a wide spread and carefully adjusted toe in, the Studio’s project a holographic soundstage with uncanny accuracy and precision.
The performance delivered from the mid bass upwards is at the very least equal to that of Monitor Audio’s flagship PL-500-II from which the Studio is derived but this much more compact and affordable model is by far a better choice for smaller rooms and doesn’t require anything like the same investment in front end electronics to sing. The Studio is an insight into the values of Monitor Audio’s design team – read the full review.