The HIFICRITIC team of freelance reviewers and journalists has found ways to continue investigations and write ups, with many new review products successfully sourced and delivered for evaluation. I thank all our contributors and those involved in the magazine’s production who are supporting the HIFICRITIC project.
Also, thanks to our readers who have contacted me with comments and suggestions. As our government might well put it, our audio and music examinations, evaluations and judgments have continued at pace!
HIFICRITIC Volume 14 Number 3 July-August-September 2020
Audio equipment designers continue to exercise their creativity, ingeniously devising new solutions for the advancement of sound quality. Sound reproduction systems have benefited from many decades of research but remain far from perfect. While many systems are already highly satisfying musically and require no revision, I believe that there is always room for improvement. It is perhaps surprising that we can discern and value the many subtleties of sound reproduction by careful listening while some aspects still escape the compass of conventional laboratory measurement.
This is when listening experience helps to guide equipment evaluations, hopefully leading to valued comparative opinions for sound quality. Because audio consumers value fine sound reproduction, our reviewers and readers are prepared to invest in compatible, well calibrated audio systems which are carefully installed in suitable listening locations. As ever, our objective is to guide to still more satisfying music replay experiences.
A fair chunk of this issue is devoted to the painstaking efforts of Hervé Delétraz the pioneering Swiss amplifier designer. Early in his career, his disappointment with the prevailing state of the art defined his personal objective for musical naturalness in amplification. He has exhaustively researched novel ways to satisfy this mental construct, where loop negative feedback, typically employed to combat harmonic and intermodulation distortion, is absent from his circuits. Built in Geneva, with prices to match, the review darTZeel pre/power combination darTZeel NHB-18NS II preamplifier and NHB‑108 II power amplifier was fascinating to evaluate and has made for an extended feature-length review from myself.
For our industry personality feature we have brought our focus to bear on international high-end stalwart Ricardo Franassovici, who more than 40 years ago founded his leading international audio import agency Absolute Sounds. He has been a supporter of Delétraz’s designs from their inception.
Bryston’s BP-173/ 3B3 pre/power combination caught reviewer Kevin Fiske by surprise. He felt that he had to borrow some solid state muscle to properly drive the powerful, full scale, full on PMC MB2SE studio monitors he was assessing, but in the event was so intrigued by the Bryston amplifier combo he decided to review it as well.
Chris Frankland pens a major feature on high-end headphones and their supporting equipment, including the Audeze LCD-X; the Focal Clear, and Stellia headphones the Focal Arche amplifier, plus Novafidelity’s HA500H tube /solid state headphone amplifier.
Also on the subject of headphones, Ed Selley takes on the T+A flagship headphone package, combining the reference level Solitaire P planar magnetic headset with their HA-200 amplifier.
Tech guru Keith Howard has two topics for this issue: firstly he’s been experimenting with the combination of a low-frequency effects buttkicker ‘shaker’ bolted to his listening seat and the headphone experience. As he puts it, highly impressed, …………………‘seat vibration could be a game-changer in realism for headphone users.’
Keith Howard has also provided an informative and well-illustrated in-depth feature on optimal pickup cartridge alignment.
Prima Luna tube amplifier technology has matured over the years and Chris Kelly has been listening to the class-leading Evolution 300, as well as evaluating the new and well-priced Keith Monks Prodigy record cleaning machine. Stan Curtis muses on compressor technology and reviews an important book on amplifier design by Robert Cordell: Designing Audio Power Amplifiers 2nd Edition.
And that brings this month’s total of product reviews to 15 – not that we’re counting, you understand.
Our usual complement of music reviews – pop/rock, classical and jazz – leads to our final page Soundstage, featuring Floor van der Holst of NativeDSD.com.
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Martin Colloms has a passion for audio and music and has written for many of the key hi-fi magazines worldwide.