The United Kingdom’s history of making sound-reproduction equipment is long, and Wharfedale has been there from almost the beginning. Wharfedale Wireless Works was founded by Gilbert Briggs in 1932, when wireless meant AM radio, and by the 1950s the company was firmly established as an important maker of loudspeakers. Today Wharfedale is owned by the International Audio Group (IAG), whose other brands include Audiolab, Castle, Ekco, Luxman, Mission, and Quad.
I’ve never been fussy about audio cables. When I moved into my present house more than a decade ago, I bought an enormous spool of Monster Cable S14-2RCL, a 14-gauge, two-conductor speaker cable specified for in-wall use. What was important for me was that I could safely run it under floors and through walls to reach other rooms while minimizing the cables’ visual impact. Sound quality? It’s always seemed to me that the main factors responsible for determining a system’s sound are the speakers, amps, and source components.
Pro-Ject Audio Systems, an industry leader in turntable manufacture and design based in Vienna and with manufacturing facilities in the Czech Republic, offers a wide range of electronics, including phono stages. The Tube Box DS2 ($699 USD) is in the upper half of the company’s range of phono stages -- it’s a member of the DS2 line, which is just below the top, RS line, with a few features not included in the standard DS models or, below that, the S models.
From the 1970s into the 1990s, a stereo receiver -- an AM/FM tuner, preamplifier, and stereo power amplifier in a single enclosure -- was the first component most newcomers to hi-fi would buy. Some receivers -- models from Marantz, Pioneer, and Sansui come to mind -- are still sought by collectors, who eagerly refurbish and use them. I’m a proud owner of a circa-1972 Marantz. And though it’s been years since I’ve listened with it, I remain in awe of that receiver’s tank-like build quality, stylish gyro-touch tuning dial, and cool-blue meters.
Wires are not long for this world -- no one wants to be tethered if they don’t have to be. Soon enough, our cell phones and tablets will rely on wireless charging, wireless earbuds will be commonplace, and perhaps even our hi-fi systems will be freed from the shackles of unsightly cords.
In recent years, Definitive Technology has produced many lifestyle products: sound bars, wireless speakers, headphones, and their Mythos line of elegant but still very-high-performance speakers in gorgeous enclosures of curved aluminum. In the 1990s, however, DefTech’s very first speakers were bipolar designs, and they continue to develop that technology. Their latest products are from their new BP9000 series of bipolar models, many of which include built-in powered subwoofers.
Founded in Menlo Park, California, in 2004, Oppo Digital built its early reputation on its high-performance DVD players. It wasn’t until 2014, however, that Oppo began branching out into personal audio, with products like the PM1 headphones and the ultra-portable HA-2 DAC-headphone amplifier. I reviewed the HA-2 (since replaced by the HA-2SE), as well as Oppo’s PM-2 over-ear headphones (discontinued). Each product earned a Reviewers’ Choice award, and I bought the HA-2 review sample, which I’ve since replaced with an HA-2SE.
It’s been about four years since Oppo introduced their last top-model universal Blu-ray player, the BDP-105, later replaced by the BDP-105D -- essentially the same player with DarbeeVision video processing. That’s a long time for an optical-disc player to remain in production, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that things settled down in the world of Ultra High Definition (UHD) video, and now Oppo has released a new top model, the UDP-205 4K Ultra HD universal BD player. As in their previous lines of BD players, the 90 and 100 models, the UDP-205 is a step up from its own line’s entry-level model, the UDP-203, with several enhancements, most notable being a much more advanced audio output section.
Emotiva BasX S12 subwoofer measurements can be found by clicking this link.
Anyone who’s been involved in audio for a couple of decades has to look at this product with a sense of wonder. Twenty years ago, there were only a few really good subwoofers on the market at any price, most from sub specialists such as M&K and Velodyne. Models like the Emotiva BasX S12 ($399 USD), with a beefy 12” driver and a 300W amp, typically cost $1000 or more. More recently, competition from a new generation of subwoofer specialists has pushed prices way down, and mainstream speaker manufacturers are launching new subs to compete with the specialists. It’s a good time to be a basshead.
It’s a great era for analog, with accessibly priced record players that let you join the fun without betting the farm. Many audio manufacturers, new and old, are entering or reentering the field, and we’re covering as many of their offerings as possible.