- Created on Saturday, 15 June 2013 00:00
- Written by Sathyan Sundaram
All receivers, whether two-channel or multichannel, switch among line-level sources. In A/V receivers, particularly the cheaper ones, the numbers of line-level RCA inputs have been reduced in exchange for more HDMI ports. This trend has been less pronounced among stereo receivers and integrated amplifiers -- the last integrated I reviewed had seven analog line inputs. So I was surprised to see only one line input on Bel Canto Design’s new e.One C7R two-channel receiver. I thought, This is going to work only if the DAC and phono stage and tuner are all really good, as there’s only one slot for an outboard upgrade.
Bel Canto Design, founded in 1990 and based in Minneapolis, do all of their design and manufacturing in the US. Among other goals, they focus on the DAC as the center of the audio system, and emphasize energy efficiency and compactness. The e.One C7R ($2995 USD) has a built-in USB DAC and phono stage, and its half-width case matches the appearance of the other models in Bel Canto’s full line of products, which include a CD player and a CD transport. Folded up in the C7R’s box is a poster featuring a glamour shot of the wide variety of these models, displayed together in a starkly empty room.
- Created on Saturday, 01 June 2013 00:00
- Written by Jeff Fritz
The Pro-Ject Stream Box DSA ($1699 USD), from Pro-Ject Audio Systems of Austria, combines more features into one box than I’ve ever seen in a component designed for stereo operation. Yes, a multichannel home-theater receiver might do more. But for a two-channel stereo component, this little guy has it all . . . and the kitchen sink.
Known mostly as a maker of turntables, Pro-Ject introduced their Box Design series of microcomponents at the High End show in Munich, Germany, several years ago. As of this writing, I count over 25 Box Design models on the Pro-Ject website. They seem to be multiplying . . .
- Created on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 00:00
- Written by Tim Shea
As a glance in my closet confirms, I’m not a huge fan of fashion or style. I’m more about function and value. But despite my proclivity for practicality, I can appreciate when something looks good. And if I can get style, performance, and value together in one package, I’m good with that.
But unless boxy really blows your skirt, there’s not much style to be found among inexpensive speakers. Sonus Faber (pronounced SO-nus FAH-ber) feels your pain, and has had the audacity to launch a line of speakers, Venere (for Venus, and pronounced VAY-neh-ray), that offer style and substance at very reasonable prices.
The Venere 2.5s ($2498 USD per pair) are the most stylish audio components ever to grace my system. Before I even had a chance to ask, my wife remarked on how much she liked their looks. She, too, is Italian, so the deck was probably stacked a little in the Venere’s favor. I’m a little more conservative about style, but even I could appreciate the Venere’s graceful proportions and curves.
Unlike my wife, the Venere 2.5 is not 100% Italian. While it was designed by folks in Italy, and the drivers were specced by Sonus Faber and sourced from other European manufacturers, those sexy cabinets are made and the final assembly is done in China.
- Created on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 00:00
- Written by Hans Wetzel
The value proposition is a difficult one to measure. The natural inclination is to buy the biggest, the fastest, the best. If one is buying a Ford Mustang, for instance, a V6 motor simply isn’t an option. It’s all well and good that it makes over 300hp and looks the part, but as soon as you pull up next to a 5.0-liter variant with 412hp, it’s all for naught. Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the “base” Mustang -- except for the fact that a Mustang is supposed to have eight cylinders rumbling under its hood. To V6 Mustang owners out there, I say, you’re doing it wrong. The counterargument would proceed that some people don’t need anything more than a V6. “But this gets better gas mileage, and look how much money I’ll save!” That’s true. And yet it matters so little to me it almost hurts.
In late 2012, when I was looking for a pair of loudspeakers to replace my excellent but idiosyncratic Mirage OMD-28s, fellow writers suggested I check out KEF’s R series. Last year, when Doug Schneider reviewed KEF’s R500 ($2599.98 USD per pair), he compared that floorstander favorably with Revel’s flagship, the Salon2 ($22,000/pair). I immediately looked up the specs of KEF’s top R model, the R900. Biggest speaker in the line? Check. Two 8” woofers per cabinet? Check. Most expensive speakers in the line? At $4999.98/pair, they certainly are. Other SoundStage! Network contributors kindly counseled that something like the R700, with its 6.5” woofers and $3699.98/pair price, might be the better option. “Better fit for your room,” they said; “more affordable,” they said.
I promptly ordered a pair of R900s.
- Created on Monday, 15 April 2013 00:00
- Written by Vince Hanada
Furutech, a Japanese audio company established in 1988, has been described as a maker of audio accessories: high-end power and speaker cables, car-audio cables, RCA connectors, etc. I’d never used anything made by them; as I browsed Furutech’s website, their products look to be of very high quality, and fit into a very narrow niche of high-end audio.
Recently, under the Alpha Design Labs by Furutech brand, the company has launched affordable headphones and related electronics such as headphone amps and DACs. Their latest such product, and the subject of this review, is the ADL Esprit USB DAC, which builds on ADL’s successful GT40 24-bit/96kHz USB DAC with headphone amplifier by adding a preamplifier section. At a retail price of $899 USD, the Esprit looks to be a versatile component that could find its way into the homes and offices of many audiophiles.