- Created on Sunday, 01 December 2013 00:00
- Written by Kevin East
Y’see, I have this love/hate affair with bass. I love the throaty rumble of a low B string slithering among the joists, daring mere sticks and nails to resist tremulous destruction. I hate standing waves, notes resolving with less than cosmic wind, and mud, mud, and more mud. Good bass is unmitigated pleasure; bad bass is eternity in a flea-infested armpit.
Most subwoofers shipped with integrated home-theater systems are workmanlike affairs -- surefooted, solid, with respectable specs and ho-hum sound. Then again, they’re not designed for much more than the passing of interstellar battle cruisers, the thundering tread of a diplodocus, or an überyacht disintegrating in a glorious fireball in the harbor Vieux Port Marseilles. Well, that’s enough, right? Until you play music. Then you become acquainted with these subs’ limitations, their polite ability to render a musical note in acceptable fashion -- but not the note you were intended to hear.
We’ve had some awfully good subwoofers around lately -- the Velodyne Optimum and DD-10+ come to mind. The challenge is to achieve a level of low-end musicality and still have the cojones to recall Krakatoa.
Enter JL Audio’s E-Sub e110 ($1500 USD). If the e110 has even half the moxie of its big brother the Fathom f110, then, in the end, we just may be talking about a new standard of affordability in high-end subwoofers.
- Created on Friday, 15 November 2013 00:00
- Written by Jeff Stockton
From mid-September until mid-May, the centerpiece of my system is a Raysonic SP-300 integrated amplifier. During those cool fall and cold winter months, I call it The Hearth -- its eight EL34 power tubes and four 12AU7 preamp tubes raise the temperature of the room by about 6° F. But come warm spring and warmer summer, I call it Unusable. Then, I need a cool-running solid-state amp to carry the load for the remaining one-third of the year. The E-Series Power Plant Balanced integrated amplifier ($3100 USD), from German manufacturer T+A Elektroakustik, arrived just in time.
- Created on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 00:00
- Written by Sathyan Sundaram
For those who wish to enjoy movies and listen to music but lack the space or the money for two independent systems, finding a receiver that strikes the right balance between the two media is critical. Several companies known for their two-channel gear long ago began to address this, offering receivers that provide a “music first” or a “sound first” approach to home theater.
- Created on Friday, 01 November 2013 00:00
- Written by Hans Wetzel
Arcam’s FMJ A19 integrated amplifier doesn’t grab the eye as does, say, a Marantz or a Peachtree Audio product. Its sedate appearance has all the outward appeal of a Jane Austen novel, and its $999 USD asking price doesn’t suggest that it’s anything special. But this slender, unobtrusive box houses a fair bit of quality connectivity, and was largely designed by Arcam’s founder and president, John Dawson. The University of Cambridge graduate started the company in the mid-1970s, while attending a PhD program at his illustrious alma mater, and today, more than 35 years on, is producing some of his finest work. The FMJ A19 is a particular source of pride for Dawson -- without batting an eye, he told me that the amp performs far beyond its price point, and would likely compare favorably to significantly more expensive gear -- a tall claim from someone whom I know to be otherwise soft-spoken. Fortunately, I had a surfeit of high-quality equipment on hand to test just such an assertion.
- Created on Tuesday, 01 October 2013 00:00
- Written by Hans Wetzel
Audiophiles are a conservative bunch. And audio reviewers are, it seems, even more so. The new is often regarded with skepticism, which is part of why many cling to the “musicality” of vinyl and the “warmth” of vacuum tubes. It’s familiar to the pasty old men who’ve been reviewing for years, and the longer they subscribe to a given perspective, the more difficult it becomes to dislodge. So it’s not surprising when something as wildly talented as it is unorthodox doesn’t earn the attention it’s due.
KEF’s X300A loudspeakers ($799.99/pair USD), released in the latter half of 2012, have been mostly reviewed by computer and consumer-electronics publications. Seeing as the speakers are powered and cost under $1000, perhaps the traditional hi-fi publications assumed that these slate-gray speakers are merely glorified computer speakers. Or perhaps they thought that no audiophile would be interested in using them in lieu of a more conventional stereo system. Whatever their reasoning, they’re buffoons for not having seen the deep significance of these loudspeakers.