SoundBites Winter 2017


For audiophiles, Christmas comes in January - that’s when new products are debuted at CES.
“Santa Galen” is here with news of the latest goodies to make your Season bright! Return the unwanted ties, socks and golf balls and gift yourself with a present you’ll truly enjoy!
We’ve got loads of info from the show in addition to bringing you up to date with new products and lines here at Galen Carol Audio.
Read on, friends!


SHUNYATA RESEARCH – Mr. Wizard over at Shunyata Research has done it again! Yes, another impressive offering from the fertile mind of Caelin Gabriel has arrived in the form of their new Denali line of power conditioners. These latest designs employ a host of new and important technologies, one of which being the medical-grade filter technology Shunyata developed for use in highly critical hospital operating rooms (learn more about them here). In addition to the medical grade filters, Denali power line products employ other techniques that separate them from the competition: Component-to-Component Isolation (CCI) and Dynamic Transient Current Delivery (DTCD) are two concepts central to Shunyata’s core philosophy of power line filtration.

The Three Denali models - 2000T (two outlet tower), 6000T (six outlet tower), 6000S (six outlet, shelf-mount)

– All components in a system kick back garbage onto the AC line, which then affects other gear sharing that line. In fact, a good portion of the power line problems are, so to speak, “self-inflicted” - caused by our own equipment. CCI serves to isolate one component from another, dramatically reducing the negative impact they have on one another.

DTCD - Unimpeded transient current flow is another critical design goal that Shunyata accomplishes beautifully. The most common concern among anyone considering a power line conditioner is the potential for dynamic compression due to peak current limiting, especially with power amplifiers. It’s not just power amps that suffer when the line conditioner is current constrained, performance of the entire system is degraded. Shunyata has seen this as a critical design goal of all their power products, conditioners as well as power cords. Working with a test equipment designer, Shunyata developed sophisticated custom analysis hardware to measure pulsed transient current, allowing them to optimize each and every power product in their line for maximum DTCD.

Inside the Denali 600S

We received our first Denali units in October. I wasn’t expecting much when we first connected a 6000S in place of a Shunyata MPC-12A, but was floored by the instant and dramatic improvement! I assumed that a good deal of break-in would be required to really experience the potential of the new design, but that was not the case. Come to find out, Shunyata has developed a new procedure they call Kinetic Phase Inversion Process (KPIP) that dramatically reduces burn-in time and significantly improves sonic performance. So, you won’t have to wait hundreds of hours before enjoying your Denali… woo hoo! Of course, performance does continue to improve with use, but it’s nice that you can enjoy your purchase straight out of the box.
Note: Shunyata is now using the KPIP process to pre-condition all their products.

The bottom line is the Denali power line conditioners are absolutely incredible! I urge you to try one – I guarantee you’ll hear your system perform far beyond what you thought possible!

Already Denali is making waves among the audiophile press; let me pass along a few review excerpts to temp you further:

“Over the years, I have had firsthand experience with a number of Shunyata Research’s power distribution centers including the Hydra V-Ray, V-Ray v 2, DPC-6, DPC-6 v 2, Triton, and most recently, the Triton v 2. I don’t remember any of these power conditioners creating the initial overall listening excitement I heard when first experiencing the Denali Series.” – Steven Plaskin, AudioStream

“Most audiophiles I know keep a catalog in their heads of moments when something special happened during a listening session. The hair on the backs of their necks stands up. They get goosebumps. They might even tear up. These moments are what audio lovers live for. The Denali’s delivered more of them to my living room than any power conditioners I've used. The sound was seductively subtle and delicate during quiet passages and then shockingly quick and forceful when musicians were pounding on drums or piano keys, or swelling in unison to a crescendo. Musicians and singers appeared and disappeared in my listening room more seamlessly, effortlessly and three-dimensionally than they did when the already impressive Triton v2 and Typhon were in place. This utterly relaxed and organic presentation is the hallmark of the Denali sound and what sets it apart from all of its predecessors.” – Vance Hiner, The Audio Beat

Shunyata power cables and signal cables – Upgrades, improvements and new additions!

Shunyata power cables and signal cables – Upgrades, improvements and new additions! Shunyata power line and signal cables now share a common nomenclature and are available in four levels: Venom, Delta, Alpha and Sigma. Both power cords and signal cables are offered at each level.

The new power cords will be available in two versions, NR (Noise Reduction) and EF (Extremely Flexible). The NR model employs the latest version of Shunyata’s outstanding broad-band ZiTron filters. The EF cables eschew the tubular exterior housing making for a very flexible and pliant hand that will easily conform to those space-limited applications. The EF cords do not employ noise reduction. Both the NR cables and EF cables are universal and can be used with any type of component. We suggest you opt for the NR unless extreme flexibility is required.

Venom – These well-established products offer incredible value and are a great way to start improving your system. The V14 Power Cord is a fourteen-gauge shielded cord that can be used in any system with any component. The specialized Venom Digital and Venom HC (ten gauge) cords round out the line. Venom interconnects (available in both RCA and XLR) are just $295, 1M, Venom speaker cables are $595, 2M.

Delta – An all-new member of the family, Delta power and signal cables are sure to be a hit. The Delta NR is a ten-gauge power cord with ZiTron technology priced at $700. The Delta EF power cord is $600. Delta interconnects are $950, 1M and the Delta Speaker Cables run $2000, 2M

Alpha – Alpha Series NR power cords are priced at $1500, the Alpha EF is $1200. Alpha interconnects are $2000, 1M, Alpha Speaker Cables are $4000, 2M.

Sigma – The stunning Sigma power cords have set a new standard in the industry for performance and the latest upgrades will push this already remarkable cable to new heights. Sigma NR power cords are priced at $3000, the Sigma EF is $2500 and both feature a massive a six-gauge conductor VTX conductor array. Signal cables are price at $7500 for a 2M speaker cable, 1M interconnects are $4000.

Note: I can’t say enough about the Sigma power cords, these things are flat amazing! If you never thought a power cord at this price could be worth the money, you owe it to yourself to try one. A caution though - I’ve never had a one come back from audition, so expect to be hooked!

In addition to the patented ZiTron innovation, Shunyata has introduced several new technologies to their power conditioners, power cords and signal cables. I could write pages on the TAP Polarizer, HARP technology and the KPIP process, but these are all explained on the Shunyata website, so head on over there for the interesting back story on these groundbreaking new discoveries.

We are super excited about the new cables from Shunyata and can’t wait to get our samples!

Shunyata Denali Power Line Conditioners

JEFF ROWLAND DESIGNS – Finally ready for shipment is the Rowland PSU upgrade for the Corus preamp and Aeris DAC. The PSU employs state of the art “supercap” technology that offers ultra high speed delivery of clean, noiseless power to optimize performance of your Corus or Aeris. Sonic improvements include lower noise floor, improved articulation, resolution and dynamics. $8200

QUICKSILVER AUDIO - Heralded tube designer Mike Sanders’ latest creation may be one of his finest designs ever. We’ve had the Mono 120 power amplifiers here for several months and I’m impressed every time we put them in a system.

Featuring the suddenly popular and seemingly ubiquitous EH KT-150 output tubes, each monoblock pumps out 120 watts from a single pair of the ovoid-shaped glowing bottles. Input/driver tubes are one each 12AU7 and 12AT7. True to form, the Mono 120’s follow Mr. Sander’s design philosophy eschewing circuit boards in favor of point-to-point circuitry and are hand-wired right here in the USA. And to think, you get all that for just $4395 pair – quite the bargain!


Quicksilver Mono 120 Power Amplifiers

BERKELEY AUDIO – In early fall the incredible Alpha Reference DAC received a (rather remarkable) upgrade, and becomes known as the Alpha Reference 2. To say we’ve been impressed is an understatement. Without question, the Series 2 upgrade elevates the already outstanding performance into a new realm of realism and refinement. Incredible!

Robert Harley writes in TAS: “I was skeptical that the Series 2 could offer a significant sonic upgrade considering the exalted performance of the original. How much room was left for improvement? A lot, it turns out. With the original and the Series 2 in my rack fed from the same source (an Aurender W20 and Berkeley Alpha USB USB-to-SPDIF converter) for side-to-side comparisons, it didn't take long to hear the startling improvements wrought by the Series 2. I'll have a full description of the Series 2's sound in my review in Issue 266, but can tell you now that the Series 2 has a liquidity, spaciousness, and resolution that exceed even those qualities in the original. Instrumental timbre was so natural, smooth, and lifelike. By comparison, the original had a trace of hardness and glare. This quality alone greatly contributed to the Series 2's ease, realism, and lack of fatigue. But what really surprised me was how much better transients were portrayed. They had a suddenness of attack without a hint of unnatural edge. The reproduction of the drum kit was revelatory through the Series 2, with startling impact like you hear from the live instrument. All these qualities were presented within a larger and more transparent soundstage, with tighter image focus.

“The Alpha DAC Reference Series 2 delivers significantly better sound quality than its predecessor, and in ways that matter the most to musical enjoyment. After listening to music through the Alpha Reference DAC nearly daily for the past two years, I'm shocked that the Series 2 could push the state-of-the-art that much further. The fact that owners of the original can upgrade for the price difference between the two models, and that Berkeley will offer MQA capability as a software update later this year, is icing on the cake.”

The Berkeley Alpha Reference 2 DAC is priced at $19500. Owners of the Series 1 can upgrade for just the difference in cost between the original and new retail prices, $3500. Contact Berkeley directly for the upgrade.

Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Reference Series 2

AURENDER – Previewed at the 2016 CES, Aurender began shipping their new A10 server/DAC in late summer. Known for their state of the art music servers, the A10 represents Aurender’s first offering with an internal DAC (dual-mono 768kHz/32-bit with discrete linear power regulator)… and what a DAC it is! We’ve been enjoying the very smooth, relaxed character of the A10 - very easy to listen to on any material, never harsh, bright or etched, there’s a smooth and forgiving quality that encourages lengthy listening sessions. Some DACs are more detailed, and possibly more “exciting” in the short term, but I argue not more enjoyable for extended listening. Further, the A10 DAC is MQA ready.

On board is a 4TB hard drive that will comfortably hold thousands of albums and like other Aurender servers, the A10 caches data from the HDD to a 128GB SSD for improved performance. The control app is amazing and opens new doors for exploring your personal music collection or streaming over two million tunes from Tidal.

Aurender A10 Server/DAC

SPENDOR – Our first pair if the Spendor D9 arrived in late December. Though we’re still not fully through break-in, I can tell you that the D9 is indeed a worthy big brother to the phenomenal D7 that is a favorite around here.

Spendor says: “D9 is a 3-way, 4-driver, floor-standing loudspeaker. The D9 incorporates all the engineering innovation developed for our 3-way Spendor D7 loudspeaker, but the new D9 is far more than just a big D7.”

Utilizing the same incredible Linear Pressure Zone (LPZ) tweeter first introduced in the D7, treble reproduction is extended and airy without being bright or hard. The all-new EP77 mid bass driver uses an advanced polymer cone and  is mounted in an isolated sub-enclosure at the top of the cabinet. Twin Spendor 7" Kevlar© composite cone woofers very effectively pressurize even large spaces for prodigious bass weight and extension.

All three drivers feature cast magnesium alloy chassis, high efficiency motor systems, optimized electro-dynamic damping, and excellent thermal dissipation for wide dynamic range. New polymer surrounds with very stable molecular composition reduce driver ‘break-in’ time significantly.

Our first impressions are very positive. Compared to the D7, the D9 imparts a greater sense of scale, weight and density to the presentation resulting in a more expansive presentation. The increased muscle more effectively conveys the power and visceral aspects of large scale recordings, without exaggerating smaller works. We love the D7 and feel it represents outstanding value, but for larger environments, or for those seeking a more authoritative experience, the D9 is easily worth the extra cost. $9995 in Walnut, Black Oak or Cherry, Rosewood or Ebony adds $2k.

Spendor D9

SWEET VINYL – Last year at CES we saw a really cool product in prototype form and were happy to see the (almost) ready-for-prime-time units at CES 2017. The company produces some very unique and interesting products. Their SC-2 is an easy to use, and very complete vinyl ripping system, the SC-1 offers effective pop and click removal without the ripping capability.

While there are myriad ways to get your vinyl into digital form, none is as easy or complete as the Sugarcube SC-2 from Sweet Vinyl. Heretofore, ripping vinyl has been a chore - made particularly difficult by the laborious process of recreating meta data. The SC-2 does this for you automatically, pulling cover art and track information information and displaying it on the front panel LCD. The process of vinyl ripping is now as simple and cueing the LP and pressing a button! Your data is stored on either a USB memory stick or outboard drive connected to the USB port on the front panel or sent to your computer.

The unit can be controlled using the front panel controls, but you'll want to use the super-cool (free) smartphone app.

  • Real-time click and pop filter for vinyl LP listening
  • Built-in one-button record function: Record to a USB drive plugged into the front panel, or Record to your personal computer.
  • Automatic metadata lookup and tagging.
  • Record in PCM, Compressed or DSD
  • Format in AIFF, WAV, ALAC or FLAC
  • Select your desired bit rate: 192/24, 96/24, 48/24, 44.1/16
  • Internal A/D and D/A – 192k/24bit; separately accessible headphone amp.
  • Control of functions and settings from a smartphone or tablet

The price for the SC-2 is priced at $2499 and will be available soon. Sweet Vinyl also makes the SC-1 that offers the de-click function only without the ripping features, $1499

Michael Fremer comments on the SC-2

Michael Fremer comments on the SC-1

Call us now if you'd like to pre-order the Sugar Cube SC-1 or SC-2 at special savings!

CHORD – The superb Chord DAVE DAC has been the recipient of numerous awards and raves from reviewers and audiophiles around the world. It’s totally deserving of all the esteemed accolades, as the DAVE is one remarkable product.

An incredibly sophisticated design, at the heart of DAVE is an advanced Spartan-6, Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) with 1,000x the processing power of the traditional mass-produced chip DAC. DAVE’s FPGA is loaded with over a million lines of code to confront complex timing issues head-on, with unheard of speed and precision. The FPGA’s extraordinary capability enables a number of key sonic benefits, including significantly improved timing and the best noise-shaper performance of any known DAC. DAVE’s technology delivers music with unmatched reality and musicality, with an unrivaled timing response. The device’s lossless digital volume control outputs the signal direct to your power amplifier for the purest experience.

The DAC, which is also a reference-level headphone amplifier and ‘digital preamp’, distils twenty years of Chord research, development and advanced engineering into one device.

DAVE has a full-sized LCD display, showing input, sample frequency, volume and set-up configurations options, within Chord’s famous porthole design. On its fascia, DAVE also features a rotary encoder with a large stainless steel controller and ball buttons, enabling direct interactivity in addition to the supplied remote control.


Without question, the DAVE is a stellar design and one that belongs in the very top echelon of digital to analog converters. One can argue which is “the best,” but there’s no question the DAVE competes with any brand/model at any price. $11900.

TECHNICS – At CES Technics introduced several new products. The SL-1200GR turntable brings Technics performance to a new lower price point while offering many of the technological highlights of the higher priced SL-1200G. The SL-1200GR uses a variation of the coreless direct-drive motor its pricier sibling sports, with a single surface-facing rotor magnet designed to eliminate any motion irregularity in the motor. The platter weighs in at 2.5 kilos which, along with its aluminum-and-rubber construction, is designed to eliminate resonance.

The tonearm is a low-mass, high-rigidity aluminum design and is assembled, fitted and balanced by hand. The chassis it stands on is an equally high-rigidity two-layer design, and features gold-plated phono and grounding terminals.

The SL-1200GR weighs 11.2kg, while the platter is 2.5kg (including the rubber mat) – 0.8kg heavier than that of the previous SL-1200MK5. This compares to 18kg and 3.6kg for the reference SL-1200G. Anticipated price of theSL-1200GR is $2000 - $2200 with spring or early summer availability.

A new integrated amplifier, the Grand Class SU-G700 ($2500) offers 70 wpc and features two analog, two digital optical and two digital coaxial inputs and the DAC is able to handle digital information up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD up to 11.2MHz.

Technics has developed some novel technology for their amplifier. The unique JENO (Jitter Elimination and Noise-shaping Optimization) circuitry is an element of its full digital power amplification, designed to eliminate jitter throughout the entire audible frequency range, while LAPC (Load Adaptive Phase Calibration) is intended to eradicate the effect speaker impedance changes can have on digital amplification. Also of note, all of the Technics music servers are now compatible with the TIDAL music streaming service.

The new Grand Class SB-G90 floor-standing loudspeaker features the dual-concentric mid/tweeter driver that graces the popular SBC-700 monitor speakers introduced last year, but adds a pair of fast 6.5” woofers that extend bass response to 27Hz. Each of the three drivers are isolated in their own sub-enclosures within floor-standing cabinet. $5000pr. I was impressed with what I heard during a brief audition at CES.

For more information on the new products visit the Technics Website here

CARDAS AUDIO - Released just prior to CES was the new Iridium range of signal cables from Cardas. The Iridium cables continue the Cardas tradition of warmth & musicality, adding neutrality and improved imaging over their predecessors, Twinlink Speaker and Microtwin Interconnect. They also feature upgraded terminations, and soft rubber jackets for an enhanced look and feel.

Iridium Interconnect uses a star-quad arrangement with four 23.5 AWG Cardas Golden Ratio scaled Litz conductors. Iridium is shielded, with a slightly larger outside diameter than Microtwin, yet much more flexible. Standard termination is Cardas GRMO RCA connectors, an upgrade from Microtwin's GRCM. Iridium Interconnect can also be terminated with Neutrik XLRs, or with a DIN and RCAs for use as a phono cable. 

Iridium Speaker features a twisted pair of Cardas 11.5 AWG Litz conductors, and receives either Cardas CGMS spades or CABE bananas. Cardas' most affordable speaker cable to use Litz conductors, Iridium is suitable for virtually any two-channel or multi-channel system, and works well at any length.

Very reasonably priced, Iridium interconnects are just $250pr, 1M and a 2M pair of Iridium speaker cables is $380.

Cardas Iridium Interconnects


Cardas Iridium Speaker Cables

CHORD -  Chord introduced two products at CES. The first is Poly, a small plug-in accessory for their Mojo DAC/headphone amp. Poly is full-fledged high-resolution wireless network music player, streamer and SD card playback device with wireless playback and control from smartphones.

Poly is a revolutionary streaming module for Mojo and is based on a condensed high-level PC, with data server, DLNA receiver, Wi-Fi hub, Bluetooth module and SD card reader/player functionality, plus highly sophisticated software. Poly enables wireless audio playback from smartphones and for the first time, negates the need for a cable between the two devices.

Poly acts as a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth hub and can access music in a number of ways including streaming over Wi-Fi, network storage devices (NAS) and collections stored on SD cards (using MPD). Bluetooth connectivity and AirPlay functionality provide real flexibility with smartphones and enable multiple Mojo/Poly combinations to be used throughout the home, providing a high-quality multi-room streaming playback solution.

Poly removes the original need for a wired link between the smartphone and Mojo, and is controlled wirelessly from Android and iOS apps on your phone. When connected to Mojo/Poly conveniently slips into pockets, bags and handbags — it doesn’t need to be hand-carried or regularly checked like other players.

Poly is compatible with the latest high-resolution-audio file types and supports PCM files up to 768kHz resolution and DSD64 to DSD512 (Octa-DSD). Poly’s high-quality SD card reader/player frees up smartphone memory and storage, so vast libraries no longer need be kept locally on phones.

Poly integrates with advanced music players such as Roon (excluding SD access) and supported file types (at the time of writing) include: ACC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA and MP3. The device includes a rechargeable LiPo battery giving around nine hours playback from a sub-four-hour charge using the device’s fast-charging circuit; both Mojo and Poly can be simultaneously charged.

 *   Materials: Precision-machined aluminum casing with black anodization, opaque black wireless signal window and silicone feet
*    Battery: Rechargeable LiPo (Lithium Polymer) 2200mAh - Play time: 8+ hrs
*    Charging: <4 hours, 2-amp Micro USB input. Both Mojo and Poly can be simultaneously charged via Poly’s Micro USB
*    Connectivity types: Bluetooth A2DP and Wi-Fi 2.4GHz
*    Storage: 1x Micro SD card — unlimited maximum capacity
*    Playback support: Roon, DNLA, AirPlay and Bluetooth playback
*    Files supported: (TBC) all major file types including: ACC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA and MP3
*    PCM sample rates: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 358.8kHz, 384kHz, 717.6kHz and 768kHz
*    DSD via DoP sample rates: DSD64 - DSD512 (Octa-DSD)
*    Devices supported: iPhone; iPad, Android phones/tablets, Windows phones/tablets/PCs, Mac OS X computers and DAPs (Astell & Kern etc)

Final price for Poly has not been set, but anticipate it to be in the of $600 - $700. Deliveries begin in the spring but you can preorder with us now to insure you are in the early queue.

Also debuted at CES, the Blu MkII is a compact, FPGA-based upsampling CD transport which offers the world’s most advanced filter technology. Used with DAVE, the combination delivers class-leading CD sound quality and technical performance.

The Blu MkII upscaling CD transport sets new standards for CD sound quality by using the very latest FPGA technology to implement advanced proprietary filtering and upscaling techniques. This next-generation CD transport incorporates a powerful new FPGA core with extraordinary capability.

Blu MkII’s sophisticated WTA (Watts Transient Alignment) filtering and upscaling algorithms can output digital data at 705.6kHz (16 x CD’s 44.1kHz native resolution). When partnered with the DAVE DAC/preamp, with its 705.6kHz-capable digital inputs, the Blu MkII sets a new technical benchmark for CD performance, while redefining sound quality from the medium.

At the heart of the Blu MkII lies an enormously powerful Xilinx FPGA. Rob Watts’ (Chord’s Digital Design Consultant) has used this to create his exclusive WTA M-Scaler technology, which incorporates the most advanced filter of its kind in the world. The Xilinx FPGA has also enabled a key breakthrough in tap-length (the technical indicator of how complex the interpolation filter is) taking Blu MkII to an unprecedented 1,015,808 taps.

A comprehensive suite of high-performance connectivity is offered and the Blu MkII also features a BNC S/PDIF digital input, meaning that it can also be used a standalone high-performance upsampler, for use with other digital sources. Further features include Chord Electronics’ legendary proprietary high-frequency switching power supply and a dedicated CD-only laser mechanism for an uncompromising performance.

Blu MkII is expected in ship in April with a US retail price of approximately $11,000

Chord has updated the Hugo. Hugo 2 is a powerful DAC and headphone amp that builds on the ground-breaking original Hugo.

Advances in digital technology, including the latest FPGAs and WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) filters, have enabled the next-generation version, Hugo 2 which features substantially improved sonic performance and other new features. Hugo 2 offers improved ease of use for both at home and on-the-go applications and its improved line-level operation and full-function remote control adds real flexibility in full-size and desktop systems.

Four digital inputs (optical, coaxial and HD USB) plus new extended-range Bluetooth are offered. Hugo 2 offers high-resolution file playback up to 768kHz and up to DSD512 (Octa DSD), via its HD USB input. Analogue outputs include 2x RCA, plus 3.5mm and 6.35mm headphone outputs. A new four-function switch filter offers a useful degree of user-selectable frequency-shaping, bringing warm and soft or transparent and incisive presentations, giving additional flexibility and user control. For headphone-listening, Hugo 2 retains the popular digital crossfeed function of the original.

Hugo 2 features Chord’s custom coded FPGA, 49,152 Taps, 7 hour battery life, 768kHz Micro USB input, 384kHz Coax Input, Native DSD support, DSD512 Native and supports headphones up to 800 Ohms.

Hugo 2 is expected to ship in April 2017 with an anticipated US retail price of $2,300.

VPI – Under Mat Weisfeld’s direction, VPI has morphed into a dynamic, forward-looking company. Though there have been some initial teething pains, Mat has condensed the number of offerings and is concentrating on building a stable product line up with a focus on extensive testing and careful quality control. As always, VPI products are 100% made in the USA.

The line is divided into two sections, Standard Production and Reference Series. Standard Production offerings include: The Player at $1500 (available in Maple or Walnut), Scout at $2200, Prime at $4000 (black or Walnut) and the new Prime-S priced at $6000.

VPI Prime - $4000


Reference Series turntables include the Avenger at $10k, Avenger Plus for $15k, Avenger Reference at $20k and Titan at $40k.

VPI Avenger - $10000

Though not hosting a suite at CES, VPI was well represented with their ‘tables used in no less than twelve rooms. Pretty much all their models were represented, including their design for Mark Levinson… yes, VPI worked with the company on a custom ‘table to be sold under the Mark Levinson brand name brand, Model 515 (about $10k).

We’re excited about the new introductions and the positive trajectory of VPI Industries.

If you’ve been in the hobby for a while (okay, a long time), you’ll recall the VPI Magic Bricks. These weighty blocks employ layers of silicon steel wrapped in a wooden skin, and are designed to reduce the effects of Electromagnet Interference (EMI) in addition to reducing chassis vibration by adding mass.

Power transformers radiate an electromagnetic field. The theory is that these fields can negatively impact nearby low-level circuitry both inside the component as well as other gear placed nearby. The VPI Magic Bricks are placed above transformers to reduce this interaction. Price is $299 for a pair.

MYTEK - Mytek Digital introduced a new Hi-Res Audio Mobile Headphone Bluetooth Amplifier.

Clef TM is a new portable, battery and USB powered hi-res audio Bluetooth amplifier from Mytek, the New York high resolution sound specialists. Clef is designed to provide high quality playback on any most demanding wired headphones. Clef features MQA(R) hi-res music streaming decoder and also allows for making phone calls while listening to music through non- microphone headphones. Clef TM is tentatively priced at $299 and is scheduled to ship in Q2 of 2017.


- Device ready for Tidal MastersTM playback

- DAC resolution: up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, DSD128, 120dB Dynamic Range

- Headphone Ampli er: 2.2 VRMS output, 10 Ohm output impedance, single ended

- Formats accepted via USB: up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, DSD128 via DOP, MQA® fully decoded via

built in decoder, all other audio formats the computer can play (Flac, AAC, MP3, DTS, Dolby etc)

- Formats accepted via Bluetooth®: PCM up to resolution playable from cellphone or device, up to

384k, 32bit, ACC (Apple devices), AptX (with AptX equipped devices), LDAC (Sony devices),

standard Bluetooth 4. AAC, AptX and LDAC provide better Bluetooth quality. Single unfold MQA®

- Built in mic for cellphone conversations

- Digital Output: Dual function analog/optical digital jack, SPDIF up to 24bit/192kz, DSD64

- Battery life: up to 8 hrs

- Weight 85 grams, 3 ounces, Size: wxhxd: 93x60x12 mm, 3.5x2.5x0.5 inch


-High Resolution Audio on the go for music lovers. Powerfull precision headphone amp (6dB

louder than any telephone). Tidal Masters MQA decoding. Turns any analog headphone into Bluetooth set. Ability to receive phone calls while listening to music. Greatly improved sound quality for Iphone7 users with any wired headphones including specialty hi- headphones. Listening while charging.

ROGUE - Announced just prior to CES, and shown for the first time in Las Vegas, was the RH-5 Tube Hybrid headphone amp. We've grown to love the Rogue gear, as it offers great performance, outstanding reliability and incredible value. Furthermore, the gear is 100% Made In The USA!

The Rogue Audio RH-5 headphone amplifier brings the company's unique RP-X technology platform to the personal audio world. The new RH-5 will deftly drive the most demanding headphones with a clarity, richness and tube smoothness that must be heard to be believed. Beyond its remarkable performance and design, the feature rich RH-5 provides a wide variety of connectivity and user selectable listening options. Ultra quiet, powerful and sublimely musical, the RH-5 offers a superb new option for high end headphone users.

Features include three pairs of RCA inputs and one pair of balanced XLR inputs. Headphone outputs are provided via 3 pin and 4 pin fully balanced outputs as well as two 1/4" TSR headphone jacks enabling a shared listening experience. Three gain settings allow the output to be matched for either high, medium or low sensitivity headphones. An easy to read OLED display elegantly communicates component settings and volume. The display can also be turned off if desired. The seven button remote allows you to turn on the RH-5, change volume, select source and mute output as well as dim the display.

The RH-5 is not just a superb headphone amplifier, it can also be used as the cornerstone of your two channel audio system. Offering both balanced and single ended preamplifier outputs, the RH-5 will also do a wonderful job of driving your preferred amplifier and speakers. An optional phono board also allows you to play your favorite records through either the headphones or loudspeakers. The onboard MM/MC phono has user adjustable gain settings of 43 and 58 dB to accommodate most popular cartridges. A wide variety of loading options also means your favorite cartridge can be configured to sound its very best.

Our first RH-5 should be arriving mid to late January. Check in for our evaluation!

Rogue Audio RH-5

AUDIENCE – We’ve found ourselves using more and more of the great Audience signal and power cables here in our demo systems. One system features their Conductor SE line (interconnects, speaker cables and power cord), another set up employs the new Au-24SX Series signal cables, and we’ve been very happy with their performance.

The Au24SX cables have been the recipients of some outstanding reviews. In particular, Greg Weaver’s writings on Enjoy The Music have been particularly laudatory. Mr. Weaver writes: “The SX series of cables from Audience represent a new pinnacle of achievement in a distinguished, established product line, and by no small degree. While not the "sexiest" looking cable you may see, their execution and finish is exemplary. These are not cheap cables, by any stretch of the imagination. But at their price, they have to be seen as more than merely the genuine bargain that they represent. Make no mistake about it, these delightfully thin and otherwise unassuming looking cables are world-class.

The SX is such a clear cut above the SE that it almost seems to defy the family heritage it so proudly and rightly represents! They deliver heightened transparency, increased focus, a more defined and accurate soundstage, a higher degree of resolution and transparency, and a richer, more full-bodied tonality; the SX has elevated the level of Audience's cable game beyond being an extremely competent product to an extraordinary one. Once you hear them, it is impossible to go back to the SE, as good as they are. The Au24-SX cable line proudly represents Audience's statement, and is one that competes quite capably on the world-class cable stage. They readily compete with, and best, many other highly regarded cables, some costing more than three times as much. Most enthusiastically recommended.” Enjoy The Music has bestowed their coveted Blue Note Award on the SX Series cables.
Click here to read the complete Enjoy The Music review

Audience Au24SX Interconnects

Audience Au24SX Speaker Cables

SYMPOSIUM ACOUSTICS – We’ve carried Peter Bizlewiczs’ line of isolation products for many years and find them to be some of the effective on the market. Symposium offers a wide range of creations from individual isolation footers, to isolation bases and platforms to specialty products for specific products or applications.

 For many people an isolation platform is a simple, practical and convenient way to isolate their components. The platforms are an excellent barrier for structure-borne vibration and also an energy sink to dissipate internal vibration within the component (both self-generated and those caused by air-borne vibration). Symposium offers five different levels of platforms starting at just $199 for the Segue. We really like the next step up in the line, the Svelte, which runs $399 for a 19” x 14”. Most people find a wide range of sonic improvements when components are isolated and damped. In particular, resolution of low-level detail is considerably improved which results in better soundstaging, lower background noise and cleaner micro-transient detail. Well worth the investment.

WIREWORLD – Our customers love Wireworld digital and video cables designed by David Salz. His design talents have been focused of late on optimizing performance of Ethernet cables. Starlight® Category 8 cables are designed for high speed media network applications.Unlike Category 7 cables, these innovative cables utilize a new conductor geometry developed by Wireworld to support higher transmission speed for the most lifelike reproduction of streamed music and video.

Starlight Ethernet is the first production cable that meets the proposed requirements for Category 8. This cable is also the first to incorporate Wireworld’s patent-pending Tite-Shield™ Technology, a radical new structure that
overcomes limitations of previous network cable designs. With twelve tightly-spaced shields replacing the six unevenly-spaced shields in Category 7 cables, the Tite-Shield design improves the most critical parameters of digital
signal transmission. Starlight Ethernet sets new benchmarks for speed and fidelity in highresolution media streaming applications.

Category 7 cabling was created to satisfy the demands of 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Even though most media networks now run below that speed, cables that support higher speeds have been found to improve the quality of audio and video streaming. Those improvements are possible because streamed signals suffer from data errors that cannot be repaired by the error correction systems that preserve file transfers. The proposed standard for future networks is Category 8, which extends network speeds to the staggering rate of 40 Gigabits per second. One of the reasons why CAT7 cables do not meet the proposed CAT8 specifications is that they allow too much crosstalk (mixing) between the four signal channels. To control crosstalk, conventional cables use four twisted pairs of conductors with one foil shield on each pair. An overall two-layer shield reduces outside interference. The problem with twisting is that it makes lengths of the conductors uneven, which causes timing errors called skew. Tite-Shield technology isolates the four channels with a three-layer shield on each conductor pair. Those shields are so effective that twisting is no longer needed and conductor length differences are eliminated.

Starlight’s unique flat design provides greater separation between the four conductor pairs to provide lower crosstalk, supporting higher transmission speeds than conventional designs. The cable also utilizes Wireworld’s proprietary Composilex® 2 insulation to minimize triboelectric noise. The refined transmission properties afforded by these technologies ensure uncompromised performance in the next generation of streaming applications.

Pricing: Chroma Cat8 Ethernet, OFC conductors, $15/meter + termination, Starlight Cat8 Ethernet, Silver-clad OFC conductors, $60/meter + termination, Platinum Starlight Cat8 Ethernet, OCC-7N solid silver conductors, $600/meter + termination

GOLDEN EAR TECHNOLOGY – Things have been “a-poppin” with Sandy and crew over at Golden Ear. Introduced at CES was the Triton Reference. The Reference retains the lines’ now familiar sculpted tower look, but packs the sizeable floor-stander with a range of upgrades and enhancements to separate it from the rest of the line.

The powered sub/low frequency section employs four 10.5” x 9.5” side-mounted infrasonic radiators acoustically linked to three all-new 6” x 10” active bass drivers (with 40 percent more surface area than the active bass drivers found in the Triton One) and a newly designed "Focused Field" magnet structure. A pair of 6-inch Multi-Vaned Phase Plug cast-basket drivers handle the midrange duties. A massive 1800-watt internal amplifier powers the woofers. Golden Ear is quoting a breathtakingly low 12Hz bass extension!

A new version of the HVFR (high-velocity folded ribbon) tweeter incorporates 50 percent more neodymium as the company's other offerings, and it promises both improved transient response and higher efficiency. Overall, the high 93dB sensitivity of the Triton Reference, coupled with the internally-powered LF section, this speaker will be an easy load for most any amplifier.

Inside the speaker, and you'll find new wiring, a reprogrammed 56-bit DSP control unit, a highly-tuned crossover network, a proprietary blend of long fiber lamb's wool and poly-fiber for internal damping, and a 2.4mm-thick steel plate built into the base for increased rigidity.

Though the basic shape resembles other models in the line, the enclosure for the Triton Reference utilizes different construction and finish featuring a hand-rubbed piano gloss-black lacquer finish. Price is just $4250 each with delivery beginning this Spring or early Summer.

The Triton Reference was received a CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award.

The Absolute Sound CES 2017 Show Reports
Jonathan Valin - Best of Show (for the money): Sandy Gross' GoldenEar Triton Reference. A whole lot of loudspeaker for $8500/pair.
Robert Harley - Best Sound (for the money): GoldenEar Triton Reference ($8500/pr) driven by Pass Labs electronics.
Julie Mullins - Best Sound (For the Money): GoldenEar Triton Reference speakers ($8500/pr) driven by Pass Labs Xs 150 monoblocks with a PS Audio DirectStream Memory player digital source.
Neil Gader - The Five Most Significant CES 2017 Introductions
"What loudspeaker line would be complete without a reference model? GoldenEar unwrapped its effort at CES, and to say it merely succeeded does not do the Triton Reference justice. Looming at a height of nearly five feet and equipped with 1800W of digital DSP amplification, the hybrid design features new components throughout including two 6" upper/bass/midrange drivers and three 6"x10" active low-frequency drivers (plus four passive planar radiators) for the built-in powered subwoofers. Also new is a "Focused Field" magnet structure, which better directs the magnet flux to the voicecoil gap. The High-Velocity Folded-Ribbon tweeter has also been reworked and incorporates 50% more rare-earth neodymium magnet material. Driven by Pass Labs monoblocks and a PS Audio Memory Player, the Ref's scaling of images and ambience retrieval make it reminiscent of many planar or electrostatic designs. Dynamics from pipe organ or Kodo drummers were deep and explosive, but it was the overall delicacy and detail of low-level voices that won the day for me. (Neil also honored the Triton Reference with "Best Sound for the Money" Giving us 4 for 4 with The Absolute Sound Show Report posters!)."

Click here to read the Home Theater Review of the Triton Reference

ZESTO AUDIO – The Zesto Andros 1.2 tube phono is a wonder, but designer George Counnas has raised the bar with the impressive Téssera. This full-featured unit sports two completely independent dual mono channels, each with front-panel moving-coil and moving-magnet impedance and gain switches – just the ticket for those running two phono cartridges. As with the Andros, the Téssera is a full tube design - no solid-state devices in the signal path.

Robert Levi reviews the Tessera for Postive Feedback and writes: “The Zesto Audio Andros Téssera phono stage is an amazing assault on the state of the art and the state of phonostage flexibility for the audiophile, and is done at a fair price. I know of nothing more adjustable, more flexible, and more musically consistent overall than the Tessera. With hookup from four tonearms simultaneously, an amazing noise floor, neutral-to-the-max musicality, great looks, and superb ergonomics, this is truly an outstanding accomplishment from this consistently winning 21st century company! You can pay more, of course, but one wonders what more is there to get? A toaster? If you can afford the Zesto Audio Andros Téssera phono stage, buy it. It comes highly recommended!”

Zesto Téssera is offered at $12,000


We’ve been busy researching new products all year long and have a bunch of information to share with you. There are new lines that join our family of renowned suppliers and wonderful new offerings from brands our customers know well. From source to speaker, we have a wide range of offerings to fit virtually any budget.


Van den Hul – It’s been years since we sold van den Hul cartridges. We’ve always liked the products, but availability had been an issue. There’s an energetic new U.S. Distributor for the superb phono cartridges from the master builder, A.J. van den Hul, so we’re again pleased to be offering the brand.

Mr. van den Hul’s latest creation, the Crimson Stradivari, arrived earlier in the year and we’ve spent many an hour enjoying this wonderful phono cartridge. In fact, I can’t think of a single area of performance that hasn’t impressed me. Be it dimensionality, resolution, tonality or dynamics, I simply can’t find fault, or think of anything I would change. This is an absolutely delightful cartridge that I’m sure is destined to be a hit.

With a bit more output than your typical MC, its 0.6mV makes the Crimson Stradivari compatible with a wide range of phono preamps. $4995

An exciting seminar scheduled for the upcoming AXPONA show (in Chicago this spring) will feature Mr. van den Hul hand-building a cartridge live in real time! This should be an absolutely fascinating event and the importer hopes to have a video made that we can share with you folks who won’t be able to attend the event.

van den Hul Crimson Stradivari

DEVIALET – A unique and quite remarkable product that defined a new genre of audio components, Devialet products are revered for performance, style, flexibility and convenience. A Devialet Expert Pro component combines a preamplifier, amplifier, DAC, streamer and phono stage in a single, extremely thin gorgeous slab of modern art.

More than an integrated amplifier, more than a digital to analog converter, the Devialet Expert Pro allows the owner to custom configure his component to his preference. Configure inputs, adjust levels, equalization, adjust phono gain and loading. Pull music from virtually any source - turntable, CD player, tuner, computer, smartphone, tablet, NAS, online music services, television: The Expert Pro system allows you to access all of your music.

There’s loads of unique technology inside the beautiful exterior casework: ADH® analogue-digital hybrid amplification, SAM® system for real-time adaptation of the signal transmitted to the speakers, free, regular updates using the EVO® platform, HD audio stream (wired or wireless) via AIR®, DAC Magic Wire®, RAM® Phono stage... The Expert Pro system is an engineering gem. Indeed, a total of 107 patents and 58 industry honors make the Devialet system the most award-winning audio system of all time.

Though we as audiophiles know specifications don’t tell the whole story, the amazing numbers for the Devialet Expert components are indeed awe-inspiring: 0.00025%THD+noise (harmonic distortion) at full power under 6Ω, 0.0001%THD at 10W/6Ω, 0.001Ω Output impedance, 133 dB Signal-to-noise ratio.

If space permitted we could fill pages with features, specifications, capabilities and rave reviews. Instead, please surf over to the Devialet website for the full story. Better yet, pop in for a listen!

HANA – Early in the year we read some exciting stuff about a new cartridge from a very established (though not well known) company. Hana cartridges are made by the Excel Sound Corporation, a Tokyo based company that has been producing OEM cartridges for other well-known brands for more than 50 years.

When an OEM house distributes their own brand, they often reserve their best efforts for themselves and Excel is no exception. Hana cartridges utilize Excel’s very best materials including alnico magnets, cross-shaped armatures, and proprietary manufacturing processes.

The Hana line is simple; two cartridges that vary in stylus type, output and color. The Hana E cartridge employs an elliptical stylus and the S employs a Shibata stylus. Each cartridge is available in either a high (2mV) or low (0.5mV) output. Both utilize aluminum cantilevers, weigh in at 5g and track at 2g.

Translated, Hana means “brilliant and gorgeous,” and I must admit, those words perfectly capture my feelings about these wonderful cartridges.

Stereophile’s Herb Reichert reviews the Hana saying: “The EL’s basic sonic character was highly musical and exceptionally non-mechanical.” The Hana EL demonstrated technicolor mids, liquid (but not overly extended) highs, and a delightful way with plucked double bass.” Additional listening yielded more great results, with Mr. Reichert touting its “easygoing musical magic” and its “inexorably real” sound. Herb’s conclusion: “I love it.”

We’ve mounted Hana cartridges on a variety of ‘tables and have been impressed in every instance. The Hana carts offer a very refined texture (very low grain) and a tonal balance that leans slightly toward the warm side of neutral. The Shibata stylus on the “S” offers more resolution, an ability to pull more information out of the groove. That doesn’t mean to suggest the “E” model is lacking, just that the Shibata stylus offers a more accurate, linear, sonic picture. The elliptical stylus on the “E” model is more forgiving on set up and probably a better mate for tonearms lacking fine adjustments.

The best feature of all is the very reasonable pricing. The Hana S comes in at $750 and the Hana E is only $475. Frankly, I think these two cartridges offer amazing value.

Hana "E" MC Phono Cartridges

Hana "S" MC Phono Cartridges

FOCAL – Could the Focal Utopia be the best headphones in the world? Headphone guru, Tyll Hertsens thinks so. I’ve heard nowhere near the ‘phones Mr. H has auditioned, but the Utopia’s rocked my world!

The Utopia is instantly engaging; within a few bars you’ll know these things are phenomenal. There’s just something “right” about the tonality that makes them immediately enjoyable and the resolution will knock your socks off! For me, the more I listen, the more I want to listen. And unlike some other hyper-detailed options (like the Stax headsets), the Focal Utopia never becomes analytical. Oh, you’ll hear every last fragment of detail and subtle nuance – good or bad – but they never get aggressive. Frankly, I don’t know how they do it.

The Focal Utopia deserve the very best front end – source, cables and amplification should be top notch to reveal the full potential of these marvelous transducers. Partnering them with state of the art complimentary gear will reward you with startling performance. But here’s a secret, I’ve been using them with my iPad and they sound great. The Utopia have become my favorite late night phones for listening while reading or relaxing. Driven directly off the iPad, streaming Tidal, they sound surprisingly good. Okay, an outboard DAC/headphone amp (like the amazing Chord MOJO) would be a better idea, but the simplicity and convenience of running them straight off the iPad is appealing.  I’m just surprised it works as well as it does!

Without a doubt in my mind, the Focal Utopia is the best headphone I’ve ever heard.

Focal Utopia Reference Headphones

Focal Elear Headphones

MYTEK – Mytek’s Michal Jurewicz brings his wealth of experience designing and building digital equipment for the professional recording industry to world of hi-fi with the full-featured Brooklyn DAC. More than just a DAC, the Brooklyn combines a feature rich digital to analog converter with an outstanding headphone amplifier and tosses in analog inputs allowing it to function as a preamplifier. The analog inputs can be configured as standard line inputs or as phono inputs (MM or MC, with selectable loading). The front-panel volume control can be defeated when using a dedicated preamp or an integrated amplifier. XLR and RCA main outputs can be used to drive an amplifier directly, if so desired.

The Brooklyn is one of the first non-Meridian DACs that is MQA capable. Very cool! The DAC is capable of decoding up to 384k, 32bit PCM, native DSD up to DSD256, DXD and boasts a dynamic range of 130dB. Clocking is handled by the “Mytek Femtoclock Generator (tm)” for a low 0.82ps internal jitter.

Right out the box the Brooklyn impresses with its speed, detail and enveloping soundstage. A couple of hundred hours of playing time further enhances performance providing even more depth and layering to the soundstage. This unit will be a real treat for anyone who loves detail and transparency and enjoys the flexibility offered by the Brooklyn’s myriad of features. At $1995, it’s a bargain.

Mytek Brooklyn DAC


Global music and entertainment platform, TIDAL, has launched a new "Master" audio feature and is offering MQA music to all TIDAL HiFi subscribers.

"TIDAL is committed to bringing members closer to their favorite musicians and offering MQA sound quality will allow subscribers to hear music just as it was recorded in the studio," said a TIDAL representative.

A wide variety of content from labels and artists, including Warner Music Group’s world-renowned music catalog, is now available in Master audio across all of TIDAL’s available markets worldwide.

TIDAL has integrated MQA, the award-winning technology that enables this innovation, and has offered it to all TIDAL HiFi tier subscribers under a new ‘Master’ listing. Initially available on desktop, a wide range of recordings are already available and the collection will grow rapidly.

“TIDAL is committed to bringing members closer to their favorite musicians and offering MQA sound quality will allow subscribers to hear music just as it was recorded in the studio,” said a TIDAL representative. “We’re thrilled to bring master quality sound to our members.”

Mike Jbara, MQA CEO, said, “TIDAL is an artist-centric music company. We could not be more excited that they share our vision of having fans hear the authentic performance of their favorite music.”

Visit to learn more: non-members can sign up for a complimentary 60-day trial.