Yamaha MusicCast CD-NT670D Review

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the yamaha CD-NT670D was nothing more than a typical hi-fi CD player, albeit one with a rather slim profile and compact dimensions. But looks can deceive, as is the case here. Packed inside that tiny (314 x 70 x 338 mm) chassis is not only a highly specified CD player, but also a fully fledged music streamer and a DAB/FM tuner, with support for Yamaha’s MusicCast multi-room audio system.

It comes as part of the MCR-N670D and MCR-N870D mini hi-fi systems, but it can also be purchased separately and connected to any hi-fi system with an analogue input. It comes in 2 versions, the CD-NT670 being the model below it in the range. The only apparent difference between the 2 models is the omission of a DAB tuner in the lower model, but the two are otherwise identical. Only the DAB-equipped CD-NT670D model is available in the UK, however.

Purchase an MCR-N670, and you’ll get the A-670 amplifier and NS-BP301 speakers as part of the package. The MCR-N870 system gives you an upgrade to the A-U670 amplifier with its DSD-capable USB DAC, and the larger NS-BP401 speakers. Those models are equipped with a CD-NT670 network CD player, but if you purchase the model of either system with an appending D you’ll receive the CD-NT670D which includes the DAB tuner. The model on review here is the CD-NT670D, which we’ll simply refer too as the 670D from here on out.

Features

Naturally, the main selling point of the 670D is its compatibility with Yamaha’s MusicCast multi-room audio system. At first glance you’d possibly be forgiven for thinking that musicCast was simply another competitor to the likes of Sonos, but the MusicCast system is far more versatile, bridging the gap between traditional hi-fi and lifestyle audio products. It’s also one of the largest systems, boasting a portfolio of more than 30 products including traditional hi-fi components, small speaker systems and even a piano.

All MusicCast products are designed to be used individually or in conjunction with one another. For example, if you purchase a MusicCast speaker such as the WX-030 as your first MusicCast product, you’re able to use it both as a traditional Bluetooth or AirPlay speaker, and even control it via the MusicCast app. There’s no central hub controlling the system, no complicated wiring required, and the flexibility of the system means it can grow piece by piece. It’s also possible to use the system with non MusicCast products, as the Bluetooth-compatible MusicCast products can also transmit audio to other Bluetooth devices such as Bluetooth speakers or wireless headphones.

The 670D provides a wealth of digital connectivity. Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) are onboard, as well as support for the vTuner internet radio service and a host of streaming services including Juke, Spotify Connect and Napster, depending on your country of residence. Media can be streamed via a DLNA media server, USB devices connected to the front panel USB jack and via a smartphone using the free MusicCast control app available for iOS and Android. The unit connects to your network via Wi-Fi or via a 10/100base-TX ethernet jack on the back.

The 670D supports all common file formats, including FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, MP3, WMA, M4A and AAC. Resolutions of up to 24-bit, 192KHZ are supported, though ALAC is limited to a sampling rate of 96KHZ. The unit does support gapless playback.

On the tuner side, both DAB (174 MHz to 240 MHz Band III) and FM (87.5 MHz to 108.0 MHz) with RDS are supported. There are 30 presets for each, which can be entered manually or filled automatically. The CD player will happily play just about any disc that’ll fit in the tray, including standard red book CDs and writable CD-R and CD-RW discs. MP3 and WMA discs are also supported.

The player is designed to be eco friendly, consuming a maximum of 16W when in use. By default, that drops to just 1.8W in standby, as the unit will keep its network circuits active so as to enable the system to be powered on via the app. This feature can be disabled by enabling the eco mode, at which point the unit will draw just 0.1W in standby, but you will lose the ability to power up the system via the control app or an AirPlay or Bluetooth device.

First Impressions

In the box, you’ll find the 670D itself wrapped in a cotton cloth bag, along with a remote control and batteries, some documentation and a run of the mill RCA interconnect cable. You also get a wire antenna for the tuner section and a combined wifi and bluetooth antenna which comes preinstalled on the back of the unit.

Looking at the player itself, its front panel is deceptively simple. An alpha-numeric display takes up most of the panel, above which sits Yamaha’s traditional slim disc tray with an eject button. The display offers 3 brightness levels which can be adjusted using the units remote control, and indicators for Bluetooth, sleep, shuffle/repeat, Mute, FM stereo and tuning.

To the left sits a power button and a USB jack used to connect an iOS device or a USB storage device. On the right, a rotary source selector is joined by a set of transport controls including previous, next, play/pause and stop. The latter control doubles up as the connect button when setting up the yamaha MusicCast system.

On the back you’ll find the permanently attached power cable, along with the combined wifi and bluetooth antenna preinstalled in its screw terminal. The unit supports the 802.11 A/B/G/N wi-fi protocols at 2.4GHZ, and the bluetooth connection has a maximum communication range of 10 m (32.8FT). The analogue outputs are via a pair of standard RCA jacks, and there’s a single digital input in the form of an optical connection. I’d have preferred to see a coaxial digital input as opposed too or in conjunction with that of the optical variety, and perhaps a digital output or 2 so as to enable the 670D to interface with an external DAC.

There’s an analogue input via a second pair of RCA terminals, intended to allow analogue devices to be connected to the unit when it’s being used with the matching A-U670 amplifier, and also allowing an analogue device such as a turntable to form part of the MusicCast system. Finally, a 3.5MM control jack connects to compatible Yamaha products, such as one of the matching amplifiers to allow them to be controlled by the unit.

At 2.9KG, the 670D feels weighty for its size with a high level of fit and finish throughout. I was particularly pleased to note that the wifi controller has now been internalised, previous Yamaha machines required a wifi bridge or access point be connected up via the ethernet jack to get them online wirelessly. The CD tray is smooth and quiet, as is the transport mechanism itself. Variable-speed buffering technology stabilises the rotation rate of the disk, reducing vibration and mechanical noise during playback, meaning the transport is virtually inaudible when a disc is playing. The controls also have a solid tactile feel to them, particularly the input dial which offers a well defined click as you navigate between the sources.

I do find those front panel transport controls to be a little redundant, however. They’re great for controlling CD, server, AirPlay or USB playback, but they won’t allow you to skip through tracks when you’re streaming via a mobile device, nor can you use them to control the tuner. Use of such functions will require the remote or the control app. You also can’t access the settings menu without the remote control. I can’t help thinking those controls could’ve been put to better use, for example, allowing the previous and next controls to scroll through tuner stations, and holding the play/pause control to change the tuner band. Pressing the previous and next buttons simultaneously for 3 seconds could take you into the settings, at which point the 4 controls could be used to enter settings in the menu.

The Remote

The remote is identical to that supplied by Yamaha with previous generations of their hi-fi component range. It’s not the best remote I’ve experienced, but it’s far from the worst. The controls are a little small, but they’re well spaced and laid out in a logical fashion. Power is provided by a pair of included AA batteries which install into a solid compartment at the back. The remote control also provides a favourites button which, when pressed, can automatically power up the system and play back a preset music source be that an internet, FM or DAB radio station or any of the other supported music sources.

Setup

Once connected to the matching amp and speakers also supplied for review, I fired up the MusicCast app and was presented with a screen offering the option to setup new MusicCast device or to enter the app’s demo mode, which provides a selection of preset rooms as an indication of the capabilities of the system to a prospective buyer. Tapping the setup button guides you through the setup of your MusicCast device.

The procedure is hassle-free, and within moments of holding down the stop/connect button on the front of the 670D to enable the app to detect its presence, I had the player up and running on the wireless network, and a room name assigned. You can also personalise your room with a photo.

In Use

Throughout this review, the 670D was controlled almost exclusively via the control app. Upon completing the setup, the app immediately alerted me to the availability of a firmware update which I was able to initialise at the tap of a button, a progress bar on my iPhone detailing the update process. yamaha’s previous control apps lacked the ability to initiate a software update via the app and I’m pleased to see that this has now been rectified.

With the firmware updated, the player started up by default in CD mode. The app first presents a screen in which to select one of the rooms on your MusicCast network.

After selecting a room, the app presents a list of sources, along with access to your favourites and a search control which can search both the internet radio stations and your local on-device library. I’d like to see the ability to search local USB storage media and perhaps a connected DLNA media server.

Searching the on-device library provides instantaneous results, presenting both artist and album suggestions. Selecting a suggestion displays the track list, as you would expect.

Selecting a song brings up the now playing screen which includes volume and mute controls, a set of transport controls, and a link control to send the audio to multiple MusicCast products at once. The example here shows the 670D playing a Wolf Alice CD and displaying the CD text including the track name, artist and album. Here is also where you can alter any sound settings for a given device, the example here showing the equaliser of a WX-030 speaker.

In link mode, you can see all of your available devices and select those that you wish to have form a group. Once linked, any audio selected will transmit to all of those devices simultaneously. The now playing screen allows you to alter the volume of individual units, or control the group volume of the system via a single slider.

Closing the now playing screen takes you back to the previous screen, be that your track list or list of input sources. As you navigate the app for the first time, it’ll display a selection of handy help hints to show you how to find your way around. They’ll only display once, but if you forget something you can re-enable the messages in the settings.

Accessing the internet radio section allows you to browse through the entire vTuner station library of more than 35,000 stations. Stations can be browsed by location or genre, and there’s a separate library for podcasts.

The app lacks the ability to save and manage vTuner internet radio presets. Doing so requires that you register on the vTuner website and provide them your system ID, at which point you can manage your presets via their web interface. This limitation was present in previous Yamaha apps and I suspect it’s a limitation of the vTuner service itself.

The room select screen also offers access to a settings page, giving access to both app and device settings as well as the ability to add a new MusicCast device to the system. Tapping on one of your existing rooms allows you to edit the names of the input sources, as well as hide those you don’t use.

You can control the auto standby mode which will switch the system off after a period of inactivity, sign into your Juke and Napster accounts, and change the room name and photo. You can also view information about the device, including its network information, firmware version, current volume and system UDID, which is used to register the system on the vTuner internet radio website.

The app settings portion gives access to a few appearance settings, along with the ability to automatically disable the auto locking feature of your device when the app is running. You can also change the location name and clear all app data from your device.

Other settings can be accessed using the menus on the device, or via the configuration page found by typing the unit’s IP address into a web browser. The configuration page allows you to alter the room name, network connection settings, mac address filtering, initiate a firmware update, set an AirPlay password or enable / disable the network standby function.

Sound

Sound wise, the CD-NT670 offers up a sound that is packed with detail. It’s a very neutral presentation with no apparent exaggeration of any particular band of the frequency spectrum. Its ability to portray a convincing stereo image is particularly evident, though it’s not a player to over emphasise in that regard either. What goes in is, for the most part, what comes out.

Summary

In summary, I find it hard to fault Yamaha’s CD-NT670D. Ordinarily a CD player of this caliber would set you back a substantial amount of your hard-earned cash, and that’s not to mention the DAB+ tuner, the prices of which have been steadily increasing as internet radio continues to take precedence.

But when that CD player not only includes the tuner but a fully fledged high-resolution network streamer, not to mention full multi-room audio support, you’re looking at a product that offers serious value for money. The CD-NT670 is as good as any stand-alone CD player, streamer or tuner at this price and beyond. An outstanding product, Highly recommended.

Read more at: http://www.audioappraisal.com/yamaha-musiccast-cd-nt670d-review/

Where to buy Yamaha: https://www.abtec.co.nz/product-search.php?keyword=nt670&category=&brand=&search=

Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless Review

B&W’s P7 over-ear headphones go wireless, with spectacular results…

“2016 Award Winner”

Our Verdict 

B&W’s wireless headphones meet the high standard that we’ve come to expect from the company

For:

Stylish design

Good audio quality

Easy usability

Against:

Nothing of note
Reviewed on 13th September 2016

If you’re looking for over-ear Bluetooth headphones, you’re probably going to be making your selection based on four main factors: their sound quality, their aesthetics, their comfort and their price.

These B&Ws have the same design as the stylish, wired P7s that won the What Hi-Fi? Award for ‘Best portable on-ear’ headphones in 2013. A case, it would seem, of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” from B&W.

Comfort and build

These wireless equivalents have all the best initial qualities of their wired siblings: the earpads are very comfortable and can be worn all day.

They have the same 17-hour lithium battery as the wireless P5s, charged via USB, so it’s unlikely you’re ever going to run out of power during the day as long as you start fully charged.

Features

The P7’s aptX Bluetooth connectivity is controlled via the power button: slide it across to turn on and off, and push it inwards to make the headphones discoverable to new devices.

Once paired with a device, these cans don’t need to be made discoverable again to connect.

The headphones provide audio feedback too, by playing a different sound when they are being turned on, made discoverable, or turned off, in case you’re connecting the P7s while still wearing them.

On the right earpad lie the controls for volume and playback, each of which are clearly distinguished from the other by the raised design of the middle button that toggles playback.

As we would expect, the middle button is able to play and pause any media via Apple MusicNetflix and Amazon Prime Video across laptops, smartphones and tablets, and can be used to trigger voice-controlled assistants like Apple’s Siri.

Sound

We start with Where Is My Mind by The Pixies – the test here being whether the P7s can keep the contrast between the quiet background echoes and the distortion in the guitar balanced and organised.

Turns out they manage to do both, keeping the high-pitched wailing under control without ever overcooking the treble.

The midrange is clear and Black Francis’ haunting rhetorical questions are given the space to linger in the air before diving down into the lower octaves. And they do so without any noticeable peaks and dips that would take away the eerie essence of the song.

Changing to something more pop, Pitbull and Ke$ha’s collaboration Timber stays upbeat and fun with a lot of emotion in both the artists’ vocals.

These headphones do a good job of conveying the deep growl in Pitbull’s voice and revealing a harsh edge to it, making you believe that he could be singing this having just come out of a club.

Great headphones should be able to point your attention towards new details in songs, even those that you’ve heard a number of times. Sure enough, we find the P7s expose undiscovered facets in tracks we know backwards via lesser media.

The P7s have a good control of the dynamics too; able to smoothly build from the harmonica at the start of Timber to the crescendo of the loud club. The message is these headphones can effectively recreate the atmosphere of a range of music with ease.

The deep bass beats are generous, perhaps a touch overly so, yet are managed particularly well in the way they keep the sound taut and tuneful while sustaining plenty of attack. At the other end of the spectrum, the high notes have a rich texture to them without erring on the bright side and on the whole, the P7s deliver a comfortably full-bodied sound.

Should you need to, you have the option of connecting the wireless P7s to your device via a supplied lead. As we would expect, this results in improved transparency and detail – in exchange for the freedom of Bluetooth connectivity.

Verdict

We can’t say we’re surprised, but the fact is the P7 Wireless headphones set a high standard for other competitors in this price range to reach. B&W has built a very impressive pair of Bluetooth headphones that we’d certainly recommend for their sound quality, stylish design, and user-friendly Bluetooth controls.

Breakdown

Sound: 5 Stars

Build: 5 Stars

Comfort: 5 Stars

Features: 5 Stars

Read more at: https://www.whathifi.com/bw/p7-wireless/review#IgvWvQEwXck1Gqq3.99

Where to buy B&W:  https://www.abtec.co.nz/product-search.php?keyword=Bowers+%26+Wilkins+P7+Wireless&category=&brand=&search=

Sony MDR-1000X review

OUR SCORE: 5 Stars

PROS:

Light and comfortable

Excellent noise-cancellation

Superb sound quality

Adjustable ANC level

Excellent mic for calls

Long battery life

Cons:

There’s a knack to the touch controls

KEY FEATURES:

Active Noise-Cancellation

Bluetooth

Capacitive touch controls

Personal Optimizer mode

Quick Listen mode

Backup 3.5mm wired connection

Hard carry case and airplane adaptor

Manufacturer: Sony

Review Price: £330.00

WHAT ARE THE SONY MDR-1000X?

Wireless over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation. This is hardly a new territory for a company of Sony’s stature, but nonetheless this is a decided move to dominate this end of the market. The Sony MDR-1000X is here to take down the ubiquitous Bose, whose headphones are a common sight on every plane and train.

It’s pretty good timing, too. The iPhone 7 has done away with the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack, and those who don’t want to faff about with adaptors will be needing a good cord-cutting alternative. The demand for good wireless headphones has never been higher.

Sony’s biggest obstacle is the Bose QuietComfort 35, which have all but claimed this turf. But Sony isn’t simply offering silence and freedom of movement: it also has some clever tricks to give you greater control over playback and isolation. These skills make Sony a formidable challenger to the throne. Sorry Bose, the Sony MDR-1000X are the new headphones to beat.

SONY MDR-1000X – DESIGN

These are smart-looking headphones, with minimal branding and a streamlined silhouette. They look a little plain from afar, but get closer and you’ll see Sony has made a firm gesture towards luxury. The construction is primarily plastic but it feels tough rather than tacky. There’s polished metal in the headband, and the ear cups and ear pads are wrapped in a very believable synthetic leather that feels lovely.

They don’t just look great: these headphones feel good, too. The polyurethane foam stuffed in the ear pads is very squishy and conforms to the shape of your head. The headband uses just the right amount of pressure to stay put, gripping rather than squeezing. They’re also light enough to sit on your head for hours. I wore them on a flight and managed to fall asleep.

Build quality is strong; there’s no creaking and the headband expands with decisive clicks. Compared to the Bose QC35’s basic plastic construction, the Sony MDR-1000X look and feel far more luxurious. Look after them – there’s a hard case included – and they should last you a while.

SONY MDR-1000X – FEATURES

Despite the subdued appearance, there’s plenty going on here. The left ear cup has an NFC chip for speedy Bluetooth pairing. The right ear cup offers touch-sensitive controls.

Swiping forwards and backwards to change tracks is easy enough, as is swiping up and down for volume. The double-tap pause/play command takes some practice (you need to hit the right spot) but I got used to it quickly enough.

Tucked away on the edges of the ear cups are a micro USB port for charging and a 3.5mm connection for cabling up when your 20-hour battery runs out. The fact that it’s a 3.5mm jack on the MDR-1000X means finding a replacement is much easier than the Bose QuietComfort range, which use 2.5mm to 3.5mm cables.

The physical buttons are here, too, with raised edges so you can press them without looking. So far so normal, but here’s what separates the Sony MDR-1000X from its rivals: there are some clever modes accessible from these buttons that give you an unprecedented amount of control over how you listen. A clear voice prompt is piped through the headphones so you know what mode you’ve engaged.

The Personal NC Optimizer analyses the shape of your head and tailors the sound to each listener. The Ambient Sound mode lets you choose to let some sound through, for when you don’t want total isolation. The Quick Listen mode temporarily lets you hear everything without taking off the headphones.

Internally, DSEE HX processing promises to upscale low-quality compressed music files. These headphones are compatible with aptX Bluetooth for higher quality streaming, but you also get Sony’s own LDAC codec. Sony claims it transmits up to three times more data than conventional Bluetooth, but it only works with certain devices, such as its Xperia smartphones and Walkman digital audio players.

SONY MDR-1000X – NOISE CANCELLATION

Until now, Bose has been the undisputed king of noise cancellation. Well, consider that claim disputed. I’ve used the Sony MDR-1000X for nearly two weeks and I reckon they’re just as good at blocking the outside world.

Like all ANC headphones, the Sony MDR-1000X are better at handling constant noise at low frequencies, but they’re also great at turning everything else down a few notches. I tried them on a plane, and they reduced the roaring engines to a whimper. I got even better results on my daily train commute.

The general hubbub of London streets was no match, either. I’ve walked right next to road works and moving buses and my music was never interrupted. These headphones only struggled with wind noise, which seems to confuse the microphones. To be fair, I’ve not found a single pair of ANC headphones immune to this.

There’s none of the hiss and whine that often afflict wireless and noise-cancelling headphones. Like the Bose QC35, the Sony’s ANC tech is so effective that it feels like the headphones are actively pushing silence into your head. You’ll feel a change in pressure, which feels a little odd at first, but you’ll get used to it and the sensation goes away when you play music.

The effective noise cancellation also makes these headphones ideal for conversation. I made a phone call by a busy road, but the headphones managed to isolate my voice from the racket of buses, leaving the conversation clear.

SONY MDR-1000X – EXTRA MODES

The Personal NC Optimizer feature I mentioned earlier is a weird and wonderful way of calibrating the sound to the listener. It takes into account the shape of your head, and whether you have big hair or wear glasses. You trigger it from the headphones themselves by holding the NC button and it takes a few seconds. It means you can easily change the profile to take into account wearing a pair of glasses on the fly without having to deal with the faff of a separate app.

The headphones pump out a series of test tones, in the same way that AV receivers do to calibrate surround sound speakers. The tones bounce around on the side of your head before being received by internal microphones. The headphones analyse this data and adjust the sound accordingly. It really works. When I wear glasses, I’m not able to get a good seal around my ears and the sound is affected. The calibration takes this into account and tweaks the tonal balance.

Ambient Sound mode is useful too, for when you’re walking through town and want to keep half an ear out for passing cyclists. In my case, it was an irritable gentleman pushing a heavy trolley, swearing at me for being in his way. You can even choose to block out everything but voices – perfect for crying babies or airport announcements.

Quick Listen mode is my favourite. Hold your hand to the right ear cup and the music will drop away, letting in the outside world until you let go. It’s ideal for when a plane stewardess asks you what you want to drink, or when your colleague comes by your desk. Now you can have a quick word without taking off your headphones. It’s a genuinely useful feature, one that I found myself using a lot more than I had anticipated.

SONY MDR-1000X – SOUND QUALITY

The Sony MDR-1000X are easily the best noise-cancelling headphones I’ve heard.

They are an immensely entertaining listen, thanks to a combination of rhythmic precision and hard-hitting dynamism. That agility and impact is something you just don’t get with the Bose QC35, which are a little too polite. Sony, meanwhile, offers the sort of fun and energy that might have you get up and dance about when you think nobody is looking.

The MDR-1000X are articulate, too. Detail separation is impressive, with firm leading edges that leave you in no doubt as to what’s happening to those instruments. What’s more, those instruments are given plenty of space. These headphones sound surprisingly spacious given their closed-back design.

Tonal balance is good. These headphones don’t favour any particular part of the frequency range, which makes them very versatile. The treble is crisp without grating or hardening up. The midrange is direct and expressive, with plenty of emotion in vocals. The bass is plentiful and low without ever losing its definition or manoeuvrability, nor ever threatening to overpower the rest. That’s something that even the more expensive Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless struggle with, sometimes coming across as overly rich.

I put these headphones through my usual gauntlet of test tracks (from John Williams to Hans Zimmer, via Daft Punk, AC/DC, Taylor Swift and Buena Vista Social Club) and I’ve come to the conclusion that these are seriously talented performers for the money, with no obvious shortcomings. That Sony has managed to make such well-rounded headphones – despite loading them with extraneous tech – is very impressive.

And that’s just the wireless performance. Plug in the cable and the performance is even better, benefiting from a more full-bodied sound and more subtlety in the textures. You don’t get the controls, though, as the touch-sensitive pad only works with Bluetooth.

You can carry on listening when you run out of power through the 3.5mm headphone cable, albeit without amplification or noise-cancellation. Sound quality dips – clarity and energy take a hit – but the overall character remains. Compared to the Bose QC35 in no-power mode, the Sony MDR-1000X sound fuller and better defined.

SHOULD I BUY THE SONY MDR-1000X?

Yes. Absolutely. The Sony MDR-1000X have managed to dethrone the legendary Bose when it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, which is a remarkable feat in itself.

But Sony not only provides noise-cancellation that challenges the best in the field, it has done so with intelligence. The Ambient Sound and Quick Listen modes are genuinely useful features, which give listeners a level of flexibility that headphones are not known for.

Then there’s the sound quality, which is traditionally a secondary concern for noise-cancelling headphones. It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into the audio-only aspect of the Sony MDR-1000X, because they sound superb. Yes, these cost about £40 more than the Bose QuietComfort 35 but it’s worth it.

Put it together and you have a personal bubble of high-quality music. That’s the commuter’s dream.

VERDICT

Hands-down the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market – and they’re wireless, too.

OVERALL SCORE: 5 Stars

Read more at: http://www.trustedreviews.com/sony-mdr-1000x-review

Where to buy Sony: https://www.abtec.co.nz/Sony_MDR_1000X

Klipsch Heresy III speakers Review

At less than 24 inches tall, the Klipsch Heresy III is the shortest floor-standing speaker I’ve ever tested. Don’t let its diminutive stature fool you. This speaker can outrun many a tower speaker — and outlast them. In an age of disposable tech, any speaker that sticks around for five years or more is noteworthy, but Klipsch’s Heresy has been in continuous production since 1957. And the Heresy III outshines most contemporary high-end speakers in a few key performance areas.

Dynamic impact and bass “slam,” courtesy of the Heresy III’s 12-inch woofer, are extraordinary. Vocals have more “body” and fullness than those from most large speakers. The Heresy III sounds like a blast from the past; it’s the speaker equivalent of a 1960s muscle car — like a Pontiac GTO or Dodge Charger. The Heresy III lacks finesse, but it’s a lot of fun to listen to.

Speaking of power, the Heresy III doesn’t need a lot of it to make a big sound; it’s remarkably efficient, so it can play loud with as little as 10 watts, but it still handles up to 400 watts on “peaks.” I used a 40-watt-per-channel NAD C 316BEE integrated amp ($380) for all of my listening tests. The Heresy III’s 12-inch fiber-composite woofer is mounted in a sealed, non-ported cabinet. The ultrahigh efficiency of the design must be credited to the Heresy III’s horn-loaded midrange and tweeter drivers — more specifically, the 1-inch compression tweeter and 1.75-inch compression midrange driver. Horns are an essential part of the company’s DNA, starting with its very first speaker, the Klipschorn, and that one debuted in 1946! Like the Heresy, Klipschorn has never gone out of production, and is still built in Klipsch’s Arkansas factory.

The Heresy III measures 23.8×15.5×13.25 inches. My samples were beautifully finished in real cherry wood. Walnut and black finishes also are available.

Played at near-live concert volume, Wilco’s “Kicking Television” CD knocked me over and straightened me right up. The sound in my listening room was closer to a live rock concert sound system than I’ve heard from a lot of much more expensive and bigger speakers. That’s what the Heresy IIIs do so well, and once you experience that sort of sound at home, a set of Sonos wireless speakers won’t cut it anymore.

Duke Ellington’s “Jazz Party” LP sounded remarkably vivid over the Heresy IIIs; the energy of a big band isn’t easy to reproduce. Most speakers clamp down on the horns’ power and presence, miniaturizing their sound. Not this time — turn up the volume, and you’ll feel a large dose of Ellington’s music coming through the Heresy IIIs.

Bass “kick” and definition are exceptional; you’ll feel the bass. True, bass extension isn’t subwoofer deep — it reaches down to 50 hertz in my large room, and I would have expected more from a speaker with a 12-inch woofer. Still, acoustic and electric bass instruments are well-served by the Heresy IIIs. You’d have to spend a lot more on speakers to outdo the combination of low-down clarity and punch.

Play any well-recorded piece of music, turn up the volume, and you’ll be treated to something rare, the full dynamic jolts that no small speaker can ever approach. Heck, a lot of big speakers can’t reproduce the crack of a snare drum like the Heresy IIIs can. It’s similar to what I get from Zu speakers, but the Heresy III’s bass definition exceeds the Zu’s. On the other hand, the Zu speakers sound clearer and more detailed overall. No speaker gets everything just right — the Heresy IIIs come up short on resolution and detail. I sometimes wished for more clarity.

The Heresy III’s strengths really came to the fore in my two-channel home theater. They reproduce movies’ dynamics with ease, and dialogue was natural and highly articulate. I also found myself listening to a lot of vinyl over the Heresy IIIs, because these speakers emphasized all the things I like about the sound of records. I noticed it was impossible to read while playing LPs via the Heresy IIIs — the sound was that good! I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these speakers.

The Heresy III is sold through Klipsch’s brick-and-mortar and online dealers.

Read more at: https://www.cnet.com/news/dont-back-down-klipsch-heresy-iii-speakers/

Where to buy Klipsch: https://www.abtec.co.nz/product-search.php?keyword=Klipsch+Heresy+III&category=&brand=&search=

B&W ASW610 Powered Subwoofer Review

Best subwoofer up to £700, Awards 2011. The B&W ASW610 sounds bigger than it looks and more expensive than its price-tag

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Our Verdict – 5 Stars

Best subwoofer up to £700, Awards 2011. Neat, well made and sounds great for the money.

For:

Fabulously agile and well-extended bass for its size

good finish

small and well-equipped

Against:

Nothing

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As reigning best Buy within its price class, the B&W ASW610 is the target its rivals have to aim for, but as we’ve seen in several tests of late, it’ s a difficult target to hit.

That’s partially because it’s surprisingly small, at just 31cm high – but it’s also because its diminutive form disguises a formidably powerful and terrifically dynamic design, its 200w amplifier controlling the excursions of its 25cm Kevlar/paper drive unit with a martinet’s fervour.

Spin a movie, and depth and drive are never in doubt, the B&W thundering through The Dark Knight with an absolute authority that belies its modest size.

However, most of its rivals can go loud and deep: the ASW610’s edge lies its lethally effective blend of power and poise, muscle and musicality.

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It can deliver bass with subtlety and expression, its speed on the attack and its tonal differentiation ensuring Santogold’s L.E.S Artistes fairly zips along.

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Read more at: http://www.whathifi.com/bw/asw610/review#Gtt0JPhGxUJi3JYR.99

Where to buy B&W: http://abtec.co.nz/product-search.php?keyword=610&category=&brand=&search=

 

Klipsch Palladium P-39F Loudspeaker Review

It ain’t the stuff you don’t know that trips you up, it’s the stuff you know that ain’t so. When, at the 2007 CEDIA Expo, I encountered Klipsch’s startlingly new Palladium P-39F loudspeaker ($20,000/pair), I was impressed by its looks. Tall (56″), as beautifully contoured as the prow of a canoe, and clad in striking zebra-stripe plywood, the P-39F is possibly the best-looking speaker Klipsch has ever made.

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The Klipsch rep, too, was enthusiastic: “This is a loudspeaker that PWK would have approved of!” (Yes, seven years after the death of Paul W. Klipsch, employees still refer to the founder of Klipsch Audio Technologies as PWK—and why not? Most of them have worked there for so long that they knew PWK or were hired by him.)

“How so?” asked WP.

“Obviously, the midrange and tweeter are horn-loaded, but the P-39Fs are efficient, have low distortion, and controlled directivity—all goals that Paul Klipsch sought in every loudspeaker he ever designed. We kept those goals forefront in designing the Palladium line, and we went to DesignworksUSA for the industrial design of the speaker itself, although we developed all of the drivers in-house.”

I ran my hand along the curved flank of one P-39F, admiring its fit’n’finish. Sensing weakness, the rep moved in for the kill. “Maybe you’d like to review them.”

“No offense, but I don’t really like horn speakers,” I said.

As if I’d ever actually lived with a pair. I’d sold Klipsch speakers back when I was an audio salesman, but mostly two-way monitors—they were my fallback model when customers wanted more bass. I’d never spent much time with the “heritage” trio of Cornwall, La Scala, and Klipschorn—my loss, I now suspect.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I listened to many large, “retro” horns designed to complement single-ended-triode amplifiers, and I just didn’t cotton to ’em. The bass frequently seemed completely disconnected from the mids and highs—and, in at least one example I heard at a Stereophile Home Entertainment Show, the outputs of the individual drivers didn’t cohere until I was sitting about 30′ away. Granted, I also heard many contemporary dynamic and electrostatic loudspeakers that didn’t do it for me during those years, but I didn’t dismiss those types of speakers out of hand—just horns.

The machinations of time and tide—not to mention an enthusiastic phone call from CNET’s audio blogger Steve Guttenberg, who was rendered almost speechless by the P-39F—conspired to put a pair in my listening room, where indeed I did review them.

The horn, the horn, the lusty horn

The Palladium P-39F is a three-way loudspeaker with a fourth-order crossover. The cones of its three 9″ woofers are constructed from an outer aluminum skin bonded to a Rohacell core, this in turn bonded to Kevlar. The result is a rigid but lightweight diaphragm. Each woofer’s basket is cast aluminum, and its 1.5″-diameter voice-coil is wound from flat copper-clad aluminum wire. Three different neodymium magnets make up the drive system.

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The mid-frequency driver is front-loaded with a modified Tractrix horn with a 4:1 high-compression phase plug in its center. The 4.5″ inverted-dome driver is a first for Klipsch—although the company does credit PWK’s famous dictum “The midrange is where we live.” The midrange is claimed to have a raw sensitivity of 110dB. Like the woofers, the midrange driver uses three magnets (the primary magnet uses the other two to stabilize its output). The midrange driver is housed in its own tuned, sealed enclosure within the P-39F’s shell.

The tweeter is also front-loaded with a Tractrix horn, this one with a 10:1 compression phase plug and a 0.75″ dome diaphragm of titanium. The space behind the driver is a resistively damped tube. Klipsch says that the design of the phase plug “extends the upper frequency of the driver by 10kHz,” which is said to have the salubrious effect of eliminating standing waves in the high-pressure layer between plug and driver.

The fourth-order crossover is built on two printed circuit boards mounted to the bottom plate of the speakers with isolation grommets. The parts quality is said to be superb: air-core conductors, polypropylene caps, ultra-low-inductance resistors, etc. The woofers cross over to the mids at 500Hz, the mids cruise from 500Hz to 3.2kHz, and Klipsch claims the tweeter goes from 3.2 to 30kHz!

Then there’s that scrumptious cabinet. It has no parallel surfaces, and curves continuously from its tapered baffle to pointed rear spine. The cabinet—made of compressed laminated plywood, MDF, and particleboard—has an average thickness of 1″, although the baffle is thicker and, where the woofers are mounted, is reinforced with steel. The cabinet’s interior is extensively braced. Each speaker sits atop a high-mass machined metal baseplate tapped for spiked feet. Mounted low on one side of the P-39F are three flared port tubes—the look is old-school Pontiac. Access to the triwired speaker terminals is from under the baseplate, a discovery that elicited much swearing on the part of John Atkinson.

His tunes were frozen up in the horn

Other than the inconvenience of wiring the P-39Fs with audiophile-quality hawsers, setup was a snap. I could have used just about any amp in the house to drive the Palladiums’ 95dB sensitivity, but the VTL MB-450 IIs were already on the amp stands. All I had to do was switch to the VTLs’ triode mode—I sure didn’t need all that pentode power.

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I ended up placing the speakers 45″ from the front wall and 32″ from the sidewalls, toed in very slightly. Just an inch under 13′ from my sweet spot, the P-39Fs “clicked” with my room as have very few loudspeakers, even far more expensive ones.

Sugar in the gourd and honey in the horn

Whatever it was I was expecting from a pair of horn speakers, what I got from the Palladium P-39Fs was sound that was balanced, relaxed, and assured. “Don’t You Evah,” from Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (CD, Merge MRG295), was rhythmically complex, with an incisive guitar solo. The music was lively, focused, and alive.

The uncharacteristically mellow moan of “Milano,” from Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten’s S.M.V. (CD, Dreyfus 369212), presented a huge soundstage and, in the B section of this ABA tune, dug deep, presenting all three bassists’ thumb-popping prowess. The P-39F’s specified response is 39Hz–24kHz, ±3dB, but it’s only 10dB down at 28Hz—the way the Klipsches coupled to my room, that felt plenty deep.

With “Upstream,” from k.d. lang’s Watershed (CD, Nonesuch 406908), the P-39F presented the popping, bopping synth/bass underpinning to the song with a vivid, living presence. Lang’s breathy vocals were slightly larger than life, but also remarkably seductive. In fact, the P-39F really shone with vocals—I couldn’t get enough of Shelby Lynne’s Just a Little Lovin’ (CD, Lost Highway 9789), either.

For sheer goose bumps, however, very little can beat k.d. lang’s version of “Hallelujah,” on Watershed’s bonus disc. Yes, it’s probably time to call a moratorium on this Leonard Cohen chestnut, but talent will out—and lang’s performance, recorded live, was a stunner through the P-39Fs. “Hallelujah” not only took my breath away, it reduced me to tears. Every. Damn. Time.

Nor do I mean that the Palladiums excelled at reproducing only female vocals. Playing Tom Russell’s The Man from God Knows Where (CD, Hightone 8099), the way the Klipsches presented Russell’s deep baritone was fairly magical—as was, for another example, Dave Van Ronk’s hoarse, wheezy rant, “The Outcaste,” also on this disc. (All Van Ronk fans owe it to themselves to hear not only this song, but also Russell’s delightful salute to his old drinking buddy and mentor, “Van Ronk,” from Veteran’s Day: The Tom Russell Anthology.)

Then there was the 24-bit/88.2kHz master of Cantus’s While You Are Alive (CD, Cantus CTS-1208), which I played back from a DVD-A John Atkinson had burned for me. Talk about goose-bump city—Eric Whitacre’s Lux Arumque made my reaction to k.d. lang’s “Hallelujah” seem mild. The P-39Fs glorified Cantus’s extraordinary basses, and hung the tenors between the speakers in full-3D empalpification. Yes, feed the Klipsches a hi-rez signal and they’ll definitely remind you of why you care about hi-fi. They take you there and get you closer.

Hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn

After I’d reviewed the YG Acoustics Anat Reference II Pro without directly comparing it with another $100,000/pair reference loudspeaker (Stereophile, March 2009), YG let me hang on to the Reference IIs with an ear toward making such a comparison in the near future. And as long as the YGs were still around, I reckoned I’d compare the Klipsch Palladium P-39Fs to the high-priced spread.

On several levels, such a comparison is unfair. Yes, the price difference of $80,000 is extreme, but also consider that the YG has an active woofer, so you’d expect it to go lower than the Klipsch—and it does. On the other hand, the YG is a pig to drive, and doesn’t play well with tube amps—which means that the price of entry for the YGs is considerably higher than $100,000. The Klipsches are easy to drive, so more of your budget can go for the speakers themselves.

Spoon dug deeper and rocked harder through the YGs, but while the difference was audible, it wasn’t overwhelming. Perhaps much of this was the result of how nicely the P-39Fs “fit” my room—or perhaps it was my awareness that the difference in price between the two loudspeakers would make an acceptable down payment on my brownstone.

With k.d. lang, Shelby Lynne, Tom Russell, and Cantus, I could hear more detail and ambience through the YGAs—though I don’t think that translated into greater involvement with the music itself. More is better, of course, but there was something special about the way the P-39F handled the human voice that even a loudspeaker costing five times as much had a hard time trumping.

Everything else being equal, the Anat Reference II Pros unassailably performed better than the Klipsches in terms of frequency response, retrieval of detail, and holographic imaging. But everything else wasn’t equal—the YGAs are all about extracting the last dollop of performance from an audio chain in which every component is operating a level of perfection. And while the Palladium P-39F, too, is extremely well engineered, it seems designed to function in the rather messier world that I live in—a world in which less-than-perfect rooms abound and where price matters. The fact that I felt an intense emotional connection to the music almost every time I played recordings through the Klipsches is no trivial detail.

Out of the mouth of Plenty’s horn

Are there better loudspeakers for $20,000/pair than the Klipsch Palladium P-39F? Possibly—I haven’t heard every one of them yet. (Give me time and I’ll certainly try.) What I can tell you is that the P-39F surprised me with its balance, lively sound, and ungimmicky naturalness. It’s well built and, I think, really good-looking. If, like me, you think you know what a horn speaker sounds like, the P-39F just might astound you. It certainly astounded me. It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts.

Description: Three-way, reflex-loaded, floorstanding, loudspeaker with horn-loaded midrange and tweeter. Drive-units: horn-loaded, 0.75″ titanium-dome compression tweeter; horn-loaded, 4.5″ inverted aluminum-dome compression midrange; three 9″ aluminum-Rohacell-Kevlar woofers. Crossover: 500Hz, 3.2kHz, fourth-order electroacoustic. Frequency response: 39Hz–24kHz, ±3dB. Sensitivity: 95dB/2.83V/m, anechoic. Harmonic distortion (measured at 95dB/m): second harmonic, <0.5%, 50Hz–10kHz; third harmonic, <0.1%, 50Hz–6.6kHz. Impedance: 4 ohms (2.7 ohms at 130Hz). Power handling: 400W.

Dimensions: 56″ (1422mm) H by 14.5″ (368mm) W by 24.75″ (629mm) D. Weight: 165 lbs (74.9kg).

Finishes: Zebra-grain Linia veneer in Natural, Merlot, or Espresso stain.

Serial Numbers Of Units Reviewed: 0842002 L/R.

Price: $20,000/pair. Approximate number of dealers: 10. Warranty: 5 years parts & labor.

Manufacturer: Klipsch Audio Technologies, 3502 Woodview Trace, Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46268.  Web: www.klipsch.com.

Read more at: http://www.stereophile.com

Where to buy Klipsch: http://abtec.co.nz/product-search.php?keyword=P-39F&category=&brand=&search=

 

Audioengine HD6 Powered Speakers Review

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It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Audioengine. Their products—from the small A2+ to the larger A5+ speakers— are solidly built, affordable without being cheap, and sound terrific. What’s not to like? When I reviewed the A5+ speakers, I talked about how massive they were in both weight and sound. I used to think they were great speakers—I still do, but now not as much. The venerable A5+ speakers have been upstaged in a major way by Audioengine’s new HD6 powered speakers.

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Audioengine has taken two steps forward and one step back with the new HD6. That step back is a good thing—let me explain. While Audioengine makes great speakers, the design has always been more functional than pretty. I’ve always liked their appearance, but I can see where some may find the speakers a bit too utilitarian looking—because they are. The A2+ and especially the larger A5+ speaker’s design simply will not fit into the decor of some living rooms. Audioengine took a step back and gave the HD6 a classic appearance, similar to the look of speakers from the 70s or 80s.

The HD6 speakers come in three finishes: Satin black (paint), cherry wood veneer or walnut wood veneer. I have the walnut, because it looks the best to my eyes—it’s strictly a matter of preference. For the first time, Audioengine has provided front grills for a speaker. This may help convince that skeptical spouse or partner that a new set of speakers can now blend with the furnishings without shouting, “Look at me, I’m a speaker!” The HD6 speakers have a subtle beauty—so unlike the A5+. The grill’s use magnetic attachments, so if you prefer a more traditional no grill look, they can be easily removed and stored away.

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At the bottom of both the left and right speaker is a tasteful Audioengine logo etched into an aluminum accent bar. The left speaker has a volume/sleep knob and a power light that slowly fades in and out when the speakers are in sleep mode.

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However, don’t let their looks fool you. All you have to do is turn the left speaker around to see that the HD6 speakers are actually monsters dressed to kill. There’s some cool features included. The most obvious is that the HD6 speakers are self-powered, which simply means that they don’t require a separate amp to drive them, because it’s built-in. And it ain’t no wimpy amp, either.

It’s 150 watts (75w per left/right channel) of “Let’s damage our hearing” power, which can generate quite a bit of heat. To solve this, Audioengine included a large heat-sink to help keep the speaker’s amp cool. Note that the A5+ speakers have the same power rating—150 watts, but for reasons I can’t figure out; the HD6 sounds more powerful.

I asked Audioengine why and they said that it’s because that the “HD6 uses larger—and more efficient—drivers. The new cabinet design of the HD6 is optimized to take advantage of these new tweeters and woofers so the HD6 is using the available power in a slightly different way.” Well, whatever they did; it works. Listening to music turned up loud is just plain fun.

Compared to the A5+ speakers, the HD6 drivers are larger, but not that much larger. It’s 5 in. vs 5.5 in. woofers and 3/4 in. vs 1 in. silk dome tweeters. There’s also a thin bass port slot at the rear of both speaker cabinets which allows the woofer to have the air it needs to move more freely.

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Also at the rear of the left speaker are: an AUX port, RCA audio input and output ports, speaker connectors (for the right speaker), power switch and an optical audio input (TOSLINK). This optical input is cool, because if your device (computer, TV, DVD player, etc.) has an optical out port, then the music/audio can have a more direct digital path right to the HD6 speaker.

The headphone port on newer iMacs (like mine) also doubles as an optical out port—not many people know this. I purchased an optical (mini plug to TOSLINK plug) cord and the results are way better than using the iMac port as a standard headphone port. The reason for this is that the HD6 speakers have a built-in digital audio converter (DAC) bypassing the cheaper, inferior DAC of my iMac. Audio is cleaner and has more presence using this method. Note: The benefit of using the HD6’s DAC depends on the quality of the source DAC.

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There’s another cool factor I haven’t mentioned yet—Bluetooth. The HD6 speakers utilize the same Bluetooth technology Audioengine uses on their B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver. Once the HD6 is paired with any smartphone, that smartphone will become a powerhouse music player. Bluetooth 4.0 is used, plus aptX Bluetooth for non-Apple smartphones.

While waiting for my optical cord to arrive, I used the Bluetooth option from my iMac. Granted, Bluetooth sounds better now than it ever has, but hands down, hardwiring (especially via optical) is the way to go. Unless you need to use Bluetooth for convenience, I strongly suggest hardwiring. It’s will always be better.

Setting up the HD6 speakers was quick and painless, with easy Bluetooth pairing. I’ve seldom have issues with Audioengine’s tech, and the HD6 is no exception. Audioengine recommends 50-60 hours of break-in time to let the HD6 speakers reach their peak performance, but seriously, they will sound great the first time they’re turned on.

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The HD6 speakers come with all the accessories necessary to get started—except an optical cable, which is not that expensive to purchase. As with all of their previous speakers, each HD6 speaker is packed in a nice drawstring bag. Speaking of accessories, Audioengine has also provided a remote. You may be thinking, “Big deal—other wireless speakers have remotes.” Not like this one, they don’t.

While most remotes feel like an afterthought, this one is made from a block of machined aluminum and is a solid as a brick. Why can’t everyone do this? The remote’s functions are basic with just four buttons—Sleep Mode, Volume up/down and Mute. There is no Play/Pause/Skip function.

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As cool looking and well-built as the HD6 speakers are, it’s the sound that matters and it’s the sound that delivers. I really like Audioengine’s A5+ speakers. They’re affordable (for quality speakers), powerful and pack a punch that’s hard to resist. Audioengine has promoted all that goodness of the A5+ to another level. As I said before, while the A5+ has the same power rating as the HD6, the HD6 uses its power more efficiently, resulting in a bass that kicks harder and deeper, while still letting the higher frequencies sparkle even brighter.  Audioengine makes a subwoofer that will work seamlessly with the HD6 speakers—but seriously, the bass is already tight and low enough to make me question if a sub is even necessary. It’s that good out of the box.

Listening to various genres of music bear that out. Steely Dan are one of the best audiophile rock choices because in the studio, they were meticulous to a fault. Their albums sparkle with a clarity and punch few artists have accomplished. Where many rock artists’ studio work is sloppy, Steely Dan is a group whose music benefits from higher resolution recordings. “Bodhisattva” begins with a drum kick that is sharp and succinct.

The instrumentals in this song are clearly delineated, yet mesh perfectly. The bass guitar is earthy sounding, yet the individual strings being plucked stand out. The HD6 speakers are able to exhibit this with effortless ease, especially when played LOUD. The same is true in the song, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” where the bass is center stage.

When Bill Graham’s introduction of Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company was announced at the beginning of their “Cheap Thrills” album recorded live in 1968 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, you can sense the electricity of an event in the making. And what an event it turned out to be. “Combination of the Two” and the hit “Piece of My Heart” weren’t superbly recorded, but the HD6 speakers capture all the grit, grime and glory of that seminal recording. Another one to play loud.

Then there’s “Silent Shout” by The Knife—my new go-to bass tester song (thanks to a recent review I read about different speaker). If a speaker can survive this bottom-end onslaught, they have to be pretty good. The HD6 speakers survived it and then some. They reproduced the bass without any distortion, plus were able to exhibit the lead singer’s throaty growl as well while higher frequency synth notes played over it. This was a test where the HD6 excelled.

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Once again, Audioengine has made a pair of speakers that should thrill the buyer and continually amaze with killer audio. Maxell (an audio tape manufacturer) did an ad in the 80s to show off their ability to record everything accurately. That ad showed a guy in a chair sitting in front of a pair of speakers that were literally blowing his hair and scarf back by the sheer power of the audio. That’s how it feels sitting in front of Audioengine’s HD6 powered speakers.

Product Information

Price:    $1489.00 NZD

Manufacturer:    Audioengine

Pros:  

Fantastic sound

Needs no subwoofer

Well built

Bluetooth

Built-in amp and DAC

Optical input

Efficient use of power

Cons:

Expensive (but worth it)

Read more at: http://the-gadgeteer.com

Where to buy Audioengine: http://abtec.co.nz/

 

B&W P5 Wireless review

What Hi*Fi? Best wireless headphones £250+, Awards 2015. Bowers & Wilkins enters the Bluetooth headphone market. Do the B&W P5 Wireless cans have what it takes to compete? Tested at  £330

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Our Verdict           

The cord is cut but the quality remains. These are excellent Bluetooth headphones

For:

Excellent sound

Lovely design and build

Easy Bluetooth operation

Against:

Nothing of note

When a hi-fi manufacturer of Bowers & Wilkins’ pedigree makes something a little different, we sit up and listen. This time, though, we find ourselves sitting up with additional comfort and freedom of movement, because the company has entered the Bluetooth headphone market. Behold, the B&W P5 Wireless.

B&W is well established when it comes to wired headphones: its P3, P5 and P7 have all garnered significant praise from us. Fans of those will be right at home here: the P5 Wireless headphones are based on the excellent P5 Series 2.

Design

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You’d struggle to tell them apart at a glance, because they share a design philosophy – rounded rectangular earcups, sheep’s leather and twisted aluminium. It’s an executive armchair for your ears, the epitome of portable elegance and a sure way to look and feel smart next to the masses of primary-coloured plastic on the bus.

Controls

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Standard three-button controls: volume up and down on the side, play/pause/call in the middle

There are key differences, however. The right earcup has a standard three-button volume/play/pause/call configuration, along with a power/pair slider. There are also two microphones and a lithium battery. Crucially there’s Bluetooth of the higher-quality aptX variety.

The headphones are a joy to operate. The entire process is intuitive and responsive. Pairing is easy, with connections taking place in seconds. Once connected, the link is stable, and button commands are carried out without hesitation.

Unboxing video

Sound quality

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As for sound quality, the P5 Wireless are very impressive, retaining much of the sonic character of the excellent, wired P5 S2s.

A blast of Muse’s Psycho proves a rousing listen, the headphones maintaining the song’s fist-pounding aggression. It’s a bold sound with enough weight to give your ears a thorough slamming.

The wide dynamic reach helps to reinforce that impression of power. Subtle dynamics make the most of the song’s distorted guitar torture, while a firm grip on rhythm ensures an eloquent delivery. It’s not merely the impression of authority – you’ll definitely find yourself paying attention.

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The bassline is deep and taut, the drums kick hard and there’s enough texture easily to make out Matt Bellamy’s laboured breathing. It helps that the sound is clean, with barely a hint of the hiss we often get with Bluetooth headphones.

We loved the sound from the wired B&W P5 S2s, but if you want to cut loose, the P5 Wireless presents a worthy, more flexible alternative.

Comfort and fit

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The wired connector is tucked away, which protects the socket from accidental yanks

Despite packing extra kit, the P5 Wireless have not put on much weight – only an extra 28g compared with the wired P5 S2, with ear cups just 2mm thicker. They are of little burden for your cranium.

The extra weight is barely perceptible, and clamp force is well judged. They are a little snug out of the box, but they soon loosen up. There is enough grip for a brisk walk, but we would caution against anything beyond a moderate headbang.

As for the earpads, the foam is obliging and that leather is soft, but they do seem to get warm during long listens. The earpads are attached by magnets, and can be easily replaced if necessary.

Features

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We peel the pads off for a look underneath, where we find 40mm drivers. B&W’s approach here is informed by the technology in its flagship P7 headphones: the drivers have suspended diaphragms. This is similar to the way conventional speaker drivers are designed, with greater precision being the objective.

Under the pad you will also find a hidden socket for wired use. It’s hidden so the headphone cables need to be snaked through a tiny channel, thereby protecting the socket from death by yanking. A cable is included for passive listening, in case you run out of power.

On which subject, B&W claims a battery life of 17 hours. The power cell is charged by plugging in a microUSB cable (included), at which point a small LED glows approvingly.

Verdict

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What’s not to like about the B&W P5 Wireless? Not much, from what we can see and hear.

Bowers & Wilkins has taken the excellent B&W P5 Series 2s and added a wireless option, and it works beautifully. Great sound and gorgeous design, minus the inconvenience of cables – that’s what we like to hear

Our Rating

Overall – 5 Star

Sound – 5 Star

Build – 5 Star

Comfort – 5 Star

Features – 5 Star

Read more at: http://www.whathifi.com/bw/p5-wireless/review#3tBi0QEZU11E6s5D.99

Where to buy Bowers & Wilkins: http://abtec.co.nz/product-search.php?keyword=Keywords&category=&brand=118&search=

 

Yamaha MCR-N560 Review

The all-in-1, or ‘Mini System’, isn’t a topic we often discuss here on Audio Appraisal. Such words usually hold memories of cheap, plastic budget audio systems, that are as far from hi-fi as it is possible to get.

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However, thanks to recent technical advancements, and an increasing lack of space in the modern living environment, all-in-1 systems are gaining in popularity even among audiophiles and music lovers. And, needing a small system for an area where a full-size separates system wasn’t  viable option, I decided to investigate the offerings on the market.

I reached out to the awesome folks at Yamaha – and, a day later, the subject of this review – the MCR-N560 all-in-1 networked mini system arrived. A feature-packed, versatile and powerful system, the MCR-N560 comes in 2 flavours. You can purchase the receiver (the CRX-560D) as a separate unit, or as a complete package with the NS-BP182 speakers. For this review, I chose the MCR-N560 – the name Yamaha uses to refer to the complete package.

The CRX-560D

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Features

A feature-packed yet still tiny receiver, the CRX-560D can play back media from almost any imaginable source. CD, DAB, FM and USB playback are all covered, as are a hole host of networking features including AirPlay, Spotify Connect, internet radio and DLNA streaming.

2 digital inputs (1 optical and 1 coaxial) allow you to connect external devices such as a TV or blu-ray player. 2 analogue inputs (1 RCA and 1 3.5”) allow you to connect devices such as a phono stage, older portable audio device, etc.

The 36W per channel (6 ohms, 10% THD) efficient digital amplifier feeds the 2 speaker outputs, which feature high quality binding posts rather than the usual spring clips found on most mini systems. And if you need more bass, a mono subwoofer output allows you to connect an active sub to boost your low end response. Yamaha’s digital amplifier technology means that amplification from source to speakers is done without a dedicated DAC chip, further enhancing sound quality. The headphone stage uses a BurrBrown PCM1781 24-bit, 192KHZ DAC. Volume control is also digital domain to guarantee accurate channel separation and stereo imaging.

Networking facilities are limited out-of-the-box to a 10/100 RJ-45 ethernet jack on the back – if you want wifi, you can purchase Yamaha’s YWA-10 wireless network adapter. Optional bluetooth compatibility comes in the form of Yamaha’s YBA-11 bluetooth adapter. I’d like to see Yamaha building wifi technology into their products – especially on a system like this, which is designed primarily to utilise a network. Built-in bluetooth would be nice, too.

Design

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As you would expect for a PianoCraft series system, the design of the CRX-N560D is simple and beautiful. Rounded, shaped corners, piano-finish panels and shaped aluminium volume and input selection controls give the yamaha the look and feel of a system costing far more than the £499 SRP.

The sleek, aluminium front panel features the aforementioned volume and input selection controls, and buttons for power, play, pause, stop, next and previous. There’s also a 3.5” headphone jack, a slim CD tray, a USB jack and an IR receiver for the remote.

Just as much thought has gone into the rear panel. High quality binding posts allow you to connect your speakers – and they even support banana plugs thanks to the removable end caps. There are optical and coaxial digital inputs, as well as the all important ethernet jack.

2 Analogue inputs, both RCA and 3.5” are joined by a mono subwoofer output – there’s no stereo analogue output which would’ve been a nice feature. A usb port allows you to power yamaha accessories, such as the YWA-10 or EBA-11 adapters.

My only gripe with the rear panel design is the attached power cable – a plug-in cable would’ve been far easier and nicer to work with. Detachable cables also have the advantage that, should the cable become damaged, you won’t have to open up the unit or send it off for repair.

The NS-BP182

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Features

The NS-BP182 speakers benefit from Yamaha’s expertise in speaker and musical instrument design, and incorporate technologies taken directly from Yamaha’s high end Sovo speaker line. A 2-way design, the NS-BP182 speakers feature a 12CM, APMD (Advanced Polymer-injected Mica Diaphragm) woofer and a 3CM soft dome tweeter.

To minimise cabinet vibration, Yamaha developed VCCS (Vibration Control Cabinet Structure), which uses strategically placed pieces of a composite material that provides excellent vibration isolation thereby improving performance.

Sensitivity is a rather low 83DB – meaning they’re harder to drive than, for example, Tannoy’s Mercury V1Is. With that in mind, I was surprised at the rather low power rating of the receiver unit – but numbers can be deceiving.

Design

The front panels feature the same shaped corners as the CRX-560D. There are some screw fixings in sight – though these double up as fixings for the magnetic speaker grills. Fixings for the drivers themselves are, however, hidden behind plastic trims.

The rear panels feature a bass port and the speaker terminals, recessed in a  plastic compartment. As with the CRX-560D, only a single set of terminals is provided – there’s no bi-wiring facilities here, though it’s unlikely you’ll need them.

Build Quality

As you would expect from yamaha, build quality of both the system and the speakers it top notch. The casing of the CRX-N560D is well damped – meaning it doesn’t ring when tapped like many cheaper all-in-1 systems. It’s solid, too – with no flexing or rattling when lifted or moved.

The controls have a high end, accurate feel to them – the volume control glideing smoothly with no resistance as the sound level gently raises or lowers. The few buttons are perfectly proportioned and easy to press, with a nice tactile click to them.

The speakers are built to the same high standards. Their solid, wooden cabinets offer up very little resonance when tapped. The solid speaker binding posts, recessed in plastic compartments on the rear panels, are arguably more solid than those found on some hi-fi speakers costing as much as this complete system.

That said, There are a couple of rough edges here and there on the speaker cabinets, particularly towards the back. As with many speakers, the high gloss finish is a magnet for fingermarks and dirt – so keep a soft cloth handy for cleaning.

The grills are cloth-covered plastic, and fairly solid. They’re magnetic, too – snapping neatly into place over the exposed fixings in each corner of the front panel. They’re more than adequate  for protecting the cones  from prying fingers or accidental bumps and scrapes. If you’re an audiophile, chances are you won’t be using them, and will leave them in the box as I did throughout this review.

Packaging

As with all Yamaha products, the system comes well packed to insure it arrives with you in one piece. Here, however, ‘well packed’ is a huge understatement.

A large main box contains 2 further boxes – 1 for the speakers and 1 for the system itself. A cardboard insert ensures things don’t move where they’re not supposed too – if I were being critical, I’d perhaps have added some handles to aid in lifting the boxes out, as they’re packed tightly.

Inside each box, you’ll find the respective products wrapped in a cloth-like foam material, held in place by blocks of polystyrene. The packaging is similar to that supplied with Yamaha’s separates – it’s simple, effective, and neat, a great first impression.

With the CRX-N560D receiver, you get a remote, some batteries, a radio antenna and some documentation. The NS-BP182 speakers come with some starter cables (with pre-stripped ends – a nice touch), and their grills, lying rather haphazardly underneath the polystyrene protection. Cardboard rectangles cover the tweeters, and self-adhesive wrapping protects the high gloss finish of the front plastics.

The remote

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Let’s take a second to talk about that remote. Usually, the remotes supplied with all-in-1 systems are cheap, flimsy, and useless – but not here. The remote supplied with the CXR-N560D is similar to that supplied with many of the components in Yamaha’s hi-fi separates lineup. It’s thick and chunky, with a decent weight to it and excellent build quality all round. The buttons, if a little small, are easy to press and are very tactile – and the range is also excellent, even when it’s not being aimed directly at the receiver.

You’ll need the remote to access the CRX-560D’s menu system, as well as the equaliser – both things that cannot be accessed from the mobile app. I’d like to see the app able to control every aspect of the system, making the remote an optional extra for those who wish to use it.

Operation

The CRX-N560D can be operated either from its front panel (for basic controls), the aforementioned remote, or Yamaha’s NP controller app for iOS or android. I used the NP controller iOS app to operate the unit for this review – and would suggest you do too, as it’s by far the easiest, most convenient way to operate the device. It also has the added advantage of allowing you to stream content directly from your phone or tablet to the device with the best sound quality.

Playing CDS

Playing CDs is as easy as you would expect. UpOn inserting  a compatible CD, the unit begins playback automatically. CD text is supported, and CD playback can also be controlled using the mobile app which is a nice touch. The player offers the usual programming modes including shuffle and repeat, and supports direct track access to jump directly to tracks on a disc.

AirPlay

Being an Apple user, By far my favourite feature of the CRX-N560D is the support for Apple’s AirPlay technology – a wireless streaming technology that allows you to stream content from any apple device, or iTunes on your PC or mac, directly to an AirPlay compatible receiver. The CRX-N560D is one such receiver – and throughout my time with the review sample, I spent countless hours streaming both music and podcasts via AirPlay from iTunes on my mac. Not once did I encounter a single dropout, and sound quality was flawless.

One major downside to airplay is volume control. When in AirPlay mode, the volume of the unit can be controlled by the AirPlay device – in this case, the volume of iTunes on my mac. On a couple of occasions, when adjusting the volume using the slider in iTunes, my finger would slip slightly on the trackpad and i’d send the volume rocketing up to maximum. It’s an issue inherent in many AirPlay devices – but it would be nice to be able to set a volume limit.

Dab/FM

Playback of DAB/FM stations is, as you would expect, easy. The tuner too can be controlled via the mobile app, and the app is able to display the RDS station information and frequency. It also displays the bitrate of DAB stations, which is a nice touch.

There are 30 presets to store your favourite stations. Sound quality of DAB/FM broadcasts is great across the board – with very little background noise on the FM side and none on the DAB side as you would expect. AM is notable only by its absence- a shame, though not surprising.

USB

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Via its front USB port, the CRX-N560D enables you to play content from USB flash drives or apple iDevices such as the iPod, iPhone or iPad. The unit supports all common file formats, including WAV, MP3, WMA, FLAC and AAC. The unit supports sampling rates of up to 192KHZ WAV and FLAC files, and 48KHZ for all other file types.

By far the easiest way to control playback of content from a USB device is via the NP Controller app. connecting a USB device and tapping the USB source icon reveals a list of folders, from which you can select your files. During playback, the artist, title, and album are displayed, as well as the elapsed time.

When connecting an apple device, playback is controlled on the device itself – and the unit will charge the device while it’s plugged in.

It’s worth noting that the CRX-N560 doesn’t appear to support gapless playback from USB devices – however, it does from all other sources including CD, AirPlay and the app. It’s worth noting also that this could be due to the speed of the drive, which will affect the time the unit takes to load the track into its buffer memory.

Streaming From The Network

The CRX-N560D can stream from DLNA-compliant network devices, as well as PCs configured to act as media servers. The unit had no problem streaming MP3, FLAC and WAV files from an external hard drive connected to my Asus RT-AC66U router, using the router’s built-in DLNA media server.

Music can be browsed by artist, album, genre or playlist – and there’s the ability to browse the folder structure too, in case the unit missed some files while searching your device. Interestingly, the app gives you the option to display pictures – a function that I find somewhat unnecessary on a  hi-fi system. Not having any pictures on the NAS drive, I have no idea what this function is intended for – and whether or not it works.

Internet Radio

 With the onboard vTuner internet radio service, the CRX-N560D gives you access to thousands of internet radio stations, covering almost every imaginable genre. Stations can be browsed by location, genre, New or Popular, and there’s a section for podcasts too. You can bookmark your favourite stations to return to them later, and there’s a handy help function if you should get stuck.

Quality varies from station to station, with some being lower resolution streams than others – most, however, are perfectly acceptable and the Yamaha’s digital processing hardware means they sound, for the most part, better than DAB. Station information, such as the current track, is displayed if supported by the station you’re listening too.

Streaming From The App

As with most streamers, the CRX-N560D allows you to stream content directly from your portable device via the NP Controller app. Streaming is faultless – with no dropouts. As all data is sent over the network in digital form, there is no degradation in sound quality, and the digital music benefits from the processing technology inside the yamaha to achieve the best sound possible.

Content can be browsed album, artist, songs, genres or composers, all presented (on iOS at least) in an interface reminiscent of the native Music app.

Spotify

As with most network-capable components, the Yamaha supports Spotify connect – not being a Spotify user, I didn’t use this function. However – playback can be controlled by the mobile app as with every other function, and given that the digital tracks will be processed by the CRX-N560d’s digital hardware, it should sound no different to the other digital sources.

The sound

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All-in-1 systems aren’t renowned for their sound quality – in fact, the tiny, mesh-fronted speakers, cheap chip-based amps, and thin speaker cables for which all-in-1 systems are known are enough to send most audiophiles running in the opposite direction. In the case of the MCR-N560, though, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Straight out of the box, the system presents a warm, luscious sound that only gets sweeter as the system is allowed time to break in. Yamaha recommend at least 72 hours for the system, in particular the speakers, to loosen up and achieve optimal sound quality. I definitely found that to be accurate – after this time, the sound stage had opened up considerably, the bass was tighter, and the system displayed a sweeter, more laid back presentation.

Unusually given its networking capabilities, the first thing I did was to hook up my phono stage, and a Pro-ject Debut carbon to the aux inputs – and, within minutes, Roger Taylor’s Fun On Earth album was flowing from the speakers. By far one of my favourite test albums of the moment – the song ‘Say It’s Not True’, in particular, contains an amazing Guitar solo, extensive use of reverb, and a fantastic bass line. And it wouldn’t be a Roger Taylor album without hard-hitting, powerful drums that will bring all but the most controlled of systems to their knees.

The MCR-N560, however, put in a staggering, unruffled performance. The music flowed every which way from the speakers, spreading around my listening room paining a beautiful musical picture. The bass was delivered with precision, the deepest notes defying the size of the speaker drivers with their rich warmth and tone. Highs are silky smooth, but never bright – and the sound stage is deep and totally 3-dimensional, allowing you to hear right into the heart of the music.

So, a great first impression, then – and as I delved deeper into my vinyl collection, my smile became wider. Next was Queen’s ‘A Day At The Races’ – ‘you take my breath away’, a song featuring only piano and Queen’s legendary harmonised vocals was beautiful to behold. Tape hiss and all – the yamaha delivered the track with all the sparkle and grace with which Freddie had intended.

Load up a USB flash drive containing some Eric Clapton, and the Yamaha continues to impress. ‘Next Time You See Her’ is rhythmic, those sharp hi-hat strikes brought to the forefront of the mix. Instrument placement is faultless, and the individual instruments, particularly the left-panned acoustic guitar, are easy to discern. It’s the Yamaha’s attention to detail that impresses me the most here – it even managed to portray the slight distortion present in the recording during  the final floor tom hit.

While it’s no power house, the MCR-N560 can certainly deliver the goods when the party gets started. Sure, if played wide open there is some distortion – but that is to be expected, and no amplifier should ever be pushed that hard. That said, even driving the 83DB sensitivity NS-BP180 speakers, the CRX-N560 powered through Meat Loaf’s ‘Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back’ with gusto. The chest-pounding rhythm, awesome harmonies, and the Yamaha’s impeccable agility and sense of timing added up to an immensely  enjoyable performance that had me hooked from beginning to end.

It was with high expectations that I reached for a pair of headphones. And, if the CRX-N560 didn’t meet those expectations, it exceeded them by a million miles. Sure, there is some noticeable background hiss – but crank up the tunes and it soon becomes inaudible. Plus, you’ll be so lost in the music, you won’t care.

Summary

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I honestly can’t recommend this system enough. For a suggested retail price of £499, you’re getting a streamer, CD player, an awesome DAC, and a sweet stereo amp – all crammed into 1 tiny box that’s barely bigger than a DVD box set. You also get one of the best pairs of budget bookshelf speakers on the market. If you’re feeling up to some system matching, you can purchase the CRX-N560D receiver as a separate unit – but why would you want too? The synergy between these components has to be heard to be believed.

The MCR-N560 does what any good system should – lets you focus on the music. I’m summarising this review, with Norah Jones playing in the background. But not on my reference system… no, on the little Yamaha MCR-N560. If that’s not praise enough, I don’t know what is.

I’m not saying it’s as good as my reference system – a 36W per channel digital amplifier is no match for a 200W per channel class XD amplifier that, despite its huge heatsinks, becomes hotter than the sun after a half hour’s use. But the MCR-N560 brings something to the table that only the best hi-fi systems can match – and that’s sheer musical enjoyment. Add the fact that it’s easy to setup, great to look at, a pleasure to use, and so versatile in its features… and ask yourself. what more could you want?

Read more at: http://www.audioappraisal.com/yamaha-mcr-n560-review/

Where to buy Yamaha: http://abtec.co.nz/product-search.php?keyword=Keywords&category=&brand=88&search=

 

Denon DP-300F Turntable Review

The Denon DP-300F is a fully automatic turntable that is well priced to rival offerings from Pro-ject and Music Hall. But does it equal them in sound?

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The Denon DP-300F turntable is a modern turntable manufactured by Denon. Its reasonable price will satisfy those looking for a fully automatic turntable that produces great sound.

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Deconstructing the Denon DP-300F

Vintage Denon turntables tend to be either semi-automatic or automatic, and Denon have continued this trend with their new offerings. Also included is a cueing lever to allow the user to select tracks on the record, a must for any good automatic turntable. I generally find automatic play a little slow and enjoy using the manual cueing lever more often than not, but the automatic option can be nice in dim environments. Another nice thing about the automatic function is that it makes using the turntable easy for guests that are not familiar with vinyl, as they can safely push play and spin vinyl of their choosing without risking damage to your records.

The motor is a belt drive DC motor (as opposed to AC) which allows you to use the turntable on different voltages i.e. overseas. On the outside, the Denon  DP-300F looks absolutely terrific. It has a far more vintage feel to it than, say, the Pro-ject Debut III. This is a welcome feature as a lot of ‘entry-level audiophile’ turntables look ultra-modern. It would fit right in to a vintage amplifier and speakers set-up.

The Denon DP-300F includes a built-in phono pre-amplifier, which is typical of a turntable in this price range. This means it can be used on any modern amplifier or receiver. A sizeable number of people looking to purchase this turntable or others in its price range will be looking to hook it up to their home theatre receiver, and that’s perfectly okay as there is no need for a phono input. The inbuilt preamp is a little dull, and quality vintage receivers will improve the sound if you run the turntable through the phono input. There is an option to switch between outputs so that it can be put through either an auxilliary or phono input.

Apparently the DP-300F includes hologram vibration analysis to improve the ability of the platter to hold . I had absolutely no idea what this meant, and a quick Google confused me even more. If any engineers or techies are able to shed light on this it would be appreciated.

The Denon DP-300F matches its vintage appearance with its sound. It has a rolled of treble and full mid range. It’s a little dull in the bass, however, even through a good phono stage. The sound is very full and involving, with a touch of warmth.

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Denon DP-300F Cartridge Choice

An appropriate feature for this price range is a removable headshell, which allows the user to easily change cartridges. It’ll accept any cartridge that weighs between 5 and 10 grams. Good choices are the usual moving magnet options that suit this price range: the Shure M97xE or the Audio Technica AT440MLA are excellent options. Many people initially dissatisfied with the sound of the Denon DP-300F become much more enthusiastic when listening to a better cartridge, and the DP-300F is worthy of an upgrade straight away.

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Other notable things that can be done to improve the sound of the Denon DP-300F is a separate phono pre-amplifier (as already mentioned) and improving the isolation using some pads or feet. The Denon DP-300F really benefits from being placed on a heavy, sturdy surface. Its isolation is not fantastic, so it needs a bit of help in this regard – some feet such as these will do the job.

The Denon DP-300F is a solid alternative to offerings from Music Hall & Pro-ject, with unique looks. With a few tweaks, the Denon DP-300F will make all but the most hardcore vinyl enthusiasts very happy campers.

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http://best-turntables.com/denon-dp-300f-turntable-review/

Where to buy Denon: http://abtec.co.nz/product-search.php?keyword=Keywords&category=&brand=119&search=