Another day, another newcomer to the UK audio cable market. German company Viablue’s SC-4 mid-range speaker cable is formed from a combination of silver-plated strands for the high frequencies and tin-plated ones for the lower frequencies. Within each cable are four leads (two for the signal and two for the return) consisting of seven wrapped bundles of oxygen-free copper wire. The cable is sheathed in a ‘cobra’ satin matt sleeve to protect it and at each end are vibration-absorbing splitters to separate the two connections.
Using a poor-quality USB cable to connect a computer to a DAC can result in effects that will interfere with the quality of the audio signal that’s transmitted. These unwanted effects manifest themselves as errors in the digital data stream, which the DAC has to correct and can introduce jitter and other issues that can degrade the audio signal.
What’s in a name?
The Blue USB cable is the baby brother of TQ’s Black USB cable, which employs a special blend of materials for both the conductors and insulators and aims to minimise phase distortion. We reviewed the original back in 2014 (HFC 383), but the construction has been “tweaked” despite the name staying the same.
Produced from two inner conductors of tinned oxygen-free copper with a quoted maximum level of 0. 001 percent oxygen, each conductor here consists of 19 single strands of wire and is insulated with polyethylene insulation. Two twisted PVC insulators are also included and used as fillers in the construction. The cable is screened by four shields that Viablue calls ‘Quattro Silver’.
If you are looking to introduce mains conditioning to your hi-fi system, something that can prove immediately off putting is that many devices simply can’t accommodate all the different components in a well-specified setup. If you have a turntable, external phono stage and then music streaming networking hardware plus amplification needs to manage, four or even six-way socket distribution systems just aren’t going to be sufficient.
IsoTek has taken this on board and its Evo3 Corvus has nine sockets and the power handling capacity to accommodate some fairly substantial setups. As part of its entry-level range, the Evo3 Corvus is designed to counter Common Mode and Differential Mode mains noise as well as RFI.
Beneath the tailor-made fabric exterior lies a sophisticated portable speaker designed and built by Danish manufacturer Vifa. If the brand name sounds familiar that’s because it’s been around since 1933 and is perhaps better-known in hi-fi circles for its well-regarded drive units, which have been found in plenty of big-name hi-fi loudspeaker designs over the years. In more recent times the company has embarked on its own line of speakers, and the Oslo is the fourth model to be added to its Nordic range of portable wireless models.
It’s an elegant one-piece design with the logo neatly embedded into the top of the solid aluminium handle, while embroidered up and down volume keys on the custom-made fabric cover produced by Danish textile designers Kvadrat give it a style that makes it stand out from the crowd.
I own an iPhone but it can’t store half of my digitised music collection or play any of my hi-res DSD, FLAC and ALAC music. I could use a workaround app but I’d need to carry an external DAC and a mains charger to replenish the phone’s battery, which is rapidly drained when playing hi-res music. All this is reason enough to own a separate Digital Audio Player (DAP), never mind the fact that devices like the XDP-100R are built from the ground up.
Pioneer’s first hi-res DAP is compatible with just about every hi-res audio format on the planet including DSD 11.
Concert for one
Jimmy Hughes looks at the latest solution for audiophile-quality sound from headphones – Musical Fidelity’s new M1 HPA amplifier. . .
There was a time – admittedly forty or so years back – when every self-respecting amplifier came with a socket for headphones.
Want clean mains to power your hi-fi ? IsoTek’s range of passive mains conditioners promises you all that and more, says Jimmy Hughes
The quality of the mains supply directly influences the sound produced by your hi-fi . If your mains is contaminated with noise (and it is!), the sound will lack transparency and clarity, making the music seem congested and lacking in dynamics. The solution? Invest in a good mains conditioner. IsoTek offers a wide range of products, from the mighty £6k Super Titan, to smaller more affordable solutions like the new EVO3 Solus at £595.
Cambridge Audio delivers pure digital audio from iPods, iPhones and now the iPad through the new iD100 says Malcolm Steward
The home office hi-fi looks rather swish right now with an Apple iPad sitting atop the rack proudly displaying some attractive album artwork – the gifted bassist, Tal Winkenfeld’s Transformation. However, this not a review of the iPad, but the rather neat little digital dock upon which it rests: the Cambridge Audio iD100.
The iD100 will operate with various iPods, iPhones and the iPad, from which it will extract a pure digital output that it then delivers to a stand-alone DAC or the digital input on your amplifier (if it has one) for maximum performance. Pure digital out from the iPod/ iPhone/iPad is definitely the way to go for the best sound quality.
Black cube is no square
Richard Black rattles his skull with the help of this analogue/digital input headphone amp; but are both inputs created equal?
Lehmann is a company that specialises in phono and headphone amplifiers. This is an unusual proposition in that it manages to be a headphone amplifier, a preamplifier and a DAC all at once. Admittedly, viewed as a preamp, it’s a bit basic, because it features only one analogue input, and the DAC has only one input which is USB (when this is active, that is when it detects it is connected to a valid source, the analogue input is bypassed). So really this is an analogue/digital input headphone amp with a volume-controlled line output!
Lehmann’s idea of what constitutes a headphone amp is generous, with a full push-pull power amplifier output configuration.
Richard Black discovers an exciting and unique proposition – a high-resolution portable player/recorder with upsampling and a built-in DAC
Including, but by no means limited to, the various iPod models, there are currently dozens of portable music players out there – hundreds if you include mobile phones, most of which have some kind of music-playing capability. Many of them give very decent results, but they’re not really Hi-Fi with capital letters: commodity consumer electronics, more like.
The Colorfly is something a bit different. It’s a portable music player all right, but it’s aimed fair and square at the true audiophile, the individual who owns a carefully selected system of high-quality components and a decent library of recordings.
Getting the cleaners in
A noisy mains supply can ruin the sound of your hi-fi says Jimmy Hughes, as he discovers the latest technology from Isol-8's SubStations
Sooner or later, even the most sensible hi-fi enthusiast starts to wonder what sort of difference having a mains conditioner might make to the sound of their equipment. Mains electricity is the ‘fuel’ that powers your system. So it stands to reason; the cleaner the fuel, the better things should sound. But then doesn’t the power supply in each individual hi-fi component deal with whatever impurities that might be present in the electricity supply? Well, to a degree – yes.
The right balance
With Magic Racks your hi-fi literally floats on rubber bands and as Richard Black discovers, it provides a unique way to isolate your system.
There have been plenty of new designs for equipment supports over the years, the majority of them taking rigidity seriously along with such anti-vibration measures as spikes. A few, though, seek to decouple equipment more thoroughly using sprung or otherwise ‘floppy’ support systems, with or without damping.
Newcomer Magic Racks has come up with an ingenious way of implementing the floppy approach, using what are basically rubber bands – long strips of neoprene rubber, placed between supports in such a way that they keep equipment clear of the floor or the level underneath, while allowing it to bounce freely.
Can't knock Okki Nokki
Cleanliness is next to fidelity when it comes to vinyl, but where on earth did this device get its name? Jason Kennedy scrubs his grooves
Okki Nokki distributor Ken White has been selling second-hand records since the nineties, so he knows a thing or two about filth, enough it would seem to have sought out this strangely named machine and decided to bring it to the UK.
It’s certainly priced right at £395 – we don’t know of a cheaper alternative that has built-in vacuuming capabilities and the ability to spin in both directions.
Not only that, but it comes complete with concentrated cleaning fluid and a goat’s-hair brush. The name, incidentally, is Dutch for ‘thumbs-up’.