LATEST ADDITIONS

Ed Selley  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  0 comments
Mobile library Malcolm Steward discovers a neat solution for losslessly storing up to 3,000 ripped CDs with zero effort, a minimal outlay and no catch The Vortexbox name represents two things: it is a suite of Linux (Fedora-based) software applications that provide users with a music library. It is also the name of the software installed on the company’s ripping NAS (Network Attached Storage) appliances. The software is freely downloadable, while the hardware – a range of fully equipped DLNA-capable (Digital Living Network Alliance) appliances – starts at the genuine value-for-money price of £385. 3,000 albums at CD-quality You can load Vortex Box software onto any PC, where once installed, it will automatically rip CDs to FLAC and MP3 files, ID3 tag those files and download the cover art.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  0 comments
Hi-fi’s own HD box Theta's Compli Blu is a state-of-the-art universal (Blu-ray) disc player that, says Alvin Gold, brings HDMI into an audiophile context What is your view of the ideal disc player? There are a number of possible answers to this, but definitely high on the list would be those models that bridge the apparently irreconcilable gap that distinguishes the various flavours of both the audio and video disc with the minimum loss of fidelity. Using versatility and performance as yardsticks, this new model from Theta potentially, at least, comes near the top of the list and, perhaps, at the absolute pinnacle. How so? Well this is a high-end transport which can be used as a full standalone player. It’s happy dealing with almost any 12cm disc that is round and silver, be it audio or video.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  0 comments
The great transformer The valve-equipped Matrix DAC from Synthesis transforms ordinary CD players into extraordinary ones, says Jason Kennedy Sometimes a product comes along that manages to create a buzz without any fanfare whatsoever and the Synthesis DAC, from a relatively unknown Italian company, has done just that. In fact, Synthesis doesn’t even feature the Matrix DAC on its website, so full credit must go to UK distributor Audio Images, for this cunning bit of stealth marketing. Synthesis, not to be confused with Audio Synthesis of passive preamp fame, makes a system’s worth of electronics and speakers and finishes it in some very Italian colours. It’s clearly into the sound of valves, so it’s no surprise to see two pairs lying horizontally under a vent in the top of the unit, but how they fit the transformers into such a slim box is something of a mystery.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  0 comments
Fast lane for new M3i Musical Fidelity has gone back to basics with its new, affordable M3 Series. Ed Selley test-drives the ‘engine’ behind the new range Over the last fifteen years, Musical Fidelity products have literally come in all shapes and sizes. They have sported both extremely high and comparatively low power outputs and frequently mixed a variety of valves into the mix. This has, of course, resulted in a number of interesting products, all of which incorporate design thinking from the flagship Titan power amplifier (see the Talking Point box opposite).
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
Bowers & Wilkins CM9 - £1,800 This large wood-veneered floorstander with advanced driver technology looks fine value Back to the days when Bowers and Wilkins simply called itself B&W, the company had three distinct ranges of hi-fi speakers: the beer-budget 600s, the mid-market 700s and the upmarket 800s. Perhaps the 700’s external tweeters and asymmetric enclosures were a little too radical, as some time over the last few years they seem to have been quietly replaced by a rather more conventional CM series, featuring real wood veneers or a gloss black finish, but in conventional rectilinear enclosures with normal built-in tweeters. There were just two CMs to start with, but now there are four stereo pairs, of which this £1,800 per pair CM9 is the largest. And, unlike the neat little standmounts in the range, there’s no way anyone could accuse it of looking cute.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
KEF XQ30 - £1,500 This beautifully designed and finished compact floorstander has an advanced Uni-Q mid/treble driver Although it operates globally as part of the Hong Kong-based Gold Peak Group and takes advantage of competitive Chinese manufacture, the KEF design team still operates out of Maidstone, Kent, using proprietary technologies like the Uni-Q co-axial drive units that have been steadily refined over the decades. The XQ range sits quite high up an impressively large collection of hi-fi and home cinema speaker systems. The smaller of two floorstanders, this £1,500 XQ30 is an attractive and compact design, based around a recent development of KEF’s proprietary Uni-Q driver, alongside cunningly curved cabinetwork. It has a beautiful lacquer finish, over black paint or either birdseye maple or khaya mahogany real wood veneers.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
Kudos X2 - £1,350 This compact floorstander is Kudos' first attempt to offer its sound quality at a lower cost A relative newcomer on the British loudspeaker scene, the Kudos range has rapidly become popular, despite quite substantial pricetags. The reason behind the new X-series is to provide comparable quality at rather lower prices, though nobody could really consider £1,350 per pair particularly cheap! A simple two-way floorstander with a small 150mm bass/mid drive unit, the X2’s power handling and bass extension will inevitably have some limitations, though it should be more than adequate for normal listening levels, while its simplicity and high-quality ingredients (English cabinetwork, Norwegian SEAS drive units and crossover components from Clarity Caps and Volt) can provide their own reward. The bass/mid unit has a 95mm-diameter flared and doped paper cone, the tweeter a 25mm fabric dome. The 18mm MDF enclosure comes wrapped up in a wide choice of real wood veneer finishes – black, cherry, maple, oak, rosenut and walnut, alongside satin-white.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
PMC GB1i - £1,525 Opinion might be divided on this PMC, but there’s no doubting its ability to take on the competition The key factor that distinguishes PMC speakers from the herd is an ATL. This stands for ‘advanced transmission line’ and refers to a bass loading technique that is uncommon, though by no means unique. Much more complex than the almost ubiquitous port loading, the efficacy of TL loading might still be a topic of fierce debate in some quarters, but a folded line does create a very stiff and solid structure. Because it uses a relatively small (140mm) bass/mid driver, the £1,525 GB1i still manages to accommodate a 2.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
Spendor A6 - £2,095 A worthy successor to the S6e, this speaker adds extra refinement on several fronts Spendor first emerged from the BBC Research culture some forty years ago. It has been through numerous changes since then, but that original culture seems to have largely survived, albeit somewhat modified by marketplace trends, including the current fashion for floorstanders. This £2,095 per pair A6 is the middle of three floorstanders that make up the company’s A-series successors to the S-series. Very similar in many respects (including dimensions and measured behaviour) to the S6e we reviewed in HFC 257, it’s a good size two-way floorstander, dressed in real wood veneer (black ash, cherry, light oak or wenge) and mounted on a black- painted MDF plinth the same width and depth as the enclosure proper.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
Acoustic Energy AE1 MKIII - £2,000 Acoustic Energy gives its traditional substantially built miniature a classy cosmetic makeover Acoustic Energy’s 1988 debut with the diminutive and defiantly pro-look AE1 caused quite a sensation when it first appeared and effectively launched the brand. This £2,000 per pair MkIII is the middle model of three current variations on the same tiny two-way theme. Unlike the much less costly Classic with its ‘utilitarian’ pro-style presentation, this MkIII’s piano black enclosure has some seven layers of high-quality lacquer finish, while the front panel is decorated by a 10mm-thick, shaped and polished aluminium sheet, reinforcing the baffle and concealing the driver mounting hardware. As the substantial total weight of 11kg implies, the exceedingly hefty build continues beneath the surface.

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