Q701 Quincy Jones Signature Edition
Any person with a track record like Quincy Jones was never going to put his name to any old product and the Q701 doesn’t disappoint. The AKG is a perfect package of clever technology, excellent build and funky appearance. Sonically, the Q701 is a star and recordings are faithfully captured with incredible detail retrieval and a real sense of ambience. Quincy does it again!
TYPE: Dynamic headphone
TELEPHONE: 01707 278100
Best CD Player up to £1,000
Audiolab has swept the boards in the sub-£1,000 category this year. While the 8200 amplifier harks back to the Audiolab of old, the 8200CD represents state-of-the-art thinking in almost every area. Combining a high-performance DAC with clever adjustable filters, gives the Audiolab a sound that is both accurate and highly involving. Add digital inputs, including hi-res USB and you have a worthy winner.
Best of the High End
A great high-end product should combine breath-taking performance with technical innovation and ground-breaking design. Out of all the loudspeakers we have tested over the last year, the KEF Blade best embodies these attributes. Based around the earlier Concept Blade, the production model shares the striking lines and incredibly clever ‘Single Apparent Source’ technology that creates an astoundingly cohesive soundstage from the multiple drivers.
TELEPHONE: 01622 672261
Vinyl replay need not be an expensive business. The reasonably priced Shure took on three other cost-effective cartridges and won the day. It’s an impressive performer with exceptional detail, fine bass and a fantastically communicative midrange. The M97xE is also one of the highest-compliance cartridges we know of, and has an exceptional ability to track even well-worn records quietly and without causing further wear.
Atacama Duo 6
The Duo is an all-new stand from Atacama and combines a smart aesthetic with some clever, real-world design touches. The smaller rear upright is fitted to allow for unobtrusive cable management, while the larger front upright can be mass-loaded. The Duo 6 sounds lively and involving and lends a vibrancy to loudspeakers that is hard not to like. All this, plus the solid build quality and a very reasonable asking price.
Best Loudspeaker over £1,000
Winning a Blind-Listening Group Test (HFC 347) is always a considerable achievement. Winning against five dedicated speaker manufacturers (when your own product is part of a wider range of electronics) is remarkable, but this is what Rega has achieved with the RS7. Making use of a clever transmission-loaded side-firing bass driver, the RS7 demonstrates outstanding coherence and openness. As we noted at the time, it never fails to make listening fun and that’s surely the whole point.
Innovation Award 2011
The pace of technological change in the hi-fi industry at the moment is positively relentless, but even taking this into account the CP-800 is revolutionary. Here we have a fully equipped preamplifier with extensive analogue and digital connectivity. The reason why the CP-800 wins our innovation award, however, is the USB input. This circuitry manages the seemingly impossible feat of making a ripped copy of a CD (played via USB) sound better than the original.
Best CD Player over £1,000
Compared to some of the CD players we’ve tested, the CD-T2000 is very straight-forward. It doesn’t play SACD or have digital inputs, but what it does do is perform at the very highest levels of the format. It has a smooth, natural sound that allows you to hear material as the artist intended without embellishment or harshness. Add the battleship build and the stunning aesthetics, and you have a player that is a treat for the eyes and the ears.
Product of the Year- Runners up
The Audiolab is a classic example of a product that delivers so much at the price point, it can be hard to make a convincing case to spend more money. For £730 the 8200A offers plentiful inputs and excellent build. More importantly, it offers a truly sparkling performance. The 8200A never fails to make listening enjoyable, with a fabulous, well-lit midband that gives superb insight into recordings.
Best Amplifier up to £1,000
The origins of the 8200A lie in the classic 8000A from the ’80s and ‘90s. We loved the original and its successor proves equally enthralling. The 8200A combines neutrality and accuracy, with enough of a unique character to entertain. The midrange lucidity impressed us, while detail retrieval is simply superb.
Best Turntable up to £1,000
For many people, Rega is still synonymous with cost-effective turntables. So when the new RP3 turned up, our expectations were understandably sky high. No problem there though, as the RP3 is capable of bringing pretty much any recording to life, with a sense of openness and pinpoint timing that will embarrass considerably more expensive decks. As if this wasn’t enough, the superb build and handsome lines make this a must- audition product for anyone shopping for a sub-£1,000 turntable.
Best Speaker cable
The basic design and components of the 4PR date back decades: polythene-insulated connectors joined together in a special weave to reduce interference. While it might not be very radical, the 4PR won us over with a performance that combines detail, bass extension, superior imagine and sweetness to impressive effect. For sheer musical enjoyment, no other cable tested this year is on a par with the 4PR and for that reason it is our 2011 award winner.
PRICE: £67 (2.
Peerless is one of the smaller brands in the UK market, but if the Sigma is anything to go by, that’s set to change. The cable is a no-nonsense design that combines good-quality materials and sound design practice. The result is a cable that produces finely detailed images with an even tonal balance. It also includes an open and clear treble and good control of the lower octaves.
Best Digital to analogue convertor
Rega has never made a DAC until now, but you’d be hard-pressed to notice, given how accomplished its first offering is. The Rega combines a useful set of inputs with fine build and a handsome appearance. It also sounds fantastic and won us over with excellent timing and an accurate and engaging tonality. The result is a product that has all the detail retrieval and slam and impact you could ask for, but it’s presented in a fabulously calm and inviting way.
Product of the Year Winner
When Classé delivered the CP-800 to HFC’s offices, hopes were high. Classé boss Dave Nauber had already stated the unit was better with a mobile phone than any CD player and so the challenge was born. Two of our most experienced reviewers confirmed, independently of one another, that they preferred listening to music via the USB input over a variety of expensive, high-end CD players. This ground-breaking preamp will leave its mark in hi-fi history, of that we’re certain.