Today we have a good mix of high end audio hardware and software for you. As always, follow the links for more information. Where applicable, I’ve provided a Toronto link where you can audition the gear and music.
Recently, I was contacted by Newfoundland’s newest high end speaker manufacturer, Are Audio. Actually, the distributor, Arcadia Audio. ‘Would you like to review Are Audio’s newest loudspeaker?’. A little YouTube/Vimeo research [see video below] and I was hooked by the company’s vibe and corporate ID. It helped that the speakers looked great, too.
The speakers are tuned by owner/designer Ross Connolly. He prefers tuning his speakers by ear — the speakers are called Light Roasts as they were tuned with friends over pots of coffee.
The speakers may be ordered online at Are Audio’s website, but Connolly is working on a dealer network. They come in the colours you see below, standard wood finishes and, upon request, exotic finishes. ￼
Price: CAD $1399.00
Purchase via Website
Available to audition in Ontario at Electronic Depot
Direct to disc: The Brahms cycle with Sir Simon Rattle
Signed and numbered limited edition
This may present itself as something typically loony that audiophiles would covet, but the direct to disc process captures the very highest fidelity. Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker decided to record the four Brahms Symphonies, live, direct to disc. A very demanding analogue technique.
The process is very expensive to produce, hence the price. And the process is fraught with musical pitfalls. Basically, you get one chance to record over three hours of music perfectly.
From the Berlin Phil website:
Direct to disc: this term represents the ultimate in analogue recording quality. With no intervention and without any post-processing, the sound is cut Direct to disc: this term represents the ultimate in analogue recording quality. With no intervention and without any post-processing, the sound is cut directly into a master disc at the moment of the performance – the basis for a vinyl release of unique tonal authenticity. This complex, end-to-end analogue process is rarely used in today’s digital age.
Naxos is now importing the set. I requested a promo. None available. At that price, the press are out of luck.
Sir Simon Rattle Conductor
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73
Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90
Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98
Recorded live at the Berlin Philharmonie
in September 2014
Direct to Disc Recording
One-Point Microphone Setup
Microphones One pair of Sennheiser MKH 800 Twin in a Blumlein array
Disc cutting lathe Neumann VMS 80
Produced by Emil Berliner Studios Rainer Maillard, Maarten de Boer
Bonus Certificate — hand-signed by recording producer Rainer Maillard Two C-type photo prints of motifs from the recording.
Buy the set here.
Focal Utopia Headphones
More looniness in the headphone world. This time from French manufacturer, Focal. At USD $4000.00 these are among the most expensive headphones you can buy. But much like a car stereo, the basic ‘room’ and technical format suffer in comparison to a room with good two channel separates.
The actual sound of the headphones is tremendous. Incredible dynamics (watch your ears), fantastic instrumental timbre and a good replication of recorded spaces. But the inconsistencies are still there because of the format. If you are a headphone fan and want the very best, why not give them a whirl? But if you’re expecting audio Nirvana, they’re still headphones with all the audio and musical compromises the format brings. But in the here and now, I’ve not heard a better headphone.
I get to spend a couple of months reviewing these headphones. I’ll follow up my thoughts with you in a later column.
Price: CAD $4900.00
Available to audition at American Sound of Canada
VPI Titan Turntable
VPI is the American turntable manufacturing giant, making fine turntables in New Jersey for over 40 years. They have a range of turntables from the entry level, USD $995 Nomad to the new, state of the art USD $40,000 Titan
Designer Harry Weisfeld describes his masterpiece:
We have been encouraged for many years now by customers and distributors to push the limit on American engineering. The idea in mind was based off our Avenger Reference Magnetic Drive. We double stacked the chassis and machined a 4-inch-thick (weighing roughly 40 pounds) platter being driven by a master magnetic sub-platter. It was decided to bring back the acclaimed Dual Motor Rim Drive. Combined with the magnetic drive it has been named the, “Magneto Rim-Drive”. Held together with 3 solid stainless steel corner posts, the Titan stands as an immovable object.
The Titan configuration is also dynamic in it’s ability to handle up to 3 tonearms of any make or length. Using our state-of-the-art pneumatic air suspension feet, the Titan has the highest level of isolation.
VPI’s Harry Weisfeld’s engineering prowess is legendary. Whether designing classic turntables, vinyl cleaning machines or analogue peripherals, Weisfeld creates classics. The Titan will probably be no different.
Price: USD $40,000.00
Audition in Toronto at Audio Excellence
Other than last month’s MQA announcement, the second biggest story in high end audio in 2016 was the incredible success of Elac entry level speakers. Designed by Andrew Jones, famous for designing super expensive TAD Loudspeakers, Jones uses trickle down technology and has created superbly musical, dynamic speakers called the Debut line. The bookshelf models all sell for less than USD $500.00 and have the hallmarks of the Jones design — the use of superior, proprietary drivers, an open, refined sound and excellent replication of a wide dynamic range. Who says you can’t have high end sound on a budget?
I urge our readers to audition a pair if money is an object, or, if money is not an object. They are that good and can stand comparison with speakers four or five times the price. Elac is a German company that began manufacturing in the 1920s. Today, it produces a full range of electronics and speakers.
All Debut models are available at Amazon. The entry level B5 is available from Amazon for 369.99. Free shipping and a comprehensive, user-friendly return policy. Probably, the best deal in high end audio.