This month we have products to play your records, CD remasters from Japan, a Canadian cartridge, an all-in-one ‘Black Box’ and a dynamic but diminutive loudspeaker from Denmark. As always, follow the links for more information. Where applicable, I’ve provided a Toronto link where you can audition the gear or music.
Rega Record Store Day Turntable
If vinyl sales continue to grow like the past decade, total LP sales will soon be in the billions of dollars rather than millions. 2016 sales were up 25% over 2015 with numbers reaching half a billion dollars. And the audiophile news is full of pressing plant openings. It’s safe to say the long playing record is here to stay.
Maybe one day there’ll be a ‘CD Store Day’, in celebration of a once great format. In the here and now, we have ‘Record Store Day’, a celebration of vinyl and the independent record store. But only as revived by hipsters and long-in-the-tooth audiophiles. After ten years of celebrations, the demographic has changed. The special day is now seeming a little anachronistic as vinyl is once again in the mainstream, spoken of in the same terms as music streaming.
Record Store Day has become so special that hundreds of artists release their new albums on that day. It is held on a Saturday in April.
Rega Research, the venerable English turntable manufacturer released its own celebration of that day with a version of its iconic Rega Planar Turntable.
Rega’s website says: ‘‘To celebrate Record Store Day’s 10th anniversary Rega has designed 500 limited edition turntables. Specifically created for Record Store Day’s 10th birthday, the turntable is a one-off Rega Planar 1 and RP3 hybrid and will be available only from independent record shops and Rega stockists on the 22nd April for CAD$500.00.’
Available to audition at Bay Bloor Radio.
Charisma Audio Cartridges
Back in the day, any old cartridge would do. Unsophisticated moving magnet carts were the order of the day.
Cartridge technology has come along way, much of it developed by highly individual, boutique high end companies. Chief among the improvements was changing from moving magnet to moving coil cartridges — a much more refined, hand made product that produces glorious sound but is time-consuming to make and more difficult to amplify. They are usually considerably higher in price than moving magnet designs.
If you’re in the market to upgrade to a moving coil cart, why not go Canadian? Check out the models at Charisma Audio. They have two models, both will set you back over CAD$2000. With care, they’ll last a long time and give you some of the finest sound from your vinyl. Check them out at charismaaudio.com.
Whither the poor CD? You can still get them on Amazon and the flavours of the day in the Walmart bins. But leave it to audiophiles to try and improve on the ‘Perfect Sound Forever’ format.
Japanese audiophiles have done just that with Esoteric’s very careful remasters of already wonderfully recorded classical and jazz repertoire. The engineers of Esoteric, maker of super expensive digital gear, have spent hours reimagining the sound of already good sounding recordings.
I have ten releases in my collection, all of which are magnificent. My favourite right now is the Solti Ring originally on Decca. The Decca LPs are much loved for both performance and sound. The Esoteric CD remaster is superlative and will give hours of pleasure. Comes with books, too. All in Japanese! Price? Wait for it! USD$1500.00! I know, I know! Ridiculous. But the releases are limited and they sell out and increase in value quickly. A ‘standard’, single CD release can run to USD$50.00.
Try to hear a release first, then judge the value.
Available at American Sound of Canada.
Bel Canto ACI 600
Digital technologies and musical delivery formats are constantly changing. It’s difficult to keep up, especially when purchasing gear to listen to them all.
Bel Canto, the venerable US manufacturer of high end DACs and amplifiers has come up with ‘Black Series’. This one box wonder does it all — streaming, Ethernet, preamplifier, Amplifier, phono stage for vinyl, and enough line inputs to satisfy your digital needs for life. Bel Canto describes it as ‘the ACI 600, with its modern look and feel, optimizes signal path in a revolutionary way, recreating the recorded event with incredible musicality and accuracy. The ACI 600 refines the elements of the three chassis Black system into one beautifully constructed component.’
Available to audition at American Sound of Canada
Raidho Acoustics XT-1 Loudspeaker
Is space at a premium but you still want premium sound? Look no further than the Raidho XT-1 Loudspeaker. This small Danish beauty sounds spectacular with it’s proprietary ribbon tweeter married to a superb Titanium driver. Pair them with the matching stands and quality electronics, and you’ll have a high end system that will stand the test of time.
These are the speakers I use for my daily reference and for all my equipment and music reviews. No matter the repertoire, they will give you exactly what’s on the recording and also tell the tale of the electronics downstream.
Price with stands: CAD$10,000.00
Available to audition at American Sound of Canada.