Reviews

Dual CS 429

Dual has recently made a spectacular comeback. The legendary turntable manufacturer, which not long ago we used to associate only with vintage gear, suddenly came back into the game. First, a high-end model Primus Maximus was presented to the world, which can be interpreted as a kind of manifesto, a showcase of technical capabilities, and perhaps an announcement of the following models, which will be its simpler and cheaper counterparts. However, if we are looking for a budget turntable, we should instead not look at the devices occupying top positions in the catalog. I know, at first glance, all the inexpensive models available on the market seem similar. Still, it is enough to look at a few key components such as a cartridge, tonearm, drive, and rear panel equipment to already have an idea of which one is built solidly and which one just looks nice in pictures. If you take the time to do this, you will realize that Dual is not only a company with a history dating back to 1900 and an object of sigh for audiophiles who remember the 1970s, but also a company that offers some of the most interesting and best-equipped budget turntables. Will…

KBL Sound Himalaya II

Many manufacturers of high-end cables try to convince us that we are paying for advanced technical solutions, incredibly precise engineering, exotic materials, and details worked out to perfection, such as patented connectors coated with silver, gold, rhodium, or all those expensive metals altogether. To some extent, this is true, for it is difficult to achieve great sound when trying to build such cables from cheap conductors, the worst quality dielectrics and connectors worth two dollars. It's easy to imagine that when all these components are the best money can buy, the price of such cable goes through the roof. Is this madness? Probably yes, but it doesn't change the fact that there is no shortage of people willing to buy high-end cables, as well as companies ready to provide them with what they want. What is shocking for a novice audiophile does not seem so strange to someone who has been building their system for many years, and has already spent tens of thousands of dollars on speakers, amplifiers, sources, and anti-vibration racks.

Hegel H95

I am completely biased when it comes to Hegel gear. I like the brand, I like most of the equipment it offers, I use an H20 power amplifier in my reference system, and I've drunk a lot of beer with the Norwegians, talking about music and hi-fi equipment in general. Most of all, I like the way they think about their work. They're professional but pretty laid back. On the one hand, we are dealing with a company known to everyone in the industry. A company that has dozens of distributors and hundreds of dealers around the world. A company that has won all the most important awards. On the other hand, it's not a corporation with three marketing specialists, two product managers, and four directors per one engineer. It is precisely the opposite. The fact that Hegel's products can compete with the equipment of the big players, often winning this competition when it comes to listening, doesn't mean that it's a cold and calculating machine that only cares about increasing sales numbers. Yes, it does care, but not to the extent that someone sits in spreadsheets at night. Although they have been very successful, the Norwegians remain true to…

Dual CS 418

Dual is one of the brands most respected by audiophiles. It has produced so many great turntables that it's hard to count them all and a well-preserved Dual turntable, especially if we are talking about high-end models, is an excellent investment. After a restoration, such a source can be connected to any stereo system, even an expensive one, without complexes. Not only will it look great, but with the correct cartridge, it should also sound so good that owners of new turntables will feel embarrassed. Until recently, Dual's turntables could only be purchased on the second-hand market, but fortunately, the company has risen like a phoenix from the ashes, releasing several interesting and affordable turntables. I was most interested in the CS 418, a classic manual turntable with a built-in phono stage, belt drive, easy-to-use tonearm, and Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. And the price - €499 for a brand new Dual? I had to see what's what.

Bryston BR-20

Bryston is one of the companies that use a very logical naming scheme for their products. Thus, amplifier symbols usually contain the letter "B", DACs start with "BDA", network players - "BDP", home theater processors - "SP" and preamplifiers - "BP". They are supplemented with numbers, which may indicate their output power (the B135² integrated amplifier delivers 135W per channel into 8 ohms) or inform us which generation of a given model we are dealing with (the BHA-1 is the first headphone amplifier from the Canadian factory, and the BDP-3 already had two predecessors - BDP-1 and BDP-2). Devices that cannot be assigned to any of the existing categories are scarce. So when Bryston decided to break the current pattern and release a preamplifier that should have been called the BP-18³ (because it is the successor to the BP-17³) but was given the BR-20 symbol, it was clear that this was no accident. The reason for this sudden change turned out to be, unfortunately, very sad. The Canadians wanted to honor their colleague and long-time company president, Brian Russel, who died in his sleep of a heart attack last year. At the time, Bryston's team was putting the finishing touches…

Norma Audio Revo IPA-140

The history of Norma Audio began in 1987 in Cremona - the hometown of famous composers, such as Ponchielli and Monteverdi, and great violin masters - Stradivari, Amati, and Guarneri. It was a man with an equally Italian-sounding name - Enrico Rossi - who created the apparatus on which you can listen to such wonderful music in the comfort of your living room. The first device manufactured under the Norma Audio brand was the NS 123 amplifier. It was not a spectacular commercial success, but nobody expected that. A completely new chapter in the company's history began when it was acquired by Opal Electronics, a manufacturer of electronic measuring devices. In 1991, Norma's owner started a research project to understand how audio equipment can degrade sound and how this can be avoided. Seven years later, he found what he was looking for. It was certainly not one brilliant solution but rather a collection of rules and general guidelines. Unlike manufacturers who have built their reputation on a particular technical solution, Norma doesn't base its entire business on a single patent. But if you would like to know what you can expect from this gear, Enrico Rossi makes it clear -…

Hegel H20

Hegel Music Systems is a perfect example of a company driven by good ideas, rational decisions, and putting the most important thing first - the sound. The Norwegians can boast of many interesting technical solutions, but neither care for selecting the right components for each model, nor hours spent on designing circuit boards or pursuit of functionality distracted them from that universal goal. Although it may seem improbable to those who know the hi-fi market very well, Hegel's team consists of only seven people. We can add professionals working for external subcontractors, but on a daily basis, you'll find four, maybe five people at the company's headquarters in Oslo. Nevertheless, we are talking about a brand that has won probably all the most important awards in the industry and whose actions have been watched closely for many years even by more successful and experienced competitors. What is so special about Hegel then? Maybe it is the simplicity typical for Scandinavian manufacturers? Maybe it's a specific mixture of proprietary technologies, love for music, and business sense, thanks to which the factory founded by Bent Holter got on a roll when all the others were hiding in corners, fearing economic crisis? Maybe…

Enerr Transcenda Ultimate

I have long got bored by the discussions on whether or not the power cords actually work. Maybe it's because, unlike some of their participants, I have experienced all or almost all the stages of this adventure. Just like many audiophiles, I have started as a skeptic. It cannot be done in any other way, since one gains expertise in this field through time-consuming experiments and listening sessions, not sudden enlightenment or the purchase of the most expensive accessories on the market. To hear the difference, one has to reach for hi-end products. Buying a cord that is more expensive than the appliance it's connected to seems ridiculous, yet, the system does not sound the same way it used to, and the thought of improving the sound returns like a boomerang. Over the years, I have tested many cables and conditioners. I have participated in many listening sessions and different sorts of experiments. I have compared standard 'computer' cables to hi-end wires worth thousands of dollars. That is why I am not particularly interested in purely theoretical discussions. Been there, done that, have a t-shirt. I prefer to check power accessories in practice. And that is what I'm going to…

Tellurium Q Blue II

It has been a while since I had a brush with Tellurium Q products, however, I regularly receive questions from audiophiles who ask which of their cables will be the most suitable with this or another system. I even get the impression that some music lovers try to solve this puzzle in the worst possible way - not based on the listening but rather the reviews, users' comments, and comparing weird figures found online. Yet, they are still convinced that they should buy Tellurium Q cables. They just wonder whether they should choose Blue, Black, Black Diamond, or Ultra Silver series, even though there are lots of other very interesting cables on the market. Why these, then?

Pylon Audio Ruby Monitor

We became interested in the products made by a Polish company, Pylon Audio, when it had just started being successful and their loudspeakers - Topaz and Pearl - gained recognition. Then, other products followed, such as Sapphire, Diamond, and Opal. Not to mention the floorstanding loudspeakers manufactured for Unitra or Audio Physics's Classic series, both using cabinets made by Pylon Audio in Jarocin - a city in which, in the 80s, the biggest rock music festival in Europe used to be organized. Testing their products was always a chance to catch up on Pylon's latest achievements. It seemed as if the company had been, step-by-step, checking off the next points on their earlier prepared plan. Launching a new series of speakers, adding glossy lacquers, entering international markets, designing their own mid-bass speakers, establishing collaboration with the award-winning partners, awards, exhibitions, honours, expanding wood veneer palette, extending the factory… Every now and then a thought comes to my mind that reportage about the Pylon factory would be something worth making, yet every time one problem arises - such article would have to be often updated, since in one year the situation may change so dramatically that a huge part of knowledge…