Reviews

Bowers & Wilkins 706 S3

Bowers & Wilkins has long convinced audiophiles that the only way to achieve total listening satisfaction is chasing the original - the sound recorded in the studio. This leads to the obvious conclusion that our home stereo system should be the last element of the chain, which starts with the microphone, and that gaining more at the end means losing less during the whole process. It's hard to argue with that. And while it's a bit pointless to compare home electronics with professional equipment, I appreciate any manufacturer who stays true to this straightforward philosophy. While the idea can be explained in a single sentence, putting it into practice is quite complicated. Transport the sound from the recording studio to the home? But, wait a minute, isn't that what almost all the people involved in this subject have been trying to achieve for 145 years (that's exactly how long it's been since the invention of the phonograph)? Yes, but no one can deny that we have made tremendous progress in this field and are still moving forward.

Neat Acoustics Majistra

Neat Acoustics has been designing and manufacturing loudspeakers since 1989. The company was founded by Bob Surgeoner, who has devoted most of his life to music, playing primarily blues, rock, jazz, folk, country, and bluegrass. The company's other key employees also work as musicians, which is virtually unheard of in the audio industry. In 2006, Bob was joined by Paul Ryder, who plays guitar in several bands in northern England. Since Paul is also an experienced sound engineer, the company set up its own recording studio. The professional approach to recordings is also intended to be a benchmark for the sound of the loudspeakers. A variety of musical instruments are on hand at the Neat Acoustics factory, including piano, string organ, harp, double bass, synthesizers, and a wide range of electric and acoustic guitars and other stringed instruments. High-resolution recordings can be played back instantly in the listening room. Bob and his team let music rule the tuning and sound of its speakers to the exclusion of almost all other criteria. All aspects of the design are evaluated empirically. This time-consuming, iterative process can take months before a design is considered finished.

Pylon Audio Jasper 23

When I review new Pylon Audio speakers, the same word usually comes to mind - progress. First loudspeakers available in high-gloss and mat lacquers, the first proprietary drivers, first cabinets manufactured for well-known foreign brands... Enumerating the next milestones and delighting in the technical, qualitative, and business successes of the Polish company, however, doesn't interest me as much as in what direction its offerings are heading and what value its new models will represent. Here, too, one can observe stable, thoughtful development driven by rising customer expectations and investments in machinery. Over the past few years, many speaker series has expanded to include the most majestic three-way models, and new designs from the excellent Ruby line have been introduced, but we had to wait a very, very long time for the next price and quality barrier to be overcome. Finally, Pylon Audio introduced the powerful Amber floorstanders, now available in mkII version. The new flagship should generate huge excitement, but such gigantic speakers are not for everyone and will not play well in any room. However, we have known for a long time that Pylon Audio is working on a series of loudspeakers that is a development of the concept…

Octavio AMP

Audiophiles love beautiful, original, and, unfortunately, very expensive electronic devices. Turntables made with incredible precision, powerful tube amplifiers, huge loudspeakers, thick cables - we associate all this with a sophisticated, engaging sound, but there is no doubt that above a certain level all this fun begins to smell of madness. This is perfectly evident at exhibitions, where one can taste the sound of stereo systems worth millions of dollars. Some visitors get the impression of participating in a sick experiment. The degree of complexity of such extreme systems, as well as their dimensions and prices, have a repulsive effect on music lovers. Besides, let's be honest, when visiting a showroom with such equipment, didn't you ever think to yourself that at such prices you'd better start looking elsewhere? Didn't you come to the conclusion that even if you got such a set for free, you wouldn't have anywhere to put it? Some companies have recognized this problem, but their solution is most often to put the dream of owning a decent stereo completely out of your head. Don't have lots of cash to spend on your hi-fi? Then get some small network speakers or a soundbar and sod off. And…

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 -…