Having started in 1985 with an extremist dual-mono phono stage, Gryphon of Denmark are the quintessentially analogue company. Even though today’s Gryphon Kalliope flagship standalone D/A converter can be optioned as a condensed fully encased module inside their Diablo 120, Diablo 300 and Zena models to cover all the bases, the company still don’t do a streamer. That isn’t an option. What they did bow at HighEnd Munich 2019 however was the Ethos CDP & DAC. It replaces their earlier Mikado model which years prior had quietly phased out when Phillips discontinued its CD-PRO2 transport, then scuttled manufacture of upscale CD drives altogether. To retain sufficient replacement sleds for eventual service calls, Gryphon thus discretely discontinued formal Mikado production. It’s when Austria’s StreamUnlimited introduced the new top-loading CD-PRO 8S as official CD-PRO2 successor last year…

Celebrity entertainment mags and blogs have ’em. I’m talking of those “who was there wearing what” featurettes. And it struck me. Most show reports are…

Can you see the northern lights from Glastonbury? With iFi Audio’s new Aurora, you can hear them from anywhere in the world. Because that’s what this advanced project, originally code-named Glastonbury for the popular annual music festival in the UK, is now called. Spearheaded by chief designer Thorsten Loesch who also handles their Abbingdon Music Research line of very high-end electronics and speakers, this is iFi’s all-in-one wired/wireless complete system. It sits in sustainable bamboo which nattily suspends in a pyramidal aluminum frame based on a concept by French designer Julien Haziza who apprenticed with Philippe Stack and was inspired here by the architecture in Tokyo’s districts of Omotesando and Harajuku. Eight drive units including two passives are managed by 32-bit ARM Cortex microprocessor brain power then driven by a hybrid 6N3P-tube/class D amp of 320 watts total whose 1.5MHz switching frequency is sync’d or clock-locked to the 32bit/192Hz ESS Sabre D/A converter’s sample rates. The output filter’s bandwidth is 300kHz, that of the amp’s 150kHz, suppression of the switching noise is 120dB.

Definitive Audio, the distribution and retail arm of speaker house Living Voice, were relinquishing their long-standing Kondo franchise for the UK. “We have always followed our heart because that’s where music communicates. It is fundamental that we feel a powerful connection to the brands we represent. Over the years we have enjoyed a good working relationship with Kondo and it is now time for us to move on and make way for someone who feels as passionate about their new designs as we do about their originals. We wish them well for the future. We, of course, continue to offer backup support and service on all of the Kondo equipment we have sold over the last 16 years. In this news blurb hide a few thought-worthy points. The most interesting perhaps pertains to…

What to do in Munich – stop N°4. As covered in last year’s show report of the HifiDeluxe in Munich, Bayz Audio there premiered their unique omnipolar Courante speaker which curved a thin-walled carbon-fibre tube into an upright C whose open section was bridged by their proprietary pulsing-rod tweeter. For this year, inventor Zoltán Bay has announced his flagship Counterpoint model…

What to do when in Munich –  stop N°3: The elephant and three deaf men…

What to do when in Munich – stop N°2. A nonmissable exhibit will be the Living Voce Vox Palladian / Vox Basso system running off pure battery power on Kondo valve kit…

If your name be Dragomir, the marketing gods would really have forsaken you if the word ‘dragon’ didn’t show up in your materials. Thankfully Dr. Colich’s first name is Dragoslav so we do get some fire-breathing toys to play with here. Chief technology officer for planarmagnetic headphone house Audeze, he has 4 decades of R&D into planarmagnetic physics, material science and industrial design under his belt. With Dragonfire Acoustics…

The devil wears Prada. 

When he’s called Vinnie Rossi, that means 15″ heels – er, woofers.

Forest. Tree. Fall. Does it make any sound if nobody hears it? Product. Disruptor. Is that still true if nobody notices? Today isn’t about the forest. It’s about a game-changing product which won’t do much disrupting unless more people learn about it first. To start, let’s ask what one common issue is which plagues all dynamic drivers – their suspension of outer surround (foam, rubber, corrugated paper) and inner spider (corrugated impregnated textile). It’s why companies like France’s Leedh and Belgium’s Ilumnia eliminate these parts altogether; why Cube of Poland replace their spider with a phenolic spring. To keep it simple, call the related problem energy storage. Like a capacitor or dielectric which stores energy to release it later, that’s not a good thing for the impulse response which shows behavioral accuracy in the time domain…

What to do in Munich – Stop N°1. The sender was Bruno Putzeys. The email read, “you might have picked up some noises about me taking part in a new Danish project called Purifi which combines work on class D amplifiers and loudspeaker drive units specifically intending to reduce distortion in both. In both cases my partner Lars Risbo and I have achieved a roughly 20dB improvement over current designs. Sonically the impact is quite startling. We are gearing up to become an OEM supplier of drive units and amplifiers and a few key customers have already gotten samples to play with. So we decided it’s time to go a bit more public. We’re setting up a private demo in Munich, combining the new Eigentakt amplifier technology with…”

Flagships. I’ve never really understood the phrase. That made it time I did something about it. Don’t all proper ships crossing international waters—that is, not mere boats sailed, paddled or rowed in a local bay, lake or river—fly a flag? In which case, where are the ships without a flag? Are they the no-flag ships, on the dry docks perhaps?

Woe be me. Stick around. You might see yourself in the mirror. That’s because you’re a showgoer, too. You’ve saved up to book the hotel and flight. You’ve even brought a credit card with big dynamic headroom just in case one of your favourite vendors sells discounted display samples that fit into your luggage. Once the doors of the M.O.C. open, your mind stops. You’ve of course read about how big this annual Munich show is but in person, it’s a whole other gig. Pretty soon your eyes glaze over. Your ears shut down. You feel like a headless chicken. Everywhere you look there’s personnel hyping this and that. Buzz words are wielded like sticky fly paper. As to auditions, they get louder as the day progresses. Most of them are less than splendid. Pretty soon everything sounds more or less the same. And it’s just your first day. There’s two more. Good grief. Right now a Weißbier or two sound far better than hifi…

Real people fi. Oops. Cursed by dualistic language, once we write that, we’ve turned ourselves into despicable judgmental dunces. What does that term make the rest? Hifi for faux people? Let’s try again. I just want to document what ‘real’ people apart from diehard audiophiles might/should do with small speakers like these Amphion Argon3s. For evidence, your prosecutor of the cause presents exhibit A. That’s my wife’s room. It’s how Ivette has always set up her bedside system around her MacBook with external DVD drive. The usual equally white Amphion Helium 510 in residence here simply made room for their bigger brethren. An Aura Note Premier 2 from Simon Lee’s old brand April Music is her designated driver all in one box. The laptop quickly disconnects from the USB cable should she do some writing work in bed.

Hindsight. It makes us all wiser. Or so we hope. Definitely older. No time spent, no hindsight. At the end of a year, looking back one takes stock. From everything we reviewed here  in 2018, what stood out as the King of (making) Hay for hifi’s version of Rafael Nadal on a budget court? Which was the key inventor to push a given sector’s state of the art? Were cost no object, did anything actually open up a new path previously not accessible? Who was the best dressed and smartest one? Here are our five mentions for these four categories… our take on a royal flush with a very loyal blush.

Damn surely poop. That’s one way to decipher DSP. But not ours. My two prior articles Breaking Good and Passive struggles, active solutions set the scene to become foreplay for today’s climax: digital signal processing as the key to better speaker design. Our tour guide is again speaker designer Pat McGinty of Meadowlark.

Why would anybody want to jump into the MQA debate now that the fad is fading and most seem to converge towards a consensus that it really was not much more than a way to get people to buy new gear and new copies of the same recordings all over again? Primarily because it is now possible to express a more balanced opinion without being torched – and most importantly, because I believe MQA is not useless, just not worth enough to pay for…

There are many kinds of audio shows. On one end there’s a dealer renting a suitable location like a small castle, a clubhouse on a golf course or other venue that by itself already makes the journey attractive. Distributors often have somewhat larger budgets to organize an event for their dealers across a few hotel rooms. Then come the big commercial shows run by companies or organizations which make their living from shows. Now exhibitors have to dig deep into their pockets as exhibit space gets costly but the organizer’s name and fame attract many visitors. These visitors could be exclusively trade, just consumers or a mix of the two. Entrance fees are mostly fair since the exhibitors cough up the bulk of the costs plus then some…

KIH #63. Dynamically challenged? Being referred to as dynamic speakers makes the breed distinct from planars like classic MartinLogan, Quad and Magnepan. Following nomen est omen, one might conclude that dynamics would be a dynamic speaker’s greatest forté. But speaker designer Pat McGinty of Meadowlark explains why they’re more challenged than you might think.

Nepotism

…the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs…

Because I worked as Pat McGinty’s national sales manager before I began my reviewing career, you might suspect some form of nepo behind today’s showcase feature. But the only tie-in there would be his Irish-sounding family name and our now living in Eire – tenuous at best. The real reason I felt like writing about him now is actually a seeming disconnect between Meadowlark v1 and v2. A break if you will.

Six moons, six publisher’s picks for the year. As an elevator pitch, it had a ring to it. Not having an elevator meant right back down to earth, in this case my main review system. As it turned out, there had been six hardware additions/changes I made this year which since became a regular part of my tool kit. Aside from enjoying them like any other audiophile would his/her new toys, they’re also most useful and practical in my work. The better or more varied my tools, the more detailed the findings become which can only make them more relevant to the readers. Being year’s end where we customarily look back to give thanks, this Sixes Feature was the perfect opportunity to acknowledge these makers for their contributions to my work going forward…

Living in style. The two young designers of Deeptime Ltd. from the Czech Republic believe in it. They also believe in organic shapes and exploiting hi-tech 3D printing to build their 3-piece speaker system from the most ubiquitous material on the planet: sand. The 87dB passive Spirula speaker fits a 3″ bamboo-fibre widebander into an inert sealed enclosure for 75Hz-20kHz bandwidth. Like Vivid’s tapered absorbers, the continuously narrowing always round Spirula cabinet spirals down upon itself to a point. Three metal cones deal with gravity…

Moscow 2018. Once again—the way it had been 7 years ago—Moscow’s Hi-End Show became the main cultural event of this year’s fall in the Russian capital. For three days in November (11th to 14th) , the Moscow Holiday Inn Tagansky hosted the MHES® show. Among its exhibits were premium systems and components. Home cinemas and ‘smart home’ systems were conspicuously absent. Unusual novelties and thoroughly thought-out solutions, famous brands and ingenious designs bearing less-known names (and sometimes none at all, being just prototypes), abundant albums of mostly vinyl and reel-to-reel tape, a relaxed atmosphere, active involvement of visitors, their keen interest and communications, excellent sound quality and lots of music — that’s what MHES 2018 was all about.

Slovenia. Finland. Today’s two speakers come from very different parts of the world. Just so, their designers worked in some kind of sync considering. What are we considering, you ask? Dipole line-source radiation. Skinny sound beam atop big woofer cabinet.