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There's a Kratos in your crate – Actually, there should be two since these are monoblocks, the latest from Sonnet's and Metrum's Cees Ruijtenberg. Kratos [€5'900/pr incl. VAT] is a 50/90-watt class A/B design with a high-voltage FET front end that was designed to measure and sound exactly like small-signal triodes. The current buffer runs Mosfets off a 400-watt supply.  Output noise is 350µV, bandwidth 10Hz-230kHz -3dB, slew rate 50V/µs and voltage gain 30dB. Each amp weighs a modest 3.9kg and measures 29x25x6cm WxDxH. Hulk hunters will keep chasing elsewhere.

Snow Weiss and the 5 moons – If you own a Weiss Series 5 machine (DAC501 or 502, DSP501 or 502), the latest free software update gets you "a patented loudness equalizer to enhance the sonic characteristics at selectable listening levels between 60dB and 105dB. The is a premier implementation of a patented design by Mr. Bernhard Schwede. It doesn't adhere to the common Fletcher-Munson responses but uses a completely new approach with incredible results. You also get the advanced headphone equalizer for the large range of Audeze headphones. Select your Audeze headphone model in the menu and enjoy listening to it even more than before." Software-enhanced hifi that keeps learning new tricks free of charge is definitely not your grandpa's Vitrola. It helps if you're Daniel Weiss who has one foot in pro, one in high-end consumer and just recently won a Technical Grammy award. That goes straight to the 7th moon!

Bass buster – Ascendo's new SV-12 subwoofer [€990] breathes deeply through two massive frontal ports whilst 'round back there are LFE i/o on XLR and RCA plus standard stereo RCA inputs, volume, low pass, phase and auto-on controls. The 12" sandwich-membrane woofer with beefy rubber roll surround sees 500 watts of class D packed into a braced HDF cab. The low pass is variable from 40-150Hz, dimensions are 40x48x40cm WxHxD and weight is 22kg.

CD receiver with streaming – Who ya gonna call? Today it's Germany's AVM with their new CS 2.3 [€4'990], the follow-up to the 7-year old predecessor. That means the new X-Stream-Engine app, DSD 128, new 140wpc gain stages scaled down from the CS 8.3 and new Sabre 9038Q2M DAC with 24/192 upsampling. Open for business are USB, LAN, HDMI, coax and Toslink in plus variable Toslink and coax outputs, two standard RCA inputs, MM/MC phono with separate load terminals plus fixed and variable analog outputs. There's a TEAC slot drive for silver discs, 6.3mm headfi, Airplay 2, Spotify Connect, Roon Ready, Tidal, Qobuz, UPnP, Webradio, Bluetooth 4.2, parametric loudness with bypass and an optional Cellini version chromed front. Standard finishes are silver and black.

Twice noble –  That's the Dutch Noble & Noble Nobilis Sonum 98 [€19'888/pr], an nCore active two-way with isobaric mid/woofers and wave-guide tweeter in a rear-ported enclosure finished in matte black. Each cabinet measures 98x18x20cm and weighs 22.8kg. The nCore plate amp has provisions for 4 digital inputs (coax, Toslink, USB, AES/EBU) and two analog (XLR, RCA). A provided plastic remote controls volume and source selection. The SB Acoustics Satori tweeter loaded into a triangular rear chamber decouples from the main enclosure by mounting on an isolation ring set into a separate baffle which fronts the actual enclosure behind it. The magnets of the two Satori back-to-back mid/woofers are joined by filled pipe and the cabinet behind the inside driver is open for bipole radiation. The company promise a fully vibration-free silent enclosure as a result of their mechanical solutions which premium drivers build upon as high resolution whilst active drive and compensation reduce dynamic compression and add bandwidth. For more look out for the forthcoming review.

2yu – Chord are back with cute names and kit, this time the 2yu [£449] digital interface for their portable 2go streamer/server. "This creates our first network bridge for DACs, DAC-equipped A/V devices and our Hugo M Scaler. In addition to streaming, 2go's 2 x 2TB-rated SD card slots enable the combo as an audiophile-grade music server. 2go's SD storage capacity is tested for up to 4TB. 2yu securely connects to 2go and adds optical, coax and BNC outputs plus highly flexible USB-A. Hugo M Scaler owners can upscale the output to take performance to the next level. 2go/2yu is readily updatable with cloud-based firmware updates. It ships with v.1.5.0 which introduces new radio listening and SD card playback features plus improved stability. 2go/2yu controls easily with several popular UPnP apps for Android and iOS. Gofigure adds additional convenience, management features and a library playback option. 2go/2yu benefits from gapless, DoP/bit-perfect and AirPlay support and is fully DLNA-compliant. 2yu boasts 2'000 MIPS (million instructions per second) processing power, automatic downsampling for sample rate-limited legacy DACs plus a low-jitter PLL. 2yu is handmade in the UK from aircraft-grade aluminium with four polychromatic spherical controls governing output selection, power, mute and dim functions."

St. Peter's boxes? – The Five17 from Heavenly Soundworks just might be. This 5-driver 3-way active combines a 1" tweeter with a 3.5" midrange and 5" woofer augmented by two sidefiring 8" passive radiators. Three nCore amps drive the lot for a claimed ±1dB bandwidth of 30Hz-20kHz with 108dB of continuous SPL capability. Yet the celestial works fit into just 15.25 x 8.5 x 11.5" HxWxD and don't weigh more than 24lbs. Available veneers are zebrano, rosewood and ebony. Inputs are digital (AES/EBU, coax and Toslink) and analog (RCA and XLR) and the primary speaker has an LED indicator and IR eye for the Hypex remote.

Is it time for the angels to get off their clouds and down to earth for a party? At $10K/pr, it'll have to be a quite illustrious gig.

Quantum Keces – This forthcoming range of Ultimate power conditioners from Taiwan's Keces Audio like the 1QRP-150 shown will exploit Bill Stierhout's QRT or quantum resonance technology also used by Nordost. Here it will combine with custom isolation transformers and the company's own power sockets.

 

Melco goes EX – That is, their HA-N1Z digital music libraries with HHD or SSD do with new power supplies and higher-performance single-drive storage. "The SSD-based HA-N1Z/2EX-S40 [£9'999] now benefits from a new 4TB storage drive and the HDD-based HA-N1Z/2EX-H50 [£5'249] is supplied with a new 5TB unit. Our implementation of new single drives means that our engineers no longer must incorporate a RAID system (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) in the operating software, giving an immediate sound quality upgrade by using higher-quality single drives."

Shiver me timbers, rattle me pylons – With Pylon Audio's new Amber MkII two-ways [€4'499/pr] you should be able to. Dual 12" mid/woofers bracket a BMS compression driver inside a Traktrix horn, the filter hinge sits at 1'200Hz. At 97dB/W/m, this show shouldn't take much to get going. Dimensions of 50cm wide, 43cm deep and 124cm tall plus 65kg/ea. round out the basic specs. Remember to eat your spinach!

Valve up your phono – You can with Canor's new PH 2.10 [€3'500] and its 2 x 12AX7 in the 1st and 2nd gain stage with intermediate subsonic filter and 2 x 12AT7 in the 3rd and 4th stage. There be no global feedback and RIAA regeneration is passive with polystyrol and polypropylene capacitors. The transformer is vacuum impregnated and a central divider separates the power supply from the tube stages. There are MM and MC inputs on RCA and single outputs on RCA. Input impedance is adjustable from 10 – 1'200Ω in 8 steps and input capacitance from 50 – 840µF in 8 steps. Output impedance is 500Ω, MM gain 47dB, MC gain 71dB. Available finish is black or silver.

The X factor – It's in the X-Factor Lab DAC from Russia, surely. This dual-chassis 100kg device implements dual-mono AK4497 delta-sigma and BB1704PK multi-bit chips which the listener can compare on the fly. In auto mode, multi-bit is the default for PCM whilst DSD switches to single bit. There are 4 selectable upsample modes, 4 digital filters including off and all settings write to memory independently for each input. An ADSP 21489 floating-point processors allows implementation of a custom filter to the client's requirements. Equally bespoke are the available rear-panel inputs. Up to 2 x USB and 6 x RCA/XLR on Furutech connectors are available. 4 temperature-controlled BNC clock outputs are included and the three power umbilical connectors are silver-plated multi-pin Russian military issue. A metal-body remote controls all functions. Add-on options are a built-in Roon renderer and a volume control with discrete resistors. The discrete class A analog output buffer runs 300mA of bias current for an output impedance of just a few ohms without feedback. Bandwidth is a colossal 0Hz – 50MHz. The power supply runs separate transformers for each digital and analog node with discrete often double regulation for a total of 18 transformers all with deliberately low 0.6T of magnetic flux for reduced power radiation.

Got sub troubles? – If your current subwoofer couples to the floor, its mechanical action will act like a micro jack hammer, sending physical vibrations to your speakers, components even neighbors through the floor then rack, plinths and furniture. Putting a stop to that common leakage are IsoAcoustics with their new Aperta Sub 10.5 x 11.5 x 1.3" isolation bass base. It combines an aluminium frame with the company's patented isolator footers which here can support up to 36kg/80lbs. For thick carpeting, the company supply the shown 'claws'.

Got bass? – If you owned sealed Rogers LS3/5A, you hadn't; until now. Hello AB3a [£3'499], an active sub stand that bolts on two mass-loaded woofers driven by 50 watts to each channel then gives user control over their gain, low-pass filter and phase. The standard finish for this add-on product is black as shown. Voilà, LS3/5A with proper bass.

The bridge under the Linden – Kinda. Today is about Lindemann, their Limetree family and within that, their new Network II [€995] and Bridge II [€795]. What's new in these gen2 versions? For the Network II, it's an ES9038 Sabre DAC, sub 500fs clock, high-quality analog volume control, high-current headphone output and IR remote. The volume control has separate settings for headfi and line-out, the balance control covers ±6dB in 1dB steps and the headphone output has a 0/12dB gain option. There are also 7 different oversampling filters and hi/lo LED brightness. For the Bridge II, the output sample rate limit can now be set to 48, 96 or 192kHz. Upsampling is either integer or zero. DSD support has been dropped. Such files should now be resampled to PCM in player software

Something for nothing? – With back-to-back Apple Music and Amazon Music announcements, nearly so. At $9.99/month, Apple Music subscribers now have an in-app menu option to select lossless streaming quality across what is promised to eventually be the entire catalogue of 75 millions songs in ALAC aka Apple lossless audio code. Responding in kind, Amazon Music opened up their HD service at no extra cost to current Unlimited subscribers in early markets like Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, the US and Canada. Both Apple and Amazon now offer CD-quality streaming plus a smattering of better-than-Redbook content up to 24/192. The cloud of music, at our fingertips like rain upon demand, just got a lot bigger. Yet the cost to the consumer is negligible. It's a bright new age for listeners, a dark new age for the musicians providing this content for very little pay indeed. If that sits wrong with you, sites like Bandcamp also allow us to buy our favorite music whilst insuring that the artists get the lion's share of our money.

'B' for 'bodacious'? Nearly. Riviera Audio Labs' AIC10 headphone/speaker amplifier just converted one of its three line-level inputs to active balanced to add XLR versatility. Otherwise it remains a 10wpc class A no-feedback hybrid circuit with triode inputs and BJT/Mosfet gain stages plus XLR4 and 6.3mm headphone outputs on the front.

16.5.21 – It's the day when Audirvãna Studio became available for a €69.99/yr subscription fee. Compatible with the latest Windows and MacOS platforms, this rebuilt French player software with free remote control apps now offers tighter integration between local and cloud-based files from Qobuz, Tidal and HiResAudio, adds Internet radio stations, new R8 Brain and SoundExchange upsampling algorithms, file analyzers for onboard HD certification, better serial plug-in integration and "the most transparent playback path for Windows 10 in Kernel streaming mode." Who is it for? People who want the very best sound and user experience when playing back music from a computer. Current users of Audirvãna receive preferential pricing when upgrading to Studio.

The name has changed with a straight-line macron above the second 'a'. That's incompatible with Google's web fonts. It indicates a minor accent when pronouncing Audirvahna. The ã with the wavy tilde is incorrect but we used it in lieu of the macron which Internet browsers rendered as ?. Why not use a fully integrated à/á instead? Many people already mispronounced the name as Audiovana. Now they'll misspell it as Audirv?na. But then nobody asked us. Désolé. That aside, our publisher is a very happy Audirvana 3.5 user. Studio should be better still. Who cares about spelling now? Not us. Audio nirvana? Listen, then decide!

Reference in-ear – Welcome Sennheiser's IE 900 [€1'299] as a new contender. Fitted inside an anodized aluminium-machined housing is a 7mm 16Ω driver covering 5Hz-48kHz at just 0.05% THD/94dB. There are three internal absorption chambers plus an acoustic vortex machined into the output funnel to optimize the driver's performance. Cable termination via MMCX plugs allows free plug'n'play with aftermarket leashes and the included cables with para-aramid reinforment end in 3.5mm, 2.5mm balanced and 4.4mm balanced. Also included are silicon and memory-foam ear tips in three sizes each and a zippered case.

Don't split the atom, unite it – Kinda. Naim's Uniti Atom Headphone Edition [$3'290] takes away the original speaker amp then replaces it with a dedicated headphone amp with XLR4, 4.4mm Pentacon balanced and 6.3mm standard jacks. Everything else remains unchanged. It's still a 32/384 USB DAC with RCA/XLR pre-out, integral streaming from Qobuz, Tidal, Spotify, Internet radio, AirPlay 2, Chromecast and Roon Ready plus one analog RCA input, 2 x Toslink and 1 x coax. Then there's the best volume knob in the business. Headphones, ask what's in a Naim. Then unite yer atoms.

Cut a fitter figure – Chord Electronics' Gofigure app for their Poly and 2go portable streamer-servers has been updated to include improved radio station and playlist support with faster access over WiFi through caching, a playlist generator for the Quick Play function plus enhanced status messaging and stability. The new playlist generator feature allows Gofigure to scan any SD card/s for music and create playlists for every stored album, giving a quick and easy way to play all stored albums without the need for either a WiFi connection or another app. The new Gofigure version can be downloaded from the Google Play or Apple App stores. Android 10 owners use the link above.

A dot of light – ADOT abbreviates Audiophile Digital Optical Technology. That translates to fibre-optic upgrade kits from a new company linked to Melco Syncrets of Japan. Their stated aim is to improve the sonics of copper-based Ethernet links. Their kits are placed between residential routers and hifi systems. "The fibre design parameters must match the adapters so the supplied Duplex fibre pairs with the SFP adapters. Connectivity is critical so the terminations are factory-made in clean-room conditions and 1.5m lengths mean that the devices can tuck out of the way. The fibre is less than 3mm in diameter and ideally suited for making the connection even in the largest homes. ADOT can supply standard lengths of optical fibre up to 50m or custom lengths up to 200m." The kits are priced from £349 – £750.

Ul times two – That's the new Reference Ultime Two from Stenheim of Switzerland [$150'000/pr]. It's a 5-driver 3-way in a d'Appolito configuration with biwire terminals. The 12-inch woofers vent through rear-facing "laminar flow" reflex ports. Then come 6.5" sealed midranges and in the center of the array a 25mm sealed tweeter. Each 154 x 37 x 50cm cabinet is built from thick aluminium panels to weigh 231kg. Half-space sensitivity is a claimed 95dB, bandwidth 25Hz – 35kHz. This is a slightly smaller version of the company's flagship so does away with the motorized center array, super tweeter and active option.

Kyte not tyke – That's Rega's new €599 compact speaker measuring just 33cm tall. Its enclosure is cast from phenolic resin then reinforced by internal struts and ceramic damping plates. The mid/woofer uses a 4-layer voice coil and the tweeter gets an unusual wave guide. The rear-ported Kyte mini claims 89dB sensitivity and 6Ω nominal impedance. It weighs just 3.7kg and comes only in black.

Silver Technology – That's Siltech for short with their new 3-tier Classic Legend cable series. Across its 380, 680 and 880 tiers, there's the shared G9 conductor as the company's latest silver-gold alloy which has been shock-treated with high voltage. There's triple-layer dielectric of Teflon and Peek; dual-core coaxial then twisted geometries; and substantial shielding. What changes with tiers is conductor mass. That doubles from 380 to 680 then scales again x 1.5 together with more substantial insulation and shielding. Each tier includes analog RCA or XLR cables, spade or banana speaker cables plus power cords. To be mixed across the three ranges are a 75Ω digital coax with RCA/BNC, a 110Ω AES/EBU digital cable, a 90Ω USB cable, a 100Ω LAN cable and a Zero Ohm cable to ground cartridges or other gear. According to Siltech, the Classic Legend models are their finest value cables ever.