Hi Fi News March 2021

Since its launch in June 1956 - two years before the commercial realisation of stereo - Hi-Fi News & Record Review has been delivering insightful reviews of the key products and technologies that lie behind our shared hobby... the passion of listening to music on the very best equipment available to the enthusiast. Every issue, Hi-Fi News delivers uniquely in-depth reviews of high-end audio equipment, including the best in vinyl replay and iconic vintage gear from the early days of audio. It is essential reading for all music enthusiasts.

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13 Números

en este número

3 min.

Another month under the cosh of ‘the thing that shall not be named’ has not prevented us from curating another fabulous collection of hi-fihardware to take our minds off what’s beyond the front door. Our cover star this month comes courtesy of Florida’s Valve Amplification Company, better known as VAC. HFN readers who’ve travelled to overseas shows (remember them?) may well have seen, and marvelled at the sound, of designer Kevin Haye’s amazing tube amplifiers. I certainly had, so the moment this ‘audiophile-to-the-core’ brand landed on our shores I was especially keen to get its big pre/power combo into our listening room, lab and photo studio. The Master Preamplifier and Signature 200iQ power amps – tested and auditioned in monoblock guise here [see p40 onwards] – proved every bit as compelling as…

1 min.
totally tubular

Cut from the same cloth as the Reference 160S [HFN Feb ’20], but with a reduction in tube complement and lower 80W rated power output, Audio Research’s Reference 80S (£14,998) is the latest premium valve amplifier to roll out of the company’s Minnesota facility. Available in natural silver and black finishes, its styling and build follow the 160S template with an all-aluminium chassis, incorporating a bottom-mounted speed-switchable fan, and front panel dominated by twin ‘GhostMeters’. Inside, the fully-balanced ’80S uses a quartet of KT150 tubes (with triode and ultralinear operating modes) in conjunction with proprietary auto-biasing that adjusts for tube age and variations in AC line voltages. It also boasts a four-layer circuit board to suppress noise. ‘Music,’ says Audio Research, ‘is projected against a jet-black background’. 12V trigger input/outputs and…

1 min.
mola mola kula

For its first stereo integrated, boutique brand Mola Mola has adopted the wave-like chassis aesthetic of its Makua preamp [HFN Aug ’17], adding a bespoke power supply and 150W/8ohm (300W/4ohm) Class D output stage. Factory fitted with XLR and RCA inputs, the £9999 Kula (Hawaiian for ‘school’) can be upgraded with Mola Mola’s MM/MC phono board (£1799), plus a custom upsampling DAC stage (£5999) – derived from the company’s Tambaqui [HFN Nov ’19] – adding USB, optical and AES inputs, plus Bluetooth and status as a Roon Ready endpoint. The Kula is supplied with a remote, but fuller facilities – including setting phono stage parameters and DAC status – can be accessed via Mola Mola’s iOS/Android app. Mola-Mola, The Netherlands, 0800 0096213; www.mola-mola.nl; www.sounddesigndistribution.co.uk…

1 min.
hi - fi news’ nuggets

BOENICKE IS BACK Following a short hiatus, Basel-based loudspeaker brand Boenicke Audio returns to the UK courtesy of Whole Note Distribution. Never afraid to push the boundaries in materials, components and bespoke tuning aids, Boenicke’s is a collection of speakers that promises to ‘capture the tone and harmonics of a live performance’. Prices start at £4895 for the W5 and rise to £39,995 for the range-topping W13 SE+. www.boenicke-audio.ch FALCON Q7 KIT Second in Falcon Acoustics’ ‘Complete@Home’ series of loudspeaker kits for home assembly, the Q7 model features Falcon’s B110 bass/mid and T27 treble drive units and pre-wired Falcon 23.2 crossover together with a graded Baltic ply birch cabinet. Designed in the same factory as Falcon Acoustics’ LS3/5a, and ‘voiced’ in similar fashion, the Q7 employs a slightly larger cabinet to boost its…

1 min.
little devil

Adding a distinctive red finish to emphasise its position at the top of iFiAudio’s batterypowered DAC/headphone amp lineup, the £900 iDSD Diablo has been ‘built for purists’, it says. To this end the specification eschews some of the extra features of iFiAudio’s more affordable devices – including wireless Bluetooth and the proprietary XBass LF boost – while pledging a ‘riveting musical ride’ via its dual DSD/MQAcapable Burr-Brown DAC architecture and balanced analogue outputs. Type-A USB and S/PDIF inputs are joined by a 4.4mm balanced line-level output for connection to an external amp, while headphone users (both 6.35mm and 4.4mm jacks are provided) are offered tailored outputs via Turbo, Normal and Eco settings. A 5V DC iPower plug-top PSU is also included. iFiAudio (Abbingdon Global Group), 01900 601954; www.ifi-audio.com…

1 min.
high-definition imaging

Billed as delivering the ‘iconic JBL sound’ from cabinets with a more modern aesthetic, the American outfit’s HDI Series comprises the £4000 HDI 3800 and £3000 HDI 3600 two-and-a-half-way floorstanders, and £1500 HDI-1600 standmount. All three deploy a 1in compression driver with High Definition Imaging horn ‘for exceptional high-frequency detail and uniform directivity’ – the HDI 3800 pairs it with three 200mm aluminiumconed woofers, while 165mm units feature on the slimmer floorstander and two-way standmount. Bass-reflex designs with rear ports and braced, curved enclosures, the HDI Series is available in satin grey oak, satin walnut (pictured) and high gloss black. Harman Luxury Audio Group, 01223 203200; www.jblsynthesis.com…