Monthly Archives: October 2011

My dad bought a Leak Stereo 30 amp, back in the sixties. It was one of the first, perhaps the first, stereo transistor integrated amp. Until recently, not much has changed in the world of amplification. Certainly there have been numerous refinements to the sound, and amps have become more powerful and better looking. Along the way, many have lost the ability to accept turntable inputs, and tone controls have largely been banished. Only in the last few years has a new type of amplifier arrived on the scene – one equipped for the age of the computer, internet streaming and smartphones.

Following our review of the NAIM UnitiQute, here comes another Swiss-army-knife amplifier, the Micromega AS400 Integrated Amp ($4,795) – this time from France. Here we have a powerful Class D amplifier, incorporating AirStream networking. This means that I can play music from iTunes on my notebook computer, or directly from my iPhone/iPad, without any connecting cables.

You may remember some fine CD players from Micromega but it is no secret the company ran into financial difficulties a few years back, and has been reincarnated by its new owner, Didier Hamdi. Welcome back Micromega! The AS400 was strutting its stuff to very good effect at CES 2011 in Vegas and again at the Montreal Festival Son & Image this spring.

Let’s see how flexible this package really is. There’s a minijack on the front panel to plug in an MP3 player. This falls short of the NAIM UnitiQute’s ability to source the digital output of an iPhone or iPad through a USB connection cable but is still a welcome inclusion.

Another nice feature is the headphone output (minijack) on the front panel, which performs very well with headphones of high or medium sensitivity. The maximum volume level (a range of 1 to 15 is offered in headphone mode) cannot drive my very inefficient Sennheiser HD800 phones to realistic volume levels on some low level recordings, but the quality is surprisingly good at all times. It does an excellent job driving the slightly more efficient AKG K701s and also my high efficiency canal earphones. Unusually, you control whether output flows to the speakers or to the headphones via a push button, while on many amps switching happens automatically as you insert the headphone jack. For additional flexibility the AS400 boasts a tape monitor, preamp out, sub out (with a 3dB cut-off at 400Hz), a processor input (to bypass the preamp section) and an RS232 remote connection. It’s a nice bonus to be able to rename the three standard analog inputs.

The volume control uses an advanced digitally controlled resistance ladder with 70 steps calibrated in dBs and has a very nice feel to it. It is also speed sensitive which makes it easy to make large changes quickly. There’s a balance control too, but it’s hidden – you have to press and hold the Mute button, then turn the volume control.

The very attractive casework is available in a silver or black satin finish. The unit looks and feels considerably more expensive than the asking price. Did I tell you the AS400 was heavy? It weighs 13kg, surprising for an amp less than 10cm high. Most of that weight is on the right hand side, so be careful when lifting, lefties!

If there is one minor area that Micromega has let us down, it’s the remote control. It works well enough but has row upon row of almost identical buttons including buttons to control other Micromega components. It’s also a little quirky. There is a button for display down and another for display up. The first turns off the display, while the second toggles the display between off and on. There is no direct selection for the various inputs on the machine, or the remote – you can only go next or previous on the front panel, and just next from the remote. However, you can improve matters by removing unused inputs in the menu system.
An amp with as many features as this deserves a comprehensive instruction manual, and Micromega has skimped here – there isn’t even a picture of the rear panel of the unit or the remote control in the four pages provided. Some of the information, such as the password for the MUSIC network, is incorrect or incomplete. I hope they can add some updates on their website to cover these deficiencies, but your dealer will certainly be able to help with any questions you may have.

The big draw here is of course the very latest and most advanced AirStream technology, included for the first time in an audiophile integrated amp. A colour coded AirStream logo indicates network status – red for off, blue for on. Based on Apple’s Airport Express the AirStream module has four components:
•  Power Supply
•  Master Clock
•  D/A Converter
•  Analog Output

The power supply is a very complex device with separate outputs for each of the other three components. The Master clock is a low jitter device made exclusively for Micromega, while the DAC section features a Cirrus Logic 4351 device followed by a pure Class A output stage.

You can quickly set up a wireless connection between your iPhone/iPad and the AS400 and stream music from your iTunes collection. This works very well, with just the occasional hiccup when moving out of range. This is a wonderfully convenient way to operate and the sound quality of this uncompressed digital streaming and conversion to analog is very satisfying if you use Apple Lossless mode for your iTunes music library.

You can also access the iTunes library on a wireless notebook (I used my daughter’s ThinkPad) by loading the free Airport Express software. As an extra treat, you can download a free Apple app called Remote which allows you to control the iTunes on your computer from the iPhone/iPad. To get all this working I first had to update the iTunes software on my computer to the latest version (10.4) and then it all worked smoothly. Unfortunately you can’t join two networks at once so if you switch the notebook to link to the default AirStream network on the AS400 (labelled MUSIC), you lose your regular internet connection until you switch back. It is possible to join the AS400 directly to your own wireless network, but this is a more complex procedure. AirStream is set up to work with iTunes. Just select the AS400 as the destination from the “Choose which speakers to use” option at the bottom right of the iTunes screen. You can also access other digital streaming sources besides iTunes by purchasing the appropriate third party software for Mac or PC (Rogue Amoeba’s AirFoil – a $25 download).

The built-in DAC can accept AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless, MP3, WMA and WAV files but the sampling frequency is limited to iTunes’ maximum bit rate of 16 bits and 44kHz. AirStream works on the 802.11n standard.

Class D amplification has been gaining traction because of its high efficiency, which means the power supplies and heat sinks can be smaller and hence the entire package can be made smaller and lighter, resulting in lower prices for the consumer. The AS400 runs surprisingly hot for a Class D device, and if you leave it on for a while, even without playing music, you may get a surprise when you adjust the volume level from the front panel – that knob gets fairly hot too! Of course when you are not playing music you should put the unit into standby which keeps things running relatively cool.

I started my listening by connecting up an SACD player through one of the unbalanced analog inputs. The sound quality is quite good, lively, ballsy and quick to react to transients. The bass and midrange are clean and dynamic, with plenty of low level detail and silent backgrounds. The treble region lacks delicacy and life compared to some more expensive amps, particularly when there is a lot of high energy percussion sound, and the image depth is limited. That’s why enthusiasts will shell out big bucks for state-of-the-art amplifiers that can preserve the most delicate harmonic information and offer a wider, deeper soundstage. What the Micromega may lack in finesse, it more than makes up for in raw power. Would you believe the “400” in AS400 stands for 400 watts per channel output into a 4 ohm load? To put this in perspective, the NAIM UnitiQute puts out a mere 45wpc into 4 ohms. My reference Bryston 4BSST² (a 22kg brute of a power amplifier) manages 500wpc into 4 ohms, a marginal gain in practice. With this much power on hand, you can drive a wide range of speakers that might trouble some other amps.

Finally, Micromega has not forgotten the vinyl enthusiast. There’s a high quality moving magnet phono stage built in to the AS400. When you switch to this particular input, the AirStream network switches off to prevent any possible interference with the delicate low level signal coming from your cartridge. There is plenty of gain, an even frequency response and a silent background here which shows proper care and attention have been paid to circuit design. One downside to this functionality is that when switching inputs you may have to pass through the phono input, which turns off the AirStream network. When you move on to the input you really want, it takes almost a minute to turn the network back on. Ideally I would like to see the network go on and off in seconds, and to be off at all times except when the streaming input is selected.

Overall there is a great deal to like here, tons of power, great looks, enormous flexibility, full integration with iTunes on your computer or iPhone/iPad, and compatibility with many more traditional components including your turntable. Thanks to the provision of a preamp output, you can even upgrade the sound quality later by adding a power amp of your choice, retaining all that priceless digital streaming and input flexibility. The value is outstanding and you’ll have a lot of fun with this in your system. The fact that it’s built like a tank (guaranteed 10 years) and bears the prestigious Micromega name is icing on the cake.

Micromega
www.micromega-hifi.com

Distributed in Canada by Plurison
www.plurison.com
1-866-271-5689

Micromega AS400 Integrated Amplifier
Price: $4,795 CAD

Burson Audio, an audio product company based out of Australia, has just recently announced their latest DAC / headphone amplifier product – the HA-160DS. The new DAC with headphone amplifier combo is 16% smaller in footprint and 35% lighter in weight than their former HA-160D model. In addition, the new HA-160DS is also less expensive.

The DAC within the new HA-160DS is identical in every way to the former HA-160D; however, the USB supports only 24-bit/96kHz but the RCA input does support the normal higher rate of 24-bit/192kHz. The headphone amplification is also identical to the former model, utilizing a volume potentiometer by Alps, though the new DS does not provide a preamp function, as the former D did. There are two power transformers for increased power stability and reduced interference.

Inputs include USB, S/PDIF via RCA and stereo analog via RCA. The analog amplification is Class A, promising smoother sound. The Burson Audio HA-160DS comes housed in 4mm aluminum casework, which is engineered to act as a full heat-sink, as well.

The Burson Audio HA-160DS will be shipping worldwide on November 1 at a MSRP of $890 U.S. Look for more details on the HA-160DS at: www.bursonaudio.com.

There’s a real English gentleman I’d like you all to meet. Assisted by two talented engineers that build the products, he designs solid state headphone amplifiers and phono-preamps in small innocuous looking anodized aluminum boxes, and he’s gathered a following all over the world without much fuss or a big advertising budget. I’ve been a fan of Graham Slee for at least seven years and I should tell you why. In my experience, his products are absolutely reliable, very well priced and upgradeable, but more than this, they sound wonderful, fully competitive with much more expensive units. In 2004 I bought a Graham Slee Solo headphone amp and a Graham Slee Era Gold V phono-preamp and they’ve been my references ever since. Reviewing the Solo MC in 2005 I wrote “The strengths of the Solo are in the extra high frequency extension, a superb transient response and an unsurpassed dynamic range.”

Today I’m going to look at two current Solo models to see if anything has changed. Thanks to the strength of the Canadian dollar the price has dropped from $1299 to $999 for the Solo SRG II, the current equivalent, and even the upscale Solo Ultra-Linear lists for just $1199. The casework is slightly changed, a millimeter or so taller, with nice looking grooves added on the top panel and a ground connector at the rear, but otherwise no big visible changes were made. You still get a simple ALPS volume control (no remote) and a three way toggle switch (input 1, input 2 or mute) on the front panel, with an indicator light – once white but now a more discreet green. The back panel has two sets of RCA inputs and a DC24V input socket. Graham Slee believes it best to keep the power supply outside the cabinet to minimize stray fields that might induce hum or otherwise affect the low level signals involved, and he includes a PSU1 fully regulated power supply with the Solos. This too is unchanged over the years apart from the mains connector, once captive, now socketed to meet European regulations.

So what’s changed inside the box? Let’s start with the Solo SRGII. There have been numerous revisions over the years, all aimed at improving the sound quality and extending the range of headphones that can be well driven by the Solo. One particular innovation is line driver load sensing that enables the Solo to adapt to the impedance of the headphones in use. One consequence of this change is that the volume control is calibrated quite differently than on a conventional amp, where you would expect a setting in the 9 to 12 o’clock range, and large amounts of distortion if you go too far clockwise. Here the whole range is usable to adjust to headphones of very different sensitivities. There were times with very inefficient headphones and a low output source that I was in the three or even four o’clock position, with no noticeable stress to the sound. Changes to the circuitry between the Solo MC and SRG II were particularly effective at improving the low frequency performance capabilities, while refinement of sound, separation and dynamic range have all steadily improved.

So today’s SRG II is a significantly better performer than the Solo MC, with the biggest improvements in the bass and the all-important midrange. Maximum sound pressure levels are higher while the clean treble and lightning reflexes have been maintained. Distortion and background noise are lower than before, making it easier to listen to the music, to enjoy the texture of the instruments and voices.

I have my own special way of testing headphones and head amps. I compare them directly with my reference Wilson Benesch Act 1 speakers, fed by a Parasound JC2 Preamp and the mighty Bryston 4B SST² power amp. By carefully adjusting the volume control on the headamp, I can pull the headphones on and off quickly to see how the headphone sound stacks up. With AKG K701s, I still hear a big difference. The AKG is much less complex musically, cooler, and more strident. They are still great phones, but they don’t stand up to this particular test. But when you substitute the far more expensive Sennheiser HD 800 with a Cardas Clear headphone cable, you’re getting into the same ballpark. The loudspeakers are still more relaxed and musical, sweeter and more three dimensional, but the differences are not great, while the balance across the frequency spectrum is quite similar.

Now let’s move on to the new top of the line Solo Ultra-Linear. The differences between this and the Solo SRGII are quite small, but also quite significant. The Ultra-Linear is the warmer, more natural sounding model, but the differences are less apparent on A/B switching than on extended listening. I found the more expensive Ultra-Linear allowed me to relax more into the music, and appreciate the texture of the instruments and voices. More significantly, the imaging felt more three dimensional and realistic. The frequency response seems pretty much the same, with a very wide extension at both ends, but the treble is sweeter and the bass end has more presence. That does not mean the Ultra-Linear is more accurate, indeed the bass performance of the SRGII may be the more controlled, but the Ultra-Linear sounded more musical. This is a feeling many people have about tube amps as compared to transistor amps, although there are no tubes involved here. Instead Mr. Slee has emulated a tube design while still using transistors. I don’t understand how he’s done this, and he’s none too keen on spilling the beans lest other manufacturers copy his lead. I think he has been successful in bringing the extra warmth and musicality of a good tube design into the Solo Ultra-Linear but we have none of the usual problems with tube failure, excess heat production, high voltages and so on. There is one drawback in the slightly increased level of background noise, but even if it measures noisier, I didn’t experience any issue with either the AKG or Sennheiser phones.

My final test was with the far more sensitive Ultimate Ears UE10Pro custom fit canal earphones. The Solo MC does a good job with these superb phones, but the SRGII is a much better match, since I’m not left struggling with the first 15 degrees of turn in the volume control anymore, and the frequency range seems more extended than before, while the level of detail is significantly higher. But switch to the Solo Ultra-Linear and there is a bigger jump in performance than I noticed with the full size headphones. The music is much warmer and more realistic, without losing any of the detail or extension. It just felt more full bodied and spacious in every direction – a marriage made in heaven. Not as detailed or as open topped as the Sennheiser, but fuller in the bass and with a strong dose of magic, this is the first head amp to draw so much out of these miniature marvels. There is one small caveat. Regardless of the volume setting, there is a constant low level of hiss with the Ultra-linear that is entirely absent with the SRGII. You may not notice it when the music is playing but it is apparent between tracks.

I pulled out all the phones I could find. The Sennheiser HD580 and Sony MDR-V150 showed no hiss at all, the Klipsch Image One had barely detectable hiss, while the Sleek Audio CT6 and Sony MDR W25 showed a slightly higher level than the UE10Pros. Phones that are designed for MP3 players and iPhones may be problematic, while full size phones designed for serious listening will show no symptoms. If you are using exceptionally efficient phones you should try before you buy the Ultra-Linear or stick to the SRGII.
What if, like me, you own an older Graham Slee Solo? Should you pull your hair out over the major refinements available in the SRGII, or the additional but smaller benefits of the Ultra-Linear circuitry? This is where the story gets interesting. You can buy a do-it-yourself upgrade kit to bring your Solo right up to the Ultra-Linear specifications. No need to change anything in the chassis or power supply. Your job will be to remove the old circuit board and replace it with a new one. The upgrade is available for any Solo made since early 2004.

The upgrade kit will set you back just £175 (plus shipping and taxes if applicable), and the skill level required is not very demanding. There is no soldering required, but you will need:

•   A small adjustable wrench
•   2mm AF Allen Key
•   Small flat blade screwdriver
•   M4/7mm AF open ended spanner or nut
spinner
•   No 1 Philips screwdriver
•   No 2 pozi-driver or cranked pozi-driver
See: www.diy-audio-kits.com/kits/diysoloUltra-Linearheadphoneampupgrade.htm.

If this task looks too daunting for you, a factory upgrade is also available. This will involve packing just the main chassis and shipping it over to the UK and forking out £219 (plus shipping and taxes if applicable). The fact that Graham Slee is constantly working to improve his products is of course a good thing. The fact that he offers you two different ways to upgrade your old model to current specs is particularly commendable. How many companies offer that level of service?

If the Solo SRGII ($999) and Solo Ultra-Linear ($1199) are beyond your budget, Graham Slee has three less expensive models that might interest you. An entry level Solo SRGII package is offered with a switched-mode power supply. The Novo Discrete headamp is available assembled ($499) or in kit form. A portable headamp, the Voyager ($349) rounds out the range.

If you can afford the best, remember you can spend a whole lot more and not find any significant improvement over these two Solo models. And yes, I think the extra $200 is well spent on the Solo Ultra-Linear, which is why Graham Slee no longer makes a kit to bring your old Solo up to SRGII specs.

Whatever your taste in music, this formula holds: Sennhesier HD800 + Cardas headphone cable + Solo Ultra-Linear = A high level of musical enjoyment.

Graham Slee
www.gspaudio.co.uk
+44 (0) 1909 568739

Distributed in Canada by Planet of Sound HiFi Inc.
www.planetofsounddistribution.com
(416) 461-3939

Graham Slee Solo Ultra-Linear
Price: $1,199

Graham Slee Solo SRGII
Price: $999

SIDE BAR: Why would you even want a headphone amp?

If you’re into high end audio already, you probably won’t be asking this question. Your main amplifier or preamp most likely does not have a headphone output. You may connect a high quality headphone amp directly to the unbalanced output of your CD player, while the balanced output goes to feed your preamplifier or integrated amplifier. Or you may connect the fixed line level output from your preamp to the headphone amp.

But if your CD player or amplifier already boasts a headphone output jack, why complicate the picture with more boxes and cables? Is the quality so much better? That depends on how good the headphone circuitry is in your current component. Often it’s an inexpensive chip that’s driving the headphone socket, and the limitations are not just in terms of quality. It may do a reasonable job with an easy to drive pair of headphones, not as well as a component like the Solo, but good enough. But if you’ve invested in a high end set of phones like the Sennheiser HD650 or HD800, or a top model from one of the other competing manufacturers, you’ll find these can be very demanding. They will reveal every fault in the headphone circuit of your amp or CD player, and they may very well prove an electrical mismatch in terms of impedance or sensitivity for the headphones you’ve saved up for. With that mismatch you’ll find an uneven frequency response, a lack of dynamics or even a plain inability to drive the phones to realistic levels. You’ll also hear a very flat soundstage, with sounds at each ear rather than appearing solid in space as the best equipment can manage. You certainly won’t get the superb definition and tonal accuracy that today’s best phones can render.

Yamaha, a pioneer in the soundbar category, has just introduced a new soundbar based product; their new YHT-S401 system that provides virtual 7.1 surround sound from two compact, easy-to-place components.

The YHT-S401 consists of an ultra-slim soundbar featuring three 50 watt full range speakers (centre, left and right). This sound bar is matched with a 100 watt subwoofer-integrated receiver that can be oriented either horizontally or vertically for convenient placement.

A mirror black finish and gently curving design define the overall YHT-S401 system. The YHT-S401 system’s surround sound bar has adjustable stands that rotate to ensure the exact height is achieved for placement in front of virtually any TV. The stands can also be removed for wall mounting.

Room filling virtual 7.1 surround sound is achieved through the company’s proprietary AIR SURROUND XTREME. Six surround modes—Movie, Music, Sports, Game, TV Program and Standard—make it easy for the user to find a listening experience best suited for any type of entertainment content. Yamaha’s Clear Voice feature makes dialog and narration easier to hear, enhanced further by the oval center channel speaker which ensures natural sound reproduction with low listening fatigue.

The YHT-S401 offers compatibility with many sources: HDMI (3 in/1 out) supporting 1080p resolution, 3D Video, ARC (Audio Return Channel) and HD Audio formats. A headphone jack enables consumers to enjoy virtual 7.1-channel surround sound from headphones.

For even further enjoyment of music sources, the YHT-S401 also includes a built-in FM tuner, USB connection for iPod/iPhone and a full featured remote control. Yamaha’s Music Enhancer technology is provided to enhance the sound of compressed music files (MP3 and AAC, for example).

The YHT-S401 is now available at a MSRP of: $699.95 U.S.

Look for more details at: www.ca.yamaha.com.

Woo Audio, a company well know to headphone buffs, has just introduced their new flagship tube amplifier, the WA-234 MONO. The new mono-block tube amplifier allows the use of 2A3, 300B, or 45 power tubes, with the simple switch of a key.

Typical tube amplifiers only have a single type of power tube, which can only be substituted with another tube of similar rating. A circuit re-design as well as rewiring are required to use a tube that has a different rating. This is where the WA-234 MONO is different. By inserting different keys into the WA-234 a 2A3, 300B, or 45 tubes can be used with no voltage bias adjustment, rewiring or other parts required.

To switch power tubes or even alternate between headphone and speaker outputs on the amplifier, two types of proprietary switching keys are used: Tube Switching Keys (TSK) and Output Switching Keys (OSK).

In headphone amplifier operation, the Headphone OSK is inserted and the user can then select which tube and corresponding TSK they would like to use. Alternatively, you could choose speaker amplifier operation by substituting the Headphone OSK with the Speaker OSK and then again, selecting your choice of power tube and corresponding TSK. So the WA-234 is essentially both a headphone and speaker amplifier pair with the option of switching power tube in either case. Power tube keys are provided for 2A3, 300B and 45 tubes. Adding to the versatility, there are also different Headphone OSKs for both cathode and plate output to drive both high and low impedance headphones.

Additional features include:
Discrete mono-block, Single-ended, Class-A
Output transformer coupled, EI96 Permalloy core
All triode drive, no semi-conductors.
2A3/300B/45 power tube via Tube Switching Key
Headphone/speaker out via Output Switching Key
Cathode / plate output alternation for headphone
High and low impedance headphone outputs
6SN7 driver, 5U4G rectifier tube
2 RCA and 1 XLR input
3-pin XLR mono output for headphone
Power on plate output 8 watt@300B, 4 watt@2A3, 2 watt@45
Frequency response: 5Hz–62 KHz, -2dB on cathode output
Seiden 46-position stepped attenuator, M-TubeCap, V-Cap
Cursive aluminum casing with CNC machining
Mains supply: 110/220VAC, 50/60Hz
Weight: 60 lbs per channel

The Woo Audio WA-234 amplifier will be offered at an expected MSRP of $10,000 U.S. with availability, yet to be announced. Look for more details at: www.wooaudio.com.

Marantz has just announced the introduction of its new TT42 turntable ($399). The DC Servo belt-driven TT42 is designed as an entry-level turntable ideally suited for the growing numbers of music lovers who are discovering – or rediscovering – the benefits of an analog vinyl listening experience. Notably, for music lovers with amplifiers or receivers that do not include a dedicated phono stage input, the TT42 is also available with a built-in phono preamplifier that boosts volume and equalizes sound, for a suggested retail price of $429 (model TT42P).

The Marantz TT42 offers total user convenience and musical superiority, with a specially designed Moving Magnet cartridge for stellar performance right out of the box. Its low-noise DC servo motor is smooth and quiet running, with a fully floating chassis for uninterrupted LP play. The automatic tone-arm return and stop functions deliver trouble-free operation, while the metal bearing and rubber belt drive add to the response, musicality and overall performance of the component. The result is a vinyl listening solution superbly suited for the modern age, one that will allow everyone to enjoy their old and new record collections in style.

For more info, please visit www.marantz.com.

MarinLogan has just announced that it is shipping the new Motion LX16 bookshelf speakers. The compact speaker incorporates traditional quality wood craftsmanship and minimalistic elegance complemented by extended performance improvements.

The Motion LX16 bookshelf speaker features MartinLogan’s advanced resolution Folded Motion tweeter, a low-distortion 5.25-inch high-excursion woofer, and low-turbulence rear-firing bass port for extended bass performance. Each speaker is wrapped in a thick wood cabinet and styled with a hand-rubbed, high-gloss piano black or black cherrywood finish. The new high-gloss black cherrywood finish has deep cherry undertones and appears almost black in low light, giving them a unique and understated elegance that blends into any environment.

MartinLogan’s signature perforated steel grille appears to float in front of the solidly constructed 3/4-inch thick MDF cabinets. Hidden discretely beneath the grille, the drivers are secured by a solid, black-anodized brushed aluminum baffle that sits flush with the cabinet. Folded Motion tweeters and woofers are seamlessly blended with an advanced topology crossover network featuring polypropylene and low-DF electrolytic capacitors, custom wound inductors, and thermal and current protection. The Motion LX Series also features custom five-way binding posts for connection versatility.

Motion LX16 is available now, priced at $799.95 per pair (US).

For more information, pleases visit http://www.martinlogan.com.

STEEZ is Pioneer’s new brand of portable entertainment products designed for the youthful, passionate and culturally diverse dance community. A first in the industry, STEEZ addresses all dance levels and styles offering products with exclusive features that help dancers practice and perfect their techniques.

From the battle-hardened dance crew to a beginning student, STEEZ gives control like no other portable music system available by personalizing the experience for practice, demos, or even full-on competition.

Offered in three models, the STEEZ systems are priced from $299 to $499 and will be available in November online at www.pioneerelectionics.ca and in-stores.

Each system incorporates the following features:

Dance to the Beat - Each STEEZ music system, when used with a free PC software application1, incorporates features that make it possible for dancers to change music tempo, set choreographed cue points, battle with friends, create smart playlists and more, all seamlessly on-the-fly via the STEEZ unit.

Tempo Control – All three music systems let users change the tempo of the music without changing the pitch. Song tracks can play at slower or faster speeds, enabling dancers to follow along with the pace of the music without distorting the song’s characteristics.

8-Beat Skip – Users can skip forward and back by eight counts with a push of a button.

Dance Cue – Eliminating the need to find a particular point in a track, users can set cue points to make playback begin at a desired spot in a piece of music extremely fast and easy.

Auto DJ Mode – Each player offers non-stop music mix playback based on the genre. An entire music library is automatically categorized and grouped creating a mix based on the style of dance picked by the user.

Dance Boost – The Dance Boost feature emphasizes specific instruments in a track such as the hi-hat and bass drum to make the beats more pronounced and easier to hear. This is ideal for training or teaching when used at low volume levels or in noisy (outdoor) environments.

Remote Control – Each player also comes with an ultra-thin credit card sized wireless remote that eliminates the need for users to run back and forth to the player.

STEEZ music systems also boast a cool Auto Battle Mode that enables users to automatically create a battle sequence, complete with a countdown timer on the player’s LCD screen and voice and tone prompts to signal when 10 seconds of music is left before switching to the next user.

1Select features of STEEZ available when music is analyzed by Pioneer’s free PC software

Highlights of the three STEEZ systems include:

STZ-D10S-L“Solo”
Available in light blue, Solo is ultra-compact and lightweight designed for the individual/beginner dancer at home or other indoor environments.
?    MP3, WMA, AAC, LPCM support
?    4GB internal memory
?    2.4” LED QVGA screen
?    Dock for iPod & iPhone
?    Full range drivers (40mm x 2)
?    5 Watt power output
?    6-AA batteries or AC adapter
The STZ-D10S-L is available in November for a suggested price of $299.

STZ-D10T-G “Duo”
Offered in stylish neon green, Duo is the rugged, go-anywhere model. It’s designed for the intermediate dancer and small dance groups. And, its water resistant design allows for both indoor and outdoor use. The unit features:
?    Sealed iPod & iPhone Enclosure
?    MP3, WMA, AAC, LPCM support
?    4GB internal memory
?    2.4” LED QVGA screen
?    Full range drivers (40mm x 2)
?    5 Watt power output
?    6-AA batteries or AC adapter
The STZ-D10T-G is available in November for a suggested price of $349.

STZ-D10Z-R “Crew”
The largest of the three models, Crew is designed for providing big sound in large or outdoor environments. Offered in flashy red, the unit provides more output and bigger bass performance, perfect for dance crews, instructors and choreographers. The unit features:
?    Large 3.5” LED QVGA screen
?    Tweeters (25mm x 2)
?    Woofers (75mm x 2)
?    Dedicated subwoofers (135mm x 2)
?    40 Watts total power output
?    Sealed iPod & iPhone Enclosure
?    MP3, WMA, AAC, LPCM support
?    4GB internal memory
?    10-D batteries or AC Adapter
The STZ-D10Z-R is available in November for a suggested price of $499

For more info, please visit www.pioneerelectronics.ca.

Red Wine Audio, manufacturer of battery-powered purist hi-fi products, has just recently released two new “budget-friendly” components. The new products are designed and built by hand in the USA and incorporate Red Wine Audio features, including: Premium LiFePO4 (LFP) battery technology, Red Wine’s battery-powered vacuum tube-stage and the company’s automated SMART battery-management system.

Red Wine claims that the new Signature 15 Integrated Amplifier and Corvina Headphone Amplifier offer high-performance at a budget price, with cost reductions primarily coming from a reduced feature list and the utilization of lower cost enclosures.

The Signature 15 Integrated Amplifier is comparable in sonic performance to the company’s more expensive Signature 30.2 but is offered at a substantially lower price.  Providing 15wpc/8ohms or 30wps/4 ohms, the integrated will generally provide best results when used with higher-sensitivity speakers.

The Corvina Headphone Amplifier, gives up an integrated DAC and a few other features with the objective of providing high performance without high cost. The Corvina Headphone Amplifier is offered in both a single-ended and balanced output configuration.

Red Wine Audio offers 100% trade-up credit toward select Red Wine Audio components, protecting client investments in their products, as well as a 30-day return policy.

Both new products will begin shipping late October with the following MSRP:

  • Signature 15 Integrated Amplifier: $1,500 U.S.;
  • Corvina Headphone Amplifier: $1,000 U.S. (single-ended), $1,500 U.S. (balanced)

Look for more details at: www.redwineaudio.com.

Paradigm has just announced the addition of three new subwoofers to its recently announced Monitor Series 7 line.  The new subwoofers feature the same new streamlined aesthetics and smaller footprint of the latest edition of the Monitor series loudspeakers.  The three new Monitor Series 7 subwoofers are: the Monitor SUB 8, Monitor SUB 10 and Monitor SUB 12.  All three subwoofers incorporate a number of trickle-down technologies from Paradigm’s Studio and Signature Series subwoofers, delivered in more conventional and smaller boxes.

The Monitor SUB 8, Monitor SUB 10 and Monitor SUB 12 are engineered around the same single-driver design. The SUB 8 and SUB 10 both feature a mineral-filled polypropylene cone with a new-to-this-series corrugated Santoprene surround (8 and 10 inches, respectively) first seen in the company’s ultra-high-end Signature Series, a 1½-inch 4-layer copper-clad aluminum voice coil, Nomex spider, 4.5 lb ferrite magnet and an AVS die-cast heat sink chassis. The SUB 12 turns up the heat with a 2-inch 4-layer copper-clad aluminum voice coil, 6.5 lb ferrite magnet, along with dual Nomex spiders and AVS die-cast heat sink chassis.

All three subs feature internal Ultra-Class D amplifers delivering 900 watts Dynamic Peak/300 watts RMS Sustained power and boast low frequency extension of 19 Hz (SUB 8), 17 Hz (SUB 10) and 16 Hz (SUB 12) (DIN).  The Monitor subs are wireless-ready; with the addition of Paradigm’s PT-2 transmitter (sold separately), up to four Monitor subwoofers can be daisy-chained simultaneously.

Each sub in the line comes with an integrated USB port for PBK (Paradigm’s Perfect Bass Kit) equalization (sold separately), which analyzes the subwoofer’s response in a room and then sets the correct equalization parameters to obtain optimal sound, even with less-than optimal placement.

Designed, engineered, and manufactured in Paradigm’s state-of-the-art Toronto, Canada facility, the Monitor Series 7 subwoofers are the perfect complement to the newly launched Monitor Series 7 line of loudspeakers.

All three subs are available in Black Ash to match the Monitor Series loudspeakers and estimated US MSRP is: Monitor SUB 8 – $699; Monitor SUB 10 – $849, Monitor Sub 12 – $999.

For more information on Paradigm, visit: www.paradigm.com.

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