George de Sa


Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus

Beyerdynamic has just introduced its new Custom One Pro Plus Headphones – the “PLUS” reflecting additional features and more options for customizing its appearance.  

The headphones come with two connection cables that let users replace the standard plug-in supply line, including a 6.3 mm (1/4”) jack adapter, with the series’ standard headset cable that facilitates hands-free phone calls or online gaming.  With a single-button remote control in the cable calls can be answered or music play paused - works with all current Apple devices and most Android devices.  Using an optional Custome Headset Gear, the headphones can be transformed into a professional headset for even better voice performance. 

Users can pick out more than just the cables for the Custome One Pro Plus - the headband, ear cushions, rings and covers of the earcups can be swapped to match personal taste.  Included are 16 rugged plastic covers allowing users to put together their own look, with everything from an iconic TV test pattern from the 80s, graffiti art, leopard print or the hashtag #happy.

The Plus also offers the legendary CustomSound Sliders, variable bass reflex vents on the earcups that allow users to regulate the amount of bass in the music. Users can change the sound profile of their headphones to suit any musical style – from intense beats to balanced reference monitoring and back via adjustable ports.

The new Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus headphone will be available in mid-January 2015, with pricing yet to be announced.  Look for more information online at

 Burson Audio Conductor Virtuoso

Burson Audio has just introduced their new Conductor Virtuoso – a new model that supercedes all previous Conductor models.

The Conductor Virtuoso is a USB DAC, Headphone Amplifier and Preamplifier that is highly-engineered yet modestly-priced.  It provides up to 4 watts of power, which is sufficient to drive virtually any consumer headphone and the preamp functionality allows it to serve as the center of a headphone and speaker-based desktop system or even a larger speaker system in combination with a power amplifier, such as Burson’s Timekeeper power amp.

Burson has significantly upgraded and refined previous generations of the Conductor. Besides big power, the Conductor Virtuoso includes a new, stunning 100-step volume control with a fresh and easy-to-read display. When the Virtuoso is turned on the volume indicators appear on the face of the thick, antiresonant aluminum front plate.

A modulur design allows consumers to choose from two interchangeable DAC boards with different sonic characteristics and be ready for when the time comes to upgrade.  Rather than use inferior opamps, Burson has utilized all discrete circuitry for superior tonality, clarity and a lower noise floor, within the Conductor Virtuoso.  The remote control is carved from solid aluminum with no visible screws.

The Conductor Virtuoso is shipping now with the ESS9018 Sabre DAC at a MSRP of: $1,995 U.S.  A Burr Brown PCM1793 DAC version is priced at $1,495U.S.  Look for more information at:

Thiel Audio TT1

THIEL Audio has announced their new TT1 floorstanding loudspeaker.  Part of the THIEL Audio’s new 3rd Avenue Collection, the TT1 is named after the iconic Nashville thoroughfare where THIEL is now based.  The 3rd Avenue Collection will feature speakers for traditional 2-channel as well as home cinema.

The TT1 is an expression of a revitalized THIEL brand and expresses an elegant form, while incorporating a advanced acoustical design and manufacturing techniques.   The TT1 aims to deliver neutrality – avoiding unwanted colorations and distortion.

The THIEL TT1 utilizes a 4-driver array and multi-order crossover network in a heavily braced, vented MDF enclosure.  Sculpted elliptical side panels are unique and require proprietary tooling to create.  The rigid baffle construction and midrange mounting architecture have been engineered with a focus on back-wave optimization, resulting in unusually flat response and overall clarity.  

THIEL claims that the TT1 is the highest expression of performance from THIEL.  The TT1 is available in premium Rosewood and Walnut veneers as well as White and Black gloss finishes.  The TT1 will be available in Q1-2015 at at MSRP of $5798 U.S. / pair.  All THIEL loudspeakers feature a 10-year warranty.  Look for more details at:

Denon PMA-50

Denon has just announced their new PMA-50 Stereo Amplifier with next generation music playback options including digital inputs: optical, coaxial, USB-B, as well as, wireless Bluetooth connectivity.

The new PMA-50 is a full digital stereo amplifier that provides high performance in a very compact package.  The PMA-50 features Denon’s original sound technologies such as Advanced AL32 Processing and DAC Master Clock.  The amplifier section incorporates DDFA technology from CSR.  The output stage circuit has a discrete construction, which realizes higher signal-to-noise-ratio, and lower distortion compared to conventional class D amplifiers.  This advanced amplifier system delivers superior audio fidelity along with high amplifier efficiency at 50W into 4 ohms.  A subwoofer pre-out is at hand for adding even more bass to the sound.

There are multiple digital inputs (2 optical and 1 coaxial) for compatibility with digital audio sources, along with an analog stereo input for legacy analog sources.  The PMA-50 also has a USB-B connection for connecting a PC or Mac to play high-res PCM and DSD audio tracks.  PCM tracks up to 24-bits/192-kHz and 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz DSD tracks are supported.  To eliminate PC-induced digital noise via the USB input, the PMA-50 features a dedicated noise isolation block prior to the digital amplifier.

Moreover, favorite audio tracks can be played from portable devices via the PMA-50′s Bluetooth connectivity, which features quick and easy pairing via the Bluetooth button on the front panel. For even faster pairing, the PMA-50 features NFC™ (Near Field Communication). By activating an NFC-enabled Bluetooth device and placing it next to the N mark on the PMA-50 (located on the side panel), it’s instantly paired with no need for manual passcode entry. For CD-quality audio playback, the PMA-50 features the latest generation CSR aptX Low Latency decoding, which provides optimum time synchronization when playing back audio from video sources with no lip sync issues.

The PMA-50 is equipped with a dedicated headphone amplifier circuit that features a high speed ultra-low distortion wideband op amp that’s paired with a fully discrete final output stage. In order to accommodate the widest range of headphone types, the PMA-50 features an adjustable headphone impedance control, with three settings for low, medium, and high impedance headphones. These provide proper matching of headphone impedance and amplifier gain.

The stylish and elegant compact chassis features deluxe finishes including soft aluminum matte with bright silver tone accents and glossy and matte black surfaces. It is sized to fit just about anywhere, including home and office desktops, home studios, and it can be positioned horizontally as well as vertically. Removable feet and screw caps make re-configuring a breeze. For total convenience, the supplied remote control features an ergonomically-designed layout that includes a cursor keypad, source select and volume controls, setup menu and back buttons, a Bluetooth button and a display dimmer button.

Denon PMA-50 Lifestyle Stereo Amplifier – Key Features
• 50W into 4 ohms full digital power amplifier for powerful and detailed sound
• Advanced AL32 Processing and DAC Master Clock Design
• 2x optical, coaxial and USB type B digital inputs capable of 192kHz/24bit High Resolution Audio
• USB-B Input supports DSD 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz High Resolution Audio
• Computer noise isolation block
• Bluetooth built in, with aptX® Low Latency and NFC
• High quality headphone output with gain control to support a wide range of headphones
• Subwoofer pre-out
• Horizontal or vertical placement
• Clear view OLED – shows input source indication – rotates automatically with horizontal or vertical positioning of unit

The PMA-50 is expected to be available in January 2015 at a MSRP of: $599 U.S. in either black/silver.  Look for more information at:


Schiit Magni 2 and Modi 2

Schiit Audio is following up their original Magni headphone amplifier and Modi USB DAC that were introduced about two years ago, with next generation: Magni 2 and Modi 2 models, as well as Uber models of each of these latest versions.  The Magni 2 and Modi 2 hold at the same price as the original but have added flexibility and performance, while the Magni 2 Uber and Modi 2 Uber take the up the performance level even further, while still remaing very affodable.   

The Magni 2 now has gain switching and the Modi 2 now has 24/192 capability.  The Uber Magni 2 adds preamp outputs and higher power, while the Modi 2 Uber is  essentially a mini-Bifrost, with optical, coaxial, and USB inputs.  
Next Gen Models and Pricing:
Magni 2: all-new discrete headphone amp with 1.2W RMS per channel and switchable high/low gain, together with a refined constant-feedback gain stage at $99 U.S. 
Magni 2 Uber: all-new discrete headphone amp with 1.5W RMS per channel, switchable high/low gain, preamp outputs, and even more sophisticated constant-feedback gain stage, as well as 24VA wall transformer (3x larger than Magni) and aluminum top chassis and knob – for $149 U.S.
Modi 2: all-new USB asynchronous DAC with switchable USB Class 1 and Class 2 modes. USB Class 1 remains driverless for all supported computers, USB Class 2 adds 24/192 capability, but requires drivers for Windows – for $99 U.S.
Modi 2 Uber: all-new USB, optical, and coaxial three-input DAC running full USB Class 2 for 24/192 capability through all inputs. Essentially a mini Bifrost. AC linear power supply with included 8VA wall transformer. Aluminum pushbutton and top chassis – for $149 U.S.
All Schiit products are Made in the USA.  The Magni 2, Magni 2 Uber, Modi 2 and Modi 2 Uber are all now available.  Look for more details at:

Heimdall 2 usb_2 (Custom) editors choice

Heimdall (properly pronounced as “HYM-doll”) is the Old Norse god who vigilantly guards Asgard, the heavenly realm of the mighty Norse gods, including Odin and Thor.  If you’ve seen the Marvel Comics Thor movie series, you’ll recall Heimdall as the austere character that stands guard on the rainbow bridge Bifröst.  What does this have to do with Nordost’s Heimdall 2 Cables, other than the name?  Stay tuned, I’ll come back to it.

Moving from mythology to fact, Nordost has been around for over twenty years, having its start in Massachusetts, U.S.A. back in 1991.  We recently did a special feature article on Nordost and its products, which was published in our June/July 2014 issue.  If you haven’t read it, you can easily find it in the Nordost section of our website:

Nordost produces four series of cable products, those being: Leif, Norse 2, Valhalla Reference and their flagship, the Odin Supreme Reference series.   In addition, there are also two other product families within their stable: the Sort Systems vibration control product line the QRT Power product line.

I’ve been experimenting with a few different cables in my system over the past couple years and though I’ve heard Nordost cables in other systems many times, I never had a chance to try them in my own system.  This summer, I was looking to upgrade my two-channel reference music system’s entire cable loom and decided to try one of the lines within Nordost’s Norse 2 Series, specifically the Heimdall 2.  I’ll share my experiences with you but first, let me introduce you to the Nordost Norse 2 Series.

Norse 2 Series
The Norse 2 series sits second up from Nordost’s entry-level Leif series and in turn, contains three cable lines: Heimdall 2, Frey 2 and Tyr 2, in ascending order, in terms of price and performance. Norse 2 was introduced in January 2012 and incorporates much of the knowledge and innovation that Nordost acquired in developing their Valhalla Reference and Odin flagship cable series.  Key to the Norse 2 series performance advantage is its proprietary Micro Mono-Filament construction; pioneered in the Valhalla Reference series.

Micro Mono-Filament Construction creates a virtual air dielectric complete with an elegantly engineered suspension system.  Why is this beneficial?  The best dielectric (least impinging) is a pure vacuum; the next is air – both virtually impossible to achieve in any practical sense.  Teflon, the trademarked name for FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) is the next best dielectric.  Micro Mono Filament Technology involves winding a FEP thread around the conductor, which is then encased in an outer FEP jacket.  This results in the conductor contacting the FEP only 20% of the time, while it remains in just air for the other 80%; a near perfect situation that dramatically reduces any negative effects on signal transfer.

The Micro Mono-Filament FEP Construction of Norse 2 is combined with very high-quality materials; in this case, solid-core conductors of Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) with 99.99999% purity and 60µm silver-plating, to ensure ultra-fast, low-loss signal transfer.  In addition, Nordost uses optimized conductor dimensions and asymmetrical grounding topology to maximize the performance of Norse 2 cables.

These key Norse 2 features apply to all three cable lines within the series, namely: Heimdall 2, Frey 2 and Tyr 2.  Heimdall 2, though the lowest line within Norse 2, has the broadest set of product offerings, including: analog interconnects, digital interconnects, speaker cables, headphone cables, an iKable, tonearm cables and power cords.  For the purposes of this review Nordost provided me with a complete loom of their Heimdall 2 cables that included: a single pair of 4m speaker cables with banana plugs ($2,709.99/pair), a couple sets of 1m RCA & XLR interconnects ($939.99/pair), a 1.5m Heimdall 2 Digital S/PDIF BNC/RCA interconnect ($889.99/each), a couple 2m power cords ($839.99/each) as well as a single 3m power cord ($1,049.99/each) to run between a Nordost QRT QBASE QB8 power distribution unit ($1,399.99/each) to the wall-plug of the dedicated circuit in my listening room.

The Audition:
With all these cables at my disposal, where was the best place to start?  As mentioned in the aforementioned Nordost section on our website, Nordost suggests that the best place to start upgrading cables is at the start of the power chain and then following the signal path.  Simply put, this means beginning with the power cables then power distribution, followed by interconnects before ending off with the speaker cables.  According to Nordost, AC power distribution and grounding provides the greatest impact on performance.  I followed this approach in implementing the Heimdall 2 cables in my system.  A point to note is that Nordost burnt in their cables for me at the factory, so with a little warm-up time, I was good to go.

My reference system includes the following: Simaudio Neo 350p preamplifier (review forthcoming); Bryston 4B-SST2 amplifier; Rega Apollo CDP; MS-Vista HP PC paired to a Squeeze Box Touch; Furutech ADL Esprit DAC; Goldring GR1.2 turntable with Pro-Ject Phonobox II SE and quadral Aurum Montan VIII loudspeakers.  Cables include: Kimber Kable PBJ & Hero RCA interconnects; Kimber Kable 8TC and 4PR speaker cables and; a DH Labs D-750 digital-coax interconnect.
Picture 1135

Power Cables:
We are all too familiar with the garden hose thick, heavy, inflexible, tech-flex covered variety of aftermarket power cables that audiophiles seem drawn to; I myself am not immune to associating bigger (in this case thicker) with better.  The Nordost Heimdall 2 power cord; however, takes a different path.  Heimdall 2 power cords are slender and limber specimens that have a rather futuristic look – I could easily picture them in a sci-fi flick (prop departments take note!).  As well, their vibrant red colour, smooth skin and slender profile give them what I would refer to as (and I might be alone here) an almost edible candy-like appeal – those with young children or a sweet tooth, beware.  The cables are terminated with substantial black plastic plugs that have visible brass screws – reminiscent of commercial grade plugs – though a step above in apparent refinement.  I found that the plugs fit very well, which gave me confidence in their contact.  Along with the standard Norse 2 features mentioned above (i.e. Micro Mono-Filament FEP Construction & solid-core, 99.99999% OFC with 60µm silver-plating) the power cables have the following specifications: 3 x 16 AWG conductors; 10pF/ft capacitance; 4.0 Ohms per 1000ft/304M DC resistance; 15 Amp – power rating (termination dependent) and; a signal propagation delay of 85% light speed.

Following the suggested implementation strategy, mentioned above, I first inserted the power cables, replacing the power cord on my CDP, preamp and amp.  I held-off on the QB8 power distribution bar, instead plugging the power cords directly to my dedicated circuit wall sockets.  The result, quite frankly, was a surprise that had me riveted.  Spatial cues were enhanced, along with micro dynamics.  Before me was a larger soundstage with increased image size, along with richer tonal colour and complexity.  Listening to Shelby Lynne’s sultry and impressively recorded album Just A Little Lovin’ served to provide me with deeper insight.  The title track on this album is amazing and I’ve become very familiar with its subtleties.  The opening kick-drum always gets me and with the Heimdall 2 power cables in place, the dynamic impact, though having a familiar magnitude, was clearly faster on the uptake, bringing with it a greater sense of the drum skin and making the experience that much more real.  From another perspective, the opening cymbal strike came across with greater extension but also seemed to jump out from what I perceived as a quieter background.  Listening to the tapping of the hi-hat, I was taken aback by the abundance of harmonic complexity; noticeably more consistency to its timely clash.  Shelby’s vocal style is enthralling and with the Heimdall 2 power cords even more so.  There was a lovely smoothness to her vocalizations and with it came greater warmth, without any compromise in detail.  When an instrument is rendered with more intricacy, it gains expression and this is exactly what I heard with the bass guitar, while the lead guitar also revealed an extra level of micro-detail, increasing my engagement.  All of this sat within an imaged venue that was now larger, more open – gaining depth and even height, rising up in the upper corners.Lg-Qrt-QB8-US (Custom)

Cary Audio DMC-600

Cary Audio has just announced the release of two new products which they claim to be their best digital products to-date.  The two new models are the DMC-600 and DMC-600SE Digital Music Centers.  Both new Digital Music Centres allow for the continued enjoyment of CD collections while bringing high resolution & super high resolution Asynchronous USB computer audio to the listening chair. 

The DMC-600 and DMC-600SE support PCM up to 32 bit/ 384 kHz native audio as well as native DSD 64, 128, and 256 audio.  In addition, both include: CSR aptX lossless Bluetooth, SPDIF coaxial and Toslink inputs, AES/EBU inputs, fully balanced XLR and RCA outputs, TruBit Upsampling technology and our DiO vacuum tube and solid state analog outputs.  The DMC-600SE takes performance up a notch over the DMC-600 by incorporating reference grade components within the analog output sections, as well as a clock input for use with an external master clock. 

Key Features: 

Multiple Parallel DAC Topology: Utilizes 3 DACS consisting of 6 channels (3 per side) to create a fully balanced parallel circuit with exceptional clarity and detail. DSP, upsampling and clocking duties are done by a separate 128 bit DSP engine, allowing the DACs to focus on straight D to A conversion.
CSR aptX lossless Technology featuring fi Bluetooth Implementation: Fully integrating (fi) Bluetooth digital signals into the entire digital circuit whereby using all features such as TruBit Upsampling, OSO Reclocking, DiO outputs, and more to ensure true high fi sound.
TruBit Upsampling: A sophisticated and powerful process utilizing a 128 bit DSP engine (separate from the DACs) which allows for up to seven (7) different selectable upsampling rates creating a signal so precise as if it were native, all the way up to 768kHz.  
OSO Reclocking: Double reclocking of all signals again once onboard, even XMOS USB, as to ensure all jitter is virtually eliminated to a minute degree. The result is a signal so free of digital artifacts as if it was generated within the unit itself.  
XMOS xCore USB Asynchronous: XMOS asynchronous clocking for computer USB sources whereas the XMOS processor takes complete control over the audio clock; essential for no-compromise digital audio systems.
DiO Analog Stage: DiO Analog Stage is actually two separate analog output stages that are completely independent of one another. One is all solid state and the other is vacuum tube. It’s like having two source machines in one allowing you to get the most out of your recordings.

The DMC-600 and the DMC-600SE will begin shipping on December 10, 2014 at the following MSRPs: DMC-600 $5,995 U.S. / DMC-600SE $7,995 U.S.  Look for more details on these products at:

AudioQuest liquid wood headphone

AudioQuest has just recently introduced their first headphone, the NightHawk, designed by Skylar Gray.  The new headphone leverages the know-how that AudioQuest has acquired with its high-performance DACs (digital-to-analog converters), phono cartridges, audio/video cables, and numerous accessories.

The NightHawk brings together advanced manufacturing techniques and driver technologies with sustainable materials within an attractive and comfortable product that gives a sense of quality beyond its reasonable price.  

NightHawk is the first completely original production headphone to use a 3D-printed part—a biomimetic grille (inspired by the underlying structure of butterfly wings) that uses a complex diamond-cubic latticework to diffuse sound and defeat resonances. NightHawk’s 50mm pistonic drivers have a biocellulose diaphragm designed to take advantage of the material’s outstanding rigidity and high-frequency control, while its patented split-gap motor has been devised to significantly reduce intermodulation distortion.


Among NightHawk’s many intelligent innovations is a flexible headband that efficiently distributes the headphones’ weight, providing a sure and simple fit designed to minimize clamping force and enable long listening sessions. NightHawk’s earcups are made from a revolutionary material known as “Liquid Wood”—actual wood that has been combined with reclaimed plant fiber, heated, liquefied, and processed in such a way that it can be injection molded. Unlike typical plastic, Liquid Wood has outstanding acoustic properties and is environmentally friendly.  In addition, NightHawk’s patent-pending suspension system allows its earcups to move freely, accommodating heads of any shape or size, while decoupling the earcups from one another, further counteracting harmful resonances.

As seen in the use of its Liquid Wood earcups and biocellulose driver diaphragm, NightHawk carefully balances innovations in headphone design with innovations in sustainability and responsible engineering. To that end, even NightHawk’s packaging reflects designer Skylar Gray’s belief that an intelligent design should minimize waste, culling all unnecessary parts and leaving behind only those that are vital to the product’s success. Forgoing the luxurious cardboard-and-plastic packaging of today’s popular headphones, NightHawk is packaged in a leatherette carrying case with a simple sleeve and original artwork by the acclaimed freelance graphic designer Justin Maller—a packaging solution that is as simple as it is intelligent, responsible, and beautiful.        

The new AudioQuest NightHawk will be available in 2015 but no specific date has been shared nor has pricing been announced.  More information on the AudioQuest NightHawk headphones is available at the following website:

Audio Technica headphone

Audio-Technica has just announced their SonicPro ATH-MSR7 Over-Ear Hi-Res Audio Headphones.  The ATH-MSR7 incorporates Audio-Technica’s exclusive True Motion Drivers that have been developed to deliver extraordinary detail, clarity and imaging with a natural tonal balance and extended dynamic range. 

The new Sonic Pro model aims to deliver the musical nuances and fidelity that Hi-Res Audio, DSD and other uncompressed and lossless digital formats are able to provide – bringing studio reference reprodcution to consumers who desire to hear their favourite tracks in the manner they were intended to be heard.

The ATH-MSR7 uses 45mm True Motion Drivers that are lightweight with a highly responsive voice coil and diaphragm; in addition, Multi-Layer Air Damping Technology with a two-layer aluminum/magnesium housing is used, providing a lightweight yet rigid structure for the drivers and reducing unwanted internal vibrations that could distort sonics.  Within the multi-layer structure are three precisely placed air vents for airflow that enhance dynamics. The housing is specially shaped to “mirror” the physical structure of the ear to enhance low-frequency sounds.  In addition, the ATH-MSR7 incorporates a mesh acoustic resistor that improves high-frequency response, and a low-frequency acoustic resistor for extended, accurate bass. 

Designed for total comfort the headphones have cushioned, soft, memory foam earpads, swivel earcups and a padded headband for fit and comfort.  

The ATH-MSR7 is supplied with a detachable 4-foot smartphone-compatible cable with an integrated controller and microphone that let the wearer answer phone calls and control music/video playback from compatible smartphones and other devices, including Android-based systems, iPhone, iPad and iPod. The ATH-MSR7 also comes with a standard 4-foot and 10-foot cable and a carrying pouch.

The Audio-Technica SonicPro ATH-MSR7 Over-Ear High-Resolution Audio Headphones will be available in March 2015 at a MSRP of: $249.95 U.S. They have a two-year warranty.  Look for more information at:


Muzik has just announced the availability of their smart and socially-connected wireless headphones – the Muzik On-Ear Smart Headphone.  The product had an initial debut in July 2013 that raised funding of $10 million and the product itself has taken over two years to develop. 

Over the past year, Muzik has collaborated with top engineers, music moguls, and industry leaders to collaborate further on bringing the world’s first truly “smart” and intuitive headphone to market.  The headphones come with intuitive touch controls, high-definition audio, voice command, long-range wireless capabilities, motion sensors, one-touch phone answering and social-sharing—all controlled directly from the headset. Muzik also developed an easy-to-use software development kit to enhance the user experience via third party apps developed specifically for its platform. As a result of its software-centric design, Muzik can send updates, applications and new features to listeners as they are released—allowing the product to evolve over time, beyond the capabilities of traditional headphones.

Ergonomically designed for superior fit and comfort, the headphones also sport foldable design, aluminum construction and dense memory foam cushions for style and comfort, as well as studio-quality drivers to provide a true HD audio experience.

Muzik smart headphones are available now at for $299 U.S. and will begin shipping in early December.