Suave Kajko

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If you’re a music lover that lives in the Toronto area and you haven’t been to Angie’s Audio Corner yet, I encourage you to jump in your car this weekend and check it out.  It is truly one of the greatest audio stores in Canada and an amazing playground for those passionate about music.  Angie’s Audio Corner is a gorgeous historic house that’s been converted into a high-end audio store.  Every room in the house features a dedicated audio system, some feature more than one system, consisting of different components and there are lots of rooms to explore.  The store is located at 12261 Yonge Street in Richmond Hill, ON (905-773-7810).

This week I had the opportunity to spend a little time at Angie’s Audio Corner and discover what new products are on demonstration.  One of the beautiful aspects of this store is that nearly every time I visit it, there is something new to see and listen to.

This time around I had the pleasure of sitting down to listen to a 2-channel system consisting of Bel Canto Black components and Focal’s magnificent Stella Utopia EM speakers ($95,000).  The Bel Canto Black is a brand new high-end audio system that strives to achieve the highest level of audio performance, while offering connection and control simplicity.  A prototype of this system was shown at TAVES 2013 and now the production version is available for demonstration at Angie’s Audio Corner.  The new Black range contains only two components – the ASC1 Asynchronous Stream Controller and the MPS1 Mono Block PowerStream (amplifier).  A complete audio system, consisting of the ASC1 controller and two MPS1 amplifiers retails for $55,000.  The music source was a Sooloos music server system ($8,000 approx.), along with a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive.  Music selection here can be performed using the Sooloos touch screen interface or a smart phone/table app.  The Bel Canto Black controller can also be controlled by your smart phone or tablet.  And there was no shortage of music for me to choose from – Angie’s got every genre of music on offer – from the Dire Straits to Elvis to Tchaikovsky, and everything in-between.

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The ASC1 Asynchronous Stream Controller features a number of proprietary technologies that Bel Canto has been developing for many years.  Its rear panel offers a bank of mostly digital inputs, but it will also accept a single analog source.  The MPS1 Mono Block PowerStream (amplifier) pumps out a jaw-dropping 1200 watts and is stable down to 2 ohms.  It is not only capable of producing the cleanest possible amplification that money can buy, but it’ll also power pretty well any speaker on the market.  The ASC1 and the dual MPS1′s are wired together with supplied fiber optic cables.

I started my listening with one of my favourite bands Air and their “Moon Safari” album, then transitioned to the Dire Straits, Tom Petty and others.  I was immediately sucked into the music by this system’s transparency and incredible clarity.  There were absolutely no hints of noise or distortion.  The background of clean recordings was completely black – perhaps this is exactly where the name Bel Canto Black comes from.  When a music system reproduces audio with such a quite background and accuracy, the end product is simply music nirvana.  The most subtle instrument and vocal details emanated from the music.  Tom Petty has never sounds better, or truer to life.  The blackness of the background also allowed for amazing separation between various parts of the soundstage, which was vast in its 3-dimensionality.  I could have sat there for many hours listening to music, with a big grin on my face.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – and if you don’t have quite enough 100 dollar bills in your wallet for this system, Bel Canto offers numerous, more approachable components.  Of course the Bel Canto Black is just one of the many different systems that you can listen to at this store.

So if you have time this weekend or the next, go listen to some music at Angie’s Audio Corner.  Trust me, you’ll have lots of fun.  – Suave Kajko -

For more info about the Bel Canto Black music system, please go to www.belcantoblack.com.

Now let me leave you with a few images I took during my visit.

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UFi Speakers and a USub by Ultralink (Custom)

We love great tunes but we hate bad sound.  That’s why decided to outfit one of our lucky readers with a pair of UFi computer speakers and a subwoofer by Ultralink!  These speakers may be very compact but they offer a far more accurate sound than typical computer speakers.  At just three-inches squared these powered speakers are personal and portable, ideal for your computer desk or on the go – they are small enough to fit in your luggage while travelling.  The USub on the other hand adds a great bottom end to the music.  To qualify for the giveaway just ‘Like’ CANADA HiFi on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  Then simply tell us how often you listen to music on your computer (on our Facebook or Twitter page)!  The winner will be announced on February 7th, 2014.  All of our existing social media fans will also qualify for this giveaway by answering the question.  Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Axiom Audio ADA 1500 Multichannel Amplifier web

An audio amplifier can easily be compared to a car engine.  You may not always need its full power but you’ll be glad to have it when the situation calls for it. When listening to music or watching a movie, there are plenty of occasions that rely on the amplifier to occasionally deliver a copious amount of power.  A good dedicated amplifier shouldn’t be all about brute force of course, its job is equally important in providing superior musical details and clarity.  While an AV receiver may be good enough for most home theatres, there is no question that if you desire the most accurate sound from your music or movies, you should look to a powerful, high quality dedicated amplifier.  Axiom Audio aims to fulfill this need with its ADA 1000, ADA 1250 and ADA 1500 series amplifiers. The higher the series number, the more power the amplifier offers and the more it is capable of driving lower impedance speakers. Each amplifier series can be ordered in two to eight channel configurations.

For this review we asked Axiom Audio to provide us with its top of the line ADA 1500 amplifier in a seven channel configuration, priced at $3,630.  For comparison, a seven channel ADA 1000 model goes for a very reasonable $1,580.  The ADA 1500 may not be the biggest, nor the baddest looking amplifier but don’t be fooled by its appearance, this is one mighty amplifier.  Its design combines a class-D amplifier with a massive toroidal transformer and a large storage capacitance of 144,000 uf.  When driving two channels simultaneously this amplifier is capable of outputting a whopping 325 watts per channel into an 8 ohm load, and doubling that into 650 watts with a 4 ohm load.  My seven channel review model is rated at a remarkable 214 watts per channel with both 8 and 4 ohm loads, with all channels driven.  These power ratings are achieved with less than 1% distortion and measured from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The rear panel of the amplifier offers both single ended RCA and balanced XLR inputs, along with gold plated multi-way speaker binding posts.  The ADA 1000 series amplifiers offer just the RCA inputs.  A 12 volt trigger allows this amplifier to be powered on automatically by a preamp, while the removable power cord means you can try an upgraded cord.  The flat black chassis is constructed out of heavy gauge steel and finished with a 10mm machine aluminium faceplate. At 28 kg (58 lbs), the ADA 1500 is a hefty component and built like a tank.

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While you might consider connecting the ADA 1500 to an AV receiver as an intermediate upgrade of your home theatre, to fully realize its potential it should be set up with a dedicated preamplifier/processor.  I connected it to the incredible Anthem Statement D2v 3D A/V processor, which was awarded the Editor’s Choice in the previous issue of the magazine.  The speakers I used were my reference Monitor Audio GX Gold series.

So the ADA 1500 certainly looks good on paper but how does it sound?  Well, now came the fun part of the review.  I spun up Star Trek Into Darkness on Blu-ray in my Cambridge Audio 751BD player and planted myself on the couch. This highly dynamic soundtrack would be an excellent tool for testing this amplifier’s capabilities.  From the get go, this film served up a mix of scenes ranging from the whisper-quiet to ones that shook my room.  The ADA 1500 delivered the quieter scenes with amazing resolution and clarity.  When the onscreen action suddenly demanded a beefed up audio presentation the amplifier offered plenty of power, giving proper weight to the instrumental movie score, character voices and sound effects.  When asked to reproduce louder film passages that consist of many audio layers,  a lower quality amplifier, or a typical AV receiver, will often mash all the layers together, making the individual components tough to distinguish.  This can result in audio that sounds harsh.  But that was far from the case here.  The ADA 1500 resolved all of the various layers with ease, even during the most demanding scenes. The excellent dynamics, power and control translated into an experience that was more realistic and vibrant than you could ever experience from an AV receiver.

My Monitor Audio Gold GX speakers are relatively easy to drive (the GX 200 fronts have a sensitivity of89 dB and the GXFX surrounds are rated at 87 dB) and so they didn’t pose much of a challenge for this amplifier.  But the beauty of an amplifier like the ADA 1500 is that it is designed to power far less efficient speakers, like many of Axiom’s own 4 ohm models.
The action sequence at the beginning of World War Z on Blu-ray instantly put the ADA 1500 through the ringer.  As the garbage truck plowed through the street jam-packed with cars, this powerful scene was filled with smashing metal, breaking glass, screeching tires and dozens of horns, among other sounds.  The ADA 1500 easily sorted through all these sounds and reproduced them with a frightening realism.  In many other parts of the movie, the sound of people screaming and gunshots were chillingly real.  With the  volume turned up, I was getting a true movie theatre experience from the comfort of my couch.  I have to admit, I don’t normally watch zombie-type movies and the combination of the picture and the aggressive soundtrack had me freaked right out.
With the Axiom Audio ADA-1500 amplifier and the Anthem Statement D2v 3D A/V processor spending a good deal of time in my home theatre I was able to watch many different movies, and enjoyed the audio with great pleasure from every single film.  This wonderful duo of components also significantly raised my gaming experience on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.  But movies and games are only a part of the performance equation here, as I had more rigorous music tests scheduled on the way.

Toronto’s own Ray Montford’s “A Fragile Balance” CD (2-channel) played with great fluidity and richness. The musical details and clarity achieved when listening to theses tracks through the ADA 1500 reached an excellent level of immersion and engagement. Thanks to the fact that the Anthem A/V processor was so transparent I could effortlessly identify the tones of different guitars and the various effects applied, from one track to the next.  Drums and bass notes played with speed and tightness, while high hats and cymbals sounded crisp and sparkly.  The performance had a great sense of presence, I felt almost as if the performers where playing their instruments right in front of me.

While listening to Florence + the Machine “MTV Unplugged” album, the ADA 1500 once again showed its ability to clearly resolve the various musical layers and lay out a wide, deep soundstage.  Florence Welch’s voice was directly in the centre, with backup vocals further back and to the right, the string instruments to the left and the drums deeper on the stage.  All of the nuances of Welch’s distinct voice were reproduced with amazing clarity and the acoustic reflections helped to visualize the atmosphere of the original recording venue.

Two- channel classical recordings sounded just as impressive here as I would expect them to on a high-end two-channel system.  With Holst “The Planets” performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra, the ADA 1500 laid out a very wide, deep soundstage that even offered a good amount of height. The various parts of the orchestra were clearly positioned within the soundstage, yet they played with perfect harmony. Every individual component of the orchestra played with the richness of a real instrument.  Percussion instruments had fast attacks and realistic decays.  Strings sounded woody and organic.  Woodwind instruments sounded light and airy, offering fine details.  What I was hearing here in my home theatre approached my 2-channel system’s dangerously close, although there were a few observable differences.  My 2-channel system did offer slightly improved soundstaging and a greater amount of air around voices and instruments.  The overall tonality was a little warmer and the high frequencies sounded just a tad more neutral, both of these factors likely thanks to the tube-based ModWright Instruments LS 100 preamp.  But this is really just nitpicking.

Delighted with the 2-channel performance, I decided to switch gears and listen to some music that employs the surround channels.   Nine Inch Nails’ “With Teeth” DVD-Audio sounded just wicked in surround.  Regardless of how high I turned up the volume, the soundstage always kept its composure and I never detected any strain – I believe me, at times I like to listen very loud.  Another indication of the quality I was getting here was that I listened to track after track at high levels, yet my ears didn’t seem to mind at all.

Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” SACD was nothing shy of spectacular.  The alarm bells at the beginning of “Time” rang with the realism and veracity of dozens of clocks.  The mid-bass and bass played tunefully with precise articulation. Smooth highs and deep but very tight bass.

Collective Soul “Home” Blu-ray is no ordinary rock concert.  The combination of the rock band with the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra is simply intoxicating and makes for a fantastic disc to test an audio system.  The ADA 1500 provided more than enough power for the highly dynamic passages and allowed me to crack the volume up to real rock concert levels.  The audio reproduction was so very realistic, I got goose bumps when familiar songs came up.  As requested by Ed Roland, I joined in for a sing along with some of the tracks.  Despite the loud distorted guitars, the most delicate of instruments like harps and flutes were always clearly audible.  Before I knew it, I was about 30 minutes into the performance and didn’t take any notes for this review. The sound was so engaging I simply got completely lost in the performance.

Some class D amplifiers can sound a little harsh and ‘digital’ so I listened very closely for any signs of this when auditioning this amplifier.  Believe me, I tried pretty hard but I really can’t say that I detected any hard edges or harshness.

Evaluating this amplifier turned out to be genuinely fun.  The Axiom Audio ADA 1500 is a solid performer and a clear winner in my books.  It has the power to drive just about any speakers and offers dynamics, sonic precision, clarity and transparency that only a standalone amplifier is capable of.  The ADA 1500 is designed to offer a clean, detailed sound at high volume levels in the largest of rooms.  Sonically it offer the delicate qualities of a new-born puppy and raw energy of hungry lion.  If you’re working with a tighter budget and a medium or smaller room, you might want to consider the ADA 1250 or ADA 1000 series.  As with Axiom Audio speakers, these amplifiers can only be purchased directly from the company’s website, come with a 30 day home-trial, and a five year warranty.  Once you discover what it means to have a dedicated amplifier for your music and home theatre needs, there is just no going back.

Axiom Audio
www.axiomaudio.com
1-866-244-8796

Axiom Audio ADA 1500 Multichannel Amplifier
Price: $3,630 CAD

Serene Audio Talisman Active Speakers

If you’re an avid music listener than you probably have tons of great music caged up inside your computer, smart phone or tablet.  And if you care at all about sound quality, the last thing you want to do is play your music through a lousy pair of speakers.  Serene Audio is a relatively young Canadian speaker maker that would like to unleash your favourite artists through its range of high-quality compact powered speakers.

Some music listeners care strictly about a speaker’s sound quality and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I’m not one of them.  I agree that performance is paramount but I value aesthetic appeal nearly as much.  To truly enjoy my audio gear, I prefer for it to look as good as it sounds.  When Serene Audio asked us to review a pair of their speakers, I took a quick look at the company’s website and something became immediately apparent: Serene Audio’s top priority is quality of sound but the company also places a big emphasis on creative design.  And so, without hesitation we asked them to send us a sample pair for review.

Serene Audio offers three speaker models designed and manufactured in Canada.  Its product line-up consists of the Pebble, the Talisman and the Paisley models – each offering a strikingly beautiful and distinctive look.  All three models are rear-ported and available in an active (powered) version for $495 or passive (non-powered) version for $395.  The active models are designed for use with computers, smart phones, tablets and Apple’s Airport, if you desire wireless playback.  The passive models on the other hand are intended for use with TVs and in home theatre environments.  Besides their unique enclosure designs, these speakers use materials you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a typical speaker – the cabinets are constructed out of bamboo and partially wrapped in high-grade leather.  You get a choice of caramel or natural bamboo, and black or white leather.  My active Talisman review pair, measuring 8” high x 5” wide x 6” deep, came in a natural bamboo and white leather configuration and looked decidedly beautiful on my computer desk.

A nice, attractive enclosure is of course only a part of the equation here.  If you’re observant, you’ll notice from the picture that these speakers utilize a single, 3 inch full-range, long-throw drive unit that’s lightweight and quick.  A single, compact driver like this isn’t capable of reaching the same frequency extremes as a driver/tweeter combo but it does come with its own major advantage – it does not require a crossover network.  Serene Audio uses only a minimalistic baffle step compensation filter in its design.  The absence of a crossover translates into a seamless, less distorted sound across its frequency range capability, rated from 70Hz to 20kHz (+/-3 dB).    Power for the Talisman comes courtesy of a 2 x 20 watt digital amplifier with a dedicated DSP chip, housed inside the right channel speaker.  In addition to the amplifier, the rear panel of this speaker offers a volume knob (which also serves the on/off function), a subwoofer output, output to the left speaker, a mini-jack input, a headphone output and a power jack.  The headphone output utilizes an internal class-AB amplifier.  If you listen to the Talisman while sitting at a computer desk, as I did for most of this review, you will of course get the benefit of near-field listening.  With your ears this close to the speakers the sound will reach your ears before it bounces off any walls, resulting in a cleaner audio presentation without the negative effects of a room’s acoustics – which can be a great advantage.

Unpacking the Talisman was nothing short of a pleasure.  These speakers were not only very well packed, the manufacturer cleverly uses the bamboo left over from cutting of the speaker panels inside the box.  Right off the bat, potential buyers should feel a pride of ownership.  Unlike other speaker manufacturers, Serene Audio says that its speakers require only a few hours to break-in properly.  The Talisman can be connected directly to a computer’s soundcard using a 3.5 mm mini-jack cable, but if you really want to hear the full quality that these speakers are capable of, you’ll definitely want to connect them to a decent external digital to analog converter (DAC).  I setup my review pair with the ADL GT40 USB DAC, capable of 24-bit/96KHz playback and listened to a wide array of music, ranging from classical to live performances to rock.  This DAC not only hugely improves the playback quality from the computer, it also offered the convenience of a front-mounted volume dial, so I didn’t have to reach for the volume dial on the back of the right speaker.

I launched my music listening session with a number of familiar recordings that I’ve been listening to lately including Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill Acoustic”, Florence + the Machine’s “MTV Unplugged”, Air French Band’s “Moon Safari”, Led Zeppelin’s “Mothership” and various Best Audiophile Voices albums.  The Talisman quickly had my head bopping and my body doing a chair-dance, thanks to their sweet sounding and engaging midrange.  Voices and instruments sounded natural, the tonal accuracy was excellent and my ears could not detect any colouration or distortion.  The Talisman produced a slightly laid-back perspective, with voices and instruments emanating from just behind the speakers.  I was delighted to hear that these speakers were also capable of laying out a respectable soundstage that offered great imaging.  When listening to the “Jagged Little Pill Acoustic” and “MTV Unplugged” albums, the instruments and voices were placed accurately within a three dimensional space, making these albums a joy to listen to.  I found that both the perspective and the soundstage deepened even further as I leaned back in my chair.

As I was writing this review, Serene Audio realized that my Talisman review pair does not have the latest version of the firmware installed, which offers a better overall tonal balance.  This agreed with my review notes, as I found that my initial review pair did not extend particularly high in the treble region and didn’t offer the same richness and level of detail as I’ve come to expect from familiar recordings.  I also found that the initial pair lacked a little in the lower frequencies.  Serene Audio expedited another pair of the Talisman speakers to me with the latest firmware version installed and I’m glad to report that the new firmware fully addressed the tonal balance.  The replacement pair offered a wonderfully clean high frequency extension, which translated into a higher extraction of details, with a slightly increased amount of air between voices and instruments.  Many small speakers produce a rather tizzy, unnatural sounding top-end that can quickly become tiring but I’m glad to say that I didn’t hear any of that with these speakers.  Low level, high level and extended listening sessions all brought pleasure to my ears, without ever fatiguing me.  The updated Talisman pair also offered a noticeable improvement in the mid-bass and lower frequencies.  The bass notes sounded cleaner, fuller and tighter, offering a great foundation for most tracks that I listened to.  Serene Audio of course realizes the limitation of compact enclosures and hence provides a subwoofer output for those who desire to extend the bottom-end response even further.

While spinning up Rebecca Pidgeon’s Spanish Harlem from the “Best Audiophile Voices Volume 6”, the Talisman once again delivered a clean, musical midrange with great coherency and offered a nice sense of presence of the recording space.   Pidgeon’s voice echoed realistically, exposing the size of the space, with a good amount of air around the vocals and the instruments.  The violins played smoothly with a gentle treble that rolled off pleasantly at the top.

Switching grooves, I listened to some rock selections including City and Colour’s “Little Hell”, Social Distortion’s “Greatest Hits” and Johnny Cash’s “American IV: The Man Comes Around”.  All of tracks I listened to from these albums again demonstrated the Talisman’s remarkable tonal accuracy.  They conveyed the energy of harder rock tracks well and were able to play quite loud.  I also appreciated their large sweet spot and ability to maintain imaging when I moved off to the sides.

There aren’t many competitors in the $500 powered speaker space but there is one that should be mentioned – the Audioengine 5+, especially since I own its original brother, the Audioengine 5 which normally sits on my computer desk.  The biggest advantage this speaker offers is its tight, deep bass extension.  But it does come at a cost of desk space as these speakers have a far larger footprint and overall dimensions than the Talisman.  Also, the Audioengine 5+’s conventional design can’t compete at all with the styling of the Serene Audio speakers.

The Serene Audio Talisman is a powered speaker that brought me lots of listening pleasure during the time it spent on my computer desk.  It performed very well with a mix of musical genres including acoustic, vocal, live, rock and jazz.  The only area in which the Talisman lacked was with highly dynamic and bass heavy music.  If you’re looking to purchase a compact speaker to seriously enhance the music from your computer, smart phone or tablet, this is certainly one speaker you should listen to.  The fluidity and accuracy of its mid-range can easily be compared to larger, more expensive speakers.  And if you desire more bass energy, you could always supplement them with a little subwoofer.  Serene Audio offers a 30 day in-home trial, so there’s absolutely no risk if you choose to purchase them online.

Serene Audio
www.sereneaudio.com
1 (888) 697-8592

Serene Audio Talisman Active Speakers
Price: $495 CAD/pair

Take your pick – Serene Audio offers the same sonic characteristics from three distinct models: the Talisman (pictured at the top of this review), as well as the Pebble and the Paisley (pictured below).

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Building an Affordable Multi-room Audio System 01

Have you ever played air guitar to Guns’n’Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”?  Or perhaps air drummed Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” like that infamous Cadbury gorilla?  Better still, maybe you’ve used the shampoo bottle in the shower as a microphone.  My friend – I’m afraid you’ve got the bug.  The music bug that is!  But don’t worry, all this means is that you’ve got passion for music and we’ve got just the fix you need.
It wasn’t so long ago that multi-room audio systems were the dreams of music listeners but attainable only by those with deep pockets.  Even today many audio companies demand a lot of your hard earned money for such systems.  Luckily there is one company that believes that multi-room audio should be available to just about all music fans, even those with relatively small budgets.  Which company am I referring to?  I’m glad you asked.  But first, let’s take a look at what’s involved in building a multi-room audio system.

What is a Multi-room Audio System?
The term ‘multi-room audio system’ refers to a music system which allows you to listen to your entire music collection, stored in one or more locations, in different rooms in your home.  The different rooms, also referred to as zones, can literally include every room in your home and even spaces like your patio, balcony or garage.  Multi-room audio systems have been around for many years, in one form or another.  So why haven’t they become more popular with consumers over the years?  In the past, multi-channel audio components were expensive and required you to cut into the drywall to run wires.  Not to mention the expensive, large and awkward remotes that had to be programmed.  Often times, setting up a multi-room audio system meant having to hire a custom installer which further increased the price.  But all of this has been slowly changing over the last few years thanks to advancements in digital, wireless, touchscreen and smartphone technologies.  Together these technologies have provided a backbone for the modern multi-room audio system, while at the same time bringing the price down to a level that’s affordable to the masses.

Introducing Sonos
Enter Sonos, a company that’s exclusively in the multi-room audio business.  Since Sonos launched its first products in 2005, the company has continued to redesign and refine its products to keep them up to date with the latest market trends.  The current Sonos family of products consists of six components.  There is the CONNECT module ($399), which allows you to stream audio to any existing audio system; the CONNECT: AMP ($599), with built-in amplifiers, which lets you stream audio to any pair of speakers; and the BRIDGE ($59) which connects to your internet router and uses it to create a wireless Sonos network.  There are also two all-in-one wireless music systems, the PLAY:3 ($329) and PLAY:5 ($449), which feature built-in amplifiers and speakers.  Rounding out the line is the SUB, a wireless subwoofer that retails for $749.

Building an Affordable Multi-room Audio System 02

As you can see then, the Sonos components are priced very reasonably.  The other beautiful thing, which further reduces the total cost of the system, is the fact that you can use any Apple or Andriod smartphone or tablet to control the system.  Just download the free Sonos control app for your device.  And who doesn’t already have one or two of these devices at home?  Sonos does offer its own dedicated touchscreen remote ($399), although if you don’t already have an Apple or Android device you might as well get one because it offers much more functionality than the Sonos remote.  In addition to all of this, the Sonos system can also be controlled by any PC or Mac computer.  So in the simplest form, a three room Sonos system can be set up utilizing three PLAY:3 all-in-one music systems plus the BRIDGE for just over $1,000.  That’s remarkable!

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Meet the Sonos Family: An Overview of Each Component

BRIDGE
This device is designed to connect to your home network router.  It allows other Sonos components to access online music services.  It is necessary to use only if your router is located in a room in which you won’t be setting up an audio zone in, for example the electrical room in your basement.

CONNECT
The CONNECT is a digital music player which can be connected to any existing music or home theatre system and allows you to stream music via a wired or wireless connection.  It can stream music from your home network computers (with or without iTunes), smartphones, tablets and Internet Radio stations.  It also offer access to a wide variety of online music services including AUPEO!, Deezer, iHeartRadio, JB Hi-Fi NOW, JUKE, Last.fm, MOG, Pandora, Rdio, Rhapsody, SiriusXM, Slacker Radio, Songl, Songza, Spotify, Stitcher SmartRadio, TuneIn, Wolfgang’s Vault and WiMP.  When streaming music from the home network it supports all popular files formats including MP3, WAV, Apple Lossless, FLAC and Ogg Vorbis.  The CONNECT offers both analog (RCA) and digital (coax and optical) outputs.  The digital outputs are included for those who wish to connect this device to an external DAC (digital to analog converter) and achieve a higher quality of sound.  There is also an analog (RCA) input if you would like to feed it another music source.  Two Ethernet jacks round out the rear panel.

CONNECT: AMP

Sonos Connect AMP
The CONNECT: AMP is basically the same device as the CONNECT but comes with a built-in 2-channel digital amplifier, rated at 55 watts per channel.  It offers all of the same inputs/outputs as the CONNET plus speaker binding posts.

PLAY: 3
The PLAY: 3 is an all-in-one player with a built-in tweeter, two mid-range drivers and a bass radiator, powered by three class D amplifiers.  Just like the CONNECT components, it can stream music through a wired or wireless connection from your home network, smartphone, tablet, Internet radio and online music services.  Its playback and volume can be controlled independently (or together as part of a multi-room system) by a smarphone or tablet.  Two PLAY: 3 players can be set up as a stereo pair in the same room for improved stereo separation.

PLAY: 5

Sonos Play 5
The PLAY: 5 is the bigger brother to the PLAY: 3, producing a larger, room-filling sound that’s suitable for larger rooms. This all-in-one player offers two tweeters, two mid-range drivers and a subwoofer, powered by five class D amplifiers.  The PLAY: 5 offers all the same functionality as the PLAY: 3 with the addition of a headphone jack, a second Ethernet port, as well as a 3.5 mm audio line-in which allows for connecting of an auxiliary audio source.  The PLAY: 5 can be set up as a stereo pair in the same room, just like its little brother.

SUB
The SUB is a subwoofer designed to fill in the bottom end of your music and works with all of the Sonos amplified components including the CONNECT: AMP and the PLAY:3 and PLAY: 5 all-in-one players, as well as older Sonos devices.  It has two built-in force-cancelling speakers powered by two class D amplifiers.  It offers ultimate subwoofer flexibility thanks to the fact that it is wireless and can be positioned vertically or horizontally – which allows you to slide it under the couch.

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Features of the Sonos System
The Sonos system can be used to build an incredibly flexible multi-room system, and you don’t have to decide how many zones you’ll be setting up right at the beginning.  You can always add new components in the future – without affecting the rest of the system.  Want to start with 2 audio zones, that’s fine.  Budget allows you to start with 4 zones?  That’s even better.  The beauty of this system lies in the fact that you can mix and match any of the Sonos components to create a multi-room system that suits your specific needs.  Take for example a two bedroom condo.  You could set up two all-in-one PLAY:3 systems in each bedroom, a CONNECT: AMP in the kitchen with two in-ceiling speakers, a CONNECT in the living room that connects to your home theatre system and another CONNECT: AMP to run your outdoor speakers on the balcony.  Each of the components can play the same music or something completely different.  You can also adjust the volume of all the components at once, or individually in each zone.  Better still, all of the playback can be controlled by your smartphone or tablet.  How neat is that?

Building an Affordable Multi-room Audio System 03

The Sonos system can be set up as a wired or wireless system, or a mix of the two.  Each of the components is capable of streaming CD quality audio, 44 kHz/16-bit.  High resolution audio playback is not supported which is unfortunate but won’t impact most of the target audience.  To unlock the world of Sonos, one of the components needs to be connected to your home network.  Sonos says that its system will let you “stream all the music on Earth” and while that’s a grand claim, it’s actually not far from the truth.   The Sonos system can play music from all the computers in your home, or a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive, and stream it wirelessly from your smartphones and tablets.  It can also play music from various online services such as Songza, Last.fm, Rdio, Slacker and many more.  Like Internet radio?  It does that too, offering access to over 100,000 free stations.  It even plays downloaded Podcasts.  It’s not a stretch to say that it can play more music than you can listen to in a lifetime.  Check out the “Meet the Sonos Family” box on the previous page for detailed info about each of the Sonos components.

Setting Up the Sonos System – Is It Really This Easy?
For the purpose of this article, I set up a three zone Sonos system in my house, spanning my living/dining room, home office and outdoor patio.  If your network router sits in the electrical room in the basement, like it does in my house, you’ll need to start by connecting the BRIDGE there with an Ethernet cable.  The remainder of the system can be set up wired or wirelessly – I chose to go with the wireless option.  Next, I set up the CONNECT with my reference 2-channel music system (ModWright Instruments amp and preamp, Bryston DAC, Focal speakers); the CONNECT:AMP in my home office connected to Totem speakers; and another CONNECT: AMP in my kitchen which feeds speakers on my patio.  With all the components in place, I installed the free Sonos control app on my iPhone, iPad and iPad mini.  Finally, I let the app know which and how many Sonos components are in my house – by pressing a button on each component and a few screen taps on the app.  And voila – I had a wireless multi-room system set up and ready to play.  It’s that simple.

Performance of the Sonos System
Since the initial setup of the Sonos system was so easy, I was ready to listen to tunes all over my house in about half an hour.  Equipped with an iPad in my hands, I began exploring the Sonos universe.  The home screen of the Sonos app greeted me with a clean menu offering quick access to my home network music library, music on my iPhone, Internet radio, Songza, playlists and various online music streaming services.  The home screen also offers the option to play music from any source connected to the line-in on any of the Sonos components.  I started with my own music library, stored on one of my home PCs.  The Sonos system automatically accessed all the music from the shared folders on my PC and allowed me to select it in a variety of ways – by artist, album, composer, genre, song name, playlist and even folder.  All of my music is stored in the lossless FLAC format.

I began by listening to the CONNECT: AMP module connected to my Totem Rainmaker speakers, and for no specific reason, the first album to hit the speakers was Social Distortion’s “Greatest Hits”.  I was instantly presented with some high energy guitar licks and vigorous drumming.  The CONNECT: AMP offered a very nice stereo separation and great dynamics, making it easy to get right into the music.  I’m particularly fond of the track Ball and Chain and its effective combination of a highly distorted electric guitar in the left channel with an acoustic guitar in the right channel.  The CONNECT: AMP ensured clean delivery of each of the channels, with the distorted guitar never concealing the acoustic strumming.  All the while, the vocals were presented with clarity, perfectly in the middle of the soundstage.   Switching gears, I listened to Air French Band’s Moon Safari album.  The CONNECT: AMP put forth a fluid, natural sound with a good amount of detail, although not quite as good as I’ve come to expect from these tracks when playing on my reference 2-channel system.  One of the more notable differences was the rain in the opening of La Femme D’Argent, which simply didn’t sound as realistic.  The bass on the other hand was danced around tunefully and with good note definition.  Of course it wouldn’t be a proper listening session if I didn’t queue up some Beatles.  With every track I listened to from the Fab Four, the CONNECT: AMP delivered a lively, consistent performance, with a good tonal balance.  Overall, I’m confident in saying that the CONNECT: AMP offered an excellent, well balanced sound that many listeners should enjoy, when paired with a good set of speakers like my Totem Rainmakers.

But what if you already have a 2-channel music or home theatre system set up in your home and just want to connect it to your Sonos system?  That’s exactly what the CONNECT component is for.  I set up the CONNECT with my 2-channel system, which consists of a ModWright Instruments KWA 100 amp and LS 100 tube preamp, and Focal Electra 1008 Be II speakers.  At first, I used the CONNECT’s analog outputs to feed my preamp, in other words utilizing the CONNECT’s built-in DAC.  The internal DAC’s performance was very decent and should serve most listeners well.  The detail extraction was good and the soundstage offered a respectable width and depth.  However those with higher quality audio systems will definitely observe a significant jump in performance by utilizing an external DAC.  With my

Bryston BDA-1 DAC in place, the soundstage opened noticeably, offering a far greater width and depth.  This translated into a much more three-dimensional soundstage, in which instruments and voices had distinct locations in space.  Both the highest and lowest frequencies also benefited.  The highs shimmered, offering greater detail, while the bass notes played lower and exhibited better articulation.

User Friendliness and Reliability
With the Sonos system having spent over two months in my house, I had switched between the various music sources dozens of times and chosen hundreds of different songs.  There was virtually no learning curve with this system.  The Sonos app is very cleanly laid out and very straight forward to use.  I often entertain family and friends at my place and those that are music buffs instantly felt in love with the Sonos system – some even installed the app on their smartphones so they could also control music playback.  And let’s not forget that by installing the app, they were also able to stream music from their phone to my Sonos system.  How amazing is that?

The Sonos system allows you to play the same music in your entire home, or choose different music in each zone.  It also lets you control the volume of the system as a whole or independently for each zone.  This flexibility works wonderfully well in practice.  For instance, on at least a few occasions I’ve listened to different music with the guys on my patio, while my girlfriend listened to something entirely different with her friends in the dining room.

When I first set up the Sonos system, I set up all three zones wirelessly and I was pleasantly surprised by just how reliable the playback was from my home network.  During the several weeks I spent testing the system, it did not fail once while listening to music stored on my home office PC.  I did however experience a drop out (signal loss) a number of times while listening to Internet radio and the online Songza music service.  This issue was rectified by wiring up the CONNECT: AMP in my 2-channel system with a cable to my home network.

As I tested the system, I did experience a few other small quirks.  For example, when I added a new album to the shared network folder on my PC, the Sonos app would not always pick it up after refreshing its music index.  The solution was to close the app completely and restart it.  On a few occasions when I woke up my iPhone or iPad from sleep mode, Sonos app took a little while to reconnect with the wireless network, before I could control playback again.  Sometimes after waking up from sleep mode, the app would display an entirely different song than the one that was currently playing.  These quirks happened rarely enough that they certainly change my overall opinion of the system.  Plus all streaming devices experience these issues one way or another.  The Sonos devices were actually the most reliable streaming devices I’ve had the pleasure of playing with to date.

One of the things that I truly love about the Sonos system is that it offers a means of discovering new and old music that you may have not heard of otherwise, thanks to its ability to play Internet radio and online music services like Songza (free and commercial free).  Forget listening to local radio stations that play the same songs over and over.  I’ve discovered tons of music over the last few months by listening to British radio stations and Songza.  A couple of years ago I would have been hesitant to recommend listening to streaming music services and Internet radio stations to anyone because of their low streaming bit-rates but things have improved significantly since then.  Many of these services and stations now offer reasonably good quality – certainly good enough for music discovery and casual background listening.

One other important item to note about the Sonos system is that the company is actively releasing new updates for its smartphone/tablet app which fix certain issues and unlock new functionality.  For instance, during my review a new update was released that now allows all Sonos components to stream music directly from all Apple devices.

Finally…
If you love listening to music as much as we do at the CANADA HiFi magazine, I strongly urge you to explore the Sonos range of products.  You’ll enjoy the number of component choices, the flexibility of the system and its functionality.  Kudos to Sonos for offering music buffs such an awesome multi-room system!

Naim Audio Launches New Products at Bay Bloor Radio 01

If someone asked you to predict the future of hi-fi a few years ago, would you be able to guess exactly what we would have today?  You might be able to predict some things but probably not everything.  Technology continues to advance at such a staggering pace that often it’s difficult to foresee what’s around the corner, never mind a few years later.  Luckily for music listeners, there are a few forward thinking audio companies that apply the latest technology and continue to transform the way we listen to music.  One of those companies is UK’s Naim Audio.

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of attending a Naim Audio product launch, open to public and media, at Bay Bloor Radio, in Toronto, Ontario.  Doug Graham, product specialist from Naim’s Salisbury headquarters in the UK, led a one hour presentation during which attendees had the opportunity to discover how a Naim Audio system can revolutionize the way we listen to music at home.  During the presentation, two new Naim Audio products were also introduced – the DAC-V1 digital to analog converter and the NAP 100 power amplifier.

The music system on demonstration consisted of the Naim Audio NAC-N 172 XS preamplifier ($3,400), the NAP 200 2-channel, 80 watt-per-channel amplifier ($3,500) and the NS01 music server (a custom installer equivalent of the consumer UnitiServe music server).  The speakers used were the Sonus Faber Cremona ($11,000).  Doug started by explaining how the Naim system works, allowing you to rip CDs to the music server’s hard disk at the highest possible quality and then playing them back using a tablet or smartphone (the Naim app is available for iOS devices, an Android version is in the works).  Once your music is stored on the Naim music server it is delightfully easy to access and control using the Naim app.  The app allows you to select music by artist, song title and album, and it lets you create playlists just like you would when using a computer, except all from the comfort of a tablet or smartphone.  It displays album art and record-style liner notes which include artist information, lyrics, pictures, etc.  One of my favourite features of the app is that it can help to expand your music horizons by suggesting other similar artists to the ones that are already in your music collection.  During the presentation Doug also played various music selections and allowed the audience to make comparisons between various qualities of digital music files, ripped in various formats/bit rates.   The sound from the Naim Audio components, combined with the Sonus Faber speakers, was amazingly engaging – offering a tremendously large soundstage, micro details, a full bodied bass, and a wonderfully balanced sound across all the frequencies.Naim Audio DAC-V1

Toward the end of the session, Doug introduced us to the two new components from Naim Audio.  The big news about the DAC-V1 digital to analog converter ($2,400) is that it offers an asynchronous USB input which means that it is capable of taking the digital audio signal from the connected computer and re-clocking it to make it sound the very best that it can (computers inherently have a terrible clocking inconsistency when it comes to sending audio via USB).  The DAC-V1 uses the same Burr Brown PCM1791A DACs found in the company’s NDX and SuperUniti components.  It can playback files with a resolution of up to 384 kHz/24-bit from both MAC and PC computers.  The DAC-V1 has a very high quality Class-A headphone amp built-in, capable of driving the most demanding of headphones, and offers a high quality volume dial.  In addition to the USB input, the DAC-V1 offers five other digital inputs, all of which can be custom-named by the user.  Outputs include one Naim proprietary DIN and one pair of unbalanced RCA.  The DAC-V1’s OLED display allows for adjusting settings and checking of incoming bit-rates.Naim Audio NAP 100

The NAP 100 ($1,200) is a matching 2-channel, discrete power amplifier offering 50 watts of power per channel.  It features a dual mono design, audiophile grade components we’ve come to expect from Naim and a linear power supply with a large toroidal transformer.  It is Naim Audio’s most affordable amplifier to date.  In addition to Naim’s proprietary DIN input, it also offers an unbalanced RCA input which allows for the connection of other brands of preamps.

I enjoyed myself very much at this event – thanks to the engaging demonstration and the laid back atmosphere.  I was glad to learn when Danu Mandlsohn and Richard Bowden of Bay Bloor Radio said that they plan to hold more events such as this at the store in the next few months.

For more info, please visit www.naimaudio.com and www.baybloorradio.com.

MK Sound MK150THX Speaker System

Have you ever wondered about what kind of audio systems professional studios use for engineering movie soundtracks?  MK Sound has long been a popular choice for professional studios and over the years has made its way into thousands of home theatres around the world. MK Sound speakers have been used for sound mixing and editing of countless blockbuster movie soundtracks such as Star Wars Episodes I through III, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Pearl Harbour, Black Hawk Down and Iron Man – just to mention a few. It is also the speaker brand of choice by companies like Dolby Labs and DTS.  Heck, even the famous Skywalker Ranch is equipped with an MK Sound system.  The company attributes much of the success thanks to its MK 150THX System which we’re looking at in this very review.  There really is a lot of history to get excited about here.  For those of you who haven’t heard of MK Sound before, here’s a brief background.  The company’s origin dates back to the early 1970s in California, where the company was founded under its original name – M&K Sound – by an owner of an audio store and an audio designer.  Among its many accolades, in 1997 M&K Sound introduced the industry’s first internally powered subwoofer.   In 2007, after countless accomplishments and nearly forty years in business, the company closed its doors but was quickly resurrected by a Danish company with a refined name of MK Sound.  Luckily, instead of redesigning the product line completely, the new owners decided to stick with the original speaker designs, with only slight updates.

The 5.1-channel MK 150THX system that I examine in this review consists of five S-150MKII speakers ($1,500 each) and the MX-250 subwoofer ($1,950).  As the system’s name implies this is a THX Ultra2 certified system, guaranteeing that it meets the rigorous THX standards for accurate sound delivery.  The total price for this systems amounts to $9,450.  Two other speaker models are available in the MK 150 series – the S-150T Tripole speaker and the MP-150 on-wall speaker – as well as a larger subwoofer called the MX-350MKII.

Unlike most speaker manufacturers, MK Sound does not offer a choice of finish or colour.  What you see in the picture above is what you get – a black satin finish.  Instead the company focuses strictly on the performance of its products.  The five S-150MKII speakers are almost identical to each other, with the exception of driver configuration.  There are two configurations of this speaker – a Left channel model and a Right/Centre channel model.  Each speaker is nearly a perfect cube – measuring 12.5” x 10.5” x 12.5” – and weighs 21 lbs.  Removing the cloth grille reveals that these speakers don’t follow a conventional design.  The front baffle houses two 5.25” polypropylene woofers and an unusual number of tweeters – three 1” fabric-dome tweeters to be exact.  The tweeters are arranged in a vertical stack, each housed within its own dampened chamber, and separated on the outside by foam ridges.  This tweeter array presents a wider than usual horizontal dispersion and promises outstanding accuracy and detail.  It also results in a narrower vertical dispersion which comes with a benefit of minimizing reflected sound.  The S-150MKII has a built-in proprietary Phase-Focused crossover which combines three key design elements: Time Domain Analysis, Frequency Domain Analysis and Point-in-Space Analysis.  Unlike other crossover designs which consider frequency response on one axis, this design takes into account various angles along the vertical and horizontal planes.  As a result this speaker claims to present a very smooth frequency response over a wide listening window and a better focused and coherent on-axis performance.  The S-150MKII has an impedance of 4 ohms, therefore a powerful enough amp needs to be mated with it.  It has a frequency response rated from 77 Hz to 20 kHz (+/- 3dB) and a recommended power handling of 25 to 400 watts.

MK Sound MK150THX Speaker System 01

The MX-250 subwoofer included with my review set is the smaller of the two models in this series.  It utilizes a pair of long-throw 12 inch, coated pulp cone, magnetically shielded drivers that function in a push-pull configuration, housed in a sealed enclosure.  As the model name suggests, this subwoofer is powered by a discrete 250 watt on-board amplifier which uses MK Sound’s Balanced Push-Pull Dual Drive Amplifier technology, with proprietary Headroom Maximizer IV circuitry to prevent amplifier clipping.  Its in-room frequency response is rated down to 20Hz (+-3dB).  The back panel offers both speaker level and line level connections for maximum compatibility with all home theatre components and a three position power switch (on/auto/off).  Dials for Phase, Low Pass Filter and Bass Level round out the rear panel.  The MX-250 can be daisy-chained with another subwoofer for those who wish to incorporate two subwoofers in their setup.

But enough of the technical stuff.  The real test is of course how they perform in a home theatre environment.  In most cases, including mine, setup of a speaker system like this will require five speaker stands.  The front and rear L/R channels can be placed on any speaker stands with a large enough base.  The centre channel is far too large for my TV stand, or any conventional TV stand for that matter, so I had to place it in front of the stand on a temporary stack of books.

It needs to be noted that the S-150MKII speakers are rated at 4 ohms and present a more challenging load for an amplifier.  Therefore these speakers need to be matched with a suitably powerful amplifier or AV receiver.  I used two AV receivers during my tests – a Pioneer Elite SC-07 and an Arcam FMJ AVR600.  The Pioneer worked perfectly well with the MK Sound speakers but the Arcam definitely pushed the sound performance to a much higher level.

I normally start my tests with music but this time I decided to begin with a few films.  And what better place to start than Tron: Legacy on Blu-ray, one of my recent sci-fi favorites.  A well engineered soundtrack, along with Daft Punk’s powerful score, is sure to give any audio system a proper workout.  As main character Sam gets picked up by a spacecraft inside “the grid”, my room literally shook as the engines of the craft rumbled.  The MX-250 subwoofer delivered a powerful but well articulated bass.  When the spacecraft flew from behind me on to the screen, the MK Sound system created a frightening, hyper realistic sensation as if something actually flew from behind me and above my head.  Meanwhile the dialogue between the characters was consistently clear.  Not once did I struggle to hear what the characters were saying during the loudest of film passages.  As the games began and the players started tossing the discs at each other, the sound effects travelled in a most precise manner between all of the speakers.  The sonic transitions from channel to channel were completely seamless.  The cheering of the crowd during the games made me feel as if was sitting right there with the audience in the stadium.  Watching scenes from Tron was just sheer pleasure.  It appeared that my reference Monitor Audio Gold GX 5.1 speaker system had met a worthy contender.  Not on the visual side because the Monitor Audio speakers are knock out gorgeous next to the MK Sound speakers, but certainly on the performance side.

Keeping with the sci-fi genre, I thought it’d be fun to watch one of the Star Wars movies that was mastered on MK Sound speakers.  And so inside the Blu-ray player went Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  Right from the opening credits, accompanied by John William’s score, I knew I was in for a treat.  To say that I was pleased with the sound would be a huge understatement.  I felt that what I was getting here was a truly cinematic audio experience that’s closer to a full blown movie theatre than a home speaker system.  This MK Sound system had an exquisite ability to create a presence of characters and environments, and showed a great accuracy in soundstage control.  I tried all four seats in my home theatre and the uniformity of sound delivery was one of the best I’ve heard in my room to date.  The layers upon layers of sound in this film can make even a good speaker system struggle but that was far from what I was experiencing here.  All of the individual layers blended perfectly together, yet each one had a precise definition.  As the film advanced, I once again marveled at how remarkable this system was at creating truly convincing sonic environments.  Believe me, I’ve watched this movie on many speaker systems but few had engaged me quite as much as this MK Sound system.  Thanks to their generous size, the S-150MKII speakers offered a rich, low-reaching frequency response from the surround channels, much like my Monitor Audio speakers.  This offered a far greater engagement and envelopment in the movies I watched compared to speaker systems that use smaller or more directional surround speakers.

During the time that the MK Sound system spent at my house, I had the opportunity to watch more than a dozen movies.  There was something about the sound of these speakers that kept drawing me back to my basement home theatre.  I also watched several episodes of HBO’s fantastic The Pacific series, which left a lasting impression.  The dynamics of this series make it a really great test for any home theatre system.  I originally watched some of these episodes on the Paradigm MilleniaOne speakers in my living room, but this time around it was an entirely different experience.  The MK Sound system threw me right into the middle of the action.  Planes were flying over my head.  Heavy artillery shells and bullets zoomed across the battlefield.  Conversations between the soldiers varied from shouting to whispering but the dialogue was always clear.  Everything about this presentation was realistic and terrifying.  A war movie buff like myself couldn’t be more satisfied with the experience.  At this point I clearly understood why so many professional studios choose MK Sound speakers.

I then decided to switch paces and listen to some music.  Just a minute into Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here SACD I was completely mesmerized by the awesome surround interpretation of this classic album.  The clarity and detail delivery were terrific.  The speakers delivered a crispy clean midrange with good realism of vocals and instruments.  I really enjoyed the tonal uniformity and balance of the 360 degree soundfield – a benefit of being surrounded by five identical speakers.  In this regard, the MK Sound system surpassed my Monitor Audio system.  The acoustic guitar strings sounded genuine and the drums had the right amount of pizzazz.  While listening to several other multi-channel SACDs, such as the Beatles’ “Love” and Dire Straits’ “Brothers In Arms” albums, this MK Sound system continued to shine in its ability to envelop me in a seamless three dimensional soundstage.

If you use your home theatre system to listen to 2-channel music, you’ll be pleased to know that this speaker system also does well here.  I listened to discs of various genres, ranging from classical to rock to vocal.  The S-150MKII pair delivered a clean midrange with great details and stereo imaging.  Both voices and instruments were delivered with a good amount of authenticity.  Compared to my reference Monitor Audio Gold GX 200 floorstanders, I did however find the MK Sound speakers to be a little less musical in their presentation.  Their presentation wasn’t quite as three dimensional when playing as a stereo pair and I never managed to get lost in the music.  Their bass extension also wasn’t as deep, nor was there as much air between vocals and instruments.  To be fair though, the GX 200’s are significantly more expensive than a pair of the S-150MKII speakers ($5,000 versus $3,000).  Nevertheless, music in stereo was perfectly enjoyable.

This MK Sound speaker system may not be the most décor-friendly or easiest to place in a room.  Each of the S-150MKII speakers is about the size of a little subwoofer and its solid black finish doesn’t help when trying to integrate them in the room.  The centre channel will be a challenge to place for those who have a TV sitting on a typical TV stand.  If your room doesn’t have enough space to house a pair of the S-150MKIIs at the back of the room, you might want to consider the less obtrusive S-150T Tripole speaker ($1,900/pair) or the MP-150 on-wall speaker ($1,300 each).  MK Sound understands that some consumers want the benefit of their speakers but don’t necessarily need to see them at all –and the company has you covered here as well.  Those building a new home theatre room, or willing to fish wires inside existing walls, should take a look at the IW-150 in-wall speakers ($1,300 each) – these are the in-wall equivalent of the S-150MKII.  Another solution to hide the speakers in your room would be to place them behind an acoustically transparent screen or inside custom built enclosures, which will make the speakers disappear altogether.  One thing is for sure – if you’re looking for a clean, detailed and immersive sound in your home theatre there is no question that this is definitely one sound system you should consider.  When the lights go out you’ll be rewarded with a true theatrical sound experience.

MK Sound
www.mksoundsystem.com

Distributed in Canada by
Pacific Cabling Solutions
www.pacificcabling.com
1-800-946-0669

MK Sound MK150THX 5.1 Speaker System
Price (CAD):
S-150MKII speakers ($1,500 each)
MX-250 subwoofer ($1,950)
5.1 system as tested: $9,450

Monitor Audio Gold GX 5

If you have an exceptional memory, you might recall reading about the Monitor Audio Gold GX series speakers in these pages before.  I reviewed the GX200 floor standing loudspeakers ($4,995/pair) from this series back in the October/November 2011 issue.  The GX200 proved itself as a very capable speaker in my two channel system and offered many of the sonic characteristics that I was fond of.  In fact I took enough liking to these speakers that I ended up buying them after the review.  Since I wasn’t looking to make any changes in my two channel system, the GX200s became a part of the upgrade path for my basement home theatre system.  Of course a pair of loudspeakers at the front of the room hardly makes a home theatre system, so I asked Canadian distributor Kevro International to send us the remaining speakers to make a full 5.1 system.  The complete system to be evaluated in this review includes the GXC150 centre channel ($1,195), a pair of the GX-FX surround speakers ($2,390/pair) and the GXW15 subwoofer ($3,195).  The total price of this 5.1 system rings in at $11,775.  At this price my expectations were set pretty high, as they should be.

The Gold GX series sits just below Monitor Audio’s flagship Platinum series.  As you might expect, much of the technology in the Gold GX series is derived from lessons learned during the development of the Platinum series.  Aside from all the technology, the surround speakers and the subwoofer offer some features rarely found in speakers.  Visually, each of the models in the Gold GX series is quite attractive and a good selection of finishes means that they’ll integrate comfortably with just about any room décor.  Available finishes include Bubinga, Dark Walnut, as well as glossy Piano Ebony, White and Black.  There really is a lot to get excited about here.  Let’s examine each of the models in this review a little closer and you’ll see what I mean.

The GX200 floorstanding speaker is the little brother to the GX300.  Its three-way design sports a C-CAM (Ceramic-Coated Aluminium/Magnesium) high frequency ribbon transducer, a 4 inch RST mid-range driver and two 5.5 inch RST bass drivers.  All of the drivers in this speaker use Monitor Audio’s C-CAM technology, a material originally developed by the aerospace industry for jet engine components.  The C-CAM manufacturing process combines the various materials through a series of specific steps which result in an alloy cone that is very light, yet extremely rigid.  This makes the C-CAM drivers much less susceptible to flexing or twisting during operation compared to other cone designs and results in a significantly reduced distortion.

The proprietary ribbon transducer is an ultra-thin sandwich of the C-CAM alloy suspended in a transverse magnetic field of high energy rare earth magnets.  Thanks to its mass of just 18 mg, its diaphragm is extremely quick at starting and stopping and hence is capable of reproducing the leading edges of notes and musical details unlike the more typical tweeter dome designs.  The ribbon transducer is capable of achieving frequencies above 60 kHz and while this is beyond the threshold of human hearing, it means that you’ll be able to hear all the musical nuances and harmonics found in high resolution audio content.

What makes the 4 inch RST (Rigid Surface Technology) mid-bass driver special are a series of radial ribs which significantly increase cone rigidity compared to other cone designs.  Increased rigidity translates into a lower distortion, while the use of the light weight C-CAM cone means higher speed and accuracy.  The 5.5 inch RST bass drivers use the same technology as the 4 inch RST driver but offer a larger driver size and heavier construction with bigger magnets.

The GX200 has a frequency response rated from 35 Hz to 60 kHz, a sensitivity of 89 dB and an impedance of 8 ohms. The GXC150 centre channel offers a 2.5-way, sealed cabinet design, housing two of the same 5.5 inch RST drivers as the GX200, with the same ribbon transducer in between them.  Its frequency response is rated from 55 Hz to 60 kHz, while its sensitivity and impedance matches the floorstanding model.

The GX-FX is far from an ordinary surround speaker.  It can provide either direct (monopole) or ambient surround (dipole) sound with just a flick of a switch on the speaker itself or with a 12 volt trigger from the AV receiver.   This makes it one of the most versatile surround speakers on the market today suitable for use in just about any room environment.  In the monopole mode, the GX-FX uses its front-firing 6.5 inch RST driver and a ribbon transducer to produce sound.  In the dipole mode, it uses two pairs of side-firing 4 inch C-CAM drivers and 1 inch C-CAM gold-dome tweeters, together with the front-firing 6.5 inch RST driver.  The dipole arrangement produces a more diffuse, enveloping sound.  The GX-FX speakers are designed to be stand mounted (a matching stand retails for $595) or can be installed flat on the wall with the included brackets.  Specifications of the GX-FX include a frequency response of 60 Hz to 60 kHz, a sensitivity of 87 dB and an impedance of 8 ohms.

All of the GX series cabinets are constructed out of 20 mm MDF, while each offers its own bracing to improve rigidity and minimize cabinet colouration.  Each speaker in this series offers bi-wire terminals with factory installed spade jumper cables.
Rounding out the GX series is just a single subwoofer called the GXW-15, and like the GX-FX surround speakers this is not just another run of the mill subwoofer.  Its sealed enclosure is equipped with an ultra-long throw 15 inch C-CAM bass driver, capable of a whopping 1.5 inches of excursion.  For a 15 inch subwoofer it has an attractively small enclosure, measuring roughly 16 inches in each of the three dimensions.  Its power comes from a 650 watt (1,200 watt peak) D2AudioTM DSP controlled, Class-D amplifier.  The rear connection panel offers both RCA and LFE inputs and outputs.  What makes the GXW-15 stand apart from the crowd is an on-board advanced automatic room correction system called LEO (Listening Environment Optimizer) by D2Audio.  The GXW-15 has a frequency response rated down to an earth shattering 18 Hz.  Unlike the typical subwoofer the GXW-15 has a small display at the top of its baffle as well as a knob/button just above it, which in theory you never have to use because all functions can be controlled from the supplied remote controller.  ‘nuff said.

The subwoofer manual says to run the LEO system before running that AV receiver auto calibration so that’s exactly what I did.  Running LEO is a minimalist affair – plug in the supplied microphone, place it where you would normally sit and let the system run its course of test tones.  The whole thing took only a couple of minutes in total.  Following this, I ran the auto calibration of my Pioneer Elite SC-07 AV receiver.  And now it was time for the fun stuff!  I should mention that part way through this review process I switched to a much higher performance Arcam FMJ AVR600 AV receiver.

Armed with a stack of Blu-ray discs, both music and movies, and SACDs I fired up my recently purchased Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD universal blu-ray player and grabbed a seat on the couch.  Yes, a reviewer’s life can be a tough gig sometimes.

First up was the Rolling Stones Shine a Light concert Blu-ray, Martin Scorsese’s take on what a Stones concert disc should look like.  The track “As Tears Go By” opens with Keith Richards playing an amazing 12 string acoustic guitar lick and I’ve honestly never heard it sound this good on any home theatre system.  The Monitor Audio speakers delivered the richness of the doubled-up guitar strings with fullness in the mid frequencies and an amazing bell-like quality in the higher octaves.  The depth and texture of this presentation was as close as I’ve heard from a real 12 string guitar.  When Richards strummed full chords, the strings rang in a perfect union, yet at the same time I could hear the distinct sound of each string.  The ribbon tweeters reproduced the high frequencies of both instruments and voices with an amazing sizzle and a high level of detail.  The tweeter presentation was airy, super clean and smoothly integrated with the mid frequencies, not once did I detect any harshness in the upper registers.  I also never got tired even during long listening sessions.  Ribbon tweeters offer a wider horizontal dispersion compared to dome tweeters and hence offer a larger horizontal sweet spot.  It should however be noted that ribbon tweeters have a limited vertical dispersion and as a result sound best when your ears are at their level.  Further enhancing the performance of this song, the surround speakers did a great job of providing the ambience as the crowd sang along during the chorus.  The Monitor Audio speakers provided me with plenty of listening pleasure as I enjoyed the rest of the tracks on this disc.

Next I switched to the Dire Straits: Brothers In Arms SACD, a fantastic album (on many different levels) that gets plenty of play time in both my two and multi-channel systems.  The Gold GX series served up a perfectly balanced frequency range and one of the cleanest, luscious sounding mid-ranges I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in my home theatre.  The ribbon tweeters extracted the finest musical details with the outmost delicacy.   Tracks like “So Far Away” and “Money For Nothing” presented me with a holographic soundstage – which reached well beyond the walls of my listening room as drums played all around my listening seat.    Meanwhile, the GXW-15 subwoofer blended smoothly with the rest of the speakers and provided perfectly resolved and well articulated bottom frequencies.

Flute Mystery (by Fred Jonny Berg) on Blu-ray gave me the chance to listen to a wide variety of string and air instruments.  The reproduction of this DTS-HD Master soundtrack was superb, every instrument sounded rich and tonally accurate.  I decided to take this opportunity to investigate the difference with the GX-FX surround speakers operating in monopole mode versus the dipole mode.  The monopole mode, recommended when the GX-FX is used as a rear speaker in a 5.1 system, produced a direct yet incredibly smooth sound and reproduced all of the fine intricacies of the music.  Not surprisingly the dipole mode, recommended when the GX-FX is used as a side or rear speaker in a 7.1 system, produced a much subtler surround effect.  Rather than sending the sound directly to my ears most of it was sent to the side drivers.  As a result the surround channels produced a much gentler sound – I was hearing more of an ambient sound rather than the full character of the instruments as in the monopole mode.  Both modes worked wonderfully well but I stuck to the recommended monopole setting for most of my listening.

While there was nothing wrong with having the Pioneer Elite SC-07 AV receiver driving these speakers, I knew that a higher level AV receiver, like the Arcam FMJ AVR600, should bring a further improvement to what I was hearing.  After all, the Gold GX isn’t just another speaker series – this is Monitor Audio’s second series from the top and should be capable of more than the Pioneer receiver can send its way.  It didn’t take very long to realize that with the Arcam in place the sonic improvement was remarkable.  The audio became more organic and further refined, particularly noticeable with voices and instruments.  There was also a noticeable improvement in clarity and detail extraction.  Yes, this was a greater pairing for certain.  Hence, I conducted the remainder of the review with the Arcam.

If you’d like to read my impressions about the sound of the GX 200 floor standing speakers in a 2-channel system, I invite you to read my review in the October/November 2011 issue (now available on www.canadahifi.com/).

Having established the excellent music performance of the Gold GX speaker, in both two and multichannel tests, I set out to evaluate their sound as a companion for movies.  I began with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country on Blu-ray.  The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack sounded great from the outset.  The mesmerizing orchestral performance during the opening credits started off softly and gradually built in intensity and dynamics.  The Gold GX speakers did a very good job of reproducing all of the various sections of the orchestra.  I was enveloped by sound emitted from all around me, from a perfectly blended surround mix.  The crisp, highly detailed presentation of the Gold GX speakers offered much of the character that one would expect from a good hifi speaker.  The subwoofer had its first chance to strut its stuff at the very beginning of the first scene as a large cosmic explosion swept across the soundstage from the front to the back of the room.  The bass was presented with great depth and tightness, not just by the subwoofer but also by the surround speakers.  During the first few minutes of the film I noticed that the Gold GX had a slight advantage over other speaker designs thanks to their ribbon tweeters.  This advantage was the clarity of the dialogue.  Unlike with some of the other speakers I’ve listened to in the past, the GX centre channel never failed to deliver a clean rendition of the character voices – regardless of how many other layers of sound were in the mix.  Another advantage was that the dialogue was clearly audible even at very low volume levels.

While watching Thor on Blu-ray, what I got was a decidedly cinematic experience.  The Gold GX speakers handled this incredibly dynamic soundtrack with the outmost control.  Sound during quieter scenes was delivered with delicacy and precision.  Low frequencies during loud scenes were capable of delivering seismic thumps but always sounded tight and controlled.  The LEO automatic room correction system built into GXW15 subwoofer did a phenomenal job of smoothing out the bass frequencies in my room, and provided a better bass response in all the seats on my couch.  Dialogue was always super clean, even when layered with other sounds and effects.  Again I noticed that voices were very clear even at lower volume levels.  In one of the scenes, as Thor snuck into the Shield agency site set up to investigate the “satellite” crash site, all of the speakers worked in unison to create fantastically realistic rainfall and thunderstorm.

The Monitor Audio Gold GX series offered a stellar performance in my home theatre and for a total price of just under $12,000 for a 5.1 system you would certainly expect them to.  Whether I listened to music or watched movies, they never failed to engage me at the highest level.  Voices and instruments sounded true-to-life and hence music was always full of emotion, regardless of genre.  On many occasions I felt like the performers were right in my room.  During movies with good soundtracks (and visuals) the Gold GX series were capable of creating a total suspension of disbelief, making me feel like I was part of the action.  Yes it is possible to assemble a home theatre speaker system for a much smaller amount but you’ll miss out on all the dynamics, details and realism that only a higher-end speaker system like the Monitor Audio Gold GX can deliver.

Monitor Audio
www.monitoraudio.ca

Distributed in Canada by Kevro International, www.kevro.com
(800) 667-6065 / (905) 428-2800

Monitor Audio Gold GX 5.1 Speaker System
Price (CAD):
GX200 floor standing ($4,995/pair)
GXC150 centre channel ($1,195)
GX-FX surrounds ($2,390/pair)
GXW15 subwoofer ($3,195)
5.1 system as tested: $11,775

ModWright LS 100KWA 100SE

Earlier this year, in the April/May 2012 issue of CANADA HiFi, Phil Gold reviewed the ModWright Instruments KWA 150 Signature Edition Amplifier.  He was so impressed by this amplifier that it ended up finding a permanent spot in his audio system.  His high praise of the amplifier also inspired us to bring in a couple of the more affordable pieces from ModWright, the KWA 100SE Amplifier and LS 100 Tube Preamplifier.  If you’re not familiar with the ModWright Instruments brand I invite you to read Phil’s review as it does a great job of introducing the company.  All ModWright Instruments components are designed and hand-made in the USA.

So how did these two entry-level ModWright components fair?  Let’s start at the very beginning.  Both components were double-boxed for shipping.  But I was surprised that the inner box of the LS 100 preamp was significantly larger than the preamp itself.  Inside, the styrofoam inserts were smaller than the box and hence could not fully prevent the LS 100 from moving inside the box during shipping.  The five tubes included in the box were scattered loosely inside the box, three of them had fallen completely out of their paper boxes.  Luckily none of the tubes were broken.  I contacted the manufacturer to make them aware of these issues and was told that as long as the tubes worked when I first power on the LS 100, then I shouldn’t have any problems.  There were no issues with the packaging of the KWA 100SE amp on the other hand.  Let’s look at each component in detail.

The LS 100 preamp has a single-ended tube design and strives to improve many of the qualities offered by the 9.0SE model, designed some seven years earlier.  The brushed aluminium enclosure gives it an attractive industrial appearance, if you’re into this sort of thing.  The front panel features two large dials (balance, volume), a series of sunken-in buttons for power and input selection (with corresponding LEDs above each) and 1/4 inch headphone jack.  It is topped off by a large, blue backlit ModWright logo that’s flanked by large ModWright Instruments lettering on the top and the LS 100 designation on the bottom.  Its design features include a single gain/buffer stage, phase inverting and an upgrade slot for an optional in-board DAC or phono stage.  The base LS 100 preamp retails for $3,700, or $4,500 with the built-in phono stage or DAC.  My review unit was equipped with the phono stage.  The LS 100 offers a bank of five inputs (4 RCA, 1 XLR), three outputs (2 RCA, 1 XLR), one monitor input and tape out, as well as a home theatre bypass input.  Two remote trigger outputs and an IEC socket, for a removable power cord, round out the rear panel.  The supplied remote has a compact form factor, similar to remotes supplied with mini stereo systems, but offers nearly all the same functionality as the front panel buttons.  Frankly, the remote looks and feels a bit cheap.

Like some of the other tube-based components on the market, the LS 100 preamp requires some assembly – namely placing the tubes inside the sockets.  It’s a fun, engaging process that gave me the opportunity to get to know the component a little better.  To get the tubes into place, the top cover of the LS 100 needs to be completely removed, which means undoing 20 hex screws with the provided long-handled hex key.  The LS 100 uses three tubes: two 6SN7 driver tubes and a single 5AR4/GZ34 rectifier tube.  The optional phono stage board requires two additional tubes – a 12AU7 and a 12AX7.  If you get the LS 100 model with the phono stage, you’ll want to configure the phono stage to have the correct loading impedance (to match your turntable) while the cover is off.  This is accomplished by setting up two banks of board-mounted dip switches which provide loading impedances of 50, 100, 500, 1000 or 47 kOhm, with the option of 100 pf of capacitance.  My Clearaudio Concept turntable has a loading impedance of 47 kOhms so I set the dip switches accordingly.  Fitting the tubes into the sockets is very simple but setting the loading impedances may leave novice users scratching their heads since it’s not explained in the manual as well as it could be (a diagram would be nice).

The KWA 100SE amp ($4,500) has the same brushed aluminium enclosure, with rounded edges and corners.  Its front panel is completely free of buttons, with only the blue backlit ModWright logo sandwiched by the ModWright Instruments lettering on the top and KWA 100SE on the bottom.  The power switch is tucked away, out of view, on the left side, on the underside of the chassis.  The SE designation at the end of the model number stands for Signature Edition and demands $800 more, over the base model.  The KWA 100SE features a solid stage design but promises to combine the advantages of both tube and solid state designs.  The SE edition of this amp offers a little more power and less distortion than the base model.  Its power is rated at 120 watts per channel (at 8 ohms, 0.07 % THD) or 210 watts per channel (at 4 ohms, 0.07 % THD).  The SE edition offers higher grade resistors and ModWright’s proprietary capacitors (also found in the preamp), as well as five pairs of Mosfet output devices per channel, compared to the three pairs in the base model.  Total capacitance is rated at 180,000 uf, compared to 90,000 uf of the base model.  At the core of the KWA 100SE lies a single voltage gain stage called the “Solid State Music Stage”, a circuit designed by Alan Kimmel, creator of the vacuum tube “Mu” stage.  Highlights of this amp’s design include a high-low bias switch and true balanced floating inputs.  Its rear panel accepts both XLR balanced and RCA unbalanced inputs.  A master power switch, silver multi-way speaker binding posts and a power IEC port round out the rear panel.

Powering on this ModWright Instruments pair has to be done in the right order – the preamp first and then the amp.  Otherwise, the protection circuitry in the amp might be tripped up and in the worst case, you might damage your speakers.  The preamp takes about 20 seconds to start up, while the amp takes closer to 55 seconds.  I had the ModWright Instruments pair hooked up to my trusty Focal Electra 1008 Be II speakers and used the Bryston BDP-1 Digital Player / BDA-1 DAC and the Clearaudio Concept turntable as my sources.

During the first two months this duo spent at my house, I listened to plenty of different types of music and gave the components ample time to burn-in.  Unfortunately when I was about to sit down and begin my critical listening for this review, an issue surfaced with the LS 100 preamp.  Suddenly it began introducing a noticeable noise into the signal chain and also became ultra sensitive to any kinds of vibrations – the smallest tap on the case got amplified right to the speakers (even walking in front of my system caused this to happen).  It turned out that one or more of the tubes had become microphonic, something that can happen with tubes.  However ModWright quickly rectified the problem by sending me a new set.  After going through the burn-in process again, I was finally ready to give this pair a proper listen.

I have to admit that I was pretty excited about the combination of a tube preamp and a solid state amp working together to produce sound – I figured that if they worked well together I could potentially have the best of both worlds.  It’s become somewhat of a tradition now, that every time I test a new component I go on a new album shopping spree.  Among the new artists, now loaded on my SSD drive and played by the Bryston digital player, were Sonoio, Alabama Shakes, City and Colour, The Lumineers and Alex Clare.  As part of my tests I of course included numerous albums that I’ve listened to before on many other components.

I began my listening session with Rebecca Pidgeon’s “Spanish Harlem” from the Best Audiophile Voices Collection.  I was immediately captivated by the realness of the sound produced by this duo.  Rebecca’s voice was silky smooth and echoed gently in the originally recorded environment.  The strings of the double bass were well articulated and produced rich bass notes.  Similarly piano keys and the violin played with rich overtones.  Everything about this presentation had a lifelike quality, as if I was listening to a live show.  The highs had just the right amount of sparkle, while the bass line played tunefully and never lacked in depth.  The midrange offered great clarity and rhythm.

Tracks from AIR’s Moon Safari disc presented an expansive soundstage that I’ve come to appreciate from this album when played through capable audio equipment.  The ModWright duo resolved the numerous, often complex sonic layers of this music with ease, while delivering all of the fine details of each and every layer.  The dynamics of the presentation never disappointed.

Next I jumped to the Jagged Little Pill Acoustic disc from Alanis Morissette.  All of the tracks on this album offered rich, full-bodied acoustic guitar notes, with remarkable harmonics that one would expect from a real guitar.  Different guitars offered clearly distinct sound characteristics.  I could also easily determine the strumming pattern of each guitar on most tracks.  Alanis’ quirky voice was reproduced with all the veracity of a live performance.  The ModWright components presented me with a properly laid out, three dimensional soundstage where the vocals and every instrument had a precise position and a good amount of air around it.  Tracks from City and Colour’s “Little Hell” once again reconfirmed all of my conclusions about the imaging and soundstaging.

Having a tube design, the LS 100 does not offer as low of a noise floor as a non-tube preamp design.  If you’re close enough to the speakers you will hear a little bit of a constant noise.  This however is completely expected and in my opinion does not take anything away from the listening experience.

As mentioned earlier, the LS 100 preamp provided for this review included the optional on-board phono stage and this is what I turned my attention to next.  The LS 100 offers a gain of 70dB and is capable of handling both MC and MM turntable cartridges even though it doesn’t have the typical switch for this selection.  That’s because it offers plenty of headroom for both cartridge designs.  Once again I listened to a large variety of recordings, ranging from rock to classical.  Regardless of the musical selection, I was consistently presented with amazing resolution and precise imaging within a vast soundstage.   The LS 100 allowed my Clearaudio Concept turntable to deliver delicacy and smoothness from classical recordings and great dynamics from hard rock recordings like I’ve never experienced before from my turntable.  Thanks to its tube design, this phono stage added yet another level of realism and fluidity to each song that I listened to.

During its stay on my audio rack, the ModWright Instruments KWA 100SE amp and LS 100 tube preamp provided me with many hours of enjoyment.  What started as tapping my hands on my knees often ended in air guitar or air conducting.  There is no question that there is a great synergy between these components – what I was listening to was truly a fantastic combination of both tube and solid state designs.  Despite the issue that I experienced with the LS 100 preamp at the start, my overall experience with the ModWright duo was very positive thanks to the excellent sonic presentation achieved by them.  I communicated the packaging issue to both the manufacturer and the Canadian distributor and I’m certain that both will address this accordingly for future shipments.  The LS 100 is a flexible pre-amp that offers plenty of inputs, both balanced and unbalanced, and thanks to its tube stage is capable of breathing the textures and realism that exist in real voices and instruments.  The KWA 100SE is an amp that offers the control and dynamics that one would expect from a high quality amp, while offering a great depth of details.  Together there is a sense of musical magic between these two components, that’s for sure.  Bravo ModWright Instruments!

ModWright Instruments
www.modwright.com

Distributed in Canada by Tri-Cell Enterprises, www.tri-cell.ca
1-800-263-8151

ModWright Instruments KWA 100SE Amplifier
Price: $4,500 CAD

ModWright Instruments LS 100 Tube Preamplifier
Price: $4,500 CAD (with phono stage)

It gives me the outmost pleasure to introduce all readers of the CANADA HiFi magazine to a new project I’ve been working on for the last few months called Guydster – the guy’s guide to everything.  The Guydster website is portal where guys can learn about some of the hottest and most unique new products designed just for guys.  Within the Guydster website you’ll find news about cars, motorcycles, bikes, gear, gadgets, tools, style, home products, food&drink and wait for it… audio and video of course!  As the name suggests, Guydster will also entertain readers with Buyer Guides that offer concise information and promote educated buying decisions about various product categories designed for guys.

So check out the new site at www.guydster.com and all you Facebookers please ‘Like’ Guydster at www.facebook.com/guydster

- Suave Kajko, Publisher of the CANADA HiFi Magazine

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