Peachtree Audio deepblue2 in the final 48 hours

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48 hours to go on the deepblue2 campaign currently underway over at Indiegogo, so any plans you have to jump in and snatch up some early-bird pricing are pretty much over.

Funding currently stands north of 470% of the goal [snort], so I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing these in short order. As of this writing, there are only a few units available at the 40% off mark, so snooze-and-lose rules are in full effect.

For those keeping score, the deepblue2 is an update on very cool deepblue I heard last year — this one promise “moar power” and deeper bass. More details are available at Peachtree Audio.

Me? I ordered two. Yes, really. I’m thinking about a couple of very interesting places I can use a monster speaker. How about you?

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CAF 2014: Show Wrap

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Mat Weisfeld and Jane Cai join me, bearing gifts — a new Nomad!

During a recent seminar, Michael Fremer remarked that there are three big trends in audio’s high-end today: vinyl, high-resolution audio, and headphones. He’s spot on. But there is another major trend overlooked in that count. A social one. One I think that’s as important, and for many reasons, to the other three: the audio show.

I’m not sure a lot of my peers in the audio press would be happy to agree with that assessment, but that’s okay, they’re wrong a lot. In fact, I know a lot of them have griped about how many audio shows there are, about how much work it is to cover them, and how the same folks keep cropping up over and over again. I can see their point and feel their pain, even as I get a little chuckle out of that last bit. But the point is, they’re missing something. Something the sheer fact of the audio show “circuit” ought to make plain, but gets lost behind the typical product-focused navel-gazing audiophiles are so rightly accused of obsessing about. It’s simple, really. It’s the community.

In many ways, this is something that personal audio folks get really right. The Head-Fi meets and meet ups are, and have been, an integral part of the personal audio experience, especially as that part of the audio market finds its feet. I think it’s rather ironic, actually, that headphone-based audio enthusiasts are so much better at getting together than audiophiles are — I mean, headphones are almost by definition not inclusive. Hi-Fi, on the other hand, takes place in spaces meant to be shared. Hmm.

Anyway, it’s the audio show that brings these things back together. Not music. Not love of music. But shared passions. That’s what binds us. And audio shows are what’s helping drive, expand and shape “the industry” today. Continue reading

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CanMania 2014: Cavalli is on fire

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CanManiaAt this point, I’m not sure how you could have wandered through the head-fi high-end without stumbling across Cavalli Audio at some point. In short, Cavalli makes some of the best headphone amplifiers on the market. The amps are high-power and high-fidelity class-killers, and can drive any headphone on the market. The fact that they look the part I’m sure doesn’t hurt.

Here at CanMania, attendees could pick their poison and follow the solid-state linear stylings of the Liquid Gold ($3,950), a headphone amplifier rated to up to 9 watts into 50Ω, or following their tube-rolling heart with the Liquid Glass ($2,950). Either way, you’re pretty much done — it’s just a matter of headphones. The only problem, as I see it, is choosing. Continue reading

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CanMania 2014: Cypher Labs, Coffman Labs, definitely not meek

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CanManiaCypher Labs has teamed up with Coffman Labs to create an amazing looking and sounding headphone amplifier, called Prautes ($3,900). This thing has tubes and knobs and textured sides and I get all quivery just looking at it.

Some things to note. One, it’s not tiny — expect it to take up some space. Two, it’s a tube amplifier, using a 12AU7 tube gain stage to drive a pair of 50L6 tubes in push-pull mode. Plan on a total of 1 watt (load-dependent) available for your headphones, and the attendant amount of heat.

But the device has some serious flexibility to go along with its good looks. There are four single-ended/RCA inputs and terminals for speakers if you want to use it as an integrated amp (for ~2wpc of output) with your high-sensitivity speakers. On the front faceplate, there are ⅛” and ¼” jacks on the front, as well as two 3-pin XLR outputs (left and right).

Turning to the chunky knobs, there is a lot you can do besides just turn it up. Opposite the input selector is the impedance selector, with 5 settings to choose from (300Ω, 100Ω, 32Ω, 8Ω and “IEM”) to tailor the outputs accordingly. Like bass? Have a troubling source? Or a headphone you want tweaked? Well, there’s an adjustable bass-boost knob (3dB at 31, 36, 41, or 47Hz) that allows you to customize to taste. Oh, and around back there’s a ground lift switch lets you deal with pesky mains issues. This sucker has a lot of features. Wish I’d been able to fiddle with it some more, but what I heard was pretty sweet.

Continue reading

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CanMania 2014: HiFiMAN showing some hot new cans

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CanManiaHiFiMAN has a large catalog of personal audio products, including digital audio players, headphones, amplifiers and everything you’d need to connect them.

Where I’ve seen them, repeatedly, is on the headphone front with the sonically awesome but notoriously difficult to drive HE-6 headphones ($1,300). I know reviewers that have these headphones just to abuse headphone amplifiers as a kind of torture test! But when well-driven, as by the HiFiMAN EF-6 headphone amplifier ($1,600), with its 5 watts of output power, the HE-6 can provide one of the most musically engaging personal audio experiences currently available on the market (the set is available for $2,300). Deep bass, tonal richness and oodles of detail and air make for a very compelling package. And that’s just the start. Continue reading

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CanMania 2014: iFi and the stack of portable awesome

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CanManiaiFi Audio is a fascinating brand, focusing (almost) exclusively on portable personal audio. Audio-Head‘s Brian Hunter took a look at some of their earliest offerings for Part-Time Audiophile last year and has another stack of their components in for review right now. They are, in short, really nifty.

The hottest thing off the iFi press are the new DSD components. There’s the Nano iDSD, a palm-sized battery-powered DSD256-capable device. And there’s the even-newer Micro iDSD, about 2x the size of the Nano, that can be driven via USB and can natively decode up to DSD512. I’m pretty sure that the latter just set some kind of record. Continue reading

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CanMania 2014: Headamp and the Purple Hawaii

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CanMania“Go big or go home” is what flashed through my head when I saw the Headamp table in CanMania this year. I mean, seriously.

“Look at me! I am PURPLE! Ha HA!”

Said another way, that is some crazy color on that Blue Hawaii headphone amplifier. If I were queuing up for the 1+ year wait on these bad boys, this is the only color to get it in. Wow.

Wired up to the usual suspects from STAX, including the SR-009 everyone but me raves about, this amp set huge points for sound and style, and at over $5k, that is important and I don’t care who you are.  Continue reading

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CanMania 2014: Clear Tune Monitors drops in with flash and style

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CanManiaClear Tune Monitors is a new-to-me custom IEM company, catering primarily to the pro audio crowd. Prices range from $250-$800.

Unfortunately, I was unable to really spend any time with them as they bugged out a bit early, but I did manage to flip through their brochure and check out a couple of the displays.

The Wood Legit Series, their most expensive model at $800, is quite elegant looking. And yes, there really is wood on the back plate there, which they say “provides an extremely warm and punchy sound, is virtually indestructible and provides acutely clear sound.”
Continue reading

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CanMania 2014: Stereodesk with Heed, Viva, Crayon and more, is personal audio heaven

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CanManiaStereodesk’s Fred Crane and Profundo’s Bob Clark were on hand with some extremely fine imports, including an update from Heed Audio and the magnificent Viva Audio line up.

The Viva gear I’d just seen — and seen for the first time — at Newport. It’s incredible. The center piece here for CanMania, of course, was the ginormous Egoista ($9,500), which uses a pair of 845 output tubes to drive 15 watts into the headphones of your choice. I love the Steelers colors, but apparently that automotive paint is custom, so I suppose you could put your own NFL version together.

This amp is inspiring. And when I say, “ginormous”, I mean it — plan on a lot of rack space and make sure that space has plenty of ventilation. That chassis gets rather warm, and the metal all gets used for heat dissipation. Sorry — not a desktop option, there. But still, who cares? Look at that thing! Continue reading

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CanMania 2014: Oppo Digital, huge on value, great on sound

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CanManiaOppo Digital and I go way back.

Well, no, not really. I mean I’ve been buying their DVD players for years. The sheer number of features at their absurd price points meant happy days for me — I’m pretty sure I have about five models floating around the house currently. No, seriously. Five. When something works that well, and does as much, it’s easy to get enthusiastic — and loyal. So when the DVD players gave way to BluRay, I knew Oppo’s offerings were going to be the way to go. So, I got ‘em. And all was right with him Home Entertainment World.

But when Oppo launched their latest foray into personal audio, I was surprised. I guess you could say the hair on the back of neck stood up and I leaned forward in my chair. I was … intrigued. And not just nearsighted. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The HA-1 is a gorgeously-fitted out headphone amplifier. It has balanced and single-ended ins and outs (hooray!), a superior DAC that supports sample rates up to and including DSD128, and offers AptX Bluetooth for you wireless trendsetters.  Continue reading

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