CAF 2014: Did BorderPatrol just smuggle a headphone amplifier into town?

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Capital Audiofest is currently underway, and I just snuck off for a quick update here. Yes, there’s going to be way more coming, but in the meantime, a teaser of a teaser.

Brian Hunter and I snuck into Gary Dews’ BorderPatrol setup yesterday morning, first thing. Gary’s a British ex-pat that’s been making crazy-good tube amplifiers for the last 20+ years. I first met Gary at the first CAF 5 years back, when he was showing his amps with Living Voice loudspeakers — that room nearly caused me to go postal, as I’d just spent something like $20k on gear that his gear clearly bettered and I was bitter. Ah well. Anyway, I’ve had some experience with his gear since, but today, he had something new. Something very new.

A BorderPatrol headphone amplifier. Continue reading

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Wiring up Flagship Headphones with Double Helix Cables

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At some point in the recent past, I got a wild hair up my netherwheres about headphone cables and spent a few weeks wringing my hands about the relative impact that stock cables make on the performance of their attached headphones.

Starting a sentence with “Everyone Knows” is usually an invitation for trouble, but Everyone Knows that manufacturers don’t routinely go out of their way to include high-quality cables with their audio components. I know many kilo-buck audio products that ship with crappy power cords, so why would any particular headphone company seriously invest in a high-grade headphone cable? I mean, sure, some do, but assuming that all would as a matter of course would be as foolish as saying that those bulky black stock power cords were all hand selected to particularly match with that $30k amp. They’re just thrown in there for basic connectivity, to meet code or some regulation, but included with the full expectation that the purchaser will be using their own anyway. Seriously, why would headphone cables be different? Continue reading

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Capital Audiofest 2014 Starts Friday

This Friday marks the Fifth Annual sonic block party known as Capital Audiofest.

I’ve been lucky enough to track this show from its inception; in fact, this may be the show that redirected this site and my orientation to audio’s high-end. The First CAF, back in 2010, was at a mansion out in Rockville — I remember my then 3-year-old twins thinking that this whole thing was quite the adventure. Especially after ice cream on the way home. A move out to Gaithersburg landed CAF in a traditional hotel for years two and three, but it wasn’t till last year, at the current “home” in downtown Silver Spring, that we were really cooking with gas.

The new venue at the Sheraton actually landed us near to “other things”, solving the location issue that most audio shows have serious difficulties with. The Sheraton was 3 short blocks from the DC Metro, and less than a mile from dozens of affordable eats — that’s walking distance. With the typical humidity-induced-strangulation of DC weather, I won’t necessarily be one to recommend strolling about DC in late July. But if you’re the adventurous sort, DC is chock full of touristy things to see and do. Continue reading

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Peachtree Audio deepblue2, now live and crushing it at Indiegogo

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Normally, I wouldn’t jump back in so quickly, but if you’re at all curious about the deepblue2 campaign currently underway over at Indiegogo, your time to jump in and snatch up some early-bird pricing is slipping away. We’re less than half an hour into the campaign, and they’re already zeroing in on their funding target.

The target funding level is $63,000 which shouldn’t be a problem. Initial price for the deepblue2 is $250 for the first 250 backers (150 already claimed), then move to $300 for the next 500, before settling in at $350 for the remainder of the offering. MSRP is expected to be $500. Estimated delivery is November 2014. More details are available over at Peachtree Audio.

Me? I ordered two. Can’t wait.

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Review: Genesis Loudspeakers 5.3, Hear Me Roar

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My biggest fear in writing just about anything is that I’m not going to do the subject justice. These are only words, after all, and far too often what I intend to convey and what I actually do convey don’t exactly line up. It’s not entirely my fault. We all use terms slightly different, and group them into seemingly random phrases almost willy-nilly, and the baggage that I want to load onto that linguistic plane doesn’t always make it off the tarmac. That’s part of the joy of being human. Of using language. Of attempting, however ineptly, of putting that language to some kind of medium where others can take it up and try to interpret it. Scan it for cues and meaning.

So, let me be blunt and clear and to the point and all that stuff. These 5.3 floor standing loudspeaker from Genesis are bloody fantastic. I love them. I just wanted to get that out there. Just so we don’t get confused. Okay? Great. Let’s move on. Continue reading

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Analog Bliss part II: the Ikeda Sound Lab 9 TS Moving Coil cartridge review

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By Dr. Panagiotis Karavitis

As recently as a couple of decades ago, just about everyone involved in the audio biz gave the turntable a farewell salute. Sales dropped rapidly and historic names like Micro Seiki, SAEC and Fidelity Research faded away into oblivion as everyone was worshiping a new, “silver” god. The silver god was to reign for just a few years as the followers of vinyl realized that the new deity’s promises for higher fidelity were false. Soon the cult of vinyl came back and came back so strong that acolytes pretended new turntables, tonearms and cartridges of mechanical and acoustical perfection had never been seen before.

A couple of weeks back I wrote a review regarding the excellent Hanss T 30 turntable. While Hanss is a relatively new name in the analog sound, Ikeda carries a pedigree that’s a quarter of a mile long. Mr. Isamu Ikeda founded Fidelity Research Co. and released the FR-1 cartridge back in 1967. In the following years Ikeda-san launched products like the FR 64 tonearm and the legendary FR-7 air core coil for which he also applied for a patent. Ikeda’s clients during those days included nothing less than the Imperial family of Japan. Continue reading

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Peachtree Audio goes wireless with deepblue2

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Just over a year ago, Peachtree Audio announced their newest loudspeaker system, called “deepblue“. The name was a clever turn on the primary wireless technology in use, Bluetooth, and the fact that the unit actually was able to “do” bass. I heard the prototype — it was pretty convincing.

For reasons that remain baffling, deepblue never reached full production. Until now. Continue reading

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Flagship Closed-Back Headphones from MrSpeakers, Audeze and Fostex

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by John Grandberg

A few months back I surveyed the “affordable” sealed headphone landscape, ending up with a good number of competitors that I felt comfortable recommending. The most expensive of them was well under $400 and several on the list didn’t even top $300. That’s great for those of us on a budget, or for casual headphone fans who need a great sounding alternative to their speaker rig.

This question is. does it get much better than these affordable options? What about the absolute best sealed headphones out there, the really high-end models which pull no price-related punches? Today’s article focuses on the flagship sealed options, which is something we’ve seen a lot more of recently. Still, the list is rather small compared to open designs, and I’ll do my best to explain why many of the options just didn’t make the cut for me. Continue reading

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A visit with Echo Audio and Coffman Labs

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I got a message a couple of weeks ago from Coffman Labs PR whiz and TONEPub contributor Rob Johnson. Damon Coffman, in cooperation with Cypher Labs, was coming out with a new headphone amp. There was to be a party at Echo Audio in Portland, OR. There would be loads of headphone gear to try. There would be beer and cake. The roadshow would be on June 28th. Would Mal and I be in attendance?

Heck yeah. Continue reading

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On Experts, Reviews, and Drive By Shootings: Part 4

I’m under no illusions. There have always been issues around critics and criticism for pretty much as long as there has been critics and criticism. I suppose it wouldn’t be all that weird to say that this is precisely what makes ‘art’ something other than an exercise of self-gratification. For something to be Art, it must be shared; when shared, it has impact; it is exactly that impact that is the value of the Art. In philosophy, we call that Aesthetics.

As a capstone to this impossible-to-finish series, I suspected that this was the place where the coin would stop rolling. By placing it here, at the end, I’m sure I’m saying quite a lot about what I think of Art generally and of high-end audio more specifically, especially where that intersects with what I do, which seems to be some kind of art-criticism. Uncomfortable as that coat might be to wear. Continue reading

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