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YG Acoustics Sonja XV and Dan D’Agostino Relentless

by Marc Phillips in Components

Do I really need an excuse to ditch Rochester just before the first major snowstorm of the season just to head down to San Diego? As excuses go, I can think on none more sublime than visiting a high-end audio dealer to evaluate a couple of state-of-the-art designs that have just been introduced. Alma Audio is nestled in the Kearney Mesa area of the city, not far from the airport. It’s a fairly new enterprise, opened in 2015 by partners Alexandre Siufy and Fabio Storelli. Along with Adrienne [...]


  • Another amplifier is aiming right at the balls of the established order of high-end consumer electronics. Out of the gate that last statement might seem a little crass, but by the end of this I hope to (at least partly) justify it. Peachtree Audio (website) has been looking to exploit the high-end audio market’s major weaknesses for over a decade. Many of the long heralded brands we have come to know and love have been slow to adapt to the changing marketplace, either out of fear of losing [...]
  • Auris Audio (website) is a somewhat new addition to the rich high-end audio tradition of the central European country of Serbia. If that strikes you as odd, let me assure you that yes, they’ve got a robust market for high-end audio manufacturing there! There are some wonderful and well-established companies from that part of the world doing some truly amazing things in the High-End corner of our hobby. A couple of the of better-known ones immediately come to mind. One is Dayens, which has [...]
  • Bakoon AMP-41 Review | An Open Window

    September 30, 2018 // 1 Comment

    The Bakoon Amp-41 integrated amplifier was a mystery to me. As in “no preconceived notions” whatsoever.  Sometimes, we get to evaluate gear that has been reviewed to death by the major players, talked about incessantly in the back corridors of the audio chatrooms, and the like.  It’s fun, but like it or not, I feel like I know more than I want to about the product before I ever get to hear it for myself.  My initial thought when Scot Hull handed me this amp was something like [...]
  • Emotiva TA-100 Review | The Millennial Audiophile

    September 2, 2018 // 5 Comments

    Emotiva's TA-100 aims to dominate the entry-level integrated category by offering a little more of everything [...]
  • McGary Audio SA-1

    McGary Audio SA-1 Stereo Amplifier Review

    September 1, 2018 // 2 Comments

    One of the fun aspects of reviewing gear from small start-up companies is getting to know the owner/proprietor, who is also usually the designer and builder of the piece of gear I’m reviewing. Such is the case with Mike McGary, something of a new kid on the block in the world of vacuum tube amplifier design. Mike is the owner, designer, builder, and chief bottle washer at upstart McGary Audio, which is based in Gainesville, Virginia, not quite a two-hour drive from my home in south-central [...]
  • Psvane EL34PH Review | Tube Me!

    August 24, 2018 // 3 Comments

    by Darryl Lindberg One thing’s certain: as tubes age, their performance declines. How do you know if your glassware is in decline? As far as I can tell there are two indications of this phenomenon: an abrupt termination of operation or a gradual realization that “something’s missing.” In the case of output tubes, an abrupt termination may be manifested by a brilliant flash as an output tube (or tubes) goes supernova. Depending on your equipment’s protective measures, such an event can [...]
  • Luxman L-550AXII Integrated Amplifier Review

    August 4, 2018 // 5 Comments

    By Steve Folberg Memory Lane Long before the Luxman L-550AXII ever graced my door, there was a stereo system. I bought my first real system just out of graduate school in 1985: a Systemdek turntable (with a glass platter and the worst suspension system ever slapped into a turntable), a used Linn Basik tonearm with some long forgotten Audioquest cartridge, a PS Audio Elite Plus integrated amp, and a pair of the original Vandersteen 2C loudspeakers, bi-wired with some fat, ugly, Monster Cable [...]
  • First Watt SIT-3 Amplifier Review

    July 15, 2018 // 7 Comments

    Skunkworks Legend To those who follow aviation history, Clarence “Kelly” Johnson is something of a legend. In case you are unfamiliar with the name, Johnson was a chief designer for Lockheed Martin who was the brains behind such legendary aircraft as the U2 and SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft. These designs were so top secret that they were conceived and developed in a nebulous location known as the “Skunk Works” and eventually tested at Groom Lake in the Nevada desert, which is [...]
  • The rightful king of the audiophile entry-level integrated amplifiers adds a jewel to its crown I’ve owned three of the NAD 316BEE integrated amplifiers (website here). They are my go-to budget integrated for a few reasons; power, finesse, and simplicity. Each time I have parted with one I’ve known it was to initiate a budding audiophile towards making a move into the hobby. Think of the new NAD 316BEE V2 as a well-refined budget amplifier, but also gateway product that does well to give [...]
  • “Dad, why does he always get to do things before I did?” That was my daughter voicing mild complaint over the prospect of her younger brother receiving a Sprout. A Sprout, you say? Indeed, I’m speaking of PS Audio’s gateway drug into high-end audio, the venerable Sprout integrated amplifier/DAC/phono preamp. It seems that receipt of a Sprout has become something of a coming of age moment in my family. My daughter got the first generation sample I reviewed when she was a junior in [...]
  • Do you want the hernia or the double hernia? The voice on the phone asking that question was Bryan Stanton, a communications specialist who works with Pass Labs. A few weeks prior, we had begun chatting about Pass sending me one of its X-series amps for review. I had agreed, and now Pass wanted to know if it should ship the 127-pound X350.8 stereo amp or a pair of the top-of-the-line, 123-pounds-each X600.8 mono blocks. I didn’t hesitate for even a second. “Oh, the X600.8s. [...]
  • McIntosh MA252 tube/solid-state: Review

    March 30, 2018 // 7 Comments

    Say hello to the McIntosh MA252: “Hello, stranger.” In the world of high-end audio, there are solid-state tribes and there are tube tribes. Usually, the two pretty much stick to their own camps, except for scattered skirmishes when they cross paths at the watering hole. Each tribe believes theirs is the one true path, and questions the auditory capabilities of the other side. This is why I’m always surprised to see any attempts at the two co-existing in the same room, let alone [...]
  • Welcome to something new we’re going to try here on PTA thanks to our friend Wynn Wong of Wynn Audio in Richmond Hill, Ontario. I’m going to be curating a new list every month featuring different categories of gear that I think you – our readers – have to hear under any circumstances you can arrange: beg, borrow, steal, drive for hours, hop a train, take a plane… you get what I’m saying. Price will not be a factor, with individual pieces on each list reflecting a spectrum of what [...]
  • Picking the best audio component of the year is kind of like pondering your ultimate list of girls to ask to the high school prom. There are many very attractive choices, but probably a much smaller number actually in your league. That doesn’t stop you from dreaming, though. And the girl who maybe initially wasn’t near the top, after you gave her a chance and got to know her better, became the perfect choice. Possibly that even led to a longer-term relationship. The Part-Time Audiophile [...]
  • Review: Merrill Audio Cara preamplifier

    October 29, 2017 // 3 Comments

    When was the last time your heart was sent racing by the opportunity to audition a preamplifier? Yup, line stages are not the most exciting components. They just sit there, allowing you to select your source, and adjust the volume, right? Yawn. Yet, when UPS pulled up outside my house with the new Cara preamp from Merrill Audio Advanced Technology Labs, I felt a surge of anticipation. Merrill always seems to make a good sound on the show circuit, and this $3,500 USD unit was priced far below [...]
  • Review: Pass Labs XA60.8 Mono Amplifiers

    October 1, 2017 // 3 Comments

    by John Richardson I’ve been on something of a roll lately with amplifiers from Pass Labs. Readers might recall that I reviewed a monster of an amp, the Pass X250.8 a couple of years ago, and then more recently, Pass Labs’ lower powered integrated offering, the INT-60.  Both were fine examples of top-drawer modern solid state amplification, and while I found the INT-60 to be a bit pickier about speaker pairing, the brutish X250.8 could drive just about anything and always look great doing [...]
  • Complaints. I had many complaints with this system. Not from me, from my neighbours. You see, this was one of those systems that just begged to be played ridiculously loud. It was the sense of scale, it was the musicality, it was the tone, the timbre… the bass. The CH Precision L1 Dual Monaural Line Preamplifier, ($32,975 USD/$40,870 CAN) and M1 Reference Power Amplifier ( $51,000 USD/$63,960 CAN) being fed Redbook Tidal, and high-resolution local files (a mix of 24/192, and DSD) via a [...]
  • Pass Labs will be showing off their brand-new XA25 Power Amplifier at AXPONA this week, and announced today that the company has started shipping the Class-A amps which have an MSRP of $4,900 USD ($6,500 CAN). According to Nelson Pass, the brand new design embodies everything that traditional, and current designs feature, but with lower-power requirements, a more simple single-ended circuit with fewer parts, and gain stages in the signal path. This translates into lower voltages allowing for [...]
  • By John Richardson I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and soul searching lately, both regarding my place in this quirky hobby and my written musings on it.  Why do I enjoy coming home from a long day’s work, and after a short break, running up to my listening room and firing up the system?  Why do I look forward to late nights listening intently to new (and old) tunes on new (and familiar) gear?  Why do I hanker to excitedly share my thoughts with you about all of this on the [...]
  • Review: Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL2.0

    February 26, 2017 // 7 Comments

    by John Richardson Linear Tube Audio and David Berning Let’s start this review with a little pop quiz. Question 1: Have you heard of Linear Tube Audio (the company)? No? OK, I didn’t think so. Question 2: Are you familiar with David Berning? You are? No surprise there, as Mr. Berning is one of the best known amplifier designers of the last 40 years or so, especially when it comes to vacuum tube designs. So why do I ask, you ask? As it turns out, there’s a very definite link between these [...]