The audio world knows of Pro-Ject Audio Systems as a major brand of turntables, but this Vienna-based company also makes an extensive line of electronics that lately have been winning all kinds of awards. For the past three years, Pro-Ject has received awards for its turntables and its electronic components from the Expert Imaging and Sound Association (EISA).
“You want to put those in our living room?” Over the years, words like these have scuttled countless plans for new home-entertainment systems. If the components themselves didn’t push the spouse acceptance factor into the red zone, the cables needed to connect them did.
At a press event last May at High End 2019, in Munich, a chorus of oohs and aahs rippled through the audience when iFi Audio unveiled, for the first time, its Aurora tabletop music system ($1399, all prices USD). A glance at the photographs accompanying this review make it easy to understand this reaction.
When Naim Audio introduced a new version of its acclaimed Mu-so wireless music system in May 2019, at Munich’s High End, it seemed inevitable that an updated version of the Mu-so Qb would soon follow. And so it did. In early August Naim announced the Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation ($899, all prices USD), and in late October my review sample arrived.
These days, it’s becoming increasingly common for audio manufacturers to offer integrated amplifiers with built-in, high-resolution DACs. For audiophiles who want a low-footprint system to use in real-world living spaces, that’s a very good thing. Add a pair of speakers and a digital source component like a notebook PC or network streamer, and you have most of the world’s music at your fingertips.
To my knowledge, in the 24 years of the SoundStage! Network only one product has ever been retroactively granted a Reviewers’ Choice award. That product was the Hegel Music Systems Röst integrated amplifier-DAC, reviewed for Simplifi by Al Griffin in February 2017 -- in fact, the Röst was the first integrated amplifier to be reviewed on this site.
In his coverage of CEDIA Expo 2019 for SoundStage! Global, Brent Butterworth called DALI’s Katch One soundbar ($999, all prices USD) the “product at the CEDIA Expo that I’d most like to have right at this very minute.” I found this surprising -- not because I had any doubts that the Katch One is a fine product, but because there were so many other lustworthy products at this year’s Expo, including several Brent outlined in his four show reports. A few highlights were Revel’s PerformaBe speakers, NAD’s T 778 nine-channel A/V receiver, and MartinLogan’s 40XW in-wall speaker, each of which has 40 driver-units. There were also lustworthy video products, including 4K laser projectors from Epson, JVC, and LG, and Sony’s modular Crystal LED wall display system.
It’s been just over five years since Canada’s Lenbrook Industries Limited launched the Bluesound brand of streaming multiroom products, and many of the decisions Lenbrook made during Bluesound’s formative stages now seem prescient. These include developing the underlying BluOS technology in-house, rather than sourcing it from a third party, and supporting high-resolution playback right from the start.
Based in Coquitlam, British Columbia, on Canada’s left coast, Kanto Audio has made a name for itself with budget-priced powered stereo speaker systems. These include the YU2 ($219.99/pair, all prices USD), a two-way desktop speaker with USB DAC and 3.5mm stereo analog input; and two bookshelf models, the YU4 ($329.99/pair) and YU6 ($399.99/pair), both featuring Bluetooth connectivity, a built-in phono preamp, a TosLink digital input, and a line-level analog input. The YU4 has a 4” Kevlar woofer and a 1” soft-dome tweeter, driven by a 35Wpc RMS class-D amp; the larger YU6 has a 5.25” woofer and a 50Wpc RMS class-D amp. Kanto’s most ambitious design yet is the Tuk powered minimonitor ($799.99/pair). Inside each rear-ported enclosure is a 5.25” aluminum woofer and a 28 x 45mm Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter.
Do you have to be a propeller-head to enjoy Simplifi’d hi-fi? The question might seem nonsensical, but when you think about this site’s mandate -- to cover “convenient, lifestyle-oriented audio” -- it makes a perverse kind of sense, and the product reviewed here illustrates my point.
Like many music-lovers, I’ve changed my listening habits drastically in the last ten years. A decade ago, all of the music I listened to at home was stored on shiny discs. A decade later, those discs are long gone. My music library is now stored on a LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt RAID system connected to an Apple Mac Mini computer in my second-floor office. The Mac Mini runs Roon Core, and streams music via Wi-Fi to the music system in my main-floor living room.
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