This is our first News Page in 2015 and it took a while to determine what to say and how to commence another 12-month term of unpredictable movements, ideas, thoughts and (more or less) truthful and realistic claims related to the world of traditional high-end audio. Serious thoughts were given to, so called, "generational changes" and their impact on the future of our industry. While it may be true that some of the 'vintage' carriers of sound and music may have been moderately resurrected, one must not be fooled by the relativity of statistical values and statements therewith. After all, even Compact Disc (CD), barely 30-odd years old, has gone into oblivion among the biggest consumer electronics manufacturers a few years ago! Do not be surprised if, before too long, we start discussing CD in a very similar way we now talk about and revere vinyl (LP). So, what (good) should we expect this year? So far, the best news we heard were launches of two high-resolution internet streaming and download services. At last (and about 3 years after the very first high-end quality USB DAC components emerged) what should have always been the true intent and purpose of audiophile grade and high-end computer file music playback, has become possible in a proper manner. Services such as Tidal (CD quality streaming from a library with over 25 million pieces of music) and Naxos Classic Online HD-LL (up to DSD quality streaming and downloads) are most welcome and we hope other major music labels of all genres will follow suit very soon. Anything else? Well, for once there is not much to be said about the 2015 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as it turned out to be a far more subdued affair than one could remember for years. Whether our expectations may have been too high, or the sheer reality of current times and trends had an effect, may be better not to overanalyse or dwell on. There is no question that many long-standing and leading names seriously shifted their focus towards smaller production volume (read: fewer customers) and considerably higher prices of their products. It is not difficult to understand why, but whether this helps the longevity of the industry without further reducing an already small niche, is another matter. Thankfully, irrespective of what we may be using as our source of music in years to come, amplifiers and loudspeakers will remain to be a fundamental requirement (we cannot all listen to headphones!?), so there is still plenty of prospect for improvements and better sound. In short, we do need to remain positive and continue bringing the beauty and majesty of music to human beings whose life would be poorer without it. And that is what we will always do as best as we can.
:: HIGH RESOLUTION TECHNOLOGIES dSp and i-dSp
Another brilliant concept and breakthrough from the creative vault of Kevin Halverson! Both versions of the HRT dSp digital-sound-processor (one for i-devices another for Android OS devices) offer very high-performance (24/96 resolution), are extremely compact (almost a natural extension of the device and connecting cable) and are attractively priced (£79 inc VAT in the UK and Ireland). Without a shade of doubt an ideal tool for a superb sound through your preferred pair of headphones or earspeakers. Publicly presented at the CES2015 in January, the new dSp models have attracted unprecedented attention well before the, yet to be confirmed, shipping date and general availability. It should not be too long and it will be very much worth the wait.
:: KUZMA STABI XL DC TURNTABLE & XL DC UPGRADE
The eternal quandary surrounding pros and cons of AC and DC motors as driving force behind very best turntables, is and old subject. Franc Kuzma has been deliberating and experimenting in this area for many years and his very first practical reflection arrived in the shape of the excellent Stabi M turntable a short while ago. The time has, however, come to move the boundaries a bit further, and we are pleased to announce the arrival of the Stabi XL DC Turntable - a new version of the highly respected flagship model. Instead of 4 AC motors Stabi XL4 used to have, a single, very powerful and quiet DC motor, combined with a new drive belt and a newly designed DC Controller (external power supply) does the job in such a convincing manner that it must be experienced as soon as possible. In addition, the XL DC now has a control switchboard close to the turntable and away from the PSU that connects to the remote power supply. And now the best news: the new Stabi XL DC will cost less than the XL4 it replaced. The UK recommended retail price of the new Stabi XL DC (including 1 arm tower) has been set at £19,999 inc VAT and the product is shipping now.
Kuzma have not forgotten those who acquired and enjoyed the Stabi XL 2 and 4 turntables over the years. An upgrade package called XL DC Upgrade Kit is available at the cost of £7,500 inc VAT and consists of the new DC motor assembly, drive belt, control switchboard, new DC Controller external PSU and cables connecting the PSU with the DC motor and the control switchboard. The DC XL upgrade kit is available either in brass or black finish as the turntable itself.
:: ZANDEN MODEL 500
One of the good news from the CES2015 was the launch of a new Zanden Audio Systems product. Kazutoshi Yamada does not bring new products as often as others, but when he does, it is a remarkable achievement without failing. For this year, Zanden has given us a new Model 500 D-to-A processor, the very first product of the kind since the reference standard Model 5000MkIV Signature some years ago. The new Model 500 is a single chassis affair of elegant aesthetics along the lines of other most recent Zanden designs. Digital domain highlights include a high resolution (32bit/192kHz) capability to meet DSD standards. There is also a USB input for interface with hosts containing computer music files. Other facilities include I-2-S and coaxial (S/PDIF and AES/EBU) inputs as well as single-ended (RCA) and balanced (XLR) analogue outputs. We expect to have first Model 500 units in the UK in April or May this year when the final pricing will be confirmed as well.