Rounding up 2015 in audio, I was taken by surprise - it has actually been a good year after all.
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L: La Scala; R: WE setup of Humphrey. Click to enlarge.
Best Sound of the Year
My limited time meant very few auditions, but this year two setups impressed the heck out of me.
- Klipsch La Scala I reluctantly sold my alnico pair of La Scala to Bernard. After some effort the concert hall realism in this large space had us shaking in disbelief.
- Full Western Electric Setup (report to come in 2016) Our friend Humphrey has a huge and still expanding collection of Western Electric gear. His setup is in constant flux. I have featured this old pic (much has changed) in my Coming Attraction sidebar for a long time, but for one a little compulsive writing up his setup is easier said than done. His sound is always in flux, sometimes for the better, sometimes worse. Last time heard, many months ago, the epitome of a horn system! And now I heard he has acquired WE Field Coil woofers! Wow!
Compared to the past, I make very few purchases now. With my limited time, I simply would not do them justice. Instead, I have continued to re-focus on the rehabilitation of some of my old gears, which is a great thing. Listed in no particular order of preference.
- Sparkler S306 DAC This simple Non-Oversampling 16-bit DAC more than held its own with the likes of Weiss and AMR. It is unlikely that I will be making source changes to my current Reference System in my "new" place.
- AMR DP-777 DAC (here) Thanks to my friend Tony I have one month to play with this full metal jacket DAC, albeit one with an NOS heart and 16-bit chip, and I am already dreading its return!
- 47 Labs 4706 Gaincard (to be reported) This is the most iconic of 47 products. I got a second-hand unit, and now uses it at my desktop. IMHO, this is the best product of 47 Labs.
- Sony Blu-Ray and DVD Players Per my experience with the BDP-S190 (here) and DVP-SR200P, these make VERY good transports. Models change often, but I am convinced any one model will do. My "task-master" icefox has also reported excellent result of the Sony DVD player used as transport.
- Langevin 102 Preamp A rarity and somewhat cheaper alternative to those who cannot find/afford the WE106. Pristine quality but perhaps not for everyone.
- SME 3012/Denon DL-103 This is a "legendary" combo that has its detractors, including my own audio guru Andy of NYC. My barely restored version however satisfies me immensely.
- Aurorasound Vida and Parasound JC3 Phonostages Finally I do justice to the Parasound JC3 by including it in this year-end report, together with the equally excellent Aurorasound Vida.
- Elekit TU-8500 While I do not think it surpasses its older sibling, this device's versatility is incredible. You can use it as a preamp, phonoamp or buffer amp!
- Parasound Zphono USB A very good MM stage and competent MC stage, but for me its allure is its very good basic ADC for transcription from LP to digital.
- Cheap Thrills Partnered correctly, the performance of the Lepai 2020A+ T amp is simply shocking! For cheap CAS thrills, both the Meridian Explorer and 47 Treasure 0547 are excellent. For the latter, if you are a number cruncher you may take it with a grain of salt, but I think it is much more musical than many a "state-of-the-art" USB devices. Need a USB cable? If you are in HK, get the Unitek USB Cable.
- Roses smelled Passing By The Ortofon Quintet Mono strikes me as a reasonably priced MC mono cartridge, and I enjoyed it every time! And I'd look forward to other opportunities to hear the Graham Audio LS5/8.
- In 2016, I shall reconfigure both my abodes. And hopefully restore a thing or two. Perhaps my Brook 12A?
- There is nothing I look forward to more than the release in the summer of 2016 of Yamaha NS-5000, a successor to the mighty NS-1000, one of my references.