Coming Soon, Black Lion Records!

Jazz lovers rejoice.

Steve Hoffman, Chris Bellman and Bernie Grundman have teamed up with ORG Music and Pallas in Germany to produce a series of records from the Black Lion imprint – A London based label featuring an interesting roster of artists and releases.

These records are long out of print and have never been remastered.

These records will be featured at Music Direct and they are taking a very interesting approach to the releases, which will be two per month, common with other jazz audiophile pressings.  $29.99 gets you a 180g. 33 1/3 rpm LP, and those seeking the ultimate collectible can purchase a “Comparison Pack,” featuring the 33 1/3 LP along with a pair of 45 rpm records in a coolio box.  The Comparison Packs will be limited to 500 copies, so stop by Music Direct and get in line.  These are sure to go quickly.

Watch for reviews in the Audiophile Pressings section of TONEAudio as these records are released.

You can pre-order your titles here.

The Latest From Crystal Cable

Crystal Cable, known for combining performance with elegance, announced their new Absolute Dream cables today, positioned above their award winning Dreamline series.  It is the first cable to use pure mono crystal technology in both the core and the braided shielding. The pure mono crystal silver core is covered with Dupont’s Kapton and PEEK as dielectric and two shielding layers, one layer of silver plated mono crystal copper and one layer of gold plated mono crystal silver.

The braid is covered by a transparent sleeve giving the cable a unique appearance while maintaining the Crystal Cable identity. Four coaxes are twisted into one cable using Crystal Cable’s custom designed and built cable twister that ensures perfect 45 degree twisting without stressing the metal. Two coaxes are used for the audio signal, further improving the signal-to-noise ratio and lowering the micro distortion to the bare minimum. The other two coaxes work in the unique and patented Crystal Cable Bridge set-up.

The cables are terminated using Crystal Cable specified carbon Furutech connectors and newly developed identification barrels hold laser engraved serial numbers. The Crystal Cable Absolute Dream is positioned above the well appraised Dreamline series and will be available immediately after High-end Munich 2012 as interlink, loudspeaker cable and power cord. USB and FireWire will become available later in the year. Crystal Cable Absolute Dream cables will be on demo in Room E213.

Watch for a review soon.

For more information, visit the Crystal Cable website here.

Gear Index Updated!

We’ve just updated our gear index again, through issue #44.  Now you can find all your favorite TONEAudio
reviews quickly….

Download it here.

B&W’s C5 In-Ear Phones

The iPod is often a bright spot for those that commute via mass transit. When the London Tube was part of my daily regimen, it seemed everyone wore headphones. However, bulky, noise-canceling ‘phones feel like winter earmuffs in the summer; too hot and sweaty for my taste.  And yet, swapping them for in-ear phones always presented too much of a sonic compromise. That is, until I experienced the B&W C5s.

At first glance, I thought the loop attached to the C5s went over the ear. Nope. The rubber loop, or “Secure Loop” as Bowers & Wilkins calls it, goes into your ear and curls around the inner rim to help hold the headphones in place. Each loop adjusts to suit different-sized ears and ensures a snug fit for all users. To help further ensure the headphones stay secure, each inner casing on the C5 is lined with Tungsten and weighted toward the ear. On the end of the headphones, you’ll find a “Micro Porous Filter” that contains hundreds of tiny steel balls that act as a diffuser. It is designed to help open up the sound and make the C5s more lifelike.

Build quality is excellent. The aluminum casing is high quality, and the gloss-black finish adds a sexy look. While they haven’t any active noise-canceling technology, the supplied earpieces do an adequate job of keeping out ambient noise. Bowers & Wilkins also included an Apple-approved cable with its own volume control. It even contains a microphone so you can make phone calls.

From the start, I could tell these headphones were good. The C5s possess an almost-organic sound quality. Listening to Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” from Live Bullet showcases a tangible vocal realism that further draws me into the music. The opening saxophone solo sounds clear and smooth, as well as extended and airy. This passage sounds harsh on some speakers, but the C5s provide a great window into the information.

The C5s don’t miss a beat on the title track from Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, either. Nothing seems lost, and I clearly hear the piano in the background. The track also features great contrasts between the deep bass and piano highs. Splendidly, the C5s put both characteristics in perspective, never interfering with another—a difficult task. Midrange is open, pure, and balanced. No, the C5s aren’t entirely neutral, as a slight mid-bass boost makes the sound fuller. But the coloration suits my personal taste given that it allows music to sound more realistic and less like a plain recording.

Ke$ha’s “Blow,” from Cannibal, acts as a bass test. Here, the low-end is articulate and deep—attributes often missing from in-ear headphones. Moreover, the bass doesn’t interfere with Ke$ha’s vocals. And while not amongst my highest-quality files, it still sounded very good through the C5s. These headphones are very revealing, but not in a ruthless way, meaning that low-quality MP3s sound okay. Yes, there’s a noticeable drop in fidelity, but not enough to make songs sound atrocious.

Keep in mind that the C5s aren’t designed as ultra-revealing, studio-quality headphones that let you hear every blemish of a track. Instead, they reveal what’s on each recording without placing it under a sterile microscope. And that’s a fresh approach any in-ear headphone fan can welcome.

Issue 45


Value Proposition:  Cartridge or Turntable?
We investigate the Denon DL-110 and Nagaoka NP-110 cartridges
By Jeff Dorgay

Journeyman Audiophile: The PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium Integrated Amp
By Lawrence Devoe

Old School:  The Original PS Audio Power Plant
By Jerold O’Brien

Davy Jones:  He Was a Monkee’s Monkee
By Ben Fong-Torres

Out of Tune With You:  Listening Alone
By Todd Martens

Tone Style

The Wino: Of Earth and Fruit, Balance and Restraint
By Wayne Garcia

Cole Haan Lunargrand Wingtips

The Marshall Fridge

Race Track Coasters

Kiss Rock and Roll Over Vans

Canon’s G1X camera

And, much more…


Live Music: Bob Gendron covers Diamanda Galas

Current Releases:
Fresh Releases in the Pop/Rock World
By the TONE Staff

Audiophile Pressings
Miles Davis, Van Der Graaf Generator,
Pink Floyd and Billy Joel Jazz and Blues

New releases from Steve Lehman, Robert Glasper
Experiment and Erik Deutsch
By Jim Macnie


Kronos Turntable

VPI Classic 1 Turntable

Pro-Ject Carbon Turntable

From The Web:

Schiit Bifrost DAC
By John Darko

Rega RP6 Turntable
By Jeff Dorgay


The ARC PH8 Phonostage
By Jeff Dorgay

The Sumiko Palo Santos Presentation Cartridge
By Jeff Dorgay

The Pass Labs XP-15 Phono Stage
By Lawrence Devoe

The Lyra Atlas Cartridge (With a close look at
the Kleos and Titan i cartridges)

By Jeff Dorgay

The Vitus Audio MP-P201 Phonostage
By Jeff Dorgay


Rega RP6

One of my close friends used to say, “Dude, why do you have a Rega? You can’t tweak the hell out of it.” To which my response was always, “Dude, I don’t want to tweak it. I want to listen to music.”

Years later, I maintain the same party line. If you want to enjoy your records and don’t want to get involved with the dark side of analog, acquire the Rega RP6/Exact combination. And throw your own party.

Indeed, the RP6 ups the ante on what’s possible from a $1,500 turntable. Lacking the large, wood surround from the prior P5 model, the RP6 resembles the RP3. Surveying the RP6 reveals a high-gloss MDF plinth, the same dustcover from past Rega ‘tables, and a glass platter. Careful inspection leads to quite a bit more.

Adding a pre-installed Rega Exact (MM) cartridge increases the price to $1,990, a $100 savings over buying such items separately. It also drops set-up time to under five minutes. If you are an analog apprentice, you may not fully appreciate just how painless this solution is, but if you are stepping up from another ‘table, it doesn’t get any easier. My advice: Resist the urge to diddle with the settings and rock out. While my analog madness is beyond cure, I can appreciate the superb performance and simplicity offered by the Rega range. The P3 has been part of my system since 1983, and the P9 since 2006. If you want analog excellence without the fuss—this is the way to roll (or spin).

What’s New?

Rega is all about refinement. Don’t expect to be hit over the head by the RP6. Rather than manufacture a wide range of different turntables with myriad approaches to design, Rega fine-tunes its basic model when going up the range—or, depending on your view, provides a more cost-effective version of its top-of-the-line deck. The result is a bigger, weightier sound, with the ability to extract finer detail from recordings with each step up the ladder.

The RP6 shares the same RB303 tonearm with the RP3 and, while the plinth on both ‘tables looks identical, the one on the RP6 is distinctive, claiming additional CNC machining to further lower its mass. The new model also takes advantage of the more sophisticated feet from Rega’s premier P9 turntable in order to reduce the amount of vibration reaching the platter.

An external TT-PSU, an optional accessory on the RP3 that adds $395 to its price, is standard on the RP6. It provides better speed stability and the ability to change between 33.3 and 45RPM speeds with the push of a button instead of having to remove the platter and belt. In addition to an upgraded circuit design, the new power supply also features enhanced aesthetics that adhere to the look of the current Brio-R, Apollo-R, and DAC. It works in concert with the new 24-volt motor, hand-tuned on each ‘table before final assembly. On the test bench, said refinement dramatically lowers the amount of vibration that the motor passes onto the plinth, reducing the noise floor while increasing the amount of low-level information you hear on the couch.

While the RP6 uses the same double-brace technology, making for a more rigid mechanical connection between the tonearm base and main-bearing housing, the subplatter cap is now machined—as opposed to the all-plastic part on the RP3. This process gives Rega’s new platter a perfectly flat surface on which to rest, again making for a better physical connection between record surface and platter. The platter features two pieces of glass that are bonded together with a UV cured glue instead of the single piece that Rega has used for years and is very labor intensive to produce.  The second piece is a ring, adding more mass at the outside of the spinning platter where it will do the most good.  Very clever.

More Rega-like

A side-by-side comparison to our RP3/TT-PSU with the Exact cartridge immediately exposes the RP6’s intensified performance. “Dog to Bone,” from Spoek Mathambo’s Father Creeper, yields a deeper and more cohesive groove. The RP3 gets the fundamentals, but the RP6 lays into the bass texture. The major grooves in SBTRKT’s self-titled album divulge the same; the cavernous beats possess a wetter, more sinewy quality through the RP6.

Both the new Audio Research REF Phono 2SE and Monk Audio phonostages illustrate the RP6’s greater microdyamic ability and tonal contrast, confirming that the model’s more sophisticated approach delivers more music. Remember, Rega is about evolution, not revolution. The RP3 isn’t crapola now that the RP6 is out, and the latter doesn’t annihilate the RP3. Instead, the RP6 builds on the strengths of the RP3. If you have a small room and small speakers that lack serious low-frequency extension, the RP3 may well be a great place to hang your hat. However, if your system has good low-frequency capability, you’ll notice the extra authority the RP6 musters.

As for the midrange? Ditto. On Crowded House’s “You Better Be Home Soon,” the organ comes further out of the densely packed mix and vocal harmonies showcase extra contrast. George Martin/Geoff Emerick’s production of Cheap Trick’s All Shook Up epitomizes this jump factor and dynamic extension. The opening track’s percussion leaps out of the speakers, and plenty of punch accompanies Bun E. Carlos’ thunderous drumming. The recording’s Beatlesque layers are expanded with a precision that neither the RP3 nor my mid vintage LP-12 summon.

Plug and Play, or Move On

Rega’s US importer, Steve Daniels of The Sound Organisation, likes to say that the Exact “sounds as much like an MC can while still being a MM.” The more time I spend with the Exact, the more I agree. The cartridge reproduces delicate, low-level signals with ease, yet manages wide dynamic swings. Via Classic Records’ Led Zeppelin reissues, the RP6/Exact combination renders a wide tonal landscape, with the necessary weight that do the albums justice.

While the Exact is an excellent plug-and-play solution for the RP6, the RB303 tonearm is capable of even more, should you decide to go further upmarket with a cartridge. While some might argue that such a move is pointless since the RP6 shares the same tonearm as the lower-priced RP3, the RP6’s advanced design allows a higher signal-to-noise ratio, permitting the RB303 to take better advantage of a premium cartridge.

A few usual suspects that make perfect sense for an upgrade from the Exact all turn in great performances. The Dynavector 17D3 ($1,000), Sumiko Blackbird ($1,100), and Rega’s own Apheta ($1,795) extract more music without penalty. The Lyra Kleos ($2,995) also works well, but it’s overkill; the model does not give its top performance in this setting. If you keep any cartridge upgrade to about $1,000, you will be rewarded with an appropriate measure of performance. Use spendier cartridges with the P7 and P9.

Both the RP3 and RP6 are moving closer to the sound of the flagship P9, incorporating the speed and imaging prowess that have made Rega decks famous, and boasting a more robust bottom end. It all has me wondering what an RP9 will sound like should Rega make similar updates to it.

Rega RP6 Turntable

MSRP: $1,495 (turntable only); $1,990 (with Rega Exact cartridge)


US Importer:


Preamplifier                ARC REF 5SE

Phonostage                  ARC REF Phono 2SE, Monk Audio Phonostage

Power Amplifier         ARC REF 150

Speakers                      Dynaudio Confidence C1