Focal XS Book goes wireless

Focal has just added Bluetooth APT-X Wireless capability to their award winning XS Book loudspeaker range, making a great compact speaker system even better – and certainly more versatile.

The XS Book Wireless allows wireless digital source transmission in a full range, user friendly pair of powered desktop monitor speakers that are equally at home with the desktop music lover and hobbyist music creator.

Equipped with an aluminum dome tweeter and 4-inch Polyglass woofer, these speakers have a wide bandwidth of 50hz – 22khz and can achieve a 97db SPL at one meter.  We are using a pair of these speakers in the TONEAudio studio to produce our upcoming video clips, so we can vouch for their high quality.

At $399 a pair, the XS Book Wireless is a perfect back to school gift, and comes with all the necessary cables you will need to integrate it into your system:  a 1.5m RCA cable, 1.5m extension cable, a 3.5mm jack going from computer to XS Book and a stylish carrying case.  Those not needing wireless functionality can achieve the same sound with the $299/pair XS Book system.

Issue 56


Old School:
The Harman Kardon Rabco St-7 Turntable

By Jerold O’Brien

995: Sounds that Won’t Break the Bank
The Ortofon 2M Red and Grado Black1 Prestige Cartridges

By Jaime Lee Fritze

Journeyman Audiophile

Peachtree Audio Nova 125

By Mark Marcantonio

A Candid Conversation With Jason Isbell

By Andy Downing

Tone Style

Art Meets The Grape
By Monique Meadows

Cardas Earspeaker 1

Johnny Cash Postage Stamps

DEVO Throbblehead

The KISS Van

The Sentinel Loudspeaker

The Moo Mat

The iPad TP Holder

Ryobi P260 Impact Drill

Leica’s M Monochrom

By Jeff Dorgay


Current Releases:

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

Live Music:
She & Him
By Bob Gendron

Audiophile Pressings

Jazz & Blues
By Jim Macnie


AURALiC Merak Power Amplifiers

Nagra 300P Amplifier

Audionet PAM G2 Phonostage

Boulder 865 Integrated Amplifier

Peachtree deep blue Bluetooth Music System


Light Harmonic DaVinci DAC
By Jacob Heilbrunn

Wilson Benesch Full Circle Turntable
By Paul Rigby

Coincident Statement Phono Preamplifier
By Jeff Dorgay

IQ Audio 300M Amplifiers
By Rob Johnson

Pass Xs300 Monoblocks
By Jeff Dorgay

AVA Ultravalve Amplifier
By Jeff Dorgay

Viola Bravo Amplifier
By Jeff Dorgay

Rogers EHF-200 Mk.2
By Jeff Dorgay


Nagra 300p

The long awaited 300B amplifier from Nagra is here….

And it is wonderful.  The 300P produces 20 watts per channel with a “polarized push pull configuration,” and features output taps for 4, 8, and 16 ohm speakers.  Thus far, we’ve been flabbergasted at what this mighty, yet minimalistic amplifier can drive.  Having seen the prototypes on the drawing board on our visit to Nagra years ago, it is truly exciting to see this amplifier on the dealers shelves.

MSRP is $16,995.

Full review in process, and for more information, click here for the Nagra website.

Audionet PAM G2 Phono

Just in from Audionet:   The PAM G2 phonostage, with EPC external power supply.

This two input phono stage from Audionet has two inputs that can be configured as MM or MC, with adjustable gain settings of 38db, 48db, 58db and 68db. Loading ranges from 100, 150, 470, 1000, 23k, 47k and 68k ohms, with the ability to achieve custom settings as well.  It’s built like a Porsche Turbo, with 280,000uf of power supply capacitance, providing major energy storage.

We’ve just put this one in the rack and begun listening, so stay tuned.

For more information, click here:

Hanging at VPI

Always a fun day to visit the VPI factory, in Cliffwood, New Jersey.

This is American made at its finest.  VPI combines new and old school manufacturing with careful hand assembly to create turntables known all over the world for their sonic attributes.

The most fun however, is back in the sound room, where now retired principal, Harry Weisfeld has just unpacked a pair of JBL Everest speakers.  As we listen to Way Out West, via VPI’s new 3D printed arm and a Lyra Atlas cartridge, the lifelike sound is unmistakable.  Harry smiles and says, “they need a few months to really break in, then we’ll have some magic.”  An audiophile to the end.

And lurking off in the distance is a vintage Denon direct drive table, that Weisfeld is holding “for a friend…” Pretty cool.

Free JPlay from AURALiC

AURALiC, Limited has announced it will begin offering a free copy of JPLAY, a high-end audio player plug-in for the Windows operating system, to all purchasers in North America of AURALiC’s advanced VEGA Digital Audio Processor.

JPLAY, a $130 value, is an award winning, audiophile-grade software player designed to transform Windows PCs into high-end digital transports. With a laser-like focus on musical performance quality, JPLAY’s features include memory-based playback, zero disk activity during playback, superior memory management, a large page memory, and minimal operating system noise through the elimination of dozens of jitter-inducing processes. JPLAY is easy to install and use, and compatible with any audio player that supports the ASIO digital audio protocol.

AURALiC’s VEGA is a next-generation processor that delivers uncompromising high-resolution sound. Compact and elegant, it combines a digital-to-analog converter with a preamplifier that supports all high-resolution music formats, including Direct Stream Digital (DSD) and Digital eXtreme Definition (DXD PCM). Its sound is rich and smooth with great signal transparency and minimal distortion and noise.

The promotion applies to all VEGA purchases in North America directly from AURALiC or its authorized dealers, starting today. Existing VEGA owners in North America are also eligible if they have made their purchases within the last three months and registered their products on AURALiC’s website. VEGA buyers in other countries may purchase a full-function version of JPLAY at a 50 percent discount off the retail price though AURALiC.

The VEGA Digital Audio Processor is available now from AURALiC and authorized dealers at a suggested price of $3,499.

High On Fire: LIVE!

The biggest metal story of the first half of the year belongs to Black Sabbath.

More than three decades after his original departure from the band, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne reunited with most of his former mates to finally his first new studio album with the group since 1978’s embarrassing Never Say Die. All didn’t go as planned. Drummer Bill Ward sat out over reported contractual disputes and ceded his throne to Rage Against the Machine skin-pounder Brad Wilk. Osbourne also owned up to binging on drugs and alcohol, leading some to predict a divorce from his wife would follow. In the end, the revelation seemed like a publicity stunt.

As comebacks by Social Security-eligible musicians go, Black Sabbath’s 13 represents a respectable attempt at recapturing former glories. The chemistry is better than that on a similar ensemble’s return—Van Halen’s 2012 A Different Kind of Truth—and guitarist Tony Iommi still hasn’t encountered a giant riff he couldn’t slay. The involvement of big-name producer Rick Rubin coupled with an ad blitz helped give the English legends their first-ever number-one album. Granted, attaining such a feat is much easier in 2013. But numbers don’t lie.

Akin to every other heavy band to pick up instruments, turn up amplifiers, and conjure apocalyptic feelings, High on Fire owes much of its existence to Sabbath. Yet like every great artist, the Oakland trio managed to long ago transcend its influences and leave its own mark on its métier. In terms of consistency, aggressiveness, ambition, skill, and intensity, no metal collective dominated the past decade more than High on Fire.

Led by guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike, the threesome utilizes pace, power, and physicality in brazen arrangements stargazing psychedelia to village-pillaging sludge. Metal—as susceptible as any genre to spikes and lulls—is currently in a creatively dormant stage, but anyone curious about the style’s progressive evolution and modern strengths since its last peak (circa 2006) can turn to Spitting Fire Live Volume I and II for a Cliffs Notes summation.

While Osbourne and Co. kept busy last fall orchestrating a high-priced publicity rollout, High on Fire played gigs at a pair of revered New York venues shortly after Pike’s emergence from alcohol rehabilitation. Selections from those performances, which document a reinvigorated and even stronger-willed band than that of pre-treatment Pike, fill these concert LPs. High on Fire comes on looser than it does on its tight-as-a-clenched-fist studio efforts. Then again, Pike takes extra liberties with axe-wielding solos and by extension, pushes his mates to even greater heights. Songs such as “Frost Hammer,” “Devolution,” “Speedwolf,” “Fury Whip,” and “Rumours of War” sound true to their titles. Not for the faint of heart, High on Fire thrives on in-the-red energy and mantle-hot rhythms that shake harder than a revved-up Harley-Davidson.

Raw, ferocious, uptempo, tough, violent, growling, sweaty, beautifully ugly: Fine portraits of underground metal heroes that, to paraphrase Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, play their nuts off.