The Manley Snapper Monoblocks

Spinning Paul Weller’s “Beyond Sunset” just feels right through the Manley Snappers. Founder EveAnna Manley is currently a Southern California being, and these amplifiers instantly bring up that easy beach feeling. The amps are warmed up before the listening begins, and it only takes a few notes to get into the incredible chill vibe that these amplifiers provide.

These days, as many tube amplifier manufacturers are falling over themselves trying to make amplifiers that are hyper-accurate, some are losing their souls in the process. Selfishly speaking, if you’re going to go the tube route, there should be a bit of romance, a bit of feel, a sense that you are really in analog world, eh?

Those tied to the world of measurements (along with the subgroup that believes all amplifiers sound the same) rarely if ever get the magic that a great tube amplifier brings to the party. So, for now, we’re just going to ignore that group. For what it’s worth, Manley says the Snappers will deliver full power at 10Hz all the way to 40KHz. Considering all the electronic music we played while they were here, there’s no reason to doubt this claim. Cranking up all the Massive Attack, Aphex Twin and Tosca tracks we could find are a joy with these amplifiers.

The lowest frequencies are usually where tube amplifiers fall down, getting a little bit soft and uncontrolled at the lowest frequencies. A lot of the genius in tube amplifier design is in circuit refinement and the utmost in care when winding output transformers. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of either at Manley Labs, and like the world’s finest tube amplifier manufacturers, they wind their own. This makes it possible to get exactly what you need for the intended operation, and fine tuning doesn’t break the bank, paying an outside vendor to (hopefully) achieve the desired results.

When I caught up with EveAnna Manley, she confirmed my suspicions about their dedication to the output transformers, which are all wound in-house. “That’s a major motion picture. When we re-did the circuit topology a while back, Mitch went over everything. The output transformers are a 19-section wind. They take about 4 hours to wind one, it’s the best output transformer we make.” This is usually the difference between lesser and greater tube amps.

Fun shape, big value

The Snappers are finished in the standard dark blue color they’ve come in forever, and it’s a fun color. The shape is somewhat of a cross between vintage and contemporary, honoring new and old school industrial design in the process. Each amplifier weighs about 45 pounds each, so nearly anyone can lift them – a real benefit. My favorite part of the aesthetic is the way the Manley logo blinks until the amplifiers warm up – this lets you know the amplifier is in MUTE mode until it’s ready to go.

These amplifiers are a fully balanced, differential design, so they do not rely on transformers to achieve balanced operation. Each mono amplifier uses a 12AX7 input tube, a 5687 (or 7044) driver and four EL-34B output tubes. This adds to the finesse and transient speed that the Snappers offer. A pair of Snappers will set you back $9,399 as of October 1. Considering a pair of PrimaLuna EVO 400s are similarly priced, the McIntosh MC1502 tips the scale at about $12k and the new REF80 from ARC is $15k, the Snappers remain a top value. If you happen to be an audiophile on a budget, that likes to snap up gently used gear, good luck. In the last ten years, I think I’ve seen maybe three pairs of Snappers on the used market. I suggest getting your own pair and hanging on to them forever.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Manley Labs, they build a lot of gear that works daily in some of the world’s most notable recording and mastering studios. Peeling the onion back further, you’ll be surprised at how many of your favorite tracks have been touched by Manley pro gear over the years. This matters for two reasons. Ms. Manley knows what music is supposed to sound like, and Manley gear doesn’t break. It’s one thing to have your home system crap out in the middle of a weekend listening session, but when something fails in the middle of a record that’s probably going to win a Grammy, heads roll.

Defining the Snapper sound

Sound, especially the sound generated by a playback system is a personal, intimate experience when assembled with care. You know the sound you’re looking for, and you might have to audition many different amplifiers until you find that sound. That sound that makes the tumblers in your cognitive center all snap into place and let you relax, forget about everything and settle in.

If you’ve been on a somewhat long quest for that perfect tube amplifier, and can live with 100 Watts per channel, the Snappers can be your grail. Joe Walsh’s So What? has a big, fat, beefy sound with the Snappers in the system, playing through the Sonus faber Stradiveris. (sans REL six-pack) Every bit of classic rock I love, and have listened to for decades is mega-engaging through the Snappers, regardless of what speakers I use.

The Snappers render music in a fast, lively, and engaging way, without getting too-tubey. Fun as some of our favorite vintage amps from Marantz, McIntosh, and Dynaco are, they have a warm, syrupy, romantic feel. Those of you that worship at the altar of PRAT (pace, rhythm, and timing) will call these vintage amplifiers slow. Depending on your room and system, this can be enticing, but when dynamic material is played, they come up short. Imaging suffers, and there just isn’t that slam you really want. The missing dynamics are the fourth dimension required to make music sound natural when reproduced.

The Snappers really rock. Again, thanks in part to the output transformers and equally because of their overbuilt power supplies. Manley tells me that while tube rectifiers are more romantic, “The solid-state rectifiers allow for bigger power supply caps and more energy storage. That’s the control you’re hearing.” Powering through the massive bass intro to BTOs “Not Fragile” really shows off the finesse these amps exhibit. Those of you with higher brow musical taste might try Stanley Clarkes’ “Bassically Taps.” The great thing about the BTO track, is how well the Snappers keep the grungy, distorted guitars firmly placed over the bass line as it progresses. No matter how complex and layered the mix, the Snappers keep everything where it should be. While they don’t over embellish, like those warmer, tube-y er amps, they do offer a nice degree of tonal saturation that is so pleasing, it’s tough to escape the gravitational pull of the listening chair. Like for hours.


With 100 Watts each on tap, the Snappers drove everything we paired them with. Having been in the middle of a speaker issue, they were tried with about 20 different speakers, from single driver models, up to the mighty Focal Stella Utopia EMs. (and quite a few in between) There were no issues with any speaker. The Snappers even did a great job with my vintage Acoustat 1+1s, and the Magnepan SMGs – both somewhat notorious to drive.

100 Watts per channel is a nice, sweet spot that makes nearly every speaker your oyster, unless you just have to listen at brain damage levels. I’m a huge fan of the smaller, less powerful Manley Mahi’s (50wpc with EL84 tubes) and they might just be the best amps on Earth for driving a pair of Quad 57s, but sometimes 40 Wpc isn’t always enough to really crank it up. Here’s where you have to think about your priorities (but don’t we all?). The Mahi’s can deliver a little more inner detail, a little bit more of that “pinpoint imaging” that is the catnip for some audiophiles. The Snappers have nearly all that finesse, but with more giddyup. It’s like the difference between a 400cc sport bike and a 600cc sport bike – both are still way more nimble than a full litre bike, but the 600cc bike makes it a little easier to get there.

If you are still intrigued by the Mahi’s, please click here to read our full review.

One more thing worthy of note, while some tube amps these days support an auto-bias configuration, the Snappers need to be biased manually. Manley provides excellent instructions in the owner’s manual and on their website -it’s not that tough. They are even kind enough to include a basic digital multimeter (DMM) so you won’t have to source one. Usually, biasing power tubes needs to be done when they are new, again at about 100 hours, and maybe double check every few hundred hours. Somewhere down the road, one or more of the output tubes will no longer bias up, or you’ll notice a bit of softness in the high frequencies. That’s when it’s time for new tubes. Unless you’re made of money, work with the standard tubes. Rolling EL-34s these days is expensive.

What’s not to love?

If you’re new to tubes, you might just think the Manley Snappers are incredible and be done with it. However, if you’ve sampled your fair share over the years, you’re in for a pleasant surprise at how great a job these monoblocks do at doing it all. Plenty of power, big dynamics, imaging like crazy, and easy to use. (not to mention easy to lift!)

There are other amps with snazzier casework, and snootier pedigrees. But, if you just love music and you want a pair of incredible monoblocks that deliver the goods, I can’t recommend the Manley Snappers highly enough.

The Rega P10 Turntable and Apheta 3 Cartridge

Rega’s top table, the P10 is new again. Not new new, but Rega new, which means It’s been subtly updated in nearly every aspect.

This warrants a two-tier review. One for those of you that closely follow the brand, and perhaps even have one of the last versions of the P10, or even a P9, and one for those of you that are new to Rega and may be considering a P10 instead of something else in the $6,000 – $10,000 range.

Part one: for the faithful

If you’ve been closely following the Rega narrative, you know that they don’t usually produce new models that deviate terribly far from the past ones. Back in 2014, Rega introduced their RP10, which introduced their “skeletal plinth,” derived from their Naiad prototype. Intriguing as this shape was, Rega played it safe, offering a traditional cutout plinth-esque plinth, allowing the attachment of a standard dust cover, and an their new RB2000 tonearm.

The space age ceramic platter was a carry-over from its introduction with the P9, and now because of the skeletal plinth featured a ceramic top brace between the tonearm mount and the center of the plinth for additional rigidity. Comparing the RP10 to the P9, side by side, the newer table was more resolving, more extended, and slightly less warm sounding. As with the P9, the bass response of this table is outstanding. No more comments about low mass tables lacking bottom end weight.

The P10 abandons the additional plinth, and now puts P10 on the front of the plinth where it should be, still an epic example of engineering beauty. Now, with its further refined RB3000 tonearm it is as much a joy to behold as it is to listen to.

Nothing overlooked

Looking through the design info on the Rega website, every aspect of this table is made better, to tighter tolerances, to a higher level of precision. This is the essence of Rega. Rather than reinvent the wheel, they refine the wheel over and over. Great at the P10 is at the task of playing records, it is an engineering aficionado’s dream. Just running your fingers across the surface of the ceramic platter, or moving the tonearm from rest to cue down on a record’s surface is exquisite. The complete lack of play in any dimension of the new, zero-tolerance bearing in the RB3000 is almost seductive in its action.

There’s a level of finish here that would not be out of place on an Aston Martin or an F1 car. It’s no coincidence that much of the engineering talent in F1 is from England. You might expect this level of quality in a six-figure turntable, but this level of execution in a table costing only $5,695 (without cartridge) is crazy good. If you dig the sound of the Apheta 3 MC cartridge, the package is an even better value at $6,995. Seriously, with or without cartridge, the P10 is one of the best values in high performance turntables period, end of story. Staffer Jerold O’Brien wanted my RP10, so it ended up going to him after the review – membership has its privileges, but this P10 is staying here. About a week into the review process, I sent payment to The Sound Organisation. I knew the minute I played the first track.

Equal attention has been paid to every other aspect of the P10, making this table the epitome of the whole item being more than the sum of the parts.

Part two: for those new to Rega

The toughest part of this review is not to sound like too much of a Rega groupie. If you’re someone who equates high mass, and a gigantic plinth with great sound, you probably won’t even give a P10 a shot. Much as I love to make comparisons to automobiles, I’ll make a cycling comparison this time. The P10 reminds me of the first time I rode a lightweight, high performance road bicycle. As someone skeptical of shaving 10 pounds or so off of something without a motor, I was floored by the increase in efficiency that loss of weight created. That’s how the P10 feels. So effortless in a way.

Rega has been building turntables for nearly 50 years now, and even if you place a current model next to one that’s been around forever, they look more similar than different. Nearly all of their improvements have been the result of constantly refining their process. No matter how much they make one of their products better, they are always striving to make them stronger, lighter, more reliable. And above all, better sounding. By these criteria, Rega is an unqualified success.

While there are many variations on the turntable theme, the basic groups are suspended or unsuspended (solid plinth) designs and low or high mass designs. Being that Roy Gandy is a former automotive engineer, he’s always taken the approach to eliminate as much mass as can be done without sacrificing rigidity. Much like a Formula 1 car. Mass equals stored energy, so the lower the mass, the more of the record groove’s energy can be transferred to your stylus. The P10 is a very lively sounding table, where some high mass designs feel slow in comparison.


Rega sent us the P10 with the third generation of their Apheta moving coil cartridge pre-mounted. An excellent choice for a number of reasons – if you use a Rega cartridge, and take advantage of their three-point mounting system, the cartridge is pretty much dialed in. It’s the most no fuss, no muss high end table/cartridge combination going. If your patience for fiddling with cartridge and turntable setup is close to zero, and you don’t have a friend, tech, or dealer that can do it for you, this setup is the way to roll. In ten minutes, tops, you’ll be spinning records. When was the last time you did that with a high end turntable?

Now that Rega has done away with their plinth extender, the current P10 comes with a clear acrylic cover that merely rests on the turntable mat and has a U-shaped bend where the tonearm goes. It’s great for keeping the cat off the turntable (not that you should have a cat anywhere near a turntable, but I digress) but not much more. Ditto for the stylus guard on the Apheta. Save it in case you need to move, but otherwise forget it. Chances are high that you’ll break the stylus/canteliver assembly taking this on and off repeatedly. Just saying.

Once the plinth/tonearm assembly is unpacked, all that’s left to do is mount the platter, the counterweight and set tracking force to 1.9 – 2.0 grams and the anti-skate/bias adjustment. The enclosed instruction manual will take you right through this process. Rega suggests 100 ohm loading, however if you have the ability to go to 50 ohms on your phono preamplifier, I highly suggest giving it a try.

You can read more about the Apheta 3 cartridge on the Rega site here ( where they go into great detail on what makes their cartridges unique. I’ve been using the Apheta since the first model and it provides a remarkable level of transient speed and lack of coloration that I’ve always found exciting. And again, this is not a crazy money cartridge. On its own, an Apheta 3 will set you back $1,995, but packaged with the P10, only $1,300.

Over the years, I’ve used several different cartridges with Rega tables with mixed results, but the Rega cartridges have always been a home run. Combining their ease of setup, with great sound, and no need to worry if you have the right compliance/mass combination is tough to beat. I can’t suggest the P10/Apheta 3 combination highly enough and am tempted to check out their top Aphelion cartridge at some point.

Further listening

Using the P10 in the main system, with the VAC Renaissance Phono Stage (all vacuum tubes) is downright sexy in the presentation. Combining the speed of the Apheta with the slightly lush tonality of the VAC phonostage is like catnip. Going for a more neutral, yet still very dynamic sound, the Boulder 509, set to 100 ohms is a powerful combination that won’t break the bank at $5,500. It’s incredibly low noise floor is well suited to the Apheta 3.

While we don’t currently have a Rega phonostage in our reference system, their past Ios phono was an outstanding match for the earlier Apheta, so it’s probably a safe bet the current Aura at $5,995 is probably an excellent match. When The Sound Org can free one up, we’ll let you know. Once you’ve settled on a phonostage, you’re in for a treat.

The P10/Apheta combination resolves a lot of musical detail without crossing the line into being harsh or grating. Once the P9 came on the scene, the big Rega tables had the heft in the lowest registers to compete with nearly anything out there.

Beginning our listening session with a Feickert test record to verify speed accuracy (and like the past dozen Regas we’ve tested, the speed is spot on) we move on to some bass heavy material. Queueing up Robert Plant’s Shaken and Stirred, along with his more current duet with Alison Krauss, Raising Sand puts any doubts that this table/cartridge combination can go deep. The Apheta 3 does a fantastic job at keeping the large soundfield it generates intact, in the middle of a solid bass line. Some refer to this as pace and timing. When it’s wrong, either the cartridge is unable to follow the bass groove, and gets muddy, or what’s going on in the rest of the musical spectrum becomes diffuse and undefined – the image collapses somewhat with complex material.

There’s an overall clarity to this table and cartridge that makes it so attractive. While it’s easy to get enticed by vinyl playback, it’s up to you whether you like a more euphonic (warm) presentation, or a more accurate presentation that is more natural in sound. Because the P10/Apheta 3 offers such a neutral presentation to start, you can tune to your taste. Those wanting a little extra warmth can head for a tube preamplifier, while those wanting every last molecule of detail will probably find solace in a solid-state phono pre.

A final word on the power supply and speed accuracy of the P10 makes for an incredibly lifelike rendition of acoustic guitars, piano and violin. Pulling a 40-year-old Planar 3 out of mothballs to compare Rega’s progress is amazing. Where those old belt drive turntables offered up a soundstage unlike our Technics 1200s of the day, they did fall short when playing back a solo violin. There’s definitely a bit of wavering going on with the old table. The current P10 is rock solid.

Nothing but praise

Living with the P10/Apheta combination for some time now, I couldn’t be happier about writing the check, and that’s the highest praise I can give this table. You can spend a lot more on a turntable and cartridge, but I doubt you can find a turntable offering more performance for the dollar, euro or pound. It’s funny after 40 years of buying turntables that I keep coming back to Rega. #toneaudioapproved.

PS: Thanks to Rega for some additional photos… (manufacturer) (NA distributor)

The Penaudio Lumi Speakers

Where so many manufacturers have fallen victim to designing a speaker line around a tweeter first, with each smaller model having progressively less bass as a result, Penaudio’s Sami Penttila does it old school, developing each model to be a unique entity.

The result is a small speaker that is optimized for a smaller room, yet not lacking in resolution or quality. The latest Lumi is a perfect example of his design expertise. At $2,995 per pair, they are an approachable entry to the Penaudio speaker lineup.

Our listening begins as the speaker is intended in a 10 x 13-foot room, yet with high quality electronics – in this case the lovely Pass INT-25 integrated. This 25-watt per channel, class A amplifier has more than enough drive and detail to make the Lumis do their thing. Incidentally, Lumi means snow in the Finnish language, and if you happen to follow Sami on Facebook or Instagram, you know there is plenty of snow where he hails from.

Even if you’ve never been to Finland, if you’ve grown up with snow, you know the quieting effect that fresh snow brings to your environment. It’s an interesting type of quiet, and I maintain that some of the world’s finest speakers come from the Nordic Region because of this quiet. You need to know what quiet sounds like before you can proceed from there.

What better tribute to these speakers born of quiet than something delicate? Having known Penttila for many years, I know he loves to rock, but pulling George Winston’s December out of my record stack, and playing the classic, quiet, first run vinyl, is fantastic. Winston’s piano floats from the small Penaudios, with every note intact. Both attack and decay are just right, with the piano sounding much bigger than you might think a small pair of monitors would be capable of delivering. On one level, that’s why Penaudio speakers, big and small have the dynamics to handle more aggressive music too. This is their strength.

As Winston’s piano is so relaxing and inviting, one more classic is in order – Liz Story’s Solid Colors. This record was originally recorded to two-track tape at 30 i.p.s. with no dolby, and Story’s Steinway is captured at it’s best. Almost 40 years later, this is still a great go to record. No matter what kind of music you love and spend most of your time with, piano and violin are two of the greatest torture tests of any speaker. The complex dynamics and tonal shadings will not hide and you can rest assured if things sound good here, you won’t be disappointed with the rest of your favorite music.


The small 180 x 300 x 325 mm cabinet (about 7 x 12 x 12 inches) only weighs 7.5kg (about 17 pounds) is easy to manouver, and place in your room for excellent effect. With any small, high-performance speaker, heavy stands, with careful attention paid to speaker/stand interface will allow optimum performance. A pair of 24-inch, filled, Sound Anchor stands works perfectly, and to confirm this, a pair of light weight, flimsy stands are tried later. This is not recommended, as bass response and speed will suffer.

You can approach the Lumi two ways, further out in your room, closer to the listening chair for a nearfield effect, or closer into the corners of your room, taking advantage of room gain to achieve a deeper bass response. Both work well, but provide a completely different experience, both of which are engaging. With careful tweaking, you can achieve an excellent balance of bass extension, while keeping most of the imaging capability that the Lumis offer in a corner placement setup.

Further out in the room, with a smaller “listening triangle,” and the speakers about five feet from rear and side walls, while about five feet apart and from the listening position is completely immersive, as if sitting in a giant pair of headphones. Those craving more bass response can of course, add a subwoofer or two. As they were in for review, I tried a pair of REL TZero Mk.III subs with excellent effect. We will talk about that more in a future “Shhhh” column in TONE, but for now, we’ll concentrate on the Lumi’s alone.

Playing with others

Most listening was done with the Pass INT-25, but these speakers were not out of their element with the combination of the Nagra Classic Preamplifier and Classic Amp, which is 100 watts per channel. Much like the Cenya Signatures, Lumi is very tube friendly too. With an 86db/1-watt sensitivity rating, we suggest at least about 50 watts per channel, if you go the tube route. Our Conrad-Johnson CAV-45S2 works incredibly well with the Lumis, and while the Pass amp offers slightly more bass grip and extension, the C-J is the master of creating a huge sonic image.
Fantastic results were also achieved with the Octave V110SE, PrimaLuna EVO400s, the McIntosh MC275 and of course the BAT REX gear we have in for review, though that is probably well outside the scope of what would be used as source components for a pair of Lumis. Yet, sonically they are up to task – this is a highly resolving speaker.

The SEAS connection

Bias admitted, I still prefer the slightly less resolving but more organic feel of a soft dome tweeter, and Penaudio speakers have always taken advantage of some of SEAS’ finest drivers and made them their own. The Lumi is no different. Using one of their newest Excel tweeters, the Lumi combines it with a 5.7 inch (145mm) Excel woofer made to spec for Penaudio. The match is perfect, with the pair offering a lot of musicality.

Playing some bass heavy tracks from Prince, the Lumis can’t quite go all the way down, but the texture and fundamental tonality is there. That small woofer does an excellent job when capturing Rhonda Smith’s quick, plucky bass lines on the Emancipation disc, as well as her stint with Jeff Beck on the Emotion and Commotion record. Again, if you listen to more of this style of music, consider opting for a pair of small subs, or at least corner placement.

Final thoughts

What really makes the Lumis shine is the incredible stereo image they can paint in a small room – always the highlight of a well-designed small monitor. That said, don’t count the Lumi’s out as part of a killer desktop system either. Mounted on a pair of great desktop speaker stands from ISO Acoustics, and powered by the Naim Uniti Atom proves to be a ton of fun, albeit a bit spendy for a desktop system. However, if you edit video, these could be the perfect tool for you.

Regardless of the setup, the Penaudio Lumi speakers are a sheer joy to live with. As someone who’s used Penaudio on and off as a reference speaker for the last 16 years, I had to purchase the Lumis for inclusion in our standing arsenal of compact reference speakers.

Maybe the other word for the Lumis should be rakkaus. #toneaudioapproved.         – Jeff Dorgay


Digital Source T+A 2500R

Analog Source Chord Huei, Technics SL-1200, Denon 103 (with alum. Cap)

Cable Cardas Clear, Tellurium Q Blue 2

Amplification Conrad-Johnson CAV-45S2, Pass INT-25

The Manley Mahi Monoblocks

Manley has not changed the circuit of their smallest monoblocks, the Mahi’s, but since this review came out in 2007, manufacturing costs and a crazy world economy has brought the price to nearly double what they were in 2006 when we first wrote this review. Still, at $5,399 a pair, these are still one of the best bargains in hand crafted tube amplifiers going and after revisiting a pair of a friend’s Mahi’s, I stand behind everything written here. –Jeff Dorgay, Publisher

Often, good sound in the audiophile world means big: big amplifiers, lots of big tubes, big heatsinks with a lot of power transistors. And of course, we need a big power supply too. That is the conventional wisdom, and it works well, but every now and then you get surprised.

The Mahis are one of those surprises.

When I first saw the Mahis, I really wanted to get my hands on them, just because they look so cool. I’m a major fan of Manley stuff from an industrial design point of view, and now years later, the sound as well. Only about 10 x 11 x 5-inches, the Mahis are small but substantial, weighing 18 pounds each. The chassis are black, but the front panel and spiked feet are a dark, metallic blue, and the front panels have the Manley Mahi logo on them that light up from behind when you turn the power on.

The Mahis are compact but substantial – like taking a teaspoon of matter from Pluto substantial. There is an IEC socket on the back, so you can use the power cord of your choice, and speakers connect via a pair of WBT binding posts, though there are no options for different impedance. I tried the Mahis with a number of different speakers, and this isn’t a problem.

Unlike a lot of tube amplifiers in this price range, the Mahis use a pair of EL-84 output tubes per channel, instead of the more common EL-34. This amplifier began its life about 15 years ago as VTL’s “Tiny Triode” amplifier, making quite a name for itself. They then became Manley 35-watt monoblocks, later morphing into their 50-watt monoblock amplifier. The 9-pin EL-84 looks a lot like a preamp tube at first glance, but it delivers the goods! Guitar geeks in the audience will recognize this tube as the one that contributes to the sweet sound of the old VOX amplifiers the Beatles (and the Knaack) used.

A pair of Mahis now cost $5,399, and are stoutly built at the Manley facility in Chino, Calif. These are monoblock versions of the popular Stingray, without input switching and volume controls, so they are perfect for those of you who already have a linestage you are fond of.

Initial Set-up

For the first part of the test and break in, I used the Mahis in a system consisting of the ACI Sapphire XLs along with the ModWright 9.0 SWL SE linestage. Digital came from an Ah! Tjoeb 4000, partnered with the Benchmark DAC-1. Vinyl playback was provided by my hotrodded Rega P25 with a Sumiko Blackbird and the Hagerman Trumpet phono stage, so I felt we had these amplifiers in a system representative of like-priced gear. Those of you wanting to stay all Manley would do well to consider their Shrimp preamplifier.

These amplifiers broke in very quickly, only requiring about 50 hours to be all they can be. For the duration of my listening sessions a pair of Tetra 506s, along with BAT VK-42SE linestage and VK-P5 phono preamplifier rounded out the system. A ModWright Denon 3910 (things have come a long way since 2006!!) provided digital playback and the LP-12 with Shelter 90x handled analog playback.

The fairly sensitive Tetra 506 speakers (92db/1-watt) prove a great match. The Mahis produce just over 40 watts in ultralinear mode, so this is more than enough juice to make plenty of noise. Triode lovers only get 20 watts per channel, but it’s a bit warmer sound.

Adjustability Equals Fun

The Mahis give you two different ways to tailor the sound to your liking. Not only can you switch between ultralinear and triode mode, there are three settings for feedback as well. The standard setting (middle position) offers about 6 db of feedback, with the low setting has 3 db and the high setting, 10 db. You may question all of this, but it really comes in handy to dial in the sound you want. In a perfect world, if all records were perfectly mastered, you wouldn’t need this, but we all know that’s not the case.

If you are new to the tube scene, the standard ultralinear mode is more powerful, offering slightly more control over the lower frequencies, while being just a bit more extended on the high end. Using the EL-84s in triode mode costs you a bit of extension and control, but the midrange is more liquid.

Quad 57 owners, this is your amplifier. Since this review was written initially, I’ve borrowed Echo Audio’s demo pair of Mahis, and they are beyond lovely with the classic Quad 57s and the current 28xx series Quads. I’ll stick my neck out and say the Manley Mahis offer the most musically engaging presentation I’ve heard with the original Quads.

While many of you might leave everything in the center position and forget it, I found this feature to be really handy as a tone control. Got a CD with way too much sizzle? Crank up the feedback. Granted, you will lose a little bit of ultimate detail and resolution, but the smooth sound will be a lot easier on your ears. Listening to female vocals late at night over a glass of wine or two, crank up the feedback and go to triode mode as well. This combination is as romantic as it gets. If you are playing Led Zeppelin and need that extra push over the cliff, switch back to ultralinear mode and turn the feedback all the way down.

For some of you, this will be too much to handle, so if you are like a friend of mine that keeps VTA settings for all of his favorite records on an Excel file, forget about the Mahis, they will probably drive you nuts. You need a power amplifier with a power switch and that’s it. However, if having a few options sounds like a good time, grab a pair of Mahis and live it up!

A Different Kind of Fun

If you have never experienced an amplifier using EL-84 tubes, you are definitely in for a treat. Though the 6550 and KT-88 tubes are more common because of their higher power capacity, this configuration is very interesting. Conventional wisdom states that the EL-34 tubes have a more romantic sound, while the 6550s have more extension and punch.

However, the EL-84 in many ways is the best of both worlds, having great bass, top end extension, yet a liquid midrange. The only drawback is that these little tubes are only good for about 40 watts per channel, so to take advantage of the magic these amplifiers have to offer, you need a small room, efficient speakers, or both.

The more time I spent listening to the Mahis, the clearer picture I got of their character. The Mahis are very nimble tube amplifiers that have a lot of control in the lower registers. I tried several of my favorite bass-heavy discs from Kruder & Dorfmeister, Mickey Hart, and even dusted off my oldest Run DMC LP’s. The bass response of the Mahis is satisfying on all occasions. There are a few tube amplifiers in this price range that have more power, but the Mahis have more finesse, so if that’s your hot button, you will dig these amplifiers.

Again, the key is system matching. Get a pair of 92-96 db speakers and you may never need a bigger amplifier, because the Mahis are so enjoyable.Hook ‘em up to a pair of 86 db speakers and you might not get the same picture I got unless you are in a small room. Thanks to the great tonality of these amplifiers, you female vocal fans will worship the Mahi sound.

It’s all about detail with the Mahis. You can’t beat the laws of physics with any pair of 40-watt amplifiers, but the Mahis do such a great job with detail, you may not find yourself wanting to turn it up quite so loud. One final detail: the Mahis are very sensitive only requiring about 300 mv to produce full power. If you take a pair for a test drive, turn your preamp way down before starting to listen.

The Verdict

Fifteen years and price increases later, the Manley Mahis are still one of the most enjoyable pairs of tube amps going. I think I need a pair. (I should have bought em in 2006!)

REVIEW: The Thrax Yatrus Turntable

With turntables spiraling out of control, price-wise, a $100k turntable is no longer the talk of a madman that it once was. That said, I submit that a well sorted $20k-ish table/arm/cartridge combination is all you need.

I must confess, as a Thrax owner (We use their Enyo integrated), I’ve become a big fan of this brand. I like their functional elegance and build quality. There is a solidity to Thrax products that reveals a major pride of workmanship. The Thrax Yatrus does not feel like a me-too product, it feels like something that’s been designed and built with care from the ground up.

Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying “things should be made as simple as possible, no simpler.” I wish I could come up with something more insightful for the Yatrus, but this sums it up. Every aspect of this table is exquisite. It’s low-profile, aluminum plinth features constrained layer damping and looks gorgeous. Unboxing this table, you’d swear it cost a lot more.

Comparing the level of execution the Yatrus offers, this feels much like some of my favorite components from Nagra, Burmester, AMG and D’Agostino. Quizzing the few friends that did stop by to look and listen to this table all said (without hesitation) “$50k” when I asked what they thought the price would be. One even mentioned “Is this another one of those fancy 100-thousand-dollar turntables?”

Though I’m giving the review away a bit, you could probably tell some people you did pay 100 grand for the Yatrus and they’d believe you. In all honesty, my range of solid experience stops at the $50-60k turntables, yet I feel the Yatrus sounds as good as anything we’ve ever had in for review, regardless of price tag.

The Yatrus tips the scale at $15,500, with mounting for a 9-inch (or less) tonearm. Our review sample came with a Schroder arm that you can purchase for another $5,500. If you aren’t aware of Frank Schroeder, he makes some of the world’s finest tonearms, and there is almost always a waiting list for them. If you don’t already have a premium arm you’re in love with, I highly suggest purchasing these two as a package, find your favorite $3k – $10k phono cartridge and live happily ever after.

The sweet spot or quandary?

A handful of readers will snipe about a $20k table/arm cartridge, but perhaps this isn’t the droid for you. As I’ve said before, I suspect few people will jump out of bed and say (or think) “I’m going to buy a twenty-thousand-dollar turntable today.” Most music loving audio enthusiasts work their way up to a table in this range. You probably have at least a few thousand albums (if not more) in good shape and appreciate the difference between the grades in pressings. You may even own a good chunk of first-stamper this, first-stamper that records. And, you’ll have something to sell or trade in to make this move, so it won’t be as much of a leap as it sounds at first.

If you’ve gone far enough on your analog journey to think about jumping up to this level in analog playback, there are some excellent choices at your disposal. With a number of past benchmarks from this realm pushing $40 – $50k (an SME 30 is $45k these days) $20k for a destination level turntable isn’t crazy talk.

Getting down to business

Things have come a long way since the days of the early direct drive Technics tables. Motor and  power supply design along with superior parts and build quality no longer make direct drive a less than option. Considering the fantastic direct drive tables we’ve had here from Brinkman, Grand Prix Audio and Technics, I’ve come to prefer the weight and speed accuracy of a direct drive table. The Yatrus reinforces this even further.

The Yatrus is quick and straightforward to setup. Like other Thrax components, it comes packed in its own high-density foam lined flight case. You might think this extravagant, but it shows major respect on the part of the manufacturer. They don’t want your table to arrive damaged, and they think enough of their work to protect it thusly. No small point of contention in today’s world of mass production. Should you change residences, this is something you can put a few zip ties on and let the movers move it.

If you have any appreciation at all for machine work and fine detail, savor unboxing the Yatrus. Every surface on this table is machined to perfection – it looks and feels like what you’d expect under the hood of a Ferrari or Aston Martin. The surfaces and fasteners are of exceptional quality, and the knobs adjusting the turntable’s height are protected by a white, stick-on plastic. The slight matte finish makes for a table that won’t be full of fingerprints all the time, like some of those chrome and gold-plated monstrosities. Again, understated elegance wins the day. PS: if you are that qualityphile that geeks out on the experience, you’re going to love the single knob to turn the table on and set speed. (the Yatrus even plays 78s!)

Once you remove the table and level it via the three adjustment knobs on the plinth, all that remains is to plug the power supply in from beneath, gently lower the platter onto the main bearing, and affix the tonearm. Used with our Analog Magik software suite, the Schroeder/Lyra combination was set up to perfection in about 15 minutes. From box to record playing music took about 45 minutes and I was really taking my time.

The music

Fun as all this tech worship is, the Yatrus delivers musically on a grand scale. Using the Pass Labs XSPhono as a conduit, the first thing noticed is quiet. Cueing up a copy of Lou Reed’s The Raven, and heading straight for “Vanishing Act,” listening for the solo piano just hanging in the air is incredible. Great as this track is through the dCS Vivaldi, the Yatrus adds the extra tonal saturation and air that makes Lou Reed feel six feet from the listening chair. If your taste runs more to classical and acoustic music, this is where the direct drive tables jump to the head of the pack. The superior speed accuracy that a top direct drive table offers renders piano, violin, and pretty much any other stringed instrument with a solidity and delicacy that even the best belt drives have a tough time competing with.

Even if you aren’t a classical aficionado, I urge you to add a copy of Yarlung Records Debut, by the Janaki String Trio. The spirited playing, captured on these two 45 r.p.m. discs, cut by Bernie Grundman tell you everything you need to know about the Yatrus. If I could only play you one cut, to convince you how exceptional this turntable is, “Allegro con spirito” from String Trio in C Minor, Op.9 no 3 would do the trick. It might even make a classical music lover out of you.

The speed, texture, and space that the Yatrus offers up has such a simple beauty. There is so much delicacy to this piece, that either feels harsh and screechy on a lesser table, or lacking in texture. The subtle differences in weight between the violin, viola, and cello are easily discernable, even to a novice classical music listener like me. A similar effect occurs when listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash via mediocre vinyl playback – their voices just seem to blend together, yet with through the Yatrus, the vocal shadings and phrasings that make each of these vocalists unique now feels like night and day. This is what you get with a top turntable, and what makes the Yatrus worth the asking price.

It’s also worth mentioning how well the Yatrus does with the lower end of the musical spectrum – another area that the direct drive tables tend to excel. A few long evenings of electronica and prog selections reveal recordings that you might have thought had one-note bass, yet now reveal texture where there was none before.

In the end, it’s about resolution. This table offers up such a high level of fine detail extraction, it will take you to a new world of analog enjoyment. As digital continues to improve, this kind of musicality is what still makes vinyl an incredibly tactile experience.

A best buy

I submit that unless you have (and maybe even if you do) a seven-figure system, you can probably live happily ever after with the Thrax Yatrus. This table is killer good, and the Schroeder arm is one of the world’s finest. The combination is so good, you can experiment with other arms, but I’d suggest staying right here. With so many mega turntables looking like an engineering project at best, and a shop class project at worst, the Yatrus ticks all the boxes for me. It’s finished to swiss watch level quality, it’s understatedly attractive, and it is highly musical.

If you live in an ecosystem that makes a $500k turntable a pittance, the Yatrus isn’t going to be cool enough. But if you’re a music lover that wants to retrieve as much music as they can from their analog music collection, and still has to keep an eye on the bottom line – this one gets my vote. For my money, this is the point of diminishing returns, and the curve goes up sharply from here. I can’t imagine needing more turntable than this. If I didn’t have an engine rebuild project inhaling 20-dollar bills like a room full of 80s party people inhaling coke in the bathroom, I’d buy it today. Don’t be surprised if you see the Yatrus returning in the next 12 months as a reference component when the party’s over. (manufacturer) (US Distributor)



PHONO STAGE Pass XS Phono, VAC Renaissance Phono

SPEAKERS Sonus faber Stradivari, with six pack of REL no.25 subwoofers

CABLES Cardas Clear

REVIEW: The Naim Uniti Star

Naim’s audio gear legacy extends a half-century, starting with their original amplifier design. From those humble beginnings, they’ve continued to create durable and great-sounding components.

While the company makes excellent single-purposed standalone components like amplifiers, they have branched out their product lines to offer multi-purpose audio solutions, too. The Uniti Star resides among these all-in-one packages. The Star includes an excellent amp, a linestage preamp, headphone amplifier, CD player, and high-resolution DAC. That combination pulls together everything a digital audio fan needs to enjoy their favorite tunes.

Form and function

In comparison with the process of configuring and connecting many individual components, the Unity is almost comically simple to set up. Just connect your speakers using banana plugs — spade terminations are not compatible — and plug the Star into an electrical outlet. An internet connection enables many features – including all of the Uniti’s music streaming functionality – so you’ll want to make use of the Naim’s Ethernet port or set it up for wireless capability. From there, you can start playing a CD or streaming music right away.

The Naim does include a full-function remote control. However, the iPhone and Android apps offer a great deal of flexibility – and they are fun to use. A Uniti owner can use the app to connect to Qobuz, Spotify, and Tidal directly or utilize its “radio” functionality to stream from external sources. This convenient capability gives a user the ability to control the Naim from a different room. You certainly can’t do that with a typical remote! To adjust the volume manually, give the gigantic, lighted wheel on the top of the case a spin.

The Star is surprisingly compact for all the inner workings it offers. It’s 17 inches (432mm) wide, 10.5 inches (265mm) deep, and 3.75 inches (95mm) tall. For such a little guy, though, its substantial 29 lb (13kg) weight is primarily due to the toroidal transformer supporting the built-in amplifier’s 70 watts per channel into eight-ohm speaker loads.

Making connections

On the back panel, owners have many options to connect external components. The Unity offers two pairs of RCA jacks for analog inputs. It offers multiple digital inputs too, plus AirPlay integration, allowing owners to make use of the Star’s inner DAC. The Unity includes two standard USB ports for those wanting to attach additional external storage space for digital music. From there, the Naim can access those files for playback. An owner can also rip CDs automatically and have the resulting digital files stored for easy access.

If you need a phono stage, though, you’re out of luck. While the Naim offers a ton of capability under the hood, it’s for digital music, not vinyl.

The Uniti Star features a lot more than meets the eye – and far more capability than we can cover in a single product review. For more information about all its functionality, download the Uniti Star manual on Naim’s website.


The Naim sounded quite good right out of the box, but owners should expect some improvement with a bit of burn-in time. Regardless of the music type thrown at the Uniti, its built-in componentry worked wonders for sound quality without harsh digital artifacts. The combination of internal components purposely selected by Naim synergize well and unleash energy, drive, and subtlety as recordings dictate.

While there’s a lot of detail retrieval, the Uniti’s overall sonic character leans to the warm and forgiving side. This voicing choice lets listeners melt into their seats and immerse themselves in glorious music. For my preferences, this is an excellent characteristic. However, every listener is different. If a prospective owner prefers audio components with a cooler, super-detailed interpretation of their favorite music, the Naim’s sonic flavor might be a bit polite for their taste.

Streaming well-recorded albums like Imelda May’s Life Love Flesh Blood in high resolution offers beautifully rendered vocals with both delicacy and growl that draws in a listener. Even when using the CD player with a lower 16 bit / 44.1 kHz sampling rate, vocals, guitars, and cymbals come through without ear-twitching stridency. However, it took a while to figure out how to get the Star to eject the CD partway through playing. Neither the front panel nor the remote have an eject button. You need to do that via the app.

At 70 watts, the Star has plenty of power to drive reasonably efficient speakers with authority across the frequency range. Those using monitor-sized speakers with limited low-frequency handling capability may appreciate the Uniti’s subwoofer output to dig out those low notes. Those driving big, full-range speakers might find the power rating a bit mild. For this reason, auditioning the Star at home is a great idea to hear for yourself if it mates well with your chosen speakers.

Soundstage-wise, the Star also does a very good job. Instruments appear in their specifically engineered locations, and vocalists maintain a solid image in the front-and-center as they should. Musical elements can also exceed the speaker bodies’ physical locations to creating an immersive listening experience.

Summing up

With an MSRP of $4999, the Naim is an investment in your audio happiness. While some might consider that price tag steep, consider this: To acquire the number of high-quality components built into the Uniti as separates would cost far more. Plus, you won’t need extra interconnects with the Star, which saves even more money.

The Naim Unity Star is a turnkey, marvelous-sounding audio solution. If you are considering scaling down your system or simply want to start with an excellent piece of gear that you’ll enjoy for many years to come, the Naim Unity Star might be your perfect solution.

Additional Listening:  Jeff Dorgay

I have to confess being a huge fan of the Naim Uniti products. They offer so much value and performance in a relatively compact chassis, it’s the perfect spot for the music lover wanting a high-performance system without huge footprint. If you’re an all-digital music lover, just add speakers. As a vinyl lover, I had to add a turntable to the mix, in this case a Rega Planar 3, and just to keep it all British, pulled out the Naim Stageline phono. Sitting on top of a Herman Miller Nelson Bench, this all looks smart as hell, while delivering the goods.

I ran the Star with everything from the $149k/pair Focal Stella Utopia Ems down to a pair of LS3/5as. Personally, I really enjoyed this system with the Focal Kanta no.1s. You can order this as a combo from your Focal/Naim dealer and live happily ever after. As long as you choose a pair of speakers with about an 86dB/1watt rating, you should be just fine. The Star makes a lovely match with a pair of Harbeth C7s too.

Here’s to Naim proving again, that performance and style can peacefully coexist.

Naim Uniti Star

MSRP $4999


Digital Sources: Roon Nucleus, Simaudio MOON 780D DAC, Oppo BDP-103, Synology DiskStation 415 Play, Tidal and Qobuz streaming services.

Amplification: Conrad-Johnson ART150, Pass Labs X150.8

Preamplification: Coffman Labs G1-B

Speakers: GamuT RS3i

Cables: Jena Labs

The Naim Mu-So 2

Time flies when you’re having fun, the saying goes, and Naim’s Mu-so is an incredibly fun way to enjoy music.

The initial launch of the Mu-so at the Munich High End Show a few years ago raised the bar – dramatically for what can be called a desktop audio system. And a gorgeous one at that. As someone who’s been listening since the Mu-so arrived, this was a mega product to begin with. We’ve been living with the original Mu-so QB since the review. Pam looked at that, and just said “mine.”

And what’s not to love? Both Mu-so’s offer powered speakers, incredible industrial design, massive digital connectivity, and stunning sound. Thanks to their partnership with Focal, the Naim engineering staff has been able to leverage Focal’s expertise to produce a second-generation product offering true high-end sound in a box taking up a smaller form factor than a sound bar. If you’ve been thinking about a top sound bar for your TV, forget about it – buy a Mu-so.

Compact yet majestic

Don’t let the compact (about 12 x 24 inches, and only 5 inches high) form factor fool you. The new Mu-so packs 450 watts of power, into this enclosure, via a pair of DSP controlled, three-way speakers. When the original Mu-so was introduced, this was its most impressive feature – it could play loud, and with authority.

Nothing’s changed. After all of 8 seconds to pair up the Mu-so 2 with my iPhone, I’m rocking out. Robert Plant’s “Little by Little” has a solid bass groove, and about 20 tracks of Robert Plant later, this tabletop system is massively engaging, even using Spotify as a source. Fortunately, this is the lowest quality setting of which the Mu-so 2 is capable of.

With DAC and streaming circuitry derived from the flagship 500 series (which, incidentally, is also our cover story) the Mu-so 2 is able to decode PCM files up to 24/384khz PCM files and DSD 128.

Different, but the same

The new version of the Mu-so looks nearly the same externally, but Naim says (with their typical wacky sense of humor) that the new model is “95% different.” This means nearly everything has been gone over, optimized, and improved. It may look the same, but Naim has taken a class leading product and improved every aspect of it except one (and maybe that’s the 5%) the amazing volume attenuator. This is one of those works of engineering art that should be in museums everywhere. It feels just like the control in Naim’s top of the line Statement preamplifier. And when you power up the Mu-so, the backlit ring around the control dial glows in a circular fashion for about 20 seconds until warm up, revealing the unit’s control panel/main menu. It’s so beautiful to behold, you just might find yourself dimming the lights to see it more than once.

Again, with every aspect of the Mu-so 2s performance upgraded or tweaked, this is a component that is way more than the sum of its individual parts. Thanks to analog, USB, digital, and network inputs (wired and wireless) you can connect anything to the Mu-so 2. We tried everything, because again, Mu-so 2 is so much fun.

Connects to everything

First: old school analog. Thanks to the standard analog input, you can connect a turntable and phono preamplifier to the Mu-so 2. What better than a Technics 1200, fitted with a Denon 103 cartridge and a Naim Stageline phono? Should you hook a turntable up to your Mu-so 2, we suggest not placing the turntable on the same shelf, as the extended bass response of the Mu-so 2 will cause acoustic feedback. If you have no other way to go, investing in some kind of isolation platform or perhaps a wall shelf directly above the Mu-so 2 so you can keep cabling to a minimum. This was our approach, and it was fantastic.

Next: new school analog. As we have Cambridge Audio’s new Alva Bluetooth turntable, this seemed it might make the perfect fit for someone in close quarters, that needs to put their Mu-so 2 one place and a record player all the way across the room or pull it out and put it on a table somewhere for a night of record playing. The two paired effortlessly, and within 60 seconds we were playing records. Even though this is not a Naim piece, it makes a perfect complement for the Mu-so 2.

Streaming: via iOS device (or other). Just like the Alva, the iPhone synched with the Mu-so 2 in a heartbeat and proves easy to control. All of our listening was with Spotify, and because of this relatively low-quality stream, does not show off all that the tabletop Naim is capable of. Compared to CD and high-resolution digital files, there is a lack of resolution, which causes a smaller, less defined soundfield to expand in the room. In all fairness, it’s still pretty damn awesome.

Connecting the Mu-so 2 to our wired ethernet network via a CAT 6 cable and making it a ROON endpoint really shows off what this baby can do. When streaming a combination of 16/44, 24/96. And 24/192 files, the Mu-so 2 disappears in the room like a full blown hifi system. Naim got this right the first time, and it’s only better now. When comparing it to a few premier soundbars, or our Zeppelin wireless – the Naim is miles ahead in terms of dynamic range, and optimization of the DSP. Eyes closed; it really sounds like there are a pair of speakers on stands in the room.

When listening to heavy rock tracks and electronica titles with substantial low bass output, the Mu-so 2 digs in and goes deep. Thanks to a friend that lent us his original Mu-so (and we still have our Mu-so Qb) this is where you really feel the differences. Highs are cleaner, more defined, and have better, more anchored placement. As are the lowest frequencies – the new model goes down deeper and with less effort. Naim’s collaboration with Focal really shows itself to excellent result here.

All of the other major streaming services are compatible with the Mu-so 2, but if you happen to be a ROON user, this is such an exquisite pairing, and almost makes the Naim app useless. However, if you are not streaming with ROON, the Naim app allows you to control nearly every parameter of the Mu-so 2, so take your pick. This also comes in handy if you happen to be streaming your music collection via ripped CDs and a UPNP network. Again, we had great luck linking the Mu-so 2 to our Naim Uniti Core, with 2TB internal drive. Brilliant.

Finally: Television/movie sound. As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, don’t even think about buying a so called “soundbar,” when you can have a Mu-so 2. Out in the living room, using a projector to get about a 14-foot image on our main wall, putting the Mu-so 2 on a small table, about 18 inches off the ground, provided room filling sound.

Again, what impressed us the most, especially in this context is the Mu-so 2s sheer ability to play loud musical passages and its ability to handle gun shots, and various other cinema related crashes and booms. Streaming Netflix from a MacBook Pro, going to the Mu-So 2 via the Mac’s USB output was the best way to go here, but again, you have options, as this version also offers an HDMI input.

Fantastic, from beginning to end

As lovely as the Mu-so 2’s packaging is, it really should have confetti spray out when you open it. This is a party in a box, waiting to enjoy. Regardless of how you might engage Naim’s Mu-so 2, it’s up to whatever music related tasks you can give it. We tend to pooh-pooh all in ones, but this one is true to its heritage and worthy of an Exceptional Value Award for 2021.

REVIEW – The FinkTeam Kim Speakers

With all the internet banter about speaker “break-in,” (and, yes we do believe in it) you know a speaker is special when it sounds fantastic right out of the box.

When a speaker sounds as musical and inviting as the FinkTeam Kim speakers when you play the first track – in this case, the Rolling Stones “Has Anybody Seen my Baby?” it only gets better as the hours pile up.

Audiophile dinosaur that I am, my first experience with the Heil AMT (air motion transformer) goes all the way back to high school, when my neighbor brought home a pair of ESS AMT-1 tower speakers. Interestingly enough, this particular speaker was a 2-way design, featuring an AMT tweeter and a 10-inch woofer loaded with a transmission line. It’s interesting that these speakers follow a similar, albeit very refined concept. After listening to AR3a’s in my system, (back then) the clarity and speed from the Heil tweeter was a revelation. FinkTeam’s current implementation is a forward firing model, 110mm (4.33 inches) long, delivering great horizontal dispersion. Thanks to the integral stands, correct rake angle is close to perfect from initial unpacking. Your listening position will of course, dictate toe-in and fine adjustment of these parameters.

FinkTeam has developed their AMT with Mundorf, who also builds the driver and they’ve engineered it for a minimum of down-firing treble energy. This makes the Kims much easier to set up. The high end gets flat and muffled in a hurry when you have it wrong. Don’t panic, just dial in a little more lift to the rear of the speaker stands. And don’t be shy with the toe-in either.

These two-way speakers, complete with stands have an introductory MSRP of $11,995/pair. You can read the full specs on the FinkTeam website, but perhaps the most important is that they offer a sensitivity of 86db/1-watt, and though this might seem slightly inefficient, these speakers prove incredibly easy to drive with everything from a 25 wpc Class-A amplifier, up to my reference Parasound JC-1+ monos with over 400 watts per channel. And, they are easy to use with tube amplifiers of modest power.

Though you may not have heard of this relative newcomer, FinkTeam is a lot like Porsche Design in the sense that they have been doing a lot of engineering and design projects for a number of companies for years. Like that other famous German design house, they stay in the shadows unless said manufacturer mentions their work. “Over the past 30 years Karl-Heinz Fink and his team have collaborated with Denon, Yamaha, Mission, Tannoy, Wharfedale, Mordaunt-Short, Naim, Q Acoustics, Boston Acoustics, Castle, Marantz, IAG and Bentley, among many others.” This is why these speakers come to market so highly evolved.


We’ve been listening to several relatively compact, yet high performance speakers in the 10-20 thousand dollar a pair range; the Kims are solid contenders on a number of levels. Judged strictly on build quality and physical implementation, the Kims are tip-top. While every premium brand builds their enclosures differently, no one offers a higher level of material, finish, and fine assembly. Every joint on these speakers is executed to perfection, and this level of quality is far beyond speakers at the $5k – $7k level. The front panel is equally exquisite.

Turning the spotlight to price, the Stenheim Alumine 2s that were just here, tipped the scale at close to $12k without stands, the Sonus faber Guarneri Tradition about $17k with stands, and the Acora Acoustics SRBs top the chart at $20k with stands. Wilson, Magico, Focal, and others also have offerings at this price – it’s a very popular market segment for those wanting the refinement of six-figure floor standing speakers, yet don’t have a massive environment in which to place them.

Speaking of stands, these custom designed stands, are massive enough to get the job done, yet have a minimal footprint to interfere with imaging. It’s a nice touch to take this guesswork out of the equation, as speaker height and interface are critical to achieving maximum performance. You merely take the Kims out of their packaging and place them.

If you don’t need that last 10-15Hz of deep bass response (and you can mitigate some of this with very careful placement, taking advantage of room gain) these are exciting speakers, offering a huge helping of cost no object speaker resolution. Nearly all of our listening was done in our 13 x 18-foot room, and proved very engaging. Unless we were trying to play Led Zeppelin at near concert hall levels, the last bit of dynamics and bass extension from big speakers in a big room was not missed at all.

A different ribbon indeed

If your experience with ribbon tweeters has been somewhat less than awesome, I’m right there with you, on the other side of that canoe. The speed and transparency that this style driver brings is nearly always intoxicating at first listen, but often becomes fatiguing after a while. Even worse, the ribbon tweeter can’t keep up with the other driver(s) and you start to notice a disconnect in musical pace. Music with a lot of high frequency information is still compelling, but other tracks with more midrange and mid-bass energy just sound off.

However, the AMT driver is somewhat different than a traditional, pleated, ribbon driver that still essentially pushes and pulls air. The AMT is more of a folded ribbon design, with more surface area that squeezes the air out between the folds. This makes for even livelier transient response, and lower distortion due to a larger surface area. Even at high volumes, these are very low distortion speakers.

Fink produces two larger speakers, all utilizing AMT tweeters, but each of a different size, optimized for the system they are used in. The driver in the Fink is large enough to dig down into the mids somewhat and mate with the 8-inch woofer at a 2200 hz crossover point. Fink claims response down to 35hz, and while we don’t measure speakers, running some test tones, confirms that the output at 35hz is indeed strong and solid.

Taking control

Two controls on the back panel make the Kims easier to use and compatible with a wider range of amplifiers. The tweeter level control has center, +, and – settings, which tip the high end up by 0.25db[tl3] , and cut by an equal amount. This proves extremely helpful, as my living room is untreated, except for some diffusion material on the wall behind the listening couch – i.e. a more typical user environment. The main listening room out in the studio is treated to be free of major reflections, yet still somewhat live sounding. That little bit of boost and cut made it easy to optimize the Kims beyond what can be achieved with toe-in and rake angle adjustments.

This adjustment also proves helpful to fine tune the Kims to your amplifier or cables. Matterhorn Audio provided a set of HiDiamond Diamond 8 speaker cables to use with the review ($2,500/pair) that are highly complementary to the Kims. We will have a more in-depth review of the Diamond 8s shortly, but these too are worthy of your consideration. We did mate the Kims with a few different speaker cables from Cardas, Nordost, and Tellurium Q – all with good result. However, the resolving power of the Kims easily reveals the difference between them. The final choice will be up to you, but this was a very enjoyable exercise.

There’s one more adjustment the Kims have to offer, and it is just as useful as the HF level. A three-position control for woofer damping makes it much easier to mate the Kims with whatever amplifier you have on hand. We’ve reviewed more than one speaker that sounds too flat with a solid-state amplifier, or wonky in the low end with a tube amplifier. The settings are optimized for solid state, high damping factor amplifiers, moderate damping factor solid state amplifiers (this setting is excellent with your favorite Class-A, lower power solid state amp, and was heaven with the Luxman 595 Anniversary amplifier) and low damping factor tube amplifiers.

Running the gamut of tube amplifiers at our disposal from McIntosh, PrimaLuna, Conrad Johnson, BAT and Line Magnetic illustrates that these speakers play well with whatever you happen to have on hand. The open, airy feeling of the Kims with a great tube amp makes for an enormous three-dimensional experience, and that damping control came in handy.

Many speakers based on traditional ribbon tweeters have such a low impedance drop at a certain frequency point, making them unsuitable for use with a tube amplifier. The Kims are rated at 8 ohms, and FinkTeamclaims they never drop below 5.6 ohms, making for an easy load indeed.

More listening

Cool as the Kims are, extended listening takes you by surprise. Just when you might think you have a handle on the sound, a familiar bit in a well-traveled track takes you to another zone. The church bells at the beginning of David Bowie’s “The Wedding,” from Black Tie White Noise was one of these moments. Oddly enough, it was a serendipitous moment, as the church down the street from our house was ringing their bell, which triggered the urge to try this track. The attack and decay captured on this recording was incredibly lifelike and similar to what I had just heard minutes before.

The AMT tweeter does a fantastic job at speed and transparency, making for an excellent recreation of spatial cues and dimension. The time worn favorite, Jeff Beck’s Live at Ronnie Scotts, reveals room boundaries easily through these speakers. Other similar recordings, such as the Rolling Stones Stripped, or any live album that happens to be recorded in a small to modest venue comes that much more alive in your room.

Should your musical taste fall to tracks that came to life in a recording studio, the results are equally enticing. Going way back to the mid 80s to Jeff Beck’s Flash, a studio concoction with Jan Hammer reveals tons of tinkly bits, and synth riffs bouncing around the room. David Byrne’s collaboration with St. Vincent “Who” is sheer pleasure to track through, with a bouncing bass line, and layered harmonies that again, really show off the resolving capabilities of the Kims.

A large, three-dimensional soundstage is a hallmark of the AMT driver, but the implementation in the Kims, and careful crossover design takes this to another level. It’s amazing how far speaker design has come, even in the last years. The integration between woofer and tweeter is so good, it almost feels like listening to a giant, full range speaker.

Yet, even after hours of listening, these speakers are not the least bit fatiguing. Much as I dread audiophile clichés, this is one of those special speakers that will reveal enough fresh musical information, that you will rediscover your music collection with them. The fine detail that they offer up will keep you up playing more music to hear what you were missing.

A personal favorite

The sonic attributes listed above happen to be my personal favorites, so it’s somewhat selfish of me to say, I absolutely love these speakers. I’ve been trying to find a pair of ESS AMT-1 Towers for over 30 years to no avail. The Kim offers that same overall type of sound, yet with infinitely more finesse. The density of thought and execution put into the Kims is incredible. There’s a crispness to these speakers build, reminding me of a side-by-side comparison between a Rolex or a Barcelona chair next to those making knockoff copies. From a distance, it’s tough to tell, but when you get up close, the attention to fine details immediately grabs you. Great as these speakers sound, they are a pleasure to experience as part of your environment. They will appeal to the audiophile and music lover as they will to the qualityphile, desiring an equal amount of visual stimulation.

Sonic signature is always such a personal thing, almost like a fingerprint. Forget about the absolute sound for a minute, your perception of how music sounds is what’s most important. If you are looking for a pair of speakers offering a massive soundstage, and a lot of music detail without crossing the line into being harsh and fatiguing, FinkTeam’s Kim should be at the top of your list. We’re definitely keeping these… #TONEAUDIOAPPROVED (manufacturer) (Distributor)


Analog Source Avid Volvere SP/Lyra Atlas/Pass XS Phono

Digital Source dCS Vivaldi ONE

Preamplifier Pass XS Pre

Amplifier Pass XA200.8 monos, Pass INT-25, Octave VS110SE, PrimaLuna EVO400, McIntosh MC1502, Conrad Johnson CAV 45mkII, Line Magnetic LM805, Nagra Classic 100, Boulder 866

Cable Cardas Clear, Clear Beyond, HiDiamond Diamond8 Speaker cable

REVIEW – The Rega Kyte Speakers

The team at Rega Research is famous for somewhat out of the box solutions to engineering problems.

In the case of their newest Kyte speakers, they take this to heart, using a phenolic resin material to mould the speaker enclosure rather than make it out of MDF. This slightly curvy shape goes a long way at diffusing internal resonances, it also makes the Kytes fairly light in weight as well. Lower shipping cost means better price to the consumer. They are all pretty clever over there.

Many only know Rega for their turntables, but they have been a full-line electronics manufacturer for decades now. Yet, the speakers probably have the lowest profile in their lineup. At least here in the US, where we like stuff to be massive. Yet not everyone lives in a gigantic space, and more people are stepping up to better desktop hifi systems, especially in the current world where we sit at our desks in our pyjamas and work from home.

In addition to the cool resin cabinets, Rega designs and builds their own raw drivers too. Burn the word value into your cerebral cortex, and be ready for a happy face when you power up the Kytes for the first time. These are seriously good little speakers, especially for $795 a pair.

In typical Rega fashion, they did not just outsource these cabinets to China, they invested in their own equipment to make enclosures from this material. If you don’t know about Rega’s history, nearly 40 years ago, Gandy spent a small fortune to invest in proprietary dies to produce his tonearms, rather than be at the mercy of an outside supplier with dubious quality control. Don’t be surprised if we don’t see a few more speakers using this cabinet technology.

First laps

Knowing Rega founder Roy Gandy isn’t caught up in premium cables and such, I hope he doesn’t mind my listening begins on the desktop with my vintage Marantz 2220, connected with zip cord. Laugh as you might, this system is the great equalizer, because it doesn’t have an enormous power supply and doesn’t double down on power to four ohms, like a well-designed modern amplifier. The result? Hard to drive speakers sound awful with this receiver. And that means they will sound equally dreadful with your budget receiver or amplifier from Best Buy.

Rega lists a nominal impedance of 6 ohms and a sensitivity of 89db/1watt. They pass the Marantz test with ease. True to past experience, speakers that sound great with this mediocre 70s receiver, usually sound fantastic with modern amplification. Next step, our Rega Brio-R integrated/Planar 3 combination. Should you be in the market for a compact, high – performance, vinyl-oriented system, your Rega dealer can put you in the drivers seat for just under three grand. This will probably be some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on for that price.

Considering that a re-capped Marantz will set you back at least $500 these days, $995 for a New Brio (it is now merely called a “Brio”) is an incredible bargain. Just making this change on the desktop system feels as if the Kytes have doubled in physical size. Not to mention the huge increase in resolution.

More seat time

Seriously, the Kytes sound great right out of the box, but bass becomes slightly tighter and more extended after about 100 hours. This isn’t dramatic, but it’s there. So if you like em out of the box, you’ll like em more after a few weeks of play. Romping through a number of Electronica tracks, particularly a long playlist of Tosca and Chateau Flight. The Kytes are incredible, picking up a tiny bit of reinforcement from desktop placement. They do equally well in a room situation if you place them on top of a bookshelf, but be sure to leave a little bit of space between the cabinet back and the wall. The Kytes have a rear-firing port.

As these speakers do have ample bass output, do not put them on the same shelf with your turntable – you are guaranteed to get low frequency feedback. Great as all those Instagram pictures look, this is not the right way to set up a hifi system. (PS: Your Rega dealer can hook you up with a purpose built Rega turntable shelf to lift your table off the same shelf as your speakers)

The Kytes come with a plastic piece that screws in the back of the speakers to keep the front panel more perpendicular to the shelf surface. A stand mount adapter is also available, should you want to use them on stands. We had excellent luck on our 24” Sound Anchor stands, as they have a top surface big enough to accommodate the Kytes with their supplied adaptors. We also had excellent luck, taking advantage of the slight upward tilt (sans adaptors) with 16” Sound Anchors, and a bit of fine tuning with the spikes.

Fortunately, the Kytes are extremely easy to set up in your listening room, should you put them on stands. They offer up wide dispersion, so they aren’t terribly fussy to get the placement perfect. And once set up, they will engage you in the room no matter where you sit. A small woofer can only move a maximum amount of air, yet these speakers can play incredibly loud without distortion, even with a Brio-R.

Chequered flag

This is not very scientific at all, but the Rega Kytes are one of the most enjoyable small speakers I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in a long time. Many small, inexpensive speakers sacrifice overall sound quality for a single aspect of reproduction. The Kyte is such an overall high achiever, with a level of balance usually reserved for much more expensive speakers. Even after hours of constant listening, this is a speaker you will never tire of.

I could go on and on about this track and that track, but you really need to hear these speakers for yourself.

Much like that rare automobile that has a perfect balance of braking, acceleration and handling, these speakers offer everything a music lover will appreciate. Excellent bass response, smooth yet defined treble and a very refined midrange. Nothing sounds forced, nothing sounds lacking. The Kytes completely deliver Rega’s promise of making reasonably priced hifi gear that sounds great. There is a level of graininess and cloudiness that nearly every budget speaker has, that is completely absent with the Kyte, even powered by a vintage receiver. This level of refinement makes them sound much more expensive then their price dictates.

Normally we don’t do this kind of thing, but with mid – October only six weeks away, we’ll let you in on a secret. We will be awarding the Kytes our Budget Product of the Year Award in issue 109. They are more than just an exceptional value. If I were starting my hifi journey again from scratch, I’d buy a pair in a heartbeat. I may buy a pair anyway, just because they are so damn cool. (factory) (NA distributor)

REVIEW – The LSA Warp 1 Power Amplifier

We’ve been having a great time here at TONE with the new LSA products that Mark Schifter has been sending us. For those of you that don’t remember, he was one of the principals in Audio Alchemy and remains the king of high value/high performance audio. These days he works with Walter Lederman at Underwood HiFi, continuing to fight the good fight.

It’s always tons of fun to write about mega amplifiers and monster speakers with five and even six-figure price tags, but we know that about a third of our audience has a $2,000 – $10,000 system, all in. When you’re spending five or six g on your system, you have to proceed with caution, seeking out the most bang for the buck to really maximize it. $1,199 for 150 watts per channel is awesome, because it allows a wider range of speaker options than that 25 watt per channel, modded Dynaco you were going to buy.

Seriously, as nice of a combination as the Warp 1 makes with LSA’s DPH-1 preamp, if you have to have a bit more warmth, $800 will find you a nice vintage tube preamplifier to warm things up a bit. (which is exactly what I did a little later in the review – you can’t take the cheese out of a Wisconsin guy, and you can only take so much warmth out of a hardcore tube guy…)

But Class D?

I know, you’re thinking “Jerold is going for class D? That grumpy, curmudgey guy that likes 70s CJ and ARC tube amps?” Time for a few new spots, I guess.

Back when class D amps hit the scene, they offered efficient operation in a compact size with low power requirements. (And low heat generation) But, they kinda suuuucked in the sound department. Brittle and harsh was the order of the day. Additionally, they could be tough to mate with speakers that either had a low impedance dip or were somewhat difficult to drive. Much like an SET or OTL tube amplifier. Things have changed. The breed is improved.

I’m pretty old school and get crabby when called upon to go outside of my comfort zone. However, everything we’ve sampled from LSA has proven to be excellent. I’ve been eyeing the publishers Teddy speakers in his garage, and as I still have the DPH-1 Headphone amp/DAC in my garage, it made perfect sense.

We can talk tech, or we can talk fun

If you want all the specs and an in-depth report on all the tech that’s gone into this small amplifier (14”W x 10”D x 3”H) please click here to visit Underwood HiFi’s site:

It tells you everything you need to know about power (150wpc – 8 ohms) and the rest of the specs. Suffice to say, being a car guy, I had to pop the top and peek inside, this little amplifier is robustly built. LSA claims that this amplifier is stable into 2 ohms, and while I couldn’t completely verify that, my Quad 57s that have shut down more than one “modern” amplifier at modest volume, had no problems with the Warp 1. That’s as scientific as I get.

Doing most of my listening with a pair of Vandersteen 1CE speakers, a pair of ProAc Tablettes and some Magnepan SMGs all were fantastic matches. When I returned the Warp 1, our pub and I had some more valves to adjust, so we mated the Warp 1 to his Audio GE Teddy speakers (reviewed here, by yours truly) that you can also get from Underwood. The Warp 1, a DPH-1 and a pair of Teddy’s and you’ve still got enough cash left to buy a turntable. How great is that?

Back to the fun

What really sells me on the Warp 1 is the lack of grain and harshness that I used to associate with class D has left the building. It’s still not a Mac tube amp, but this easily is on par sonically with a lot of inexpensive solid-state amps with discrete parts I’ve heard, and better than some. Compared to something like the Benchmark AHB2 that was evaluated a while back, the Benchmark is definitely more flat and somewhat sterile in comparison. Our reference Simaudio MOON ACE has a more luscious solid-state sound, but it’s an integrated, has a $3,500 price tag and is only 50wpc.

Back to those speaker choices again. While I was visiting TONE HQ, I also made it a point to connect the Gershman Acoustics Studio Twos and the Eggleston Nicos. Much spendier speakers at $3,500 and $5,995/pair, yet this amplifier still delivers the goods at a high level. I wouldn’t have any problem using this amp with these speakers.

The two things you notice right away with the Warp 1, is that unlike tube or discrete solid state amplifiers, it takes no time at all to stabilize thermally and electronically. Five minutes, and you’re rocking – with precious little change. My Pass Aleph amp (single ended, class-A) takes about two hours to be all it can be. In today’s ADD world, some of you don’t even have two hours to listen to music! However, the low power usage of class D means you can just leave it on all the time, minimizing your carbon footprint while you’re annoying the neighbors.

Second, this amp is fast. Really fast. Drums, percussion, plucky acoustic guitar solos sound great. Being the old guy I am, heading back to the Sheffield Drum Record, I was really impressed at the quick pace of this amplifier with no overshoot or fatigue. A super set of Rush, listening to a lot of Neal Peart’s drumming was equally impressive. This speed and timing also carries over to the lowest frequencies as well – even at high volume. The way this amplifier took control of the Eggleston’s woofers when tracking through Mickey Hart’s Drumming at the Edge was fantastic. No one-note bass here – another problem with class D amps past.

Final notes

As mentioned the Warp 1 did not have any speaker or cable sensitivities in our test listening. We tried Cardas, Tellurium Q, Audioquest, and Nordost cables, all with excellent luck. Driving everything from vintage ESLs (Acoustat and Quad) to a number of current day speakers revealed nothing that couldn’t be driven, and to good volume levels.

Consider my attitude changed. The LSA Warp One is a great amp, period. Class D has matured, and very well I might add. For $1,195, we’re definitely awarding this baby an Exceptional Value Award. Job well done.

The new, fourth generation of the Bowers & Wilkins 800 series is here.

If you’ve been an audiophile for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of Bowers & Wilkins, and their legendary 800 series loudspeakers. The ones that sit in the prestigious Abbey Road studios, yeah those.

There’s probably no better example of constant refinement in the world of loudspeakers than the 800 series. The massive engineering team at B&W keeps making their flagship speakers better all the time, with new driver materials, new crossovers, and even better ways of building and finishing the cabinets. Arguably, the 800 series speakers are finished as well or better than any speakers at any price. (We would argue that they ARE the gold standard) New models continuously have improved dynamics, tonality and resolution. A true engineering-based company to the core, what the B&W engineers learn with their flagship 800 series always works its way down to the rest of their products as well.

The new D4 speakers are now in the pipeline and they incorporate a number of changes, and there are hundreds of detail changes in every model. From B&W:

Refined Design

Refined, elegant cabinet proportions plus luxurious, premium detailing combine to make this the most premium 800 Series Diamond range yet.

The first and most obvious change is the addition of a fourth finish to the line-up. The new range now includes a Satin Walnut finish, joining the established selection of Gloss Black, White and Satin Rosenut.

Every stereo model in the range also enjoys a significantly upgraded cabinet design with an all-new rigid, cast aluminium top section – replacing the previous wooden version – to offer even greater stiffness and thus improve cabinet quietness still further. In a luxurious touch, the profile of the new aluminium top is finished in ‘Leather by Connolly’ – in black for dark cabinets (Black, Satin Rosenut) and light grey for lighter finishes (White, Satin Walnut).

Every model in the range adopts a revised version of the iconic Solid Body Tweeter-on-Top housing, with a new, elongated tube-loading system to produce an even more open sound for high frequencies. This supremely stiff enclosure deftly resists unwanted resonance and is an exceptional acoustic form – especially when combined with a new two-point decoupling system that isolates it from the rest of the loudspeaker more effectively than ever. As before, the Solid Body Tweeter is milled from a single solid block of aluminium and now, it uses an anodised finish, either dark or light depending on the cabinet colour, to celebrate that fact.

Finally, the range introduces three entirely new cabinet forms. The 805 D4 and 804 D4 stereo models adopt the reverse-wrap cabinet design first introduced in 2015 for the larger speakers in the series. This new form reduces the profile of each cabinet’s front baffle while dramatically increasing the overall rigidity of the complete system. It also allows crossovers to now be mounted in dedicated spaces on the rear of each speaker, housed behind the rigid aluminium spines.

The 804 D4 builds on the potential of its new configuration by adding a downward-firing port with an integral aluminium plinth – again, much like the form used by the larger floorstanding speakers in the range. Alongside the 805 D4 and 804 D4, the all-new HTM82 D4 centre speaker adopts the reverse-wrap cabinet form of its siblings, for superior acoustic and mechanical performance.

New technologies

Continuum™ Cone, FST & Biomimetic Suspension

The result of an eight-year research programme, the composite Continuum Cone – used for both midrange and mid/bass applications – is already famed for its open, transparent, and neutral performance. When used as a midrange drive unit in Bowers & Wilkins floorstanding speakers, it is always combined with our Fixed Suspension Transducer (FST) midrange technology, which carefully avoids the coloration that traditional cone surrounds can introduce.

Now, Bowers & Wilkins has combined the twin benefits of Continuum and FST with an all-new advance that transforms the other key element of a drive unit’s normal operation: the fabric spider. Over decades of continuous development to nearly all areas of speaker design, the fabric spider, a key element in the suspension of every conventional loudspeaker drive unit, has remained largely unchanged – until now.

The all-new composite Biomimetic Suspension replaces the conventional fabric spider with a minimalist composite suspension system that revolutionises midrange cone performance by greatly reducing unwanted air pressure – aka sound – that a conventional fabric spider can generate, removing its unpredictable, non-linear effects. The result is unprecedented midrange transparency and realism.

Decoupled Midrange & Turbine™ Head

Bowers & Wilkins combines all the performance-enhancing benefits of its Continuum Cone, FST midrange technology and Biomimetic Suspension with careful isolation of the complete midrange assembly from the rest of the surrounding cabinet. In all three-way models, midrange drive units include a highly stiff all-aluminium chassis featuring Tuned Mass Dampers (TMD) to quieten any resonance. These complete drive units and motor systems are then isolated on sprung-mounted decoupling mounts, further restricting the flow of vibration into the assembly.

Finally, 803 D4, 802 D4 and 801 D4 include the massively stiff all-aluminium Turbine Head enclosure for their midrange drive units, providing not only an outstanding acoustic form but also even better isolation – since the head assembly is itself further decoupled from the bass enclosure below.

The HTM81 D4 and HTM82 D4 introduce a new and similar concept but inside their cabinets: each centre-channel model now features an internal aluminium enclosure that provides a stiff, well-isolated housing for the midrange drive unit and its decoupling mechanism.

Solid Body Tweeter

To minimise the unwanted transfer of resonance into each model’s Diamond Dome tweeters, an exceptionally stiff enclosure is required. The new 800 Series Diamond introduces a revised version of the iconic Solid Body Tweeter housing; this continues to be machined from a solid piece of aluminium, but now it features an elongated form (almost 30cm/12in long) with a longer internal tube-loading system.

The new Solid Body Tweeter assembly is now decoupled from the speaker body or Turbine Head (depending on model) in two locations rather than one: this notably improves spaciousness and openness. At the same time, the tweeter’s motor assembly has been re-engineered to allow the drive unit to ‘breathe’ more effectively with no loss of performance. The result is a notable reduction in the resonant frequency behind the tweeter dome.

Reverse-Wrap Cabinet & Matrix™

Matrix has been a core Bowers & Wilkins technology for more than 30 years and has also been continually developed throughout that time. An internal structure of interlocking panels that brace the loudspeaker internally in all directions, Matrix helps to make speaker cabinets rigid, inert and quiet.

The 805 D4 and 804 D4 now feature the reverse wrap speaker cabinet previously reserved for the larger floor-standing 800 Series Diamond models. Each model now has a stiff aluminium plate on the inside face of its cabinet, bracing its baffle against resonance. Inside, both models also feature updates to their Matrix bracing, with thicker panels made from solid plywood rather than the previous MDF, reinforced by aluminium bracing sections.

Every stereo model in the range also features the new cast aluminium top replacing the previous wooden design, dramatically increasing the rigidity of the speaker enclosure. As before, drive units are housed in stiff aluminium pods mounted to the baffle of the speaker while crossover units are fitted to equally stiff aluminium spines running up the rear of the cabinet. Finally, 801D4 introduces a steel plate in its base section around the port – again, all in the name of adding stiffness to the enclosure and further quietening its operation.

Aerofoil™ Cone

The result of advance computer modelling, the Aerofoil Cone is a composite bass cone with a varying thickness designed to offer maximum stiffness where it is most needed while preserving a low mass – thanks to its carbon-fibre skin and light syntactic foam core.

Alongside revised and optimised motor systems, each floorstanding speaker in the 800 Series Diamond range now combines its Aerofoil Cones with a new foam Anti-Resonance Plug, which gently braces the voice coil and lowers distortion as the cone moves through its operating range, ensuring even cleaner bass.

Together, all these advances deliver unprecedented performance. Available globally from September 1st, the new 800 Series Diamond is the finest range of loudspeakers Bowers & Wilkins has ever created.

There’s more at

The Next Step in the Focal Aria K2 Story…

If you’ve spent any time with (or happen to own a pair) the Focal Aria K2 936 floor standers, launched last fall, with an MSRP of $5,990/pair,
now you can build a completely matching theater system around them.

In late September, Focal will have the smaller K2 906 at $1,990/pair and a matching K2 Center channel speaker for $1,190. Using the same
tech as the K2 936, centered around the aramid fiber-K2 cones, the new speakers match the Aria K2 936 both sonically and aesthetically.

For more info, please click here:

Talking about my/your generation

Here’s a note to all you Millennials, Gen X, Y, and Z’ers.

For as long as I can remember, the generations have been arguing about why we hate each others’ music, why your music sucks and my music is awesome, and why in order to appreciate high performance audio you have to like my music.

You don’t have to like my music at all. Seriously, I’m a boomer and I hate a lot of the music from “my generation.” I’d rather go to the dentist and get my teeth cleaned than listen to the Eagles again. I’m mega bored with “Kind of Blue.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sucking up to you to try and be cool, woke, or trying to get you to like me – I’m not fond of a lot of your music either, but seriously, who gives a shit?

It’s your music, it’s personal, and that’s all that matters. I hated being told what to do, what to listen to, and what was cool when I was your age, and I still hate it.

Best of all, with so much music to stream these days, if you feel so inclined, you can dabble in the music of my generation if you feel like it, without having to commit to buying physical product. You know what sucked in a major way in my day? Getting pulled in by a great “hit single,” or great video clip, only to buy the entire album and find out it was the only good song on the album. Adjusting for inflation, $6 in my day was about (you guessed it) about $40 in todays money. We couldn’t return records we didn’t like and that’s why so many boomers brag about their massive record collections. Most of it sucks.

This is what killed the music industry. All the suits signing mediocre acts that had no business making records in the first place. How long did anyone think that business model was going to last?

There are always exceptions to the rule, on both sides of the fence, so don’t bother sending me nastygrams trying to impress me with your cool record collection and prove me wrong. Again, it’s all about you. It’s not about me at all. However, I do love K-Pop. So shoot me.

At the end of the day, if you need some help with a phono cartridge or a pair of speakers and we can be of help, always happy to pitch in. But when it comes to us agreeing on music, are you kidding?

But it’s really ok.

Focal adds in-wall to their speaker lineup…

If you love Focal speakers, but don’t have room in your listening room, there’s a solution!

Focal has added their new Wall 301 and Wall 302 speakers for your home theater environment.
They will work great for normal stereo use, if you just don’t have room for a pair of floor standers, too.
(but they do offer stands as an accessory)

These are being sold individually, as both models are slim enough, to be used as a center channel as well.

Available in gloss black or white, these will fit into every decor scheme with ease, and sonically
can be integrated with any other Focal products in your system.

These are available at your Focal dealers in late September. Pricing is as follows:

On Wall 301 – $990/each

On Wall 302 – $1,490/each

On Wall Stand – $490/pair

For more info, visit: