Change in Carver Biz Model

Just announced today:

In order to stay competitive, Bob Carver Corp. will now be selling direct only. Back orders will be filled in the next 30 days, and new things are on the horizon very soon. Changes in business climate and associated supply chain issues are dictating this change.

If you have questions on existing orders, etc., please contact Jim Clark.

[email protected]

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood on Vinyl…

Light In The Attic announces the definitive, first ever reissue of Nancy & Lee, the iconic 1968 duet from Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood.

The latest installment from LITA’s Nancy Sinatra Archival Series, Nancy & Lee is available to pre-order now on vinyl, cassette tape, CD, 8-track, and digital formats and is set for release on May 20th.

Album features timeless hits “Some Velvet Morning,” “Sand,” and “Summer Wine,”plus two bonus tracks, including “Love Is Strange,” available now on all digital platforms.

LP and CD editions offer a new interview with Sinatra, plus never-before-seen photos.

Limited-edition merchandise capsule, including autographed items, now available for pre-order exclusively at Nancy’s Bootique at

An Easier Way to Buy HiFi From Naim and Focal

Sometimes, one of the most challenging parts of assembling an audio system is sifting through all the choices.

Right before COVID hit us, Naim and Focal had been putting together several Naim/Focal boutiques. Their goal is to establish a range of stores worldwide, where you can view, and most importantly listen to, a number of systems featuring both brands. Including their award-winning line of headphones. As we are pulling out of this global pandemic, they are picking up the pace again.

This is critical, because there are so many choices today. While many of us enjoy the audiophile as contact sport aspect of the hobby, an equal number, if not more music lovers would just like to purchase a great music system and get on with it. Regardless of where you sit in the crowd, the Naim/Focal oases are beautiful to behold, and will give you a lot of concentrated seat time with the brand.

As part of this scenario, they’ve put together this “10th Anniversary Edition” system, to celebrate the 10 years these brands have been together. The total cost is $48,000. Should you choose to go with Naim’s Fraim system to house everything, the total cost will be about $5,500 more, but there is no more elegant way to display Naim components than the Fraim system. It provides stability, isolation, and modularity. (So, it’s easy to add a turntable and keep it all tidy.)

The entire system is anchored by a special pair of Focal Sopra No.2 Speakers that come with concrete sidewalls, and a front baffle that looks like tin. Having visited the Focal factory, and seeing the level of detail that they provide for custom orders, these are sure to be very unique. The only way to get a pair of Sopra No.2s in this finish is to buy the anniversary system.

The system is powered by Naim’s NAC 282 Preamplifier, NAP 250 Power Amplifier, with matching NAPSC and HiCap DR power supplies. Naim’s award winning NDX 2 music server/DAC takes care of source materials. Those wanting to add a turntable, will have to provide their own, but the NAC 282 has five Naim connectors, as well as two RCA analog inputs. Naim fans that haven’t heard the 282 will be surprised at how much of the 500 series DNA is present here.

Even though it doesn’t affect the sound quality, it’s of major interest that to match the special finish of the Sopras, Naim has produced the components for the Anniversary Edition in a new medium grey finish. Naim has never produced anything but the standard black face, so this is incredibly cool. And, all the required cables are needed.

While I haven’t heard the anniversary system per se, I have heard these components in standard black finish with the Sopra No.2 in standard finish, and this is a top-notch system indeed. We have also spent a lot of time with the entire Sopra No.2s here as well.

Granted, nearly $50k might be more than your current budget – all the more reason to stop by one of the Naim/Focal shops and give a listen to the full product lineup. Who knows, you might only need a pair of headphones, or you might be enticed by one of the big Utopias? You never know. What’s so exciting about this concept, is the idea of being able to experience so much of it and truly make an informed purchase.

Though mail order hifi has become the de rigueur way to buy, there’s nothing like going to a hifi salon to peruse their wares. And the Naim/Focal stores have been tip-top. It really helps take the guesswork out of the process, and now you have the opportunity to purchase something that looks as unique as it sounds. Here’s to hoping Naim and Focal produce more of these special edition products.

It’s been great to watch these two industry leaders forge such a great partnership over the last decade. From the MuSo products, to their new headphones, and all of the current electronics and speakers, the synergy is there for all to see, and hear.

The LSA Signature 50 Speakers

In just over four decades of evaluating speakers, the most memorable ones always pull you in with an ease that may not always be as visceral and exciting as some of the flashier “best” speakers out there, but they’ve got staying power.

These are speakers that you want to sit on the couch and listen to for hours, perhaps for days. The Vandersteen 1, the Magnepan .7, and the ProAc Tablettes, come to mind. Anyone truly loving music can’t turn their backs on any of these. I’m sure we all have a few others on that list.

However, these legendary speakers have all crossed the $1,000/pair line some time ago. People stepping out of Sonos world, ready for an audiophile adventure, usually want something delivering more sonically, but not necessarily breaking the bank. Enter Underwood HiFi and LSA.

Speakers that are only sold factory-direct are not an entirely fair comparison, so let’s level the playing field and compare a new pair of LSA 50 Signatures to a used pair of the three speakers mentioned above. You can find a pair of either of these on any given day at Audiogon, SkyFi, or The Music Room. You might even have a friend with a pair they want to unload or a great local dealer with a pair on the floor. You should be able to pick either of these three speakers up for about $700 – $1,000 pair. About double that for a new, in-box pair.

Removing the dealer markup aspect from the speakers mentioned above, most used models trade for about half of their original retail price. The LSA 50 Signatures still stand up, compared to the well-known speakers at this level. This is an excellent pair of small speakers that you can build a serious yet reasonably priced music system around. One that will sound like a massive jump up from a Sonos, Zeppelin, or whatever other single box system is your current fave.

We traditionally stand behind brick-and-mortar retailers at TONE. However, when you are trying to get in the game watching every penny – going used, or in this case, a manufacturer direct product is going to give you the most sound for your hard-earned currency unit. If you don’t get excited about audio in the first place, you might never buy a $30k pair of speakers someday. Right?

We hate to impose rules on hifi. It’s different for everyone, but you need to go no further than any internet forum or Facebook page. Some know it all is blathering that you need to spend a fixed percentage of your budget on speakers and only so much on an amplifier, blah, blah, blah. It’s music. It’s individual, and it’s your journey.

However, I have never observed an awful speaker become a great speaker after 2,000 hours of break-in. Putting that in perspective, if you listen to your system 10 hours a week, it’s going to take four years for your speakers to sound good. I don’t have that kind of patience, and I’m guessing you don’t either. So, forget the “needs 1000 hours of break-in” rule, especially at this price point.

Much as you love a pair of panel speakers, they might not work in your environment. Your room might be too large for a pair of mini-monitors to generate any serious low-frequency energy. If you share your living space with one or more people, aesthetic concerns might also affect your choice. I suggest finding speakers you enjoy first, only because speakers are the most interactive component of your system, visually and physically.

Once you settle on speakers, it’s much easier to find an amplifier that will work, rather than the other way around. That’s the closest I can get to impose my will on you. Though the Signatures claim an 86db/1-Watt sensitivity, they are easy to drive. LSA’s Mark Schifter mentions how much work went into the crossovers, and this is truly where that work is realized. Even the 10-Watt per channel Luxman D-150 drives the Signatures to a more than reasonable volume level. There were no anomalies after auditioning these speakers with a wide range of amplification from low power to high and modest cost to expensive.

That ease

The LSA 50s sound is inviting right out of the box. While Underwood HiFi suggests they will take 100 hours or so to sound their absolute best, you won’t grimace when you hit play or lower the tonearm on the first track. These speakers are slightly warm tonally, with solid bass response. Remember, keepers. Stay on the couch for a long time.

As the new Tears for Fears record, The Tipping Point, just dropped while unboxing the LSA 50 Signatures, it felt like the perfect time to revisit The Seeds of Love. Perhaps one of the best bookends of the 1980s, this ethereal, finely crafted record is full of great bass lines, layered vocals, and can define pinpoint imaging when played on decent speakers.

Using the audio show trick of plugging a $600 pair of speakers into a six-figure system, the Signatures sound stunning, plugged into the Pass XA200.8 monoblocks, Pass XS Pre preamplifier, driven by the dCS Vivaldi ONE digital player. In addition to some incredible bass drive, they produce a big window into the sound. But that’s not how anyone will listen to them at home.

More good news. They still sound damn good plugged into a vintage Sansui AU-717 integrated, with the $199 SONY SACD player we have in for review, and that’s their magic. If you’re starting out, you’re probably going to cobble together whatever you can. That’s what makes these speakers so cool. Granted, they do not resolve as much musical detail as with the more expensive hardware; their core character remains fully intact. That’s the sign of a well-designed speaker. Too many “budget” speakers on the market sound fab with a big, high-powered amp but fall flat in your system. That’s what drives people away from high-end audio.

Moving right along

After a solid week of playing 24 hours a day, the lowest bass notes dig a little deeper and a little faster, the top end becomes slightly more extended, and the mids offer up a greater degree of transparency. All told, the needle has probably moved 5%, maybe a little more – but now we’re getting all audiophile-y on you, and that’s not what these speakers are about.

Set up is a breeze. After break-in out in the big listening room, the Signatures were moved into our 13 x 18-foot living room on the supplied ($179 extra) LSA Stands. This rear-ported design delivers serious low-end grunt, so position them for a smooth low to mid-bass transition in your room first, and then go for a bit of toe-in to suit how lively or dead your room is. If you have an overstuffed room with rugs, couches, etc., you might need a bit extra toe-in to get the sparkle you’d like. If your space is more on the lively side like mine, minimal to no toe-in will probably suit you just fine.

Keeping with the Signatures’ high performance/low-cost ethos, some of the living room listening was done with a PrimaLuna ProLogue 1 integrated amplifier (34 Watts per channel), with a fresh set of tubes, an older one OPPO streaming DAC, connected with Tellurium-Qs Blue II cables. The bulk was done with the LSA 70 integrated amplifier that we reviewed here. It’s a killer match. Total system cost: well under $3k.

The Signatures are a well-implemented two-way design, sporting a 6.5″ woofer and a 1.1″ soft dome tweeter. Thanks to some solid cabinets, they tip the scales at 26 pounds each. A quick rap against the surface of the cabinet feels substantial. In addition to the wood cabinets, the top and rear faces are covered in black leather. Execution is well above what is usually featured anywhere near this price.

Final assembly

It’s worth mentioning a few things about the LSA stands here, for those of you that take this path. First, ignore the instructions and do not use a powered screwdriver to put them together. The mild steel, threaded columns will surely strip the threads with too much force applied. Do it by hand with a big Phillips head screwdriver and only go slightly past snug when securing the columns.

If you do fill them with sand (and that’s a great idea), consider getting some black RTV/Silicone sealant and running a fine bead around the bottom of the columns once attached. That way, you won’t have small sand puddles after filling.

LSA does include some small brass pucks to put the rounded speaker stand’s spikes in. If you are on wood or tile, they will come in handy. The round, ball-like ends on the tips should not punch through your carpet, so consider not using the pucks there it may lead to instability.

That groove

Heading full circle, back to Tears for Fears, the opening bass line in “Woman in Chains” feels substantial. Ditto for the bass line in the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The drums in A-ha’s “Take on Me” are right there. These speakers do an excellent job of keeping the pace locked down. The critical midrange is equally well rendered. Those leaning towards more vocal music will enjoy the slightly warm perspective these present. Whether you like Ella or Eilish, they deliver the goods.

Again, the bass response is equally enticing. Running through a long list of hip hop, heavy rock, and electronica tracks, The Signatures dish up enough bass that you won’t be clamoring for a subwoofer. The quality of the bass delivered is plenty resolving. Going back and forth between Jaco Pastorius’ electric playing and Alice In Chains Unplugged illustrates the detail in the lower registers these speakers provide. They are not one-note wonders.

Because the Signatures accomplish so much, it’s truly tough to find fault – remember this is a $600 pair of speakers. In 40 years, only the Magnepan SMG and Vandersteen 1 (back when they were only about $900 a pair) have offered this much sheer musical enjoyment for such a modest investment. Putting the LSA 50 Signatures in the same sentence with these two classic speakers is the highest compliment I can give them.

If you share the viewpoint that overall balance is the crucial factor in choosing a pair of speakers, we hope that those of you auditioning the LSA 50 signatures will enjoy them as much as we did. In a world where speakers costing nearly a million dollars a pair get a disproportionate amount of attention, these are truly exciting. Because everyone can play.

Yes, a few modestly priced speakers (to be clear, we define that as $500 – $1,500/pair) do specific things better than the LSA 50 Signature. The precious few speakers that offer this level of coherency, useful bass response, midrange clarity, and enough resolution that you can hear the difference between amplifiers and source components all cost more.

The $150 question

There’s a cost to play because Underwood HiFi isn’t Amazon, Best Buy, or Nordstrom. If you don’t like the Signatures enough to keep them, there’s a 15% restocking fee. And you’ll have to pay to ship 50 pounds back. But remember, experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want, and everyone has to keep the lights on.

If the description of the LSA 50 Signatures ticks your boxes, you probably won’t want to send them back. That said, these are worth rolling the dice for. Should your system grow beyond the roots you plant with the LSA 50 Signatures, you’ll probably keep them for a second system or to pass on to your kids or a friend about to start their audio journey. They are that good.

The LSA 50 Signature speakers truly define the concept of our Exceptional Value Award.

The Core Power EQUI=CORE 1800 MKIII

No matter how clean you think your power is, it isn’t. And there’s still the lightening storm now and then to play havoc with your gear.

Staffer Jerold O’Brien has the older version of the 1800 and was faced with just this problem recently. When the power went down, all of the components plugged in to the EQUI-CORE were fine. The circuit breaker in the unit had to be replaced, which we did over a coffee. Easy. Anyone can do it.

Opening the top reveals a massive toroidal transformer with 1800 watts of maximum capacity, hence the name. All the EQUI=CORE power products are named for the maximum amount of power they can pass through. The EQUI=CORE 1800 is fully balanced, to remove all the noise from your power line. You can see our reviews on the other EQUI=CORE products on the site. While we have a full review of this device in progress, it’s overall sound and functionality is even better than the smaller units we’ve tested. This one has more capacity, and more outlets. A total of 12, actually. Fortunately, Jerold has his mk.II (which can be upgraded) on hand, so we’ll do a proper comparison for the full review.

Those of you not using enormous monoblock power amplifiers can probably get away with one of these to power your entire system. Our experience has always been more of the quieting effect with tube gear than solid state, but regardless of what you use, you will notice a quieter background, and more resolution from the mids to the highest highs.

At the $1,799 intro price, this is tough to beat. If you thought you had to pull equity out of your house to buy a line conditioner, try this one and go on a vacation. It’s #toneaudioapproved.  Yep, we use em too.

The Aqua Audio LaScala MKII Optologic DAC

If you are a music lover wanting to upgrade your digital front end, but don’t necessarily want to spend $20k – $100k, consider the Aqua LaScala.

This one ticks all the boxes. Beautiful build quality and execution in every way. A dreamy tube/MOSFET analog stage. High performance FGPA digital decoding (without digital filter) so it won’t become obsolete. The list goes on, and you can read our review here, or you can click here to go to the Aqua site for the fine details.

This one has been on the rack for some time now, and its been going head to head with some pretty expensive challengers – all costing a lot more. This one gets our vote for the DAC that is right on the tail of six figure DAC performance for about $8,500 (check your dealer for exact price with all the wackiness going on in the world right now)

A bevy of inputs and outputs, as well as an 12S bus, means you can connect anything. There are a pair of RCA outputs as well as a transformer coupled pair of XLR balanced outputs. If you have both inputs on your amplifier or preamp, try them both. The RCAs are slightly crisper, and the transformer coupled balanced outputs just slightly warmer. You’ll prefer one over the other, but you won’t know till you plug them in!

The Aqua was our Digital Product of the year two years ago, and it still stands its ground. We’ve used it with everything from a $100 garage sale CD player up to a dCS Vivaldi transport with equally great results. Not to mention, Aqua offers a great CD transport, as well as their LinQ streamer.

You’ll never say “this sounds really good for digital” again. It just sounds fantastic and musical.

The Harbeth C7ES-3 XD

In years past, the “British sound,” especially in terms of loudspeakers, more often than not, was referring to the monitors from the BBC era.

A huge part of the design brief was to get the voices right, and the rest would follow along. This has always made for a musical speaker, that in some cases was not always dynamic enough to rock the house. Today, things are a bit more modern.

The Harbeth Compact 7, now in its third generation – the XD stands for Extended Definition is a winner. The previous generations have always been one of the most musically engaging, compact speakers going. The new model builds on the strengths of the old, adding more punch and resolution, without throwing the lovely midrange they are famous for under the bus.

Regardless of what you listen to, these 6-ohm speakers use Harbeths’ patented RADIAL2™ bass/midrange unit and their own dome tweeter. Weighing just over two stones, they are easy to move around, and with a great pair of stands offer a very full-range experience indeed.

Rated at a 6-ohm nominal impedance, the C7ES-3XD is easy to drive, whether you have tubes, transistors, or a vintage variation on the theme. 25 watts or so will have you up and running, a little extra doesn’t hurt if you have a larger room, or like higher volume levels.

They are available in cherry, walnut, and tamo ash (extra spiffy)

Standard cherry finish is $4,890/pair, while the two upgraded finishes are $5,190/pair

Our full review is here.

Fidelis Distribution is your connection in the US, please click here.

And, here is a link to the official Harbeth site.

The JBL L-100 Classic

There’s nothing in audiophile world that compares to the JBL L-100. They’ve probably sold more of these than every other speaker manufacturer combined. A true classic.

Show just about anyone a picture of a pair of L-100s (especially with orange grilles) and you’ll probably get an enthusiastic “yeah, I had a pair of those” from a wide range of people from a certain age group.

And they are still out there, popular as any muscle car of the same vintage. Some are really rough and a good pair will set you back $1,000 – $1,500 these days. Fortunately, we had a pair of clean originals to compare to the new Classic 100. No other audio reviewer bothered to make this comparison. But, we always do our homework. If you’d like the in-depth comparison, please click here.

If you just want to rock, get on down to your favorite audio dealer that offers JBL and buy a set. If you’re on the east coast, try Audio Classics, the Midwest, give Music Direct a call, and if you’re out west (the home of the L100) call Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio. All three of these dealers are TONE approved and will take great care of you.

So many classic things from years past often get reborn lacking the character of the originals. In the case of JBL’s Classic 100, the speaker has been improved in every way, and is one of the most fun rock & roll speakers going. Indulge yourself.

The Naim SuperNait 3

Nearly every audio manufacturer make a few products that take advantage of all their core competencies, and offer so much value, they become legendary. Naim’s Nait integrated amplifier now the SuperNait 3 is the perfect example of this philosophy.

At $5,699 this amplifier delivers 80 Watts per channel, and borrows heavily from Naim’s expertise in their flagship line, costing much more. Even though there has been a recent price hike from $4,995 when we reviewed it a year ago, to $5,699 now, this amplifier is still one of the best values going.

With an integrated MM phono section, this is the perfect amplifier for anyone craving a system with high performance, yet low box count. Add a turntable, streaming DAC, and your favorite speakers to make it a party. The MM phono is more than competent enough for vinyl enthusiasts with a table/cartridge combo in the $500 – $3,000 range.

The amplifier offers RCA and Naim connector specific inputs, the ability to biamp with another power amplifier, and offers an input for an external power supply. This is truly the key to the SuperNait 3. We’ve owned and reviewed every version, and while they are all fantastic performers out of the box, the performance jump from an external supply is not subtle. Especially if you have current hungry speakers, or really like the volume level up high.

The sleek, spartan, green and black Naim look is a modern take on the aesthetic that goes to the company’s beginning. A rack full of current and vintage Naim always goes together swimmingly.

There’s an in-depth review here, if you are so inclined, but if you’re just doing some quick recon, put this one on your list. We bought the review sample, and gave it an Exceptional Value Award for 2021. If you don’t have a great set of speakers yet, most Naim dealers can hook you up with a great pair of Focal speakers to go with. We had fantastic luck with the Sopra no.1s and the Kanta no.2 and no.3

The LSA Signature 50 Speakers

Think the words “great sound,” and affordable don’t belong in the same sentence?

Think again. The folks at LSA have just given you a great Scooby snack. The new LSA Signature 50 standmount speakers, are a great pair of compact, two-way speakers that might just change your perspective on approachable performance.

A big part of the credit goes to Underwood HiFi’s direct to you business model. When selling $850k/pair speakers, there’s enough pie for everyone to have at least a few slices. Not so much when you’re trying to bring awesomeness to market at $599 a pair. (Stands $179 extra, if purchased with speakers – highly suggested.) And, in Underwood tradition, the speakers have an intro price of $499 a pair.

Pee Wee Herman once said, “Everyone’s got a big but…” But in the context of a $1,000 pair of speakers (remember, these are $499) no compromises have been made. These two ways sport a 6.5” paper cone woofer and a 1.1” soft dome tweeter. The simple crossover is well executed, and the cabinets are substantial. These leather covered, hardwood beauties weigh just over 25 pounds each. Nice.

Saving the best for last, the sound is stunning. These speakers go a little beyond “nailing the basics,” with an expansive soundstage, great dynamics, and serious bass extension for such a small cabinet. A more in-depth review is on the way, but the LSA Signature 50s are not only Exceptional Value Award worthy, they’re deserving of your hard earned cash. Bark bark.

We will have an in-depth review shortly.

For now: