Issue 117

Cover Story

Redefining the 300B Sound:
ampsandsound’s Black Pearl


Old School: Direct Drive Nak: The MR-1
by Jeff Dorgay

1095: The SVS 3000 Micro Subwoofer

The Audiophile Apartment: The Teenage Engineering OB-4
by Rob Johnson

Journeyman Audiophile: YG-Acoustics Cairn Speakers

Headphone Arts:  The Sendy Acoustics Peacock

Short Take: Swiss Digital’s Fuse Box

Short Take: Great analog tools from Hummin Guru

Mine: It Should Be Yours

Future Tense: Gear in our immediate future


Heretic AD612
Pass Labs INT-25 Integrated
Java HiFi Single Shot
Totem Fire Element V2


Playlists:  We share our readers choices from around the world

The Java Single Shot Integrated Amplifier

Class-D Perfection

$8,995 -$9,495 (finish dependent)

Spoiler alert. The Java Integrated is a Class D amplifier. Just in case you’re predisposed to a certain idea of how Class D is supposed to sound, you need to abandon it, or stop reading. To be fair to Java’s Martin Bell, I’ve always been Class D adverse, but I keep investigating. I didn’t like coffee until I was 50, and then one day it all clicked. Ironically, this amplifier is called the Java. Weird.

Taking advantage of the latest GaN-FET power amplifier module technology, the Java rewrites the book on whatever degree of harshness you’ve associated with Class D designs. Remember how awful digital audio used to sound? 20 years’ worth of development and it sounded pretty darn good. If you can think of this in the same vein, it makes sense.

Cursory break in with a pair of vintage ESS AMT-1b speakers immediately feels different in an ear perking way. The vintage AMTs are merciless with amplification that is even the slightest bit harsh, so this is a great torture test. Passing this test with ease, moving on to the main system with the new YG Acoustics Cairn speakers in for review is equally interesting – the Cairns are not overly bright in delivery, but highly resolving. Again, any frequency response or tonal anomalies will be instantly revealed. This is a fantastic combination.

Smooth, smooth, smooth. Smooth and tonally correct in a way that if no one told you this was a Class D amplifier, You wouldn’t ask the question. Trying a few more sets of speakers on hand vaporizes any lingering animosity towards this form of amplification. Past experience with Class D always exhibits more speaker sensitivity than normal, much like an SET tube amplifier. The result is usually brilliant or awful. The Java suffers none of these issues.

Working through everything on hand from vintage Acoustat ESLs (which due to their overly capacitive nature are tough to drive for most amplifiers) to the current Peak Consult Sinfonas that are my main reference is a breeze. Where the Peak’s are slightly forgiving in the same way that the outgoing Sonus faber Stradiveris were, the YGs and the Team Fink Kims are both highly resolving yet remain a lovely match. If you love listening way, way into a recording, this is a rewarding combination

A sonic and stylistic decision

I submit we have a lot of people out there wanting a high-performance music system, considerably more involving than a soundbar solution, more than willing to pay for it that don’t want to become audiophiles. That’s not to say that an audiophile can’t love the Java, but being that it is somewhat upgrade adverse and self-contained it may not appeal to those that constantly want to tweak things. Of course you could plug a different phonostage or DAC in, but it defeats the primary purpose.

The onboard MM phonostage delivers excellent results with the Technics SL-1200G (featuring an Ortofon Concorde Silver cartridge) and the Linn LP-12 table (with Adikt cartridge) in for review. Again, just as not all music lovers become audiophiles, not all music lovers that buy a turntable purchase thousands of albums either. We’ve certainly come across numerous end users that have 50-200 albums and are perfectly happy with that. For the random vinyl enthusiast, this will be more than you ever need to enjoy your collection.

Adding the Quadratic MC-1 step-up transformer to the MM input, taking advantage of the recently reviewed Luxman LMC-5 and Rega Apheta 3 MC cartridges proves just how good the onboard phono is, so more obsessed vinylistas can still play in this sandbox without concern. The noise floor is ultra-low, and the sense of space presented large. The onboard phono in the Java is easily the equal of anything you might find in the $800-$1,200 range and remember, no extra cables! Considering what you’d spend on four sets of mains cables and interconnects for a preamp, DAC, phonostage and power amplifier, the Java is almost free.

The onboard 24/192 DAC utilizing a pair of Burr-Brown PCM1794As in mono mode, with DSD being converted to PCM before playback delivers equally enticing results with digital files. Your favorite streamer, or laptop can be connected via USB. Keeping in with the general vibe of this amplifier, the Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 (about $800) makes the Java an effortless Roon endpoint. You can also stream from a tablet or phone via aptX Bluetooth.

Thanks to eight different finishes, the Java will integrate into any décor with ease. The high gloss and satin matt cases are only $8,995, with the five luxury wood veneer options (like our gorgeous review sample) bring the price up to $9,495. The Java you want is only a few clicks away thanks to the online configurator.

Thanks to Class D amplification, the Java only weighs 27 pounds, and offers a compact remote. Everything is CNC machined to perfection, and it feels like a much more expensive product. The input selector and volume controls both feature a backlit display, making them very easy to read.

In addition to the USB digital input, there is the MM phono input mentioned earlier, and two line-level RCA inputs. A variable preamplifier output (also RCA) is available for those wanting to add a powered subwoofer to the mix and a ¼-inch headphone jack on the front panel. Integrating with a REL Carbon Special sub and the YGs was easy as pie to configure.

As it goes with everything else, the headphone amplifier should keep you happy if you’ve got a pair of $200 – $1,000 headphones, but just like that record collection, I suspect the person buying a Java is going to make the same commitment to headphones as they are vinyl. Find a nice pair of $400 – $600 cans and enjoy. Trying a few different things from Audeze, Sendy, and Focal all went without a hitch.

The final frontier

While I haven’t had the ability to hear every Class D amplifier out there, of what I’ve heard, another commonality is their inability to achieve a neutral tonal balance. Voices always sounded somewhat electronic and grainy, as did stringed instruments. Depending on the model of amplifier, this was better or worse, but in the case of the Java, tonal balance, texture and shading is just right.
Whether listening to violins, piano, or acoustic guitar, there is a sense of rightness that allows your brain to disengage from analysis and fall into the music. I’m sure you have your favorite solo vocal tracks to investigate this with, but I lean towards Rickie Lee Jones, Aimee Mann, and Johnny Cash, merely because I’m intimately familiar with them.

Purposely heading for the most difficult tracks I know in terms of musical complexity, pushing the Java, there was never a torture test this amplifier failed. Even tracking through a higher amount of classical music than normal, delivered fantastic (i.e. fatigue-free) results. No matter what kind of music you love, the Java will satisfy you. However, if you really love electronic/techno music, the high power, and rock-solid bass control the Java delivers is very impressive. The opening track in Peace Orchestra’s self-titled album, “The Man, Pt.1” is simply enormous in its delivery through the YGs. There’s so much extension and sheer grip here, these small stand mount speakers sound like floorstanders. Ditto for Theivery Corporation’s The Richest Man in Babylon.  For those of you that love classic rock. Rush’s epic 2112 was highly satisfying through the Java and the big Peak Consult speakers. Admittedly, listening levels did exceed 90dB here!

The Java integrated amplifiers come as a single shot model, with 200 Watts per channel on tap, or the double shot model, with twice as much power. As so much of my listening is done in a 78-90dB environment, and most of my speakers are fairly sensitive, the single shot amplifier was never remotely close to being maxed out. If you have relatively power hungry (like maybe some Magnepans) speakers, you may want to pony up an extra $4,000 for the double shot model.

Sheer brilliance in every way

This amplifier is a massive success on every level. It looks fantastic, sounds fantastic, and has a balanced amount of performance in every aspect. The amplifier is far and away the most natural we’ve heard from this topology, and the functionality is just right. Should you be looking for a great two channel music system anchor, I can’t suggest the Java highly enough. Adding a table, pair of speakers, phones and some equally great cable (we used Tellurium Q Black II interconnects, speaker cables and power cord to excellent effect with this amplifier) and be all in for $15,000 – $25,000.  You can’t even buy a CPO Mini Cooper S for that kind of money.

The Java will win over two main users to be sure. The music lover lacking audiophile ambitions, and the audiophile wanting to get off the upgrade marathon. (or perhaps downsizing) But anyone who hears it will enjoy it tremendously. The Java is an easy candidate for one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2023.

Put this one in the love column.

Power to the people – with Fuse Box!

With audiophile fuses all the rage these days, Swiss Digital has an alternative. A fuse replacement.

Taking advantage of microprocessor technology, the Fuse Box monitors how much current your component is using and then shuts it down if the parameters are exceeded. And this tech has picked up some ground lately, with a few other manufacturers following their lead.

For now, we’ve only had a chance to try it with our LSA VT-150 integrated (you have to have it configured to your individual components) with excellent results. We’ll have a full review in issue 117, but suffice to say that this is an interesting upgrade, and a methodology that we wouldn’t be surprised to see being an OEM product at some point. Let’s face it, wire fuses are pretty old tech.

Please click here for more info and pricing.

A Single Shot of Awesome From Java HiFI

You know you want this. I want this.

For every audio enthusiast that has had to listen to a friend, partner, or roommate complain about the overly industrial look of the gear we love – bam. Here’s your answer. The Java integrated you see here is the “single-shot” version with 200 Watts per channel of power. (the “double-shot” has, you guessed it, twice as much power)

For $9,495, you get a magnificent looking product that will look great in any environment, that sounds great thanks to careful design and utilization of the latest technologies. We’ll have the full review done shortly, but suffice to say it’s a winner. Also included is an excellent MM phono stage, and a USB/Bluetooth DAC.

Pair it up with your favorite speakers, as power will not be a limitation, and place it in your room where it will get a lot of attention. And it will. Bonus points: Java lets you customize the look to your preference, just go to the configurator section of their site. Just click here.

YG Acoustics Cairn

In case you hadn’t noticed, the new range of speakers from YG Acoustics (the Peaks series) offer wood cabinets instead of the aluminum you’re used to from this high performance manufacturer. This small two-way, stand mounted system carries an $8,500/pair price tag (stands optional – $1,500/pr.) and deliver big speaker performance. Here in our 24 x 36 foot listening room, they offer an immersive, three dimensional sound stage that will pull you in like your favorite panel speakers. But they have big dynamics too!

Of course, a pair of small woofers can only move so much air, but what’s here is good. Really good. Tracking through a major set of 80s classics, chock full of deep, synth-bass, the Cairn’s deliver a stunning performance. And, YG offers a matching subwoofer, which we’ll have in for review soon. With a rated sensitivity of 86dB/1-Watt, they prove incredibly easy to drive. In combination with our favorite little tube amp, the Mighty from Lab 12, the Cairn’s still really rock the joint.

You might think YG has cut corners to produce a wood cabinet, but after a recent visit to the factory to observe their manufacturing process (which feels a lot more like a Formula 1 parts supplier than a speaker manufacturer) they point out that because wood is a bit more of a variable than aluminum, it’s actually more work to make their thick aluminum front panel fit up to the cabinet. No compromises have been made whatsoever.

In the end, it all serves the music. Having had a chance to hear the entire Peaks range, YG has masterfully combined everything they’ve learned up until now, and incorporated some new tech to build an entire line of speakers that are approachable in price and implementation. They work equally well in the context of a tube or solid-state system.

Stay tuned for our full review.

You can click here to visit the YG site.