MoFi Distribution introduces the MoFi Electronics MasterDeck Turntable

MoFi Distribution proudly introduces the new MoFi Electronics MasterDeckturntable, a reference grade product designed by master turntable maker Allen Perkins. Created by vinyl lovers for those with the desire to accurately reveal and experience the true music embedded deep in the groves of their vinyl LP collection. The MasterDeck turntable will be manufactured in small batches in the USA at MoFi Electronics’ factory located in Ann Arbor, Michigan to ensure the very highest level of quality control.
A compelling feature of the MasterDeck is an “all new” Dual-pivot carbon-fiber 10 inch tonearm that offers the best balance of precision, control and friction-free tracking. This tonearm uses a removable headshell and allows for the optimization of virtually any cartridge by facilitating  adjustable horizontal angle (azimuth), vertical tracking angle (VTA), overhang and anti-skate. As well, all internal tonearm wiring is provided by Cardas Audio.
The MasterDeck achieves precision playback in part with an optically regulated speed controller using a three-phase brushless DC drive motor, housed in an isolated container. Fine speed adjustments are available for 33, 45 and 78 RPM and are displayed on a four-digit display. The 1.75 inch thick platter is a high mass hybrid material constructed exclusively from Aluminum and Delrin. This platter sits atop an ultra-high quality Encapsulated Spiral Groove inverted bearing. Isolation from both environmental noise and feedback is accomplished by effectively floating the MasterDeck using custom Harmonic Resolution Systems (HRS) Isolation Feet. Finally, with respect to “functional” cosmetics, a solid wood frame, in either Walnut or Black Ash finish, is wrapped around a constrained-layer body of wood and aluminum to eliminate all resonances.

MoFi Electronics MasterDeck Significant Design Features:

  • 33.33 / 45 / 78 RPM belt drive turntable
  • Unique and highly adjustable 10-inch hybrid tonearm design  1.75-inch aluminium and Delrin platter
  • Four-digit display shows fine speed adjustment
  • Cardas Audio internal arm wiring
  • Solid wood frame available in black ash or walnut finish
  • Custom Anti-Vibration feet designed by HRS
  • Black constrained layer damped aluminum top
  • Dimensions (w x d x h): 20 x 14 x 8” / 50.8 x 35.6 x 20.3 cm.
  • Weight: 43 lbs. / 19.5 Kg.

The MoFi Electronics MasterDeck will be available in November, 2023 with an MSRP of $5,995.00 USD


The Vera-Fi Vanguard Scout Speakers


Listening to The Knack’s “Africa,” I tried a trick that I’ve seen at more than one hifi show – I hooked this $300 pair of speakers to about $200k worth of gear. Wacky as this seems, it illustrates two things: the ultimate performance envelope of said speakers, and how easy (or not) they are to drive with less than mega components. How many times have you listened to that totally affordable pair of speakers, only to bring them home and find out they sucked?

Guilty as charged, more than once. A high-power amplifier with the ability to deliver a lot of output current can take charge of a mediocre speaker and deliver results that your budget receiver can’t. So, the next step was to bring my vintage Pioneer SX-424 in from the bedroom closet. In case you’re too young to remember this one, it was a 12 watt per channel solid-state model at the bottom of the Pioneer lineup in the 70s. Back when a lot of early solid-state gear sounded dreadful, this low powered receiver was incredibly musical.

Swapping the Pioneer in place still makes for an excellent music experience. This is good news for those of you putting together one of your first system. If you don’t take advantage of Vera-Fi’s holiday special with their Vera-Link portable wireless mono amplifiers that will Velcro on the back of your Vanguard Scouts, you can rest assured they will work well with any budget amplification you can pair them up with. Regardless of amplifier and source choice, you should be able to assemble a really nice music system for $1,000 – $1,500 with the Scouts to anchor things.

The Vanguard Scouts combine a robust cabinet with a 5 ¼” paper cone woofer and a 1” soft dome tweeter. Vera-Fi’s Mark Schifter sent me some pictures of the crossover network, and there’s way more expensive components in this box than you’d ever expect out of a $299 pair of speakers. All good stuff.


I suggest setting the Vanguard Scouts up about 2-3 feet from the rear wall, and found that with the 24” Sound Anchors stands the tweeters were just about ear height. The Vanguard Scouts sound pretty good if you just “throw them in the room,” or put them on a couple of bookshelves. If you put them on top of a bookshelf or table, I highly suggest the ISO Acoustics desktop speaker stands for best results. Just click here to buy a set at Amazon. Again, we are NOT part of the Amazon affiliate program. This is for your convenience. These are the best small stands I’ve used with small speakers, offering a lot of adjustability and isolation.

Getting back to room placement, a good hour carefully fine-tuning room placement will amaze you. If you can start with the Scouts about 6 feet apart and the front baffle 24” from the rear wall and then nudge them about 6-8 inches up and back, you’ll hear the mid bass clean up and the lower bass get stronger. Make smaller adjustments from there, and when you nail the perfect balance, make note. Ditto for distance between the speakers. Move them apart about 6-12 inches at a time until the stereo image just falls apart and it sounds like two separate speakers, and then back till the image forms again. Tweak the toe in for maximum high frequency transparency and you’re done!  You’ll be amazed at how much more music these small monitors can deliver.

The Vanguard Scouts have a listed sensitivity of 84.5db/1-watt and work equally well with modest tube or solid-state power. Equally good results are achieved with the 50wpc T+A Caruso R and the PrimaLuna EVO100 tube integrated, so there’s no limitations there. Tellurium Q Blue II speaker cables make for a great pairing and is an incredible bargain. Your preference will dictate what works best for you. If your musical tastes lean more towards jazz, acoustic music and female vocals, you might dig a tube amp a little more, while those of you more on the rock, hip-hop and techno side of the fence will enjoy the additional bass grip from a solid-state amplifier.

As with any highly resolving small monitor, try to use stands with the most mass you can get and be sure to use blu-tack, or something similar to optimize the interface between stand and cabinet. With speakers this size, every little bit of setup finesse makes a difference.

Further listening

Most listening was done in my main room which is 24 x 36 feet, and these little speakers really put on a great show in a room this size. (Vera-Fi does have a small sub on the way, so stay tuned) Obviously, with room gain, they work incredibly well in a smaller room, and listening in our back bedroom which is 11 x 14 feet was perfection. The quality of the bass delivered might even make you think twice about bothering in a smaller room.

Going off on a prog rock bender, Roon sent me to a great early 70s French band, Ange. Think Yes, King Crimson, and early Roxy Music all in one. Playing dense music fairly loud reveals how well the Vanguard Scouts keep their composure at this level instead of flattening out – you’ll have to push them pretty hard for that, and they give ample warning.

Thanks to a gentle transition between drivers, vocal and acoustic music sounds incredibly natural through these speakers. A wide range of tracks from Aimee Mann to Diamanda Galas all sound convincing. Tone, texture, and timing are also way beyond what you might expect at this price.

Just like the handful of classic small speakers that many of us have enjoyed for decades, the Vanguard Scouts sacrifice extreme frequency extension on the top and bottom of the range, for excellence at what it does handle. I suspect this will keep you happier with said speakers for a lot longer time than something that just grabs you on a quick demo.

In the end…

Much of the internet buzz on these speakers already is in comparison to a few great small speakers like the original Realistic Minimus-7, (and I’ve got a pair of those headed my way on EBay, so we’ll have a video on that soon, as well as a comparison to my vintage A/D/S 400i’s) but the speaker that really came to mind was the Spica TC-50 if you happen to remember those. Of course we still have a pair, but they rarely get played because the tweeters are no longer available and they were very easy to blow.

Thanks to modern drivers, the Scouts seem very robust, and they possess a lot of the soul that this great American mini speaker produced. A tremendous midrange, smooth highs, and mid bass accuracy instead of muddy mid bass, compromised to goose the low end. It’s hard to believe these are only $299/pair. Back when gasoline was $6/gallon, it cost more than this to fill up a Dodge RAM truck! Going further back, the Spica TC-50s were $450/pair.

It’s worth mentioning that a big part of the success of these speakers is the manufacturer direct model. If we were looking at a $20k preamplifier, I’d tell you to stick with something from one of the majors because of a service, support, and resale perspective. But when you’re looking at a $300 pair of speakers from one of the majors, the big manufacturers just can’t do it this inexpensively. By the time dealer and distributor markup is factored in, I’d be shocked if the least expensive B&Ws have more than 20 bucks invested in the drivers and crossover network. It is what it is.

The Vera-Fi Vanguard Scout speakers are a true triumph for music lovers on a tight budget. And with that, I’m going back to the Knack and blasting “Good Girls Don’t.” Highly recommended.  

For those feeling in the stocking stuffer mood, here’s a direct purchase link to the Vera-Fi Vanguard Scouts. And check out the bundle price with a pair of Vera-Link amplifiers! REVIEW HERE.


The Focal Vestia no.1 Speakers

After spending an afternoon with staffer Earle’s Focal Sopra 3s, just before firing up their new Vestia no.1 at my place, the level of sonic excellence they bring to a $1,198 pair of speakers seems amazing. Listening to the same handful of tracks that I shuffled through at Earle’s house, not too much sonic memory was lost in the 25-minute drive on the I-5 to my place.

Playing the Vestia no.1s through the main reference system truly shows off what they can do, but it’s not really a fair comparison, so my Naim Uniti Atom ($3,599 and available from your Naim/Focal dealer) makes for a perfect match. However, like all the other Focal speakers we’ve used, they are just as easy to drive with your favorite tube amplifier as well. Swapping the Uniti Atom for the PrimaLuna ProLogue One and the Naim CD5is in for review is equally enticing.

Queuing up a MoFi copy of Santana’s Caravanserai is lovely and room filling. Placed on 24” Sound Anchor stands about 10 feet apart on the 24-foot wall in my listening room (couch about 10 feet back) the small Focals produce a large soundstage, but in a large room, their horizontal dispersion, especially from the top is slightly limited. The cure for this is stands that allow the tweeters to be close to ear height as possible, or the ability to tip them back slightly. The more stylish dedicated stands from Focal do just this, and are reasonably priced, at $249 a pair. Thanks to their front ports, you can achieve nearly the same effect on a bookshelf. The Vestia no. 1 is definitely user friendly.

All in the family

The Vestias take advantage of some new and existing Focal technology. You can read the full story on the Focal website here; suffice to say Focal puts a lot of expertise into their entry level speakers. The only thing that is really compromised between the Vestias and the higher range Focals, is the simplicity of the cabinets. The finish and shape is a more simple box shape, lacking the complex finish of Sopras and Kantas. Yet what is delivered is of top quality. Compare the Vestias to some of the competitors made in China, and you can see the Focal difference. A quick rap on the cabinet reveals solid construction and lack of resonance. Impressive for this price point.

A two-way design, the compact cabinet only measures 8 5/8 x10 1/4×15 1/4″ (21.9x26x38.7cm) and weighs only 15.4 pounds, so they are easy to unbox and install. They utilize a 1-inch inverted dome tweeter with Focal’s TAM material. (aluminum and magnesium composite) The 6 1/2- inch woofer is made from recycled carbon fiber, allowing added stiffness at a lower cost than standard, woven carbon fiber – a very unique approach. The Vestias are available in light wood like our review samples, dark wood and a black high gloss finish. All feature a “leather effect” front panel.

Further listening

Moving on to Lloyd Cole’s new album, On Pain (as well as a few LC classic tracks) reveals the clean, natural midrange the Vestias deliver, which ironically hits me near the middle of the third track, “I Can Hear Everything.” Sometimes the soundtrack of your life is synergistic. Going through the gamut of favorite vocal tracks confirms the initial excitement. The Undertones’ “More Songs About Chocolate and Girls” demonstrates the Vestias ability to pull detail from dense, compressed recordings. This is a terrible sounding (but fun) track, showing you can have high end speakers that play everything with ease.

When you’re starting to build a system, every bit of performance you can get for the dollar is key and this is what makes the Vestias such a great value. If you could see what goes on every day at the Focal factory in France, it’s easy to see how they do it. Focal performs every aspect of design and manufacturing in-house; cabinets, crossovers, and drivers. The level of engineering talent is incredible, equally so with execution. Focal definitely takes the high road on the Vestia no.1 in terms of overall balance. Many speakers in this price range hinge their reputation on a single feature, where the Vestias sacrifice an over exaggerated frequency response to deliver smooth and resolving sound.

Changing program material to bass heavy tracks from Thievery Corporation, Massive Attack, and Tosca reveal that the Vestias manage to go down fairly low, and the bass that is delivered is of high tonal quality. Moving them back into a more appropriate sized room (12 x 18 feet, and 10 x 12 feet respectively) and taking care to place them so they can take advantage of a bit of room gain provides tremendous sonic rewards. It’s easy to hear the lineage all the way up to the Utopia series here.

Different partners

Swapping the Naim Atom for the T+A Caruso R, and PrimaLuna amplifier is fun, and again proves that these little speakers have more than enough resolution to discern distinct differences between amplification and program sources.

The no.1s are a great way to start building a system, and like some of the other Focal speakers, they offer a full range of floorstanding speakers, and a center channel option so you can build a multichannel system having the same voice.

Focal claims a sensitivity of 89dB/1-Watt, and they proved easy to drive even with our 12 Watt per channel Lab 12 Mighty (vacuum tubes) amplifier, so they should work well with whatever you have on hand. Around back is a single pair of 5-way binding posts to make connection to your speaker cables equally easy.

At present, Focal does not offer a subwoofer in the Vestia lineup, but they do suggest their SUB600P, for those wanting to keep it all Focal.­ To get a better chance of what they can do in a 2.1 system, they were mated to an SVS 3000 Micro ($899) subwoofer and alternately with a REL T5/x ($699). Thanks to the solid bass foundation that the Vestias deliver, adding a sub makes for a great full range system should you so desire to take this direction.

Constant innovation, tremendous value While some of the names might be a little confusing at times, Focal continues to innovate and apply new technologies and construction techniques on every speaker in their range. That their commitment to excellence is just as serious with the Vestias as it is with their top range Utopia speakers is great news for the beginning audiophile. We are happy to give these one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2023. This is a great pair of speakers to build a system with.

Issue 119

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Cover Story

Digital and Analog parity:
The Tambaqui DAC and Lupe Phono from Mola-Mola


Old School: Going down the Revox Rabbit Hole
by Jeff Dorgay

1095: Vera-Fi’s awesome Vera Link. Now you have sound anywhere!

The Audiophile Apartment: The REL Classic 98 subwoofer

Journeyman Audiophile: Tannoy Autograph Mini speakers

Headphone Arts:  FOCALS latest Bathys phones with a surprise

Shanon Says: Our Canadian connection lets us know what she’s listening to

Mine: It Should Be Yours

Future Tense: Gear in our immediate future


YG’s Hailey 3 Speakers – the first of an all new breed
Black Ravioli Record Ground – It’s not a clamp!
The Enleum AMP-23R – Massive sound, minimum footprint
Totem Solution Sub – When you think you don’t have room for a sub
Naim CD5si – A worthy disc player


Playlists:  We share our readers choices from around the world
Merch Table:  ZZ Top. Awwww!!
Jim on Jazz

YG Acoustics Hailey 3

One of the most compelling things about the world’s finest products, be it speakers, watches, cameras, you name it – is the ease of enjoying them in a fashion that you no longer think about the object in use.

There’s no more longing for additional performance, or an aspect of use that annoys you. A Rolex Submariner, a Leica M6 (if you’re a film person) or M10 (if you aren’t), the Eames Lounge Chair (a real one), or a late 80s 3.2 Porsche Carrera. I’m sure you have your own list, but this is where I place the Baileys. The level of performance they deliver is something I doubt you will ever tire of.

This was a more difficult review to write than most, only because the Haileys deliver such an immersive experience that hours pass between paragraphs. Some high performance loudspeakers make for dynamic demos, and that’s great for the 30 seconds you catch of Nils Lofgren’s plucky guitar opening to “Keith Don’t Go,” but then lose their luster during extended listening. The Haileys sail through all the prerequisite audiophile test tracks, but at the end of the day are incredibly musical in a way that you do not want to leave the listening chair for anything more than to change the record.

Thanks to all the new technology implemented at YG over the last few years, much of this effortlessness comes from the low distortion and careful attention to maximizing phase coherence in the recent models. YG claims no more than + /- 5 degrees of phase shift, which is tight indeed. Many studies backup the idea that the human ear is more sensitive to phase anomalies than anything else. Again, this is a major contributor to the effortless presentation these speakers deliver.

Even though the new speakers look very similar to the originals from an aesthetic perspective, every aspect has been re-examined, reconfigured, and redesigned. Even the printed circuit board used for the crossover network is CNC machined in the YG factory. The new models use 3.lmm-thick electrically non-reactive sheets of a secret material mated to pure copper – twice as much copper as in previous YG crossovers and four times the industry standard – and they machine out the copper they don’t use.

No one pays this close attention to fine detail. YG’s Duncan Taylor smiles as he says “that’s our biggest marketing challenge, to let potential customers know how much of an improvement the new speakers truly are.” Yet if you are familiar with the original YG speakers, you’ll hear it immediately.

Top of the list

Listening to Trey Gunn and Tu-ners newest release T-1 Contact Information is a prog excursion full of atmospheric sounds, blazing riffs, and of course killer bass lines. The Hailey 3s do an amazing job creating a massive soundfield with incredible coherence feeling more like a great surround setup, or perhaps the enormous 9-foot-tall Sound Labs ESLs. (But with way more transient ability) One of the Hailey’s main strengths is the integration of the drivers feeling like one big full range speaker. That’s only part of the story.

Taylor explains to me that this speaker is one of the latest models that is filled with “new tech and engineering, with few remnants of the original YG products.” Where the initial YG speakers were incredibly resolving, they required perfection in room treatment and music quality, and to some they brought a fatigue with them that made for short listening sessions. Today at YG, those traits are a thing of the past. Forget everything you think you know about these speakers – though they have similar physical shapes these all new models are a pinnacle of loudspeaker design.

If you are looking for a pair of speakers offering high resolution and low distortion (make that extremely low distortion) without ever feeling harsh, and you value tonal accuracy – YG should be at the top of your list.

The 200-pound (each) Hailey 3 speakers are a three-way passive speaker, taking up a small footprint, relatively speaking, at 13 inches wide and 21 inches deep at the bottom, gently tapering up to 8 inches wide and 16 inches deep at the top. Silver and black anodized aluminum are the standard finishes, but customization is something YG is testing and plans to eventually offer. While visiting the YG factory earlier thisyear, there were some custom-finish speakers on their way to a client that were absolutely stunning.

The surface of a YG speaker surpasses even what I’ve seen in the world’s finest automobiles. Yep, they are that good. These speakers define understated elegance, and more than one friend that has always been “metal speaker” adverse, loved the look, feel, and finish of the Hailey 3s. They will look at home in any decor.

The precision metalwork doesn’t end there. YG painstakingly machines the rigid, well damped cones of their drivers in their facility too. It’s one thing to see the YG’s being made, and quite another to run your hands across the surface of a YG speaker. As a crazed car guy fascinated by machining excellence I have a major appreciation for things built like this.

YG uses a soft-dome tweeter, placing a structure under the dome that they call “the lattice,” which machined from solid aluminum just like the cones of the midrange and woofers. Duncan tells me that nearly 99% solid block is machined away from the individual billet to produce them. Those of you concerned about the environmental aspect of this process, fear not. Every speck of unwanted material is recycled at the YG factory. These cones are a work of art.

Simple setup

For speakers weighing over 200 pounds each, the Hailey’s can actually be set up by one person. While the review pair arrived in road cases, YG sends their speakers in a bespoke crate, so you can bring the container to your listening room, tip it up, and slide the Hailey’s out. These are one of the easiest pairs of large speakers to unpack that I’ve encountered, underlining the thought process behind every aspect of the YG’s design. The spiked feet come with stainless spike cups, so you can adapt them to any flooring situation.

Even with random placement in the 24 x 36-foot listening room (on the short wall) about 12 feet apart and about five feet from the rear wall, the Haileys paint an enormous soundstage. Fortunately, Duncan was kind enough to stop by for the day and fine-tune them to perfection. For stacking those who the see this as the manufacturer stacking the deck in their favor, I always prefer this. Especially with a speaker that I have precious little review experience with. It’s always helpful to the review process when a manufacturer can either tweak the final setup or reassure you that all is well. That way the evaluation can start on an easy note. 30 minutes later, the Haileys are placed to perfection by moving them a bit wider apart and serious listening can begin.

The highly revealing nature of the Haileys 3s is further emphasized during the setup process, when it was time to attach the jumpers between the three sets of binding posts on the rear of the speakers. (As a side note, my demo pair was tri-amp-capable, something YG now offers in addition to the standard single binding post arrangement, though they suspect most customers will probably go with the single set of binding posts.) For this review, Cardas Audio provided a custom set of jumpers from Cardas Clear cable, because I use Clear in my main system. I suggest this with any speaker that you choose to use jumpers with – I have always achieved the best results combining jumpers made from the same cable as the main speaker cables. Taylor tells me that internally, YGs are wired with the exact same Cardas wire, so this makes perfect sense. I’ve never heard a speaker affected by six inches of wire as much as I did with the Hailey 3s.

The speakers arrived a day before the jumpers, so during the initial listening, some zip cord was pressed into use. Not good. At first, it was suspected that the speakers needed more run the in time, but the following day when the Cardas jumpers arrived, this became an entirely different movie indeed.

Articulate bass

Being used to a six-pack of REL subwoofers makes it easy to become spoiled for low­frequency response that is accurate, powerful, and defined. There are many large speakers that can reproduce tones down to 30 or even 25Hz, but the level of low-frequency resolution actually delivered (as with a number of subwoofers, too) is questionable. Moving air is one dimension, but being able to hear Jaco Pastorius’ fingers pluck the strings, with the resulting harmonic structure intact is quite another.

Even though the Haileys can’t move as much air as a six pack of REL’s they do achieve a level of low-frequency resolution and detail that is on the same level and this is indeed rare. We all have different goals concerning low frequency response. My personal bias here is resolution over sheer weight, yours may be different. In addition the YGs bring a wide dynamic range to the listening experience and the ability to deliver high resolution at low listening levels. This is a true display of high performance.

Swapping the Pass XA200.8 monoblocks, for the 15 watt per channel ampsandsound Bryce monoblocks is equally enticing. Even at a one-watt level, these speakers are able to deliver deep, rich, and detailed low frequencies. It’s worth mentioning the Bryce amplifiers deliver tremendous bass response, but that’s a subject of another review. The way these speakers can capture leading and trailing transients on drums and bass guitar is so realistic, you might beshocked hearing it for the first time. In a good way of course.

At least eight or nine different amplifiers from the 3 watt Coincident SETs to the 600 watt per channel PS Audio BHK 600 Monos (tube and solid-state) were used while evaluating the Hailey3s. The common thread here is quality. Because of the resolving nature of the YGs, they will reveal every source component, cable, and vibration control device in your system – though not mercilessly. To get the most these speakers can deliver, I do suggest the best cables and components that you can pair them with.

While some are quick to tell you to spend this much on cable, no more than this on amplifiers or speakers, the YGs are certainly a speaker you can splurge on now as your anchor, and make the other upgrades as time and budget allow. I can’t imagine the YGs would ever be the weak link in your system.


Way too many high-performance speakers, especially those with the ability to play very loud,don’t always integrate the low, mid, and high frequencies in a way that feels natural and convincing. Precious few of the world’s top speakers are able to do this, and nearly all the ones I’ve heard are considerably more expensive than the Haileys. This is the result of a number of things, all equally important.

YG prides themselves on their extensive research in the area of design depth and computer modeling to implement their crossovers. They even build their own printed circuit boards from scratch, with no 90-degree corners in the PC board traces. They are CNC machined in-house from raw board blanks that are made specifically for YG. Components are selected and tolerances meticulously matched before extensive listening tests verify what’s been done on the design table.

The crossover is one part of the equation, yet having custom drivers that work in as close to perfect harmony as possible is the other part. Some manufacturers choose to take a different approach, employing more complex crossover networks to achieve their goals with lower quality drivers. Taking the latter approach does not always make for the ultimate in a smooth transition between drivers, and that last bit of clarity that only the finest loudspeakers can deliver. The YG Haileys are more than deserving of being in that exclusive realm.

That seamless clarity that the Haileys deliver offers a musical experience that is not only realistic, but non fatiguing. These are speakers that you can listen to all day at any volume level and never tire of. That’s the highest compliment I can pay them.

The rest of the range

Great as everything else is, these speakers are equally smooth throughout the frequency spectrum. Those of you that enjoy this aspect of single driver or panel speakers will appreciate how well the three drivers in the Hailey’s work together. No matter how loud or soft the Haleys are played, they deliver the electrical impulses presented to them with one voice.

If you really want to blast the system, you will need more than 15 watts per channel, and though the Haileys reveal a lot at low volume, they are glorious when being played loud. Whether you’re listening to Deep Purple’s Made in Japan, The 1812 Overture, or grooving on some Slowdive, these speakers will take you anywhere you want to go.

Ironically when YG hit the market 21 years ago, under their original ownership they claimed to be the “world’s greatest loudspeaker.” While I can’t make that claim about any one loudspeaker, I’d certainly say that today, YG is in that small top tier of the world’s finest speakers without hesitation.



PHONO STAGE Pass XP-27 Phono
ANALOG SOURCE SME 20 w/SME IV.VI tonearm, Hana Umami Red Cartridge
CABLES Cardas Clear

Teenage Engineering OB-4

Portable music for those on-the-go

By Rob Johnson

I still remember my first stereo, a 1981 Sony Boom box, which served as a loyal companion from middle school through college. It finally failed after a decade of use. However, my nostalgia for the old-school portable form factor persists. So, I’m thrilled to see Teenage Engineering, a Sweden-based company, bring back the classic handle-topped design in a smaller and lighter package with sleek aesthetics and modern technology under the hood. While the company’s name might conjure an image of whimsical product designers, make no mistake. The OB-4 is a sturdy and very capable audio companion.

The Teenage Engineering (TE) OB-4 measures a compact 9.2 x 11.2 x 2.3 inches (233 x 284 x 58 mm) and weighs in at a scant 3.75 lbs (1.7 kg). It contains a rechargeable battery that makes it easy to take your tunes anywhere you go. Driven at high volume via a Bluetooth connection a listener can expect about eight hours of playback. However, low radio volumes will provide a couple days of music before a needed re-charge. Rotated backward, the OB-4’s handle can support it in a reclined position making it equally at home on a countertop, the floor, a driveway, or on a stump next to a camping tent. TE even offers a customized OB-4 backpack with a mesh front, sold separately.

Fun Features

OB-4 offers a choice of three input sources: a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack, a built-in FM radio, and a Bluetooth connection. On the top panel, the OB-4 has a very streamlined user interface with a minimal number of buttons and dials. Depending on the source, control buttons serve different purposes. An owner can also download a basic “Ortho” remote control app for Apple and Android devices. Those who want a dedicated, hands-on remote can purchase the cool-looking, circular “Ortho” remote from TE’s website.

For FM listeners using the OB-4’s buttons, picking a station is easy. Simply push the “play” button to scan for available stations until a tiny LED screen confirms the correct destination. Holding down the “input” button and tapping the “play” reverses the scanning direction. The TE’s handle comes equipped with a built-in antenna. However, to assist in reception-challenged locations, a secondary, removable antenna proves handy. One end of that coiled antenna has a hook to facilitate connecting it to a window blind or even a nearby tree branch for better reception. That supplemental antenna can store neatly in the OB-4’s handle or removed entirely when not needed.

Those wanting to hear device-streamed or stored music will enjoy the simplicity of the Bluetooth source option. Once connected to the OB-4, the phone’s volume buttons control the TE’s volume knob. The OB-4 sounds marvelous with any music thrown at it. However, a user cannot stream high-resolution music that exceeds Bluetooth’s capability. Some might prefer using the OB-4’s 3.5mm stereo input.

The OB-4 offers another music source option that requires some explaining. While the unit does not feature line-outs for external recording, it does have a fun, partial workaround built in. As music plays, it’s captured by a two-hour, constantly-rolling digital “tape” recording. After two hours, “old” music starts to disappear, replaced by new. A tiny wheel on the OB-4’s top edge physically spins while the recording process takes place. It’s both humorous and beguiling to watch the process in action. Anytime a listener wants to revisit the past, spin the wheel counterclockwise to hear previously enjoyed music. The opposite action moves a listener forward until they catch up with real-time sources. It’s irresistible to play with the controller, even if it’s just a quick spin now and then. While a user twists the wheel, there’s an old-school DJ “record-scratching” sound. When the wheel stops moving, cached music resumes playback from that point.

The OB-4 has other quirky features, too. The OB-4 has a built-in metronome, a Yoga Mantra setting, and some ambient sounds which – as I’ve discovered – do a great job of encouraging sleep. Be sure to check out the OB-4 manual for more details on ways to loop music and more.

Super sonics

The OB-4 may be small, but the TE team managed to squeeze in two tiny tweeters, a pair of 2.5-inch midrange drivers, a bass port on the lower left side, and a 38-watt-per-channel amplifier. The midrange cones’ position, one-third the way down the OB-4’s front, makes them look like giant owl eyes. It’s endearing, but don’t underestimate those little things! They manage to push forth a surprisingly loud, clear, and detailed sound.

Unlike the tweeters, the midranges do not have protective grilles over them. While they recess slightly into the OB-4’s body, the potential vulnerability is still a little anxiety-provoking. The OB-4 is designed for portability, but there’s a very real possibility of a dented cone if the owner gets overly cavalier and tosses the OB-4 into a car trunk or bag.

The OB-4’s specifications suggest low-frequency reproduction in the 52Hz range. There’s a caveat to the TE’s bass prowess, though. As with large stereo speakers at home, placement is critical. If positioned too close to a rear wall bass boominess can result. If too far from the wall, the bass can disappear. As a portable stereo, it’s easy to position the OB-4 anywhere needed to find the perfect Goldilocks zone. When in a room’s corner or near a rear wall, natural bass loading kicks in. So, in a way, the TE offers an ultra-manual tone control. Find the sonic balance that works best for you.

Nobody should expect the OB-4 to exceed the high-resolution sonics or stereo imaging capability of a good component system because it is not designed to. But despite the inherent limitations of a boom box form factor, the OB-4 does a great job of delivering the musical goods. Sound-wise, it strikes an excellent tonal balance with slightly warm, stridency-free playback even at high volumes.

Summing up

Three close friends own and use their OB-4s regularly. The boxes move around the house to deliver music anywhere it’s needed. When we rent a vacation house together, there’s always an OB-4 playing non-stop. An OB-4 also joined our trip overseas and enhanced our downtime with music wherever we went. While other small, single-purpose Bluetooth speakers may be less expensive and easier to carry around, I’ve encountered few that approach the OB-4’s musical presence.

At $649, Teenage Engineering’s mini stereo isn’t cheap, but it does not sound or feel cheap either. The OB-4 is a durable and creatively purpose-built device that reimagines the classic boom box style with a modern twist and unique features. Those who enjoy sound on-the-go will find their OB-4 a marvelous complement to their home audio system — or even as a one-box primary listening device. It’s a worthwhile investment for those who enjoy great sound anywhere.

Teenage Engineering also produces several other products including electronic musical instruments and even a tiny turntable kit that lets its owner cut their own one-song records. Check ‘em out here.

Teenage Engineering OB-4

$649 in matte black, $699 in gloss red

REVIEW: The Emerald Physics 600.2 SE Amplifier

Driving a pair of vintage Acoustat 2+2 full range electrostatics to panel rattling volume while listening to the new Stones album, the yellow circular power output meters on the 600.2SE power amplifier are barely bouncing mid-way up the scale. Staying in the 80s groove with a couple of tracks from Cameo (“Word Up” and “Single Life”) push the power meters go all the way up, but the stats are in serious damage of being blown up. Swapping speakers for the current Martin Logan ESL9s in for review, with their dynamic woofers take full advantage of 600 watts per channel.

You heard right, 600 watts per channel in a nice compact chassis that is about 17 inches wide, 14 deep, and just over 4 inches high, weighing about 15 pounds. The matte black finish is punctuated by a power switch, those power output meters, and a tube/solid-state switch for the buffer stage. It’s the essence of simplicity, and bravo to the EP team for not making the logo as big as the box.

Plenty of power on tap means no speakers are off limits. Auditioning the 600.2SE with about a dozen pair of speakers from the inefficient Acoustats, a pair of Magnepan 1.7s, some Harbeth speakers (easy to drive but relatively inefficient) as well as the YG Acoustics Hailey 3s ($63,800/pair) and Peak Consult Sinfonias ($55,000/pair) it was easy to find the performance envelope. Ultimately, most of the critical listening was done with the Martin/Logan ESL 9s, a vintage Levinson no.36 preamplifier, and the Naim CD5si disc player. Some streaming was done with the dCS LINA, for Qobuz and Tidal tracks.

Super simple setup

The 600.2SE arrives with a pair of ECC88 tubes already installed, which are used as a buffer stage. That switch on the front panel gives you the option of using a solid-state buffer, featuring a pair of high-quality Texas Instruments OPA 1637 fully balanced driver op amps. These or the ECC88s in tube mode deliver a fully balanced signal to the 1200SA2 ICE power amps. Designer Dr. Viet Nguyen makes it clear “that no transformers are used to achieve balanced operation, this is a full balanced amplifier.”

He also goes on to mention that though the RCA and XLR inputs are switched automatically by an internal relay, the amplifier favors XLR, and will switch to XLRs when installed. This also protects the amplifier from both sets of inputs being active at once.

The ability to switch gain internally between 0dB, 6dB, 14dB, and 20dB. Set at 6dB from the factory, this combines with the 22dB gain of the ICE modules for 28dB overall. As my Levinson preamplifier has substantial gain, removing the top and resetting to 0dB keeps the no.36 in its sweet spot longer. It also allows for a longer range of volume control. Should any of you be using a passive linestage/attenuator, you may even take advantage of the higher gain settings, especially if you have inefficient speakers. EP gets an A+ on this level of versatility.

The 600.2SE sounds excellent out of the box, requiring no more than 24 hours of constant play to being all it can be. As with any component, decent cables will add a bit more to the presentation, but you don’t have to go nuts. With some Audience StudioTwo cables in for review, this makes a perfect combination, offering high performance, and doesn’t break the piggy bank.

The sound

As mentioned, Class-D amplifiers are continually improving, but specs aren’t everything. This amplifier delivers a high level of musical involvement, not just high power. On many levels, Class D is turning into a “best of nearly everything” way to deliver the goods, because dynamic range is just as important as the other factors that music lovers and audiophiles enjoy. Recently I’ve had the chance to listen to a couple of incredible amplifiers that only deliver 25 watts per channel, and sometimes you just need the power.

Yet when listening to acoustic music, the 600.2SE still offers plenty of delicacy – especially when compared to a lot of other amplifiers that are similarly (or higher) priced. Tracking through the usual favorites reveals an amplifier that does an excellent job rendering acoustic guitars, female vocals and percussion instruments, which leads us to that switch on the front.

Much like my PrimaLuna EVO 400 tube amplifier, that offers triode and ultralinear mode, switching between the tube and solid-state buffer stages gives the 600.2SE two distinct personalities. Think of the solid-state section as “just the facts,” and the tube section as a kinder, gentler presentation. You might prefer one overall, or perhaps use the tube section when listening at lower volumes in a more acoustic/female vocal mode. It’s plenty of fun to experiment with, and you might even want to jump off the cliff and get a great pair of vintage NOS ECC88s to go further down that path.

If Class D amplifiers excel at anything, it’s bass extension and grip. Most subwoofer companies use massive Class D amplifiers, so that’s a clue. Listening to a long playlist of bass heavy tracks instantly showcases this aspect of the 600.2SE.  If you love house, hip-hop, electronica and the like, this is an amplifier to raise the roof with. Even with the panels, the level of control and extension this amplifier provides is indeed impressive.

Similarly speaking, the one area of musicality that Class D amplifiers fall down on a bit, is the ability to provide a massive soundstage in all three dimensions. But again, A: we’re talking about a $2,500 power amplifier (and nobody’s $2,500 amp produces a massive 3D soundstage) and B: you have 600 watts per channel. Dynamics are the fourth dimension, so what the 600.2SE lacks in soundstaging abilities, it more than gives back in dynamic contrast. If you really want to cheat this, put your paws on a nice, vintage, all-tube preamplifier. Switching the 600.2SE back to all solid-state and swapping the Levinson for the PrimaLuna EVO 100 preamplifier, or a vintage ARC SP-3 gives a lot of that back. Remember, audio is a journey.

A definite winner

Class D amplifiers keep improving across the board, and you ignore them at your own peril, especially if you’re trying to create a powerful system on a tight budget. The Emerald Physics 600.2SE is the perfect example. Taking advantage of a small company profile, efficient manufacturing overseas, and going dealer direct, makes for high value and high performance for $2,500. In typical Underwood HiFi fashion, they are “introductory pricing” the 600.2SE at $1,999 until they don’t feel like it anymore, so perhaps buy yourself an early holiday present and take advantage of the savings?

As the anchor of a high performance, reasonably priced system, the Emerald Physics 600.2SE has nothing but check marks in the positive column. And is more than worthy of one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2023. You might even say really exceptional value. Tell them we sent you! Please click here to go directly to the Underwood site.