6 products to bring you audio ecstasy
6 products to bring you aural ecstasy
ISSE 2015 - A golden ear event
Besides Sitex 2015, the other event that took place end of last week between November 27 and 29 was the 2015 International Sound and Sight Exhibition, at Park Royal on Kitchener Road. Filled with many high-end and up-and-coming A/V products, and with great support from local dealers and many brands' overseas principals, it expectedly attracted lots of A/V aficionados. Much as we like to gush about the Pure Audio amps, TriangleArt turntables, and ATR Master Tape in the photo above, we've decided not to go into the highest-end of high-end audio equipment we saw at the show. Instead, here's a list of items that we think offer a glimpse of high-end audio and home theater tech slowly trickling down to more mainstream consumer products.
HiFiMan HE1000 headphones
The HiFiMan HE1000 is a pair of over-ear planar magnetic headphones, and sports "the world's first diaphragm in nanometer thickness" for "perfect dynamic response" and an advanced asymmetrical magnetic circuit. In short, all these are to ensure that audio from the HE1000 sounds as live-like as possible. And it does. We had a listen, and found the overall sound to be extremely balanced; very clean on the highs, ample on the lows, and a very wide soundstage. It was also very comfortable to wear, thanks to the large earcups. The price? A cool S$4,500.
Audeze LCD-4 headphones
Audeze's latest reference headphones, the LCD-4, was also at ISSE, and of course, we had to give it a listen. Featuring unique Double Fluxor magnet arrays (for 1.5 Tesla!) and super-thin nano-grade diaphragms, and suspension-type carbon fiber and leather headband, it gave us a bit of a darker sound and more bass than the aforementioned HE1000. But make no mistake, the resolution, imaging, and transparency were all top, top notch. Really, between the LCD-4 and HE1000, we're still debating which is the better planar magnetic headphones. The LCD-4 does cost more though, at ISSE, it was going for S$6,200.
Pioneer SC-LX59 AV receiver
Highly-spec'd AV receivers with a (relatively) reasonable price tag has always been Pioneer's modus operandi, and this year's SC-LX59 is no different. For S$3,000, you get a 9.2-channel amp with 190W per channel, with niceties like a 32-bit/192kHz ESS Sabre Ultra DAC, support for hi-res audio (WAV, FLAC, DSD - you name it), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, support for next-gen formats and standards like HDR, BT.2020, HDCP 2.2, plus 4K upscaling and passthrough. Of course, it supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for immersive surround sound, though the latter is still waiting for a firmware update.
Devialet Phantom wireless speaker
HardwareZone's resident audio reviewer Marcus has written about the Devialet Phantom before, so we won't go into detail here. In a nutshell, the Phantom is a seriously powerful speaker (think 16hz to 25kHz, and up to 3,000W and 105dB of power) that makes use of a couple of seriously innovative amplification and chamber techniques. This connected speaker also permanently upgrades itself for free, so in theory, the sound can only get better. But good things don't come cheap; the 750W, 99dB Phantom will already set you back about S$3,000. Want the 3,000W, 105dB Silver Phantom? Add another S$500. And remember, this is only for one Phantom speaker. For double the awesomeness, you can get two Phantoms and the Dialog intelligent hub, for a starting price of S$6,509.
Audio-Technica AT-HA5050H headphone amplifier
What's so special about this old school-looking, S$10,000 Audio-Technica AT-HA5050H is that it's a hybrid amplifier that employs a pair of tubes (E88CC) at the preamp stage and Class A transistors at the power amp stage. The former adds warmth to the music; the latter gives the amp the power to drive any headphones. Indeed, there are eight output jacks on the AT-HA5050H for headphones with different impedance: 0.1Ω, 33Ω, 82Ω, and 120Ω. Other features include a DAC compatible with PCM 32-bit/384kHz and DSD128 through USB with selectable asynchronous and adaptive modes, a S/PDIF coaxial digital input and two analog inputs with RCA jacks for unbalanced audio and XLR sockets for balanced audio, and a pair of elegant VU meters. First came to our attention way back in 2013, Audio-Technica certainly took its time to perfect this amp.
UB+ modular speaker
Now here's something more wallet friendly. The UB+ Eupho (our review here) is a compact Bluetooth speaker that uses the patented Orchas technology. Broadly speaking, it involves a re-design of acoustic structure of the speaker to allow the driver, passive radiators,and pressured air movements to vibrate in orchestrated directions. The end result is a a life-like sound (different sound ranges arrive at the listener at the same time) with minimal external vibration. In addition to colored sleeves, there are expansion casings you can buy if you've more than one Eupho. For example, the S$219 Eupho Stereo is a casing made of solid ash wood, and houses two Eupho speakers (included) for a stereo setup. Then there's the soundbar-like, S$568 Eupho Brave that houses six Eupho speakers (included). Like the Eupho Stereo, you can still use each of the Eupho speakers individually whenever the need arises; just plug out and go.