Nuforce - all you need for your desktop audio
Nuforce is one of those myriad companies that breathe by hooking up with Apple iPods, iPhones and iPads and provide a superior audio experience out of these trendy/fancy devices.
Nuforce produces a suite of stylish and high performance DACs and desktop headphones and speakers amps.
Their specifications are quite high and their prices quite reasonable, so it is definitely a product that has found a niche in a crowded market.
They can bundle up their products with Tangent Audio EVO speakers, a great team indeed!
NAD - no it does not mean Noise And Distortion...
It is no big secret that I am a fan...
Over the years, I have owned a NAD 7140 receiver - now retired after 23 years of good service - and now a NAD turntable (a clone of the REGA P1) a NAD phono stage PP3i and a NAD C326BEE, used only as a preamp to drive my Bryston 3B, and a second hand tuner 4150.
So it was fitting to see NAD exhibiting a triphonic speaker system, very Microphase-like indeed!
That is certainly a piece of equipment I will not buy, but it would certainly a good buy for someone not as biaised as myself...
Qobuz - the buzz
Qobuz was the buzz at the Show, with a constant stream (sic!) of visitors to their static display.
The best description of Qobuz is an avatar of iTunes for people wanting the best quality music download/streaming at native 16/44.1 quality for a monthly subscription of 29euros a month - there is a discount for a yearly subscription.
On top, you can download some 24/96 files called Qobuz Studio Masters, a direct access to the digital master tapes of the participating record companies ((Plus Loin Music, Bee Jaz, Ambronay Editions, Zig Zag Territoires, ECM, Mirare, Aeolus, Ondine, Winter & Winter, Laborie etc...).
As a "loss leader", you can download a sample of these files for free as a visitor to the Show. Please get in touch if you want access. I have save them on a USB stick and tried to play them on my Blu-Ray Samsung player, which is capable of reading 24/192 files, but which refuses to recognise the Qobuz format.
Playing them on my PC thru my ordinary audio card and the Qobuz player feeding my extraordinary Senheiser HD212 Pro headphones gives a taste of the possibilities, but falls short of my expectations.
I will have to acquire an Oppo player...see below
As an aside, and to illustrate my point, I am currently listening to a direct broadcast from the Adelaide, a concert celebrating the 75th anniversary of the ASO - Adelaide Symphony Orchestra - on ABC Classic FM, my local FM station, streaming via the same set-up mentioned above in 24/96 and it is sublime...
Pro-Ject - Back to analogue in style
Pro-Ject was celebrating their 20th birthday with a complete line up of their current range, including some special edition for the occasion with decorated platter by famous artists.
You may have noticed that I am a Rega fan, primarily because of the quality of the RB 300 arm and its cousins.
In terms of the turnatles themselves, there is a lot of similarities between the two product lines, so I will let you debate of the respective virtues of both - why not start a thread on our recently opened Forum ?
In any case this was a beautiful display, complemented by a static display of their electronics on the other side of the alley.
Pierre Riffaud - Vinyl replay for the Kings
Well, I have to say that, in the realm of "money is no object" hifi gear, I have a sweet spot for Pierre Riffaud's contraptions...
He is the designer behind the "Epure" turntable now marketed by Micromega, and you can't prevent such a mind to get back to the drawing board and invent something even more outrageous than the Epure.
Sure, if you do not have an open cheque book, you can still buy a "Classique" turntable, or a revamped Garrard 401, one of Pierre's hobbies, but if you are anything but serious about vinyl replay, then you need a "Heritage".
If you ask for the price, then you cannot afford it!
Mass for the transport and unipivot for the arm are the keywords here, as well as the beautiful craftsmanship. We are par with the best of the best here, like the Clearaudio Statement for instance.
Point Musiques - the glue between Pierre Riffaud, Ocellia, Tosca and a few others...
Point Musiques is a very special place, and its owner, Jean-Jacques Capello, an extra ordinary man.
He spent his life educating young French people about music and HiFi during his working life as a Principal of various High Schools around France.
Now retired comfortably in the family house near Beauvais, an hour away north west of Paris, he continues to educate you and I on beautiful music reproduction systems, some more affordable than others, but all capable of disappearing to reveal the beauty of the music and the talent of the musicians, whether recorded on one the 4000 vinyls or CDs in his collection, all documented on his MacBook, but interestingly not saved in digital format in iTunes.
He was instrumental in bringing Tosca, Pierre Riffaud, Ocellia and Metronome Technologie together on a shared stand at the Show. Quite an achievement!
To pay tribute to people like Jean-Jacques Capello, I am starting a new page on this site called "Interviews & Reviews" where I will write longer articles featuring HiFi shops I visited, products I had a chance to listen too in more details - we may even start measuring some of them - or dissect a technical topic, like ADC and DAC conversion...so stay tunesd and come back to visit this new page.
Oppo - the most universal video player that also sounds great!
Oppo had only a static display at the Show, hooked up to a new 50' Samsung display - just the image quality by itself was quite stunning.
But I have heard - but not - through the grapevine, that this is also the best sounding affordable CD, SACD and CDHD player!
You can buy one online for about 1000$, and you can get a top of the range model in europe for 1500 euros.
It is certainly more expensive than my Samsung Blu-Ray player, but certainly not out of reach for a number of people.
I can't wait to put one to the aural test of my ageing, but nevertheless quite educated ears!
Ocellia - the most unorthodox speakers
Setting aside all acquired speaker design wisdom, Samuel Furon,
the designer of the Ocellia range, decided to start from a blank canvas and use his regular attendances to live classical music concerts to try to build a full range speaker that would give him the same pleasure and emotion than a live performance.
To achieve his goals, he uses drivers from another French company, PHY-HP, who makes extraordinary full range drivers with very high efficiency. Although quite different in the profile of their paper cones, they do have a sounding familiarity with our beloved Supravox 215RTF. However, they bring another level of performance and subtlety to this vintage icon.
Two drivers 21cm and 16cm conducted Samuel to design a big and a small Ocellia.
The big one can be complemented with one or two piezoelectric tweeters, also from PHY-HP.
The cabinets are very light and act more the case of a cello than the rigid and enclosed designs we are used to. Internally there is some diffraction structures on the sides of the cabinet to prevent unwanted reflections.
There is no filter between the full range driver and the tweeter(s). Wiring is with silver cables designed by Ocellia.
The result is astonishing of transparency, details, dynamic range, absence of coloration.
You completely forget that you are listening to a hifi system, specially when you sit comfortably in an old stone farmhouse of epic proportions, where a chamber orchestra could well be performing live for you.
A must to listen to, if you can find somebody who has such a beautiful instrument!
A Swiss company, relatively new, but that has become quite famous quite quickly for its "money is no object" audio solutions with "soul" obviously!
6moons, Hifi News and other experts rave about these electronics, including the recently released 540, a combination of SACD player and HiRes DAC, that will set you back around 35K$
I didn't get a chance to listen to these digital jewels, so I would be quite happy with a 1k$ OPPO player and/or a Metrum DAC in the same price range.
Sooloos by Meridian
I have always had a sweet spot for Meridian products, and their CD players in particular. Their intrusion into "virtual music" by the acquisition of Sooloos add another dimension to their commitment to reproducing digital files.
Martial Hernandez, DJ extraordinaire, was keeping the audience riveted - to their seats - by his intimate knowledge of any of the 4000 CDs ripped on his 2To Sooloos system. He was helped in this exercise by the beautiful Vienna Acoustics speakers. Certainly one of the most knowledgeable and entertaining demos at the Show!
Sonus Faber has a long tradition of good speaker design in fabulously finished cabinets.
Here, the new Guarneri Memento are driven by the PrimaLuna 35W tube amps, a fine combination indeed, which retained a lot of visitors for more than the average time - I certainly was one of them!
It is always difficult to assess the performance of a speaker at a trade show, but some of them - and the Guarneri Memento is one of them - just make you stop and notice the difference.
What does it for me is the sheer balance, dynamic range and accuracy of this splendidly designed and manufactured pair of speakers, and the pleasure it gives me listening to most music you throw at it - even if they cost 15k$!
I would recommend you reading a proper review by Michael Stremer in Stereophile: http://www.stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/807sonus
An innovative music server, and multiroom system, the Maestro proposed by Soledge, one of these new breed of French manufacturers who embrace new technologies, but still respect the main "raison d'etre" of hifi equipment, which is reproducing music.
They had "borrowed' a pair of KEF speakers for their demos, which were driven by their Tenor "remote" amplifiers, the signal being transported via the power lines in a 200 Mhz PLC "envelope", quite an impressive feat!
We are far away from the X-10 PLC systems, used in early home automation systems!
Tosca is most famous for its range of valve phono stage, preamps and amps. I had a private listening session at Point Musiques, driving Ocellia speakers, and that experience convinced me that these are indeed very rare beasts, extremely quiet and dynamic, but mostly inaudible - a must for any amplifiers, I think...
They need very high efficiency speakers though, as their output power is only 10W or 20W depending on the model.
Continuing their expansion, Tosca has introduced speakers and cables.
I only listened to their Aria 5, teamed up with the Sub 10 subwoofer.
These were driven by the AT5-20W and we used the CD8 from Metronome or the "Classique" turntable as sources, quite a nice set-up, I have to say...
Classified as a mid-range system, it would still set you back a year of most people income!
Tosca use primarily Fostex drivers and in the Aria 5, 4 FX120 and 1 FT96H are used in a d"appolitto configuration and housed in a tear drop shaped metal column. The load is a transmission line design.
These speakers have all the trademark qualities of Fostex speakers, high efficiency, full range, but in
this implementation, I thought the result was pretty disappointing and probably not in line with the
quality of Tosca's electronics. In particular, there was quite a bit of sibilance due to - I think - a
filtering artefact. Also the integration with the subwoofer was far from seamless, although using an
active filter and integrated class D amplifier (in a separate chassis to allow future upgrade).
I wish I had a chance to listen to some of their other speakers, in particular the Recital 12, which is an open baffle 3-way design with an integrated amp to drive the bass driver: intriguing!
Thorens was kind of hidding on their French distributor's stand (DEA International) with a static display - not an ideal set up for such an iconic brand!
Two models were on display, the high end TD 350 and TD 550
Quoting Thorens, "The TD 350 revives the legendary Thorens tradition and concept of the suspended chassis. The construction of the TD 350 ingeniously combines the advantages of a mass platform with those of the suspended chassis. This tried and tested concept as well as traditional manufacturing quality make the TD 350 a record player that will satisfy even the most discerning demands.
The front panel of the TD 550, similarly constructed as the TD 550 which also holds the operational buttons, is available either chrome-plated or with black anodized aluminum finish. The high-grade plinth itself has been refined with finest black piano lacquer.
he TD 550 comes equipped with a suspended chassis and the belt drive around the outer rim of the
platter. The player‘s generous dimensions allow the mounting of 12-inch tonearms also. The tonearm
platform is made from extremely stiff carbon fibre compound which ensures a very rigid coupling of
platter and tonearm".
The TD 350 was fitted with a REGA arm and Ortofon cartridge, the TD550 was fitted with a SME arm.
Being a static display makes it difficult to judge their sonic qualities, but I am sure you will be fine if you choose to buy either of them, or any of the less expensive models, or if you are after looks, then nothing beats the TD 2035 or my favourite, the TD 303...
I was lucky enough to share an interview by the organiser of the Show, Jean-Marie Hubert ( who I have known for a very long time...) with Ken Kessler of HiFi News (and other high profile HiFi magazines) fame.
Click the link to stream the interview:
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.