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Soundings Fall 2009

Fall 2009 Part 1


The past year has been a roller coaster ride for everyone but fortunately all signs point up from here on in.In line with our customers wishes we have scoured the globe for products at every price point which are not just good ,but runaway audio/ video hits in their class. With our eye always on VALUE our latest selections offer remarkable performance for the money,and most importantly have that magic which makes a great system stand out. Take the Harbeth P3ESR ($2300.00 pr.)mini monitor-a direct descendant of the legendary BBC Ls3/5a with none of its idiosyncracies which plays loud and sounds as natural and as musical as anything made. Or the British made LFD LeIII integrated amp at $3295 a music lovers joy which has gained an underground reputation for musicality far outstripping its price tag. These exceptional products and many others are discussed in:


In fact there is so much to tell you about that this newsletter is being divided in 2 parts.Part II blast will go out in a month and will cover new stuff from: Esoteric,Krell, Focal JM lab,Arcam,Cary,Runco and others.

This Issue:

1)ASR ELECTRONICS : Is ASR the best value in solid state Upper High End Amplifiers and Phono stages? We think so. Learn why!

2)LFD Le III: The unassuming $3295 British integrated amp which is “the best sounding solid state integrated amp“that Sam Tellig of “STEREOPHILE MAGAZINE” has ever heard.

3)Magico M-5: The ultimate high end speaker?

4)Our favorite speakers under $20,000.00 per pair: Magico V-2 and Devore Fidelity Silverbacks

5)Harbeth P3ESR Mini Monitors: Symphony scale from a speaker no bigger than a shoe box!

6)VTL TL-5.5II: The only choice in reasonably priced tube preamps!

7 NuForce cd players, preamps and amplifiers: Do any other solid state components in their price range make sense?

8) SONICS: European designed and American Made Speakers of Particular quality

9)Computer Music: How to do it right!

AMAZING ASR
Since the company’s founding in 1980, ASR Audiosystems Friedrich Schaefer has attained a near mythic and enviable reputation for astonishing musicality in the world of High-End audio. ASR’s aim in all their products, which include two phonostages, the ASR Basis / Basis Exclusive and the ASR Mini Basis/Mini Basis Exclusive, and two “integrated” amplifiers, the Emitter I / Emitter I Exclusive, and Emitter II / Emitter II Exclusive, is to combine the harmony and musicality of tubes with the accuracy and sovereign power distribution of modern transistor amplifiers. They have succeeded beyond any reasonable expectation in doing exactly that.

 

The core of the ASR line are its two “integrated” amplifiers, the Emitter I and Emitter II, both of which can be had in an “Exclusive” version which, among many other improvements, adds an extra battery operated power supply which completely frees these components from the adverse affect of using alternating current from your wall outlet. “Integrated” in appearance only, ASR amplifiers are actually direct coupled amplifiers with volume control and input selector.In fact the path between input and power section on the ASR is only a few millimeters of silver wire! Less wire more sound. True audiophile products, the Emitter I and II sacrifice nothing for performance, so be prepared for using between one to three sizable outboard power supplies, which are essential to achieve the sense of limitless power and

extraordinary harmonic accuracy which the ASR integrated amplifiers are capable of. The concept behind ASR’s Emitter I and Emitter II is totally different from all other integrated amplifiers, and, frankly, there is not enough room on this page to describe all of the technical and design innovations achieved by ASR in their products. Suffice it to say that it would be more accurate to think of the Emitter I and Emitter II as true separates since they outperform all but a very small number of preamp/power amp combinations which cost many times the price of the ASR components.

A true devotee of analog, Friedrich Schaefer has also created two phonostages with astonishing transparency, dynamics, and harmonic rightness. The ASR Basis / Basis Exclusive (battery power supply) may be the finest solid state phono preamplifier in the world providing almost limitless opportunities for adjusting resistance, capacitance and gain to match your cartridge perfectly. The Mini Basis/Mini Basis Exclusive represents amazing value for the dollar, outperforming any phonostages in its price range with respect to all the parameters one considers in judging RIAA amplification.

Sound by Singer is ecstatic to have been named the exclusive dealer for ASR Systems in New York. Come down and listen to an ASR component and you might just be ecstatic to take one home for yourself.

LFD Amplifiers


As Sam tellig noted in his recent review of the LFD Le III: “You can forget the audiophile bullshit. The Integrated Mk.III just sounds right. It breathes light and life into all kinds of music. Harmonics are spot on. Each voice, each instrument has its distinctive tonal color.That’s all I’m going to say about the sound. It hit the harmonics just right. When an amplifier does that, everything else falls into place: delicacy, definition, detail, rhythm, and pace. The soundstage and imaging were breathtaking…I’ll throw caution to the winds and say that the LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III LE is the best sounding solid-state integrated amplifier I have ever heard. I know of no other integrated, of any type, that sounds quite so right. “Stereophile Magazine Feb.2008.

What else is there to say?At $3295.00 the handmade LFD Le III stands out from the crowd in a way that boggles the imagination. It is just so musical. Don’t look for a remote or preouts.It ain’t got them. No website or literature either (think slim line silver box 17 ½’ wide with 5 inputs)What it does have is the music in a way that amplifiers costing many time its price can only hope to have.If you want the music LFD has it! The LFD Le Mark III will be replaced sometime in December with the LFD Le Mark IV at $4,100.00. The two amplifiers are essentially the same with the LFD Le Mark IV having a sturdier, more anti resonant case. For the practically minded, the sound of the two amplifiers is identical, so if you want to save $800.00, better act quickly. There are only two LFD Le Mark III’s on the East Coast of the U.S.A., and we have them!


M5 Magic


What can we say about Magico’s $90,000.00 Statement Loudspeaker system, the M5 ? For one thing, just like the Magico Mini II and the
V-3 which are generally recognized as being the best speakers in their class, the new Magico M-5 simply trounces every other contender in the sub $150,000.00 ranking of super speakers and are just as good and, in most cases, quite a bit better than the few speakers which dare to command an even higher price tag. You see, the Magico M-5’s do everything right. They are unbelievably open and reproduce the full bandwidth from extreme low bass to ultra high frequencies with as much authority as anything I've ever heard, Displaying a timbral accuracy that is simply uncanny and as transparent as a mountain lake, every nuance is there,

every bit of detail, apparent not in an artificial or contrived way, but with that you-are-there quality, which sends goose bumps down your spine and makes you reach for your checkbook. It is no wonder that they are typically back ordered several months!

The M5 utilizes Magico’s proprietary MR-1 Ring Radiator tweeter, two optimally balanced 6” Nano-Tec® drivers, and new 9” Nano-Tec® woofers, making this the first Magico speaker to incorporate a full range of truly ‘in-house’ drive-units. Utilizing one of the most intricate passive loudspeakers ever built, the M5 Retains Magico’s revolutionary ‘tension-coupling’ mechanism,.With their signature 17-ply Baltic Birch cabinet sporting a 200 lb. slab of 6061-T aircraft grade aluminum machined into 73 lb. vertically convex baffle Magico has created the ideal housing for their massive new bass drivers. Intended to completely change the limits of loudspeaker performance, the 2009 Innovation Award winning M5 is the most thoroughly developed and technologically ambitious loudspeaker Magico has built to date .And that may make it the most technologically innovative loudspeaker extant, period!

V2
is forVictory!

On a less costlier but equally ambitious note, Magico has hit another home run with their superb V-2.At under $18000.00 per pair the V-2 is a real bargain, a bargain, that is ,if you are looking for exceptional dynamics, clarity and tonal balance( and who isn’t?)

As the culmination of more than 15 years of research and development, the V2 draws on the Magico heritage of advanced scientific research, proprietary driver technology, superb cabinet construction, and meticulous attention to detail. The V2 incorporates the same exacting and rigorous Magico “no compromise” implementation that defines all of their loudspeakers. Utilizing a unique 2.5-way configuration, the V2 combines the coherence of a 2-way with the exceptional dynamic expression associated with Magico’s multi-way offerings.

Containing two 7” Nano-Tec® drivers operating on separate circuits and mounted at different depths on a “zero horizontal-diffraction” baffle, the V2 is capable of delivering a highly resolved and seamless musical presentation, particularly through the critical mid-bass frequencies

This ambitious design also employs all of Magico’s signature engineering innovations—rear mounted drivers coupled to an aircraft-grade 6061-T aluminum baffle, a 17-ply vertically stacked Baltic Birch cabinet, and our tension-coupling mechanism, which uses unique aluminum rods and fasteners to create a hermetically sealed, acoustically inert platform. When combined with their proprietary tweeter and Elliptical Symmetry Crossover (ESXO®), the end result is a truly magnificent loudspeaker, one that represents our unyielding commitment to designing and producing the most advanced loudspeaker systems in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

More from Devore 

There are only two speaker systems I would include in a ranking of best floor standing transducer under $20,000. They are the new Magico V2 and the indomitable and critically acclaimed Devore fidelity Silverbacks. Indeed, so musical and satisfying are the Silverbacks that I would have to include them in any ranking of best sounding speakers made at any price! That is saying something!

 

What makes The Silverbacks so special? Simply put, they do everything right and nothing wrong! Sure, you could probably find a speaker that images better,and another with greater dynamic contrasts,and yet another with more detail .. however, in each of these cases you will also find that while superb in one or more areas, the speaker in question will also have one or more remarkable flaws. And that is what separates the Silverbacks from most other world class speaker systems. While they are not ” the best” at any one aspect of musical reproduction, they do not have any flaws (other than being too inexpensive) and create one of the most convincing presentations of live music I have ever heard.

They are revealing of the qualities of the audio chain which is connected to them, but are not in any way finicky about the kind of power to which you connect them. SET tube amps or 400 watt mono behemoths, all are appropriate. With such versatility and quality it is not hard to see why the Silverbacks have joined the short list of our favorite speakers.

Welcome to the warm, fresh, natural sound of Harbeth.

Harbeth was founded in 1977 to bring the BBC's pioneering loudspeaker designs to the serious listener. Several generations on, today's Harbeth speakers are the product of the longest-running science-based loudspeaker research program ever undertaken. Crafted around a solid engineering core, every Harbeth delivers an accurate and involving sound at home or in the studio and have no equal for clarity and detail. And they're built to literally last a lifetime. The latest model is the shoe box size P3ESR now with the RADIAL2™ cone from the bigger Harbeths. Owning a Harbeth is, and has always been, a life-changing experience and there's a model to perfectly match your listening environment and budget. All have that unique openness and musical insight which define a truly great listening experience. They're all hand assembled and individually tested in Lindfield, England.

The all-new RADIAL™ coned Harbeth P3ESR may be the ultimate mini monitor, the latest in a lineage that stretches back twenty years to the original Harbeth P3 and even further to the BBC's pioneering LS3/5A. A generation of home users and studio professionals have relied on these Harbeth minis to fill even the smallest room with a full, warm, natural sound. The P3ESR is the culmination of the designer's four years research into upgrading the Harbeth mini. From the new removable back panel for improved cabinet damping to the radically new bass unit yielding a wide smooth frequency response, every detail of these astonishing loudspeakers has been thoroughly honed and optimised. The objective has always been to create the genuine Harbeth sound in miniature: the P3ESR (R for RADIAL™) is that much closer to reality. Listening to the Harbeth P3ESR I immediately forgot about the speakers themselves and became totally captivated by the Music.Not bad for a shoe box sized enclosure priced at under $2300.00 per pair.My highest recommendation.

 
IMAGINE…

a fully balanced all tube preamplifier which shares the same superb sonic signature, luxurious cosmetics and full functionality as VTL’s legendary TL6.5 and TL7.5 reference line stages at a fraction of their price. Got it? Bravo! You have conjured up an image of the new and extraordinary VTL TL- 5.5 II Preamplifier. ($6000)

The fundamental qualities that made the original TL-5.5 special (its all-tube design, the optional retrofittable phono stage and its superb sonic characteristics) are there in the VTL 5.5 II in a highly refined and more detailed presentation. What is completely new is the application of advanced audio and power supply technology sourced from VTL’s TL-7.5 Reference and TL-6.5 Signature preamplifiers. This technology uses a simple balanced differential tube topology with low negative feedback and a high current/low impedance tubed output stage in a low-noise microprocessor-controlled design. Top quality parts, fully balanced operation and precision-regulated and shielded power supplies, and not a little audio design magic, all account for the new TL-5.5’s melodious yet neutral sound, high resolution, transparency, speed and powerful dynamics.

Similarly, VTL’s latest thinking from their new and acclaimed TP-6.5 Signature phono stage is now applied to the optional MC phono stage, which can be easily retrofitted internally. It offers 68dB of gain and a balanced output, with a JFET/12AU7 high current MC stage (or high-grade stepup transformer), split-pole passive RIAA stage with a dual 12AX7 MM stage for maximum headroom voltage swing. Triple-cascaded precision power supply regulation and full gain and load setting with RIAA enhanced and rumble cut functions translate to a clean and quiet yet dynamic sound that brings out the very best in your vinyl.

When Luke brought the TL-5.5 II over for a listen we all crossed our fingers. I’ll admit it! These days what is needed, a lot more than a better mouse trap, is a reasonably priced preamp that stands out from the crowd as the best in class, period! Fortunately, after a lengthy audition we can state categorically that the 5.5II does just that! So, as we uncrossed our fingers we breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that our customers could o home with a VTL TL-5.5II and never think twice about their choice, because, in its class, this preamp beats all!


TL-5.5 II

TL-5.5 II


TL6.5


TL7.5

A NuForce in Electronics

Nu force describes their mission as “To maintain our position as a world class brand by delivering products that
Thrill the ear
Delight the eye
Please the pocket”

They accomplish that goal and then some!

Nu force makes the most musical compact and powerful amplifiers ON THE MARKET TODAY AT PRICES THAT CANNOT BE BELIEVED. THEY INCLUDE.

1) They include the latest version of legendary 9v mono poweramp the Reference the 9 V3, (Black, Silver) which outputs 190W@8ohm, 300W@4ohm at a cost of $3600 pr. and the amazing Reference 9 v3se at only $5200.00 per pair.

The NuForce Reference Series mono amplifiers are designed for both high-performance stereo and home-theater use. They can be used for biamping, tri-amping and home-theater mixing-and-matching with MCH series multi-channel amplifiers. The Ref 9V3 is the standard Reference Series mono amp. The Ref 9V3SE utilizes an improved power capacitor board featuring Nuforce's proprietary low ESR capacitor matrix and high performance capacitors.

2) the Stereo 8.5 V3 (Black, Silver) at 160W@8ohm, 200W@4ohm The Stereo 8.5 V3 is the most powerful and compact stereo amplifier on the market, utilizing the same V3 circuit board as the mono amplifiers. $2,350 and

3) The Premium Reference 18 V3 Special Edition (Black, Silver) mono amplifiers at $7000.00 per pair. SILVER Available December 1 2009.

Nuforce amplifiers have garnered so many awards and so much praise from the audiophile press and plain music loving consumers alike it would impossible to mention them all.They include :

1) Power Amp of The Year 2005 for Reference 9- The Absolute Sound, USA
2) Grand Prix 2007 (equivalent to Power Amp of The Year) for Reference 9 V2- HiVi, Japan
3) Blue Moon Award - sixmoons.com
4)Absolute Sound Editors Choice Award for
2006,2007 and 2008! For the Ref 9v

Chris Martens of the absolute captured the essence of the Nuforce amps when he said:

“Because NuForce's Reference 9 monoblocks are eminently affordable, you might think they won this award on the basis of value, but that's not the half of it. These little Class D gems are sonic shockers in ways normally associated with amps that cost a fortune. Their defining characteristics are terrific transparency, incisive dynamics, deeply extended bass that offers excellent pitch definition and "traction," and superb three-dimensionality. Though accurate almost to a fault and lacking the luminous midrange glow of some of the greatest tube amps, the Reference 9s are charmers in their own right, with an uncanny ability to reveal previously hidden information in familiar recordings. “(Reviewed by Chris Martens, Issue 158. Power Amp of The Year, Issue 160)

Nuforce currently offers 2 preamps ,the P-8s and the P-9 ,both available in silver and black

In designing the P-8S ($1650), NuForce has applied its never less than impressive technology in the creation of a preamplifier that defines music reproduction well beyond its price-point. First impressions: pristine clarity, natural tonalities, expansive imaging, and a realistic, correctly proportioned soundstage. The articulate low end's rhythm and drive will prove addictive. Housed in two chassis, the low-noise, high-performance Nuforce P-9($3150)

preamplifier is a breakthrough product. One chassis contains three power supplies and microprocessor control logic; the second chassis contains an analog volume control, input selection relays, and sensitive analog circuit components. Externally, the dual P-9 chassis are a stylistically consonant match to the NuForce Ref 9 Series power amplifiers. Housed in one 17" chassis, the low-noise, high-performance Nuforce P- 18 preamplifier improves upon P-9 with touch panel control and higher performing preamp circuit. $4,000 Available December 15

How good are they ?Consider these comments:

 

“The P-9 has the astounding musical treasure of allowing me to hear more of each individual part but never at a sacrifice of the whole. With as much differentiation and delineation I heard, I felt it imparted greater musical meaning to the whole of each performance. Never once did I grow weary or suffer from audio fatigue with the Nuforce in place.” http://www.stereotimes.com/amp022309.shtml and Chris Martens, AVGuide & The Absolute Sound, USA“...Both the Metis and P8 are sonic overachievers that offer different but complementary interpretations of the absolute sound...if the Metis is a tube preamp with some solid state-like qualities, then the NuForce P8 is its complementary opposite-a solid-state preamp that offers certain tube-like virtues...the P8 is quieter, more flexible, and more revealing of subtle inner details, and it offers greater definition, broader frequency response, and unequivocal superior bass. Both preamps compete effectively with models twice the price, and either would make a splendid introduction to the world of high-end separates...”

That is how good they are!

Naturally , Nuforce makes world class integrated amps which include The IA-16V3 and the IA-7V3

The NuForce IA-16 V3 is a SE class integrated stereo amplifier with remote control housed in the premium 17" wide chassis. It utilizes the same touch panel control as the P-18
$3,000 3 Years
Available December 15

The NuForce IA-7 V3 is an integrated stereo amplifier with remote control. Because the IA-7 V3 shares the same circuit board as the Reference Series amplifiers, it offers exemplary performance at a most attractive price. The unit is housed in a black or silver sand-blasted anodized aluminum case. $1,650 Reviews have been equally gushing.

Finally, Nuforce makes an audiophile quality music server, The MSR-1 (Black, Silver) with easy to use and yet powerful software for ripping, storing and streaming music. $2,250 and the new and long anticipated CDP-8 (Black, Silver) cd player ($1450). If advance reports can be believed, this cd player has trounced nearly every thing in the sub $3000.00 price class.

To sum up there is simply no other brand of electronics out there which gives the music lover as much beautiful music reproduction for the price . Couple this fact with their generous Warranties,upgradeability and energy efficiency(cool running),it is hard to see how anyone could buy any other solid state electronics in nuforce’s price range.

 

The newest praise worthy offerings from Sonics include the AMERIGO and the OUMNIA.
The Amerigo is a full range loudspeaker that delivers stylish looks and excellent performance at a reasonable price($5500.00 pr.). A good loudspeaker should neither "enhance" the signal nor render it bland or sterile. The Amerigo was designed with uncolored yet musical sound as its primary goal to best deliver the artists original intent. Flat, extended response, good sensitivity and easy drivability make the Amerigo the loudspeaker of choice for all styles of music.
Its soundstage is very spacious and well focused with a very vivid "I am there" feeling. The bass is precise, warm and inviting, the midrange is free from colorations and the treble presents fine details but never sounds sharp or edgy. The Amerigo sounds complete when played soft but can really rock if so desired.

The Oumnia can be placed into the room or placed near a wall. It is suitable for rooms of any size and is very versatile in regard to compatibility with electronics.

The image is airy and free from coloration. The highs are clear and smooth and in the midrange vocals rich in tonal colors and modulations. Even with sub-optimal program material the loudspeaker never shows an aggressive or overly present effect. Bass reproduction is warm and yet clear and dry. The Oumnia plays very well with high-class integrated tube or solid-state amplifiers and due to its high sensitivity it does not require much power. An excellent full range choice.

 

Computer Audio



Computers ,everybody has one, and with hard drives becoming cheaper and cheaper every day, your computer is rapidly evolving into an excellent storage device for all of your music. In the past, you could only buy or download music in a highly compressed format called MP3. Now with the advent of a number of new audiophile websites it is possible to download music not only in CD quality but even in HD audio quality (24 bit /176hz). That capability wouldn’t mean anything if we were still playing the music from our computer’s sound card directly into our amplifiers. This sounds pretty dismal, but a revolution has begun with the advent of a whole series of Digital to Analog converters and Digital to Analog Converter/ Amplifiers which make it possible to use your computer as a storage medium and to output a pure digital signal, using the USB, SPDIF, or AES/EBU output of the computer into digital inputs of these devices. The result can be a computer based system which sounds as good as almost any CD/SACD player around. Digital to Analog Converters and Converter/ Amplifiers come in all shapes, sizes, performance levels and price ranges. At Sound by Singer we pride ourselves on having selected only those DACs and DAC/AMPS which represent the best quality available at a given price point. One of the leaders in D/A conversion, DCS, recently introduced the Puccini UClock and Paganini andScarlatti upsamplers all of which sport USB inputs-of course there is nothing wrong with going into any of their other digital inputs for native 24bit /96hz sampling rate-or higher Berkeley Audio , the manufacturer of the now famous Alpha DAC, is a true Pioneer in the development of genuine hd audioplayback in native 24bit/176hz /192 hz .
When utilizing the new recordings available from companies like Reference Recordings and HRX, which are now selling high resolution LPCM, non-DRM digital media on  both optical disk and by download, the result is audio Nirvana: For the first time audiophiles can listen to recordings that are identical to the original 24-bit masters.
Utilizing the DCS orBerkeley Audio DACs your computer can be transformed into an HD audio (24bit/176kHz/192hz) music server making it the equal or superior of almost any CD or SACD player around.
For the best bang for the buck in a DAC/Integrated Amp only one piece stands out :the Peachtree Audio Nova. Nova is the answer if you're looking to use or improve your computer-based or streaming audio to a "high-end" performance level; or if you just need a new millennium integrated amplifier designed for today's digital components. The Nova is a world class 80wpc  integrated amplifier with enough digital and analog inputs and outputs to satisfy all the new digital devices, plus..  It performs like a high-end integrated amplifier because that's what it is. However, the Nova is actually 4 products that can be used together together or alone. There's the (class A)  tube preamp, an outstanding amplifier,a Digital to Analog converter and a (class A) headphone amplifier. So whether you need an integrated, a DAC, a preamp or a headphone amplifier, the Nova covers it....all beautifully at a price that just seems too low together or alone. There's the (class A)  tube preamp, a Digital to Analog converter and a (class A) headphone amplifier. So weather you need an integrated, a DAC, a preamp or a headphone amplifier, the Nova covers it....
 

That is it for Part I of the fall 2009 issue of SOUNDS FROM SINGER.Look for Part II IN THE WEEKS TO COME .Meanwhile, come down, call, email or write us to enjoy the best in High Value High End Audio!

 

Andy