LATEST ADDITIONS

Ed Selley  |  Jul 02, 2010  |  0 comments
Entry-level excellence Naim regards the CD5 XS as an entry-level player. But as Malcolm Steward discovered, its performance tells a completely different story The Naim XS series, which includes the CD5 XS, is more than just a simple evolution of the previous X series models. Each component is said to have been engineered to work harmoniously with the rest of the range and providing significantly enhanced overall system performance. Naim also regards the XS range as a superb introduction to its Reference series models by offering what it says is genuine high-end performance at an affordable price level.
Ed Selley  |  Jun 20, 2010  |  0 comments
Consonance Forbidden City Ping - £1,495 It looks like a chunky amplifier with a CD and radio added on, but the Ping has plenty of bang for your buck Out of all the systems in this group, this is the one that most resembles an amplifier with added bits. Mostly that’s because it’s quite powerful and, therefore, has the real estate that’s associated with powerful amps (big transformer, reservoir capacitors and heatsinks), but it’s even bigger than it strictly needed to be and is really quite imposing. The front panel layout can be annoying, though – all those little squares prevent one taking in the button labels in a hurry! Features are minimal, but there is a USB input. Although it’s an A-type socket, which would normally be for a USB stick or similar, it’s actually intended for use as a DAC fed from a computer – you’ll need an A-to-A USB cable, but one is provided with the Ping.
Ed Selley  |  Jun 20, 2010  |  0 comments
Harman/Kardon MAS110 - £650 These futuristic black boxes look and sound the money, but don’t be hoodwinked by their lively style At an attractive price (including loudspeakers, which we didn’t include in the review though a brief listen suggests they’re decent), this little system looks rather futuristic, with its shiny black finish unspoiled by buttons or other such fripperies. It shows fingerprints, but a quick wipe sees things right. Although quite a lot of functions are in fact banished to the remote, including source selection, the front panel of the CD player does at least have transport controls, touch-sensitive ‘buttons’ which light up when power is applied, while the amp has a volume control. Actually the ‘CD player’ is also the preamp part, but no, you can’t mix and match the parts as they share a power supply and the only input to the amp is via the multi-way lead.
Ed Selley  |  Jun 20, 2010  |  0 comments
Shanling MC3000 - £1,400 With its retro looks and technology, Shanling's MC3000 is right on trend and challenges the competition The chassis design of this device started life as a CD player and it’s thanks to some nifty lateral thinking that Shanling has been able to expand its remit to amplification, radio reception and even an iPod dock. Some of the work to do that was straightforward enough; for instance, putting the power amplification and mains transformer in the ‘towers’ at the back. Some was really quite clever – the volume control and input selector are each operated by a knob masquerading as the top of one corner pillar. There’s nothing unusual about the internal construction, though, the parts quality is impressive, with a very recent DAC chip and quite a few good-quality op-amps.
Ed Selley  |  Jun 20, 2010  |  0 comments
Yamaha MCR-640 - £600 The budget price is tempting, but with Yamaha’s not-quite-separates you get what you pay for Question: when is a hi-fi separates component not separate? When it’s not functional apart from its sibling – which makes the R-840 amplifier a separate but the CD player not. The latter has its own power supply and mains lead but simply refuses to power up when not connected to the amp via the supplied data lead. The amp will work, but isn’t so attractive on its own with effectively just the one line input, plus of course digital and analogue radio and the iPod dock. Linked up, the two units form a pretty well-specified system.
Ed Selley  |  Jun 20, 2010  |  0 comments
Arcam Solo Mini - £750 Solo was one of the first one-box systems on the market and still holds its own against the newcomers Arcam didn’t invent the all-in-one system, but it gave the breed a lot of street cred with the original Solo (still available) and this, the half-width version. Despite its diminutive size, it does a lot of stuff, so excuse a slightly telegraphic rundown of its features. . .
Ed Selley  |  Jun 20, 2010  |  0 comments
Audio Analogue Enigma - £1,295 Beautiful Italian design and one Russian valve makes this one-box system something of a wonder Audio Analogue’s smartly designed products are familiar features in the pages of this magazine – we’ve reviewed quite a few of them over the years. This recent addition to the company’s range brings together radio, CD and an amplifier, though it lacks frills such as digital input, USB socket and iPod dock. The use of a valve is an obvious talking point, though the usual question arises: when the circuit is otherwise resolutely solid-state, what is one valve going to do other than add some character? Still, it’s a nice visual feature, glowing gently behind its own little window. The hard work of providing current for the speakers is handled by a pair of integrated-circuit amplifiers, mounted on an internal heatsink at the rear, next to the large toroidal mains transformer.
Ed Selley  |  May 28, 2010  |  0 comments
Unison Research Unico Secondo - £1,860 An exciting, energetic music-maker with a handy phono stage option A large and imposing amp, this one is also pretty bare-bones, though unlike most it has the option of a phono stage. One of those was provided for review (the price given includes it, a very reasonable £125 on top of the basic model). All kinds of amplifying devices are found inside the case, as the circuit uses bipolar transistors, FETs and valves. There’s very little use of surface-mount parts and most of the amplifying is done with discrete components, though there are a few op-amps dotted around and also some integrated circuits with part numbers intriguingly obliterated.
Ed Selley  |  May 28, 2010  |  0 comments
Arcam A38 - £1,480 Comprehensive features list makes this amp a star performer Not much has changed with Arcam’s amps in recent years, at least superficially. That’s absolutely fine by this observer, who thought they were nicely thought-out when they first appeared and hasn’t found any reason to change opinion since. The A38 is the top model of three integrateds in the current range and it does many of the same things as most modern integrateds. For instance, it has fully electronic switching and volume control: but you still get a unique push button for each input and a decent size volume knob that is, at least, reasonably solid and generally nice to the touch.
Ed Selley  |  May 28, 2010  |  0 comments
Astin Trew AT2000 Plus- £1,740 Impressive sound and connectivity lead the way on this amp Designed in Britain’, says the literature – though construction is actually Chinese. Wherever it was put together, though, this amp offers some impressive material value for money. Indeed, it seems to tick an unusually large number of boxes. Valves, multiroom capability, front- panel MP3 input, balanced input and output, high-grade coupling capacitors (along with some fancy cable, contributing to the ‘plus’ bit of the model name).

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