Articles, Reviews and Measurements of Audio Products

Devialet Expert 200 Amplifier, DAC and Streamer Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Devialet Expert 200 Amplifier, DAC, Phono premaplifier and wired streamer. It seems to be a generation behind the current products offered by Devialet. The Expert 200 cost US $9,650.

The Devialet line of amplifiers made quite a buzz when originally announced given its unique, lifestyle packaging which has not changed yet:

Devialet Expert 200 Amplifier DAC Audio Review.jpg

A combination of class A amplifier and class D current source is used to keep the size down, and efficiency up.

Innovative for its time was inclusion of an SD card and online configurator to change the operation of the unit including re-purposing the back RCA connectors:

Devialet Expert 200 Amplifier DAC Back Panel Inputs and Outputs Audio Review.jpg

The thin package creates real compromises here with the exclusion of balanced analog inputs or preamp outputs.

Usability suffers quite a bit as well with the display being on top of the unit which simply is not visible from afar. There is...

Revel M22 Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Revel M22 Stand-mount speaker. It is on kind loan from a member who I think was the second person to send me a speaker. The M22 is long discontinued. It cost I think US $2,000 when new but I see it on used market for around US $600. As such, it may make an alternative to buying something new now at $600 price point.

The M22 enclosure is extremely solid and finished well:

Revel M22 Standmount Speaker Review.jpg

While the grill was a bit frayed, the rest of the speaker has endured the years very well, something that you may not be able to say about a vinyl wrapped budget speaker you buy today.

The back panel shows not only the binding posts but also a set of useful controls (if you don't use electronic EQ):

Revel M22 Standmount Speaker Back Panel Connectors Review.jpg

I measured the unit as seen. For listening tests however, I also used the tweeter control (see later in this review).

Love the fact that the binding posts are far apart...

iFi Pro iCAN Headphone Amplifier Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the iFi Pro iCAN headphone amplifier and preamp. It is on kind loan from a member. The iCAN costs US $1,799 from Amazon including Prime shipping so quite expensive.

There are more selectors and controls than any headphone amplifier:

ifi Pro ICAN Preamplifier Headphone Amp Solid State Tube Audio Review.jpg

The labels are clear in the picture but I had a heck of a time reading them in my typical workstation environment. Type is small and against silver background with too little contrast.

The headphone outputs are a mess. There is no standard 1/4 inch headphone out. Yes, there are two of those but they are for balanced headphones that have two 1/4 inch headphone jacks. There is a 3.5mm headphone socket but that seems to have huge attenuation, making it unable to drive any non-IEM headphone. Then there is 3.5mm balanced socket which is not common. The only common connector is the 4-pin connector. This is a mess in general in the industry but ifi takes it...

Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 bookshelf speaker. It was kindly purchased new and drop shipped to me for testing. The DBR-62 costs US $600 a pair from multiple sources/dealers.

The DBR-62 comes in black and walnut finish or the distressed Oak and white which is what I received:

Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 Bookshelf Speaker Review.jpg

I really like the baffle, the slot port and woofer. The grill on the tweeter is a bit out of place in my mind but not overly so. Overall, it is a very modern take on speaker design which I like. It comes with a gray patterned grill which can hide the drivers if you like.

So far my reviews of other Andrew Jones speakers has not resulted in any star performers. Some have actually been disappointing. Will the DBR-62 be an exception? Let's find out.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel...

Vincent PHO-8 Phono Stage Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Vincent PHO-8 Phono stage/preamplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. The PHO-8 costs US $249 on Amazon with free shipping.

The PHO-8 comes in a two-box configuration with separate linear power supply which I did not expect to see in this price range:
Vincent Pho-8 Phono preamplifier stage Cartridge Moving Magnet Movie Coil Audio Review.jpg

The package has an elegant, albeit small, presence that you don't usually find in budget audio components.

There is only one control for moving magnet and moving coil gain setting.

The back panel is as you would expect:

Vincent Pho-8 Phono preamplifier stage Cartridge Moving Magnet Movie Coil Back Panel Connector...jpg

There is even a timed delay turn on in the phono stage with a relay activation after which the LED lights.

Everything here feels like a $500 device. That is with the exception of that likely phony "QC Passed" sticker.

Phono Stage Audio Measurements
Let's start with 5 millivolt, 1 kHz signal fed to the unit with RIAA reverse equalization in moving magnet...

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 USB DAC. It was kindly sent to me by a member. Despite having been announced back in 2012, the DacMagic 100 seems to still be a current product, available on Amazon costing US $199 including Prime shipping.

While it won't be mistaken for a high-end audio products, the DacMagic 100 nevertheless differentiates itself from budget DACs with its enclosure and design:

Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC Audio Review.jpg

The back panel also shows some differentiation:
Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC Back Panel Inputs Audio Review.jpg

Notice the dual S/PDIF coax inputs. And a ground lift for USB input which may solve nasty ground loop issues (no guarantees though).

An external adapter, double the size of typical phone charger, powers the unit.

Overall, the box makes a positive impression.

DAC Audio Measurements
As usual, we start with our dashboard of 1 kHz tone and see what we get:

Cambridge DacMagic 100 USB DAC Audio Measurement.png


Nice to...

Pioneer Elite SP-EC73 Center Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Pioneer Elite SP-EC73 Center speaker. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $399 on Amazon including Prime shipping. It is the matching speaker to Pioneer SP-EBS73-LR bookshelf Atmos which I just reviewed.

This is a 3-way speaker with a coaxial mid and tweeter in the middle, a bass driver and passive radiator:

Pioneer SP-EC73 Elite Center Speaker Audio Review.jpg

As such it is NOT the common MTM configuration which has directivity issues and causes side reflections to be dissimilar to direct ones.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics...

Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73-LR Atmos Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Pioneer SP-EBS73-LR bookshelf Atmos enabled speaker. It is on kind loan from a local member. They cost US $749 for a pair. That may seem high for a bookshelf speaker but you are getting two speakers in one. An up firing two-way coaxial driver that is driven by its own terminals. And a front facing 3-way speaker with the same coaxial driver mated with a small "woofer."

Here is what it looks like:

Pioneer Elite SP-EB73LR Atmos Bookshelf Speaker Audio Review.jpg

These are introduced back in 2014 and Dolby Atmos was all the rage (news, not delivery). Realizing getting people to stick speakers in their ceiling is hard, Dolby announced this upfiring scheme at the same time as the surround sound technology. They proceed to license a fancy crossover for it which cost a lot. I don't know if that is what is used here or not.

Overall, the speaker feels quite a bit more hefty substantial than the...

Replace resistor by low-inductance resistor - Is it audible?

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Since it is often claimed here in the forum that replacing cheap sand-cast resistors with low-inductance resistors would lead to clearly audible improvements, and since it's no use pointing out that the sound change (unless it's completely imagined) is very likely due to slight deviations in the resistance values, I'm now so annoyed that I want to get to the bottom of it ;)

UPDATE: Also check out "Capacitor upgrade in crossover - Is it audible?".

Considered are a 20W sand-cast resistor with about 3.28 Ohm and a low induction 4W metal oxide resistor with about 3.29 Ohm - - I could not find a better pairing among my resistors.
1584804264085.png
1584804276771.png

The resistance measurement results:
1584804909181.png

As expected the measurement curves of the two resistors are practically identical.

UPDATE: The 20W sand-cast...

SMSL Sanskrit 10th MK II DAC Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the SMSL Sanskrit 10th MK II. It has been upgraded from AKM AK4490 to AK4493 DAC chip. It was kindly sent to me by the company a few weeks ago. I see it on Amazon for US 109 with free but not Prime shipping. I will be calling it SK10 from here on.

The SK10 has the familiar SMSL look with a small LED display:

Sanskrit 10th MK Ⅱ USB DAC Audio Review.jpg

A remote control is provided which makes navigation easy although you still have to deal with "In1" and such for input names as opposed to "USB," etc. It is workable though.

The back panel also follows previous SMSL small DAC products:

Sanskrit 10th MK Ⅱ USB DAC Back Panel Audio Review.jpg
I am not a big fan of the micro-USB connectors but they work. When I tested the Toslink input, my cable got stuck there and took fair amount of force to pull it out. So there is a bit of tolerance issue there.

Really, I am nitpicking here as these products are easy to use and you can adapt to their...

Rythmik L12 Subwoofer Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Rythmik L12 subwoofer. It is kindly purchased by a member and drop shipped to me. The L12 costs US $559 in two colors (black oak and matte) and US $619 (gloss white). If you buy a white one to stick in your home theater, you and I will never get along. :)

The sub is still on the measurement gear stand at 5 feet and I am in no mood to take it down by myself to take a picture. So you have to settle for a stock photo:

1584683912992.png


Not much to look at. I did take a picture of the back though so you can see the numerous settings and configuration as tested:

Rythmic L12 subwoofer Audio Review.jpg


Note that most of the switches are three-way which makes it hard to understand at first. For example, the power button as off, auto, and always on. The way it is labeled it seems that it only has off and Audio On.

A single parametric EQ is provided which is hugely better than none. Typically though you have at least two...

Klipsch RP-600M Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Klipsch RP-600M Speaker Review. I purchased them from Amazon a couple of weeks ago. The current cost on Amazon is US $629 including Prime shipping. I however found a refurbished one for $450 I think. It looks brand new in the box though. "RP" stands for Reference Premier so it better do well!

As I have said in my previous reviews of Klipsch speakers, they are a genius in marketing department and that is reflected in the super nice look of RP-600M:

Klipsch RP-600M Bookshelf Speaker Audio Review.jpg

Beauty can be surprisingly skin deep though as one looks at the back and notices thin metal bridging the somewhat crude terminals:

Klipsch RP-600M Bookshelf Speaker Back Panel Connectors Biwire Audio Review.jpg
Wish they had put in just one set of better quality binding posts. It does the job though.

The RP-600M is super popular with tons of bloggers giving it praise mixed with other wording that one cannot make sense out of. Stereophile also reviewed it and Herb...

Topping E30 DAC Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the new Topping E30 USB DAC. It was kindly sent to me by the company for testing. Unfortunately I did not get pricing information. As soon as I get it, I will post it.

EDIT: just heard back. US cost is just $129.99!

This is a bit of a new look for Topping DAC, borrowing from DX3 Pro but with dual color display:

Topping E30 USB DAC Audio Review.jpg

It looks better in person than my low-contrast image above. A touch button turns on the unit (takes it out of standby) and also lets you select inputs.

Note that it will be available in black and silver.

Here is the back:

Topping E30 USB DAC Back Panel Inputs Audio Review.jpg

It is a similar setup as Topping D50 with external USB power (mandatory for all inputs). For my testing, I hooked up the power input using the supplied cable from my USB display hub (next to its data port).

A remote control is provided which works identically as previous Topping products. Indeed I used the...

NAD C658 Streaming DAC Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the NAD C658 streamer and DAC. It also acts as a preamplifier with Phono and line in. A cool feature is inclusion of Dirac Room EQ and balanced out and you get a killer feature set. For that, you need to pay though to the tune of US $1,650. The owner purchased a factory refurbished which I see going for US $1,300.

The overall design looks quite nice with a larger and informative display:

NAD C658 streaming preamplifier DAC Audio Review.jpg

Here is the back panel:

NAD C658 streaming preamplifier DAC Back Panel Connectors Inputs Audio Review.jpg


The only feature missing that should be there is the unit acting as a USB DAC. It has a USB connector but that is it acting as a host, playing content from external storage.

Since there is no USB input, I started my testing with Coax S/PDIF. To my surprise, the frequency counter on Audio Precision was jumping all over the place as was the waveform. This indicate lack of lock on the incoming clock which could either be a design flaw or something...

Zaph Audio ZA5.2 DIY Kit Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Zaph Audio ZA5.2 2-way ported stand-mount speaker. It was kindly built and sent to me by member @Winkleswizard. This is what he has post on the cost: "A kit for pair of ZA5.2 MTs is about $292 (with binding posts) and pair of cabinets would be about $50 (from PE). So, assuming free shipping to me, the total cost is about $342."

The build for the unit I received was quite substantial:

Zaph Audio ZA5 DIY Speaker Kit Audio Review.jpg

Clever use of textured paint to give something extra to an otherwise bland sides. That said, it cannot compete in looks with either vinyl wraps or painted enclosure from commercial suppliers.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced...

Niles SI-275 Amplifier Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Niles SI-275 stereo power amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. The SI-275 is discontinued. But since it is sold to the custom integration channel, they come up used and in working orders (companies pull out gear wholesale to redo homes). I am told it can be picked up as low as US $100 to $150. I see one on Amazon for US $230. But there is a used one on ebay for $100.

The look is fine:

Niles SI-275 stereo amplifier audior eview.jpg

I like the tall feet on amplifiers to allow for more air flow. A massive heatsink goes the full width of the unit with beefy transistors. Love the fact that it has two trim resistors to balance the gain in both channels. So annoying that these days balance controls are impossible to find yet amplifiers routinely have gain that is different in each channel (causing slightly shift in imaging).

Back panel is simplicity in itself:

Niles SI-275 stereo amplifier back panel audio review.jpg

In use, the...

Revel F35 Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Revel F35 floor-standing speaker. I purchased this through my company because there are external anechoic measurements available so we can compare. The F35 costs US $1,600 for a pair (sold each at US $800 in case you want a center speaker). It comes in black and white but the black was not in stock so I purchased white:

Revel F35 Speaker Audio Review.jpg

Fit and finish is superb. You could easily pretend to your friends you paid multiples of its cost. :)

Disclaimer: Before I get into this review, and at the risk of stating the obvious, I have a million conflicts of interest here. I am a long time friend and professional colleague with a number of Harman employees (parent company of Revel). I have praised their design and research philosophy countless times. And our company, Madrona Digital is a Harman dealer (although we hardly sell any stereo gear). So read all the bias you want into the review but please...

Rupert Neve RNHP Headphone Amp Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Rupert Neve RNHP headphone amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. The RNHP costs US $499. That is beyond the price of some of the best headphone amplifiers so performance better be good.

The casework while DIY-like, has just enough touches to differentiate it:

RNHP Headphone Amplifier Audio Review.jpg

I like the red knob and the graphics around it.

The LEDs are actually buttons you push to select one of three inputs:
Best headphone Amplifier Back Panel Inputs Reviewed.jpg

Nice to see XLR inputs. The external power supply is a bit larger than typical phone charger and comes with sliding adapters for different mains connectors.

The chassis quite heavy and substantial, making you feel like you could drive on it and it would survive.

I did not like the long thumping and pumping sound when you power the unit on. Likely pushing DC into the headphones and not stabilizing quickly either.

Note that there is no gain switch so if...

Marchand XM44 Analog Active Crossover Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Marchand XM44-3 3-way Analog Active Crossover. It is on kind loan from a member. This is a modular 3-way system. As configured, it costs US $1,900. So not cheap. Question the owner had was how it compares to a digital crossover which he also send me (review of that later).

Despite being a DIY type of box, there is some style to the XM44-3:

Marchand XM44-3 Crossover Midrange Audio Review.jpg

The controls are selectors and feel pretty substantial.

I appreciated the full set of balanced inputs and outputs which I used exclusively for testing:

Marchand XM44-3 Crossover Midrange Back Panel Connectors Audio Review.jpg

Internally the unit configurable but you have to buy the modules that way (i.e. are not user selectable):

Marchand XM44-3 Crossover Teardown Review.jpg

TI/Bur-brown OPA2134 op-am is used throughout for the implementation which has a stunningly low SINAD of 121 dB. Will we get that kind of performance and transparency? Let's find out...

KEF R3 Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the KEF R3 stand-mount (bookshelf) speaker. It is on kind loan from a member who sent a pair to me at great cost (they come two in a box). The R3 costs US $1,999 for a pair.

The R3 is an example of superb industrial design by KEF:

KEF R3 Three-way stand mount Speaker Audio Review.jpg

It oozes elegance and comes in a number of colors to please anyone. It is also highly differentiated by its coaxial design and gorgeous woofer.

The back side looks plain but you are not going to be looking at that:

KEF R3 Three-way stand mount Speaker Back Panel Connector Bi-amp Bi-wire Audio Review.jpg

The sharp corners make for a nice design but likely not good for diffraction effects (little speakers playing on their own at ever corner).

We have the same knobs that allow the woofer to be separated from the rest to bi-wire/bi-amp the speaker. I only tested the R3 as one unit.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the...
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