Airpulse A80 Active Speaker System.

After a short break I return with the review of the A200’s baby brother, the A80. Read on to learn more in my second Airpulse review.

Disclaimer:
This review is sponsored by Airpulse.
Audrey, Kay, Kathryn & Airpulse have been very kind and shipped me this set of monitors.
The A80 retails for £629 and can be found on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/AirPulse-AIRPULSE-A80-Electric-Blue/dp/B08N9NCQQ6

I will note here that although this is a sponsored review by Airpulse. I have been honest and unbiased in my opinion.

You can find the A80’s and more on the Airpulse website:
https://gb.airpulsepro.com/collections/frontpage/products/active-speaker-system-1

Review equipment and software:
Airpulse A80 active speakers.
Focusrite Scarlet Solo Gen-2 audio interface.
Audioquest Dragonfly Black V1.5 USB DAC/Dongle.
Sony Bravia TV.
Apple TV 4K.
Apple MacBook Air.
Qobuz Studio Premier.
Apple Music.

Music:
Qobuz Studio Premier on Macbook Air.
Apple Music on Apple TV 4K.

For all your High Res music needs please take a look at our partner Qobuz and give it a try:
https://www.qobuz.com/gb-en/discover

What’s in the box:
Airpulse A80 active speaker system.
1x Transparent 5pin Din speaker cable.
1x Stereo RCA to 3.5mm male jack cable.
1x Stereo RCA to RCA cable.
1x Optical cable.
1x USB cable.
1x Power cable.
4x Sorbothane feet.
2x Foam desk wedges.
1x Remote control.
Documentation.

Again, Airpulse don’t skimp out on accessories here.
I was impressed with what came shipped with the A200’s, the same can be said for the A80’s.
Airpulse include everything you need to get up and running with all the cables required to get your gear connected. The only cable that is missing is a coaxial cable, though considering everything else in the box it’s not the end of the world.

Specification:

  • Tweeter: Horn Loaded Ribbon Tweeter
  • Mid-Woofer: 4.5 inch Aluminum Cone 30mm VC Mid-Woofer
  • Amplifier System: Digital Amplifier With Xmos Processor
  • Power Output: L/R(Treble):10W+10W, L/R(Woofer): 40W+40W
  • Frequency Range: 52Hz-40KHz
  • Signal-Noise Ratio: L/R:≥90dB(A)
  • Input Mode: AUX, PC, USB, Optical, Bluetooth (The USB, Optical Inputs Support Up to 192KHz Input Sample Rate)
  • Input Sensitivity: AUX:450±50mV PC:550±50mV, USB:400±50mFFs, Optical:400±50mFFs Bluetooth: 500±50mFFs
    Sub Out:1200mV Max
  • Mains Voltage: AC 100-240 V /50-60 Hz
  • Cabinet Size (WxHxD): 140x250x220mm
  • Net Weight: 9.3 Kg(20lbs)


Build & finish:
Airpulse have constructed a substantially solid and great looking compact active speaker system.
Their attention to detail and superb craftsmanship are clearly evident the moment you unbox them.
From the box of accessories to the speakers themselves, everything here is well thought out.
The finish is stunning with a good choice of veneer.
From the fronts to the rears, all the parts are fitted neatly and have a robust feel.
They are very much the A200’s baby brother in every way. Although I would go as far as to say I prefer the finish on the A80’s over their larger sibling.
The accessories are all good quality items.
They look so good, my wife wants me to keep them for use in our office/desk space once it’s built!
Note: They are also available in some very nice glossy finishes. See below the aqua/mint blue for an example…

Setup:
Setup is very straight forward.
First you will want to decide how & where you want them positioned, and depending on your choice you can then either use the included sorbothane feet or foam wedges.
The pair that came to me are a review sample and already had the feet attached. However, I decided to use the foam wedges, and this did work. Just be aware that the feet can and will leave indents in the foam!
Now it’s a case of positioning them and hooking them up.
You have a few options here. ( Bare in mind that although Airpulse have included most cables you will need, they don’t include a coaxial cable )
Optical, Coax, USB, Bluetooth or RCA.
There is also the option to feed an external subwoofer, however I don’t currently have a sub laying around so this review was written, using the A80’s without a sub.
The bluetooth pairing process is easy and fast. Once you’re paired the connection is very stable with no drop outs.
A nice touch can be found on the active speaker, sporting a small LED display at the bottom, indicating what channel is active.
During my time with the A80’s I predominantly used the USB connection between the speakers and my MacBook Air.
The MacBook recognised the A80’s and all I had to do was select my output device. Plain sailing!

I tested the Airpulse A80 in the following configurations:

MacBook > USB > A80.
MacBook > USB > Dragonfly > Jack-RCA > A80.
MacBook > USB > Focusrite Scarlet > RCA-RCA > A80.
MacBook > Bluetooth > A80.
Apple TV 4K > Bluetooth > A80.
Apple TV 4K > HDMI > Sony Bravia > Optical > A80.

As you can see I used the A80’s in a number of varied ways.
I don’t currently have an office or desk space so I simulated this using my large coffee table.
I sat on a beanbag in a near-field position…

Sound:
The A80 project a wide, spacious soundstage with focus and depth when they are positioned just right.
Isolation and separation are handled very well, in fact incredibly well.

Lows:
Being mindful that I didn’t have a sub at hand, the A80’s still presented me with a deep, punchy bass with a good amount of control and precision. Tweaking the bass control on the rear of the A80 helps to bring more body and depth low frequencies.
Also consider these are sat quite far from my living rooms front wall, as you can see in the image above. If the A80’s were on a desk closer to a wall, being rear ported, you would gain more control over the bass enabling you to tune it more to your liking.

Mids:
I found the mids to be rolled off, yet airy and detailed. Vocals sound particularly gratifying through the A80’s with a very organic vibe.

Highs:
This is where the A80’s shine, with a beautiful sparkle.
The horn loaded ribbon tweeters do a stunning job of bringing every fine detail in the higher frequency range to the fore, with speed and clinical precision that I haven’t heard very often in a smaller speaker, whether it be active or passive.

Using the A80’s with my Apple TV/Sony Bravia the sound quality was on par with the desktop setup.
Compared to my soundbar they sounded far superior and offered a clearer image. Dialogue comes through very clearly.
The dynamic range boasted by the A80’s handles movies and games really well and produces an engaging and lively sound, both in soundstage and tonality.

The onboard DAC/DSP is impressive. And handles High res files with ease.
I did find however, that feeding the A80’s with a signal from an external DAC like the Dragonfly, or a USB audio interface such as the Focusrite brought a heightened level of clarity and punch.
It is also worth noting that the A80’s have a set of controls around the rear for volume, input select, bass and treble.
The tone controls are a handy tweak when needed.

Final thoughts:
At £629 you may wonder if these active speakers are worth the investment.
However, Once you brush that aside and take a deeper look at them, you soon see the quality of the build, the technology built into the active speaker.
You look at the fitment and finish, cables, flexibility and the remote.
And then there’s the sound. If you want an analytical speaker that picks out every detail that doesn’t take up a whole lot of space on your desk then you could do far worse!
I did try them out in my main system in our living room and they performed surprisingly well. Mind you, we did notice the lack of bass in this experience, so a sub would have brought them up to speed.
But they did fill the room with an airy and crisp sound with a spacious soundstage. So if you’re in a small to medium living space these could just be the ticket with an external sub to cover the lower frequencies.
They also double up as a great solution and alternative to a soundbar or 2.1/3.1 AV system.

My wife is usually quite picky when it comes to audio gear, so when she states she wants me to keep these for our eventual office / desk space, it speaks volumes. She loves the style, compact build and the “clear” sound they produce. ( her words )
I may need to try and talk Airpulse into letting me keep these!

I highly recommend the Airpulse A80.
And I can comfortably state that the £629 price tag is a worth while investment for your office or small to medium living space.

Thanks again to Airpulse for giving me the opportunity to spend time with and review these speakers.

Thank you to my readers for your support and ongoing interest.
Please remember too like, subscribe and share.

Thank you, stay safe and happy easter to you all. Paul.

The Audiophile Cafe would like to thank our sponsor, Airpulse.

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Meze Audio Rai Series silver plated cable upgrade.

Meze Audio send me their balanced 2.5mm rhodium plated upgrade cable. Let’s see how much of an improvement this is over the stock 3.5mm single ended cable…

Disclaimer:
I have not been paid by Meze Audio for this review.
The views in this publication are unbiased and my own.
Alexandra and Meze Audio kindly sent this cable my way to review.
The Rai Series balanced 2.5mm cable retails at £125 at the time of this review.

You can pick one up here:
https://mezeaudio.eu/collections/accessories/products/rai-penta-balanced-silver-plated-upgrade-cables?variant=21089143717947

Review equipment:
Astell & Kern AK70.
Meze Audio Rai Solo.
Meze Audio Rai Series silver plated cable.

Music:
Michael Jackson: Dangerous.
ZZ Top: Audiophile Collection.
Depeche Mode: Violator.
Altern 8: Full On Mask Hysteria.

In the box:
Meze Audio Rai Series silver plated cable.
Carry pouch.

Spec:

  • Braided cables made of SPC (silver plated copper) custom wires.
  • MMCX termination. 
  • 1.2 m (3.9 ft) long.
  • 20 strands per wire and a total of 80 strands per cable.

Build and finish:
Meze Audio are up there in my top ten brands for sheer craftsmanship, premium design and value for money. Yet again Meze have sent a product that goes above and beyond.
The cable is a noticeable upgrade over the standard single ended item, yet I wouldn’t go as far as calling it an improvement, or at least not in the aesthetic or finish department.
No, what this is, is an upgrade that offers improvement in audio and use.
I’ll get into the audio later in the review, however as far as use goes, this cable enables you to use a 2.5mm balanced output of either a player, amplifier or dongle.
Again I’ll get into the benefits of a balanced connection later in the review.
The connectors and cable have a luxurious finish and look the part!
The left and right mmcx connectors aren’t as clearly marked as the single ended standard cable is, but the red ( right channel ) strip is visible when you look close enough.
The upgrade cable is thicker due to the increased amount of strands which is visible in the pictures below.
We also find the cable near to the mmcx connectors has a flexible sleeve similar to the “ear-sleeve” found on the standard version.
It comes well packaged and comes in a neat little presentation box with a pleather draw string pouch.

Setup:
Setup is simply a case of disconnecting the standard cable and replacing it with the upgrade cable. Plug the 2.5mm connector into the correct balanced output on your device and you’re done.

Sound:
Where the cable isn’t really an upgrade aesthetically ( The stock cable is grand enough in and of itself ), it does give an improvement in sound.
Now if you’re not a believer of cable upgrades or balanced circuits making a difference you may as well stop reading now, however if you are in the camp of believing and experiencing improvements as small as they may be, then you’ve come to the right place.
Before I go further, let’s revisit my thoughts on the Rai Solo in stock form in my previous review:-

“What we have here is an IEM that easily punches above its weight due to an impressive dynamic range and low impedance.
Starting with a wide soundstage and great imaging the Solo put you right in front of the stage or behind the mixing desk.
Instrument separation is excellent squeezing out every little detail, and remaining so in busier sections of music.
Vocalists and instruments are clearly positioned creating an almost 3D image.
Lows and mid bass are articulate and on point with great extension and presence. They have a controlled sound with form and plenty of reach into the lower frequencies.
Mids and Mid highs are neutral and have an organic sound. Vocals come through beautifully with air and body without sounding exaggerated.
The Solo have a fair amount of upper frequency sparkle which is immediate with detail and accuracy that I have rarely heard in an IEM at this price.”


So we already have an IEM that performs extremely well and leaves little room for improvement.
That being said, what the Meze Audio RAI Series silver plated cables do offer is a wider soundstage with more headroom.
The signal is as quiet as you could want and instrument separation is more refined.
As for tonality, the lows are tighter with the bass having more texture and a higher level of control than previously heard.
Mids and mid highs see no significant change, however I would say they feel lighter and airier.
The higher frequencies sound crisper and otherwise retain all of their sparkle and accuracy.

Final Thoughts:
With the addition of this cable and the reduced price of the IEM’s the Rai Solo become a £299.62 balanced IEM.

What you end up with is a sub £300 balanced IEM that delivers a very clean accurate delivery, with a wide soundstage, natural sound and lots of clout.

I could not recommend the combination of this cable with the Rai Solo’s enough.

Therefore I give the Rai Series cables The Audiophile Cafe’s Editors Choice award!

I would like to thank you all for your continued support of the blog and ongoing patience as I eek out my reviews until the current pandemic and brexit situation becomes easier to work with.

Thank you to our partner, Qobuz for their support of The Audiophile Cafe!


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Sure Shot Cork Platter Mat.

In my first review in a set of turntable accessories from Sure Shot, I get to grips with some great gear from a brand I only recently discovered…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Disclaimer:
Sure Shot have not paid or sponsored me for this review.
This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this piece are my own.
I’d like to thank Marcin at Sure Shot for kindly sending this package out to The Audiophile Cafe.

The Sure Shot cork platter mat currently retails at £7.90
You can find this and other products on their website here:-
https://www.sureshotshop.com/

Review equipment:
Technics SL1200 MKII.
Ortofon Quintet Red.
Sure Shot vinyl clamp / stabilizer.
Sure Shot cork platter mat.
KECES Audio ePhono.
KECES Audio ePower.
Cyrus One.
Klipsch RP-500M.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.
Qucheng mains cables.

Music:
Depeche Mode “Violator.” 180gram re release.
Pink Floyd “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason.” 180gram re release.
Jean Michel Jarre “Oxygene” 180gram re release.
Alice In Chains “Dirt” 180gram re release.
Gustav Mahlers “Symphony Number 5.”

In the box:
1x Platter mat.
1x Heavy record weight.
1x 45 adaptor/weight.
1x Small record weight.
2x display cases.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spec:
Material: Fine grain cork.
Dimensions: 297mm radius and 3mm thickness. 
Easy to maintain and keep dust off the surface. 

Additional possibilities: Custom engraving.


Build and finish:
Sure Shot are a brand I recently discovered so their products are an unknown to me.
I’d first like to thank Marcin for sending out a replacement platter mat. One of our fur balls decided they wanted cork for dinner! Marcin didn’t have to but did anyway.
The mat is quite dense without being too thick.
For the first hour or so of use there was a fair amount of static and the mat kept “sticking” to my test record. However this dissipated soon after and hasn’t been an issue since.

Setup:
Really straight forward here. Place the platter mat atop the turntables platter and you’re done.

Sound:
For I can’t remember how long I have been using an IsoKinetik acrylic platter mat.
I wouldn’t say the cork mat from Sure Shot is better, more on par with the acrylic mat with some differences.
The sound signature is different. Using the Sure Shot mat I find there is an increase in bass extension and the highs are tamed just a little. Whereas the IsoKinetik acrylic mat lends itself to a brighter presentation. The Sure Shot platter mat in concert with the record stabilizer they sent me makes a considerable difference, however I’ll get into that in more detail in a future review that’s coming.

Final thoughts:
The Sure Shot cork platter mat certainly makes an improvement on sound quality in my books.
Whether that be a significant or mild improvement is subjective as we all hear differently, and my turntable setup is going to be very different to yours.
Also bear in mind that when used in concert with a record weight, I find the difference and improvement in sound to be more noticeable.

Thank you for reading. And as always, please be sure to leave a like, subscribe, follow and share.

All my very best, Paul.

Sponsors:
Thank you to Meze Audio for sponsoring The Audiophile Cafe.

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Competition time.

A competition from Whole Note Distribution with The Audiophile Cafe.

*COMPETITION TIME*

In collaboration with Whole Note Distribution:
We’re delighted to make this exclusive prize draw to members of The Audiophile Cafe group on Facebook. We’re clearing out some demo stock, and up for grabs are some fantastic cables from AF Audio:
https://afaudio.co.uk/

The lucky draw winner will be given:
1 x 6 Way Mains Block
1 x 1.5m Mains Cable
1 x Interconnect
1 x Pair 5m Speaker Cable

Retail value of well of £1000.00 and all in ex-condition.
We have to rotate stock and this is a great opportunity for a bit of fun in the pandemic.

All you have to do is sign up for Whole Note Distribution’s Newsletter here:
https://www.wholenotedistribution.co.uk/

& The Audiophile Cafe’s blog here:
https://theaudiophilecafe.com/

The draw is on Sunday 7th February.

Best of luck everyone!


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Every little helps and donations will help me to make improvements to the blog

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AF Audio “Bodhi” pure silver interconnect.

I recently came across Andrew Foster of AF Audio on social media and became interested in the cables he builds. He kindly sent me one out for review. Here are my thoughts of a well rounded, affordable cable…

Cable in picture NOT the Bodhi.

Disclaimer:
Andrew / AF Audio have been very kind in sending out this sample for review.
I have not been paid to write this publication.
The views and opinions herein are unbiased and my own.

For prices please take a look on the AF Audio website:
https://afaudio.co.uk/

For a three meter Bodhi like the one I have it would retail at £400.

Review equipment:
iPad Pro.
Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance DAC/Pre.
Airpulse A200 active speakers.
AF Audio Bodhi pure silver interconnect.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioner.
Audioquest mains cables.

Music:
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3784071

What’s in the box:
1x 3 meter pure silver Bodhi interconnect.

Spec:
RCA TO RCA Interconnect Pure Silver 99.99%.
Pure Silver 1mm Conductors.
PTFE Dielectric.
Copper Tape Screening.
Black or Red Outer Sheath.
High Quality Gold Plated RCA Plugs. (Locking Plugs)

Build and finish:
Any reader who knows me will know I’m quite anal about cables. In the sense that I am always on the lookout for a cable that is built not only to improve sound, but also one that looks good and can take some heavy use.
I have annoyed so many builders in the past with my incessant need for updates throughout the build with photos of the process.
This is something I try very hard not to do these days, so Andrew surprised me when he sent a photo of the cable when he was finishing it up. I didn’t even think to ask yet here I was being sent a photo of the build, which struck a chord with me. This chap really takes care in what he does and isn’t uncomfortable in being transparent with his work.
In the cable building industry this is something I wish more brands would do!
The cable arrived in a timely fashion and I was greeted with a cable that oozed with premium craftsmanship right out of the parcel.
From the parts used to the finesse of the finished product, the Bodhi is a statement of how good Andrews cables really are.
In my experience, whether it be a headphone cable, USB cable, speaker cable or an interconnect I often note that the connectors used tend to be a weak link in the cable.
Andrew has used some very high quality locking plugs that look and feel like they could probably outlast a nuclear blast! I kid you not.
The cable is equally high end and is well protected beneath it’s outer sheath.
For build and finish alone, I’ll certainly be coming back to Andrew for more cables in the future.

Setup:
Andrew includes instructions in the package in regards to which direction the cable should be connected. Does the direction make a difference in sound? I’ll get into that in a moment.
The locking plugs are easy too unscrew and re lock. This is important to me as with Osteoarthritis some plugs can be hard to work with.

Sound:
Ok, let’s deal with the elephant in the room.
There are people in this world who believe that cables make absolutely no difference in sound or performance. And that’s ok.
There are also folk who hear a difference in sound. Whether that be a very small change or a significant one. We exist, and that’s ok too.
I’m of the latter group, so let me go into more depth…

I used the Boghi exclusively between my Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance in DAC mode and my Airpulse A200 active speakers.
Up until this point I was using a far cheaper “Edge” interconnect I picked up on Amazon a while back which in its own right, is a great cable with good sonic performance.
After switching that out for the Bodhi I noticed a significant tightening up of the higher frequencies with improved agility and resolution.
The mids are now more refined and the airiness of my system sounds smoother.
My system is already quite bass heavy when it wants to be and with the Boghi in place, the system now sounds less overwhelmed. The bass is more refined with better control and just slightly rolled off in the deeper frequencies. But only just.
All of this adds up to a more balanced delivery. I also noticed a considerably broader soundstage and vastly improved dynamic range.
Earlier I mentioned direction. I tried the Bodhi in both directions and I did hear a slight change. If I were to describe it I would say that using the cable in the opposite direction than advised, the sound reproduced was not as vibrant and sounded a little muddled in busier passages of music.

Thoughts and recommendation:
I am glad that brands such as AF Audio and people like Andrew are in the industry.
What they bring to the table is a mixture of class, dedication, transparency and flawless craftsmanship!
Andrew / AF Audio just leapt straight into my list of top 5 cable builders.
On the question of value for money?
This is a cable that performs on par with others priced at least three times as much.
Could I find any flaws? I tried. I really did in the name of being unbiased. I found none.
Would I recommend AF Audios cables? Yes, without a second thought.
Andrews cables are a testament unto themselves. But you also get a transparency and customer service that I have rarely seen elsewhere.

Thank you to you all for reading this review.
Please be sure to subscribe, follow, like and share.
And as always, stay safe!

All my best. Paul.

I’d like to thank Andrew for sending this cable my way and for his help and advice throughout.

Sponsors:
The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by Meze Audio. Creators of some of the finest headphone products out there with an exemplary relationship with their customer base and partners.

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SpinFit IEM ear tips.

When a brand sends you their entire line of products to review in one shot, they must be good…

Disclaimer:
SpinFit have very generously sent me this collection of ear tips to review.
I have not been paid or sponsored to write this.
The thoughts and views in this publication are my own honest and unbiased opinion.

Prices vary. I would list them here, however seeing as it’s their entire catalogue I don’t want you having to read the entire list before you get to the review.
Saying that, I haven’t come across a pack that was any more than £20.

You can find and purchase SpinFit tips in most countries on Amazon.
You can find a list of distributors here:
https://www.spinfiteartip.com/en/distributor


Follow this link to find out more:
https://www.spinfiteartip.com/en

Review equipment:
This by all means is not my entire collection. However I wanted to use a broad selection of wired and wireless. *TW – True Wireless.

Apple Airpods Pro. ( TW )
Sony WF-1000XM3. ( TW )
Bang & Olufsen E8. ( TW )
Grado GT220. ( TW )
HIFIMAN TWS800. ( TW )
HIFIMAN TWS600. ( TW )
RHA True Connect 2. ( TW )
Shure SE425. ( Wired )
Shure SE215M+. ( Wired )
Westone Wx. ( Wired )
iBasso iT01. ( Wired )
Sennheiser IE8. ( Wired )

Music:
The following playlists on Qobuz were used for this review:
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3784071

What’s in the box:
Ear tips. Lots of them!
However, in your case you will get a blister pack with your chosen ear tips and any adaptors inside.

Spec:
Premium soft silicone.
Ergonomic design.
Easy installation.

Build and finish:
“SpinFit has an ergonomic concave design at the core to allow the ear tip to swivel, making it flexible to bend and twist to the contour of a person’s ear canal.”
“Premium soft silicone material along with the ergonomic design provides outstanding and lasting comfort.”
“Consistent optimal seal even for headphones with an awkward insertion angle, allowing increased noise isolation.”
“Enhancement on treble and bass ensures a superior listening experience to the foam and the stock ear tips.”
“Simple installation makes SpinFit an easy upgrade for your earphone. A perfect replacement for your stock ear tips.”

I agree with every point.
Once I found the right size fit for my ears ( SpinFit supply different sizes of each tip ) I can safely say that all of the above is true for each model.
The ear tips and adaptors are built to a very good standard and I found no rough edges or burs on any of the silicone or plastic.
Even Apple Airpod Pro users are covered by SpinFit.
The packaging is a simple blister pack and that’s just fine. However I do hope in the future SpinFit and other brands switch to either plant based “plastic” or maybe a small cardboard box? I tried contacting SpinFit to find out more about the packaging but received no reply.

Setup:
Installation is very straightforward and easy.
SpinFit even include a little pictorial guide on their website to help fit ear tips with adaptors.
The Apple Airpod Pro tips for example, come with plastic ring adaptors, these are easy to fit and work very well.

You can find a pictorial guide at the bottom of the page here:
https://www.spinfiteartip.com/en/about

Comfort:
The silicone SpinFit use is very soft and comfortable in the ear.
However if you don’t get the right fit you will find that the smoothness of the silicone will mean IEMs falling out of ears, a lot. Frustratingly so.
Get the right fit and they stay in place with no difficulty.
Dependent on IEM, I found I was able to wear most of the models I used in this review from anywhere between two and four hours. This variance is related more to the IEMs specific quirks than the tips. If all IEMs were created equal and on par with the comfiest pair then I would say 4 hours upwards easy.

Sound:
In my experience over the years, I have found that using different material and designs of ear pads and ear tips can make a difference in what I hear.
The same is to be said for fitment. Considerably.
SpinFits claim of enhanced treble and bass is accurate. I noticed this more on IEMs that have a more “V” curved sound signature.
I also noticed that midrange was a little rolled off in some cases and need to make a few tweaks in EQ to bring the mids back to a level that I prefer.
Soundstage doesn’t change in my view, although reviewers with better hearing than I may notice a small difference.
Isolation, especially in the models without active noise cancelling is good.
I noticed with the Grado GT220 and HIFIMAN TWS600 that the passive noise cancelling was improved when using these tips.

Thoughts and recommendation:
I really like what SpinFit have created.
I have always struggled with ear tips in the past, whether that be comfort or getting the right fit. I always saw ear tips as my weak link in my IEM usage.
SpinFit have changed that by offering an ear tip that makes fitment a lot easier.
Would I recommend them? Absolutely. Improved comfort, enhanced sound signature and increased isolation / passive noise cancelling all for £20 or under!
I’ll definitely be looking to SpinFit in the future for more ear tips.

Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support!
Please remember too subscribe, like, share and follow.



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Pro-Ject RPM1 Carbon.

Hot on the heals of the recent Debut Carbon Evo review, I follow up with one of Pro-Jects more affordable turntables…

Disclaimer:
Henley Audio / Pro-Ject have kindly sent this turntable out to me for review.
I have not been paid or sponsored to write this.
The thoughts and views in this publication are my own honest and unbiased opinion.
To integrate the RPM1 Carbon with my system, Henley Audio sent out the High Power it power supply and I am running the turntable without a ground cable.
You may find you probably need to use the ground cable in your system so please take this into consideration.

The Pro-Ject RPM1 Carbon comes in a choice of gloss white, gloss red, or gloss black and retails at £399.00 at the time of this review.

You can pick one up at the following link:
https://www.henleyaudio.co.uk/products/RPM-1-Carbon?DepartmentIds=1&BrandIds=2

Review Equipment:
Pro-Ject RPM1 Carbon. ( white )
Pro-Ject High Power it power supply.
Ortofon 2M Red.
Sure Shot cork platter mat.
Origin Live “Gravity One” record weight.
Custom isolation platform.
IsoAcoustics Orea Indigo isolation pucks.
Custom Cans phono cable.
KECES Audio ePhono pre amplifier.
KECES Audio ePower linear power supply.
Eufonika H7 tube head amplifier. ( 6N1P and 6N13S )
Sennheiser HD600 headphones.
Custom Cans HD600 cable and extension.
Airpulse A200 active speakers.
Airpulse S200 stands filled with Atacama “Atabytes”
Audioquest and Qucheng mains cables.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.

Music:
Pink Floyd “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason.” 180gram re release.
Jean Michel Jarre “Equinoxe” 180gram re release.
Alice In Chains “Dirt” 180gram re release.
Gustav Mahlers “Symphony Number 5.”

In the box:

  • RPM 1 Carbon with Ortofon 2M Red
  • Connect it E Phono Cable
  • Felt mat
  • Adapter for 7“ singles
  • Power supply
  • Allen key, stylus pressure gauge

Spec:

Nominal Speeds::33 / 45 RPM (Manual)
Dust Cover:No (Optional Extra)
Motor Completely Decoupled:Yes
Platter Weight / Diameter:1.6kg / 300mm
Speed Variance:±0.19%
Wow & Flutter:±0.13%
Signal to Noise:-70dB
Tonearm:S-Shape Carbon/Aluminium 
Effective Tonearm Length:8.6 ” (218.5mm)
Effective Tonearm Mass:13.5g
Overhang:22mm
Tracking Force:0 – 25mN
Power Supply Type:Outboard PSU 110-240V, 50Hz ( stock. )
Output Voltage:15V / 500mA DC
Power Consumption:5W Max. / <0.5W Standby
Dimensions:380 x 110 x 350mm
Weight:3.8kg

Build and finish:
This will be the fourth Pro-Ject turntable I have been sent out for review from Henley Audio.
Pro-Ject have a long track record of building high quality turntables. High end aesthetics teamed with functionality and intuitiveness lend themselves to a good, robust model.
Whether it’s a £400 or £700 turntable, the same signs of good, competent craftsmanship are seen throughout. Something of note here is the inclusion of a carbon fibre tone arm with an aluminium core, and an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. Both often seen on higher end models, with the cartridge alone coming in at roughly a quarter of the price of the RPM1 Carbon. I think it’s great that Pro-Ject include them on a lower cost model and a testament to their way of thinking.
The RPM1 Carbon is a solid MDF piece, as is the platter. Damping down any unwanted resonance. The motor is fully decoupled cutting down on any noise further still.
The finish is flawless and minimal. The performance, exceptionally satisfying.
My only complaint is the tone arm lift. I like when a tone arm lowers slowly and smoothly. Usually the needle settles into the groove just as I’m sitting down. Unfortunately the RPM1s lift mechanism is fast and not so smooth.

Setup and use:
With the cartridge already fitted and dialled in, setup is not a difficult task.
There are clear instructions in the box and further still, Henley Audio have created a setup guide to help you get up and running in no time.
As I do with every turntable that comes my way if a cartridge is preinstalled, I double check the calibration. You never know what can happen in shipping so I always advise to ere on the side of caution. Using the provided tools this does not take long and I found that just like the other Pro-Ject turntables, the calibration was spot on.

Henley Audio include a helpful setup video which I have linked below:-

Using the RPM1 Carbon is very straight forward.
All you need to think about are three things.
Tone arm lift.
On/Off switch.
Pulley belt position for switching between 33 / 45rpm.
Now sit back, relax and enjoy your favourite album or single.

Sound:
On the same day I had a final listen to the Carbon Debut Evo, I had it packed away and the RPM1 Carbon unboxed, setup and ready to go.
They both ship with the same cartridge and I used the same power supply, mains cable, phono cable and pre amplifier as I had with previous reviews. The same can be said for the rest of the system.
So I went into this with the mindset that any improvement or drop in quality of sound would be down to the rest of the turntable in regards to materials and parts. Obviously there is a significant gap between the two turntables in price and features, so this isn’t a direct comparison.

The RPM1 Carbon performs very well. Low end frequencies are tight and punchy, reaching deeper passages easily with good extension and a fair amount of detail. Mids are forward yet smooth and clear. Highs are fast and crisp, yet a little rolled off in the higher frequency range.
When the needle is moving between tracks, the RPM 1 is virtually silent.
I would say that what I got from this was a fun, exciting listening experience with a turntable that played everything I brought to it in a lively, fast paced manner.
In comparison with the Debut Carbon Evo I found the Evo to have a more dynamic sound with highs, more extended and a more refined bass. But then given the difference in cost, it’s to be expected.
Saying that, Pro-Ject offer a plethora of upgrades for their turntables, including the RPM1.
There would be nothing stopping you buying these upgrades later down the road and I believe that the sound could be substantially improved upon for not much outlay. Not that it needs improving mind!
Note the “Acryl-it” platter upgrade in the picture below:

I hope at some point to request some of these upgrades from Henley Audio so I can bring you my thoughts on this more. As they say, watch this space.

Thoughts and recommendation:
The Pro-Ject RPM1 Carbon may not look like a lot of turntable, but don’t let its minimal appearance deceive you.
For £399 you’re getting a lot of high end tech for your money. The cartridge and tone arm alone justify the price tag.
If you’re just getting into vinyl and want a minimal, stylish turntable that offers great performance to match its appearance then look no further!
All I ask of Pro-Ject is to make the tone arm lift smoother and slower on the next reiteration.

Thank you for reading this review and as always, stay safe!

Thank you to Simon, Molly and the rest of the team at Henley Audio for going above and beyond over the Christmas period in their support of myself and the blog.
And of course, thank you for sending this product out for review!

All my very best to you all. Paul.

The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by Airpulse.

Big Fudge Vinyl Record Friend.

Big Fudge Vinyl continue to impress with yet another of their vinyl cleaning products…

Disclaimer:
Big Fudge Vinyl have not paid or sponsored me for this review.
This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this piece are my own.
I’d like to thank Christian at Big Fudge Vinyl for kindly sending this package out to The Audiophile Cafe.

The Big Fudge Vinyl Record Friendly currently retails at $61.95.
You can find this and other products on their website here:-
https://bigfudgevinyl.com/

What’s in the box:

  • Vinyl sink with lid.
  • Drying rack. ( holds 10 albums )
  • 2x 150ml cleaning fluid concentrate.
  • 2x microfiber cleaning brushes.
  • 2x adjustable rollers.
  • 1x all purpose cleaning cloth.
  • 1x microfiber cleaning cloth.
  • Complete instructions.

Build and finish:
The Record Friendly is as I expected. Great robust build quality.
The kit is made of a strong plastic and designed well, but manages to look smart at the same time.
The drying rack slots in underneath the “sink” and all of it is protected with a really nice soft touch lid with Big Fudge Vinyls branding neatly included in the bottom right corner. it will hold ten records at a time.
The sink has four rubber feet attached so it won’t go slipping everywhere and can be sat on a smooth surface without any issues.
I wish BFV had included the same underneath the drying rack, however this is my only complaint. ( I can easily add some rubber feet or a rubber mat of some kind at a later date )
After checking all of the parts, I found no burs or rough edges on any of them. Which is something I have experienced before on a similar product in the past.
The clothes and brushes included are high quality and I think will hold up for quite some time before they need replacing.
Big Fudge Vinyl include two bottles of solution which according to Big Fudge will last 500 washes per bottle. That’s a LOT of cleaning sessions for not a lot of money!
The rollers can be moved to different positions allowing the easy cleaning of 12″, 10″ and 7″ records.
The kit includes full instructions which are simple and easy to understand.
And if that wasn’t enough, Big Fudge Vinyl have this video on the product page to guide you through the process. I can’t compliment this enough. It’s a great touch and a fantastic way to connect with and help customers.

Setup and use:
Setup is straight forward and the included instructions make it so.
On the instructions, Big Fudge Vinyl recommend using distilled water.
In this video warm water is used, we don’t know if this is regular tap water or otherwise.
In my review of this product I used deionised water as that is what I had at hand, and from the advise of some fellow audiophiles I have been told that this is the next best thing to distilled water. I understand this will be subjective and dependant on the condition of the tap water in your area. So please do take Big Fudge’s advice and use distilled water if you can, otherwise I would say go with the next best thing. I bought two litres of deionised water for just £1.39 from Amazon so it is not expensive.
All the parts are easily removed and replaced and the whole system comes apart and can be put back together and stored away with great ease.
The kit really is very easy and intuitive to use.

Thoughts and recommendation:
I cannot recommend this product enough.
Big Fudge Vinyl have yet again brought the consumer a high quality product, with ease of use in mind. The customer experience as always is second to none.
As stated before, the only little complaint I have is the lack of rubber feet or a mat underneath the record drying rack. Otherwise this is a fabulous system and considering the sheer amount of cleaning cycles you will get from the included bottles of solution, it’s a very affordable and worthwhile investment that will help maintain and keep your treasured vinyl collection in top form.

Thanks to my readers and supporters as always. Stay safe and keep well.

Please be sure to subscribe, like, follow and share this publication and indeed the blog.
Thank you.

And thank you to our sponsors, STAX Headphones. Supporting The Audiophile Cafe and it’s readers.

HIFIMAN TWS800 True Wireless IEM.

After my initial review of the TWS600, can their big sibling, the TWS800 improve on what came before?

Disclaimer:
HIFIMAN have been very kind and sent these my way for review.
I have not been paid or sponsored for this review.
These are my own unbiased views.

The HIFIMAN TWS800 retail at $299 at the time of this review.

You can find the TWS800 here:
https://store.hifiman.com/index.php/tws800.html

Review equipment:
HIFIMAN TWS800.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.
Qobuz Studio Premier.

Music:
The following playlists on Qobuz were used for this review.
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3784071

What’s in the box:
TWS800 IEMs.
Wireless charging case.
USB Type-C charging cable.
8 pairs of ear tips.
Documentation.

Spec:
Bluetooth Version : Bluetooth 5.0
Frequency Response : 20Hz-20kHz
Music Playback Time : 4.5 Hours+27 Hours
Earphones charging time : 1 Hour
Charging Case charging time : 2 Hours
Weight of charging case : 74.4g
Weight of one earphone : 6.9g
Standby time : 140 Hours

Battery life:
HIFIMAN’s numbers are so far spot on with the sample they sent me giving me the times per the spec.

Build and finish:
When I opened the box I instantly noticed that compared with the TWS600, the TWS800 have a more premium appearance and feel. USB Type-C is included in more and more true wireless IEMs now and I’m glad to see HIFIMAN carrying on with this.
A very welcome addition here would have been wireless charging. Alas this is still not to be found. Frustrating seeing that other high end brands have managed this in smaller charging cases. Which brings me to the size of the charging case… it’s big! Out of the 9 pairs of true wireless IEMs that I have had experience with this is by far the largest case. It’s pocketable but it creates quite a bulge and won’t fit inside smaller pockets.
One thing the charging case has going for it are the deeper ear tip wells, allowing you to use larger or longer ear tips and still be able to close the case and charge the IEMs.
As far as how well the case holds onto the IEMs, unfortunately again like the TWS600 the IEMs just fall out with the mildest bump or shake.
The case does look good, really good. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t follow through with the rest of the design.
The IEMs themselves are a beautiful pair of IEMs to look at. HIFIMAN really knocked it out of the park this time with the aesthetics.
On closer inspection, these are, like the case, big. when worn they protrude from the ear quite far, making them rather awkward to wear with a beanie hat.
The LED’s are now hidden behind the IEM facia which is a nice touch with the lighting now being a subtle feature instead of the TWS600’s “Gamer” styling.
Otherwise they are very well made with a nice quality finish.



Setup and use:
Straight forward.
Paired in seconds.
No app. I really think HIFIMAN need to think about an accompanying app for their range of True Wireless IEMs, specifically an EQ.
Touch controls are frustratingly temperamental, I found that I need to touch a specific space on the surface of each IEM to get it to work and even then it’s hit or miss.
FF and RW are a bit odd, with the left ear being FF and the right ear being RW. I’m used to this being the opposite way around on other TW IEMs.

Comfort:
The TWS800 are comfortable to wear. Though the housings are a touch on the large size, a little heavy and not easy to wear comfortably with a beanie. Definitely not a pair you want to wear in bed for any soft listening.
I was able to wear these up to an hour, however they got quite uncomfortable passed this point.

Sound:
The TWS800 offer a spacious soundstage with good separation.
The isolation / passive noice cancelation is quite pronounced with the TWS800 blocking out most external noise.
I don’t normally do measurements but looking at the chart in the image below, I would say it’s pretty close to the mark.
Bass is tight and clean with some punch to round things off.
Mids are smooth and natural, lending to great vocal presentation.
Mid highs too highs are somewhat bright and over extended.
I had to tweak my phones EQ quite heavily to tame the brightness to a level that was comfortable for my hearing. Once I had them dialled in I found the highs to be fast paced with a good level of detail.

Final thoughts and recommendation:
The TWS800 are without a doubt a lovely pair of true wireless IEMs to behold, they ooze class and elegance in their appearance.
Once EQ’d, they sound great and work well with all the genre’s I listened to while reviewing them.
Would I recommend them? I don’t know if I can at this price point.
At $299 and taking into consideration the size of the case, I would expect to see at this point, wireless charging and better magnets to hold onto the IEMs.
With a sound signature some will find a touch harsh I feel that by now the inclusion of an app with EQ settings from HIFIMAN would be a good way to go.
Finishing off with the size of the actual IEMs, lending to discomfort or awkwardness in certain circumstances I just don’t feel comfortable recommending them at this time or at that price.
I hope HIFIMAN can work on these issues and come out with a better thought out version next time around.

Thank you so much to my readers, sponsors and supporters for being patient with, and supporting me and the blog.

All my very best wishes for 2021.
Paul.

The blog is sponsored by Silver Note Tonearms.
https://www.facebook.com/Silvernotearms/


Happy New Year from The Audiophile Cafe!

Hello and Happy New Year to you all!
I hope you all had a safe, enjoyable and peaceful Christmas and New Year.
It’s been extremely tough on so very many people around the globe.

As you’ll see, I took a break from the end of November through the holiday period to spend much needed quality time with my wife and son.
We were extremely lucky and got to spend Christmas day with my parents. We’ve been in a “bubble” since March last year so were able to do this safely.
On the flip side we were unable to see my Grandmother, brother, sister and my nieces or my in-laws. It was hard to not see them at what is usually a very special time of year for our whole family, however we hope we can make up for it all later this year. EVERYTHING crossed!

As of today I’m back online and will be updating the blog with some much needed new content, so keep an eye open for some new reviews over the following days.

Over the holiday period I have been in talks with a few brands and friends I have made in the industry and am happy to announce that a few new brands are now on board as contacts.
I’m also in talks with a few possible new sponsors.

This year the blog will at some point, be upgraded to a business account which will allow me to monetise ads, in the hope I can begin to make a bit of revenue out of this ongoing project.
It will also mean that I can get better support from WordPress when things don’t work as they should.
I will make it clear now that the blog will remain free to read and sign up too. This was always my plan and always shall be.

Finally.
Please be aware that through the pandemic it isn’t always straight forward to get products sent my way to review.
For the most part, contacts and sponsors have been able to ship items with no issue. However there has been the occasional time when an item is delayed or a brand is unable to ship out a product. Whether that be due to stock levels or shipping restrictions.
As a result I will be spreading reviews out as much as possible so there is always something to publish on the blog.
So if you have a product awaiting review and it’s taking a little longer than expected, please be patient with me and rest assured your product WILL be reviewed and published.

Many thanks to you all for your patience and ongoing support.

All my very best, All my hopes.

Paul.

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