An interesting record “weight/clamp” from Origin Live with a hefty price tag. But is it worth it’s asking price? Read on to find out more…
Disclaimer: I have not been paid or sponsored for this review. The views in this publication are unbiased, honest and my own. Origin Live have been kind enough to send this item out for review. The “Gravity One” currently retails for £195.
Review equipment: Origin Live “Gravity One” Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO. ( Ortofon 2M Red ) Technics SL1200 MKII. ( Ortofon Quintet Red ) KECES Audio ePhone and ePhono power. Cyrus ONE. Bowers & Wilkins DM601/S3. Airpulse ST200 stands filled with Atacama “Atabytes” STAX SRM-700T. STAX SR-009 Signature Edition. AF Audio & Custom Cans interconnects. AF Audio speaker cables and filter. AF Audio mains cables. Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners ( x2 ) Various accessories and tweaks.
Music: Various vinyl. Some 180gram, some older, lighter pressings.
What’s in the box: Origin Live “Gravity One”
Spec: Origin Live don’t have any information about materials or parts used on their website, aside from the following: Dimensions: 80mm diameter x 25mm height Weight: 67 grams Fits over spindles between 8.5mm to 23mm height (where height is measured between top of record and very top of spindle)
Instead they state the following in their “Main Description”:
“At last a Record clamp which works as it should.
Record clamps or weights serve 2 purposes
a) They flatten warped records on the platter – thus giving your cartridge an easier ride and enabling it to maintain the same VTA (angle to the record).
b) They change the way your records sound by damping their vibration.
Most clamps flatten records successfully but have very mixed results on sound quality. As a generalisation, most they tend to enhance the bass whilst dulling down the upper midband. There is also a perceived slowing down of the sound and the decay of notes suffer.
For 25 years or so we’ve tested record clamp designs (both ours and 3rd parties) and never come across a clamp which was worthwhile to use. Then one year we were sharing a room at the indulgence show with the importer of Shun Mook and he introduced us to their record clamp. To my astonishment this actually worked and enhanced everything in the music with no downside. The only problem was that it cost £2000.
This experience got me thinking and after some interesting design experiences with previously untested materials we though it worth trying again. Strangely enough just as we came up with this idea my friend Tony Sharman started talking to us about a record clamp he designed for his own personal system. Anyone who knows Tony knows that he’s a no nonsense kind of guy and one of the more experienced in the industry. My interest was aroused and we duly arranged a date for him to come down and demonstrate his clamp.
As I’m sure you can guess this was an ah-ah moment and his design coincided almost exactly with our own thinking but he had refined things and gave us some helpful tips to speed up the design.”
Build and finish: So where do we start? I can take a look online and at the Gravity One itself to see what I can glean from it’s construction. Indeed we have a very lightweight “puck”, I say puck because this is most certainly NOT a weight, it isn’t a clamp either. It doesn’t work or act in the same way as a clamp. Going off of the Gravity Ones design and the way it works I would call it an anti-vibration “puck” maybe? The shell is constructed from a light weight plastic of some kind. Internally the Gravity One isn’t solid. When we flip it upside down we find some very light weight wood, what appear to be acrylic screws and a small acrylic or delrin base. All of which, have movement. As a whole unit the Gravity One weighs in at just 67 grams. The Gravity One is made well. and the finish is good. The design is subtle and basic which for some will be a welcome aesthetic. Those looking for a funky looking weight/clamp or “eye turner” will not find one here. Personally I find the design pleasing and it’s neither a great thing or a bad thing.
Sound: I have been using a few weights for a while now so to begin, I went back to listening to my vinyl “weightless” for a few months before listening with the Gravity One. Cleansing my pallet if you will.
So what did I hear?
I heard a slight improvement, with the most noticeable being bass performance and presentation. Bass is more impactful and textured. It’s richer and sounds more refined. Mids are softer and airier, but allowing vocals to sound more organic. Highs are more articulate, faster paced and with improved sparkle. I also noticed quieter sections of music sounding, well… quieter. bringing out more detail from the background. I noticed this across both the EVO and the 1200 MKII, However I found the differences more pronounced when using the Gravity One with the EVO. So much so that it has become a permanent fixture in the EVO’s retinue of accessories and upgrades.
Thoughts and recommendation: Ok, let’s cut straight through it all and ask, Is it worth £195 though? I’ll be honest, as I always am and say I think that’s subjective. We all have our own tastes and preferences, some of us hear big differences from the slightest of tweaks to our systems while some of us hear little to no difference from bigger, far more extensive tweaks. As someone who is in his 40’s and in the midst of their hifi journey, I’m still building my system. I’m still swapping things in and out, making little and big tweaks as I go. I’m still learning! As I’ve stated above, I did hear some improvement in sound, most notably, the bass performance. I do use it every time I power on the EVO and dig out some vinyl, like I said, it’s now a go to upgrade. Is it something I would go out and buy? Yes, however reluctantly. It’s a lot of money for what it is. Would I recommend it? I’d recommend when the pandemic and lockdown rules allow, to go and demo one first if possible. Maybe see if it’s possible to borrow one from a friend? Or if like myself you’re a reviewer, most certainly go that route first. All of this being said, Origin Live say “We are so pleased with the results that it’s a no brainer to offer this as an upgrade for all other decks. As with so many of our products this carries our guarantee of satisfaction or your money back.“ So if you’ve got £195 to blow and you’re looking to squeeze some more detail and performance from your turntable, give it a whirl.
Thank you as always to all of my readers for your ongoing support!
Many thanks, Paul.
Sponsor: Thank you to Jason and Custom Cans for the support, help and cables! Always a pleasure.
Come in, grab your favourite beverage and pull up a chair. I hope you’re all well and keeping safe. this past year and a half has been testing for so so many of us across the globe hasn’t it?!!
Finally, The Audiophile Cafe has branding! I’m working with a young lady by the name of Becca and she’s been doing a fantastic job of designing logo’s, banners and awards for the blog and across our social media outlets.
You may have already seen a sneak peak at this new branding on Facebook and Instagram.
The plan eventually is to have branding available for use on merchandise. Watch this space as they say!
I must apologise for the inconsistency in reviews being published. Put simply: I’m eeking out the products I have in currently. Getting items in has been somewhat difficult over the past months which I believe are in part due to the pandemic, lockdowns, but also brexit. There is a constant flow, it’s just a little slow at the moment. In light of this, as I said, I’m eeking out what I do have, in order to have something to publish for you each month. Let’s hope this doesn’t continue for much longer and I am able to increase the frequency of reviews each month!
I’d like to take a moment to thank all of my sponsors and partners for helping me through these past months. Without their help and support there would have been far less content.
In no particular order, our sponsors are:
AF Audio. STAX Headphones. Custom Cans. Silver Note Tone arms. Airpulse. Meze Audio. Qobuz.
And of course it goes without saying, a big thank you to every brand and distributor that has supplied the blog with items to review and in some cases keep over the past year and a half!
Some of my readers may not be aware that we have a growing community on Facebook under the same name which is nearing the 1000 membership count, along with a dedicated page and a trade hub. If you haven’t already, please feel free to take a look by following the links below. Come, pop your head in and say hi 🙂
Just make sure you read and agree to the group rules first!
We also have a Twitter and Instagram, which I’ll also leave below.
You will have noticed that I now have a few ads inserted into each of my reviews. I’d like to make a little kick back from what I do, however, I don’t believe in making readers pay for a subscription so this is why I have it set out this way. Eventually I hope to upgrade from premium to a business account so I can start charging for ads more selectively, meaning they’ll be better targeted at our hobby, instead of ads for random products. I hope that you all understand and support me in this.
Thank you for taking the time to have a red of this little update. And if you’d like to see more pieces like this as well as the reviews and articles, please leave a comment and let me know 🙂
All my very best, take care. Until next time… Paul.
KBEAR send me their KS1 IEM for review. Let’s see what this little belter is capable of…
Disclaimer: KBEAR have not paid or sponsored me for this review. This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this publication are my own. I’d like to thank Vivian & KBEAR for kindly sending these IEM’s out to The Audiophile Cafe for review.
The KBEAR KS1 currently retail at £15.62! You can find them and other products here:
What’s in the box: KBEAR KS1 IEM’s. 3.5mm stereo cable. Spare ear tips. S,M & L.
Specs: Brand: KBEAR Model: KS1 Interface: 2PIN 0.78mm(TFZ) Frequency response: 20-20kHz Sensitivity: 109dB Impedance: 16ohm Earphone material: 10mm High polymer PET diaphragm Color: black, white Cable material: 4 core 4N pure copper cable Plug type: 3.5mm L-type gold-plated plug Driver Unit: Dual Magnetic Circuit Single Dynamic driver, dual cavity
Build and finish: “You get what you pay for” is a phrase we’ve all used before and one we hear a lot. So what really can we expect from an IEM that costs only £15.62??? I was not expecting an IEM that looks and feels more like something in the £50 to £80 price point. The box they come in is just a plain “No frills” cardboard box with the branding printed on the exterior. Inside you’ll find the IEM’s, Cable and spare ear tips. No pouch or case here, no cleaning tool. Just the bear basics. But then you really can’t expect anything more at this price. Once unboxed we’re greeted with a fairly standard but nice looking pair of IEM’s. And if we take another look we’ll notice a pair of aluminium ear stems. Interesting. Then we come to the cable. Again, fairly standard and nothing that stands out like other aesthetically pleasing cables, however, it’s very well made, with a good quality plug one end, and a decent pair of two-pin connectors on the other. The Y-Splitter is encased in a robust plastic. The version I was sent has the in-line mic and this is something I’m not so sure about. The casing and button appear to be cheaply made and I worry this could be a weak link in an otherwise pretty strong chain. If I didn’t have other cables that would fit these, this would be a major concern! However, all said and done, for £15.62 you’re getting a very decent IEM that appears to have been through some good quality control.
Comfort: The KS1’s are designed to ergonomically fit your ear and they do this surprisingly well. The ear stems fit comfortably and don’t extend too far into your ear canal. KBEAR provide some silicone ear tips which are up to the job and fit without any trouble. Passive noise cancelling is pretty good which is going to be handy if you intend to use these with a phone. ( If your phone even has a headphone/mic jack at all. ) The cable provides flexible coverings over your ears which help to shape them and hold them in place. I was able to wear the KS1’s for a good hour and a half without any discomfort or fatigue.
Sound: Bass: The KS1 carry a lot of weight in the bass department with tight, low sweeping delivery. Mids: Midrange frequencies are a little withdrawn, lending to a v-shaped curve in the over all sound. Highs: High end is crisp and fast paced, but rolled off at the very high end of the frequency range. We still hear the v-shape here but you can tell the very high end could use a little lift. If your device has EQ this shouldn’t be an issue.
Soundstage here is somewhere between medium too wide with some depth to it. Instrument separation is good but gets muddled in busier pieces of music.
Final thoughts and recommendation: They’re £15.62. But they perform more akin to a £50 up pair of IEM’s. They’re relatively comfy, built well and are a great solution if you’re after some hard hitting IEM’s with some detail and clarity. If these are qualities you’re looking for and you’re on a mega-tight budget, you could do far, far worse! So put those cheap “checkout” in ears down that you spotted whilst putting your shopping through the till and give these a look.
In my first review for Soundcore by Anker, we have the surprisingly impressive Life Q30…
Disclaimer: Neither Soundcore or Anker have paid or sponsored me for this review. This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this publication are my own. I’d like to thank Lorna & Soundcore for kindly sending these headphones out to The Audiophile Cafe for review.
The Life Q30 currently retail at £79.99 You can find them and other products here:
What’s in the box: Soundcore Life Q30 wireless headphones. USB Type cable. Stereo 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable. Hard travel case. Documentation.
Upgraded Noise Cancellation with Multiple Modes
Hi-Res Certified Audio with Remarkable Clarity and Detail
Clear Calls via Built-In Microphones
Extended 40-Hour Playtime
5-Minute Charge = 4-Hour Playtime
Lighter Build and More Comfortable Fit
Customizable EQ with Soundcore App
Driver (Full Range): 2 × 40mm
Frequency Response: 16Hz – 40kHz
Range: 15 m / 49.21 ft
Build and finish: Soundcore have created a good solid headphone that is on par with brands such as Sennheiser and Bose. For a relatively new player on the scene they’ve designed a capable and competitive product here. The plastic used is high quality and I don’t hear or feel any noticeable creaking when I wear them. Zero sharp edges or burs could be found anywhere, so it’s safe to say Soundcore’s quality control is on point. The power and control buttons are firm and have a nice positive click. They’re also clearly marked and easy to read, which was something lacking on a more expensive pair of wireless Sennheiser headphones I reviewed last year. Kudos where kudos are due! The USB type C port is well situated, is a nice solid fit and has no wobble. The same can be said for the 3.5mm wired audio port. The touch pad on the right cup is brilliant and works every time. A very positive addition is the hard travel case. Something sorely missing from every headphone I’ve reviewed to date with the exception of Meze Audio. Bear in mind these are by far the cheapest headphones I’ve reviewed to date. Other brands could learn a thing or two from Soundcore and Meze Audio in this respect! My only complaints about the Q30 are the ear and head pads, and the lack of water resistance. The ear and head pads are a funny thing. On the downside they feel flimsy and not very robust. However they are extremely comfortable and the headband has robust but buttery smooth positioning with the slightest but secure click. As for the water resistance, They’re a £79.99 wireless headphone with ANC. And they pack a lot in to a very affordable package. I just can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t have been too far of a push to include water resistance? The battery power and charge time stated are so far true after 3 full charges and listening sessions. And finally, the folding mechanism is flawless, easy to utilise, allowing the Q30’s to be placed in the hard case easily. And they don’t feel like they’re going to break any moment like I’ve seen with other similarly priced headphones. One thing though Soundcore… Please, next time you design a hard travel case, Please sew the internal accessory pocket/pouch in the right way up.
Setup, software and ease of use: Pairing the Life Q30 with my phone was easy peasy. And installing and connecting the Soundcore app was straight forward. Once the Soundcore app is installed you have a lot of features available including ANC settings and an eight band EQ. The addition of fully functional EQ is brilliant and something I wish the likes of B&O and Sennheiser would embrace and include for their end users. The app is frequently kept up to date through software updates as is the firmware on the Q30’s. As mentioned before, the controls on the headphones are clearly marked and positioned in a way that is easy and intuitive to use. The control to switch between ANC modes is incorporated via the touch control built into the right ear cup. Bixby activates every time by voice. No button presses or touches required here. After some time with some products that have lacked the use of additional software, this has been a welcome change here at The Audiophile Cafe HQ.
Comfort: The Life Q30’s surprised me. It’s no lie. When I initially unboxed them and noted the “flimsy” ear and head pads, I didn’t expect much from these headphones by the way of comfort. I was wrong. VERY wrong! Ok, so I just recently reviewed the STAX SR-L300 and am in the midst of reviewing some Sennheiser HD820S’s. It’s going to be pretty obvious that the Q30’s aren’t in the same league as these high end ear speakers and headphones, however, what I imagined would be a massive degradation in comfort, was in fact only a minor step back. They’re closer fitting due to their size and the clamping force of the Q30 is quite strong. But they’re extremely comfortable. So much so I put them on par with the Meze Audio Classic 99’s and the Beyerdynamic T70p. I was able to wear these for hours at a time with no discomfort or fatigue.
Sound, voice and ANC: Alright, they’re built really well with minor complaints, they’re good to go in the comfort department and they’ve got the software and functionality down to a T. But do they have what it takes in the audio realm?
ANC and voice: The active noise cancelling works very well. Easily switchable modes with one touch, and impressive noise cancelling. The transparency mode is good. It’s not as good as the Airpods Pro, currently my go to ANC based device, but it’s still good. Good enough for me to use these headphones more and more as a daily beater when I’m out and about with my Samsung phone. After several phone and video calls it’s safe to say the mic works as well as you would expect. The reports are in that my voice, as annoying as it can be, comes through crystal clear and without any harshness or sounding muffled.
Sound: ( EQ set to zero across all frequencies. ) The Life Q30 have a focused soundstage. Imaging is good and I would liken the overall image akin to being sat in a studio or listening room. Bass is full bodied and forward, if a little loose. The Q30 reach deep frequencies with ease and don’t distort when doing so. Mids are neutral, clear and detailed. And the highs are crisp and airy, however they’re a touch rolled off at the top end.
All of this being said, with some tweaks in the EQ, The bass can be tightened up quite noticeably and the highs can be lifted by cranking up the higher frequencies.
With these tweaks in place the Q30 are a pleasure to listen to and easily on par with the Sennheiser HD450 BT.
Extra content: Anker USB Type C fast charge plug: I must mention quickly that Soundcore were kind enough to include the Anker fast charge plug with the Q30’s and I used it to charge the headphones throughout this review. It works as expected. Doesn’t get overly hot and does what it says on the tin. I hope soon, they design a charger with retractable pins as other brands are doing. This would be a very welcome improvement in the next iteration.
Final thoughts and recommendation: For £79.99, I can’t not recommend these. When considering how I feel they’re on par with and in some cases better than a £159 more expensive offering from Sennheiser… There’s not one argument I can pit against them. ANC, Robust design, full bodied lively sound, full EQ customisation, extremely comfortable and did I mention they were on sale on Amazon for £59.99??? Go get a pair already and don’t forget to like, subscribe and share. 😉
All my thanks to you all. All my best. Paul.
Sponsors: Thank you again to my sponsors who make everything so much easier and help me to provide better and continuous content.
This publications sponsor is our newest sponsor. I’d like to thank and welcome AFAudio onboard. Andrew makes superb cables and accessories. He’s also an exceptionally decent and kind chap to talk with.
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I will note here that although this review is sponsored by STAX, I have been honest and unbiased in my opinion. You will find a link to STAX if you’re interested in their products at the bottom of this review.
Review equipment and software: STAX SRS-3100 electrostatic ear speaker and driver. Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100 USB DAC. MacBook Air running Qobuz Studio Premier. Audiocrast USB cable. Cambridge Audio RCA interconnects. Tacima 6 way mains conditioner.
I’d like to quickly thank David Solomon & Qobuz for our ongoing partnership. Their support of The Audiophile Cafe has been stellar and is much appreciated.
What’s in the box: SRM-252s: STAX SRM-252s Electrostatic ear speaker driver. STAX transformers. Japanese and UK version supplied. Documentation. SR-L300: STAX SR-L300 Electrostatic ear speakers. Documentation.
SRM-252S ( Energizer ) Frequency response: DC – 35kHz Rated input level: 125mV (at 100V output) Gain: 58dB Harmonic distortion: 0.01% or less (at 100Vr.m.s. / 1kHz output) Input impedance: 50kΩ(RCA) Input terminal: RCA x 1 Maximum output voltage: 280Vr.m.s. / 1kHz Standard bias voltage: DC580V Power consumption: 4W Operating temperature / humidity: 0 to 35 degrees C / less than 90% (non condensing) Dimension: 132 x38 (H) x132 (D) mm (protruding portion not included) Weight: 540g
Build and finish: Being my second system from STAX, as with other brands, this is an opportunity to get a better insight to the brands quality control. Just like before I’m very impressed with the build quality of both the driver unit and the ear speakers. I’ve seen and heard many reviewers give STAX a hard time over their build quality and to be honest I don’t get it. I may be sponsored by STAX for this review, however they never ask for a positive review, there are never any conditions in place. And they know I will always be unbiased and honest when I write these pieces. So I can say now that I am honestly impressed with STAX’s craftsmanship and attention to detail. The SRM-252s driver unit is a solid and robust little box with a housing, ports, knobs and switches finished to the highest standard. The power switch/volume pot is smooth as butter with a nice firm switching action. The RCA ports and power port around the rear are sat firmly in place and don’t move or wobble when plugging or unplugging cables. On the base are four sorbothane feet which hold the unit in place with no slippage. On the front plate we find a simple layout of Volume pot/Power switch, Power LED and the STAX pro output port. Two hex bolts hold the plate in place and the STAX logo is printed in the centre without being too large or obnoxious. It’s good to note here that the Power LED is a nice tone of green and is neither too bright or too dim. Which is something other brands still struggle with, either being too bright or dim, and often using harsh colours that can be jarring when in use. With the SRM-252s in my mind being a desktop solution, this is something I take seriously! And finally, I did wonder whether this unit would get very hot and I can confirm it does not. It gets warm when in use but nothing to complain about. On to the L300’s… The SR-L300 ear speakers or their siblings are something I’ve wanted to experience and own for a very long time, ever since the day I came across the brown Lambdas online in the early years of the internet. The design is unique to say the least and I personally love it. Like the SR-009’s I have here at The Audiophile Cafe HQ, they have that ribbon cable that you don’t see anywhere else, and it’s a very good cable. It’s made well with a tough feeling rubber sleeving. The plug itself is constructed to a high standard and has an industrial feel to it. In fact the entire plug and cable do. The housings and headband are a tough plastic that is nicely finished with no rough or dodgy edges to be found. I don’t know how easily they would snap as I don’t intend to drop them or twist them to their limit as some reviewers do. I don’t see these as a portable ear speaker, neither do I see myself moving around my home wearing them. In my case I’m using them sat in my listening space, with the system next to me on a solid pine table. I have the STAX ear speaker stand and plastic cover right next to me so I can safely put the L300 away when I’m not wearing them. In my opinion, if you use your common sense and take care of your gear, you’re less likely to do any damage. I love the uniqueness of STAX ear speakers. Aside from the sound they produce ( which I’m coming to in a moment ) they’re a head turner. Any visiter I have here is always interested in their “weird” looking design and appearance, and want to hear them. In my my mind they scream “Audiophile” and they have certainly earned that label!
Setup: There’s really not much to say here, setup is very straight forward. Plug your source in and the ear speakers, power on and you’re done. On a side note, the SRM-252s has a parallel output, meaning you can run a cable from the driver unit to your pre-amp or maybe another headphone amplifier. One very handy thing about this feature is if your SRM-252s is powered off, it doesn’t interfere with the signal being fed through the parallel output. So you don’t need to have it on for this to work. Nice touch STAX.
Comfort: Surprisingly, unlike the SR-009 the L300 have quite a firm clamping force. Which at first concerned me as I wear glasses almost all the time now. My concerns however were quickly dissipated when I put the L300’s on my head. Just like the SR-009 the comfort here is on another level. The L300’s sit nicely on my head with the headband hardly noticeable. The “Cups” sit over my ears like pillows with the ear pads being luxurious and feeling very premium. Again my ears don’t come into contact with the “Staters” although there’s probably only a few mm’s in between them and the outermost parts of my ears. I’ve found another “headphone” that essentially disappears on my head once they settle in. Also I found little positioning was needed to get the correct level of comfort and image. I found I could wear and listen to the L300 for a good 3 to 4 hours with no discomfort and zero fatigue.
Sound: Where the SR-009 take every headphone and amp that I own and move everything up into another realm, the SR-L300 along with the SRS-252s take a different fork on that path. Where the SR-009 are spacious and wide open, the L300’s have a more focused soundstage, though still wide and with good depth. Like the SR-009 the L300 are a dynamic ear speaker, performing superbly throughout the frequency range. However, with a slight improvement in one regard and a small step back in another… The L300 comes out on top here with a deeper and more lively low end. The texture and clout of the SR-009 is still present, but we also have a lower reaching bass with lower sweeps without losing any detail. I noticed this more when I listened to some Drum ‘n’ Bass tracks and a few techno mixes. The highs are crisp and clear with a beautiful sparkle. Compared to the SR-009 the highs are rolled off, but not by much. Mids are more forward and less organic sounding, that’s not to say they don’t sound good. They sound great, smooth and full bodied. And I found this a really pleasing trait when listening to live acoustic performances. I’d say they sound more grounded and have a “flatter” neutral tonality to them.
Final thoughts: “It’s like driving a perfectly brilliant Mercedes daily drive throughout your life, then swapping it out for a Ferrari.” – Those were my exact words when you go back and read my review of the SRM-700S and SR-009. If the SR-009 and SRM-700S are a Ferrari, the SRS-3100 easily earns it’s place as that “perfectly brilliant Mercedes” If I were to keep these I’d be tempted to use them on my desktop along with my Mac and gaming PC setup. The comfort and sound they produce would be ideal for that system and its various use cases. In all fairness, it’s not entirely fair to compare the L300 to the 009’s as I have. The L300 is a $455 ear speaker vs the SR-009 coming in at $3,699. It’s a huge difference in cost. And I have to say, The L300 perform more akin to a $1000 headphone and outperform a certain dynamic headphone I’ll be reviewing soon that comes in at £1,799! Would I recommend the SRM-3100 ear speaker and driver system at $1,140? Yes. Against every dynamic or planar magnetic headphone I own, currently have in for review or have heard either in a review or previously owned, the L300 outperform every single one of them. Even my beloved Sony MDR-SA5000s. They make the perfect desktop, bedside or sofa-side system for lively, engaging sound reproduction. If you want to have a $2,000 plus sounding headphone system but for less budget, you can’t go wrong here.
Thanks: Thank you to my readers for your ongoing support! Please be sure to subscribe, like, follow and share the blog. Thank you to Qobuz for continuing to supply The Audiophile Cafe with some truly remarkable music! And thank you to STAX for making this possible, not only that, but also for sponsoring The Audiophile Cafe. I truly appreciate the level of support and help you have given to me and the blog!
All my best. Paul.
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In my first passive speaker review since my return to the blog, I begin with the splendid RP-500M from Klipsch. Read on to find out more…
Disclaimer: Klipsch or Henley Audio have not paid or sponsored me for this review. This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this publication are my own. I’d like to thank Simon and staff at Henley for kindly sending these speakers out to The Audiophile Cafe for review.
What’s in the box?: 1x pair of Klipsch RP-500M bookshelf speakers. Documentation.
48-25kHz +/- 3dB
93dB @ 2.83V / 1m
Power Handling (Cont/Peak):
High Frequency Driver:
1″ Titanium LTS Vented Tweeter with Hybrid Cross-Section Tractrix® Horn
Low Frequency Driver:
5.25” Cerametallic Cone Woofer
Bass Reflex via rear-firing Tractrix® Port
Single binding posts
Dimensions (H x W x D)
34.3 x 17.3 x 24.1cm
Build and finish: This was the first product I’ve experienced from Klipsch, so I was interested to see what all the fuss was about. And I get it. Packaging is simple, dense and more than ample. The included documentation is easy to understand and straight forward. Upon unboxing the RP-500M’s I was impressed with the finish of the veneer and the exquisite construction. These are the first pair of speakers I’ve had that sport magnetic grills. Oh My! What a simple but revolutionary idea. It’s that good I want to convert all of my speakers that I own to magnetic grills! The copper drivers look sublime. I wasn’t sure I would like them from photo’s I’ve always seen, but here, in my living room they look fabulous! My one complaint is the rubber/silicone horns. They pick up dust and particles constantly and are then a bit tricky to clean off. Whether the material has an effect on the sound I am unsure, however I thing a matt finish plastic would have been better. Otherwise they look stunning. Round the back we have good solid binding posts, and above them, a pair of massive horn shaped bass reflex ports. Also found at the rear are wall mounting options. Definitely a positive if you’re planning on using these in a home theatre system. All in all I found Klipsch’s craftsmanship and design on point.
Sound: I’ll state right off the bat, that these are one of the best bookshelf speakers I’ve heard to date. They’re easy to drive, especially with the Cyrus ONE’s ability to detect impedance and configure itself for optimal performance. The RP-500M have a wide and open soundstage, easily filling my room with a rich, impactful image. Instrument separation is organic and sounds like you’re right there in the club, on the field, right by the stage… Cliche’d I know but it’s the only way I can explain it. The RP-500M’s create a 3D image and it’s possibly the first time I’ve had my system at the point where the speakers have “disappeared” as I’ve heard New Record Day’s Ron Brenay describe it. And he’s right. Get the speakers positioned correctly and you’re half way there already. With my eyes closed, listening to a live concert, the “image” the RP-500M’s created was astonishing and If you had led me into the room blind folded I would not have been able to place where the speakers were positioned.
Bass is slightly rolled off at the very lower end, however it still manages to hit hard from across the room with control and rich layers of texture. The mids are somewhere in the neutral zone ( please excuse the Star Trek phrase! ), and I mean it in the kindest sense. Neither harsh nor weak midrange is to be found here. Instead, a purposeful yet light and airy midrange is present. Leaning into vocals just enough to flow naturally without sounding overenthusiastic. Highs are crisp, fast and detailed with just enough sparkle to compliment the rest of the frequency range.
Conclusion: The RP-500M are certainly a new class of speaker I have had the pleasure to review. They are an articulate and well balanced example of excellence I haven’t heard yet at this price point. Their design guarantees they’ll look at home in most rooms and would be more than likely a conversation piece, not an eyesore. So, yes I do highly recommend you go and have a listen to a pair if your able. And if you do buy, you won’t be disappointed!
Thanks again for reading folks. Don’t forget to like, follow, subscribe and share please. Every little thing helps the blog grow.
I’d like to thank Simon, Henley Audio and Klipsch for allowing me the opportunity and time to have some seriously enjoyable listening sessions with the RP-500M!
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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Braided cables made of SPC (silver plated copper) custom wires.
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!
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…
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/
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.
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.
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.