Silvernote 500 C Tonearm Review.

Provided by Mark, Owner & Manager Of Silvernote.

The packaging the tone arm comes in is robust and well packed.
It arrived safely and unscathed.

Tested on the following system:-


Turntable -Technics SL1210 MIIID
Arm – Silvernote 500 C
Cart – Nagaoka MP10
Isolation – isoACOUSTICS Orea Isolation Pucks.

Phonostage – Keces Audio Ephono.

DIY Breakout Box with built in ground point.
Linear Power Supply – Keces Audio Ephono Power
Pre Amp/Headphone Amp – Schiit Jotunheim
Headphones – Sony MDR SA-5000

Balanced from the phonostage onwards.

Listened to during review –

Black Lion at Montreux.

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon ( 180gram )

Jean-Michel Jarre – The Concerts In China ( 180gram )

Mahler – 5th Symphony

The first thing I notice out of the box is the sexy sexy Carbon Fibre! Anyone who knows me knows that I love carbon fibre.
The mix of red glossy carbon and the polished steel and brass is a phenomenal look and it works really really well.
So this arm gets 10/10 and/or 5 stars straight out of the box on the asthetics front.

 

 

Set up was a breeze. I had to grind the Origin Live adaptor plate out first but that’s down to them making the

hole the wrong diameter as Mark’s arm’s base shaft is the same diameter as a Rega arm. My Rega RB300 wouldn’t fit either.
Once this was sorted the arm slid in with no issues and bolted into place using the mounting ring.
VTA is adjustable via two small hex screws inside the mounting ring which can be a bit fiddly but nothing too difficult.
Azimuth is adjusted at the top of the “T-Bar” section of the tone arm that sits in the gimbal. Again by a small hex screw.

Weight/Tracking force is dialled in and the weight can then be tightened into place with another small hex screw.
And finally Tracking angle is adjusted at the headshell and then tightened.

Mark provides two hex tools which cover all of the adjustments on the arm.

The bias weight is also secured in place by hex screw.

It looks a lot but it’s very straightforward as along as you have the correct tools at hand, Which I am sure when buying this

grade of tone arm is a given.

The one thing I missed when using this arm was an arm lift, However, It’s more a case of me being a perfectionist, And Mark has
said he is looking at incorporating an arm lift in future designs.

Fitting the Nagaoka cart was easy and straight forward.

The cable Mark uses is Van Damme and is fitted well and a decent length.

The interconnects Mark uses are of a good quality and feel very robust.
They fit the RCA connectors like a glove.

So lets get on to listening shall we?

The Concerts In China is one of my top 5. It is a superb album and it’s also a live recording.

I always enjoy listening to this but most of the time found myself turning to my digital copy instead.
I don’t think this will happen so easily now.

Every little instrumental strike, hit, stroke… They’re all there either in the foreground or the background,

Crystal clear to my ears.

This system took me on a journey with this album and has opened my ears/eyes to what is possible,

And what I have been missing for all this time!

Bass levels are punchy yet clean. Just tight clean bass that drops when it needs to and handles it when it does.
Highs are accurate, detailed, & crisp, Just the way I like it.
Midrange is well presented yet not too overwhelming.
Vocals come through with a lovely smooth airy vibe, Every breath, Every note natural and easy on the ears.
But also powerful and forward when the vocals take that path in a song.

I wait in anticipation to see what else Mark has up his sleeve as the years unfold.

 

 

Considering this is a new venture for Mark I am very impressed with his dedication, Craftsmanship, Communications & Willingness to help and advise.

 

 

Silvernote 512 S Tonearm Review.

Provided by Mark, Owner & Manager Of Silvernote.

https://www.facebook.com/Silvernotearms/?ref=br_rs

The packaging the tone arms come in is robust and well packed.
they arrived safely and unscathed.
Note the 500C ( Red Carbon ) sat with the 512S.

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Tested on the following system:-

Turntable -Technics SL1210 MIIID
Arm – Silvernote 512S
Cart – Ortofon Quintet Red MC
Isolation – isoACOUSTICS Orea Isolation Pucks.

Phonostage – Keces Audio Ephono.

DIY Breakout Box with built in ground point.
Linear Power Supply – Keces Audio Ephono Power
Pre Amp/Headphone Amp – Schiit Jotunheim
Power Amp – Rega Mira
Speakers – Acoustic Energy AE100i
Headphones – Sony MDR SA-5000

Balanced from the phonostage onwards.

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Listened to during review –

Black Lion at Montreux.

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon ( 180gram )

Jean-Michel Jarre – The Concerts In China ( 180gram )

Mahler – 5th Symphony

The first thing I notice out of the box is the shine! Mark will get the metal down to a perfect mirror finish,

To the point I nearly looked for some white cotton gloves from fear of leaving the faintest mark or smear on it.

 

 

Set up was a breeze. I had to grind the Origin Live adaptor plate out first but that’s down to them making the hole the wrong diameter as Mark’s arm’s base shaft is the same diameter as a Rega arm. My Rega RB300 wouldn’t fit either.

Once this was sorted the arm slid in with no issues and bolted into place using the mounting ring.
VTA is adjustable via two small hex screws inside the mounting ring which can be a bit fiddly but nothing too difficult.
Azimuth is adjusted at the top of the “T-Bar” section of the tone arm that sits in the gimbal. Again by a small hex screw.

Weight/Tracking force is dialled in and the weight can then be tightened into place with another small hex screw.
And finally Tracking angle is adjusted at the headshell and then tightened.

Mark provides two hex tools which cover all of the adjustments on the arm.

Oh and I nearly forgot the bias weight is also secured in place by hex screw.

It looks a lot but it’s very straightforward as along as you have the correct tools at hand, Which I am sure when buying this grade of tone arm is a given.

 

The one thing I missed when using this arm was an arm lift, However, It’s more a case of me being anal!

Fitting the Ortofon Quintet Red was easy although I found the plugs a little tight, But not too tight as to hinder use.

The cable Mark uses is Van Damme and is fitted well and a decent length.

The interconnects Mark uses are of a good quality and feel very robust.
They fit the RCA connectors like a glove.

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So lets get on to listening shall we?

The Concerts In China is one of my top 5. It is a superb album and it’s also a live recording.

I always enjoy listening to this but most of the time found myself turning to my digital copy instead.
I don’t think this will happen so easily now.

Every little instrumental strike, hit, stroke… They’re all there either in the foreground or the background,

Crystal clear to my ears.

This system took me on a journey with this album and has opened my ears/eyes to what is possible,

And what I have been missing for all this time!

Bass levels are just right, Not overpowering, Just tight clean bass that drops when it needs to and handles it when it does.
Highs are accurate, detailed, Almost clinical but not too much.
Midrange is present in a natural and even way.
Vocals come through with a lovely smooth airy vibe, Every breath, Every note natural and easy on the ears.

Dark Side Of The Moon comes alive with an energy I’m not used to hearing on vinyl, Gilmour shines and shines and his riffs are sublime!, The bass levels here make a massive difference to what I hear and revitalises the experience.

Mahler’s 5th symphony hit me in the feels, And it made me think I may one day in the near future get myself to a classical concert ( another 1st when it happens )

And Black Lion….
Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE Jazz.
This is one of my Go-To Jazz albums in my vinyl collection and it and this system did not disappoint.
That beautiful bundle of instrumental magic combined with some fantastic Jazz vocals really bounce around
and give a wonderful experience!

The 512S is a very good addition to the signal path and Most certainly keeps up with the Turntable it is fitted to.
It does the phonostage justice and as such plays an important and integral part in my overall system.

 

 

 

This arm has along with the rest of my current system helped me to rediscover my love for music and vinyl in a big way.
The ability to move me emotionally while I sit and listen is no small feat, so well done Mark on a fantastic job! Please do NOT stop doing what you are doing!

Looking forward to spending many many hours with these arms and

I wait in anticipation to see what else Mark has up his sleeve as the years unfold.

Considering this is a new venture for Mark I am very impressed with his dedication, Craftsmanship, Communications & Willingness to help and advise.

This is one of two arms Mark sent me, please watch out for my review of the 500C at a later date.

Paul.
The Audiophile Cafe.

 

 

Keces Audio Ephono & Ephono Power Review.

Provided by Arthur at Keces Audio.

You can find them at the following web addresses –

http://www.kecesaudio.com/

http://keces-audio-usa.com/products/Phono-Pre – American Site ( For price reference )

First I would like to say a huge thank you to Arthur at Keces for being both patient and extremely generous.

The packaging these items came in was well thought out and well done. Proving excellent protection for being shipped overseas. It arrived unscathed in one piece.

One of the first things I notice upon unpacking the parcel is
Keces Audio components are aesthetically pleasing.
I know “looks” are subjective. I am a man who likes robust simplicity that oozes style and quality.
Keces have not failed in this department!

The Ephono and Power Supply are not too big and fit on my desktop with no issues, Considering
my desktop is already quite “busy” with other gear, This is quite the result.

Setting everything up was pretty straight forward, As long as you follow the instruction manual from both Keces and your cartridge manufacturer you really can’t go wrong.

The Ephono took me a little by surprise to begin with as I am not used to anything but the very basic of phonostages, To the point that I only owned one that was not built into an amplifier.
Flexibility is the word that comes to mind. I’ll run down the specs so you see what I mean –

Power supplied by High quality linear power supply. ( Ephono Power ).
Over Temperature Protection ( “OTP” ) built into Linear Power Supply.
Balanced and unbalanced outputs.
Variable MC impedance adjustable by 56/100/220 ohms and MM 47K ohm.
Gain selection of 40dB/46dB/52dB for MM Carts.
Gain selection of 60dB/66dB/72dB for MC Carts.
RIAA accurate to within 0.2dB.
Both Chassis’ are built from 3mm thick aluminium for effective shielding
against EMI & RFI interference.
Power and “Link” cable supplied are made to a high quality.

As you can see, The Ephono is full of functionality and flexibility.

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So far, Colour me impressed, Very impressed!

I tested the Ephono & Power supply in the following system:-

Turntable -Technics SL1210 MIIID
Arm – Silvernote 512S ( review coming up soon )
Cart – Ortofon Quintet Red MC
Isolation – isoACOUSTICS Orea Indigo isolation pucks.
Phonostage – Keces Audio Ephono
DIY Breakout Box with built in ground point.
Linear Power Supply – Keces Audio Ephono Power
Pre Amp/Headphone Amp – Schiit Jotunheim
Power Amp – Rega Mira
Speakers – Acoustic Energy AE100i
Headphones – Sony MDR SA-5000

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Balanced from the phonostage onwards.

Albums Listened to during review –

Black Lion at Montreux.
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon ( 180gram ).
Jean-Michel Jarre – The Concerts In China ( 180gram ).
Mahler – 5th Symphony.

The first thing I hear when I put my headphones on is the silence. The “darkness”
as I call it is how I describe any noise or audible feedback, hum or hiss etc.
With the Ephone, There is none. Hence the darkness.
Just to be sure I also unplugged the ground cable from my Breakout Box and plugged it into the Ephono and it’s the same.
I use a breakout box for ease of use when writing reviews due to where everything is situated, But I digress.
I get the same result with the gain dialled up on the headphone amplifier / preamp.

So, Onto the meat and potatoes of this review… How does it perform?

Let me begin by noting that my system has no tonal control or EQ of any kind. So at least from my standpoint, I’m adding no colouration of the sound at any point in the signal path.
You could argue that the gain controls come into play here but in my experience of this system at least, It only nudges the power up, It has no effect on the tonal quality or presentation.

I chose 4 of my favourite albums here as I wanted to get a true feel for this phonostage, And the fact that these are some of my “most listened to” albums, gives me a really good ear for any differences in what I am used to.

And the differences are vast!

The Rega Mira has a pretty good phonostage built into it and the other that I own is a basic NAD MM stage.
Matched with a Rega Planar 3 running an RB300 with Shure M35, I really thought I had heard great sound and was having a brilliant experience with my Vinyl collection…
The Ephono takes what I am used to being very good sound quality, Chews it up and unceremoniously spits out!
I’ve heard people speak before about it being like hearing your collection for the first time again and always wondered if there was any truth to this.
I get it. Trying hard not to get away from myself here, the best way I can describe it…
My collection is more energized, Every genre I own, The Ephono has injected more body and depth to the sound but without sounding different or changed.
I’m still quite new to this than a lot of you out there are but I’m not new to hifi, and I’m certainly not wearing a new pair of ears.
I’m hearing little details in tracks that my previous systems were unable to retrieve or reproduce.
Every little thing builds up to a larger picture and this is certainly true here.

The Concerts In China is one of my top 5. It is a superb album and it’s also a live recording. I always enjoy listening to this but most of the time found myself turning to my digital copy instead.
I don’t think this will happen so easily now. Every little instrumental strike, hit, stroke… They’re all there either in the foreground or the background, Crystal clear to my ears.
This system took me on a journey with this album and has opened my ears/eyes to what is possible, And what I have been missing for all this time!

Bass levels are just right, Not overpowering, Just tight clean bass that drops when it needs to and handles it when it does.
Highs are accurate, detailed, Almost clinical but not too much.
Midrange is present in a natural and even way.
Vocals come through with a lovely smooth airy vibe, Every breath, Every note natural and easy on the ears.

Dark Side Of The Moon comes alive with an energy I’m not used to hearing on vinyl, Gilmour shines and shines and his riffs are sublime!, The bass levels here make a massive difference to what I hear and revitalises the experience.

Mahler’s 5th symphony hit me in the feels, And it made me think I may one day in the near future get myself to a classical concert ( another 1st when it happens )

And Black Lion….
Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE Jazz.
This is one of my Go-To Jazz albums in my vinyl collection and it and this system did not disappoint.
That beautiful bundle of instrumental magic combined with some fantastic Jazz vocals really bounce around
and give a wonderful experience.

After hours of listening, I check the sides and tops of the Ephono and Ephono Power.
Cool as they were when I switched them on. This I like.

Note the Ephono & Ephono Power sat in their home just behind my display at my desk….

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To Summarise,

I feel that the Ephono has replaced a weak link in the signal path of my system and replaced it with not a make-do or “So-so” phonostage, But rather it has stepped the game up for the rest of the system to get up to scratch. On the headphone side of the system we’re good, In fact we’re golden. The MDR SA-5000’s are not a headphone that is easy to please. The addition of the Ephono into the system has made my headphone experience a tear bringing, emotion stirring roller coaster. No complaints here!

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As for the speaker side…. It’s great, Don’t get me wrong, I love my Rega Mira and the various speakers I own. However, I couldn’t help but feel they weren’t doing the turntable/phonostage end of the system enough justice, By far, And struggled to keep up with the energy of the system.
I have a hunch a new power amplifier and a speaker upgrade is on the cards, Or maybe a high end studio monitor setup with balanced input? Time will tell.
Hint Hint Santa!

vintage-metal-stop-here-santa-ive-been-good-sign

Could I make any suggestions to Arthur and team on how to make any improvements?
Simply put, No.

What Keces Audio offer here is superb value for money,
Second to none build quality and craftsmanship,
A design that is simple yet very pleasing to the eye,
The materials used are of the highest quality and the connections around the rear of both units are perfect.

I would have said for ease of use to have the controls on the front panel somewhere but I feel that would take away from the lovely looks. If anything, Maybe a flap down panel on the front of the phonostage housing the MM/MC switch along with the Gain and Impedance switches. But this is coming from a reviewer who would like the ability to switch between carts/turntables on the fly, However I doubt most buyers would be bothered by this.

I highly recommend Keces Audio as a company & the Ephono & Ephono Power.
I give it a 10/10 and 5 stars for a brilliant all round product that packs a lot of functionality into it’s frame.
Definitely worth every penny!

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I would like to thank Arthur and everyone at Keces Audio for kindly sending this out to me to review,
For allowing me to keep it and for being patient with me as I took my time getting this review out!

All my best and until next time.
Paul, The Audiophile Cafe.

Eufonika H4 review

http://www.eufonika.pl/gal.html

Eufonika H4 review

Designed to run high impedence headphones.

Eufonika are based in Poland.

The parcel arrived in decent time and unscathed.
Although I found it odd the amp didn’t come in a branded box, It was well bubble wrapped, as safe and secure as you would want it to be.

The three tubes included were in their individual boxes and thankfully still in one piece.

Looks –

 

I am first drawn to the H4’s simplicity in it’s design, It’s actually what gives this amplifier it’s sexy looks. What is that old phrase? “Less Is More!”
This amplifier is quite heavy but quite manageable and in all honesty the weight hints at the quality of the build and the materials used. This unit really is put together very well.
Eufonika most certainly are a brand that cares about the quality and cosmetic appeal of what they build here.

Sound –

Simply put…

The H4 is Powerful, Forward & Detailed. It has a fair extended midrange without being overwhelming. The bass is tight but smooth and can drop pretty low without any great effort.
Highs coming through slightly recessed but crisp and very clear.

Overall a powerful yet natural sounding setup with a twist of warmth and a dash of icy crispness.

The H4 can drive ALL of my headphones with great ease including my Original Sennheiser HD400’s ( 600ohm version ) which is part of the reason I originally came across this amplifier.

It is rapidly becoming my favourite “Musical” amp, Taking the top spot from the Jotunheim.
Which really is saying something, as the Jotunheim is quite the DAC/Amp and takes some beating.

 

I found the H4 works very well with various sources,

One that I found particularly pleasing was my Arcam Alpha 7SE CD player.
Its an older player so not as revealing as say my Jotunheim DAC or The DacMagic by Cambridge Audio, However it has a lovely musical presence and reminds me of systems I would demo back in the 90’s that at the time were at the top of the game.

Not shown in the pictures I also ran my modified 1210 & Keces Audio Phonostage through the amp and it sounded so sublime I can’t quite find the words.
Obviously this is vinyl but I think I am going to lay my cards on the table when I say this is the best I have heard my vinyl collection sound so far!

The Cambridge Audio NP30 Streamer was a joy to run through the H4 and it steps up and gets the job done yet again with higher bitrate files. We tested some random FLAC and WAV’s at this point and it presented a wonderfully natural yet punchy soundstage. With plenty of width.

And finally, I connected my iBasso DX80 & Played my highest resolution DSD files through the system using a high quality QED interconnect cable.
For this I used my Sony MDR SA5000’s as they are very unforgiving and extremely accurate. Usually I’m used to them sounding maybe a touch on the bright side, Yet this setup tamed that high end just enough for the SA5K’s to sound so sublime I ended up going through a third of my Classical DSD files, I was transfixed!

 

The Tubes –

I will be honest here and state that this is my first tube amp I have owned OR heard.
So I am a Tube virgin.
As such I can’t really make any comments on the effect on sound until I have heard other tubes, Either on this amp or another amp.

I am very pleased and honoured I get to keep this amp as I think I would find it very difficult to let go.

Many thanks to Eufonika for sending me this amplifier to review.
It has been an absolute pleasure & The company are fantastic to deal with online.
The H4 will be a cherished part of my system.

Paul Hoskin, Owner:- The Audiophile Cafe.

Ray Samuels Audio “Blackbird” SR-71B Review.

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The Ray Samuels Audio “Blackbird” SR-71B

Fully balanced portable headphone amplifier.

Since joining head-fi years back I always dreamt of owning both the iBasso “Pelican” PB2 & The RSA “Blackbird” SR-71B.

Why compare it with the iBasso Pelican PB2?

The PB2 was more affordable and Frank ( Rest in peace friend.), The founder of Toxic Cables was kind enough to offer it along with the Boomslang ( Matching balanced DAC ) at a reduced price. Both are portable fully balanced amplifiers designed to be part of a “stack” but I couldn’t afford the Blackbird so settled for the PB2.

Recently Ray has been very kind and sent me an SR-71B not only to review but as a gift to keep.

This man’s generosity and time knows no bounds.

My first impressions…

Delivery was fast and there was no customs charge.

This was a pleasant change as recent shipments from other brands have landed me with some rather hefty customs charges.

Packaging is simple but well done and a velour pouch is included. Which the amp comes in, Inside the box. ( Something not copied by other brands. ) Ray also included some different interconnects and pigtails so I could hook a few things up in balanced mode.

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Time to have a listen then.

I first had the Blackbird paired with a Cypherlabs Algorythm Solo & iPod Classic ( 7th gen ) using Forza Audioworks interconnects and One of Ray’s balanced pigtails going to my Hifiman HE400 with balanced cable. Considering the files on the iPod are not “High Res” I wondered how it would actually hold up considering I now listen to High Res files and my library is growing by the month.

I listened to “Neighbourhood” by Manu Katche as the recording is particularly pleasing although pretty detailed. The first thing I noticed was the way the HE400’s handled. The PB2 in full balanced config and gain maxed out struggles to drive anything above my balanced Amperiors, which is saying something. The HE400’s never sounded “right” on that amp. Running them with the Blackbird is a breeze, It really feels like they’re running off a beefy desktop amp, Not a portable one that can fit in your coat pocket or a compartment in your bag with ease! This was a most enjoyable listening experience, And I noticed no fatigue, distortion or any kind of issues with accuracy etc after a few hours. Something again other amps I have found struggle with, At least the ones I currently own.

The RSA Blackbird SR-71B is the better amp by far for battery life, charging is more reliable and holds it’s charge a few hours longer.

Power is where the RSA Obliterates the PB2 or any other portable amp that I own without losing clarity or accuracy.

The RSA has a lot more functionality or more appropriately, Easier functionality with a few added bonuses, Namely the Input selector & 3 position Gain.

iBasso has no selector and gain is altered by opening the amp up and swapping out op-amps. Something I used to enjoy but nowadays find bothersome.

I must say I do prefer the iBasso’s implementation of the 6 pin Hirose connector. I just prefer that audible and physical click into place when you plug your headphones or interconnects in. And the connector is somewhat easier to get hold of from a cable makers stand point.

That said, The RSA connector is far easier to solder.

When I say “Easier” I am talking in terms of accessibility. As someone who suffers with Osteoarthritis I find the PB2 fiddly and for the most part leave it as is these days.

Whereas the Blackbird is easily tweaked at the flick of a few easy to access switches. So top marks there!

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The same goes for soldering the connectors as I said before. The RSA Items are far less fiddly!

The RSA SR-71B’s ability to drive harder to drive headphones,

Specifically the SA5K’s and the HE400’s Is a key player in my decision to go back to Ray at a later date for further orders. Up until now I haven’t come across an a portable amp capable of running these headphones.

Next up I decided to put the SR-71B through it’s paces.

Ray included some cables to enable me to connect the Blackbird up to my desktop rig so I could run some High Res files through it and see how it performs as a desktop amplifier.

I have the Schiit Jotunheim which is my daily DAC/Amp combo which anyone who owns one will attest to, Knows it can and can & will drive pretty much anything you throw at it.

So for the little Blackbird, It was challenge accepted! “David Vs Goliath Vers.2.”

To make it as equal as I could I used the Jotunheim as a DAC and sent the signal via it’s balanced out to the balanced in on the RSA.

Wanting to throw just a touch more pain in the mix, I grabbed my Sony MDR SA-5000’s with Balanced re-cable. The 5K’s are renowned for being very unforgiving, hard to drive ( In the sense of right amp-can mix. NOT power output ) And extremely detailed with what some call quite a “bright” high end.

Using Foobar2000 as my transport/source I loaded up some FLAC and DSD files and got down to some serious listening.

After around 3 hours of a mix of genres and a boatload of my favourite tracks, I was done and had my mind made.

Whether I’m too anal about how my system reproduces music either portable or a main rig at home, I don’t know, But what I can say is this test really knocked my expectations out of the field.

I knew that the SR-71B Blackbird was a venerable amplifier by reading past reviews, But being the person I am, I tend to forgo the charts, graphs, perfectly set up recording tests etc, I like to trust my ears and the way the music is presented to me through my ears. A half dozen charts from different reviewers could tell me something on paper sounds a particular way or that it’s wrong or just right. However, if my ears tell me a different story then I will trust my ears over statistics.

And I like to think that is what you have seen before in previous reviews and will do so in future pieces.

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To sum up…. My ears give the SR-71B the big “Lobes-Up”

( Instead of thumbs up?… Ahh, I digress. )

I also tried the RSA with my iBasso DX80 plugged in through the single ended input.

Ray tells me this amp is able to convert the signal to balanced on the way out, Which it does appear to do with no effort. Just flick the switch on the rear from balanced to single ended and you’re set.

So how does it fair with IEM’s and the like?

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For this first review I used my Audeze iSine 10’s and I’m blown away by this little amplifier’s ability to drive everything I throw at it!

The iSine’s sound amazing as it is, The RSA adds that extra wallop and they sound so good! The bass is crisp and punchy, Highs are articulate and crisp, I could go on all day but I won’t. I’ll cover these more in their own review soon.

The SR-71B performs and punches well above it’s weight both in balanced AND single ended mode.

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I believe it’s safe to say the RSA SR-71B has become my Go-To portable amplifier, Which also means the Graham Slee Voyager has been knocked off it’s perch.

Something I did not see happening.
Graham, If you’re reading….

Voyager MKII ( Balanced edition ) Just saying…..

Would I recommend this amplifier and do I agree with it’s price?

Simply put, Yes. To both.

I know we’re living in a time now where balanced DAP’s are on the rise, And some folks prefer a one-box solution instead of carrying around a stack, But I for one still have much faith in and a lot of love for the traditional old portable stack.

I plan to return with a second review as I have plans for other cables, Headphones and Audio players to run through this amplifier.

I really believe the SR-71B still has a very valued and valid place in the portable audiophile community and is not past it’s usefulness by far!

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Many thanks to Ray for making this possible and for being a generally awesome chap!

Until next time, Paul 🙂

 

Custom Cans Fully Balanced Cable for Hifiman HE400 Review.

So for a while now I’ve been following “Custom Cans” as a brand.

In a previous life I was a DJ and the different designs Custom Cans were putting on various headphones grabbed my attention. So when I was browsing through their shop I notice they also happened to make cables.

Anyone who knows me, Knows I have a thing for cables.
Aesthetically, Audibly, & Practically.

So I got in contact with Jason and the rest as they say is history.

This Custom Cables HE400 detachable cable in Light Grey/Silver & Teal Is First and foremost striking. The second I opened the parcel I was delighted with the colour Jason chose. If it had been up to me I would never have thought to pair these two shades, Let alone one of them. However, They work, They REALLY do!

The cable itself is a silk wrapped OFC Copper Litz terminated with gold SMC connectors and a black Neutrik 4 pole XLR on the other end.
It is sleeved in paracord and braided with the greatest precision.

I opted for copper as almost ever other headphone I own uses Silver Litz & I want my HE400’s to be a warmer pair for various reasons.

The speed at which Jason got this out was superb considering he had a lot on at the time.
So Kudoz going to him right there.

I’ve had this cable for six weeks now. Plenty of burn in time on the Jotunheim.

Although this is a copper wire so in theory tuning my HE400’s more toward a warmer sound they haven’t lost any of their detail or crispness.

However they have a nice enveloping sound now without losing their sound stage, The bass is more pronounced and up front without wallowing. The HE400’s are still a very exiting and forgiving pair of Planar Magnetics to listen to.

I would like to add here that storing the cable when not in use has been a pleasure. Coil it up as it originally came and it stays there. No Kinks, No tangles.

After switching between this cable and a silver litz that I have, This one wakes them up while sacrificing only a little of that clarity that I usually prefer from my headphones.
Next time, I am very tempted to try out a hybrid wire and see if it wins me over.
For now though I think it’s safe to say this is my preferred cable for the HE400’s.

I am now currently talking with Jason to get some matching pigtails made up, To allow me to use these with different amp setups and in portable mode.

Jason / Custom Cans have been brilliant to deal with from the get go.
I highly recommend them for their excellent build quality, Craftsmanship, Creativity & Customer Care! I also nearly forgot to add, Thanks for the sweets Jason!, I don’t know whether every customer gets them but thank you for the kind addition to the parcel.

Cost?

After looking through the store I would say these cables are priced competitively but still affordable.

If you go on youtube and look Jason’s channel up here –

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCynW_ox6AEYv28nK3-8Aimw

You will find some videos on cable care and maintenance. This is a genuine rarity I wish other cable makers would catch on to.

If You are interested in these cables or indeed Jason’s other services or products have a look at his shop here –

https://www.customcans.co.uk/

And you can also buy his products on eBay here –

https://www.ebay.co.uk/str/customcans

Thank you Custom Cans and Jason for giving me this opportunity to review one of their cables.

I hope to have the pleasure to do so again in the future.

Paul Hoskin. The Audiophile Cafe.

Arcaydis EB1S Review

Arcaydis EB1s Review.

First of all, I would like to thank Jim at Arcaydis for sending out the EB1S’s
And for giving me the opportunity to spend some time with these speakers.
Jim has been the most helpful and friendly chap to speak to.

I was sent the EB1S model in Black Oak.

At time of publishing they are retailed at the introductory price of £499.99

Before I get started here is a quick look at the spec…

Opera Snapshot_2018-08-09_214522_www.arcaydis.com

My First Impressions are of a pair of bookshelf speakers that have been very well constructed.
Binding posts are solid and well placed. Threads are nice and smooth and don’t threaten to thread on you. ( I really need to get some new banana plugs! )
The grills and the plugs that hold them in place are well made and a good fit.

In the looks department I find they are a subtly designed cabinet with good clean lines.

Their simplicity is what stands out to me and I like that Arcaydis went with this style.

Packaged well and with care but without needlessly wasting materials.
They are quite a hefty pair, So I would be making sure those Bookshelves were part of the foundations!

However, I am reviewing at my desktop due to time constraints and being in the early stages of redecorating our home, So please bare in mind my opinions are from a “Near-field” Ear level listening experience.

Amps –

Powering the EB1S’s is a Rega Mira amplifier.

Cables –

Chord Carnival Speaker Cable.
QED RCA Interconnects.
Crime Audio Snotora Dual USB interconnect.
Custom House Mains Cables.

Stands –

Newer NW-01 Foam Studio Monitor Stands.

Sources –

The Rega Mira is fed by a Schiit Jotunheim connected to my ROG Strix.
And a Technics SL1210 M3D running a Nagaoka MP10 Cartridge.
Using the onboard phono stage.

Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon on Amazon Music at 256kbps MP3.
Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon on 180 gram 12” Vinyl.

Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon on Foobar2000 at 4211kbps 96/24. FLAC.

Blue Coast Collection III on Foobar2000 at 6099kbps 192/24. FLAC.
Nelly Furtado’s Folklore on Foobar2000 at 192kbps MP3.

 

 

Folklore.

Vocals are up front and well emphasised. Nelly’s voice comes across very clearly, And well presented.
Backing singers are where they should be in the imaging department but still very clear and easy to make out.
String instruments are a pleasure to hear, Being very crisp and brought to the fore very well.

Lows are velvety smooth and have some punch to them though not overpowering.
No muddiness, and they don’t get lost or lose control during more lively moments in the album. But more on this a little later.

Mids are well extended but not overly so or anywhere near aggressive. Just enough to help vocals stand out in a clear & concise manner.

Highs are crisp and dry. Just how I like them. These tweeters really are very good at what they do.

The Dark Side Of The Moon.

The 180 gram Vinyl and Flac file were both really quite a joy to behold.
Anyone who knows me will know that I am a die hard Floyd Fan And as such am very critical in my listening to their albums in the various formats that I own.

Gilmour is the one I listen for the most here as I love the way he plays, His vocal range and diversity is essentially what draws me to Pink Floyd. I could really go on all day fawning over my delight at listening to this album and it’s siblings, But I am here to review, Not drool over one of my favourite bands. Sooo, Let’s move on.

The EB1S pretty much does to the album what a certain pair of my headphones do in that they pick it apart and bring all the little details to the front with sparkling precision.
What I am finding the more I listen to these speakers is the way they convey everything.
And I mean EVERYTHING.

I don’t know if this is a case of these being the best I have listened to so far and thus I am basing my opinions on that denominator or if they really are THAT good?
Either way, So far, Colour me impressed.

Blue Coast Collection III.

I want to take a quick moment here to again thank Cookie Marenco and the great folk at Blue Coast for sending me this album for free to review then keep.
It has been a pleasure to revisit this album and also to listen to it on a speaker system rather than my usual headphone only desktop system.

This is currently the best digital recording I own, In the sense that it is the highest quality and resolution one in my rapidly growing music library.

Meghan Andrews’ voice on “Johnny Colorado” is exquisite and soothing. I close my eyes and she is there almost in front of me. And the passion is there in those vocals as clear as day.

Tony Furtado’s  3 minute long “Angeline The Baker” is full of exiting and complex guitar riffs.
Every strum, pluck and pick is again there right in front, Every little artefact portrayed crystal clear to my ears. An exiting song that the EB1S not only keep up with but convey with accuracy and precision.

“Wicked Game” by Jenna Mammina & Rolf Sturm is full of plush silences that you could hear a metaphorical pin drop. Jenna’s vocals are articulate, Crisp and full of body, With a warmth that is both comforting and a joy to hear.
Rolf’s Guitar piece is sublime and so smooth.

I really need to come back to this album again. It’s so very fun to listen to.
There always seems to be something new in there I missed before.

To summarise,

The Arcaydis EB1S present a neutral, Almost clinical sound that mirrors the accuracy of my Sony MDR SA5000’s. I know these are headphones I am referring to, However it is the unforgiving nature of the SA5K’s that I remembered when listening to these speakers.

I listened to three versions of The Dark Side Of The Moon. The MP3 was not as joyous to listen to in this review, I believe that like the SA5K’s, The EB1S’s ability to convey with such precision revealed all the flaws in this particular recording. I found it fatiguing and could hear what was missing in comparison to the other recordings I had at hand.
Hence the reference to my Sony headphones.

Bass is not the EB1S’s strong point, However, I do not believe it is meant to be.
Don’t get me wrong, There IS bottom end, And enough to make these an enjoyable pair of speakers, But if you’re a bass head who enjoys chest pounding, Ear ripping low end with deep sweeping tones, These may not be for you. ( Although you could add a sub. *Notes at end of summary. )

Highs as I have stated are crisp, dry and clean, So much so that they are a pair of tweeters I am tempted to try sourcing for a DIY build I have planned later next year.
I really enjoyed them that much.

Mids are as I stated earlier also. Nicely extended without being aggressive.

All in all a very VERY nice pair of Bookshelf Speakers to listen to.
I had them spaced at almost 5 inches away from the surface behind them ( A Window in this case. )
Slightly Toed in and about a meter apart.
I found them to be an ideal desktop “Near-Field” solution that is well suited to a diverse variety of music. Apart from maybe EDM.

Thank you again Jim and Arcaydis for allowing me to have these on loan to review.

*Note –

During my time with the EB1S’s I took the opportunity to install my Cambridge Audio SR80 Sub, As the Mira has a pre-out and this sub a stereo pre-in.

When I said “MAYBE” apart from EDM, This was as I switched to adding a sub into the fray. It’s not for everyone I know, However if you have a sub that has good control and tightness, I dare you to try these out in a 2.1 configuration.

It was a very good combo and the sub didn’t drown out or take away from the finer points of these speakers.

Do I recommend them? Absolutely!
Who do I recommend them to? Anyone who enjoys accuracy and fine detail and willing to sacrifice a little bottom end.

EB1S

In fact I enjoyed them that much, I’m thinking of not sending them back!
Haha no, Obviously I will purchase them like everyone else. And may I add that I feel they are more than worth their price tag.
My Monitor Audio Bronze BR2’s were £400 new, But with only £100 difference, The EB1S’s are in another League.

Thank you for taking the time to read my first official review.

Paul.

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Blue Coast Collection 3. Songs We Love – Various Artists. A First Time Music Review.

Blue Coast Collection 3 - Cover

Many thanks to Cookie Marenco at Blue Coast Records for sending me this album to review.

Blue Coast Collection 3.

Songs We Love – Various Artists.

24bit/192.0khz FLAC.

 

 

Track List –

Johhny Colorado – Meghan Andrews

Angeline The Baker – Tony Furtado

Wicked Game – Jenna Mammina & Rolf Sturm

Rolling In The Deep – Blue Coast All-Stars

Feeling Sunshine – Fiona Joy

You Were Always On My Mind – Derek Jones

Francine – Jenner Fox

I Will Walk – Garett Brennan

Shenandoah – Alex De Grassi

Mexico – John R. Burr

 

Gear List –

Foobar2000

Crime Audio Snotora

Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100

QED Interconnects

Rega Ear 1

HiFiman HE400

 

 

This is the first time in my career as a reviewer that I have reviewed music of any kind.

So forgive me for my lack of terminology for the moment please.

I have to admit that up until now I haven’t paid much attention to recordings of the digital kind.

Sure I have a vast library of WAV & FLAC files ( Yet to switch to DSD ) but I pretty much took it for granted that they were of the highest quality available.

I am learning very fast that this is not the case, Of course the one thing that I kept forgetting was that a recording no matter what format it is presented in is only ever going to be as good as the master recording & the skill and equipment used to make it. Also noting that it is so important to make sure we get our music from reliable sources.

When you listen to music that you’re not usually into and start getting down to it ( as you do ) you know something is going on to make you react in such a manner.

Listening to this album I felt more connected to the performance. There are points in the recording that really pop out to me, The Violin piece in Rolling In The Deep for example. I felt like the violinist was playing just off my right shoulder with the bass player right behind me. It may & probably will be a different experience over a speaker system. I wouldn’t say better, I’ll say different.

The vocals pierce my mind and in all the right ways, They’re not shrieking or distorted, There’s no muffled sound or oversaturated mid range. Just clear vocals with strong presence.

Then there are all those little details that every audiophile looks, No, Listens for, The beads hitting the casing of the maracas, That raw twang of guitar string, The bowstrings dragging across the violin strings and so on…… All those things a good mic picks up, And a good speaker or headphone reproduce for you to listen to in your listening space.

I really hope for my first time I am getting my views across in a clear manner.

Blue Coast Collection 3 could very well mark a turning point for me in the way I chose the recordings I listen to & in fact HOW I listen.

Many people including myself seem to skim over the other important person in this process between artist and listener… The one who records the music, That puts it all together, That tweaks and re records, That pours blood sweat and tears into it, The person that spends endless hours getting everything just right in order to bring us the consumer the best possible experience.

What Cookie & the artists on this recording end up with is a beautifully moving album that puts you in that seat behind the mixing desk, Or the seat in the bar right up by the stage.

It’s an album that is mastered to a level I’ve not heard before, Which is something I intend to rectify from this point on.

I’m not going to give any albums I review a score, But If I were pushed to do so, Cookie and the people involved in this one would get a strong 10/10!

Thank you for reading this review and lets hope as I continue my reviews get better. Paul.

Graham Slee Voyager. A short summery after 10 years of use.

I think we’ll jump straight in with this one.

My first foray into portable hi fi was a “Chu-Moy” headphone amp in an Altoids tin. We’ve all been there, Well most of us have. It makes your iPod or Walkman sound brilliant and brings your headphones to life!

But it never lasts long. That bug we all know and have takes hold and soon you find yourself wanting more.

I already had a pair of Sennheiser HD25’s which really don’t need an amp at all, But at the time I was young and naive and wanted all the portable hi fi shiney goodies.

So I scrimped and saved and soon after ordered a Graham Slee Voyager.

A simple looking amp in a plastic “project” style box, The only thing that hinted to anything special at this point was the print, The “just right” movement of the volume pot and the construction. It’s definitely not one of the sexier amps out there but you get a sense of good craftsmanship from the get go.

Now my only qualm with the Voyager is this. It takes a 9v battery which is fair enough, However, If there was one thing I would ask Mr Slee to change about this diamond of an amp would be to make it USB rechargeable. It would make my life so much easier. It does have the option of battery, USB or DC power and comes with the power adaptor needed. However as I use this primarily as a portable amp, It’s 99% of the time running on battery power. Graham, If you’re reading this and you ever think about building a Voyager 2, Please include rechargeable capability.

Now did I say Diamond of an amp? Only ONE qualm? Well I did say we were jumping straight in with this blog…

The Graham Slee Voyager is currently my Go-To amp and nothing else in my collection can knock it off it’s spot. Even the iBasso Pelican PB2, Paired with the Boomslang in fully balanced mode can’t get close. The Voyager doesn’t only feel robust but sounds robust to. If I want to listen to my HE400’s I simply switch the “Contour” switch to active & this amplifier drives them with little effort and doesn’t lose quality or power, Where the others just don’t cut it, EVEN in balanced configuration. Rock, EDM, Classical or Opera, It just rolls with it and delivers a clean powerful performance. Noise is not an issue, I can’t hear any hiss or uneven balance. As hard as I try, I just can’t fault this amp.

It is quite simply built like a tank. I have dropped it, Dropped objects on it, Knocked it and so on and I can’t find a scratch let alone a dent on it. If you shake it with no battery in there is no rattle of any form. The screws and switches haven’t worked their way lose over the years and the volume pot still has that “Just right” feel to it.

Simply put, It’s a trusty workhorse.

Who would I recommend it to?

Anyone who wants a rugged portable headphone amplifier that delivers as punchy a sound as the the thing feels in your hand.

I will say if you pair it with an iPod Classic or an iBasso DX80 like I have then as much as it will fit in your pocket, You’re probably going to prefer to have it in a bag of some sort.

Battery life is pretty good. I can get a couple of two to three hour listening sessions out of it before the sound begins to crackle and lose cohesion. Obviously running on USB or DC power is a different kettle of fish and of course there is now the option of using a portable battery pack…. I’m yet to try this.

 

Bottom Line, It’s a bloody brilliant headphone amp that punches above it’s weight and can take what life throws at it with a grin on it’s face. It’ll take something rather special to de-throne this beauty!

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An Audiophile “barn-find” that just needed the right owner and some TLC.

Sony MDR SA5000 with Balanced Recable made by Brandon Peterek.
 
These were bought by me 5 years ago used and in a bit of a state ( I don’t understand how people can even buy something so expensive and awesome yet treat it with such disregard. )
Either way, I was able to afford a cheapish pair of headphones I otherwise could have only dreamt about for the rest of my days! 
For whatever reason, The previous owner had replaced the stock cable ( Decent but renowned for falling apart rather quickly ) with another stock cable from a Sennheiser HD600/650. Another decent but meh cable. The SA5000’s deserve, No. Demand better. So when they arrived in the mail I was shocked at the state they were in.  
 
First port of call was to strip anything broken or filthy away and see what I had to work with. First thing I looked at were the drivers, Which thank the audio gods were in perfect condition. Apart from the absolute bodge of a soldering job. How they hadn’t shorted I don’t know. So I un-soldered that garbage and got rid!
The original ear pads had unfortunately been in some kind of altercation with a wild beast of unknown origin, They had been so badly messed up I gave them a little funeral ceremony and bid them on their way.
Some screws were missing so I bought a few various sizes of screws and found some that fit.
I gave them a really good clean, Put all the parts in bags and boxed them up for work to be done later on.
A few years later I decided it was time to have a go at re cabling them.
I had the soldering down well enough to trust myself opening these cans once again to perform surgery without killing them entirely.
I played with some ideas in my head about which wire to use, Did I want them balanced or single ended? and so on.
I decided on a Detachable cable so I would be able to run pretty much anything I wanted.
I fitted & glued in some MMCX connectors which became the bane of my life for several days. Eventually the connection gave out so I went back to the drawing board.
OK I thought… Pigtails. I can run the cable out of the cups so far and have the connectors a few inches outside of the cups.
I sourced some Sennheiser HD800 Connectors and got to work. They worked well, However, Being the fussy person I am ( I swear I’m a bit OCD about these things ) I didn’t like possible strain being put on the connections on the drivers themselves.
This is where Brandon comes in.
I had worked with Brandon before some time ago on a pair of custom build Senn-Grado’s and he had made me an amazing cable along with a one-off balanced to single ended adaptor jack. We’ll talk about this more in another blog.
But suffice to say Brandon’s cable making skills are far superior to mine.
And being Mr Perfectionist, I wanted the SA5K’s to have a cable that really complimented them in both sound and looks.
After a lot of late night talks ( Bran’s the other side of the pond to me so the time difference is rather large ) We decided on a hard wired cable terminated in a 4 pole XLR with a Pigtail to single ended jack.
By now I had just picked up a pair of HE400’s and had re terminated it’s already decent cable with a 4 pole XLR as I plan on getting a balanced amp with that connectivity. So it made sense to have all of my cans using the same connectors with the ability to make pigtails with various connectors for use with almost any amp.
Yesterday The finished Peterek cable arrived and I got to work.
I didn’t take internal shots as frankly it was a pain in the posterior job and the photos would have been hard to look at lol.
Again I am very impressed with Brandon’s workmanship! He is fast becoming a cable maker on par with other more widely known brands that I also use.
Packaging is simple but very well done .
The cable it’self is subtle and with the chosen y-splitter suites the SA5K’s perfectly!
They’re still fresh out of the box so they’re not properly burned in yet ( We won’t get into that today ok lol ) But Along with the new ear pads I managed to source from amazon ( Inexpensive – £3 for the pair. ) The sound has improved.
They already sounded amazing in their poor beat up state I found them in, But now the low end is tighter and more pronounced, Highs have been reigned in just a touch but still very crisp and clear.
The MDR SA5000 are well renowned for being a very unforgiving pair of headphones.
They are analytical to the point that any sub par recording falls flat.
Every little detail is emphasized in a clinical way that any imperfections or artefacts are named and shamed for all to hear!
Thank you Brandon for working with and helping me out yet again my friend! I understand being a dad, and having an audiophile in your ear about every tiny detail of the job must be a pain! You sir are a star!
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