Hi-Fi Reviews

HiFi Reviews

JUST POSTED, KEF LS 50 WIRELESS REVIEW!

NEW! KEF LS50 WIRELESS REVIEW (Video and Written)

NEW! The Klipsch “SIXES” Review. These all in one $799 Mid Century designed wireless speakers may surprise you. 

DEVIALET Phantom GOLD Stereo Pair Review!

Vincent Audio PHO 700 Phono Stage (and vs Cambridge CP2) 

SEPTEMBER 2016 – THE DEVIALET PHANTOMS WITH VINYL? VINYL NIRVANA LIVES HERE….

 AUGUST 2016 – Devialet Silver Phantom Stereo Pair Review!!

FEB 2016 – RAVEN AUDIO BLACKHAWK LE INTEGRATED TUBE AMP!

Focal Sopra #2 Speaker Review

(full review listing below)

One thing many camera enthusiasts have in common is their love for music and HiFi systems. I have had may questions about my HiFi stereo system after posting a few pics within a review. I decided to share a page or two I have written but never posted to the readers of the site (but indexed in google) for those who have an interest in High End audio. I will post more reviews here from time to time but probably no more than 3-4 in a year.

There is not much that can match the beauty and emotion of high end audio. Sitting in the dark in the “sweet spot” of a high end music reproduction system can transport you to another time and place. Expensive? HELL YES. Worth it? That depends on your love of music. In these days of $30,000 Leica cameras why not spend that $30k on a world class audio system that you can enjoy for the rest of your life? But beware..just as GAS exists in Photography, it exists in High End Audio as well!

vsi75

 

Complete List of my Hi-Fi Reviews:

NEW! KEF LS50 Wireless Review!

NEW! Klipsch SIXES

Devialet Phantom GOLD Review!

VINCENT PHO 700 PHONO STAGE REVIEW

VINYL NIRVANA WITH THE PHANTOMS

DEVIALET PHANTOM SILVER STEREO PAIR REVIEW!

RAVEN Audio Blackhawk LE Tube Integrated Amp Review!

Focal Sopra #2 Review

Macintosh MA8000 Integrated Amp Review!

The ALO Audio Studio 6 Tube Headphone Amp Review 

The HiFi Man HE-1000 Review. Best in the world?

The Audeze LCD-X and EL-8 Headphone Review!

The Devialet 200 Review! The best piece of HiFi I have ever owned? 

SPEAKER REVIEW: SONUS FABER AMATI FUTURA REVIEW!

INTEGRATED AMP REVIEW: The Audio Research VSi 75 Integrated Amp Review, PART 1

SPEAKER REVIEW: Sonus Faber Guarneri Evolution Review

INTEGRATED AMP REVIEW: Line Magnetic 219ia Review

INTEGRATED AMP REVIEW: The premo $7000 Yamaha A S-3000

CABLES: The Importance of Cables, and testing the Nordost Valhalla 2 Power Cable

LM219ia

55 thoughts on “Hi-Fi Reviews

  1. Steve,

    Oh ok At least you’re not dropping the hobby. I liked reading the reviews. Hey not sure if you dropped the MAC integrated or not I didn’t see that on your Audiogon but if you’re looking for a small and simple setup you should try the YG Accoustics Caramel 2 speakers with a Pass Labs INT-60 integrated. I know someone that has both and its a great combo. The speakers are small but play surprisingly big and are like scalpel on resolution.

  2. Steve,

    I saw on Audiogon you’re selling the Focals, the McIntosh transport, Turntable and your Nordost cables. Whats going on? Getting out of the Hi-Fi hobby or just downsizing? New equipment coming soon?

    1. I am moving to a new, smaller home (into a much better weather environment) and this will not fit. Have to downsize, so I am just going to use a nice small setup after this. All is sold but the speakers, which I just listed.

        1. No, I am thrilled and happy living with my Phantom Golds, they are staying as they are the best I have had in my home for many reasons. They may not offer the huge expansive sound of the Evo’s but they are 90% there while saving me $30k (system wide) and being much more versatile.

  3. Great audio reviews, but no one can possibly test everything and all have the same preferences. We know what era you are from because you care so much about having a great “stereo.” That’s all we wanted back then in highschool, a great stereo, a fast car, and a hot chick. People our era all went down that same path of upgrading, upgrading, upgrading. The trend to great audio now is being a computer audiophile. It doesn’t require a huge outlay of cash, just a computer (or even phone), a great USB DAC, headphones or an amp/speakers, anything you want. The sound quality has never been better. Some of these hybrid tube/Class D amps blend that warm sound with plenty of power, having both warmth and power/speed. As most people have found out, audio gear is a about pure preference. Sometimes you like the bass, sometimes you don’t. All I can say is I had a few thousand dollars lying around when I was a kid and I bought a bike with it. If I had bought Apple at $8/share with it, it would be worth half a million dollars. Lesson: that bike got old fast. I still have it, but it ain’t worth $500k.

  4. Keep doing the hifi reviews! For me it all started in the sixties when my wife and I built a Dynaco Stero 70 amplifier kit while we were both in graduate school. Much later I went through a long and crazy period of continual upgrades.

    Today I’m listening to my 20 year old hand wired Quicksilver tube monoblocks with 130 watts each (new tubes of course). I recently had to get new Magnapan speakers as the glue dried in old ones creating a rattle. The system still sounds so good I have no urge to replace anything that does not break. Great gear can last a long time!

  5. Thank you Steve for taking the time to give us your opinion on our Blackhawk Limited Edition integrated amplifier. And we are humbled that you enjoyed it so much.

    This is our second from the bottom tiered product, so maybe some day you will enjoy what we can do on a bit larger budget. We have always loved your site… please above all – keep it up~!

    Again… thank you so much!

    Most Sincerely,
    Dave Thomson
    Owner/Founder
    Raven Audio LLC
    Groveton, Texas

  6. Hi Steve,
    Thank you for the excellent review. I absolutely love the Focal Sopra 2. I have been considering them for my room but I’ve always been told they would be too big for my room. It’s similar to yours in size 13,5 x 14. Could you tell me how far the speakers are removed from the back and side walls and what your listening distance is? That would help a lot. Thanks.

    1. Believe me, these will not be to large! I have had small speakers, bookshelf, stand mounted monitors and SF Amati’s (which were too much for the room, the Amati) – But the Focal Sopra #2’s are so magical in my room. No issues at all, and bests all speakers that came before them. Since owning them, ZERO urge to change them for anything else. In fact, if I did I know I would regret it as these sound as good as I have heard anywhere, even up to $100k systems. So, they are staying with me for sure. Mine are around 2 1/2-3 feet from my back wall, and almost 2 feet out from the side walls. My listening chair is the same distance as they are apart, or 7-8 feet (do not remember). I have run them with my MA8000 at 300WPC (standard power output driving them to room filling levels id day is around 3 watts) and even tested a 25WPC Tube amp with them, which had no issue driving them to insane levels if need be. To me, after 20+ years of speakers, some up to the $45k range, this is as good as it gets for me. Never better in my room.

  7. Hi Steve,

    Thank you very much for your reviews. I’ve them very helpful. I’m curious to hear your opinion on the MA8000 vs. Devialet 200. What areas do you think the MA8000 does better than the 200 and what areas do you think the 200 does better? Have you had a chance to try the MA7900 and MA6700? It seems to be that besides power output, they are quite similar to the MA8000. Thanks!

    Ong

  8. Greetings Steve
    This is my first attempt at posting my comments on your site.

    Your site was brought to my attention by my daughter who works at Sotheby’s in NY and is involved doing photo work internally with them.
    My particular disease is high end audio… I am slowly putting together my final system.

    Currently I am using TAD CR-1’s speakers, Vitus RI-100 intergrated amp, Lumin S-1 network streamer, Nordost speaker cables [which you reviewed] along with Shuynata power cords.

    It is truly a wonderful time for all the new high end products that are being introduced to the market place and the younger buyers interested in high resolution products.

    I have enjoyed reading your postings and will periodically inject a comment or two.
    All the best…..
    Brian

  9. Hello Steve, congratulations for your passion and the reviews that I always follow with great pleasure. I write from Italy and it’s fun I’ve learned to respect and love an Italian product thanks to you! (Guarneri Evolution !!). I bought today after several days of comparative tests with other products of many other brands with higher prices (mbl for example). Here in Italy it is easy to have a price around € 10,000, about half of your list American :). I had the opportunity to connect to ma8000 and make repeated comparisons with the focal sopra n2 and, contrary to what you wrote, I think the Guarneri absolutely best and much more refined, balanced, elegant, precise, and even better also on the management of bass! I think that you have not had the opportunity to install them along with ma8000, I’m sure, no one would choose sopra2 if you listen at the same time and in the same room of guarneri! this time Italy beat France 6-0, 6-0! hello from Naples!

    1. I had them both side by side in my room 3 weeks ago. NO contest, Sopra beat the G’s in transparency, bass quality and quantity, realism, vocals, mids..all of it. Made me realize again that I made the right choice. With my MA8000, DT150, Transport and MT5, I have yet to hear better in all areas, anywhere..and I have heard systems up to 1 million dollars. All depends on room, equipment, etc. But both the G’s and the Sopras are top of the heap IMO. For me, the Sopras easily beat the G’s in MY room and with this gear. In your room, it may differ. I am so thrilled with the Sopra 2’s, more so than I have been with any speaker, ever.

      1. I understand your point of view and often the listening room can create very different results. But in this situation, the differences are found to be very obvious to all, for some people present these products are not even comparable in some ways … we had the same ma8000 and at this point I think that the biggest differences are in the type of music listened (or format and quality), I select carefully, whenever possible, the first vinyl issues and the best editions of the albums I listen. But I also buy a lot of contemporary music. Maybe you’ve done some trouble with the connection of 4Ohm Guarneri or have any problem with your setup, the result was incredibly sharp at all and none of those present (some experts longtime) has tilted in favor of the Focal (who had It made a great impression in another room, but with a power of amplficazione 1200wpc !!!). I think you need to give a second chance to the incredible Guarneri, but I understand your emotion to discover new and just released products and perhaps at this moment you appreciate more the charm of the floor-speakers audio 🙂
        ciao!

    1. I have heard the S2…go with the MA8000. You will NOT be disappointed in the slightest. It bests mostly all separates I have heard. You are giving up nothing when compared to even MC seperates with this piece. I am guessing the next MA9000 or whatever it is called will be scaled back as I see the 8000 hurting separate sales for McIntosh. It’s a beauty and am listening to it right now. Lots of cash but its one of those things you buy and do NOT regret, as in, it is giving me back $10k worth of pleasure easily.

  10. Steve,
    I randomly saw on Amazon you had posted a short review of the KEF LS 50 speakers. Any chance of a review of them here, with photos? Thanks in advance.

  11. Steve,
    I am headed to Scottsdale later this week…can you recommend a couple of Audio stores to visit while I am in town?
    Thank you,
    Scott

    1. AZ HiFi i Phx is my fave spot for Tubes and Turntables and Cables. L&M In Scottsdale is my fave for over the top high end gear, best of the best. Thats about it. There is also dedicated audio in scottsdale that sells Deynaudio, Focal, Clearaudio, etc but they are appt only.

  12. Hey Steve,
    I just wanted to know now that almost a year has passed how are liking the Devialet? I just splurged to pickup a pair of KEF Reference 3 speakers and I’ve been using Tube Equipment from Rogue Audio (Stereo 100 amp & Perseus Magnum Preamp) for a while but the claims on the Devialet equipment and what they do with their SAM technology have really got me considering going with their Devialet 400 for an upgrade on my front end components. I really trust your reviews and it seems like I am in the same ballpark as you were with you previous tube gear. So, I was wondering how the Devialet has compared to your previous tube equipment now that you have had a significant amount of time with it? Do you miss the tubes? Are you able to get the same performance or better from the Devialet?
    I’m going to a new dealer in about 3 months to audition VTL tube equipment but unfortunately I don’t really have a dealer local that has Devialet equipment inhouse to Demo. The couple of stores in driveable distance that advertise they have it only have the previous generation models.

    My equipment right now is:
    VPI PRIME turntable with Koetsu Black MC cart.
    Rogue Audio Stero 100 AMP and Perseus Preamp
    KEF Reference 3 speakers
    All IC’s are Audioquest Victoria
    All power cables are Granite Audio

    thanks!

    1. FYI.. In case you have never heard of them or your dealer doesn’t do demo’s check out http://www.thecableco.com/
      They are a local shop near me and they rent IC’s, power cables, power conditioners and other accessory components. This way if you ever need to try anything and a local dealer doesn’t have it they have a huge inventory of cables and equipment for rent. One of the biggest differences in my setup was testing the Shunyata power cables. Lowers the noise floor drastically!!! Try their Sigma or Alpha series. They are amazing! I was never a believer in power cables but these really changed the game for me. Now it just comes to attempting to afford them…

    2. I am always trying new gear as several HIFI shots know me well, and some let me demo gear for review or to just see what I think. I had the Deviate for a while, long for me 😉 As of today I have a McIntosh MA-8000 Integrated Amp here and it does beat the Devialet for power and transparency/soundstage depth and has a fantastic MC phono stage and a very nice DAC built in. I’m testing it with the MCD-550 and MT-5 TT. A full Mac setup with Dynaudio C1 Platinum speakers. In comparison to my Devialet with Sonus Faber or Wilson Benesch this combo is more dynamic, clearer and cleaner and more soundstage depth than width. I have never really experienced a VERY front to back deep soundstage, only width. It’s quite fascinating. But the MA8000 is $10k, so around the same price range as the Dev 400.

      For convenience the Devialet would win. It has all you need in that slim case and SAM. For beauty, resale, power and transparent detailed (yet full) sound, the MA8000 takes the spot for best integrated I have tested. It in an all new Macintosh sound IMO. Gone is the dark mid bass heavy sound. It’s eerily transparent and lets you see into the music.

      The Devialet would now be #2 for me, but both do much of the same thing. One with a small footprint, one with a huge footprint! The Mac is 100 lbs, and huge. Listening to Lana Del Rey now and I have a full left to right and front to back “stage” where everything has its place and it is so smooth, clean and “see through” as if the voices and instruments are hanging around the room in their place. Magical.

      Using all Nordost Heimdall II cords from power to IC to speaker.

  13. In what ways do you find the Vectors better than the Olympica? I heard the Olympica II and found them on occasion a bit bright.

  14. I had a pair of traditional sonus fabers (Cremona M) which looked and sounded great however I’ve now downsized to Harbeth M30.1 speakers which whilst they don’t have the bass extension of the sonus fabers and aren’t anything like as pretty, are the most musically satisfying speakers I’ve owned. (coupled with Devialet 400 amps, Esoteric CD and Brinkmann La Grange deck).

  15. Kind of a shame what has happened to the Sonus Faber brand. They were hand built cabinets…designed to sound even better than they looked. Unfortunately, Sonus Faber’s new owners
    have moved production to China, and the company is doing whatever it can to drive costs down.

    IMHO: Sonus does’t sound like Sonus used to. Too bad as I have owned several pairs over the years. The new models do not have warmth lovely sound.

    I have listened to the DeVore’s matched Line Magnetic gear. It is a great match.

    1. The Guarneri Evos and new Amatis are VERY WARM. Ive owned both. The Evo’s sound better than any previous Guarneri – Ive owned them all. In fact, the best speaker I have ever owned is the Guarneri Evo, and those are not made in China, neither is the Amati. They are made in Italy, by hand as they have always been. But to be clear, the EVO’s slaughter the Memento and Guarneri Homage. It’s quite striking how much better they are, and the Evo’s are warmer and richer than the Memento’s.

  16. Did you consider the Sonus Faber Olympic II or III? They’re around the same price as the Wilson Benesch Vectors.

      1. Yes, they’re beautiful. I wanted to like them but found them a tad too bright. What did you think compared to the Vectors? I heard them on the end of an Audio Research vsi60.

  17. Correction last sentence: ” in all other respects, I would pretty much agree with your description of transparency, staging, clarity and imaging. ”

    Thanks steve

  18. Hey steve,
    just wondering what settings you put your d200 on to get it on the warm side of neutral? I’ve tried it with reduced Sam to 70%, reduced treble at -2db and find its still not quite so warm, let alone lush enough out of my Guarneri evolutions. Maybe I’m expecting too much out of it coming from an all tube background? In all other respects, your description of transparency, staging, clarity, imaging are at least equal or well beyond the best I’ve heard!

    Thanks!

    1. I do not change ANY settings. I leave it at 0 all the way. I do not use SAM. I get massive punch, volume, imaging and spaciousness while it being on the warm side of neutral. This is for any soaker I have tried with it. I am using Wilson Benesch Vectors now which are not considered warm speakers as the SF G’s are, yet they are still on the warm side of neutral and sound so so good. Room, placement, all of that makes a huge difference as well.

  19. Could you please check the noise level at the device once it is in a standby mode, please?
    I have heard it produces a lot of noise, and I don’t understand what’s the point of low output noise when the device itself produces it.

    Thanks!!!

  20. Hi Steve,

    Such an amazing site you got going here…been following for years. Thank you.

    Any news regarding when you will launch the Devialet review? look forward to your thoughts about it as I am thinking about “investing” in the D200.

    Are you still enjoying it?

    All the best,
    Casper

  21. Steve,

    How do you think the Vsi75 will sound with my original Guarneri Homages? I tried the Vsi60 and Vsi75 in a local dealer with Linn speakers and found that the amps were very close, if anything the Vsi60 sounded a little more musical a touch less clinical if you know what I mean?

    Best Regards
    Nick

          1. I’m running the Devialet 200 with the legendary Sonus Faber Electa Amator mark 1. I have never heard anything sweeter.

  22. Charles, why on earth did you get rid of your vinyl / 300B rig? To para Groucho Marx: Did you fail the sanati clause? I’m just curious… I run a 300B (single-ended of course) with a Garrard 401 Various arms SME 3012 heavily modified to increase mass and rigidity, Ikeda 407 and Koetsu Red Sig (original) BlueOnyx and SPU 90th which are swapped from time to time (each has a different flavour, none will bite your ears) and speakers designed and built by me (big transmission-lines) and Guaneris (original).
    Kind Regards

    John

  23. Me too. Until a couple of years ago I was a small part of the HiFi industry, cartooning and reviewing music for HiFi Plus mag. Whilst I’ve slightly curtailed the HiFi bug and have a relatively small main system (sonus faber Cremona M speakers, Brinkmann La Grange record deck, Esoteric X03 CD, and Devialet 170 amp), music remains a vital part of my life. As does photography. I got the bug years ago on a business trip to Brazil with a Leica Digilux. I now have a Nikon Df, D700 and D600 along with a wide range of lenses, and a much loved Fuji X100. Like music in some ways, photography is so engrossing since there is always something new to learn, another avenue to explore.

  24. I saw this and just had to comment. I think the two (photography and audio) really do seem to go together and this is not the first time I’ve came across somebody who likes both. I really miss my analog rig which consisted of a VPI TNT turntable with cutom 300B tube amps and custom Klipschorns to play my over 9,000 pieces of vinyl. I really enjoy your sight. My system changed many times over the years but my love for photography and audio will always remain.

    Charlie

    http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?vevol&1169964085

  25. Steve, can you drop me a mail when you will have completed your review of the Line Magnetic 219ia ? I am looking forward reading it. If this AMP sound so good as it …look !
    thanks in advance

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