This my quick look at 2017 in Review. I have had a really interesting year in HiFi thanks to all my friends in the industry. I’m continuing to look at HiFi with my take on the latest equipment whilst trying to stay clear of ‘flappy’ jargon and giving the most honest look and feel and sound of the equipment I experience. With a growing readership I am hoping to more of the same with best equipment I can source.
In my view, I have not heard consistently good output all year and I am growing tired of Jay-Z (in particular) and Kendrick Lemar. I just wish they would just make music rather than ramming home their on-going expletive heavy grievances. Having said that I am listening to DAMN. and it sounds great! No better demonstration of my point is that the new album by U2 has really washed over me, as did the National’s album. Anyway honourable Album mentions this year for me go to Taylor Swift (great stuff) , Kamasi Washington, China Moses, and Ryan Adams. So my top 3 albums are as follows, with Ryan Adams fourth.
My # 1 Album of 2017
A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs. I’m still listening to my coke bottle white vinyl version regularly and it is growing on me more every time I hear it. I would go so far as to say I prefer it now to ‘Lost in a Dream’; re-reading my review I was struggling with it on first listen but all reservations are gone, this is a wonderful album.
Album of the Year # 2
Album of the Year # 3
Crack Up by Fleet Foxes. Still listening to this on vinyl when I’m cooking or just getting lost in music.
I have been very lucky this year to listen to some amazing equipment. The tone was set in January when I waved goodbye after an extended loan to the incredible Focal Sopra No. 2s. My lifelong audio nirvana journey just about ended there, they were paired with Atlas Mavros speaker cables, an Atlas power conditioner and a Naim NAC-N 272 and NAP 250DR source! Amazing.
After that it was always going to be a challenging year however a trip to the Bristol HiFi show restored my faith when I heard the amazing 2017 Rega Brio, what a fabulous box of electronics. The Brio on that day was paired with an Auralic Aries Mini (review coming in a few weeks) and a pair of Spendor A2s. After a short while of digging I was able to hear the Auralic Altair Streaming DAC with the Rega Brio and it was very thrilling to hear such a great sound in my listening room.
If you have followed my website you will know, quite early on I was bowled over by the cast iron Jern 14 speakers. Weighting in at 14 kilos each, they are pin point accurate, with a dominant and full soundstage and they’re supported by a REL subwoofer to cover off the low frequency range.
Again, I have been fortunate to hear some very special headphones this year, the Focal Utopias stand out in particular. No co-incidence Focal feature in speakers and headphones headlines. For the money they really were outstanding but at £3,500 odd they are a stretch! I was fortunate to hear them with a pair of Questyle 800 monoblocks and this set-up was one of my audiophile highlights of 2017. This year I also heard the very nice Focal Elear, that were a more affordable £800 odd. To bridge the gap Focal has just released the Focal Clear headphones that I have just received for review. Sitting near £1,400 they are sure to be a highlight of 2018, this time driven by the exceptional Questyle CMA 400i.
Other highlights of my year include, without reservation the OPPO UDP-205, which is a Blu Ray disc player. I use it as my reference CD player and it is exceptional in detail and clarity at the price.
Other Notable Pieces
Finally, for 2017 in Review, I must compliment Auralic on their fabulous range of streaming DACs, in particular the Altair that I enjoyed so much this year. Their flexibility and value for money out of the box are an example to all in how to create a product that just works and sounds great. The Auralic Polaris, in simple terms, was the amplified version of the Altair and that too was a pure value for money winner for me this year. I have an Aries Mini which I am listening to and will review this month.
I must mention my encounter with Kostas Metaxas at the Birmingham HiFi Show with his incredible Sirens. Now surely they would end, once and for all, my journey to Audio Nirvana?
Coming Up in 2018
Coming up this month or two will be a look at the Tibo Smart Amplifier, that is another pocket battleship amp. Based on the Tibo Kameleon I am looking forward to listening to that. I also have the Tibo Bond Mini that simply allows Smart Audio access to an existing HiFi system.
I have just unboxed a pair of Focal Clear headphones after their launch last year. Additionally I am hoping to get a listen to the new Focal Kanta floor standing speakers, although they are hard to track down due to their demand. I have some new Atlas interconnects that I will be looking at too. I will be also be chasing the new Moon Integrated Amplifier. And finally, I am hoping I’ll be able to track down the newly announced T+A MP 8 to compliment the DSD DAC 8 & AMP 8 that was my 2017 reference system. Long may it be so.
Happy New Audio Year!