Really it is a modern miracle, can anyone imagine the current pandemic without the streaming wonders of Tidal, Qobuz, Netflix or Disney+?
First of all, welcome to the HF&MS Newsletter #10, a summary of what’s been and what’s coming and once again it has been a brilliant month for listening to music on the very best of HiFi out there. Let’s reflect on the miracle of music these days. A friend of mine was looking for a cassette player with a view to recovering a family moment. Having tried several cassette decks he asked me and I pulled out my old Onkyo tape player that has probably not seen the light for 20 years. Of course, we couldn’t get that working either. Over a couple of drinks and reflecting on this hopeless analogue failure, we realised now, on our phones, we have access to almost every track recorded in a digital format.
But if you stop to think about the process of streaming a track, it is mind-blowing. Think of the steps involved in your phone or iPad connecting to the WiFi, with an App, authenticating the login, sending the album request, through the router to the ‘The Cloud’, wherever that is. Somehow this is directed to Tidal, for example, then the track is asked for, with an authentication key (where is this file stored, physically?). Then the digital file is redirected back to the right regional, then local village distribution box then the right address where the router flicks it to the correct box, DAC, which then decodes it, unpacks it, processes it and then send the analogue signal to a preamplifier and so on. Really it is a modern miracle, can anyone imagine the current pandemic without the streaming wonders of Tidal, Qobuz, Netflix or Disney+?
These last few weeks have featured reviews of the ‘Outstanding’ iFi Pro iDSD DAC, which had an almost uniquely open presentation. Although iFi Pro iDSD is going home very soon I am using it with a separate DAC Transport (a Bluesound Node 2i in fact) which has a better streaming interface and the listening space and overall experience is almost faultless now.
As well as the iFi, HF&MS has had the pleasure of listening to the Cambridge Audio Edge NQ streaming preamplifier with the fantastic 40kg Edge W power amplifier. It was quite a combination and a really impressive system, albeit at a significant price point. Similarly impressive, at a different price point, was the ATC SIA2-100 with the matching CD2 around which a HiFi journey could certainly begin and I was really quite happy to be listening to CDs again, in the week of the Kid A Mnesia release (see below).
Also reviewed in the last month or so was the new Bluesound Node, which can be called variously, Gen 3, 2021 or N130. Whatever you call it, at £549, this is the go-to entry-level functional DAC with one of the best music management systems in the game and sound quality to match.
Finally, I had the honour of spending an hour this week with Axel Grell, the legend of Sennheiser for nearly 30 years. Grell is the father of the 800 range and he has been involved in 47 products in this time. Grell is now putting his reputation on the line with the launch of grell audio and his new TWS/1 earbuds are rolling out in time for Christmas.
Reviews Coming Up
Coming up on HF&MS in the next few weeks will be reviews of the sparkling Auralic Altair G2.1 streaming DAC that features a MM phono analogue input, making it a really rather flexible HiFi component. Also coming soon will be a review of the PMC Twenty5 26i loudspeaker that is currently playing I am the Walrus from the new Oasis Knebworth 1996 release. Also coming soon will be some headphones from a new brand, Sivga Audio, that are currently running in nicely with the iFi Pro iDSD, so they have no excuses when it comes to critical listening.
Also coming up, with the sad departure of the still fantastic Kudos Cardea C10s, will be a review of their floorstanding siblings, the Kudos Super C20A. These speakers have the option of having an active configuration and I’m looking to see if I can arrange this with these speakers, more information, more music?
At this point, I should note I received a pair of ‘True Wireless Sports Earphones’ from Lindy, their LTS-50. They are brilliant and if you’re looking for a sporting wireless experience on the move these guys are really impressing me after the recent failure of my JBL Reflect Flow in-ears. They will be in the gadget section soon but first impressions are very favourable indeed. Finally, keep an eye out for some new USB cable interconnects from Atlas.
…in the words of Axel Grell ‘Enjoy the Music!’
It has been a thrilling music month with the War on Drugs’ new album and the Radiohead Kid A Mnesia triple album. I have always preferred Amnesia to Kid A and this new release gives pause for thought on my Kid A v Amnesiac debate. They’re both great at the end of the day.
Finally, have a listen to Lana Del Rey’s latest release Blue Banisters, if Ed Sheeran’s new album, Elton John’s rehash or Adele’s monologues do as little for you as they do for me. Do comment below and please let me know what I’m missing if I’ve got it wrong with Adele or Ed!
Coming up this month will be the new Peter Jackson Beatles documentary on Disney+ which must be essential watching for anyone who loves stripped back Beatles. The reissued tracks Let It Be (2021) are available in Tidal.
That’s it for this month, in the words of Axel Grell ‘Enjoy the Music!’
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Thank you to Vertere for supporting this Newsletter #10 and our title sponsors Tellurium Q, Moon by Simaudio and SCV Triangle. Finally, thank you to everyone who keeps this show on the road, the HiFi industry keeps us all going in the best and the hardest of times.