They say you can’t keep everybody happy all the time. But some people try harder than others.
These are some of the splendid manufacturers whose ethos and equipment never fails to put a smile on our faces.
ADT is an artisanal company manufacturing a small range of all-triode pre and power amplifiers. Italian hand-built designs that are fully hard-wired and dripping with features that appeal to the hard-core audio nut. Their designs reek of a single mind desire to achieve a performance result irrespective of commercial considerations – a breath of fresh air.
The stereo 300B power amplifier, in particular, is a wonder. Eye-balling it in the flesh simply makes you smile. Weighing in at 55kgs you know this amplifier means business. The musical performance has scale, power and authority with refinement, elegance and proportion. ‘Breathtaking’ is an overused word in audio, but ADT gives it new meaning.
To our knowledge Canary Audio produces the most comprehensive range of 300B amplifiers of any manufacturer. Ranging from the 8w single ended M80 monos, through to the gargantuan 2 man lift 100w Reference Two monos – probably the most powerful Class A 300B amplifiers in the world. Canary Audio produce one of the finest CD players irrespective of price, and a free standing DAC based on the same circuitry with all of the connectivity options today’s market could possibly wish for.
Their line level pre-amps start start with a simple single chassis model and advance to 2 & 4 chassis models that are completely dual mono, with valve regulated and valve rectified power supplies. All of their products have slick and solid construction, with a clean aesthetic. This American marque is worthy of close consideration for any music lover with high ambitions.
The TLO 3.0 CD transport is probably the best CD transport ever. Utterly unique, it is now In its 3rd iteration and has comfortably stood the test of time. Full of unusual features like belt drive, and a low resonance 3 point suspension system, it is immaculately built and despite its compact dimensions, physically substantial. It has the density of planet Mercury.
The smaller TL3N transport embodies many of the ideas in the TLO 3.0 in a package representing a phenomenal price performance ratio. A partnering DAC and an integrated CD player version are also available.
Formerly Engström & Engström, the most recent addition to our product portfolio. Founded by engineer Lars Engström and industrial designer Timo Engström. Engström is a Swedish family company seeking to revive sound in its original, natural, purest form.
Hand-assembled, with an uncompromising approach to precision engineering and Scandinavian design, Engström’s high-end amplifiers are among the very best in the world.
Growing up in a music culture, collecting and listening to LPs since childhood followed by 30 years of professional experience with multitudinous and diverse performance-oriented turntables, has revealed that no single turntable design is all things to all men. Wittingly or otherwise, specific performance virtues are prioritised or traded at the expense of others – an approach which cannot suit all musical genres equally, as it polarises and channels the music that you can enjoy to full potential. If you have a voracious appetite for all good music, irrespective of genre, this simply will not do.
Many will have embraced CD and digital formats in pursuit of those virtues hardest to achieve from a turntable; specifically perfect time coherence and absolute pitch stability; something that digital media has found easier to achieve.
Even the highest mass and highest torque decks have shortcomings which make the convincing reproduction of piano music on LP particularly illusive, and the same is true of non-vibrato string tone – it’s very hard to reproduce convincingly without the distraction of subtle pitch variance to wrench you out of your willing suspension of disbelief. The GPA Monaco V2.0 is completely devoid of this Achilles heel. In many ways, it is more like a reel to reel master tape than either a CD player or a turntable.
The Monaco V2.0 is an engineering tour de force with the performance virtues of digital and analogue formats with none of their associated shortcomings. It delivers a musical performance which transcends the means of reproduction. In short, the Monaco satisfies our ideal wish list; natural tonality across the full bandwidth; effortless and perfectly scaled dynamic range; time coherence and structural organisation and perfect pitch stability. Its ability to convincingly capture emphatic and powerful musical gestures, and the broad overarching thrust of grand compositions is peerless.
Living Voice loudspeakers produce a quality of musical experience that is second to none. The mature music lover will instantly recognise an inherent rightness about the musical balance; tonal colours, instrument timbres, dynamic proportions, overall tonal balance,musical coherence: the list is complete. Broad and demanding musical tastes are fully satisfied with ease. These are highly evolved and completely resolved designs. The Auditorium Series has many unique and unusual features that are not immediately apparent.
Behind the totemic simplicity of the cabinets are refined material choices, proprietary components, and build techniques that have been developed and evolved over the years. These sophisticated loudspeakers can be used with solid state electronics to very great effect but are ideally partnered with class A valve electronics which realise their full potential. Often partnered with electronics costing an order of magnitude more, these loudspeakers offer the committed music lover a glimpse of heaven. There is a choice of eight finishes – all in premium grade book-matched wood veneers.
Definitive Audio has a permanent demonstration facility dedicated to this now iconic loudspeaker system. The Vox Olympian/Vox Elysian 5 way horn loaded loudspeaker system is a synthesis of the finest audio engineering, visual design and cabinet making. Form and function married to the finest fit and finish.
It is the culmination of 25 years of design evolution. The 105dB sensitivity and true full-bandwidth horn loading are harnessed in a singularly coherent presentation. There is life, colour and expression that transcends the means of production.
Solid state amplifiers are traditionally the preserve of designers who trust what they can measure more than they trust what they can hear, or feel. This is why there are so few musically rewarding solid state amplifiers. So thank goodness for Sugden. Despite, or perhaps because of their design simplicity, Sugden Audio designs present music with legibility and joy – they make music make sense.
First introduced in 1967 the A21 integrated amplifier is a modern classic, and the perfect partner for a a pair of 90-92dB loudspeakers. Its big brother, the Masterclass integrated amplifier, has all of its strengths and more besides. Reassuringly built and reassuringly dependable, if you are looking for neurosis-free, consistent performance Sugden should be your first port of call.
Definitive Audio is proud to represent Vitavox – manufacturers of what we believe to be the finest compression and bass drive units currently made.
Vitavox drive units have a rich and venerable history dating to the early 1930s and have graced every Living Voice horn-loaded loudspeaker design since 1990, namely the Air Scout, Air Partner, Vox Olympian, and now the new Vox Palladian.
A radical departure from received wisdom, the Viv Labs Rigid Float tonearms rip up the rule book. There is no headshell off-set angle, and hence no anti-skating compensation mechanism, there is a ferro-fluid lubricated floating magnetic bearing, no rigid coupling of the arm to the turntable chassis, and on the RF7, a 7” arm tube! How can any of this possibly be right? Well, the listening experience flies in the face of prejudice and arrests you with stunning performance.
Looking more closely reveals a clarity of understanding of the complexities of record replay and an elegant simplicity of design execution. The musical performance is direct and intravenous, and those who can break through the unconventional RF design may discover a whole new world of musical joy. Above all it is thrilling.