The New Firestone Audio Cute Series Components.
Here are 3 little over-achievers for you - the new Firestone Spitfire MK2 Digital to analogue converter, the Cute Beyond Class A headphone amplifier and the new Fubar III Mk2 which combines the best bits of both.
Archived page: January 2016
– Please see the Meridian Explorer or the HRT and NuPrime ranges for our recommended new DACs
Firestone Audio have been quietly building a reputation for excellent performance and value for money. With recent upgrades within the range and a dramatic improvement in pricing due to both exchange rates and the economies of scale, it's the right time to spotlight these very well made and capable components.
Spitfire Mk2 DAC NZ$599 including GST
The new Spitfire sets the benchmark for what an affordable Digital to Analogue Converter can do. Pervious favorites - the Cambridge Audio DACmagic and Perreaux SXD2 have been bettered in straight line performance and comprehensively guzumped in price. There is nothing cut-down about the Spitfire Mk2 - it has 3 digital inputs - Optical, Coaxial supporting formats up to 24bit/96kHz and USB for direct connection to computers. What the Spitfire does with many different sources is quite simple - it greatly improves clarity, bringing overall sound quality up to a level that would otherwise require serious spending on the source components. Because of the multiple inputs you are able to improve several sources at the same time - a CD or DVD player, MySky or a Sonos system, Apple Airport Express via the optical output and music on your computer via USB. Just to make other more costly products look stingy, the Spitfire includes a quality interconnect cable and USB lead in the packaging. And you have a choice of silver or black finish. The Firestone products also include a stiff NZ c-ticked 240v to 24v wall mount power supply which gives the Spitfire plenty of go while keeping noisy mains power away from sensitive audio circuits. We're using the Spitfire in many demonstrations in the store - when fed a lossless signal from either Sonos or Apple AirPort Express the results are directly comparable with quality CD players with the added advantage of easy access to all our recorded music. Given the combination of build quality, performance and price, the FireStone Spitfire Mk2 is a highly capable device. Check out the WitchDoctor review.
Cute Beyond Headphone amplifier NZ$399 including GST
A good headphone amplifier can make a world of difference to your listening. As headphones get better and we have to show a little consideration for those around us - or just want the very best sound possible without the complications and cost of a full blown system. Most components from the iPod upwards aren't that great at getting the most out of headphones - once you realize that headphones really are just small speakers, it becomes obvious that the quality of amplifier used will make a big improvement to the end result. Because headphones are much smaller and the power required is less than with conventional amplifiers it's possible to really optimize designs for sound quality above all else. This is why the Cute Beyond headphone amplifier is a Class A design - it runs slightly warm, but sounds much better for it. The solid state design keeps noise down to vanishingly low levels but dynamics are expansive - simply put, music sounds startlingly alive when compared to listening to the same thing via a normal system or ipod. Like the Spitfire, the Cute Beyond replaces a Perreaux component in our range - in this case the SXH2 which has crept up in price to three times the Firestone Cute Beyond. Given the huge price difference - more than $800 - we'd suggest you would be much better off with the Cute beyond and spending a little more on the headphones themselves. And it is fair to say we have some very nice options here...
Fubar3 MkII USB DAC and line headphone amplifier NZ$499 including GST
The latest iteration of the Firestone Fubar combines the USB functions of the SpitFire DAC and Cute headphone amplifier in one very friendly and affordable package. We recently installed a bevy of these with Grado SR125i headphones at the Hocken Library in Dunedin - they were delighted with the results and even more so with the price - previously we'd quote for both the Perreaux SXD2 and SXH2 - but the Firestone amplifier fulfilled the same criteria for less than a quarter of the price. Again, this allowed us to supply better products where it really mattered and also listeners found that single box Fubar solution far easier to use. The MK2 version benefits from the addition of Line input terminals, has changed the output to fixed and also has improved sound quality over the MK1 that received an excellent write-up in Audioenz last year "As a headphone amp, I'd say in its class it would hold its own weight – and as a DAC feeding into an amplifier and speakers, it certainly does. The Fubar III is a brilliant all-rounder that does things quietly and without drama, lifting the sound of a computer several levels above your average soundcard. Highly recommended." And that was when it sold for $679!
Firestone Audio design an ever increasing range of specialist components - Phono stages, amplifiers, more advanced DACs and headphone amplifiers. And they are not afraid of continually working to improve existing products and finding ways to give you more for less. We like this! While we don't carry the full range in stock, it only ever takes a few days to get anything we don't have. So if you're after something either better or more comprehensively specified and featured than the 3 entry level components above, do call us. We've recently auditioned the new Libby and Rubby products and look forward to further developments.
In the same vein, the NuForce Icon products also perform far beyond the level suggested by their compact size and affordability - These dovetail in nicely with Firestone, each performing a different set of tasks and very much keeping each other on their toes. Learn more about the NuForce Icon range here.
Call, e mail us or even better, come in and see the new Firestone Cute range for yourself - you can audition them with our extensive range of Grado headphones and make comparisons of the DACs performance. Because they are so small and portable, it's never a problem to arrange audition at home either. We're sure you'll be just as impressed as us!
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