Classic audio charity auction
The SME 3012 tonearm is legendary and still stacks up in modern systems. But we don’t want to see this special tonearm as just a commodity – it’s the chance for some enthusiast out there to give a piece of audio history a new life, to make music and enjoy. Likewise the matching Connoisseur turntable.
We’re also about supporting a good cause; combine both and we can do something that’s unusually worthwhile. Learn more.
Bassocontinuo – Italian design in action
It’s our Sunday evening and we’re listening to a simple little system with three well proven and affordable components; what’s new is the rack it’s all sitting on and even more intriguingly, the isolation feet under the electronics…
To say we’re impressed is an understatement. We’ve always known that better isolation improves sound quality but to hear this made into such and obvious and significant reality is a first.
There’s a real story behind Bassocintinuo – how these racks and systems are designed and developed, what makes the different and better, and most importantly, the results that you’ll hear.
NuPrime 9X series – everything you need to know!
The NuPrime 9X series components hit the sweet spot in performance and affordability. Each design deftly balances comprehensive features with remarkable sound quality and the entire range has a track record of exceptional reliability. Music enthusiast or audiophile, there’s a place in your system for the NuPrime 9X components.
The present 9X series family has evolved since introduction and we can trace the roots back to a range of NuForce components. This path of refinement and improvement has led to a broadening of the range with both digital and analogue paths to the point where they have replaced what was NuPrime’s original reference series.
The gradual nature of this evolution means the 9 Series may have flown under your radar until now. NuPrime have also been active in pushing performance boundaries with other parts of their range – the highly regarded AMG and Evolution series being obvious. The good news is that much of the work and development in these high end ranges does find it’s way into the 9 Series with considerable benefits for you.
With 8 core components for you to select from, you are able to build an almost bewildering array of possible systems. That’s why we’re here to help you navigate to the best solution for your own circumstances. Read our complete and comprehensive review of the new 9X range here.
NuPrime STA-100 stereo power amplifier.
It’s hard to know what’s most impressive about the new power amp from Nuprime – the small size (the picture above gives you no idea how compact it actually is), the low price (just NZ$1200 for a 100 watt per channel stereo power amplifier). Or the jaw dropping sound it produces. I’ve been listening for the last month and come to the conclusion that this is NuPrime at their best – they have built a genuinely high performance component using a unique and innovative design, and in doing so deliver a level of sound quality that I’ve simply never heard before at such at affordable price. We’ve got these in stock now and you can read our review here – I’m adding more to it as we go simply because I’m finding more to like every day!
Olympica Nova II speaker system review.
Maybe not so much a review as our personal take on these speakers and how it’s the little touches that make the difference. Having now lived with the Olympica Nova’s for several months we’ve come to really appreciate all that goes in to them and how this contributes to the end sound quality. Get the full story here.
The Well Tempered Record playing system.
In 2023 there is still a place for analogue and with a complete Well Tempered system of turntable, cartridge and phono stage delivers a superior level of sound quality and relative ease of use. The certainty with which it does this that is attributable to consistency of design and purpose that comes from choosing to run with a single brand. This magnifies the individual qualities of the components and the end result is compelling.
Read our full review of the Well Tempered Simplex II, new Kauri Mk2 MC and Bill’s Phono stage here.
New speaker cables from KLEI and Kimber
Keith Eichmann is a man on a mission and while I’ve often suggested that he just leave the range as it is, he’s constantly working on ways to make the existing designs better. How he does this can seem a little mysterious but I get to listen to the results and he’s never yet let us down. And more often than not I end at a literal loss for words having already burnt up my stack of superlatives on previous reviews. So let’s hear what a recent client thinks of their new KLEI speaker cables…
The impact of improved speaker cables should never be underestimated and for many people the first time they hear even the entry level Kimber cable, it’s an experience every bit as revelatory as that described above. Kimber recently upgraded their entry level speaker cable – the legendary 4PR – and you can read all about or Kimber speaker cables here.
Sonus faber Minima Amator II speakers.
After waiting for over a year we’ve finally landed just the one pair of Sonus faber’s statement small speaker – the Minima Amator IIs. Covid and pent up demand have played absolute havoc with supply and there are no more in the country for the rest of this year and beyond. As much as we want to just keep these for ourselves we really should share the love. The Minima’s are creatures of beauty – both physical and aural. Here’s your chance to really indulge yourself.
NuPrime DACs – AMG and DAC9X
The components of the NuPrime AMG series are, in my estimation, their best work to date and the addition of a DAC to the range is timely and complimentary.
There’s a real emphasis on the ‘analogue’ sound qualities inherent in the AMG series yet the reality for many listeners is that digital sources constitute a significant part of our listening. NuPrime have already set themselves a high bar with both the AMG PRA preamp on the analogue side and the Evolution DAC on the digital. The AMG DAC (NZ$4500) brings elements of both to the party but also has its own unique character.
The AMG DAC is effectively two components in one – both (by definition) a Digital to Analogue converter but also a highly refined analogue preamplifier. And it’s the latter part that gives the AMG both it’s exemplary sound quality and utility. I’m working on a review of the AMG DAC – there’s subtlety and refinement in this DAC that have me pushing our system set ups to reveal previously unheard levels of transparency. Just when I think I’ve got it nailed another layer is peeled back.
The more affordable DAC-9X (NZ$2700) builds on the original DAC-9 and DAC-9SE – the first two DAC-9 versions used the AKM chipsets, the new ‘9X’ has gone to ESS same as the other models within the Nuprime range. And the 9X goes even further with an excellent headphone section, MQA and a front panel fixed/variable gain switch. Add either the cost effective Stream Mini or the Lumin-level Stream 9 and you have a wicked Tidal playing solution not to mention and extremely capable DAC and preamp that even includes analogue input as well as both RCA and balanced outputs. Not to mention a finish choice of either black or silver.
If you’ve been following NuPrime’s progress you’ll have worked out that the DAC-9X is the effective replacement, not just for the earlier models but the considerably more costly DAC-10H.
Lumin review highlights
The last 12 months have seen Lumin introduce a series of new models and we’ve had our work cut out covering them all so let’s look at some review highlights.
“The Lumin P1 network player (NZ$20,500) is a standout in so many ways. Its feature set, which combines network streaming, a high-quality DAC, and a multi-input preamplifier, is perfectly suited to today’s music systems. With full MQA decoding and Roon-Ready status, the P1 leaves no important item off the table…. Audio products that combine many capabilities into a single component in the pursuit of low cost or convenience often do so at the expense of sound quality—a case of “jack of all trades, master of none.” But the Lumin P1 defies that stereotype—I’ll call it a “master of all trades.” Robert Harley, The Absolute Sound September 2022.
The U2 Mini (NZ has been an immediate hit with us – being both one of the most affordable Lumin components yet delivering a jaw dropping level of performance when connected to existing DACs, the U2 Mini is the perfect addition to many systems and will show you just how good streaming can sound.
To put it bluntly, this is not in line with the price level and a similar impression could be expected from [products] at least twice as expensive. SoundRebels.
The best selling Lumin T2 has just been replaced by the T3 (NZ$9500). This is the sweet spot in the Lumin range. The improvements made are subtle but significant – finish quality lifted to X1/P1 levels, a new-for-2022 processing system allowing the T3 to do more and be better at it. The price has increased due to exchange rates but the T3 is now even better value in real terms.
“Two things make it stand out from the crowd. First is the excellent sound quality, its dynamics and sheer drive giving life and excitement to music. Secondly, the ongoing software maintenance and support from the factory provide peace of mind and confidence in the purchase being future-proof. The assurance of timely customer assistance and cost-free feature upgrades for many years is a big drawcard because, in my view, a digital device is only as good as its support.
It’s more than just an update to the popular T2, then. In reality, the new LUMIN T3 is an ever better sounding device than its predecessor – with skilful improvements that make it one of the finest players at its price point.” Stereonet October 2022.
“In addition to reproducing beautiful voices and and solo instruments, the Lumin T3 and AMP really shined on one of my favorite pieces of music with quite a bit going on, to say the least. Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain, from Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Le Sacre du Printemps, has been a go-to track for me recently. I love the music and I love when stellar audio components reproduce it wonderfully. The Lumin components handled this track effortlessly, while putting its brilliance on full display.” Audiophile Style October 2022
We’ve built some absolutely fantastic Lumin based systems for our clients over the last 18 months – the combination of any of the Lumin network players, the NuPrime power amplifiers and Sonus faber speakers all tied together with KLEI cables delivers the best of all worlds. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the entry level with the D2, or lucky enough to be able to enjoy the X1, the systems are all easy to set up and use and you just select the appropriate amplification and speakers for your needs and budget – the sound you’ll enjoy is everything the reviews suggest and more.
We’ve got several Lumin based systems set up and running here so if you’re wanting to hear for yourself, just drop us a line.
Sonus faber Omnia vs the new Tivoli Music system – the best all-in-ones.
The new Sonus Faber Omnia system is all that we’d hoped and more. But given we’ve also got the latest iteration of the classic Tivoli Music system which also sports a handsome walnut finish and shares a very similar feature set, how do they actually compare? I’ve had both running in my office for the last couple of months and it’s been quite the trip which you can read about here.
Nagaoka Jeweltone MM cartridges
I’ve always been a fan of the Nagaoka cartridges so have been keenly anticipating the arrival of the new ‘JewelTone’ models: There are two choices – the JT-80LB at NZ$450 and the JT-80BK at NZ$995. These sit alongside the well proven MP series.
The more affordable JT-980LB has a blue stylus assembly and makes an immediate impression – it’s vivd and gusty like the best selling MP-110 but adds considerable detail and precision.
The JT-80BK (black) might look similar but it’s in another league. Sharing the same boron cantilever as the top MP series cartridges certainly helps but there seems to be a lot more going on here. This is an alarmingly good cartridge by any standards. Super easy to fit and set up, it easily bettered my own MP-300 which is $500 more. This was apparent in the first 10 seconds and from there it just kept getting better. I’m not alone in being impressed…
“To keep it short: We have hardly ever listened to a better pickup for this price. The extremely linear top-of-the-range Jeweltone sounds so natural, resolved and fanned out that it provides nothing but pleasure…
… the “BK” displays an inherently noble perfection, especially since it also does without “artificial freshness” in the form of brightened upper frequencies. In addition, it features a gnarly bass, differentiated down to the smallest facets, which perfectly complements the fine trebles at the other end of the spectrum.” stereomagazine .com
“I can also be enthusiastic about MMs, but only a few have really swept me off my feet. Such as the Nagaoka JT-80 BK. Its black body delivers a scope of colour which is just unparalleled. One of the best MM systems ever.” audio.de
“Hi John – I thought I’d send a quick note with my early impressions on the Nagaoka JT-80BK Jeweltone cart you set up for me last week. After about 3 hrs the top end smoothed right out with what were once sounds becoming distinct instruments. I’ve had it for a week now & I’m finding it’s a real honey. It has a big tight clean & very relaxing sound which I know will only get better over time.”
NuPrime PRA-X balanced analogue preamplifier (NZ$2400) & STA-9X power amplifier (NZ$2500)
NuPrime (and formerly NuForce) have a significant history with analogue preamplifiers. The PRA-9X carries on this tradition and adds some unique twists. There’s a built in phono stage, headphone output and both balanced and RCA inputs and outputs. This would suggest that it’s an upgrade of the HPA-9 but in reality it’s a complete and comprehensive reworking.
The phono stage illustrates this perfectly – vastly improved and focused on MM, the turntable input now competes with any serious separate phono stage, many costing as much as the entire PRA-9X itself. From the first notes I’ve been struck by the clarity, verve and agility of the presentation.
A well designed preamplifier brings a system to life and the new PRA-9X is a real case in point. Power amplifiers also vary quite widely in terms of what it takes to bring them to full potential and even within NuPrimes own selection, there are significant specification differences when it comes to sensitivity, gain and impedance. A case in point being the newest model the Evolution STA; of all the NuPrime models, this benefits the most from the PRA-9X and at an educated guess I’d suggest the same designer was behind both. That I can recommend the 9 series preamp with the reference series power amp speaks volumes about both the performance and value of the ‘9X.
The PRA-9X also has some rather useful and friendly smarts – it remembers the last volume setting use for everyone of the 4 inputs and always goes back to this when you switch – and rather than coming on instantly at this level, mutes between switches then smoothly ramps up to this level. Needless to say there is a remote control but I’ve been enjoying the more tactile experience of front panel operation.
…it’s a complete reworking of the original STA-9 with the switching speed taken from 550kHz to beyond Evolution level at 750kHz. Current delivery and output has been greatly beefed up too with 130 watts in stereo or a truely scary 330 watts of mono power when bridged.
This new power amplifier is directly derived from the AMG-STA – there are going to be differences for sure given the AMG comes in for around 50% more. I haven’t done a direct comparison as yet but I’m picking that it will be interesting. The AMG series have a distinct sonic personality when compared with the rest of the NuPrime range but in terms of specification and function these amps are evenly matched. Watch this space…
Combine the PRA-9X and STA-X for an absolute killer of a pre-power combination that ticks all the boxes in terms of function and specification for under $5000.
Lumin U2 Mini Network transport
The new Lumin U2 Mini is the perfect partner for making streaming sound fantastic with your present DAC or digital amplifier. Building on the original U1 and U1 Mini, this little wonder delivers serious high end performance. Completely new processing hardware and software deliver improved features and increased resampling flexibility while retaining all the musicality that was noted in so many outstanding U1 Mini reviews. Available now in black and silver finishes at NZ$4500 including GST and delivery.
Well Tempered Lab Kauri MK II M.C. Phono Cartridge
Well Tempered have a great reputation sound quality and their cartridges have a unique New Zealand connection with both the design and materials; Whilst retaining the original inert and unique New Zealand Kauri wooden body the MK II version now features a completely new motor and revised rubber suspension material for improved damping of the new boron cantilever.
The Kauri MK II also features the very latest Namiki elliptical stylus that reduces distortion providing excellent high frequency reproduction with a notable lack of edginess, especially in the inner grooves of the recording.
I didn’t get to spend much time with the original version but this new cartridge has knocked my socks off – the level of detail and clarity, combined with a silky smooth tonality is one of the best MCs performances I’ve heard, right up there with the far more costly Dynavector models. While it’s obviously intended for Well Tempered Turntable owners we’ve already had a couple of very happy clients with other brands that have been thrilled by the improvement.
In stock now at NZ$3400.
Sonus faber Lumina II and V
Hot on the heels of the recently introduced Lumina I and III speakers that we’ve been so taken with, Sonus faber do even better. The Lumina II is a shelf or stand mount model that at first glance seems quite small till you put it side by side with the Lumina I – the extra capacity and driver size really open things up and for not a lot more you get a considerably more generous and engaging performance that’s pure Sonus faber.
The Lumina V is now the top of the Lumina range and a lot more has gone into this model. There’s an internal curved sub-cabinet for the all important midrange driver, a completely revised crossover, larger bass divers and greater cabinet capacity.
‘Sonus Faber’s Lumina V is what I would call “a serious loudspeaker”. With a seductively natural sound that comes from organic, well damped cone materials, plus a good stab at tonal accuracy, the Lumina V came across as easily engaging. It had great insight, giving atmospheric sound with vocals, plus enormously powerful bass that added prodigious weight. With high sensitivity little power is needed – think 40W or so – so the Lumina V ticks all boxes. This is a loudspeaker that you should hear first, before others, as it sets standards.’ HiFi World.
KLEI QPURITY∞∞∞ AC power cable.
I do my best to try and stop Keith continually improving his cable designs because it makes it so hard to keep our web pages up to date but he’s gone and done it again. Although this looks just the same as the top of the range AC cable we had last year, it’s a whole new ballgame. I didn’t know this when we got it in a few weeks ago – ok there was a price increase but with material costs, exchange and freight rates all heading up, this was expected.
What I wasn’t expecting was to be sitting there listening and thinking just how much better everything seemed to be sounding despite the assumption that this was just the same as the previous QPurity AC cables we’ve had through. ‘Transformative’ is a word we use a few times but in this case it absolutely is the right term. It took a relatively simple system – Lumin T2, the NuPrime AMG STA and a pair of Sonus faber Lumina’s up to a level that had me scratching my head – there’s been no recent component change I’ve made that has had anything like this effect. And while this cable may be NZ$3400, to make any worthwhile components improvements to the system would have cost at least as much if not a lot more.
Now – I fully expect you to think that there is no way a mains cable can do this much. I used to be the same. But if you have any kind of worthwhile system you absolutely owe it to yourself to at the very least try this (or any one of the 3 lower cost mains cables) . The really cool thing is that while I have to go to this level to be really impressed, if you haven’t yet heard Keith’s AC cables you’ll get the same experience even at the entry level – then if you go further it just gets into jaw dropping territory – this is what Hamish so eloquently describes…
‘I then next evening put on the Qflow 2 power cable and the difference was immediately noticeable. So much more fullness of sound, clarity, even a bit more volume than before. There was an improved transparency and detail. It felt like the Hegel H95 amp was suddenly able to fully express itself. It was like a dog on the beach suddenly being let off its leash and running around with joy at its newfound freedom. The music was more engaging and the dynamic range of the amp, especially with percussion and acoustic bass in jazz recordings, was more noticeable and entertaining.‘
Sonus faber Omnia
Sonus faber is thrilled to announce the premiere of Omnia, the brand’s new premium wireless speaker. Combining Sonus faber’s Italian heritage and design expertise, the Omnia wireless system enhances the listening experience with a suite of features that allow users to connect a variety of media with new, innovative technologies at an accessible product, seamlessly integrating Sonus faber’s signature natural sound into any modern space or lifestyle.
“For me, Omnia was a complete journey exploring Sonus faber’s vast history, but made at two-times the speed,” said Sonus faber’s Chief Design Officer, Livio Cucuzza. “With every project, my job is to tell the brand’s story – and with Omnia, the mission was the same, the process was just faster and went more in depth. In its new, more accessible category, Omnia will offer a taste of Sonus faber’s 40-year history to thousands of new customers, ambitious of course, but also gratifying.”
The Omnia system (NZ$3500) is here now.
NuPrime Evolution STA stereo power amplifier.
In the few weeks I’ve been listening to the new Evolution STA stereo power amplifier I think of found its essence but am still well short of establishing its ultimate level of performance.
That the new STA improves upon the original Evolution Monos, and at NZ$8500 is significantly more affordable, is a remarkable feat.
An amplifier this good will never be the weak link in a system and so it’s not unreasonable to assume that you’ll gradually improve the components around it. This makes the Evolution STA a real long term investment that you’ll enjoy, not just for the moment, but even more over the coming years.
Stax SR-L700Mk2 earspeaker system.
As the means to the end of enjoying the highest levels of fidelity, the Stax SR-L700Mk2 Earspeakers (NZ$2700) are hard to beat. Stax are far more than headphones and their design overcomes many of the issues of both conventional loudspeakers and headphones.
While the ‘700’s may sit in the middle of the Stax range, they draw upon both elements in the flagship models and the long heritage of design that makes the brand unique, to deliver remarkable value.
The concept of personal listening is more relevant now than ever with the advent of high quality streaming giving you a whole new world of music to listen to. And at the same time analogue technology enjoys a renaissance driven by the competition. The Stax earspeakers allow you to enjoy the best of all worlds while being completely compatible with almost all existing systems.
Stax SRM-D50 DAC and ear speaker driver NZ$2500
The Stax D50 is an absolute stand out component in the world of audio. It looks amazing in pictures but in the flesh it’s something else again – a complete quality package. The sound quality is something else again. We’ve been feeding it with the NuPrime Stream 9 and the results are just stellar. The resolution is up with the very best DACs and the end result with even the entry level Stax earspeakers makes mincemeat of any conventional amp/loudspeaker system at this price and well beyond. In stock now.
‘The Stax SRM-D50 is purpose-built and high performance. If you have the budget to spend on this kind of high-end audio, this is absolutely the way to be spending it. It’s a truly endgame all-in-one unit that may even negate the need for anything else in your audio chain. If you already own Stax earspeakers, this is a recommended upgrade.
If you’re sick of the rat race, the incremental gear upgrades, the countless hours of researching individual components online – then Stax makes it easy with the SRM-D50 and a good pair of Stax earspeakers.‘
Nuprime Omnia A-300SE streaming amplifier.
Just landed – the A-300SE is compact, user friendly and relatively affordable, especially when compared to the alternative so trying to achieve the same functionality with separate components. We’re not going to call it entry level – the A-300SE is a genuinely audiophile component but it’s designed for the modern world.
There is no other NuPrime component that has had such a protracted development process. And as Nuprime products go, the Omnia A-300SE is easily the most complex and fully featured model to date.
Trying to launch an amplifier like this in the midst of a global pandemic, dealing with parts and supply disruptions, accommodating the continually changing requirements of various streaming services and navigating a raft of evolving standards for both physical and wifi connectivity is a huge and daunting task. To finally have the A-300 here – and now in SE form just 6 months after the initial release is a minor miracle. And there’s a lot to like. Read more here.
NuPrime Stream 9 – NZ$2000
We might have been living in Lumin-land for the past 6 months but we’ve also been keenly awaiting NuPrime’s serious network solution and here it is – the Stream 9.
It’s the perfect route into high definition streaming for every NuPrime owner and ticks all the boxes. The Stream 9 is a network transport so connects to any of the NuPrime DACs or Integrated amplifiers.
What it delivers, is stunnigly lucid and engaging sound from many sources; music stored on your home network, Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify, any smart phone or tablet via both Wifi and Bluetooth, with additional inputs for optical and coax. Mac users will love that Apple Airplay is included.
Combined with the new DAC-9 SE, NuPrime stakes out new territory.
Lumin X1 – the audiophile network player.
To listen to the Lumin X1 is to embrace a revelatory experience. One to be savoured and enjoyed over the long term as you revel in the rediscovery of favourite albums and explore new music.
Having heard a lot of very good components in my time, I can say with absolute certainty, the Lumin X-1 is the best of them. It’s the complete package in terms of physical finish, operation and most importantly of all, sound quality.
We invite you to read about our experiences with this player, or even better, visit and enjoy the sound of the X1 for yourself.
What are the odds – in the first few months of this year not only do we have a wonderful range of new loudspeakers called Lumina from our favourite Italians – Sonus faber. But we also have a fantastic family of network music players from Lumin based in Hong Kong.
It literally is all sweetness and light for 2021. First up, the Sonus fabers. We’ve published two reviews – one of the smaller and remarkably affordable Lumina I’s which are a continuation of the classic Sonus faber ethos. Yet it’s the floor standing Lumina III which is the real surprise – these are quite unique in the Sonus faber range and break new ground in terms of the style of sound. I’ve found a lot to like with them both – there’s some fresh thinking from Sonus faber and the designs are both aesthetically and sonically appealing on many levels.