Dec 012017
 

The 14th Annual Positive Feedback Writers’ Choice Awards for 2017 are now live here.

Actually the Writers’ Choice Awards went live a few days ago but this is my first chance to tell you about it.

Here’s a preview of my little contribution for 2017. You can read the fully story at the link.

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When I received the message from Editors Dave and David that it was time for us Positive Feedback writers to turn in our three Writers Choice Awards for 2017, I reflected back on my year in audio, the products I’ve written about for Positive Feedback, and my long-term impressions about them.

Having a limited amount of time to write about audio, I choose only to write about audio products that I think have the potential to be truly exceptional, and interesting for you to read about.

That creates a personal drama for me as I down-select to three from a group of high-performance artisanal audio products that I have written about over the course of a year that each potentially deserve the recognition a Writers’ Choice Award brings.

I’ll first recap my 2017 Positive Feedback review adventures for you, then I’ll down select, and tell you who my 2017 Writers Choice Awards will go to.

Lefson of France, Issue 91. Xavier Lefebvre’s custom resistors are really something special, and Xavier deserves special recognition for developing a line of ultra-quality resistors with such a lofty level of performance.

In my Positive Feedback Issue 91 review I described the superb results I experienced after installing the Lefson Premium, Supra, and Ultra resistors into the custom crossovers that I built for my vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers adventure.

The Premium (35€), Supra (55€), and Ultra (90€) product lines of Lefson resistors all possess carbon resistive elements, silver leads, silver end caps, and are potted in plastic enclosures, with a level of quality, fit, and finish that is absolutely impeccable.

The Lefson Ultra resistors with their double carbon resistive elements and their gold-coated two-times 0.8mm double-wound pure silver leads get my vote for the finest crossover resistors available on Planet Earth today.

In Lefson, Xavier has created an up-and-coming artisanal audio company that you’ll want to keep your eye on. As word gets out more and more, I believe we’ll hear a lot more about Xavier’s ultra-quality Lefson audio components in the future.

Lefson resistors are available direct from Xavier via the Lefson website. If you have any questions about applications for Lefson products, you can email Xavier directly for guidance.

Acoustic Revive of Japan, Issue 91. Mr. Ken Ishiguro’s RPC-1 Power Conditioner, RPT-6 Absolute NCF Power Distributor, and Power Reference TripleC NCF AC Power Cords, are all exceptionally fine products that I reviewed for Positive Feedback this year, and Mr. Ken is certainly deserving of recognition for their superior performance and remarkable build quality.

My Issue 91 review was my fourteenth article about the superb Acoustic Revive products from Mr. Ken Ishiguro, and Mr. Ken still has the ability to surprise me with the quality, creativity, and sheer performance improvements that his designs offer to music and audio enthusiasts.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to experience how quality AC products like the RPT-6 Absolute NCF Power Distributor ($3975 USD), the Power Reference TripleC NCF AC Power Cords ($5750 USD for a 2-meter power cord), and the RAS-14-TripleC NCF Power Stabilizer ($2025 USD), can improve the quality of your systems’ audio and video performance, you’re in for quite a treat one of these days!

That’s the RAS-14-TripleC NCF on my new Artisan Fidelity Thorens TDA124 Statement Long-Base turntable in the photo above.

In North America, Acoustic Revive products are available from Mr. Joe Cohen of The Lotus Group.

In other parts of the world, please contact Mr. Yoshi Hontani directly for information about availability of Acoustic Revive products in your country.

Duelund Coherent Audio of Denmark, Issue 92. Frederik Carøe’s new line of DCA tinned-copper cables are a remarkable accomplishment, and have received critical acclaim around the world for their unique combination of intensity of tone color, dynamic prowess, timbral realism, vivid presence, and a compelling portrayal of beat and tempos, that distinguishes them from copper or silver cables, and makes them immensely satisfying to listen to music with.

The Duelund DCA line of tinned-copper cables are purist versions of vintage tinned-copper cables, and are all made similarly, where the tinned-copper conductors are wrapped in a baked oil-impregnated cotton dielectric to maximize the amount of musicality & sonics that the tinned-copper conductors are capable of.

Frederik started his DCA cable line with the nuevo vintage-tone DCA16GA tinned-copper cable, patterned after the vintage Western Electric WE16GA cable, and has expanded his DCA tinned-copper line to include other gauges like the DCA20GA, DCA12GA, and DCA26GA.

This variety of DCA tinned-copper wire gauges makes it possible to wire up an entire system with an optimized choice of DCA tinned-copper cables from source to speakers.

In my Issue 92 review of the DCA line of Duelund cables, I said “If you’ll take a little time in selecting the best matching Duelund DCA tinned-copper cables for your various connection points … you’ll begin to understand what the guitar and audio guys are talking about with regards to the wonderful tonal characteristics of tinned-copper cables … Frederik, thank you for resurrecting the magic of tinned-copper in contemporary high-performance audio cables that we can all afford to enjoy, well done!”

One of the most exciting aspects of the Duelund Coherent Audio line of DCA tinned-copper cables is that you get uber performance at an affordable price:

  • DCA26GA: The Duelund DCA26GA wire uses 1 strand of 0.40mm diameter tinned-copper wire. Price is approximately $5.50 USD per meter.
  • DCA20GA: The Duelund DCA20GA cable uses 26 strands of 0.15mm diameter tinned-copper wires, which you might note is the same count and diameter of conductors contained in the Belden 8402 microphone cable. Price is approximately $6.75 USD per meter.
  • DCA16GA: The Duelund DCA16GA cable uses 26 strands of 0.25mm diameter tinned-copper wires, just like the vintage WE16GA wire does, but with a musically and sonically better sounding oil-soaked and baked cotton dielectric. Price is approximately $9.99 USD per meter.
  • DCA12GA: The Duelund DCA12GA cable uses 65 strands of 0.25mm diameter tinned-copper wires, and it is a massive cable that is well suited for use as speaker cables. Price is approximately $16.99 USD per meter.

The Duelund DCA tinned-copper cable/wire is available in the UK from HiFi Collective, in North America from Parts ConneXion, and in other parts of Planet Earth by contacting Frederik Carøe at Duelund directly.

Murasakino Musique Analogue of Japan, Issue 92. Mr. Daisuke Asai has created a state-of-art moving-coil phonograph cartridge in the 1.2 Ohm Sumile that is meticulously hand-crafted down to the finest details, and exudes a sense of quality and refinement.

As I said in my Positive Feedback Issue 92 review, “Of the various phono cartridges I’ve listened to over the years, the Sumile MC phonograph cartridge is my favorite by quite a large margin, and I am very impressed with what designer Mr. Daisuke Asai has accomplished with the Sumile … I found the Sumile’s balance of musicality and sonics to be utterly enchanting, and I found the Sumile to be absolutely thrilling to listen to and explore music with, as such I heartily recommend the Sumile to those who can fit it into their budget!”

Nothing in my experience has excelled like the Sumile does with that important triad of tone, dynamics, and presence that makes recorded music feel ‘real’ and ‘live’ in one’s listening room.

The Sumile allows a lot of subtle tonal, timbral, and dynamic nuance to emerge that is meaningful from a musical standpoint, making the Sumile particularly satisfying to listen to music with.

The Sumile has an information rich and vivid presence, with great tone color resolution, a high degree of transparency, and with a high degree of dynamic agility that makes beat, tempos, and rhythm feel very ‘live’, which I found made the Sumile very emotionally engaging and exciting to listen to.

The Sumile has an impressively transparent yet natural sounding presentation, rich in timbral & tonal nuance, with a vivid presence of images on the soundstage, a huge sense of spaciousness in recordings, and a deeply layered soundstage, that made for very immersive and exciting musical performances.

I found the Sumile’s balance of musicality and sonics to be utterly enchanting, and I found the Sumile to be absolutely thrilling to listen to and explore music with, as such I heartily recommend the Sumile to those who can fit it into their budget!

The Sumile MC phono cartridge is imported/distributed in North America by Jonathan Halpern at Tone Imports, and is priced at $8500 USD.

For information about getting a Sumile of your own in other parts of the world, please contact exporter Yoshi Hontani directly.

Arai Lab of Japan, Issue 93. Mr. Toshio Arai has done something remarkable in creating the Arai Lab MT-1 step-up transformer (SUT), and he truly deserves recognition for the extreme level of quality and remarkable performance he has achieved with MT-1 SUT.

In my Issue 93 review I described the remarkable performance of the Arai Lab MT-1 SUT when combined with the exotic 1.2 Ohm Murasakino Musique Analogue “Sumile” MC phonograph cartridge.

I said, “If I could afford it, I’d unhesitatingly have an Arai Lab MT-1 SUT for every single moving cartridge I love, but alas, that’s a dream, as it’s out of my price range! If you’re able to fit an Arai Lab MT-1 into your budget for your favorite moving coil phonograph cartridge, I fully expect you will have a very happy future together! Highly recommended!”

Expensive and wonderful, I almost wept when I returned the reviewed Arai Lab MT-1 SUT to Tone Imports. I already miss its presence in my life.

The Arai Lab MT-1 SUT is an ultra-quality and impeccably handmade SUT that is custom designed to get the very best out of your favorite moving coil phonograph cartridge, and correspondingly the pricing of the Arai Lab MT-1 SUT varies depending on the internal impedance of the cartridge it is designed for, as the materials costs and the difficulty of building an MT-1 increase with decreasing impedance of the intended phonograph cartridge.

An Arai Lab MT-1 SUT for cartridges with a 21 Ohm or higher internal impedance is $10,995 USD, for cartridges with internal impedances of 20 Ohms to 11 Ohms an MT-1 is $11,995 USD, for cartridges with 2.1 Ohms to 10 Ohms internal impedance an MT-1 is $12,995 USD, and for cartridges with an internal impedance that is 2 Ohms or lower an MT-1 is $13,995 USD.

In North America, the Arai Lab MT-1 SUT is available from Mr. Jonathan Halpern of Tone Imports on a custom order basis.

In other parts of the world, please contact Mr. Yoshi Hontani at Muson Pro directly for information about ordering an Arai Lab MT-1 SUT of your own.

Sophia Electric of the USA, Issue 93. Richard and Sue’s Sophia Electric EL34-ST and Aqua 274B vacuum tubes are a significant accomplishment in their new “ST Blue” line of vacuum tubes, and I am very impressed with the superb balance of musicality of sonics they have achieved.

In my Issue 93 review I described my results using the Sophia Electric™ Aqua 274B rectifier tubes in my vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers, and the Sophia Electric™ EL-34-ST power tubes in my trusty Leben CS-600 integrated amplifier.

Both the Sophia Electric™ Aqua 274B rectifier tubes and the Sophia Electric™ EL-34-ST power tubes performed admirably, and Richard and Sue have left them with me on long-term loan so that I could provide you my continued impressions over time as I gain more experience with them.

In my review I said, “I don’t know if it’s the ST bottle shape, or the noise reducing blue glass, the design & materials of their internal structure, or Richard’s prowess in voicing tubes, but the Sophia Electric Aqua 274B rectifiers and the Sophia Electric EL34-ST power tubes are both home runs by Richard, and they are simply superb both musically and sonically.”

The Sophia Electric Aqua 274B rectifier tubes are $159.99 USD per tube with a 30-day warranty, and $199.99 USD per tube with a one year warranty.

The Sophia Electric EL34-ST power tubes are priced as follows:

Grade A (top 10%): $125 USD per tube with 30 days warranty, $25 extra for one year warranty.
Grade B (top 25%): $100 USD per tube with 30 days warranty, $25 extra for one year warranty.

You can visit the Sophia Electric website for more information, or contact Richard and Sue directly to make arrangements to purchase Sophia Electric Aqua 274B rectifiers or Sophia Electric EL34-ST power tubes of your own.

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This year’s reviews have yielded an impressive line-up of artisanal audio products, and I can recommend each and every one of them.

Whether it’s Xavier’s custom Lefson resistors (France), Arai-san’s Arai Lab MT-1 SUT (Japan), Richard and Sue’s new blue ST Sophia Electric vacuum tubes (USA), Frederik’s Duelund Coherent Audio DCA line of tinned-copper cables (Denmark), Asai-san’s Murasakino Musique Analogue Sumile MC phono cartridge (Japan), or Mr. Ken’s new Acoustic Revive products (Japan), these designers and their artisanal audio products are all worthy of praise and recognition for their accomplishments, and they are living proof that high-performance audio around the world is vibrant and exciting!

So now for the drum roll announcing my three Positive Feedback Writers Choice Awards for 2017!

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You can read the conclusion of my contribution to the 14th Annual Positive Feedback Writers’ Choice Awards for 2017 here.

As always, thanks for stopping by to read my writing at Positive Feedback, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 1:01 pm

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