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Goldmund Telos 590 Nextgen II Integrated Amplifier

Let me be honest. Right up until this very review I haven’t been much of a fan of integrated amplifiers. Cramming a preamp, a power amp, and, nowadays, a digital source component into a single box just never seemed like the wisest engineering choice to me. Not only does doing so greatly increase the risk of electro-mechanical interactions among the three different circuits; it also makes coping with the vastly different power-supply, shielding, and grounding requirements of each component section a much tougher proposition. There are sound reasons (excuse the pun) why most of the manufacturers who make integrated amplifiers also make large stereo and monoblock amplifiers, preamps with outboard (physically and electronically isolated) power supplies, and stand-alone DACs and phonostages (many of them also with outboard power supplies).

Thus, my review of the Goldmund Telos 590 Nextgen II—a 215Wpc (into 8 ohms) Class A/B integrated with built-in 384k/32-bit DAC (no phonostage, alas)—is something of an experiment. Having read in these pages about the strides made in integrated amplification—and having a genuine curiosity about the sonic merits of today’s finest compact components (polar opposites of my sonically incomparable, but also incomparably large, complex, and expensive MBL system)—I decided to take the plunge with a company whose products I’m familiar with and like.

To say that I’m glad I did this would be, perhaps, one of the bigger understatements I’ve committed to print. As you will see, the Telos 590 Nextgen II is a standard-setter. This isn’t to say that I have no reservations about Goldmund’s integrated (I will come to them in due course). What I am saying is that in direct comparison with first-rate separates that, collectively, cost more than four times what the $29,750 Telos 590 Nextgen II costs, the Goldmund unit didn’t just hold its own; it excelled, particularly in the bass and power range (but also, in some respects, in the mids and treble). And it did so without provoking the big reservations about soundstage dimensions, dynamic range and impact, detail retrieval, and noise levels that, in the not-too-distant past, inevitably popped up in reviews of integrated amplifiers.

On the outside, the Telos 590 Nextgen II looks identical to its predecessor, the highly praised Nextgen I—a stout, 45-pound, rectangular aluminum-and-steel box with an LED display in the center of its front panel. The display reads out exactly three metrics: on the left, the number of the input that has been selected (ranging from “1” through “8,” and all stops in between); on the right, the volume level (ranging from “00” to “99”); and dead center, the power status of the unit (a lighted pair of horizontal bars confirms that power is on and the integrated is ready to make music). There are metal knobs on either side of the LED display (two total). Rotating the one on the left changes the input; rotating the one on the right changes the volume. The knobs are relatively lightweight for a unit of this price, and show next-to-no resistance when turned.

Though input and volume adjustments can be made directly via the two front-panel controls, Goldmund also includes a small metal remote, which allows you to do these same things (and several others) via pushbuttons. In addition to changing input and volume level, the remote allows you to mute the preamp (which also turns off the volume light on the right side of the LED panel) or to put the unit in standby mode (which also dims the entire display).

On the back of the Telos 590 Nextgen II are eight inputs and exactly one set of output binding posts for the amp’s left and right channels. Though these posts are said, by Goldmund, to have been structurally improved, they are the first of my very few reservations about the Nextgen II. 

iFi iPhono 3 Black Label and Chord Electronics Huei Phonostages

In any vinyl-based audio chain, the phonostage is one of the most important components. It takes the teeny, tiny signal from the cartridge and boosts it enough for the preamp and the amp to make sweet music. It’s an extremely sensitive component, doing multiple, insanely important jobs, and I’m picky about my phonostage. Thus, I was very excited to receive two new compact black boxes to play around with, the iFi iPhono 3 Black Label ($999) and the Chord Electronics Huei ($1495).

The iFi iPhono 3 is a long, relatively thin and compact rectangle, with small dipswitches on the bottom. There is no power switch—it remains on at all times. Little green lights glow to let me know it is working. The input connections are at one end of the rectangle, and the outputs at the other. It isn’t the sort of thing I’d keep out on a desk. I love a big shiny silver box, but sometimes it’s nice to declutter. 

The Chord Electronics Huei is also very compact, and it is also black, but it prominently features four glowing lights bumped up along the front with a translucent plastic bit on the top that shows off the guts. While small, the Huei is definitely meant to be shown off. There is a small power switch on the Huei’s back, along with the inputs and outputs, but otherwise it is fairly simple.

Despite their small sizes, both phonostages are incredibly versatile. That is the first thing I look for in a phonostage, especially in this price range—most folks spending $999 or $1499 probably need the ability to run some low-output mc cartridges. Since carts come in all shapes and sizes, most phonostages have multiple loading options to maximize their compatibility. If you only plan on using an mm cartridge or a high-output mc, then great, congratulations, you’re a fully self-actualized human being, who knows exactly what you want forever and will never change, and I’m jealous. But for the rest of us, flexibility is an asset in itself—part of the joy of high-end audio is trying a wide range of equipment, and both of these phonostages will allow for a ton of variation.

Setup was relatively easy, once I understood how the two different phonostages changed their load settings. Starting with the iFi iPhono 3 Black Label, I attached the RCA cables, then plugged it into mains with the iPower X, which was an upgraded power supply and came standard. Easy enough—but next was the slightly complicated part. The bottom of the iPhono is filled with little baby switches and a ton of options. Fortunately, iFi had a super handy online calculator that essentially did all the work after I input my cartridge specs. The iPhono featured loading options from 22 ohms on up to 47k ohms, with six stops between, and either 36, 48, 60, or 72dB of gain. For my Zu DL-103, I chose 60dB of gain with a load of 330 ohms. The online calculator showed me the dipswitch layout and made executing it totally brainless, which is sort of necessary for me, although there is also a physical chart for anyone without access to the website.

Next up, I plugged in the Chord Electronics Huei, fired it up, and took a moment to marvel at the pretty lights. I’m a simple man and I like shiny things. However, the lights did more than make me happy—they were also buttons that changed the settings. Each color corresponded to a different load, and switching between them was as easy as tapping and watching the colors change. A nice, glossy chart explained how it all worked, and I settled on purple for the load, which was 320 ohms, and blue for the gain, which was 60dB. The Huei included a bunch of different gain steps—from 49dB on up to 70dB, with six total stops in between for the mc section, and 21dB on up to 42dB with six stops for the mm section. The impedance can be adjusted from 100 ohms up to 3.7k ohms for mc’s, and is a strict 47k ohms for mm’s. The Chord Electronics also included XLR outputs, which changed the gain slightly, allowing for up to 76dB max with an mc, and 48dB max with an mm. Overall, the Huei was the easier of the two to get set up, and had slightly more loading options—but neither was particularly difficult to use, and both were extremely versatile.

KEF LS50 Meta Loudspeaker

Does this speaker look familiar? It should. The popular LS50 compact appears as fresh as it did the day it first rolled off the production line in 2011, in celebration of KEF’s 50th anniversary (founded 1961). You simply couldn’t beat the looks of this squarish two-way, bass-reflex design. Plus, the superb fit and finish of its enclosure made an ideal platform for the space-saving Uni-Q, KEF’s proprietary coincident driver. A decade later, the success of this Editor’s Choice/Golden Ear/Product of the Year recipient has morphed into a full-blown collection that now includes center channels and active/wireless versions.

But ten years is still ten years and a lifetime in the world of audio-product cycles. KEF engineers were aware that its competitors haven’t stood still, either. Rather than taking a winning formula and starting from scratch, KEF chose to innovate its way to a better LS50. To go beyond, and thus, Meta. 

First, let’s revisit the pre-Meta original. Per KEF tradition, the focus of the LS50 revolves around its iconic rose-gold, Uni-Q, coincident tweeter/woofer, a driver that was specifically designed for duty in the LS50. Now in its twelfth generation, it’s positioned dead center in a sensuously curved one-piece front baffle. The mid/bass diaphragm of Uni-Q measures 5.25″ and is made from a magnesium-aluminum alloy. It is installed with aluminum magnet rings to reduce flux modulation, a source of distortion. The 1″, vented aluminum-dome tweeter first seen in the vaunted KEF Blade series uses a similar waveguide design, known as “optimal dome waveguide geometry,” to extend high-frequency response over a wider axis. According to KEF, the distinctive segmented or “tangerine” waveguide uses “radial air channels to produce spherical waves up to the highest frequencies—and this allows for a deeper ‘stiffened dome’ diaphragm, which raises the first resonance, culminating in response that extends beyond 40kHz.” Collectively, these technologies enhance dispersion while reducing driver interference. The crossover point is 2.1kHz and impedance (nominally 8 ohms) never dips beneath a reasonable 3.2 ohms. Still, this is an 85dB-sensitive speaker and benefits from robust amplification with solid power reserves. 

Cabinet construction, as non-resonant as any knuckle rap will tell you, is all MDF, bolstered by optimized internal bracing and constrained-layer damping placed between the struts and the inner walls of the cabinet. The novel curvature and composition of the baffle reduce diffraction effects and reflections.  The elliptical reflex port is offset in the upper corner of the rear panel. The taper of its profile reduces turbulence at high levels, sources of compression and distortion. 

So, what exactly is up with Meta? Acoustic analysis directed KEF engineers to focus their attention on improving the damping characteristics of the LS50. Typically, loudspeaker interiors are lined with absorptive materials (bracing, woolen stuffing, etc.) that damp the cabinet in order to reduce resonances in key frequency ranges and smooth mid and treble frequencies.  KEF rethought this concept and came up with something unique—Meta or Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT). Visually, it appears as a disc of a few inches in diameter with a maze-like uneven surface. At a thickness of only 11mm it sits directly behind the Uni-Q basket and magnet surface, to reduce the back wave output from the driver that would otherwise cause—in KEF’s words—“undesirable” cabinet resonances. According to the company’s white paper, the “key aspect of the successful implementation is the optimal coupling between the loudspeaker diaphragm and the metastructure through a specific conical duct.” Meta’s tuned channels absorb 99% of the unwanted sound from the rear of the driver, “achieving almost a near-perfect absorption spectrum starting at 620Hz,” compared to around 60% absorption from loudspeakers using different approaches. Thus, it far exceeds the damping properties of conventional designs. 

Partnering with the room for low-frequency reinforcement is part and parcel of the set-up experience, perhaps most particularly for compact monitors. As most audio enthusiasts are aware, careful positioning is crucial to achieving wide-spectrum musicality. As it happened, I set up the Meta in a different listening room than the last time I reviewed the LS50. Ceilings are taller at ten feet, and overall dimensions are larger; so, the LS50 Meta was being challenged to fill a room of considerably higher volume. Fortunately, this difference only required placement a few inches closer to the back wall. Once that was done, I recouped the sound signature that I remembered from my initial foray with the LS50—a midrange on the warmish romantic side, and a weighty midbass that provides room-filling energy. 

ELAC Announces the Solano Line of Home Speakers

The following is a press release issued by ELAC.

Orange, CA | July 2021 – ELAC, a leading global provider of high-performance speakers and electronics, today announced the Solano line of premium home speakers. These new models are the perfect solution for the 2-channel enthusiast or the home theater connoisseur.

“Our new Solano series brings the performance benefits of our iconic JET5 tweeter and the meticulous craftsmanship of German manufacturing to an all-new affordable price point” said James Krodel, senior vice president sales, ELAC.

Some of the notable new features of the Solano line-up include.

JET 5 Tweeter: Delivering true high-definition sound, ELAC’s JET 5 tweeter enthralls with its lightning-fast response and wide dynamic range, offering minimal distortion, lots of headroom and a distinctly wider frequency range than conventional dome tweeters. The ELAC JET tweeter is one of the most legendary tweeters in the industry and has won international praise with its transparent and effortless sound image.

Aluminum Sandwich Woofers: Custom 6″ Aluminum cones are joined to paper cones utilizing a proprietary gluing process which results in a cone that is stiff, precise, linear, and lightweight. This unique driver delivers mid and bass frequencies that are clean, clear, and powerful.

Cast Chassis: Cast chassis have been utilized for all drivers in the Solano series minimizing reflections back to the cone resulting in improved clarity.

Dual Binding Posts: All three Solano series speakers are outfitted with two sets of heavy-duty binding posts allowing to bi-amp or bi-wire each loudspeaker. These binding posts ensure a secure connection to many types of cable and connectors.

Premium Finishes: The Solano speakers come in either high-gloss black or white paint with the bookshelf and floorstanding models featuring lacquered cast aluminum bases.

Downward firing ports: Downward Firing Ports allow for more flexible speaker placement and minimizes ventilation noise. The bass reflex port on the Solano series is directed to the floor, exiting the bottom of the speaker cabinet in a down-firing configuration.

All six models are available at the end of July at ELAC retailers nationwide.

 

 

 

Model Number BS283-GB  

Description

Solano 6” Bookshelf Speaker in Gloss Black

 

MAP Price

$1999.98 Pair

BS283-GW Solano 6” Bookshelf Speaker in Gloss White $1999.98 Pair
CC281-GB Solano Dual 6” Center Speaker in Gloss Black $1199.98 Each
CC281-GW Solano Dual 6” Center Speaker in Gloss White $1199.98 Each
FS287-GB Solano Dual 6” Floorstanding Speaker in Gloss Black $1999.98 Each
FS287-GW Solano Dual 6” Floorstanding Speaker in Gloss White $1999.98 Each

WBT Awarded The German Innovation Award 2021

The following is a press release issued by WBT-Industrie.

July 22, 2021 – WBT-Industrie has been chosen as the winner of the German Innovation Award 2021 in the medium-sized companies category for its development of the “3D gold-plating of connectors using PVD plasma” process (PVD = Physical Vapour Deposition), internal brand name: WBT-PlasmaProtect™.

With this plant technology it has, for the first time, been possible to develop a significantly more environmentally-friendly process to use instead of the electroplating process used previously. The effectiveness was increased from 20 to 80% by a new 3D process, the energy requirements were reduced by around 26% and resource consumption was reduced by about 35%.

At the same time, the long-term stability and contact quality was improved by a thin but extremely pure (high vacuum) and still elastic layer of gold (Hertzian stress).

The German Innovation Award is one of the most prestigious awards for new developments “made in Germany”, and is jointly presented by Accenture, EnBW and the magazine WirtschaftsWoche. Awards are given to companies that change technology and markets with their innovative strength.

 

Patricia Barber: Higher

Like most TAS readers, I first heard Patricia Barber, whose career here approaches the 40-year mark, on Café Blue, her 1994 album that made her a star in high-end audio, owing to a superb recording by her long-time engineer Jim Anderson, and also among connoisseurs of innovative, cutting-edge jazz. Although classically trained, she is known for a cool, intense, highly personal style as singer, pianist, and songwriter. Higher, her 18th album and first in the studio since 2013’s Smash, showcases what may be her most ambitious, and surely her most personal, composition yet, Angels, Birds, and I . . ., a cycle of eight songs she frankly calls art songs (she performed an early version with Renée Fleming in 2016). Dualities inform several of them, from lesbian lovers and a woman leaving her wealthy husband (“the sovereign suburban overlord”) for her free-spirited lover (“a wandering albatross”) to those that inform Barber’s own creativity as pianist, singer, and lyricist. Layered with multiple meanings, these introspective songs require and reward repeated listening. Inventive takes on three standards from the Great American Songbook fill out the program. The contributions from Barber’s instrumental quartet are first-class. Immediate, close-up, transparent sonics.

Book Review | Under the Spell of the Meister

I’ve twice visited Bayreuth, the small city in southeast Germany that Richard Wagner called home for the last 11 years of his life and remains the site of the annual summer festival devoted to his operas. For a fan of Wagner’s music—and for an audiophile, as the acoustics of the Bayreuth Festspeilhaus are extraordinary—these were peak experiences. After my first pilgrimage, I returned to the U.S. on a Sunday and on Tuesday was back at work. That first day was a long one and I stopped for sustenance at a fast-food restaurant on the way home. I was about to take my first bite of hamburger when, a few tables away, a cell phone went off—with Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” The owner of the phone was a girl who looked to be 15 or 16. I wanted very much to ask her if she knew what a Valkyrie was, or who was responsible for the music she had chosen for her ring tone. She was still chattering away when I needed to hit the road and I never got to pose my questions. Still, I was impressed by the reach of Wilhelm Richard Wagner, dead for 120 years when that young lady and I crossed paths in a suburban strip mall on an August evening.

Alex Ross has been the classical music critic at The New Yorker for a quarter century, since he was 28 years old. A previous book, The Rest is Noise, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. Ross is a Wagner authority who has written frequently on the composer, but it must be emphasized that Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music is not a biography, or an in-depth look at the composer’s music. Rather, it’s an exhaustive study of the influence Wagner—often referred to reverently as the “Meister” (“Master”) during his lifetime and beyond—has exerted on other artists, generally nonmusical ones, and in the geopolitical sphere. Do you need to be very familiar with Wagner’s music to get much out of this vast book, to understand the cultural hegemony of Wagnerism? You do not. Of course it doesn’t hurt if you can name the three Rhinemaidens or sing along with Walther’s “Prize Song” from Die Meistersinger, but one of Alex Ross’s great gifts is an ability to write about a topic in a way that engages people with all levels of experience. If you are familiar with even a few popular excerpts—“Ride of the Valkyries,” “Siegfried’s Funeral March,” the “Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde, the overture to The Flying Dutchman—you’ll be fine.

The heyday of Wagnerism was long, encompassing the last three decades of the 19th century up until the Second World War, though there were many earlier adherents. The French Symbolist poet Charles Baudelaire could be considered the first, in the early 1860s, and the phenomenon lives on now to a degree: the artist Anselm Kiefer has produced numerous works with Wagnerian titles (and let’s not forget the manufacturer of expensive tube amplifiers who had models called “Siegfried” and “Wotan”).  The crowd got so thick by the end of the 19th century that Ross had to devise ways of parsing the composer’s adherents. So he investigates not just Baudelaire but, at the same time, other French Symbolist poets, such as Mallarmé and Verlaine. Around the same time, in the same country, Impressionist painters were declaring a bond with the Meister, and Ross explores the work of Cezanne, Manet, Van Gogh, and Gaughin. The Bloomsbury group in London, Russian Futurists, Viennese Secessionists, the Chicago architecture school led by Louis Sullivan—all manifested a Wagnerian perspective, and Ross considers them in a coherent and methodical fashion

Ross also examines Wagner-admiring constituencies as defined by certain demographic metrics. The idea of Jewish Wagnerians is still surprising to some, but it goes back to the composer’s lifetime. Hermann Levi, the son of a rabbi, was entrusted with the first performances of Parsifal and other Jewish conductors, from Mahler and Solti to Barenboim and Asher Fisch, have been among the composer’s most effective interpreters. But did you know that Theodore Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement that eventuated in the creation of Israel, was a proud Wagnerian? Scholars have suggested that Herzl may have seen parallels between Tannhäuser’s redemption and the potential salvation of the Jewish people through statehood.

At least as surprising is that W.E.B. Du Bois, the leader of the American Black intelligentsia and an antiracism warrior for 70 years, was a Wagner aficionado. A short story called “Of the Coming of John” that’s inserted as a chapter into the otherwise nonfiction work The Souls of Black Folk has its African American protagonist attending a performance of Lohengrin in New York City, where he experiences a soul-crushing incident of racism that, ultimately, leads to his lynching when he returns home to the Jim Crow South.

Ross notes, as well, the large constituency of gay Wagnerians: “Wagner became part of the syllabus of gay taste,” he writes, observing that, for many homosexual men nowadays, that cultural space has been taken over by Broadway musicals. Ross is himself gay and has sharp instincts regarding the sexuality of earlier literary types. Who else could get away with a statement like “Modern homosexuality was, to some extent, a German invention.” Wagner, while apparently strictly heterosexual in his intimate relationships, “qualified as a kindred spirit.” The composer’s penchant for satin underwear and his connections to the gay king Ludwig II certainly didn’t hurt his standing in the queer world.

Rega Planar 10 Turntable

My love for Rega turntables goes back a long way. In 1980, when I was looking to upgrade my Thorens TD160 turntable, a good friend and audio buddy provided me with a recommendation: “You should check out this new company, Rega. I hear it is doing really good things. 

Shortly thereafter, I purchased the original Rega Planar 3, and, as low-tracking-force cartridges were then the rage, put the new SME Series III tonearm on it. If memory serves, I used a Frank Van Alstine-modified Sonus Gold cartridge. I took the rig over to another audio buddy, who was then using the Kenwood KD-500 granite turntable and Infinity Black Widow tonearm, which, at the time, comprised one of the “hot” turntable setups recommended by TAS’ founder, Harry Pearson. 

Much to our mutual surprise, the Rega Planar 3 blew the Kenwood into the weeds. We did multiple comparisons that evening, back and forth, with our best reference LPs played on both decks. Every single time, the Rega sounded better, hands down. My friend went out the next week and bought a Linn Sondek LP12, which he owns to this day. And I kept my Planar 3 for the next 30 years, using it exclusively as my music source during the years when my involvement with high-end audio waxed and waned. In 1987, I put a Grace Ruby on the SME, and then in 2009, Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith re-tipped the Grace with one of his ruby-cantilevered styli, which took the cartridge to another level. Eventually, I passed my Planar 3 on to my brother-in-law as a Christmas gift when his ’table died.

PL10 RB3000 bias housing detail 

When I got seriously back into high-end audio in 2010, and was looking for a newer turntable, my Linn-owning friend offered me his like-new SME V tonearm for a great price (the SME wasn’t a good match for his Linn), and I bought a Michell Gyro SE turntable for it. About a year later, I snagged a very lightly used Koetsu Urushi Vermilion moving-coil cartridge. This setup became my reference (the Vermilion has since been re-tipped and fully re-built by Koetsu), but I never forgot how much I enjoyed Rega turntables, and in 2012, bought a lightly used Rega P5 with external power supply from a friend. I put a Sumiko Pearwood Celebration II cartridge on it, and was surprised at how good it sounded, performing way above its price point. The P5 had excellent detail and resolution, and had a punchy, energetic quality with real drive. It really “kicked out the jams,” great for rock, 80s New Wave, and blues. For 20% of the cost, I estimate the P5 performed at 80% of the level of my reference setup. That’s an excellent value proposition and, in my opinion, the P5 is still a great ’table, even today. 

Cut to the present. The better part of a decade has passed, and time and turntable development have not stood still. While Rega still advocates using light, stiff, low-mass plinths coupled to tonearms of superior engineering, since the legendary P9 it has been extending the classic Rega ethos with new designs that utilize innovative materials and manufacturing technologies. 

Steve Earle & the Dukes: J.T.

Three months after Justin Townes Earle’s tragic death in August 2020, his father announced plans to record an album of his son’s songs. J.T. was a fixture on the Nashville ragtime, folk, bluegrass, and rock scenes, a gifted songwriter who released nine albums between 2002 and 2019. He inherited his father’s gift for songwriting, penning reveries along with tender ballads that addressed his search for forgiveness and his struggles with depression and addiction (“Turn Out the Lights”). Drawing heavily from Justin’s early to mid-career material, J.T. opens with an upbeat bluegrass take of 2008’s “I Don’t Care” and moves as far ahead chronologically as the jarring title track from Justin’s 2019 swan song The Saint of Lost Causes. Much of J.T sounds upbeat while masking deeply troubled lyrics: “They Killed John Henry” bemoans the tragic fate of an American folk hero who died despite his best intentions, and the darkly wry “Harlem River Blues” speaks of committing suicide when things are looking brightest. The closer, “Last Words,” is the cover album’s sole original—it’s a painful, personal lament in which Steve Earle bares his soul about his son’s death. Otherwise, J.T.’s music speaks for itself.

Pro-Ject Announces New Debut Pro Turntable

The following is a press release issued by Sumiko and Pro-Ject.

MAPLE GROVE, MN (July 15, 2021) – Sumiko and Pro-Ject USA are proud to announce the new Debut PRO Turntable from Pro-Ject Audio Systems. The original Pro-Ject 1 and its successor, the Debut series, revolutionized the music listening experience while reinvigorating a passion for analog playback – a turning point for the industry. Pro-Ject continues to satisfy music lovers and vinyl enthusiasts with continued innovation in performance and value that bring the joy of stereo hi-fi to life in your own home.

The Debut PRO extends the tradition of the Debut collection with a new striking design, featuring a satin black and brushed-nickel color scheme that emphasizes the strengths of the technologies within the turntable. Tracking performance is enhanced by an all new 8.6” tonearm that features a one-piece carbon fiber wrapped aluminum arm tube for excellent rigidity and reduction of harmful resonances. A heavy-duty, nickel-plated machined aluminum bearing block ensures the tight tolerance tonearm bearings move freely, allowing the tonearm to track precisely across the entire surface of the record. The Debut PRO also features a die-cast aluminum platter with integrated TPE damping, resulting in the perfect combination of mass and low internal resonance.

New to the Debut series, the tonearm height and azimuth are both adjustable, allowing for the use of a wide range of cartridges. The critically acclaimed Sumiko Rainier phono cartridge is included with the Debut PRO and has been mounted by our experts and precision-aligned at the factory. Height adjustable leveling feet with integrated resonance damping, electronic speed selection, a detachable acrylic dust cover and a premium semi-symmetrical phono cable (Connect It E) round out the Debut PRO’s robust feature set.

Like all Pro-Ject Audio Systems turntables, the special-edition Debut PRO is hand crafted in Europe and will be available in the US in limited quantities at select Pro-Ject dealers beginning in August 2021, with a suggested retail price of $899 USD.

An Ode to Audio Shows

In these pandemic-riddled days, most of us long for the same sorts of things: the comfort of hugs, the camaraderie of a welcoming bar, the communal experience of going to movies in an actual theater. But recently I found myself yearning for something less general. I realized that I desperately missed audio shows. 

At first, I assumed this feeling was merely a wave of nostalgia, one that would fade like a winter flush on my cheeks. But this age of isolation has now hit the one-year mark, and my trade-show pangs haven’t abated in the least. Indeed, they grow more acute with each passing month. 

This longing for audio shows took me by complete surprise. After all, for the press those shows are a lot of work. They consist of non-stop days moving between rooms that all begin to look the same—mostly because they are pretty much all the same. Yet, each requires intense observational concentration and copious note-taking. Evenings, thankfully, are more social. But the omnipresence of industry reps requires that a reviewer must still be “on.” Fatigue, both physical and mental, quickly sets in. 

So, why on earth do I hunger for these shows? After mulling it over, I hit on several reasons. For one thing, there’s the travel. Obviously, you first have to get to the show, and that often means a journey. Even in normal times, I love journeys. Whether the destination is appealing or not, travel unfailingly provides a change of scene. Amid these days of unrelenting house-boundedness, what could be more tempting than that? 

 Another element of shows that I dearly miss, and which occurs approximately never when you’re in isolation, is the excitement of discovery. For an audiophile, the findings made at trade shows—an incredible value, a sonic triumph, a new technology that foreshadows improvements, or anything that makes high-end sound accessible to more people—are every bit as exciting as finding a good neighborhood restaurant that rocks or finding a new piece of music you adore.

Speaking of which, I now realize that trade shows have consistently been one of my best sources of exposure to new music. You see, not only do audiophiles love to listen to music; they also love to share music, none more so than the folks who make and sell hi-fi gear. Over the years, I’ve fallen for a lot of the music exhibitors have shared with me. Even in the Age of Covid, there are still many, worthy new music releases, but they lack the personal, often-eccentric element of a show recommendation. 

German Physiks Borderland MK IV Loudspeaker

Ah, Germany. Home of Bavarian pretzels, Pilsner beer, finely crafted watches, and some of the best stereo equipment to grace an eardrum. Based in Maintal, in the State of Hesse, German Physiks approaches speaker design by rejecting the accepted solutions. GP’s chief designer Holger Mueller’s goal was to recreate live music by utilizing a driver resembling a point source, with the goal of conveying as much of the signal as possible while avoiding multi-driver incoherence, phase and time misalignment, and crossover issues. In other words, to create a wonderfully complex solution by Keeping It Simple, Stupid! 

A little history is in order. In 1978, purely as an academic exercise as he was not involved in the audio industry at the time, a German engineer named Peter Dicks decided to investigate the Walsh speaker (then being manufactured by Ohm Acoustics). He produced a computer model of the Walsh driver, which enabled him to see how it could be improved. After spending several years refining his model, he produced a series of working prototypes, which  he showed to a number of European loudspeaker makers. None of them displayed any interest. 

In the early 1990s, Peter showed the design to Holger Mueller, who was running a company in Frankfurt, Germany, called Mainhattan Acustik, making loudspeaker systems and also drivers for OEM use. Customers for his drivers included one very well-known U.S. high-end loudspeaker manufacturer and also one of the big German car manufacturers. Mueller had been a fan of the Ohm F and its Walsh driver and saw potential in the design that Peter presented. He then spent two years working together with Peter to produce a commercial product, and this became the Dicks Dipole Driver. The DDD used a cone made from 0.001″ (0.025mm) thick titanium foil. Mueller started a new company to produce loudspeakers using this driver, and in 1992 the firm launched its first product, the German Physiks Borderland Mk I. 

The DDD, used in all German Physiks designs, has been considerably refined over the years, and now uses a cone made from carbon fiber. Sonically the titanium DDD driver was extremely good, but the cone was also extremely fragile and difficult to manufacture. The current carbon-fiber DDD will resist a large amount of physical abuse and offers a wider frequency response than the titanium version.

Interestingly, Maintal is only a 13-minute drive from Hanau, Germany, the birthplace of Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, creators of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. I’m not sure what they have in the water in this region, but it has clearly resulted in some serious out-of-the-box thinking! 

The DDD resembles a very long pistonic driver mounted vertically. Although it operates pistonically at low frequencies, the majority of its nearly seven-octave range is generated through bending-wave and modal radiation. This is facilitated by the driver’s very low moving mass (less than three grams) and the extreme flexibility of its carbon-fiber cone. The outside of the driver cone is exposed and radiates in 360 degrees, with the magnet (generating around 1.2 Tesla of magnetic induction) housed at the apex, and the cone’s throat playing into a fixed-volume sealed enclosure. This design results in an incredibly wide frequency response of 190Hz to 24kHz from a stunningly small area of radiation, which stays phase-linear throughout its entire operating range. Its engineering complexity belies its simple appearance; the single DDD essentially functions acoustically as a four-driver system.