Audio/Video News

FacebookThe SoundStage! Network is proud to announce that we’ve surpassed 10,000 “likes” on our official Facebook page, which is located at www.facebook.com/soundstagenet. The 10k milestone is significant in many ways, not the least of which is that it exceeds almost all other audio-review-oriented publications in the world. If you haven’t “liked” our Facebook page yet, but want to, please do so using the link below.

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Simaudio Moon Neo 260DSimaudio, which is based in Quebec, Canada, has released the Neo 260D CD transport, which has a base retail price of $2000 USD, but can be ordered with a 32-bit DAC for an additional $1000. According to the company’s September 5th press release: “For music enthusiasts who simply want to play their CDs, the Neo 260D is the perfect solution. Borrowing much of its technology from the more exotic and costlier Evolution-series 650D, while incorporating the latest advancements in digital audio, the 260D extracts every last musical detail from the disc. Adding the 32-bit DAC allows for direct streaming of music from your computer, enjoying satellite movie channels with the audio fidelity of your music system, and listening to Blu-ray movies with the same fervor as your music collection.”

The 260D is said to use a proprietary drive mechanism mounted on Simaudio’s M-Quattra suspension system. The transport section features S/PDIF and AES/EBU outputs, while the optional DAC section has one USB, one TosLink, and two S/PDIF inputs, as well as a “virtually jitter-free ‘1 picosecond’ digital clocking system resulting in ultra-low distortion.” The Neo 260D is available now.

Simaudio website

BissPianist Jonathan Biss and the Curtis Institute of Music have partnered with Coursera -- the leading provider of Massive Online Open Courses" (MOOCs) -- to offer a free, online course on Beethoven's piano sonatas. Biss has recently released Volume 2 of a decade-long project to record all of the pieces. Over 30,000 people have enrolled in the course to date, seven times the total number of students who have attended Curtis since the school opened its doors in October 1924.

The five-week course launches this Tuesday, September 3, 2013 -- the first day of Curtis classes -- and is aptly named Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas. Biss has posted recommended reading and listening materials here. In the course description, Biss writes, "It is not necessary to have studied an instrument or to have any knowledge of music theory to take the course. Rather, it is designed for students of all backgrounds who have a desire to learn more about Beethoven and his world."

Of the collaboration with Curtis -- where Biss is both an alumnus and the Neubauer Family Chair in Piano Studies professor in Piano Studies -- he says, "I am so thrilled to be working with Curtis on this new endeavor. As a musician, whether I'm performing, rehearsing, teaching, or even just listening, my greatest joy -- the whole point, really -- is in sharing music. I am enormously grateful to Curtis for the incomparable education I received there, and for the constant creative stimulation I find in working with its students today. But now, through Coursera, I have the opportunity to connect with students and lovers of music on a scale I never imagined was possible. As much as I cherish the one-on-one interaction I have with the students within Curtis's walls, I find this opportunity to share that experience with people the world over incredibly exciting."

Website to sign up

Parasound Halo P5Parasound, of San Francisco, CA, has announced the release of the Halo P 5 preamplifier, which is a 2.1-channel design with analog bass management and comes standard with the following features: DAC, MM/MC phono stage, balanced inputs and outputs, and home-theater bypass. Richard Schram, Parasound’s founder and president, had this to say in the company’s August 28 press release: “New technologies have changed the ways audiophiles connect to and enjoy their music. So, the addition of a high-quality DAC was an obvious choice for the P 5. There has also been a resurgence in turntables, so we upgraded the MM-only phono stage to also handle moving-coil cartridges with a choice of load impedances. While the P 3 has outstanding two-channel sound, many audiophiles today have 2.1-channel stereo speaker systems with robust subwoofers. The P 5 actually creates a sub channel output for the 2.1 listening. The P 5 also makes it easy to integrate audiophile stereo speakers with a home-theater surround system. The addition of a balanced XLR subwoofer output and variable low-frequency and high-frequency crossovers makes the Halo P 5 uniquely capable in these configurations.”

The P 5’s coaxial and optical digital inputs accept sampling rates up to 192kHz, while its USB input accepts up to 96kHz. The MM phono input is said to be compatible with all moving-magnet and most moving-coil cartridges, and has a 100-ohm/47k-ohm switch for impedance matching. The Halo P 5, which is available in black or silver, is priced at only $950 USD and will be available in September.

Parasound website

DeccaA good deal of attention has been drawn to 2013, quite appropriately, as the bicentennial year of the birth of Verdi and Wagner, and now Decca, a label that has provided outstanding coverage of both of those composers’ works, has pulled out all the stops in reminding us that this year also happens to involve the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten.

Decca’s relationship with Britten was truly unique: for that label, Britten recorded nearly all of his major works, sometimes as conductor, sometimes as pianist; most of those recordings have been kept in circulation on CD, and now all of them are brought together in this huge box, containing 65 CDs, a specially created DVD, and literature that rates attention in its own right.

But the surprising touch that enables this set to be offered as Britten’s “complete works” (“all the works with opus numbers, and all works commercially recorded to date”) is the participation of other labels -- such as EMI, Virgin Classics, Naxos, Warner Classics, and NMC -- which have contributed recordings of the works Britten himself did not record for Decca. The number of participating labels comes to 20, with Decca itself accounting for 75% of the material, and the undertaking had the support of the Britten-Pears Foundation.

The set is thoughtfully organized in four basic sections -- 20 CDs devoted to the operas, 12 to music for stage and screen, 16 to song cycles and other works for voices, 13 to orchestral and instrumental works -- and each of these sections is accompanied by a detailed booklet covering Britten’s contribution to its specific field.

On the four remaining CDs there are newly recorded interviews with some of the musicians who worked closely with Britten, as well as historical recordings, rarities, and Britten’s rehearsals during the recording sessions for the War Requiem, which was remastered this year from the analog master tapes. The DVD is Tony Palmer’s film on the making of the 1967 recording of The Burning Fiery Furnace, chosen, as stated by Decca, “for its unrivalled insight into the Britten-Decca recording relationship and the working methods” of the label’s famous producer John Culshaw and his team.

The package is housed in a handsome box decorated with specially commissioned illustrations, and includes, as the pinnacle of its documentation, a 208-page, full-color hardback book filled with articles and new information, as well as a reproduction of original Decca LP cover art, a good helping of recording session photos, and the beautiful landscapes of Britten’s Aldeburgh, in photographs taken specifically for this edition.

Decca website

Boulder preampBoulder Amplifiers has announced the debut and release of the 2110 preamplifier and 2150 mono amplifier, shown first at the 2013 Hong Kong High-End Show, held August 9 through 11, 2013. The original 2000 series was in continuous and unchanged production since 1996, making the 2100 series the first and only revision of 2000-level products in 17 years.

The 2110 and 2150 will be the first components in the new and expanding 2100 series of products. The 2100 series is said to be Boulder’s highest-performing continuously produced product line. It encompasses Boulder's latest technology and thought regarding high-performance home-audio reproduction. The 2100 series reportedly marks a substantial increase in performance over the previous 2000 series.

The suggested US retail price for the 2110 preamplifier is $54,000 USD and the 2150 mono amplifier is $49,000 ($96,000 per pair). International export prices will vary by country.

Boulder preamp2110 preamplifier:

  • With the exception of the front-panel buttons and volume-control disc, every part and circuit of the 2110 preamplifier is new.
  • The complete preamplifier is comprised of four chassis and features the total isolation of left and right audio channels, logic and user-interface sections, and power supplies.
  • A separate 2100 power-supply chassis houses four independent power supplies for left audio, right audio, logic and user interface, and standby/power-on.
  • A new, microprocessor-controlled, high-efficiency standby function reduces power consumption while in standby mode.
  • Complete surface-mount circuit-board construction manufactured on Boulder’s own surface- mount pick-and-place machines and ovens to increase reliability, consistency, and optimized ground planing while at the same time reducing signal-path length, PCB capacitance, and noise radiation.
  • New, ultra-low-noise, surface-mount 993S gain stages encased in a fully machined and potted housing for thermal stability.
  • Redesigned high-visibility white LED front-panel display.
  • New, modernized front-panel designs for both preamplifier and power-supply chassis. The preamplifier front panel features a new wraparound, custom-ground, mirror-glass display 
  • Next generation of Boulder’s CMOS-actuated stepped volume control incorporates full-balanced operation for a lower noise floor and elimination of any step noise.
  • Full IP control via Ethernet for use with advanced control systems.
  • 12V trigger out for remote turn-on of connected amplifiers.
  • New, completely machined casework milled on Boulder’s own CNC machining centers. Sheet metal has been eliminated and all casework is now interlocking machined 6060-T6 aluminum.
  • Powder coating and paint have been removed. The complete preamplifier’s finish is bead blasted and clear anodized. 

Boulder amp2150 mono amplifier:

  • Every electronic circuit within the 2150 mono amplifier is entirely new and all technological changes are primarily derived from Boulder’s 3050 mono amplifier.

  • Pure-linear class-A operation. Bias current is actively monitored and adjusted in order to increase efficiency and reduce wasted radiated heat energy.
  • A new, high-efficiency, microprocessor-controlled standby mode reduces power consumption when engaged.
  • All electronic circuits and electronics are now surface-mount designs manufactured on Boulder’s own surface-mount manufacturing machines and ovens to increase reliability, consistency and optimized ground planing while at the same time reducing signal path length, PCB capacitance, and noise radiation.
  • Gain stages within the 2150 are Boulder’s proprietary 99H2, which is unique to the 2100-series amplifiers. 99H2 gain stages feature surface-mount electronic design and feature a new machined and potted housing to increase thermal stability.
  • The 2150 utilizes 80 output devices, 48 filter capacitors, and three toroidal power transformers to generate power output of up to 1000W into any load, enabling massive current swings and the ability to drive any loudspeaker to realistic audio levels.
  • Full Ethernet IP control capability and a 12V trigger minijack connection for use with advanced control systems and triggered home-cinema installations.
  • A new and complete array of protection and status monitoring circuits are continuously active.
  • The physical and cosmetic changes in the 2150 include a slightly revised front panel and a new clear-anodized top, bottom, and rear panel with no powder coating or paint. All rear-panel markings and indications are now machine engraved. Metal casework is cut using Boulder’s own CNC machines.

Boulder Amplifiers website

RHAUK-based RHA is adding two new earphones to their line. According to the company’s August 8, 2013, press release, "The MA750i ($129.95 USD) and MA600i ($89.95) are engineered to offer RHA's signature open, natural sound and outstanding durability.”

The first RHA product to use 303F stainless steel, the MA750i features handmade dynamic drivers in an effort to create precise audio reproduction with an open soundstage. Designed with contoured over-ear cable supports, the MA750i is said to provide a secure and comfortable fit for active use.

The MA600i, constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum, combines RHA's unique aerophonic shape with custom dynamic drivers for highly accurate, balanced sound reproduction.

Both earphones are supplied with a selection of RHA's dual-density, double-flange and memory-foam eartips to ensure effective noise isolation and comfortable fit. The MA750i and MA600i also include carry cases and RHA's patent-pending, stainless-steel eartip holder.

Designed for use with compatible Apple devices, the MA750i and MA600i are each equipped with a "Made for iPod, iPhone, iPad" three-button remote and microphone. A version of each earphone without remote and microphone (MA750/MA600) will be available in September.

RHA website

Focal Book WirelessFocal, which is the largest loudspeaker manufacturer in France, announced in a press release today that they’re expanding their XS Book range of loudspeakers with the newest model: XS Book Wireless. The XS Book Wireless is based on their original XS Book, but adds Bluetooth-based wireless connectivity using aptX technology “for near CD quality with wireless convenience.” The aptX technology allows for a range of up to 30’. The XS Book Wireless also has RCA and 3.5mm minijack connectors for a conventional wired connection.

According to the company’s press release, the XS Book Wireless is “equipped with an aluminum-dome tweeter and a 4” (10cm) Polyglass cone woofer. The XS Book Wireless has a wide bandwidth of 50Hz to 22kHz. It has the linearity of an ideal small monitor with a maximum sound pressure level of 97dB SPL at 1m: easily enough to fill a 215-square-foot room.” The XS Book Wireless is priced at $399 USD, $100 more than the original XS Book.

Focal website

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