Ferrum Audio Wandla Digital-to-Analog Converter and Hypsos Power Supply

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click here.

Ferrum Audio CEO Marcin Hamerla is evidently fond of wordplay. The Wandla DAC gets its name from Wandler, a word meaning “converter” in German—a language Hamerla speaks in addition to English and his native Polish. The Hypsos power supply is likewise cleverly named, drawing its moniker dually from the Grecian term for the sublime and from the device’s function as a hybrid power-supply system. The company’s name is inspired by the large deposits of iron ore found near its headquarters on the outskirts of Warsaw, Poland. But these are just words. What’s in a name, after all?

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Arendal Sound 1723 Tower S Loudspeaker

Note: measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

“They’re the SVS of Norway.” Such was my introduction to Arendal Sound in November 2023, when Doug Schneider dropped off a pair of their 1723 Tower S speakers at my home. The similarity to the Ohio-based SVS can be seen in the type, price, and quality of speakers from the two companies but also in their business model: both sell directly to customers (as do Canada’s Axiom Audio and Denmark’s Buchardt Audio, among others). This, of course, reduces overhead costs and allows the manufacturer to pass savings to the consumer.

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Meitner Audio PRE Preamplifier

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click here.

When contemplating the very best in digital audio, Canada’s EMM Labs, along with dCS and certain other brand names, comes to mind. EMM Labs is equally adept at analog electronics, to be sure—the company’s founder, Ed Meitner, has long been involved in both analog and digital electronics—it just may not be the first company you think of in the vast analog domain. Ed Meitner’s most recent exploits include developing the EMM Labs DS-EQ1 optical phono equalizer for the DS Audio line of optical cartridges. The current EMM Labs range also includes the PRE analog preamplifier, the MTRX and MTRX2 monoblock amplifiers, the MTRS stereo amplifier, the NS1 streamer, and two DACs: the variable output DV2 and the fixed output DA2 V2. These highly regarded products are designed for maximum performance rather than being built to hit a particular price.

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Darlington Labs MP-7 Phono Preamplifier and SU-7 Step-Up Amplifier

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click here.

Keen-eyed readers of my previous reviews and blog articles have by now picked up on my preference for DIY gear and relatively simple, class-A circuitry, usually based on discrete components. And it’s true, I generally eschew complex designs, integrated circuits, and high part counts in my preferred equipment.

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Simaudio Moon 791 Streaming Preamplifier

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click here.

Reviewers' ChoiceTen years ago to the day, my review of Simaudio’s Moon Evolution 740P preamplifier was published on this site. I was so impressed with the 740P that I’ve kept it in my system after the audition period until earlier this year. What better time, I thought, to review its recently released successor, the Moon 791 preamplifier, part of the company’s new North Collection. For a complete picture, though, a brief overview of the 740P is in order.

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Rotel Michi X5 Series 2 Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click here.

Reviewers' ChoiceWhen the Rotel Michi line re-emerged in 2019 after a two-decade absence, I was caught off guard. It’s not that I didn’t think I’d ever see a Michi product again—I didn’t know Michi existed in the first place! Mea culpa.

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Grado Labs Sonata3 Low-Output Moving-Iron Phono Cartridge

The idea of moderation as a virtue is an ancient principle. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle established his Doctrine of Means, stating that “it is the nature of ethical virtues to be destroyed by deficiency as well as by excess . . . but they are preserved by moderation, or the mean.” As the philosopher goes on to explain, this idea of finding the mean—that sweet spot between not enough and too much—works for pretty much all virtues, notably temperance and bravery, “for a man who flees from and fears everything and never stands his ground becomes a coward, but he who fears nothing at all but proceeds against all dangers becomes rash.” In modern times, the stakes are certainly much lower for a phonograph cartridge like the Grado Sonata3—and thankfully, we won’t find ourselves tasked with evaluating it from an ethical standpoint. But as audiophiles, don’t we often find ourselves weighing the mean between excess and deficiency?

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Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 800.2 Integrated Amplifier

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click here.

“Musical Fidelity” must be the perfect name for an audio manufacturer. While many companies are named after their founders or places of business, how relevant is that name when the founder leaves or the company moves? And forget acronyms or initials. What meaning do they convey? “Musical Fidelity” says it all. It beats “ClearAudio,” “Living Voice,” and “Definitive Audio”—my runners-up. At the bottom of my list come “Schitt Audio,” “Monster Cable,” and “Fried Products.”

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NuPrime Audio Evolution Two Mono Power Amplifier

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click here.

The NuPrime Audio Evolution Two mono power amplifier can trace its roots back to the NuForce Reference models from almost 20 years ago. I first heard those small monoblock class-D amplifiers around that time at THE Show, which ran concurrently with the annual CES in Las Vegas at the St. Tropez hotel. The high-end exhibits of the CES were housed at the nearby Alexis Park hotel.

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Technics Grand Class SL-G700M2 Streaming SACD Player/DAC

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click here.

Some audiophiles still prefer reading their digital music in real time from shiny discs to streaming it from the internet or accessing it via computer from a networked or attached drive. So companies like Marantz, Denon, Esoteric, Yamaha, Luxman, Arcam, McIntosh, and Mark Levinson, among others, continue to manufacture high-quality CD and SACD players. Technics, the brand relaunched by Panasonic in 2015 and best known for its SL-series direct-drive turntables, also produces SACD players as part of its Grand Class lineup. Introduced in 2019, the SL-G700 network SACD player has been updated and replaced by the SL-G700M2, the subject of this review. While the cost has increased from its original price of $2999.95 (all prices USD), this high-quality, streaming optical disc player retails for a still reasonable (by high-end standards, at least) $3499.95.

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