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Davis Byars "bookworm" (Cambridge, UK)

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Meze 99 Classics Closed Wooden Headphones - Walnut/Gold
Meze 99 Classics Closed Wooden Headphones - Walnut/Gold
Offered by Planet Gizmo
Price: £259.00

5.0 out of 5 stars They are light and comfortable, and look astonishingly cool, 19 July 2016
Must be the only quality sound equipment imported from Romania. The designer (pronounced Meh-zeh) , however, did his apprenticeship in UK and went back home to set up production for his designs (and that was well before Brexit). The most prominent feature is the fine-tooled wooden shell, with a choice between Walnut Gold and Maple Silver: there is no difference in the sound quality, but I rather think the Maple Silver is a tad more feminine in appearance ('scuse the sexism). They are light and comfortable, and look astonishingly cool, eminently suitable for both home and en-route listening. The sound goes into the fun-and-enjoyment department rather than critical listening: they are somewhat bass-heavy and don't go too far up into the extended treble region, but there are very smooth and engaging transitions up through the lower and upper mid range. They are clearly more suitable for rock music and jazz, yet you can get decent enjoyment out of classical too: I just played through Richard Strauss's "Don Quixote" featuring mainly the cello, and found it beautifully mellow. I otherwise use Etymotic and Sennheiser IEM's for more serious analytical listening, but in these you look good, the sound is good and on the whole you are high up in the enjoyment region. Splendid accessories come with them: two braided leads, one short with mic, the other long for lounging around on the sofa. There have been some reports on microphonics on the cables, but I have tried hard to induce them and failed. You also get a hard carrying case and pouch for wires and things. For mid-price-range you wouldn't get a lot better for style and musical enjoyment.


iFi Audio Nano iCAN Headphone Amplifier
iFi Audio Nano iCAN Headphone Amplifier
Offered by Analogue Seduction
Price: £149.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tops for quality and versatility., 16 July 2016
I bought the iFi Nano iCAN as an upgrade to the excellent value-for-money Fiio A3 portable amp. This was fine for me, but I have assembled a whole range of iFi Audio products and was impressed enough to make me want to acquire one more. It is somewhat bulkier than the A3, yet it binds well with my Sony NWZ ZX1 thanks to 2 stout elastic bands. Headphones are Etymotic ER4-S for classical, with Meze 99 Classics for rock. These are early impressions: it is often said that amplifiers need some running in time before they deliver their best, but I suspect it's the other way round, the ear gradually adapts itself to the equipment. Anyhow, I was surprised to find the output wasn't quite as high as I had expected, I had to raise the gain by 6db. You can do this with 2 tiny switches on the underneath of the amp, one for 6 and the other for 12db. IFi thoughtfully supply a little screwdriver to effect this, but it's odd there is not a simple gain switch you can flip with your finger, as is on the A3. There are 2 other facilities, an X-bass boost and a 3D switch: to be honest, the X-bass difference is too subtle for me to detect, while the 3D switch broadens the stage and drops the volume at the same time. You can choose between RCA Phono and 3.5mm inputs (though why you would need phono on a portable amp defeats me: I suppose it makes it more versatile for home use.) First listening made me suspect a slight favouring of the RH channel, though this is evening out. There is a little hexagonal socket between the phono inputs: I thought turning this would adjust the balance, but it would seem it applies only to the phono. The sound is very rich and powerful: Paul Simon's "Graceland" was blowing the 'phones off the sides of my head! Classical music has splendid detail and clarity. And you get an impressive 70-hour battery charge! There is one blip, in that the volume control is noisy, and you should switch the amp on before putting on the headphones to avoid a loud pop in your ear. Nevertheless, altogether this is a significant upgrade for me. Ifi Audio are bucking the trend for purity and simplicity, and instead are cheerfully piling in new facilities for versatility. Purists might cavil at the multiple switching, but at this price who is going to complain?
Update 20/07/2016: I contacted ifi Audio about the channel imbalance and they asked me to check whether the dipswitches on the underneath were in line: I had indeed moved one switch which I had assumed would give me a 6db gain in output, but it seems that if the switches are misaligned, you get channel imbalance. Lining them up rectified the imbalance, but it seems to me a bit of a glitch.
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IFI Audio iLink USB to SPDIF Converter HD Silver
IFI Audio iLink USB to SPDIF Converter HD Silver
Offered by MCRU
Price: £223.93

4.0 out of 5 stars Great product, once set up., 16 Jun. 2016
I bought the iLink mainly because I was so impressed by other iFi products that I had bought (iUSB, iPurifier, Gemini cable, iCan SE): it was to replace a Musical Fidelity V-Link 192, which I was reasonably satisfied with, but you know, there's always the itch to go one step further. Anyhow, the iLink proved its mettle quite quickly, giving a a more open, more defined sound that was immediately more attractive and made the V-link sound rather passe. Typically of iFi Audio, it has a few options to choose from: switchable JET (Jitter Elimination Technology, eliminating jitter data, but if it's so good why would anyone want to switch it off? Also you can choose from normal and enhanced SPDIF output, so who would want normal when you can get it enhanced? It sounds like unnecessary circuitry to me. When I first plugged it in nothing happened, FOOBAR 2000 didn't recognise it. I had to hunt for drivers, and the iFi website was breezily boosting up its products rather than informing customers what to actually do with them. Eventually I discovered a download "iFi (by AMR) HD USB Audio Device", which got it working. Seemingly it's a general support driver for iFi products, but I don't see why they couldn't have made this information clear in the first place. Maybe with Mac you don't need the driver, but with Windows you do. I had another problem with contact failure with the computer, which was resolved eventually by removing and reinserting the Gemini cable into the iLink, like the finger in the woodpecker's hole, suggesting there could be a static problem here. This is very irritating when you have to do it each time you switch on, however iFi Audio support advised that if you leave it powered on, it does not lose the "handshake" with the computer. Nevertheless once set up this is a worthwhile investment.


Audioquest Dragonfly Dac Black
Audioquest Dragonfly Dac Black
Offered by hifi kit
Price: £89.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for rock, 12 Jun. 2016
I bought this as a replacement for a DacMagic X5, which went wonky. I use it for bedside listening and when I'm on my travels, though not with iPhone or Android. I find the sound rather hard and assertive, as compared to the DacMagic's sweeter and more refined quality. Maybe it's better for rock than classical, but at least it seems more robust. All credit to Audioquest for not only improving their last model, but lowering the price as well. But all the same I prefer the DacMagic's more musical sound quality.


iFi Audio iPurifier 2 USB Audio Purifier
iFi Audio iPurifier 2 USB Audio Purifier
Offered by MCRU
Price: £89.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I thought it was good enough so far and I didn't need any extra ..., 22 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was already into iFi Audio products having bought the iUSB psu and the Gemini cable. Together they made a substantial improvement in received sound (see my reviews). I thought it was good enough so far and I didn't need any extra tweaks, yet I managed to persuade myself to go one step further and go for the iPurifier2. Yes, you can get get carried away late at night with a glass of wine and make reckless purchases on the Internet and regret them later. Afterwards I was cursing myself for paying out a lot of money for some absurd little gadget that won't make a ha'porth of difference to my musical appreciation. Had to eat my words though. On arrival and application, there was a startling and immediate improvement in what I was listening to. Plugged it in, and wham! I'm groping with words to describe the impression I got: the sound was more open, more immediate, more defined, more detailed, more focused, cleaner and wholly more realistic.It was a new revelation, just when I had been thinking I didn't need any improvement on what I already had. The big expense of this titchy little plug-in was immediately justified. It does however make the iFi Audio "Grand Slam" combination of their innovative products (i.e with iUSB and Gemini), but I can't really say how effective it would be in any other system. Nevertheless it goes to show that however content you are with your set-up, you can always get that little bit closer to how the music really sounds, thanks to innovative outfits such as iFi Audio.


Beyerdynamic DT880 PRO Headset - 250 OHM
Beyerdynamic DT880 PRO Headset - 250 OHM
Price: £159.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comfortable, agreeable listening., 11 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was chasing a set of Beyerdynamic T1's on eBay, until the bids went far beyond my budget. Then I read Ken Rockwell's online review where he reckons that DT 880's are nearly as good at a fraction of the price. In fact, better than Sennheiser HD 800's. Hmm! Well, I'm in no position to corroborate that, but anyway I went for them on a direct purchase from Amazon. I'd had a series of disappointments with over-ear cans, going through AT's, Sennheiser, AKG and HifiMan, liking them for a while but then finding something disagreeable in them, particularly in the mezzo-forte strings department. They never seemed to come up to the accuracy I was getting from my Etymotic ER-4S IEM's. These cans seem to offer better prospects. The first impression you get from them is how light and comfortable they are. After that the sound: they seem to need more driving than I expected, having to push the pot on my Burson Soloist SR amp round to 1 o'clock. The sound quality coming over is relaxed, translucent, neutral, and most agreeable - though I wouldn't say exciting. I'll probably use my Etymotics for more intense listening, but these are very suitable for long periods of comfortable, relaxed listening. And the mezzo-forte string department is spot-on.
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Cambridge Dac Magic Xs
Cambridge Dac Magic Xs

3.0 out of 5 stars Great sound, pity about the durability, 9 Feb. 2016
A very impressive piece of sound technology in miniature. I have a desktop set-up that consists of five separate boxes of electronic wizardry, all linked up with expensive interconnects, the whole outfit costing me more than a thousand pounds. I bought the Dac Magic Xs for bedside listening and travel, and found the quality of this is not far short of what I get from all my assembled gadgetry. Of course it doesn't have the equivalent soundstage, dynamic range, detail. and all that, but it gives most agreeable listening. I marvel at how Cambridge Audio managed to get so much quality out of such a tiny little device.

Update June 12th 2016. It was too good to last ... like many other buyers who have expressed their dissatisfaction with this product, I found increasing unreliability in its function. Small jolts (eg of the headphone lead) would cut off it from the computer, the number of failed reinsertions increased steadily, until in the end it became too frustrating to use and I replaced it with an Audioquest Dragonfly Black. The pity is that I find the sound of the Audioquest inferior to the DacMagic, being harder and assertive in contrast to the DacMagic's sweetness and more musical quality. If only Cambridge Audio could sort out this problem, they would have a truly great product. I have had to take it down from 5 to three stars, and even that's charity.


Fiio A3 (Kilimanjaro 2) Portable Headphone Amplifier (formerly E11K)
Fiio A3 (Kilimanjaro 2) Portable Headphone Amplifier (formerly E11K)
Offered by AVShop
Price: £69.00

5.0 out of 5 stars which gave excellent high definition sound from 24-bit downloads, 9 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I recently purchased a Sony NWZ X1 Walkman, which gave excellent high definition sound from 24-bit downloads, but disappointingly the sound level was not quite loud enough to be exciting on some recordings. I needed portable amplification, but was not quite sure how to get it at suitable quality to match the high Sony level without paying something exorbitant. I have had experience of Fiio's excellent quality at low prices, so thought I would try the A3, and it turned out to be a thoroughly justified choice. The sound boost is as much as I want, with hardly any detectable loss of quality, despite numerous exacting comparisons at equivalent volume level. I just put it through the Beethoven Choral Fantasia, with high demands on piano and vocals, good tests for sound quality, and I can say it came out with flying colours. It fits very well with X1 Walkman with its rubber bands (though you would need a longer 3mm-3mm cable) with the controls conveniently placed at the narrow end. Thoroughly pleased with the purchase.


Rockport Rugged Bucks Waterproof, Men Desert Boots, Brown (Dark Brown), 7 UK (40 1/2 EU)
Rockport Rugged Bucks Waterproof, Men Desert Boots, Brown (Dark Brown), 7 UK (40 1/2 EU)
Price: £74.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 14 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Nice hardy boots, but the wax coating is easily scuffed. Laces too short.


Sony NWZ-ZX1 128GB Walkman with High Resolution Audio
Sony NWZ-ZX1 128GB Walkman with High Resolution Audio
Price: £549.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful sound, shame about the volume output., 19 Nov. 2015
I bought the Sony as an upgrade for a Fiio X1, which, although being great value for money, produced a rather harsh sound and also the controls were becoming erratic. I had contemplated a better Fiio, X3 or X5, but went for the Sony when I saw one going for a bargain price. I also appreciate Sony quality, having owned a NWZ MP3 player before. The 128 gig capacity is more than I need for what I want to carry about with me, so I was pleased that I didn't have to buy an SD card on top. Loading up a library using Media Go made it a very slow business, until I found that the simple "Send to" command was much quicker. On listening I was immediately struck by the quality of the sound, so finely detailed and truly realistic: but at the same time frustrated that I couldn't get more volume out of it. I don't want to blow my eardrums out, but there are times when I want to wind the wick up for a good blast, and it isn't possible with this, presumably Euro sourced. Comparison with the Fiio shows that the Fiio is completely outclassed for sound quality (of course, in view of the price difference). But at least the Fiio isn't constrained by any fussy rules concerning sound output, unlike the consciencious (nannyish) Sony outfit. I'm using Etymotic ER-4PT iem's, which just about cope, but there is not enough output for my Sennheiser iem 800's. Nevertheless I am pleased with the product, I just wish I could squeeze out some more volume when I'm high.

Post-script: I bought a Fiio A3 portable amp, which binds very conveniently to the Sony, and provides all the volume boost I need, with no detriment to the sound quality. Problem solved.


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