George de Sa



 Simaudio Ltd. has just announced their new MOON Nēo 430HA Headphone Amplifier.  The new MOON Nēo 430HA Headphone Amplifier also can be optionally equipped with a 32-bit PCM / DSD256 in-board DAC.

The Nēo 430HA is a fully balanced, pure analog amplifier that includes an output stage with discrete transconductance circuit topology, selectable gain setting (14 or 20dB), an oversized power supply and a defeatable analog crossfeed circuit. Rated at 667mW at 600 ohms and 8W at 50 ohms, the Nēo 430HA has been designed to drive virtually any headphone with ease.

Borrowing various technologies from our more exotic and costlier Evolution series, while incorporating the most advanced analog audio circuitry, the 430HA aims to provide the very best possible sonic performance through your headphones. The optional DSD256 and 32-bit PCM capable DAC allows for a multitude of uses and connection of almost any digital source component.   

Significant Design Features:

  • Inputs include 2 single-ended on RCA’s, 1 balanced on XLR’s and 1 single-ended on 1/8″ jack located on the front panel
  • Outputs include a pair of 3-pin XLR and one 4-Pin XLR located on the front panel behind a sliding window, a ¼” TRS jack, as well as both fixed and variable line-level single-ended RCA stereo pairs
  • M-LoVo (MOON Low Voltage) DC regulation circuit: a highly sophisticated circuit that is virtually free of noise, yielding an exceptionally fast, precise, and stable DC voltage. The result is a power supply with a virtually unmeasureable noise floor
  • M-eVOL2 volume control with 530 steps and channel matching of 0.1dB
  • Optional fully asynchronous DAC supports DSD up to DSD256 (USB only); PCM from 44.1kHz to 384kHz (32-bit USB only)
  • Optional DAC provides four digital inputs (S/PDIF x 2, TosLink x 1 & USB x 1) allowing for use with any digital source  
  • RS-232 port for (i) full unsolicited bidirectional feedback and (ii) firmware updates; IR input for external control
  • SimLink  controller port for 2-way communications between other MOON components; 12V trigger output

The all-new MOON Nēo 430HA will be available in Q3 2014 at a MSRP of $3,500.00 U.S. for the standard model and with the optional DSD256 / 32-bit PCM DAC for an additional $700 U.S.  Look for more information at:


Cambridge Audio Azur 351A Integrated Amplifier, Azur 351C CD Player and Wharfedale Diamond 10.6 Speakers

Cambridge Audio Azur 351A Integrated Amplifier, Azur 351C CD Player & Wharfedale Diamond 10.6 Speakers

There’s no shortage of audio products in the marketplace today – everything from low-cost MP3 players and ear-buds, right up to amplifiers and speakers that can carry a price-tag of six figures – I kid you not. Consumers, like you and I, tend to believe that spending more will get us more – more in the way of performance, as well as, durability, styling and construction. Though this may hold true in some cases, it would be naïve to rely on this as a rule to shop by. In addition, beyond price, the complexity in pairing audio components from different manufacturers to extract more performance than the sum-of-the-parts is an art in itself. There is definitely something to be said for synergy, and coupling the right set of affordable components will often provide a better result than a mismatch of components costing several times as much. This brings me to a system that I’ve been putting my ears to for the last few months – a system aspiring for greater performance through the complementary pairing of high-value components. What’s the system? Well, it is a combination of audio components from two well-known manufacturers – both of which have many years of experience and are based out of England; namely, Cambridge Audio and Wharfedale. On the Cambridge Audio side we have the Azur 351A integrated amplifier and 351C compact disc player, and from Wharfedale we have their Diamond 10.6 tower loudspeakers. This system is no hodge-podge of components but rather a system recommended by the knowledgeable Canadian distributor for both brands – Plurison.

Before I get into telling you about the sound of the system, let me tell you a little about the companies and the components themselves. First up, is Wharfedale, an England based loudspeaker manufacturer with a history that goes back just short of 80 years. Though the Wharfedale Diamond Series has been around for over 30 years, the most recent Diamond 10 Series was introduced in 2009 and continues to be Wharfedale’s best-selling loudspeaker series. The Diamond 10.6 loudspeaker ($999/pair) sits as the second largest speaker in the Diamond 10 line. It is a floorstanding 2.5-way, bass-reflex, rear-ported design that utilizes a 6.5” Kevlar bass driver, 6.5” Kevlar mid/bass driver and a 1” soft-dome tweeter. Power handling is from 20 to 150 watts with a 6 Ohm nominal impedance, sensitivity of 88 dB/1w/1m and a frequency range of 35 Hz to 24 kHz. Average in stature, the Diamond 10.6 measures 35.4” (H) x 8.8” (W) x 11.9” (D). With this latest edition of the Diamond 10 Series, Wharfedale has incorporated a number of technological advancements to improve the overall performance of the series. The key improvements include stronger curved MDF cabinet sides, which help to reduce standing waves internally; large retention flanges to secure the drivers and improve stability; moulded diamond pattern blended SRBP cone surrounds that reduce distortion; a metal grid diffuser in front of the dome tweeter to smooth high-frequency response and improve clarity; and the use of neodymium magnets for the tweeter that sits in a cast alloy mounting plate, optimizing dispersion and driver integration. The Diamond 10 Series also comes in a larger variety of vinyl finishes, including Cool Maple, Wenge, Blackwood, Cinnamon Cherry, Winter Maple, Walnut Pearl and Rosewood Quilted. My review sample was in Blackwood, which complemented the gloss black composite front baffle and silver flange rings that encircle the drivers. Fit and finish were good and in-line, if not slightly above, competitively priced products.

Second up is Cambridge Audio, a London, England based audio product manufacturer with a history reaching right back to the late 1960’s. Within Cambridge Audio’s product line-up there is the Azur Series of two-channel stereo components that is divided into the 351, 651 and 851 Series. The Azur 351 Series is the entry-level / value oriented series and benefits from trickle down technology that comes from the more advanced and more expensive Azur 651 and 851 Series. Inspecting the 351A and 351C revealed a surprisingly excellent fit and finish that could easily have them mistaken for considerably more expensive components. Their weight and the gauge of metal was the only thing that seemed to be indicative of their price point ($599 each). The silver finish of my review samples was very attractive, though Cambridge Audio also provides them alternatively in a black finish. The volume control, the rotary selectors and buttons all provided a very positive feel and I was quite smitten by the build quality of the supplied remote control. The remote has good weight and build and was very functional – providing control over all key functions of both the integrated amplifier and CD player.

The 351A integrated amplifier pumps out 45-watts per channel (RMS) into 8 ohms and incorporates an oversized toroidal transformer. The volume control is a high-quality ALPs film type / black box and there are also fully defeatable bass and treble controls. The THD is rated below 0.15% (20 Hz – 20 kHz at 80% RMS), while the signal-to-noise ratio is 92 dB. The Azur 351A provides five analog RCA inputs plus a USB 1.0 type B input to an internal 16 bit / 48kHz capable DAC. There are also two sets of binding posts for connection of both A/B speakers but beware, a plastic collar prevents the use of cables with typical spades. On the front panel, along with input selection buttons, volume and tone controls is a 3.5mm analog jack for easy connection of portable music players. There is also a front accessible ¼” headphone jack. The 351A measures 16.9 (W) x 13.4’’ (D) x 3.4” (H) and weighs just 6.0 kg / 13.2 lbs.

The 351C CD player features a host of top grade components including Cambridge Audio’s in-house-designed, audio-only CD transport, a custom CD servo and a robust low-noise toroidal transformer – quite uncommon at this price point. The 351C is a true CD player, incorporating a high quality Wolfson WM8728 DAC chip. Cambridge has also built the 351C circuit boards and DAC stages using double-sided surface mount technology, which reduces signal paths and increases contact area for better performance versus conventional through-hole mounting. In terms of specifications – the 351C CDP has a rated frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, THD under 0.003% and a signal-to-noise ratio of 99dB (A-weighted). It measures 16.9” (W) x 12.2’’ (D) x 3.4” (H) and provides almost full control of its functions via the front panel. The remote control is full function and is the same as the one that comes with the 351A integrated amplifier – so if you buy the components together, you’ll always have a back-up remote.

After unpacking the components, the only assembly required was to screw in the metal floor spikes on the speakers. Hook-up was straightforward with just a couple IEC power cords (one for the 351A and one for the 351C); a single set of RCA interconnects (a pair of my 1-meter Kimber Kable PBJ’s) and a pair of speaker cables from the 351C to the Wharfedale Diamond 10.6 speakers (a set of 8-foot Kimber Kable 8VS). Though the system came to me already broken-in, I’d estimate I put an additional 500 hours on it before I began my note taking.

One of the artists that I never tire of is Diana Krall. I put on the album, The Look of Love and listened to the first track “S’Wonderful”. The system brought across a sense of openness and I heard the feathery shimmer of the cymbals. The shakers had their characteristic grainy rasp, while violins playing sounded smooth and delicate, as they traced out the deepest regions of the soundstage. Though on this track, the soundstage was limited in breadth by the left and right outer sides of the Diamond 10.6 loudspeakers, it did reach out before me just past the front wall of my room and seemed to fill-in right into the front corners. As the string ensemble played, I did get an alluring sense of height from the draping string notes. Bass notes were taught and pleasantly extended, allowing me to gain a good sense of the upright bass. So many low-cost systems tend to cater to the masses with overdone, flabby bass – just head into a big-box store and you’ll find this commonplace. But in this case I was pleased to hear an affordable system aiming to produce accurate bass. When it came to Diana’s vocals, they were clear and very intelligible and more than sufficient to keep my attention drawn throughout the track. Moving over to the title track, “The Look of Love”, the playing of Conga drums laid bare the knocks and slapping of the drum skin providing the gist of realism that makes for a stimulating listen. Again, on this track, I found that the outer edges of the speakers defined the breadth of the soundstage; while the percussion sounds pushed out a little beyond the front wall of my room. Bass strings were snappy with good body, but lacking sufficient detail to pinpoint the placement of the stand-up bass. That said, I could clearly hear that the bass was centred and also sitting, as it were, just behind Diana. The vocals on this track came across as defined and detailed, while Diana’s tone seemed to be a little leaner than I’m used to hearing it. Though the treble was pleasant overall, this track did reveal some fizziness with cymbal play. Piano notes carried a pleasant and inviting glow, while all-the-while remaining playful in nature. I also noted the tapping of a snare drum and the fact that the system was able, once again, to reveal the signature sound of a drum skin.

During one of my listening sessions, I turned to the Tron Legacy Soundtrack. This recording has become one of my go-to albums given its wide range of instrumentation, addictive sound effects and exciting bass rhythms. First up, the track “Rinzler” brought an onslaught of Tympani strikes that were visceral in their weight, if only lacking a bit in ultimate dynamic slam, if compared to a more expensive, more powerful amplifier. The general presentation of this track was more forward than I’m accustomed to and provided a different experience, one that was very present and intimate versus the usual more panoramic impression I’m used to hearing. The music seemed to exist from the front plane of the speaker baffles, towards the back and just beyond the front wall of my room. Then I skipped over to the track “The Game Has Changed”, which, if you’ve seen the movie (and you should) is the track that anchors the light cycle race. The bass notes and drum impacts, together with the violins and synthesized sound effects had my pulse up from the start. I found that the Cambridge Azur 351A integrated amplifier in combination with the Wharfedale Diamond 10.6 loudspeakers was able to generate significant volume in my room. At about the 10:00 o’clock position on the volume knob, it made for an engaged listening session and at about 12:00, the sound filled my 13’ x 20’ room completely, while remaining very listenable. Going past this, I began to detect the limits of the system, as compression and congestion began to set in. That said, at a rather modest 45-watts/channel rated output, the Cambridge Audio integrated amplifier more than surprised me with its capabilities on this album.

Melody Gardot’s album, The Absence, was another album that caught my attention with the Cambridge Audio / Wharfedale system. In its own right this is a magnificent album that explores a slightly different side of Melody, inspired by her travels and incorporating a mosaic of instrumentation. Playing the tune “Amalia”, the plucking of string instruments were very engaging and Melody’s voice remained both lush and soothing. On this track, the soundstage crept a little broader, extending just beyond the outer limits of the speaker’s. String instruments carried a sense of warmth and were melodic, and the bass was rich with commendable extension. Moving ahead to the track “Lisboa”, the opening church bells caught my attention, sounding close to how I’ve come to expect them on my significantly more expensive reference system. Detail retrieval was more than sufficient to entertain me but not of the level that provides the lucid realism that this recording is capable of generating on the most revealing of systems. With my listening session done, I was convinced that the Cambridge Audio / Wharfedale system was able to deliver the essentials towards a pleasurable musical experience.

Summing it up, the Cambridge Audio Azur 351C CD player, 351A integrated amplifier and Wharfedale Diamond 10.6 loudspeakers proved to be a synergistic combination of high-fidelity products. It is a system that is greater than the sum of its parts - a bonus for those who choose to conjoin them, as such. I also found that each of the components in and of themselves were of high value and deserving of consideration in their own right. Of these, I was personally most taken by the svelte 351A integrated amplifier, which performed beyond my expectations and ran all day and night without as much as a fever. In fact, the 351A had me thinking, if Cambridge can do it so well with their entry level components, what might they do when budget is less of a concern? I may just have to seek out an audition of their 851 Series components at some time. Clarity, liveliness, potency and rhythm are how I would characterize this system and if these are the attributes you seek, you should definitely give this system a good listen.

Cambridge Audio |
Wharfedale |

Distributed in Canada by Plurison

Cambridge Audio Azur 351A Integrated Amplifier
Price: $599 CAD

Cambridge Audio Azur 351C CD Player
Price: $599 CAD

Wharfedale Diamond 10.6 Speakers
Price: $999/pair CAD

Cyrus Audio 8a Integrated Amplifier PSX-R Power Supply with Monitor Audio Gold GX100 LoudspeakersIt was during the 2013 Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES) that I first had a chance to listen to some Cyrus Audio products. At TAVES, Kevro International hosted an inviting room with an all-Cyrus stack (source and amplification) driving a pair of Monitor Audio Platinum PL200 loudspeakers. The setup and its rich and detailed sound caught my attention and seemed to do the same for many others visiting the room. I’ve heard Monitor Audio speakers more than a few times and thought I knew their sound but the pairing of Monitor Audio with Cyrus Audio brought something new to the table, and the two brands of components seemed to play remarkably well together. You can find pics of the setup, along with additional details on our website in the Features section under “The 2013 Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show Highlights – The Best Show Yet! Part 1”.

Monitor Audio is a British owned and managed loudspeaker manufacturer that distributes its products globally. The company was founded back in 1972 and now has fifteen different lines of loudspeaker products. Cyrus Audio, also hails from Britain, with its headquarters near Cambridge (Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire) in England, from where all its audio products are both designed and manufactured. Cyrus had its beginnings in association with Mission loudspeakers; in the 1990s, Cyrus became a standalone business unit and in 2005 gained full independence by way of a management buyout. Today Cyrus Audio produces a number of audio products under eight main product-lines: all-in-one systems, streamers, cd players, integrated amplifiers, preamplifiers & DACs, power amplifiers, power supplies and accessories. Kevro International, by the way, is the North American distributor for Monitor Audio and Cyrus Audio as well as the Canadian distributor for Tributaries Cable and Clarus Cable.

It was early this February that Sheldon Ginn, V.P. of Sales & Marketing at Kevro, personally delivered a Cyrus Audio / Monitor Audio system to me for this review. The system was comprised of the Cyrus 8a integrated amplifier ($2,599), the Cyrus PSX-R power supply ($999) and the Monitor Audio Gold GX100 bookshelf speakers ($2,500). Sheldon also provided me with a pair of Tributaries Cable, Series 8, speaker cables ($470/pair), along with a Tributaries 8A 1-metre stereo analog RCA interconnects ($230/stereo set). Sheldon thoughtfully took the time to set-up the system within my dedicated listening room, while sharing some details on the products with me. With everything connected and ready to go, Sheldon hit the power button and… nothing. Yes, the Cyrus 8a seemed to be dead-on-arrival and so began the trouble shooting and out came my tool box. We soon discovered, on removing the bottom panel that the 8a integrated amplifier had a blown internal fuse, likely caused by a short at its last stop with a local dealer for demo. No worries, within an hour we had a replacement fuse installed and were up and running. Apart from being a prime example of “Murphy’s Law”, the incident provided me with an unusual opportunity to get a close-up look at the internals of the Cyrus Audio 8a – I’ll describe shortly.

The Cyrus 8a integrated amplifier and PSX-R power supply, like all other Cyrus Audio components, are simplistic in their lines with faces measuring just 8 ¼” wide (less than half the width of traditional audio components). In their matte black finish they seemed sedate, while the green back-lit LCD screen of the 8a integrated amplifier had a retro feel – and brought back fond memories of car audio head units of years past. Given their demure size and appearance, I expect that many might overlook Cyrus components but I found their compact and understated appearance novel. A closer look and anyone would find their build, fit and finish impressive. Pick one up or rap the top with your knuckles and you’ll be amazed with their robust construction and substantial weight. As my own rap test confirmed, both the Cyrus 8a and PSX-R have extremely inert enclosures, as dead as I’ve ever encountered. In fact, in this regard, the Cyrus components are genuinely top notch - up there with the best. Cyrus Audio mentions that their die-cast chassis “is formed under enormous pressure and, once cooled, is hand-finished before the final surface is applied.” Such attention to detail likely provides a sonic payoff. I expect you will be as shocked as I was to find that all Cyrus components have a bottom plate made of a rather feeble plastic but the look I got inside, as mentioned above, provided a full explanation for this seeming inconsistency. It turns out that, within the 8a integrated amplifier, all the internals are affixed to the upper and inert die-cast chassis, onto which even the component feet are fastened. And so, the plastic cover serves merely as a dust cover and so is fully excusable, as such. Within the 8a integrated amplifier, I was impressed to see a hefty toroidal power supply and neatly arranged internals – all suggesting performance driven engineering.

The Cyrus Audio 8a integrated amplifier is specified to provide 70 watts per channel (8 Ohms) or 150 watts per channel (4 Ohms). Its power supply design is stated to deliver a huge peak power output of 190 watts into a 1 Ohm load. A 350 VA toroidal transformer is key to its power capabilities. The A-weighted signal-to-noise ratio is 105 dBA. Total harmonic distortion (THD) plus noise (N) figures are quoted as: <0.002% @ 1kHz for the preamplifier section and <0.002% @ 1kHz @ 2/3 power, both channels driven into 8 Ohms. Dimensions (H x W x D) are: 73 x 215 x 360 mm, with a weight of 6.9kg. The 8a also provides multi-zoning capabilities to allow playback of two sources through this integrated amplifier simultaneously – perfect for bringing music to a second room. The amplifier’s powerful onboard software system allows the customization of many features including individual input sensitivity matching and multiple display modes. There are six analogue inputs, which can be custom named to show on the LCD display. Outputs consist of zone 2, preamp out, headphone out and two pairs of loudspeaker outputs for running two zones or bi-amping. A full function, full-size, solidly constructed backlit programmable remote is provided. In addition, Cyrus provides a clear and clean upgrade path for the standard 8a integrated amplifier. The Cyrus 8a integrated amplifier may be upgraded with a digital input module, making it a Cyrus 8 DAC or a Qx DAC module, to make it a Cyrus 8 Qx DAC. On top of all this the 8a includes a standard multi-pole socket on the rear for connection of an optional Cyrus PSX-R power supply.

The Cyrus PSX-R is an intelligent, highly regulated audiophile power supply that can be used with many Cyrus products, including the 8a integrated amplifier. The PSX-R is designed to provide an extremely smooth and stable DC feed. When connected to the 8a, the PSX-R serves as a dedicated power supply to the preamplifier stage within the 8a, reducing the strain on the 8a’s internal power supply and filtering out any unwanted noise from the preamplifier stage for lift in overall performance. Power is achieved via a 300VA toroidal transformer. The dimensions of the PSX-R are identical to the 8a integrated amplifier and its weight is 7 kg.

Monitor Audio’s Gold GX series of loudspeakers sits second only to their flagship Platinum series and incorporates many trickle down technologies. The Gold GX series contains eight loudspeakers, including: two bookshelf models (GX50 and GX100), two floorstanding models (GX200 and GX300), two centre channel models (GXC150 and GXC350), a bi-pole/di-pole surround model (GX-FX) and finally, a subwoofer model (GXW15). The GX100 is the larger bookshelf model, within the Gold GX series and is a 2-way, bass reflex, rear ported design. It has a power handing of 120 Watts (RMS), frequency response of 42Hz – 60kHz, 88 db/1W/1m sensitivity, 8 Ohm nominal impendence and 112.6 dBA maximum SPL rating. It weighs 9.9 kg / 21 ¾ lbs. with dimensions of (H x W x D): 14-3/8” x 8-1/4” x 13”. The two drivers consist of one C-CAM ribbon tweeter and one 6.5” RST (ribbed) C-CAM bass/mid-driver. C-CAM is a Monitor Audio proprietary aluminum & magnesium alloy with an electroplated ceramic coating and is said to provide an optimal combination of lightness and stiffness. Internal wiring is Monitor Audio’s Pureflow Silver and the cabinets are hand-built from multiple laminations of MDF, with discrete internal enclosures for the tweeter and bass/mid-driver.

The review set of Monitor Audio Gold GX100 loudspeakers came in a Piano Ebony finish, which is a premium option. Personally, I love Ebony as a veneer choice and the fit and finish of the GX100 loudspeakers was absolutely superb, a true example of first-class fit and finish. The eleven layers of lacquer, just about a millimetre thick, gave the veneer amazing depth and opulence. The GX100 loudspeakers have a contemporary form, with rounded corners, tapering on the sides from front to back. Every design element of the GX100 speaks to quality, from the polished metal driver surrounds that tastefully carry the Monitor Audio moniker, to the lovely five-way binding posts and a mounting plate with Monitor Audio insignia. Sitting on my Target MR24 mass-loaded stands, it was difficult to avoid admiring them and just focus on the listening. The speakers come with magnetic grills that are tastefully made of metal, finished in black, with an appearance matching the diffraction screens covering the ribbon tweeters. In addition to the grills are two sets of binding post jumpers and a pair of port bung plugs.

As mentioned earlier, Kevro provided me with a pair of Tributaries Cable, Series 8, speaker cables (8BW-B 10-foot bi-wire), along with a Tributaries 8A 1-metre stereo analog RCA interconnect to use with the Cyrus Audio / Monitor Audio System. The two cable products had impressive overall construction with very solid locking RCA terminations on the interconnect and locking bananas on the amp-end of the speaker cable; however, for some reason on the speaker-end, the bi-wire banana connectors seemed to be somewhat inferior i.e. non-locking and having economy-like plastic shrouds - though they worked fine. I found the Tributaries cables provided an unexpectedly high-level of performance, especially the interconnect, which in this system bested both my Kimber Kable Hero and Furutech ADL Alpha Line Plus in terms of richness, weight, and naturalness, though came up short in top-to-bottom bass articulation, and just shy of the Kimber Hero in overall resolution. I’d say the Tributaries cables are worthy of consideration, especially if you are looking for some additional body or warmth. Given their synergy with the Cyrus Audio / Monitor Audio products, I reviewed the system with them in place.

I should mention that for this review I relied on PC based music files, rendered through my Squeezebox Touch via my Furutech ADL Esprit DAC. The DAC was connected to the Cyrus 8a integrated amplifier using the aforementioned Tributaries Series 8 interconnect cable.

I began my review by experimenting with the Cyrus PSX-R power supply. It was apparent from the first trial that the PSX-R provided a definite lift in performance when connected to the 8a integrated amp. The presentation became richer and the tonal palate fuller. The sound was more lifelike with greater complexity. In particular, listening to the Mark Knopfler’s track “Fade to Black”, from the album On Every Street, there was a noticeable improvement in dynamics with the PSX-R in place versus the 8a alone. The elements in the track had more weight and greater presence. The guitar on the left was fuller, having greater dimensionality and the same went for Mark Knopfler’s voice; overall, just greater realism. Cymbal strikes were more precise, with more delicacy, shimmer and sustain and I was more immersed in the recording. The same went for other recordings I listened to. I would say that the PSX-R provided a definite upgrade to the overall performance of the 8a. Though the 8a a-la-carte sounded very good on its own, once I heard it with the PSX-R, there was no going back.

I came across Lori Cullen’s album, Calling for Rain one day when visiting my local public library. Since then I’ve become a real fan of the recording given its purity of sound. I listened to the track, “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today”. The opening piano key strokes seemed to defy the dimensions of my room – reaching out beyond the front corners. The piano notes had great clarity, while preserving an entrancing radiance and sustain. Bass plucks had weight and fullness, if not providing the last word on articulation. I found the Cyrus and Monitor Audio system to produce a larger sound than you might expect from the sum of its parts; after all this was just a modestly powerful integrated amp with a pair of bookshelf speakers - what I heard seemed more than that. The slapping and stroking of brushes on the drum exhibited both impact and the characteristic sandy texture of the bristles over the skin. I found myself getting pulled in, forgetting the system itself and just becoming engulfed in the music – great for enjoyment – not so good for a review. The soundstage presented was large, reaching, as it seemed, beyond the side-walls of my room, while also having believable depth. Lori’s voice was resolute and left me craving nothing more in terms of detail. There was just a little lightness to her tone, making her a little less embodied but this was easy to overlook, since the overall presentation had a lovely sense of air, openness and transparency. I moved on to the track, “Me and My Arrow”, which has an up-beat tempo. The sound of the piano had a natural weight, with its lower register conveying the size of the instrument. The cymbals here sounded light, impeccably crisp and extended and horns sounded warm with all their brassy fullness – there was no harshness to speak of, even at higher volumes. In fact, it was here that I discovered that the Cyrus 8a, acknowledging its pairing with the GX100 loudspeakers, needed a bit more volume to reach its optimal performance - i.e. to maximize detail, fill out bass and achieve greater overall balance. Imaging was very precise, providing me with the opportunity to pick-out and focus on any of the elements within a sizeable soundscape. On the track “Away So Long” the opening guitar had a captivating tone and I enjoyed the sound of the sinuous strings resonating through the instrument’s woody enclosure.

I changed things up just a bit by putting on the album Pure Heroine by Lorde. Some might say she is overplayed but since I don’t listen much to Top 40 radio, I was more than happy to give a few tracks a spin. The recording is heavy on synth and percussion, anchored throughout with Lorde’s vocals. The first track up was “Tennis Court” and the overall impression I got was – crisp, tight and dynamic. With this track, the Cyrus / Monitor Audio system’s affinity for rendering music in an energetic manner was undeniable. The percussive elements were vivid with pinpoint-like placement as they danced across the generous soundstage. One element I took note of were the bass notes, which were delivered without constraint – sounding larger and fuller than one might expect, with a respectable amount of definition. If the track “Tennis Court” sounded large, moving to the big hit “Royals” sounded grand. Cranking this up, the percussive low drum notes were unyielding and generated a soundstage beyond the walls of my room. The overall sound was tight, punchy and clean. Vocals were pure and the sounds of stick strikes and their accompanying echoes were presented with lucid clarity. There was nothing small about the sound of the system on this track. The soundstage was enveloping and engaging, with the elements in the music fully breaking loose of the speaker enclosures. I found that the GX100 speakers could maintain their dignity, even at significant volume levels. At the highest levels, I did get a sense of compression and I expect this was likely due to the Cyrus 8a reaching its dynamic limits but this was gradual and I never heard the system cross over into harshness or sound out of control.

Next, I moved to Shelby Lynne and her album Just A Little Lovin’. The opening impact of the kick drum had a solid and dynamic sound that caught my attention with its lifelike presence. An accompanying cymbal strike was delivered with its pristine metallic shimmer and lovely sustain and subsequent rim strikes demonstrated the system’s proficiency with transient response. I also found that despite some extra presence and a slight forwardness on cymbal hits, there was never any harshness – something I’d attribute to very low distortion levels innate with the ribbon tweeters in the GX100 loudspeakers. The high frequencies were very entrancing with their purity and exactness, combined with a measure of sweetness. In light of this, Shelby’s voice was brought forth in a vibrant and pure manner. The overall ebb, flow and groove of the tune was distinct, making for a pleasurable listen. Next up was the track, “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”. Her opening vocals were solemn with the decay of the echoes in this recording coming across distinctly and naturally and the soundstage reaching out deep and beyond the front wall of my room. Shelby’s breaths and enunciations could easily be heard against a quiet background. The play of the guitar sounded tuneful and resonant. On the track, “I Only Want To Be With You”, the pace was addictive and Shelby’s voice had a delicious character emphasized by the easily discernable reverb in the recording.

My experience with the Cyrus 8a integrated amplifier, the PSX-R power supply and the Monitor Audio GX100 speakers has been delightful and insightful. Despite the compact size of the system, it managed to fill my mid-size (13’ x 19’ x 8’) room with substantial sound. The combination provided a great measure of transparency, resolution and speed, along with impressive imaging and dynamic punch. The Cyrus 8a and PSX-R mated with the Monitor Audio GX100 loudspeakers is a system that belies its modest size and just calls out for you to listen and listen some more. The overall sound signature is energetic and precise with weighty bass; those seeking a lush, relaxed or laid-back presentation should look elsewhere. On a quality level, I found both the Cyrus components and Monitor Audio loudspeakers to be remarkable – it’s great to see such refinement at these price levels. Leave it to the Brits to package good things in small packages. Let me just wrap it up with saying that I’m going to find it hard to bid thee farewell.

Cyrus Audio |
Monitor Audio |
Tributaries Cable |

Distributed by Kevro International
(800) 667-6065
(905) 428-2800

Cyrus Audio 8a Integrated Amplifier
Price: $2,599 CAD
Cyrus Audio PSX-R Power Supply
Price: $999 CAD
Monitor Audio Gold GX100 Loudspeakers
Price: $2,500/pair CAD


OPPO Digital, a company most well-know for its high-performance universal Blu-ray Disc players, has just introduced its family of planar magnetic headphones - beginning with their PM-1 model.  The OPPO PM-1 uses a unique planar magnetic driver with a 7-layer diaphragm and a FEM-optimized high energy Neodymium magnet system.  The diaphragm uses a spiraling pattern of flat conductors etched on both sides.  The double-sided design permits double the conductors to be utilized within within the magnetic field, providing for higher sensitivity, better damping, and greater driver control.  

Lending to added comfort and greater performance, the OPPO PM-1 is a circumaural (over-the-ear), open back design. The design and driver construction provide high sensitivity and extremely low distortion for a transparent, highly dynamic sound with well-balanced tonality, along with low weight for portability.  

The PM-1 is estimated to become available in limited quantities beginning mid-April at a MSRP of $1099 U.S.  OPPO intends to release a PM-2 model which will have a similar design and performance, as well as the the same planar magnetic driver with cost savings achieved in terms of replacing costly metal parts with materials and processes more suitable for a larger production run.  For example, the luxurious hand-picked lambskin found on the headband and ear pads of the PM-1 will be substituted with synthetic leather on the PM-2.  The PM-2 is estimated to become available in summer 2014 at a MSRP of $699 U.S.

Look for more details to be shared at:




exaSound Audio Design has announced DSD256 playback on Mac OS X Mavericks, which they claim to be a world’s first.  The new DSD256 capability is provided via the release of two new driver technologies - Core Audio DoP256 and OS X ASIO.  Owners of the e20 Mk III, e22 and e28 DACs can now download these free updates from the exaSound website.

 Until now the highest DSD resolution - DSD256, also known as 4xDSD or DSD 11.28/12.28 MHz, was available only on Windows.  With OS X Mavericks new possibilities for audiophile-grade sound streaming are now available.  exaSound began the development effort on this latest generation of drivers way back in July 2013.

The Mac sound system doesn’t have a built-in support for DSD-encoded audio. The audio industry has adopted an open-source standard called DSD over PCM (DoP). DoP relies on a workaround to disguise DSD as PCM data stream. Unfortunately this workaround causes 30 to 50 percent overhead. The DoP implementation of DSD 256 requires support for PCM at 705.6kHz and 768kHz. Such sampling rates are a real challenge for both computer CPU and USB audio interface; however, the exaSound Core Audio DoP256 driver overcomes these limitations.

Other benefits of the exaSound Core Audio DoP256 driver include:

  • Simplified installation and upgrade. All that is required is to run the installation package and to select the new driver in the player program setup.
  • A single driver supports all exaSound devices in both stereo and multichannel modes.
  • Simplified user interface and configuration.
  • Seamless support for Integer Mode and Exclusive Mode.

exaSound intends to puch performance even further with a new ASIO driver technology for OS X that they are currently workin with leading player developers on, which will enable ASIO support in their programs.  

exaSound claims that its DACs are the only devices on the market that can play natively any high-resolution audio format - multi-channel and stereo - at any sampling rate that can be produced today.  Look for more details at:

Meridian Audio

Meridian Audio has announced the availability of three new Meridian DSP Digital Active Loudspeakers; their Special Edition DSP8000 SE, the DSP7200 SE and finally, the DSP5200 SE.  In 2014, Meridian Audio celebrates the 25th anniversary of their launch of their first digital loudspeaker – the D600, in 1989.  Meridian loudspeakers were active, with built-in amplifiers and line-level crossovers, from the beginning but the leap to digital audio technology came on the back of the launch of the Compact Disc.

Honouring this 25th anniversary, Meridian has now made available their new Special Edition series of DSP Digital Active Loudspeakers, featuring a beryllium domed tweeters, new electronics and driver clamp rings.  The DSP8000 SE, DSP7200 SE and DSP5200 SE all feature the following new improvements:

  • New Meridian-designed semi-horn-loaded tweeter with new beryllium dome for outstanding transient response and wide bandwidth.
  • Wide bandwidth analogue electronics, optimised to take maximum advantage of high-resolution recordings.
  • New DSP including Meridian’s unique EBA (Enhanced Bass Alignment) technology to provide fast, clean bass and an open transparent sound-stage.
  • All drive units clamped with machined rings to provide enhanced mechanical stability.

The MSRP on the new DSP speaker models is as follows:

  • DSP5200 SE $20,000.00 U.S.
  • DSP5200HC/VC SE $10,000.00 U.S.
  • DSP7200 SE $46,000.00 U.S.
  • DSP7200HC/VC SE $23,000.00 U.S.
  • DSP8000 SE  $80,000.00 U.S.
  • DSP8000VC SE $40,000.00 U.S.

For existing owners of previous editions, Meridian is offering an upgrade path.  Models of DSP5200, DSP7200 and DSP8000, including the Anniversary Edition, can be upgraded with the new Beryllium-dome tweeter and a complete new electronics and DSP package. This upgrade option also includes a full new warranty for the entire loudspeaker system. Further details will be announced over the coming weeks.

Find out more about Meridian’s Special Edition Loudspeakers, go to:


Sonusfaber 30th Anniversary

To celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary, Sonus faber has created their latest masterpiece - the Extrema Ex3ma loudspeaker.  Extrema is the most front-running project in the history of Sonus faber.

The wiry shape of the speaker intentionally breaks with Sonus faber tradition.  Rather than soft lines, the Extrema carrier purposeful defined angular lines, which were obtained using a reduction process in which the volume was extracted from a block of rigid material.  The raw material has been broken to obtain clean cuts and tight surfaces.  Extrema is for performance without compromises and its dynamic lines mirror its character and nature.

The complex mold with 6 elements used to create the speaker frame is made to measure.  The new Extrema pays an important tribute to this antique art by flanking, in close contact with the ultra-modern carbon chassis, sides of red spruce from Val di Fiemme, the wood of string instruments par excellence.  In the case of the Extrema project, the fact that the supporting structure of the loudspeaker is made with a carbon monocoque makes it possible to use wood as the pure resounding element, exactly as in the sound board of string instruments..  Resonant spruce from Val di Fiemme was chosen, as it is for rare and prestigious violins.

The tweeter uses a diamond coated Beryllium dome - a first for a tweeter diaphram.  It is a 30 mm transducer with mobile coil designed entirely by Sonus faber, implemented with a Sonus faber mechanical interface that optimises vibration management.  A new Neodymium magnetic system, optimized by the dome diaphragm of DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) Beryllium is used to obtain the maximum resolution possible in acoustic reproduction.

The mid-bass drive is a 180 mm “Ultra dynamic linearity” mid-woofer designed by Sonus faber and equipped with a Neodymium motor.  The coil is of pure copper winding 6N is controled by Lorentz currents. The magnetic motor was developed to be very linear and dynamic with optimized heat dissipation and acts as a mass damper.  The diaphragm is a sandwhches a special syntactic dampening foam between two skins of nano-carbon.  

The Extrema Ex3ma uses a passive radiator - also fully designed by Sonus faber; the E.M.B.A.B.R (Electro Magnetic Brake Auxiliary Bass Radiator).  The flat-piston diaphragm is optimised for this application, and is positioned structurally midway between the sandwich structures of the midwoofer cone and the “monocoque” structure. The basket is fully optimised to eliminate all resonance, thanks to the use of two high technologymetals (Ergal and Gun Metal) that are machined in CNC from the solid piece. The combination of these two metals eliminates any reciprocal resonance.

The new Extrema uses a precious non-resonant Crossover in air with progressive slope, optimised by module and phase for the best space/time behaviour. The “paracross” topology is combined with best quality components that exalt the sound quality: Mundorf Supreme capacitor and Jantzen inductors. The crossover frequency is 2350 Hz, and the low frequencies can be dampened in 4 different ways, according to the listening room.


• Frequency response: 40 Hz – 40.000 Hz, E.M.B.A.B.R included.
• Sensitivity: 88 db SPL (2.83V/1 m).
• Nominal Impedence: 4 ohms
• Suggested Amplifier Output Power: 50W – 300W, without clipping.
• Long-term Maximum Input Voltage (IEC-268-5): 24V rms.
• Dimensions (HxWxD): 434 x 282 x 560 mm.
• Weight: 18,6 Kg each
• Dedicated Stand Dimensions (HxWxD): 661 x 360 x 460 mm.
• Dedicated Stand Weight: 22 Kg each
• Total Dimensions (HxWxD): 1095 x 360 x 560 mm
• Total Weight: 40,6 Kg each

Sonus faber plans to make only two to three pairs a month and no more than 30 pairs in total - commemorating their 30th anniversary.  Potential buyers will be invited to hear the speaker at Sonus faber’s factory and if it meets their satisfaction, then Sonus faber will discuss price.  Some expecations ae that the speaker will sell with its dedicated stand for somewhere in the neighbourhhood of 30,000 euros and up.  Look for more details to be shared at:


V-Moda XS On-Ear

V-Moda has just announced their M-Class Series - XS on-ear headphone.  The XS has been designed to provide superb comfort and a sleek ergonomic fit, while combining professional-grade quality and a personalized style.

The angles and sleek headband design reduce the space between the headband and head, making for a superior fit, added comfort, grander sound and a compact profile.  V-Moda spent 5+ years of R&D to develop this latest design.  The ear pads are supple memory foam cushions that naturally adapt for a more sealed and comfortable experience.  The XS model features the patent-pending CliqFold Hinge that precisely folds the headphones into an impossibly small exoskeleton case.

Key XS Features:

  • 40 mm Dual-Diaphragm Drivers (patent-pending)
  • No batteries or artificial sound processing
  • CliqFold folding hinge (patent-pending)
  • Dual Inputs and SharePlay with V-CORK seals (patent-pending)
  • Exoskeleton case
  • Kevlar-reinforced universal SpeakEasy microphone cable for Apple iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows devices
  • 2-Year Premier Warranty, lifetime 50% immortal life program and V-MODA Six Star Service

In order to achieve the greatest sound for the greatest amount of people, extreme quality control standards over speaker driver variance functioned as the driving force in the release of XS.

Dual inputs allow sharing music with others, or function as a virtual on-the-go mixer. The patent-pending V-Cork seals allow the listener to balance the audio. An optional BoomPro microphone cna transform the XS instantly into a gamer headset.

As with all of V-MODA’s Crossfade family, durability and exquisite material selection were paramount in the design of XS.  The masterful combination of steel and metal materials stands up to military-level standards of the MIL-STD-810G testing guidelines, incorporating the following:

  • Survives up to 60 drops on concrete
  • Virtually indestructible SteelFlex Headband
  • Minimal sound variance from unit to unit, checked along six parts of the sound curve versus 10-30dB+ of inferior products
  • Kevlar-reinforced detachable cables and 45-degree plug strain relief can each bend more than 1 million times, over 100x industry standard
  • MIL-STD-810G environmental tests including high and low temperatures, humidity, salt spray and UV exposure

The XS is now available for $212U.S. in Matte Black Metal and White Silver including customization or without customization for $199.99 U.S.  Look for more information at:


Wyred4Sound DSDse Upgrade

Wyred 4 Sound has announced a new upgrade path for current DAC-2 owners via a factory direct upgrade program.  Current owners simply need to send their existing DAC-2 in and Wyred 4 Sound will upgrade it at their factory to the exact DSD se configuration, at a nominal fee.  This upgrade program now includes the latest Femto clock upgrade - specifics on the changes made as part of this upgrade program are as follows: 

  • Custom Vishay Z-Foil resistors (0.1% tolerance and a +/-0.5ppm/°C)
  • Ultra-low noise discrete regulators (100+ times quieter and faster than the stock regulator)
  • Ultra-fast recovery Schottkey diodes
  • Premium grade inductors
  • Femto Grade Clock
  • Rhodium plated Furutech fuse
  • Green OLED display for input, sample rate, volume control, and configuration viewing
  • DSD 64 and DSD 128 compatibility via USB
  • Max USB resolution increased to 32 bit 384kHz
  • Driverless for Mac and Linux
  • Integer mode compatible
  • Galvanic isolation
Typical upgrade time is 2-3 business days once the unit is received at Wyred 4 Sound’s facility.  The cost for the upgrade is: $1,299.00 U.S. or about half the price of purchasing a new DAC-2 DSD se (MSRP: $2,549.00 U.S.).  Look for more information or to order the upgrade, at:

Martin Logan Crescendo

MartinLogan has just announced that it is shipping the Crescendo - their first wireless Bluetooth and AirPlay compatible speaker system.  The Crescendo incorporates dual Folded Motion tweeters and a 5″x7″ mid-bass woofer.  The objective of the new Crescendo is to provide sound with accuracy, resolution, and detail - like every other MartinLogan design.

MartinLogan’s dedicated in-house design and engineering team took a “no-compromise” approach with the Crescendo.  Though the Crescendo is a table-top speaker system, it features premium construction and design elements.

At the core of the Crescendo is an advanced 24-bit 48kHz DSP (digital signal processing) based preamplifier in conjunction with a powerful class-D closed-loop 100-watt (140-watt peak) amplifier.  The Crescendo’s digital amplifier is designed to deliver powerfull, yet detailed sound thourgh a MartinLogan custom designed front-firing 5″x7″ matte black polypropylene cone woofer.  The woofer has extended throw capability within a non-resonant asymmetrical chamber to ensure that low frequencies are seamlessly blended with the two MartinLogan’s high-performance Folded Motion tweeters.

The signature Folded Motion tweeters utilize extremely low mass diaphragms that “squeeze” air, and require significantly less excursion than the typical 1-inch dome tweeter, minimizing distortion while providing a lightning fast response.  The increased surface area also provides a wide, yet controlled sound dispersion to create a realistic and carefully etched sound stage.

Crescendo is crafted with a solid MDF enclosure that strengthens and intensifies low-frequency bass performance while minimizing vibrations.

MartinLogan Crescendo Speaker System Inside

For those seeking greater bass performance, the Crescendo provides a subwoofer output via an analog RCA connection for optional hook-up of a powered subwoofer.  This option, not typical of tabletop speaker systems, customizes the crossover between the Crescendo and subwoofer to ensure integrated bass frequencies.

Designed to fit a modern décor, MartinLogan utilizes high-quality materials and finishes to give Crescendo a furniture and artwork like appearance. The dense cabinet enclosure, wrapped in either high-gloss piano black paint or real-wood walnut veneer, floats atop a sturdy aluminum stand and looks comfortably at home in any décor where aesthetics are as important as sound quality. A cleanly integrated, front mounted control panel allows quick access to power, input and volume controls.

For across the room control, Crescendo includes a custom remote control built from black anodized extruded aluminum.

The Crescendo features six input methods allow for connection of virtually any device:

  1. Wi-Fi  – connect  AirPlay capable devices wirelessly (iPhone, iPad, iPod, or a computer with iTunes) to stream audio.
  2. Bluetooth – connect Bluetooth capable devices wirelessly to stream audio. Bluetooth V4.0 supports SBC, MP3, AAC, and apt-X®.
  3. Wired Ethernet – audio information can be sent over a LAN to the Crescendo using various protocols (such as AirPlay or DLNA)
  4. USB – connect compatible Apple devices and use the Crescendo as an audio dock and charger. The USB connection was designed to rapidly charge a variety of devices.
  5. 3.5mm analog – any device that has an analog audio output can connect to the auxiliary analog input via a 3.5mm headphone style jack.
  6. 3.5mm optical digital – any device that has a digital optical output can connect to the auxiliary digital input  with the included mini-Toslink optical adapter (analog and digital connections share the same input).

The Crescendo is now shipping in high-gloss black.  Real-wood walnut veneer units are expected in early April.  MSRP is 999.95 CDN.  For more information, please visit:

MartinLogan Crescendo Speaker System Lifestyel