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Danny Kaey

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Everything posted by Danny Kaey

  1. fascinating insights as always... only thing I'd add is that including analog / record versions of these trials would possibly tilt outcomes somehow... for example, I have the original ABC Aja, the MoFi (which was highly regarded), the Robert Pincus consulted and mastered (ex-Cisco, pre-IMPEX) reissue from mid 2000s. Of these, the Pincus mastered is the best followed by the MoFi, which sometimes splits the original pressing. The issue with Steely Dan titles is that the original tapes are mostly missing and there have been many errors made decoding the existing tapes with the proper Dolby decoders, some of which have been mislabeled, lost, etc.
  2. Boulder. Lots of things happen in Boulder. Colorado has a great year-round climate, a friendly business atmosphere (for now), an educated workforce (for now) in short, all the ingredients necessary to support a healthy business environment. Not surprisingly then, you come to find a good amount of HiFi, nay, high-end audio firms nestled in America’s “Alps”. Ever heard of PS Audio? YG? Jeff Rowland? Ayre? Avalon? Indeed, the common thread being that all of these established businesses have had a multi-decade run from Colorado. Oh right, I almost forgot, Boulder, who’s pre and power amplifier are in for review, is also part of this illustrious King’s circle. The origin story of Boulder is really not too dissimilar from most other high-end houses: Jeff Nelson, building custom boards for recording studios and responsible for broadcast studio’s significant upgrade to previous cartridge machines, felt that existing amplifiers simply weren’t up to his admittedly very high standards of sound quality. His first commercial amplifier, the Boulder 500, quickly rose from zero to hero within the industry and found many a home in recording studios; so transparent, accurate and of genuine high-fidelity was the 500 that soon after, audiophiles began to place orders for an upgraded 500 AE (Audiophile Edition). The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Boulder can be considered among the handful – literally – of bespoke audio manufacturers that design, produce and build all of their components from start to finish in their new Boulder facility. A visit to their factory in August proved eye and ear opening, as the level of vertical integration and sheer perfection of all manufacturing steps reminded me more of a super high-end chip house than a high-end audio company. Indeed, you will find only the best of tools, machines and most importantly, people at Boulder; Frankly, there really aren’t that many companies that match Boulder at their game. Needless to say, Jeff Nelson built a team that works tirelessly to produce and market the best electronics they can. When Rich Maez and Steve Huntley, Boulder’s worldwide sales and marketing team, offered up review of the 1100 series pre and power amplifier, I promptly accepted; frankly, the prospect of reviewing these top-flight components that I was largely unfamiliar with, wasn’t something I could ignore. A few email exchanges and a busy fall show schedule later, the pre and power amp arrived at chez K for some proper auditioning. Two steps down from their range topping 3000 series, the 1100 preamplifier and 1160 amplifier clocking in at $21,000 and $28,000 respectively, are certainly, unmistakably Boulder components. From the absolutely superb chassis work, to the quality of the connectors (balanced only), the fit and finish is truly first rate and definitely worthy the asking price tag. Though not über expensive by today’s high-end audio pricing scale standards, $50k total is still a considerable amount of money to spend on high-end audio gear, no matter your persuasion. Eager to get acquainted with the “Boulder sound”, I first inserted the Boulder combo as replacements for the Einstein The Preamp and Einstein’s The Silver Bullet Mk II OTL amplifiers. The swap was straight forward as both Einstein combos also run via balanced connectors. Given Boulders perfectionist standards, the major difference on the amplifier side was the inclusion of a special, industrial type AC connector said to be fully compatible with 240V AC lines, though of course, 120V lines also work. Rated at 300W continuous into 8 Ohms (and doubling power all the way down to 2 Ohms), my expectations where admittedly very high. Contrary to the straight forward and simple operation of the 1160 power amplifier, the 1100 preamplifier was an altogether different beast from Boulder. Certainly, when compared to my all analog Einstein The Preamp, the 1100 offers up a far broader spectrum of capabilities and is in fact an altogether more modern, capable and timely “control” center for all your sources. Simple and straight forward in its UI and UX, it offers 5 fully programmable differentially balanced inputs and each of the channels are in fact dual mono construction, housed in a single chassis which compliments the 1160 amplifier in look and feel. Furthermore, a built in ARM chip (with upgradeable software, think iPhone SW updates) handles all of the preamplifier’s functions and housekeeping duties for trouble free operation. A large display clearly indicates the functions engaged and is easily readable from across the room. Underneath the display are 8 gloss polished control buttons used to switch inputs and perform other operations on the 1100. A continuously rotating, large and nicely balanced volume control rounds out the front plate. Incidentally, the 1100’s volume control is all analog and derived from the flagship 3010 preamplifier. Given the preamplifier’s built in network capabilities and ARM based operations, I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere along the line an iOS app becomes available that can act as the systems main setup and control app, straight from your iPhone or iPad. Time will tell, though it would certainly mate well with the overall modern look and feel of this preamplifier. Friends visiting chez K’s audio salon frequently inquire about the overall lack of precisely such integration; hopefully Boulder ceases this opportunity to become a class leader in this regard. As usual, my reference source components included the Kuzma XL DC, Technics SL1000R and Oswald Mills Thorens 124 for analog; a Telefunken M15 tape machine, Playback Design’s all new MPS-8 and Einstein The Last Record Player CD acted as additional digital and analog sources. This system, leashed via Nordost’s Valhalla V2 drove Wilson Audio’s Alexx loudspeakers. Straight and to the point, this system rocked with explosive, relentless dynamics, an open and very wide soundstage whilst sparkling, never too aggressive highs and treble. So fine was this system’s resolving power that a listening comparison of Reference Recording’s RR-25 45rpm half speed mastered, newly re-released title, Nojima Plays Liszt, clearly didn’t have my mint original recording’s treble resolution and overall presence. Quite simply, even though the new vinyl is produced superior in every technical way possible, it cannot reach the original’s naturalness of the piano in attack, sustain and decay. In direct comparison, the reissue, sounds slightly veiled, not quite as incisive and overall missing that top end extension of the original. Even though I have run this side-by-side comparison on several systems, only a very select few have the ability to so clearly show the difference, and Boulder is decisively amongst them. On Connect.Ohm 9980, an ambient electronic downtempo release from a few years ago, the album’s first cut, Evolution 1:1, offers up a bass line that is likely felt more than its heard. Truly subterranean in output, it’s become a favorite demo track of mine which can quite easily showcase a system’s dynamic capabilities and overall bass output. Compared to the lush and quite generous output I am used to with Einstein’s The Silver Bullet OTLs, the Boulder 1160 frankly plays bass in a league altogether higher. Then again, not surprising as undoubtedly the 56 transistors the 1160 packs offer up output that is powerful, plentiful and at times virtually limitless. No matter the volume, the Boulder combo never broke a sweat, producing nothing but clean, tight, bass, a midrange that’s spot on neutral, with a lifelike presence and natural quality. As best I tried, no matter which musical genre I played, I couldn’t detect a “signature” Boulder sound; put succinctly, this combo is about as neutral as it gets. Good recordings sounded good; great recordings sounded great; crappy recordings sounded, well, crappy. Therein lies the audiophile’s conundrum: be careful what you wish for. A fundamentally neutral sounding combination like the Boulder duo will give you exactly what’s on the recording, not more, not less. Your only choice to tune the sound more or less to your liking is to play with cables, different analog decks and cartridge combos, that’s about it. The preamplifier and power amplifier do what they ought to in first place: get out of the sound. Remember the old saying “straight wire with gain”? It seems that Boulder is closer to that “truth” than others. There’s nothing like taking the same record from deck to deck to hear the fundamental differences of each. The elements which make that possible and so easily identifiable are the Boulder 1100 and 1160 combo. Straight shooters, definitely an end game sort of setup. A+++ PS: What’s next? The all new Boulder 508 phono stage just arrived for an audition – more to come then, soon. Danny Additional Information: Manufacturer: Boulder Amplifiers Products: 1110 Stereo Preamplifier ($21,000) Owners Manual: PDF (4.1 MB) Literature: PDF (2.8 MB) Dimensions: PDF (168 KB) 1160 Stereo Power Amplifier ($28,000) Owners Manual: PDF (2.3 MB) Connector Explanation: PDF (1.3 MB) Dimensions: PDF (242 KB) Rear Panel Dimensions: PDF (263 KB)
  3. Danny Kaey

    Article: Audiophile 5: Sonore opticalRendu in 5 Minutes

    love the fact that this is all shot on iPhone... way to go!!!
  4. Danny Kaey

    Article: CA is now Audiophile Style!

    A-men. Love it and well said!
  5. Danny Kaey

    Article: Audiophile 5: Aurender ACS10 in 5 Minutes

    Aeswome job and concept... can’t wait for more...
  6. Agreed! I have to say, after spending some time with the Boulder team at their factory they are building stuff for the future and the next generation of audiophiles... very much a forward thinking company and this current generation of products really rocks! The factory is unbelievable!
  7. LOL! so true, and shame on me for not catching that. Thanks for the catch! 😂
  8. completely agree - case in point, since it's fresh on my mind, I still think that Bob Ludwig's mastered Donald Fagen Nightfly is the defacto standard bearer for sound ... it beats the pants off any hi-res, low-res or other-res reissue of this great classic. Great article!
  9. They came out as both mono and stereo! I don’t have the mono versions, though I would wager there’s far less tape degradation on those than the stereo!
  10. PS: those waiting for the MoFi 1step (myself included)... I wouldn't hold my breath that it will actually sound "better" than any of these reissues. Simple point being, the tapes are old, used, and there's a definite degradation happening. Case in point, I compared several of the Dylan MoFi reissues to mint originals and while in some cases it's a toss, several originals sound better by way of having far less issues with sibilance and smearing. It's the same reason I prefer Chad Kassem's Live at the Village Vanguard 45 reissue from the early 2000s to the 1step MoFi.
  11. Danny Kaey

    Article: Why Can't Music Artists Do This?

    I think it was during last year’s talk at RMAF that I posited the very same question. When I saw this, I immediately thought of Nolan and his discussions around color calibration, and how he insists that you really need to pay attention to your home setup so you can best enjoy his films. We simply have nothing on the audio / music / HiFi side of the business. Sorry, Neil Young is not a trendsetter anymore even as I appreciate his enthusiasm.
  12. Amazing piece of writing and work! ?
  13. Danny Kaey

    Article: Kii THREE Loudspeaker Review

    nice review Mitch! I think that high-end audio is facing an ever increasing dilemma... move forward with technology or fall way, way behind... the issue we have is driven by fundamentals of our fractured industry where on one end we have something like Kii, and on the other hand, royal Japanese paper cone 6" full-range speakers; you can't possibly sell these side by side with a straight face. Thus, what's a manufacturer to do: design for the old school guard and lose marketing ability to the new generation, or design for the new generation and leave the old guard behind.
  14. Danny Kaey

    Introducing the Wilson Audio TuneTot

    Wilson Audio TuneTot – Official Announcement Danny Kaey Here we are, a week following the teaser announcement of TuneTot and thusly, all systems are a go. We have lift-off. Full boost. That is, boost your expectations of what the most densely designed Wilson speaker to date has yet to offer. A full, formal review is still forthcoming at a later date, so think of this as a Star Wars-y prequel to the main show. No doubt you are wondering just what sort of loudspeaker, nay, transducer, Wilson Audio is able to scale down to their most effective price point ever, US $9800 ($10500 for upgraded color options). Not merely content with condensing their technologies, Wilson of course, went into overdrive: you see, TuneTot is really the birth of an all new speaker design and ecosystem for Wilson Audio. Whereas designs you see come and go, offering up an actual ecosystem is something genuinely new and genuinely unheard of in HiFi circles. The story goes something like so: In 2018 you are used to accessorizing your iPhone or iPad or Apple Watch, but your HiFi…? As mentioned in my previous teaser about TuneTot, Wilson realized that our listening habits have changed over the years. The days of enthusiasts owning just one main system have been superseded by days of multiple systems across multiple rooms. Your options for true high-end multi-room setups are somewhat limited: sure, one could easily buy say a Sabrina for your office or den, but what if even svelte Sabrina is too much of a good thing? There are quite few one stop, tek-y sort of options on the market today, but what if you wanted dramatically more? What if someone applied all their material sciences to a package small enough to fit on your desk or library and you wanted to stick with say the same brand of high-end speakers you already own and love? There, the air is suddenly mighty thin and lacking oxygen, perhaps even ripe for genuine disruption. Wilson Audio approached this conundrum the Wilson way. TuneTot contains all their proprietary sciences scaled to a desktop sized speaker, including the ability to add a properly designed (and quite massive) base, aptly named ISOBase (Installation Surface Optimization, $2100), for your pair of tots. Furthermore, Wilson Audio’s Special Applications Engineering team designed a RING system ($649) for TuneTot which – since most Wilson owners listen to their speaks without grills – offers up an additional accessorizing opportunity (think easily interchangeable Apple Watch bands) that can change based on your preference for the day, month or year. Legit I say. Given your choice of five new Wilson colors specific to TuneTot and your choice of anodizing hardware (in multiple cool new colors) and grill ($299) options, it’s quite easy to see that Wilson Audio went an entirely new route here. If I may say so myself, quite ingenious and potent this little package is and I have no doubt that Wilson are working on expanding the depth and breadth of this ecosystem. A formal review will be transcribed in the weeks ahead, for now, based on my very limited time spent with TuneTot (I was hustling to Vienna for some R&R prior to Munich’s yearly gala), it’s fair to say that Wilson appears to have hit a home run. For now, then, enjoy my first ever unboxing videos and living room action shots – there will be more, much more to come. This story is just beginning… Cheers! Price (U.S. MSRP): TuneTot—$9,800.00 (pair) In Upgrade Colors—$10,500.00 ISOBase—$2,100.00 (pair) TuneTot Ring—$649.00 (pair) TuneTot Grille—$299.00 (pair) Photos Copyright Danny Kaey Photos Copyright Wilson Audio
  15. great write-up Kirk! for what it's worth, I love my HomePod... it's in the kitchen doing due diligence in keeping me cooking a mean meal......... ?
  16. Danny Kaey

    Article: Munich High End 2018

    Biergarten mit Curry Wurst. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm. bis gleich, Danny
  17. Danny Kaey

    Article: Munich High End 2018

    Great recap Chris... agree that Munich is “the” show today and for the foreseeable future. Having said that, I think it’s increasingly becoming a b2b show and certainly compared to my last visit 4 years ago, consumer attendance has fallen, especially families. There is significant opportunity left for innovation in the show space... I’ll submit a show report soon... TONS of pics.
  18. Danny Kaey

    Article: Munich High End 2018

    LOL!
  19. Danny Kaey

    Article: Introducing the Wilson Audio TuneTot

    Thanks Matt - speakers, due to their nature, are very personable choices - not everyone will like everyone else's choices. Fortunately, there ought to be a speaker for everyone in today's market place. As to the article being bland advertising... it's a product announcement labeled "Introducing the Wilson Audio TuneTot". Not sure it would have made sense to talk about 5 other speaker lines in the context of this introductory write up about a very specific speaker.
  20. Danny Kaey

    Article: Introducing the Wilson Audio TuneTot

    never seen them in that setup on either product photography or real world use...
  21. Danny Kaey

    Article: Introducing the Wilson Audio TuneTot

    Curious what you picked up on... also, the living room really isn't messy per se. I just have a ton of records laying around. You want messy, look at Atkinson, Fremer et all. ?
  22. Danny Kaey

    Article: Introducing the Wilson Audio TuneTot

    hahaha, love it! ????
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