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47 Labs Shigaraki System Review by Sandy Greene

Shigarakisystem

SONICFLARE REVIEW: 47 Labs Shigaraki System
4716 CD Transport ($1980), 4715 DAC ($1480), 4717 Integrated Amplifier ($1980)
Sakura Systems
by Sandy Greene

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| Permalink | DACs $1k to 5k , Disc players $800 to $2k , Integrated Amp $1k to 3k , Writer: Sandy Greene | Posted by Josh Ray on Dec 06 '07

SonicFlare Reviews the Gemme Audio Tanto Loudspeakers and Monarchy Audio SE-250 Mono Block Amplifiers

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Don’t stress me out. I’m spoiled. I get to audition really cool new and pricey audio gear at no cost. But if that gear even thinks of getting in my way of enjoying the music, I can be the biggest baby. If I don’t get my therapeutic time in front of my music system listening to the highest quality audio, I can get quite cranky. It’s my escape from work and if it’s work just to get good sound then it just doesn’t work for me.

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| Permalink | Amplifiers $3k to 6k , Components , Speakers $5k-10k , Writer: Sandy Greene | Posted by Sandy Greene on Oct 03 '07

Montreal… Music, Gear and Poutine

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What's not to love...

Recently had a vacation to the only “European” city you can drive to from the con-US. During a fabulous dinner with old and new friends, I was introduced to two awesome Montreal recording artists I had not heard of previously: Patrick Watson and The Besnard Lakes.

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| Permalink | Writer: Sandy Greene | Posted by Sandy Greene on Aug 22 '07

SonicFlare Recommends

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I’ve been CD-player-less over the last couple of weeks after sending back the incredible Resolution Audio Opus system. Time away from my main system has me in my office thoroughly enjoying a very modest system made up of a Sonic Impact Super –T amp being fed by my Mac Mini and driving the very ambient Duevel Planets. I’ve been steering my Mac Mini around surfing quite a bit these past few nights and wanted to share with the SonicFlare audience two fantastic and entertaining and not completely related medium.

First is Ben Harper’s 2006 release, “Both Sides of the Gun”… especially the mellower disc. Critically not loved, I find the mellow disc a great mental tune-out-and-forget-the-day treatment. It’s very familiar and consistent. It’s pretty raw and direct. The upbeat second disc is more varied and perhaps a little predictable but fun nonetheless.

Second, I wanted to recommend a web audio ‘zine from the other side of the world. AudioEnz.co.nz is based in New Zealand and has a very clean layout with very well written and concise reviews/articles and one of my most favorite writers, Marc Phillips, the Vinyl Anachronist. You can find Marc on PerfectSoundForever and ToneAudio (perhaps my favorite online audio ‘zine right now – besides SonicFlare of course :-). But do check out AudioEnz.co.nz for a good collection of interesting articles, music and gear reviews. Highly recommended.

Permalink | | Posted to Writer: Sandy Greene

Resolution Audio and Verity Audio Review by Sandy Greene

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Got your $4k "Macassar Ebony" rack? Check. Four sets of three each of those $80 a piece "Twice-Fire-Glazed Cryogenic Ceramic" equipment footers? Check. "Walla Walla" cable loom? Check. "Shook-Nu Stones" and "Whoopie Pads" of different shapes and sizes strategically placed on each component? Check. Wait, don’t forget to strategically place "Auditory Buddha Bells" around the room. They only cost $2,300 for the platinum ones (and you need more than one).

Good, now that you’ve spent $15k on voodoo tweaks and enough cables to make the Brooklyn Bridge jealous, go sell the lot on Audiogon. While you’re at it, sell you gear too and get simple… get elegant… get soulful… and get the Resolution Audio Opus 21 system.

You already have an excellent pair of speakers? Great. Think they’re as musical and as smartly crafted as the Verity Audio Rienzi? Doubt it.

Together, the Resolution Audio Opus 21 system and the Verity Audio Rienzi’s is a match made in heaven. They’re musical angels. They’re beautiful, glorious even. They’re sweet and nice, cherubic even. They’re honest and truthful. They deliver euphoria, happiness and great memories.

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Permalink | | Posted to Writer: Sandy Greene

High-End Publicity

Perhaps you've read about the KEF Muon speakers and their launch at the Milan Furniture Fair in April ’07. The speakers themselves are truly beautiful and truly costly ($140k pair). They deserved the finest and most stylish public introduction and I believe the ultra-hip furniture fair in Milan, Italy was the perfect choice. What was most impressive in their public introduction was the melding of baroque setting with a super-high-tech visual presentation to complement the incredible form design and reportedly high-end sound. The 5x10 meter LED floor synchronized organically to the music… matching the beauty of the KEF Muon speakers. The video is from the launch by Moving Brands. Moving Brands designed the LED installation with Ross Lovegrove, the Muon’s product designer. Spot the grey bearded Lovegrove about halfway through the video.

Permalink | | Posted to Shows and Expos | Speakers $20k and up | Writer: Sandy Greene

Better Than Sliced Bread (iTunes Plus)

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Am I dreaming? No way! iTunes Plus is and it’s great! Higher quality (256kbps AAC versus 128 mp3) downloadable tracks that are not copy protected at only $0.30 more per track… integrated with iTunes so they can easily integrate into my Apple branded digital life! Apple makes a big claim on sound quality by calling this level of compression virtually indistinguishable for CD. They made similar claims of audiophile quality with the Apple iPod Hi-Fi.

You’ll need to upgrade to iTunes 7.2. After your first trip to the iTunes music store and your first browse of iTunes plus, you are asked if an album is available in iTunes plus format would you like to see that higher-res DRM free version first. There seems to be a pretty small but decent initial selection available, and there’s an automatic “Upgrade My Library” option that looks up your past iTunes purchases and compares them to what’s available in high-res, letting you know the total cost to upgrade. Added bonus: Apple iTunes Plus downloads now work with Slim Devices um, devices (like the Squeezebox and Transporter now in for review).

Permalink | | Posted to Digital Downloads | Writer: Sandy Greene

Can't beat a great live show

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Just had to share a couple of recent concert going experiences with you. In early May I saw Arcade Fire at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. The Tower Theater is this great old theater with a little over 3,000 seats. We were lucky to get seats dead center about twenty rows back. This show was definitely in my top 5 live shows of all time. I heard the Arcade Fire kind of blew their show a few days later at Radio City, but in Philly they were super high energy and sounded fantastic. Their second album released a few months ago, “Neon Bible” is one of my favorite on the year.

At the Arcade Fire show I felt kind of old bobbing up and down surrounded by 16-24 year olds. At the show I saw this weekend, The English Beat at World Café Live downstairs at WXPN, I felt much younger. I remember seeing General Public in a small theater in northern NJ in the late 80’s. Last night they put on an energetic and super-fun non-stop two-hour dance extravaganza. Dave Wakeling was funny, high-energy, politically charged and showing no signs of age whatsoever (except for a little belly, but who isn’t?).

Even the best sound systems at home can only try to approximate the feeling of attending a truly great live performance shared with hundreds/thousands of like-minded fans. This is what it’s all about!

Permalink | | Posted to Writer: Sandy Greene

E-clec-tic-i-ty (2 of 2) SonicFlare at the Home Entertainment Show 2007

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Here’s my second report on the entertaining and certainly eclectic Home Entertainment Show 2007.

Above you’ll see a couple of pieces from the Bel Canto room. Bel Canto was showing with Joseph Audio and was the system driving the insane $150,000 pair Cabase La Sphere speakers. The pictures above are from their display in the room with Joseph Audio. Pictured are the Bel Canto e.One series CD-2 transport/DAC and the e.One S300iu integrated amplifier with a built in USB DAC. The entire e.One system in my opion is perfectly executed and these two pieces really play to where SonicFlare sees the industry’s future… flexible integration with digital sources in stylish and well built room friendly packages. I’m itching to get my hands on these pieces for a SonicFlare review.

Continue reading for images and notes on pieces from AudioEngine, Behold, Ascendo, Gamut, High Water Sound (Abbington Music Research, Aspara Acoustics, Tron & TW-Acustic), Hyperion, Loiminchay, Music Hall, Nagra, Rethm, Salagar, SimAudio, Slim Devices, Verity, Weiss and Zu.

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Permalink | | Posted to Shows and Expos | Writer: Sandy Greene

E-clec-tic-i-ty (1 of 2) SonicFlare at the Home Entertainment Show 2007

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Seventy-one rooms plus the Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel NYC, in one day, was my idea of a fun filled day off from work. I think I hit up all the rooms except for the three Sound From Singer rooms… no thank you! Apologies to the brands in those rooms. I’m not a huge fan of Sound by Singer. I guess I’m alone in that ‘cause their rooms were way too crowded come Friday afternoon.

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Permalink | | Posted to Shows and Expos | Writer: Sandy Greene

Mac Hagerman Kore-Eda Audio Note Review

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“Together” a SonicFlare System Review by Sandy Greene

I’ve got some gear here that together makes for one of the most musically satisfying and enjoyable systems I have had the honor to audition.

The first pairing in this system review being the tiny, cute, elegant, jewel-like Kore-Eda amp and preamp ($1.650 & $1,850) combined with the boxy yet beautifully simple Audio Note AN-E/Lx speakers ($4,300). The second pairing being the square-ish yet somehow cuddly Mac Mini ($599) feeding the utilitarian and glowing Hagerman Chime tube USB DAC ($1,799 fully assembled). The sum of their mechanical parts sequenced together make for glorious, divine and earthly sonics.

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Permalink | | Posted to Writer: Sandy Greene

Believing the Time Will Come

 Hearing is Believing
Wanna read the latest big media tradeoff’s on the demise of high-end audio? Thanks to the great folks at PAAG… Philadelphia Area Audiophile Group, I was turned on to these entertaining articles.

The CNN article argues that music fans today need iPods and nothing else. That sound quality does not matter to the masses anymore. Did it ever? I don’t have the stats and welcome them from anyone… Did Stereophile and Absolute Sound have more readers in the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s than they do today? How about add in all the hi-fi specific web zines? More that that? Is the very specific specialist fan base that makes up the audiophile crowd really diminishing with the advent of the iPod? I highly doubt it.

The Salon article starts with the CNN article argument and takes the fork in the road towards sound quality being in the ear of the beholder… Well of course it is. Just as with the many other aspects of audiophilia, the audiophile in my opinion is just as obsessed with the gear, the product design, the status, and the hunt as they are with the sound quality. It’s not a science, it’s a hobby.

The trend, the flavor if you will, is small easy-to-use devices (such as the iPod) which make buying and managing music easy and fun again. Just my opinion, but as hard drive capacities get larger, and the speed of download quicker, to the point of when they are just as natural as breathing, music fans en masse will gravitate towards higher audio quality by default.

Permalink | | Posted to Writer: Sandy Greene

If You Must Do Windows

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I’ve found the Mac Mini’s evil twin! The Nexus Psile 10. It’s got the looks of the Mac Mini… perhaps even a little nicer. It’s skin-able. It’s supposedly very quiet being lined with noise absorption material and smartly laid-out innards. It runs Windows Media Center (or even Vista if you’re a daredevil). However it ain’t cheap… the one US seller has them for $1599. Guess you have to pay a premium to get a copy-cat interface wrapped in a wanna-be Mac package.

Usually Macs are nowhere near the cheaper alternative. I’ve been using a Mac Mini, and LaCie Mini Hard Drive as my transport feeding the Hagerman Chime DAC. The musical combination of the Mac Mini and iTunes with Apple Lossless ripped music feeding the Chime DAC via USB stands up very well to stand-alone CD players I’ve auditioned upwards of $3500. The Mac Mini costs $600, the LaCie drive $200 and the Chime DAC $1750 (total system: $2550). The convenience and flexibility of a hard-drive based music system is unbeatable… and in this case WAY cheaper than an aesthetically comparable PC. Is the Psile sticking its tongue out at us?

Permalink | | Posted to Hard Drive Servers | Writer: Sandy Greene

SonicFlare iMix Two by Sandy Greene

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Here’s a new SonicFlare iMix for you. A little retro-indie, a little retro-rock-and-roll, some driving, some mellow electronica. These are some favorite tracks that have been gracing the recent systems under review. I pulled out some Puccini on vintage vinyl this rainy Sunday, but we’ll save that for a different list altogether. Leave us a comment and let us know what you’re listening to these days…

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Permalink | | Posted to Writer: Sandy Greene

In and Coming in for Review with SonicFlare

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It’s great writing reviews for SonicFlare. The exposure allows me access to some really fantastic gear. And the publisher’s (Hey, Josh!) preferred slant towards system reviews aligns with my preferred way of putting reviews together. I have three very cool systems shaping up that I just couldn’t wait to tell you about…

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Permalink | | Posted to Writer: Sandy Greene

Functional High Design, High-end? Just Plug it in. March 12, 2007
Duevel Planet Review by Sandy Greene February 13, 2007
Verity Audio Holiday Tour by Sandy Greene December 28, 2006
Sandy Greene Reviews the Red Wine Signature 30 December 15, 2006
No-brainer Audiophile Holiday Gifts (in the $1,000 to $2,000 range) by Sandy Greene December 13, 2006
Wanna have more fun with your iTunes? by Sandy Greene November 27, 2006
Headphone Clarity with the Headroom Desktop and Beyer DT880 by Sandy Greene November 9, 2006
SonicFlare iMix One by Sandy Greene October 20, 2006