Author Archives: Dave McNair

Denafrips Pontus II DAC | REVIEW

I’ve been on a hot streak lately with getting components to review that have sounded excellent despite the current difficulties in hearing something beforehand. For a reviewer, it’s one of the many great things about hi-fi shows. So when our fearless PTA leader Scot Hull put out the word amongst the troops for who wanted to take a shot and review an affordably-priced DAC from the Chinese electronics firm Denafrips (website), I thought sure! Why not? And then something strange happened during my time with the most excellent Denafrips Pontus II DAC.  I started listening to a lot of music in digital form, not because I had to turn in a review on the DAC, no. I WANTED to listen to digital. Whuuut?To my way of thinking, DACs are the most stealthy of source components. There are no knobs to turn, no stylus to clean or arm to drop on a record, and a dearth of switches or buttons to press. Certainly no choice of regular bias or chrome tape–remember those? You might get a selection of anti-aliasing filters if you’re lucky. There is not much romance in Ye Olde DACs. They sit there quietly waiting to be asked out [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Audiovector R 6 Arreté Loudspeaker | REVIEW

“We Come From The Land Of The Ice And Snow…” Denmark may not be Iceland (or wherever Mr. Plant was wailing about in that song) but latitude-wise, it’s good enough for my literary purposes. Seriously, what is going on in those northern European (and Canadian) climes to produce such amazing speakers? With the Audiovector R 6 Arreté (website), these Danish loudspeaker veterans have produced yet another ultra-performer to add to the Legends of Scandinavian Speaker Craft. The Audiovector story begins with figurehead Ole Klifoth, who founded the company in 1979. Ole set out to make the kind of natural-sounding speaker for music lovers that he felt was missing in the marketplace, a speaker that he wanted to listen to. With the debut success of Audiovector’s first model, the Trapez, Ole’s ears and design concepts found an audience and the rest is history. Today, Ole’s son Mads Klifoth is the Audiovector CEO and carries on the tradition (with continued R&D input from the Old Man) while taking Ole’s original design objectives to new heights. As a Dad myself, this story warms my heart. So did listening to the Audiovector R 6 Arreté. Description Unless I am particularly fascinated by some aspect [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Chario Constellation Cygnus Loudspeakers | REVIEW

Hi-Fi reviewers like reviewing products that sound good to them. I’m no exception. If I can’t hear a component before actually getting it, I’m always a bit leery. So it was a welcome and pleasant surprise when I fired up a pair of Chario Constellation Cygnus speakers (website) in my listening room. After the hit parade of excellent loudspeakers I’ve recently had the pleasure of reviewing, it was a relief to find out that the relatively unknown (in the US) and modestly priced Cygnus ($3,700/pair) is no exception. Ciao mio adorabile amico The Cygnus is a mid-level offering in Chario’s entry-level Constellation line of speakers. The gente at Chario have been using fine Italian craftsmanship to make a LOT of different speaker models, and they’ve been doing so since 1975. There are four separate lines including Academy S, Aviator, Constellation II, and a limited edition Belong series. Within the Constellation line alone there are four different models named Lynx, Delphinus, Cygnus, and Pegasus. Must be some frequent espresso breaks happening at the Chario factory to get all those speakers ready to ship. Words and Photos by Dave McNair The Chario Constellation Cygnus is a three-way comprised of a 1.5” soft [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Charisma Audio Signature One Moving Coil Phono Cartridge | REVIEW

Let’s talk about the Passion Of St. Bernard. No, not the dog. No, not Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the Benedictine monk–although he was no doubt passionate about his stuff. I’m talking about the founder, and head of Charisma Audio (website), Mr. Bernard Li.THIS Bernard is deeply passionate about high fidelity home playback with a special focus on cartridges and all things analog. You’d also need to have the patience of a saint to go to the lengths that Mr. Li has in producing the supremely musical sounding Charisma Audio Signature One moving coil phono cartridge. At this point, it’s no surprise to me when I hear about the back stories of these passionately driven hi-fi industry folks. It usually starts with a deep connection to music and a fortuitous way into the industry. Bernard is no exception. From his 40 plus years as an audiophile, reviewer, dealer and distributor, Mr. Li’s knowledge and experience in this industry is deep. Actually, that would be an understatement. About eight years ago, Mr. Li began working with an experienced phono cartridge artisan whose identity must remain secret. The partnership produced a line of cartridges, adding to an already impressive lineup of brands that [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Acora Acoustics SRC-2 Loudspeakers | REVIEW

After living with Acora Acoustics SRC-2 loudspeakers in my listening room, I consider these speakers to be the newest member of a very small group of speaker systems that are the absolute state of the art in music reproduction. For the last few months, I have witnessed firsthand the incredible coherence, stunning presentation of spatial information, wide and smooth bandwidth, and limitless ability to reveal dynamic contrasts. The SRC-2s produced the finest sound I’ve yet heard in my system. There, I’ve said it. So what’s left to say about these? Plenty. Prologue I first heard Acora Acoustics in February of 2020 at the Tampa Audio Expo. I had assigned myself multiple rooms to cover for Part-Time Audiophile. Our own Eric Franklin Shook invited me to visit several additional rooms, Acora Acoustics being one of them. That first day I was quite impressed by the SRC-1 that was set up in one of the two Acora rooms. Super clear and clean sound, much larger than expected out of a modest-sized yet visually striking two-way floorstander, even with that granite cabinet. That granite! The entire line (SRB, SRC-1 and SRC-2) of Acora Acoustics speakers feature cabinet construction made from a particular type [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

RCM Sensor 2 MKII Phono Preamplifier | REVIEW

RCM Sensor 2 MK II Phono Preamplifier Words and Photos by Dave McNair I’m one of those audiophiles that started my listening obsession with vinyl records. You know, those flat round black things that sound amazing unless they don’t. I love records. I hate records. It’s all so confusing. Listening to records using the RCM Sensor 2 MK II phono preamp takes all that confusion away. As a recording engineer (now mastering engineer) who started during the heyday of magnetic tape and polyvinylchloride disks, I’ve had a front-row seat to the arc of technology for recording and playing back music. At some point, records and tape disappeared from my listening habits and I stopped caring about what medium was employed in service to the music. That changed when I bought a turntable about four years ago and started listening to records again.Long about this time, as an addition to my mastering business I decided to get into the anachronistic and lunatic fringe world of lacquer cutting for vinyl record production. This insane decision was fueled by my rediscovery of vinyl. Which of course required me to upgrade my home system to check the quality of my cutting work right? What [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Hi-Fi: Why Do Records Sound Better? | The Ivory Tower

Into The Groove Why do a lot of us audiophiles (and casual listener types) prefer the sound of records over the same music released digitally? Is it something about the inferiority of digital? Are vinyl records, without those sacrilegious anti-aliasing filters and stair-step samples, somehow higher in resolution? Or is it simply the much-heralded warmth of vinyl? Some would say digital is superior without the surface noise, side length limitations, and inner groove distortion. So what’s the point of putting digital mixes on an analog record? Records should be cut from an analog master, right? I’m not talking about the ritual of owning and playing records. Putting aside the factors of having a tangible object that requires more care and intention, along with the fun of combing bins for used treasures and everything else that goes with being a record collector, let’s explore the sonics and what’s responsible for that warm and fuzzy feeling we often get when having a platter party. Words and Photos by Dave McNair Everyone hears things differently. Folks have different tastes for what lights up that pleasure center in our brains. It’s a subject I talk about a lot with my audiophile friends, especially the [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Merason DAC-1 | REVIEW

From The Outside, Everything Looks Right I was reminded of what I love about Teutonic design aesthetics when I first opened the box and removed the flagship Merason DAC-1. Have you ever gone to the part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC and seen the display of medieval armor and weapons? Even a millennium ago, the armor and weapons used by knights and crusaders in battle had a very nationalistic vibe. The French suits of armor borrowed their look from a Parisian palace for the aristocracy. The Italian armor looked like it was made by people whose descendants would craft Ferrari bodies, and the German armor and swords were all business, a medieval Mercedes but with some Bauhaus angularity. Words and Photos by Dave McNair Switzerland isn’t exactly Germany–maybe there is something in the water that runs off the Alps and shit. Maybe it’s the beer. Design and construction of products having an undeniable amount of performance, precision, and attention to detail without unneeded flourish is the order of the day for these folks. I like this. I like it a lot. It’s practically in their regional DNA! Or the beer. I Want A New World Without The [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

HiFi: How Do We Listen?

Recently a happy convergence in my schedule allowed me to spend several days doing lots of listening to my home stereo. Like 6-to-8 hour stretches. Vinyl only. Undisturbed for the most part except by Speedy, our cat. This is rare for me. And incredibly enjoyable. Deep Thoughts by Dave McNair Photos by Eric Franklin Shook During all that listening I also thought about stuff. I’ve found it’s damn near impossible for me to stop thinking even if I’m engrossed in the music. No real surprise there if your mind is like mine—a dash of OCD and a big dollop of ADHD (everything has to be perfect, but not for very long…) One of the things that popped into my head was some notions about how audiophiles and non-audiophiles (also known as The Sane People) listen to music. I’ll ask the reader a few questions to get the party started. During an active listening session: Are you listening primarily to the music Are you listening to your system (or a particular component)? Are you listening to some mix of both? If you move between states, what triggers this? We’ve all heard the time-honored audiophile saying, “A better sounding system really enables [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

TIDAL Audio Prisma Preamplifier | Review

Is the absence of any coloration its own signature coloration? During my time with the TIDAL Audio Prisma preamplifier, I found myself asking that very question. People like me who listen to music for a living (including lots of audiophiles I know) have developed a familiarity with the various sonic signatures that any piece of audio electronics contributes to the music passing through it. Whether I’m using certain pieces of gear to master music in my studio or swapping out stuff in my home system for a review, I’m highly aware of whatever sonic stamp, however slight, is being placed on the music. In the case of the TIDAL Audio Prisma, that sonic stamp is very audible. But it’s in a class that is reserved for the best of the best, audio electronics that are so low in any added texture or distortions that the sound seems magically transformed by what’s NOT there. Where’s The Flava? Since digital recording became essentially omnipotent as the pro recording medium of choice, it’s become standard practice by many engineers to use whatever tools available to impart a sonically pleasing amount of harmonics to the recording process in search of more apparent texture and [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile