The Sonos Wireless HiFi System has a new best friend.

I received an email from Flexson’s PR department suggesting that I review their products. They make accessories for the SONOS Wireless System (Sonos) that I had just reviewed. Timely. The accessories were not really of interest, but what did catch my eye was Flexson’s VinylPlay turntable. USB/Preamp onboard and ready to rock and roll with the wireless Sonos system.

The turntable looks awfully familiar. Rega Planar familiar. Lots of knockoffs (homages) these days. And why not? The Rega is still the best value in entry level tables and certainly the best arm. Flexson even throws in an Audio Technica cart. A quick setup — unpacking, counterweight, cart guard, and you’re ready to hear Taylor Swift in all her glory.

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Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

Saturday, it came as quite a surprise during my usual morning routine of checking social media. A German blogger of some note suggested the Berliner Philharmoniker had chosen its next Chief Conductor and the story was being reposted by every classical writer on the internet. The choice was Russian conductor, Kirill Petrenko. It turns out the German was right. They had chosen the Russian.

Petrenko has a great reputation with orchestras he directs, primarily the Bavarian State Opera and Bayreuth. Interestingly, he has conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker just three times, and mostly esoteric programs including Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky and Elgar. No Beethoven, Bruckner or Brahms symphonies, the bread and butter of the orchestra’s mainstream repertoire.

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Our esteemed James Norris takes over the reins of our popular monthly series.

Yevgeny Mravinsky Special Edition [5 CDs]
MEL CD10 02295

This tribute to the great Russian conductor features a wide range of repertoire spread over 5 CDs with a booklet giving recording dates and a brief essay on Mravinsky written by someone who I presume to be his daughter. No other details are given.

Judging from the applause at the end of some of the works these performances were taken from Radio broadcasts ranging from 1949 to 1980 and as such the sound quality is variable. However, these things need not bother you if you want to hear some fine performances even though not all of the interpretations would find themselves in my all time recommendations.

The finest performances are, as expected, reserved for Russian repertoire and I have to say that the two Tchaikovsky symphonies featured are superb performances that deserve to be in any collection. Mravinsky only recorded the 4th and 6th commercially for DG in 1960 [in London's Wembley Arena, no less - Ed] so these recordings must have been made around the same time but for Russian radio. They are incendiary accounts particularly the 6th which has brass playing that will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

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A few things have revolutionized the music business in the past decade — Apple’s iTunes, mobile audio on smart phones with the headphone boom, followed this year by streaming audio. What was missing in the lifestyle mix was a quality delivery system for the home. One that worked easily, sounded great and was reasonably priced. Sure, Bose had a big lead. ‘Good’ sound for the masses but at a high price. The high price paid for the marketing, which was quite effective. But, it was still a ‘sell’. You could hear the significant others at Best Buy — ‘do we really need that?’! Bang & Olufsen popped in once in a while with ‘audiophile’ quality kit, but no one company had a fix on the target.

SONOS (Sonos) founder and CEO John MacFarlane foresaw the future was digital and wireless but with streaming as the eventual format of choice. Maybe not for the audiophile, at least at the time, but it was coming. That was in 2002. Today, Sonos is the mainstream brand for music delivery in a wireless/streaming world. MacFarlane and his three partners, like other visionaries, leveraged an idea into a segment leading product.

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Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé (complete ballet); La Valse
Orchestre et Choeurs de l’Opera National de Paris / Philippe Jordan

Erato Disques 2564616684 [68:15]

The French have difficulty with discipline. The French culture has far too much on offer to waste time on trivial pursuits like work. Same problem in Italy. That’s why the orchestras are always in the second tier compared to the very best. The Paris Conservatoire is justly famous for its training and France for its soloists, so why are the orchestras maligned? Ever get one hundred people in a room and attempt to make them work corporately? Imagine in Paris. Wasn’t it Edward Greenfield in Gramophone that said ‘the Montreal Symphony is the finest French orchestra in the world, no matter what they think in Paris!’?

Things have improved over the 30 years since that silly comment. And no more than with the Paris Opera Orchestra, here on evidence, masters of the French School of playing.

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When I read about this product on Twitter, I checked the date to see if it was April 1. Nope. A magnetic, levitating, portable speaker with Bluetooth ‘for the audiophile in you’. And all for $199.

The designers look like an energetic bunch (the promo video is full of ‘blown aways’, ‘awesomes’ and ‘it is truly, truly, a revolutionary bit of hardware’). Wow. Some testimonials. And it floats.

The OM/ONE comes in two pieces — the speaker orb and the magnetic base that levitates the orb (with USB port to charge it and other devices). It can connect your phone or other bluetooth devices and play music from services like Pandora, Spotify, Tidal HiFi, and Beats Music. You can change tracks and control volume from up to 10 metres away. And with its onboard microphone, you’ll rock the world’s first levitating speaker phone. The orb is said to have all day, industry leading battery life.

website

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I’m not sure how safe a road racer would feel bombing downhill on his Trek with a comfy set of headphones kicking some heavy beats. But, as the Rapha script says, ‘Road racers don’t just compete on the road, they live on the road, transferring between stages, training camps and airports like the constant skip and shuffle of a playlist.’

The British ‘Performance Roadwear’ company has been a leader in the industry since 2004. They produce very stylish sportswear. B&O knows a little about style, too. A perfect marriage, I would think.

‘Introducing a new collaboration between audio experts Bang & Olufsen and Rapha, H6 headphones are designed for road cyclists who want to take the best possible sounds with them on the road. Using B&O acoustic technology and fabrics and aesthetics from the Rapha design forum including ear pads made from the same leather as that used for the Rapha GT Gloves, these earphones are a luxurious, stylish way to enjoy all your favourite soundtracks.’

website

Price: CAN$549.00

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During the original review process, Audiophilia writer Karl Sigman met up with fellow New Yorker Jonathan Levine, CEO and Founder of Master & Dynamic, maker of the outstanding MH40 Headphones.

Karl suggested to Levine a follow up with me as listener. Happy to oblige. So, too, Levine. He was deep into email correspondence with me as the Sigman meeting was finishing. Levine is a go getter. Full of New York energy and creativity, as described by Sigman.

My headphones, along with the beautifully simple headphone stand, arrived at my door 3500 miles away two days later.

The first thing the purchaser will notice is the packaging. Apple standard. You’ll feel a little special opening the product. You’ll feel a lot special when you see the workmanship, design and overall quality for the first time. Everybody that visited the new house over the past few weeks wanted the set immediately. Lots of oohs and aahs.

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