I was listening to a recording of Bach’s Violin Concerto in A Minor, BWV 1041, on WQXR, a public radio station in Manhattan. I was impressed by the beauty of tone of the Baroque violin, played by Petra Mullejans, a concert master of the Freiburger Barockorchester. Her command of the violin was captivating. I requested the CD from Harmonia Mundi. While on the Harmonia Mundi website, I noticed the aforementioned ensemble had issued many recordings, one of which is Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, released in March of 2014. I requested this set of CDs, too.

Prior to writing this review I researched Baroque performance characteristics. I discovered there are differences between English, French, Italian and German Baroque styles.

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A hop, skip, and a jump from the luxurious Raffles Hotel in downtown Singapore (named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the British founding father of the modern city-state of Singapore in 1819) famous for claiming to have invented the pink, gin-based ‘Singapore Sling’ cocktail, served at its Long Bar since 1915, sits a high-end audio enclave called ‘The Adelphi’ Lifestyle Mall. It is four-stories high and contains a concentration of high-end audio and AV shops. For historical reasons, this is the center of the high-end audio action in Singapore. Forming a small audio show unto itself, these shops in The Adelphi typically have listening rooms with expensive high-end equipment set up. Having landed in Singapore—the wealthy financial hub of Southeast Asia—for a ten-day visit concerning other business matters, I decided to take advantage during spare time to see for myself what The Adelphi had to offer.

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It is with great pleasure that we welcome Cypher Labs as Audiophilia’s newest sponsor.

I ran across the great folks at Cypher Labs during the recent Capital Audiofest in Washington DC. They were showing their gorgeous Prautes tube headphone amplifier (US$3900) and invited me to sit down for a listen. In a moment of Schubert, I could tell the sound was ultra refined and dynamic. There’ll be more about the Prautes when it comes in for a full review. Now, to choose a headphone that will do this high end audio jewel justice.

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Beethoven – The Complete String Quartets [8 CDs]
Belcea Quartet
Zig-Zag Territoires ZZT344 (2014)

Little, surely, need be said by way of introduction to these sixteen quartets, written between 1798 and 1826 and collectively representing one of the supreme monuments of Western art and culture. The intimidating shadow of their greatness hung across the remainder of the 19th Century, prompting Schubert himself to question what was left to write?! So it has long irked me that, despite owning several recordings of the late quartets, I did not have all of the early ones. As a big fan of “complete” recordings – on artistic and economic grounds, OCD tendencies notwithstanding – the appearance of this complete edition (the coupling of two recently released half-sets) on my current favourite record label, by one of my favourite Quartets, was not to be passed up.

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Because of surgery, I was laid up in the house for five months. As time ticked by and I got better, I kept reading about audio shows and having real withdrawal. I’d already had a night of shakes getting off the pain killers, but this was worse. Audiophile withdrawal. You’ve all had the feeling. I love audio shows. Not just because of the sound and fabulous equipment, but because of the camaraderie shown by passionate audiophiles. It was about this time that I decided to attend Capital Audiofest in Washington, DC.

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I was visiting a friend who subscribes to several streaming services, including, Beats, Googleplay, Gruvshark, and Rdio, all of which have bit rates of 320. He played a CD he recently downloaded, titled ‘Sounds’, featuring Shelly Manne on percussion and Jack Marshall on guitar. Even though the data rate of the download is considerably inferior to Redbook, the sound on all the tracks was so impressive, I bought the CD on Amazon. It was originally released as an LP, during the 60s, and later reissued in 2010 as a CD, in Japan, on the Capitol/EMI label, Capitol ST 2610.

Auditioning this CD brought to mind the futile and contentious discussions among audiophiles and in audiophile publications, regarding the superiority of analogue over digital. There are quality recordings digitally based, especially the CD under review, as well as excellent sounding LPs. Both media have virtues and flaws and one medium is different, not better, than the other.

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Much like our Audiophilia Star Components, we are instituting an Audiophilia Star for recordings. Once again, no hard and fast rules, just an love affair between music, recording and reviewer.

The list will grow over the years and our readers will be able to use this list as a first class resource for recordings that boast superior music making coupled with brilliance in engineering. CD, vinyl and digital files will be represented.

Each entry will have software type, company information, release/recording date and where to purchase link.

Guest submission posts of your favourite recordings are welcome.

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Creating a one off, great speaker is difficult. Creating a range, a family of great speakers is harder still. The basics of fine speaker design has to be there, of course, but an eye and especially an ear to tune a ‘house’ sound within boxes various takes great skill.

In the last few years, Wilson Audio has done it to near perfection, and, after a longtime house sound that did not float my boat, Focal/JM Labs created its incredible ‘Utopia’ line. Toronto’s Hansen Audio and Minnesota’s Magneplanar are at the top of the page, too. Add Danish company, Raidho Acoustics to this short list.

I’ve reviewed most of the Focal line and now the same with Raidho. Raidho’s team began production with its C and D lines, D being the most expensive (28K and up). Hearing both, I wondered at times why pay extra for the wonderful D line when the C sounds so good? Well, just like everything worth having in life, the steps to get to an audiophile’s decision are long, tedious, and can be painful.

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