Monday August 25, 2014 — Toronto, ON. HDtracks and Audiophilia to partner.

First, there was the LP (which made the most magnificent comeback), then the cassette tape, the CD, DVD Audio, SACD, etc. Most dead or thereabouts. Much like the video world, we now download or stream our music. It’s downloaded for home use, on the computer and on the go.

Audiophilia will still continue to review CD versions of releases, and vinyl, of course. But the way of the musical world is digital downloading. The great news is the availability of high resolution files of recordings old and new. As audiophiles and music lovers, we’re lucky. All over again.

So, it is with great pleasure that we have partnered with HDtracks, the world’s foremost ‘hires audio’ delivery solution. They will be our partner for digital downloads used for music reviews and for use in equipment reviews.

Using HDtracks is as easy as going to their excellent website and downloading files to your computer such as DSD and resolutions up to 194/24. If these numbers and acronyms scare the musical bejeezus out of you, as they did me, HDtracks has a wonderful FAQ that will unravel all the numbers and resolutions. It’s an easy read and your ears will thank you for it.

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Attending listening sessions at dealer showrooms are uniquely beneficial because you can experience a wide range of gear that you otherwise would not be able to hear. It was during such a session at Wes Bender Studio NYC that I encountered a couple of Burson Audio products. It wasn’t the headphone amplifier that first caught my eye—rather, it was a pair of bridged power amplifiers. These turned out to be the Burson Timekeeper amps. At first, their diminutive size made me assume that they were class D amps, but in fact they are class A/B 80 watts-per-channel stereo amps, offering 240wpc when bridged. I was quite impressed with the way these tiny amps were able to drive the big Hansen PRINCE E Loudspeakers to wall-shaking levels, with exceptionally deep bass and good overall sound.

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Sir Colin Davis (1927 - 2013) and the London Symphony Orchestra created great recordings over their 54 year association. His exceptional musicianship and his friendly relationship with orchestral players (he trained as a clarinettist) has made him a favourite with great orchestras like the LSO, Boston Symphony and Dresden Staatskapelle.

Davis finally got his most beautiful musical feather when he assumed directorship of the LSO in 1995 and held the post until 2006. From all accounts, the members’ admiration for him grew and grew.

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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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