Sunday, January 12, 2020

X-quisite - World Premiere

11 January 2020

Micha Huber was in town to launch X-quisite as the third product line after Thales and EMT. 
Hosted at Modular Audio Singapore, Micha presented a short history of Thales before unveiling two new cartridges, the X-quisite CA and X-quisite ST using patented technology. The cartridges use a monobloc ceramic cantilever which is aimed at overcoming the weaknesses in conventional cantilevers. Micha explained that conventional aluminium cantilevers exhibit deformation and strong resonance during playback, which results in slight loss of mechanical information. Even use of advanced materials such as Boron, Sapphire or Diamond still result in a weak point further up the cantilever, at the connection point with the coil body. The monobloc design was three years in the making in order to overcome the difficulties in design and manufacture. 






Micha passed around samples of the cantilever and the cartridge body. The body has fine grooves to route the cartridge leads and reduce vibration. A sandwich of wood and metal alloy are used to achieve a tonal balance which is highly resolving, yet natural and life-like. The "entry-level" model CA, utilises copper wiring with an aluminium and ebony wood body. The ST, uses silver wiring, Titanium and a wood body. Both cartidges output 0.35 mv, and a compliance of 12 um/mN. List price was quoted to be in excess of CHF 9,000 for the CA and CHF 11,700 for the ST.


Note the tiny grooves on the side for routing of the cartridge wires.

The monobloc cantilever and coil body.

Modular Audio then played back a wide variety of discs using a full Thales deck fitted with a ST cartridge. An EMT preamp cum phono stage completed the family lineup. An Audes Excellence 5 AMT speaker and Rogue Apollo tube monoblock amplifiers were used for the demonstration. 

The absolutely gorgeous EMT JPA 66 Mk II preamp cum phono stage.
The demonstration was a real treat - with very good inner detail, dynamics and slam. The system was obviously very high bandwith, with good bass articulation and plenty of air / shimmer in the high frequencies. I especially liked how the front-end combined both high resolution with tone density. 

I asked Micha whether he had any issues with high frequency resonance from using a rigid material like ceramic. He reply was that the resonant frequency was high and beyond the audible range, and also very low in amplitude compared to existing cantilever materials. Hence, he decided not to use any additional damping. I also asked whether we could look forward to more affordable cartridges from X-quisite using the cantilever monobloc ? Unfortunately Micha could only comment that the difficulties in manufacturing meant that the cost was also very high. Well, we can all keep our fingers crossed ! In the meantime, we can keep this in our audiophile dreams and fantasies.  

Friday, December 20, 2019

News - Mr Speakers, renamed Dan Clark Audio released the Aeon 2 portable headphones in Singapore


SINGAPORE | December 20th, 2019 

Dan Clark Audio is pleased to announce the launch of the all new Aeon 2 Open and Closed high-fidelity over-ear headphones in Singapore. The new headphones build upon the legacy of its predecessor - the ever popular AEON Flow headphones, but ramped up with new design elements. Previously known as Mr Speakers, the company rebranded to Dan Clark Audio, the founder's namesake.

Dan Clark, founder of Mr Speakers, and now Dan Clark Audio, is an electrical engineer who has been working in and around the high-end audio market for more than twenty years. Dan’s experience includes working in high-end retail, designing amplifiers and electronics for personal use, and designing commercial and custom loudspeaker solutions, including the highly-regarded and award winning Platinum Audio speakers from the late 1990’s.

The new Aeon 2 features the latest engineering innovations from Dan, married with smart industrial design at a price that makes them not only attainable, but thoroughly enjoyable for the Hi-Fi community.

The original Aeon broke new grounds with its smart industrial design that is the hallmark of Dan Clark Audio design ethic. Known for its elegant shape of the ear-cups, lightweight nitinol headband, and the amazing performance of its in-house designed planer drivers, it was highly raved when it first launched. Now, with Aeon 2, it encompasses all the goodness of the original Aeon with the following new advancements:

Improved Performance

The new Aeon 2 features a colossal performance upgrade. Dan and his team took what they learned designing the most awarded planar headphones in the market last year - the Ether 2, and completely redesigned the driver from the ground up for the new Aeon 2.

New features include:
Updated driver structure flipped 180 degrees, removing magnet and flow structures from the direct signal path of the ear
Streamlined flow elements converted to a single construction, removing gaps
Higher precision machined flow structures vs. injection moulding
Superior Driver damping by developing new materials resulting in improved resolution and frequency response

The sum of all these innovations is a headphone that resolves music on an emotional level unheard of at this price point: visceral bass, transparent mids, and detail up top that is complementary not fatiguing.

Uncompromised Portability

The engineering team at Dan Clark Audio noticed that while the original Aeon came with a great case, it was a little bulky and hard to travel with. When they set out to create the next iteration of Aeon, the team knew they had to address Aeon 2's portability without sacrificing performance.

The attention to small details for their customers in mind resulted in a new case for Aeon 2, and an intelligent folding mechanism for the headphones, as part of its smart industrial design ethos. The new and improved Aeon 2 that would travel more efficiently without sacrificing function and performance.

The headphones are not only more compact and easier to bring along for your travels now, the new design actually improved the clamping, fit, feel, and structural integrity of the entire headphones. The form fitting and protective case also fits your cable of choice and takes up half the room in your backpack than the old Aeon case.

Pricing and Availability

Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 is available immediately at a recommended retail price (RRP) of S$1,399 (including GST) exclusively at AV One and Lazada (https://www.lazada.sg/shop/av1group).

About Dan Clark Audio

Dan Clark Audio was founded with a simple goal in mind: make great headphone products and have fun doing it. At Dan Clark Audio, we believe audiophile performance can be delivered at a variety of prices and we strive to deliver incredible performance and high value for each and every product. Founded by Dan Clark, an electrical engineer who has been working in and around the high-end audio market for more than twenty years. Dan’s experience includes working in high-end retail, designing amplifiers and electronics for personal use, and designing commercial and custom loudspeaker solutions, including the highly-regarded and award winning Platinum Audio speakers from the late 1990’s. Dan has a particular fondness for Isobaric subwoofers.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Plixir Cube 8 BAC Power Conditioner

Introduction

Our very own home grown brand is back with a new series of balanced power conditioners. According to James Soh, Plixir’s owner and designer, the Cube series was introduced to offer a premium product to customers that wanted a very high quality power conditioner, but were unable to afford the top-of-the-line Elite series of products.

The quality of finish of the Cube is top-notch, and a far cry from Plixir’s first models and significantly better than the present Elementa series. In fact, it would be fair to say that the level of finish and build is on par with the Elite series. However, to bring the product to a lower price point, the Cube uses a more affordable Noratel transformer that uses trickle-down technology from the Elite’s XQ transformer.

Size wise, the squarish footprint (240 x 270 x 245 mm) of the Cube enables easy placement and economical use of Singapore’s very expensive real estate space. It’s diminutive size is deceptive though, and the Cube weighs a back-breaking 30 kg. 

The model on review offers 8 outlets of your choice (US, EU or UK) and supports equipment with total power of 2280 watts. A binding post is also offered in case you wish to ground any of your components to the Cube.

Like the rest of the Plixir models, the Cube runs warm to the touch (I measured about 8-9 degrees Celcius above ambient temperature) on standby. My review sample did not have any noticeable transformer hum or buzzing. 

Sound Quality 

My initial impressions of the Cube were very positive - an extremely low noise floor and powerful bass. I initially thought that the Cube even exceeded the Elite series in this regard. However upon extended listening, I found this to be not the case for reasons explained later.

Sonics wise, the performance of the Cube sits squarely between the first generation Elementa (I did not have the current Elementa series on hand for comparison) and Elite series. Tonally it is not as neutral and has a pronounced bass emphasis and darker midrange and top-end. While the basslines from the Cube appeared more impressive than the Elite at first, I found that the bass was not as tight and lacked the articulation and detail of the Elite. Double-bass had impact but you could not hear the inner detail  - you heard more of a single note rather than the resonance from the body of the instrument and the vibrating strings. Similarly, the midrange and treble were smooth and refined, but lacking in the last bit of inner detail, expressiveness and air that only the Elite could deliver.

For most audiophiles, the Cube would be more than enough. I could have lived happily with it had I not personally owned the Elite BAC - perhaps ignorance could be bliss for an audiophile. 

Cube or Elite ? The choice to me very much boils down to matching. Audiophiles who find their system too lightweight and shrill would love the Cube. Audiophiles who have dialled-in their system to perfection would be better off with the Elite. Like everything in hi-fi, horses for courses !

Conclusion

The Cube fits nicely into the gap in the Plixir series. The Elite BAC still remains at the top of the heap, but the Cube remains a very worthy model for consideration, especially in the right system. The high level of finish, compact footprint and competitive performance means that the Cube deserves a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED label !

Cube 8 BAC
S$3,300