Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Voodoo Labs VL WITCHCRAFT™ Speaker Cable Grid


Once in a while, an audiophile product will come along and grab your attention. In this case, these speaker cables from Voodoo Labs will make you scratch your head and exclaim, "What the Meow is going on?" 

Voodoo Labs sounds like research into the paranormal, instead of the paramagnetic. They claim that their products are based on patent-pending technology. While I don't assign much weight to that, they licensed their technology to Audionet for their GAUSS footers. And Audionet certainly know more than a thing or two about audio! 


The Speaker Cable Grid consists of 6 individually insulated conductors (3 each for positive and negative) that pass through a hexagonal spacer. The cable conductors are made of tinned-OFC copper sheathed in oiled cotton dielectric and look very familiar (Hmm, maybe from somewhere far north of Hamburg, where Voodoo Labs is based?) The hexagonal spacer is meshed, with each cable passing through a specified hole. The center of the spacer is adorned with a cat design, which happens to be Voodoo Labs' logo. Each cable has 3 spacers, and each spacer has its own turbine-shaped footer. Now, kits, cats, sacks and wives, how many were going to St. Ives? The bare wire ends are twisted together, which sounds best according to Voodoo Labs. If that doesn't suit you, I'm sure you can speak to them about installing plugs of your choice. 

Since the cables move freely through the mesh holes, you can slide the spacers according to your needs. The footer is friction fit and can be removed if required. Installation is either tricky or seamless depending on your setup. In my case, it was the former as the complex routing (most of which was in airspace) resulted in the footers being placed on the speaker or near the amp. I can imagine that installation would be perfect in the scenario where your amplifier and speaker binding posts are close to ground level. 

According to Voodoo Labs, the footers are designed to avoid the smear caused by cables lying on the ground, where they are affected by different materials of varying permeability and permittivity. The material used is an Aluminium-Magnesium alloy (cleverly called AlMgTy!) which aims to achieve magnetic permeability and permittivity as close as possible to air. The general theory of the design (the footer and spacer) is to prevent electromagnetic harm to the signal as much as possible. 

Sound Quality

During the switch from my usual speaker cables to the Voodoo Labs, William Whey of Audiosound asked whether I changed the volume knob. I knew why he asked - the volume appeared to be much louder! 

The Voodoo Labs cast a very wide soundstage with great dimensionality. The tonality of these cables was firmly in the musical camp - a grainless presentation with full and wet bass notes. The midrange in particular remained expressive with good texture and nuance. High-frequencies had a natural fade which struck a good balance between air and long-term listenability. If you like a natural yet detailed presentation, these are really a worthwhile addition to your shortlist.  

I liked these cables very much for their well-tuned presentation and low-noise floor. Their warm-neutral tone could work well in taking some bite out of aggressive systems. On the downside, they aren't the most propulsive or hard-hitting cable around. Mr. Usual Cable had a more linear and tighter bassline, but otherwise, Mr. Meow had it licked in every other way. The MSRP of Mr. Usual is similar to Mr. Meow, so I consider this to be a fair catfight.    


Many audiophiles will outright dismiss the Voodoo Labs on account of its high price and seemingly pseudo-science claims. I actually think there is good logic and reason to its design, but here's one suggestion that will have most of the objectivists running for the door - give them a listen!

A big thanks goes to William Whey of Audiosound Singapore, a brand ambassador of Voodoo Labs.

Voodoo Labs VL WITCHCRAFT™ Speaker Cable Grid - USD 10,634 / 2m pair


Sunday, March 17, 2024

Enleum HPA-23RM Reference Headphone Amplifier


"Enleum" is a combination of the words "Enlightenment" and "Eum" (Korean for "Sound"). You may have heard of Soo In Chae's work under "Bakoon" which was a collaboration between Soo In (founder of Enleum) and Akira Nagai. 


The HPA-23RM (the "R" and "M" being shorthand for Reference and Mobile) is a unique headphone amplifier with two different amplification circuits - a voltage, and current output stage. The voltage stage is a MOSFET output stage based on a simplified version of the JET2 bias circuit seen in the AMP-23R. The current output stage is derived from the HPA-21's bipolar transistor circuit. While this device is not something you would lug around on a regular basis, it is portable enough to be moved around and can be used on-the-go thanks to its built-in battery. Similar in size to a paper-backed novel, the Enleum measures 116mm x 164.5mm x 22mm and weighs 750 grams.

On the front panel, a toggle switch selects gain, while a recessed rotary knob functions as both a volume control and power switch. A 3.5mm socket is mated to the voltage stage, while a 1/4 inch socket is used for the current output stage. A row of LED lights indicate charge status, battery life and operation. 

The inputs are located on the rear panel, with a USB-C socket used for charging, and a pair of RCA sockets and a 3.5mm socket used for the input signal. There is no selector switch, so only one input may be used at a time. If the 3.5mm socket is in use, this is given priority over the RCA input. 

The current-output stage is capable of 1W of power, and half of that into the voltage output (into a 30 ohm load).   


In operation

Rotating the volume knob from its resting position to about 8 o'clock brings the unit into standby mode. The LEDs light up to indicate the battery level. The HPA-23RM uses a discrete resistor relay network to control the volume and further advancing the knob unmutes the unit, with an audible click as you move between each volume level. The manual advises you to bring the volume knob back to the standby position before plugging and unplugging headphones to avoid damage to the unit. 

The unit is specified to operate for up to 5 hours of use in voltage output mode, and 3.5 hours in current output mode, which matched my user experience. Thankfully, the HPA-23RM can be charged while in use.

Sound Quality

For the purposes of this review, I used the Enleum with an iFi Pro iDSD DAC as a source. To cover a variety of IEMs and headphones, I tried the Enleum with the Letshuoer S12 Pro IEM, Beyer DT-880 (250 ohm), Drop HD 8xx and the Audeze LCD2.1. 

As a starting point, Enleum recommends that the voltage output be used with IEMs / headphones that are sensitive, or have a varying impedance curve, while the current output be used with headphones that have a flat impedance curve such as planar headphones. This is not a hard rule, and Enleum does encourage you to experiment. Matching a headphone with a varying impedance curve with the current output does result in a frequency response that tracks the impedance curve, which could be either a good or bad thing depending on your objective. For example, the Drop HD 8xx has an impedance peak at about 100 Hz and a falling impedance in the high-frequencies. Listening to these headphones through the current output gives you added bass and attenuated high-frequencies. Unless you are seeking to alter the tone of your headphones, I found following Enleum's advice to give the best results.

Tonally, the Enleum has a slightly warm and organic midrange, while maintaining an airy and detailed treble. The real shocker is the tightness and power of the bass, which is quite impressive if you consider that this is a battery-powered device. On bright headphones like the Beyer and Drop, this does balance things out a bit, although the warm-sounding Audeze sounded great with the Enleum too. 

The Enleum is highly detailed throughout the frequency range and casts a wide and open soundstage, with a sense of dynamic freedom that eludes most headphone amps. From a performance point of view, the Enleum is easily at the very top, outperforming the headphone output stage of the iDSD DAC, or the Vioelectric HPA V281 that I owned in the past. In my view, the Enleum is really in its element when paired with planar headphones.  

The Enleum does have its weak points. Although there is a gain switch, using either the Beyer or Drop headphones on current mode was tricky, with the volume steps being too far apart. On the positive side, the discrete resistor volume provided precise channel balance even at very low volume levels or high-sensitivity headphones or IEMs. I would also have preferred for the voltage output mode to be paired with a 1/4 inch socket too. 

Battery life is a bit short to make mobile use practical and the repeated charging cycles will necessitate regular battery replacement. Thankfully, the Enleum uses a spring-loaded battery holder for its dual 18650 Lithium-ion batteries, which are widely available. Your unit shouldn't require a return home to South Korea for servicing, and battery replacement should be straightforward. 


Despite the high price tag, the Enleum rewards with top-level sonic performance. It is a must-audition for planar headphone users, and does a fine job with dynamic headphones too. Don't let the mobile moniker fool you though, this amp makes perfect sense for desktop use too - Highly Recommended.

A big thanks goes to Cornerstone Audio for making this review possible.

Price : S$ 4,200

Cornerstone Audio
444 Race Course Rd, S21888 (by appointment only)
Telephone : +65 8890 4885         

Friday, March 15, 2024

NAD Masters M66 and Dali Epikore 11 - Singapore Launch

2 March 2024


Lenbrook Asia launched the NAD Masters M66 flagship streamer/DAC-preamp and the Dali Epikore 11 speakers today.

The Masters M66 is a BluOS streamer and DAC-preamp that features rich functionality and the latest technology in a single box. The full suite of inputs/outputs include a HDMI eARC port, an MM/MC phono stage and four sub-woofers outputs which can be individually configured. 

An ESS Sabre ES9038PRO DAC is the heart of the DAC section, while an ES9822PRO ADC handles analog to digital conversion. 

Sonic quality has been prioritised with physically separated analog and digital sections with independent power supplies, while the volume control is based on a resistor-ladder control circuit. Analog purists would be pleased to know that the M66 can also be operated in Analogue Direct mode which bypasses all digital processing. 

A full-license version of Dirac Live Room Correction and Live Bass Control is included, making the cost of ownership of the M66 a great value proposition. 

The Dali Epikore 11 speaker was launched to celebrate Dali's 40th anniversary. Standing at a proud 160.2 cm tall, this 4½ way design incorporates Dali's EVO-K hybrid tweeter which is a combined soft-dome and planar magnetostatic ribbon tweeter, a 6.5 inch midrange and four 8 inch woofers. The cabinetry work is outstanding and Lenbrook shared that Dali owns its own furniture maker to make their speaker cabinets. 

For the demonstration, Lenbrook paired the M66 with M23 stereo power amplifiers (operated in bridged mono mode) while the Dali was assisted with a pair of REL Carbon Special subwoofers.  


Sonically, this system was as big as it was visually imposing. It had astounding dynamics and the genuine ability to pressurise the large showroom space with deep and chest-thumping bass. I was pleasantly surprised that it was equally adept at reproducing small-scale works with finesse and delicacy. 

Soundstaging was outstanding with careful placement of instruments and voices, with good width, depth and height too. Music was reproduced without harshness or grain, even at very high volumes. 

Tonally, the system is on the laidback end of the spectrum although there is plenty of detail in the high-frequencies to balance things out. Although these speakers could probably blow your roof off, they will appeal more to listeners who want a comfortable and non-fatiguing presentation.

Lenbrook also demonstrated the effect of DIRAC as they toggled it on-and-off. The music sounded harsh and the soundstaging lost a great degree of precision sans DIRAC. Having covered DIRAC in the NAD C 3050 LE amplifier, this did not come as a surprise to me. 


This is a system well-worth checking out if you are looking out for a modern and high-end solution to your audio needs. The Masters M66 showed great promise, and the possibility of future software upgrades, or modular upgrades is an attractive proposition.