Focal has plugged the gap between the Electra Be and Utopia ranges with Sopra. This two model range has three patents pending and comes in several finishes, but really it’s orange or nothing. The technologies that Focal is hoping to make its own are a new surround profile for the midrange driver that provides mass damping, faraday rings on both mid and bass drivers and exponential venting on the back of the Beryllium tweeter. This latter sits in a black wedge that has been machined out to make extra space inside the box and has an opening at the rear for the damped rear output from the tweeter.
Sopra No.1 the standmount has a six inch mid/bass driver allied to its Beryllium tweeter and is priced at €8,000 including stand. The big Sopra, No.2, has a pair of bass drivers in its down vented cabinet and sits above a glass plinth, it will be €12,000. Both models are available in wood veneer and paint finishes.
Devialet with Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus
It took a moment to recall why this particular pairing had been made before I remembered Devialet’s SAM speaker matching system and the penny dropped. Four Devialet 400 amps (€12,000 a pop) were driving the classic speakers and what do you think they were playing, the (expletive deleted) Eagles! Hell Freezes Over never revealed its varnished production so well! Pity we didn't hear the DPS turntable through this package.
Devialet dropped a bombshell on its British and American distributors at Munich, announcing that they are to open flagship stores in London and the US and take over sales in those territories.
Auralic Aries Mini
Auralic is making a name for itself in the streaming world and the new Aries Mini should help to make it bigger. This is effectively a budget version of the full Aries with the same quad core processor but smaller 512MB RAM and a built in DAC, it can even run a 2.5 inch SATA drive and become a full source. It does DSD256, 24/384 PCM and has connections for wired and Wi-Fi networking, outputs are USB, coax and Toslink digital or RCA phono analogue. Very interesting indeed for £399.
German turntable maker AMG has a more affordable model in its range, the Giro comes in at €7,200 including nine inch arm and quite a sophisticated tonearm it is too. It has two springs to provide vertical movement and these can be adjusted to alter azimuth. Roller and needle bearings provide lateral movement and there is magnetic anti-skate incorporated into the slimline base as well. The turntable itself is a DC motor powered belt drive design with a 4.5kg platter that sits on a PTFE thrust pad in an aluminium bearing with a tool steel shaft.
Sugden Masterclass HA4
Once Patrick ‘Laughing Boy’ Miller had had his grumbles about the state of the industry he mentioned the new HA4 headphone amplifier (£1,395). Yorkshire’s master class A amplification maker Sugden has built the HA4 around a voltage current converter circuit, a system whereby the signal avoids passing through volume control. It offers 3.5 Watts and will drive headphones with impedances from four to 600 Ohms.
Proac Response K8
The latest addition to the Response range, the K8 (£28,000) sits at the top of Proac’s tree and uses eight inch Volt drivers with Kevlar cones alongside a 75mm midrange dome by ATC, treble duties being covered by a ribbon tweeter. On the end of an Exogal DAC front end with Sugden Masterclass amplification they sounded powerful, even handed and relaxed. Making an effortless sound that remained engaging.
Analogue Works Turntable Two
Based on the designs of Tom Fletcher, the late proprietor of Nottingham Analogue, the Analogue Works turntables are straightforward designs with an inclination towards mass. The Turntable Two (£2,995) is the biggest model in the range and has a 9kg aluminium platter atop a substantial laminated wood plinth. The price does not include the Wand tonearm but does afford a Wave Mechanic power supply, one of the best in the business in our experience.
Mark Levinson No.536
Todd Eichenbaum and his engineering team at Harman’s luxury audio facility went back to the classic Mark Levinson designs to reinvent/recreate the qualities that designs like the ML2 are prized for. The first fruits of their work was seen last year in the No.585 integrated, this year they showed the No.536 monoblock. This has simplified circuitry compared to recent predecessors but retains the fully balanced topology in a low feedback design. It will double its 400 Watt eight Ohm output into four Ohms and set you back $15,000 per channel when it’s released in October.
Cyrus has reworked its Lyric all in one streamer/amplifier by dropping the more affordable model and concentrating on one £2,500 model formally called Lyric 9. Available in stealth and stone (shown) finishes it runs a 32-bit DAC and offers a 175 Watt output.
Revel Concerta 2
Renowned for its high end models Revel has decided to turn its attention to the more accessible end of the market. The Concerta 2 range consists of M16 bookshelf ($900) with a 6.5 inch main driver and one inch aluminium tweeter, F35 floorstander ($1,500, below left in black) with the same tweeter and three 5.25inch woofers, and the F36 (below left in white) that takes the F34 recipe and beefs it up with 6.5inch woofers in a $2,000 package.
Hi-Fi Racks Grand Stand
Topping out Hi-Fi Rack’s all wooden range the Grand Stand (above right) is made of wider staves of hardwood than its more affordable models and supports each shelf on spikes with anchors in the corners. It’s still a modular design so you can have practically any amount of racks and comes in at £300 per tier.