Audio innovations can be slow in the summer. As heat climbs audio manufacturers, like many industries, go on vacation and begin to gear up for fall. Summer 2018 saw exceptions to the everyone is at the beach rule. This summer featured four cool things, audio trends and game-changing new streaming hardware from Roon Labs.
- Roon Nucleus - Music Streaming Networks aka What's Next
- Sonoma Model 1 - Electrostatic Inspiration
- MyTek Brooklyn DAC+, Amp, Preamp - B is in the HOUSE
- Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow Closed headphones - Natural sound less than a grand
- Pass Labs HPA-1 Headphone Amp - Great Utopia partner
Roon Nucleus Streaming Enjoyment
Sometimes clear summer days provide spectacular views. Growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut I remember hazy images of Long Island from the Island Beach ferry. It looked like you could swim there.
While we wouldn't recommend swimming across the Long Island Sound, we strongly recommend adding a Roon Nucleus or a Roon Nucleus Plus to your audio mix. Streaming music and just about all media is an undeniable future now. But Roon's new hardware is more than storage.
The Roon Nucleus is the best way to use Roon Labs' indispensable music archive and engagement software. Roon Labs recognized how digital music stole music's soul. Roon's software goes holding static albums one better by reaching out to the web for dynamic content. Too cool!
I love my Roon Nucleus. Read my review on the Roon product page in the Reviews tab at the bottom of the page. Discovering new music is as easy as clicking on a link, knowing my favorite musicians summer concert schedules was a big plus, and reading the digital version of "liner notes" recovers a lot of the once missing fun from listening to favorite bands and newly discovered groups.
Here are three albums I discovered this summer.
Sonoma Model 1 Electrostatic Inspiration
I've always loved the upper range clarity of electrostatic speakers. Somehow, back in the day, I heard a pair of Quad speakers. Remember those mini black panels? The sound was astonishingly bright and the soundstage huge. Bass, on the other hand, suffered.
Electrostatic Pros and Cons
Electrostatic speakers vibrate membranes instead of moving air. Bass moves a lot of air, so, in a room, electrostatic can sound deficient in the lower ranges. But headphones don't have to create sound across surfaces and vast distances. If your head feels like the perfect place for the electrostatic sound, we agree. Here is what legendary producer Will Schillinger from Pilot Recording Studio says about the Sonoma M1:
Will earns his living with his ears. We agree. The Summer of '18 was the summer of the Sonoma M1.
MyTek Brooklyn DAC+, Headphone Amp, and Preamp
Brave to name your digital audio player (DAP) after where musical legends such as Jay-Z, the Notorious B.I.G., and Mos Def call home, but MyTek knew they could back up the implied claim. The number of connections and options Brooklyn offers is outstanding as Audiophilia notes:
Like its predecessor (Brooklyn DAC), the DAC + can handle an amazing diversity of digital files and formats: PCM up to 32/384, DSD up to quadruple rate (DSD 256), and if you desire, at the push of an 'enabling’ button it can fully 'unfold' (using internal hardware) high-resolution MQA including Master Files streamed from Tidal. (Mytek was MQA’s first standalone-hardware technology partner.) Digital inputs include USB, S/PDIF (coaxial), Toslink/ADAT, and AES/EBU.
We agree with Karl Sigman's conclusions too:
As a DAC alone, at just $2195, the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ is world-class. It is very competitive with DACs that cost far more, and it can play PCM up to 32/384, DSD up to quadruple rate and can fully unfold MQA files internally. And when you add in all the integrated features (two volume controls, a headphone amp, an analog preamp, phono stage, and some professional functions, too) all contained in a little light box, it is hard to fathom why anyone would not want one. An amazing accomplishment. Read Karl's Review.
The MyTek Brooklyn DAC+, Preamp, Amp earns its name.
Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow Closed Headphones
Closed back headphones create better isolation from ambient noise. The downside is they closed back cans usually give up soundstage and balance. Not so much for the Mr. Speakers new Aeon Flow closed as Enrique notes in his Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow review:
As a classical musician, I'm used to, and highly appreciate, the natural sound of acoustic instruments. Natural sound, instrumentation transparency, proper ensemble balance and wide stage presence are the qualities I expect in a hi-res audio reproduction system. The AEON Flow meets my expectations satisfactorily in all these fronts.
Natural sounding, balanced, and transparent are words we usually use to describe more expensive headphones. Someday we hope Enrique will share some of his classical music. In the meantime, we appreciate his words, reactions, and experience with Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow headphones.
Pass Labs HPA-1 Headphone Amp
As headphones evolve, power is assumed. Let's put that another way. Headphones innovators such as Focal, Audeze, and Sennheiser suppose your audio gear will have whatever power is needed. And that last sentence is correct if you own a Pass Labs HPA-1 headphone amplifier. Don't limit your thinking either as one the HPA-1 reviews on Moon Audio notes:
“An excellent preamp as well as headphone amp. The HPA-1 drives my Linn Klout amp and Thiel speakers with more authority and bass control than my Linn Kimax Kontrol preamp ever did. I matched the Press Labs amplifier with Focal Utopia headphones and it is absolutely phenomenal.
In Love At First Sound J1Hampton describes the HPA-1's "Gorgeous, lush, detailed, expansive sound." Hard to beat lush and detailed so we won't try. Best to listen to your favorite cans LOUND and powered by Press Labs HPA-1.