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Welcome to Connoisseur Corner - Luxe Consulting and Executive Services

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer. Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at: 916.952.9529 Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

11/1/21

2022 Mercedes-AMG SL – The Ultimate Grand Tourer

 


Grand Tourer – a sports car designed for long-distance, high-speed driving owing to a combination of luxury and performance attributes.

Does that sound like your cup of tea?

Classic GT cars over the years include the Aston Martin DB5, MB 300SL Gullwing, or the British beauty, the Jaguar E-Type.

One of those mentioned above, the venerable SL, has a freshly-minted member of the family. The 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL is in the house! This newest in the SL lineage (factory code R232) is all-new from the ground up. Available in two flavors, the SL55 will sport 469 horsepower and sprint to 60 mph in under four seconds. The high-zoot SL63 ups the ante to 577 ponies and should get to 60 in under 3.5 ticks. Whew!

There is all manner of AMG-derived speed tech here, from carbon-ceramic brakes to four-wheel steering, but lest we not forget, this is a GT car at heart, meaning luxury is present and accounted for. Massaging seats, anti-roll suspension, automated cruising everything, and even an audiophile-grade Burmester 3D audio system. All this with a folding sot top you can be rid of in 15 seconds, provided you are rolling under 37 mph.

So now for some thoughts on the design. Exterior lines and proportions have been cleaned up from the previous-gen SL. Classically handsome and sporting, I’ll propose. The interior is a bit less cohesive to my eye and not thought out as well as the new S-Class redesign. It comes off as an assemblage of ideas that don’t correctly bind together. Good, mind you, but not great.

All things considered, the new SL is a winner and well worth considering if you are ready for a proper GT car. Pricing has not been released, but expect a base north of $115,000.00 for the SL55 when these new babies come to market.

Cheers!


10/27/21

D’Agostino Relentless Preamplifier – The Ultimate Pre?

 


I love music, and I love the audio industry. I am constantly amazed at the creative engineering minds and their work to continually improve what our ears can experience. Dan D'Agostino, one of the OGs of the audiophile world, and his team at DDMAS (Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems) set about bringing forth their ultimate version of a stereo preamplifier.

Welcome the Relentless Preamplifier.

A stunning three-chassis design, the Relentless Pre has a separate chassis for each stereo channel and a third for the preamp's power supply and control section. Read on for the full electro-wizarding details. Cheers!


CAVE CREEK, AZ, OCTOBER 21, 2021 — Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems today announced the Relentless Preamplifier. The companion model to the Relentless Mono Amplifier, the Relentless Preamplifier combines inventive power supply and audio circuitry, an elegant architecture, and a suite of innovative features.

The breadth of the Relentless Preamplifier design requires the use of three separate chassis – a dedicated audio chassis for each channel and a separate power supply centered between the two to keep the power supply feeds as short as possible. The three chassis interlock through special mechanisms in the mounting feet of each chassis. Thirty pin interlocking 20-amp, gold plated connectors eliminate wiring normally used for these applications and the associated anomalies that can occur. This distinctive construction isolates the audio signal completely, both physically and electrically from the power and digital control sections. Physical isolation offers additional room to maximize both power and audio circuitry. This monaural structure also separates the two audio channels from each other ensuring the ultimate channel separation.

Power Supply Highlights

Positioned between the two audio channels, the power supply makes use of extensive electrical and magnetic shielding to keep radiated interference out of critical preamplifier circuits. Internal line conditioning circuitry filters RF noise on the AC power and compensates for asymmetric power waveforms and DC on the mains. Power for the preamplifier stages comes from two 150 VA toroidal transformer – one dedicated to the analog circuitry and one for the digital and control circuitry. These transformers drive an 8-amp bridge rectifier and 26,400 microfarads of filter capacitance. The two regulators for the analog stages are scaled-down versions of those used in the Relentless Mono amplifier.

Audio Circuitry Highlights

The input stage in each mono preamplifier is the result of a design experiment for a circuit that hadn’t been used in any previous D’Agostino preamplifier. The audio circuit topology starts with a completely unique new discrete differential FET input stage featuring a voltage input signal capability of an extraordinary 30 volts. With an input impedance of over 1 MOhm, the Relentless Preamplifier’s front end is immune to source related electrical issues. In normal operation, component heating can lead to performance and sonic degradation. Developed specifically for the Relentless Preamplifier, a unique

circuit maintains a stable bias so that temperature related anomalies are offset thus preserving performance during extended listening.

Featuring only balanced XLR inputs the Relentless Preamplifier topology rejects common-mode input noise over an unusually wide bandwidth. All signal gain is realized in the current domain using proprietary multiple-output current mirrors with nearly 30 times the linearity of other designs. Executed with four-layer circuit boards for superior signal quality, the use of four-layer boards dramatically reduces distortion and propagation levels as compared to the more commonplace, two-layer boards.

Analog and digital circuit elements are isolated, including ground planes, from each other. Where necessary, digital control signals are optically coupled to analog circuits. The signal switching relays are hermetically sealed and use gold-plated contacts for maximum signal integrity.

Utilizing no negative feedback anywhere, core D’Agostino circuit concepts include a signal path that is fully complementary, direct coupled, and balanced from input to output achieving a frequency response flat to 120 kHz.

“The new Relentless Preamplifier is a major moment in our pursuit of making audio components that deliver the most musical presentation possible. It has been a more than four-decade pursuit and the Relentless Preamplifier is a crowning jewel of my career.” Said Dan D’Agostino, Co-Founder and Chief Engineer.

Separate but Linked Units

Arguably, the most striking element of the Relentless Preamplifier is the pair of volume controls fronting the two audio chassis. Volume control circuits are often overlooked, if not actively diminished, in preamplifier designs. This is not the case in the Relentless Preamplifier. Each volume control is constructed using 14 separate metal components ensuring the smoothest response and control of the military-grade, high-linearity solid-state switches and discrete precision resistors employed in the volume circuit. The bandwidth and transient response of the Relentless Preamplifier is completely unaffected by the volume setting. The volume settings are displayed via the elegant swiss watch inspired volume wands or can be displayed numerically, from 0 to 99.

Dual Zone Functionality

The Relentless Preamplifier is a two source/two zone preamplifier. This means that the Relentless Preamplifier can simultaneously control the switching and volume of two sources in two separate rooms or zones. This may be two analog sources or when equipped with the streaming digital module, one digital source and one analog source. In a one zone system, either volume control will adjust volume in the main room or Zone 1. If two zone operation is desired, the upper volume control manages the Zone 1 volume and the lower volume control adjusts the Zone 2 volume.

New Bidirectional remote

Housed in machined aluminum and copper, the Relentless Preamplifier remote control is a comfortable design, operated via touch pad. Bluetooth Six technology extends the usable range of the remote control and eliminates the line of sight issues that plague conventional infrared designs. New bi-directional remote functionality reflects all adjustments made on the Relentless Preamplifier front panel to the remote control’s display screen including input, volume, and balance selections.

Optional Digital Streaming Module (DSM)

The Relentless Preamplifier is the first D’Agostino preamplifier to offer an optional DSM. This digital enhancement adds connectivity for legacy sources, USB functionality, and premier streaming capability. Field upgradeable, the DSM adds SPDIF coaxial, Optical, USB-A, and RJ-45 and Wi-Fi network inputs. For latency free playback of high-resolution network content, 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet is supported.

Customized apps for iOS devices provide easy control of music collections, streaming content, and unit control. Subscription streaming services Tidal, Qobuz, and Spotify are native within the app. With appropriately encoded music files, MQA decoding is standard. Additionally, Roon Music management is also available as an alternative music management program.

Completely isolated from the analog circuitry, the DSM is housed in the power supply/control chassis. Requiring three separate circuit boards the core element is a pair of DACs configured in differential mode with each one configured to handle the positive and negative signals for each channel. Capable of handling today’s highest resolution sources, PCM signals up to 32 bit/384 KHz and DSD signals up to DSD256 (11.2MHz) are decoded natively. Often overlooked or downplayed, the analog section of a DAC significantly impacts the final sonic performance of digital music. Internal balanced connections carry the final analog signal to the connecting feet and onward to each audio chassis. From here, the analog music signal takes advantage of the entire power and analog circuitry within the three chassis of the Relentless Preamplifier.

The Relentless Preamplifier is $149,500 USD and will begin shipping in November 2021 in silver, black, or custom painted finishes. The Digital Streaming Module is a $14,950 option and can be ordered at time of purchase or added later.

For more information on Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems and its products, please visit dandagostino.com.


8/28/21

Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond – Updating a Classic

 


The engineers at England’s famed Bowers & Wilkins have been at it for a long time. 1966 to be exact. The company’s SRE (Steyning Research Establishment) is where much of the audio magic happens. In the late 90s, B&W introduced their now ubiquitous 800 Series of speakers, including several floorstanders, a standmount, and a pair of home theater center channels.

Not ones to let technology pass them by, the engineering team has released a comprehensive update of the entire 800 Series line. Everything from cabinets, to crossovers, to speaker construction has been touched, with spectacular results. Feel free to geek out on the official press release below. Pricing ranges from $5,500 for the HTM82 D4 center channel up to $35,000/pr for the flagship 801 D4.

Cheers!

 

Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond. Excellence. Evolved.

How do you improve on the world’s most successful and iconic range of high-end loudspeakers? It’s a challenge that has occupied the past six years for the finest minds at SRE, home of the world-renowned Bowers & Wilkins engineering team. Their solution is to combine continuous improvement of every component in each design with innovative and proprietary technology that re-imagines the fundamental basics of a conventional loudspeaker drive unit: the new, unique and revolutionary Biomimetic Suspension.

The new 800 Series Diamond range continues to feature seven models, beginning with the two-way 805 D4 stand-mount speaker. That’s joined by a series of three-way floorstanding models, including the 804 D4, 803 D4 and 802 D4. For the flagship model in the range, Bowers & Wilkins is pleased to reintroduce an iconic name to its portfolio, with the launch of 801 D4 to replace the existing 800 D3. For home theatre use, the HTM81 D4 and HTM82 D4 provide a pair of high-performance centre channel speakers to complete the range.

Every new model in the range combines hundreds of detail improvements plus several entirely new technologies to create the most transparent, detailed and natural-sounding series of loudspeakers Bowers & Wilkins has ever produced.

Refined Design

Refined, elegant cabinet proportions plus luxurious, premium detailing combine to make this the most premium 800 Series Diamond range yet.

The first and most obvious change is the addition of a fourth finish to the line-up. The new range now includes a Satin Walnut finish, joining the established selection of Gloss Black, White and Satin Rosenut.

Every stereo model in the range also enjoys a significantly upgraded cabinet design with an all-new rigid, cast aluminium top section – replacing the previous wooden version – to offer even greater stiffness and thus improve cabinet quietness still further. In a luxurious touch, the profile of the new aluminium top is finished in ‘Leather by Connolly’ – in black for dark cabinets (Black, Satin Rosenut) and light grey for lighter finishes (White, Satin Walnut).

Every model in the range adopts a revised version of the iconic Solid Body Tweeter-on-Top housing, with a new, elongated tube-loading system to produce an even more open sound for high frequencies. This supremely stiff enclosure deftly resists unwanted resonance and is an exceptional acoustic form – especially when combined with a new two-point decoupling system that isolates it from the rest of the loudspeaker

more effectively than ever. As before, the Solid Body Tweeter is milled from a single solid block of aluminium and now, it uses an anodised finish, either dark or light depending on the cabinet colour, to celebrate that fact.

Finally, the range introduces three entirely new cabinet forms. The 805 D4 and 804 D4 stereo models adopt the reverse-wrap cabinet design first introduced in 2015 for the larger speakers in the series. This new form reduces the profile of each cabinet’s front baffle while dramatically increasing the overall rigidity of the complete system. It also allows crossovers to now be mounted in dedicated spaces on the rear of each speaker, housed behind the rigid aluminium spines.

The 804 D4 builds on the potential of its new configuration by adding a downward-firing port with an integral aluminium plinth – again, much like the form used by the larger floorstanding speakers in the range. Alongside the 805 D4 and 804 D4, the all-new HTM82 D4 centre speaker adopts the reverse-wrap cabinet form of its siblings, for superior acoustic and mechanical performance.

New technologies

Continuum™ Cone, FST & Biomimetic Suspension

The result of an eight-year research programme, the composite Continuum Cone – used for both midrange and mid/bass applications – is already famed for its open, transparent, and neutral performance. When used as a midrange drive unit in Bowers & Wilkins floorstanding speakers, it is always combined with our Fixed Suspension Transducer (FST) midrange technology, which carefully avoids the coloration that traditional cone surrounds can introduce.

Now, Bowers & Wilkins has combined the twin benefits of Continuum and FST with an all-new advance that transforms the other key element of a drive unit’s normal operation: the fabric spider. Over decades of continuous development to nearly all areas of speaker design, the fabric spider, a key element in the suspension of every conventional loudspeaker drive unit, has remained largely unchanged – until now.

The all-new composite Biomimetic Suspension replaces the conventional fabric spider with a minimalist composite suspension system that revolutionises midrange cone performance by greatly reducing unwanted air pressure – aka sound – that a conventional fabric spider can generate, removing its unpredictable, non-linear effects. The result is unprecedented midrange transparency and realism.

Decoupled Midrange & Turbine™ Head

Bowers & Wilkins combines all the performance-enhancing benefits of its Continuum Cone, FST midrange technology and Biomimetic Suspension with careful isolation of the complete midrange assembly from the rest of the surrounding cabinet. In all three-way models, midrange drive units include a highly stiff all-aluminium chassis featuring Tuned Mass Dampers (TMD) to quieten any resonance. These complete drive units and motor systems are then isolated on sprung-mounted decoupling mounts, further restricting the flow of vibration into the assembly.

Finally, 803 D4, 802 D4 and 801 D4 include the massively stiff all-aluminium Turbine Head enclosure for their midrange drive units, providing not only an outstanding acoustic form but also even better isolation – since the head assembly is itself further decoupled from the bass enclosure below.

The HTM81 D4 and HTM82 D4 introduce a new and similar concept but inside their cabinets: each centre-channel model now features an internal aluminium enclosure that provides a stiff, well-isolated housing for the midrange drive unit and its decoupling mechanism.

Solid Body Tweeter

To minimise the unwanted transfer of resonance into each model’s Diamond Dome tweeters, an exceptionally stiff enclosure is required. The new 800 Series Diamond introduces a revised version of the iconic Solid Body Tweeter housing; this continues to be machined from a solid piece of aluminium, but now it features an elongated form (almost 30cm/12in long) with a longer internal tube-loading system.

The new Solid Body Tweeter assembly is now decoupled from the speaker body or Turbine Head (depending on model) in two locations rather than one: this notably improves spaciousness and openness. At the same time, the tweeter’s motor assembly has been re-engineered to allow the drive unit to ‘breathe’ more effectively with no loss of performance. The result is a notable reduction in the resonant frequency behind the tweeter dome.

Reverse-Wrap Cabinet & Matrix™

Matrix has been a core Bowers & Wilkins technology for more than 30 years and has also been continually developed throughout that time. An internal structure of interlocking panels that brace the loudspeaker internally in all directions, Matrix helps to make speaker cabinets rigid, inert and quiet.

The 805 D4 and 804 D4 now feature the reverse wrap speaker cabinet previously reserved for the larger floor-standing 800 Series Diamond models. Each model now has a stiff aluminium plate on the inside face of its cabinet, bracing its baffle against resonance. Inside, both models also feature updates to their Matrix bracing, with thicker panels made from solid plywood rather than the previous MDF, reinforced by aluminium bracing sections.

Every stereo model in the range also features the new cast aluminium top replacing the previous wooden design, dramatically increasing the rigidity of the speaker enclosure. As before, drive units are housed in stiff aluminium pods mounted to the baffle of the speaker while crossover units are fitted to equally stiff aluminium spines running up the rear of the cabinet. Finally, 801D4 introduces a steel plate in its base section around the port – again, all in the name of adding stiffness to the enclosure and further quietening its operation.

Aluminium Plinth

The 804 D4 now joins the other floor-standing models in the 800 Series Diamond range by offering a downwards-firing Flowport bass port, exiting on to a new, stiffer solid aluminium plinth complete with a constrained layer steel damping sheet designed to offer a rock-solid foundation and to control unwanted resonance. The 804 D4 also has greatly upgraded spikes and feet, with huge M12 spikes that are both more stable and stiffer than the outgoing M6 designs.

803 D4, 802 D4 and 801 D4 use the same arrangement of downwards-firing Flowport, solid aluminium plinth and constrained layer steel damping, but retain the wheel-plus-spike configuration introduced in 2015, making each model far easier to manoeuvre to the perfect listening position than any rival design.

Aerofoil™ Cone

The result of advance computer modelling, the Aerofoil Cone is a composite bass cone with a varying thickness designed to offer maximum stiffness where it is most needed while preserving a low mass – thanks to its carbon-fibre skin and light syntactic foam core.

Alongside revised and optimised motor systems, each floorstanding speaker in the 800 Series Diamond range now combines its Aerofoil Cones with a new foam Anti-Resonance Plug, which gently braces the voice coil and lowers distortion as the cone moves through its operating range, ensuring even cleaner bass.

Together, all these advances deliver unprecedented performance. Available globally from September 1st, the new 800 Series Diamond is the finest range of loudspeakers Bowers & Wilkins has ever created.


8/16/21

Lamborghini Countach Hybrid, Oh My!

 

Stephan Winkelmann and the folks at Automobili Lamborghini are clearly having a blast these days. The Urus SUV is selling well and filling the coffers with cash, and low-production design exercises continue to roll off the assembly line. The latest supercar was fifty years in the making.

To celebrate the half-century anniversary of the debut of one of the most iconic supercars of all time, Lamborghini is paying homage to the Countach.

Officially christened the Countach LPI 800-4, this king-of-the-asphalt beast has all the presence required for its intended purpose.  The exterior manages a modern visage while paying homage to retro design cues of the original rocket from years gone by. Exotic vibes, in that typical Lamborghini shout, drip from this hyper hybrid.

Did I say hybrid?

‘deed I did.  Powered by a screaming v12 nestled behind your ears, Lamborghini engineers decided to add an electric motor producing 33 horsepower for a total power output of 802 bhp. 

The interior maintains current Lamborghini design cues, albeit ramped up a notch in wow factor. It will be a special place to conduct business.

And now for the bad news. The folks in Sant’ Agata Bolognese are only making 112 of these collectible marvels. And to top that off, they are all spoken for, at a cool $2.6 million per.   

Perchance to dream…  

Cheers!


7/4/21

Weber Workshops EG-1 Electric Coffee Grinder – The Perfect Grind!

 



For the do-it-yourself coffee connoisseur, caffeine addict, or java junkie, Weber Workshops has what may be the ultimate electric grinder.

Hello, EG-1..!

Designed and engineered to survive the zombie apocalypse, the EG-1 Electric Coffee Grinder is a true showpiece product. Described as a flat burr grinder for both espresso-style and pour-over preparations, the EG-1 provides a step of perfection in your coffee preparation.

Weber Workshops provides a full line of products for the coffee cognoscenti. These tools are works of art from an industrial design perspective. The craftsmanship on display is nothing short of remarkable.

The EG-1 grinder ships with a Blind Shaker and pre-installed CORE  burrs, and is available in a brushed stainless finish or Onyx black.


If you craft your own brew and aim for perfection in the cup, these products deserve serious consideration. Highly recommended!

This lifetime of perfect grounds can be yours for $3,495.00.

Cheers!




6/28/21

Resorts World Las Vegas – Sin City’s Newest

 


Las Vegas is back, post-pandemic, and open for business. Witness the opening of the shiny new Resorts World Las Vegas, a 4.3 billion shot in the arm.

Set on a whopping 88-acre parcel of hallowed Vegas strip real estate, graveyard of the iconic Stardust, construction for RW Las Vegas began in May of 2015. Literally three Hilton branded properties in one, Resorts World consists of the 1,774-room Las Vegas Hilton, the 1,496-room Conrad Las Vegas, and the 236-suite Crockford. Each hotel has a separate lobby and distinct vibe.

Of course, there are plenty of outlets for your entertainment dollar. The 4,700-seat Theatre at Resorts World will open on November 5 with none other than Celine Dion headlining. Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Carrie Underwood are scheduled to follow. Zouk Nightclub, capable of handling 2,000 raving partiers, will host world-famous DJs, while Ayu Dayclub hosts the daylight revelers.

In the mood for food? Several signature restaurants abound including Bar Zazu, Viva, Brezza, and Carversteak. You will also find a load of casual restaurants and Famous Foods, a pan-Asian-inspired collection of street food vendors.

If you want to roll the dice, the central gaming hall is the size of two football fields and chock-full of slot machines and other articles of the trade. Cashless wagering is part of the high-tech vibe at Resorts World, as players use a phone app and wireless wallet to give away their cash. Check-in is also ticketless. Scan your QR code and you are off and running. The app even guides your dining options, suggesting a dessert here, or a beverage there.

All-in-all an impressive effort from the Malaysia-based Genting Group, owner and operator of casinos and resort properties worldwide.

In the mood for Sin City? The RW Las Vegas may be just the ticket.

Cheers..!


6/27/21

Ferrari 296 GTB – Hybrid Stunner

 


Batteries, batteries, and more batteries…

The way of the future in the automotive world. Truly a sad eventuality for gearheads such as myself. For now, I will take solace in the fact that Hybrid technology will keep the fossil-fuel-burning portion of automobile powerplants around for another year or ten.

Ferrari is the latest manufacturer to up their battery footprint with the introduction of the 296 GTB. A direct replacement for the F8 Tributo which sported a V-8, the 296 GTB utilizes a twin-turbo V-6 mated to a floor-mounted 7.45 kWh battery energizing an electric motor producing 164 horsepower. Combined with the high-revving V-6 (8,500 rpm), total output rings the bell at 819 horsepower and 545 lb-ft of torque.

The car will scoot...!

Along with the battery pack, there is a mountain of Maranello tech debuting on the 296. 5,000-psi fuel injection, 180,000 rpm turbos, new clutch technology, and a new six-way chassis dynamic sensor unit are part of the package. You cannot see the doodads, but after a drive, you will know they are there.


What you do see is a step up in design language from recent Ferrari forms. The 296 GTB manages a much cleaner flow to the visual aesthetic. While not quite as lovely as Ferrari’s Roma, I approve of what I see here, with fewer nips and tucks than the F8. The interior continues with an evolution of the recent cockpit fitments and is a fine place to conduct the business of piloting this Italian thoroughbred.

Expect pricing for the 296 GTB to ring in just below $300K.

Of note, the folks at McLaren just beat the Italians to market with their V-6 hybrid hypercar, the Artura. It is only a matter of time before the comparisons are made. The Italian has more power, the Brit has less weight. Either will be a worthy drive.

Cheers to batteries? The future of the hypercar is here.




6/19/21

Moon by Simaudio Upgrades 280D Streaming DAC

 

Canadian audio industry veteran Simaudio, building audio bits since 1980, has recently updated their 280D Streaming DAC for even more connectivity options. Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2 join the formidable list of connection options. The 280D is a fine starting point to build out a digital-based audio system and comes with the Moon ten-year warranty, top-shelf engineering, and first-rate build quality. MSRP is listed as $3,000.00. The details are below in the official press release:

 ______________   


“MOON’s 280D streaming DAC has been upgraded and updated to increase its already formidable connectivity options. At the heart of the 280D is the industry leading MiND2 streaming module, now featuring Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2, plus Tidal Masters, Deezer Hi-Fi, HIGHRESAUDIO* and Qobuz Sublime+ music services.

The MOON 280D is designed to deliver an outstanding high-resolution streaming experience from these integrated music services and its extraordinary digital engine decodes native DSD up to DSD256, as well as PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz, including DXD. The fully balanced analogue stage features an exceptional third order filter for lifelike transparency. It is MQA certified, Roon Ready and has Bluetooth aptX connectivity.

The integrated MiND2 module (MOON intelligent Network Device) provides a superlative way of organising, streaming, and listening to music and allows playback of all the most important music file formats.

The 280D can be operated by remote control or MOON’s intuitive app, the MOON MiND Controller, which is available in iOS & Android versions. This beautifully designed app is simple to use and allows music files to be played from digital services, computers and NAS drives. It is regularly updated by MOON to provide extra features to the existing list.

A couple of the most popular recent additions to the app are: Tidal’s My Mix, which creates the perfect playlist for a listener by using an algorithm to comb the Tidal library based on their most recent listening patterns and saved music collection. And Spotify Connect, which is opening the door to the world of MOON sound quality for the 350 million Spotify users by linking to the Spotify app.

Extended system control is available via SimLink when connected to other MOON products. As well as seamless connectivity and intuitive operation, the 280D delivers the renowned natural and detailed MOON sound.”

 

FEATURES

  • Fully asynchronous
  • Supports native DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 (USB only).
  • Supports PCM up to 384kHz (32-bit on USB only).
  • Seven digital inputs: AES/EBU x 1, S/PDIF x 2, TosLink x 2, USB x 1 and Qualcomm aptX audio for Bluetooth x 1 – for usewith virtually any digital
  • An eighth digital input is through the MiND 2 streaming module (via WiFi or Ethernet).
  • Front panel LED indicators to show active input and input signal PCM sampling and DSD
  • Analogue stage: fully balanced differential circuit for increased dynamic range and headroom and higher resolution, aswell as improved signal-to-noise
  • AirPlay 2
  • Roon
  • Tidal Masters, Deezer Hi-Fi, HIGHRESAUDIO and Qobuz Sublime+ music
  • MQA
  • Spotify Connect
  • Multi-room synchronised

 Available in a black or signature MOON two-tone finish, the 280D is designed and manufactured in Canada and comes with a 10-year warranty.




2022 Porsche 911 GT3 – Ultimate!

 


Porsche’s iconic 911 has a long and revered history. Known as the most livable supercar, continued refinements and engineering gee-wizardry have kept it at the front of the pack over the years. For those of us that love Porches and truly love to drive, the folks at Zuffenhausen have created the most lust-worthy variant extant; the 911 GT3.

They did so by targeting two areas: the engine and the front suspension. The 4.0-liter flat-six is naturally aspirated – no turbochargers in sight – and this free-revving powerplant spins to 9000 rpm in a mechanical symphony of epic proportions. A revised valvetrain, six individual throttle bodies, and a lightweight performance exhaust system are all pieces to the puzzle. Rated at 502 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque, this powerplant can pair with Porsche’s ubiquitous seven-speed PDK transmission or a six-speed manual for those that prefer three pedals.

And now for that front-suspension bit. For the first time in a production 911, Porsche has fitted a control-arm front suspension, essentially lifting it from their racecars. The 911 lineup has always owned stupendous steering and front-end feel, but this change elevates it to otherworldly. Ride quality, while expectedly firm, manages to be surprisingly comfortable.


All the other 911 goodies are present here as well, and of course, you can spec and customize this beastie out to your heart’s (and wallet’s) content. The GT3 is offered in two flavors; the standard spec adorned with a swan-neck rear wing, or the slightly more incognito Touring version, which does away with the rear wing and some high-speed downforce.

Pricing starts at $162,450 for this bit of everyday driving Nirvana. If you love to drive, you will not be disappointed. Ultimate!

Cheers…


6/8/21

ELAC Uni-Fi Reference – Affordable Sonic Stunner

 

A member of my favorites club in the category of affordable loudspeakers, ELAC is releasing their Uni-Fi Reference line of home speakers. Essentially a reboot of the Uni-Fi 2.0 series, the Reference line utilizes new speaker assemblies for the concentric driver and woofers, a rethought 3-way crossover, and improved cabinet construction and finishes to present a speaker lineup with “significant performance improvements”, per James Krodel from ELAC.

Details from the ELAC press release are as follows:

“Newly Developed 4” Concentric Driver with Cast Chassis: A wide-surround tweeter enhances its low and high frequency extension allowing for improved blending with the midrange. An entirely new midrange driver with large diameter voice coil, vented rear spider and new neodymium magnet allows for better excursion and control of midrange frequencies. A new cast chassis was designed to minimize reflections back to the cone resulting in better clarity.

Newly developed 5.25” and 6.5” Aluminum Woofers with Cast Chassis: Drastically improving low-end reproduction, this newly developed bass driver features a single piece compound curvature aluminum cone with a large rear vented magnet delivering improved linearity and better low frequency response of any previous Uni-Fi bookshelf speaker.

Sophisticated 3-way Crossover: An entirely new design improves response linearity, improves driver integration, and delivers a true 6-ohm nominal impedance for compatibility with virtually all AV receivers.


Full Perimeter Bracing: Reducing the speaker cabinets influence on audio quality the Uni-Fi Reference line implements full perimeter bracing significantly reducing cabinet vibration and cabinet coloration.

Front Firing Ports – Placing the vents on the front of the bookshelf and center speakers allows for greater freedom of placement, even in restricted places like a cabinet or up close to a wall.

All three new models will be available in late-June at ELAC retailers nationwide.”

Pricing starts at $999.98 /pr for the UBR62 bookshelf model, $599.98 /ea for the UCR52 center channel, and $1,999.96 /pr for the UFR52 floorstander. If this is your speaker budget, these ELACs will be worth an audition.

Cheers!


6/7/21

Maserati MC20 – A Truly Super Sports Car

 


Things have been quiet at Maserati headquarters in Modena, Italy recently.

Or has it?

The Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans and the Levante SUV have soldiered on with little change lately. It turns out that behind the curtain, the Italians have been working on their latest entry into the stratospheric supercar club.

May I introduce the stunning Maserati MC20.


In roughly 24 months of development time, aided by an overhaul of the R&D division and the production facility, the team at Maserati has produced a gem of a car. Part of the design brief was to minimize wings and airflow add-ons and preserve a clean and pure visual presence while maintaining significant downforce. 2,000+ hours of development time in the Dallara racing factory wind tunnel, along with hours of computer modeling yielded a shape at once modern and classic Maserati. Functional beauty, if you will.

Another highlight is the hand-built mid-mounted V-6 powering this super sled. Eschewing the more common V8 configuration used in multiple supercars, this six-cylinder marvel is a true revelation. The Italians were so smitten with their work they named the engine the Nettuno (Neptune). Twelve combustion chambers with accompanying spark plugs, dry-sump lubrication, and double overhead camshafts with variable valve timing are part of the recipe. This twin-turbo 3.0-liter motor produces 621 ponies and 538 lb-ft of twist, propelling the MC20 to 60 in under 3.0 seconds and 124 in 8.8 clicks. 

Don’t blink!

The interior is Maserati’s take on modern minimalism, providing a driver-centric cockpit from which to operate.  Outward visibility is top-notch, complimented by a 10.25-inch instrument cluster and matching infotainment touchscreen. The Italian luxury vibe even bleeds over to the audio system with my friends at Sonus Faber providing an optional 12-speaker powerhouse.

The driving experience might be the best thing since sliced pizza, depending on where you source your pie.  World-class steering, suspension tuning par excellence, and that sweet six powerplant combine to make the latest trident a memorable drive.  An experience to be savored, again and again.

Pricing has not been officially announced, but expect an acquisition fee in the range of 220K.  This is an unexpected treat from Maserati.  They are fully back in the game!

Cheers! 


5/24/21

D’Agostino Progression Series Amplifiers, Take Two

 


Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems releases the second generation of their lauded Progression Series Amplifiers. Having been a fan of DDMAS products for quite some time (previous articles here and here), I look forward to sampling the newest amplifiers from one of the icons of the audiophile world. Read on for techno-geek details. Cheers..!

 

CAVE CREEK, AZ, MAY 24, 2021 Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems today announced the second generation of Progression Series Amplifiers. First shipped in 2016, the new Progression models take advantage of technology advancements and circuit concepts utilized in the flagship Relentless Mono Amplifier.

There is no mistaking the D’Agostino family styling of the new Progression M550 Mono Amplifier and the Progression S350 Stereo Amplifier. Immediately grabbing one’s attention is the new heat sink design. Drawn directly from the Relentless Mono Amplifier, this highly efficient elliptical form dramatically improves the cooling ability of the design and assures that the Progression Amplifiers run safely and reliably even when delivering its full rated power. Sporting the flair of the original Progression Series, the new Progression M550 Mono Amplifier features upgrades to the input stage, output stage, and heat sink design. The greater cooling ability of the heat sink structure permits greater output power. The Progression M550 Mono Amplifier delivers 550 watts into 8 ohms, doubling to 1,100 watts into 4 ohms and doubling again to 2,200 watts into 2 ohms. Similarly, the Progression S350 Stereo Amplifier outputs 350 watts per channel into 8 Ohms and then doubles to 700 and 1,400 into 4 and 2 Ohms, respectively. Both amplifiers employ 48 output transistors powered by a nearly 2,000 VA power supply transformer and 100,000 microfarads of power supply storage capacitance.

A new power device provides the foundation for an upgraded output stage. This new transistor, first used in the Relentless Mono Amplifier, extends high frequency response, increases power handling by a factor of four and features tighter tolerance gain matching between complementary NPN/PNP pairs.  A wider safe operating area and superior gain linearity provides greater thermal stability throughout the amplifiers’ power delivery. Coupling the new output device to the high efficiency heat sink design affords an increase in operating bias. The higher bias specification has increased the Class A operating range of the amplifiers to 70 watts for the Progression M550 and 45 watts for the Progression S350. The result is improved instrument timbre and tonal reproduction for a great percentage of listening.

 “I am thrilled with the outcome of the new Progression M550 and S350 Amplifiers. Our senior engineer, Burhan Coskun, led this development and he exceeded the sonic and power performance enhancements I specified.” Said Dan D’Agostino, Co-Founder and Chief Engineer.

The Progression M550 and S350 include major revisions to the input topology. The new Progression amplifier’s distortion, signal/noise ratio, channel separation, and bandwidth measurements have all improved. New transistors handle six times the power of the previous components and a new DC coupling circuity has improved low frequency performance and extended the bandwidth of the amplifiers. Coupling this advanced front end to the enhanced output stage has improved the dynamic impact, detail retrieval, and spatial integrity of the amplifier’s playback.

 Maintained from the original amplifier is the Super Rail topology. Simple in description but complex in execution, the Super Rail, counterintuitively, uses additional higher voltage power supplies in the input stage as compared to the main output stage. This higher voltage front end provides exceptional headroom for the output circuitry.  Nearly ideal output stage operation results. 

The iconic look of the D’Agostino power meters, inspired by the elegant faces of classic Swiss watches, continues with the Progression series. The Progression amplifiers include a 180-degree needle swing meter design driven by a high-speed ballistic circuit that enhances the meter’s responsiveness. The longer swing allows the needle to cover the amplifier’s entire output range.

The Progression amplifiers are available immediately and are available in silver, black, or custom painted finishes. The Progression M550 Mono Amplifier is $44,950/pr and the Progression S350 Stereo Amplifier is $25,950.

For more information on Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems and its products, please visit dandagostino.com.