A real quick one with 2 big highlights from CES which is running in Las Vegas at the moment -
Chord Introduce their new ‘Qutest’ DAC
So whenever Chord Electronics announce a new DAC it is always big news and this is no different as their new DAC called the ‘Qutest’ is the replacement for one of our most popular Dac’s, the 2Qute, this new version has a funky new look, is based on the Hugo 2 Rob Watts Dac Chip and also has user switchable filters and 3 different output voltages and priced at £1195 this is going to be another huge success for Chord.
The phone has been red hot today with people placing orders so with limited numbers available this month please feel free to give us a ring to place your order, if you have a 2Qute and would like to P/X it for a Qutest please feel free to get in touch also as we give very competitive trade in prices.
Sennheiser Announce the HD 820 Closed Back Headphones!
I have a feeling that these are going to quickly become the reference for closed back headphones and are really going to move the game on much like the original HD800′s did when launched a few years ago.
Promising HD800 levels of sound quality in a closed back really is saying something but if anyone can then Sennheiser are are the guys to do it, also I have to say that they are also the coolest closed back headphones I have seen, using Gorilla Glass so you can see the drivers inside but this glass is also used to help the sound keep that open presentation, they just look stunning.
I am not sure just yet when they are going to be available but we are taking pre-orders now, I have a few pairs on order so if you’d like to get a pair reserved from the limited supply that will initially be available please give me a ring, we just need a £200 deposit.
Firstly I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, let’s see what 2018 has in store for us all, I’m sure there will be some great new Hifi and music to look forward to, already got a few gigs booked :-)
So our original virtual tour proved very popular but I think it is fair to say that a lot has changed at HFL since that was made around 5 years ago, the headphones were still upstairs which seems like forever ago so now that the new showrooms are finished we thought it would be a good idea to get Andrew in from Visual Impact to re-do everything so please find the link below for the new virtual tour of HFL V2, please feel free to step inside, have a good look around and stay as long as you like :-)
Also Jason has now finished taking photo’s of all the HFL showrooms including our original upstairs room which has just had a lick of paint to darken the walls down a touch to help with projection when using it as a cinema room, all that is left now to finish our make over will be the new website which should be launching very shortly all being well, watch this space.
Our trusty ‘ol demo room
Same Room In Cinema Mode
Naim Lounge at Launch with Statement and PMC BB5 SE’s
Naim Lounge now with 500 System and Wilson Audio Yvette’s
Downstairs Demo Room
The Highend Room
Finally Highend Headphones.
Hopefully we have most bases covered for everyone who loves their music and wants a HiFi or headphones to enjoy it.
Both Wendy and myself just wanted to send everyone a a huge thanks for your support over the last 12 months which really did help make 2017 another awesome year for both HiFi Lounge and Highend Headphones, for me I still find it amazing that there really are this many people that love their music and HiFi, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it so thanks again all and I know I have said this before but I really do believe that we have the best customers :-)
Expansion Into New Showrooms
I guess it is only natural to look back over the last 12 months at this time of year and for us I guess one of the major highlights has to be the start of the work for our new showrooms and then seeing them finished, inevitably they took a lot longer than originally planned but we couldn’t be happier with the end results.
Basically the Naim Lounge went from this -
To This -
And the Highend Room From this -
To This -
Another Great Year of Open Days
Again we had some great open days with brilliant turn outs as ever so thanks to everyone who came along, we started with the launch of our Naim Lounge with the Naim Statement and PMC BB5 SE’s really testing out the acoustics of the new room, another highlight was the Devialet Lost Recording evening where we played a Sarah Vaughan Lacquer costing around £7000 that could only be played once and it really did sound amazing.
Then we had our Boys Toys Day II, although the weather was a little hit and miss it was still a brilliant day where we met at HFL for breakfast then went onto dCS to hear some really incredible HiFi, hopefully do another one in 2018, got an interesting idea if we can pull it off so watch this space.
Finally we celebrated our 5th Anniversary in October with a brilliant day where it really was great to see so many familiar faces but the star of the day had to be Peter Thomas, the founder of PMC Speakers, who run our Highend Room all day with an amazing selection of his rare recordings, we really couldn’t fit everyone in the room.
HiFi Road Trips - It’s a Tough Life!
So both Wendy and myself had 2 brilliant trips this year, I was taken to Utah for a Wilson Audio trip I will never forget, the real highlight was a visit to Dave Wilson’s home where I got to hear the incredible WAMM Speakers, without a doubt the most incredible HiFi I have ever heard, if I had a spare 1 million Pounds then I know where it would be going.
Wendy also went galavanting abroad with a trip to the Sennheiser factory in Germany, not sure that was such a good idea though as she ordered a £54,000 HE-1 Orpheus headphone system for the Highend Headphones showroom which should be here early next year all being well, that’s the last time I let her out on her own :-)
Album of the Year 2017
Again it has been a pretty good year for music, thank god it hasn’t seen so many artists pass away like 2016, my favourite albums came down to a choice of 4 really, I’m sure the first one will make people groan a little but for me my most played albums have been James Blunt ‘The Afterlove’, Lorde with ‘Melodrama’, London Grammar’s ‘Truth Is A Beautiful Thing’ and Liam Gallagher’s ‘As You Were’ but the clear winner is easily Lorde for me, such a brilliant album with every song being superb but for me the standout track has got to be ‘Lady Writer’ which really does still give me goosebumps so I highly recommend this if you haven’t tried it, I still can’t believe she is only 21, amazing talent. I also want to give a shout out to ‘Baby Driver’, most definitely my favourite film of the year, the 1st 10 Minutes must be one of the best opening scenes ever plus it has an amazing soundtrack a very cool film.
2017 HiFi Highlights.
Another year with some truly great new products like Chord’s amazing Hugo 2 and quite incredible Blu II, this has really made CD playback relevant for me again, the stunning dCS Network bridge, the beautiful new Sonus Faber Homage range of speakers, another great turntable from Rega with the Planar 6, the brilliant PMC COR amplifier and at long last Naim finally got the new Uniti Range to market and I think it is fair to say it was definitely worth the wait, so all in all not too bad a year really, I am sure next year we will see some more great new products, saying that I have just ordered some new products that I have been promising myself since launching HFL, more news in January :-)
In a nice way to end the year we have just found out that we have been awarded ‘Best Retail Experience 2017’ by PMC Speakers for the 4th year running which is fantastic news, thanks PMC, we love you too :-) press release below.
Best retail experience 2017 – HiFi Lounge
Another multiple winner, HiFi Lounge has now achieved the “Best Retail Experience’ award for four years running, and once again was awarded purely on the basis of customer feedback. the Dunton, Bedfordshire, business has been widely commended for its very warm welcome, stunning surroundings and contagious enthusiasm for PMC loudspeakers.
So there we go, as we say goodbye to 2017 both Wendy and myself would just like to wish everyone a Brilliant Christmas and a Prosperous and Healthy 2018.
Looking forward to seeing what 2018 has to throw at us :-)
I have to say a big thanks to OPPO UK who have just popped in with both the new OPPO PM-1 headphones and HA-1 headphone amp so that I could spend the afternoon playing with both as I couldn’t make the launch last Friday as I was setting up for our PMC/Bryston event.
It really isn’t everyday that a new brand enters the headphone arena, we all know that OPPO have proved their worth with their stunning Blu-Ray players over the last few years but the headphone market is a very competitive place at the moment, particularly at the highend so as a big fan of what OPPO have achieved with their disc spinners I have been looking forward to both these products for some time now.
Obviously they come with the fantastic OPPO packaging that OPPO are renowned for, as for the headphones they are extremely light, beautifully made and one of the most comfortable headphones I have tried. They use Planar Magnetic drivers but they really are very easy to drive, I tried them on the Astell&Kern AK240 and that was a brilliant combination with plenty of volume, I have yet to compare with other headphones at the same price point but knowing the lengths OPPO went to for the development of the PM-1 I’m very confident that they will take the fight to the establishment, they are priced at £1099.
As for the headphone amp, well I have been really excited by this since talking to the guys from OPPO when they paid me a visit a few months back, it really is extremely well built and caters for all inputs, has low and high gain setting, balanced and single ended inputs and outputs, runs in Pure Class A and is based around the ESS 9018 Sabre32 Reference DAC which will decode everything including the latest DSD codecs, best of all though it has VU meters or a Spectrum analyser which you can choose between :-) The first thing I did was set it to high gain and grab the notoriously hard to drive HiFiMan HE-‘6’s which to be fair most headamps can’t drive but the OPPO HA-1 really didn’t have any problems which is a great start. I’m still waiting for the price to be confirmed 100% but hopefully it will be a similar price to the PM-1’s, which to be fair will be an absolute bargain, oh yeah, and you get full remote control which is quite rare with headamps.
In other OPPO headphone news, OPPO announced last week the PM-2 Headphones, which won’t come with all the goodies of the PM-1 but uses very similar drivers, looks the same and will cost £699, that should be an extremely successful headphone for OPPO.
Anyway here are a few pics, I will have both the headphones and amp here hopefully towards the end of the month on permanent demo, both are available to order now with delivery due later this month all being well.
Just a quick update as I had a good listen last night to the AK240 using my favourite headphone at the moment, the Audeze LCD-XC’s, I really did wonder how Astell&Kern could improve on the sound quality of the AK120 but they certainly have, not to say that the AK120 is a bad player, it is still excellent but the AK240 is a clear step up, the AK120 in comparison now sounds a little ‘Digital’, what the AK240 manages to do is keep all the detail but present it is a far more natural, organic way, it is an easier listen which really comes into its own with acoustic and vocal music.
The AK240 actually reminds me of the Naim NDS, which is by far the best digital source I have ever heard, as it is almost analogue in its presentation whilst retaining the dynamics and openness of digital, with the Naim NDS costing over £13k with the 555PS it actually makes the AK240 seem like pretty good value if you are looking for out and out sound quality.
It may not be cheap for a but I if you want the best portable device out there at the moment then I really can’t see anything topping the Astell&Kern AK240 and the fact that it can be partnered with a headphone of the quality of the Audeze LCD-XC and still offer plenty of volume and drive really makes it a very high-end HiFi system that you can use at home and take with you when you go travelling, you certainly wouldn’t want to do that with a Naim NDS :-)
Just a quick blog to let everyone know that we now have the latest, and greatest, portable player from Astell&Kern on demo, the AK240.
I think it is fair to say that Astell&Kern are leading the way when it comes to portable devices, especially when it comes to sound quality, but the AK240 certainly adds some interesting features like a balanced headphone socket, something I need to look into more as this is something I have not seen before on a portable device, plus the AK240 supports native DSD files, I’m in the process of loading some now onto our demo AK240 as we speak and the other new feature is that it has wifi built in so it can stream wirelessly direct from your computer and as it is connected to your network it will search automatically for firmware updates and alert you and download once available and with 256GB of storage built in, expandable to 384GB it has plenty of storage for those large 24 bit files, finally it has a 3.31in AMOLED touchscreen with 800x480 resolution which looks stunning.
The AK100, now on its MKII version with higher output, DSD support and a leather case in the box, and the AK120 have been extremely popular, the AK240 looks to take things to another level with improved sound quality being its main selling point, this is something I will be trying later, if it can indeed sound better than the AK120 then it is going to be something very special indeed.
The only draw back that I can see is the price as at £2199 it certainly isn’t cheap but once you get it in your hands it certainly feels like a quality product, it is reasonably bigger than the AK120 and certainly has some interesting styling, apparently it is designed to show light and shadow with the front asymmetric look of the unit designed from the shape of the shadow when light was shining on it, all very clever.
Needless to say we know have all 3 of the Astell&Kern players on demo all loaded with the same mix of 16 and 24 bit music so you can compare the differences between the different models so please feel free to pop in to try any of them for yourself.
With the huge CES trade show on at the moment in the states there are bound to be some exciting announcements coming over the next few days, the big one for us is what exactly is Naim’s ‘Vertical Form’ which is due to be announced later today, it all looks very high end, can’t wait to find out though.
Yesterday though Astell & Kern announced the new flagship AK240 which joins the excellent AK100 and AK120. This is being billed as the 'Ultimate Portable Player’ and I have to admit that I was a little surprised to see this announced as I thought that the AK120 was as high as portable players would ever go as at £1099 it certainly isn’t cheap, saying that the performance really does make it worth every penny so I really can’t wait to get my hands on the AK240 :-)
No prices have been mentioned yet but obviously it is going to cost more than the AK120 but rest assured as soon as it becomes available in the UK then we will have it available on demo, here are a few of the specs, the first one is very interesting if true -
1, The AK240 will be Wi-Fi-enabled, which can stream music from a computer on the same network, and connect directly to online stores that sell hi-res tracks.
2, The AK240 will include 256GB internal memory and one microSD card slot supporting up to 64GB of microSD card storage – resulting in a total of 320GB of music storage.
3, A dual-core processor allows the AK240 to handle requests and play high-res audio files with no lag time.
4, The AK240 will also include a 3.31in AMOLED touchscreen with 800x480 resolution; Dual Cirrus Logic 4398 Digital-to-Analogue Converter chipsets and native DSD support – including DSD64 and DSD128 files.
Certainly sounds interesting, here are a few pictures that I’ve managed to find -