Music Hall’s founder, Roy Hall, has a well-deserved reputation as something of a maverick. A Scotsman, Hall emigrated to the US to assemble Linn speakers. When that didn’t pan out as he or Linn had hoped, Hall turned his attention to turntables, starting his own company in 1998. Decks of Hall’s design have generally been built by Pro-Ject in Europe, but the two brands share only a few design elements.
Product refreshes in the hi-fi world often come in one of two forms: either the company knows it needs to introduce a new product so it can issue a press release and stay in the news, or it’s simply adding modern features to keep up with the times. At first blush, Rega’s new Mk4 version of its popular Elex integrated amplifier ($1875, all prices in USD) seems to fall into the latter category. At the very least, you get the sense that it doesn’t fall into the former.
A few days before I began this review, I received my new reference turntable, the Music Hall Stealth, which comes equipped with an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. I immediately set it up and started breaking in the cantilever mount. There were other strong contenders, the Pro-Ject X1, Thorens TD 402 DD, and Dual CS 518 among them. The Stealth was my final choice due to its exceptional musicality, extremely quiet direct-drive motor, easily adjustable vertical tracking angle, auto-stop feature, and interchangeable headshell.
Every time I review a CD player, it sort of feels like it’ll be the last time. I felt that way after my evaluation of the Rotel CD11 Tribute, and I feel that way now, after having boxed up Pro-Ject Audio Systems’ CD Box S3 ($549, all prices USD) and shipped it to Canada for custom photography.
Rekkord Audio is the new brand name for turntables produced by an old name, Alfred Fehrenbacher GmbH, maker of the Pro-Ject Automat A1. Headquartered in Germany’s Black Forest region, Fehrenbacher formerly controlled the Dual brand name but relinquished it after a court battle with the owners of the revitalized Dual organization.
There are few things in the world I enjoy more than a good bit of pedantry, and frankly I couldn’t care less whether I’m the source or the target. To wit: when Denon originally offered to loan me a review sample of its new flagship AVR-A1H 15.4-channel 8K-capable A/V receiver ($6499; all prices USD), I initially demurred. I’ve set a soft budget cap for integrated amps and speakers I review on Access, and the A1H blows the hell out of anything resembling that cap. But SoundStage! founder Doug Schneider quickly chimed in, and although I can’t recall his exact words, they were something to the effect of “The formula for Access isn’t ‘attainable (hi-fi + home theater)’; it’s ‘(attainable hi-fi) + home theater.’” Rawr. Talk nerdy to me.
Back in 1975, I was involved in a project to build the sound system for a private disco club in New York City. We had a nearly unlimited budget, so we put in redundant power amps and big, efficient speakers, which were fed by a state-of-the-art mixing console. Naturally, the system included two Technics SL-1200 turntables. The SL-1200 was the premier disco/music-club turntable at the time. It offered great sound quality and effective pitch control, which allowed DJs to match keys or tempos, and it was practically indestructible. But it also had a following among audio aficionados. Technics’ 1200-series ’tables were so successful, in fact, that they stayed in production through various iterations from 1972 to 2010, with nearly four million units sold.
Do you care what your subwoofer looks like? That’s not a trick question, and there’s no wrong answer; it’s merely something you have to consider when purchasing a new bass-maker. If you’re completely unconcerned with aesthetics, there are all manner of high-performance-but-unfortunate-looking black boxes that will put a rumbly in your tumbly. And if aesthetics come first, you have your pick of compact, cute-as-a-button micro-subs that do a great job of extending the bass response of your bookshelf speakers an octave or so while practically disappearing in the room, or even sitting behind your speakers unobtrusively.
The number of turntables on the market has increased massively since 2010, and the number of phono preamplifiers there are to choose from has grown along with it. You need a phono preamp if your amplifier or receiver doesn’t have its own integral phono stage. Among the scores of outboard phono stages available today, you’re unlikely to find one like the Music Hall PA2.2, which is priced at $449.99 (all prices in USD). That’s because of its secret ingredient: an analog-to-digital converter (ADC).
Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
I love it when I can look at a product’s designation and tell what it is and what it does without having to dig much deeper. Denon is really great about this with its A/V receivers, breaking the family into the S Series, X Series, and A Series, and keeping the incremental numbering consistent from year to year, so I can come pretty close to guessing a unit’s price and features just by ogling a string of letters and numbers such as “AVR-X3800H.” That sort of consistency isn’t unheard of in the two-channel world, of course, but we definitely need more of it. And based on the new MaiA DS3 ($1599, all prices USD), I’m guessing Pro-Ject Audio Systems agrees.