Sumiko, a well-established importer and distributor of excellent audio gear, recently added to its Oyster line three new moving-magnet phono cartridges: the Oyster Rainier ($149 USD), the Oyster Olympia ($199), and the subject of this review, the Oyster Moonstone ($299). These models continue Sumiko’s tradition of value-priced cartridges, two of which have become standards: the Oyster Pearl moving-magnet and the Blue Point moving-coil, a cult favorite.
What’s in a name? According to my family history, it’s said a Scandinavian king’s personal guards were the only people in the kingdom allowed to use the crescent moon as their symbol. After raiding England sometime around 1000 CE, they decided the weather there was better than in their homeland, settled in Yorkshire, and took Moon as their name. A Korean acquaintance told me that Moon is one of the most common surnames in her homeland, along with Pak (Park), Kim, and Lee. That must be the case, given the amount of junk mail this Moon receives, most of it in Korean.
Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
Paradigm’s Monitor SE Atom is one of the least expensive loudspeakers I’ve ever reviewed. At $298 USD per pair, the Canadian company’s entry-level model isn’t an aspirational product that someone will lust over for months, waffle back and forth about whether to buy, then pull the trigger on in a moment of weakness. These are speakers that almost everyone can afford, and that anyone can appreciate.
There are brands with history, and then there are brands with history. Technics is one of the latter. Created and owned by Japanese electronics giant Matsushita, aka Panasonic, Technics released its first product, the Technics 1 two-way bookshelf speaker, in 1965; the following year came the 20A tube amplifier, and in 1969 the 50A solid-state integrated amp and Technics’ first turntable, the SP-10. Each of these products was pioneering in its own way. The SP-10 was the world’s first direct-drive turntable, a design approach that required cutting-edge engineering and precision manufacture. Technics’ subsequent turntable model, the SL-1200, became, in its many forms, one of the most popular turntables of all time, with more than 3.5 million units sold during its 38-year production run of 1972 to 2010.
Elac IW-S10EQ measurements can be found by clicking this link.
It’s almost impossible to get smooth, natural bass reproduction without a subwoofer -- and this principle is easy to prove, despite the dominance of 2.0-channel systems in high-end audio. But a subwoofer is also the most troublesome component in audio: the most prone to distortion, the most difficult to place and adjust, and the most obtrusive. With its IW-S10EQ in-wall subwoofer, Elac aims to solve the latter two problems.
Although NAD is a Canadian-owned company, its roots are in London, UK, where many music aficionados never abandoned the turntable as their favorite music source. So it’s not surprising that NAD’s new C 558 record player ($499 USD) follows the pattern set by Linn, Rega, Revolver, Roksan, and other British firms: a turntable thoroughly traditional in concept and totally modern in practice, with no frills, flash, or gimmicks.
When I received an e-mail from Jeff Fritz, SoundStage!’s editor-in-chief, asking if I was interested in reviewing Edifier’s S350DB 2.1-channel speaker system ($299.99 USD), a wave of nostalgia swept over me. From my senior year in high school, way back in 2003, through the end of college, I listened to my music through Klipsch’s ProMedia speaker systems -- first the 2.1, then the Ultra 5.1 (which I used in a 2.1 configuration). They were great computer speakers, with clean mids and highs, punchy bass, and terrific output for their size. With a simple 3.5mm input, I could plug my computer or iPod into them and get pretty killer sound. Fifteen years later, a descendant of the ProMedia 2.1 can still be had for $129, but there’s no way they could now live up to what they sound like in my memory.
NAD Electronics is part of the Lenbrook Group, which also owns PSB Speakers and Bluesound, the latter a maker of wireless multiroom music systems and related components. NAD has always been a bit different, offering value-oriented electronics with many of the unnecessary extras stripped away. Lately, their line of preamps and A/V receivers has provided value with add-on MDC modules to upgrade their products’ functionality -- users can buy a base model, then customize it to suit their needs and guard against obsolescence.
As high-end audio shifts its focus to products costing four, five, or even six figures, we forget how great a simple, affordable system can sound. A basic integrated amplifier or stereo receiver hooked up to a good pair of bookshelf speakers can deliver realistic and satisfying reproduction of music, which is most -- perhaps even all -- of what most people want from an audio system. People who are just now getting into traditional stereo audio because of their interest in vinyl understand this, and it’s for them that NAD has produced the C 316BEE V2 ($399 USD), an integrated amp designed to deliver all the power and options a basic stereo system needs.
Sumiko, a longtime importer and distributor of high-quality audio equipment, is now owned by the McIntosh Group, formerly the Fine Sounds Group and owner of McIntosh Laboratory, Audio Research, Sonus Faber, Pryma, and Wadia. For years, Sumiko’s Oyster and Pearl moving-magnet and Blue Point moving-coil cartridges have been considered great values by many reviewers and audiophiles. Recently, they added three new low-priced MM models to their Oyster line, to fill the price gap between the Pearl (MM, $119 USD) and the Blue Point No.2 (MC, $449). The new models are the Rainier ($149), the Olympia ($199), and the Moonstone ($299), and Sumiko recently gave me the opportunity to check out all three. This review is of the least expensive, the Rainier.