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No.72 May 2010
Budget means everything

‘Budget’ as defined by a dictionary means a plan of incomes and spending in a given period of time. With another words – the available amount of money at our disposal. In the audio world ‘budget’ means something completely different, however the invested money is a common ground. Talking about ‘budget gear’ audiophiles mean the cheap and cheapest devices, belonging to the lowest product line of a given manufacturer. It is interesting, that during the last few years, the price range meant by this has changed. For some time, the first threshold for the audiophile was about 1000zl in Poland and 1500-2000zl abroad. That was the price range adapted by audio magazines for the ‘budget’ gear, and the devices were tested in such groups. Putting aside the sense of defining rigid price categories (in my opinion this is pure rubbish), it is worth noticing, that anything below this level was seen as trash, unworthy the eye and ear of an audiophile, and devices priced above it, as medium-priced gear. And one more thing – the symbol of this price range was for years and years the amplifier from the British company NAD, model 3020. And it does not matter, if this was right, but this device had good reputation and was considered the pass card for heavenly sound… And while we are talking about “icons”, we should add, that the loudspeakers in the mid and late 90-ties, the “beginners” targeted, were for example the Coda 7 from KEF,

Now I think, that together with the popularity of computer based audio systems, iPods, and its docking stations, the lower barrier was mightily challenged. I will not judge, if it is for better or for worse, but it can be seen, that the cheapest gear becomes better and better, and the wide availability of China made products, shifts the price tags down. Also the upper threshold of the ‘budget’ range moved closer to the 3000zl mark. Again, stiff ranges are senseless, but in your mail, in talks with sellers, etc, a visible tone can be discerned, which seems to confirm what I just stated. Maybe the “beginner system”, because this is the thing we talk about, can cost less than before, or more than before, and there are two different “start” groups – young people, with no income, and older people, earning some money already. This would represent the changes in the society, better earning, but also having access to cheaper gear.

So what is a ‘budget’ product? This is a device, a pair of speakers or cabling bought “for the beginning”, starting the endeavor called “music” in its full meaning – with form and meaning. Those are the products I tried to present in this issue of “High Fidelity”. We managed to test a complete system from Rega – something, where I would like to draw your special attention. Because this test shows, that a system is more than just a handful of components. The same case was with the test of the Advance Acoustic electronics and Highland Audio loudspeakers. Krzysiek Kalinkowski tested them together, because they are offered by the same distributor, the company Best-Audio and it is most probable, that we would hear them in this combination in an audio shop. And finally the “soil of audio”, in a way of speech, the bookshelf speakers. In the price range up to 2000zl we will find many interesting products. I chose four of them, in my opinion the most interesting ones, and at the same time appearing most frequently in your emails. It was a very learning experience to compare them. But there are two items jumping out in this issue. One of them is the Krakow Sonic Society meeting report, telling about capacitors in loudspeaker cross-overs. The tested models are quite expensive, and it can hardly be expected, that owners of, for example, Dynaudio DM 2/6 would switch to those. Or maybe they will? This material is presented here, to let you see, that everything counts. The cables Acoustic Zen are also above the set price limit. But because those cables went into distribution in Poland recently, by the Krakow based company Pro-Mal (the owner of the Chillout Studio), and the upcoming issues of HF are already planned and fully booked, I surpassed the price limit, as I wanted to show those cables to you as soon as possible.

Nowy numer „The Absolute Audiophile”

Last month I informed you about the existence of a new magazine, the Italian “The Absolute Audiophile”, where I am also writing articles to. Then it was a “zero” issue, to some extent a trial version, available for free on the Zinio platform. Now the first official issue of this monthly appeared, and I would like to encourage you, to read it. Like I mentioned before, this is an internet magazine, no printed copy would be available. In the two first issues (#0 and #1) I presented the initial audio stage in Central Europe, concentrating on older companies, and on those operating almost solely in Poland. In the #2 issue there will be the test of the player Canor CD-2 VR+, and the plans for the next issues are being finalized as I write those words.


Time flies, what means, that in a short while I will be flying over to Munich, to visit the High End 2010 show. This exhibition, organized since 1982, moved, after two decades of being organized in the rooms of the Kempinsky hotel in Frankfurt, in 2004 to the ultra modern Munich exposition complex M.O.C. Despite the initial uncertainty, this show grew to be one of the most important hi-end shows in the world. This is why we need to be there.

Information to remember:

Name: High End 2010
Organizer: High End Society
Place: M.O.C. Munich, Lilienthalallee 40, 80939 München-Freimann, Germany
Time: 6-9 May 2010
Thursday May 6th will be the day open for dealers, distributors and press.
WWW: High End

Reports from previous years:
∙ High End 2005
∙ High End 2006
∙ High End 2007
∙ High End 2008
∙ High End 2009


And finally the plans for the future issues of “High Fidelity”. One of the sayings, that appeal to me, says, that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans… Life tends to verify them, and this is the reason, that those I made in the beginning of the year, needed to be adjusted. In May, as you can maybe see on the cover (above), there will be a “Japanese” issue (this starts to become a tradition – last year, and the year before this was also the case), and at the same time we will have our round, sixth anniversary, of “High Fidelity” - yes, a round one, because each year is extremely important to us, and worth celebrating  In this issue, except for the reportage of the High End 2010 show, there will be reviews of the ATM-300 Air Tight power amplifier, with 300B tubes, the integrated Tri TRV-845, with 845 tubes, as the name suggests, the most expensive Furutech Flux cable system, the preamplifier and power amp SC-11S1 and SM-11S1 from Marantz and the power amplifier Leben CS-660P, which I want to test very much. During the #72 (!) meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society, we will compare the cables from Acrolink, the Mexcel 7N-PC9300 with their older versions 7N-PC9100. This is especially important for me, as I used the latter for a long time. As usual, the Mexcel 7N-PC9300 is a limited version, and we waited for it almost a whole year! Those are the plans – it remains to be seen what will come true.

There are also some unusual premieres and pre-premieres in our sleeve. One of them is a Polish product, exceptional monoblocks from the company Nowe Audio, the mono 3.5. Incredibly low, cut-in (milled) from a single block of aluminum, have only four elements in the sound path – a Caddock resistor, ultra-fast transistor, a Toshiba MOS-FET, with 4ns switching rate and a capacitor connecting it with the loudspeaker terminal. Bias is set using a 9V cell. That is it. The amplifier has a power of 10W in class A (at 8Ω), and only selected top elements were used for construction – WBT 0710 Ag loudspeaker terminals and WBT 0210 Ag input socket, a mighty Wima capacitor, a splendid toroidal transformer and an IEC power terminal from Furutech. This is really something…

A second thing, that clouds my mind, is a Black Stork turntable and the tonearm 3Q (and the 2A and 2P) from the Lithuanian company How fine it is crafted! Today, the owners of the company, the constructors, engineers and employees of the Kaunas Science Institute – Jonas Jakutis and Vidmutas Triukas – set this piece of art at my home. Such a splendidly crafted turntable, and so well thought through tonearm, I did not see for a long time. Maybe the top SME, Graham Engineering and Kuzma tonearms are of similar quality. Even more, the Lithuanian tonearms are not just solid engineering, but also some solutions, which are hard to find elsewhere, like a laser pointer, used to fine tune VTA and azimuth. I was really impressed by the personalities, knowledge and products Jonas and Vidmautas presented.

Interestingly, although I used three languages to talk with my guests – Polish, Russian and English (mainly technicalities), most of our discussion was in Polish. It turned out, that Jonas learned it during the time of CCCP, when in the Lithuanian television were only two official programs – a Lithuanian and a Russian one – and a Polish one. Vidmautas does not speak Polish, but he understands everything. I wonder, if there are many engineers in Poland, which would be able to prone with the same things, but this time in the direction of Lithuania and Russia? And if I tell you, that the first prototype of this tonearm was based, on the Polish tonearm from Unitra, it will be even more interesting. The test of the turntable and monoblocks from Nowe Audio will appear shortly.

Wojciech Pacuła

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the”, “”“”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

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