The curious mainstreamer shyly peeking through the high-street hifi dealer window – s/he’s leery of separate loudspeakers, amplifier, hi-res DAC, Bluetooth module and phono stage. Too many boxes! S/he might have no clue on how to hook them up and feel too intimidated to ask. So s/he moves on.
But wait – two recent additions to Klipsch’s range of powered loudspeakers might draw our curious mainstreamer back in. The R-14PM monitor (£300/pair) serves up “a 3/4″ aluminium diaphragm compression driver mated to 90° x 90° square Tractrix Horn and 4″ copper spun magnetically shielded IMG woofer” whilst the R-28PF floorstander (£900/pair) offers “1” aluminium diaphragm compression driver mated to 90° x 90° square Tractrix Horn and dual 8″ copper spun magnetically shielded IMG woofers.”
Per the P in each loudspeaker’s model name, both of these new additions come with electronics pre-installed. Amplifier, hi-res DAC, aptX Bluetooth module and phono stage are all housed in the left-hand speaker. The upshot is a lower box count, a single power cord, close to zero kabelsalat and ten minute setup.
According to Klipsch, the R-14PM come loaded with “80watts total system power”, the R-28PF with 260watts.
Such details matter less to our curious mainstreamer who will probably be more interested in each model’s USB input – for PC/Mac hookup – or the TOSLINK input for getting better sound from a TV or Playstation.
S/he might also be enticed by the subwoofer output which leaves the door open to mo’ better bass down the line. Each model also ships with an attractive slimline remote wand.
The appeal here is not just connectivity-driven convenience but shorter signal paths and bespoke internal electronics to which Hobson’s choice applies; our curious consumer isn’t paralysed by myriad options in matching amplifier, DAC, phono stage, Bluetooth receiver, interconnects and loudspeaker cable to Klipsch’s R-14M and R-28F passive equivalents.
For these Klipsch systems-in-a-box (or two), our newbie is faced with a one hit deal that offers super-sharp value for money.
The curious canjam-er shyly peeking over your shoulder at the local Head-Fi meet – he’s leery of that multi-thousand dollar DAP on the table. A second device when his smartphone already has the superior UX and all the songs s/he needs (if not the sound quality)? Madness. And those hulking DAC/amplifiers rubber-strapped to a smartphone (or DAP!) to render portions of its screen unusable – surely some kind of audiophile joke?
But wait – Beyerdynamic’s Impacto Essential adds in-line hi-res DAC and amplifier between smartphone and headphone to elevate the sound quality of the Germany company’s second gen T1, second gen T5p and Amiron Home models. When connected to (compatible) Android smartphone or Mac/PC, the dongle extracts a digital signal from the host device for outboard D/A conversion and amplification. The dongle handles the audio, not the phone. Price: €329.
“Make your Beyerdynamic high-end headphones digital: the mobile DAC and Amplifier Impacto Essential is perfectly tailored to the beyerdynamic high-end models and provides them with a digital interface. This way, you are no longer dependent on the jack plug of your portable device. In fact, Impacto essential facilitates lossless digital transmission so you can enjoy first class playback quality of your music – for a sound experience that meets the highest standards” — reads the product info page.
Detachable downstream cables are supplied for USB-A, USB-C and MicroUSB equipped devices, filling the connection gap left by other manufacturers’ preference for Apple’s digital Lightning connector.
From a five-button interface, the 12g remote control gives the end user access to play/pause, volume up/down and track previous/next. Inside its low profile shell, a ESS SABRE9018Q2C SABRE Reference DAC capable of decoding DSD up to 5.6MHz and hi-res PCM up to 32bit/368kHz.
Of more appeal than hires support to our curious canjam-er will be the Impacto Essential’s proposed amelioration of streaming apps.
Like the Klipsch speakers before them, streamlined solutions like the Impacto Essential allow newcomers to experience better sound quality without sacrificing function and form at the altar of optimal sound quality. A subjective ‘best’ is of diminished interest when it consumes one’s listening room or bursts from a coat pocket.
A smaller foot print or lower box count isn’t only for curious newcomers. Seasoned audiophiles living as empty nesters or in apartments can also experience uber high end results without the need for separates.
Luxman’s forthcoming flagship L-509X integrated amplifier is aimed at audiophiles with a penchant for VU meters (read: all of ’em) and promises “the performance of separate amplifiers/pre-amplifier housed in a single chassis”. Wishful thinking turned marketing spiel? Possibly. Whether or not shorter signal paths outweigh the benefits of separates might be moot to the audiophile looking to trim an audio system footprint and associated cabling; wave buh-bye to a interconnects and a power cord.
Ahead of its New York Audio Show 2017 debut in November, the Japanese manufacturer turns up the heat on the technical details: “Luxman’s latest negative feedback circuit, ODNF version 4.0, provides a fast initial slew rate and wide bandwidth with lower distortion. Also employed is Luxman’s 88-step LECUA 1000 computerized attenuator system. With LECUA 1000, sound deterioration is minimized and smooth & accurate volume control is achieved. The power supply unit is equipped with independent left and right channel large blocking capacitors, equivalent to those found in the Luxman M-700u power amplifier. For the pre-amplifier section, a discreetly configured buffer circuit, equivalent to that of the Luxman C-900u pre-amplifier, is installed. This pre-amplifier design improves driving power while maintaining the clarity and detail of the original signal.”