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In late 1972, Audio Research Corporation released what would become one of ARC’s bestselling preamplifiers of all time: the SP-3. While available, the SP-3 earned praise for its low noise levels, wide soundstages, and awe-inspiring transparency. More than one audio publication described its overall sound character as “a straight wire with gain.” ARC sold thousands of SP-3s at $595 USD before discontinuing the model in 1976, but what I find interesting is how much of the SP-3 remains evident in more recent ARC models. By today’s standards, the SP-3’s faceplate of brushed bronze over satin black, rotary analog controls, and big pushbuttons look dated, but the three-box segregation of the faceplate and orientation of controls aren’t all that different from those of ARC’s SP-20 preamplifier ($9000, recently discontinued). Then there was the SP-3’s tube complement: six 12AX7s in the analog stage with two 12AX7s in the tone control circuit. This arrangement in the analog stage, albeit with different tubes, can be found under the hood of the subject of this review: ARC’s Reference 6 preamplifier.
I was so impressed with Rethm Audio’s Maarga loudspeakers, which I reviewed last year, that I spoke to Mark Sossa, of Rethm’s US distributor, Well Pleased Audio Vida, to arrange to buy a pair of Rethm’s magnum opus, the Saadhana. My timing was serendipitous -- Jacob George, the sound architect at Rethm, told me he’d made some improvements in the Saadhana, and that I’d be sent the first pair of units to incorporate them. The changes included a complete redesign of the bass chamber and driver configuration, improved woofers, and new isolation footers -- George promised substantial improvements in the already excellent bass reproduction.
Gryphon Audio Designs’ very first loudspeaker was the Cantata, a stand-mounted two-way, released in 2002. But the Danish company had been founded 17 years before, in 1985, by Flemming Rasmussen, who retired in 2018. Until the Cantata came along, Gryphon had been known only for their massive class-A power amplifiers and other electronics. With the Cantata, an all-Gryphon system had become a reality, and to this day, many of their customers have systems in which every link in the audio-signal chain, cables included, is a Gryphon product. The Cantata was produced until 2008, and in 2009 Gryphon launched the original Mojo, which remained in production until 2016. By then the Mojo had been joined by several other Gryphon speakers, all rather large floorstanders. The Mojo S, reviewed here, was debuted at Munich’s High End in May 2016, and is the only minimonitor among Gryphon’s four current speaker models.
Discontinued well over a decade ago, Synergistic Research’s quantum tunneled X-series cables ran with the best in terms of soundstaging, three-dimensional imaging, transparency, speed, leading-edge detail, noise reduction, and dynamics. However, as I wrote at the time, those cables could sound a bit harsh and grainy in the upper frequencies. And given the great amounts of detail they could convey, and their somewhat forward sound, they could be fatiguing in some systems.
I sit and read with sadness as insecure audiophiles on various audio forums denigrate each other’s six-figure stereo systems. Grown people ought to know better. If you’re used to watching Vikings and The Walking Dead, well, the carnage can be just about as gory.
There’s no arguing that playing music from a digitally stored library is more convenient than getting out of your chair, sorting through shelves of CDs, and spinning discs one by one. But there’s a catch -- first you must build that digital library. That process can take hours, days, even weeks, depending on the size of the collection.
I begin forming strong opinions of an audio component at the unboxing stage. While some audiophiles will tell you that they pay only for sound quality, and that any black-anodized case will do, anyone in the real world of 2019 knows that high-end audio components costing close to five figures also need to look like luxury audio gear if they’re going to succeed in the marketplace. Consumers pay enough money for this stuff -- they want to have their cake and eat it, too. The Luxman ticks both boxes with bold pen strokes.
Review components come and go, and for the most part it doesn’t take me long to get their measure. Speakers, especially, don’t take much time to figure out, and I’m fairly confident in my speaker-analyzing skillz. It’s a mature technology, right? A mechanical device with three, maybe four moving parts: drivers and crossover in a box.
It could be said that 1970 was a tumultuous year: the Apollo 13 accident, President Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, and Paul McCartney’s announcement that the Beatles had officially disbanded. On the other hand, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was put into effect, Boeing had just introduced the world to the 747 Jumbo Jet, and William Zane Johnson founded Audio Research Corporation (ARC) -- the same month Aerosmith was born.
Funny how things come around. Ten years ago, when I first dipped a toe in computer-based audio, I considered using as my reference DAC Weiss Engineering’s DAC2 ($3380 USD when available). At the time, the only way to get digital audio out of a PC was with an add-on soundcard, and the only good way to get digital audio out of an Apple Mac computer was with FireWire -- digital audio via USB was still only a glimmer on the horizon. I was already a Mac user, and the Weiss DAC2 seemed an obvious choice: it had a FireWire input, in addition to TosLink, S/PDIF on coax, and AES/EBU on XLR. However, on hearing that Apple would soon no longer support FireWire, I bought a Logitech Transporter ($1900, discontinued) and began streaming digital audio via Bluetooth. When USB audio became more widely supported, I connected my Mac directly to the Transporter with a Halide Design Bridge USB-to-S/PDIF link ($450), so I could stream 16- and 24-bit PCM files directly to the Transporter. Later, Weiss added a USB input to their DACs -- but by then I’d purchased what is still my reference DAC, a Meitner Audio MA-1 ($7000).
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