Manufacturer Reviews

Manufacturer Reviews

Here is what we and other Hifi experts say about our equipment.

Stephen Reay

- Founder Blues Audio
 - Founder Blues Audio

AudioQuest Niagara 7000 Review

In a nutshell: The Niagara 7000 gives a rock solid foundation to all of your electrical components and allows them to perform to their maximum capability. One third of the audible music range is now cleaned from electrical distortion, revealing new musical  nuances and information  which makes listening more beautiful compelling and enjoyable.

The Niagara 700 arrived well packed on a wooden mini crate and took two people to lift it off the delivery truck.

Once the crate and outer packaging was removed, the cardboard box within a box containing the Niagara was still heavy weighing in at over 40kg and was unpacked in the demo room.

The final resting place was found on the TV stand, three of the plug sockets are for high voltage demand components so we used one of them for the Dan D'Agostino MLife amplifier and  another one for the TV, these being the only two high voltage users in our system.This left ten other sockets for all of the other electrical components which was ample - some plugs are on the large size and covered up other sockets meaning not all of the sockets could be accessed . An AudioQuest NG-4 3m power cable was purchased to feed electricity to the beast of a power conditioner, ideally AudioQuest power leads should be used throughout the system. Once all the plugs had been inserted which took 5 minutes of untangling and crawling behind the gap between the speaker and TV  a simple robust rocker switch on the Niagara set the beast into life.

The AudioQuest Niagara 7000  has a gorgeous metallic finish to the front and a single blue light confirms the unit is ready to purify the incoming electricity supply and ensure all connected components are fed a steady pure an uninterrupted current.

We tried the Melco NAS drive as source first through the Dan Dagostino MLife streamer. The Niagara works well from the box but takes up to 2 weeks use to perform at it's best.

The Timothy B Schmit album "Expando" was tried first and the sonic results were instantly night and day jaw dropping. The Niagara cleans interference from the bottom third of the musical spectrum, so new intracacies in the music are revealed. Drums sound more realistic, guitar frets can be pictured the sound stage is widened and music simply becomes more musical and engaging. I was hearing new information and sounds from each track played.

It really is like playing your entire music collection for the first time, compressed files sound better and well recorded pieces are simply outstanding. I literally can't stop playing music now. the sound its so addictive!

Instead of watching TV all night, my wife was enthralled to hear her favourite artists in a new light. George Michael and the Divine Comedy never sounded so good and rewarding.

I tried some vinyl and again was amazed, I couldn't stop playing different formats and artists to eagerly enjoy the improvement in performance. Stevey Ray Vaughan and Moving Hearts sounded so much better than before which was incredible - I thought the system couldn't be improved but was proved wrong time and time again.

Even the TV picture improved, the Niagara provides a rock solid platform for everything to perform optimally and pound for pound is the best investment for any HiFi system you can make.

A small but significant bonus is you can now switch on and off all your connected appliances with one switch. No more bending down to reach a fiddly switch or find a remote!

Nick Allen National Director for AudioQuest pictured left came to visit a couple of days later and was similarly gob smacked. We played a Roger Waters track "The Ballard of Bill Hubbard" - the beginning has a dog barking out of the right channel and a radio out of the left. This is an invaluable track to set up the speakers. We played with the fore and aft positions then the toeing in or our speaker angle. We huffed and puffed and managed to move the TV stand back towards the wall to avoid sound reflections between the Sonus Faber Il Cremonese speakers the Pioneer TV screen and finally settled with the speakers toed outwards which is against the conventional wisdom.

Now the dog moved to the right side wall and the radio whizzed over our left shoulders. With everything in our system now working synergistically a new level of sound reproduction was achieved. Nirvana, perfection or as close as possible to perfection was achieved. I defy any HiFi to sound markedly better at any price. The Audioquest Nirvana is a multi patented ground breaking device that engages the listener to a whole new level.

You really owe it to yourself to hear the sonic delights we can provide. The trick is the marriage of components used, there is now no weak link in our system and the result is sublime.

RRP is £7995, AudioQuest will be supplying the top 10 dealers in the UK with the 7000, you simply have to hear the difference!

Stephen Reay

Blues Audio

Dan D’Agostino

Dan D’Agostino is arguably the most iconic manufacturer of audio living today.
After over 30 years founding Krell laboratories and developing award winning amplifiers Dan had a hostile take over bid and left Krell.

Starting with a clean sheet, Dan designed a case for a new range of signature amplifiers with no constraints and a money no object freedom.

The case was made out of aircraft quality billet aluminium with copper inserts to aid heat dissipation and to maintain a constant temperature of around 42 degrees Celsius which is the optimal temperature for the electronics to function at.

Dan put his heart into this new amp as well as many years of being an audio engineer.
Each piece of the amp has been designed and redesigned till it works at its best, and no compromise has been taken

The momentum amplifier is relatively small in size and looks a million dollars in appearance, a show piece for the best audio systems available and sonically the most musical and detailed amplifier available revealing delicate nuances in each piece of music with ample power to supply any speaker available.

The quality of the momentum amplifier is palpable,
The volume dial has a silky touch and the Breguet watch style design is beautiful to be behold.

This is the best looking and sounding amplifier available, every detail from the aluminium flight cases supplied to the hermetically sealed outer coating applied to the copper to eliminate tarnishing has been applied.

A five year guarantee gives peace of mind, this amplifier will give a life time of musical pleasure and pride in ownership

Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum Lifestyle Integrated Amplifier Review

DAgostino MLife
Many audiophiles are familiar with the name Dan D'Agostino, by virtue of him being the founder, CEO, and chief engineer at Krell which he founded in 1980. The products made by Krell, which included everything from power amplifiers to SACD players and speakers, were some of the best high-end components available. In 2009 he was ousted by investors that he himself invited into the company because they thought the company should change direction. Almost immediately after leaving Krell he formed Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems.

On a personal note, when I first became interested in audio in the 1970s the common wisdom at that time, and for quite a while after that, was that all power amplifiers that measure the same, sound the same. This was especially true in regards to an amplifier's power rating. In late 1970s a local dealer lent me a Krell power amplifier. When I auditioned it in my humble system it was almost instantly apparent that no, all power amplifiers do not sound the same. In fact, when I heard that Krell amplifier in my system I had a sort of "audio epiphany" – because the Krell sounded so much better than my reference amplifier even though it put out the same 250 Watts per channel @ 8 Ohms. I purchased that Krell power amp, and it remained in my system for quite some time. So much for the theory that all amps sound the same! But back to Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems, and the subject of this review, the Dan D'Agostino Momentum Lifestyle integrated amplifier.

Components

Dan D'Agostino has really hit the ball out of the park with the line of components that bear his name. Not only does each product epitomize the look of a cost-no-object component, but all the Dan D'Agostino power amps, preamps, and monoblocks happen to be drop-dead gorgeous. Many attributes can take the blame for this, but two that are undeniable are the astounding level of fit and finish of its machined metal cabinetwork, and the glowing green central volume control which was inspired by Breuget watches that adorn the front panel of Dan D'Agostino's amps and power amps. The component under review is the Momentum Lifestyle integrated amplifier, which as you will see, is a perfect name for this component. According to D'Agostino it is "the ultimate integrated amplifier, networked".

 

The MLife (short for Momentum Lifestyle) is a 200 Watt per channel @ 8 Ohms (800W @ 2 Ohms) integrated amplifier that, per D'Agostino, uses the identical amplifier and preamplifier circuits those in the Momentum series. The difference is that the MLife includes a 24-bit/192kHz digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that is combined with top-notch clocking to minimize digital distorting jitter, which they specifically included so its internal DAC can convert DSD digital signals with the highest resolution and sound quality. Added to this is the "networked" portion of this "ultimate" integrated amplifier, in that the MLife can play files wirelessly via an Ethernet connection on its rear panel or with Airplay from an iOS device. On the front panel of the MLife is a rather large LCD display, which is indispensable when playing files that are sourced wirelessly either through this Ethernet connection, or wirelessly through one's iPhone or iPad via AirPlay. After downloading D'Agostino's iOS app to a device, it acts as the MLife's remote, controlling all the functions of the MLife, while the metadata appears on the LCD screen on the front panel.

momentum-lifestyle-back
The Room

The elephant in the room is that the Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum Lifestyle integrated amplifier costs $50,000. Yet if one considers that the MLife uses the same circuitry as used in Dan D'Agostino's Momentum power amplifier, the same circuitry as in their Momentum preamplifier, plus includes an internal DAC and has an Ethernet and Airplay connectivity to wirelessly play one's music files that are stored on a music server, I feel comfortable saying that the Dan D'Agostino is a very intelligent and economical alternative to purchasing all the Dan D'Agostino components separately. Of course, the MLife includes digital functionality that is available nowhere else. So, it makes perfect sense that Dan D'Agostino has named this integrated amplifier the Momentum Lifestyle, since it will enable one to enjoy the benefits of the Momentum separates, along with the convenience of having the DAC and wireless functions all in one package.

Some purists might argue that if purchased separately each component that is included in an integrated amp would include its own power supply, yet this claim is made much less convincing when one notices the MLife's huge power supply which comprises the lower third of the MLife – which is not only physically separated from the rest of the component but is ingeniously crafted to support the main chassis' four solid cast-aluminum conical footers that fit into dimples in the four top corners of the power supply. The whole shebang weighs a very substantial 120 pounds, which made connecting the two beasts, the power supply and the main chassis, to form the single MLife component on my equipment rack a requisite two-man job.

So me and the very gracious Bill McKiegan, President of sales for Dan D'Agostino, gently hauled the MLife out of its crate and placed it where it was obviously going to stay for quite some time. I might be making this a little more dramatic than it is because it is a relatively simple set-up procedure, and proved to me that despite its heft the MLife isn't at all difficult to assemble and as you will read certainly not difficult to operate. Plus, I assume that for most Dan D'agostino MLife owners the delivery, unpacking and initial set up will be provided by the dealer.

Dan_DAgostino_Master_Audio_Systems_Momentum_Lifestyle_Integrated_Amplifier_Config_Diagram

Still, after the two chassis are connected, if the user is tasked with connecting the speaker cable to the MLife's very substantial binding posts and connecting the sources to the inputs on the components rear panel, it is certainly an simple procedure, and no different than connecting any other modern component. After that, one can start using the MLife almost immediately. But first, one must download the iOS app, which will probably take about thirty seconds, and then go to its settings section to let the MLife know your network's password. Anyone, audiophile or non-audiophile, who has set up a wireless device will find this chore a very familiar one. Along with all the functions that are on the front panel of the MLife, the app also has controls for balance, phase, etc. The volume control on the app is a thumbnail of the MLife's front panel volume control, as one must move the arm on the meter pictured in the icon. Otherwise, it works as any other remote, except this one is an app.

D'Agostino Pre-amp-guage

Sound

I would have been very surprised if the Dan D'Agostino MLife's sound quality wasn't first-rate. But wow, first-rate is one thing, but here I was, listening to an integrated amplifier that brought into my listening room a level of sound quality that I previously have heard only from components that were very close to state-of-the-art. But never from an integrated amplifier. It's safe to say that unless one is accustomed to very, very high quality high-end electronics in one's own listening room there will be no other audio components to compare to the sound of the Momentum Lifestyle. So, here was the MLife playing familiar tunes through my Sound Lab Dynastat electrostatic speakers, augmented by a Velodyne 15" subwoofer, and all I could do was bask in its sound.

Familiar favorites such as my Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs LP of David Bowie's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars sounded much different than I was accustomed. I've heard this album thousands of times, so I'm familiar with every lyric, every note, every post-production effect…everything. At least I thought I was familiar with this album. The Dan D'Agostino MLife did more than a few things to inform me that I was now hearing this LP as it was truly meant to be heard. Each instrument and every voice, and every nuance of every vocal inflection and every production decision were now laid out before me to enjoy. Let me make this perfectly clear, though – the MLife was not an overly detailed sonic microscope that ruined the recordings by allowing me to peek behind the curtain, as it were.

 

What it did, instead, was bring me closer to the source of the recording, and at the same time overwhelm me with the feeling as though I was present for the recording of this album. Never have I heard a component that let me hear the individual tracks that made up a multi-track recording so brilliantly that I could hear the details captured on each track, and at the same time as that how these tracks were artistically combined. So now, I could clearly hear the acoustical characteristics of the isolation booth in which David Bowie sang his lyrics, and how the track that held these vocals was assembled into the whole of the album.

And this was true with every other track that was captured on tape. I could focus on the drums and hear how the over-head microphones contributed to the sound of the drum kit, and how this sound was balanced with the individual microphones that were placed close to each drum. Also, how these drum microphones were mixed with the over-head microphones and then spread across the soundstage as only a seasoned engineer such as Ken Scott could. Of course, it helped that Ken Scott used the best studios in town, Trident and Abbey Road for this task. As I sat in my bargain basement but very comfortable padded listening seat I entered the world of David Bowie circa 1972, mesmerized by Bowie and his band's genius. I was held spellbound hearing this combination of poetry and compositional skill at the height in this stage of David Bowie's career, as if I was seeing their music sonically unfold in front of me for the first time. On a record that I've heard thousands of times.

The above description might lean a bit towards the esoteric. But to be clear, the Dan D'Agostino MLife's sound was quite amazing in every audiophile category and all descriptive terms that audiophiles love to use. One of the first traits I was drawn to was its bass prowess, which for me was quite an experience, mostly because I didn't think my speaker system was cable of reproducing this level of low-end quality. Yes, of course the MLife can reproduce bass down to the nether-regions when called for. But it's the quality of the bass where the MLife shines. The transient response of the MLife's bass, its "tightness" if I may call it that, is in a word, amazing. This is where I could hear in my mind's ear a sonic border drawn around the instrument that is producing this bass.

Whether it is a bass guitar, a kick drum, whatever the source, the bass was not only extremely pitch specific, but did not untowardly bleed into the rest of the lower portions of the soundstage. The same could be said for the MLife's mids and treble. I will spare you. Waxing poetic about midrange purity and treble extension is not my aim here. It is to insist that the MLife has nearly perfected the art of audiophile sound reproduction in the home. I would spend some time discussing the solid-state innards of the MLife, but this would be wasted space, as the MLife does not have a "solid-state sound" nor did Dan D'Agostino attempt to voice the MLife anywhere towards having a "tube sound". It simply sounds like a great audio component. And thus, sounds coming out of its outputs sound like music. Period.

momentum-lifestyle-front

Time

And what better time than now to discuss the internal digital-to-analog converter? It wasn't only when using this fine DAC that the rock-solid imaging and soundstaging prowess of the MLife became evident to me, but there wasn't any loss of these traits when switching from my analog source to the internal DAC of the MLife, that's for sure. These traits became improved. Although I must admit there wasn't as much of the transient attack wallop and the images in the huge soundstage weren't as clearly defining when playing LPs. My analog front-end consisting of a Basis Debut turntable, Tri-Planar tonearm, a Pass Labs phono preamp and phono cartridges such as the Gold Note Tuscany and Van den Hul Crimson Stradivarius is no slouch. But when reading DSD files fed from my music server the MLife's DAC gave this analog front-end a run for its money. And the DAC I usually use, the AURALiC VEGA might be in the "affordable" category to some, but it is no slouch either, although it can in no way compete with my analog set-up. Let me remind you, too, that the MLife was decoding these DSD files wirelessly. My Verizon-Fios home network is not hot-wired either, it is an off-the-shelf unit that Verizon installed. Nor do I use any of those Wi-Fi range extender/boosters sold on Amazon or Best Buy.

Dan_DAgostino_Master_Audio_Systems_Momentum_Lifestyle_Integrated_Amplifier_App3  Dan_DAgostino_Master_Audio_Systems_Momentum_Lifestyle_Integrated_Amplifier_App

Playing files that were sourced from my music server, and then read by the MLife wirelessly via its Ethernet connection were not only comparable to files being read with a USB connection to my external DAC and then fed to the MLife via an interconnect, they sounded better. Better, in addition to other characteristics, in that the dynamic distance between instruments, groups of instruments, vocals, and other sounds was improved. There is measurable distance, at least measurable with my ears, between two or more sounds playing at the same volume simultaneously. This is very important when listening to orchestral music where there might be one hundred musicians on the stage being recorded, and many of them are playing at the same volume. When one or a group of these instruments plays just a bit louder than the others, how much sonic distance is placed between that instruments or group of instruments? Through the MLife, quite a bit. Even when these instruments or groups of instruments are playing at the same volume, how much distance is placed between them? Again, through the MLife, quite a bit. When listening to an orchestra live, I might be able to pick out an instrument or group of instruments, then my mind might wander – towards the conductor, or towards the sound of the entire ensemble playing in unison.

My concentration changes focus throughout the piece, in sort of a meditative way as it ebbs and flows throughout the piece. I found this happening when listening to the MLife play my favorite power orchestral pieces. Regardless of how boisterous the music might become, my focus changes throughout the piece, focusing on different instruments, different sections of the orchestra, and to its soloists. As it does in real life. The dynamic distance the MLife can create with this large group of instrument is second to none in my experience, regardless of whether I'm listening to the internal DAC fed by the Ethernet connection or a source connected through an interconnect, digital or analog. The internal DAC of the MLife was the best at conveying the characteristics inherent to the MLife itself. And sounded the best out of all the sources. Yes, there will always be something special about playing LPs, and the MLife did not diminish this pleasure. But to have digital playback sound as good as the MLife could was new to me. And quite a pleasure.

One of the pleasures of a high-end system is being to step back in time, and thus come as close as humanly possible to what bewildered audiences heard in the very early 19th Century when Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, or Eroica, was premiered. We're hearing modern instruments, of course, but that's not my point. At the time of its premier it was thought as too "structurally rigorous", and at nearly 45 minutes, much too long. It was quite a ground-breaking piece of music. Now it is regarded as one of his most celebrated works, and for good reason. It probably surprises no one that my favorite movement is the Adagio, the second movement, which Beethoven titled "Marcia funebre", or "Funeral March". The DSD file of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, conducted by: Kurt Masur Symphony is not only well read, it is a great recording. Via the MLife's internal DAC it is amazing to hear how it enables the sections of the orchestra to occupy distinct areas within the huge soundstage, projecting itself between, behind and to the sides of the speakers, making the speakers very difficult to locate when closing my eyes.

I've written more than once about how my Sound Lab DynaStat speakers do not have the greatest soundstage in the world. Yet given the right amplifier to power them the speakers come alive, and project quite an admirable soundstage, especially in their ability to portray depth perception. When this file of Beethoven's 3rd is played wirelessly through the DAC of the MLife the sense of an orchestra sonically replicated in miniature was wonderful. During the second movement, I became lost in the music, reveling in not only the realism of the individual instruments that were laid out before me, but each instrument and section of the orchestra becoming reality in miniature. The oboe solo during the first half of this movement sounded scary real, floating between the two speakers, a little closer to the right, above and behind the cellos and violas. Beautiful! This selection was proof enough the Dan D'Agostino is a marvelous piece of high-end equipment, not only for the way it can render the orchestra in such a fantastic manner through my speakers, but all the characteristics that make this happen. And what's even nicer, this was true regardless of the genre of music I played through it throughout its rather long audition period. The MLife is a powerful tool in enjoying music to the Nth degree.

 

DAN D’AGOSTINO MOMENTUM PHONOSTAGE
Lifestyle

The moniker of this component, the Dan D'Agostino Master Systems Momentum Lifestyle integrated amplifier is certainly a mouthful, isn't it? I have no problem with it, except perhaps the "Lifestyle" portion of it, which might infer to some that this product was made to appeal to non-audiophiles who simply want the best integrated amplifier/wireless DAC they can buy, and not have to mess with it other than connecting a pair of speakers, and perhaps a younger family member's turntable set-up. Yes, Dan D'Agostino is correct in thinking that this is a great way to market a fantastic sounding and great looking piece of equipment not only to audiophiles, but anyone who wants the best sound, or simply, the best. But as an audiophile I found the Dan D'Agostino's Momentum Lifestyle integrated amp to be not only a great "lifestyle" product, but a great audiophile product.

Dan_DAgostino_Master_Audio_Systems_Momentum_Lifestyle_Integrated_Amplifier_App2

I would have no qualms having this component as a permanent reference component in my system. The "downside" would be that I could no longer audition preamplifiers or amplifier separates as the MLife does not have a preamp-output on its real panel. I would gladly give this up for the pleasure of hearing one of the best audio components I've ever had in my home. I have no reservations recommending the Dan D'Agostino Master Systems Momentum Lifestyle Integrated amp to anyone who can afford it, audiophile or non-audiophile. The only requirement is that this person be a music lover, because that is the MLife's raison d'être – to enable the listener to revel in one's love of music.

Specifications
Type: Integrated stereo amplifier with DAC and audio streaming
Power Output: 200 Watts per channel @ 8 Ohms
400 Watts per channel @ 4 Ohms
800 Watts per channel @ 2 Ohms
Frequency Response: 0.1 Hz to 1 MHz (-1dB)
Distortion: <0.1%, 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Signal­To­Noise Ratio: ­95dB, unweighted
Supported Digital Formats
Lossless: DSD, WAV, FLAC, AIFF and PCM up to 24/192 resolution
Lossy: AAC, MP3, Ogg Vorbis and WMA

Company Information
Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems
P.O. Box 89
Cave Creek, AZ 25327

Voice: (480) 575-3069
E-mail: petra@dandagostino.com
Website: www.DanDagostino.com

Artesania Audio Racks

Founded over 20 years ago by Jose Luis Lafarga an audio engineer and audiophile in Aragon (Spain)

The company´s main objective is to improve the perception of sound and listening thanks to the rack where the equipment is installed. Artesanía Audio, is devoted to the effective treatment of resonances of a vibrational origin using a technology called “Acoustic Anti-Resonant Treatment” taking care of every single detail to provide exceptional linearity and neutral sound reproduction.

The listening results spectacularly exceed the audiophile imagination due to its high level of sound quality and the new information appearing in the sound stage, which before were inaudible. These tables improve the sound quality of components used to provide the ultimate listening experience.

The racks don’t use shelves, instead each piece of equipment is suspended and isolated from any mechanical or electrical interference in a double frame with polypropylene dampers used to isolate components.

The units are substantial and rock solid as well as being visually appealing and easy to clean.

Techdas

Hideaki Nishikawa the president of Tec Das imported high end audio products from Japan for many years.

None of the products satisfied Mr Nishikawa’s senses, so de decided to modify the Micro Seiki turntable and in 2013 produced the Airforce one turntable to worldwide acclaim. The Techdas turntables are unique in that they use a powerful external vacuum to ensure the record cannot move on the platter.
The Japanese have a passion for audio and engineering, this beautiful range topping turntable was joined by the Airforce two at roughly half the price of the predecessor and finally the Airforce three to complete the range. Each turntable has a whisper quiet vacuum and is exquisitely engineered to be a truly world class design.

New models have been forthcoming, the Airforce One Aluminium and Titanium model come with a dedicated Artesenia table, the Airforce Zero will be released at the Munich High End show on May which Blues Audio will be attending.

Sonus Faber Speakers

Handmade in Italy, these beautiful speakers are crafted out of wood, glass and leather to make an object of beauty with flawless finish and Ferrari like quality.
The driver units of tweeters and woofers are manufactured in house producing a unique full range sound with ample bass and stunning midrange.
Many speakers are ugly boxes, not so with Sonus whose products are a showpiece fit to grace any living room.

Transparent cables

We only use and recomend Transparent interconnects and speaker cables as it is imperative to not compromise sound quality in any system.
Everything needs to be in balance to obtain optimum results including cable, racks and power supply.

Each cable is calibrated to the particular amp and speaker by Transparent and a signed certificate issued.
These cables are substantial and look the part as well as allowing the best possible musical performance to be achieved.

Transparent cables are hand made in Saco, Maine USA.

KL Audio Cleaner

Made in Washington State USA, this machine is fantastically made and so simple to use.
The case is mostly made of aluminium with chrome carry handles, and uses a 200w motor to ultrasonically clean LP’s using purified water and no chemicals. Cleaning and drying cycles can be adjusted from 3-5 minutes and a warning beeper signals the cleaning cycle is complete.
The records emerge in pristine condition enabling them to be played at optimal conditions with no pops due to dust audible.

A worthwhile addition to and vinyl lovers armoury, this unit will bring years of useful cleaning of prized Lp’s, optimal playback as well as being a pleasure to use.