I’m not sure I was particularly good this year, so I didn’t have any great expectations that anything featured below would find their way into my Christmas stocking (and fitting some of them into a stocking would be something of a challenge). But, as there are less than 365 days until it all happens again, if I live up to my promise to do better next year, then I hope Santa reads Hi-Fi+.
It’s been a fairly quiet 2015 for me; other activities have kept me from the hi-fi scene rather more than I’d have preferred, which means I don’t have as big a bag of goodies to choose from. Nevertheless, I have been fortunate enough to experience some truly great, and some surprising and remarkable hifi this year. The first was the current range of Accuphase products. My introduction to Accuphase came in a review I did, years ago, of the e213 integrated amplifier. At the end of the review, the distributor grew tired of the endless struggle to prise my fingers away from the amp, and decided the easiest solution was to sell it to me. Ever since then, I’ve had a soft spot for Accuphase kit, even though I’d moved elsewhere in my own system.
The new range has done remarkable things, retaining Accuphase’ marvellous musicality, warmth, and beauty, but raising its game with a natural, human touch which forced a bit of a rethink about how I would deploy the old cliché about getting closer to the performers. The DP550 is somewhere in the middle of the range of one box disc players, the cheapest of the range to offer both CD and SACD replay, and while the more expensive players are even better, I’m not greedy, and the DP550 does have the feel of a ‘forever’ product about it. Partly, of course, that’s down to build quality – the DP550 feels like something you could hide behind in the event of a global thermonuclear war, but mostly it’s because when I first heard it, my gut reaction was “That’s it! That’s what I want”. Having heard it a fair few times since then, it still is.
Quite a lot of product passes through the portals of chez Dickinson, but my core system hasn’t changed all that much in recent years, and one constant feature have been the Focal Electra 1028Be loudspeakers which continue to amaze and inform me. They’re not perfect, of course, as a quick listen to the Focal Utopia range will readily attest, but the Utopias are (once past the Diablo standmounts) a wee bit, well alright, far too large for my listening space. Even the larger standmount, the Viva Utopia, which I reckon to be the best of the range, is, size-wise, more like an Electra 1028 on a stick, with added bigness.