Alpha Audio has had an unprecedented number of products in its hands this year. Partly due to mass testing, we have certainly been heading towards 120 products again. Processing this with a compact but loyal review team is impressive. In this part: Geoffrey Vanhouwaert’s Top 5!
Atoll ST300 streamer
Atoll has been making excellent products for years and is now making serious inroads in the Benelux. We have already had the opportunity to test several devices and they never disappoint. We have also seen in the factory in France that Atoll only produces quality and the ST300 is an excellent example of that. This multifunctional device is not only a streamer but also a dual mono dac, Class A preamp and superb headphone amplifier. Add to that a beautiful screen, Roon Ready and high ease of use and you have everything you need to play digital music in a high-quality manner. The exceptionally competitive price is the proverbial icing on the cake.
Naim Uniti Atom headphone edition
Perhaps the Uniti Atom is the most beautiful device this author has visited. A further development of the regular Atom with a completely new headphone amplifier and a modified Class A preamp that sounded wonderful on the Benchmark AHB2 power amplifier.
Again a nice screen, Roon Ready, wonderful d/a converter with the absolute eye-catcher being that wondrous volume knob that lights up when you turn it. Finally another reason to get out of our easy chairs.
As with the Atoll ST300, you would basically have enough with a pair of active speakers to have a minimal but wonderful system in your home. We would almost forget that the core business of this unit is to make your expensive headphones sound their best.
Rega Saturn MK3 cd player
Whether the compact disc is actually having a small resurgence or not doesn’t matter to us. Playing CDs on the Rega Saturn MK3 CD player reminded us that you have to create a pretty optimized streaming network to beat this player’s playback quality.
Rega swears by the almost vintage Wolfson dac chips but the dual mono version contained in the Saturn sounds anything but old skool. Or maybe it is because this player sounds exquisite and “dare we say” musical. We rediscovered forgotten discs and heard new elements on our favorite albums. Again, the price is attainable. Very fine device.
Cyrus Audio i7-XR
When Cyrus Audio announced a completely new series we didn’t want to miss it. We tested the Cyrus Audio i7-XR and also got to keep it around for a bit longer, making it a very loyal friend that did not disappoint on any level. Overall good performance is what we demand from a device in this price range.
Playback is fast, detail-rich and with a PRaT that would be the envy of a Naim product. The i7-XR controlled our Revels with no problem and the light-up remote control was a pleasure to use. The Cyrus Audio i7-XR is an absolute benchmark in its price range.
Cables will always be a controversial topic but we found the Magnus series from Italy’s Ricable to be excellent across the board. We were allowed to work with the full line and discovered that these cables integrated easily into multiple setups. These cables brought calmness and balance to the system and never “sounded” sharp or analytical. The performance, build quality and good looks combine for exceptional value for money.