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Our favourite products of 2020


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What a year!

Fortunately to take all our minds of the fact that the world is falling apart, we've all been enjoying audio in 2020 probably more than ever. And so we come to that time of the year where we list our favourite products that have come through the Frank Prowse HiFi doors and proved their worth. Over the next couple of weeks we will highlight  our contenders and why. Expect mentions from brands such as Innuos, Line Magnetic, Wilson Audio, Hegel, Wharfedale and a little known brand that we expect to be huge in 2021 - Waversa.

 

 

 

 

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So, to the contenders:-

 

1. Innuos ZEN MK3 Music Server

 

2. Wilson Audio Sasha DAW Loudspeakers

 

3. Hegel H390 Integrated Amp

 

4. Wharfedale Elysian 2/4 Loudspeakers

 

5. Waversa WSlim Lite Integrated Amp

 

6. Line Magnetic LM-805iA Integrated Amp

 

7. Funk Firm Houdini Cartridge Decoupler

 

 

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So, first contender up is the Innuos ZEN MK3 Music Server. Why the ZEN and not the ZENITH or ZEN MINI, or even the STATEMENT?

 

Well, havent heard the Statement yet!

The ZEN strikes a great balance between price and performance. Dual linear PSU with mains filter. Isolated ethernet ports and both CD drive and HDD are on independent floating platforms. Full size chassis. A great step up from a Roon Nucleus - you get CD ripping natively built-in as well as uPnP support (for those not inclined to lean towards Roon) and about to launch soon is InnuOS 2.0, which brings their own control system keeping everything in-house rather than using third party apps.

 

And with Squeezelite Player enabled alongside Roon, performance is lifted to another level.

The Innuos ZEN MK3 Music Server - so good, I bought one myself!


https://www.stereo.net.au/forums/uploads/monthly_2020_10/ZEN2.jpg.610b612a870860c5b37c37b53e14351b.jpg

https://www.stereo.net.au/forums/uploads/monthly_2020_10/ZEN3.jpg.04c8ac985db7bbfb947606c3390e84cb.jpg

 

https://www.stereo.net.au/forums/uploads/monthly_2020_10/ZEN4.jpg.37a1c4626af6baf13af42c65e668771d.jpg

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So, next cab off the rank is the Line Magnetic LM-805iA integrated amplifier. Hard to choose one from the entire range (and we've stocked and heard the LOT!) but I think the 805iA hits the sweet spot in terms of power, poise, performance and SET liquid goodness. A stunning looking product built using truly worldwide components, this Class A behemoth is a two-person lift to position into place, but once you do, you ain't ever moving it! Capable and reliable - a great endorsement and an example of both the brand and their representation in Australia.

 

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The audiophile fraternity are not a very forgiving bunch. We know that Wharfedale has been playing in the low-end of the hifi world for far too long and had anybody asked us 18 months ago if we would be selling Wharfedale at Frank Prowse Hi-Fi, we've would've said no!

Then the Heritage series came along and this all changed. Beautiful to look at with an engaging musicality that is less about the speaker and more about the music. From there, it's been a home run after home run for Wharfedale. The acclaimed Evo series. The big-selling Diamond range. But Wharfedale made a serious statement with the Elysian Series. A no-compromise range consisting of two speakers - a large floorstanding behemoth and an almost-as-large standmount.

The Elysians are giant-killers, they have a sound and build that competes with brands at much higher price points. They deserve all the praise they can and will get over the coming months.

They have impressed anyone who has been fortunate to come through and listen to them. They impressed me so much I bought a pair! (E4)

Wharfedale Elysian - welcome to the big time.

 

elysian_2_and_elysian_4_group__large_full.jpg.3587cc869e770dca189bc614cffd595c.jpg

 

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14 hours ago, 2Brix said:

Any contenders in the realm of phonostages ? :ph34r:

 

Too many great product came through the doors this year but we cant put them all on the list!!

Anyways, it doesnt need our approval - these guys loved it:-

 

PrimareR35Award.thumb.jpg.62574c9018bf4b6ae65a87126e1bf304.jpg

 

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So No.3 on the list is Hegel, or specifically, the H390, although any Hegel could be on this list.

Talk about a brand that has in a very few short months become one of our biggest selling brands! All models in the Hegel range scale really well - by that I mean that just when you are content with one of the models, a listen to the next model up the chain changes your perceptions all over again. Proprietary technologies as well great current delivery and exceptionally high damping factor means these tonally neutral amps allow your speakers of choice to sing in their own skin rather than imposing a tonality over them.

The H190 was our introduction to the brand, but I have a soft spot for the H390 - it gives amplifiers costing twice as much a serious run for their money, hence why it is the chosen one on the list.

We are excited to see what 2021 holds for Hegel (at the very least Roon integration at last!?) .

 

H390.jpg.7fbf4b4f390bf8a859762549acf250b7.jpg

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The Waversa WSlim Lite all-in-one amplifier.

 

Ok, South Korean brand, the owner of which designed many "things" for the military, but we all know how companies and personnel who start out in that field, make an amazing transition to the audio world. Waversa is no exception and they are in our opinion, the "NEXT BIG THING". Yet, its their tiny, all in one WSlim Lite that has been impressing us and clients. About the size of an iPad, this amplifier packs a punch, capable of driving large, difficult speakers with ease (such as B&W 800 Series). In terms of functionality, it is equipped with optical digital, coaxial digital, USB, Ethernet, and FM tuner, and can play back high-quality sound from a wide variety of devices.
By connecting to a LAN cable, DLNA as well as ROON is supported. 

Equipped with 8 PPBTL type power amplifiers for each of the left and right channels, it has the power to drive even low-impedance speakers, and the harmonic information of a vacuum tube amplifier is reproduced in ultra-high definition with the latest digital technology "WAP/X". 

Is this the best amp ever? Well no, but something this small SHOULD NOT sound this good.

 

IMG_0541.thumb.JPG.cbd55fbee3a864b86358ef4e094f145b.JPG

 

IMG_0542.thumb.JPG.0d5a3cc80f12bc85c75ff1673954b2a8.JPG

 

IMG_0543.thumb.JPG.8242fa7770d0206e9778897784fcd164.JPG

 

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image1.thumb.jpg.09f454e901e07b753f9f8fdc388b30ce.jpg

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44 minutes ago, Frank Prowse Hi-Fi said:

The Waversa WSlim Lite all-in-one amplifier.

 

Ok, South Korean brand, the owner of which designed many "things" for the military, but we all know how companies and personnel who start out in that field, make an amazing transition to the audio world. Waversa is no exception and they are in our opinion, the "NEXT BIG THING". Yet, its their tiny, all in one WSlim Lite that has been impressing us and clients. About the size of an iPad, this amplifier packs a punch, capable of driving large, difficult speakers with ease (such as B&W 800 Series). In terms of functionality, it is equipped with optical digital, coaxial digital, USB, Ethernet, and FM tuner, and can play back high-quality sound from a wide variety of devices.
By connecting to a LAN cable, DLNA as well as ROON is supported. 

Equipped with 8 PPBTL type power amplifiers for each of the left and right channels, it has the power to drive even low-impedance speakers, and the harmonic information of a vacuum tube amplifier is reproduced in ultra-high definition with the latest digital technology "WAP/X". 

Is this the best amp ever? Well no, but something this small SHOULD NOT sound this good.

 

IMG_0541.thumb.JPG.cbd55fbee3a864b86358ef4e094f145b.JPG

 

IMG_0542.thumb.JPG.0d5a3cc80f12bc85c75ff1673954b2a8.JPG

 

IMG_0543.thumb.JPG.8242fa7770d0206e9778897784fcd164.JPG

 

Waversa_slim_1_remote1.jpg.dfccbd7bb13e6492c92b83c4ae6c1ecc.jpg

 

image1.thumb.jpg.09f454e901e07b753f9f8fdc388b30ce.jpg

 

 

How does one say hook up a phono stage so you can spin a turntable with this all in one digital amp/streamer?

 

cheers

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1 hour ago, metal beat said:

 

 

How does one say hook up a phono stage so you can spin a turntable with this all in one digital amp/streamer?

 

cheers

So obviously like some brands who have embraced digital as their preferred connectivity method, unless you bring some kind of ADC to the mix (like the PSAudio phono stage), you could opt for the WSlim accessory, the WSlim Dock:-

 

Slimdsa_720x.jpg.32ed5b191b2f4cb9413b6ef166d575ad.jpg

 

slimds_720x.jpg.4a63ccc61cd893bdb6f6ed87a31e08de.jpg

 

This adds XLR and RCA inputs, and MM and MAC phono stage, headphone amplifier, HDMI (ARC) in and out as well as internal SSD space to turn this into a music server as well.

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21 minutes ago, Frank Prowse Hi-Fi said:

So obviously like some brands who have embraced digital as their preferred connectivity method, unless you bring some kind of ADC to the mix (like the PSAudio phono stage), you could opt for the WSlim accessory, the WSlim Dock:-

 

Slimdsa_720x.jpg.32ed5b191b2f4cb9413b6ef166d575ad.jpg

 

slimds_720x.jpg.4a63ccc61cd893bdb6f6ed87a31e08de.jpg

 

This adds XLR and RCA inputs, and MM and MAC phono stage, headphone amplifier, HDMI (ARC) in and out as well as internal SSD space to turn this into a music server as well.

 

thanks

 

so to add one analog input you have to double the total outlay from $2495 to 5K.

 

Really?

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14 minutes ago, metal beat said:

 

thanks

 

so to add one analog input you have to double the total outlay from $2495 to 5K.

 

Really?

 

If you want to stick within a Waversa eco-system, then yes. If you only need a phono input for TT, then there are other options out there as previously mentioned. The Dock does increase the price point but I cant think of many other $5K products that truly do all of the aforementioned AND drive $20,000+ speakers. There are other products in the Waversa family that have phono stages built in, even standalone phono stages such as this one:-

https://waversasystems.com/wphono3

 

The WSlimLite wont be everything to everybody, but as a "toe dip" into their product range and what they can offer, we cant help but be incredibly impressed with what the brand can offer.

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Would love to try the Line Magnetic

Edited by JC.
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...likewise with the Elysian’s.

have you paired them with the LM’s?

Edited by JC.
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On 29/12/2020 at 5:03 PM, Frank Prowse Hi-Fi said:

All models in the Hegel range scale really well - by that I mean that just when you are content with one of the models, a listen to the next model up the chain changes your perceptions all over again. 

 

 

 
How well does this hold true for the jump to the H590 ?

 

 

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On 12/01/2021 at 8:34 PM, JC. said:

...likewise with the Elysian’s.

have you paired them with the LM’s?

 

Hi @JC., the Elysian 4 are VERY regularly partnered up with the LM-805 integrated in the store, as well as the 845Premium, both with great success. Lovely, liquid combination.

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On 12/01/2021 at 8:39 PM, JC. said:

 
How well does this hold true for the jump to the H590 ?

 

 

Most reviews tend to profess that the H390 is 90-95% as good as the H590. I own a H390 and if I had the spare cash I would upgrade in a heartbeat - the difference is quite noticeable!

 

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So, onto the Houdini cartridge adaptor thingymajig from The Funk Firm. We purposely held off on talking about this until we got a better sense of what it is capable of. But, upon first audition, excited is an understatement. This crept into our 2020 list at the very last moment, but the improvements it gave (on a MoFi UltraDeck with Ortofon 2M Black) were substantial.

So onto personal testing to get a sense that this aint no fluke, I bought one based on the above initial test for home use. Setup on a ProJect RPM10.1 and Supex SD900 IV cart, again the improvements were immediate and obvious. Better imaging, detail, air and a huge soundstage - even my wife remarked on the improvements ("are you really playing records still?").

This is one of those improvements were the cost is small but the improvements are huge. For some, the idea of paying $599 for this is ridiculous, but when this can improve your system far greater than an expensive tonearm change could (YMMV), this is the bargain of the year!

 

I will say it now - this is our runner-up Product of the Year 2020.

 

https://www.stereo.net.au/forums/uploads/monthly_2021_01/7C155DC0-5D49-4577-93D7-59F1425C4B6F.jpeg.b9f7da5b7e333c8bc9b3daa471b6ed27.jpeg

 

https://www.stereo.net.au/forums/uploads/monthly_2021_01/765882EA-7F75-4944-AEA2-1C40E6D8AD2F.jpeg.5fedd0d3086cb5ca76e85c2033023bd6.jpeg 

Edited by Frank Prowse Hi-Fi
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Everyone I know is singing the praises of the Houdini at the moment. Arthur Khoubesserian definitely knows what he's on about though so I have no doubt it lives up to the hype. Looking forward to trying one out soon.

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On 06/01/2021 at 4:09 PM, Frank Prowse Hi-Fi said:

The WSlimLite wont be everything to everybody, but as a "toe dip" into their product range and what they can offer, we cant help but be incredibly impressed with what the brand can offer.



Interesting proposition the WSlimLite. Can you suggest some smallish bookshelf speakers that work well with this?

 

Thank you,

 

Jack

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1 minute ago, Jack said:



Interesting proposition the WSlimLite. Can you suggest some smallish bookshelf speakers that work well with this?

 

Thank you,

 

Jack

 

Hi Jack, it really isn't fussy. We have got a great synergy going in store with the Vienna Acoustics Haydn Jubilee, but have also had it running with Elac Carina and Wharfedale Evo 4.2 with great success!

 

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4 hours ago, Frank Prowse Hi-Fi said:

 

Hi Jack, it really isn't fussy. We have got a great synergy going in store with the Vienna Acoustics Haydn Jubilee, but have also had it running with Elac Carina and Wharfedale Evo 4.2 with great success!

 


Thanks. Food for thought!

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