Wannabe Audiophiles, this is your Kickstarter Kit!

February 12, 2020

Admittedly, the headline was a bit of carrot bait, given Kickstarter’s sure-ormaybenot record in terms of funded products that actually come to fruition. That said, do you appreciate high end audio, are you fascinated by the possibilities of formats like DSD, and want far beyond your smartphone and streaming services, whether 96 kHz/24 bit Tidal Masters or Spoify’s Premium AAC 320kbit/s? In other words, do you crave the experience of physically setting up your system, mixing and matching components, that feel of satisfaction as varied knobs uplift and downplay the timber of the track? Then consider this list of our much recommended components very seriously. Of course, these are a relatively random set of products, so mix and match your impedance, sensitivity and power wisely. So off we go…

Astell&Kern Kann Cube

Think of it as the Kann multiplied by plenty into a hefty, half kilo, 32bit/384kHz, Native DSD256 supporting monster that’s many things, whether a music player with built-in storage, a DAC or a headphone amplifier. 2.5mm balanced and 3.5mm unbalanced connections  aside, a five-pin mini XLR connection lets you connect the player to an amplifier’s traditional 3-pin XLR socket, while variable power output options let you use it with all ranges of headphones. astellnkern.com, dubaiaudio.com

Project X2The X2 is project’s new premium turntable with a price which won’t break the bank. The X2 boasts a large and stiff MDF structure to remove unwanted resonance, with a premium speed control board to maintain a stable speed. The motor is decoupled from the main plinth, removing unwanted noise and vibration. Project designed a carbon and aluminium sandwich construction tonearm, which is incredibly light yet stiff to maintain rigidity and resistance to unwanted vibrations. Shipping with the Ortofon 2M Silver MM Cartridge, the Project X2 is available in Gloss Black, Satin Black, Walnut or White. project-audio.com, qualia.ae

Mytek Brooklyn DAC+

This is one of those products that’s almost too good to be true. For one, the Brooklyn DAC+ is a reference USB2 DAC supporting up to 384k, 32 bit and DSD256 conversion. The first stand alone DAC+ to incorporate future MQA streaming decoder, it’s also a high performance M/C, M/M phono preamplifier, a dual mono, high current (800mA) headphone preamplifier. Massively connected, this is rightfully claimed as the most versatile component in the world. mytekdigital.com

PrimaLuna Prologue Premium

Now this is truly a reference point if you’re looking for low-power, high-value amplification. Speaker connections for two sets of positive terminals mean you can perfectly match your speakers to the amplifier. Key to the magic of this $2,399 tube amplifier, of course, are the output transformers, built in-house, potted toroidal power transformers, adaptive auto bias circuit and a safety system that instantly shuts the whole amp down any time a tube fails. Oh, and the brand does mention there’s no such thing as a bad review.  primaluna-usa.com, dubaiaudio.com

Audience AV Forte V8

“Many good audiophiles tell me they cannot hear any noise in their system. However, once the noise has been removed by the application of a good AC power line conditioner, it becomes apparent that in fact they were listening to music through a layer of low level noise”.  This was Audience AV’s Founder, President and CEO John McDonald’s take on necessity for power conditioners in any audio set-up.

While one of the base models in their power conditioner portfolio [which includes flagships like the  aR12-T4], the $895 Forte V8 is ruggedly constructed in an extruded aluminum chassis and features eight hospital-grade outlets that are each separately wired to copper buss bars in a star grounding configuration using high-purity 14 AWG stranded copper wire. This configuration ensures optimum grounding with minimal noise. The forte V8 includes Audience RF filtration to block RF interference and a standard IEC power cord connection. All parts of the electric circuit have been cryogenically treated along with Audience’s proprietary EHVP (extreme high-voltage process). Pair this with the Audience Forte f3 powerChord. audience-av.com

Pro-Ject CD Box DS2T

Think of it as going pure with a vegenance. With the understanding that DAC electronics and the CD drive should be separated from each other to realize the best possible sound signature, the CD Box DS2T is designed exclusively as a pure audio CD transport, sending digital Red Book standard signals to an external DAC. Real-time scanning with minimal jitter is enabled, while its CD drives are housed in vibration-resistant cabinets. Perfect for CD, CD-R, CD-RW and Hybrid-SACD discs, digital outputs include of 1 co-axial (S/PDIF), 1 optical (S/PDIF) and 1 x XLR (AES/EBU). project-audio.com, qualia.ae

Keces Audio BP-2400

All around us, electronics device of various sorts and loads emits electrical noise picked up and transmitted through electrical circuits in the area where your audio system is installed. This is where a device like 8-port Keces Audio’s BP-2400 VA Balanced Isolation Power Conditioner plays a crucial part in ensuring that the output of your hi-end audio set up stays true to the dynamism and vibrancy of its source material. Key to the BP-2400’s appeal lies in its high precision winding toroidal transformer, with benefits like far less heat dissipation, more compact sizes and quiet operation. kecesaudio.com

Phobos Erzetich

At $1,999, the Erzetich Phobos planar magnetic headphones are in the upper scale of an already resurgent category. Auditory highlights aside, there is an immediately arresting visual impression, a sense of taking its place. Blending the classic with the contemporary, the mix of wood and metal radiates a timeless art-deco aura. Of course, the aged octagonally shaped block of Linden wood for the cups, complete with scrapes, pockmarks, grooves and defined grain add to the aura manifold. Very individual, the huge planar magnetic driver [105mm, perhaps?] assembly with 45 ohm impedence ensures that this is an extremely airy sounding headphone. erzetich-audio.com

DH Labs Corona

The objective of the Corona A/C Power cable is humble enough, to set a benchmark in high-performance A/C power cable technology. Robustly built to deliver instantaneous current without hesitation, the Corona A/C Power cable features double shielding and counter-spiraled silver-coated conductors which enhance noise rejection. Key USP’s include cryogenically treated Wattgate audio-grade connectors and a proprietary termination which helps improve dynamic contrasts as well as overall balance. silversonic.com

KEF LS50 Wireless

Imagine a pair of $2,000 Active speakers featuring an end-to-end 192kHz/24-bit high-resolution digital signal path, a streaming pre-amplifier, and two separate DACs for each channel, for a total of four. Powered in the analogue stage by an incredibly fast and clean 230 Watts per channel in a bi-amp dual mono configuration, the LS50 Wireless is a complete, high-fidelity music system that will cost you far less than you’d spend putting together separate components. Uni-Q sound? Yes indeed. kef.com, dubaiaudio.com

Sound Carrier Number Nine

A phono stage based on classic transistor technology, this is one device that is massively tweakable, letting you make the necessary adjustments to the gain level (MC input from 0.1mV to 1mV) and associated impedances (from 50 Ohms to 47 kOm). This MC pre stage made with an extremely low noise OP amp promises a very vibrant soundstage. Connectivity options at the back include MM or MC, RCA inputs, fuse, mains and output jacks. sound-carrier.com

Peli Air 1535

Surely, you want a safe haven for your multitudes of cables, connect, headphones and amps. Then Pelican’s military grade, moisture-proof, multi lock cases are much prescribed. The Air line which was introduced relatively recently, is light yet secure with all the tough features we have come to expect of the brand.

To top the options, Peli recently announced their Hybrid line, which includes both the TrekPak system and the classic Pick N Pluck manually customisable foam. Available as a new standard offering in either the Peli 1510 or Peli Air 1535 carry on case, the interior features both the TrekPak system and the classic Pick N Pluck manually customisable foam. From a user stand point, the Pick N’ Pluck foam is perfect for fixed solutions, while the TrekPak dividers give you the freedom to adjust the case to your ever-changing accessory needs. pelican.com

Meze Audio Empyrean

Meze Audio and Rinaro Isodynamics came together for a shot at the headphone throne with this creation. Design cues include a patented suspension wing leather and carbon fibre headband, integrated skeletal-aluminum yokes and impeaccable build quality courtesy CNC-milled aluminum outer-driver grilles.  At the heart of the Empyrean is a patent-pending isodynamic hybrid array driver, with a rounded maze-like upper section (switchback coil) and a more circular shape for the lower half of the driver array designed to work at distinct excursion tolerances for handling the spectrum of frequency levels required for reproduction in a high-fidelity transducer. mezeaudio.com

JBL Stage A170 tower speakers 

Key to the Stage A170’s charm is a 2.5-way design, meaning the top woofer operates as a mid-woofer in a traditional two-way loudspeaker and crosses over to the tweeter at 2.8kHz; the bottom woofer is rolled off sooner, at 1.8kHz. The tweeter’s dispersion is controlled on both the vertical and horizontal axis, ensuring that the A170s are engineered to image well. Add to this a tube amplifier with muscle, and you are on the right track indeed! jbl.com

Graham Slee Majestic DAC / Pre Amplifier

The British hi-fi manufacturer’s DAC is also a preamp for the digital age, featuring seven digital inputs and one analogue input, with a vision of making music sound natural. Aart from donning the robe of a 24bit/192khZ DAC, the $1,799 Majestic DAC’s analogue input has been tuned to be suitable for the output of a phono stage. hifisystemcomponents.com



by Anil George
Avid follower of all things tech. In between his quest for the ultimate gizmo, Anil fiddles with light meters, collects rare books and feeds his fetish for Jap horror movies. As Managing Editor of T3 Middle East for the GCC, Anil oversees content direction across print and digital. He was a CES 2020 Innovation Awards Judge, reprising his role as an Innovation Awards Judge at CES 2018, CES 2017, 2016 and 2015. Anil is also the Middle East's first Brand Ambassador for Ashdown Engineering. Reach him at: editor@t3me.com.