Sleek Stylish and Scintillating New SONOS Amp

The new SONOS AMP has arrived and it is a thing of beauty.

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This AMP is an exercise in industrial design, sleek looking, lovely soft touch finish and touch sensor controls on the front edge.

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When we look round the back of the AMP it has the same elegant and minimal approach. There is a pair of phono sockets for analogue in, an HDMI socket for interfacing with your TV, a subwoofer output for traditional subs and a couple of Ethernet sockets. The speaker sockets are 4mm banana type and plugs are supplied in the package.

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This is definitely the best AMP SONOS have produced sounding wonderful streaming Woodkid -The Golden Age from our library on a pair of Dali Zensor 5 floorstanders. It handles the intricate percussion of this album with ease and manages to reproduce the scale of the production effortlessly. On more intimate material like Chris Jones - Roadhouses and Automobiles there is real delicacy and resolution

The AMP also adds a lot of flexibility to an existing SONOS system, use it to connect an external source into the SONOS chain like a turntable or CD player, it will also integrate into SONOS surround systems with its HDMI input. It has Airplay 2 and a healthy 125 W per channel unlike the old Connect amp which is 55W.

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All in all the new SONOS AMP is a big hit with us here at Audio T Brentwood.

Come in and hear for yourself!

Paul, Francis, Jason, and Boswell

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SONOS is available from the following branches of Audio T: Brentwood, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Enfield, Manchester, Online, Oxford, Portsmouth, Preston, Southampton, Swansea, Swindon

Change The Record And Keep It Clean! Pro-ject VCS MKII & Record Cleaning Accessories

OK, so you either you bought yourself or you’ve been gifted that lovely new turntable and you’ve been busy buying up lots of lovely new records to play on it. Now what if you discover that your recent purchase is in less than perfect condition?

Well you could of course go down the route of buying yourself a dedicated record cleaning machine. The one that we always keep on coming back to is the Project VCS Mk2. Hailing from the same company who are world famous for producing top notch turntables this cleaner is built like a tank and is super easy to both set up and to use! The VCS Mk2 has the remarkable ability of being able to rescue some of the crackliest sounding second hand purchases, making them sound and look like they are fresh out of the shop!

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Sometimes even brand new and shiny looking LPs can suffer a little from stray clicks and pops caused by specs of dust that have managed to embed themselves deep in the records grooves and here a quick spin on the VCS Mk2 can reap rewards. We have two local second hand record stores who have both invested in this miraculous little machine and both of them swear by it and use them daily!

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Now what if those dusty records have clogged up your brand new stylus with a little ball of tricky to remove fluff? You need one of these rather nifty little stylus cleaning brushes imaginatively named Clean-it!

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The brush boasts a pad of short carbon fibres and all you do is run the brush down the cantilever and over the diamond stylus. This will remove dirt deposits and stray fluff from the stylus tip. And remember removing dust, dirt and fluff from the stylus not only prolongs the life of you cartridge but will also improve sound quality and most importantly of all protect your records from wear. And hey…..they are not expensive!

Logically it follows that the best way to stop your stylus from fluffing up at all is to give your records a good clean up before playing them. For this very purpose comes the carbon fibre bust that Project call Brush-it. I sense a theme here! This is every vinyl lovers’ essential piece of kit; a brush specially designed to keep your precious vinyl in optimum playing condition, free from atmospheric and residue blemishes.

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As the record is spinning you simply drag the brush lightly from the inside to the outside and it will drag any dust out with it. It is also genius at reducing static charge in the vinyl too!

And talking of reducing static charge I come on to the phenomenon that is the anti static inner sleeve! Our preferred brand is the Nagoaka.

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Coming in packs of fifty, not only will these prevent the build up of a static charge which can manifest itself as random audible clicks and pops that can interfere with your listening pleasure, they also provide a huge degree of protection from scratch damage when taking records from or putting them back in to those hideous cardboard inner sleeves that most record labels seem to deem adequate protection for their shiny new slices of vinyl (that happens to be one of my pet hates that one!) These sleeves are also an essential item for when you have just given your record a rejuvenating spin on the VCS Mk2 record cleaning machine!

Pro-ject turntables & accessories are available at the following branches of Audio T:

Brentwood, Bristol, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Enfield, Manchester, Online, Oxford, Portsmouth, Preston, Swansea, Swindon

Riders On The Stream! Marantz NA6006

If you've been contemplating how best to incorporate streaming into your existing system, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater and starting again, we may just have the perfect solution.

Allow us to introduce the Marantz NA6006. A stand alone network audio player that offers everything you need to enjoy the vast array of title's that streaming services, such as Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify offer, and all without leaving the comfort of your armchair.

A nice, bright, clear display and straight forward front panel controls in matching Marantz casework, a thing of beauty.

A nice, bright, clear display and straight forward front panel controls in matching Marantz casework, a thing of beauty.

Derived from the outstanding ND8006, the NA6006 boasts improved Digital to Analogue conversation, via the ESS Sabre 9016 chip set, offering high resolution audio up to 192kHz/24 bit and DSD 5.6MHz. The DAC, coupled with Marantz’s unique HDAM - High Definition Amplifier Modules are designed to lower the noise floor and provide a wider bandwidth. It starts to sound like an exciting prospect.

The rear panel.

The rear panel.

The NA6006 is compatible with Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as Apple Airplay 2, the Marantz also offers Bluetooth for connection from a phone, tablet or PC.

Control is delightfully straight forward via the free HEOS app, Simply download it to your phone or tablet and you're away. The vast array of Internet Radio stations are readily available via Tune In, and if you have a network attached storage (NAS) device on your home network, your music can be searched, selected and streamed, all from within in the HEOS app. Popular streaming services such as Deezer, Spotify and Tidal all work within the app, ensuring a smooth selection of your chosen artist without frustration.

In addition there are two optical connections, one input and one output (should you wish to use an off board digital to analogue converter (DAC). There are fixed and variable RCA outputs allowing volume to be controlled via the amplifier or via the app. But if you prefer to keep matters simple the NA6006 also comes with a dedicated remote control.

A good, old fashioned remote control makes operation a breeze.

A good, old fashioned remote control makes operation a breeze.

We are are big fans of the Marantz 6006 range here at Audio T Oxford. The amplifier and the CD player both offer a superlative performance, that belies their respective asking prices and after some critical listing it appears that the NA6006 is no exception. 

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Marantz NA6006 with Rega’s sublime Brio integrated amp, if Cheeky Mouse had thumbs, he would definitely show his approval

With our evaluation, we choose to use matching Marantz electronics in the 6006 range, coupled to pair Bowers and Wilkins 707 S2’s (an outstanding pair of speakers), priced at £800.  We also used Chord Clearway speaker cable at £10 a metre and the entry level C-line interconnect, also from Chord (just £40 for a 0.5 meter), to deliver an improved performance over the "in-the-box" cable. We started with the Marantz CD6006 SE and then selected the same track via Tidal and what we heard was a tighter bass presentation and a definite sense that the presentation sounded fuller , various elements of the recording we more firmly fixed in the soundstage, it was a genuinely nice surprise. After listening to a few track, we took the opportunity to try another one of our favourite components and swapped out the Marantz amplifier for Rega's Brio. The improvement in presentation was immediately apparent; this is clearly a component that will work well when connected to more exotic equipment.

We have the Marantz NA6006 on display at the Oxford store and we are always pleased to offer a demonstration at your convenience. Contact on 01865 765961 and ask for Chris, Jon or Andrew.

Marantz Hi-Fi products are available at the following branches of Audio T:

Brentwood, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Enfield, Manchester, Online, Oxford, Portsmouth, Preston, Southampton, Swansea, Swindon

Time For A Little ZEN Courtesy of Innuos

Just arrived into Preston store we have the all new Innuos ZEN mini MK3. With all the all the CD ripping convenience of the MK2 but with added upgrades to make it even more appealing to home digital music streaming enthusiasts.

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As before the ZEN mini is available with 1/2/4/8 Tb internal storage, we opted for the 1TB at £899.

Innuos have made connectivity upgrades by adding a custom motherboard to include two Ethernet ports for network pass through to other network devices that are close by, this helps with audio playback performance.

The ZEN Mini MK3 now incorporates analogue/coaxial and optical outputs, we have used these in store and partnered it up with the Cyrus One HD and used the Neat Iota Alpha speakers and we were blown away with how it performed, whilst being so neat and compact.

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As for controlling the ZEN simply type my.innuos.com into your browser and up it pops!

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Taking around 5-10 minutes to copy an album (depending on which ripping mode is selected), all you need to do is pick the file format you require supporting DSD, FLAC and WAV, we tend to stick with FLAC as it takes up less space.

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All the album artwork is found making for easy navigation of your collection.

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If you want to control the ZEN from a tablet we have found a great free app for Android called Squeezer, if your using an Apple IOS product iPeng can be purchased for £8.99.

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Also available is the new dual-linear power supply if want to get even more performance from the product at £499 or £449 if purchased together with the ZEN at the same time.

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A great addition to any multi-room music system whatever the level your at. We look forward to demonstrating it for you. Ian & Gavin - Audio T Preston

Innuos Hi-Fi products are available at the following branches of Audio T: Brentwood, Bristol, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Enfield, Manchester, Online, Portsmouth, Preston, Reading, Southampton, Swansea, Swindon

Rega, QUAD and Spendor Hi-Fi System Focusing On Vinyl And CD!

We realise that not everyone wants to stream their music, some people like to keep it simple with CD and Vinyl. With this in mind we put together a quality mid range system (Under £4000 excluding cables) for a small to medium room that sounds great and focuses on more traditional formats.

Quad Solus, Rega Planar 3 & Fono MM

Quad Solus, Rega Planar 3 & Fono MM

The honest shot showing the connecting cables!

The honest shot showing the connecting cables!

Starting with the hub of the system, we have the Quad Artera Solus. The Solus is an amplifier / CD combo in the very high quality Artera casework giving it a really solid, hefty feel.

Quad Artera Solus

Quad Artera Solus

For our record spinner we chose the latest version of the iconic Rega Planar 3 with Elys cartridge and the Rega Fono MM phono stage. The Planar 3 is available in Black or White as well as the Red finish shown below, and without cartridge if you would prefer to choose your own.

Rega Planar 3 with Elys

Rega Planar 3 with Elys

Rega Fono MM

Rega Fono MM

And last but not least, one of the most compact floorstanding speakers we have, the Spendor A2 in black. The Spendor’s are also available in Dark Walnut and Natural Oak. White is available at a premium. Grills are available as an optional extra.

We tried several pairs of speakers with the system and liked the Spendor’s the most. Although they struggle to fill a big room, the combination of subtlety and a very natural musical presentation won us over against some of their bigger rivals.

Spendor A2

Spendor A2

Although this system is excellent with CD and Vinyl it does have potential to expand. The Quad Solus does have Bluetooth if you want to dip your toe into the streaming world. It also has digital inputs, and analogue outputs for the Quad Artera Power amplifier for a bigger room / speakers.

Quad Artera Solus Rear

Quad Artera Solus Rear

Feel free to come in and have a listen. Thanks for reading Nick, Joe & James - Audio T Portsmouth.

Rega Hi-Fi products are available from all branches of Audio T

QUAD Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T: Brentwood, Brighton, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Enfield, Manchester, Oxford, Portsmouth, Preston, Southampton, Swansea, Swindon

Spendor Loudspeakers are available from the following branches of Audio T: Cardiff, Cheltenham, Portsmouth, Swindon

New Ruark R5 Coming Very Soon!

Ruark have been hard at work and a super new model is being added to the range. We are expecting a full complement of features and the sound quality that Ruark have become renowned for.

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To be launched at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show (organised by AUDIO T) 22nd to 24th February.

We would love to tell you more but we are sworn to secrecy until the launch date!

Ruark Audio

Available at
BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffCheltenhamEnfieldManchesterOnlineOxfordPortsmouthPrestonSouthamptonSwansea

The Innuos Zen Mini Mk3 - Ripping Your Music CDs With Ease

My skepticism of high end ripping units has always been true but the Innuos Zen Mini Mk3 has swayed me to say the least. The simplicity of feeding it a CD and seeing magically appearing on your streaming platform can’t be underestimated.

Capable of storing up to a thousand CDs on even it’s smallest 1TB hard drive the Innuos Zen Mini Mk3 gives you ample room to grow your music collection.

Simplifying your music collection has never been easier

This is not to say that it doesn’t have the nerd out stats and control that many of us (including myself) desire. Simply type my.innuos.com into your browser and there it is, supporting DSD, FLAC and WAV at CD native bit rates.

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USB External DAC Support

The Innuos Zen Mini Mk3 isn’t simply a music server, it competently takes on the role of streaming as well. Having both digital and analogue output makes the price tag very appealing and working with Squeezebox gives you access to Tidal, Spotify and Qobuz at hi-res with no limitations. It also has a Roon core built in as standard.

Innuos Zen Mini Mk3 Phono

Built in 192kHz 24biti

DAC

The Zen Mini is built with fantastic precision having hardware that quite literally outperforms the very computer I’m writing this blog on! An Intel Quad Core with 4GB Ram is more than you could ever need.

The slot loading TEAC disc drive rips through a CD in about 5 minutes, getting you through your collection quickly. The auto metadata collection is accurate and foolproof. Any unrecognised albums are conveniently put under ‘quarantine’ for later review and manual tagging.

Considering it costs less than many streamers that exist today it’s a hard product to dismiss, killing two birds with one stone. I simply can’t find anything to improve being one of the easiest Hi-Fi products I’ve ever used and with excellent sound quality to boot!

if you’re in the market to digitise your music collection and de-clutter without compromising on sound quality, then we would certainly recommend giving the Innuos Zen Mini serious consideration. As always, we’re happy to give you a demonstration.

Innuos products are available from the following branches of Audio T: Brentwood, Bristol, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Enfield, Manchester, Online, Portsmouth, Preston, Reading, Southampton, Swansea, Swindon

Don't Be Afraid to Catch Feels (Again): The Arcam SA20 Amplifier

Those of you who read our previous blog post about the Arcam SA20, mostly with regard to its performance with a Rega Planar 3 turntable, I’d hinted at the SA20's DAC but postponed elucidation to a later blog; this one!

To recap, the Arcam SA20 has two co-axial and one optical digital input, with a sophisticated 7-step filter selection which is fun to experiment with. I left it in position 3, Arcam’s default.

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A long-standing customer of ours (he knows who he is), brought his Bryston BDP-3 network audio player in for me to update and set-up. It has no DAC of it's own, so to check its function (and get a sneaky audition), I connected it to the SA20 that was warmed up in the dem suite with a Black Rhodium Rondo coaxial digital interconnect. (One of our favourites.) The speakers were the Monitor Audio Silver 200s I had connected for the Rega Planar 3 turntable demo earlier.

Our Mr K remembered how fond I am of Norah Jones, so he brought in a 24-bit download from HDTracks of 'Come Away with Me', plus Diana Krall's 'Turn Up The Quiet' for good measure. (What a nice man.) All in all, about £6k for the system, with an unusually high 2/3rds of the budget given up to the front end.

Wow!

What initially grabbed our attention was the soundstage. Just before Lee Alexander starts playing bass on "Cold, Cold Heart", it pops out, almost holographic. Norah's delicate piano playing and delicious, breathy vocals (steady now - ed) firmly held in their own space, the swing of the bass washed over, melted us into the sofa and had me longing for a glass of something restorative.

This Arcam SA20 amplifier continues to impress...

Thanks for reading. - Audio T Swansea.

Arcam Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T: Brentwood, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Enfield, Oxford, Preston, Southampton, Swansea, Swindon

A New R Series From KEF At Audio T Brentwood

We’ve just recently received our new R Series speakers from KEF and we’re loving what they do. KEF have revamped the R series with new components and a radical grille aesthetic and it really works.

The previous range was a hit but KEF have once again filtered down technology from their acclaimed Reference series to produce a winning combination of finish and performance.

Pictured below is the new R7 in walnut finish and is absolutely beautiful.

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With its colour matched drivers and beautiful wood veneer the R7 really is a handsome beast.

There are actually 7 speakers in the R series but for the moment we are going to concentrate on the R7 seen above, the R5 and the R3.

They all use the familiar KEF UniQ drivers to give point source accuracy, an approach which has been continually refined over the years this, coupled with new cabinet technologies like Shadow Flare to reduce edge diffraction and flexible port technology, makes for a winning combination in the sound quality stakes.

The R5 is a slightly smaller floorstander seen here in the piano black finish.

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Here you can see the ingenious terminal arrangement for the  R5  with KEF’s integral link knobs for bi-amping or bi-wiring.

Here you can see the ingenious terminal arrangement for the R5 with KEF’s integral link knobs for bi-amping or bi-wiring.

The R3 is another true three way design but this time in a stand mount configuration

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Probably the best colour to show off the rather radical grilles which are perforated microfibre and feel like suede!

Probably the best colour to show off the rather radical grilles which are perforated microfibre and feel like suede!

So how do they sound?

Well the good news is that across these three models there is definitely a family continuity.

Run with our new Primare I35 and CD35 this is a range which exhibits a beautifully even performance across the frequency range with lovely spaciousness o the sound and great imaging.

Steven Wilson’s album, To the Bone came across with great authority but also delicacy where needed and the highly intelligent (if somewhat racy) pop of Janelle Monae’s new album Dirty Computer really had a lot of drive and flow.

With a size available to match most rooms and systems we think this R series is going to be a huge success for KEF.

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Why not come and have a listen! Thanks for reading. Paul, Jason and Francis - Audio T Brentwood

KEF Loudspeakers are available from the following branches of Audio T: Brentwood, Bristol, Cardiff, Enfield, Manchester, Online, Portsmouth, Preston, Southampton, Swansea, Swindon

Focal Headphone Triple Treat: Clear, Elear And Elegia Get You Wired For Sound.

The iconic Sony Walkman was introduced to the world in 1979, thus starting a revolution in portable music. Of course headphones were a key part of that movement. Suddenly people everywhere were seen wandering the streets and on subways wearing little discs on their ears.

Trapped in their own world (or even free to roam their own little audio heaven) people just loved music on the go. From then on headphones give us absolute control over our audio-environment, allowing us to privatise our own space. But it also represented a shift in our basic relationship to music.

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And then of course came the Mp3/Ipod movement and then the high end music player market. As a result we (the industry) have had a year on year growth in headphone sales for the last decade.

But that's not the only reason for great headphone sales over the last decade or so. In 2014 GQ magazine had a headphone spread on its website and made this quote “The newest fashion accessory isn't a fashion accessory at all. It's head-swaddling high-style headphones ,that make as much of a statement as anything you're wearing”. So looking and sounding good is a must.

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Enter the Focal headphones.

The headphone cable is covered with a braided-cotton sleeving to prevent any electrostatic charge. It looks good and will prevent our Chromey getting a shock!!!

The headphone cable is covered with a braided-cotton sleeving to prevent any electrostatic charge. It looks good and will prevent our Chromey getting a shock!!!

The stamp “fabrique en Francais” make the team at Focal quite proud and create beautiful products.

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Pictured above are The Clear headphones.

Clear are the brand new open-back high-fidelity headphone made by Focal. Continuing in the spirit of Utopia and Elear and using the best of Focal technologies, Clear offer the sensation of listening to your favourite music in a space that no longer has limits. Discover the emotion of music, thanks to Clear's ability to recreate the tiniest details of the recording.

20mm memory foam ear cushion covered with a perforated microfibre fabric.

Key points:

• Open-back design for use at home

• Exclusive full-range speaker driver with an 'M'-shape Aluminum/Magnesium dome (patent pending)

• Excellent performance when connected to an audiophile portable stereo

• A listening experience very close to that provided by high-fidelity loudspeakers

• Comfortable and ergonomic.

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Pictured above are the Elear headphones.

Elear is an open back pair of headphones featuring numerous innovations from Focal, which are key to their outstanding acoustics performance. Elear offers the world’s first, full range and fully open back loudspeaker, built-in to a pair of headphones. Additionally, they are made from an Aluminum-Magnesium blend, in a formed shape, unique to Focal with the company’s brand new “M” shape dome. This new dome shape has originated from the research performed during the Utopia headphone project that will offer the highest quality sound, while avoiding potential avenues of distortion.

The acoustic quality of this exclusive solution allowed Focal to avoid the use of any crossover or passive filtering process in order to achieve a frequency response from 5Hz to 23kHz.

The result is thus impressively realistic, making the headphones virtually disappear and providing listeners with a truly unique high-fidelity audio experience. Elear also benefits from the R&D done on Utopia. With regards to mechanical design, the rotation traditionally included on the yoke has been moved into the headband to ensure the total purity of the design. The microfiber fabric, used on the cushions, offers a true comfort for all head shapes and sizes – a quality that is mandatory for long listening sessions.

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Pictured above is the Elegia headphone.

Elegia is an audiophile circum-aural closed-back pair of headphones from Focal. The ergonomic design makes them incredibly comfortable and offers excellent sound isolation, making these headphones the ideal solution for long listening sessions. Continuing its headphone development programme, the Focal R&D team has introduced several new innovations, all with incredible audio performance in mind. The full-range 'M'-shape aluminium/magnesium dome speaker driver provides a very high frequency response, which is the basis for Elegia’s supremely dynamic sound. In addition, the frameless voice coil, which is lightweight yet incredibly stiff, reproduces the minutest details that adds to the convincing all-round performance. With its incredible tonal balance combined with long-term comfort, the Elegia is a key reference in the high-end closed-back headphones sector.

The leather and microfibre headband is a feature on all 3 headphones. (not perforated on the Elear’s)

The leather and microfibre headband is a feature on all 3 headphones. (not perforated on the Elear’s)

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Ok so that's the technical details out of the way. How many different specs could you possibly need before we all start to glaze over? What we really want is the music to start flowing, so without further ado, here are our deliberations.

How do they sound?
Well The Clear are certainly the best of the bunch, sounding much more detailed with an openness and airiness that lends it self to the lightweight diaphragm in the Clear's which is much more responsive than the Elear and Elegia.

But to be fair, and this isn't a cop out, all three of the Focal headphones sound impressive for their respective price points, but don’t take our word for it, come and have a listen and decide for yourself!

£1399 for The Clear, £895 for The Elear and £799 for The Elegia. But in all honesty the proof of the pudding is in the listening. So get yourselves over to our store on Bridge Street Manchester, all of the featured headphones are on demo.

Mike, Munir, Dave and Simon (Haden on Sunday's) will be there to help you to turn on, tune in and drop out.

And remember, our Cliff can’t be wrong. As seen in The Guardian’s top ten worst video’s ever made.

Focal Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T: Bristol, Cheltenham, Online, Southampton, Swansea, Swindon