7 amazing (but stupidly expensive) bits of hi-fi kit
16th Dec 2008 | 16:30
Enjoy your music the way it was meant to be heard
We love the iPod as much as the next person, but there's a lot more to music systems than Apple's ubiquitous player and a cheap 'n' tacky speaker dock. No, if you really want to make your music go with a swing you really need some serious kit - and we've lined up 7 of the sexiest, most desirable and sweetest-sounding components known to man.
So take your sceptical hat off, avert your eyes from the wallet-gouging prices and just enjoy - it's what music is supposed to be about after all...
1. Continuum Caliburn-Cobra-Castellon
£80,000 • Absolute Sounds 020 8971 3909 • www.continuumaudiolabs.com
Oh boy, you could buy a house, a whole street or even an Audi R8 for similar money. But what a waste that would be. This beautiful engineered turntable has been designed to retrieve every nuance from your old vinyl albums and singles, and comes complete with a 40kg platter, a butter-smooth, zero cog motor and even a silent vacuum pump to keep your precious records glued to the deck. Completing the system are the Cobra tonearm, which has been fashioned from aircraft-grade aluminium, plus the Castellon stand that houses all the different components.
2. Metronome Technologie Kalista Reference / C2A CD player
£45,000 • Absolute Sounds 020 8971 3909 • www.metronome-technologie.com
Wow. If we didn't know better, we'd swear the Kalista was a baddie spaceship in Star Wars, but, luckily, it's just an awesomely good CD spinner instead. Much of this French feat of engineering is dedicated to isolating the CD transport from unwanted vibrations, complete with a 40mm thick Silent Base that rests on free-moving ball bearings. Joining the Kalista is the C2A, which converts all that soundless music data into audio signals you can hear.
3. Krell FBI integrated amplifier
£16,950 • Absolute Sounds 020 8971 3909 • www.krellonline.com
When it comes to big, shouty hi-fi amps, the Americans do it better than almost anyone else. For less than the price of a day's wages (if you're a Premier League footballer), the Krell FBI will deliver 300W of precision power to each speaker in your high-end hi-fi setup, and serve up more groovalicious bass than the best Ibiza nightspot you could name. Oh, and it also looks the business too. Did you say bling?
4. Mystère ia21 valve amplifier
£2,100 • Pistol Music 020 8971 3909 • www.mystere-eu.com
If you come out in hives every time some mentions silicon ICs, then this pleasingly well-priced hi-fi amp could be just what you're looking for. The ia21 serves up a deliciously warm, deeply musical and bass heavy sound using a combination of old-school valves and monster transformers. These help the amp deliver up to 50W per channel, with volume levels controlled by a 24-step dial. The only real concession to modernity is its bold blue LED display.
5. Ferguson Hill FH001
£9,950 • Ferguson Hill 020 7284 0969 • www.fergusonhill.co.uk
If you think speakers should be heard and not seen, this is about as close as you're going to get without burying them into your walls or ceiling. The FH001 is a classic horn speaker offering full-range of audible sound (150Hz to 20kHz) - although for deep bass you can also add the matching FH002 subwoofer £2,563). Best of all these big, big speakers only need relatively tiny amounts of power - as low as 5W - to deliver great sound. Perfect then for twinning with seemingly modest amplifiers, like the Mystère above.
6. Bowers & Wilkins 803D
£5,550 • Bowers & Wilkins 01903 221500 • www.bowers-wilkins.co.uk
Although it is seemingly more famous now for its Zeppelin iPod dock than anything else, Bowers & Wilkins has been crafting brilliant-sounding speakers for over 40 years - and the 803D floorstander is no exception. Borrowing technology from the ultra-exquisite and exclusive Nautilus (£44,000), the 803D serves up a smooth, dynamic and involving sound that belies it modest price, especially when teamed with a vinyl source and suitable amp.
7. Supra Sword Zero Inductance
£500 for a 2m pair • Supra Cables 01223 441299 • www.supracables.co.uk
Now while you can spend thousands of pounds on speaker cables, here's a great reason not to: almost all speaker cables - even the super-expensive ones - carry electrical current alongside the sound signals, causing all kinds of problems with timing and the clarity of your music. This patented cable gets around that by winding strands of copper cable in opposition - so 12 are wound one way and 12 are wound the other. Result? Instant musical perfection for a modest price. Can't say fairer than that.
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