Hi-Fi News Yearbook: ADL, DS Audio & Gamut among ‘ultimate’ hi-fi of 2015

It’s that time of year again. No, not Christmas, but a feast of dreams nonetheless! Every December, Hi-Fi News & Record Review publishes its much-anticipated Yearbook, highlighting the year’s most desired, delectable and memorable audio goodies from around the globe.

This year’s bumper 172-page issue includes among its treats DS Audio’s DS-W1 optical phono cartridge, ADL’s H128 headphone and Gamut’s D3i/M250i pre and mono power amps.

DS Audio DS-W1 optical phono cartridge: “a superlative device”

DS Audio DS-W1 optical phono cartridge
DS Audio DS-W1 optical phono cartridge

In 2013, Japan’s DS Audio pioneered the world’s only current optical phono cartridge, exclusively for the Japanese market. In 2015, it came to the UK and immediately picked up a Hi-Fi News Editor’s Choice Award.

Unlike previous ‘non-contact’ systems which used lasers to read record grooves, DS Audio’s design is a pure analogue contact system that uses a conventional stylus and cantilever. However, in contrast to moving-magnet (MM) and moving-coil (MC) cartridges, which work on the principle of electromagnetic induction, the DS-W1 uses an optical system to convert stylus/cantilever movements into audio signals. The advantage of this system is that it completely eliminates the electromagnetic frictional force that is a ‘fact of life’ in all MM and MC designs.

“It is, by any measure, a superlative device,” wrote reviewers, “the sound is enough of a departure from classic MC/MMs that you absolutely must hear it for yourself”.

Price: £6,250
Full details: DS Audio website

ADL H128 headphone: “the beauty of the music shone through”

ADL H128 headphone
ADL H128 headphone

The closed-back, circumaural H128 is the second headphone from ADL (Alpha Design Labs), sister brand of Japanese audio accessories experts Furutech. With the H128, ADL have sought to replicate the smooth, well-balanced sound of their original H118 model, but with the addition of greater dynamics to recreate the ‘punch’ of a live performance. A lofty goal for a pair of headphones!

Reviewers challenged the H128 with a Beethoven String Quartet in native DSD, with its gargantuan size and vividly present stereo image. “It’s a challenge to which the H128 stood up well,” they concluded. “The big-boned beauty of both the music and recording really shone though”.

Price: £295
Full details: ADL website – H128

Gamut D3i/M250i pre & power amps: “an absolute riot”

Gamut D3i and M250i pre and power amps
Gamut D3i and M250i pre and power amps

“The Gamut amps are an absolute riot,” said reviewers of the D3i preamp and M250i monoblocks, “not just finding information in tracks that lesser amplification merely suggests might be there, but proving entirely unburstable right up to the limits of what a pair of speakers can handle”.

“These Gamuts have all the agility and finesse required for fine sound,” they concluded, “but underpinned with a massive sense of power and total control.” While the combo may be priced well into the high-end, “it’s worth every penny,” was the verdict.

Price (pre/power): £5,770/£17,315 (pair)
Full details: Gamut Audio website – amplifiers

DS Audio, ADL and Gamut are distributed in the UK by Berkshire-based Sound Fowndations.