Enter RAAL, a ribbon driver manufacturer based out of Serbia headed up by Alex Radisavljević. Alex has been submersed in audio since 1993 but has been designing and building ribbon drivers for transducers since 2007. These ribbon drivers are used by a plethora of HiFi speaker manufacturers including Salk, Nola, Ascend Acoustics, and Vapor Audio just to name a few. RAAL makes a killer ribbon driver and that's hard to argue at this point. Facts are facts.

Now enter Danny McKinney, president of Requisite Audio, based in Los Angeles. Requisite Audio fills the needs of the very demanding pro audio segment which deals with specialized gear for recording environments such as custom microphones and nearfield monitors. Danny is a very likable guy and never shies away from a great conversation about anything audio related. I first spoke to Danny just a few weeks prior to writing this article and we shared some interesting stories about headphones and our experiences in the Industry. I don't think I've had a better 'first impression' after speaking to someone for only half an hour.

Now, fast forward to the present. I have been looking for the next best thing as far as headphones are concerned after ending my relationship with Focal about 8 months prior. I had run into issues in relation to their Utopia headphones. My customers were, in some extreme cases, downright angry and felt betrayed by the way Focal was dealing with their unfortunate quality control problems. Focal made it right for all of my customers eventually, but not without some serious hoops to jump through to get there. That's not how you do business in a such a close knit community such as HiFi. To make a long story short, we both parted ways. I don't want to represent products that I can't stand behind with complete confidence.

How would I fill the void after losing a line like Focal? Well, find a headphone that performs on an even higher level than what was previously thought possible. Here's where Alex and Danny enter into the picture. Alex and Danny decided to partner up to form what is now known as RAAL-Requisite. The $3500 RAAL-Requisite SR1a is the product Danny and Alex came up with as a joint venture and it's definitely making a very big splash in the headphone world. In fact, the SR1a has set the bar for all other headphones in terms of performance to price ratio. Some would argue that the SR1a is THE top headphone to beat and can hang with the likes of the Sennheiser HE-1 (and may actually surpass it). That's a very bold statement!

So, how did I stumble upon the SR1a? One of my customers turned me on to them as a replacement for his recently sold Utopia. And boy, I'm so glad he did. Thank you Scott! After hearing his impressions on the SR1a, I knew I had to have them and see what they could do in my system. Scott emailed Danny and copied me on a message introducing both of us to one another. This is how I ended up meeting Danny.

Danny, being the nice guy that he is, brought YFS on as an authorized dealer after a simple conversation. That's how Danny works. No contracts to sign, no red tape, just a conversation and a 'virtual handshake' over the phone. That's how business should be done. After giving Danny my credit card information, he had a pair sent out to me immediately. Upon receiving the SR1a, I hooked them up to my system in my office and began to burn them in. My initial impression was 'Wow! These are super detailed yet not harsh or bright at all. These are dead neutral!" How is this possible? Ribbons are known for being a touch on the bright side in the 2 channel arena and must be matched properly with the appropriate gear to make sure they are not fatiguing. Well, not all ribbons work this way but the ones I have experience with do. Not so here.

50 hours later and the SR1a were even more neutral and just gave me a super clear picture of what I fed them. Play a bad recording and you hear the shortcomings of your music. But play a great recording and you get the best experience of that recorded event you can imagine. I really appreciate gear like this that is brutally revealing and honest. After all, these headphones were designed with the recording studio environment in mind where a mastering engineer would be using these to tweak and place the finishing touches on his or her creation. Fast forward to 250 hours and any hint of brightness or forwardness was now gone. The bass response was also stronger and more notable after break-in. So much for my previous experience with ribbons. I'm getting a completely different presentation than what I initially thought I would get with the SR1a which is quite impressive.

If the SR1a is a little on the bright side after break-in and you want to knock down the treble energy while enhancing the midrange and bass response, our custom hand-wound YFS 'Super 30' pure copper Litz cable will work perfectly and provide good synergy. Our YFS 'Super 30' Litz cable, when crafted specifically for the SR1a, contains double the standard conductor material to keep the cable impedance low and the current delivery as plentiful as possible. Just let us know if a custom YFS SR1a copper Litz cable is necessary and we'll twist one up for you without hesitation. Pricing depends upon the length of the cable. Feel free to contact us for lead times and to obtain a price quote for the specific cable length you have in mind.

How does one listen to a proper ribbon-based headphone anyway? Think of hanging a pair of tiny speakers in front of your ears. That's exactly what the SR1a is, a pair of ribbon drivers encased in a carbon fiber enclosure set in front of your ears. It's hard to imagine but this means you don't have traditional ear cups nor do you have traditional headphone sound. The sound coming out of the SR1a does not feel like it's coming out of a driver adjacent to your ears. It truly reminds me of a great pair of speakers situated extremely close to your head, like an extreme version of a studio nearfield monitor setup. I believe this is why Danny coined the term, 'Earfield Monitor' for the SR1a as that's the most accurate description I could come up with if you asked me to describe them. This unique design equates to the sound staging not being constricted at all. The SR1a feels like an 'out of head' experience. 

How does one drive a headphone like the SR1a, which presents a 0.2 Ohm load, with even the most powerful amplifiers available? RAAL-Requisite provides an 'interface box' that sits between the headphone and the amp. This small black box has a male 4-pin XLR connector on the front faceplate and a standard set of twistable locking binding posts (just like you would find on the rear of a 2 channel stereo amplifier) on the rear faceplate. Banana plugs or spades will work with the interface box. This black box allows the user to mate their favorite speaker cables to their favorite amplifier without fear of damaging any of their components in the process. RAAL-Requisite also employs a female 4-pin XLR connector on the amp-side of the factory headphone cable which means there's no way to plug the SR1a into a standard headphone amp. Most standard balanced headphone cables use a male 4-pin XLR connector instead of a female one. You have to admit, that's pretty darn smart.

Okay, so now that we know how the SR1a sounds, how does it feel sitting on top of your head? The SR1a rests on your head via two genuine leather straps held together with a metal headband. The main larger leather strap sits on top of your head like a traditional 'suspension style headband' but the smaller leather strap goes behind your head to keep the SR1a from sliding forward. I noticed during my listening sessions that the small strap could be placed on top of the large leather strap to make the SR1a sit on the top of your head like a traditional headphone. I have not decided whether I like them better with the small strap engaged behind my head or sitting on top of the larger leather strap. The jury is still out on which resting position I prefer. 

The SR1a is a very comfortable and particularly lightweight design. Since the drivers do not encompass your ears via ear cup pads like a standard headphone, I never found myself wanting to take them off. Without ear cups, your ears and head will not get sweaty during long listening sessions. This is a major bonus. Small lined pieces of foam are attached along the front / top of the driver enclosures which allow the ribbons to 'lay' next to your ears. These pads make contact with the sides of your head while listening. I did not find the pads overly annoying at all. Overall, the SR1a may need to be refined as far as fit and finish goes, but I personally think these cans are a home run right out of the gate.

Another very handy feature of the SR1a is the ability to adjust the toe-in of the drivers in relation to your ears and head. The drivers are mounted to the headband via a rotating swivel point which provides enough resistance to stay in place when rotated to the exact position you desire. After playing with the angle of the drivers for several hours, I ended up keeping them almost as flat as possible with only a slight amount of angling outwards from my ears. I am thinking this specific orientation may be tricking my brain into thinking the SR1a is an actual headphone more so than the other positions I tried. More time will be needed to settle on a final driver angle position but for now, I'm very happy with what I'm hearing.

How will the SR1a hold up over time? The ribbon drivers are rated to last several thousands of hours but will need to be replaced once this finite period of time is reached. Not to fear, on the RAAL-Requisite website you will find replacement drivers for $350 a pair. If you should happen to need your drivers replaced in an extraordinarily small amount of time (abnormally low hours of operation), that instance is covered under the 5 year warranty. If you are in doubt about specific timeframes for driver life or have any specific questions about warranty, it's always best to contact RAAL-Requisite directly. The replacement ribbon cartridges can be replaced easily by the end user by simply removing the old drivers and sliding the new ones in their place. This takes all of 30 seconds which also means there's no need to send in the SR1a for warranty / repair as this can be done at home after parts arrive from the manufacturer. This isn't exclusive of the drivers either. Replacement pads, interface boxes, the Pelican travel case, and a factory replacement cables in various lengths (spanning from 7 feet to 14 feet) are available from the SR1a accessories link on the company website. These finer points show that the SR1a is a special product. It appears Alex and Danny have thought of almost everything.

Let's talk about what you'll need to get the most out of the SR1a should you decide to give them a shot. Danny recommends a stereo amplifier with at least 150 Watts of power into a 4 Ohm load. This means any solid state integrated amp or preamp/ amplifier combo should work just fine as long as it adheres to the above specifications. Tubes are more than welcome as well. The guidelines for tube amplification are a little less stringent as tube amplifiers do not clip the same way when they are stressed like a solid state amp does. This means a 75 Watt to 100 Watt tube amp or integrated amp should do well for amplification duties. The interesting thing about the SR1a that surprised me the most is that super high-dollar amplifiers and preamps are not needed to get an amazing listening experience. That translates to not having to spend thousands of dollars on electronics to mate your source to these babies. In fact, your source / DAC is more important when it comes to selecting gear for the SR1a than the amplification which should really help listeners if they are on the fence about whether or not the SR1a is for them.

Another interesting thing to note here, which is also a sign of great gear in my opinion, is that the SR1a are VERY receptive to changes in gear and cables. Switch out your speaker cables and interconnects and you will notice a change immediately. This means the SR1a is a great tool for cable and equipment designers. The SR1a allows us to 'voice' our products and tweak them until they sound the way we want them to without straining to hear differences.

If there was anything to complain about regarding the SR1a, it would be the overall look of the headphone. There's no way around it, the SR1a look like something out of a Star Trek episode! But, this is hardly concerning once you hear what they can do. So, in a nutshell, there's really nothing to complain about at all. RAAL-Requisite has a winner on their hands and the rest of the competition has a lot of work to do to catch up, if they can...

Until next time...

- YFS Review Team


by Kevin OBrien on January, 22 2019


Do reference-level headphones belong at home? This is the question we keep asking ourselves, especially as of late. It seems the portable headphone market is larger than we first thought. A quick search online yielded a plethora of portable DAC / amp combo units available for taking your audiophile habit on the go. It never occurred to me until now that this could or should be a good idea for some odd reason. I have never experienced my HiFi anywhere but at home with my reference gear.

It seems this portable HiFi movement has spurred Audeze to introduce a new addition to their lineup, the LCD-4Z, that allows HiFi enthusiasts to take a reference quality headphone anywhere. The LCD-4Z offers up a very similar headphone to their flagship, the LCD-4, except it's designed around being as easy to drive as possible. The drivers in the 4Z have been changed from a 200 Ohm driver with a sensitivity of 97 dB to an all new 15 Ohm driver with a sensitivity of 98 dB. The wood rings and metal grille on the original LCD-4 have been replaced with a lightweight single-piece magnesium cover. Not only does this create an ultralight LCD series headphone, this adds a new twist on an already great headphone. I am on vacation as I type this and the LCD-4Z came along with me. Point taken. You can take your reference HiFi gear with you anywhere.

The one very important thing to remember is that these 4Z drivers are designed for portable sources and NOT standard stay-at-home headphone amps (or stereo speaker amps for that matter). If the LCD-4Z is paired with your standard headphone amp, you may be underwhelmed with the results. I know that's what I experienced. When the 4Z landed at my doorstep, I burned them in for 300 hours. After burn-in, I then began pairing them with multiple sources and amplifiers like I normally do. I went from amp to amp and regardless of which amp was in the chain, I kept getting results that just didn't sound right. The presentation just sounded 'off'. Then I reached for my phone and plugged the 4Z in just for fun. All of a sudden, the music started sounding better, much better. Then it dawned on me, duh, the LCD-4Z is designed for low-power sources. If you want Audeze's reference sound with standard higher powered amplifiers, the LCD-4 is your solution and the proper fit.

If over-ear, open-back portability is what you're after and you want to take Audeze's reference over-ear sound with you, these are the perfect cans for the job. The fit and comfort level of the 4Z is unparalleled when compared to the rest of the LCD lineup (excluding the LCD-MX4 which is identical to the LCD-4Z fit-wise). This was impressive as other models in the LCD lineup almost feel like wearing a helmet sometimes. This was not the case with the 4Z. This headphone seemed to be bucking the old Audeze way of doing things which I really like.

So, now that using my standard gear was out of the question, how was I going to review these cans? It was time to get in more review gear to review my other review gear. I wanted to make sure I was using a proper portable source when reviewing the 4Z. This much I knew. This lead me to mate the 4Z to the Woo Audio WA8 Eclipse portable DAC / Class A tube amplifier. The Woo Audio unit (MSRP of $1800) seemed to be priced below some of the other reference portable gear from other manufacturers but well above some of the 'affordable' portable gear I was trying to avoid. The WA8 Eclipse appeared to be a great pairing for the LCD-4Z on paper and proved to be just that in the flesh. Hook up a laptop to the WA8 Eclipse with a USB cable and you're off to the races, it's that easy. The WA8 Eclipse warmed up for half an hour and then I hit play and the 4Z began to sing. After about 5 seconds of each track, I got lost in the music. My first listen to this duo lasted 3 hours but it only felt like 30 minutes. The WA8 Eclipse / LCD-4Z combination was so smooth and addicting. I could live with this pairing for travel and at work and be happy forever, it was that good. 

With a headphone of this pedigree, it seemed a waste to only use them at work or on the go. I found another way to enjoy the LCD-4Z at home in my reference 2 channel system. I ended up coming up with an adapter to take the left and right signal out of my preamp and send it to my balanced 4-pin headphone cable. This gave me a low powered source component to mate with the LCD-4Z but allowed me to use my reference YFS music server and EMM Labs DAC as the source. This particular equipment pairing produced the most amazing sounding Audeze headphone I have heard to date! I'm hearing a presentation from these headphones that reminds me of a great 2 channel stereo system.

After the initial amazement wore off, I started trying to account for what I was hearing. The only explanation I could come up with was the following: I am taking an entire component out of my chain when listening to the LCD-4Z. When I use the standard LCD-4, I am hooking up to the headphone amplifier AFTER my stereo preamp, DAC, and music server. Therefore, listening sans amplifier I am getting even closer to the original source information. 

The Audeze LCD-4Z gives me the most versatile headphone for work, travel, and home use depending upon the gear I pair it with. I can't think of any other headphone that can do that and still quench my thirst for reference quality listening. If you like the over-ear open-back Audeze 'house sound', this latest offering will not disappoint (IF it's paired to the proper gear). We tip our hats to the engineers at Audeze for coming up with a very special product.



A big thank you goes out to Evan Grimm, the Head of Product Training and Tony Hamilton, the National Sales Manager at Audeze for making this review possible. Thanks guys! In fact, these headphones are so unique and they impressed me so much, I called Tony and gave him my credit card. I wasn't going to be sending these hand crafted beauties back to California after all. Yup, they are that good...

I would personally like to thank all of you for reading and visiting the site. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us and we will do our best to respond in a timely manner.

Until next time...

 - YFS Review Team


by Kevin OBrien on April 27th 2018


Evan Grimm paid us a visit this week to showcase Audeze's latest headphones along with their classic offerings. Evan is in charge of the Audeze product training program as well as being part of the marketing department. He also gives feedback to the founders of Audeze and wears several hats all while working remotely from Michigan. I believe Evan told me Audeze employs just under 50 employees so the California based company is not "large" by any means but not a 5-man outfit such as YFS.

Audeze got their start by performing demos of their first headphone, the LCD-2, at RMAF Can Jam in 2008. They weren't able to get a booth so they simply walked around Can Jam with their LCD-2 headphone allowing RMAF attendees a chance to listen. It all worked out as the LCD-2 gained popularity and the rest is history. Fast forward to 2018 and Audeze has become a major player in the headphone manufacturer arena worldwide.

Evan was nice enough to stop by my home here just on the outskirts of Boulder to let me get my hands and ears on the entire LCD series along with the iSine series of headphones. This also included the LCDi4 which looks similar to the iSine series but packs the LCD-4 technology in a very small form factor. 

The first thing on our agenda was to talk about the new offering Audeze has in the works. Evan was able to grab one of the first production LCD4-Z cans to bring on his trip to Colorado. I felt pretty fortunate to be able to get a feel for the latest offering from Audeze. The LCD4-Z gives the listener the same frequency response as the acclaimed LCD-4 but at a much lower impedance of 15 Ohms vs the standard 200 Ohms. This is huge as the LCD-4 can be a difficult headphone to drive. With the LCD4-Z, the load becomes much more manageable and this special headphone can be powered via a small amp and even some portable devices with great results.


I was able to compare the LCD-4 along side the LCD4-Z and go back and forth. Unfortunately, the LCD4-Z was fresh from the factory with only 26 hours of play time. The other cans all had several hundred hours of play which made a discernible difference in my comparison. I believe with the same amount of burn-in, the LCD4-Z will be a very potent headphone and may be your go-to can in your quiver.

I spent time comparing the various cans in the LCD series from the LCD-2 all the way up to the LCD-4. It was interesting to hear from Evan that the LCD-3, the LCD-X, and the LCD-XC were all basically the same headphone with very small differences. The X is their most neutral headphone besides the LCD-4, which is their most neutral sounding can. The LCD-2 Classic is their warmest sounding headphone with the LCD-3 situated right between the standard LCD-2 and the LCD-X as far as presentation is concerned. The LCD-MX4 was put in place to offer an option to those that need to wear an Audeze headphone for 5+ hours a day. This particular model offers a lightweight yet capable headphone for the professional in the studio setting. The LCD4-Z borrows the lightweight feel of the MX4 but gives the listener the sound quality of the reference LCD-4. The LCD4-Z shares the same magnesium ear cups and carbon fiber suspension headband of the MX4. For an added fee, wood rings are available on the LCD4-Z but that adds 1/3 of the weight of the entire headphone if this option is desired. The LCD-4 remains Audeze's reference can and is the benchmark for the rest of the line. I especially enjoy the LCD-4 as it is the most neutral and detailed can Audeze manufacturers which allows me to hear my equipment and cables more clearly throughout my chain. 

The LCD4 and LCD4-Z offer custom wood rings for an added $500 to the already lofty $4,000 MSRP. The LCD-4 comes with Ebony wood rings standard but some folks may want to spice things up a bit. The other LCD models offer dealer exclusive options such as Shedua wood rings (available on the LCD-2), etc that are only available through authorized Audeze dealers such as YFS. All the LCD series headphones offer the new suspension headband made of spring steel and leather. The 4 series cans get the carbon fiber version of this new headband design. This newly designed headband allows the listener to enjoy their tunes for sustained listening sessions. The old headband was due for an overhaul and Audeze has knocked it out of the park with this latest update.

The microsuede ear pads are no longer available but they are being replaced with leatherette ear pads. They are black in color and look identical to the standard black leather ear pads. The one main update to the ear pads, no matter which version you choose, is the addition of memory foam. I was not exactly sure what the memory foam accomplished but Audeze does not make rolling changes unless there's a good reason to do so.

It was very eye-opening to see how the Audeze headphones were hand crafted in their factory in Southern California. Evan shared a video he took of a pair of LCD-4s being produced from start to finish. Every step involved careful assembly by an Audeze employee. Drivers were thoroughly tested and then matched. Once the various pieces were assembled, the headphones were placed in a sort of miniature anechoic chamber to get an accurate frequency response plot which was then tied to the serial number of that specific headphone. Feel free to contact Audeze to get your frequency response plot. This applies to the LCD-X and above models only. The headphones were then burned in for 24 hours prior to being boxed up and prepared for shipment.

Audeze uses a measurement system that rivals the cost of most pre-owned entry-level luxury German sports cars. A type of "dummy head and ears" system is implemented to simulate the human ear/ head for accurate measurements. The microphones used are sophisticated and can capture the sound of a snail chewing on a leaf (yes, this has actually been done and is a procedure the test mic manufacturer has used to evaluate their microphones' sensitivity).                                        

The iSine series of in-ear headphones looked intriguing but I only had time to test the LCDi4. All I can say is 'wow'. I didn't believe Evan when he told me the LCD-4 tech was packed into this little IEM but he was right. After listening to one of my favorite DSD tracks, I could clearly hear the same cues as if I was listening to the bigger brother, the LCD-4. The LCDi4 is not cheap ($2,500 MSRP) but it may be worth the price of admission if you're serious about your IEMs and want that Audeze reference house sound in a small portable package.

I want to thank Evan for his time and ability to meet me at my home on a Tuesday night. That was very cool and it shows the type of dedication and effort the Audeze team is willing to make to get dealers the right information and the ability to accurately help their customers.

If you're interested in purchasing any of the Audeze product offerings, please feel free to contact YFS. We are an authorized Audeze dealer and your purchase carries the standard factory warranty and support. We strive to remain competitive price-wise and our support is top notch.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to hearing from you.

- YFS Review Team


by Kevin OBrien on October 7th 2017


Today was the second day of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. We were lucky enough to get a glimpse of the new gear on display and our focus was on Focal's newly released Clear headphones. What exactly does this latest creation from France include and what makes this new model different from Elear? Given the similar price point to their established Elear model headphone ($1000 MSRP), it was key to find out if the extra $500 was going to be worth it for the upgrade. 

At $1500 MSRP, the Clear sits above the Elear but is no where near the price of admission of the Utopia at $4000 MSRP. Setting the price at $1500 is important. Getting this hobby back where pricing should be is a good thing for all of us as recent street prices for models from various manufacturers has sky rocketed. It is important to get as many people into the game as possible and the Clear is doing just that. 

Is the Clear just another Elear but with a different finish? We found out the Clear comes with 3 different cables. Inside the packaging you'll find one short 4ft single ended cable with an 1/8" stereo jack, and two longer 10ft cables. One 10ft cable sports a 4-pin balanced connector and the other a single ended 1/4" stereo jack. This is nice. Focal is listening to feedback from customers who don't want a 13 foot cable. The balanced and single ended options give the listener flexibility and allows the Clear to be mated to almost any amplifier on the market.

As far as sound quality goes, the Clear steps up the midrange and treble information and keeps the bass response of the Elear but hits with slightly more punch. Clear does just what its name entails. It reminded us of a clearer, more detailed, and more refined version of the Elear. We went back and forth between the Clear and Elear models listening to the same test tracks and the Clear was definitely our preferred headphone. We also spent considerable time with the Clear and the Utopia. The Clear is about 80% of what the Utopia can offer as far as detail retrieval, air between instruments, and overall soundstage but with a better bass response. It appears the driver compliment used to bring out the reference presentation of the midrange and treble in Utopia does not do as well in the lower regions. The Clear was the winner when comparing the low end of the frequency response. Can the Clear touch the overall presentation of the Utopia? Nope. However, it positions itself right where it should be in the Focal over-ear line-up and pretty much makes the Elear obsolete. For $1500 MSRP, we think a lot of folks will want to bring a pair home, especially after comparing to Focal's reference, the Utopia.

Impedance for the new Clear has been set at 55 Ohms and sensitivity comes in at 104 dB. This allows Clear to be used with a wider variety of devices. Clear implements the same type of driver that Elear uses but with a new copper voice coil inside the driver. This updated voice coil along with an upgraded ear pad provides a more refined sound. Is the asking price justified in this case? We feel it is, especially when you realize what Clear includes that Elear does not. The Clear comes with both balanced and single ended options as well as a slick, hard shell portable carrying case. The Elear does not include either of these options. Focal has done a great job of listening to end user and dealer feedback. It's going to be a hard decision for me personally to try to justify the Utopia's cost when such a great performer can be had for such a comparatively small investment.

We suspect demand will be high for Clear based on what we've shared above. If you're wondering when Clear will be available, that's a good question. The very first batches of Clear are slated to be available on the 17th of November 2017. Once production ramps up, more pairs of clear should roll out but supply will be very limited. Focal states they will be as fair as possible by allocating an equal number of Clear to each dealer that wants them but with all products that are in high demand, it's going to be tough to get your hands on them. 


Thanks for reading.

- YFS Review Team


by Kevin OBrien on April 18th, 2023


AXPONA 2023 kicked off the nice Spring weather in the Windy City the weekend of April 15th. Just in time for Tax Day! Unfortunately, my flight into O'Hare was delayed out of Denver. Guess we better make lemonade out of this lemon. Off to the Voodoo Doughnut shop for a quick treat before waiting in line to board United Flight 758.


We were excited, as we were here in Chicago to have fun, not to showcase our own YFS gear. It can be fun to show off your own audio creations, but it can also be STRESSFUL. We may go down that road again at some point, but not any time soon. The fact that we could just take it all in this time around, and not worry about how our room was sounding, would make this experience that much better.

Most of our thoughts will consist mainly of coverage of the 'Nirvana B' room at the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel & Convention Center. EMM Labs, Credo Audio Switzerland, van den Hul, and DS Audio of Japan shared a massive room on the second floor of the hotel. We were invited by John McGurk of Audioshield, to join in on a press release for the new Meitner PRE. This took place after-hours on Friday evening, so apparently, it was by invitation only. We didn't realize that until afterwards. Seeing Michael Lavorgna, as well as some other well known reviewers, we should have put two and two together. Anyway, we were about to embark on a neat little audio adventure. What a great way to kick off this year's AXPONA event.


Amadeus Meitner was in the room along with Shahin Al Rashid, head of sales for EMM Labs. Amadeus is Ed Meitner's son, who we all know by now, and my good personal friend. We were excited to meet William and Marc, from van den Hul. AJ van den Hul's sons to be exact. Van den Hul has a new cable concept called Nano Carbon Tube technology. It's used for their new reference loudspeaker cables and it sure did a fine job, especially since it's the only metal-free loudspeaker cable we know of in existence. We were also lucky enough to meet Michael Kraske, owner of Credo Audio. His parents started the business modifying / repairing DJ setups in Switzerland back in the 1970s. They eventually began building their own loudspeakers and the rest is, as they say, history. They are all second generation entrepreneurs and will be taking on the family business, similar to Amadeus. VERY COOL!

We were totally pumped up by what we saw and heard in Nirvana B. Visually, the room was impressive, but sonically, it was just short of stunning. We have yet to be disappointed by an EMM presentation at a show, and this was no exception. The Meitner PRE was making it's world debut, and what we heard, did not sound like Meitner. It sounded like an EMM PRE2, but we were assured by the turn of the volume knob on the smaller silver and black box, that we were indeed listening to Ed Meitner's budget line of components. Although they can hardly be viewed as "budget", in this hobby, it's all relative. The EMM Labs DS-EQ1 was on display mated to the DS Audio Grand Master EX optical cartridge. The optical cartridge is a great idea, as there's so much less mass the stylus has to contend with. So much less than a traditional moving magnet or moving coil cartridge, that it should allow that much more detail to come through, and keep surface noise at bay. Well, that's exactly what we heard during Amadeus' demo of the DS Audio / EMM pairing. 


Marc and William were kind enough to stay late, after the rest of the folks funneled out of the room, to play us some "fun" music that was not on the menu for the press release earlier that evening. SCORE! We got to hear some fresh tunes from a rock band in Iceland along with some interesting EDM. We don't usually listen to electronic dance music but we must admit, we were impressed by the sounds coming from the Swiss transducers towering over us. Good food, good beer, and excellent reference sounds filled the evening and made us all realize just how lucky we were to be here after the world's recent events. AXPONA is back!

As far as other topics of interest, we had not nearly enough time to even scratch the surface. We made it to a few rooms that really impressed us, but as per usual, a lot of rooms sounded good but not great. You can pretty much guarantee that all of the rooms will sound good, but getting 'great' sound is challenging in a hotel environment, especially in the small sleeping rooms. But, with that being said, we stumbled upon a few things we were not expecting, which was a nice surprise. The first surprise was a tip from Mark, a past Absolute Sound reviewer, and friend of our beloved YFS customer, Thomas. Thomas and Mark have known each other over the years and go way back. I'm sure they traded gear back and forth before we even knew that "Audiogon" existed. These two guys are both the real deal when it comes to sound, and they know a good room when they hear one, immediately. As we found out traveling the busy halls of the Renaissance Hotel, these guys had pretty much the same musical tastes and preference for system tone / overall presentation as we did. That made this particular show extra fun for us. We all got to bounce ideas off one another and stir the 'audio pot', all while enjoying time outside in public, FINALLY.

Mark tipped us off to a guy named Bill Stierhout of Coherence Systems. Bill got his start in audio by installing studio consoles and digital tape machines for the Pro Audio market back in the 1980s. This guy has been around the block a few times. He has an interesting idea that helps everyone's system by inducing psycho-acoustic effects into your listening room. This is done by inserting a type of AC Line Conditioner in parallel to your current power conditioner. They are not actual power conditioners, and you don't need to plug your components into them. We're not sure what to call them? Bill calls them 'AC Harmonic Resonators'. Bill started a brand by the name of ADD-Powr. Under this new brand, he has launched several products, all inducing a sag on your AC power line that is supposed to create a presence in your listening space that can make your music sound better. Better than it does without these products in your system. This is a similar concept that has been visited prior to now in history. Mainly in the field of psychology. Scientists have experimented with playing subsonic and supersonic frequencies to individuals with schizophrenia and other disorders, to invoke some type of 'calming effect'. VERY COOL! We don't know if Bill's products work, but we bought one, and we're going to find out. Stay tuned for a forthcoming review of the ADD-Powr Sorcer X4 Plus. EXCITING! This is a perfect example of why you should give next year's AXPONA event a shot, as you never know what you're going to find.

As far as rooms went, we really enjoyed the CAT / Magico room, right next door to Nirvana B. This room had nothing but good sounds coming from it that were hard to fault, at all. 'Incredibly effortless' is the phrase we would use to describe what we heard. The fact that Convergent Audio Technology is extremely well-designed tube gear, made right here in the USA, we didn't expect anything less. We are all familiar with Magico. We also didn't expect to be able to purchase any of this gear, as it was all well above our pay-grade. That's a common theme in this hobby unfortunately. But hey, you don't go to a car show to look at a Honda Civic, do you!?

The one rather interesting room we visited was the Aretai / OePhi combination. This room featured the CAT SL1 Legend preamp and the CAT JL5 amplifier. I believe the most affordable component in the room was the set of speakers themselves, the Aretai Contra 100S, coming in at $9,000 USD. The Aurender A20 provided the source duties (music stream / DAC). WOW! We couldn't believe such wonderful sounds were coming from such a tiny footprint. Impressive indeed. We are SERIUOSLY thinking of trying to find a way to become authorized US Aretai dealers. These little speakers from Latvia impressed one of the most seasoned audiophiles we know, our very own YFS customer, Thomas. He couldn't believe these little guys could sound so smooth, detailed, and open, yet sound so big and full range-esque. Our hats go off to Aretai.

Octave / Dynaudio also showed us what a smooth, laid back, yet highly detailed presentation can sound like. No harshness whatsoever and never "shouty". This pairing, along with the Simaudio MOON source components, really impressed. We love a warm presentation, but enjoy a lot of detail and PRaT. This system delivered all of that in spades. Way to go and job well done.

Overall, we had a great time in Chicago, and even got to experience some late-night pizza on our way to the hotel. Chicago is a friendly city, with great food, and even better people. The main reason to visit this part of the country every Spring: AXPONA. We extend our gratitude to Mark Freed for all the work he put into this event to make it what it is today. It's been a great run so far, let's keep the momentum going.

We hope to see you all at next year's 2024 AXPONA event...

Thank you for reading.

- KOB 

by Kevin OBrien on January 25, 2017



YFS and Mutec will be teaming up in Chicago for the AXPONA 2017 audio exposition on the weekend of April 22nd. Come see our HD.Ref-3 music transport in action in Room 554. The Mutec MC-3+USB / Ref-10 clock combo will be mated with our YFS HD.Ref-3 server transport and EMM Labs DAC2X V2 DSD DAC to bring you some of the finest digital source equipment around. Our YFS CA-60a custom tubed preamp and custom YFS Headphone Cables will be on display along with our latest Custom Ref 'Split' Copper USB. The all new Von Schweikert Unifield II Mk3 3-way monitors will be taking care of speaker-duty. Be sure to ask us about show specials. Don't miss this special event in the Windy City. We are excited to get to know our customers and chat all things audio-related in late April. We hope to see everyone there.

by Kevin OBrien on April 27, 2015 


We would like to thank all the folks that came out to see us in Chicago in 2015 to allow us to pull off another great showing. YFS, Endeavor Audio, and Constellation Audio teamed up to get the tunes going and the folks tappin' their toes in the Westin O'Hare room 426. We wanted to thank all the reviewers and audiophiles who showed up to listen to what our team had to offer.

We wanted to personally thank Jason Victor Serinus from Stereophile, Greg Weaver and Jonathan Valin of The Absolute Sound, Gary Beard from Positive Feedback, Mal from Part Time Audiophile, and Peter Breuninger and his lovely wife from AVShowrooms for taking their time to listen to our system and give us their comments and suggestions. We wanted to wish a special farewell to Spencer Holbert of The Absolute Sound as he recently left the publication. We miss you already Spencer and the show wasn't the same without you. Thank you guys for all of your hard work.

We were showing our newest additions to the YFS lineup in Room 426. The new YFS PS-512 Mac Mini power supply ($1,095 MSRP) was on display along with our new copper Litz headphone cable ($395 MSRP), The Super 30, and our new YFS Custom Ref 'Split' USB cables ($1,195 MSRP) offered in pure copper or silver conductors of your choice. The PS-512 is a dual-rail power supply that is especially designed for the Mac Mini. It has one 5V rail and one 12V rail. It allows our customers to implement a 'Split' USB cable that plugs into the rear of the PS-512 while simultaneously powering the Mac Mini. This saves space in your rack and keeps more money in your wallet. Our PS-12m is still our reference Mini PS but we now offer a cheaper version for our customers so more folks can get on board.

Our equipment list is shown below. We didn't get too detailed in our descriptions of the gear because it's all online already in multiple locations. Just do a simple Google search to find out more about each product.


The EMM Labs DAC2X was on display along with the new affordable line of Constellation gear named the Inspiration Series. This is one serious lineup. This gear is legit although it's Constellation's entry-level gear. Do not let that fool you. These are very special pieces indeed and there is nothing 'entry-level' about them. 'Reference' is the word that immediately comes to mind when trying to describe these works of audiophile-art.

Our YFS HD.Ref-3 streamed the digital files through all these fine pieces ultimately ending up at the mouth of Endeavor Audio Engineering's new E-5 loudspeaker system. This is Endeavor's new flagship and it was mighty impressive. I personally loved the new silver metallic finish and no, the speaker is not made out of aluminum, it just looks that way in the pictures.

We hope to see everyone next year. Thanks for stopping by and chatting and we'll keep designing and building as long as all of you keep asking us to. It appears we will not be stopping anytime in the near future. We're not going anywhere, that's for sure.

We want to thank all of our customers. You are responsible for making these audio shows happen in the first place. Without you guys supporting our work, we wouldn't be able to travel around the country to see all of you.

Thanks again! 

Until next time...

- YFS Design Team



by Kevin OBrien on June 15, 2016


YFS, Mutec, and EMM Labs will be teaming up in Denver for the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2016 on the weekend of October 7th. Come see our HD.Ref-3 music transport in action in Room 7010 in the 7th floor Tower. The Mutec MC-3+USB and latest Mutec external clock (REF-10) will be mated with our YFS HD.Ref-3 server transport to bring you cutting edge digital source equipment at its finest. The new EMM Labs DA2 DAC as well as our YFS modified vintage McIntosh MC75 amplifiers will be on display. Our YFS CA-60a custom tubed preamp and custom YFS Headphone Cables will be on display along with our latest Custom Ref 'Split' Copper USB. We will have YFS USB cables on hand to sell to the public at discounted prices as well. Be sure to ask us about show specials. Don't miss this special event in the Mile High City.

We are excited to get to know our customers and chat all things audio-related in early October.

We hope to see everyone there.


YFS and Endeavor Audio will be at Axpona 2015 in Chicago on the weekend of the 26th of April. Come join us for some of the finest food in the lower 48 as well as some of the most amazing computer audio sounds available anywhere. We will be showing our YFS HD.Ref-3 LE along with our EMM Labs DAC2X. Our YFS Headphone Cables as well as our NEW Mac Mini power supply, the YFS PS-512, will be on display. Constellation Audio will be showing their Inspiration Series Monoblocks and Linestage. Endeavor Audio will be showing their E-5 loudspeakers. The E-5 speaker system measures over 6 feet from top to bottom and utilizes an array of various drivers. The E-5 system is a sight to see and an amazing, one of a kind creation. Come on by room 426 of the Westin O'Hare and check it out. We'd be happy to chat and talk all things audio. We hope to see all of you there...




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