Our Favorite Things: Tantalizing Technology For Your Hi-Fi System Feat. Audiolab, HELM Audio, StylusTimer!

We’re fortunate to get a lot of cool gear in for testing, ranging from accessories, headphones, and electronics to build out your Hi-Fi system. Here’s some of the coolest stuff sitting on our desk (or rack) this week!

For more stuff we love right now, check out our Recommended Gear page!

Audiolab 6000A Play Integrated Amplifier/Streamer

All-in-one amplifier/streamers are quite trendy this year, with many audiophiles loving the simplicity of setup and space savings they offer. The Bluesound Powernode 2i has been very popular with its combination of NAD amplification and Bluesound Hi-Res streaming technology.

Recently, Audiolab, one of my favorite Hi-Fi brands, announced they were jumping into the All-in-one game with a combination of two components highly rated on this site, the 6000A Integrated Amp and the 6000N Play Network Streamer. The combo is called the 6000A Play, and I was so excited to get one to try out!

Like the 6000A Integrated Amp, the 6000A Play has 2x50W of Class AB amplification, aptX Bluetooth streaming, and an ESS Sabre32 ES9018K2M Reference DAC chip. It also has the same user-selectable DAC filters. There are some upgrades, too, like an MM phono input and new dedicated headphone amp.

But unlike the 6000A amp, on the 6000A Play, you also get a variety of streaming functions taken from Audiolab’s 6000N Play Music Streamer. DTS Play-Fi is on board, which does lossless streaming over Wi-Fi, along with Multi-room capabilities and remote control via the Play-Fi app (Apple iOS, AndroidTM, Windows® PC, and Fire OS)

I think combining the two was a stroke of genius because you get to take advantage of the strengths of each, while also gaining some additional upgrades. You get a powerful amp with the flexibility of DTS Play-Fi’s music service compatibility and app control (not to mention multi-room audio), all in a svelte chassis.

($1299; audiolab.co.uk)

HELM Audio DB12 AAAMp Mobile Headphone Amp

With this new analog headphone amp, HELM Audio aims to put THX AAA Amplifier technology in the palm of your hand. More than just a volume booster, the AAAMp is a bonified audiophile headphone amp about the size of a flash drive.

THX AAA stands for THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier and the technology allows small devices like the DB12 to provide powerful high fidelity audio with low levels of noise and distortion. This tech has been implemented in some very popular products like the Fiio M11 Pro, (which we gave high marks in our review) and the Drop + THX AAA 789 Linear Headphone Amplifier.

It’s rated to provide a clean 12db increase in volume, plus an additional 6db of Bass boost if desired. The rechargeable battery (USB-C) provides 6-8 hours of listening time.

I used it with my Mr. Speakers (Now Dan Clark Audio) AEON Flow Closed, combined with my LG V60 and the sound was so engrossing and immersive!

($199; helmaudio.com)

StylusTimer Turntable Odometer

Sometimes the simplest things are the most genius. The brainchild of hi-fi columnist Don Lindich (who has a great site over at http://soundadvicenews.com/), the StylusTimer is based on the knowledge that the stylus (or needle) in most Turntable cartridges should be replaced at around 1,000 hours.

After that, you run the risk of an old stylus damaging your precious records and lowering sound quality.

The StylusTimer is ridiculously easy to use, all you have to do is start it when you start playing a record and then stop it when you are finished to keep track of the time on your needle. It also looks really good, so you won’t be embarrassed to have it sitting next to your fancy turntable. (or a cheap one for that matter)

It’s also quite affordable, so if you’re lucky enough to have more than one Turntable setup, you should have no problem picking up more than one! Every vinyl lover should have at least one!

($19.95; stylustimer.com)

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