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Welcome to Lyric Hifi

429 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7EY Tel: +44 (0)2890 381296, From ROI 04890 381296
Open: 10:00am - 5:00pm - Monday to Friday, 7pm Thursday, Saturday 11:00am to 3:00pm

Call in for a mosey round, tap us for good advice, and have a listen to great sounds

Kef LS50 Meta

So after 8 years of one of the most successful compact speakers ever how do you make a real improvement?

First rewind 9 years when Kef engineers were tasked with making a limited edition statement for Kef's 50th birthday. Gloves off, no restrictions, let's do something ground-breaking.

So a cabinet with lots of internal bracing to make it rigid and stop vibrations. Curved cabinet sides to give an even dispersion also meant that there was no grille. An updated version of the Uni-Q treble and midrange unit took cues from the Blade research so this was to become a worldwide phenomenon. So good that the limited edition was quickly forgotten!

kef ls50 meta

If your design is so fundamentally right how do you then improve it?

Call me cynical but many hifi companies are marketing driven and 'invent a breakthrough' to be forgotten a few years later. Linen for a speaker drive unit, really? Are you mad??

Kef is a proper engineering company and following the science is more than a Boris Johnston soundbite to them. They have been working with a material specialist company to use meta-material for damping.

So what is meta-material? 

A metamaterial is any material engineered to have a property that is not found in naturally occurring materials. 
It has to be created, in this case to absorb specific frequencies played back into the cabinet as the treble unit moves back after every time it moves forward.
So what? I hear you say, is that a big issue? When you hear the effect it has on the sound you will say YES ! This improvement made other issues clear, a redesign of the waveguide, changes to the cabinet manufacture to make it more rigid.
When I put the first pair on I was somewhat underwhelmed, clean but not dynamic, what's wrong? I've read the White Paper, seen the reviews, let's stick with it, keep running them in, and they just keep getting better and better!
Now these speakers are just incredible!
As if Kef didn't have a scientific advantage over most speaker manufacturers already this moves on what is technically possible.
Am I over-reacting? No, this is big and I can't wait to hear this technology applied to the Blades and Reference!
Call in for a listen, the future of loudspeakers is here and every other manufacturer has just taken a step backwards!
Meanwhile What Hifi have both LS50 Meta and LS50 Wireless 2 Meta with 5 Star reviews, both have won the Annual Awards and now both have won overall Product of the Year Awards! See, I wasn't over-reacting at all!

The long game

I have just had this missive sent to me by a long term customer who asked if there was space for it on this website. Now it paints Lyric and me in a very good light so of course there is space for it! It sums up beautifully how and why we work like this.

Thanks Alastair, owe you a coffee!

Ever had an experience where all the stars seem to align? I had one recently, courtesy of a trip to Lyric Hifi, an online vinyl purchase and a wet Saturday afternoon with just me and the dog at home.

My relationship with Lyric Hifi goes back to my student-teacher days in the early eighties when I arrived into Michael McClean’s shop (then on the Stranmillis Road in Belfast), with most of my first term’s grant cashed-in and stuffed in the pocket of my recently acquired Navy-surplus trench coat. Rather than investing in coursework books, a teaching-practice suit or other such nonsense, Michael ended up with most of my grant in his till, in exchange for a pair of nearly-new Mission speakers and a well-broken-in Marantz amplifier. These I hooked up to my dodgy Sony cassette player and a slightly ropy Technics turntable, all of which entertained me extremely well throughout my college days and well into my early teaching years. For me this was the era of Tubular Bells (Mike Oldfield), Discovery (ELO) and Horslips - The Belfast Gigs (live at the Whitla Hall). Back then Michael was not a high-pressure salesman, and he remains the same today - he sets up some gear in the listening room at a price-point to suit your pocket and lets the equipment speak for itself. If you want the technical info, he has it. If you just want to listen, he’ll let you do that too, and he’ll even provide you with a decent coffee.

So after 35 years of audio adventures - never sailing into super-expensive waters, but often making modest upgrades, I arrived back with Michael, (now set up in a gloriously and very expensively cluttered loft on the Lisburn Road) looking to reboot my relationship with vinyl. Over the years I had given away most of my records and my turntable got assigned to the attic when CDs became a thing. I brought with me my trusty Meridian F80 all-in-one system which for the past decade I had mostly been using to play my, by now very large, iTunes library through the Meridian’s iPhone dock. I was hoping to trade it for an amp, speakers and a decent turntable, and also had a notion that it might be time to consider a streaming service. So after a parallel experience to the one I’d had in the 80’s: a half-hour chill-out in the listening room, a few amp, speaker and turntable auditions, a decent coffee and an enjoyable haggle over the trade-in value of the Meridian, my pocket was once again emptied.

But I’m a very happy man: now on the sofa with a sleeping dog, listening to The Secret of Climbing (Stephen Fearing) (Rega Records) on a Rega Planar 3 turntable with an Elys 2 cartridge, through a Cyrus One amplifier to a pair of KEF Q350 speakers mounted on Linn stands. I’m also able to switch remotely between the warmth of analogue and the precision of digital, as the Cyrus amp came with a Google Chromecast WiFi streamer and a 6 month subscription to Tidal, through which I can stream recordings in master-quality, controlled by my phone.

Was the turntable a worthwhile purchase or just a nostalgic indulgence? Well it speaks for itself, especially when playing that Stephen Fearing record, which was engineered by Roy Gandy himself (owner of Rega Research) in his own home studio onto analogue tape, with the one aim being to capture the intimacy of the original live performance. Close your eyes, and Mr Fearing is pretty much in the room with you. And when I put on Mike Oldfield and Horslips (repurchased and remastered), well I’m back in my student digs, but I’m also hearing detail that my ancient Technics turntable could never have picked out (especially as the stylus would have been battling it’s way through fag ash and home-brew spillages to plough it’s way down to the music.) And the WiFi streaming experience? I’m quite blown away by the quality, depth and detail of some of Tidal’s ‘master-quality’ offerings - a significant step up from iTunes via Bluetooth - and when I move those solidly built KEF Q350 speakers away from the walls and crank up the volume - well the dog has to be banished to the garden so she doesn’t see me playing my air guitar.

I can still enjoy my iTunes collection too, albeit that some tracks sound thin at high volume compared to the Tidal masters, or to a well-engineered piece of vinyl. I was a reluctant subscriber to streaming - I still prefer ‘owning’ my music, but I have taken the plunge and through my £20 per month subscription I am constantly discovering new music, plus rediscovering old, re-mastered gems.

I would say I’m content, but of course young Ross, the audio engineer who Michael keeps mostly hidden in the attic has promised to keep his eyes peeled for a traded-in Cyrus or Rega CD player to compliment my system. And would those KEF floorstanders he showed me pick out more bass?

Dammit Michael, you’re just too good at the long game!

Great sound quality, great music and great musical experiences are separate things, yet intertwined, and subjective and elusive. But when the stars align - that’s what makes it a life-long hobby.

Alastair Mackay

Amateur audiophile

Belfast

10.10.2020

September Updates

Greetings from sunny Lisburn Road

I'm heading off for a quick week in Italy, Covid allowing, and think an updates blog is necessary before I go as there is so much going on here.

Linn

As you can see from the landing page Linn Series 3 has arrived here so what do I think? First can I say that it's an incredible piece of engineering to achieve this sound from a little cabinet. I have listened to competitors at this price before, the French one, and this is in a different league. The Exakt technology from the top Linn systems is perfect for this product. For the techies like me Exakt splits the frequency band for the treble and bass units in the digital domain allowing the most precise crossover and the ability to match each drive unit perfectly and even do some corrections. There is no downside to this except cost! You need to have a top end digital to analogue converter (DAC) for each drive unit.

In terms of pure clarity series 3 is fantastic. If you ask is it as good as a streamer/amp with two speakers then my answer is possibly. In a space where you are facing the speaker it is wonderful. In most rooms two speakers give a spread of sound that I much prefer though in Linn speak this is a Majik DSM and a pr of 109 speakers so £3950, or £8800 to make it fully Exakt with six DACs

Talking of Majik DSM the 4th generation is now on dem here and it's great. First new case for the Majik in years and it looks fresh and modern. It's really a Selekt case without the big knob on top, and no worse for that. It has fewer inputs than before but still everything most people need. Most importantly it sounds better!

Majik DSM4 2020 920x255

Call in for a listen to either of the above, best let me know you're calling in and I can have either up and running. Deliveries are extended due to demand, to have a DSM4 playing in the background while eating your turkey place your order by mid-October! Series 3 not as long, still 4-6 weeks though!

Rega News

We are behind on Planar 1, 2 and 3 however the factory is almost back in full swing and catching up fast! For example there are 72 Planar 1s arriving here next week which are already all spoken for, orders placed now will be supplied late October so that's only 4 weeks. Planar 2s and 3s variable, up to 2 weeks. Planar 6 and 8 from stock depending on whether you want MM or MC. Planar10 still some available for delivery in October and December. 

The new Io amplifier is doing really well although the new speakers to make a £1000 Rega system are put off until next year to try and supply the backlog on existing products. To give you a £999 system just now we are bundling a Planar 1 with an Io and a pr of Kef Q150s, or maybe Q350s see below, and some speaker cable. This sounds excellent, unbeatable at the price!

In high end Rega the Planar 6 continues to impress, £1250 including an Exact MM cartridge and the futuristic looking Planar 8s and 10s are unique and just fantastic! 

Kef News

Big Meta product news that I cant tell you about is only a week away, for now I can tempt you with offers on Kef Q350 and Q550.

Q350s now £ 399 per pair instead of £ 499 Q 550 floortsanders now £ 599 per pair instead of £ 799. These are easy to drive and work with a wide range of amplifiers, you can afford a better pair of speakers than you thought!

R3s and R5s still getting the best reviews and selling well. R3s at £ 1300 currently in stock in black or walnut, white 2-3 weeks.

R5s currently quoting 2-3 weeks. Kef Reference and Blades are both in store for demonstration. These are hand built in Maidstone so 6-10 weeks delivery depending on the finish, worth the wait though !

Arcam

The first Arcam separate streamer has been announced, ST 60 will be £ 1199 when it hits here in November. With the publicity starting early and orders being taken before anyone has even heard it I expect it might be difficult to supply. I have a few available at launch time so if you think this could be right for your system let me know so that I can reserve some more stock, no obligation, it's so I can have an idea of demand.

Arcam ST 60

Naim Audio

That big old river keeps rolling on, Uniti Atom,Star Nova, Supernait3, Nap250DR and all the classics continue to flow with 4-6 weeks being the current lead time.

The new Musos are doing well too, there's nothing can touch them at £ 749/£1299. I try to keep them in stock all the time as often someone can pop in to hear one and take one away with them.

The Si and XS series are still doing well too, a Naim Cd player and amplifier for only £ 2440, put them with a pr of Kef LS50 or R3/5s for an incredible system for £3500-4500 ish

So if Boris adds Italy to the bad boy list and I end up self isolating when I come back you will be treated to plenty of ramblings and reviews.

We all hope that doesn't happen! Be safe

Michael

What Hifi Awards 2020

While I delight in criticising What Hifi for finding the best in lots of crap it's true that their Awards do affect this industry's sales. They also affect WHF's revenue, which is why they have more and more awards every year. There are now 26 Categories with multiple winners in each! 

Great example, Best Stereo Amplifier up to £ 500. This has rightly been won by Marantz for the past 4-5 years for the PM 6003/4/5/6. This year though WHF had a big problem. The new Rega Io at £ 375 sounds better than the £ 499 Marantz PM6007. Ooops. Problem, Denon Marantz and their dealers spend a fortune with WHF and for the past few months it has been a big question as to who would win. WHF have a brilliant solution, the new category of Best Stereo Amplifier £ 200-400 is rightly won by the Rega and the new category of Amps £ 400-600 is won by the Marantz. Disaster averted. BTW I still think the Marantz is a good choice if you need lots of inputs, it's just not the best sound when compared to the Rega.

Rega have had a brilliant year for awards, again. Six this year, Planar 1, 3 and 6 all winners along with the Fono MM and the Io and Aethos amplifiers. Considering that Planar 2 , Planar 8 turntables and the other 3 Rega amplifiers, Brio, Elex and Elicit have already won these awards means that Rega have a clean sweep.

The Rega Aethos amplifier is particularly special. In an era where everything is going towards digital amplification and building in streamers and DACs it's great to see that Rega win for an amplifier which does what it says on the tin. It's a fantastic amplifier, that's it. No digital inputs, not even a phono stage just pure powerful sound.

 rega aethos angle

Naim also recieved an award for the Nait XS3 and Richer got an award for a Cambridge amplifier.

Looking at the speaker awards is always interesting. The usual suspects all pop up and everyone's a winner. I was interested in the just released Kef LS50 Meta. While manufacturers 'update' frequently to keep in the mags the iconic LS50 has been the best speaker at £ 800 for 8 years now. The new R series, especially R3 has had brilliant reviews but the LS50Meta has a real technology improvement and this has been recognised with stunning reviews worldwide. I was worried about waxing too lyrical about this so listen to this guy for 5 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKTYvP7YQ0Q. Makes me look shy and retiring!

kef ls50 meta

These new matt finishes are cool too!

The brother, LS50 Wireless, also wins an award as does the mini version, Kef LSX. The review couldnt have been better if Kef wrote it themselves!     CLICK TO READ REVIEW

 

 

 

 

REGA IO amplifier

It's now here, possibly the smallest amplifier we've ever sold, and it couldnt be more cute!

Rega io front illuminated 2

This little box, IO, is only 180mm/ 7" across and less than a foot deep at 290mm.

IO is also a mere 30 watts per channel

IO only has 3 inputs, 1 turntable MM and 2 line inputs

IO has a remote control

IO has a headphone socket

IO will drive a wide range of speakers

IO sounds great !

IO will shake up the amplifier market under £ 500 by being so simple and so good!

Under £ 500 for a stereo amplifier there are many options, but they're all pretty similar

They are all 430mm wide, they have analogue and digital inputs and they all read as being pretty powerful

They are also all made in China and the Rega is made by people in Westlciff on sea, Essex

The most popular amplifier at this price for 4/5 years has been the Marantz PM6000/2/3/4/5/6/7, and it has been our favourite as well.

It sounds better than most, it has digital inputs and lots of inputs. It covers all the bases for most people

But there's a new kid on the block to teach the big boys (430mm) a lesson !

Call in for a listen, the IO sounds better, it is more detailed, more dynamic and it brings the music to life as you hear every voice and instrument as more realistic

And if you want to stream from your phone through it we can throw in a bluetooth adaptor for an extra £ 30! 

Almost forgot the price! Just £ 379, wow!

AND we did a video! 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0I2yGKpnlg