The most immersive hifi ever?
In a former post office in Highgate, I recently experienced what I can safely say are the best hifi systems ever made. The L-isa sound systems come from a pro-audio company that does the sound for live performers from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the BBC Proms. L-Acoustics was founded by a particle physicist, Dr Christian Heil, who set out to produce a new spatialised audio technology better than mere stereo. The result is a 24,000-watt, 24-channel system (plus five bass channels) that works so spectacularly it is almost better than a live performance. I listened to Mahler’s Third by the LA Philharmonic, recorded at the Hollywood Bowl, selecting to hear it as from the conductor’s position, and it was as if I was there. L-isa island, from £500,000, l-acoustics-creations.com
Genius in-ear phones tailored to your hearing
Three years ago, a Melbourne start-up became a global success with Nuraphone. Its genius was that it could tailor its sound to suit the individual’s hearing. The product had an over-ear design with an internal in-ear insert. It wasn’t that comfortable, but the sound was unbelievable, like a live gig. Nura already had engineers working on a wholly in-ear version, which seemed about as achievable as a pocket-sized hippopotamus. But they’ve done it. The result has slightly clunky bendy bits around your ears and a wire behind your neck, but the sound is remarkable for an in-ear device – I’d say 85 per cent of the live effect of its bulkier brother. NuraLoop, £199, nuraphone.com
An outstandingly clear stereo digital recorder
If you are involved in audio content creation for podcasting, music or just a business meeting, Olympus’ latest LS-P1 stereo digital recorder is indispensable. It weighs just 75g and measures 10.9 x 4 x 1.4cm, but has a 4GB internal capacity that will store 123 hours of audio. This is expandable by 32GB with a simple MicroSD card. The microphone array, with the mics angled diagonally away from one another, means you record in true stereo at a quality of up to 96 kHz/24 bit, which exceeds that of a CD. The recordings are outstandingly clear and crisp. And there’s a range of software tricks, like the ability to balance softer and louder voices – and a great hardware feature, a slide-out USB connector, for transferring files to your computer without wires. Olympus LS-P1, from £110, olympus.co.uk
The ultimate wireless speaker
Veteran Scottish hifi maker Linn would be in most audiophiles’ top five manufacturers in the world. Perhaps because Linn is so high-end, it has never made a wireless speaker. Until now. This is its Series 3, hand-built near Glasgow, and it is simply extraordinary. The volume and deep, massive, majestic quality of sound it produces make me gasp. And most likely my neighbours too. It seems inconceivable that so much glorious sound can come from a pair of unassuming, bookshelf-sized speakers. Devialet’s Phantom speakers from Paris have been my benchmark for small-but-magnificent wireless audio, but the Scots may just have got them beat with this. Linn Series 3 works with Bluetooth, WiFi and Airplay, and includes an HDMI port so you can run your TV sound through it. It’s pretty easy to set up – not quite child’s play, but OK. You can deploy them singly in mono, but it seems a shame not to link up two as a full-on stereo experience. Linn Series 3, from £2,950, linn.co.uk