New music and technology releases in August 2018

By: Gary Steel

Deals on Wheels brings the latest in music and technology for August 2018

Focal Grand Utopia EM Evo Loudspeaker


For Ed Hillary, the ultimate aspiration was to conquer Everest. For the aspirant seeker of audio nirvana, Focal’s new top-of-the-range, peak-experience Grand Utopia EM Evo is one of the most dreamed-about hi-fi summits. The big daddy of the French brand’s Utopia III Evo line, the Grand Utopia comes in at an eye-watering $295,000, though, of course, the range also includes much more affordable speakers for us ordinary folk.

Boasting the elegant and unforgettable form factor Focal is famous for, this handsome devil predictably features a host of radical innovations, including NIC (Neutral Inductance Circuit), which stabilises the magnetic field to avoid harmonic distortion and intermodulation, and TMD Suspension, which achieves a linear frequency response curve between the all-important 1 and 4kHz while significantly reducing distortion in that range. Oh, and more importantly, it can be ordered in these super finishes: Carrara White, Black Lacquer, Electric Blue, British Racing Green, and Ash Grey.

Death Grips—Year Of The Snitch


Based in Sacramento, US, the formidably named Death Grips are nothing if not prolific: six albums in four years, to be exact, and Year Of The Snitch is their best yet. This time, the trio has collaborated with—among others—Tool bassist Justin Chancellor and (improbable as it might sound)

New Zealand Shrek creator Andrew Adamson, and the result is compelling. This is an energetic, aggressive rap/rock/electronic hybrid that could keep Rumpelstiltskin awake on an all-night drive, although, if you’re scared of the dark, maybe go listen to Mary Poppins instead.

The Adults—Haja


Remember when Shihad singer Jon Toogood got together with Shayne Carter, Anika Moa, and a bunch of other disparate musicians for a side project called The Adults in 2012? Now Toogood is back with a completely new line-up for Haja, an album whose inspiration is—wait for it—Sudanese wedding music! He got married there and now incorporates its sounds and rhythms into the backing, which gives the album a different sonic spin.

Haja has a mixed bag of local guests, including hip-hopper Kings, singer Estère, and Rwandan rapper Raiza Biza, and this new version of The Adults sounds slap bang up to date.

Arcam HDA Range


Arcam started back in the 1960s when its two founders were engineering students at Cambridge University. One of the UK’s famous foundational hi-fi companies, its classic amplifiers are revered the world over. Sadly, there’s been nothing much new from the company for a long time—19 years, in fact. That’s why the new HDA range is so significant.

At the heart of the new gear is Arcam’s two new integrated amplifiers, the SA10 ($1699) and SA20 ($2299)—two svelte, reasonably priced products that boast the clever design and under-the-hood innovations the company is famous for. The 80-watt SA20, for instance, eschews the usual Class A/B standard—which can produce unwanted crossover distortion—for Class G, which uses best-quality Class A signals at low power but has an additional power supply for loud volume.

Meanwhile, its CDS50 Network Player ($1499) complements your choice of amp with a high-quality 32-bit DAC (digital to analogue converter), support for loads of audio file formats, and even a disc player for those occasions where you just want to slap on a CD.

Rega Planar 1 Plus Turntable


Sadly, many otherwise sensible people notice the revival in vinyl records and get sucked into buying one of those sub-$100 record players you see in department stores. My advice: just say ‘no’. The entry-level for good sound—and a player that won’t destroy your records—is around $600 and there are some excellent decks available. One of the best at the lower price point is the Planar 1, which just got a cool makeover as the Planar 1 Plus ($775).

Many great amps don’t have dedicated phono stages, so normally, a separate plug-in phono stage has to be purchased with the turntable. Rega has gotten smart and incorporated a phono stage into the Planar 1’s latest iteration, which means it can be plugged straight into any line input on an amp. And Rega reckons that they’ve made the set-up so easy that the whole nasty task can be accomplished in a mere 30 seconds.

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Deals on Wheels' free newsletter or liking us on Facebook