New music and technology releases in January 2020

By: Gary Steel, Photography by: Supplied

Deals on Wheels brings the latest in music and technology for January 2020

Samsung Galaxy Fold


Samsung’s eye-catching foldable phone/tablet, the Galaxy Fold

Okay, so it’s gimmicky, but Samsung’s Galaxy Fold has a rather compellingly novel innovation to boast about, and early reports are that this phone/tablet hybrid is really rather great. Who knows or cares exactly how they got it to bend without breaking, but the Korean tech giant wouldn’t have invested so much cash in the idea if they didn’t think it had legs (metaphorically speaking; we can’t really imagine a smartphone with legs).

The Galaxy Fold literally transforms from a skinny smartphone into a 7.3-inch tablet when it’s opened up, which obviously means that when you want a quality experience (say, to watch a movie or a music video), then bigger is better. Another potentially useful feature is that on the big screen, you can have three apps open at once. Built out of premium materials and with a weight (259.3g) that’s as hefty as its price, the Fold will undoubtedly appeal to those who love to be the centre of attention, given its "wow" factor.

Elac Navis Powered Bookshelf Speakers



Smart-powered Navis bookshelf speakers from Elac

Geared towards the audiophile who wants a no-compromise system but also wants a minimalist set-up that’s free of superfluous spaghetti (cables), German speaker manufacturer Elac has come up with a genuine point of difference with the new Navis bookshelf model. The Navis features a built-in high-quality amp (actually, three amps controlling each of the speakers) that eschews the usual Class D digital design in favour of an old-school 300-watt analogue amp.

That’s a lot of power for a smaller speaker and ensures that it never has to do more than merely coast to get the best performance. With its custom-designed midrange and tweeters and its cabinet with a fine furniture finish, the Navis looks almost as good as it sounds, and it’s set up to wirelessly stream your chosen content, too.

Auralic Vega G1 Streaming DAC



Auralic’s beaut Vega G1 Streaming DAC

Chinese hi-fi manufacturers have tended to suffer the same prejudices in the West that the Japanese motor vehicle industry weathered before the public realised that actually, so-called "Jap crap" was, in fact, pretty good. The reality is that high-end Chinese audiophile gear is some of the best in the world.

Auralic founders Xuanqian Wang and Yuan Wang are both as passionate about music as they are about design and engineering, and their Vega G1 Streaming DAC is a portal through which streaming music really comes alive.

While it’s easy to stream music on the cheap, a quality DAC like the Vega G1 brings about a phenomenal improvement in the sonic characteristics, from the textures to the rhythms and the way the music seems to dance in space. How do they do it? Well, the Vega G1 is the first DAC to operate independently of the source signal’s frequency.

The Tesla G1 is a powerful and flexible hardware platform designed to meet the needs of hi-res streaming, and their specially modified Sabre DAC chip results in a sonic performance other streamer-DACs just can’t compete with. Featuring every input and output you could imagine and capable of being the streaming hub for the whole household, this handsome music master is frankly, superb.


Silky smooth Christchurch nu-soul duo Dillastrate 

Fancy some satin-smooth soul and R&B all wrapped up in a package that’s perfect for long, hot, and humid summer nights? Christchurch duo Dillastrate have got the formula just right on their self-titled debut album, which sounds like the work of experienced and adept purveyors of sensuous grooves and belying their relative newness to the scene.

Comprising of Henare ‘H’ Kaa (drums, lead vocals) and Tim Driver (keyboards, loops, vocals), Dillastrate have plied their appealing fusion at some of New Zealand’s largest summer festivals, but this is their first opportunity to riff on the full range of their styles, which inevitably takes in hip-hop, "urban", nu-soul and party funk.

Lee Scratch Perry—Heavy Rain

Lee Scratch Perry returns for some heavy bass action

One of the original architects of Jamaican dub music and a legendary figure for his heavy bass productions of the 1970s, octogenarian Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry has, in recent years, become more well-known for his eccentric behaviour and proclamations than for the quality of his work. While it’s probably perfectly okay for an 83-year-old to sit on his laurels (especially when they’re as substantial as Perry’s), his collaborator Adrian Sherwood is just the creative foil needed to raise the game.

Heavy Rain is the dub version of Rainford, which was released last June, and it provides a great excuse for testing out the subwoofers (or pissing off the neighbours). A bonus is the prodigious number of musical guests, including Brian Eno, former Bob Marley trombonist Vin Gordon and On-U Sound luminaries from groups such as Tackhead and Creation Rebel. Fabulous.

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