New music and technology: February 2021

By: Gary Steel

Gary Steel is back with the latest in music and technology

Pivetta Opera Only

US$2.2 million

Those who have trouble with the idea of spending a few thousand dollars on hi-fi gear might want to get an eyeful of this. The Pivetta Opera Only is an amplifier going for an eye-watering US two million dollars-plus. Designed with Italian flare by Andrea Pivetta, the Pivetta Opera Only boasts 120,000 watts of power, is 2.4 metres tall, and weighs 1.5 tonnes.


There’s little information as to what kind of speakers you’d want to pump this massive power load into but it’s hard to imagine even a fancy abode harbouring this ginormous beast. And for those wanting to get a smaller dose of the Pivetta magic, several less foreboding (but no less bizarre) amps are also available, including the Power One at 1000 watts and the Dark Block Extreme Performance at 24,000 watts. Don’t worry, they’re not likely to make it to these shores any time soon.

Fyne Audio F501SP Floorstanding Loudspeaker


They’re already a highly regarded (and award-winning) audiophile loudspeaker, but Fyne Audio’s F501SP gets supercharged with the addition of ‘SP’ (Special Production) to its model number. What this means is that the F501SP is completely designed and built in the UK with flow-down technology and componentry from Fyne Audio’s much pricier F700 series.


That entails the addition of an aluminium sandwich plinth to enhance stability and further refine the downward-firing​​ porting system, along with an upgraded crossover for seamless integration. With its IsoFlare point source driver and multi-fibre bass/midrange cone with FyneFlute surround adding to the fine-sounding Fyne sonics, they’re a compelling proposition. Available in piano gloss black, white (both $7295), or walnut ($7995), it goes without saying that they’re handsome bastards, too.

Ruark R1MK4 Deluxe Bluetooth Radio


There’s nothing quite like combining all the best aspects of the old with the new. Ruark knew this when they created its R1 radio 14 years ago, and each successive iteration has added new technological smarts while retaining the cosy glow of an old-fashioned radio that’s a great bedside companion or a friend in the kitchen.


The new MK4 Deluxe beams out pleasingly high-quality sound but instead of a glitch-prone aerial connection, it’s Bluetooth-fitted. The OLED display is easy on the eyes and the Rotodial control system makes for an enjoyably retro, hands-on experience. This beaut wee box with its handcrafted grille and adjustable EQ settings won’t rock the casbah with turbo-charged bass but it’s perfect for those occasions when you want some pleasing background to the day’s activities.

Richard Nunns—Mahi

Our foremost expert in ancient Maori instruments had to hang up his musical hat in 2017 due to declining health, but he has left a wealth of haunting, gorgeous music, most of it on the wonderful Rattle label. Mahi was originally only available with a book about pre-colonisation Maori music, Te Ara Puoro, but is now released on its own.


Taken from a variety of albums Nunns released over the years, these instruments are showcased in many fascinating situations and with different backings, including gently burbling electronic grooves. The music is deeply evocative of our moist native environment and is the perfect accompaniment to late-night relaxation or early morning contemplation.

Sheep Dog & Wolf—Two-Minds

Though the name might suggest a trio, Sheep Dog & Wolf is just one chap, Daniel McBride. The young Wellingtonian’s rather extraordinary debut, Egospect—released back in 2013—polarised critics. I loved its intricately layered and single-minded approach but some found it too fiddly and too arty.


The long-awaited follow-up reflects a more mature approach, and consequently, it’s a more approachable record, despite it being partly a chronicle of mental illness. McBride still does just about everything on an album that incorporates electronics and modern classical and makes great use of overdubbed voice. But while it’s still utterly original, this time he’s making a kind of left-field pop that’s unmistakably human.

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