New music and technology: April 2021

By: Gary Steel, Photography by: Supplied

Gary Steel is back with the latest in music and technology

Wing Zero Passive Compact Speaker


Not much has changed in loudspeaker essentials since the 1950s. Sure, there’s been innovation and clever thinking, new materials, and new technology, but the basic need for woofers and tweeters has kept things at an evolutionary crawl.

Well, I’m pleased to announce a genuine revolution in speaker design and beaming with pride at the fact that behind the incredible Wing Zero speaker are a couple of Kiwi lads. Michael and David Palmer are both classical musicians and self-confessed audio nerds (and audio engineers) who have been beavering away on this incredible project—a completely new ‘operating system’ for their loudspeaker—since the late 1990s.

The Wing Zero speaker is the result and it’s full of trademarked uniqueness that hinges on the advent of the acousticWing, which they claim is the most significant audio breakthrough since the advent of the cone speaker 100 years ago. It sounds like sci-fi, but the acousticWing driver mimics the action of a hummingbird wing in flight, creating what they claim is unparalleled sonic purity. I was given a special audience with the Wing Zero speakers and can report that they sound amazing. I’ve never heard a tiny speaker emit such realistic deep bass or anything like the natural-sounding space around each instrument.

There’s revolution in the air.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M DA Converter


The DacMagic is legendary in audiophile circles as one of the first and best dedicated digital to analogue converters. The UK’s Cambridge Audio is equally legendary for keeping hi-fi products at realistic prices, and it’s true of the company’s latest iteration of the DacMagic.

The 200M is a flawlessly finished steel and aluminium box with dimensions of just 52 x 215 x 191mm, and within its petite frame is a top-quality ESS Sabre digital-to-analogue converter. For the first time, a DacMagic can process MQA lossless files as well as handle digital audio files up to 32bit/768kHz or DSD512. Anyone with a digital audio system will benefit from the DacMagic, which cuts none of the corners of the crappy DA converters built into computers and mobile phones.

Rega Planar


The Rega Planar is one of the most iconic affordable audiophile turntables. While some manufacturers are always offering brand-new models that theoretically offer better looks and better performance, Rega has done the right thing and stuck with its award-winning Planar. Instead, it’s simply gone and updated the classic Planar and Planar Plus with a new finish. So, where previously it featured a gloss look, the 2021 model sports a stylish matt finish that’s available in black or white. 

There’s one notable improvement and that’s the new EBLT advanced drive belt for improved stability and speed accuracy. The Planar 1 Plus ($850) comes with an integrated moving magnet phono stage, and they’re both supplied with a fitted Rega Carbon cartridge. While the ever-rising popularity of vinyl has seen much competition in the turntable field, it’s hard to go past Rega’s always-appealing offering.



Music careers seldom go according to plan. Wellington band Weta’s turn-of-the-century album Geographica was a huge hit and was awarded Platinum for its achievement, but that was pretty much it for the group. Frontman Aaron Tokona quickly became disenchanted with the rock and roll life and explored other musical projects after the band broke up in 2001.

Sadly, Tokona died of a heart attack in 2020, so this remastered edition of their now-classic album takes on a rather mournful hue. With its music anchored in the heavy rock of groups such as Shihad but also capable of moody diversions from the template, it stands up well 21 years later. A bonus for fans is the extra material affixed to the digital version, which includes both studio and live material.

Gitbox Rebellion—Curveball


Have you ever experienced the strange spectacle of eight acoustic guitarists all going for it at the same time? What could be an unholy racket in the wrong hands is downright magical in those of Auckland-based ensemble Gitbox Rebellion. The small guitar orchestra is helping their record label, Rattle, celebrate its first 30 years with their second album—their first, Pesky Digits, launched the label back in 1991.

Gitbox was in hiatus for many years but reformed in 2017, and Curveball is the result: a recording that shows the many sides of their work from moments of utmost delicacy to thundering dynamic passages. If you’ve never heard the group, you’re in for a treat. There’s nothing like multiple guitars picking and thrumming their way through their sometimes complicated but always charming compositions.

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