Monday, February 27, 2017
Paradigm's Flagship
Persona 9H
Sonus Faber
Speaker Debut
SoundStage!
Simplifi
CES
2017
MartinLogan
Advancements
Gryphon's
Story
Devialet's
Phantoms
NAD's
HP50 Headphones
Newsflash:
Merging NADAC ST-2 on SoundStage! Ultra ... Read the review
Onkyo's A-9010 on SoundStage! Access ... Read the review

Sponsors

808 Hex SLPrice: $59.99

Website: www.808audio.com

Rad said: The 808 Hex SL has very good sound, though not quite as good as the small Bluetooth speakers from Logitech, Grace Digital, and Denon. However, if you need a speaker to fit a really small space, I can’t think of one that would work better.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Pretty decent for its size.

Alpha Design Labs A1Price: $599

Website: www.adl-av.com

Hans said: The A1 headphone amplifier-DAC is pretty much faultless in terms of sound quality; add in its flexibility and DSD capabilities, and I could happily live with one for a long while.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Stylish, full-featured, great-sounding headphone amp.

Alpha Design Labs EH008Price: $239

Website: www.adl-av.com

Hans said: On the whole, the EH008s sounded nearly full-range, with a wealth of resolution easily audible down to all but the very lowest registers, and with low-frequency information doled out in responsibly ample portions.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Competitive with the better earphones out there.

Alpha Design Labs X1Price: $479

Website: www.furutech.com 

Vince said: Although other portable USB DAC-headphone amps work well with Apple devices, the ADL by Furutech X1 is a unique device that adds 24/192 capability via USB. It sounded splendid at all resolutions, and with every device that I connected it to. At $479, the X1 is pricey -- but you get a versatile, classy-looking device with exceptional sound quality to match its good looks.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Competition for Astell&Kern.

Amphion Argon 7LPrice: $6000 per pair

Website: www.amphion.fi

Philip said: Combined with its modern, minimalist appearance and solid build quality, the Argon7L ticks all the right boxes for me. Like the Argon3 bookshelf and the Argon3L floorstander before it, the Argon7L is an easy recommendation.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Clean lines and clean sound from this cool Finnish speaker. 

Anthem Performance MRX 510Price: $1599

Website: www.anthemav.com

Vince said: The Performance MRX 510 ups the performance of ARC to provide unprecedented control and feedback for room correction, and raises the bar for home-theater receivers. Despite my initial misgivings about the features omitted from the MRX 500 to create the MRX 510, I ended up missing none of them. If you value sound quality and like to take some control over your speakers, as I do, I highly recommend the Anthem Performance MRX 510.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: ARC puts this fine receiver at the head of the pack.

Anthem MRX 710Price: $1999

Website: www.anthemav.com

Wes said: If sound quality is your primary purchasing criterion, then the Performance MRX 710 should be at the top of your list. Even if you have an MRX 700, the MRX 710’s “1M” improvements in ARC and the Advanced Load Monitoring are enough reasons to upgrade.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Second-generation receiver from Anthem is the best for an audiophile home theater.

Arcam airDACPrice: $699

Website: www.arcam.co.uk

Oliver said: The airDAC is a music maker through and through -- one that offers a huge slice of audiophile sound at a real-world price. It does so without playing favorites in terms of musical genre or listener preference, delivering the musical goods in the most engaging way it can.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Who says an AirPlay-equipped DAC can’t be high end?

Astell&Kern AK240Price: $2499

Website: www.iriverinc.com

Rad said: The Astell&Kern AK240 makes it possible to listen to high-resolution music practically anywhere. It’s pricey, but look at what it can do and what components it can replace, and see if that doesn’t lessen the sticker shock. After using it for a month, I concluded that it was probably worth close to its asking price of $2499.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Lotta money, but if you want portable hi-rez . . .

Audeze LCD-3Price: $1945

Website: www.audeze.com 

Garrett said: The Audeze LCD-3s created the best head-fi listening experience I have yet had. They’re serious contenders for a reference-level set of headphones and a must-hear for anyone looking at the top-tier of head-fi.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: The anti-Beats set of headphones.

Audeze LCD-XPrice: $1699

Website: www.audeze.com

Andrea said: The LCD-Xes imbue every recording with a little extra glow, but their enhanced high-frequency performance, and the fact that they’re more easily driven, will likely broaden their appeal beyond Audeze’s current fan base. Last, the LCD-Xes’ materials, build quality, and accessories embrace both luxury and utility. For anyone truly serious about headphones, the Audeze LCD-Xes are a must audition.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Newish company stands apart in a crowded headphone market.

Audience powerChordPrices: Standard model, $2400/6’ cord; Medium-Power model, $1250/6’ cord; Low-Power model, $1080/6’ cord

Website: www.audience-av.com

Doug said: Audience’s Au24 SE powerChords, interconnects, and speaker cables are the most satisfying wiring products I’ve used in the last 39 years. They sit at the pinnacle of cable performance, and provide an attractive combination of big spaces, a very neutral sound and marvelously balanced performance, from the deepest bass to the highest treble.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: The best cables Doug has heard.

Audience Au24 SEPrices: speaker cables, $2295 per 2.5m pair; interconnects, $1290 per 1m pair

Website: www.audience-av.com

Doug said: Audience’s Au24 SE powerChords, interconnects, and speaker cables are the most satisfying wiring products I’ve used in the last 39 years. They sit at the pinnacle of cable performance, and provide an attractive combination of big spaces, a very neutral sound and marvelously balanced performance, from the deepest bass to the highest treble.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: The best cables Doug has heard.

Audience ClairAudient OnePrice: $995 per pair

Website: www.audience-av.com 

Ian said: If you’re looking for a pair of high-resolution loudspeakers for a desktop, credenza, or wall unit in the den, the Audience ClairAudient One offers great sound and excellent build quality, and it unassumingly vanishes into its surroundings.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Add one more computer-oriented mini to the crowded field.

Audio Research SP20Price: $9000

Website: www.audioresearch.com

Vade said: Do the math: For $9000, you get a preamp roughly equivalent to $15,500 in separates. More important, it sounds wonderful. The frosting on the cake is that all of this quality and value are packed into a case whose beauty rivals almost anything on the market. What’s not to like? I’m buying the review sample.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: ARC’s best, short of their Reference preamps.

Audio Research VSi75Price: $8000

Website: www.audioresearch.com

Jason said: Solid-state lovers would like it. Tube lovers would like it. But where it would hit a home run, I believe, is with two groups: those who would like to try a tube amp but are leery of doing so because of the perceived downsides of tubes, and tube aficionados who might be getting tired of unreliable, soggy-sounding tube amps.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: An amp that expertly straddles the tube/solid-state line.

Audio-Technica SonicFuel ATH-AX5iSPrice: $89.95

Website: www.audio-technica.com

Rad said: Audio-Technica’s ATH-AX5iS headphones are in no way outstanding, but they have competently good sound, and they’re lightweight and easy to wear for just about any activity.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Not bad, but doesn’t stand out in a crowd.

Audiofly Performance AF140Price: $349

Website: www.audiofly.com

Brent said: I think probably just about anyone would like the Audiofly AF140s. Who would love them? Listeners who want a neutral, natural, spacious sound in the mids and treble, combined with some extra bass power.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Audiofly’s upscale earphone series contains this good middle-of-the-road performer.

Aura Note V2Price: $3000

Website: www.aprilmusic.com

Jeff said: With V2 of the Aura Note music system, April Music has produced a versatile, adaptable, complete home-audio system in a single box.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: The centerpiece of your new living-room entertainment system.

Aurender W20Price: $17,200

Website: www.aurender.com

Pete said: For the well-heeled, obsessive-compulsive audiophile, and/or all who have invested in statement-level digital gear and strive to eliminate from their systems any compromises, the W20 should fit the bill.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Probably the best music server.

Aurender X100LPrice: $3490

Website: www.aurender.com

Jeff said: If you’ve wanted an Aurender S10, but were put off by its price and don’t need its myriad connection options, then I see nothing that should hold you back from the X100L. It’s a killer little product.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Excellent choice for a plug’n’play music server.

Axiom Audio M100 v4Price: $2790-$4167.60 per pair

Website: www.axiomaudio.com

Oliver said: Axiom deserves a gold medal -- or, better still, a Reviewers’ Choice award -- for how much sonic goodness they’ve packed into the wonderful M100. That they’re able to do so for a starting price of only $2790/pair is wondrous indeed. The Axiom M100 stands as one of the best-balanced reasonably priced speakers I’ve heard.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Driver-packed large floorstander that costs less than you’d think.

Ayre KX-R TwentyPrice: $27,500

Website: www.ayre.com

Jeff said: It stands to reason that if Ayre Acoustics’ original KX-R was the best preamp I’d ever had in my system, and the KX-R Twenty is even better, then the KX-R Twenty is the new “best preamp I’ve ever heard.” It is. I used the Twenty in a system that acts as a microscope on my recordings, and I heard no shortcomings in the Ayre. Smooth, revealing, neutral, utterly effortless, liquid -- it does it all.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: As good as a preamp gets.

Ayre VX-5Price: $7950

Website: www.ayre.com

Doug said: The VX-5 is an extremely accomplished-sounding power amplifier that I could easily listen to and live with as my personal reference for a long, long time, without ever feeling in the slightest shortchanged. For many -- even those expecting to spend a lot more -- it may be the perfect amplifier.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Ayre’s entry level might just be your reference level.

Ayre AX-5Price: $9950

Website: www.ayre.com

Uday said: As of today, the AX-5 is not only, overall, the finest-sounding amp I’ve ever heard, it ranks as one of the finest components I’ve heard of any type. Or, to put it another way while emphasizing one of its strongest suits: This is the best damn integrated I’ve never heard. The AX-5 is truly a Goldilocks amp: not too hot and not too cold, it’s just right.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Might be the best integrated you can buy.

Bel Canto Design eOne uLinkPrice: $675

Website: www.belcantodesign.com

Sathyan said: For those who like to play digital music files on computers, Bel Canto Design’s e.One uLink is a worthwhile upgrade, allowing bit-perfect reproduction of tracks sampled above 96kHz. For those with DACs lacking USB inputs, the uLink provides an easy and musical way of adding computer-based audio to a system.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Make your old DAC new again with great-sounding USB connectivity.

BenQ W7500Price: $2799

Website: www.benq.us

Wes said: If DLP’s your thing, the BenQ W7500 should be at the top of your list. It’s a terrific projector, certainly one of the best single-chip DLP projectors ever made, and a bargain at $2799.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: If Wes says this is the one to get, you should get it.

Blue Circle Audio BC60X1Price: $4495

Website: www.bluecircle.com

Phillip said: The BC60X1 is for the person who already owns a high-quality system and is happy with its sound, but wants to know if it can be improved even further. At $4495, the BC60X1 isn’t cheap, but if you’ve invested quite a bit in your stereo and want to take its sound to the next level, the Blue Circle might be able to do the job.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Balanced power or not? You don’t have to choose with this product -- it does both.

BCA PLC Thingee FX-2 Six-OutletPrice: $495

Website: www.bluecircle.com

Michael said: For $495, you get a darn good PLC in the Blue Circle FX-2. If you’re an audiophile on a budget who doesn’t put much stock in PLCs, the FX-2 is the one for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m buying one.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Pipe in clean power to your system.

Boston Acoustics MC100Price: $149

Website: www.bostonacoustics.com

Rad said: I could find no type of music that the MC100 Blue didn’t do pretty full justice. This little speaker with the big sound sounded exciting with anything from solo guitar to opera to rock. Boston Acoustics’ MC100 Blue is an excellent Bluetooth speaker -- among the finest I’ve heard. It looks sleek and modern, and sounds good with any type of music. It’s a remarkable value for $149, and one of the bigger bargains of this past holiday season.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Lots of bang-for-the-buck in this Bluetooth speaker.

Bowers & Wilkins 684 S2Price: $1150 per pair

Website: www.bowers-wilkins.com

Doug said: All told, B&W offers high value with the 684 S2 -- the reason shoppers have long gravitated toward the company’s various 600 series. But I recommend that prospective buyers first listen to this new model with familiar music, to determine if it’s the right speaker for them.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Pretty good, just not great like you would hope.

Bowers & Wilkins P7Price: $399.99

Website: www.bowers-wilkins.com

S. Andrea said: The P7 headphones are another well-thought-out design by team B&W. They’re fashionable in a mature way, with high-quality materials and meticulous attention to detail. And there is substance to go along with the style.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Great for your tunes and your image.

Brainwavz S5Price: $129.50

Website: www.yourbrainwavz.com

Brent said: If you like a little extra treble, and if you want to hear every last detail in all of your music, the S5 is one of the few earphone models I’ve heard -- actually, it’s the only one I can think of -- that can do detail without downsides.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Detail monsters.

Bryston Mini TPrice: $2695 per pair

Website: www.bryston.com

Philip said: While the Mini T’s appearance is so-so, its sound is anything but. The Mini Ts’ unerring neutrality, great soundstaging, and ability to play ridiculously loudly without breaking up and distorting will tick all the right boxes for many music lovers, and will likely attract new customers to the brand.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Plays loud and clean -- the perfect rock speaker.

Cambridge Audio Aero 2Price: $549 per pair

Website: www.cambridgeaudio.com

Doug said: I highly recommend Cambridge Audio’s Aero 2. For its combination of high performance and value, it’s a frontrunner for one of our Product of the Year awards, to be announced at the end of this year.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Innovative driver design delivers in this perky little speaker.

Clarity OrganicPrices: speaker cables, $2500 per 1.5m pair; interconnects, $1400 per 1m pair

Website: www.claritycable.com

Michael said: If your system sounds good, the Clarity products may make it sound even better, and allow you to hear more of what it is you already like about your components. Clarity’s Organic models won’t win any beauty contests, but they were an absolute pleasure to listen to, and I very highly recommend them. This is one set of review samples I will definitely miss.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Solid sound from an unassuming new cable maker.

Clarity Cable VortexPrice: $750 per 6’ cord

Website: www.claritycable.com

Michael said: If your system sounds good, the Clarity products may make it sound even better, and allow you to hear more of what it is you already like about your components. Clarity’s Organic models won’t win any beauty contests, but they were an absolute pleasure to listen to, and I very highly recommend them. This is one set of review samples I will definitely miss.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Solid sound from an unassuming cable maker.

Clarus CrimsonPrices: speaker cables, $4080 per 8’ pair; interconnects, $2000 per 2m pair

Website: www.claruscable.com

Aron said: These cables are expensive, but I have grown to respect them as no-holds-barred, reference-level products that simply tell you how it is. What more can you ask for from a high-quality cable? Highly recommended!

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Another good but expensive cable in an already crowded field.

David Berning Company ZH-230Price: $8630

Website: www.davidberning.com

Vade said: I haven’t listened to every power amp out there, but the Berning ZH-230 is the best I’ve ever heard. And while all the technical hoo-ha is fascinating, what counts is that the ZH-230 made music sound right. For me, that meant it was more fun to listen to music with the Berning -- my listening sessions with it ran unusually late. David Berning’s ZH-230 has made it very hard for me to listen to other amplifiers.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: So you really don’t need the transformers after all.

Definitive Technology CubePrice: $249

Website: www.definitivetech.com

Roger said: I heartily recommend the Cube for its ability to provide high-quality sound in a variety of settings, and for the convenience of its small size.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: An example of Bluetooth speakers getting better and better.

Definitive Technology InclinePrice: $399 per pair

Website: www.definitivetech.com

Vince said: I have no hesitation in recommending the Inclines to anyone who wants a high-quality computer speaker system, or as the main system for a small bedroom or apartment. You won’t be disappointed.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Bipolar sound for your desktop.

Definitive Technology Mythos ST-LPrice: $4999.90 per pair

Website: www.definitivetech.com 

Roger said: Definitive Technology’s Mythos ST-L SuperTower elevates “lifestyle” speaker design to a new level of performance with its high resolution, clear and neutral midrange, and incredible dynamics. A true high-end design in every respect, it should hold its own against any speaker near its price, and even against some that cost considerably more.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: What a looker, with great sound to match.

Denon Envaya DSB-200BKPrice: $219.99

Website: www.usa.denon.com

Rad said: Denon’s Envaya DSB-200BKis a winner. It projects any kind of music convincingly, and looks great while doing so. Its innovative kickstand design is contemporary and cool, and the interchangeable grillecloths and power adapters are nice touches.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: A winner amongst the plethora of portable Bluetooth speakers.

Devialet 120Price: $6495

Website: www.devialet.com

Hans said: The Devialet 120 is a state-of-the-art piece of hardware, an inspired design marked by deep originality and a thorough understanding of how humans actually interact with modern technology.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Simply groundbreaking.

Devialet 400Price: $17,495 per pair

Website: www.devialet.com

Jeff said: In some ways, buying a Devialet is like replacing your ancient flip phone with an iPhone 6: you won’t believe everything it can do, how it performs every function, and how it looks and feels in your hand while doing it all. It’ll seem kind of like magic. The question is: Are you ready for it? If you’re like me, once you hear the Devialet 400, there will be no going back. I’m as surprised as you that I’m saying this, but the Devialet 400s produced the best sound I’ve ever heard.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: The state-of-the-art amplification device.

Eclipse TD510ZMK2Price: $5990 per pair

Website: www.eclipse-td.net

Wes said: I love music, and I’m always looking for that special component that gives me a whole new perspective on my record collection. Auditioning the Eclipses will provide just such an experience.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: A speaker and a conversation piece.

EgglestonWorks Nine SignaturePrice: $18,900 per pair

Website: www.egglestonworks.com

Aron said: The Nine Signature is an aurally and visually inviting loudspeaker that, by pretty much any measure, has a lot to offer. Typically, “try before you buy” is invoked as a warning. With the Nine Signature, I recommend you read the phrase more literally: Listen to these before you buy anything else -- you just might find the perfect balance you’re looking for on your very first try.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Unfatiguing, full-bodied floorstander that Aron really liked.

fo.QPrices: various

Website: www.lotusgroupusa.com

Howard said: No matter how much fo.Q I used in my system, whether in the form of tape, sheets, or Audio Board, the sound never became too dark or damped. Moreover, the sound didn’t merely change -- it always substantially improved.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: If you are a tweaker, these may be worth investigating.

Focal Aria 906Price: $1500 per pair

Website: www.focal.com

Vince said: The Aria 906 is packed with Focal’s latest driver technology, and the results are fantastic. I was smitten by the Arias’ huge soundstage, neutral midrange, and beautifully rendered highs. This bookshelf punches above its weight, and compares favorably with other well-regarded speakers, even above its price range.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Flax is good for you -- in more ways than one.

Focal Spirit ClassicPrice: $399

Website: www.focal.com

Andrea said: Where the Spirit Classics step ahead of most of their competition is in the exceptional clarity with which they reproduce the textures of voices and instruments, and their excellent dynamic contrasts. With that combination of strengths, any audiophile looking for closed-back headphones should audition Focal’s Spirit Classics.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Andrea was knocked out by this stylish French design.

Grace Digital EcoxGear EcoRoxPrice: $129.99

Website: www.gracedigitalaudio.com

Rad said: Bottom line: With the Grace EcoRox, you can take your summer sounds just about anywhere you go, and they’ll still sound good.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: What every beachgoer needs.

Grace Digital EncorePrice: $199.99; rechargeable battery pack, $39.99

Website: www.gracedigitalaudio.com

Rad said: Given a good signal, it sounds more than respectable. And it’s a full-featured alarm clock. Its list price is a bit high, but you can find it online for around $175. At that price, it might be just what you need to fulfill your sense of musical adventure.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Pretty good in most areas but dated looks.

Graham Slee Revelation MPrice: $1599

Website: www.gspaudio.co.uk

Oliver said: I’ve been living with the Revelation M for well over a year now and can’t come up with a single caveat -- and I’ve tried my damnedest. Yes, you can undoubtedly do better if you spend more. But regardless of what cartridge, turntable, and/or amplification I partnered the Revelation M with, the little wonder was always up to the challenge, consistently delivering a complete and eminently enjoyable music experience from any record in my collection.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: UK-made mini phono stage that floated Oliver’s boat.

Grimm Audio LS1 and LS1sPrices: LS1, $29,900 per pair; LS1s, $9995/pair; $39,895 total

Website: www.grimmaudio.com

Robert said: I found the Grimm LS1-LS1s system the most neutral and, overall, highest-performing speaker system I have ever tested. It was with more than a little regret I that I watched them depart.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Pro company successfully enters the audiophile speaker market.

Hegel Music Systems H80Price: $2000

Website: www.hegel.com

Roger said: For $2000, the H80 is a great option for anyone looking for a cost-effective, single-box way to build a high-performance audio system.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: The minimalist’s perfect match for a small pair of bookshelf speakers.

Jabra Solemate MiniPrice: $99.99

Website: www.jabra.com

Rad said: I do like the Solemate’s sole -- it’s a clever way to keep the speaker from jumping around. I also like having the mini-plug cord stowed aboard at all times. And I like being able to check the battery level. But for me, until something else comes along, the Logitech Mini Boom wins the Battle of the Bluetooth Mini Speakers hands down.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Pretty good but takes a backseat to the Logitech Mini Boom.

JBL Synchros E50BTPrice: $149.95

Website: www.jbl.com

Rad said: The JBL Synchros E50BTs are excellent commuter headphones. They sound terrific, they’re extremely simple to operate, and they can be used wirelessly via a Bluetooth connection, or wired with a cable connection. They look stylish, fit securely on the head and ears, and though they have no noise-reduction circuitry, they block a huge amount of exterior noise.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Just another good set of headphones at a respectable price.

Joseph Audio PulsarPrice: $7700 per pair

Website: www.josephaudio.com

Graham said: The Pulsar is a great loudspeaker for $7700/pair; rather than stuff boxes, Jeff Joseph has taken time to spec drivers, build cabinets, and design a crossover network. He’s put all that together in a model that sets a sonic benchmark for me for smaller loudspeakers.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Solid all-around stand-mount from a specialist manufacturer.

KEF M200Price: $199.99

Website: www.kef.com

Hans said: I was deeply surprised by the M200s’ high qualities of materials and sound. This model is a strong candidate at the $200 price point, and a laudable freshman effort on the in-ear-’phones front from one of audio’s most respected names.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Take KEF sound everywhere.

KEF Reference 1Price: $7499.99 per pair

Website: www.kef.com

Doug said: KEF’s Reference 1 is the best stand-mounted speaker I’ve ever heard. The bottommost octave excepted, it’s among the very best speakers I’ve heard of any size and price. As its name implies, the Reference 1 can indeed be considered a reference for stand-mounted loudspeaker design.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: The smallish speaker Doug has been waiting for.

Liberty Audio B2B-100Price: $2499

Website: www.libertyaudio.com

Tim said: I have no doubt the B2B-100 will make waves in the audiophile world. The qualities of sound and build and the low price make the B2B-100 an outstanding value. The Liberty B2B-100 is a great example of why it’s a great time to be an audiophile.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Lots of hardware for the money, and good sound to boot.

Light Harmonic LightSpeedPrice: $1399 per 1.6m cable

Website: www.lightharmonic.com

Doug said: Light Harmonic’s LightSpeed is a seriously good USB cable at a seriously high price. I can’t unequivocally say that it’s the best USB cable money can buy for every audiophile, because its sound is relentlessly neutral. Many audiophiles don’t want absolute neutrality -- it reveals too many recordings as being not very good -- and for them, the LightSpeed cable won’t be the best choice. But for those looking for the truth in music recordings, regardless of what that truth might be, I’m not sure it’s possible to do better than the LightSpeed USB.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Unique but expensive for the cable-minded among you.

Line Magnetic Audio 216IAPrice: $1850

Website: www.lmaudio.com

Sid said: With its effortlessly fluent musical flow, the Line Magnetic 216IA integrated amplifier more than made up for its minor shortcomings of providing not quite the ultimate levels of control and refinement. Factoring in the 216IA’s outstanding build quality and its low price of $1850, its ratio of value for money is right up there with the best.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: High-value tube amp not of the cookie-cutter variety.

Logitech Harmony UltimatePrice: $349.99

Website: www.logitech.com

Rad said: If you can get used to the four buttons above its display, the Logitech Harmony Ultimate remote control pretty much lives up to its name: It controls the functions of all your devices so you can put their original remotes in a drawer and forget them.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: If you’re not using your smartphone as a remote, get this.

Logitech UE Mini BoomPrice: $99.99

Website: www.logitech.com

Rad said: The UE Mini Boom is the Little Bluetooth Speaker that Could. It wirelessly produced room-filling sound that was well balanced and free of distortion. It’s totally portable, and will partner with a laptop well. It has a generous warranty of two years, and it’s affordable -- Amazon.com sells it for $79.95.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Wireless little guy has a big sound.

Luxman C-900uPrice: $19,900

Website: www.luxman.com

Doug said: I absolutely loved the Luxman C-900u. In my estimation, it’s a preamp for the ages -- and perhaps in a decade or two, it will have proven to be another classic from Luxman that will still be outperforming whatever’s new in 2024 or 2034.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Doug’s favorite preamp to date.

Luxman DA-06Price: $4990

Website: www.luxman.co.jp/global/

Vade said: The DA-06’s vivid, colorful sound enhanced whatever recordings I played through it, from DSD64 to “Red Book” -- just for old times’ sake, I spun a couple of CDs through the Luxman, and they, too, sounded great. The DA-06’s wide assortment of digital inputs make it compatible with just about any digital source device, and with all commercially available digital file formats in use as of the end of 2013. I understand that Luxman plans to release DAC models at prices lower and higher than the DA-06’s $4990, but for me, for now, the DA-06 represents a peak on the value scale.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: An exceptionally versatile, solid-performing DAC from one of the most-respected names in hi-fi.

M2Tech Young DSDPrice: $1699

Website: www.m2tech.biz

Jeff said: Ultimately, the Young DSD made me want to listen to music. That’s what this hobby is all about. It’s a good component worth the 1699 bills, which means it's fairly priced. Considering that, I’ve got no complaints.

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The gist: Good in all areas when considering its competitive price point.

Magico S3Price: $22,600 per pair

Website: www.magico.net

Ryan said: The Magico S3’s uncolored sound and virtually nonexistent sins of commission have made it one of the easiest products to review in my experience.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Magico’s least-expensive three-way is a resolution monster.

MartinLogan BalancedForce 212Price: $3999 (Perfect Bass Kit, add $100)

Website: www.martinlogan.com

Kevin said: The BalancedForce 212 is in a class with the best subs available to the home-audio enthusiast. The BF212 is one for the short list -- it’s required listening for anyone who’s dead serious about the low end. Highly recommended.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Very capable subwoofer in every important parameter.

Meridian ExplorerPrice: $299

Website: www.meridian-audio.com 

Doug said: The Explorer clearly sounded better, overall, than the DragonFly v1.0. But it’s surprising that the Wavelength Proton, a very good DAC that costs three times as much as the Meridian, wasn’t obviously superior in sound. That’s what makes the Explorer a bona-fide high-end bargain. Highly recommended.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Who knew a $300 DAC could sound this good?

Monitor Audio Airstream A100Price: $499.99

Website: www.monitoraudio.com

Hans said: Monitor’s Airstream A100 is a honey of an amp that makes a compelling argument for never having to buy into traditional hi-fi of yore. With analog, digital, and wireless connectivity, an accomplished class-AB amplifier -- something its competitors can’t boast -- and sound quality that reaches well past its $499 price, it comes highly, highly recommended. $500 never sounded so good.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: If you thought Monitor only made speakers, this component will make you think twice.

Monitor Audio Gold GX50Price: $1800 per pair

Website: www.monitoraudio.com

Philip said: With the Gold GX50, Monitor Audio has produced another fine loudspeaker. It possesses all the hallmarks of the Monitor house sound, along with incisive detail and tight, punchy bass. I found myself drawn to listen to voices through these speakers -- their midrange reproduction was very natural and open, and their ability to produce a well-defined, precise soundstage was outstanding.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: All the attributes you'd want in a small Monitor speaker, and then some.

Monitor Audio Silver 6Price: $1500 per pair

Website: www.monitoraudiousa.com

Philip said: This is a speaker for the long haul -- one that you can set up and forget. After living with them for a while, I can say that this British speaker is the perfect solution for someone who cares about good sound, but who views a stereo as a means to an end -- music -- rather than an end in itself.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Philip really liked the Silver 6es.

Motorola S11-HDPrice: $99.99

Website: www.motorola.com 

Rad said: Those uncritical of sound quality will perhaps be OK with the sound of the Motorola S11-HDs, but audiophiles will find them unacceptable. That’s too bad, as the features and design are such great improvements over the S10. But somewhere along the way, good sound got lost.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: These pretty much sucked.

Musical Fidelity V90 AMPPrice: $349

Website: www.musicalfidelity.com

Thom said: The Musical Fidelity V90-AMP is an admirable little piece of gear and proof of the old adage: Good things come in small packages. It can be the perfect basis for a great computer- or iPod/smartphone-based system in an office, study, or bedroom.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: High-value little amplifier from a well-respected British company.

Musical Fidelity V90-DACPrice: $299.99

Website: www.musicalfidelity.com

Thom said: If you’re looking for a good, solid, reasonably priced, well-designed and -engineered, high-performance outboard digital-to-analog converter, I can’t think of a better buy.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Couldn’t get this digital performance for three bills even five years ago.

NAD D 1050Price: $499

Website: www.nadelectronics.com 

Sathyan said: Overall, the NAD D 1050 is a remarkable value that harks back to NAD’s traditional combination of performance, value, and simplicity.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Lots of DAC connectivity for the money. 

NAD D 7050Price: $999

Website: www.nadelectronics.com

Colin said: Once the D 7050 is set up properly, the convenience of its wireless ability is undeniable and is, after its terrific sound, its main selling point. It’s so convenient, and sounds so good, that this member of the Direct Digital family is staying put.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: NAD really has something with Direct Digital.

NAD HP20Price: $169

Website: www.nadelectronics.com

Brent said: I doubt the existence of any earphones that every listener will love -- people’s reactions to headphones seem to be too varied to make so broad a prediction -- but clearly, the Viso HP20s are world-class earphones with great sound at a reasonable price.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: If it’s got a speaker in it, designer Paul Barton can make good sound come out of it.

NAD Viso HP50Price: $299

Website: www.nadelectronics.com

S. Andrea said: With their combination of dependable-looking build quality, reasonable price, and strong marks in all areas of sound reproduction, the Viso HP50s carry on the NAD tradition of solid performance and high value.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: PSB’s NAD counterpart is a winner, too.

Nordost Frey 2Price: $1994.99 per 2m cord

Website: www.nordost.com

Hans said: When the subject of conversation turns to the best cable manufacturers in the world, Nordost is usually one of the names that comes up. Their Frey 2 line combines a goodly amount of knowledge and engineering harnessed from their vaunted Valhalla cables, at an attainable price point.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Premium cables from one of cabledom’s preeminent manufacturers.

Nordost Frey 2Prices: speaker cables, $2924.99 per 2m pair; interconnects, $1459.99 per 1m pair

Website: www.nordost.com

Hans said: When the subject of conversation turns to the best cable manufacturers in the world, Nordost is usually one of the names that comes up. Their Frey 2 line combines a goodly amount of knowledge and engineering harnessed from their vaunted Valhalla cables, at an attainable price point.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Premium cables from one of cabledom’s preeminent manufacturers.

Norma Revo IPA-140Price: $8600 (USB DAC, add $1000)

Website: www.normaudio.com

Uday said: But, really -- gorgeous Italian design coupled with solid engineering and world-class sound? An internal DAC option to boot? If I were in the market for a one-box integrated-DAC for $9600, here is where I’d start. Don’t need the DAC? No matter. Buy the Revo IPA-140 without DAC, and $1000 worth of music to play through it. You won’t regret it.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Italian beauty with classically good sound.

NuForce AVP-18Price: $1095

Website: www.nuforce.com

Vince said: If you think of the AVP-18 as a DAC that just happens to decode the hi-rez audio formats found on Blu-rays, then you understand what it is and what it does. For $1095, the NuForce AVP-18 is a bargain for what it offers: excellent home-theater performance that would be perfectly at home in a high-performance system.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Surprisingly inexpensive -- and good -- audiophile surround processor.

NuForce Primo 8Price: $499

Website: www.nuforce.com

Brent said: The NuForce Primo 8s are flat-out great earphones. Yeah, $499 is a lot to pay for in-ears when you can get quite a nice set for $150 or so. But I think anyone who cares about audio will appreciate the Primo 8s’ practically perfect bass, ultraclear midrange, uncolored treble, and -- most of all -- awesome sense of space.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: With these expensive earphones, the sound supports the price.

Oppo Digital HA-1Price: $1199

Website: www.oppodigital.com

Uday said: The HA-1 functioned beautifully in all of the roles I asked it to play in my system, and its sound quality was first rate. Its build quality is fantastic, it’s very user friendly, and it works as advertised. If you’re looking for a one-box headphone amp, preamp, and DAC, your search should begin and end here.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Oppo seems to only make winners, and the HA-1 is no exception.

Oppo Digital PM-1Price: $1099

Website: www.oppodigital.com

S. Andrea said: Oppo Digital’s first headphone model proves itself a strong competitor in the very demanding premium-headphone segment. The PM-1s’ warm balance pairs wonderfully with voices, offers enough extension to capture the essence of all manner of instruments, and grants an enjoyable listening experience with almost any recording. Their bass reaches authoritatively into the bottom octave and can deliver a firm punch, but always remains clear and controlled.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Well-built, stylish, and great sounding.

Outdoor Tech Turtle Shell 2.0Price: $129.95

Website: www.outdoortechnology.com

Rad said: If you need something small, viable, and water resistant, you can’t go wrong with the Turtle Shell 2.0.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Take decent in the shower.

Outdoor Tech PrivatesPrice: $99.95

Website: www.outdoortechnology.com

Rad said: The Outdoor Tech. Privates are stylish, can be used wired or wirelessly, fold up for easy packing and conveyance, and sound like much more expensive headphones. They’re the best on-ear headphones in their price range that I’ve heard.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Totally cool in an outdoorsy, adventurer sort of way.

Parasound Halo A 23Price: $995

Website: www.parasound.com

Erich said: The A 23 sounded surprisingly good from the moment I first turned it on. Several months later, I hated to turn it off for the last time and send it back.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: John Curl-designed gem for under a grand.

Parasound Halo P 5Price: $1095

Website: www.parasound.com

Erich said: The performance was stress-free, presenting nothing that would be cause for buyer’s remorse, and of a quality notably above what might be expected for the price. Were I in the market for a preamplifier costing $1100, the Parasound Halo P 5 is the one I would buy.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: The perfect centerpiece of a killer sub-$8k system.

Pathos Acoustics AuriumPrice: $1495

Website: www.pathosacoustics.com

Garrett said: If you’re looking for something with real power and versatility, arresting looks, and seriously good sound, I heartily recommend the Pathos Acoustics Aurium. You may end up buying one. I did.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Italian style and classic sound to power your headphones perfectly.

Philips SBT300Price: $99.99

Website: www.usa.philips.com

Rad said: The Philips SBT300 is a very decent, medium-size Bluetooth speaker that’s better than its price might suggest -- which makes it a good value.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: You could do a lot worse for $100.

Polymer Audio Research MKSPrice: $42,000 per pair

Website: www.polymeraudio.com

Doug said: I can recommend the Polymer MKS to anyone who can afford to spend $42,000 for a pair of speakers, is willing to take a chance on a lesser-known brand, and is searching for its unique type of construction, appearance, and, of course, sound. The MKS is the kind of speaker that can make a little-known company very well known. Very quickly.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Those diamond drivers make this speaker sound pretty special.

Prism Sound Lyra 2Price: $3225

Website: www.prismsound.com

Wes said: The Lyra 2 just played everything I threw at it. This level of simplicity is very welcome. The fact that it solves so many problems while providing such clean, effortless sound makes it a no-brainer recommendation.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Pro-sound-based DAC that is feature-rich and sounds great to boot.

Reference 3A MM de Capo BEPrice: $3290 per pair

Website: www.reference3a.com 

Philip said: If you’re looking for a pair of stand-mounted speakers that can image extremely well but worry that you might not get deep enough bass from anything less than a floorstander, you should audition the MM de Capo BEs. At the very least, you’ll probably be surprised by how big they sound; and you may even find yourself owning the latest and, very possibly, the best iteration yet of a classic design.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Best version yet of this iconic standmount speaker.

Rega RP8Price: $2995

Website: www.rega.co.uk 

Oliver said: Although I was already familiar with several Rega turntables, none could have prepared me for how good the RP8 was. This outstanding record player delivers musical and sonic goodness in spades. Its blend of class-leading detail, exciting yet natural tonal balance, and exemplary dynamics will have you spinning your favorite LPs for one marathon listening session after another.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Topflight turntable for a very reasonable price.

Resonessence Labs Invicta MirusPrice: $4995

Website: www.resonessence.com 

Jeff said: Unless you’re the type of audiophile who needs a huge, gleaming chassis in your system -- or several of them -- look no further than this little puppy for all your digital needs. Regardless of the pedigree of the rest of your gear, the Resonessence Invicta Mirus will fit in just fine.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Miniature in size, but certainly not in sound quality.

Revel Performa3 F206Price: $3500 per pair

Website: www.revelspeakers.com

Doug said: If I had $3500 to spend on a pair of speakers right now, I’d buy a pair of Performa3 F206es over all others -- I love the speaker’s top-to-bottom neutrality, and especially its magical midrange, which did something special with voices. I also liked the way the review pair looked in my room, and appreciated the topnotch quality of their build and finish.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Doug’s fave at the price point.

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