Monday, December 18, 2017

Sponsors

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  • Accustic Arts Reference Tube-DAC II SE Digital-to-Analog Converter and Drive II CD Transport

    201008_arts_driveiiPrices: $11,000 (Tube-DAC II SE), $12,000 (Drive II)

    Website: www.accusticarts.de

    Michael said: The Accustic Arts Reference Tube-DAC II SE and Reference Drive II are easy to recommend to anyone who can afford this level of performance and has a large CD collection. As a pair, they’re right up there with the best I’ve heard.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Perhaps the ultimate combo for your CD collection.

  • Anthem Statement M1 Mono Amplifiers

    Anthem Statement M1Price: $7000 per pair

    Website: www.anthemav.com

    Jeff said: What I can unequivocally say is that the Anthem Statement M1 is darn near the ideal of a straight wire with gain, and at 1000W, that gain is almost unlimited. Is that enough for you? I suspect that, for many listeners, the answer will be an emphatic yes.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Awesome power, great sound quality, reasonable price.

  • Arcam FMJ A38 Integrated Amplifier

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    Price: $2299

    Website: www.arcam.co.uk

    Roger said: It’s solidly built, its operation during the review period was straightforward and without fault, and, most important, it sounded simply fantastic.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Unassuming package, unexpected sound quality.

  • Atma-Sphere Music Amplifier M-60 Mk.3.1 Mono Amplifiers

    Atma-Sphere M-60 Mk.3.1Price: $6950 per pair

    Website: www.atma-sphere.com

    Vade said: Atma-Sphere has improved the input circuit to reduce distortion, which has resulted in a sweeter, less mechanical sound. I like it a lot. If I didn’t already own Atma-Sphere’s S-30 Mk.3, I’d be sorely tempted to send in a check for the M-60 Mk.3.1s.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Nothing between you and the music -- not even a transformer.

  • Audience aR6-TS Power Conditioner

    Audience aR6-TSPrice: $5000 with 6’ powerChord e AC cord; $4500 without AC cord

    Website: www.audience-av.com

    Doug said: Going from no power conditioner to the aR6-TS was such a revelation that it was difficult to believe that a mere power conditioner could make such a huge improvement. If you think your system already sounds as good as it can, you might find it hard to believe what an Audience aR6-TS can do for it.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: One of the best passive power conditioners.

  • Audio Research Reference 250 Mono Amplifiers

    ARC Ref 250Price: $25,990 per pair.

    Website: www.audioresearch.com

    Peter said: Ultimately, and as good as I know the sound of my reference amplifiers to be, I must conclude that the sound of Audio Research’s Reference 250s is finer. If I had air-conditioning, and if my primary reference system were dedicated solely to me and my music, I would have been more than tempted to buy them.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Peter was smitten.

  • Audio Research Reference 5 Preamplifier

    ARC Reference 5Price: $12,000

    Website: www.audioresearch.com

    Pete said: The Reference 5 is a superlative musical investment, an indisputable high-end bargain, and a fortification for another 40 years of audio excellence from Audio Research.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Should be on your shortlist for the best preamps extant.

  • Ayre Acoustics DX-5 Universal A/V Engine

    Ayre DX-5Price: $9950 in silver (add $250 for black)

    Website: www.ayre.com

    Pete said: Digital audio has never sounded better in my system than when I use Ayre Acoustics’ DX-5 as the source. Refined, resolving, musical, and engaging, the DX-5 is exactly what the doctor ordered: an electrifying performer and an unequivocal bargain, despite its price of nearly $10,000. The folks at Ayre have outdone themselves -- the DX-5 is better than their C-5xeMP at spinning audio discs, leagues ahead of their QB-9 for computer audio, and provides 2D images of unequaled quality, without the ailments typically inflicted on an audio system by the inclusion of video.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Maybe he best universal player yet.

  • Ayre Acoustics KX-R Preamplifier

    Ayre KX-RPrice: $18,500

    Website:www.ayre.com

    Peter said: As for the KX-R, I can’t say enough good things. I believe it to be the most complete product Ayre has ever made -- a defining achievement for a company known for its string of audio achievements. The KX-R is an ideal reference tool for my life as a reviewer, and an ideal instrument for my audiophile passions.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: One of the best preamps in the world, period.

  • Ayre Acoustics MX-R Mono Amplifiers

    Ayre MX-RPrice: $18,500 per pair

    Website: www.ayre.com

    Peter said: The MX-R monoblock amplifiers signified the dawning of a new era at Ayre. With their prodigious power capabilities, they can drive the difficult loads of low-sensitivity speakers with aplomb. Most important, however, they deliver the sonic goods, possessing that very rare ability to communicate in captivating fashion even the music on less-than-stellar recordings. That multiple tube fanatics of my acquaintance have ditched their tube power amps in favor of MX-Rs says it all.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Compact design, reference sound.

  • Ayre Acoustics QB-9 USB Digital-to-Analog Converter

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    Price: $2500

    Website: www.ayre.com

    Peter said: . . . I’m sure that many thousands of QB-9s will soon be enhancing the lives of many thousands of computer audiophiles.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Awesome asynchronous audio à la Ayre.

  • Behold APU768 Preamplifier-Processor-DAC

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    Price:$58,000 as configured ($30,000 base price).

    Website: www.behold.eu

    Jeff said:It can work wonders, and it won’t be outclassed by anyother single component in the equation. The Behold APU768 is the most advanced piece of high-end electronics I’ve ever used.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: The future of ultra-high-end preamps?

  • Bel Canto Design DAC3VB Digital-to-Analog Converter and VBS1 Power Supply

    belcanto_dac3vbPrices: $2695 (DAC3VB), $1495 (VBS1)

    Website: www.belcantodesign.com

    Tim said: . . . you simply have to try the e.One DAC3VB with VBS1 power supply to see if the dramatic differences I experienced are possible in your home as well. The DAC3VB significantly and substantially improved the best digital sound I’ve had in my system.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Competes with the best, but at a reasonable cost.

  • Bel Canto Design e.One DAC3.5VB Mk.II / REFLink / VBS1 / VB REF

    Bel Canto DesignPrice: $7080

    Website: www.belcantodesign.com

    Jeff said: As for sound, the Bel Canto stack stacks up well against the DACs that many feel are among the best available, and at less than Arab-sheik prices. They’re sonically very well balanced across the board, but are simply superb in the midrange, where lots of music needs it most. Although the Bel Cantos won’t beat every competing product in every sonic area -- what high-end component does? -- they can stand toe to toe with the best of them, and offer their owner a beautiful view into the heart of the music.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Modular digital front end that gets the midrange just about perfect.

  • Blue Circle Audio NSL Stereo Amplifier

    Blue Circle Audio NSLPrice: $19,500

    Website: www.bluecircle.com

    Michael said: I can say with confidence that if you have speakers that it can drive, the NSL will be a revelation of just how wonderful music can sound, rewarding you with making your music sound special in ways you probably haven’t heard from your system. The NSL was one of the best-sounding power amplifiers I have ever heard. I give it my highest recommendation.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: One look and you know this thing is different.

  • Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems Black Box

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    Price: $6995

    Website: www.bluesmokesystems.com

    Jeff said: Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems espouses the benefits of listening and technical tests for their products, an approach that has always seemed to me the most balanced and most correct. Both litmus tests are very much parts of TWBAS 2009.

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    Read Ultra Audio’s TWBAS 2009: The Arrival and The Event  .

    The gist: Now there are high-end audio computers, too.

  • Classé Audio Omega Omicron Mono Amplifiers

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    Price: $25,000 per pair

    Website: www.classeaudio.com

    Jeff said: But if you want the best sound that transistors can produce, you just better go out and invest in some Classé Omega Omicron Monos before their ilk disappears altogether.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Canadian powerhouse flexes its muscle.

  • Coda Technologies 15.0 Stereo Amplifier

    Coda Technologies 15.0Price: $10,000

    Website: www.coda-continuum.com

    Jeff said: The Coda Technologies 15.0 is one heckuva piece of US-made hardware. I would confidently put the 15.0 in any system at any price and feel certain that it would hold its own. It’s that good. It has plenty of brute-force drive, as well as that golden tone that only class-A amps seem to deliver. It is ultra-resolving of fine detail, yet can handle huge dynamic swings without breaking a sweat. And it’s evenhanded across the audioband, but can also sound magical in specific areas, based on the recording.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist:The Coda 15.0 is a great amp. Period.

  • Consensus Audio Engineering Conspiracy Loudspeakers

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    Price: $41,700 per pair

    Website:www.consensusaudio.com

    Albert said: The outstanding achievement of CAE is that, in the Conspiracy, they have found a way to get the engineering and the music right.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: The consensus? A conspiracy of quality.

  • Crystal Cable Arabesque Loudspeakers

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    Price: $65,000 per pair

    Website:www.crystalcable.com

    Jason said: But I can imagine a music lover who values great sound, who has more money than God, watching his wife go gaga over the Arabesques as she visualizes these two massive Swarovski crystals perched in the middle of her living room making wonderful music.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: A genuine jewel of a loudspeaker.

  • Crystal Cable Dreamline Speaker and Digital Cables

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    Prices: Dreamline speaker ($18,750 per 3m pair), Dreamline digital ($10,250 per 4m cable)

    Website: www.crystalcable.com

    Jeff said: The Crystal Cable operation includes significant investment in R&D as well as advanced manufacturing techniques. The alloys of silver and gold that Crystal Cable uses in their Dreamline series are proprietary to them, and their technical explanations of why they use those materials in the forms they’ve chosen appear solid.

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    Read Ultra Audio’s TWBAS 2009: The Arrival and The Event.

    The gist: No need to hide your cables any longer.

  • deHavilland Fisher Model 50A Mono Amplifiers

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    Price: $7250 per pair

    Website: www.dehavillandhifi.com

    Garrett said: Their combination of top-to-bottom balance, clean and resolving highs, magnificent bass and slam, articulate speed and PRAT, and gorgeous brocade of sound, seems to me very hard to beat.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Back to the future.

  • Dynamique Audio Celestial Speaker Cables, Zenith Interconnects, Firelight USB Digital Interconnect

    Dynamique Audio CelestialPrices: $7650 per 2m pair, 2550 per 1m pair, $495 per 1m cord, respectively

    Website: www.dynamiqueaudio.com 

    Hans said: Deeply resolving and full of high-quality components, they look, feel, and, most important, sound like the reference-caliber products one should demand at these prices -- prices that are still only fractions of what other companies sell their reference products for.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Hans said these were basically perfect.

  • Dynamique Audio Infinite Power Cords

    Dynamique Audio InfinitePrice: $3350 per 2m cord

    Website: www.dynamiqueaudio.com

    Hans said: Deeply resolving and full of high-quality components, they look, feel, and, most important, sound like the reference-caliber products one should demand at these prices -- prices that are still only fractions of what other companies sell their reference products for.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Hans said these were basically perfect.

  • EgglestonWorks Andra III Loudspeakers

    201006_egglestonPrice: $23,500 per pair

    Website: www.egglestonworks.com

    Jeff said: The Andra has been so successful for so many years not because of what it doesn’t do, but because of what it does so well, and the third iteration of this classic design brought me tons of enjoyment in the two months I spent with it. Putting a price on that isn’t so easy, but I figure it amounts to . . . oh, about $23,500/pair.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: EggWorks proves the third time's the charm.

  • EgglestonWorks Dianne Loudspeakers

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    Price: $2500 per pair

    Website:www.egglestonworks.com

    Jeff said: If you’re tired of the razor-like highs prominent in many of the home-theater-slotted speakers that cost between $2000 and 3000/pair, or you’re weary of speakers that seem designed more for extreme sound-pressure levels than for reproducing a recording’s finer details, or you don’t want a thin-sounding bookshelf model that’s unlistenable without a subwoofer, then the Dianne might be the speaker for you.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Audiophile with $2500 to spend, meet Dianne.

  • EMM Labs DAC2X Digital-to-Analog Converter

    EMM Labs DAC2XPrice: $15,500

    Website: www.emmlabs.com

    Howard said: Twenty years from now, when some reviewer again recounts Ed Meitner’s storied accomplishments, I’m sure the EMM Labs DAC2X will be judged worthy of prominence in that list, much like the Meitner IDAT DAC of 1992. Like the IDAT, the DAC2X pushes the performance envelope of digital conversion. More important, it taught me a few things about the art of music.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: The flagship from a true legend in digital audio.

  • Esoteric P-02 SACD/CD Transport
 and D-02 Digital-to-Analog Converter

    Esoteric P-02Price: $23,500 each

    Website: www.esoteric.teac.com

    Ryan said: These state-of-the-art products will likely be the end of the digital road for those lucky enough to be able to buy them. If I had the coin, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy these things, and never worry about digital again. And with a build quality to last 40 years? Yeah, I could justify that. Amazing.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: SOTA digital for the high roller.

  • Focus Audio Prestige FP 90 Loudspeakers

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    Price: $9495 per pair

    Website:www.focusaudio.com

    Jason said: The Signature FS-888? Maybe a bit too rich. The Master 3? Just a touch too big. The Prestige FP 90? Well, it’s just right. Sign me up for a pair . . .

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: The sweet spot in the already sweet Focus line?

  • Genesis Reference GR180 Stereo Amplifier

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    Price: $4850 (add $3850 for Maximum Dynamic Headroom Reservoir)

    Website: www.genesisloudspeakers.com

    Albert said: I’m delighted to say that, for my taste in music, class-D has finally arrived. Gary Koh has created something special with the Genesis Reference GR180, and the sound quality it conveys is simply outstanding for its price.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: This D gets an A.

  • Gryphon Audio Designs Colosseum Stereo Amplifier

    Gryphon ColosseumPrice: $43,500

    Website: www.gryphon-audio.dk

    Jeff said: Describing the Gryphon Audio Designs Mirage and Colosseum as functional or industrial art, or some other such term, seems to minimize just how special they are. I prefer just art. They will grace a listening room with sculptural beauty, provide tactile pleasure in use, and make your music sound as real as reproduced music can. I simply adored them. If you have the money, seek them out for audition, even if you have to travel across land and sea to do so. You’ll be richly rewarded by the experience, in the ways that only great art can reward.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Simply reference-class in every way.

  • Gryphon Audio Designs Mirage Preamplifier

    Gryphon MiragePrice: $25,750

    Website: www.gryphon-audio.dk

    Jeff said: Describing the Gryphon Audio Designs Mirage and Colosseum as functional or industrial art, or some other such term, seems to minimize just how special they are. I prefer just art. They will grace a listening room with sculptural beauty, provide tactile pleasure in use, and make your music sound as real as reproduced music can. I simply adored them. If you have the money, seek them out for audition, even if you have to travel across land and sea to do so. You’ll be richly rewarded by the experience, in the ways that only great art can reward.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Simply reference-class in every way.

  • Harmonic Resolution Systems MXR Audio Stand and M3 Isolation Bases

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    Prices: $10,660 (MXR), $2495 each (M3)

    Website: www.avisolation.com

    Jeff said: First, the means employed by Chief Engineer Michael Latvis to mitigate all manner of vibration is, by any subjective or objective standard, extreme. Second, from what I can see, the materials used are the absolute best the industry has to offer.

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    Read Ultra Audio’s TWBAS 2009:  The Arrival and The Event.

    The gist: The ultimate in vibration control for your SOTA sound system.

  • Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR Audio Stand, S1 Isolation Base, Damping Plate, Nimbus System

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    Prices: $5995 (SXR), $1695 (S1), $195 (Damping Plate), $32.50 (Nimbus Coupler), $43 (Nimbus Spacer)

    Website: www.avisolation.com

    He said: Audition a Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR rack, Nimbus System, and Damping Plates, and see what a coherent, complementary, and thoroughly choreographed resonance-control system can do for your components.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: If vibrations are the disease, here’s the cure.

  • Hegel Music Systems HD25 Digital-to-Analog Converter

    Hegel Music Systems HD25Price: $2500

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Jeff said: Although you can buy a higher-resolution device for more money, I’m not sure you’ll find one that you’ll enjoy as much, regardless of price. The reason? That elusive quality of musicality. That makes the Hegel HD25 a Select Component, and a surefire way to elevate your sound system for what is, by today’s high-end standards, relatively little money.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    Garrett said: If I had the extra cash, I’d get the Hegel HD25 right away. Affordably priced, with plug’n’play installation, and easy to operate, it’s an excellent product and a gateway to high performance in computer-based digital playback.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Perhaps the DAC to buy for $2500.

  • JE Audio Dyad S400 Stereo Amplifier

    JE Audio S400Price: $16,000

    Website: www.je-audio.com

    Michael said: JE Audio’s Dyad S400 showed itself to be an excellent performer in all respects. I put it through its paces and compared it to some excellent-sounding amplifiers, and it more than held its own.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Solid-state excellence from a company normally associated with tubes.

  • KR Audio VA340 Mk.II Integrated Amplifier

    KR Audio VA340 Mk.IIPrice: $9750

    Website: www.kraudio.com 

    Vade said: The VA340 Mk.II integrated amplifier was one of the best-sounding amplifiers I’ve heard in my system. Powerful yet delicate, it had a complex tonal palette and that legendary SET palpability. It doesn’t have a lot of features, but it has the ones that matter most.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Beefy-sounding tube integrated from the Czech Republic.

  • LessLoss Firewall Power Conditioner

    LessLoss FirewallPrice: $4686

    Website: www.lessloss.com

    Colin said: The Firewall is an ultra-high-performance device that makes everything about my system sound substantially better and nothing worse. It’s not inexpensive, but it will surely find a home with those who are sure they’ve found the right amplification, source, speakers, and cables, but can’t help wondering if there isn’t something more to be had from them. It’s a pretty safe bet that the LessLoss Firewall will prove to them that there is something more -- and perhaps a lot more than they might think possible.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Expensive but, according to Colin, worth it.

  • Magico Q1 Loudspeakers

    Magico Q1Price: $26,500 per pair including stands

    Website: www.magico.net

    Pete said: In reducing Magico’s Q series to its essence in a two-way stand-mount, the Q1 performs its own magic trick, unfolding what in lesser monitors remains miasma. Almost shocking in its ability to exceed expectations, it left agape the mouths of a string of visitors to my listening room. The visceral results ranged from tormenting to thrashing to unexpected, beckoning depths, but were most notable when the Q1s reproduced bass passages, from orchestral crescendos to hard-rock drum kits. My time with the Magico Q1s is over, but they are not forgotten. They have left on my ears an indelible mark.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Perhaps the best stand-mount speaker in the world.

  • Magico Q3 Loudspeakers

    Magico Q3Price: $38,950 per pair

    Website: www.magico.net

    Jeff said: The Magico Q3 is a standard setter that liberates music from the impediments inherent to typical loudspeakers. It is for those of you who don’t like speakers but do love music. The experience of hearing the Magico Q3 is something truly unique. Folks, the Q3 is a bona fide state-of-the-art loudspeaker -- one that doesn’t cost a hundred grand a pair, or even close to it. Magico might just take over the loudspeaker world after all.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Super-speaker performance without the super-high price.

  • Magico Q7 Loudspeakers

    Magico Q7Price: $165,000 per pair

    Website: www.magico.net

    Jeff said: For right now, we all have to live with these facts: The Q7 is very expensive. It’s very big. It comes only in black. And it’s the best loudspeaker available today.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: If you want the best, buy these.

  • McIntosh Laboratory MC452 Stereo Amplifier

    McIntosh MC452Price: $7500

    Website: www.mcintoshlabs.com

    Jeff said: It’s super-quiet in operation, immensely powerful, gorgeous to look at, built like a tank, and sounds like silk. If you buy one, you can be assured that you’re getting a long-lasting component from a company that has been making power amplifiers for longer than many of us have been alive.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Super amp for the real-world audiophile.

  • Monitor Audio Platinum PL200 Loudspeakers

    Monitor Audio PL200Price: $8999 per pair

    Website: www.monitoraudio.com

    Jason said: The PL200 is an intensely satisfying and very musical speaker. And while we’re all about sound first here, I don’t think I’d be out of line in saying that the PL200’s appearance factored into my experience. There was something innately elegant about the way the speaker’s materials and proportions have been combined to form something part functional device, part object of art.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Looks as good as it sounds.

  • Musical Fidelity Titan Stereo Amplifier

    201008_titanPrice: $30,000

    Website: www.musicalfidelity.com

    Jeff said: The Musical Fidelity Titan kicks butt. It is competitive in every sonic category you could name, and moves ahead of the competition in some. One thing that should give prospective owners confidence is the notion that they can choose whichever speakers tickle their fancy, with no regard for their power requirements.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Big bass, big power, for a big system.

  • Nordost Norse Frey Interconnects and Speaker Cables

    Nordost Norse FreyPrices: $979 per 1m pair (Frey interconnects), $2059.99 per 1m pair (Nordost Frey speaker cables)

    Website: www.nordost.com

    Jason said: . . . after listening to the Norse Frey cables in my own system, researching their construction, and examining them firsthand, I have no hesitation in recommending them for either upgrade approach: all at once or one at a time.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Jason gets Nordosted.

  • NuForce DAC-9 Digital-to-Analog Converter

    NuForce DAC-9Price: $1695

    Website: www.nuforce.com

    Graham said: The NuForce DAC-9 is one of those all-too-infrequent products that is a true giant-killer, and whose performance must have put a collective smile on the faces of those who designed and built it. At its full retail price of $1695, I think NuForce offers consumers a stonking good deal.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: A great DAC need not cost five grand.

  • PBN Audio Montana Liberty Loudspeakers

    PBN Montana LibertyPrice: $15,000 per pair

    Website: www.pbnaudio.com

    Uday said: The PBN Montana InnerChoic Liberty packs a lot of punch at the price: In short, it’s a great value. It’s not the most beautiful speaker in the world, but, like the plain Jane who asks you to dance, that complex cabinet hides a lot of inner beauty. In this case, the result is the striking outer beauty of your music. And that’s what matters most.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Competitive product in a hotly contested price range.

  • PMC IB2i Loudspeakers

    PMC IB2iPrice: $21,999 per pair

    Website: www.pmc-speakers.com

    Aron said: PMC’s IB2i is a beguilingly good-sounding speaker that I found difficult to stop listening to. Night after night, the pair of them had me leaving my B&Ws in the spare room while I sat listening with a grin on my face.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: UK-built stand-mount speaker that sounds like a great floorstander.

  • Purity Audio Design Purity Reference Preamplifier

    Purity Audio Design ReferencePrice: $8895

    Website: www.purityaudiodesign.com

    Michael said: The Reference drew from recordings a great deal of detail and information, but it also made me want to just sit back and be entertained -- it let me connect with the music. If you’re looking for a preamplifier at or anywhere near $9000, Purity Audio Design’s Purity Reference should be on your short list.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: A reference tube preamp from a newcomer on the scene.

  • Rockport Technologies Ankaa Loudspeakers

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    Price: $27,500 per pair

    Website:www.rockporttechnologies.com

    Randall said: It’s easily the best speaker I’ve had in my home, and one of the best I’ve heard anywhere -- and it’s the best I’ve heard for anywhere near its price.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Stargazing on a clear night in Maine.

  • Rockport Technologies Arrakis Loudspeakers

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    Price: $165,000 per pair

    Website:www.rockporttechnologies.com

    Jeff said: I experienced the best sound I’ve ever heard from my Music Vault listening seat. I took a deep breath as a sense of contentment welled up inside me.

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    Read Ultra Audio’s TWBAS 2009: The Arrival and The Event.

    The gist: Otherworldly.

  • Shunyata Research Hydra V-Ray II Power Conditioner

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    Price: $4999

    Website: www.shunyata.com

    Jeff said: Shunyata’s designs have been refined and improved over the years, and today the company’s products hold pride of place in state-of-the-art systems worldwide.

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    Read Ultra Audio’s TWBAS 2009: The Arrival and The Event.

    The gist: Because we now know that power conditioning is essential.

  • Silent Running Audio VR fp isoBASE Equipment Platforms

    201007_sra_400w_300wPrice: $300 to $785, depending on size and complexity

    Website: www.silentrunningaudio.com

    Howard said: . . . the VR fp isoBASEs brought to my system increased transparency, resolution, and focus. Indeed, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that these products are fairly priced. Had you told me that someone had designed a custom-based isolation platform for one of my components and was willing to ship it to me in a beefy, custom-made wooden crate for as little as $300, I’d have said you were crazy as a soup sandwich. 

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Custom component isolation that doesn't break the bank.

  • Simaudio Moon Evolution 750D Digital-to-Analog Converter-CD Transport

    Simaudio Moon 750DPrice: $11,999

    Website: www.simaudio.com

    Jeff said: When it comes to D/A converters, the Simaudio Moon Evolution 750D is at the top of the heap. It is transparent to the source, has extreme levels of resolution, and is dead-bang neutral in terms of tonality -- by these or any measures, it is a terrific-sounding piece of gear.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: State-of-the-art DAC technology with a CD transport to boot.

  • Simaudio Moon Evolution 810LP Phono Stage

    Simaudio Moon Evolution 810LPPrice: $12,000

    Website: www.simaudio.com

    Graham said: At $12,000, the Moon Evolution 810LP phono preamplifier is not the cheapest way to create an entirely convincing musical event in my listening room, but to my ears it’s the best way. In it, Simaudio has created an effortlessly musical and utterly transparent window through which audiophiles can listen to and, more important, connect with their music. The word reference may continue to relentlessly rain down, but for me, the Moon Evolution 810LP will continue to be the parade.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: As good as it gets for analog.

  • Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 Loudspeakers

    Sonus Faber Venere 3.0Price: $3498 per pair

    Website: www.sonusfaber.com

    Jeff said: At the end of the day, the Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 is the speaker I would unhesitatingly recommend to any friend shopping for a pair of speakers costing up to $4500/pair. While there’s stiff competition above that -- the aforementioned KEF R900, PSB’s Synchrony One, the Paradigm Tribute -- I can’t think of any other speaker I’d rather own at the price.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: High style and great sound for a terrific price.

  • Synergistic Research Element Copper, Tungsten, and Copper-Tungsten-Silver Interconnects and Speaker Cables

    Synergistic Research Element CopperPrice: $1200-$7500 depending on model

    Website: www.synergisticresearch.com

    Howard said: Are the Synergistic Elements the best cables that can be bought for the money? I have not heard all the cables out there, so I can't say for sure. What I do know is that they make my music sound better than any of the many other cables I’ve tried in my system.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: A new generation of Synergistics for the Ted Denney fans.

  • Synergistic Research Galileo Universal Speaker and Interconnect Cells

    synergistic_galileoPrices: $2500 per pair (Speaker Cells); $1500 per pair for RCA, $2000 per pair for XLR (Interconnect Cells)

    Website: www.synergisticresearch.com

    Howard said: If you want your system to really swing in the big leagues, these products may get it a good part of the way there. In short, these are remarkable products from a truly innovative company.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Don't know how, but apparently they work.

  • Thiel Audio CS2.4SE Loudspeakers

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    Price: $8000 per pair

    Website:www.thielaudio.com

    Jeff said: The CS2.4SE is one of only a very few audio products I can recommend without the caveat of “. . . but first hear them for yourself.” I can’t imagine anyone not being thrilled with them. Get a pair while you still can.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: A Signature Edition fully deserving of the name.

  • Tidal Piano Cera Loudspeakers

    Tidal Piano CeraPrice: $23,990 per pair

    Website: www.tidal-audio.com

    Jeff said: The Tidal Piano Cera is one terrific-sounding loudspeaker. It’s transparent and quick, and plays with more weight and depth in the bass than you would ever suspect from a glance at its driver array. In fact, looking at this speaker either on paper or in photos will give you no hint of the performance lurking beneath its rather simple but elegant appearance. There is a ton of clever engineering inside, and that technical expertise translates into audible results.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Tidal is here to stay as a force in high-end loudspeakers.

  • TW-Acustic Raven 10.5 Tonearm

    TW-Acustic Raven 10.5Price: $5500

    Website: www.tw-acustic.de

    Garrett said: The Raven arm had so much extension, pitch definition, and responsiveness that it could render very deep, complex bass with ease and superb musicality. It was more, umm, lifelike. And ain’t that the point? So I bought it. The Raven 10.5 tonearm is mine. If you have a turntable comparable to my Raven Two, I strongly suggest you consider making a Raven 10.5 yours as well.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Ain’t German engineering great?

  • Ultrasone Edition 8 Headphones

    Ultrasone Edition 8Price: $1499

    Website: www.ultrasone.com

    S. Andrea said: Given the personal nature of listening to music, and especially of headphones, there will never be one design on which all can agree -- but Ultrasone's Edition 8 headphones clearly belong on that short list of contenders for World's Greatest Headphone.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Damn these are cool!

  • VAC Renaissance Mk.3 Preamplifier

    201009_vacPrice: $9900

    Website: www.vac-amps.com

    Garrett said: . . . the VAC Renaissance Mk.3 boasts the most impressive combination of serious sound, first-class build, great looks, compatibility with a range of amps, and overall flexibility in its numerous features of any model I’ve yet had in my system.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: A great combination of qualities that should suit almost any music-loving audiophile.

  • VAC Renaissance Mk.3 Preamplifier

    201009_vacPrice: $9900 (line stage), $11,900 (with phono stage)

    Website: www.vac-amps.com

    Garrett said: In the past few years I’ve auditioned a number of different preamps, some for review, some not. A few could be critiqued as being too incisive, too polite, too limited in features, not compatible with a wide enough range of amplifiers. Another few could be considered "serious" in terms of their sound. But of all these preamps, the VAC Renaissance Mk.3 boasts the most impressive combination of serious sound, first-class build, great looks, compatibility with a range of amps, and overall flexibility in its numerous features of any model I’ve yet had in my system.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Garrett's choice in an expensive tube preamp.

  • Vandersteen Audio Model Seven Loudspeakers

    201005_vandersteenPrice: $45,000 per pair

    Website: www.vandersteen.com

    Pete said: One dealer recently told me that the best $6000/pair speaker you can now buy is the $2200/pair Vandersteen 2Ce II. In keeping with the Vandersteen tradition, some might now say that the best six-figure speaker you can buy is the $45,000/pair Vandersteen Model Seven.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: "Reference" doesn’t have to cost over 100 grand.

  • Vandersteen Audio Treo Loudspeakers

    Vandersteen TreoPrice: $5995 per pair

    Website: www.vandersteen.com

    Doug said: As I wrap up this review, I’m listening to Stars and Satellites, the latest album from Trampled by Turtles. I’m mesmerized by how natural the banjo sounds. It’s as if I’m listening to my own banjo being played by someone else. This doesn’t happen very often -- it takes a loudspeaker that gets everything right to sound this convincing.

    I love the sound of the Vandersteen Treo.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: Reasonably priced high end lives on.

  • Verity Audio Amadis Loudspeakers

    verity_amadisPrice: $30,000 per pair

    Website: www.verityaudio.com

    Jason said: The Amadis is a speaker for music lovers. I imagine that the typical Verity Audio buyer will end up keeping his set for a long time. Once you settle in to listen to these speakers -- and I mean really listen -- you’ll likely find the musical satisfaction that you knew was possible but had never before found.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Seriously musical loudspeaker for those looking to get off the merry-go-round.

  • Vivid Audio Giya G3 Loudspeakers

    Vivid Audio Giya G3Price: $40,000 per pair

    Website: www.vividaudio.com

    Pete said: While it hits the ball out of the park in all the traditional hi-fi categories of soundstaging, coherence, detail retrieval, etc., perhaps the Giya G3’s greatest strength is its total absence of cabinet-imposed colorations or character. The G3 performs a sonic disappearing act like no other speaker I’ve heard.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Funkified looks, SOTA sound.

  • Von Schweikert Audio UniField 3 Loudspeakers

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    Price: $15,000 per pair

    Website:www.vonschweikert.com

    Garrett said: Albert Von Schweikert has made a genuine contribution with his UniField 3, creating not only a full-range speaker that will be viable in small rooms, but one that I suspect can handle larger rooms with ease.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Competitive in the busy $10-$20k field of compact floorstanders.

  • Von Schweikert Audio VR-35 Export Deluxe Loudspeakers

    VSA VR-35Price: $10,000 per pair

    Website: www.vonschweikert.com

    Uday said: Von Schweikert Audio’s VR-35 Export Deluxe is a remarkable loudspeaker. It performed wonderfully, handling all musical genres with aplomb. I recently heard VSA’s new VR-44 model at T.H.E. Show in Newport Beach, California, and the VR-35 definitely has the DNA and house sound of the company’s other models: carefully executed engineering resulting in little sonic compromise, to achieve a sound worthy of any audiophile’s expectations.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: If room placement is an issue, this could be the speaker for you.

  • Weiss DAC202 Digital-to-Analog Converter

    201009_weissPrice: $6670

    Website: www.weiss-highend.ch

    Jeff said: If you can cough up $6670 for a DAC, and if you want to explore the outer reaches of sound quality with a hi-rez computer-based source, then the Weiss DAC202 should be at the top of your must-audition list.

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    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: One of the best DACs in the world as of this writing.

  • Well Tempered Lab Amadeus Turntable

    Well Tempered Lab AmadeusPrice: $2850

    Website: www.welltemperedlab.net

    Jason said: Whichever way you slice it, the Well Tempered Lab Amadeus is a cohesive, well-made, wonderful-sounding turntable that’s worth every penny of its $2850 asking price. 

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: If you don’t mind a golf ball on your turntable . . .

  • XLO Electric Signature 3 Speaker Cables and Interconnects

    xlo_speaker_300wPrices: $840 per 1m pair with RCAs (Signature 3 interconnects), $3700 per 8’ biwire pair (Signature 3 speaker cables)

    Website:www.xloelectric.com

    Doug said: XLO’s Signature 3 cables are one of the two holy grails of neutrality I’ve found so far. I have the highest regard for the Signature 3s, for their honesty and for their complete refusal to play games with the sound of my reference system.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: About the best Doug Blackburn has heard in his system.

  • YG Acoustics Carmel Loudspeakers

    YGA CarmelPrice: $18,000 per pair

    Website: www.yg-acoustics.com

    Uday said: . . . given its level of engineering, heroic construction, excellent fit’n’finish, and terrific sound, that price doesn’t seem out of line. I haven’t had a chance to hear YGA’s Anat Reference III or Kipod II, both of which cost significantly more, but given their published specifications, I’m confident that most of the differences between them and the Carmel will be heard in the lower octaves. The fact that the Carmel achieved a level of performance near that of its big brothers at this price is one impressive accomplishment.

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    Read the Ultra Audio review.

    The gist: Don't be fooled by the size.

  • YG Acoustics Kipod II Signature Loudspeakers

    YG Acoustics Kipod IIPrice: $49,000 per pair

    Website: www.ygacoustics.com

    Howard said: In most real-world applications -- i.e., those that don't require stupid SPLs -- the Kipod II Signature will redefine what the buyer thinks is possible in the art of reproducing music. It may even convince some that YGA's claim that it's the best speaker on Earth is not as audacious as it may seem. It's just that good. Period. And exclamation mark!

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: He bought them.

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