The 2018 SoundStage! Network Buying Guide features summaries of all stereo and home-theater products reviewed in the calendar year across all of our publications. The Buying Guide is subdivided by product and price, with each article including pricing details, a review summary, a full-review link, and product-award indicators.
All prices are in US dollars unless indicated otherwise.
Price: $1800 USD per pair
Philip said: Yes, you do get a lot of speaker in the Bowers & Wilkins 603. This big speaker in a stout cabinet is built to produce high outputs in big rooms.
The gist: Lot of B&W speaker for the money.
Price: $2500 per pair; stands, $500/pair
Diego said: In my relatively small room, the 705 S2s provided very clean, tight, powerful bass for their size; an exceptionally detailed and extended top end; and a rich, textured midrange devoid of cabinet colorations.
The gist: Solid effort from B&W if you like the high-frequency voicing.
Price: $1099 per pair
Gordon said: Visually and sonically, KEF’s LSX active loudspeakers are very much part of the same family as the acclaimed LS50 and LS50 Wireless.
The gist: Kind of a little LS50.
Price: $499.90 USD per pair
Vince said: If you’re looking for something different, and an involving listening experience, I highly recommend that you give the MartinLogan Motion 4i an audition.
The gist: The magic of a large electrostat in a small package.
Price: $349 per pair
Hans said: It’s as complete a two-way design as you can hope to buy for anywhere near $349/pair.
The gist: Really does punch way above its weight.
Price: $799.99 per pair
Hans said: The British company’s budget floorstander looks far more expensive than its price suggests, and offers a top-to-bottom coherence of sound that’s unusual at that price.
The gist: Q competes fully with the PSBs and Paradigms of the world.
Price: $599.99 per pair
Gordon said: I was greatly impressed with the way SVS’s Prime Wireless speakers held their own against these higher-priced competitors. Sonically, these little speakers punched well above their weight and price.
The gist: The software is the weak link in an otherwise excellent product.
Price: $999 per pair
Gordon said: In short, the Kin Plays are a wonderful way for music-lovers to discover -- or rediscover -- the joys of high fidelity. Add a source component, and you’ve got a killer little stereo system.
The gist: Nice powered speaker with classic Totem build quality.
Price: AU$8995 per pair
Edgar said: So far as this reviewer is concerned, the value on offer here is undisputable. The KEF R11 is a genuine audio bargain. Period.
The gist: As usual, KEF offers more speaker than you’d expect at the price.
Price: $15,500 per pair
Jeff said: I think that, for most audiophiles, buying a pair of Kivas can be a set-it-and-forget-it proposition -- and these days in high-end audio, that’s rare.
The gist: Excellent bargain in a high-end, full-range boutique speaker.
Price: $18,000 per pair
Jason said: Their combination of solid, forward-thinking engineering, unique appearance, excellent finish, and stunning sound make them a standout product.
The gist: If the Giyas look strange to you get these.
Price: AU$64,995 per pair
Edgar said: The transformation of Sasha 2 to Sasha DAW reflects the steadfast desire of the Wilson Audio engineering team to produce a new speaker, a reinvention, worthy of a commemorative appellation.
The gist: A fitting tribute to a legend in the industry.
Gordon said: The Bluesound Pulse 2i is an excellent-sounding, all-in-one stereo music system made more appealing by such features as AirPlay 2 support, upgraded Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and Alexa voice control.
The gist: The BluOS software sets this apart from most wireless speakers.
Oliver said: To those looking for a straightforward, fuss-free phono preamplifier that prioritizes sound quality, I say put the Boulder 508 at the very top of your audition list: It’s my top choice in a solid-state phono stage at or near $5000.
The gist: New price point for this super-high-end company.
Price: $1349, bundled (turntable alone, $1199; cartridge alone, $199)
Thom said: While $1349 is not an inconsiderable amount of cash for many of us, I discovered that the StudioDeck+ package is a truly great value.
The gist: Step up from a starter ‘table.
Peter said: For me, for the time being, and especially when you factor in the xHD’s value for often bleeding-edge performance, I’d call it a “bargain and the best I ever had.”
The gist: Modularity adds value to this DAC.
Gordon said: In short, while new features like support of AirPlay 2, Siri voice control, and two-way Bluetooth add to the Vault 2i’s appeal, what’s most impressive about the product is its unique functionality, and the overall excellence of the BluOS software platform.
The gist: The BluOS software is really the thing here.
Edgar said: While it may require a minor readjustment to accept yet another device into the signal chain, there’s no denying the performance payoff more than justifies it.
The gist: Add this to your Chord stack for even more performance.
Aron said: If you’re in the market for an all-in-one music player with exemplary build quality and an industry-leading résumé of features, Cocktail Audio’s X45Pro deserves to be on your shortlist.
The gist: A little cool sounding but hard to fault otherwise.
Gordon said: Pro-Ject’s Stream Box S2 Ultra is a nifty little product with lots of applications. Pair it with a compact USB DAC like Pro-Ject’s Pre Box S2 and you have a very nice, small-footprint digital source for streamed and locally stored music.
The gist: A few software issues hamper an otherwise excellent product.
Erich said: T+A’s technical prowess has made interfacing with today’s digital music-playback options a uniquely coherent experience.
The gist: Along with their DAC 8 DSD, this makes a top-shelf digital source.
Uday said: The great thing about the DAC501 is that, while it sounded warmer than my current system, and warmer than I’d typically seek out, not only did I quickly acclimate to its sound, I found that I enjoyed it beyond my expectations.
The gist: Successful update of the popular DAC202.
Jeff said: The Luxman L-509X is a beautiful component that produces beautiful sound.
The gist: Styling and sound this good will never get old.
Hans said: As long as you don’t need a ton of power, the SU-G700 should be at the top of your list for an integrated amp at the $2500 price point.
The gist: Tremendous sound quality with looks to match.
Diego said: All of this functionality comes in a package that delivers on Moon’s promise of superlative sound and build quality, and is warranted for ten years -- exceptionally long in high-end audio. Printed on the 390’s carton is a promise of “The Performance of a Lifetime,” and I can’t disagree.
The gist: This thing does way more than a traditional preamp and sounds good while doing it.
Price: $30,000 per pair
Aron said: I found the Reference 160M captivatingly enjoyable to listen to, despite a slight roundness and lack of texture in the bass.
The gist: The new ARC look is a big improvement.
Price: $85,000 per pair
Doug said: The EMM Labs MTRX2 monos are the best-sounding amplifiers I’ve ever heard.
The gist: Meitner magic applied to amps.
Tom said: The Meridian 857’s purity, accuracy, life, presence and transparency were extremely satisfying.
The gist: Solid in every aspect is just what you would expect from this reputable company.
Roger said: Often, in the Conclusion of a review, I offer a few qualifying thoughts or caveats. This time I have none. I can’t recommend Parasound’s Halo JC 5 highly enough.
The gist: Probably better than many “super amps” but at a much lower price.
Brent said: We love the way these headphones are designed, and we wish more companies would put this kind of effort and expense into the creation of their high-end headphones.
The gist: Works better for jazz than other genres of music.
Brent said: The AH-D7200s are gorgeous, well-made headphones, with high-quality drivers and a detailed sound.
The gist: Denon is still making solid headphones after all these years.
Brent said: With every review of headphones or earphones I write, I always find somethingto complain about. Sometimes it’s minor, sometimes it’s major, but there’s always something. Not this time.
The gist: The “10” rating on sound says it all.
Brent said: The T60RPs strike one of the most natural and versatile tonal balances of the models we’ve tried in this price range, with none of the ergonomic downsides that some competitors suffer.
The gist: Brent still likes Fostex ‘phones.
Brent said: . . . if you really want that humongous sense of space and treble detail that audiophile headphones promise, and you’re willing to put some thought and money into finding an amp, you should hear these.
The gist: Get the right amp and you’re in business.
Diego said: If you’re mating your smartphone to a pair of high-end, inefficient, and/or high-impedance headphones that are difficult to drive, iFi’s compact, intuitive, elegant xCAN is a must-have.
The gist: The perfect companion to those new ‘phones you just brought home.
Brent said: For more mainstream listeners looking to step up from mass-market headphones, or audiophiles who don’t like a treble-heavy sound, the Ultimate Ones will probably sound just right.
The gist: KLH voiced these just right for most listeners.
S. Andrea said: Most listeners will probably be pretty happy with one of the two available sound signatures, and with your purchase you get both: just swap earpads. Either way, the ERA-1s’ levels of clarity and openness are above those of many of their competitors.
The gist: Like getting two headphone models in one.