Price: $2199

Website: www.arcam.co.uk

Roger said: After listening to the Arcam FMJ CD37, I can understand why so many audiophiles listen to SACDs. Its performance with these high-resolution recordings was breathtaking.

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The gist: Buy it for your SACDs.


Price: $5995

Website: www.audioresearch.com

Tim said: The performance I heard from the CD5 told me silver discs hold more information than I previously thought -- and Audio Research has figured out how to deliver it at an honest price.

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The gist: A sure bet for your last CD player.


Price: $3495

Website: www.audioresearch.com

Jeff said: It is a beautiful-sounding component that captures the gestalt of finely recorded music. It might not be the absolute champion in terms of high-frequency transparency and upper-treble extension, but I’m not sure how musically relevant those areas are to the majority of music selections recorded at 16-bit/44.1kHz.

Read the Ultra Audio review.

The gist: Digital solid-state from a company known for analog tube amps.


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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The gist: Awesome asynchronous audio à la Ayre.


Price: $2995

Website: www.belcantodesign.com

Tim said: But given what I heard, the CD2 on its own will far surpass many other digital components; just make sure it’s in 24-bit/192kHz mode when using its analog outputs.

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The gist: Modern sound and chic design at a fairly reasonable price.


Price: $2495

Website: www.belcantodesign.com

Dan said: The Bel Canto e.Ones also made my short list of gear that encourages further listening. The pleasure of my extended listening sessions with them was characterized by a desire to hear “just one more CD,” regardless of the hour. That, to me, distinguishes the best from the rest.

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The gist: Good now, and upgradeable in the future: a solid buy.


Price: $4395

Website: www.bluecircle.com

Doug said: The BC501 is a topnotch performer that bears the hallmarks of the Blue Circle Audio name, and is strongly recommended for those who don’t mind paying a premium for something that looks and sounds distinctive, and comes with the sort of personal touch that’s possible only with handmade manufacturing and customization.

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The gist: Gilbert Yeung’s latest digital thinking.


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.


Price: $5800

Website: esoteric.teac.com

John said: If you’re like me and own a decent collection of SACDs, a large CD library, and want to future-proof yourself with digital inputs that include a superb USB jack, then the Esoteric SA-50 may end your search for a single machine that can handle all these choices well. It’s ended mine.

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The gist: A jack of all digital trades.


Price: $16,500

Website: esoteric.teac.com

Marc said: Esoteric has expanded its product lineup to include integrated amps, a preamp, power amps, and even a phono stage, but the company’s reputation will continue to ride on its multiformat digital players like the X-01 D2. And that’s a very good position to be in!

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The gist: SOTA digital from a company that lives and breathes it.


Price: $89.95

Website: www.hirestech.com

John said: If you’ve been holding off giving the rip-and-download scene a go due to the cost, check out the High Resolution Technologies MusicStreamer. It may open up both your ears and your living space.

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The gist: Digital streaming on the cheap.


Price: $359

Website: www.jbl.com

Marc said: If you still own a JBL Paragon, whose size and appearance make it difficult to place in many living rooms, the WEM-1 system may be the perfect way to enjoy it no matter where it is.

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The gist: Because wireless is now indispensable.


Price: $799

Website: www.nadelectronics.com

Doug said: The NAD Classic C 565BEE is a CD player that’s close to the state of the art while being something regular people can afford. For many, it will be the last great CD player they’ll ever need to buy; in fact, it’s so good it might tempt even those who are convinced that they’ve already bought their last CD player.

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The gist: NAD’s mega-bargain CD player.


Price: $1200

Website: www.simaudio.com

Thom said: If, as many believe, the CD player will soon be a thing of the past, it’s going out on a high note with equipment as good as the last three players I’ve reviewed. . . . All are excellent, but of the three, unless you need SACD playback, the Simaudio Moon CD.5 has the best combination of sound, soundstaging, and rhythm.

Read the GoodSound! review.

The gist: The last CD player you may ever buy.


Price: $3000

Website: www.simaudio.com

He said: The CD3.3 bested what I’d thought was the best in digital reproduction short of an $8000 megaplayer. In the CD3.3, Simaudio turns out digital performance from the Compact Disc -- a technology well into its golden years -- that is as contemporary as tomorrow.

Read the SoundStage! A/V review.

The gist: Not too budget, not too expensive. Just right.


Price: $995

Website: www.sonicstudio.com/amarra/

Randall said: Is all of this worth $995? For me it is. That may sound like a lot to spend on a computer program, but in high-end audio, $995 isn’t all that much. If you’re using a Mac as your hi-fi audio source, then I think Amarra is must-have.

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The gist: Audiophile iTunes essential.


Price: $895

Website: www.aprilmusic.com

Tim said: The benefits wrought by the CDT100 were more subtle but still tangible and meaningful if transparency and dimensional imaging are important, and to most audiophiles they certainly are, no matter where they can get them.

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The gist: A perfect mate for the Stello DA100.

stello_cdt100_dac100_300wPrice: $995

Website: www.aprilmusic.com

He said: Overall, I found the Stello DA100 Signature to be an extremely flexible DAC with a refined sonic character. It gave me multiple ways to experience and enjoy music. I always see people asking for a DAC that sounds more like analog, or at least one that doesn’t sound like digital.

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The gist: Getting a bit long in the tooth, but hanging tough.


Price: $379

Website: www.wadia.com

Colin said: Wadia must be congratulated not just on the excellent performance of the 170iTransport, but also on its appreciation of a gap in the marketplace and the skill with which it has filled it.

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The gist: The first to extract digital signals from an Apple iPod. Kudos.


Price: $22,000

Website: www.zandenaudio.com

Doug said: The Zandèn 2500S is a highly specialized product intended for those who value gorgeous styling and impeccable build quality, aren’t concerned with bang-for-buck value, and want that unmistakable Zandèn sound -- that analog-like sound -- from their CDs.


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The gist: Voiced, built, and priced for the luxe market.

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