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2018 SoundStage! Network Equipment Buying Guide

Price: AU$46,650

Website: www.absolare.com

Josh said: While it may be considered for some to be expensive, its performance capabilities in so many areas frankly exceed what could be achieved in preamplifier-amplifier separate combinations at far loftier price points, therefore making it an attractive proposition as a statement amplifier for those slightly short of space or for those demanding electronics capable of the very highest standards.

Read the SoundStage! Australia review.

The gist: Sound that is said to strike a near perfect balance between tube and solid state.

Price: $599.99

Website: www.acousticresearch-hifi.com

Brent said: What I love about them is that there’s nothing spectacular or exaggerated about their sound -- just as there’s nothing spectacular or exaggerated about the sound of a great violin, tenor saxophone, or singer. If you want something spectacular, that’s fine -- but if you want headphones you can enjoy day after day with all kinds of music, I strongly recommend the AR-H1s.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: One of an elite group according to Brent.

Price: $299.95

Website: www.akg.com

Rad said: The more I listened, the less I liked AKG’s N60 NC Wireless noise-canceling headphones.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: These pretty much sucked.

Price: $4600 per 6’ cord

Website: www.audience-av.com

Garrett said: If you’re looking for peak performance in a power cable, I strongly urge you to audition the Au24 SX powerChord.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Garrett’s new go-to reference power cord.

Price: $968-$1474 per pair, depending on finish

Website: www.axiomaudio.com

Philip said: A speaker like Axiom’s M5HP is proof that you can get incredible sound, superb engineering, and fantastic build quality at a reasonable price.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Re-evaluate what you think great speakers cost.

Price: $8995

Website: www.balanced.com

Aron said: The sound of BAT’s VK-255SE is therefore not quite my cup of tea -- but if tube-like warmth, buttery textures, and arresting dynamics are what you find most inviting, then this amplifier deserves to be on your audition list.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Will fit some listeners better than others.

Price: $49.99

Website: www.benjie-tx.com

Rad said: It’s a perfect entry-level music player, and its small size, solid construction, and ease of operation are big pluses that make it a perfect gym buddy -- you can toss it in your bag without fear of injuring it. All of that, and it plays hi-rez files! What’s not to like?

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Cheapest decent portable Rad has experienced.

Price: $2500 per pair

Website: www.bowers-wilkins.com

Hans said: No, the smallest tower model in B&W’s new 700 Series is a beautiful, well-built loudspeaker that sounded sensational with the right material, and never failed to keep me engaged, whether as reviewer or as listener. It’s not for everyone, but I suspect that for certain listeners it will be enduringly satisfying.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Not flat, but good-sounding speaker if you like what it offers.

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