Graham said: The Octave Audio V 40 SE is more than a bit special. It combines the grip and drive of a much more powerful amplifier with levels of transparency and detail that you’d be happy to find in a far more expensive product. It appeals to both the heart and head, and delivers a sound that modernizes traditional notions of what a tube amplifier at this price point can be and do.
The gist: The line between tubes and solid state continue to blur.
Philip said: A buyer of the Aura separates will be treated to a highly engaging sound whose warmth, midrange clarity, and solid low end offer all the ingredients of a wholly involving listening experience. The fact that they also offer so much functionality and connectivity is just the icing on the cake. Some of their competitors would be wise to follow their example.
The gist: Lifestyle mixed with audiophile.
Randall said: It brought music alive in my room in a way that moved me. And that’s perhaps the highest compliment I can pay it. The Audia Flight Two is a great performer at a fair price, and one that I could enjoy listening to for a long, long time.
The gist: Not a Ferrari, but an Italian beauty nonetheless.
Kevin said: The Audioengine N22 is a terrific little component and an incredible value. It's small, inexpensive, and ridiculously easy to use.
The gist: The amp to get for a portable hi-fi system.
Michael said: The Katlas offers high-end performance at a price that won’t have you asking yourself What did I just do? I laud Blue Circle Audio for their accomplishment at the price -- every integrated amplifier I know of that’s as good costs more. Audiophiles who want to step up from mid-fi to high-end performance without breaking the bank should consider the Katlas. It deserves a very serious listen.
The gist: A standout in a crowded field?
Randall said: The Boulder 865 is the most detailed and transparent integrated amplifier I’ve heard over the past year: Its highs and lows were impressively extended and detailed, and its midrange was very smooth and natural. If I were banished to a desert island and could bring only one integrated amplifier with me, the Boulder 865 would be it. It’s the best option I know of for someone who doesn’t want separates but still wants reference-grade sound.
The gist: A reference for integrated-amp performance.
Roger said: Though most high-end audio manufacturers may have abandoned the budget market, Cambridge Audio continues to produce many products in this category, and have imbued their entry-level Azur 350A integrated amplifier with levels of performance and quality that belie its $499 price. If you're looking for an integrated amplifier for a modest yet still audiophile-approved system, the Azur 350A is an excellent choice.
The gist: Cambridge: Still catering to audiophiles with a solid integrated under five bills.
Philip said: With its neutrality, transparency, and power, I think you’ll find your listening experience infused with the sort of energy and excitement that will remind you why you got into this hobby in the first place. Add the fact that it comes with a plethora of upgrade options and a lifetime warranty, and the B-130 could be the last integrated amplifier you’ll ever buy.
The gist: Unique features, sleek look, great sound.