Sponsors

Reviewers Choice

  • 201005_esoteric_a03Price: $14,000

    Website: www.esoteric.teac.com

    Randall said: If you’re in the market for a new stereo amplifier and can afford an A-03, you may find it to be the last amplifier you ever buy. I fell in love with this amp from the moment I pulled it out of its box.

    rc_70x80

    Read the SoundStage! review.

    The gist: A very sweet 50Wpc in an equally sweet package.

  • esoteric_ai10Price: $5000

    Website: www.esoteric.teac.com

    Philip said: With an onboard analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters, as well as a master-clock sync generator for use with Esoteric’s other digital products, the AI-10 occupies a product class all its own.

    rc_70x80

    Read the SoundStage! review.

    The gist: Esoteric’s entry in the growing integrated amp-DAC product genre.

  • Price: $27,000

    Website: www.esoteric-usa.com

    Howard said: The Grandioso K1 is an obvious contender for the best one-box digital performer.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: Contender for the best one-box disc player available.

  • EsotericPrice: $80,000 (combined)

    Website: www.esoteric-usa.com

    Howard said: For now, the Grandioso P1 and D1 play on a field where the sign outside the stadium says “SOTA.” Remarkably, at this level you can spend even more. However, I’m not certain that, if you do, you’ll see a decent return on your money, if any. Highly recommended for those with deep audiophile pockets and the desire to go from 0 to 60 in 2.2 seconds now.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: As far as the best digital, in the top three for sure.

  • Esoteric K-03Price: $13,000

    Website: www.esoteric.teac.com

    Howard said: I’m giving the Esoteric K-03 a Reviewers’ Choice award, no ifs, ands, or buts. It’s the Swiss Army Knife of high-end audio. In fact, it does so many things so well that if Esoteric told me that an amplifier, a pair of tower speakers, and 50 jazz CDs were jammed into its box, I almost wouldn’t be surprised. More important, the K-03 does all of these things at an uncommon level of performance.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: One of the best one-box digital players so far.

  • Price: $6000

    Website: www.esoteric-usa.com

    Tom said: The price of admission to Club Esoteric may be steep, but you get what you pay for. The K-07X is a perfect fusion of ravishing industrial design and extraordinary engineering that resulted, for me, in amazing listening experiences.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: Entry-level Esoteric player is no lightweight.

  • 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.

    Select Component

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: SOTA digital for the high roller.

  • esoteric_sa50_300w

    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.

    rc 70x80

    Read the SoundStage!review.

    The gist: A jack of all digital trades.

  • esoteric_x01_300w

    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!

    rc 70x80

    Read the SoundStage! review.

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

  • Etymotic Research ER-4PTPrice: $299

    Website: www.etymotic.com

    S. Andrea said: The Etymotic Research ER-4PT earphones -- and, even more, the ER-4 S model -- provide reference-quality sound in a vanishingly small package. Their level of transparency of detail is beyond what I thought possible from this type of device. They really are like having studio monitors that you can take with you wherever you go. Very highly recommended.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperiencereview.

    The gist: A reference in the category.

  • Eximus DP1Price: $2995

    Website: www.aprilmusic.com

    Doug said: Its appearance and build are fitting for a product at twice or even thrice the price; on the digital side, its rich feature set and thoroughly up-to-date technology approach the state of the art; and the DP1’s distinctive, lively, ultraclear sound -- whether it’s used as a DAC-preamp, an analog preamp, or a headphone amp -- is ridiculously good at the price.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fireview.

    The gist: Jewel-like build and sound.

  • Price: $249.99

    Website: www.fluance.com

    Thom said: If you’re looking for your first turntable, take advantage of Fluance’s 30-day in-home free trial, get yourself an RT81, and see if it doesn’t do just about everything you want a turntable to do.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: Get into vinyl for not a lot of money.

  • Fluance SXHTB+Price: $374.99

    Website: www.fluance.com

    Kevin said: The Fluances are lovely to look at, sound terrific, and redefine the notion of affordable audio. And if you don’t like ’em, Fluance offers a full refund: a 30-day, no-questions-asked guarantee. But you’ll like them -- that’s my guarantee.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: Is that price right? Yes!

  • Fluance XL7FPrice: $469 per pair

    Website: www.fluance.com

    Thom said: The Fluance XL7F is an incredible value that’s worth every cent of $469.99/pair -- and far more. In fact, Fluance could easily raise the speaker’s price by quite a bit and still be offering the deal of the year.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Just a stupid-good-value Internet-direct speaker.

  • Focal Aria 906Price: $1500 per pair

    Website: www.focal.com

    Vince said: The Aria 906 is packed with Focal’s latest driver technology, and the results are fantastic. I was smitten by the Arias’ huge soundstage, neutral midrange, and beautifully rendered highs. This bookshelf punches above its weight, and compares favorably with other well-regarded speakers, even above its price range.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Flax is good for you -- in more ways than one.

  • Focal Chorus 826VPrice: $2495 per pair

    Website: www.focal.com

    Thom said: The Focal Chorus 826Vs sounded very fine with nearly any music I threw at them. To paraphrase the old song, I found them delightful to look at, lovely to hear. They seem to be French down to their very souls: distinctive, attractive, artistic, individualistic pieces of art. And for $2495/pair they’re an excellent value, and among the best speakers I’ve heard.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: Mid-line Focal is one of their best values.

  • Price: $1500

    Website: www.focal.com

    Brent said: They sounded terrific, worked great with any kind of music, and exhibited no annoying flaws or colorations.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: No beryllium, but Focal sound quality nonetheless.

  • Focal 1008 Be 2Price: $5499 per pair

    Website: www.focal.com

    Philip said: No speaker I’ve reviewed in the past year has impressed me more than Focal’s Electra 1008 Be 2. It performs well in so many areas, but it is its precision, fullness, and clarity that launch it into that special class of speakers that nearly touch the high point of the price/performance curve.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: French-made stand-mounted loudspeaker that fulfills high aspirations.

  • Focal Sopra No2Price: $13,999 per pair

    Website: www.focal.com

    Doug said: I could see living with a pair of Sopra No2s and not wanting more for a very long time. The Sopra No2 more than lives up to its name: It not only goes over and above; it goes above and beyond.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: An instant classic in Focal’s impressive line.

  • Price: $149

    Website: www.focal.com

    Brent said: The Focal Sphears are exceptionally comfortable, well-designed, good-sounding earphones that I found especially enjoyable to use when listening to rock, pop, and jazz -- and any other music in which groove is important.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: Super-comfortable design that likes to rock.

  • Focal Spirit ClassicPrice: $399

    Website: www.focal.com

    S. Andrea said: Where the Spirit Classics step ahead of most of their competition is in the exceptional clarity with which they reproduce the textures of voices and instruments, and their excellent dynamic contrasts. With that combination of strengths, any audiophile looking for closed-back headphones should audition Focal’s Spirit Classics.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: Andrea was knocked out by this stylish French design.

  • Price: $3000

    Website: www.focal.com

    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.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Solo review.

    The gist: The “10” rating on sound says it all.

  • 201003_focus_fc9_bPrice: $1999 per pair

    Website: www.focusaudio.com

    Philip said: . . . the FC 9’s greatest asset is its sound: pure, powerful, and precise, a collection of traits that made for an engrossing listening experience. If you have the space and are in the market for a well-designed, gorgeously crafted pair of floorstanding speakers, you should hear the Classic FC 9.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! review.

    The gist: Focus competes with the Paradigms and PSBs of the world.

  • Focus Audio LisztPrice: $12,000

    Website: www.focusaudio.com

    Jason said: I’d wager that, in the next few decades, audio enthusiasts will look back at this clean, elegantly designed, beautifully made amplifier as a classic of the early 21st century.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: A speaker company makes a great amp.

  • focus_fp90_300h

    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 . . .

    ultra sel 120x80

    Read the Ultra Audio review.

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

  • Focus Prestige FP88 SEPrice: $6800 per pair

    Website: www.focusaudio.com

    Aron said: Focus Audio’s Prestige FP88 SE performed commendably with just about every recording and component I could find. Its finish is superb, its chamfered edges add a level of masculinity and character to its appearance that nicely offset its rectangular footprint, and I’ve always appreciated that Focus finishes its speakers’ plinths to match their cabinets. Inside, all components and the crossover design are new for this SE edition, and their resulting performance checks all the right audiophile boxes. 

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Focus is looking better and better these days. A real player in high-end loudspeakers.

  • focus_fs8

    Price: $2990 per pair

    Website:www.focusaudio.com

    Doug said: Focus Audio’s Signature FS8 is a killer speaker by almost every measure: It looks fantastic, it sounds wonderful, and its price is something many can afford.

    goodsound gb 80x80

    Read the GoodSound!review.

    The gist: Not exactly cheap, but hits all the right buttons.

  • Price: $1799.99

    Website: www.fostexinternational.com

    Brent said: The TH909s strike a much better balance than most competitors, providing much more realistic bass levels without tilting toward excessive warmth and without losing detail.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Solo review.

    The gist: Brent still likes Fostex after all these years.

  • Furutech Alpha Design Labs GT40Price: $525

    Website: www.furutech.com

    S. Andrea said: Other DAC/headphone amplifiers at about the GT40’s price support 24/96 files, but very few of them can also be used purely as a headphone amplifier -- and none, as far as I know, has a built-in phono stage. If you’re content to buy a GT40 for those features alone, $525 is not an unreasonable price for this level of performance. Of course, the GT40 also includes an ADC, which makes it a one-box solution for converting the output of your turntable into digital files. If you’re looking for a high-quality way to get high-quality sound out of your computer and want to digitize the occasional LP, then the Furutech GT40 is a really good choice.

    Great Buy

    Read the SoundStage! Accessreview.

    The gist: A Swiss Army Knife for the digital age.

  • Gemme Audio Tonic G5Price: $1395 per pair

    Website: www.gemmeaudio.com

    Colin said: The Gemme Audio Tonic G5 is an outstanding speaker. It is the most exciting audio product I’ve crossed paths with this year, and it’s the biggest bargain, too. In fact, it’s probably all the speaker that most people with smaller rooms will ever need or want.

    Great Buy

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: Colin has officially fallen in love with a speaker.

  • genesis_gr180_300w

    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.

    ultra_sel_120x80

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

    The gist: This D gets an A.

  • Price: $165 per panel

    Website: www.gikacoustics.com

    Howard said: GIK Acoustics’ 2A Alpha panels improved my room’s acoustics, were easy to set up, look fantastic, and cost a heck of a lot less than that new amplifier I just bought.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: Great bang for the buck in terms of sound-quality improvement.

  • GoldenEar Aon 3Price: $999.98 per pair

    Website: www.goldenear.com

    Doug said: Through clever engineering, the GoldenEar designers have created a speaker that plays bigger than its compact enclosure suggests, and sounds far more natural, detailed, and refined than most would think possible, given the low price and disparate drivers. I could praise many of the Aon 3’s qualities -- its effortless highs and ample bass, its finely detailed and natural midrange, its astonishingly spacious soundstage -- but what bowled me over was how well the outputs of its tweeter, midrange-woofer, and passive radiators integrated to create a big yet sophisticated sound that can compare with those of well-designed speakers at much higher prices.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fireview.

    The gist: An affordable stand-mount speaker that sounds like something larger and more expensive.

  • GoldenEar Technology Triton FivePrice: $1999.98 per pair

    Website: www.goldenear.com

    Roger said: At $1999.98/pair, the GoldenEar Triton Five is a fantastic performer -- a true high-end speaker at a true entry-level price. It receives my highest recommendation.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: All of these GoldenEar speakers seem like winners.

  • GoldenEar Technology Triton One Price: $4999.98 per pair

    Website: www.goldenear.com

    Doug said: The Triton One’s performance across the board is exceptional. I’m sure you can’t find another speaker that offers all it does -- in short, full-range, reference-grade sound -- for a price that any serious audiophile with a decent job can afford: $4999.98/pair. The hi-fi world needs more products like this. That’s why GoldenEar’s Triton One gets my highest recommendation.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Bass: get 20Hz for the price of 40Hz.

  • Price:$8499.98 per pair

    Website: www.goldenear.com

    Doug said: GoldenEar Technology’s Triton Reference costs 70% more than their Triton One, and for significantly more money you get significantly more. GoldenEar has created a speaker that’s not only bigger than the One, but better in many ways. The improvements in build and sound quality are dramatic.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: The best GoldenEar yet.

  • GoldenEar Technology Triton SevenPrice: $1399.98 per pair

    Website: www.goldenear.com

    Roger said: Let’s face it -- not everyone wants or needs a big full-range speaker. If your needs are a tad more modest, the Triton Seven will still provide the big, impressive sound that I’ve come to expect from GoldenEar’s larger floorstanding speakers, but from a smaller, less expensive package.

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    Reviewers' Choice

    The gist: Big sound for relatively little money.

  • GoldenEar Technology Triton ThreePrice: $2000 per pair

    Website: www.goldenear.com

    Hans said: With a peach of a folded-ribbon tweeter and a powered bass section that should obviate the need of a subwoofer for all but the most depraved bass junkies, the Triton Three is as forgiving of low-powered amps as of harsh recordings. It won’t move heaven and earth in quite the manner that some other reviewers have claimed, but for $2000/pair, I’m not sure you can buy a more complete loudspeaker.

    Great Buy

    Read the SoundStage! Accessreview.

    The gist: Solid-value speakers for two grand.

  • Price: $2499.98 per pair

    Website: www.goldenear.com

    Roger said: In short, these compact floorstanders won’t visually dominate a room or cost a boatload of cash, but they’ll produce class-leading sound for their price.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: Super-high-value floorstanders aim to do it all for under 2500 bucks.

  • Grimm Audio LS1 and LS1sPrices: LS1, $29,900 per pair; LS1s, $9995/pair; $39,895 total

    Website: www.grimmaudio.com

    Robert said: I found the Grimm LS1-LS1s system the most neutral and, overall, highest-performing speaker system I have ever tested. It was with more than a little regret I that I watched them depart.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: Pro company successfully enters the audiophile speaker market.

  • Price: €29,000

    Website: www.gryphon-audio.dk

    Jeff said: It sounds stunning, it looks like a real power amp should, and for €29,000, it has all the technology and badass hardware you could want.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: Jeff Fritz’s favorite Gryphon amp.

  • 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.

  • Price: $15,450

    Website: www.gryphon-audio.dk

    Uday said: Ayre’s AX-5 Twenty has long been my favorite integrated amplifier. But unless there’s a plan to include an optional DAC module in the Ayre, I now have to recommend the Diablo 120. “Our higher goal is to bring to the listener a ‘You-Are-There’ sensation”? Mission accomplished, Gryphon.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: The smallest beast from Denmark’s Gryphon.

  • Price: €17,600

    Website: www.gryphon-audio.dk

    Hans said: The Diablo 300 is a mad, inimitable masterpiece.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: Super-manly integrated from a Danish giant.

  • Gryphon MephistoPrice: $57,000

    Website: www.gryphon-audio.dk

    Jeff said: I’ve never heard the equal of the Gryphon Mephisto. It combines qualities that seem clearly contradictory: It had the best bass I could imagine, yet could image as precisely as anything I’ve heard. It expanded the soundstage in every direction, yet perfectly retained the midrange purity of a single performer standing dead center in the soundstage. It resolved the finest details of hi-rez recordings, and at the same time presented music in a cohesive, musically enjoyable manner at all times.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: Best solid-state amp Jeff has heard.

  • 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.

  • hrs_mxr2_300w

    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.

    ultra sel 120x80

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

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

  • hrs_stand3_300w

    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.

    ultra sel 120x80

    Read the Ultra Audioreview.

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

  • HeadRoom Balanced UltraPrice: $1599

    Website: www.headphone.com

    S. Andrea said: Driving the HD 800s with the HeadRoom Balanced Ultra Desktop Amplifier propels them to still greater heights of resolution and depths of bass power and articulation. If you’re in the market for an absolutely top-quality headphone listening experience, you need to audition this system. Maybe as the HeadRoom folks say, “It will leave you grinning from ear to ear.”

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperiencereview.

    The gist: A top-shelf headphone amp for a balanced system.

  • Hegel Music Systems H360Price: $3500

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Hans said: I can’t think of a competing integrated amplifier that comes close to its combination of excellent top-to-bottom sound, fabulous remote control, plentiful power, and one of the most comprehensive ranges of features I’ve seen at the price. What a delightful little amplifier.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: Everybody seems to love this little guy.

  • Price: $4000

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Al said: Listening with the H190 was an absolute pleasure, and it drew out qualities in recordings I’d previously overlooked. I’d certainly want to own one, and recommend it highly to anyone looking for a powerful, network-capable integrated amplifier.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Simplifi review.

    The gist: Al is still smitten with Hegel.

  • Hegel H20Price: $5750

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Michael said: It’s refreshing to come across a company that makes affordable gear that competes head-to-head with the expensive offerings from better-known names. I recommend it as highly as almost anything else I’ve ever reviewed.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: One of the best amps to get under $6000.

  • Hegel H300Price: $5500

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Hans said: Quiet, deeply resolving, thoughtfully connective and functional, and operated with a remote control that looks and feels as if designed specifically for it -- a rarity, in my experience -- its performance is almost as impressive as its price. The H300’s evolved neutrality of sound and unified design pay full homage to the philosopher for which it’s named. Simply put, the H300 is superb in every way. Consider the bar raised.

    Great Buy

    Read the SoundStage! Accessreview.

    The gist: One of the very best deals in high-end electronics.

  • Price: $5700

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Philip said: It’s packed with features, extremely well built, and has a nice, unassuming design. Most important, its superclean sound and transparency will appeal to those many music lovers who crave detail and resolution. If you’ve got the money, you can’t go wrong with the Hegel Music Systems H360.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Major update to Hegel’s outgoing H300.

  • Price: $11,000

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Hans said: The H590 may be expensive for a Hegel, but in the rarefied atmosphere of reference-level integrated amplifier-DACs, it’s a bargain. I’ve never encountered another amplifier that blends power, grace, and honesty with such consummate ease.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Hegel’s current best integrated amp-DAC.

  • Hegel HD10Price: $1200

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Doug said: If I weren’t a reviewer with an almost endless supply of new, often very expensive products trooping through my listening room -- stuff I couldn’t otherwise afford -- a sensibly priced, overachieving DAC such as the HD10 is exactly what I’d own. If you’re serious about sound and sensible about money, you, too, should look into it. 

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fireview.

    The gist: The specs don’t tell you how good this thing is.

  • Hegel Music SystemsPrice: $1400

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Jeff said: Hegel Music Systems’ HD12 digital-to-analog converter provides the best sound for the least money of any DAC I’ve had in my system. You might be surprised at just how good it is, and just how uncompromised its sound is on an absolute basis.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: Strong little performer at exactly the right price point.

  • Hegel HD2Price: $350

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Ron said: The Hegel Music Systems HD2 is the Swiss Army knife of high-end audio -- but imagine such a knife with a Kikuichi Yanagi sushi blade. For the absolutely sane price of $350, the HD2 would be a bargain even if it were only a DAC or a USB-to-S/PDIF converter. The fact that it does both more than competently makes it a real standout, especially when you consider the competition.

    Great Buy

    Read the SoundStage! Accessreview.

    The gist: Low-priced DAC with a Norwegian twist.

  • 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.

  • Hegel Music Systems HD30Price: $4800

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Doug said: The HD30’s big selling point is its sound -- and what a sound it is: Its world-class resolution, extreme clarity, and superb refinement let you listen very deeply into recordings, to hear precisely what the musicians and engineers laid down there. And it does so while adding no ill artifacts -- the HD30 sounded incredibly clean in my system, never bright, edgy, or off-putting.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Who knew SOTA digital only costs $4800?

  • Price: $3000

    Website: www.hegel.com

    Oliver said: If you think you might like to explore versatile source connectivity and networking capabilities without compromising your system’s sound, the Hegel Röst should be at the top of your audition list.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Modern features and classic Hegel sound in one sleek package.

  • Price: $1799

    Website: www.hifiman.com

    Brent said: If you demand the best, the HE1000s are the wiser choice. If spending $3000 on headphones is a stretch for you, the Edition Xes are the better pick, especially considering that you don’t need to buy or carry a separate amplifier or a high-priced portable music player to use with them. Just plug ’em into your smartphone or tablet and you’ll get fantastic sound with zero hassles.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: More affordable version of the HE1000s.

  • HiFiMAN HE-400Price: $399

    Website: www.head-direct.com

    Vade said: With the lowest price of any current planar-magnetic headphone, and with sound rivaling or surpassing that of many other headphones in its price range, the HiFiMAN HE-400s are flaming bargains. I have no trouble giving them a Reviewers’ Choice award. 

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: Electrostatic headphones at an ambitious price point.

  • HiFiMan HE1000Price: $2999

    Website: www.hifiman.com

    Brent said: I don’t know if the HE1000s are the ultimate headphones. But considering their impeccable sound quality and above-average comfort, I think they’re the closest thing I’ve found.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: Brent’s favorite high-priced headphones.

  • Price: $2999

    Website: www.hifiman.com

    Brent said: HiFiMan’s HE1000 V2s aren’t all that different from their original HE1000s, and that’s a good thing -- the HE1000s are widely regarded as being some of the very best headphones you can buy. Are the V2s better? In my opinion, their sound is a little different from their forebears’ -- not better.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: Worthy new flagship replaces last year’s HE1000.

  • Price: $6000

    Website: www.hifiman.com

    Brent said: Not many of us can afford to spend $6000 on headphones, let alone thousands more on an amp to drive them -- but I think if you try the Susvaras at a hi-fi or headphone show, you’ll at least understand why some people would.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: Brent thinks these are the best headphones money can buy.

    Award: Reviewers' Choice

  • Price: $7500 per 1m pair (speaker cables), $4900 per 1m pair (interconnects)

    Website: www.highfidelitycables.com

    Vade said: You can buy many cables that perform very well for much less, but I’m not sure that better sound is available at any price. I’ve surely never heard better sound from my system.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: Magnetic conduction makes for amazing sound.

  • Price: $5900 per 1m power cord

    Website: www.highfidelitycables.com

    Vade said: [T]he HFC power cord’s IEC plug weighed nearly as much as the Auralic itself, and required careful cable dressing to avoid its dragging the supply off the shelf..

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

    The gist: New-tech power cord delivers great sound.

  • HRT Music Streamer IIPrice: $149.95

    Website: www.highresolutiontechnologies.com

    Howard said: Technophiles will be amazed that the Music Streamer II makes good on High Resolution Technologies’ promise to bring asynchronous-mode, 24-bit/96kHz computer audio to the masses. Those on low budgets will appreciate that it’s an absolute steal for $149.95. Everyone else can simply revel in the fact that the MSII sounds great, and provides more fun than the time neighbor Bentley accidentally dropped his ant farm in George Jefferson’s living room. Highly recommended for those looking for an inexpensive DAC that can decode hi-rez files.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Good digital sound is getting cheaper and cheaper.

  • HRT MS II+Price: $350

    Website: www.highresolutiontechnologies.com

    Thom said: Do I like the Music Streamer II+? Let’s put it this way: I dare anyone to try to pry it from my system. For me, it’s a nearly perfect audio component: It’s unobtrusive, it offers high performance, it can play digital resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz, and it’s a steal of a deal at $350.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperiencereview.

    The gist: Streaming 24/96 for a song.

  • Price: $299

    Website: www.ifi-audio.com

    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.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Solo review.

    The gist: The perfect companion to those new ‘phones you just brought home.

  • Price: $399

    Website: www.ifi-audio.com

    Brent said: I think the xDSD is a great bargain for anyone who wants high-quality sound to go.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Solo review.

    The gist: Probably better than your phone for driving headphones.

  • infinity_p252_300h

    Price: $400 per pair

    Website: www.infinitysystems.com

    He said: Before hearing the Infinity Primus P252s, but knowing that they cost only $400/pair, I wasn’t expecting much. But I was so blown away by the experience of listening to them that I felt almost compelled to purchase a pair.

    rc_70x80

    Read the SoundStage! A/V review.

    The gist: Whatever your expectations, the Primus P252 will probably exceed them.

  • integra_dhc99_300w

    Price: $2000

    Website: www.integrahometheater.com

    He said: The $2000 Integra DHC-9.9 is the king of A/V processors under $7499.

    rc_70x80

    Read the SoundStage! A/V review.

    The gist: If you can’t afford the Anthem, get this.

  • Integra DTA-70.1Price: $1800

    Website: www.integrahometheater.com

    Aron said: I was thoroughly impressed by the consistently high levels of quality and performance offered by Integra’s DTA-70.1 home-theater amplifier, not to mention the obvious synergy between it and its counterpart, the Integra DHC-80.1. With the ability to power anything from a 5.1-channel system in a smaller room such as mine, as well as two additional zones, to a 9.1-channel theater in a large room, the DTA-70.1 sets the bar high. I’ll be sad to see it go. Well done, Integra!

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: How many channels does that thing have?

  • Price: $3200

    Website: www.integrahometheater.com

    Vince said: With its brawny 11 channels of amplification and the latest object-based surround decoding, the DRX-R1 is at the pinnacle of today’s home-theater receivers.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: Put this on your shortlist of flagship HT receivers.

  • 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.

  • JE Audio Reference 1Price: $9000

    Website: www.je-audio.com

    Doug said: It’s an incredibly good preamplifier for a reasonable price. Its build quality is excellent, its feature set very good, and its sound is out of this world. It’s my top recommendation for preamplifier pleasure for under ten grand.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Tube preamp that sent Doug over the top.

  • JE Audio VL10.1Price: $5000

    Website: www.je-audio.com

    Doug said: I love how the JE Audio VL10.1 preamplifier sounds in my system. It’s one of the few products in recent memory that has thrilled me -- partly because of its great build quality, but mostly because of its incredible sound, which is quite unlike that of any other preamp I’ve heard. When it comes to the pleasure of listening to music, right now I’ll choose the VL10.1 over anything else.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fireview.

    The gist: A great value in a reference tubed preamp.

  • jeaudio_vs70_300w

    Price: $2200 (KT77 tubes add $120)

    Website: www.je-audio.com

    Vade said: At its $2200 price ($2320 with KT77 tubes), the VS70 has to be considered an outright bargain. And while my over-five-times-as-expensive reference system sounded a bit better in some respects, it surely didn’t sound five times better.

    rc_70x80

    Read the SoundStage! review.

    The gist: Beauty not only skin deep.

  • JE Audio VS70.1Price: $3000, $3300 with Gold Lion small-signal tubes

    Website: www.je-audio.com

    Vade said: JE Audio’s VS70.1 offers an attractive set of features: excellent sound, gorgeous looks, and a fair price.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Distinctively styled tube amplifier from China.

  • Price: $999.99

    Website: www.jlaudio.com

    Howard said: Like the crazy puppy who lives in my building, the d110 might not be fully grown, but it sure doesn’t act that way. And surprisingly, unlike the puppy, the d110 has bark and bite, providing high output, linear extension, and, above all, tuneful music. It stands among the best of a large class of highly able competitors, and might even be the very best of that small bunch.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: JL-quality bass for under a grand is always a good deal.

  • 201005_jlsub_bPrice: $2100 USD in Black Satin finish; $2200 High-Gloss Black finish

    Website: www.jlaudio.com

    Vade said: $2100 is pretty pricey for a 10” subwoofer -- but that’s like comparing Chevy’s Aveo with its Corvette. While they’re both cars, the Corvette provides a level of performance that’s totally beyond the Aveo’s capabilities. And while the Corvette is unquestionably expensive, you’d be hard-pressed to find a car that provides more performance at its price point. The Fathom f110 is similar: It’s not the cheapest 10” subwoofer on the market, but I challenge you to find a better one at its price -- or at any price. I haven’t.

    goodsound_gb_80x80

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: Possibly the best 10" subwoofer you can buy.

  • jl_fathom_f112_300wPrice: $2800 (satin), $2900 (high gloss)

    Website: www.jlaudio.com

    Aron said: If you’re in the market for a wonderfully versatile subwoofer that offers deep, controlled, powerful bass, looks classy, and is impeccably built, JL Audio’s Fathom f112 deserves to be on your short list.

    rc 70x80

    Read the Home Theater & Sound review.

    The gist: A mainstay in compact subwoofer land.

  • Joseph Audio PulsarPrice: $7700 per pair

    Website: www.josephaudio.com

    Graham said: The Pulsar is a great loudspeaker for $7700/pair; rather than stuff boxes, Jeff Joseph has taken time to spec drivers, build cabinets, and design a crossover network. He’s put all that together in a model that sets a sonic benchmark for me for smaller loudspeakers.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Solid all-around stand-mount from a specialist manufacturer.

  • Price: $24,999.99 per pair

    Website: www.kef.com

    Doug said: Add to those qualities strict neutrality across the audioband, extremely extended highs, and clarity that made me stand up and notice, and the Blade Two is a top-drawer transducer as exciting to listen to as it is to look at. There’s nothing in the world like the Blade Two -- except its big brother, the Blade.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: One of Doug’s top choices in a full-range loudspeaker.

  • KEF LS50Price: $1499.99 per pair

    Website: www.kef.com

    Doug said: The LS50 is nothing short of a masterpiece of a minimonitor, priced so that anyone serious about audio can buy a pair -- and probably should, if only to know how great a small speaker can be.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: Is there anything else to even consider at the price?

  • Price: $2199.99 per pair

    Website: www.kef.com

    Hans said: Its build quality, finish, and technical prowess are beyond reproach, and its sound quality remains faithful to both KEF’s design principles and to the original LS50.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: Add power and connectivity to an already impressive LS50 package.

  • Price: $349.99

    Website: www.kef.com

    Rad said: The KEF Muo is a serious music-reproduction tool intended for those who listen to music seriously, not just as background. Because it was such a joy, I listened to a lot more music than I’d expected to, and found the Muo up to anything I threw at it.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: Classic KEF sound in a little portable Bluetooth speaker.

  • Price: $1499.98 per pair

    Website: www.kef.com

    Hans said: It’s one of the most neutral transducers I’ve ever heard, and for the money offers staggeringly transparent sound. I fed it a steady diet of male and female singer-songwriters, and was always satisfied with the authenticity of what I heard. It’s not exactly a looker, but it’s well engineered, and sounds far more expensive than its price suggests.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: What Hans would buy with 1500 bucks in his pocket for speakers.

  • KEF R500Price: $2599.98 per pair

    Website: www.kef.com

    Doug said: The KEF R500 is a great-sounding loudspeaker by any measure. The fact that its price is so low simply makes it all that much better.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fireview.

    The gist: Profound performance for the price.

  • KEF R900Price: $4999.98 per pair

    Website: www.kef.com

    Hans said: It has no real shortcomings, only an abundance of strengths -- and an emphatic recommendation from a writer usually allergic to such things.

    Great Buy

    Read the SoundStage! Access review.

    The gist: Might be the best floorstander you can buy at the price.

  • KEF Reference 1Price: $7499.99 per pair

    Website: www.kef.com

    Doug said: KEF’s Reference 1 is the best stand-mounted speaker I’ve ever heard. The bottommost octave excepted, it’s among the very best speakers I’ve heard of any size and price. As its name implies, the Reference 1 can indeed be considered a reference for stand-mounted loudspeaker design.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: The smallish speaker Doug has been waiting for.

  • 201009_kef_205Price:$13,999 per pair

    Website:www.kef.com

    Randall said: The KEF Reference 205/2 is a well-rounded, lovely-looking loudspeaker that packs a lot of technology into its glossy cabinet -- it’s a true audio gem that you must hear for yourself.

    rc_70x80

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fireview.

    The gist: Much more technology -- and sound quality -- than is found in most loudspeakers.

  • Price: $13,999.99 per pair

    Website: www.kef.com

    Doug said: For its price, the Reference 3 is damn near impossible to fault as an accurate, high-definition loudspeaker.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

    The gist: More traditional alternative to the company's Blades.

  • KEF XQ40Price: $4500 per pair

    Website: www.kef.com

    Aron said: From top to bottom, KEF’s XQ flagship is an exceedingly well-built, classically styled tower that sounds as good as it looks. It may not be the last word in neutrality across the entire audioband, and it might require some close attention in being paired with other audio gear, but the best things in life are never easy, and I have yet to hear a speaker in this price range that can match its low-end prowess.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperiencereview.

    The gist: Great-value speaker with innovative KEF technology.

  • Price: $16,995 per pair

    Website:www.kiiaudio.com

    Gordon said: If anyone thinks lifestyle audio and high-end audio are mutually exclusive categories, the Kii Three should put that notion to rest. This system is a tour de force -- a game-changer.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Simplifireview.

    The gist: Gordon's new reference loudspeaker.

  • Price: $1199

    Website: www.klipsch.com

    Brent said: If you want a great set of audiophile headphones you can easily carry with you and use with any source device you happen to have in your bag, the HP-3s, in my opinion, have no serious competition.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: The HP-3s are Klipsch’s best headphones ever.

  • Price: $499

    Website: www.klipsch.com

    Al said: If you want a Wi-Fi speaker that can also play LPs and has a cool, vintage look, look no further than the Three.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Simplifi review.

    The gist: Maybe not a mini Klipschorn, but a real Klipsch nonetheless.

  • Price: $49.99

    Website: www.koss.com

    Rad said: Once I got started listening to Koss’s UR42i headphones, I found it hard to stop. You can find better headphones if you want to spend $200 or more, but for $49.99, I can’t think of anything that touches these.

    Reviewers' Choice

    Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

    The gist: Here’s that pair of $50 headphones you’ve been looking for.

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