Sunday, April 30, 2017
Paradigm's Flagship
Persona 9H
Sonus Faber
Speaker Debut
SoundStage!
Simplifi
CES
2017
MartinLogan
Advancements
Gryphon's
Story
Devialet's
Phantoms
NAD's
HP50 Headphones
Newsflash:
Merging NADAC ST-2 on SoundStage! Ultra ... Read the review
Onkyo's A-9010 on SoundStage! Access ... Read the review

Sponsors

Price: $1199

Website: www.acousticresearch-hifi.com

Rad said: If you don’t carry your music player in your pocket, but use it primarily at home or on long commutes, the AR-M2 should add a lot of quality to your life as a traveling audiophile.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: AR is back with a bang!

Price: $249

Website: www.akg.com

Brent said: That the noise-canceling AKG N60 NCs came pretty close to the sound quality of my reference midpriced headphones, NAD’s Viso HP50s ($299), is remarkable. Overall, I do prefer the HP50s’ sound, but if I had to choose between them -- indeed, if I had to choose only one set of headphones to live with -- I’d take the N60 NCs for their much greater utility.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Great choice for frequent flyers.

Price: $1399

Website: www.furutech.com

Oliver said: The ADL Stratos is a fine example of what a well-designed control center should be, and it offers terrific value for the level of sound quality and features offered. If you’re in the market for a reasonably priced, preamp-style interface for your sources and headphones, take the ADL Stratos for a spin: you just might find that it’s all the preamp you need.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Cool little digital preamp with tons of functionality.

Price: $2999

Website: www.anthemav.com

Roger said: If you’re in the market for a high-quality surround-sound processor, I can’t recommend the Anthem AVM 60 highly enough. I would think long and hard before spending more.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: An SSP this good used to cost double.

Price: $2499

Website: www.anthemav.com

Vince said: What most impressed me about the MRX 720 was its state-of-the-art Anthem Room Correction, its clean amplification, and its effortless streaming abilities. If you’re looking for a great-sounding HT receiver that sounds better than other HT receivers while giving up nothing in features, and is simple to use, give Anthem’s MRX 720 an audition.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: A class act in an HT receiver.

Price: www.arcam.co.uk

Website: $799

Roger said: Whether used as a conventional DAC or as a DAC-preamp, Arcam’s irDAC-II consistently provided a level of sound quality that exceeded my expectations for something so inexpensive.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: High-value little DAC from longstanding British electronics company.

Price: $189

Website: www.arcam.co.uk

Al said: For $189, Arcam’s MusicBoost will not only protect your phone and keep its battery charged, it will make your music sound good. If you own an iPhone 6 or 6s and care about sound quality, Arcam’s MusicBoost is an essential accessory.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: iPhone-equipped audiophiles rejoice!

Price: $3499

Website: www.AstellnKern.com

Rad said: Is the AK380 worth $3499? Is a Jaguar or a Cadillac worth its high price? Yes and no. There’s no question that the A&K is the best portable media player around, but as for how much the best should cost, you’ll have to decide. But I seriously doubt that the AK380 will disappoint anyone, even at $3499.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Pricey, but maybe the best portable out there.

Price: $4299 per pair

Website: www.atcloudspeakers.co.uk

Wes said: If you want the sound quality and sturdiness of a pro speaker, and the knowledge that your music was likely monitored in the studio through speakers made by the same company in the first place, then look at ATC’s Consumer HiFi models. A pair of ATC SCM19 V2s ($4299), along with their clean- and open-sounding P1 dual-mono power amplifier ($4200), total $8499 and would be hard to match.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Small prosumer speaker packs a punch.

Price: $449

Website: www.audeze.com

Brent said: I would enjoy having headphones that sound like this . . . if they were comfortable, which for me the Sines are not. But if you’re looking for a nice, clean, uncolored sound, I recommend you try the Audeze Sines at a dealer or your nearest hi-fi or headphone show.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Although they sound really good, they are not that comfortable.

Price: $6450

Website: www.audience-av.com

Garrett said: I think Audience’s new adeptResponse aR6-TSSOX with Au24 SE-i powerChord is the bomb. My system never sounded so good.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Well, “the bomb” really says it all.

Price: $7995 per pair

Website: www.audiophysic.de

Roger said: I highly recommend the Audio Physic Avanti. In the game of high-end loudspeakers, it’s a serious contender that deserves very strong consideration.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: German-made speaker is a soundstaging wonder.

Price: $129.95

Website: www.audio-technica.com

Rad said: Due to their light weight and good fit, the Audio-Technica ATH-S700BT SonicFuels will be ideal for those who are looking for quality sound to accompany their physical activities, don’t want any wires in the way, and can’t wear in-ear ’phones.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Good alternative to the Koss BT540i ’phones.

Price: $199

Website: www.audio-technica.com

Rad said: If you want on-ear headphones that deliver a driving midrange and highs to juice up your workout or yardwork, the Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BTs might be just the headphones for you.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Good sound but they lack deep bass.

Price: $249.95

Website: www.audio-technica.com

Rad said: Move along, folks, move along -- nothing to hear here.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Skip it.

Price: $299

Website: www.audioengineusa.com

Kevin said: The B2 is a nifty little box, with substantial Bluetooth range and the great sound of the A2s. For our little corner of paradise, which lacked only music, it’s a lifesaver.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Two Audioengine bookshelf speakers in one box.

Price: $749 per pair

Website: www.audioengineusa.com

Hans said: It’s pretty and stylish, with a gorgeous real-wood finish. Its high-quality remote has a pleasing weight and solidity. Perhaps most important, its Bluetooth functionality was flawless in execution. Add to these its smooth midrange and properly punchy bass, and Audioengine’s HD6 is an easy recommendation for, well, just about anyone.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Audioengine’s most expensive speaker to date is also their best.

Prices: $199 (Red), $99 (Black)

Website: www.audioquest.com

Al said: AudioQuest’s new Red and Black DragonFly DACs represent solid advances in sound quality over the original DragonFly, and provide the further benefit of compatibility with iOS and Android devices. At $199, the Red is a great value. But if you’re strapped for cash, or don’t expect to experiment with exotic headphones any time soon, you’ll be well served by the $99 Black.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: High-end sound in the littlest packages.

Price: $2780 per pair

Website: www.audiosolutions.lt

Jeff said: The AudioSolutions Overture O203F is a solid choice of speaker at a competitive price. Which is just what a lot of folks are looking for.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Cool-looking speaker from Lithuania offers admirable sound quality for a good price.

Price: $2699

Website: www.aurender.com

Vade said: Aurender’s N100H, like their S10 server I reviewed several years ago, sounds terrific. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a music server that sounds better, and maybe none as good.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Aurender quality and convenience at a more affordable price than before.

Price: $12,950

Website: www.ayre.com

Uday said: If you buy one, I’m confident that it would be the last amp you bought for a very long while, if not the very last.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Ayre squeezes even more performance from the integrated amplifier.

Price: $2495 each

Website: www.belcantodesign.com 

Roger said: With the REF600M, Bel Canto Design has produced a powerful yet sophisticated-sounding amplifier at a very reasonable price. It’s one of my favorite power amps. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Compact and affordable powerhouse that sounds terrific.

Price: $1099

Website: www.beyerdynamic.de

Brent said: I found the Beyerdynamic T 5 p closed-back model to be excellent headphones capable of bringing out the detail and space in any recording without sounding harsh or fatiguing.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Not quite neutral, but with a thoroughly engaging sound.

Price: $5595

Website: www.bluecircle.com

Roger said: Blue Circle Audio’s BC2K4sh may not be much to look at, but with it, Gilbert Yeung has created a thoroughly modern hybrid power amplifier that should appeal to anyone looking for a high-performance, high-powered amp at a reasonable price.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Class-D amplification with a Gilbert Yeung twist.

Price: $2495

Website: www.bluecircle.com

Colin said: Its utilitarian looks and Spartan feature set mean that the CSD won’t be the integrated amplifier for everyone. But where it matters -- the sound -- it’s impressive. Blue Circle Audio’s CSD is certainly worthy of your consideration.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: No bells and whistles, just solid sound.

Price: $499

Website: www.bluesound.com

Kevin said: I have seldom enjoyed listening to a single audio component as much as I have to the variety and versatility of the Bluesound medley of models. Imagine -- you can hear any file in your entire music collection in any room simply by dialing it up on the Bluesound app. How cool is that?

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Streaming is where it’s at and this will get you there.

Price: $299

Website: www.bluesound.com

Al said: Bluesound’s Pulse Flex offers refined sound and a staggering amount of flexibility in a compact package. The connectivity options alone put the Pulse Flex and its brethren at the head of the pack of Wi-Fi multiroom speakers, eclipsing even Sonos in that regard. Compared to other Wi-Fi speakers I’ve heard at similar prices, the Pulse Flex’s bass and dynamic capabilities are somewhat limited, though Bluesound successfully retained the clarity of voices across a wide range of volumes.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Put one of these in each room of your house.

Price: $499

Website: www.bluesound.com

Kevin said: I have seldom enjoyed listening to a single audio component as much as I have to the variety and versatility of the Bluesound medley of models. Imagine -- you can hear any file in your entire music collection in any room simply by dialing it up on the Bluesound app. How cool is that?

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Paul Barton’s little all-in-one speaker.

Price: $1199

Website: www.bluesound.com

Kevin said: I have seldom enjoyed listening to a single audio component as much as I have to the variety and versatility of the Bluesound medley of models. Imagine -- you can hear any file in your entire music collection in any room simply by dialing it up on the Bluesound app. How cool is that?

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: A big improvement over the original.

Price: $3495

Website: www.bryston.com

Philip said: I’m certain that its many strengths, both sonic and functional, will find it lasting homes in the systems of many music lovers, and I don’t think it needs any stronger endorsement than that.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Incremental improvement in the Bryston DAC platform.

Price: $5000

Website: www.classeaudio.com

Aron said: Whether you want to use all five of its channels for multichannel media, biamp your primary channels in a dedicated music rig, or use it as a multi-zone amplifier, Classé’s bulletproof Sigma Amp5 is up to performing the task, and will put a grin on your face as it does. I can’t help but recommend it.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Classé's take on multichannel class-D design is a success.

Price: $5000

Website: www.classeaudio.com

Aron said: The Sigma SSP effortlessly provided an engrossing home-theater experience enhanced by the inclusion of one of the best remote-control apps in the industry. If you’re in the market for a versatile preamplifier-processor that reproduces music and movies with ease, Classé’s Sigma SSP should be on your shortlist.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Good luck finding a better SSP for the price.

Price: $1295

Website: www.clonesaudio.com

Hans said: I’m confident that it could serve as the highly competent anchor of any small hi-fi system. Color me impressed. I have little doubt that Clones Audio’s creations will find -- and deserve -- many friends.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: You may not recognize the name, but, for Hans, the sound of this little integrated was memorable.

Price: $699

Website: www.cocktailaudio.com

Vince said: As an all-in-one system for $699, the Cocktail Audio X12 is a great value. Not only does it rip CDs, it can store music, stream tunes from your network, and play radio stations from the Internet. It even has clock and alarm functions -- you can use it as a clock radio. All you need to do is provide speakers and cables, and you have a complete system.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Best suited to small spaces and efficient speakers.

Price: $9900

Website: www.constellationaudio.com

Aron said: Constellation Audio’s Inspiration Preamp 1.0 is an exceedingly well-engineered audio component. At $9900, its qualities of sound and build are exemplary, and complemented by a unique balance of solid-state fortitude and tube-like refinement.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: A sound choice in a solid-state preamp for under ten grand.

Price: $11,000

Website: www.constellationaudio.com

Aron said: It achieves levels of transparency, power, control, tonal color, and dimensionality well beyond those implied by its price and specifications. I believe that Constellation Audio has created something special in the Inspiration Stereo 1.0.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Powerhouse stereo amp may be the star of the Inspiration line.

Price: $34,990 per pair

Website: www.devialet.com

Jeff said: The Devialet Expert 1000 Pro is what you buy if you want small, classy, and cool. It’s also what you buy if you want the highest quality of sound available today, at any size or price in any style of package.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: They keep changing the game.

Price: $2390 each

Website: www.devialet.com

Hans said: For around $5000, a pair of Silver Phantoms offers more to consumers than any other complete sound system I can think of. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, and it’s not quite perfect, but the Devialet Silver Phantom is the most daring effort to come out of the high end in a long, long time.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Groundbreaking product, period and point blank.

Price: $1599 per pair

Website: www.dynaudio.com

Hans said: Dynaudio’s Xeo 2 is a little powerhouse, with spacious sound, bell-like midrange clarity, and genuinely taut, powerful bass. Also praiseworthy are its boundary-related tuning, clever adaptive bass technology, and tiny proportions. But what I find most commendable is that all of this can be had for $1599/pair, with no need for additional hardware or wiring.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: The smallest Xeo is the line’s most advanced.

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.

Price: $2495

Website: www.europeanaudioteam.com

Jason said: This new turntable from EAT is a wonderful component and a lovely little turntable -- and I use little in its most complimentary sense. Highly recommended.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: This much turntable for 2500 bucks? Wow.

Price: $399

Website: www.final-audio-design.com/en/

Brent said: The Final Sonorous IIIs have a neutral sound overall, with some of the most perfect, natural, grooving bass reproduction I’ve ever heard from headphones.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Solid choice if they fit your head.

Price: $1125 per box of four

Website: www.lotusgroupusa.com

Garrett said: The fo.Q Modrate HEM-25 Pure Note Insulators, brass or stainless steel, improved almost all aspects of sound for me, regardless of what kind of music I listened to, and did more to better the sound than the footers from two other manufacturers.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: If you’ve got sub-par feet under your gear . . .

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.

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.

Price: $249.99 per pair

Website: www.gracedigitalaudio.com

Rad said: If you want Bluetooth connectivity but don’t want just a single speaker that either collapses a stereo soundstage or mixes it down to mono, Grace Digital’s BT Bluetooth speakers might be just right for you. They can play loud and clean, and sound relatively transparent without omitting the punch of a pair of good bookshelf speakers.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Real stereo separation from a portable Bluetooth system.

Price: $149.99

Website: www.gracedigitalaudio.com

Rad said: With the X2, Grace Digital has produced a serious threat to Sonos at a fraction of the cost.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: One of many new portable Wi-Fi speakers hitting the market.

Price: $99.99

Website: www.gracedigitalaudio.com

Rad said: thought of as a triple-threat device -- a USB charger, a terrific flashlight, and a Bluetooth speaker useful for background listening, biking, or hiking; all of it waterproof, and durable enough to take abuse and keep on ticking -- it’s good value for the dollar, and deserves a solid B+.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Speaker for the survivalist.

Price: $149.99

Website: www.gracedigitalaudio.com

Rad said: The speaker’s waterproofing makes it a great poolside companion -- one that can withstand lots of splashing, or even the occasional dunk. Its sound was good enough for background listening, but not for use as a primary listening source.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Great choice for the outdoorsman.

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.

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: $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.

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: $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.

Price: $1400

Website: www.integrahometheater.com

Sathyan said: Ultimately, I found the DTR-40.7 more at home and more impressive with movies than with music. For those who spend most of their entertainment hours watching movies and TV, it will be a solid performer, and functional for two-channel music.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Solid performer with home-theater material.

Price: $299.95

Website: www.jbl.com

Brent said: They sound better, in my opinion, than every NC headphone I’ve named other than the PSB M4U 2s, and they offer several advantages over the PSBs: They’re slightly more portable, I found them more comfortable over the long term, and they have Bluetooth, a feature I very much enjoy using. These very good noise-canceling headphones are easy to recommend.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Check these out before you buy the Bose or PSB noise-canceling models.

Price: $5000

Website: www.je-audio.com

Vade said: The IS250, like the other JE Audio models we’ve auditioned, sounded really splendid. It would be a great addition to many systems.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: More integration than we’ve ever seen from JE Audio.

Price: $799.99

Website: www.jlaudio.com

Hans said: Given the level of performance it was able to muster in my system, and the fact that it’s the smallest, least expensive subwoofer JL Audio makes, I worry for the competition.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: JL breaks into a new price range.

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.

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.

Price: $499 per pair

Website: www.kef.com

Al said: During my time with the Eggs, their neutral balance, combined with their impressive detail and dynamics, made for especially compelling desktop listening.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: The smallest stereo speakers with KEF’s Uni-Q driver.

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: $37,500 per pair

Website: www.kharma.com

Jeff said: Its special qualities, sonic and otherwise, appeal to me. The dB9-S ticks off a lot of boxes -- enough that a pair of them might be your ideal ticket to the dance.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Kharma’s dB9-S is a real prize in the ultra-high-end-speaker sweepstakes.

Price: $549

Website: www.klipsch.com

Brent said: The Klipsch Reference X20i in-ears possess the sonic qualities that I -- and, I think, most listeners -- want in a set of earphones: uncolored sound and natural tonal balance.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Earphones that won’t color your music.

Price: $7490

Website: www.luxman.com

Tom said: In a previous review, I urged readers to search for audio components that would stand the test of time. Such components should be relentlessly musical, gorgeous to look at, easy to use, reliable, and provide state-of-the-art sound quality that’s unlikely to be significantly bettered for years. The Luxman checks all of those boxes.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: The vinyl lover’s dream component.

Price: $16,500 per pair

Website: www.magico.net

Hans said: With its immaculately lifelike sound, sterling midrange neutrality, and soaring top end, Magico’s S1 Mk.II revealed an incredible amount of low-level musical detail without sounding clinical, and was engaging without resorting to artifice. Most impressive, it produced a good portion of the tight-fisted, concussive bass you’d expect from a small three-way design, and in that sense is the first two-way speaker I’ve heard that doesn’t sound like a two-way.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: The best two-way speaker Hans has heard.

Price: $10,500

Website: www.nadac.merging.com

Jeff said: In terms of value, functionality, and sound quality, this Swiss-made DAC will win many fans. I predict that it will enjoy a long run in a product category that seems to change daily.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Forward-thinking Swiss DAC for all your computer-based sources.

Price: $16,500 per pair

Website: www.mola-mola.nl

Pete said: Twenty years ago, Bruno Putzeys professed that “The future is class-D!” Having heard his Mola Mola Kaluga monoblocks, I suppose we can declare that that future has become the present. Welcome to the 21st century.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Probably the best class-D amp yet.

Price: $15,000

Website: www.simaudio.com

Aron said: To say that I like Simaudio’s Moon Evolution 780D would be a gross understatement. I’m enchanted by it. It’s the best-sounding DAC I’ve heard in my system, and quite possibly the best-sounding DAC I have heard, period.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Simaudio’s best DAC is the best Aron has heard.

Price: $8000

Website: www.simaudio.com

Doug said: Simaudio’s Moon Evolution 820S power supply works as well as I expected it to; however, it’s the Evolution-series owner who ultimately must decide if the improvements are worth $8000.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Specialized product is upgrade for Simaudio’s Evolution-series components.

Price: $30,000

Website: www.simaudio.com

Jeff said: In short, and even taking into account its exalted price of $30,000, nothing about the Simaudio Moon Evolution 850P disappoints. If you’re an audiophile of means who wants a traditional analog preamp, this could be the perfect choice to anchor that magnificent system you’ve been dreaming of.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: One of the best solid-state preamps you can buy.

Price: $1500

Website: www.simaudio.com

S. Andrea said: The 230HAD has prominent but controlled bass, relaxed and refined treble, and a full-bodied midrange that provides a coherent transition between the two -- a sonic profile I found worked well with all types of music and a variety of headphones.

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The gist: Most affordable Simaudio headphone amp has many strengths.

Price: $4300

Website: www.simaudio.com

Erich said: Its combination of high-quality electronic parts, high precision of construction, manufacturer reputation, ten-year warranty, sexy looks -- and, most important, its beautiful reproduction of every recording I played through it, regardless of musical genre, pace, or playback volume -- easily exceeded all of my needs.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: The littlest Simaudio amp is a force to be reckoned with.

Price: $3700

Website: www.simaudio.com 

Erich said: The Simaudio Moon Neo 350P’s sound, connectivity options, and ten-year warranty make it difficult to find another preamplifier in its price range that is as easy to recommend.

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The gist: Preamp specialist Simaudio delivers a really good one for less money.

Price: $3500

Website: www.simaudio.com

Uday said: Is it an entry-level component? Maybe yes, maybe no -- it’s neither inexpensive nor crazy expensive. What’s more important is that, for many people, the Neo ACE could be an exit-level component.

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The gist: Add speakers and you have reasonably priced, all-in-one Simaudio performance.

Price: $349

Website: www.us.onkyo.com

Thom said: I believe the Onkyo A-9010 is a screaming bargain for anyone looking for a flexible, affordable, moderately powered integrated amplifier that will offer a lifetime’s worth of music enjoyment.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Hard to believe this kind of sound quality costs under 400 bucks.

Price: $299

Website: www.oppodigital.com

Rad said: The Sonica had the most tonally even sound, from top to bottom of the audioband, that I’ve heard from a speaker its size. The sound was transparent, focused, and without coloration. A single Sonica was impressive enough; I imagine a stereo pair would be even better.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Oppo gets all the details right on their first speaker.

Price: $499

Website: www.optomausa.com

Brent said: Bottom line: If you’re looking for high-end earphones that don’t exaggerate anything, never “bite” your ears with harsh treble, and provide full yet precise bass reproduction, the NuForce HEM8s are a great choice.

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The gist: These earphones won’t grate on your ears.

Price: $2495

Website: www.parasound.com

Hans said: There is no better DAC-integrated on the market for $2495 or less.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Can’t-go-wrong component for a great minimalist stereo system.

Price: $49.99

Website: www.usa.philips.com

Rad said: All in all, the Philips Shoqbox BT2200 Mini, at $49.99, is good value for the dollar. (As I write, Amazon offers it for $47 with free shipping.) If all you need is a little speaker for background music that you can toss in a bag or a cupholder, there’s little to find fault with here.

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The gist: Decent sound is getting smaller and smaller.

Price: $499

Website: www.pryma.com

Hans said: This visual and tactile feast, and the 0|1s’ exciting, dynamic sound, make Pryma’s first headphone model something of a bargain, and a no-brainer for those who want audiophile headphones that look every bit as good as they sound.

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The gist: The standard in headphone industrial design.

Price: $5999

Website: www.psaudio.com

Erich said: PS Audio’s BHK Signature preamplifier is a statement product that produced beautiful music. I highly recommend that anyone willing to spend $6000 on a preamp arrange to hear one. I absolutely loved what I heard.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Hard to imagine anything under ten grand beating this one.

Price: $3999

Website: www.psaudio.com

Philip said: The DSJ is an incredibly detailed- and wonderfully transparent-sounding component whose fluid, natural sound is musical and highly addictive. During my time with it, I enjoyed revisiting many discs and files, simply to hear how they’d sound through the DSJ. It never failed to impress. If you’re in the market for a new DAC and want topflight sound, it would be a mistake not to hear it.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Excellent follow-up to the well-regarded DirectStream DAC.

Price: $1499.99

Website: www.psbspeakers.com

Kevin said: PSB has not only cut the edge but stropped it razor sharp; it’s a bold statement, and a challenge to all other makers of subwoofers.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Flagship PSB subwoofer strikes all the right cords.

Price: $249

Website: www.rbhsound.com

Brent said: I’ve heard almost every major-brand closed-back headphone, and most of the minor-brand models. I can’t think of any for under $500 that are clearly better than RBH Sound’s HP-2s.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Not high profile, but certainly high quality.

Price: $62,500 per pair

Website: www.rockporttechnologies.com

Jeff said: The Rockport Cygnus is one of the finest-sounding speakers I’ve had in the Music Vault. You have only to look back at my many reviews of the past ten years to see that that’s about the highest praise I could give it. You can buy these and never look back.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Andy Payor’s most forward-thinking design to date.

Price: $1695

Website: www.rogueaudio.com

Thom said: After intensive listening over an extended period, I can unequivocally say that Rogue Audio’s RP-1 is the best preamplifier I’ve ever reviewed. Its phono stage is to die for -- it may be the one I’ve lusted for all my life!

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Knocked Thom’s socks off.

Price: $2999

Website: www.rotel.com

Aron said: The stout RMB-1585 proved equally appealing with movies, providing endless reserves of power, arresting dynamics, wicked levels of transient control, and rich yet well-fleshed-out voices, all painted on vast soundstages. With a build quality and industrial design that push envelopes at this price, and if you’re in the market for a five-channel power amp for south of $5000, Rotel’s RMB-1585 is a must-hear.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Beast of a multichannel amp set to anchor your home theater.

Price: $499.95

Website: www.sennheiser.com

S. Andrea said: The HD 630VBs are a serious attempt at high-end, closed-back headphones by one of the leaders in the industry.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: The Variable Bass feature is a real plus.

Price: $1699

Website: www.sennheiser.com

Brent said: Sennheiser’s HD 800 S headphones are clearly some of the best you can buy. Unless you’re a diehard basshead, or hate open-back headphones, or refuse to use a headphone amp, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t like them.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Maybe the best Sennheisers ever.

Price: $499.95

Website: www.sennheiser.com

Rad said: They sound terrific, with one of the most impressive soundstages I’ve heard, and an excellent noise-canceling system that let me hear my music unmarred by outside sounds. Given all that, the Sennheiser Momentums are very good value for the dollar, even at $499.95.

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The gist: Old-school company meets new-school technology.

Prices: speaker cables, $6180 per 1m pair; interconnects, $6180 per 1m pair

Website: www.skograndcables.com

Tom said: The Skogrand Ravels epitomize this delicate balance by conveying both the truth and the beauty of recorded music with equal amounts of unerring fidelity and consummate grace. Loads of information, loads of feeling.

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The gist: Handmade cables from Norway that sound really good.

Price: $699 per pair

Website: www.sonusfaber.com

Sathyan said: In this competitive market for loudspeakers, with so many idiosyncrasies in terms of sound design and buyers’ personal preferences, listeners are well advised to try out speakers with their own ears in their own rooms. The Principia 3 should be included in that evaluative process -- it may well come out on top.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Sonus Faber goes even lower in price without sacrificing sound quality.

Price: $4999 per pair

Website: www.sonusfaber.com

Hans said: I enjoyed every minute that Sonus Faber’s Venere S loudspeakers spent in my system -- something that happens very rarely. With its stunning profile and attractive optional Wood finish, this shouldn’t surprise. What surprised me was that the Venere S allied that visual beauty with an involvingly vibrant and neutral sound, while offering thoroughly satisfying bass response down to about 35Hz.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Beautiful to look at and to listen to.

Price: $3000

Website: www.sotm-audio.com

Vade said: I really liked the SOtM sMS-1000SQ server and sPS-1000 power supply. They’re gorgeous to look at, even better (if only slightly) to listen to than my computer-based server, and easy to use with the very attractive iPeng 8 remote-control app. Highly recommended.

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The gist: Computer doubling as a nice hi-fi component.

Price: $35,000

Website: www.soulution-audio.com

Jeff said: Overall, the 560 easily produced the best sound I’ve heard in my system. It made me forget the debate of analog vs. digital, and encouraged me to just explore my music collection and forge ahead to discover new music.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Ultra-expensive DAC to round out your SOTA Soulution system.

Price: $2995 per 5’ cord

Website: www.synergisticresearch.com

Howard said: Although the changes wrought by the Atmosphere cords warrant a separate review, suffice it to say that, compared to the Elements, they significantly expanded soundstages and delivered more detail and a greater sense of rhythm and flow, all while further reducing noise.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: The power cords to round out your Synergistic-based cable setup.

Prices: speaker cables, $4995 per 8’ pair; interconnects, $2495 per 1m pair

Website: www.synergisticresearch.com

Howard said: Kudos to Synergistic Research for earning Reviewers’ Choice awards for these products, and for being one of a very small number of companies that consistently and innovatively push the state of the art of high-end audio.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Howard says these are better than the more complex Synergistics he had been using.

Price: $8500

Website: www.taelektroakustik.de

Hans said: T+A Elektroakustik’s MP 2000 R is a fine example of what a top-flight, modern digital front end should look, feel, and sound like.

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The gist: If it’s digital, this thing will play it, and play it well.

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