Every product at Gold Sound is carefully chosen for superior sound quality, reliability & value.
Recent issues of STEREOPHILE & ABSOLUTE SOUND recommend 100 of our products.
STEREOPHILE & ABSOLUTE SOUND give Prima Luna seven recommendations, the most of any amp company. While most McIntosh products cost several times more than most Prima Lunas, no McIntosh are recommended by ABSOLUTE SOUND & only one is recommended by STEREOPHILE.
The most affordable, high value system includes a Wharfedale 10.1 bookshelf speaker for $349/pair. These speakers & the recommended Marantz CD5004 CD player & Marantz PM5004 integrated amp are an ideal budget audiophile system, on sale here for $999. The $249 Music Hall USB1 is the most affordable turntable recommended by STEREOPHILE. It includes a phono preamp, USB output & a magnetic, diamond needle cartridge.
ABSOLUTE SOUND has over 60 recommendations for equipment we carry. including Cambridge, Clearaudio, Focal, Grado, Kimber Kable, Marantz, Ortofon, Parasound Halo, Prima Luna, Pro-ject, Rega, REL, Sumiko, VPI & more.
Some of the following reviews are from the leading English audio magazines, including WHAT HI-FI Sound & Vision, HI-FI CHOICE & HI-FI NEWS.
- Handmade in Switzerland
MICRO ACE SL, $900, "Wide-open midrange, plenty of definition & air around instruments & voices & tight, clean, bass. It can do a great job of walking that fine line between resolution & smoothness." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/11, EDITOR'S CHOICE
Rated exceptional value, in same class as cartridges for $3200 "Tracing & tracking impressive by any standard; produced solid images within a wide soundstage, astonishing amount of inner detail." STEREOPHILE 10/12
MICRO GLIDE SM, $1200, "Superlative tonal balance - lower mid & bass warmth, a lush midrange & a presence range & treble that have air & delicacy. The Glider is both faster on transients & more complex micro-dynamically. Gobs of low level detail & clarification of complex inner voices. For playback as musically expressive as it is honest, the Glider will set your system soaring." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
SLR GULLWING, $3000, "Very transparent, which makes music sound immediate & more produced than reproduced. It's a wonder at showing shifts in music's volume & inflection. It carves out a musical space as each recording demands & excels at micro & macro dynamics, while delivering lightning-strike transient response. Combined these strengths help bring you that much closer to the real deal."
ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/13
"Very quiet & transparent, stunning sounding. It breaks through room boundaries & time frames by delivering highly convincing facsimiles or all that it touches - chamber groups, orchestras, voices, jazz, rock, you name it." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/11, EDITOR'S CHOICE
MICRO LP S, $5000, Rated in same class as cartridges for $15,000 "Smooth treble, supple bottom end & profoundly well-developed instrumental textures." STEREOPHILE 10/12
CARTRIDGE OF THE YEAR "Superb transient speed & world-class low-level resolution, one of the most neutral, lifelike & least mechanical sounding statement quality m.c. on today's market - and at $5000, perhaps the best buy." ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/12
"Very high resolution, very low noise, which can consistently reveal details you've never heard before from records you thought you knew by heart." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/11, EDITOR'S CHOICE
BENZ LP S-MR , $5000, "More than holds its own in direct comparison with the very best cartridges we've reviewed. Here, for once, is a moving coil that seems nearly characterless - utterly neutral, very transparent to sources, exceptionally fine detailed, extraordinarily dynamic (at both the loud & soft ends of the spectrum), wall-bustingly wide in soundstaging, precise but not laser-cut in imaging & consistently lifelike in overall presentation. One of our reference cartridges." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
CAMBRIDGE Digital - Analog ConverterCLEARAUDIO TURNTABLES MADE IN GERMANY
DACMAGIC, list $480, now $429, Exceptional value, rated in same class as $1,000 models, "Ergonomically brilliant; glorious sound, well-defined bass, exquisitely extended highs & natural midrange; astonishing measured performance; killed DACs selling for 2 & 3 times the money." STEREOPHILE 11/11
DACMAGIC Plus, list $660, now $499, "With twin Wolfson WM8740 24-bit DAC chips at its heart, 384/24 upsampling & up to 192/24 via USB 2.0. asynchronous USB transfer, balanced & unbalanced analog outputs [XLR & RCA] & provisions for an optional Bluetooth input that can use Apt-X Bluetooth digital codec, this modestly priced DAC delivers big-time." ABSOLUTE SOUND 4/12
More features: a headphone output & a volume control, so it can be used as a headphone amp & / or a preamp for digital sources.
CAMBRIDGE CD & DVD
550C CD, list $600, now $549, "Dynamic, extended & just flat-out musical," ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/11
650C CD, list $780, now $699, rated in same class as $4700 models, "Beautifully built, created a sound that was open, airy, sweet & civilized," STEREOPHILE 11/11
650BD Blue ray DVD, list $780, now $699, rated in same class as $4700 models, "Compact & attractive, sounded superb" STEREOPHILE 11/11
851C, now $1849, "TOP-RATED 5 STARS in all 4 Aspects - Sound Quality, Value for Money, Build Quality & Features; Extraordinary array of features; refined & revealing sound that puts musicians in the room. Vast feature set. DAC functionality; ultra-revealing yet highly refined sound. A major advance on its already capable predecessor. Superb sounding. Includes a large toroid transformer. Compete with the very best in class in sound & is in a league of its own in features, which don't get in the way of the music; delivers a dynamic, clean & engaging result with pretty much anything you care to play. The fact the 851C can do so with a hi-res signal from your PC is the icing on the cake." HI-FI CHOICE 6/12
CAMBRIDGE INTEGRATED AMPS
851A, now $1999, 120W/ch/8 ohm, 200W/ch/4 ohm "TOP-RATED 5 STARS in all 4 Aspects - Sound Quality, Value for Money, Build Quality & Extraordinary array of features” On magazine cover – they “teach their rivals a lesson!” “Refined & revealing sound that puts musicians in the room; Smooth, svelte sounding amp with power. Clearly bests its rating with 2x155W/8 ohm & 2x260W/4 ohm continuous & 185W/8 ohm, 305W/4 ohm & 310W/2 ohm, dynamic. Includes extensive heat sinking, a large power amp toroid transformer & a smaller separate preamp toroid transformer. Competes with the very best in class in sound & are in a league of its own in features, the ability to trim gain & balance for each inputs, the option of naming them & adding tone changes is the stuff of high-end processors. These features don't get in the way of the music; delivers a dynamic, clean & engaging result with pretty much anything you care to play." HI-FI CHOICE 6/12
CAMBRIDGE AV RECEIVERS
551R, $1299/pair, TOP PICK, HOME THEATER 6/11
S215, $800/pair, TOP PICK, HOME THEATER 6/11
CONCEPT, $1400; with $250 Clearaudio m.m. cart., $1600; with $1000 Clearaudio m.c. cart., $2200 "Really easy to set up; rich midrange & mesmerizingly 3-dimensional; sounded full bodied & fleshy, with smooth, natural natural sounding sibilants. The rich presentation provides a pleasing alternative to the flat imaging of digital sound. Fantastic in the midrange, where it's smooth, clean & notably transparent. Exceptionally attractive, easy to set up & better built than its price would suggest. It's a quiet, smooth performer that excels at midrange smoothness & transparency that makes speakers seem to vanish." STEREOPHILE 6/11
"The Concept offers a hugely rewarding analog experience at a very attractive price. Though its perfornance may not equal the very finest, its combined strengths in resolution, dynamics, low noise & sheer musical engagement won't leave you wanting. Terrific German build & finish; a hands-down bargain." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
"The Concept does everything but unbox itself. Preset at the factory, it features a svelt belt-drive chassis, a stunning friction-free, magnetic-bearing Verify tonearm & the Concept moving-magnet cartridge. The build & fiinish of this German-made 'table are superior. For sheer musical engagement & superb speed stability, it's the one to beat in this price range."
ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/11, EDITOR'S CHOICE
ABSOLUTE SOUND PRODUCT of the YEAR
PERFORMANCE DC, $2999; Includes carbon fiber tonearm with magnetic bearings. "Startling transparency, openness & clarity."
ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/11, EDITOR'S CHOICE
OVATION WOOD, $6500, Includes carbon
fiber tonearm with magnetic bearings. TURNTABLE OF THE YEAR "Impressive clarity of definition, transparency to the source & excellent overall tonal balance. It all adds up to terrific value." ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/12
"A terrific deal. Very well balanced, with excellent detail that emerges from silent backgrounds, exceptional pitch stability & sweet extended highs. The Ovation niceIy bridges the gap between high-end sound & real world convenience." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
"Impressive clarity of definition, transparency & excellent tonal balance; a near ideal balance between weight & delicacy. Fine ability to focus on the heart of the music, weaving complex instrumental lines, while always remaining dynamically nimble & rhythmically precise. The upper end was sweet, extended & airy. I view the ovation as a major success. This easy to set up, maintain & operate package will bring its owners years of musical satisfaction." Featured on the cover of ABSOLUTE SOUND 10/11
INNOVATION WOOD, $10,000 "The dual-plinthed Innovation Wood combines some stunning innovations with Clearaudio's ceramic/magnetic bearing (CMB) technology & lightweight yet extremely dense Panzerholz to damp resonances. It uses a massive stainless-steel subplatter, which when coupled with a new DC motor with optical speed control, results in superb speed accuracy. We have not heard any belt driven "table best the Innovation Wood in this critical area. Music emerges from a black background & has outstanding soundstaging & ambience retrieval when mated with a first-rate arm & cartridge. This is a terrific analog frontend of near-reference quality that raises the bar on what an $11,000 'table can do." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
STATEMENT, $170,000 "This over-the-top, 4' tall, 770-pound turntable/arm delivers an unmatched level of LP playback. Utterly quiet, stable & capable of extracting the finest detail. Simply astonishing levels of performance." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
"THE BEST. Cutting edge, beautifully built, a visual masterpiece. Magnetic drive for its heavyweight acrylic platters completely isolate the belt drive from the tables' motor. I liken the effect of hearing an LP through this mechanism to riding in a car on air, not on tires (no road noise!). LPs now have the same freedom from low frequency garbage that CDs do (or should). The bottom octave is reproduced with unprecedented transient response & articulation. A masterpiece." ABSOLUTE SOUND 10/11
SAVE UP TO 40% by TRADING in your old CLEARAUDIO CARTRIDGE!
MAESTRO EBONY V2, $1200, 2014
CARTRIDGE OF THE YEAR "The successor to the redoubtable Maestro Wood, the Maestro V2 Ebony is a sonic improvement in every way. Its overall balance brings symphonic recordings to life. Low-level detail is elegantly resolved. The Ebony resolves transients with lightness & speed . As musical as they come, the Maestro V2 Ebony should be required listening for moving-magnet & moving-coil fans alike." ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/14
CONCERTO V2, $2750 "This is the entry-level cartridge in Clearaudio's "super-class of moving coils & super it is! The Concerto uses wood to add a touch of warmth & richness, yet retains the superb focus, resolution, transient quickness & top-end extension that have been hallmarks of Clearaudio's reference cartridges." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/11, EDITOR'S CHOICE
STRADIVARI V2, $3750 "In our recent survey of 5 moving-coil pickups, the Stradivari received a "Golden Mean" award because it ideally mediates wamth & detail, control & relaxation, liveliness & listenability, at virtually no sacrifice in tonal neutrality. There is an organic rightness about this pickup that elevates it to reference-caliber." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/11, EDITOR'S CHOICE
"The low-mass Stradivari has a body of aged Ebony & coils wound with 24k gold. Leaner, smoother, more litreral translation of the recorded event. Its decidedly smooth, liquid sheen produced a satisfying sense of musical relaxation." CLASS A RATED, STEREOPHILE 4/11
GOLDFINGER STATEMENT, $15,000
CARTRIDGE OF THE YEAR "The best cartridge Clearaudio has yet made & in [our] view, the best moving coil money can currently buy." ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/12
"The sweetest, most musical Clearaudio ever, the Goldfinger Statement sounds ravishingly beautiful. It has that incredibly expansive Clearaudio soundstage & perhaps the deepest reaching, best-defined, most powerful bass of any moving coiI. At 0.9mV, it has enough output to drive any phono stage. The class of world class, our new ultra-high end reference." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
"PERHAPS THE BEST CARTRIDGE. Measured nearly 35db chan. separation & 0.20% harmonic dist., astounding figures. Ravishingly beautiful cartridge to listen to & the most phenomenal soundstaging I've heard with the best, deepest reaching, most powerful, most highly evolved, most completely natural bass I've heard - ever from an analog source. This cartridge simply blows the walls out, delivering an almost surround-like soundfield of unparalleled width & depth, with the added bonus of the most thunderous, floor & wall shaking bass I've heard. A snap to set up, its very high output 0.9mv output makes it an easy match to any phono stage & it tracks wonderfully." ABSOLUTE SOUND 10/11
CLEARAUDIO Phono Preamp
BASIC PLUS, $1000, MM or MC,
made in Germany, "Everything a modestly priced phono stage should be; compact yet elegantly finished; superb isolation from hum & RFI; supernaturally quiet, delivering a spacious & delightfully resolved soundstage with heart-stopping bass resolution. EDITOR'S CHOICE, ABSOLUTE SOUND, 3/11
PRECISION BUBBLE LEVEL, $60 "Turntables sound their best when they are level - something careful listeners will want to check at set-up time & verify periodically. Remember: Furniture & floors sometimes settle a bit over time. Use a good multi-axis spirit level such as this one to keep your table on the level." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/11, EDITOR'S CHOICE
STROBO-DISC & STROBE LIGHT, $60 & $200, "Featuring grooves that create the additional stylus drag necessary to accurately measure your turntable's speed - while doubling as a cartridge break-in device - Clearaudio's Strobo-disc & Strobe Light are great tools for the serious vinyl junkie." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/11, EDITOR'S CHOICE
OUTER LIMITS TURNTABLE RING, $1350, "Heavy stainless-steel ring acts as a speed-stabilizing flywheel, damps the record & flattens outer-groove warps. Its weight means you can use it only with turntables with massive platters &/or very powerful motors. lt blackened backgrounds, solidified images & made them pop in 3 dimensions." STEREOPHILE 4/11
DOUBLE MATRIX PROFESSIONAL RECORD CLEANING MACHINE, $4000
The Double Matrix Professional cleans both sides simultaneously, is bi-directional & variable speed & has a an antistatic brush. Since it does not use a turntable, dust can not be transferred from the machine to a clean record side.
ACCESSORY OF THE YEAR "Offers an increase in convenience, reliability & functionality that puts it in a class of its own." ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/12
"Foolproof; the most convenient option on the market. If you have a lot of dirty records, it is the cleaner I would recommend." ABSOLUTE SOUND 10/11
FOCAL SPEAKER REVIEWS made in France
XS Book, list $400, now $299/pr, powered small bookshelf speakers, Recommended, ABSOLUTE SOUND
Work beautifully; offer a lot of sound, flexibility & functionality," ABSOLUTE SOUND 2013 HIGH END AUDIO BUYER'S GUIDE, MOST AFFORDABLE POWERED SPEAKERS
705 Bookshelf, now $549, Similar to 706, below "with a little less bass extension & output," ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/11
706 Bookshelf, now $749, "Bass power & extension of many small floorstanding units. Very dynamic & visceral, it has a forward perspective that puts vocals right upfront. Shines on rock, blues & orchestral music. Highish sensitivity makes it an easy load for an amp - 50W is plenty in a moderately sized room. More bottom end than similar priced B&W." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/11
906 Bookshelf, $1500/pair "The sonic character is vivid, fast, vibrant & dynamically engaging. Imaging is well focused & the soundstage is broad & unbroken. Commanding prescence; bass was rich & extended ; ideal combination of warmth, articulation & harmonic bloom. The explosive textures & tonal colors were exhilirating. The Aria 906 just gets music right & does so for a song.’ ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/2014
"The 906 is capable of resolving detail that other speakers simply cannot find & manages to do this without losing sight of the performance as a whole." AV FORUMS
926 Tower, now $3299, "The 926s are some of the most direct & communicative speakers I've encountered for a very long time. They’re huge fun to listen to. You just put some music on & you think – that’s how it should be. You turn it up a bit louder than before & it’s even more captivating. There’s punchy, ‘gets you where it matters’ bass here, both fast & well-extended; a seamless transition into the midband & a treble that’s both sweetly controlled & capable of beautifully clean imaging & ambiance. I can’t remember when I listened to so much music. These are gloriously enjoyable. Focal could well have a serious sales success." Words & Music – Andreweverard.com
936 Tower, $3999/pair
"A big spacious sound, tonally neutral with impressive dynamics & powerful bass. The 936 is more detailed & transparent; highs are particularly clean & extended without sounding forward or clinical [compared to the discontinued 826W.] Soundstages are bigger & images within those soundstages are more precisely defined. The Aria 936 sings with a beautiful voice."
"Smooth. Very smooth. Bells, cymbal, etc., rang out freely with delicacy & without any harshness. The sound came surprisingly close to $33,000 speakers. Extended highs transparent [but] did not add significant brightness. The treble was clean & extended. The use of flax in the sandwich construction of the midrange & bass drivers & judicious internal cabinet bracing must have played major roles in allowing the Aria 936 to be so free of any charecteristic "speaker sound." The soundstage & the precision of the images were first-rate."
"Bass was extended; midrange & treble are extraordinarily smooth & even. Optimal crossover design; its measured performance [is like a far more] expensive speaker. That it costs just $3999 / pair makes it an extraordinary value." STEREOPHILE 11/14
948 Tower, $5000/pair "Their strong bass foundation, along with the high fun factor; the dynamics & the rich timbre make the Aria 988 an audiophile treat. The 948 do it all." STEREOPLAY
"If you want something better, be prepared for a long search & a higher expenditure." STEREO
Bird, $999/pair, powered small bookshelf speakers with subwoofer, "There is perhaps no finer (or more user friendly) starting point for the high end audio experience than the compact, self-powered Bird system from Focal. The genius of the system is that it looks disarmingly stylish, simple & small, yet offers an amzingly big, rich, room-filling, focused & three dimensional sound. Very sophisticated." ABSOLUTE SOUND 2013 HIGH END AUDIO BUYER'S GUIDE, MOST AFFORDABLE POWERED SPEAKERS with POWERED SUBWOOFER
ELECTRA 1008BE, $5,499, "Bass surprisingly deep, well constructed & well finished, incredibly open window on the sound." TOP PICK, HIGH FIDELITY +, 33/48
ELECTRA 1028BE, Six piece home theatr system, $21,000, TOP PICK, HOME THEATER 2/11
Spirit One, $279, 5 STARS in Sound & Build Quality, TOP-RATED, "Sound is refined, subtle, expressive, dynamic, detailed & rewardingly communicative. They are transparent & revealing. They never approach sounding brittle, brash or unnaturally bright. It's a very clever design. Excelled in detail; instruments remained distinct & separate. Their finest part is the way it knitted all these elements & qualities together to imbue music with integrity, coherence & credibility. It presented a persuasive & exciting portrayal of music & one that fully engaged the listener. One can enjoy this optimal engagement without the discomfort of hot, sweaty, ears. The Spirit One receives a definite no-hesitation recommendation." HIFI CHOICE 4/12
LEGACY, $1295, "Superb & quiet, loads of detail." Rated in same class as $3000 models. STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED, 10/12
GOLD LINE U.S. MADE
DSP30 RTA, 1/3 Oct. RTA, STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED
GRADO Cartridges ALL MADE IN N.Y.
BLACK, $70, "Admirable detail & treble
extension with good bass & ambience." HI-FI CHOICE RECOMMENDED 5/06
GREEN, $70, "Thoroughly enjoyable for nearly all kinds of music." BEST BUY, HI-FI CHOICE 5/06
"Warm, yet pleasant balance, sweet treble; Lively
overall presentation." ABSOLUTE SOUND, 10/07
"Produces rich, open & expansive music. At it's price it simply can't be beaten!" SENSIBLE SOUND, 10/07
PRESTIGE MC+, mono, $90, "Sledgehammer bass & excellent imaging; a joy to listen to." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
GOLD, $240, "Rich, open & expansive." BEST BUY, HI-FI CHOICE RECOMMENDED 5/06
"Warm, yet pleasant balance; lively; dynamically expressive midrange; engaging openness. Cost-conscious buyers will appreciate the user-replaceable stylus mechanism." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/09; EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
REFERENCE PLATINUM 1, $350, "Nice midrange, lively; cartridge of choice for the most cost restrained." EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 4/03
"Markedly more refined sound than the Gold. Increased resolution; competes nearly equally with m.c. cartridges 3 times its price. Compared to the Gold, tighter bass, more neutrally voiced & much more authoritative; significantly better tracking. More top-tier performance attributes & delivers greater musical enjoyment per dollar than any other $300 cartridge." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/09; EDITOR'S CHOICE, 3/11
REFERENCE SONATA 1, $600, "Improved detail, transient speed, more seductive midrange & improved hall sound very noticeable." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/08
"Far exceeded Clearaudio Aurum Beta in bass & high level dynamics." STEREOPHILE 4/00
"Wonderful; naturally sweet treble, refined tone colors & very good detail, particularly in the midband." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/10
REFERENCE 1, $1500, "Beautiful sounding; enormously musical." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 9/09
GRADO PH1 phono preamp MADE IN NY, $500, "Works well with high & low output cartridges. Open & easy sound with expansive soundstage, natural highs & bass with texture, tonal refinement & power." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
All except iGRADO are Handmade in N.Y.
iGRADO, $49, 5 STARS, TOP RATED, BEST PORTABLE HEADPHONES, "More detail, range, sense of of scale & sheer musicality than anything at this price." WHAT HI-FI AWARDS
SR60i A leading consumer magazine, 12/13, rated the $79 Grado SR60i above 26 more expensive models, including six Bose, two Beats by Dre, a $300 B&W, a $400 Sony, a $300 Monster, a $350 Klipsch, $400 PSB, a $350 Sennheiser, a $130 Audio-Technica, a $400 Shure & many other headphones.
"For sheer musical enjoyment, these are hard to beat." BEST BUY, HI-FI CHOICE
"Full bass & excellent detail resolution."
EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, same class as $400 'phones, STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 4/11
5 STARS, TOP RATED, above $309 AKG K601; Bose Quiet Comfort 3 & Triport; $450 Shure 530; & Sony MDRV700dj WHAT HI-FI 7/08
"The Mighty Mouse of headphones; superb midrange transparency & natural dynamics. Well-balanced treble, well-defined bass. Can be driven directly from an iPod or other digital player. Comfortable." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
"Great audio bargain. Has the signature Grado midrange excellence. lt delivers just enough midbass warmth to satisfy." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
SR80i, $99, A leading consumer magazine, 12/13, rated the $99 SR80i as the best of all 37 headphones tested & a BEST BUY. The Grado SR80 is rated above 25 more expensive models, including six Bose, two Beats by Dre, a $300 B&W, a $400 Sony, a $300 Monster, a $350 Klipsch, $400 PSB, a $400 Shure, a $350 Sennheiser, a $130 Audio-Technica & many other headphones.
BEST HEADPHONES up to $200, Awards 2010. "Revealing, awesomely detailed, musical, natural & simply beautiful." WHAT HI-FI
BEST BUY, HEADPHONE UNDER $280, HI-FI CHOICE "The Mighty Mouse of headphones; superb midrange transparency & natural dynamics. Well-balanced treble, well-defined bass. Can be driven directly from an iPod or other digital player. Comfortable."
SR125i, $149, "Neutral, detailed & warm sounding; extended frequency extremes & wide dynamic range. Sounds natural at a wide range of volume levels. Never aurally or physically fatiguing. Both musical & revealing, amazingly comfortable, more than any other headphone. Grado's biggest bang for the buck." EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, in same class as $430 headphones,
5 STARS, TOP RATED, above $309 AKG K601; Bose Quiet Comfort 3 & Triport; $450 Shure 530 & Sony MDRV700dj WHAT HI-FI
SR225i, $199, BEST BUY, HI-FI CHOICE
SR325i, $295, BEST HEADPHONES up to $700, Awards "Analytical, fast & attacking. Speakers of equivalent quality would cost thousands." WHAT HI-FI
"Highly sophisticated & detailed sound with great extension." BEST BUY, HI-FI CHOICE
"Greater treble extension & more efficient than another companies' $600 headphones."
STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED; rated in the same class as $600 headphones
"A unique, hear-through-the-veils kind of transparency." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE
"For under $650, you can achieve sound quality that costs thousands [with] Grado SR325 & RA1 headphone amp. Grados are chosen by the most discriminating sound pros." OPERA NEWS
GR10 In-Ear headphone, $399, "The first thing I noticed was the quality bass response, which was mighty impressive. One will surely appreciate their honest, yet deep reaching low-end frequency response, able to set off the part of my brain that responds to low-end thunder. Grado was conscious of the bass overpowering other frequencies & thankfully this does not occur. The GR10 midrange is most noteworthy."
"The treble was well served by the GR10. It echoed not only the fine traits of the bass & midrange, but also reflected well on the Grado engineers' decision not to overtax the driver. The treble was well integrated, never drawing undue attention to itself, but at the same time demonstrating its ability to render any instrument very lifelike."
"The Grado GR10 is a significant advancement over the already fine Grado GR8 in-ear headphone. The GR8 is very reasonably priced & quite a fine product, but for only a C-note more one can experience even greater pleasure from a medium that all music lovers & audiophiles on-the-go will surely appreciate. The GR10 -- an outstanding, relatively affordable in-ear headphone that audiophiles can enjoy." AUGUST 2011 AUDIOPHILE
RS2i, $495, "Remarkably vivid, vibrant & engaging midrange. Sweet, silky smooth highs & taut, lively bass. Gobs of resolution & inner detail. Truly breath-taking openness. As much resolution as $16,000 speakers. That's amazing."ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE
RS1i, $695, "A music lover's component." INNER EAR, v. 17, #3, 07
"I like these more than AKG K701 or Sennheiser HD650. Grado's luscious sound scores an immediate "wow". The hand-crafted, real-mahogany headphone has a technicolor-rich sound. I'm right there with the musicians. l love these. Speakers capable of a glimpse of their astonishing clarity have stratosperic prices." HOME ENTERTAINMENT
5 STARS, TOP RATED above AKG 301+K601; Bose Quiet Comfort 3 & Triport; Sennheiser 485 & 585; Shure Se210, 530 & 530pth & Sony MDRV700dj WHAT HI-FI
GS1000i, $995, "Comfort personified & built for long listening sessions. Your ears will never feel more coddled than with these luxury foam headphones. Terrific; an unforgettably mind-expanding soundstage." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE BEST HEADPHONE
"Nothing comes close. If you want to hear what your music really sounds like, the GS1000 will prove irresistable."
HI-FI CHOICE AWARDS
"The Rolls Royce of headphones. The most alluring trait was its mind expanding soundstage." ABSOLUTE SOUND
"I gush over the way they clarify live recordings. The sound seemed to surround me, with a rare ability to resolve depth, just as in a concert hall. Ditto for revealing rock & jazz CDs. Grados have always been exciting. The bass is deep, yet more controlled & precise than ever before. They are a natural for home theater. Their unfailing resolution of micro-details revealed the spatial cues & ambience of each locale. Their sound really pulls you into the music, so much so it's hard to stop listening." HOME ENTERTAINMENT
5 STARS, "Amazing performance, simply awesome," TOP RATED above AKG 301xtra & K601; Bose Quiet Comfort 3 & Triport; Sennheiser 485 & 585; Shure Se210, 530 & 530pth; & Sony MDRV700dj WHAT HI-FI
PS1000i, $1695, "It builds on Grado's
signature midrange excellence by offering a more extended sound on both ends of the frequency spectrum. It really shines by delivering low-level detail in an effortless, relaxed way." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11, 11/12
GRADO Headphone Amp handmade in NY
RA1, $350, "With tube-like timbre & a sweet, relaxed sound, it makes extended headphone listening a joy. Though battery-driven, it's more at home in your equipment rack than on the road. A beautiful wooden case finishes off this gem." ABSOLUTE SOUND
"Perfect for high-end road warriors. A specialist that brings out the best." ABSOLUTE SOUND
EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/10
"High-end headphone amp for any system. With
Grado top-notch headphones, it's a sumptuous personal listening experience." OPERA NEWS
"For less than $650, you can achieve sound quality that typically costs thousands [with] the Grado SR325 headphones & RA1 headphone amp." OPERA NEWS 10/02
"Excellent value for the money. Clearly a music lover's component." INNER EAR, vol 17, #3, 07
KIMBER SPEAKER CABLE U.S. MADE
"The braided construction resists hum. I use Kimber 4PR, 4TC, 8TC & Postmaster binding posts." A rated, Ivan Berger, AUDIO
4PR $3 / foot, HI-FI CHOICE, RECOMMENDED
ONE of the GREATEST BARGAINS in HIGH END SPEAKER CABLE, ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/09
8PR $5.80/ft, BEST BUY, "Really enjoys the music, admirable for the levels of analytical detail it allows through." HI-FI CHOICE
4TC $11.50 / ft, ONE of the GREATEST BARGAINS in HIGH END SPEAKER CABLE, ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/09
8TC $21/ft, ONE of the GREATEST BARGAINS in HIGH END CABLE, ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/09
TWICE Speaker Cable of Year, "Detail, liveliness, tonal neutrality & dynamic contrasts with very realistic, holographic soundstage."
ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR's CHOICE 3/11
"Fine detail. The cable of the decade; we've used it for well over 15 years." ABSOLUTE SOUND
STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 4/11
5 STAR, TOP RATED, WHAT HI-FI
SENSIBLE SOUND RECOMMENDED
12TC $32.50/ft, SPEAKER CABLE of the YEAR, ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/2011; EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11 "It's not easy surpassing a legend like the Kimber Kable 8TC - one of the most cost-effective, sonically assured & commercially successful wires in audio history. But Kimber has come up with a suitable encore in the 12TC. Not only does it retain the 8TC's characteristic balance of detail, liveliness, tonal neutrality & dynamic contrasts, but the 12TC also expands dynamics & breathes a bit more in all dimensions, auguring well for this legend-in-the-making."
BIFOCAL-X, $72.50/ft, "Among the very best." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED
SELECT, GOLDEN EAR AWARD, ABSOLUTE SOUND 8/07
KIMBER Digital Interconnects U.S. made
DV30, BEST BUY, $105, 1 meter, "Superb performer." HI-FI CHOICE, 12/09
DIGITALINK, STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED
SELECT KS2020, $880, 0.75M, BEST DIGITAL INTERCONNECT, "Brings improvements to even the cheapest CD. When you use it on high end audio, wow!" HI-FI CHOICE, AWARDS 2008
GOLDEN EAR AWARD, ABSOLUTE SOUND
ORCHID, $695/1 meter, "The best AES/EBU link I've used. Loved the midrange liquidity & detail. A stunner." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 4/08
KIMBER Analog Interconnects
TONIK, $80, 1.0 meter pair, "Musically & sonically fine; bass depth & bass impact both superb; took the place of $1295 cable & every song had all of the considerable force & momentum I expected to here. The Kimbers offered clarity without brightness& reasonably good amounts of color, texture & touch. For $80, that was A-okay." STEREOPHILE, 11/11
TIMBRE, BEST BUY, 1.0 meter, $140/pair "A very neutral cable that will complement even very upmarket systems." HI-FI CHOICE, 12/09
5 STAR, TOP RATED, above Audioquest, Monster & more, WHAT HI-FI, 3/07
HERO, Ultraplate, 1 meter, $160/pair, ONE of the GREATEST BARGAINS in HIGH END CABLE, "Hero's bass lives up to its name, prodigious in amplitude & definition. Dead neutral with dynamicsat once powerful, yet finely resolved in an essentially grain-free presentation." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/09; EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
twice INTERCONNECT of the YEAR, "Lives up to its name, prodigious in amplitude & definition. Dynamics powerful yet finely resolved."
STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED, 4/11
KCAG 147, $1140, 1 M pair "Astonishingly transparent", STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED
SILVER STREAK, Ultraplate, $410, 1 M pair "A major performance breakthrough for the price." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED
KIMBER AC CORD U.S. MADE
PALLADIAN PK10, $1500, 8 foot, "Adds considerable transparency; music sounds more relaxed," ABSOLUTE SOUND RECOMMENDED
PALLADIAN PK10AG, $350, 4 feet ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE
POWER KORD 10, $230 for 5 feet, "In my system noted tremendous difference." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED
MARANTZ AV RECEIVERS
SR6006, $1199, TOP PICK, HOME THEATER 6/12
SR7007, $1799, TOP PICK, HOME THEATER 10/12
HI-FI CHOICE chose the top hi-fi models of all time. Marantz is the highest-rated CD. Only Marantz has two CDs on this list.
CD5004, $349, "Rich, delicate, holographic uncolored midrange. High frequencies were clear, clean & extended, with no trace of brittleness or blunting. Bass powerful & kickass with no loss of timbre, detail or speed. Nearly as uncolored as $2500 Creek Destiny CD player. Marantz sounded rich & silky, & an ability to articulate low-level dynamics that were damn close to the $2500 Creek. Well done, Marantz."
STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 3/11; 4/12, Exceptional value, in same class as $800 CDs
UD9004, $5999, "One of the first Blu-ray-capable universal players with high end ambitions & it makes a strong case for itself. Its playback of video & high resolution music - particuarly SACD is unimpeachable." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE, 3/11
"The pinnacle of home entertainment audio & video reproduction" E-GEAR
BRUTUS AWARD for the best & brightest products reviewed this year. POSITIVE FEEDBACK
MARANTZ AV SEPARATES
AV7005 Preamp processor, $1499, "Least expensive preamp-processor I've used or reviewed. Looks & feels like a winner. It did everything with great distinction & sounded clean & balanced in ways I hadn't heard from a pre/pro or AV receiver for under $2000. It's hard to fault the AV7005 for sound, appearance or ergonomics." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 3/11
The $6000 McIntosh MX121 uses the same remote control, video control & processing board, on screen GUI & other parts as the MARANTZ AV7005 Surround Processor, for $1599, or about 75% less than the price of the McIntosh! HOME THEATER, 6/2012
TOP PICK, HOME THEATER 1/12
MM7055, 8 channel power amp, $1200, MOST AFFORDABLE RECOMMENDED POWER AMP, TOP PICK, HOME THEATER 1/12
MARANTZ Stereo Integrated Amplifier
PM5004, $449, "Silky midrange; enjoyed the rhythmic pacing; natural & clean transients. Sonic improvement over the PM5003 with even greater dynamic contrasts, more delicacy & an overall sound a touch more rich & involving." STEREOPHILE 3/11; exceptional value, 4/12
MARANTZ Turntable MADE IN GERMANY TT15S1, $1699 "Attractive, quiet & well damped. Startlingly full, coherent, dynamic sound; a goodwill ambassador for analog." Rated in same class as $2200 turntables. STEREOPHILE 4/09
MONITOR AUDIO RADIUS
"Versatile; midrange / treble transparency; midrange openness & clarity; bass warmth & smoothness. Excellent high-frequencies & transient speed; brings film soundtracks alive." PERFECT VISION EDITOR'S CHOICE
"Made with jewel-like precision; a serious bang-for-the-buck system. The 360 sub kicks harder; shines in a cozy bedroom or living-room home theater." HOME THEATER VISION
MONITOR AUDIO Speakers
C265LCR In-ceiling,$598/pr, PRODUCT OF the YEAR "The 3-way design & convex shape of Monitor's Inverted Dual Concentric pivoting midrange / tweeter enables placement
flexibility so you can fill a room with realistic sound." ELECTRONIC HOUSE
RX8, $1750/pair, "The British speaker-maker Monitor Audio enjoys a reputation as a pioneer in the development of metal diaphragm-equipped drivers & is known for building value-oriented products that look & sound better than they have any right to for the money. A perfect case is their newly released Silver RX8 floorstanders, which are sophisticated enough to offer many of Monitor's more advanced technologies, yet affordable. They dramatically outperform their predecessors [with]...accurate tonal balance... excellent transient speed & definition, plus astonishingly high levels of resolution & detail. An exceptional performer at its price." ABSOLUTE SOUND 6-7/10
ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
PL200, $8499/pair, "Outstanding build quality, superb soundstaging & high levels of transparency & resolution. An impressively engineered, beautiful-looking speaker." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/10
NOVA II Phono preamp, $1200, PRODUCT of the YEAR, along with $12,000 phono preamp.
MM or MC, made in Germany, "The latest modifications have brought subtle improvements in dynamics & lifelikeness. Nova II kicks, slams & drives yet retains its underlying grace & composure. The options for loading & level make it a snap optimally to match any pickup out there & its quietness is extraordinary. Past units have performed flawlessly. [It has] a svelte new profile & a super value has now become a super-duper one." ABSOLUTE SOUND, 1/14
Music Hall USB-1, $249, Turntable, 33/45 rpm, includes phono preamp, Analog to Digital Converter, USB output [enables easy transfer of LP to CD, computer hard drive, lpod, etc.], Audacity software, USB cable, +/-10% pitch control, strobe & detachable RCA cables.
ORTOFON - Made in Denmark
"Ortofon, founded in 1918, is relatively large for a 21st century company specializing in phono cartridges, employing 65 people. The firm's heart & soul remain rooted in hi-fi. Even the least expensive cartridge is assembled from many tiny parts & requires much handwork. Making moving coil cartridges includes hand-winding coils over tiny armatures & under microscopes by highly skilled workers. My visit to Ortofon was impressive. Having the infrastructure for machining & crafting rubber parts [for cartridge suspensions] puts them in an enviable position in both quality & pricing. Ortofon seems to have perfected its MC technology. I bought an Ortofon cartridge as a reference." STEREOPHILE 3/10
2M RED, $99, THE GREATEST BARGAIN in a HIGH END CARTRIDGE; "One sophisticated cartridge for the money." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/09; 11/12
PRODUCT of YEAR, ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/09 "Screaming deal - entry level cartridge at its finest. It's like the Shure V15 with stronger mids." ABSOLUTE SOUND 7/08
"Sophisticated, musical" ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
2M BLACK, $719, PRODUCT of YEAR, ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/09 "Superb performer & value; compared to Shure V15 V, Ortofon is in its own world, plumbing the complexities of orchestral depth & dimension with a more resolved character & better soundstage precision & dimension. Its
Shibata stylus has a wider groove contact area & better stability, which extends frequency response & reduces record wear." ABSOLUTE SOUND 7/08; EDITOR'S CHOICE, 3/11
"Transparent, unravels the complexities of orchestral music; velvety finess & harmonic finish." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/09
"Lighter, faster, more resolved than Shure V15V. More transparent." ABSOLUTE SOUND 10/08
"Ridicuously good; bright open sound with surprising heft & slam." Rated in same class as $3000 models. STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/12
RONDO RED, $639, CARTRIDGE of the YEAR; "Its smooth, warm character is supported by excellent mids & a sweet if slightly soft top end. Easygoing & natural on vocals of all stripes." ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/11; Chosen for ABSOLUTE SOUND's HIGH END AUDIO BUYER's GUIDE, Spring 2011; EDITOR'S CHOICE, 3/11
CARTRIDGE of the YEAR; only cartridge rated BEST BUY "Brings high-end detail & resolution; we loved it; delivers detail, power & resolution & is very well priced." HI-FI CHOICE, awards 2008
RONDO BLUE, $879, "Offers many of the advantages of higher-priced moving coils without breaking the bank - natural midrange, extended but not aggressive treble & strong bottom end. Dynamic presentation powerful, but delicate & nuanced, too. Particularly wonderful with voices. A great cartridge & a great value." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
"Smooth & warm; pleasant overall balance." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
RONDO BRONZE, $1159, "lmpressive freedom from surface noise & excellent detail; very strongly recommended." Rated in same class as $3500 models. STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/10
CADENZA BLUE, $1799, "Detail, space, integrity & vitality; hard to beat at the price." OUTSTANDING PRODUCT; HI-FI NEWS YEARBOOK
CADENZA BLACK, $2599, "Here's a fast, tonally balanced, low coloration cartridge that has outstanding transparency, tonal neutrality & openess without any brightness or stridency, plus very good soundstaging & dynamics. It approaches the sound of a mastertape & is a great value!" ABSOLUTE SOUND
SPU Meister Silver II, $1879, "Thunderous dynamic peaks; one heck of a fine pickup." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/07
SPU Synergy A, $1799, "A bargain." A Rated, in same class as $15,000 models. STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/12
MC WINFIELD, $3899, "One of the finest." A Rated, in same class as $15,000 models. STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED
"It will give you the closest approach to the correct sound. Suppression of surface noise & other impediments to clean vinyl playback is superior. Our new reference." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
"If you value high neutrality, high resolution, low coloration, low distortion & tracking ability to rival the best, this outstanding new moving coil - the pinnacle design from the longest established & largest cartridge maker in the world - is for you. Our new reference." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
OUTSTANDING PRODUCT "My desert island cartridge." HIFI NEWS 2008 YEARBOOK
ORTOFON MC Cartridge Transformer - Made in Denmark
VERTO, $969, "The Ortofon Verto transformer has a heavily chromed front plate & is enclosed in a neat black box. The Verto has only one pair each of input & output jacks, but it provides two primaries, rated at 30db & 24db of gain. Melodies flowed brilliantly well & timbral colors & textures were very good." Exceptional value. STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED
Z PHONO phono preamp, $199 "An impressive showing," EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, favorably compares to $600 model, STEREOPHILE 10/07
"Excellently built & makes very nice sounds: large sound stage, excellent layering & bloom with remarkably good balance, dynamic range & detail." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/10
"Remarkably high neutrality; superbly built. ONLY RECOMMENDED PHONO STAGE UNDER $500.
BUYER'S GUIDE, ABSOLUTE SOUND Spring 2010
RECOMMENDED, SENSIBLE SOUND
Z PHONO USB, Phono preamp with USB output, list $400, now $249 "Impressed by the quality & quantity of the heavy bass, as well as by the size of the soundstage & the wealth of recorded detail," STEREOPHILE 3/12
Z DAC Digital to Analog Converter, $475 "Offers an immaculate sound stage with velvety black backgrounds devoid of electronic hash or noise. It is all about space & ease in reproducing the timbre & texture of acoustic instruments & voice." ABSOLUTE SOUND 12/13
Z AMP, v.3 stereo power amp, $349, 45W/ch,
8 ohm; 60W/ch, 4 ohm, 90W/ch, 8 ohm, 20-20k
"I've used a couple of Zamps for years. They've powered my rear surround speakers, my officie & filled in for other amps around the house. The Z amps are totally reliable & sound nice." STEREOPHILE 9/12
"One helluva 45 watt amp, regardless of price tag & chassis size," THE AUDIO CRITIC
"The smoothness & naturalness of the Zamp's midrange was exceptional: clean, sweet, realistic & musical. If you're in the market for an inexpensive amp, run - do not walk- to check out this amp. It's a fabulous value for the money." audioXpress
PARASOUND Classic Amps
2100, $695, Stereo Preamp, "I don't know of another preamp with all these features - Subwoofer output with variable crossover; Phono input, switchable to moving magnet, coil or line; Remote control; Tone controls; & Front panel MP3 input. The sound is clean, transparent, airy highs, tight & controlled bass. Distortion is so low we couldn't measured it." 11/07 ENJOY THE MUSIC .COM
"High-end stereo preamp with unique capabilities for integration into home theater systems & custom installs."
EXCITE AWARD, CUSTOM RETAILER 10/07
STEREOPHILE & ABSOLUTE SOUND give Parasound eight recommendations, the most of any solid-state amp. While most McIntosh products cost several times more than most Parasound, no McIntosh solid-state amps are recommended by ABSOLUTE SOUND or STEREOPHILE.
A21, power amp, $2495, 250W, 8 ohm; 400W/ch, 4 ohm "Very fine amp at exceptionally fair price. Midrange & bass excellent; sounded fundamentally similar to $20-40,000 amps." ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/07
"Excellent amp, 250W/ch/8 ohm, 400W/ch/4 ohm." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
A23, power amp, $999, 125W/ch, 8 ohm; 200W/ch, 4 ohm; "Reasonably priced amp, musically quite involving." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
JC1 Power Amp $8988/pr, 400W, 8 ohm; 800W, 4 ohm; 1200W, 2 ohm, EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, A RATED; "Powerful, refined, smooth, dynamic, transparent; rated 400W, does 586W." PRODUCT of the YEAR; in SAME CLASS as $55,000 AMPS. STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 4/12
"The build & sound quality of my JC1 mono amps, my reference amps, is first rate. If they were made in America, it would cost a lot more. $30,000 for a pair of Halcros? I'll take Parasounds. I heard both & I did." STEREOPHILE 12/05
"I [Sam Tellig] own a pair of JC1 amps. They're a steal. I've used the JC1's with 24 different speakers & never ran out of power. In a large room - especially one with cathedral ceilings & open space - you need increased power." STEREOPHILE
"A revelation; impressively coherent; transparent & detailed soundstage." STEREOPHILE 3/08
"Effortlessly powerful, silky smooth, crystal clear abundantly detailed." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
HOME THEATER, 6/2012 highly recommended;
Tested Power: 8 ohm, 499W, .1% dist; 582W, 1% dist.; 4 ohm, 609W, .1% dist; 836W, 1% dist.
"The JC1 apparent bass response was far better than I'd ever heard before, demonstrating low-end reach that I just didn't expect. Subtle ambiance, imaging & the soundstage were all staggering. The placement of instruments had a more realistic feel. On Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," the crisp highs & Stevie Nicks liquid vocals never sounded so good. I no longer felt the need to integrate a sub into my two channel listening."
"Parasound's Halo amps get my complete standing ovation. The JC1 left my jaw on the floor & the A51 proved to be a superb complement with multichannel music & soundtracks. They made a true believer out of me. It's rare that any amp wil have such a profound effect on my listening experience, but these provided one I never wanted to let go of & the JC1 / A51 combo has now found a permanent home in my reference system. I can't give a higher recommendation than that."
PARASOUND HALO PREAMPS
A23 & P3 "A winning combination! Sexy in appearance, easy to use; sound solid & satisfying. Their sleek cases & glowing blue lights will make them showpieces in your living room & should earn them easy spousal approval." GOOD SOUND.COM09, ABSOLUTE SOUND GOLDEN EAR AWARD; EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
JC2 Preamp, $4295, PRODUCT of the YEAR
"Neutral & natural, transparent, quick & delicately detailed; a masterwork." BUYER'S GUIDE, ABSOLUTE SOUND Spring 2010
"Like the JC1, the JC2 is up there with the best of them, but down to earth in price. Competes successfully against preamps, solid-state or tubes, that sell for twice the price or more. It excels at reproduction of space; helps the JC1 amps throw a huge soundstage." STEREOPHILE 12/07
EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, A RATED; IN SAME CLASS as $37,000 PREAMPS "Excellent reproduction of space; music emerges intact with body, bloom & dynamics, with definition & detail form an utterly silent background. Perhaps the finest solid-state line stage I've heard." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/12
"Remarkably detailed & shockingly realistic sound. Rock solid build quality; parts quality absolutely first rate. JC1 & 2 sound strikes a keen balance between superlative resolution & sounding beguilingly sweet & natural. I'm totally absorbed by CDs that previously bored me. Experience the Parasounds first hand. Bring your favorite music & hear it like never before." HOME ENTERTAINMENT 6/08
"The BEST BARGAIN in a HIGH END PREAMP. This is the closest I've heard solid state come to a fundamentally neutral sound. It preserves fine harmonic & dynamic detail, air & bloom in the midband; [plus] the frequency extremes, which is unique in a solid state preamp. EXTREME RARITY - A REFERENCE QUALITY PRODUCT THAT MANY of us can ACTUALLY AFFORD." GOLDEN EAR AWARD, ABSOLUTE SOUND 7/08
JC3 Phono preamp, $2350, GOLDEN EAR AWARD, ABSOLUTE SOUND 9/12 - The only other phono preamp chosen was $19,000!
"Built by Parasound but designed with the inspiration & insight of the legendary John Curl, the JC3 seems destined to embarass much pricier phonostages for the forseeable future. With a fully isolated dual- mono layout inside its full-sized chassis, each
channel is housed in its own extruded aluminum vault. As a result, backgrounds are eerily quiet; instrumental timbres are rich; channel separation is exquisite. There's a sweet kiss of romance through the the mids & an uncanny ability to extract & define low-level information in acoustic space. Capable of handling all but the lowest of the low output moving coils on the market, the JC-3 truly is an affordable examplar of Curl's passion for a format once given up for dead." ABSOLUTE SOUND 9/13
"JC3 midbass attack is timbrally & texturally ideal; bass tight & punchy; midbass attack timbrally & texturally ideal, performing well beyond its price. Superb musical grip & control. At $2350, the JC3 is remarkably fine & easily held its own against preamps from $10,600 to $26,000. The JC3 represents the best current value in a phono preamp." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 3/11
STEREOPHILE EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, 4/12, in same class as $3900 preamps
PHONO STAGE OF THE YEAR "There's a riveting balance of extremes at play here - a kiss of romance through the mids & an ability to extract & define low-level information in acoustic space. There's a warm breadth of life in every musical image." ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/12
GOLDEN EAR AWARD "Curl's earlier efforts, the Halo JC-1 amp & JC-2 preamp, had been overwhelmingly well received & phono stages are one of Curl's passions. The JC-3 is a dual-mono design. Each channel is housed in its own extruded aluminum enclosure & further isolated from the power supply with thick, low-carbon-steel partitions. The JC-3 is fitted with top-quality parts throughout. What continues to strike me about the JC-3 is its balance of profound silence & kick-butt energy, its kiss of romance through the mids & its ability to extract low-level information & define it in acoustic space. There's a warm breath of life in every musical image." ABSOLUTE SOUND 9/11
P7 $2295, HOME THEATER, 6/2012 highly recommended; "The perfect choice for those looking for a preamp that won't be outdated a year later & who want an audiophile grade preamp for 2 channel & multichannel sources. At $2295, its value is a testament to Parasound's ability to deliver world-class audio at prices that are actually realistic & attractive. With the right front-end device, you have everything you need for an involving sonic experience that'll knock your socks off."
"Delightful sound" STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/12
Parasound Halo AV Amps
A51, Surround sound power amp, 250W, 8 ohm; 400W, 4 ohm x 5 channels, $4795, "My reference amp is the Parasound A51. I purchased this amp last spring after wanting to own it for more than 10 years & I consider it to be one of the best amps that money can buy." SOUND & VISION, 10/14
EDITOR'S CHOICE "Powerful power amp with impressive sound. Excellent value." HI-FI CHOICE, AWARDS 2008
HOME THEATER, 6/2012 highly recommended; tested power: 8 ohm, 301W, .1% dist; 330W, 1% dist 4 ohm, 357W, .1% dist; 423W, 1% dist
The same issue has a test of a $6000 McIntosh MC8207, 7 channel power amp, with the same power as a $8500 MC207 amp. Parasound's A51 amp is $1500 - 4000 less, has 40% more 8 ohm power, won a higher value rating & is the amp the reviewer purchased.
"Parasound's Halo amps get my complete standing ovation. The JC1 left my jaw on the floor & the A51 proved to be a superb complement with music & soundtracks. They made a true believer out of me. It's rare that any amp has such a profound effect on my listening experience, but these provided one I never wanted to let go of. The JC1 / A51 combo is now my permanent reference system. I can't give a higher recommendation than that." PRIMA LUNA
A31, $3295, 3 channel power amp "The A31 is rated at 250W/ch, 8 ohms; 400W/ch, 4 ohms, all 3 channels driven 20Hz-20k. Immediately I was struck by the A31's treble; it seemed to reveal more detail across the soundstage & subtleties of texture. The remarkable definition continued into the midrange & bass. The bass was firm & extended & never lacked for power & weight. The A31's clean, luminous sound was distinguishable from the slightly opaque treble of the $6000 Bel Canto Ref1000Mk2 monoblocks. The A31 is slightly less powerful than the $10,000 McIntosh MC303 into 8 ohms & more powerful into 4 ohms. The Mac's treble was a bit recessed in comparison." STEREOPHILE 9/12
PROLOGUE 5, "The 36W/ch tube Prologue is more authoritative than its rating would lead you to expect & offers a warm, rich presentation. Produces clean, deep, tight bass & grand soundstaging."
ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/14
PROLOGUE 6, "These beautifully built, affordable & hassle-free 70W/ch monoblocks will alter your preconceptions about tube gear. Their transient quickness & ability to drive difficult loads, yet they still have that tube magic."
ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/14
DIALOGUE 7 mono block power amps, "These surprisingly powerful monoblocks are just the right tonic to make you fall in love with your system again. They reproduce music with the natural lushness & sense of space one hears in live music, while maintaining transient quickness without a hint of tube sluggishness. Their soundstaging & truth of timbre are reference quality. The supplied remote lets one switch between the more dynamicallly explosive, incisive & tonally balanced ultra-linear sound or the more beautiful & palpable triode sound. It's like getting two amps in one." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
PROLOGUE ONE, $1799 "My astonishment at the level of value couldn't be more genuine. 42W/ch into 8 ohms; 47W/ch into 4 ohms. Boy oh boy can I recommend this amp. Lustily, heartily & enthusiastically recomended."
"If they ever offer a Nobel prize for bringing affordable audio to the masses, I'd be the first to nominate [Prima Luna's owner] Kevin Deal. The Prologue One is built like a $3000 amp. The Prologue One is right up there with the best. put tubes or 40W/ch with KT88s. It has a heavy-gauge, ventilated case with a lustrous 5 coat finish, features point-to-point wiring & 5 pairs of RCA input jacks, a Home Theater bypass & connections for 4 & 8 ohm speakers. Produced a natural, inviting midrange & performed well with a wide variety of speakers; offers outstanding sound quaity at a very reasonable price; respectable measured performance." "A tube-roller's delight, thanks to auto-biasing the Dialogue can hardly be bettered when it comes to user friendliness & operational flexibility." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/14
PROLOGUE PREMIUM INTEGRATED, $2299, rated in same class as $6,500 amps "The solidly built Prologue Premium is rated at 35W/ch with its stock EL34 output tubes or 40W/ch with KT88s. It has a heavy-gauge, ventilated case with a lustrous 5 coat finish, features point-to-point wiring & 5 pairs of RCA input jacks, a Home Theater bypass & connections for 4 & 8 ohm speakers. Produced a natural, inviting midrange & performed well with a wide variety of speakers; offers outstanding sound quaity at a very reasonable price; respectable measured performance." STEREOPHILE 10/13
"My go to moderately priced integrated amp is the $2299 Prima Luna ProLogue Premium. It worked well with the Focal Aria 936. While it had just a bit more tube character & a bit less transparency than the $13,500 CAT preamp / Mcintosh 275 power amp duo, the Focal/Prima Luna pairing is one I could live with quite comfortably. I also listened to a $23,000 Simaudio preamp & power amp; my preference remains with tubes." STEREOPHILE 11/14
Class A, rated in same class as $34,000 amps "Prima Luna's top-of-the-line integrated amp is rated at 32W/ch with its stock EL34 output tubes or 43W/ch with optional KT120s. It uses Prima Luna's Adaptive AutoBias feature for easy swapping of output tubes & has a bad tube indicator, power transformer protection & output transformer protection circuitry. Extremely quiet & sounded bigger than its power rating suggested, with a rich midrange & an excellent sense of timing; a dream come true." STEREOPHILE 4/14
"A tube-roller's delight, thanks to auto-biasing the Dialogue can hardly be bettered when it comes to user friendliness & operational flexibility." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/14
DIALOGUE PREMIUM HP $4,199, 70-85W/ch "Excellent value. Prima Luna has another winner. Built to a high standard, with very useful features -Adaptive AutoBias, Bad Tube indicator, switching between triode & ultralinear modes from the remote control & headphone output - the sound quality closely approaches reference Class A $16,000 preamps & power amps. The similarities [to $16,000 amps] were more evident than differences. Both had the smoothness & musicality that tube aficionados appreciate, but without the excessive warmth & rolled off treble of some tube gear. Background noise was absent & both amps' power transformers were quiet. The difference was surprisingly small - & smaller than the price difference suggests. It had a smooth musicality & an easy-on-the-ears quality that is quite beguiling. With its all-tube built-in headphone amp, I've never heard my Grado headphones sound so good." STEREOPHILE 12/14
PROLOGUE 8, "An amazing value! Closes in on even the most expensive competition. It's blessed with plenty of boogie factor, superb clarity, sensuous mids & lovely harmonic bloom. Its soundstage is wonderfully transparent." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/14
ALL MADE IN EUROPE & INCLUDE TONEARM & CARTRIDGE
Xpression III, $699, "Wide, deep soundstage, clarity & smoothness."
ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
Chosen for ABSOLUTE SOUND's HIGH END AUDIO BUYER's GUIDE, Spring 2011
BEST BUY "Well designed; revealing sound"
HI-FI CHOICE, 12/05 RECOMMENDED
BEST BUY; great value, sounds remarkable" above Goldring, Sota, Technics & more. WHAT HI-FI, 3/07
RM-9.2, $2499; reviewed with Sumiko Pearwood Celebration II Cartridge, $3999 "Notably easy & relaxed, rhythmically incisive & dynamically explosive; warm & rich, yet also detailed & transparent."
Chosen for ABSOLUTE SOUND's HIGH END AUDIO BUYER's GUIDE, Spring 2011; EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
RM-10.1, $3499; reviewed with Sumiko Blackbird Cartridge, $3999 "The RM-10 improves upon the fine performance of the RM9.1 by adding a longer arm, a more massive plinth & platter, an isolation base & magnetic repulsion. These enhancements produce blacker backgrounds, more solidity in the bass & a cleaner window on the soundstage." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
PRO-JECT HEADPHONE AMP HEAD BOX SEII, $399, allows connection of two headphones each with its own volume control, 4x3x6" 5 STAR TOP-RATED above more expensive Musical Fidelity." WHAT HI-FI, AWARDS
PRO-JECT PHONO Preamp
Phono Box USB, $198, GREATEST BARGAIN, ABSOLUTE SOUND 5/08
"Surprised by the image focus & colorful harmonic presentation; a no-brainer." EXCEPTIONAL
VALUE, STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/10
Tube Box, $549, "Sturdily built, attractive & compact; a relaxing, graceful sound; rich tubey sound, suprisingly quiet." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED
HI-FI CHOICE chose the top hi-fi of all time. Quad is the highest ranked speaker. "The British Gold Standard; first practical full-range electrostatic; wide dynamics & delicate transparency weaves an unmatched spell." Models can have black grills & tops; or in classic finish with gold weave grills & solid mahogany wood tops.
ESL988, A rated, $6499/pr, black; $7149/pr, classic; in same class as $39,000 models.
"World class resolution, superb soundstaging, spectacular transient response" STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/07
5 Star, top rated, above B&O, B&W, Bose, Dali, Dynaudio, Revel & more. WHAT HI-FI
"It will play at natural levels with a purity & accuracy will spoil you." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE
MADE IN ENGLAND & INCLUDE TONEARM
RP1, $445, Rega's newest & most affordable turntable; includes pre-installed, moving magnet cartridge.
STEROPHILE's only recommended Holiday gift turntable. "A conspicuous bargain. The ideal entry or re-entry to vinyl. It's designed as a package [& easy to set up. Well done, Rega." STEREOPHILE, 12/14
WHAT HI-FI, 12/10, 5 stars, "Excellent budget product; terrific performer for the money; easy to use & set-up; fine build" includes cartridge, improved tonearm & phenolic platter, l7.4xl4x4.5"
"Rega's entry level table sells for roughly the same price it did 20 years ago, meaning that Rega's commitment to value remains paramount. You get the pace, musical interplay & involvement that make analog special." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/14, EDITOR'S CHOICE
EXCEPTIONAL VALUE "Compared to the P1, the RP1 has more drive, better focus & was more confident, purposeful & authoritative. The RP1 looks good, is easy to set up & plays records like it means it. It's not just that I can't imagine $445 buying more happiness; I can't imagine so modest an investment in money & effort buying more music. The RP1 Performance Pack Upgrade was easy to install & resulted in a bigger soundstage, deeper silences & greater resolution of low-level detail. A no-brainer." STEREOPHILE, 4/14
RP1 PERFORMANCE PACK, $645, includes better cartridge & the following: The RP1 Performance Pack Upgrade was easy to install & resulted in a bigger soundstage, deeper silences & greater resolution of low-level detail. A no-brainer." STEREOPHILE, 4/14
RP3, $895; with $300 Rega Elys 2 cartridge, $1095
A significant step forward. The result is deeper bass, lower noise, more dynamic pop, increased detail & improved staging. Things get better yet with the optional TT PSU power supply, $375" ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/14, EDITOR'S CHOICE
EXCEPTIONAL VALUE. In same class as $2000 turntables. "Compared to the P3-24, the RP3 sounded leaner & cleaner with a tighter & better controlled bottom end. The RP3 is a plug'n'play package that's beautifully built, well engineered & sounds wonderful. Compared to the VPI Traveler, the RP1 consistently produced faster transients & more aggresive, precise imaging for an overall sound that was snappy & exciting."
RP6, $1495; with $700 Rega Exact 2 cartridge, $1995. "The RP6 comes standard with the TT PSU power supply, a must for top performance. Note the large improvements in dynamic nuance & explosiveness, tonal & textural detail, size & depth of stage & sheer musicality." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/14, EDITOR'S CHOICE
RP8, $2995; with $700 Rega Apheta 2 moving coil cartridge, $3995. "The RP6 comes standard with the TT PSU power supply, a must for top performance. Note the large improvements in dynamic nuance & explosiveness, tonal & textural detail, size & depth of stage & sheer musicality." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/14, EDITOR'S CHOICE
In same class as $6500 turntables. "Setup was quick & simple; produced a powerful, dynamic, coherent overall sound with solid, well-defined images; clean, articulated bass, exceptional resolution of detail & outstanding dynamics. Rega's new turntable-tonearm combo is the most exciting & truly revolutionary turntable to be introduced in quite some time." STEREOPHILE, 4/14
TONEARMS MADE IN ENGLAND
RB303, $595, EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, "A" rated, in the same class as $9,000 tonearms. STEREOPHILE, 4/14
INCLUDE MM PHONO PREAMP & REMOTE CONTROL
BRIO R, $895, Rega's most affordable integrated amp. "There's a lot to be said for an amplifier that doesn't sound conspicuously solid state or tube but suggests the strengths of both. The Brio-R impressed with a forthright balance of weight, tonal density & authority. Particularly well-suited for smaller floor standers & compact speakers." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/14, EDITOR'S CHOICE
OSIRIS, $9995, Rega's best integrated amp, 162W/ch. "Deliver's almost mind-bending levels of dynamic agility, subtlety & clout. An eerily effective & 3-dimensional sounstager." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/14, EDITOR'S CHOICE
CD Players MADE IN ENGLAND
Apollo-R, $1095, "A" rated, in the same class as $12,000 & $13,000 CD players. "The Apollo-R has a confident, solid sound with an analog sense of certainty. Its performance was a revelation & stunning in the way it got things so rhythmically right" STEREOPHILE, 4/14
ISIS, $9995, Rega's best CD. "Rega's lsis CD player optimizes everything in the disc reading processl. The resulting sound is exceptionally three dimensional." ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/14, EDITOR'S CHOICE
Digital-Analog Converter MADE IN ENGLAND
Rega DAC, $1095, in the same class as $1300 DACs. "had a richness, a fulness of tone, an analog sense of ease that l hitherto heard from digital. The most analog sound I've heard from a DAC. The filter settings allow the user to change the sound significantly." STEREOPHILE, 4/14
"The Rega is musically at home in leagues well outside its price point."
ABSOLUTE SOUND 3/14, EDITOR'S CHOICE
T5, $599, "A special round of applause is owed my current choice for the ideal mini-sub for music lovers. Fast, tight, yet tonally replete, with highly defined pitches, the T5 is also remarkably extended - stunningly so for a single 8" driver in a sealed box. Sumptuous enclosure. Musical, superbly natural, robust & durable, as all REL subs are, this is a pocket-sized classic." ABSOLUTE SOUND 9/11, GOLDEN EAR AWARD
R218, $1299, "Easily one of the best small subs. It is so small [12x13.6x12"], it disappears in most rooms. The R218 is another in a seemingly continuous parade of exceptional RELs, one of a handful of small subs that truly satisfies. REL has restyled, adding a luminous, hand-rubbed piano-black lacquer finish. Its footprint is modest & look is elegant & discrete. Build-quality - always a REL hallmark - is even better, with seams so tight they appear to be waterproof. The sonic results are what I've come to expect & admire from REL subs. Most importantly, there's a near seamless transition between sub & satellite. Like every REL, the R218 maintains the chameleon-like ability to disappear into the character of the main speakers. The REL is quick to react to low fundamentals & keeps pace with the unwinding harmonics rather than holding them back like the proverbial sonic boat anchor."
"Missing elements instantly resurfaced, bringing a degree of warmth & resonance easy to overlook in the sub's absence. This is what a good sub does; time & again it returns not only the music but the venue to a recording. It allows notes to hang in the air a bit longer & the deepest notes to sustain & decay. It's an almost subliminal calculation, but once the ear recalibrates to the spatiality that a sub infuses, its removal leaves the acoustic sound space empty & the reverberant field weakened. Like the air being let out of a ballon, music no longer pushes against the boundary of the venue."
ABSOLUTE SOUND, 7/8 2011
REL B3, $1995, "A standout; it has the speed to keep up with most any speaker & it gets timbres right in a way that most subs do not." BUYER'S GUIDE, ABSOLUTE SOUND Winter 08/Spring 09; PRODUCT of the YEAR; GOLDEN EAR AWARD; EDITOR'S CHOICE, 3/11
REL B328, $1799, TOP PICK HOME THEATER, 4/12
R528SE, $2799, SUBWOOFER of the YEAR "A state-of-the-art design in every way. Truly a great product. This sub is able to something very special, offers truly breathtaking bass reach, low distortion & high resolution in a compact package that is standard-setting both at its price & at several multiples above its price. The warmth & richness won me over completely, while the bass drum is genuinely kick ass." ABSOLUTE SOUND, 1/14
ROKSAN - MADE IN ENGLAND, 5 year parts & labor warranty
KANDY K2 Integrated Amp, list $1925, now $1576 STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/11; in same class as $6000 amps. "The stylish, solid-state K2 rated at 125W/ch, 8 ohms [134W/ch, clipping (200W/ch, 4 ohms)] & has a front-panel headphone output, 5 line-level inputs & a MM phono stage.The included remote control offers pushbuttons & a touchscreen for controlling all functions. One of the most listenable entry-level components I've had in my home."
"At a time when most other amps, [NAD, Linn, Primare & Naim], are without phono stages, Roksan's inclusion of same in the Kandy K2 may be that product's greatest technical distinction. With every speaker, the Kandy K2 distinguished itself as a clear, big-sounding, rhythmically accomplished amp with a slightly - darn near imperceptibly - rounded-off top end. That bit of softness, coupled with its nearly complete lack of timing distortion, distinguished the K2 as one of the most listenable entry-level components. The phono section deserves special mention, not just for its freedom from hum & noise but for [its] slight & pleasant roundness. The K2 strikes me as the sort of amp one can grow into for quite some time before wanting more; a neat balancing act, carried off here with rare success. It's is built like Schik Brithouse, offers very good value for the money & I enjoyed every minute spent listening with it. Highly recommended."
STEREOPHILE on line 5/15/10
SME ALL MADE in ENGLAND
20/3 Turntable & Series IV.Vi, $17,000, GOLDEN EAR AWARD "Background quietness struck me as the best I had ever experienced. Impressive ease & authority, dynamic window & ability to project that eIusive character of life & vitality. The improvements in mass & damping have resulted in an equivalent increase in isolation. This earns the this 'table an easy place among the finest vinyl playback components regardless of price. It almost qualifies as a bargain." ABSOLUTE SOUND 9/12
SPIN CLEAN Record Washing System, $79
ACCESSORY of the YEAR "The Spin Clean Record Cleaner is a pure manual design - nothing to plug in. A little elbow grease & fresh air do all the work. Fill the yellow basin with distilled water, add a capful of cleaning solution & spin the record between the brushes. Ambient air & a couple of swirls with the supplied lint-free cotton cloths do the rest. lt's a truly green product - totally off the grid. The results speak for themselves - clean surfaces mean less noise & more fully resolved music." ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/11; EDITOR'S CHOICE, 3/11
"Meet my new best friend, the Spin Clean Record Washing System. Operationally, it's a breeze. The result is a disc that is suddenly as shiny black as the day you brought it home. Less noise means more clearly resolved music. On a prized disc that hadn't been cleaned in years, the difference was an overall reduction in backgroud noise - removal of most tiny snaps & crackes from the lead-in groove right through to the end. Is Spin Clean as slick as the fully robotic machines [like the VPI]? Probably not. But for lighter duty it's pretty tough to beat. Not to mention avoiding the hidden costs like worn styli & further degradation of the surfaces of your prized LPs." ABSOLUTE SOUND 9/10
EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, "Got the job done."
STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 3/11
BLUE POINT SPECIAL II $399,"Improved resolution, superior 3-dimensionality, richer & more potent bass & smoother highs." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12
PHONO CARTRIDGE of YEAR "Affordable, easy-to live with, high-output moving coil cartridge. Compared to others, it offers 3 compelling advantages: superior resolution of low-level sonic details, faster & more precise transient response & ability to produce broad, spacious, 3-dimensional soundstages. Significant improvements over Bluepoint Oyster, richer & more powerful bass & markedly smoother highs." ABSOLUTE SOUND RECOMMENDED 10/07; EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
BLUE POINT SPECIAL EVOIII, $499, EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, "Tight clarity, rhythmic certainty, excellent tracking," STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 4/07
"One of the best entry level, high output, moving cartridges." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
BEST BUY "High frequency refinement & nimble, artculate & revealing sound." HI-FI CHOICE
BLACKBIRD $1099, "This high-output moving coil is smooth yet detailed, with a wide soundstage & fine low-end authority. Midrange instruments are particularly seductive." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
"Strong bass power, extension & focus. Wide-open soundstage, plenty of detail & shimmering, well-balanced top end without brightness or edge." In same class as $1600 cartridges.
STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 4/09
PALO SANTOS PRESENTATION $3999, CARTRIDGE of the YEAR "Well balanced & neutral in the midrange. This beauty draws you into its naturalistic web & conveys complexities of timbre & space that are arresting & authentic." ABSOLUTE SOUND 11/12, EDITOR'S CHOICE, 3/11
"This moving coil has an open-construction body of tuned wood. Its overall sound - smooth, sweet, but stil sunny & nicely detailed - makes it a great choice for the music lover with eclectic tastes who wants to bridge the gap between analytical & romantic sound." A rated, in same class as $15,000 cartridges. STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/12
"This beauty draws you into its naturalistic web & conveys complexities of timbre & space that are nothing short of authentic." Chosen for ABSOLUTE SOUND's HIGH END AUDIO BUYER's GUIDE, Spring 2011
OUTSTANDING PRODUCT, Hi-Fi News 2010 YEARBOOK
All made in Germany; include cartridge
TD309, $1699, "BEST EUROPEAN TURNTABLE, 2010-11, EISA AWARD
"This eye-catching turntable is clearly the most novel design to emerge from Thorens in the last decade. It is ready within minutes of unpacking & offers more than a glimpse into the world of the glorious vinyl sound, which is growing in popularity among general consumers & audiophiles alike. The TD309 is a stylish & affordable passport into the realm of the vinyl LP." HIFI NEWS 10/10
"Excellent imaging, great bass, fine rhythm, absolutely outstanding." OUTSTANDING PRODUCT, Hi-Fi News 2010 YEARBOOK
VIBRAPODS - U.S. MADE
"Vibrapods are small, flexible vinyl pucks that can transform a system. Put them under speakers & electronics & hear bass extension & smoother highs. Vibrapod Cones - use them as stand alone footers or combine with Vibrapods to get even more out of your system."
ABSOLUTE SOUND RECOMMENDED; EDITOR'S CHOICE, 3/14
"PIaced under CDs, DACs & preamps, the 1" x 3" dia. Vibrapods isolate & enhance performance. Five different models are rated for loads of 2 - 28 lbs. each; match the quantity to the component. I keep a box of them around so that no component goes without. A favorite." STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/11
"The German company Vincent was established in 1995 with the goal of placing high end sound within reach of the common man. The question of how to make high end affordable was answered by its founder, Uwe Bartel, using a business model, which while innovative for its time is now common-place: Design products in the West & build them in China. This marriage of German engineering & Chinese manufacturing proved quite successful. Mr. Bartel, an electronics engineer, had no problem designing interesting audio gear & Vincent's attractive mix of good sound & value gained momentum & global market share. Even though these products' fit, finish & elegant aluminum chassis exude a distinct high end look, the price is quite affordable. Vincent's quality is more than skin deep." ABSOLUTE SOUND's GUIDE TO PREAMPS & POWER AMPS
VINCENT PREAMPS SA31, list $750, now $699, "A well-made entry-level vacuum-tube preamp with tone controls & a loudness contour switch. The preamp's sound is characterized by a rich, seductive midrange & hearty & solidly weighted bass. Terrific bang for the buck." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/10
SA31mk, list $1850, now $1599, "Staging & focus are strengths. Its nice to find ones like these that deliver so much pleasure for such a relatively modest price." ABSOLUTE SOUND 12/10; EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
VINCENT POWER AMPS
SP331, list $1600, now $1395. 150W/ch/8 ohm; 250W/ch/4 ohm; POWER AMP of the YEAR "One of the best-sounding sub-$2k amps. A hybrid tube / solid-state amp combines the richness & subtlety of fine tube designs - especially through the midrange - with the sheer low frequency grunt, control & agility of a good solid-state amp. In the treble it sounds slightly softer but also more delicate than solid-state amps in its price range." ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/10
"One of the sweetest deals in high end audio today. Midrange subtlety & richness in spades; a delightful holographic 3D presentation that reveals the finely contoured edges of notes." ABSOLUTE SOUND 1/08
VPI Record cleaning machines U.S. MADE. All are machines the size of a turntable with a gear-driven platter & a record vacuum.
SP331mk, list $2750, now $2499. 150W/ch/8 ohm; 300W/ch/4 ohm, "Impressively spacious; convincingly lifelike & well-defined soundstage; fine feeling of lilt & pace, staging & focus are strengths. Its nice to find ones like these that deliver so much pleasure for such a relatively modest price." ABSOLUTE SOUND 12/10; EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
HW-16.5, $550, STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED 10/09; PRODUCT of the Year
"Built to last; withstands great amounts of strenuous work over much time; made to satisfy its owner. After you've revitalized your prized record with a good scrubbing, your finished album is reborn & ready to be played, enjoyed & admired."
"All vinyl lovers need a record cleaning machine & there's no greater bang for the buck than this. Simple to use & highly effective, the 16.5 produces quieter surfaces from even heavily soiled LPs."
ABSOLUTE SOUND EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/11
"Essential for serious vinyl playback. Pays for itself: extends LP life; protects cartridge from damage from dirty records & marked improvement in sound quality. Extremely user friendly & takes all the awkwardness out of wet cleaning. Surface noise reduced to negligible level. Biggest gains are tangible sonic improvements: tonal qualities, soundstage, prescence & subtle background details. Images far more precise & transparent, playing more cohesive, creating a far more credible illusion of realism." HI-FI+
"Outstanding performer. The record surfaces are so microscopically clean & so pristine they look new." AUDIO
U.S. MADE; Models below include tonearm & base; cartridge & dust cover are optional
TRAVELER, $1399; $1599 with $200 Grado cartridge. The Traveler is the most affordable U.S. made 'table. Features include:
1] 10" tonearm for reduced tracking error.
2] 24 pound total weight, reducing feedback or unwanted resonance.
3] 8 pound platter weight, for better speed consistency.
4] Large AC motor, for better speed consistency.
5] RCA jacks, allowing easy cable upgrades.
6] Four 2" high conical aluminum feet, with rubber tips, reducing feedback or unwanted resonance.
No other turntable anywhere near the Traveler's price has all these features [except for other VPI models]. A Rega RP3, for example, has none of these features. The Traveler is available in a gloss red, white, blue 0r black, at no extre charge.
"Best new product." AV Showroom, 6/2012
"Piano sounded far more delicate, natural & controlled than I'd ever heard. Outstanding low end control & awesomely silent backgrounds. I began sending delirious text messages to audiophile friends. Intoxicating, almost magical."
"Better clarity, prescence & authority than Rega RP3. Traveler was easily the best; spacious, open, silky smooth & well controlled, a wide, deep soundstage. The VPI kept time perfectly. I can't imagine a happier way of listening to LPs than with the Traveler. The Traveler isn't merely reasonably priced - it's a remarkable bargain, built to last a lifetime. And it's made with love, right here in the U.S." Stereophile, 11/12, 10/13
CLASSIC, with JMW10.5i Tonearm, $2800GOLDEN EAR AWARD, 2009 "In direct comparison to the $150,000 Clearaudio Statement, it holds its own.If ever there were a best buy in "tables, this is it." ABSOLUTE SOUND RECOMMENDED 6-7/09
GOLDEN EAR AWARD, 2010 "VPI's best work is now relatively simple & easy-to-set-up, combining an excellent chassis, built-in motor & tonearm. Out-performing many units at stratospheric prices, it puts a premium on reliability. Remarkably neutral with a wide range of cartridges & even better with the SDS speed control & Outer Ring Clamp. The latter makes a major difference in getting the best out of used, badly stored & lighter-weight LPs." ABSOLUTE SOUND 6-7/10
GOLDEN EAR AWARD, 2009 "A steal at $2750, it does not suffer by direct comparison to the $150,000 Clearaudio Statement." The VPI Classic & Clearaudio Statement [costing 60 times more] are the only 'tables he awarded "Editor's Choice".
"The Classic, correctly named, has been made even better with a few quite small changes, which give it an even smoother sound. The motor is grounded with an aluminum heat sink, the platter was changed to one piece of aluminum rather than two pieces with a damping ring attached to its bottom [to make it quieter] & the arm increased by 6mm for lower tracking error & better tracking. The price stays the same. I recommend the $200 stainless-steel arm for cleaner sound & the $700 stainless-steel record clamp that fits over the LP's outside edge." Harry Pierson, editor of ABSOLUTE SOUND, EDITOR'S CHOICE 3/10
2009 TURNTABLE of the YEAR, "Vinyl's retro master-piece; the turntable to take on even the top of the high end; a true audio bargain, a rare & wonderful thing; stability of pitch that is almost impossible to find else-where; excellent conveyor of musical flow; warm, rich & dynamic performer." HI-FI+, #68
"A very real part of the Classic's appeal lies in its inherent upgradability. Even a fully loaded Classic is remarkably affordable, as it plays in a league with five figure decks."
"The $1200 SDS power supply is a double whammy that attacks speed variation & motor noise. [It works with every VPI.] As well as electronically switching between 33 & 45rpm, it offers incredibly fine control of speed, a poise & focus, from a lower noise floor & a far more positive sense of exactly where each note is placed (& spaced.) It brings a level of refinement & precision that makes a mockery of its cost. Vocals are held more separate, with enunciation & inflexion much, much clearer, their meaning more direct. Musical phrases are more coherent & the "sentences" fit together better into a more comprehensible & effective overall shape."
"The $700 peripheral clamp, a precision machined stainless steel with a narrow lip running around its inner edge that adds a real sense of stable solidity & clarity, anchoring images & helping define the space between & around them. Delicate instrumental detail really shines, with the texture & shape of notes much more apparent."
"As good as the basic Classic is, the add-ons are much more than just icing on the cake. Record lovers & collectors alike owe it to themselves to hear just how much performance their money can buy." HI-FI+, #69
TOP TURNTABLE & one of the top 10 Products of 2010. "With the Classic I explored the deepest recesses of my vinyl collection & found a new
appreciation for my oldies but goodies. There's something about the way the Classic does bass that gives the music a vitality that CDs never have. The rhythmic pulse is better, groovier & has more get up & go. It's eerily quiet so records have signficantly lower surface noise, even compared to exotic tables for double or even triple the price. If you never heard a high-end table before, you'll be amazed by the difference. I'm listening to LPs I bought as a teenager & they're damned quiet. No, not CD quiet, but background clicks & pops don't intrude the way they do on lesser turntables."
"Switching back & forth between LP & CD, there's no comparison! The CD sounds like a good hi-fi, but the LP breathes life into the sound, a far-from-subtle difference. Vinyl communicates the music's emotional pull better than any digital format. You enjoy the music more on LP. One of the great Audiophile Truths: The best way to enjoy digital is never listen to analog. You need a great turntable, tonearm & cartridge to fully decode the magic in the grooves. If you want to know why vinyl is still going strong nearly three decades after the introduction of the CD, listen to a great turntable. The Classic is the best place to start." HOME ENTERTAINMENT
"I put the Linn aside & hooked up the VPI. Wow, what a difference a turntable can make! One record led to the next & night after night I stayed up late, listening to LPs. That hadn't happened in years. I was smitten & thrilled to get into vinyl again; a great turntable. The real clincher for VPI was this: It's a lot more fun to listen to." STEREOPHILE 3/10
HI-FI CHOICE chose the top hi-fi of all time.
Wharfedale Diamonds are the only budget speakers picked.
Achromatic WAS1 AV System
4 satellites, center & powered subwoofer, $699.
TOP-PICK over more expensive $1746 & $2124 JBL, $2396 Klipsch, $1294 NHT & more. "Beautifully designed & can navigate the subtleties of recordings & movie soundtracks; really doing it right." HOME THEATER BUYING GUIDE 2011
"These speakers make an excellent first impression. They are made of MDF [multidensity fiberboard], not the molded plastic that's so often found in similarly priced products. Highgloss curved side panels on the speakers & sub enhance the leather-like black vinyl finish."
"Sweetness from the fabric-domed tweeters; voice was warm, supple, human, and believable. Achromatic speaker system makes an excellent case for Wharfedale as the brand exists today. These speakers are beautifully designed, and they can navigate the subtleties of recordings and movie soundtracks. Wharfedale [is] really doing it right." HOME THEATER 6/10
Diamond 10.1, $349/pair
PRODUCT of the YEAR, "Truly excellent, TOP-RATED over B&W, Bose, KEF, Tannoy & more. WHAT HI-FI AWARDS 2010
"Wharfedale has a winner in the 10.1. Extraordinary value for the money, with many strengths that suggest a considerably higher price & no meaningful weaknesses. Superb measured performance."
"Rich, uncolored midrange, reproduced all vocals with a sense of holographic verisimilitude. Balance of each overtone pure, pristine & silky. Rich & vibrant prescence & weight that I'm used to only from much larger speakers. With every recording, high frequencies sounded clean, extended, detailed & pristine. I'm surprised to have so many good things to say about how much bass so small a speaker could reproduce in a large room." STEREOPHILE, 7/11
"Gorgeous cabinet, relaxed, coherent sound, wide, deep soundstage, airy highs, liquid midrange & excellent low-level resolution. Greater overall clarity & resolution than PSB. Guitars sounded more expressive with more tonal color & subtle harmonics. Bass guitar was more fully expressed. I could make better sense of the words. The Wharfedales presented a better behaved, more relaxed sound; there was more nuance, detail & resolution."
"Percussion & brass sounded so sweet & compelling I couldn't help but think that the 10.1 is a great jazz speaker. When the violin & clarinet came waltzing in, sorrowfully & methodically with pure emotional intensity so rich & sumptuous that I could cry, I realized the Wharfedales weren't performing only as great jazz speakers, providing nuance & resolution, but also as great emotional conductors." STEREOPHILE, 4/11, cover article.
"The [Klipsch speaker] is not nearly as physically impressive as the Wharfedale 10.1. The Wharfedale dramatically exceeded my expectations for fit & finish." STEREOPHILE, 6/11
"For overall sound quality, as well as style, grace & all round ability, THE WHARFEDALE DIAMOND 10.1 COMES OUT ON TOP". AV REVIEW, Group Test Winner, February 2010
Diamond 10.2, $449/pair "The Diamond 10.2 has the ability to make just about any price-comparable speaker & most from the class above, sound vague in the reproduction of fine detail." WHAT HI-FI 2010
Diamond 10.5, $949/pair, "My highest recommendation in this price class. Wharfedale were the clear winners. They're equally adept with movies & music." HOME THEATER REVIEW, May 30, 2011
"This loudspeaker gem really sparkles," HI-FI CHOICE / BEST BUY AWARD
Diamond 10.7, $1299/pair, "Sounds as if it costs $2000 / pair [or more]. Those seeking balanced performance from a speaker that offers both sonic refinement & near full-range frequency response will discover that the 10.7s are tough to beat." ABSOLUTE SOUND 4/11
"EARN MY HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. Exceptional entry-level compact floorstanding speakers. Huge soundstage, the bass is tight & clean, & best of all, they have a near peerless midrange response, which never ceased to amaze me. They represent an incredible value at only $1299 / pair & earn my highest recommendation." ENJOYTHEMUSIC.COM 6/30/11
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