The key to being a professional in the audio business is to maintain objectivity in the selection Of components. Even so, being human, one cannot avoid having a preference for one component over another even if they are equally matched. One calls to you more and appeals to your emotions more than the other. That is what this list is all about –A grouping of standout amps, cd players, phono stages speakers, etc. which come to mind when I muse about what I LIKE BEST.
Backert Labs Preamps-Any of them.The quintissential window on the music.No other line of preamps provides as much quality of performance at even twice their Price. Ranging in cost from $3500.00 to $10,000.00, It would be interesting to hear what Bob Backert could do at a higher price level.
The LFD LE VI - perhaps the most musical integrated amp in its class. For luddites only. No remote control !
Luxman D-05 –One of the great bargains in CD/SACD Player DACS. Always musical and eloquent.
Harbeth Speakers - when in doubt pick a Harbeth ! From tiny to quite substantial every model is musical detailed and harmonically just right and will perform wonderfully in any listening environment. My personal favorites : the a Monitor 30.2 - 40th Anniversary Edition and The P3ESR 40th Anniversary Edition in olive wood.
Stenheim Speakers- efficient and powerful ,Stenheim speakers are that rara avis which combine ultimate resolution with superb musicality. Starts where Harbeth leaves off.
Ypsilon PST-100- my favorite phono stage which has:
” the high-frequency clarity, air, and extension of the best solid-state phono preamps, as well as the harmonic expression and musical flow of the best tube phono preamps, with none of the negatives of either". - Michael Fremer ,
Stereophile Class A+ Component: Aug. 2009
CH Precision L1- Best solid state line stage bar none
CH Precision M1 Best solid state amplifier, period!
MSB Technology Reference DAC and Transport- The ne plus ultra of digital playback
MSB Discrete DAC-Starting at 10k and going up in price and performance depending on power supply and input options, This DAC has taken first place in the under $15000.00 D toA category.Just incredibly musical.
Aurender Music Servers - Any of them .Most reliable and intuitive to use of anything currently on the market with flawless sound.
VAC 200 Signature 200IQ- A triumph of tube audio reproduction. Self biasing ,stereo or mono at the flick of a switch and punches way above its weight.
Endeavor E 3 II – some of the most satisfying all around floor standing speakers made. Excellent on an absolute scale . Pretty much impossible to beat at the price. Tom Evans The Groove Anniversary : Like all Tom Evans phono stages from the Micro Groove on up this baby allows your system to extract the maximum information from your records with the lowest noise imaginable. Superb harmonic retrieval.
Zanden 120 Phono Stage-Detailed and versatile
Rogers Fidelity PA 2 Class A tube phono stage-remarkable prformance on the sweet side.
Vac Renaissance Signature Phono stage- Luscious and highly detailed at the same time
Norma REV IPA-140 integrated amp. There is nothing solid state close to its price which is as good.
PS AUDIO Direct Stream DAC – Beats the hell out of any DACs I know of south of 10K
BAT VK 33 Preamp and Bat VK-56 –detailed and harmonically rich Tubed preamp and amp.
Rogue Rp-1 Preamp -Best preamp made under 2k
Rogue Cronus Magnum III - How they make a tube integrated this good for $3000.00 I’ll never know.Now with MC phono input!
Rogue Sphinx- Hybrid integrated too good for its cost!
Luxman L 505 UXII- all around best sounding full featured integrated amp under $5000.00
Feickert Woodpecker-an unsung killer of a turntable at a respectable price.
Kaiser kawero-if this is not the most musical speaker on the planet I will eat my hat.
Kronos Pro le – Best turntable made.
Absolare Integrated- the magic of Tubes with punch and power of solid state.
Absolare Push Pull 845 Amps - May be the best 845 tube amp in the business.
Audionet Sam g2 An integrated amp with detail galore
Audionet AMP mono power amps the most competent solid state amp I have heard under 20K
Tone trager Stands. I knew that speaker stands made a difference but not this much –Absolutely Awesome!
Raidho C 1.2 and the Raidho D-1.1 -unequivocally two of the best small speakers in the world. So transparent, they simply disappear and all you have left is the music !
Following several years of careful preparation, Absolare has brought to market a new perspective in Push-Pull amplification with its introduction of an 85 watt Push-Pull amplifier. The Absolare Push-Pull amplifier combines the finesse, delicacy and midrange magic of a Single Ended Triode amplifier with the capability of driving an even wider range of speakers.
The Absolare Push-Pull Amplifier has two chassis monoblock construction. Laser cut and welded 3mm aluminum chassis are enclosed in a high density fiber cover to minimize the mechanical resonances. Power supply and speaker output transformers are in epoxy filled metal cans to minimize vibration and magnetic interference. 5mm thick aluminum bottom cover provides a stable base for the feet. Internal components are mounted on a thick aluminum plate which is bolted to chassis. With the painted top layer, overall thickness of aluminum where the components are mounted is more than half inch (14mm). This is a much better option than to have a very thick front plate just to support single power indicator LED and mount all the signal components on thin PCB's.
All signal connectors are gold/silver plated tellurium copper. Binding posts are silver coated copper with polyethylene barrels to decrease conductor mass. All tube sockets are made of pure teflon with gold plated copper contacts. The power supply for B+ voltage contains a three stage capacitor-inductor double-pi filter which employs highest grade ultra-low ESR Mundorf capacitors to obtain maximum levels of dynamics and detail in the output signal. Power by-pass capacitors are placed at every tube's supply pin to further increase dynamics and lower the noise. All tube heaters are DC regulated and heavily filtered. All internal cabling is done with Echole family alloys. A timer circuit enables a smooth start-up operation to protect the tubes from imbalanced power-up voltages. Power resistors are oversized for safety in the case of tube failures.
All tube signal section has transformer coupling between driver and output stages, ensuring perfectly symmetrical signal for push-pull operation. EL34 tubes provide a powerful drive for 845 output tubes. Phase splitting is done via a high current 12AT7 tube. Separate power filters for each stage eliminate modulation distortions. Signal components are directly mounted on the underside of the tube sockets with point-to-point soldering. Custom winding of output transformer maintains perfect symmetry and low distortion at every level.
The sonic objective is to allow the Push-Pull topology to deliver a natural, musically involving listener experience without a discernible sonic signature and with a new level of dynamic contrast and harmonic resolution unprecedented in today’s Push-Pull designs.
Words can hardly convey what the new SAM G2 is capable of achieving. With a spacious yet subtle sound, it plays transparently and spatially, sleekly and most powerfully. Reproducing every single note naturally and effortlessly. The new SAM G2 is even more committed and passionate than its predecessor. Indeed, its richness of information and tone, power and authority as well as its musical coherence has audiophile critics clapping their writing hands everywhere on the globe.
Such quality is scarce on the market, making this device ideally suited for domestic use and tonally convincing musical reproduction. The SAM G2 masters all the tasks set to it with dedication, captivating its listeners with breathtaking authenticity. Its sound is characterized by speed, purpose and honesty, yet at the same time is full of charm, finesse and the utmost care to detail. With its catching enthusiasm, this lively device produces a surprisingly realistic sound experience.
If you own a computer audio system, you know that time spent fussing is time lost listening.
Consider the alternative - the Aurender N100H or N100C seamlessly replaces your aging computer. Your music will now be stored on the N100’s internal hard drive, available in either 2TB or 4TB capacity with a 120GB solid state (SSD) caching drive performing all file playback for superior fidelity and reliability. Management of your digital music library and Tidal lossless streaming service is simple and intuitive, thanks to our award-winning Aurender Conductor app. And all major digital file formats are supported at native bit and sampling rates.
Housed in beautiful machined aluminum casework, either N100 version will compliment your existing system components and deliver a new level of musicality you have to hear to believe.
With its new transformer-coupled outputs and superb user interface, the VK-33SE offers both extremely dynamic, transparent renditions of musical events and the industry’s best ease-of-use versatility. The result of intense research, each of the preamplifier’s transformer-coupled outputs is encapsulated within a mu-metal shield, a design substantially superior to any capacitor in maintaining purity of signal transmission. True to its heritage, the VK-33SE uses the 6H30 SuperTube to form a high-current, low-impedance gain stage. For extra convenience, the fully balanced VK-33SE even incorporates a mix of balanced and single-ended inputs as well as outputs The VK-33SE preamplifier is truly an outstanding performer in Balanced Audio Technology’s line of Special Edition vacuum tube preamplifiers. At BAT, they don’t look over our shoulders to see what the competition is doing. Their toughest competition comes from within.
With its new transformer-coupled outputs, the VK-33SE simply offers a far more dynamic and transparent rendition of the musical event than previously thought possible. Available with or without MM/MC Phono Stage.
Known for its use of Unique Tubes and Circuits BAT recently introduced one of the great bargains in amplification : the VK 56Compact Chassis, Outstanding Performance, Stunning Affordability
The Balanced Audio Technology VK-56 represents the meticulous application of modern design principles to the development of a compact, affordable, and supremely easy-to-use vacuum-tube power amplifier that sets a new standard for musicality in its class. The result is a unique combination of fully balanced, all-triode design topology, automatic biasing of individual output tubes, and a marvelously simple upgrade path to monoblock operation—all in a chassis more compact than any previous BAT tube amplifier design. In addition, VK-56 is available with a silver color option that incorporates a silver front faceplate and matching rear arch. By using the same high-current dual-triode 6C33C-B tube employed in BAT’s flagship REX II power amplifier, VK-56 (55Wpc stereo, 110Wpc monoblock configuration) delivers the high-current kick required to drive even difficult low-impedance speaker loads. You can simply choose the stereo or monoblock version based upon your choice of speaker and room size. VK-56 can be upgraded to VK-56SE status at any time.
Chord’s most advanced DAC to date is the DAVE. Frankly, I did not know what to expect when it arrived and even more frankly did not actually much care as I was blessed by an over abundance of nominally similar converters. Then I set it up and played a few Hi Res files through it. It took about 5 minutes for me to realize that DAVE was not only playing rings around competitively priced DACS but was putting components which sold for twice it price to shame. Today , the next step up from DAVE which we offer is 2.5 times its price. That says it all !
DAVE is not just a highly advanced reference-grade DAC. It is also a superb digital preamp and headphone amplifier. British in the tradition of an Alan Turing , DAVE employs a new (and in electronics terms, huge) LX75 version of the Spartan 6 Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). The FPGA''s amazing capacity results in significantly improved timing and the best noise-shaper performance of any known DAC. DAVE''s technology delivers music with unparalleled veracity and musicality, with an unrivalled timing response.
USB B-style: 44 kHz to 768 kHz - DXD and Quad DSD
2x optical: 44kHz to 192kHz
1 x AES: 44kHz to 192kHz
4 x Coax: 44kHz to 384kHz
Dual-data mode available
2x ultra-high-speed coax 768kHz dual-data mode for use with future-unannounced Chord Electronics products.
Maximum output voltage: 6 volts RMS
THD and noise at 2.5 volts: RMS 0.000015 %
THD and noise at 2.5 volts: 127dBA Awt (124dBA into 33 ohms)
Dynamic range at -60 dBFS 1kHz -127 dBA A wt
(No measurable noise floor modulation, no a harmonic distortion)
(Analogue distortion characteristic: no distortion for small signals)
Power requirements: mains power 80 volts to 260 volts; AC 20 watts
“It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of listening to realise that the DAVE is something special. It just sounds so right from the beginning that it genuinely takes effort to even try to deconstruct its performance. When we did, we found a formidable array of talents with no discernable weaknesses. Orff’s Carmina Burana is one of the most demanding pieces of music we know. It has savage dynamics coupled to complex instrumentation and varies from outright frenzy to angelic harmonies in the space of just a few seconds. The DAVE takes it all in stride.
This DAC renders a convincing acoustic – a believable space populated by the choir and instruments. Sound staging is excellent. It is precise, layered and neatly arranged. More than that it’s stable, even when the music turns demanding. The tonal balance is similarly impressive being even-handed and utterly convincing. No part of the frequency range gets undue preference and there’s a lovely balance between attack and refinement.”
WHAT* HIFI - 27th June 2016
If someone had asked me a couple of years ago what kind of speaker the world could use given the abundance of models available , I would have said
" How about a REALLY NEUTRAL SOUNDING moderately sized floorstander which can play any kind of music soft or loud which can work in small and large rooms alike presented in an attractive package which sells under 10K made right here in the States ." Then we would have both smiled and sighed because there was no such thing. Then almost like a wish coming true ENDEAVOR AUDIO ENGINEERING INTRODUCED THE AMAZING E-3II .
Endeavor Audio is the alter ego of the very talented Leif Swanson who has for a number of years now has been an integral part of the design team at Von Schweickert Audio. This past year the two companies merged bringing together two of the most talented speaker guys in the USA Leif and Albert Von Schweickert under one roof. The result has been most salutory.
In addition to the E3 Endeavor produces the E5 , which looks a little like an E3 on growth hormones and provides the scale and dynamics one would expect of a speaker its size and price without ever losing the charm and intimacy characteristic of the its little sibling.
To date I have heard no speaker system under 10k which can outplay the E3 II
and few which come close . Considering the ease with which they can navigate any and all genres of music and their uncanny ability to bring out the best of the music in any environment the E-3 mk II certainly are the speaker to beat.
“When I first heard the E3 this year, I was blown away. I don’t say that lightly, either – the flippin’ system was loud enough to fracture drywall. But the sound I heard was extended, dynamic, and detailed – even when stuffed into a tiny shoebox of a hotel room.”
- SCOTT HULL,
The Woodpecker is an entirely new turntable design in which timeless elegance meets excellence in sound. Dr. Feickert Analogue refined its already well-proven bearing design adding a new high-inertia platter driven by a new high-torque motor. The motor is then further enhanced by a newly developed motor electronics package. Why the emphasis on new? Because this ground-up development has resulted in an extremely balanced and inherently musical turntable with an appealing compact chassis – the new base-line of excellence in turntable design.
The Woodpecker turntable is available by itself or as part of a complete package that includes a 12" Jelco tonearm .
"The Woodpecker Package has proven itself to be a very capable platform for vinyl playback. Its High Inertia Platter, updated drive system, redesigned bearing, quick-release sliding-tonearm mounting system, and Acoustical Systems Arché headshell combine to give the turntable solid and steady playback capabilities. The gorgeous VANA-specified finish adds beauty to solid baseline performance. If you are in the market for a turntable in this price range, you owe it to yourself to include the Woodpecker in that search. Given the Woodpecker’s ability to work well with cartridges far more expensive and capable than what would normally be installed, it could possibly serve its owner far into the future." by Andre Jennings
• Dimensions: 19" x 15" x 5.5"
• Armboard: 205–300 mm pivot-spindle (9–12 inch effective length)
• Weight: 40lbs• Warranty: 2 years, with 5 years on the bearing
MSB’s Reference DAC is just one step below the Select DAC when it comes to performance. However, when tricked out, it produces a sound that is virtually indistinguishable from the Select model.
The MSB Reference DAC includes:
optical/coaxial input module
base output module
Femto 140 clock
stock colors: silver and black (custom colors available with extended manufacturing time and custom color charge)
The MSB Reference DAC upgrade options are the same as on the Select
The Raidho Acoustics D-1.1 is a compact 2-way stand-mounted loudspeaker featuring the Raidho Diamond Driver and the Raidho Ribbon Tweeter that proves that less is more. By minimizing and virtually removing resonances, the listener’s mind is free to enjoy crisp musical reproduction on a whole new level. The D-1 offers endless performance in all respects.
The Raidho C1.2 is the direct descendant of the legendary Raidho C1.1, the original model that started it all. The C-1.2 is the smallest loudspeaker in the C-series, but has quickly earned a reputation as an instant Raidho classic winning awards and gaining accolades from all over the globe. The C-1.2 is built around the Raidho Ribbon Tweeter and the unique Raidho Ceramix Driver. It is an incredible speaker that, like the rest of the items in the Raidho catalogue, over performs.
Elegantly simple, yet technically sophisticated, the Rogue RP-1 is offered at 1/3 the price of the RP-7 and is the best sounding preamp you can buy less than $2000. Based on the innovative RP-X platform, it is stunning in both performance and design. With all of the features needed for a true high-end system, boasting outstanding specs and remarkable sonics, the RP-1 sets a new benchmark in affordability, performance, and functionality.
The remarkably musical onboard MM/MC phono has user-adjustable gain settings of 43 and 58 dB to accommodate most popular cartridge and, with a wide variety of loading options your favorite cartridge can be configured to sound its very best. The discrete 1w headphone amplifier will thrill you with its smooth and refined sound.
This Rogue offering, now in its third iteration, like so many others, seems too good to be true. This 80w per channel tube amp, integrated with MM phono stage, sounds so convincing for so little outlay it has competitors scratching their heads. It will drive almost anything, sounds great, and is extremely reliable.
The new MasterGroove mkII is a performance reality that no other solid state manufacturer understands how to equal.
Creating a ne plus ultra phono stage for $20,000.00 while a spectacular achievement is perhaps less surprising than what Tom Evans does in the moderately priced arena. His MicroGroove XII and Microgroove+xII simply stand head and shoulder above all phono stages in the sub $2500.00 range. They are the only MC stages we recommend in this performance class.
This 100 watt per channel stereo, 200 watt monoblock powerhouse features the exclusive patented VAC iQ Continuous Automatic Bias System, the only system that has the ability to hold each power tube's true underlying idle current steady at all times, resulting in more detail, increased subjective power, greater stability, lower noise, less distortion, and no more runaway tubes.
It will even tell you when it's time to replace weak tubes.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that the most critical part of a preamplifier is the active circuit design. Ypsilon, however, believes that the means of signal attenuation (the volume control) is most critical to the overall sound. Most designers use resistor attenuators for volume control, while Ypsilon long used resistor attenuators with high quality resistors, but that was before they developed their own transformer as the means of attenuation.
Unfortunately, even the best resistors can sound grainy and discontinuous. The materials used in resistors are far from ideal as conductors and sound much worse than pure copper or silver, doing harm to the signal. In a transformer, however, the magnetic circuit can be ultra-linear when the very best core materials are used creating a sound that is more musical and detailed compared with the best resistors. That’s why Ypsilon produced, in-house, a special transformer attenuator with 31 taps.
The maximum attenuation is 52db and maximum gain is 12db. The output impedance is 150 Ω max. The PST is the pinnacle in pre-amplification and a must have component for building a “no holds” system.
The only solid-state component which Zanden makes is it’s model 120 phono preamp . The 120 has two inputs either of which can be designated as high or low impedance. It continues the tradition of offering multiple phono equalization curves as in the 3002. While not as luxurious as it’s big brother the model 120, it is and exceptional performer in its own right.
Take 90% of the innovations and technology found in the Backert Rhythm 1.3 and put it into the same chassis as the Rhumba 1.3 and ,voila, you have the Rhumba 1.3 Extreme.The formula seems just right. 90% of performance for 60% of the price seems like quite a feat, but then again, we are talking about Bob Backert! Of course there are some differences besides the chassis.The rhythm has a dual mono power supply while the Extreme uses a dual mono regulator.V-cap copper foil power supplies run the power supply in the Rhythm 1.3 while the Rhumba 1.3 Extreme uses polypropylene caps.In the output the Rhythm uses Mundorfs best capacitors while Mr. Extreme employs Jantzen silver caps.
Yes you can hear the difference even if its only 10% , but in most systems the Rhumba Extreme more than carries the day.
At the top of Backert's lineup stands the Rhythm 1.3,the latest iteration ofthe Preamp that Scott Hull described as"freaking awesome " in the March 19, 2016 issue of part time Audiophile
I am guessing that if he had a chance to hear the 1.3 the " freaking" might be replaced by something even stronger(very freaking?).In that review the Rhythm 1.1 was compared to a $ 25,000.00
Tidal Preamp , which seems to be par for the course -that is to say the Backert Rhythm is so good that one naturally tends to compare it to components many times its price. The Rhythm 1.3 incorporates the finest capacitors made (V-Cap capacitors), a first in audio made possible by Bob Backert’s patented GreenForce power supply.and that is just where the unique innovations begin.
The Rhythm 1.3 uses an amplification circuit (“gain stage”) unlike any other. The way it amplifies is extremely easy on your tubes, running at a constant current and a remarkably low voltage (150 volts) for the blackest backgrounds possible, as well as the longest tube life you will find anywhere. Its 75 ohm output impedance means it is compatible with any amplifier made regardless of type.
The Stenheim Alumine two is simply the best monitor sized speaker made.It has the dynamics of a far larger speaker, amazing scale and tight believable bass and tonality which while revealingling every nuance of the music is never bright or over etched
"If you need a compact speaker that allows your music to breathe, that’s big on expression, big on intimacy and big communication but isn’t phased by big or loud, then the Alumine Two could be just what you’re looking for. Other brands might make more noise about (and with) their aluminum boxes, but right now it’s the Stenheims that are delivering the musical goods"by Roy Gregory The AudioBeat,March 2017
An Amplifier of exceptional body and control , the Antileon exudes quality and stability. One look at it and you know that you are in the presence of
Greatness both in sound and fit and finish.The current signature version is a highly reworked version of the original Antileon which was introduced almost 20 years ago .The Antileon Signature, like its predecessor, the original Antileon, was born a classic, establishing itself immediately in High End circles as one of the most acclaimed amplifiers of all time. Loyal devotees around the world praise its singular ability to maintain a firm grip on even the most demanding loudspeakers and reveal the innermost soul of any musical performance.
Super integrated amplifiers are rapidly populating the Audio Landscape. What characterizes all of these offerings is the goal of putting all the qualities of the best separates into a single box.
Prices range from the low $20.000 to $ 150,00.00 or more .That is with the notable exception of The Gryphon Diablo 300 which enters the fray at $16000.00 for a truly magnificent expression of
what can be achieved in an integrated amp at the highest level of performance.vailable with a marvelous DAC , which at $6000.00 is a bargain unto itself and or a terrific MC/MM phono stage.
It is fair to say that tthe Diablo 300 is one of the outstanding bargains in High End Audio. But , take note , The Diablo 300 is no light weight literally or figuratively. It is an amp which is as big and as heavy as it needs to be to do the job.And what a job it is!
Now, in its long-awaited debut, the Gryphon Zena true dual mono preamplifier harvests the fruit of significant advances made in the evolution of the state of the art Gryphon Mirage.The Zena preamp is based on an exclusive, fully discrete, DC-coupled Class A topology with zero global negative feedback and extended 1 MHz frequency bandwidth, all contributing to high slew rates, extreme transient fidelity and zero treble phase shift for proper focus with fine ambient micro-detail.
The Amp is one of my all-time favorite power amplifiers. If you don’t need megawatts this amplifier seems to have it all. You might call it a Goldilocks device. Not too sweet ;not too hard; just right!
It does not have the slam of a big Gryphon or CH Precision amp But it has plenty and what its hybrid design DELIVER’s is simply captivating. Perfect for Stenheim, Kaiser Kawero, Harbeth,Splendor and Graham.
The "Preamp" is quite special employing only two stages of balanced amplification. Interestingly, the second preamplifier stage(output) doesn`t have any voltage gain but is a pure impedance converter with very high current reserves Both preamplifier channels are perfectly decoupled from the housing and mounted on their own low resonance frequency tuned sub-frame. This protects the amplifier stages against interferences from outside such as micro phonic or mechanical resonances. The unique power supply offers absolute stability under even the most adverse conditions.Stray magnetice fields and voltage fluctuations have virtually no affect on the Musical signal. Finally, Neither the volume control nor the selector switch are in the signal path.To change inputs Einstein raises and lowers the voltage across the tube assigned to the respective input.
Thr Ne Plus Ultra design from Inuos,Statement Server Stands out as the most sophisticated ROON Core Music Server extant.It is hard to Imagine just how much better ROON Streaming sounds
thru the Statement than it does using any other Music server, and at about $14,000.00 that is to be expected.What is interesting is how much truer the music is developed using the Statement than with Streamers priced at 2-3 times higher .
I am deadly serious when I say that I have been longing for someone to create a power amp with resolution and grACE THAT SELL FOR UNDER $5000.00 TO MATCH SOME OF THE OUTSTANDING SUB 7K TUBE PREAMPS THAT BACKERT AND ROGUE MAKE . THE QUALITON APX 200 MEETS THIS QUALIFICATION AND THEN SOME FAETURING A SELECTABLE VOLUME CONTROL THE 100 W PER CHANNEL A 200X SIMPLY WIBES THE FLOOR WITH ANY TUBE POWER AMP I HAVE HEARD IN THE SUB 10K RANGE A NO BRAINER FROM THE W0ORLD OF PLAINKI AND GOULASH.TOP RECOMMENDATION
As John Atkinson,Editor in Chief at Stereophile at the time, commented:
The immediate impression was of extraordinary clarity. This wasn't as if the edges of the objects within the soundstage had been enhanced, as can be done to images with PhotoShop, but as if the pixel count of the image had been increased. It didn't manage this by emphasizing treble detail, but to resort to an audio reviewer cliché, the DAC502 cleaned the window into the recorded soundstage to an impressive extent...
(U)ltimately, musical enjoyment is what this product is all about. As I write this conclusion, I am listening to Stanford's hauntingly engaging song "The Blue Bird," performed by the Gabrieli Consort directed by Paul McCreesh (from Silence & Music, 16/44.1k FLAC, Signum Classics/Tidal). The interplay between the unaccompanied voices, the bell-like interjections of the high soprano, the setting of all the singers within a supportive chapel acoustic—the Weiss DAC502 made all these aspects clear, in service of the music. Which is what a great audio component should do."STEREOPHILE, Jul 24, 2020
The Qualiton X 200 defies simple description. It is all at once an integrated amp, a power amplifier, and a pre-amplifier. it even has tone controls which suddenly affect bass and treble when you use them or otherwise completely transparent. All of these features would be simply meaningless if the sound wasn't there to match them. But it is there. It is there in spades. We have never heard a tube power amplifier/integrated amplifier that sounds as transparent dynamic and detailed as the X 200 for anywhere near its price range. It absolutely trounces amps which we have compared it to that sell for 15,000, 20,000 even $30,000. But the Qualiton can be had for a mere $6500 which makes it our go to Tube integrated/Poweramp under $15,000. it even has an MM phono stage.A great one at that. with 100 W per channel There are a few speakers which it cannot drive. Put it on a pair of Harbeth HL5XD and you will hear Nirvana.
When we think of Brinkmann we think of the marvelous turn tables they have made for many years. So, unfortunately, people often neglect the SUPERB electronics which they make. In particular the Brinkmann Edison is a world-class bargain in hybrid phono stages offering three inputS each of which is fully adjustable for impedance. I think the sound as described by Jacob Heilbrunn in the following several paragraphs February 2020 review gets it just right:
I listened to the Edison both through the Brinkmann and Ypsilon Silver PST-100 preamps. I found it most useful to isolate its sound by using the familiar Ypsilon. This afforded me the opportunity to hear exactly what it was—and was not—doing as it amplified the tiny signal from my Continuum Caliburn turntable and Swedish Analog Technologies reference CF1 tonearm via the Lyra Atlas SL and Miyajima Infinity mono cartridges.
The phonostage is quite flexible, allowing you to switch the transformers in and out of the circuit to boost the signal from moving-coil cartridges before the amplification stage. On stereo records I found the transformer to be indispensable. On mono records not so much. Many of the mono records from my jazz collection simply sounded incredible on the Brinkmann. Take the album Li’l Ol’ Groovemaker….Basie! The drums were set back far in the rear of the soundstage while the brass choirs came screaming out with what seemed like unprecedented ferocity in my system on cuts like “Nasty Magnus.” Basie apparently told Quincy Jones after the first run-through, “You ought to have written four of these, Quincy! That’s wailin’!” Indeed. Sonny Payne’s drums had visceral impact as the orchestra blasted out a series of crescendos.
Edison provided a rock-solid rendition of this trio, the best….
The sheer artistry that the Edison conveyed on the Philips recording The Delectable Elly Ameling was a combination of the sublime and the beautiful. On Mozart’s wonderful motet Exsultate, Jubilate, which he composed in 1773, the Edison tracked every syllable, every quaver, every trill that Ameling enunciated during her ravishing performance. It nailed the antiphonal effects between Ameling and the oboe as she sang “Hallelujah.” Once more, there wasn’t a trace of sibilance or harshness. Instead, the Brinkmann delivered a posh, upholstered sound that was quite delectable. Actually, I should say breathtaking. On the Bach “Floesst, mein Heiland, floesst dein Namen,” the interchanges between Ameling, two oboes, and chorus reach an exalted level. Listening to such works made me think of the eighteenth century German writer Friedrich Schiller’s famous distinction between naïve and sentimental poetry—the former being the natural state that we aspire to but can no longer achieve. In sonic terms, Brinkmann, you could say, tries to bridge the gap.
When contrasted with much more expensive equipment from CH Precision, Boulder, and Ypsilon, the Brinkmann gear doesn’t quite have their magnanimity of sound, grip, and airiness. CH Precision produces a cavernous black space that seems unrivaled. Boulder has a degree of control that is unique to it. And Ypsilon lights up the soundstage. But Brinkmann comes remarkably close and has its own set of virtues. It has a dynamism and smooth continuity that are immensely beguiling. It represents formidable German engineering allied to a profound sense of musicality that will be difficult for most listeners to resist.”
Edison Mk II Phonostage
After the astounding success and performance of the S500 Stereo Amplifier, MSB set ITS sights on expanding that sound to more systems. Trickle-down technologies incorporated into a more compact, lower-power framework resulted in the S202 Stereo Amplifier. It’s capable of meeting our DAC’s ultra high dynamic range head-on with optimized architecture in the critical areas of audio performance, power supplies, and ultra low-noise design. The S202 includes a fully modular design, matched impedance input stage and an all billet CNC case. The highest value amplifier MSB ever created, the S202 redefines excellence and sets a new bar in the industry.
A Smart Decision for the Sound Obsessed on a Budget
The N150 represents the entry-level point of Aurender’s range of music servers/ streamers. It delivers exceptional audio performance and is the perfect model to choose if, for example, you are upgrading from a laptop-based audio system. N150 is the latest iteration of the legendary N100H and incorporates several upgrades and improvements that bring it to a new level of audio performance and functionality. The heart of the N150 is the newly specified low-power Intel dual-core CPU providing low-noise processing for the desirable quiet background your music will emerge from. Also, contributing to lower noise operation is the new 2X isolated Gigabit LAN port and ultra-clean Audio Class 2.0 USB output. Additionally, a built-in super-capacitor based uninterrupted power supply (UPS) is there to safely boot-down the N150 in case of an abrupt power outage. We’ve also expanded the options for internal music library storage by providing a single user accessible HDD/SSD tray allowing for the drive type and capacity of your choice. And, if you’re streaming 100%, hard drives are totally unnecessary!
N150 is a compact component incorporating everything needed to browse and stream hi-res music from Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify or internet radio using our dedicated application, Aurender Conductor. Should you wish to add digital files to the N150, there’s a provision to add a single 2TB or 4TB HDD or an 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB SSD in order to fully accommodate the size of your file library. And the N150 handles virtually any file format. From its “clean” Audio Class 2.0 USB output file resolutions supported include 32-bit / 384kHz, 1-bit, 2.8MHz (DSD64); 1-bit, 5.6MHz (DSD128), 11.2MHz (DSD256) and DSD512. Updated and improved upon by virtue of an all-new dual-core processor, low-noise linear power supply and increased system memory brings higher fidelity to your digital files and streams. The beautifully machined aluminum chassis sports a 3.0” AMOLED display that indicates the album and song name in an alphanumeric readout.
All Aurender music servers are controlled by our exclusive app, Aurender Conductor which is supported on iPad, iPhone, Android phone and tablets.
The N150, as is true will all Aurender models, benefits from being an inclusive design, meaning that all the necessary technology required for file serving or streaming music is incorporate within one audio component. This approach provides a high level of stability, reliability and predictability of operation which results in superior sound quality and user experience.
Inheriting Aurender's unique next-generation family design identity, the N30SA High Definition Caching Music Server and Streamer is visually distinguished by both its dual-chassis form factor and wide-screen full-color LCD display first seen on the A30 and N20. At first glance, you immediately notice its substantial presence, elegance and grace – a visual metaphor of what to expect sonically. However, N30’s audiophile essence also lies within its inner beauty. N30SA takes its hardware and circuit topology innovations first explored on the N20 to its empirical conclusion. N30SA goes above and beyond the N20 in terms of noise and jitter reduction, increased dynamics and uncompromised purity of the audio signal. This is it thr best Aurender Music Server yet built which in our mind makes it the best !
As mentioned, the N30SA consists of two separate chassis linked together by two cables. The power box houses all power supplies, display driver, HDD/SSD storage and all circuitry related to system control The audio box contains the display, SPDIF audio board with all digital output protocols and the OCXO clock. Both chassis are distinguished by their 10mm thick top covers which act as an effective EMF shield as well as having anti-resonance properties. In the audiophile world, two-chassis designs connote “ultra-high end” such as a separate CD transport / DAC or preamplifier with separate power supply. However, in the N30SA, this is not just a mere stylistic gesture as significant benefits in fidelity are realized with this configuration. For example, the power box can be located up to 1.5m away from the audio box greatly reducing the potential for spurious noise pollution cause by physical interaction. But more importantly, the AC powered linear power supply converts and delivers a clean DC power source from which the audio box is powered. This arrangement dramatically lowers the noise floor resulting to an uncannily quiet background from which music can emerge. Through segregation of the noise inducing componentry such as the AC socket, LCD display driver, AC to DC power rectifier, hard drive spindle noise and LAN port results in an unprecedented level of audio purity.
In addition to removing AC power noise from the outside by converting it into a clean DC power, another major source of outside noise is from the ethernet cable. Like the AC/DC conversion the N30SA’s LAN ports have a similar behavior. LAN signals containing noise from the router are separated by galvanic isolation through a transformer and double-isolated LAN port, and then transmitted to the audio box through a dedicated data cable. Viewing the audio outputs, located on the rear panel there is one each AES/EBU, BNC, Coax, Tos-Link and Audio 2.0 USB. This audio signal processing unit outputs an extremely low noise audio signal made possible by a unique grounding technique, electrical isolation and operation by DC power supplied from the power supply unit. The resulting noise floor is nearly unmeasurable.
A high-quality Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator (same as the one in W20SE) is used for the SPDIF outputs in the Aurender N30SA. Since only the parts directly related to audio playback are located together in one chassis, they can be totally isolated and free from noise generated from other than audio signal processing. That noise may occur inside the chassis and can be delt with through meticulous internal processing.
This input allows interface with an external word or master clock which are offered by several high-performance DAC manufacturers. Simply put, a word clock is a device that is given the job of keeping perfect time and preventing digital audio data errors when multiple components are used together. Using the 75 Ω BNC connector as a connection method, both master clock and word clock inputs are supported for various scalability options.
Aurender Conductor is an award-winning music management application that is at the heart of every Aurender music server / streamer. It provides quick access to your favorite files or steaming service and is intuitive, easy to use and simple to master. Conductor is supported on iPad, iPhone, Android Phones and Tablets. An Aurender music server is inclusive and designed in such a way so that both hardware and software work in harmony. This integration ensures better sound quality, reliability, stability and predictability of operation. It also allows Aurender to provide an unprecedented level of customer support via app-based remote support login.
|Front Panel Display||Full-Color 8.8” 1920 x 480 wide IPS LCD|
|CPU||Intel Low Power Quad-Core|
|SSD for System and Cache||480GB SSD|
|Main Clock||OCXO Based Precision Jitter Reducing Clock|
|Storage||8TB SSD installed. Slot for additional 2.5” drive|
|Word Clock Input||BNC 10MHz, 12.8MHz (44.1kHz and 48kHz multiples from 1 to 512), Input impedance 75 ohms|
|I/O Ports||2 x USB 3.0 (rear)|
|Digital Audio Outputs||AES/EBU, Coaxial, BNC, Optical and USB Audio Class 2.0 x 1|
|SPDIF Audio Output||PCM up to 24-bit / 192kHz|
|USB Audio Output||32-bit / 384kHz, 1-bit, 2.8MHz (DSD64); 1-bit, 5.6MHz (DSD128), 11.2MHz (DSD256), 22.4MHz (DSD512)|
|Compatible Formats||DSD (DSF, DFF), WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, M4A, APE|
|DSD-to-PCM||Precision DSD-to-PCM conversion for SPDIF outputs Support for DSD64/128/256/512 to 88.2kHz or 176.4kHz|
|MQA Core Decoder||Optional|
|Gigabit Ethernet||Double-Isolated x 1|
|Power Supply||Full-Linear supply isolated by separated chassis|
|UPS||Yes (Super Capacitor based)|
|Control Software||Aurender Conductor for iPad, Android Phone / Tablet|
|Material||Machined Aluminum Chassis|
|Dimensions & Weight (each)||16.9 x 3.8 x 14.0in., 48.5lbs / 430 x 96 x 353mm., 22.0kg|
|Power Consumption||Play (4W), Peak (70W), Standby (3.5W)|
The Helios WEISS'S state of the art D/A converter with an unprecedented level of sophistication and versatility. With the Helios we are creating a new paradigm for what used to be a black box device."It's an 8-channel D/A converter with four DACs per channel," the younger Weiss explained. "The housing is fully anodized aluminum. The 502 that Stereophile reviewed also has four channels, but they're split between the speaker feed and the headphone feed. The Helios has four channels on the left and four on the right. What's most significant, however, is the unit's analog stage, whose new discrete operational amplifiers are of the utmost importance." A typical D/A Converter is a ”set and forget” device. Not so with the Helios. It adds a number of interesting signal processing features and sports a variety of digital inputs. Balanced, unbalanced and headphone outputs are provided. Weiss Engineering has a 30 year history in D/A Converter design. In that time span we have learned a thing or two about converter design. The Helios is the essence of our experiences
Luxman’s new generation Z series integrated amplifiers. The L-507Z is the debut model heralding our new generation of amplifier products. Featuring our newly developed LIFES amplification feedback engine, we look towards the future of Luxman. This amplifier has realized a dramatic development in musicality that goes far beyond its class. L-507Z combines advanced technology and sophisticated functionality. Our new, innovative Z series integrated amplifier generation begins with this superb
Designed to be used with high performance digital-to-analog converters, the Aurender N10 – the penultimate server is the only Music Player to support on-the-fly precision DSD to PCM conversion by FPGA.
With 8TB of (4TBx2) internal hard disk drives and one 240GB solid-state drive cache for playback, the N10 is the perfect solution for even the most extensive high resolution music collections.
Blockbusters for Demanding Listeners
The new Audionet AMP high performance power amplifiers are true mono-blocks that combine remarkable sound potential with high-end technical possibilities. A pair of blockbusters for real connoisseurs.
Air plays a key role in regard to our AMP mono-blocks. For one thing, the pair needs some air around them in order to permit the diffusion of the heat either block generates. And for another, air is part of the sound experience they offer: every fragment of a beat, every acoustic detail is offered to the listener in transparent spatiality, as if encapsulated in the purest air. Weighing in at 22 kilograms, the two mono outputs deliver a maximum of airiness and vivid rendition, and may well bring tears of joy to the eyes of more sensitive listeners. The AMPs play with fascinating ease, impressing us with acoustic permeability, tonal accuracy and striking macro- and micro-dynamical precision. The musical reproduction is transparent, airy and colorful, but remains agreeably relaxed at the same time.
The uttermost quality of a preamplifier is its transparency. The source is selected and the volume is applied, however the original audio characteristics and signal dynamics are fully retained. The L1, a dual monaural analog line level preamplifier, was developed using this approach. It is a pure class A, ultra low noise, high bandwidth, fully balanced transistor based design. It provides the shortest path between input and output, maintaining the highest speed, transparency and musicality, allowing the L1 to become a truly exceptional preamplifier.
Being able to truthfully and accurately reproduce today’s highest quality recordings has never been more challenging. Only when each element of the reproduction chain is able to precisely recreate the music’s time and level information can a genuine emotion be felt.
The M1, CH Precision 1 Series’ most powerful amplifier was developed with this in mind. The leading-edge technological advancements implemented on the A1 were further refined, among others is the ExactBias circuitry and a finer loudspeaker matching.
Specified at 200W RMS into 8Ω in monaural mode, 2x 200W RMS into 8Ω in bi-amplification / Stereo modes and 700W RMS into 8Ω in bridge mode, the M1 houses a dedicated 2200VA power transformer providing the amplifier output stage with ample energy to accurately and effortlessly drive the most demanding loudspeakers.
“As classically correct as solid state gets yet as musically engaging and expressive as the best electronics I’ve used, the CH Precision L1, P1 and M1 come awfully close to the "nothing added, nothing taken away" ideal of high-end replay. Yes, they have a character to go with their astonishing levels of resolution and organization, but they never allow sonic obsession to obstruct their musical purpose. No, they don’t match the rich body and sheer presence of the best -- the very best -- tube electronics. Listening to them, am I aware that I’m listening to solid-state designs? Yes, but only if I actually stop to think about it -- and that’s the key. What CH Precision has achieved is to bend solid-state technology and combine it with sophisticated microprocessor control to produce purely musical ends. Like all truly great designs -- and make no mistake about their greatness -- these products exploit their chosen technology and materials and ameliorate their flaws. The result is capable, poised and polished performance that still manages to shock, surprise and amuse. The musical message is so central and so articulate that the medium becomes utterly secondary.
The M1 power amp is simply the most musically accomplished, high-powered solid-state piece it has been my pleasure to use. I love its configurable nature and I love the idea of adding additional amps along the way, even if the cost of just one of these is beyond my means. One M1 or two A1s? Definitely the M1. It has a confidence and stability, a freedom from constraint at either end of the musical range that is rare indeed. Which leaves us with the L1, the least outwardly special but, quietly, the most impressive and fundamentally musical product here.
Used individually, any of these units will, by turns, astonish, beguile, impress and entertain. Used together, I have no doubt that this is one of the finest and most musically complete electronic chains currently available. It is also by its nature, one of the most musically consistent. The cost of ownership is horribly and unattainably high and, given the ability to seemingly expand each and every component ever further, almost without limit, but for those who can afford it, the performance will -- and will always -- justify the price.”
THE AUDIO BEAT
by Roy Gregory | May 11, 2018