Back in July 2017, I reviewed the Fluance RT81 turntable, which I thought was a really good choice for its price ($249.99, all prices in USD). Amazingly, in 2024, it still sells for the same amount. Recently, Fluance introduced a tricked-out version of the RT81 called the RT-81+, which retails for $299.99.
Kicking off a relationship with openness and honesty is always a good policy, so I love it when manufacturers don’t try to hide (often economically necessary) offshore manufacturing with “Designed in _____” badging. And to be sure, there is a “Designed and Engineered in Canada” label on the packaging for PSB’s new Imagine B50 bookshelf speakers ($699/pair, all prices USD). But that’s just as quickly followed by a transparent and prominent “Made in China.”
Some years back, my dad and I found ourselves in a bit of a street race: our C7 Corvette versus a Ferrari F12berlinetta. $83,000 of automated-factory-line American plastic against $320,000 of hand-crafted Italian swank. V8 versus V12. Two of the finest front-engine GT cars ever developed going head-to-head. And we won. The F12berlinetta simply couldn’t keep up in the corners.
Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
First impressions carry a lot of weight, but they’re not everything. And thank goodness for that, because I didn’t get off on the right foot with Technics’ new Grand Class SU-GX70—an amp I now positively adore. To be fair, most of my quibbles could be filed under the category of “vibes.” As I mentioned in my unboxing blog post, I want a Technics integrated amp to look like a swanky retro throwback, and the SU-GX70 ($1999.95, all prices USD) just evokes any number of nondescript black boxes that have cycled through my system over the years. Worse still, one of my first tactile interactions with the unit was when I gave the volume control a twist only to find that it felt like dragging a wooden spoon through half-crystalized honey.
My introduction to the Fluance brand occurred over ten years ago, when I reviewed their XL7F tower, a three-way speaker with an 8″ woofer, two 6.5″ midrange drivers, and a 1″ silk-dome tweeter. At $469.95 per pair (all prices USD), I thought it was an incredible bargain.
Remember those old commercials where two people walking down the street in opposite directions—one obliviously carrying an open jar of peanut butter; the other mindlessly nomming a whole chocolate bar—slam into each other as absentminded people will do and invent Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? Swap the peanut butter for a Bob Carver tube amp and the chocolate for something like a solid-state ChiFi amp from the likes of SoundArtist, and I have to think that meet-cute collision would result in something that looks like the Dayton Audio HTA200 hybrid integrated amplifier ($349.98, all prices USD).
I love the missives I receive from readers and listeners, and I give every one of them my individual attention. But it has to be said that they tend to fall into a few distinct categories, and some I like better than others. First are the people who disagree with me or have spotted a mistake (or seeming mistake). I truly love and appreciate those.
About a year-and-a-half ago, I reviewed a loudspeaker that was, to me, the platonic ideal of everything a speaker selling for less than $3000/pair should be. It was tonally neutral, had amazing bass extension and good dispersion characteristics, and was beautifully built. And yet, in the months that followed I saw at least one user review on an online retail site describe it as a sort of jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none speaker that sounded “metallic” and failed to connect with the listener. So, while we have mountains of research describing the sound of a speaker that most people will prefer, it’s clear that not every audiophile likes what most people like. And it’s clear that not every reader is going to like what I like. So when Bowers & Wilkins offered its new 603 S3 floorstander for review ($2500 per pair, all prices USD), I leapt at the opportunity.
It’s funny how quickly certain impressions can take hold in the mind. Say the words “Technics integrated amplifier,” and immediately my mind’s eye is filled with wall-to-wall VU meters recessed behind a panoramic window of glass against a clean, white background. So, for me, the look of the company’s new SU-GX70 amplifier was somewhat surprising, as it does not follow that aesthetic, but I think a quick peek at all of the logos on its packaging gives some indications as to why. This isn’t an integrated amp with streaming capabilities onboard so much as it is a streamer with amplification built in.
As I write this, one of the most talked-about bootleg albums circulating the web is a fan-remastered version of Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version), undertaken to fix some of the odd sonic artifacts of the official release, which dropped on October 27 of this year.