Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviewers' ChoiceAccording to Wikipedia, “Cliffwood is an unincorporated community located within Aberdeen Township in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States.” As of the 2010 US Census, the population of Cliffwood’s ZIP Code Tabulation Area, 07721, was 2974.

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

Let’s go ahead and get one thing out of the way, right from the giddy-up. If you’re perfectly well-served by and happy with a wireless multiroom speaker ecosystem around your house—something like a Sonos speaker system, or even a gaggle of Amazon Echo or Google Nest smart speakers—you probably don’t need an amp like AudioControl’s The Director Model M4800. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a truly audiophile-quality distributed-audio solution that can be used with practically any speakers you can imagine, let’s talk. Because the M4800 may be exactly the amp you didn’t know you needed. And shockingly enough, it’s not stupid expensive.

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

Recently I’ve been reviewing a lot of DACs, and I’ve noticed that two of the biggest differentiators among them are the type and quality of digital filter used. I have yet to hear a DAC from, say, Chord or dCS, so this is only a hypothesis, but I believe that the digital filter is at least as important as most other technical aspects of a DAC.

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

Longtime readers of SoundStage! Access with particularly good memories may be feeling some déjà vu right about now. Didn’t we already review the Musical Fidelity M6si integrated amplifier-DAC some years back, much closer to its release in 2014? We did.

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

Observers of the auto industry often speak of 1973 to 1983 as the “Malaise Era” of car design and manufacture, especially for General Motors. Styling was bland and undifferentiated, while acceleration, handling, and braking were lethargic. The results were cars no one especially liked or cared about.

Reviewers' ChoiceI’m somewhat ashamed to admit that, after two decades in this industry, my experience with Sonus Faber speakers has been rather limited. Some of that comes down to happenstance, but a lot of it is a function of specialization. Given the choice between a $5000 preamp and a $5000 pair of speakers, most publishers are going to give me the preamp to review. Even the company’s affordable Sonetto line is a bit pricier than the territory in which I tend to stomp around. But a $2799/pair (all prices USD) tower speaker is totally my jam, so the Lumina V—the new flagship of Sonus Faber’s entry-level Lumina collection—has been my crash course in the company’s style and sound.

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

Cambridge Audio, founded in Cambridge, England, has been making hi-fi audio equipment for half a century now—a mere drop in the bucket compared to, say, Cambridge University, founded in 1209, but a long time in the world of hi-fi.

Vincent Audio may not be a brand that’s on the tip of every enthusiast’s tongue, but over the past few years, the company’s hybrid integrated amps in particular have been generating a lot of hullabaloo on hi-fi discussion forums. By pairing vacuum tubes in the preamp stage with solid-state circuitry in the amplification stage, the German company (most of whose products are manufactured in China) promises to deliver the best of both worlds: the analog richness of valves and the durability of transistors.

Reviewers' ChoiceIn 2014, when the vinyl revival had already gained a lot of traction, I reviewed U-Turn Audio’s Orbit Plus turntable (then $299, now an even better deal at $289; all prices USD). I was very impressed by that turntable, one of the first efforts of a young, crowdfunded company based in Woburn, Massachusetts, near Boston.

In my review of Rotel’s A11 Tribute integrated amplifier, I called it a bit of an oddity, given its near reliance on all-analog physical connectivity, when most of the competitors near its price point have embraced the popularity of streaming and downloads. Oh, and there’s also its Bluetooth antenna, the only input with access to the DAC chip inside. Again, this wasn’t meant as a criticism—merely a recognition of how unusual that is in the current audio market. If the A11 Tribute is a bit of an outlier, though, its companion piece—the CD11 Tribute ($599.99, all prices USD)—is practically a mythical creature.