Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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To Dennis Burger,

I am excited to see you joining the SoundStage! team. I have always enjoyed your reviews of audio equipment. In fact, it was your review of the SVS Prime Wireless speaker system—including the statement “Even at nearly painful listening levels, I was simply unable to drive the Prime Wireless System into harsh or grating territory . . .”—that has resulted in my purchasing them for my COVID work-from-home office desk. I have long considered the SoundStage! sites to be the gold standard for audio reviews because of the combination of subjective reviews and objective measurements. Looking forward to reading more from you in the future.

Joe Pop
United States

To Diego Estan,

I’m reading all the articles on SoundStage! Access with great interest, and I would appreciate your advice. I recently bought a pair of Triangle Borea BR03 speakers, and now I need to decide on an amplifier to drive them.

My budget is quite small—about $500, maybe to a maximum of $600. But I found an opportunity to buy a Marantz PM5005 integrated amplifier for $300 (in USD); used, of course. Do you think it would pair well with my Borea BR03s? I’m asking because I don’t know how the Marantz’s timbre will match with them. The Triangles seem easy to drive, but I read that special attention should be given to their pairing with an amplifier.

And, if you feel the Marantz PM5005 isn’t quite what I should get for these speakers, what would you suggest? By the way, my room has almost exactly the dimensions of your listening room, meaning 4.5 meters (15′) by 3.5 meters (12′).

Thanks from the heart,

Thanks for reading my review. I drove the BR03s with an NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier, which, like the PM5005, is rated at 40Wpc into 8 ohms. The PM5005 is also rated at 55Wpc into 4 ohms. NAD doesn’t give a 4-ohm specification for the C 316BEE, but I measured it as 65Wpc into 4 ohms. So, both amps are very close in terms of power, and I had no trouble driving the BR03s to very loud volumes in my room. As you say, they are easy to drive, so I suspect that the Marantz would have no trouble either.

In terms of matching, you’ll only get an objective answer from me. For example, if you find the BR03s too bright (and I did at times find them to be a bit bright, but I loved their midrange), a different amp (or DAC, or cables) will not solve your problem. Taming a bright speaker can only truly be accomplished by treating the room acoustically (with sound-absorbing materials, for example) and playing with speaker positioning. If it still sounds bright after that, room EQ may be the answer; if that fails, then the only solution may be a different pair of speakers.

I apologize if that’s not quite what you wanted to hear, but it’s my honest answer. . . . Diego Estan

To Diego Estan,

I hope this isn’t intrusive, but I wanted to tell you I was very impressed with your review of the DALI Menuet SE speaker.

I’m not an audiophile, but I do melt when I hear pure, beautiful sound. I listen to shows like Dreamgirls, singers such as Barbra Streisand, Ella, and Nina Simone, and music like 1940s big band and Motown.

Given the state of my health and the shutdown of London theaters and concert halls due to the pandemic, I’ll be at home a lot this coming winter.

In your opinion, is the massive price difference between the Menuet SE and the DALI Oberon 1 justified, and is my Denon CEOL N11DAB system capable of driving the Menuet SE? I’m not looking for loudness, but purity of sound in a small space. I may already have it, but my dealer is happy to swap out my Oberons. Do you think any benefit I’d get would be worth the extra outlay?

Sincerely and with thanks,
United Kingdom

Hi Eric, it’s not intrusive at all, and thanks for reading my review.

Unfortunately, I’ve never heard anything in the DALI Oberon line. I have had the DALI Opticon 8 floorstanders in my room for review, however. I’d say I preferred the midrange and top end of the Menuet SE to the Opticon 8 ‑- there was more presence, intimacy, and finesse with the Menuet SE. But, of course, it’s a tiny speaker, so loudness and bass output are its main limitations. If these aren’t a concern for you, I wholeheartedly recommend a pair of Menuet SEs, especially in a small room. They are also quite beautiful. As always, if you can listen before buying, please do.

Your Denon at 60Wpc into 4 ohms should be fine for the Menuet SEs, which are rated at a nominal 4 ohms. I had no issues driving them with my NAD C 316BEE. NAD doesn’t spec the continuous output for 4 ohms, but I measured it as 65Wpc into that load. The Menuets have low sensitivity, so they need more power than speakers of typical sensitivity. But because they are small, they can’t play that loudly. Too much power could damage them, but that shouldn’t be an issue with your Denon. Please do let me know if you end up buying the Menuet SEs. . . . Diego Estan

To Hans Wetzel,

Great job with your detailed review of the Technics SU-G700 integrated amplifier-DAC. I am looking for a new integrated amplifier with or without a DAC, or an all-in-one. I have the Naim Audio Uniti Atom now and it’s an excellent sounding all-in-one. However, I need a bit more power at higher volume.

I have Monitor Audio Gold 100 (5th generation) speakers, which are 4 ohms and 86dB sensitivity, and I’m thinking they would benefit from a more powerful integrated amplifier. There are lots of choices: Naim’s Uniti Nova, which is very expensive; the PS Audio Stellar Strata, which is fairly new at $2999 (US dollars) and is an all-in-one; the Technics you reviewed, to which I could add a Bluesound Node 2i; and gear from Hegel Music Systems, Simaudio Moon, and more.

I did have the Hegel Röst before the Atom but could never get the streaming function to work properly. It kept freezing in the middle of tracks while using Mconnect Player. I tried everything, then sold it and bought the Atom. Looking back now I probably should have kept it and added a streamer. Oh, well. You know what happens with this hobby.

So, to get to the point again, which integrated amp powerful enough to make my Monitor Golds sing at all volume levels would you recommend? The Golds were reviewed on [this site by Diego Estan].

Gerald Greene

I note that that your Naim makes roughly 70Wpc into 4 ohms, which isn’t a lot. The Technics doubles that -- at 140Wpc into 4 ohms you’ll get an additional three decibels of headroom, which should definitely help your cause. I really liked the Technics, so it might be a good solution for you.

Hegel, Simaudio Moon, and PS Audio are all reputable brands making good gear, but I don’t want to push you in one direction over another without knowing more about what you’re looking for in terms of sound or functionality. Given the difficulties you had streaming from Mconnect to the Röst, I would advise considering a separate streamer if you decide on a Hegel amplifier.

The only other integrated amp that I’d throw into the mix is Parasound’s HINT 6. It makes 240Wpc into 4 ohms and should ensure that your Monitor Gold 100s never run out of juice. Happy hunting! . . . Hans Wetzel

To Diego Estan,

Congratulations for your excellent and detailed review of the Triangle Borea BR08 loudspeakers. I intend to buy a pair and am soliciting your help regarding a matching amp choice. My current amplification is an old Jadis JPL preamp and JA80 power amp. Do they fit? 

Please suggest other amp models. Thanks in advance for your kind assistance.  


Normally, I would answer this question with a reference to our National Research Council (NRC) speaker measurements, which we produce in their anechoic chamber in Ottawa, Canada. Unfortunately, just before we were ready to measure the BR08, the pandemic hit, and the NRC has not yet returned to normal operations. Both BR08s are still with me, and we are planning on measuring them once the NRC opens up.

All I have to go with now is Triangle’s specs (92dB sensitivity, and 8-ohm nominal and 3-ohm minimum impedance), and my own experience driving the BR08s with an integrated amp of modest power, the NAD C 316BEE in my small-to-medium-sized room. The NAD is rated to deliver 40Wpc into 8 or 4 ohms. If I had access to our measurements, I could tell you at what frequency (or range of frequencies) the BR08 dips down to 3 ohms. I can tell you with confidence, however, that the small NAD had no trouble driving the BR08s to ear-splitting levels in my room, and that included thunderous bass. I would say that most solid-state amps, rated at 40 or 50Wpc and up and capable of driving a 4-ohm load, would work great with the BR08s in a small- or medium-sized room. The possibilities for amps are endless.

With respect to your JA80 tubed power amp, according to the Jadis website, the amp’s output transformer “allows an adaptation of impedance from 1 to 16 ohms.” In addition, your amp is rated at up to 90Wpc, likely into 8 or 4 ohms. I’d say that if you like your amp, you should be absolutely fine using it with the BR08s. If the BR08s are more sensitive than the speakers you have right now, you may find you notice a higher noise floor with the BR08s, but this really depends on how quiet your Jadis combo is, of which I have no experience with. 

Enjoy the BR08s -- they are great speakers and represent tremendous value. . . . Diego Estan

To Hans Wetzel,

Your review of the Technics’s SU-G700 integrated amplifier-DAC was great and prompted me to order it today. Can I ask how you would compare the DAC in this amplifier to the Chord Qutest, which I already own? Your response would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,
Roni Kalsi
United Kingdom

I really enjoyed my time with the SU-G700, and I hope you will, too, Roni. As a reminder, because of the way the SU-G700 amplifies signals, it digitizes all of its analog inputs using a Burr-Brown PCM1804 analog-to-digital converter (ADC), then converts them to analog basically right at the speaker outputs. There is not a typical DAC in it like you would find with most integrated amplifiers. So while you certainly could hook up your Chord Qutest to one of the amp’s analog inputs, that would result in the signal being converted from digital to analog in the Qutest, back to digital again at the input of the SU-G700, and then back to analog once more at the very end of the SU-G700’s signal path. As a matter of signal integrity and fidelity, I wouldn’t advise that on principle, which is why I suspect it makes the most sense to leave the Chord DAC on the sidelines going forward. And to answer your question directly, I don’t have any experience with Chord’s Qutest, so I can’t say how it might sound run through one of the SU-G700’s analog inputs, nor how it would compare to using the Technics’ digital inputs directly.. . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

I am from India and was impressed with your honest review on PSB’s Alpha P5 [loudspeaker]. I have a query for you. I like a little forwardness in the lower treble and upper-midrange area. In this area, what do you think about the Alpha P5 and DALI’s Zensor 3? In India, both are priced similarly. Please let me know. Once again, I should say that your review was so excellent that I am planning to buy the complete PSB Alpha home-theater system.

Thank you and greetings from India,

Muthu Kumar

Thanks for the kind words, Muthu. I, too, like a little forwardness in the upper mids and lower treble -- it makes recordings sound lively and engaging to my ears. In that regard, I think the Alpha P5 will deliver a small dose of that. Having never heard the DALI Zensor 3, I can’t say how the PSB might compare, but I don’t think that matters. I’m making the assumption that you are thinking about using the Alpha P5 in an Alpha-series home-theater system, in which case I think a pair could easily pull duty as front or rear channels. Personally, if I were building a home-theater system, I’d go with PSB’s Alpha line and not look back -- the value proposition is fantastic. I’m betting that, like me, you’ll be totally smitten with the Alpha P5 if you take the plunge. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

I have read your review of the PSB Alpha P5 loudspeakers, and now I am really interested to get [a pair]. [I am] running Hegel’s H190 [integrated amplifier-DAC], so may I ask how large your listening room is, as you wrote you positioned the PSBs only 20” from [your] front wall?

Best regards,
Erich Hofer

What a good combination that is. Am I biased because I reviewed the Alpha P5 with Hegel’s H590? Quite possibly!

Based on my review, it looks like I had the speakers closer to the front wall of my room -- around 16” -- so I don’t know if that makes a difference on your end. My “room” is an open-format, modern living space that is 13’ wide and around 25’ long, though that length does not include the kitchen that one end of the room opens into. It’s admittedly a suboptimal arrangement for serious and studious listening, but city living has its compromises. My stereo system is placed around two-thirds of the way down the 25’ long wall, and the couch from which I listen is around 7’ to 8’ away from the speakers (depending on which speakers are in for review and what their optimal placement is). I hope that informs your decision. I should emphasize, though, I really, really liked those Alpha P5s and believe they’d be a great match for your Hegel amp. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Diego Estan,

I read your review of the NHT C 3 Carbon Fiber speakers. I am looking for a bookshelf speaker for a basement home-theater setup (50% music/50% movies). I do plan to use a single or dual subwoofers. I’m trying to keep the cost of the front three speakers to around $500 per speaker or less. Seating distance is about 8-10’. I was wondering what you thought of the C 3 with a subwoofer. Would it be a good choice for front speakers crossed over around 80Hz?

United States

Thank you for reading my review. The C 3 Carbon Fiber is a sealed-cabinet design that I found exceled at delivering fast, punchy, dynamic bass. However, as a consequence of the sealed, relatively small cabinet, the C 3 didn’t have the greatest bass extension in my room. So, I think the C3 is a perfect candidate to pair up with a sub or two.

Since you stated that will you use the system 50% of the time for music, I’d urge you to seek out a good sealed sub to pair up with the NHTs. Sealed subs tend to have faster transient response, and should blend more seamlessly with the C 3s.

I’d also urge you to start with an 80Hz crossover, but not to limit yourself to this setting. Try experimenting with different crossover points. For example, in my two-channel system, the most significant bass null from my main speakers is at around 120Hz, so I cross them over to my dual subs at 125Hz, to make sure the subs cover the null. I hope that helps. . . . Diego Estan

To Hans Wetzel,

I read your fantastic review of the Paradigm Monitor SE Atom and wanted to get your recommendation on a setup. How superior is Paradigm’s Premier 100B bookshelf [speaker]? Is it truly worth more than double the Atom? My usage is across movies, music, and gaming. The speakers will likely be placed on the farthest ends of a wall-mounted media unit, ideally with a tweeter height of 32-ish inches.

A few of the speakers I was looking at [include]:

  • Paradigm Monitor SE Atom
  • Paradigm Monitor SE 6000F
  • Paradigm Premier 100B (with the Monitor SE 2000C center-channel)
  • DALI Oberon 1
  • DALI Oberon 5

Any insight on this would be greatly appreciated. I’m writing from Canada, which makes the Paradigms and PSBs pretty cost competitive.

J.D. Plewak

Regarding the two Paradigm bookshelf models, I absolutely think the 100B is worth more than twice the money. The build quality, design, and, most importantly, sound, all demonstrate what the extra cost is buying you. For a speaker that you’ll use for music, movies, and gaming, I’d spring for the 100B every time. Please read Diego Estan’s review of the 100B for more on it.

You also mention the Paradigm Monitor SE 6000F floorstander and the matching 2000C center speaker. I don’t know what your budget is, and if you have (or are planning) a full home theater, but as a general rule, I’d try to stay within one loudspeaker “line” when doing so. If a full Paradigm Premier home-theater rig is out of reach, I do think a full Monitor SE setup will sound pretty great. You should also check out PSB’s Alpha home-theater speaker system that Vince Hanada recently reviewed. I’m partial to PSB and the way that founder Paul Barton voices his creations, so that would be my choice at that price point.

If you’re just looking for a do-it-all pair of stereo loudspeakers , I’d opt for the three-way Monitor SE 6000F over the two-and-a-half-way DALI Oberon 5, as you get dedicated midrange and bass drivers in the former, even if the DALI looks a lot nicer. The two-way DALI Oberon 1 won’t output nearly enough bass to be a workable option as a main speaker for movies and games. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Diego Estan and Doug Schneider,

Thank you for doing such a thorough and in-depth review of the Anthem STR preamplifier and its feature set.

The STR preamp has been on my radar for over a year because my listening room has open left and right front corners (effectively no front corners), and, as a result, the room provides little bass re-enforcement for any pair of loudspeakers. I find it necessary to use a subwoofer to help generate adequate bass, even when using fairly potent tower speakers such as the Bryston Middle Ts. I am now considering increasing from one subwoofer to using two for even better bass response. The STR preamp’s comprehensive feature set with bass management and support for dual subwoofers is very appealing.

I am quite intrigued by the STR preamp and its outstanding feature set, but at this stage I am looking for advice and opinions on the STR preamp related just to system matching with my existing Simaudio Moon 400M monoblock amplifiers. I am also curious how the STR preamp might compare sonically with my much more expensive, purely analog Simaudio Moon P-7 preamplifier (discontinued in 2013). I don’t have an opportunity to try or borrow an STR preamp at this time, so below are two questions (items 1 and 2):

1) Gain matching: my Simaudio Moon 400M monoblock amplifiers have a higher-than-typical gain specification of 36dB (most power amps are rated about 29dB). Might the STR preamp’s analog gain of 18.6dB (as measured by Diego for the balanced outputs) be a bit too high to be a good match for my 36dB Moon monoblocks?

Or worded differently, might the combined gains (18.6dB and 36dB) of the STR preamp and my Moon 400M monoblocks result in very little useable adjustment range on the volume control before it becomes far too loud? To compare, the Moon P-7 fully balanced preamplifier that I am using with these monoblocks has a gain specification of 9dB, and the new Moon Neo 390 preamp-DAC-streamer from the same Simaudio product line as the 400M monoblock has a gain specification of 10dB for the balanced outputs. I realize that the STR preamp is designed to pair with the matching Anthem STR power amplifier. Has Anthem indicated what sort of volume control implementation is being used (potentiometer, chip, R2R ladder, etc.)?

2) Analog performance: Diego’s review of the STR preamp indicates that it was indistinguishable from his well-regarded McIntosh preamp, so obviously the Anthem STR’s analog performance is really good.

However, any “guestimate” how the STR preamp may sonically compare to my older but almost-twice-as-expensive Moon P-7 fully balanced preamplifier? (My Moon P-7 preamp was purchased secondhand, but it was very well regarded as an analog preamplifier when still current in 2013.) Doug separately reviewed the Moon P-7 preamp and 400M monoblocks several years ago. This is why I have also included Doug in this conversation.

Best regards,

Thanks for the kudos and reading my review. I must admit, the STR consumed me as a reviewer for a few months. There are so many features and so much versatility that my time with it yielded not only the review, but a few accompanying articles as well.

My short answer is that if you are going to be using dual subs, the STR is a good turnkey solution for you, offering both bass management and room EQ.

Now, to specifically answer both of your questions:

First, the 18.6 dB of gain I measured was across the hot and cold pins of the balanced output. While there is no standard way of doing this, most manufacturers would report gain from single-ended input to singled-ended output. It’s therefore perhaps fairer to say the STR has 12.6dB of gain in analog mode. For example, my McIntosh C47 is rated at 15dB of gain, but if I measure across the balanced output, I measure 21dB.

I wouldn’t worry about having too much gain and not enough volume adjustment. The STR provides 206 volume steps, in 0.5dB increments. Due to the extra gain, at normal volume levels, you will likely hear a bit more noise/hiss with your ear near the tweeter compared to your Moon preamp, not only because of the gain difference, but because Simaudio makes very, very quiet electronics. I’m willing to bet, however, that with your average-sensitivity speakers, at normal volume settings, you will hear absolutely no noise from your seated position. While I can’t tell you precisely what chip Anthem uses for its volume control (they have not given me permission to do so), I can tell you that it’s a well-regarded R2R-type integrated circuit. Attenuation is digitally controlled, but performed in the analog domain. Also consider that the STR offers up to +/-20dB of gain trim, in 0.5dB increments, on any input, should you choose to use it.

Finally, even if there were subtle differences in sound between both preamps, these would absolutely pale compared to the sonic benefits that the STR would bring in terms of bass management and EQ. Of course, you can also opt to keep your Moon preamp and explore external solutions for bass management and room EQ, which is what I did before I knew the STR existed. But you may encounter a steep learning curve with that approach, so it depends if you’re into doing the required homework/research.

I hope that helps. . . . Diego Estan

I’m not sure if you’re aware, I wrote about the STR preamplifier on SoundStage! Hi-Fi this month. As a result of my experiences with the STR, I agree with Diego that with what you want to do with speakers and subwoofers, the STR is the ideal way to go as a turnkey solution. I also can’t add much more to what he already said, except this: I am more wary than he is of the gain issue that you pointed out, not for volume control, but for potential for increased noise. I’ve had noise issues with some preamplifiers and amplifiers I’ve reviewed over the years, so it’s something that jumps to mind when someone talks about matching a certain preamplifier to an amplifier that’s out of the norm.

We measured the Simaudio Moon 400M when I reviewed it, which revealed the very high gain you mentioned -- 36.2dB on both the single-ended and balanced inputs. That’s a lot more gain than with most amps, which could result in excessive noise from a high-gain preamplifier. Not surprisingly, Simaudio’s preamps have lower gain. To know if it’ll be an issue with the STR, though, you’re really going to have to connect the STR to your 400Ms in order to find out. I know you said you couldn’t right now, which I understand, but, to me, that’s the prudent thing to do, just to see if the noise is an issue and you’re making the best choice. After all, if noise isn’t an issue, and you like everything else about the STR, including its second-to-none feature set, that should go a long way toward making the decision for you with your current system goals. . . . Doug Schneider