Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment for Everyone

Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment for Everyone

  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - NAD Viso HP50 Headphones (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - GoldenEar Technology's Anechoic Chamber (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - PSB's M4U 4 Earphones (April 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - GoldenEar Technology's Triton Two+ and Three+ Loudspeakers (March 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- KEF's LS50 (February 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio's Platinum II Series (January 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Pryma 0|1 Headphones (December 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF's Blade Two Loudspeaker (November 2015)

Please send all questions to feedback@soundstageaccess.com. All questions sent to this e-mail address will be replied to online. If you do not wish to share your e-mail with other readers, please do not send it. But if you have a question, chances are others are wondering the same thing. Therefore, you will be helping not only yourself, but other readers as well when your question gets answered here.

To Colin Smith,

I am thinking of changing my 20-year-old amplifier for a better sound. My current setup is a Marantz CD6002 CD player, Pro-Ject Debut III turntable, Cambridge Audio 640P phono preamp, Sony TA-F235R amplifier (30Wpc), Wharfedale Diamond 10.2 speakers, and inexpensive 6mm copper cables biwired to my amp. 

I have a very small listening room, and the speakers are about 1.2m apart. I have tried the NAD 3020 integrated amplifier after reading so much hype about it and it now rests under my bed after I realized my old amp is much more detailed and offers deeper bass. I am quite happy with my sound except that I want something more “excitable” and with my current setup the midrange is somewhat sunken-in and appears rather drowned. I want to hear more than just the treble and bass. I also do not want to spend too much on a new amp. I have narrowed my search to:

Marantz PM7001
Marantz PM4400
Sony TA-F4A (go vintage?)

Any opinions/help/advice? Thanks in advance for your time.


With their lowish 86dB sensitivity, your Wharfedale speakers are a little tough to drive. For that reason I'm more comfortable recommending as powerful an amplifier as you can squeeze into your budget. Among the choices you list, the Marantz PM7001 (70Wpc into 8 ohms) best meets the power criteria, although that amp is discontinued and may be difficult to find.
As for the NAD 3020, keep in mind that it was considered excellent for its time and that as electronics age their performance level can drop off dramatically. For that reason I hesitate to recommend any vintage components that haven't had a thorough going-over. The youngest Sony TA-F4A was built 32 years ago and I wouldn't want to put much faith in the ability of its original parts to have withstood three decades of service and still be performing like new.
There are other alternatives you might want to consider. Cambridge Audio's 550A is well regarded and reasonably priced at $550. The contemporary NAD C 326BEE is also an excellent choice at $499. If you can swing it, Anthem's Integrated 225 ($1599) is a killer amp for the money and could serve as the basis for a higher-end system when you're ready to upgrade speakers and sources one day. In that regard the Anthem could be considered "future proof." . . . Colin Smith


I read a review by Ron Doering about the Musical Fidelity M6i integrated amplifier in September and enjoyed it. 

I'm looking for an integrated amplifier to work into my surround system; it must have home-theater bypass. I like the M6i but I’ve also got eyes for this Harman Kardon HK 990. It was released in September and it has interesting specs but no reviews. 

Are any of you familiar with the brand and have you any idea of the Harman Kardon sound? I want a two-channel integrated to match with my ATC SCM 19 bookshelf speakers. I'm really impressed with the specs of the Harman Kardon HK 990.

Ron Arceneaux

I’m very familiar with the brand but not familiar with that model, and none of our writers has reviewed it. I did look it up and can see why you’re quite taken by the specs and, probably, the features too. It’s quite powerful and there appears to be a lot jammed into it. It's certainly interesting. But even if we review it, it won’t be for quite some time -- and I can’t even guarantee that we will, since we’re filled up with other gear right now. However, I did some searches and found some articles on the HK 990 from professional reviewers as well as consumers who have had experience with it. Keep looking and see what you can find out.

The only piece of advice I’ll leave you with is this: look at the specs but don’t buy based on those alone. Specifications and measurements can tell you certain things, but they can’t tell you everything. Ultimately, you have to let your ears decide, so you should definitely try it before you buy it. . . . Doug Schneider

I just got an iPod Touch for my wife and we were wondering if there is some kind of free software application that would permit listening to the radio. That would be a first for us, as we don't even listen to computer music. Second question about the iPod: Could we use the USB on the Oppo BDP-83SE to listen to the Music Store on the player through our sound system?


The iPod Nano has a built-in FM tuner that allows the reception of regular, over-the-air radio signals. The iPod Touch, however, does not have a built-in tuner. But you can download apps that will allow you to listen to Internet Radio services like Pandora, Slacker, and others that are free. Since these are Internet Radio services, the iPod Touch requires access to a wireless Internet connection to receive these broadcasts.

Most audio/video devices such as the Oppo BDP-83SE cannot be directly connected to an iPod via the USB port. Many manufacturers sell iPod "docks" that connect to the iPod and output audio and/or video and usually provide playback control when connected to one of their compatible receivers or processors. Most of these docks only output analog audio and rely on the iPod's digital-to-analog conversion section, which is good but certainly not the best. However, some newer docks such as the one available for the forthcoming Anthem receivers can extract the digital signal from the iPod and send it to the receiver to utilize its higher-quality digital-to-analog converter. Wadia's standalone 170iTransport dock can also extract the digital-audio signal from an iPod and then present it to a DAC or processor via an S/PDIF digital connection. 

You could also simply use an adapter to connect the headphone output of an iPod to the analog RCA inputs of a receiver or preamplifier. It won’t deliver the best sound possible because it’s an analog connection, but it will work. Some products like the Cambridge Azur 350A integrated amplifier that I have in for review even have a 1/8" input jack on the front panel for connection to an iPod or other MP3 player to make matters easier. . . . Roger Kanno

I am considering an FM tuner and would appreciate your recommendation on either the Marantz ST7001 or the NAD C 425. Which would you recommend?

Gary A. Giordano

My experience with the NAD C 425 was that it sounds good but is not especially sensitive or selective. I haven't played with a Marantz tuner in some time, but my recollection is that they were a bit more selective at separating stations close to one another on the dial. Besides the NAD and Marantz, I'd look at the Onkyo T-4555 that offers AM, FM, and HD Radio (about $500). It's a nice unit. You might also try the Sangean HDT-1X that also is AM/FM/HD. It's cheap (I've seen it for as little as $170) but needs a reasonable FM antenna (the Terk Pi-B or AF-1 are good choices). Actually, that goes for any of the tuners. Hope that helps. . . . Thom Moon

My friend told me to keep my speaker cables as short as possible. He suggested 8’. The problem is that I need to use cables that are about 12’. Is that going to be a problem? 

Albert Walling

In general, you should try to keep the cable lengths short, but it’s not going to make much difference at all if you use 8’ or 12’. . . . Doug Schneider

I'm comparing the Arcam A90 and Anthem Integrated 225 integrated amplifiers. They're around the same price point where I live. I'm using them with Tannoy DC6 speakers and a Paradigm DSP-3100 subwoofer. Any thoughts?

Many thanks!
K. Ashoo

It seems that you’re comparing two great contenders. We reviewed the Integrated 225 and think very highly of it. We never reviewed Arcam’s A90, but our past experiences with other products from Arcam have always been excellent.

To determine which is better for you, you’re really going to have to listen to them side by side. We won’t be able to make that comparison for you. The only thing we will draw attention to is power output, since there’s a significant enough difference. The Integrated 225 is rated to deliver 225Wpc into 8 ohms, whereas the A90 is rated to deliver 90Wpc into 8 ohms. Do you need the extra power that the 225 provides? That will depend largely on how loud you listen and your room size. It might also depend on whether you might look at different speakers in the future. If you buy something that needs more power than the DC6 does, you don’t want to be caught short. But, like the listening experience, this is something you’ll have to determine. . . . Doug Schneider

I'm looking to purchase a pair of nearfield monitors for home mixing and don't have a very large budget. I'm thinking $200 max. I was wondering if you had any recommendations for me.

Shane Gann

The most important thing to realize is that no good-quality $200 speaker will deliver much bass. That’s because the cabinets and woofers are small. But you can get good midrange and highs.

For that price, I’d look at the Audioengine 2, a surprisingly good self-powered speaker that sells for just $199/pair. They’re a clear step up from the speakers that most people use with their computer systems. If you don’t need something that’s self-powered (i.e., you have an amp) and you can spend a little more, you should consider the Axiom M2 V3 that’s priced at $296/pair. This speaker is notable for its superb neutrality from the upper bass through to the midrange and highs. . . . Doug Schneider

I'm an audiophile from Shanghai, China. I've just read your review on the Simaudio Moon 300D. At the moment I use Silverline Minuet speakers and a Simaudio Moon i-1 and CD-1. I’m considering getting a 300D for computer-based audio. I’m wondering if you compared the USB input of the 300D with one of its S/PDIF inputs being fed from a sound card's S/PDIF output. My suspicion is that Simaudio would recommend the S/PDIF input for higher resolution and was wondering what you think. Thank you very much!

Yours sincerely,

Wu Minggang

Nihao Wu! It's great to hear from a reader in China.

I didn't try an S/PDIF output directly from my audio computer to the 300D, just USB. However you are correct that the S/PDIF input will offer higher-quality sound. The USB input on the 300D is limited to 16/48, but its S/PDIF inputs will go all the way to 24/192. It was my plan to buy an Asus Xonar computer sound card and use its S/PDIF output into the 300D for up to 24/192 resolution computer audio, but instead I bought an iMac and will use it with Amarra software and USB, probably with an Ayre QB-9 DAC (to be determined). Of course, even limited to 16/48 with USB, the 300D sounds great. My plan to go to higher resolution isn't because I think something is missing from the sound of the 300D’s USB input, but because as a reviewer I have to be able to use the full capabilities of the products I review. . . . Colin Smith

Dear GoodSound!

I need an audiophile setup to listen to my classical music CDs. Take in consideration that:

1) I only listen to classical music and recordings made from 1900 to 1960, because the best artists were in these years. So consider the fact that the recordings are not so good.

2) I like true stereo recordings (made with only two microphones), so I need speakers with a very sharp stereo image. For me, this is probably the most important thing.

3) I don t like colored sound, considering I listen only to classical music.

4) I ask you to recommend a complete setup with the minimum price to obtain an entry-level but audiophile-quality setup, from the CD player to the speakers. I will also consider active speakers.

5) I have seen speakers such as the Polk Audio RTi A1 loudspeakers and Infinity Primus P252 loudspeakers that were given Reviewers’ Choice awards on SoundStage!

6) My room is little, so for now I could consider a bookshelf-type speaker.

I hope you can help me.

A good pair of neutral-sounding loudspeakers will work well with any type of music. A neutral speaker is one that has very flat frequency response, both on and off axis, as well as good bass and high-frequency extension. You’ll also want the speaker to have very low distortion, particularly in the highs, given the nature of the recordings you listen to. You don’t need your speakers adding any nasty sounds to recordings that aren’t all that clean sounding to begin with. It goes without saying that your electronics should also be very neutral-sounding and free from distortion. Frankly, that’s not difficult to find these days given the general high quality of modern-day electronics.

The two speakers you mentioned are excellent in terms of performance and value. They’re a good starting point, but there are many more to listen to.

I won’t recommend specific models, or a specific system, because what you choose will come down to individual preference. Your own ears will have to decide. But I will point you to some brands that I recommend you look at, because they have various models that will likely fit your musical needs and budget.

For electronics such as amplifiers and CD players, consider NAD, Cambridge Audio and Arcam. They all have a number of products that would be suitable . For speakers, look at Paradigm, Axiom Audio, Aperion Audio, PSB, Infinity, and Polk. They all offer small to large speakers at a variety of prices. If your budget allows, look at Finland’s Amphion as well. I mention Amphion because you said how important imaging is to you. Their lowest-priced speakers tend to be priced higher than the lowest-priced speakers belonging to the other brands I’ve mentioned, but you might feel it worth it since their speakers tend to image extremely well. Don’t compromise on cables to connect it all together, but don’t go overboard and spend too much either. DH Labs (Silver Sonic) offers some excellent interconnects and speaker cables for a very reasonable price. Their White Lightning interconnects and ST-100 speaker wires are exceptional values.

I hope that helps. Happy shopping!

I am in college and my roommate and I are getting a projector for our room and need to buy a sound system to accompany it. I have read a few articles, but most of them are about systems or speakers that are out of my price range. 

I have a price range of $200-$350 and the main use of the sound system would be for movies and video games. I was wondering what might be a good choice for a full sound system within my price range. 



You could buy one of those cheap home-theater-in-a-box systems that come from places like Best Buy, but most of them are junk. We’d recommend looking at something better. If you value good sound like we do, look at a speaker system from Audioengine (Audioengineusa.com). Their self-powered speakers are very well made, good sounding, and quite affordable. For example, the 2 starts at $199 for a pair, the 5 at $349 for a pair, which seems to fit your budget. They build the amps into the speakers. You can hook the analog outputs from a CD player, DVD player, or even an iPod to them and you’re in business.

Another option is to look at Axiom Audio’s Audiobyte computer speakers (AxiomAudio.com) that come with a dedicated amplifier that also allows for hook-up of a subwoofer (good for future expansion). The Audiobyte speaker system is $349 (two speakers and the amplifier, but no subwoofer). Audioengine and Axiom Audio both sell factory direct and offer money-back guarantees if you’re not happy with your purchase.

I am in the process of building a new system, the first since college. It has been downhill since then. 

Currently, I have two MartinLogan Source loudspeakers, a MartinLogan sub, dual NHT A1 amps with an NHT X1 crossover, an older Sony CD changer (jukebox), my original Garrard GT-55 turntable (new cartridge, but needs a tune-up), and, finally, a Dell P4 computer with lots of disk space. The old Sony stereo receiver is history. 

I will be using the system for 2.1-channel audio only. I may be over reaching, WAF is running thin, but I am looking for a XM/HD/FM/AM tuner and haven't found one yet with all four (I already have Verizon FiOS music channels), a DAC, and a preamp to pull it all together. I am hoping the computer will handle Internet Radio. I am looking at the Peachtree Nova, but am not certain this would be the best value. 

Any suggestions/ideas would be greatly appreciated.


Gregg Reilly 

I cut and pasted "XM/HD/FM/AM tuner" into Google and it came up with the McIntosh MR88 and Onkyo T-4555 tuners. So there is equipment out there that appears to support all four. More than likely, those aren't the only ones. Or if they are, there will probably be others in the future.

As far as what would be the best for your situation, as well as the best value, you have too many options to list here. The Peachtree Nova is certainly one component to consider, but there are integrated amps, receivers, and preamps that have built-in DACs that can suit your needs. I could list a dozen different options right now, and that's just scratching the surface. You'll really have to do some shopping around and then come back with some specifics if you want better advice.

But insofar as Internet Radio goes, I can give you some direction there. There are tabletop radios as well as receivers that support it. However, I’ve found that a computer works as well if not better. But how do you get the music out of the computer and into your music system if your computer isn’t located anywhere near it? What we use here is an Audioengine AW1 wireless adapter that allows you to stream the music signal from your computer to your audio system. It works great and its sound quality is suitable for this application. In fact, we were doing this the other day when we were having a backyard party and wanted to listen to some Latin music that we ended up streaming from a station in Venezuela. Aperion Audio just released something similar called the Home Audio Link that does the same thing. Kevin East just reviewed it on SoundStage! Xperience, one of our sister sites.