Budget Component Reviews

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Herb Reichert  |  Nov 16, 2017  |  12 comments
For audiophiles of a certain age, the mere mention of NAD Electronics' original 3020 integrated amplifier (1980, designed by Erik Edvardsen), or Adcom's GFA-555 stereo power amplifier (1985, designed by Nelson Pass), conjures up happy memories of audio's last Golden Age—an idyllic time when working stiffs could luxuriate in the same audio arcadia as bankers and brokers. Since then, few, if any, audio components have achieved that level of iconic high value. Which caused me to wonder: What would it take, nowadays, to manufacture a genuinely high-value audiophile product: one that delivers exciting, satisfying sound at a price most audiophiles can afford?
Ken Micallef  |  Sep 21, 2017  |  3 comments
"Looking back, my life's passions have mostly been sensual: food, females, fast cars, music, wine, sailing and skiing. My motivations, activities and work have stemmed from the need to fuel these passions rather than enjoyment of the process."

Who said this? John Atkinson? Art Dudley? Dr. Dre?

Herb Reichert  |  Jul 20, 2017  |  40 comments
Have I told you about my objectivist friend—the left-brain audiophile who puts a lot of trust in measurements? He has a high natural intelligence and is an extremely experienced listener, but once he knows a component doesn't measure well, he can never again experience it impartially.

I don't want to embarrass my friend, so in this story I will call him O., for Mr. Objectivity.

John Atkinson  |  Jun 20, 2017  |  14 comments
For digital playback, in recent months I've been breathing some rarefied air, pricewise. In December 2016, I reviewed dCS's Rossini Player and Clock, followed in May 2017 by Meridian's Ultra DAC, and in June by Chord's DAVE DAC. The Rossini Player costs $28,499 without the Clock, the Meridian $23,000, and though the DAVE is less expensive than either at $10,588, that's still a fair chunk of change. Even PS Audio's PerfectWave DirectStream DAC, which I bought following Art Dudley's review in September 2014, costs $6899 with the Network Bridge II, which hardly counts as "affordable."
John Atkinson  |  Jun 09, 2017  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1989  |  0 comments
The Monitor Audio R300/MD ($669/pair) debuted at the 1988 SCES in Chicago. English company Monitor Audio is one of the pioneers in spreading the use of metal-dome tweeters in relatively low-cost loudspeaker systems. The tweeters they have designed in conjunction with SEAS and British manufacturer Elac may have now found their ways into a number of designs from competing manufacturers, but there is no doubt that Monitor leads the way. The new R300/MD features a new ¾" version of the SEAS 1" aluminum-dome unit Monitor introduced with their R652/MD (reviewed in Vol.10 No.5), in conjunction with an 8" doped paper-cone woofer.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 13, 2017  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1969  |  5 comments
Everyone knows that a lot of serious music listeners—that is, those who listen to music instead of using it as a conversational background—have neither the space nor the money for a pair of typical floor-standing speakers, and must make do with bookshelf-type systems that are actually small enough to put in a bookshelf. But while the typical audio perfectionist will freely admit that there is a place in the audio sun for these dinky little speakers, he cannot really take them seriously, particularly when they're priced significantly under $100 each.
John Atkinson  |  Mar 07, 2017  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1989  |  5 comments
I like Brooklyn. I even got married under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge! (Almost the exact spot where Cher's grandfather let his dogs howl at the moon in Moonstruck. And if you're ever in the Park Slope area, check out McFeeley's for brunch.) I could be forgiven, therefore, for having a soft spot for any Brooklyn manufacturer, including Ohm Acoustics. Except that the only Ohm model I have heard was the omnidirectional Ohm Walsh 5 (favorably reviewed by Dick Olsher in Stereophile in 1987, Vol.10 No.4, and 1988, Vol.11 No.8), and the omni principle is something that I have never found to work, or at least to give me what I feel necessary in reproduced sound. The Ohm Model 16, however, is one of three more conventional Coherent Audio Monitor (CAM) speakers intended to offer good sound at an affordable price: $300/pair
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 23, 2017  |  9 comments
In the United Kingdom, the first seeds of perfectionism in audio separates were sown by Goodmans Industries, founded in 1925. Then, in 1930, Garrard (est. 1722) produced its first commercial gramophone. Shortly thereafter, England experienced the Great Slump, the British name for the worldwide catastrophe known in the US as the Great Depression. Near the beginning of this economic downturn, in 1932, Gilbert Briggs founded Wharfedale Wireless Works—and the first British "high-fidelity" audio amplifiers began being manufactured by H.J. Leak & Co. Ltd., founded by Harold Joseph Leak in 1934.
Corey Greenberg  |  Feb 09, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1992  |  5 comments
One of my favorite parts of writing for Stereophile is reading all the heartfelt letters our readers take the time to write me. There's nothing I like better than to kick off my boots, stretch out on the futon-couch, and let the groovy love vibes just shine off the pages. Time doesn't always permit a reply, but for now...AS in MD: thanks! RP in CA: sure, why not? And SH in IN: I've tried that, but it chafed.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 07, 2017  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1991  |  3 comments
The $499 NAD 5000 looks nothing like most inexpensive CD players. Its plastic trim doesn't look cheap. It doesn't look expensive either, but it certainly won't be embarrassed to show its face in polite company. The front panel is neatly arranged and easy to interpret and use. It's the smallest and lightest of the present company of players—the only obvious physical reflections of its low-budget heritage. Inside, however, NAD has done a lot to put your money where it counts.
Ken Micallef  |  Feb 02, 2017  |  16 comments
Reviewers of high-fidelity gear are a trend-sniffing, topology-bandying bunch. When four of our kin gathered last November over lunch, during the 2016 New York Audio Show, the high-end chatter flew fast and furious. "Did you hear those mother-rocking big horns on the seventh floor?" "Nah, man, the Bruno Putzeys speakers on nine were best in show." "What about those li'l Lowthers on eight? Great sweet spot, but small as peanuts."
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 31, 2017  |  12 comments
UK, 1976: Upon its release, Rega Research's original Planar 3 turntable became the poor man's Linn Sondek LP12. It opened a gateway of affordability to the exotic world of high-quality British record players. Forty years later, the new Planar 3 turntable and its "light and rigid" engineering aesthetic, as conceived by Rega founder Roy Gandy, still occupy an admirably working-class, pro-music position in an audio world increasingly populated by gold-plated tonearms and quarter-ton turntables.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 01, 2016  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1989  |  4 comments
If speakers were cars, the Infinity IRS Beta and B&W 801 Matrix would represent the luxury end of the mass market, with perhaps the Celestion SL700, Quad ESL-63, and MartinLogan Sequel II analogous to rather hairy, temperamental sports cars—the Porsche 911, for example. But most people don't buy Porsches, or even Lincoln Town Cars; they buy Hyundai Excels and Ford Escorts. In the same way, when the car is garaged for the night, they don't sit down in front of IRS Betas; in all likelihood they listen to their records with a compact two-way design. If competently designed, a small two-way can give a great deal of musical satisfaction, and, to take a current hobbyhorse of mine out for a trot, if a designer can't produce an at least competent two-way loudspeaker, he or she has no business trying to design larger, more ambitious models—there's nowhere to hide your lack of talent if all you have to play with is a tweeter, a woofer, a rectangular enclosure, and a handful of crossover components.
Sam Tellig, Anthony H. Cordesman  |  Sep 08, 2016  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1985  |  2 comments
Superphon's Revelation Basic preamplifier is made by Stan Warren, formerly the "S" of PS Audio, so it should come as no surprise that the Revelation Basic and the PS Audio Source sound much alike. The Revelation Basic sells for $399, assembled (no kit available). Like the Source, the Revelation has an outboard AC power transformer to minimize hum problems. But unlike the Source, the Revelation has dual volume controls (a pain) and lacks moving-coil capability.
Art Dudley  |  Aug 25, 2016  |  6 comments
Approximately 331/3 years after AudioQuest's first phono cartridge, the company announced two new USB D/A headphone amplifiers: the DragonFly Black ($99) and the DragonFly Red ($199). Both have circuits designed by the engineer responsible for the original DragonFly—Gordon Rankin, of Wavelength Audio—and both have the novel distinction of requiring considerably less operating power than their predecessors, so much less that the new DragonFlys can be used with iPhones, iPads, and various other mobile devices.

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