Budget Component Reviews

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Alex Halberstadt  |  Feb 23, 2021  |  19 comments
A few months ago, a friend asked me to recommend a record player. This friend knows and loves music as much as I do; when he visits, we spend our time drinking wine and listening to records. Last time, it was Scott Walker, Fela, Joni Mitchell, Jacques Brel, Burzum, and both glorious sides of The Chronic.

"How much do you want to spend?" I asked cautiously. His answer: $500, tops.

Robert Harley  |  Dec 09, 2020  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  6 comments
Though their first CD player featured a vacuum-tube output stage, California Audio Labs is recently known for making good-sounding, moderately priced solid-state CD players, like the Icon Mk.II that Jack English reviewed in July 1992 (Vol.15 No.7). The Sigma, a $695 tubed D/A converter, furthers their reputation in both areas.
Ken Micallef  |  Oct 02, 2020  |  25 comments
Summer!

COVID-19 notwithstanding, summer—warmth, flowers, leaves on trees—has descended on Greenwich Village, my New York City home for the past 30 years. What hasn't descended are tourists, belching motorcycles, behemoth sports cars, beer drinkers, and the usual summer hell-raisers, the sort that would've sent legendary Village bohemians Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs running back to their cold-water flats.

John Atkinson  |  Aug 20, 2020  |  22 comments
Loudspeaker manufacturer GoldenEar Technology was founded in 2010 by a team led by Sandy Gross, who over the decades was responsible for a succession of affordable high-performance loudspeakers from Polk and Definitive Technology (footnote 1). Gross continued that tradition with GoldenEar: Even the company's flagship, the Triton Reference, which I favorably reviewed in January 2018, was priced a couple of dollars short of $8500/pair. (GoldenEar was acquired by The Quest Group, the parent company of cable company AudioQuest, in January 2020; Gross continued with the brand as president emeritus.)
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 25, 2020  |  47 comments
I've been wrestling with my elders about new ways to measure loudspeakers, lobbying for methods that might correlate more directly with a listener's experience. And wouldn't you know? Right in the middle of this Socratic dialogue, I put the fresh-from-UPS, $1000/pair, Tannoy Revolution XT 6s into my reference system, plunking them down on my 24" Sound Anchor Reference stands in the same spot my Harbeth P3ESRs had been sitting. And I freaked! I was using the Rogue RP-7 preamp and the Rogue Stereo 100 (100Wpc) amplifier, and I could never adequately describe how bad the shiny white Tannoys sounded. Imagine sound that's thin, metallic, herky-jerky, dull, and rolled off completely below about 90Hz.
Robert Schryer  |  May 21, 2020  |  111 comments
Reviewing a new loudspeaker from Totem feels like destiny—as if a formative moment 30 years ago has come full circle. That's because the first genuine audiophile speaker I ever owned was Totem's now-iconic Model 1, a product whose arrival altered many audiophiles' expectations of how much great—and wide-range—sound a small speaker can deliver. It's still being made today, at least in spirit.
Ken Micallef  |  Apr 17, 2020  |  3 comments
Located outside Glasgow, in a geographical area that's also home to Linn Products and Tannoy Ltd.—and also near the storied whisky distilleries of Aberfeldy and Blair Atholl—Fyne Audio got off to a fast start. A mere three years after the company's 2017 founding, Fyne already has distribution deals in 50 countries and offers 24 products in seven series.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 21, 2019  |  13 comments
Unlike the world of recorded music, where streaming has decimated sales of physical products, book publishing is seeing the reverse trend: sales of eBooks are declining while those of both hardback and paperback books are recovering. I have been a book junkie all my life—the two long walls of my listening room are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and I have many boxes of books in storage—but these days almost all my book reading is with the Kindle app on my iPad mini.
Herb Reichert  |  Oct 16, 2019  |  27 comments
In the realm of loudspeaker reviews, John Atkinson's measurements and my empirical observations have one important equivalency: Both are meaningless abstractions until confirmed by your listening experience.

Both are contingent on factors that are necessarily obtuse and not especially controllable.

John Atkinson  |  Sep 27, 2019  |  14 comments
It is said that while any competent engineer can design a superb loudspeaker if allowed an unlimited bill of materials, the true test is being able to produce a great-sounding, budget-priced speaker out of parts that cost a mere handful of dollars. With PSB's Alpha series of bookshelf speakers, Canadian engineer Paul Barton has illustrated this truism many times over the years.
Herb Reichert  |  Sep 26, 2019  |  50 comments
Class-D audio amplifiers: What's the argument for them? Class-A audio amplifiers: What's the argument against them? Class-AB amplifiers: Why does everybody make them? Each of these amplifier output architectures has strengths and weaknesses. Each will interface more or less successfully with a given loudspeaker in a given room. Each has a distinctive sonic signature. Consequently, as knowledgeable audiophiles with a laundry list of system-building goals, we are required to choose the amplifier type that best suits our speakers, our room, and our individual musical-aesthetic predilections.
Larry Greenhill  |  Aug 29, 2019  |  21 comments
SVS's recently introduced SB-3000 is a compact powered subwoofer that's $600 cheaper, a few cubic inches smaller, and 37lb lighter than the model it replaces, the SVS SB13-Ultra. Its amplifier is less powerful (800W vs 1000W), but its rated frequency response extends lower: a stygian 18Hz, compared to the SB13-Ultra's merely stentorian 20Hz.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 18, 2019  |  30 comments
A visitor to stereophile.com named billmilosz commented: "Compared to these, everything else sounded like it was coming out of a cereal box." When I read that, I laughed out loud.

That reader was responding to my AXPONA report about Magnepan's new $650/pair Little Ribbon Speaker (LRS)—which I presume he also heard at the show.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 25, 2019  |  22 comments
Has Serinus been demoted? You might well ask. This month, instead of reviewing a $58,000 stereo amplifier, I'm tackling a $599 powered loudspeaker system.

Truth be told, I'm always on the lookout for products that deliver outstanding sound at bargain prices. And since I maintain in my living room a modestly priced system built around powered speakers—this in addition to the far costlier system in my dedicated listening room—it's an easy fit for me to evaluate low-priced products in a real-world context.

John Atkinson  |  May 17, 2019  |  8 comments
I have reviewed several network-connected music servers in recent years, from Antipodes, Aurender, and NAD. All performed well but are relatively expensive, and their associated player apps didn't equal Roon's user friendliness in terms of interface, organization of the library, and inclusion and updating of metadata. So when Roon Labs introduced their own server, the Nucleus+, I first reviewed and then purchased it, along with a lifetime subscription to Roon. But at $2498 without an internal drive for storing music files, the Nucleus+ is still relatively expensive, and even Roon's less-powerful Nucleus costs $1398. I was still on the lookout for a server that would be more accessible to our budget-minded readers.

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