2013 Recommended Components Integrated Amps & Receivers

Integrated Amplifiers & Receivers

Class A

Allnic T-1500 300B: $6900
Made in South Korea and imported by Hammertone Audio, the 12.5Wpc T-1500 boasts exquisite industrial design: polycarbonate chimneys showcase, protect, and ventilate the tubes, while attractively molded handles make for easy lifting. It uses two PCL86 driver tubes, two choke-regulated 300Bs with user-adjustable fixed bias, and output transformers wound around a nickel-permalloy core. Though it lacked bottom-end extension, the T-1500 delivered harmonic richness, excellent transparency, and natural tonal colors, said ST. "One of the world's most beautifully crafted amplifiers," he said. "A stunning value." (Vol.34 No.8)
ATC SIA2: $4950
ATC's beefy (44 lbs) SIA2 delivers a claimed 150Wpc and is hand-built in the UK. It has five RCA inputs and a rear-panel headphone jack, but no phono stage, balanced inputs, or digital inputs. Fit’n’finish were good rather than great. Compared to the Luxman L-505u, the ATC had a more authoritative sound, with a less flattering sound, a lower noise floor, and more resolving power, said JM. "Excellent performance, good value for money, and a great match for ATC's SCM 40 speakers," he concluded. (Vol.33 No.4 Read Review Online)
Audio Note Jinro: $27,250
Like Audio Note's staggeringly expensive Ongaku ($121,500), the 18Wpc Jinro has: enormous output transformers, a simple tube-rectified power supply, star-ground design, a solid-copper chassis plate that doubles as a ground plane, silver wiring throughout, and one directly heated 211 triode tube per channel. Though its midrange was a bit soft, the Jinro showcased powerful bass, unsurpassed flow and momentum, and an overall sound that was very subtly sweet. AD concluded: "The Jinro exists as an appealing alternative for those who can appreciate and afford such a thing: a wonderful, wonderful amplifier." Though the Jinro's performance will depend heavily on the tubes used, it measured well "for a single-ended triode design," JA qualified. (Vol.34 No.4 Read Review Online)
Audio Research VSi60: $5000
In the 50Wpc VSi60, a passive line stage is combined with a JFET input stage driving one 6H30 driver tube per channel. Each channel's output stage has a matched pair of Svetlana 6550C push-pull tubes with a combination of pentode operation and ARC's "partially cathode-coupled topology." Convenient to use, the VSi60 provides output taps at 4 and 8 ohms, as well as four pairs of voltmeter test points. Though it lacked the ultimate control of more powerful amplifiers, the VSi60 combined a glorious midrange with clean, detailed high frequencies and outstanding low-level dynamic articulation. "In the VSi60, Audio Research has produced an integrated amplifier of staggering quality, versatility, and value," said BJR. Add $300 for tube cage. (Vol.33 No.9 Read Review Online)
Ayre Acoustics AX-7e: $3500 ✩
The success of this 60Wpc, solid-state, two-channel, fully balanced, integrated amplifier depended on the associated sources. Used from balanced output to balanced input, "It was brilliant. Amazing. Stirring, even," said AD. However, used as an unbalanced amp, "The AX-7 still sounded good, but its musical performance lacked momentum and, ultimately, excitement." Overall, the Ayre was "colorful, clear, well-textured, and spatially convincing." It seemed sensitive to the type and length of speaker cable AD used, and seemed more sensitive to AC power quality than average. "I strongly recommend the Ayre AX-7 for use [only] in an all-balanced system." The "7e's power supply now includes greater filtering of the AC mains, increased peak current delivery, and filtering of the rectifier switching noise. In addition, the AX-7e's gain stages now use two-stage voltage regulators in place of the earlier version's single-stage regulators. The sound now combined classic Brit-style pacing and tunefulness with near-SET levels of presence and a fine sense of musical flow, a combination that allowed AD to become emotionally involved in the music. "The AX-7e is the best integrated I've ever heard," endorsed WP. "One heck of an involving amplifier," he summed up. Compared to the Luxman MQ-88 power amplifier, the Ayre offered greater bass extension and soundstage control but lacked the Luxman's beguiling midrange, said JM. Original AX-7s can be fully upgraded for $250–$350, depending on the age of the unit. (Vol.26 No.10 AX-7; Vol.29 No.1, Vol.31 No.3, AX-7e Read Review Online; see also "The Fifth Element" in Vol.34 No.2 and Vol.35 No.4 Read Review Online)
Bel Canto C7R: $2995 $$$
Made in the US, the versatile C7R is a 60Wpc solid-state FM receiver with four S/PDIF digital inputs (two coaxial, two TosLink), two pairs of analog inputs (one phono, one line), one pair of line-level analog outputs, a front-panel headphone jack, and a built-in DAC with USB input capable of handling resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz. Though it lacked some midrange clarity and high-frequency smoothness, the C7R sounded clear, immediate, and powerful, with excellent dynamics and tight, tuneful bass, said EL. "I loved the Bel Canto C7R. I recommend it to anyone who wants simplicity and great sound," he concluded. "Overall, the C7R is a well-designed piece of hardware," said JA. (Vol.36 No.3 Read Review Online)
Boulder 865: $13,500 ✩
The 150Wpc Boulder 865 is essentially an 810 preamp and an 860 power amp crammed into a single, large chassis of anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum. It has four balanced line-level inputs; a sophisticated, microprocessor-controlled, optically activated volume control; and separate power supplies for the analog and microprocessor circuits. The 865 matched top-end sparkle and deep bass with rock-solid control, and its lack of noise and distortion allowed WP to hear deep into the soundstage. "It's simple, and it's darn near perfect," he concluded. JA's measurements revealed that the amp had to work hard to drive high powers into low impedances. Compared to the darTZeel CTH-8550, the Boulder had more low-bass impact but lacked some top-octave air. (Vol.32 Nos.4 & 8 Read Review Online)
Devialet D-Premier: $15,995
Made in France, the strikingly beautiful D-Premier is a remote-controlled, WiFi-capable, solid-state integrated amplifier with internal D/A section, phono stage, switch-mode power supply, and high-efficiency output stage. Specified output power is 240Wpc into 6 ohms, and connections include: two S/PDIF on TosLink; one pair RCA assignable to phono or line; one pair RCA assignable to phono, line, or digital S/PDIF; one AES/EBU digital; an analog preamp or subwoofer output; and S/PDIF digital output. The D-Premier combined remarkable versatility and a future-proof design with a sound that was clean, clear, detailed, and dramatic, said JA. Other than its slight loss of resolution via WiFi, the D-Premier exhibited very impressive measured performance. "Devialet's D-Premier is the most extraordinary product I have reviewed for Stereophile," JA concluded. (Vol.36 No.1 Read Review Online)
Exposure 2010S: $1495 $$$ ✩
"A positively magnificent little amp," the 75Wpc 2010S astounded AD with its ability to communicate music with an unusual intensity that invariably pulled him down into his listening chair. While it didn't sound as liquid as a good tube amp or retrieve instrumental textures as well as a good SET, the 2010S offered transparency, tunefulness, and timing that were beyond reproach. Jim Austin loved the 2010S's rich, full low end, but noted a slight de-emphasis of transients. JA's measurements uncovered "a sensible set of engineering compromises," but nothing that indicated why the amp should sound as good as it did. Optional MM or MC phono-preamp card adds $219. AD reviewed the more powerful 3010S in Vol.31 No.6 (110Wpc, $2295) and though he had many positive things to say, he ultimately feels that the 2101S is the star in the Exposure line. SM's long-term reference. (Vol.28 No.11, Vol.29 No.2 Read Review Online)
Leben CS300: $3395
With its wood side panels, gold-toned faceplate, and large balance and bass-boost knobs, the line-only CS300 has a decidedly old-fashioned look and feel. It uses two pairs of EL84 power pentode tubes running in class-A/B mode to deliver 12Wpc. A rear-panel output control allows the user to switch between transformer secondaries that are optimized for use with speakers with impedances of 4, 6, or 8 ohms. Construction quality was superb throughout. Though it lacked the color, presence, internote silence, and sense of flow of AD's Shindo separates, the Leben distinguished itself as a punchy and realistically textured amp with an especially deep, tight bottom end. It measured "about as well as can be expected from its retro design," commented JA. (Vol.34 No.11 Read Review Online)
Leben CS600: $6495
Taking its look from 1960s American hi-fi, the beautiful, 32Wpc CS600 has a gold faceplate with green trim and wooden side panels made from solid, fine-grain, Canadian white ash. The amp employs a push-pull topology and can use EL34 or 6L6GC tubes. There is a 1/4" headphone jack but no remote control. JM: "The Leben CS600 had a certain, almost indefinable sweetness about it, and a beguiling presentation of inner detail that made me overlook its limitations in dynamics and bass." Partnered with the Harbeth P3ESR loudspeakers, the Leben sounded "simply glorious." (Vol.33 No.6 Read Review Online)
LFD Mk.IV LE: $3895
"If you like features, this integrated has none," says ST, but "If you like sweet, highly resolving sound, the LFD offers these aplenty." The latest refinement of LFD's LE integrated amplifier is rated to deliver 60Wpc and has a new chassis of extruded aluminum, a thick top cover, a much thicker faceplate, and three beautifully shaped knobs. The Mk.IV LE uses two MOSFET output devices per channel and a custom-made volume pot, but forgoes convenience features such as tone controls, specialized inputs, and remote handset. Compared with the Mk.III, the Mk.IV LE had a richer, fuller tonal balance, with deep, solid bass, astonishing immediacy, and exceptional dynamic range. "The LFD Mk.IV LE is artisanal hi-fi of the highest order, as much artistry as science," said ST, who bought the review sample. (Vol.34 No.1)
Luxman L-505u: $4100 $$$ ✩
The 100Wpc L-505u offers four line-level inputs in addition to an MM/MC switchable phono input and headphone output. Large, backlit power meters and convenient tone controls mark its retro styling. The L-505u combined tactility and continuity with soundstage size and image specificity for an addictive overall sound. In direct comparison with the Grace m902, the Luxman's headphone performance lacked body and spatial resolution. JM: "Luxman's L-505u is my new default recommendation in integrated amplifiers." (Vol.32 Nos.4, 6, 8, & 10, Vol.33 No.2 Read Review Online)
NAD Masters Series M2 Direct Digital: $5999
Though it's convenient to think of it as an integrated amplifier, the solidly constructed M2 is actually a multiple-input D/A converter with an output stage that can deliver up to 300Wpc into 8 ohms. For legacy analog sources, it has two pairs of analog inputs that are immediately converted to 24-bit digital, with a user-selectable sample rate of 48, 96, or 192kHz. The M2's slightly overripe bass worked to complement its spacious soundstage and silky high frequencies, preserving the immediacy of good recordings while never exaggerating the brashness of poorer ones. "While the M2 is relatively large and heavy for a class-D amplifier, runs warmer than you might expect, and is not inexpensive, when fed high-quality PCM data it offers sound quality that competes with that of the best conventional amplifiers," praised JA. (Vol.33 No.3 Read Review Online)
Pass Labs INT-150: $7150
The push-pull, class-A/B INT-150 is rated to deliver 150Wpc (191Wpc at clipping), and has a high-quality volume control and five inputs: two XLR/RCA and three RCA-only. It uses Pass's Super-Symmetry Circuit, previously featured in all X-series models, to naturally eliminate distortions from the audio signal. Though it produced a slightly forward midrange and top end, the INT-150 combined wide dynamic range with great rhythmic drive, a broad soundstage, and tight, tuneful bass, said EL, who recommended high Class B. Measured performance was excellent in most respects, said JA, who feels low Class A is the appropriate rating. (Vol.34 No.1 Read Review Online)
Simaudio Moon Evolution 700i: $13,000
Robustly built of thick, ultrarigid aluminum, the 700i is a fully differential dual-mono design rated to deliver 175Wpc (190Wpc at actual clipping), running in class-A up to 5W and in class-A/B thereafter. Its output stages are powered by six bipolar transistors per channel for a wide bandwidth and low noise floor, while its "zero global feedback" design works to boost the speed of the signal response and eliminate intermodulation distortion. Though it couldn’t match the Krell FBI's transient speed or deep-bass extension, the 700i had a full-blooded, dynamic, seamless sound marked by vivid tonal colors, harmonic integrity, and a strong sense of rhythm. With the 700i, "I found myself drawn deeper into the music," said FK. (Vol.34 No.3 Read Review Online)
T+A Power Plant Balanced: $3300 ✩
The 140Wpc Power Plant looks almost identical to T+A's Music Player, and the two comprise a fully functional audio system in a single stack. Connection via a supplied RJ-12 cable coordinates the functions of the MP and PP, and allows the pair to be operated by a single remote. The PP's switch-mode output stages were developed in-house, and combine MOSFET transistors with high-energy driver modules. JI noted a "dynamic-sounding amplifier section that exhibited ample and well-controlled bass along with a smooth, detailed top end." Surprisingly robust and detailed sounding amp for such a small cool-running package, he concludes. (Vol.32 No.8, Vol.35 No.9 Read Review Online)
Unison Research S9: $10,995
The beautifully built, class-A S9 is rated to deliver 35Wpc. It weighs 110 lbs, measures 17" W by 9.75" H by 22.25" D, and uses two ECC82 or 12AU7 tubes for inputs and driver stages, and a pair of SV572-10 output tubes per channel in parallel single-ended mode. It provides just four line-level inputs and a tape loop. Lacking power and bass control, the S9 is not for hard-rockers, but its excellent low-level resolution, immediacy, and harmonic accuracy proved "especially well suited to classical and acoustic jazz," said ST. "It brings the performances back alive. . . Super-dimensionality. Class A for sure." Tube grille adds $160. (Vol.33 No.7)

Class B

B.M.C. Audio Amplifier C1: $7990
The fully balanced, 175Wpc Amplifier C1 measures 17.1" W by 5.9" H by 15.9" D and, thanks in part to its massive toroidal transformer, weighs 88 lbs. Its aluminum faceplate is dominated by a large porthole that contains two power meters, displays the selected input, and indicates the volume control setting from 00 to 66 in 1dB increments. In B.M.C.'s Load Effect Free circuit, a single gain stage operates independently of the subsequent power stage, thereby avoiding unnecessarily high overall gain and obviating the need to attenuate the input signal. Though it lacked some nuance and subtlety, the Amplifier C1 offered "muscular, woofer-gripping bass and overall sonic ease," said MF. "If you’re thinking your system needs a wake-up call, the Amplifier C1 will deliver that in style." JA's measurements showed that the Amplifier C1 shouldn’t be used with speakers that drop below 4 ohms. (Vol.35 No.5 Read Review Online)
Cayin SP-10A: $2195
With its brushed aluminum faceplate and cabinet of gorgeous cherrywood (walnut and piano lacquer are also available), the 38Wpc SP-10A has a decidedly old-fashioned appearance. It uses four 6L6GC output tubes, two 12AU7 driver tubes, and one 12AX7 input tube; has four line-level inputs; and offers both 4 and 8 ohm output transformer taps. Though it lacked top-end sparkle and ran out of gas at high volumes, the Cayin offered a lush, natural midrange with outstanding resolution of inner detail and ambience, said BJR. JA's measurements uncovered a "curious instability" and lack of distortion-free power from the amp's 4 ohm tap. (Vol.35 No.4 Read Review Online)
Harman/Kardon HK 990: $2599
The gorgeous, versatile, 150Wpc HK 990 is a two-channel integrated amplifier with analog and digital inputs, tone controls, bass management, and system equalization. Line-level analog inputs include six pairs single-ended, one pair balanced, a processor HT bypass, and two subwoofer; digital inputs include two optical and two coaxial. In addition, there are moving-magnet and moving-coil phono inputs, two subwoofer outputs, two coaxial outputs, and a front-panel headphone jack. Its Analog Devices AD1955 DAC chip handles resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz. Though it was less transparent than the Parasound Halo JC 2 preamp, the HK 990 offered impressive performance with both analog and digital sources, exhibiting taut bass, clean mids, and outstanding power and control. "The HK 990 should be on every audiophile's shopping list," said KR, adding that it's "a harbinger of the future of integrated amplifiers." JA noted that the H/K's measured performance was not compromised by its wealth of versatile features. "I am impressed," he said. (Vol.34 No.12 Read Review Online)
Linn Majik DSM: $4750
Designed to communicate with other music-playback gear by means of an Ethernet LAN, streaming files in accordance with current UPnP specifications, the Majik DSM (previously Majik DS-I) combines a networked 90Wpc integrated amplifier, D/A converter, and phono preamplifier. It has three line-level analog inputs, three S/PDIF digital inputs, and three optical digital inputs, but lacks USB and FireWire digital inputs. FLAC, AIFF, WAV, ALAC, AAC, and MP3 file formats are supported at resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz. Setup and installation proved time-consuming and frustrating, and required several additional pieces of hardware and software. The Ethernet-networked DSM provided "a more open, nuanced, explicit, involving, and altogether natural musical experience than any USB-based digital source I've heard," said AD. The DSM's integrated amp and phono sections lacked openness, texture, and resolution, however. "Fairly respectable measured performance," said JA, "let down only by its limited channel separation and the relatively high level of background noise." While the DSM accentuated the strengths of the Linn Majik 140 loudspeaker, it lacked the air, musicality, and ease of BJR's reference combo of Audio Valve Eclipse line stage and Audio Research Reference 110 power amp. Further testing revealed that the measured performances of the Majik DSM, connected via Ethernet or S/PDIF, were basically identical. (Vol.34 Nos.3, 4, & 6 Read Review Online)
Luxman SQ-38u: $5990
The SQ-38u uses two EL34 tubes per channel in a class-A/B Ultralinear circuit to deliver 25Wpc into 8 or 4 ohms, or 30Wpc into 6 ohms. It has an attractive, old-fashioned solid-wood cabinet; its silver front panel is home to a Balance knob, separate Bass and Treble controls, a rumble switch, a Mono/Stereo switch, and a Mute button. In addition to the four power pentodes, the Luxman contains seven small-signal tubes and a pair of custom step-up transformers. Though it lacked the Leben CS300's bass extension and texture, the SQ-38u delivered a consistently engaging sound with decent punch and presence, said AD. "High Class B." It measured "about as well as I expected for a classic circuit using a pair of EL34 tubes per channel," said JA. (Vol.34 No.11 Read Review Online)
Manley Labs Stingray iTube: $6000 ✩
Manley Labs Stingray II: $5650
Direct descendent of the acclaimed Stingray (reviewed by CS in December 1999), the rugged-looking, gorgeously constructed Stingray iTube is built around eight EL84 output tubes, rated to deliver 32Wpc in ultralinear mode and 18Wpc in triode mode. It offers three single-ended inputs, a certified iPod dock, a subwoofer output, and a 1/4" headphone jack. An IR/RF remote control provides full control of the amp, as well as the track functions of a docked iPod. After about 250 hours of break-in, the iTube exhibited a sound marked by "elegance, subtlety, and charm." Though it lacked some body and color, and sometimes struggled at high volumes, the iTube had a grainless, extended treble and an overall sound that was "engaging and relaxing," said EL. Though it lacked the balanced overall sound of the Simaudio Moon i3.3, the iTube "had a midrange to die for, and it effortlessly hung images in the air," summed up EL. The Stingray II is identical to the Stingray iTube, but without the iPod dock. Though it lacked some bass control and low-level resolution, the Stingray II offered a surprisingly dynamic and expansive sound with a relaxed, romantic color, said ST. (Vol.22 No.12, original version, Read Review Online; Vol.33 Nos.3, 9, & 11, Stingray II Read Review Online)
Micromega AS-400: $4595
Housed in a metal enclosure with an attractive powder-coat finish, the AS-400 combines a class-D integrated amplifier with a high-quality moving-magnet phono stage, a D/A converter tailored specifically to computer music files, and a convenient iTunes-ready WiFi receiver. Though it lacked color and spatial depth, the AS-400 was dynamic, dramatic, and almost relentlessly exciting, for a consistently compelling overall sound, said AD. Music streamed from Art's iMac was slightly clearer and had a more natural sense of flow than that streamed from his iPod, but both sources provided enjoyable listening. "The Micromega AS-400 strikes me as a virtually perfect choice for the audio perfectionist who shares space with other listeners—and multiple iPods and/or iMacs," he concluded. (Vol.34 No.7 Read Review Online)
Musical Fidelity M3i: $1500
Designed to match the M3CD CD player, Musical Fidelity's entry-level M3i is rated to deliver 76Wpc and has six line-level RCA inputs, one pair of constant-level RCA outputs, and one pair of variable-level outputs. Circuitry derives from Musical Fidelity's Titan series. Like the M3CD, the M3i had "a direct, ingratiating quality," with detail, definition, and an overall tonal rightness, said ST. Though it lacked the bass control of the NAD 375BEE, the M3i exhibited greater refinement in the midrange and treble. "One of Musical Fidelity's best integrateds ever," says Sam, "which is saying a lot." (Vol.33 No.11)
Mystère ia21: $2995 $$$
Well built and clad in a gorgeous gloss-black finish, Mystère's most powerful integrated amp is rated to deliver 50Wpc into 8 ohms and uses four 6SN7 input tubes and four KT88 or EL34 output tubes. Mystère's Adaptive Auto-Biasing ensures that tube biases are always properly matched, and allows for fun and easy tube rolling. Used with KT88s, the ia21 offered fine, balanced performance, but with an overly thick, rich overall sound. Replacing the KT88s with EL34s smoothed out the upper bass and treble while retaining harmonic color and nuance. "The Mystère ia21 combines the fun of tube rolling, the convenience of auto-biasing, classic and distinctive styling, great build quality, and rich, engaging sound," said EL, who feels the ia21 is a great value. JA was bothered by its extraordinarily high output impedance, however. (Vol.34 No.3 Read Review Online)
Peachtree Audio nova125: $1499
The handsome, remote-controlled nova125 combines a 125Wpc amplifier, preamplifier with tubed buffer stage, headphone amp, and asynchronous USB DAC capable of handling resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz. It offers three S/PDIF inputs, one analog input, and a preamp output. Though it lacked some resolution, the Peachtree had a slightly warm and soft overall sound, with excellent tonality, well-defined bass, and smooth highs, said ST. "Peachtree Audio has delivered a plum," he concluded. (Vol.36 No.1)
PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium: $2299
Designed in Holland and made in China, the solidly built ProLogue Premium is rated to deliver 35Wpc with EL34 tubes or 40Wpc with KT88s. It has a heavy-gauge, ventilated case with a lustrous five-coat finish, features point-to-point wiring, and offers five pairs of RCA input jacks, a Home Theater bypass, and connections for speaker loads of 4 and 8 ohms. Though it lacked the three-dimensional imaging, detailed highs, and extended bass of more expensive amplifiers, the ProLogue Premium produced a natural, inviting midrange and performed well with a wide variety of speakers. "The PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium offers outstanding sound quality at a very reasonable price," said RD. JA noted respectable measured performance for a classic tube design. (Vol.35 No.6 Read Review Online)
Rogers High Fidelity EHF-100: $6350
Made in the US by former NASA engineer Roger Gibboni, the EHF-100 is rated to deliver 65Wpc (JA measured 35Wpc) into 8 ohms; offers four pairs of line-level inputs; and uses two EF86 miniature pentode, two 12AX7 triode, and four KT88 power tubes. Fit and finish were excellent. Though not as nuanced, colorful, or dramatic as AD's reference Shindo separates, the EHF-100 distinguished itself as a tight, punchy-sounding amplifier with loads of natural detail, a very good sense of momentum, and an excellent sense of space. Despite differences in the noise floor between its two channels, the EHF-100 measured well "for a classic design," said JA. (Vol.35 No.11 Read Review Online)
Roksan Kandy K2: $1950
The stylish, solid-state Kandy K2 is rated to deliver 125Wpc (134Wpc at clipping) into 8 ohms, and has a front-panel headphone output, five line-level inputs, and a low-gain MM phono stage. The included handset offers pushbuttons and a touchscreen for controlling all functions. While it lacked the ultimate low-bass extension, midrange texture, and top-end sparkle of more expensive components, the K2 had a smooth, slightly soft sound, with good imaging, soundstaging, and musical timing. "One of the most listenable entry-level components I've had in my home," said AD. JA appreciated the K2's high power in a compact package, but was bothered by its poor volume-control tracking. (Vol.33 No.5 Read Review Online)
Shuguang Audio Classic S300MK: $1950 with Pavane 300B tubes
The single-ended-triode S300MK is made in China and sold direct by Grant Fidelity in Alberta, Canada. It measures 16" W by 8.2" H by 13.1" D, weighs 51 lbs, features hand-wound transformers and point-to-point wiring, and uses eight tubes: two 12AX7 inputs, two Treasure 6CA7 drivers, two autobiased Treasure 300Bs delivering the rated 8Wpc, and two 5AR4 rectifiers. The S300MK exhibited truncated transients and limited bass impact, but offered a beautiful midrange and smooth treble, creating an overall sound that was sweet, euphonic, and slightly soft, said ST. Price includes Pavane 300B Black Bottle tubes; price with standard tubes is $1400. (Vol.34 No.8)
Swissonor V.S.O.P.: $5475
The elegant, 8Wpc V.S.O.P. is a push-pull design with three line-level inputs. It uses a pair of ECC81 tubes for the preamp stage, and two pairs of 6V6 power tubes. The V.S.O.P. lacked some of the speed and articulation of the Unison Research Simply Italy, but nevertheless offered a smooth, coherent overall sound, said ST. "The V.S.O.P. is an amplifier to hear if you get the chance, especially with high-sensitivity speakers in a small listening space," he concluded. Options: moving-magnet phono stage, add $500; high-output moving-coil phono stage, add $750. (Vol.36 No.2)
Unison Research Simply Italy: $2450
The solidly built Simply Italy uses an ECC82 driver tube and an EL34B output tube to deliver 12Wpc. It measures just 10" W by 7.5" H by 15.5" D and offers four line-level inputs, a tape loop, and a single set of outputs optimized for 4–8 ohm speakers. Solid-wood inlays around the hefty, stainless-steel volume and selector knobs help damp vibrations. Fit and finish were outstanding. Though it lacked the dimensionality and expansiveness of larger Unison Research amplifiers, the Simply Italy had a confident, solid sound with surprisingly tight bass, said ST. "My little bambino." He sums up. "Clear, crisp sound, tight bass for all of its 12 watts." ST thinks there may be no better amp for small-group jazz. (Vol.35 No.8)

Class C

Arcam Solo Mini: $999 $$$ ✩
The half-width Solo Mini CD receiver offers 25Wpc and on its front panel has 1/8" jacks for headphones and portable music players, as well as a USB input. The rear panel is crowded, however, with inexpensive speaker terminals that accept only the smallest spade lugs. Compared to the Integra DSR-4.8, the Mini sounded "immediately warmer, rounder, and fuller, with stronger bass"; in comparison to Arcam's larger Solo Music, the Mini had a more stable soundstage with better-defined images. "Within its power limitations, I found it more tactile and overall easier to listen to than its more expensive stablemate," he writes, concluding that "the Solo Mini sounds pretty darn good, is a tremendous job of packaging, and works pretty much intuitively." (Vol.32 No.10 Read Review Online)
Audio Analogue Crescendo: $950
Sleek and simple, the 50Wpc Crescendo has five line-level inputs, a front-panel headphone jack, and iPod input. It uses two National Seminconductor LM3886 integrated circuits, each housing two bipolar output transistors working in class-A/B mode. Like the matching Crescendo CD player, the integrated produced a "compelling and immediate" sound, excelling with tonal textures and managing to convey the electricity and ambiance of recorded events, said ST. (Vol.33 No.10)
AVM Inspiration C8: $4190
Made in Germany, the handsome AVM Inspiration C8 is a solid-state CD receiver with a 150Wpc class-D output stage, a phono stage, and digital inputs and outputs, including a USB input limited to 16-bit/48kHz resolution. Partnered with the Canalis Anima speakers, the C8 produced a neutral, powerful overall sound, said JM. However, with the speakers placed too low, JM noted an overabundance of high-frequency detail. Expensive for the sound quality on offer. (Vol.36 No.2 Read Review Online)
Marantz M-CR603: $699.99
With a black case, rounded front corners, and blue illumination, the M-CR603 CD-receiver, rated to deliver 40Wpc into 8 ohms, has the appearance of a traditional stereo component. It has a front-panel USB port and provides wired network connectivity, but does not support WiFi. Compared to the TEAC CR-H500NT, the Marantz produced greater bass quantity but lacked refinement and control, said JM. Sounded essentially identical to its corporate sibling, the Denon RCD-N7. (Vol.34 No.10 Read Review Online)
Music Hall a15.2: $499
The a15.2 uses IGBT output devices, said to combine the slew rate and low internal impedance of MOSFET input devices with the current drive of bipolar output devices, to deliver 75Wpc into 8 ohms. It has five line-level inputs, a front-panel iPod minijack, an onboard headphone amp, and a "surprisingly good" moving-magnet phono stage that can also be used with a high-output moving-coil cartridge. Though it lacked the resolution and detail of more expensive amplifiers, the a15.2 offered an ingratiating, tube-like sound that never irritated or fatigued, said ST. (Vol.33 No.12)
NAD C 316BEE: $379 $$$
Descendant of NAD's famed 3020 integrated amplifier, the 40Wpc C 316BEE uses a new variant of the PowerDrive technology found in NAD's Master Series components, said to maximize the short-term dynamic power sent to loudspeakers. It has five inputs, a single set of user-friendly binding posts for easy connections, defeatable tone controls, a headphone jack, and an iPod minijack. The NAD matched power with grace, providing a rich, forceful overall presentation and an impressive ability to follow complex musical passages and make clear, truthful distinctions among musical instruments. Compared to the JoLida FX 10, the NAD produced a far more compelling listening experience, with faster attacks, longer decays, and a wider soundstage, said SM. (Vol.34 No.7 Read Review Online)
Outlaw Audio RR2150: $699 $$$ ✩
This 100Wpc, two-channel receiver showcases stylish, deco-like looks and a full range of features that include line, iPod, phono, and USB digital inputs, tape and processor loops, tone controls, headphone output, speaker equalization, bass management, and a mono line-level subwoofer output. JA was "astonished" to discover what the bargain-basement-priced RR2150 offered, both on the test bench and in the listening room. The RR2150's self-explanatory setup, versatility and convenience, and open, focused, and well-organized overall sound (though somewhat opaque and not fully fleshed out) make it "a great intro to hi-fi for a younger generation," said MF. Problems with production led to delivery delays through July 2006, but the situation is now resolved. Current production samples (made in a different factory) offer the same excellent measured performance as the original, but the RR2150's USB digital input, marred by limited resolution and high jitter, should be regarded as being for convenience only, advised JA. (Vol.29 No.3, Vol.31 No.1 Read Review Online)
Peachtree decco65: $899 $$$
Peachtree's entry-level integrated combines a 65Wpc amplifier, a preamp with tubed buffer stage, a headphone amp, and an asynchronous USB DAC capable of handling resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz. Like the more powerful nova125, the decco65 offers three S/PDIF inputs, one analog input, and a preamp output. Its pleasantly forward sound had outstanding color and texture, believably crisp treble, and tight bass, said AD. "Peachtree Audio's decco65 is among the most recommendable affordable-perfectionist products I've had the pleasure of using," he concluded. JA was bothered by the decco65's poor volume-control tracking, but was impressed by its overall measured performance. Add $100 for Cherry or Rosewood finish. (Vol.36 No.3 Read Review Online)
Rega Brio-R: $895
Minimalist in design and appearance, the 50Wpc Brio-R measures just 8.5" W by 3.25" H by 13" D and, like the Rega DAC, is housed in an attractive aluminum-and-steel case with a reflective front panel. It offers five line-level RCA inputs and one phono input. Though it lacked the definition, detail, focus, and frequency extension of the much more expensive LFD LE IV, the Brio-R delivered a relaxed, nonfatiguing sound with tight, full bass, said ST. "The Brio-R showed the excellence that's possible when a manufacturer aspires to deliver less," he said, adding that it includes "a very good moving-magnet phono stage, enough to satisfy the less fremerous among us. Yes, it's 'umble eye-fye, but very well done," ST sums up. (Vol.34 No.12)
TEAC CR-H500NT: $599
Housed in a standard black box and rated to deliver 40Wpc into 6 ohms, the CR-H500NT CD-receiver has both wired and wireless network connectivity and is available with an optional iPod dock, but does not support Apple's AirPlay software. It uses a Burr-Brown 24-bit/192kHz DAC chip, has a phono input, and offers the ability to rip LPs to an external hard-drive. Unlike the Denon RCD-N7 and Marantz M-CR603, the TEAC provides a front-panel volume knob and has a standard, three-prong IEC power receptacle on its rear panel. Compared to the Denon and Marantz, the TEAC sounded slightly more refined, with better bass control and finesse, said JM. (Vol.34 No.10 Read Review Online)

Class D

JoLida Glass FX 10: $599
The autobiasing FX 10 is claimed to deliver a modest 10Wpc into 8 ohms and uses two matched pairs of Electro-Harmonix EL84 output tubes and two 12AX7 input tubes. With its heat-resistant glass enclosure in place, the adorable JoLida measures just 8" W by 7" D by 7" H and weighs a friendly 12 lbs. It provides two rear-panel inputs, smartly arranged gold-plated output terminals for speaker loads of 4 and 8 ohms, and a front-panel iPod input. Though it was very quiet and retrieved impressive amounts of detail, the JoLida produced a restricted overall sound with soft highs, a lean midrange, and weak bass, felt SM. "Couldn’t match the dynamics, scale, or tonal color of the NAD C 316BEE," sez he. A Follow-Up is planned. (Vol.34 No.7 Read Review Online)
Marantz PM5004: $449.99 $$$
An updated version of the successful PM5003, the 40Wpc PM5004 includes upgraded preamp and power-amp sections, and benefits from additional sound tuning. Compared to the PM5003, the PM5004 offered "greater dynamic contrasts, a bit more delicacy, and an overall sound that was a touch more rich and involving," said BJR. "All in all, an improvement more evolutionary than revolutionary." (Vol.34 No.3 Read Review Online)

Class K

Unison Research S6.

Class Deletions

Naim Uniti significantly revised since review; Denon RCD-N7 no longer available; Cary Audio Design CAD-300SE, darTZeel CTH-8550, Musical Fidelity AMS35i, NAD C 375BEE, all not auditioned in too long a time; Quad II Classic not currently available in US.

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COMMENTS
guitarist9273's picture

The Beats Solo HD is now a Stereophile reccomended component... That sounds like a (funny) joke. They're certainly attractive looking & very stylish, but they sound very...well, bad. They're Class D...but I'm genuinely curious as to why they'd be included at all.

There are a lot of decent choices when it comes to headphones in the portable/sealed-on-ear-headphones-under-$300 category, now, that it's hard to see the B&W P3 and the Beats Solo HD making it onto the list. (Anyone interested in heaphones should check out Stereophile' sister online publication on personal-audio/headphones---InnerFidelity.)

Thanks for this awesome compilation, by the way! I sincerely enjoyed reading through such a wide sampling of great loudspeakers, amps & such. The balanced objectivity is always refreshing, considering other publication's purely subjective approach.

RobertSlavin's picture

Being able to see the photos of the components next to their descriptions, as found in this online version of recommended components, is nice.

However, Stereophile used to charge for this section online. Why is it giving it away for free now?

There's not a tremendous amount of money in magazine publishing. I'd prefer that the magazine make a reasonable amount of money from this section.

John Atkinson's picture

RobertSlavin wrote:
Stereophile used to charge for this section online. Why is it giving it away for free now?

Unless I am having a senior moment, we never used to charge for on-line access to Recommended Components. In fact, we have only been making it available in its entirety on-line since 2012, which is when we launched our free iPad app.

And regarding charging for it, my bottom-line policy is that the magazine's content should be available free on-line.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Poor Audiophile's picture

Thanks for that JA!

EU-USA Stereophile Fan's picture

Maybe some other EU makers could have been included such as Phonar (Germany) or PMC (UK)

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
Maybe some other EU makers could have been included such as Phonar (Germany) or PMC (UK)

"Recommended Components" exclusively concerns products that have been reviewed in the magazine. In turn, to be reviewed in Stereophile, a product needs to be available in the US; see  www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/307awsi/index.html.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Glotz's picture

WOW, I love it!  

I think I have memorized the entire RC over the years, and seeing each component again (some for the first time) is wonderful!  

I wonder who went through the trouble of procuring all of those photos for RC online.  

I won't even pretend there will be photos (for the next RC) in the magazine.  I imagine it would be 500 pages long... 

Ariel Bitran's picture

photos were gathered by myself and reformatted by Jon Iverson.

Downforce's picture

Has the excellent Emotiva ERC-2 been discontinued?  And for JA, the link you posted isn't working.  Thanks for the lists.

John Atkinson's picture

Downforce wrote:
Has the excellent Emotiva ERC-2 been discontinued?

Not according to Emotiva. It's there in Class C of Disc Players.

Downforce wrote:
And for JA, the link you posted isn't working.

Fixed. Thanks.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

stereomag's picture

Wow! Here they (Stereophile) go again. Still no review of any Accuphase preamps. Why is that, Stereophile?

weitn's picture

M30.1 got impressive reviews from Stereophile and Absolute Sound and recommended by both. I have auditioned it and ordered a pair the other day. Out of curiosity, what happened to the M40.1? It was listed in the 2012 recommended list.

destroysall76's picture

Great recommendations, but I'm curious in the LS50 from KEF. Is it really that much better of a speaker to be a part of the Class A (Restricted LF) over the Harbeth P3ESR and the Proac Tablette?

Also, is the Rega RP1 the better table buy this year over the Project Debut Carbon?

mkrzych's picture

Hello,
I've read here that Dali Zensor 1 are in class C (Exteme Restricted LF), so according to your judge those are considered not entry level speakers, am I right?
If so, do you have any suggestions for the speaker cable matching or positioning for these little babies to sound the best? Currently I have Marantz CD5004/PM6004 connected to them over the QED Strand 79 speaker cable. They are on Soundstage Z22 stands.
Is it anything I can do to improve this gear in your opinion?

Thanks for any suggestions.
Krzysztof

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