2013 Recommended Components Miscellaneous

Accessories

Audio Research Tube Damping Rings: $4 each ✩
Damping rings for all AR products are now available to the public at large. They're made of a proprietary polymer material that converts kinetic energy to heat, and their improvements are not subtle, exclaims BJR: tighter, cleaner, deeper, more dynamic bass; more coherent transient attacks; crisper, more extended highs; plus "improvements in the reproduction of subtle gradations of low-level dynamics." Give "em a whirl—the cost is minimal. (Vol.23 No.2, Vol.26 No.8 Read Review Online)
Audioengine AW3: $149 ✩
Audioengine's AW3 comprises two tiny modules, a transmitter and a receiver, each about half the size of a credit card and 1/4" thick, with a pigtail USB connector. Audio input to the transmitter and audio output from the receiver are via stereo mini-jacks. The modules reliably linked up with each other and were free from signal interruptions, audible network problems, and extraneous noise. Connected between the L/R inputs of Kal's Bryston 9B-SST power amp and the L/R outputs of his Anthem Statement D2 processor, the AW1 lacked high-frequency sparkle and midrange detail while sounding "surprisingly okay." The AW3's sonic compromises were much less noticeable when it was used for the surround and/or bass channels. Actual model reviewed was the AW1, which could only transmit to one receiver; the otherwise identical AW3 can transmit to up to three receivers. Current version redesigned to coexist better with other WiFi networks. (Vol.31 No.9 Read Review Online)
AudioPrism Noise Sniffer RFI/EMI detector: $250 ✩
An "electronic detective in the campaign to eliminate noise," said Chief Barry Willis. "Simply plug it in and turn up the volume—its small built-in loudspeaker will reveal where your problem outlets are." Then you can turn to AudioPrism's QuietLine Parallel AC line filter for a cure. "A must-own product, period," says BD. "10-4," adds J-10. (Vol.21 No.12)
AudioQuest binding-post wrench: $10.00 ✩
A great idea improved—similar to the original Postman, but with a metal sleeve reinforcing the sockets. (Vol.20 No.9)
Ayre Acoustics Irrational But Efficacious System Enhancement CD: $19.99
Ayre's test CD includes five tracks of various white, pink, and brown noise, as well as two glide tones that sweep from 5Hz to 20kHz. The disc produced a less electronic sound in JM's system, while lowering the noise floor and improving microdynamics. "I am flabbergasted," said he. "Highly recommended."AD adds that this CD should be used "with caution, and with the understanding that, as with trying to measure a transformer with a DVM and unintentionally magnetizing the core, negative results may ensue and may take a few days to fade away." ST points out that "weird shit goes on in hi-fi. Don’t dismiss it until you try it. I use this thing, too. Just don’t play too loud." (Vol.33 No.12, Vol.34 No.2 Read Review Online)
CAIG DeoxIT GOLD Wipes: $19.95/25ct; $37.95/50ct ✩
For cleaning electrical connections, available from www.markertek.com. JM: "A small but powerful stocking-stuffer.... You'll feel like a pro!" (Vol.25 No.12 Read Review Online)
ETI Bullet Plugs: $79 in copper (set of 4), $165 in silver (set of 4) ✩
Originally called the Eichmann Bullet, this RCA connector uses a clever design in which the hot signal is conducted by a hollow rather than a solid pin, and where a smaller, solid pin at the connector's periphery takes the place of an unnecessarily massive ground sleeve. AD heard "a more open and explicit sound" with a "deeper, more open, and more inviting" soundfield. Silver Bullet Plugs made the difference "clearer, more explicit, and even smoother." (Vol.27 No.12 Read Review Online)
P.W.B. Electronics Cream Electret: £20 per 15ml jar
The active ingredient of this nontoxic, odorless balm was discovered by Peter W. Belt to improve the listening experience by relieving stress. AD heard slight increases in nuance and force when he spread the cream under the front edge of his preamp, but heard no change in the sound when he spread the cream on his speaker stands. "No one with an open mind, a sense of whimsy, and $40 in his pocket should fail to try this tweak, which is made my two of the most sincere people in the industry," sums up AD. Write to foil@pwbelectronics.co.uk for a free sample of Cream Electret. (Vol.35 No.5 Read Review Online)
P.W.B. Electronics Rainbow Electret Foil: £20 for three 170 by 15mm strips
These small (170 by 15mm), prismatic stickers are meant to be cut into smaller strips and placed directly over the "331/3" on an LP label, or over the Compact Disc logo on the label side of a CD. With the strips properly applied, LPs sounded slightly stronger and more colorful, but CDs sounded less involving and immediate, said AD. Write to foil@pwbelectronics.co.uk for a free sample of Rainbow Electret Foil. (Vol.35 No.5 Read Review Online)
Quantum Resonant Technology Qx4: $2699.99 ✩
Roughly the size of a cigar box, this surprisingly heavy aluminum block has a pair of AC outlets and an on/off switch. Quantum RT describes the Qx4 as a "scalar field generator" that's supposed to emit an energy wave, the beat of which is calculated to react in specific ways with stray electromagnetic radiation. So they say. Though AD was dismayed by the technological explanation for the Qx4's effects, he could not deny the positive influence it had on his system. With a Qx4 placed atop each of his Audio Note AN-E speakers, Art's system sounded richer, more dramatic, and more involving. A Qx4 placed between preamp and power strip, however, had no consistently discernible effect. (Vol.32 No.12, Vol.33 No.1 Read Review Online)
Sound Alignment Systems by American Recorder Technologies, SAS-1335, P-770 Pro laser alignment tool: $300 ✩
"The ideal device for positioning speakers," RD said energetically, agreeing with LB that it should be "in the tool chest of every audiophile who wants to get the best sound from loudspeakers." It's easy to use—just turn it on, hold it against the speaker's front panel, then adjust the speaker's position until the "appropriate toe-in and vertical orientation are obtained"—and is much more effective than "eyeballing the speaker from the listening position." (Vol.21 Nos.1 & 11, Vol.24 No.8 Read Review Online)
Stabilant 22 contact enhancer: $55/Service Kit, includes 5ml concentrate, 15ml mixing bottle, applicator, microbrush ✩
Used to increase the reliability of contacts, available from www.posthorn.com. JM: "An initially nonconductive complex block polymer liquid that, under the influence of electricity, becomes conductive. Furthermore, it does not cross-link to form sludge. Pretty nifty!" (Vol.25 No.12 Read Review Online)
Stein Music Magic Discs: $50/each; Magic Diamond: $185/each
Stein Music Harmonizers: $3999/4-Harmonizer pack; $2099/2-Harmonizer Package
Designed by Holger Stein, the Harmonizers, Magic Stones, and Magic Diamonds are meant to work together to minimize the sonic effects of room boundaries. Each Harmonizer is housed in a small (4.75" W by 3.5" H by 4.75" D), gloss-finished box, sits atop a 40"-tall stand (optional), and is powered by four AA batteries or a wall-wart AC power supply. Each triangular, 0.4"-thick Magic Stone is designed to be placed near the corners of a listening room and in line with the listening position, while a Magic Diamond goes atop each loudspeaker, front and center. In ST's listening room, the Stein Music devices made room boundaries "disappear," illuminating recording venues and giving the music more room to breathe. For optimal performance, keep the windows closed, advised ST. (Vol.34 No.9)
WBT nextgen Signature WBT-0110Ag phono plugs: $102 each; $408/4 ✩
A breeze to install," these phono plugs feature reduced conductor mass in an effort to create a true 75-ohm RCA connector, and have a two-part polymer structure that, when snapped together, holds the machined central plug and partial outer sleeve tightly in place. "The Nextgen Signatures had a nice effect on my system's high-frequency performance in particular," said AD. (Vol.29 No.3)

Class Deletions

Acoustic Revive RR-77 replaced by new version not yet auditioned.

Stands, Spikes, Feet, & Racks

Good Speaker Stands: There are too many possibilities, but, briefly, a good stand has the following characteristics: good rigidity; spikes on which to rest the speaker, or some secure clamping mechanism; the availability of spikes at the base for use on wooden floors; if the stand is steel, provision to keep speaker cables away from the stand to avoid magnetic interaction; and the correct height when combined with your particular speakers (correct height can be anything from what you like best to the manufacturer's design height for best drive-unit integration). Though Stereophile hasn't reviewed speaker stands, it's not because we think they're unimportant—for speakers that need stands, every dollar spent on good stands is worth $5 when it comes to sound quality. Brands we have found to offer excellent performance are Arcici Rigid Riser, Merrill (see Vol.18 No.1, p.39), Sound Anchor, Sanus Systems Steel and Reference, and Linn. (Sound Anchor also makes an excellent turntable stand, reports TJN.) Interface material between the speaker and the stand top plate is critical: Inexpensive Blu-Tack seems to reduce the amplitude of cabinet resonances the most (see Vol.15 No.9, p.162 Read Review Online)

Art Vinyl Play & Display Flip Frame: $53
The attractive, sturdy Flip Frame is made of heavy-gauge plastic with a black or white matte finish and a clear Plexiglas window. The frame is hinged along one edge so that LPs can be quickly and easily inserted and removed without removing the frame from the wall. "The Play & Display Flip Frame makes a nice addition to any man cave," said MF. Pack of three Flip Frames: $139. (Vol.34 No.12)
Audio Elegance Furniture ✩
Audio Elegance's "aesthetically simple, sturdy designs" are available in three lines; in the upper two, Dakota and James River, only select hardwoods, softwoods, and multidirectional plywoods are used. Biscuit joinery is featured throughout, and finishes include catalyzed lacquers and hand-rubbed oils. Prices start at $319 for a Frontier Series amp stand and rise to $3959 for a Dakota Collection LP storage unit. Custom items are also available. (Vol.32 No.2 Read Review Online)
Audio Points by Star Sound Technologies: $67.49–$149.49/set of 3
Highly polished point of solid milled brass, claimed to have been developed along the theories of Coulomb Friction, transfer resonant energy through the virtual point away from the component. 28 sizes and thread combinations available. (NR)
AudioQuest SorboGel Q-Feet: $135/4
Each cute, Q-shaped SorboGel Q Foot measures approximately 3" in diameter and stands about 1" tall in its PVC holding tray. Like Bright Star Audio's IsoNodes, Q-Feet are black, slightly squishy, and somewhat sticky, and are designed to absorb resonances and isolate components from external vibrations. Each Q Foot is rated to support 6.5 lbs. Because of their larger size and slick, rounded trays, the Q-Feet were far easier than the IsoNodes to properly place under the Music Hall USB-1 turntable. Atop the Q-Feet, the turntable seemed more stable and less susceptible to shifts, found SM. (Vol.34 No.9 Read Review Online)
Aurios Classic MIB component supports: $199/3 ✩
RD highly recommends these footers. Of the latest 1.2 version, he writes, "Do everything the originals did, but leveling is much less critical." (Vol.24 No.5)
Ayre Myrtle Blocks: $5 each ✩
Designed and made by Cardas Audio, each Myrtle Block measures 0.618" by 1" by 1.618", in accordance with the golden-section ratio. Myrtle Blocks are meant to be placed beneath the actual structure of a component in groups of three. AD heard "subtle but unambiguously nice things" when he placed them under most components. Beneath speakers, however, "they robbed the music of so much of its emotional wallop that it was downright creepy." "In a properly run universe, these wouldn't work at all," sez WP. "In this one—and assuming every other sonic hiccough is attended to—they do help," though he refuses to speculate why. (Vol.29 Nos.1 & 3 Read Review Online)
BDR Sound Enhancement Pyramid Cones: $20 each ✩
"Expensive, but very effective," according to J-10. WP and JA, who generally use these whenever they need to support electronic components, agree. (Vol.21 No.6)
Boltz CD 600 storage rack: $279; expansion kits, $199
Boltz LP shelves: $609 for a three-shelf unit; each additional shelf: $169 ✩
Surfing the Net (www.boltz-usa.com), MF found these do-it-yourself racks: each is 48" high, 24" wide, just 6" deep, and holds 600 CDs! You can double or triple the capacity with the expansion kits, and the racks are now available pre-assembled. Now available as equipment racks, TV stands, and LP shelves. MF bought the LP rack, which consists of a heavy base and three shelves; additional shelves (3" wide by 10" deep) run $169 each, and you can stack them to the ceiling! "Really well-made and incredibly sturdy," reported The Analog One. Free shipping. (Vol.22 No.11, Vol.24 No.1)
Box Furniture Co. Equipment Rack S3S: $2550 ✩
Box Furniture Co. racks have premium hardwood frames and plywood shelves. All joints are mortise-and-tenon, and catalyzed finishes are applied to all surfaces. Art used a single-width, three-shelf rack finished in Quartered Sapele ($2300). Beautiful and sturdy, he said, and equipment stacked atop it sounded good. (Vol.32 No.2 Read Review Online)
Bright Star Rack of Gibraltar 2 equipment stand: $2650 ✩
Rigid, super-stable platform for audio equipment, and the "carrier" for the Ultimate Isolation System: air-base (Air Mass) and sand-filled damping platform (Big Rock) makes a "sandwich" of sorts. The Gibraltar 2, with its two-wide, three-high, widely spaced, large shelves, isn't quite ready for MoMA and boasts no neon lights, but "in its simplicity and quality it's attractive, even elegant," said BD. He recalled Louis Henri Sullivan, who immortalized the phrase "form ever follows function." Suitable for turntables, superbly built, and the best BD has ever used. (Vol.23 No.5 Read Review Online)
Bright Star Ultimate TNT Isolation System: $2397 ✩
Simple, affordable, effective isolation system for the VPI TNT that combines a static pneumatic isolation mount with mass loading. WP noted that "high frequencies seemed clearer, less smeared—harmonics leapt off strings and floated independent of the fundamental...Bass sounded more deep and taut, especially sustained notes or anything in the bottom two octaves of the piano." BD agrees, finding that the Isolation System lowers the TNT's (already low) background noise, resulting in subtle but noticeable improvements in image dimensionality, ambience, and inner detail. (Vol.20 No.7)
Bright Star Audio Rack of Gibraltar 1 equipment stand: $2150 ✩
Bright Star Audio Big Rock 1.1: $299 ✩
Bright Star Audio Little Rock 1 Isolation Pod: $179 ✩
Bright Star Mini-Rock F VPI isolation base: $199 ✩
Bright Star IsoRock 6.3S: $388
A very effective isolation system for control of unwanted vibrational energy. Individual components float on a sand bed for energy dissipation, and are weighted down with the Little Rock to minimize spurious vibrations. The payoff is enhanced resolution of the music's nuances, says DO. RN adds that this system consistently tightens the bass, increases sonic transparency, and smooths treble hash and grain. The Bright Star TNT Big Rock is a $275 sand table specially sized to support the TNT. MF, BD, and BJR all use one under their VPIs, as they provide a stable surface and offer such sonic benefits as a lower noise floor and increased bass. The Mini-Rock F is specially sized for use under the TNT's flywheel. KR placed each of his Bel Canto e.One amplifiers atop an IsoRock and encased it within a Little Rock for a belt-and-suspenders setup that had the amps almost glued to the floor, creating as optimal an environment as possible. "If you are concerned about RF and other nasties thrown off by digital amps," he notes, "these little guys will let you rest easy." (Vol.16 No.5; Vol.18 No.11, Mini-Rock F; Vol.20 No.4, TNT Big Rock; Vol.29 No.11 Read Review Online IsoRock, Little Rock.)
Bright Star Air Mass 3: $218 ✩
Ingenious, inexpensive, and effective air-bladder product that damps out floor and air-borne vibrations, MF said. WP agrees. Originally called Air Mass 1. (Vol.20 No.2)
Bright Star Audio IsoNode feet, Large feet: $24.99/set of 4; Small feet: $14.99/set of 4
These small (1.25" W by 0.75" H by 1.25" D), squishy, somewhat sticky half-spheres of polymer are designed to be placed between a component and its shelf, where they absorb harmful vibrations. The IsoNodes effectively isolated the Music Hall USB-1 turntable from footfalls, and while they were easy to knock out of place when used beneath that turntable's pivoted feet, the IsoNodes were stable when used with other components, found SM. (Vol.34 No.6 Read Review Online)
Gingko Audio Cloud 11 isolation stand: $479 ✩
The Cloud 11 uses up to ten rubber-like balls strategically placed between two slabs of acrylic. Mikey's sample was configured for use with the VPI Scoutmaster turntable. MF: "Putting the Cloud under the Scoutmaster resulted in a dramatic lowering of the noise floor and an improvement in the "blackness" of the background. Images stood out in clarified relief, bass tightened, transients sounded sharper and more natural. The differences were not at all subtle." (Vol.27 No.11)
Golden Sound DH Cones, Squares, and Pads ✩
With the Cones alone, J-10 "noted a lift in overall transparency, with a slightly tighter focus." Using the Squares alone, "the sound was softer than the Cone/Square combo...but nevertheless got high marks for a sweet and pleasant presentation." And in combination? "The highs and upper midrange were beautiful and open, the midrange had just the right amount of juice, the lower midrange wasn't boomy at all, and the bass extension was excellent." ST is also a fan, particularly of the Pads, which "wrought quite an improvement in sound under my Cary SE300Bs." Super Cones, $190/set of 3; Jumbo Cones, $140/set of 3; Large, $90/set of 3; Medium, $80/set of 3; Small, $50/set of 3. Squares, $36/set of 3, $48 set of 4; Super Pads, $270 (19" by 17" by 1/2" thick); Golden Sound Pads, $170 (121/2" by 171/2 by 1/2" thick); Acoustic Discs, $140/set of 12. (Vol.20 Nos.11 & 12, Vol.24 No.5)
Grand Prix Audio Monaco equipment stands: $1850–$7999 ✩
Despite their stylish, lightweight design, a four-shelf Monaco stand can carry up to 150 lbs per shelf, for a maximum total load of 500 lbs. PB: "More than anything else, the Monaco brought a sense of focus and a difficult-to-explain sense of calm" to the sound of everything he placed on them. Loading the hollow stainless-steel columns with lead shot produced another increment of improvement: "Backgrounds became quieter, low-level detail retrieval improved markedly, and dynamic contrasts took on greater subtlety and sharper contrasts." Using separate isolation footers under components only "muddled things," providing evidence of the "fundamental soundness of the GPA approach to vibration control." The amp stand is expensive but "works as promised and looks cool too," decided MF. A 3-shelf system costs $4612; 4-shelf system, $6150; 5-shelf system, $7999; base module, $2950; short or tall module, $1850; amplifier stand, $1850; Formula Shelf Carbon-fiber/Kevlar composite shelf, $1995–$2250. (Vol.24 No.7, amp stand; Vol.25 No.12 Read Review Online)
Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR component rack: $13,275 as reviewed ✩
The SXR frame system comprises solid, heavy aluminum struts and rigid shelves of cross-braced aluminum. Each joint is damped with a thick donut of polymer. Circular holes in each of the cross-brace's four corners accept the base's feet, which support its weight with an elastomer suspension that isolates in both the vertical and horizontal planes; each foot of a component whose weight is unevenly distributed can have a base with an elastomer of different compliance. "Adding the HRS SXR improved my system's focus and low-level resolution, and lowered its level of background noise," said MF. (Vol.32 No.2)
Magico QPods: $1310/set of 3; $1680/set of 4
Comprising a complex sandwich of CNC-turned stainless steel, oxygen-free copper, black-anodized aluminum, and a blue elastomer damping material, Magico's beautifully made, luxuriously packaged QPod footers are designed to convert vibrational energy into heat. With three QPods supporting his Ypsilon VPS-100 phono preamp, MF noted smoother vocal sibilants, improved soundstage depth, and better-controlled bass. "Now I don’t think I can do without the stupid things." (Vol.35 No.6)
Skylan Speaker Stands: $285–$600/pair
Made by Noel Nolan in Alberta, Canada, Skylan stands use PVC posts with top and bottom plates of vinyl-covered MDF rather than resonant steel. ST uses the 20"-high, four-post SKY-P4 20 with his Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3s and Triangle Comete Anniversaires, filling the columns with kitty litter. Prices vary depending on height and number of posts. Four-post SKY-P4 20 (20" high): $531/pair. Twin post model for Harbeth P3ESR: $285/pair. Four-post stands for big speakers: $600/pair. Add shipping. (Vol.35 No.5)
SQ Products (Sound Quest) Isol-Pads: $25/4 ✩
Each 2"-square-by-7/8"-thick pad consists of two slabs of ribbed rubber sandwiching a layer of isolation cork, and is said to support 75 lbs. ST is in the process of putting them under everything. "I'm no tweaker, but they did clean up the sound wherever I used them." (Vol.28 No.12)
Symposium Energy Absorption Platform: $699 ✩
Symposium Ultra Isolation Platform: $699 ✩
The top and bottom of the Ultra platform are aluminum, while the middle is made up of several unequal-thickness layers of vibration-damping material designed primarily to drain vibrational energy away from your component, rather than to provide isolation from external vibrations or footfalls. It succeeded at lowering noise and enhancing resolution, while bringing "an entirely subjective sense of ease" to listening, said JM. The less-expensive platform jazzed MF with the "top-to-bottom authority, focus, and slam" that his system gained when the platform was installed under his turntable. Prices are for 19" by 14" size; 19" by 21" costs slightly more. (Vol.20 No.5, Vol.26 No.3 Read Review Online)
Symposium Rollerblock Series 2+: $399/set of 3, $499/set of 4 ✩
For improved resolution from your CD player (or any other digital equipment), ST recommended these precision-machined items, which consist of a block with a ball bearing set in a hemispherical depression. Once they're in place, he said, the sound "just tightens up, cleans up, clears up. I hear more low-level information. Imaging improves. Timing, too...Transients are crisper. I hear improvement in just about every respect." The only drawback (outside of cost) is that the player might "roll around a little" when you load a disc or hit Play. SD concurs with ST's enthusiasm; MF became a believer in the "high-roller" phenomenon when he put his Virgos on the similar Yamamura speaker bearings. (Vol.22 No.4)
Vibrapods: $25/4 pack ✩
KR: "Placed under CD players/transports, DACs and preamps, the small (1"x3" diameter), formed Vibrapods isolate and enhance performance. Five different models rated for loads of 2–28 lbs; match the quantity to the component. I keep a box of them around so that no component goes without." A KR favorite. (NR)
Walker Valid Points: $450/set of 3 large cones and 5 discs; other sizes available ✩
Heavy brass-alloy-and-lead cones, with points that rest atop large, brass-ringed, lead-filled "tuning discs." "Definitely worth checking out," said MF, "and Walker will refund your money if you're not satisfied. (You must return the set within 30 days in the original condition.)" MF adds that "not only do I like them a lot, they're well worth the price—as I clearly found when I put a set under the Ayre K-1 and added a few of the discs on top." Combined height may be too tall for some racks. Super Tuning Kit ($525) includes three large cones, five discs, and four 1" discs. (Vol.20 No.5, Vol.21 No.11)

Class K

Bright Star IsoNodes, Composite Products CF-1000-5 equipment stand, Composite Products amp stands, Shunyata Dark Energy cable lifters

Class Deletions

Finite-Elemente Pagode HD03 equipment rack no longer available.

Room Acoustics Treatments

Acoustic Geometry Curve System
Acoustic Geometry's Curve System comprises Diffusors, Absorbers, and Corner Traps, each 42" high and available in a number of fabric choices. Each model is built on a wooden frame with a wedge-shaped cleat for hanging the product from a matching piece attached to the wall. Diffusors include a Mass-Loaded-Vinyl (MLV) membrane and are intended to control low- and midbass frequencies; Absorbers are essentially the same design as the Diffusors, but have an acoustically transparent front and don’t include the MLV membrane; Corner Traps are triangular wooden frames filled with recycled cotton. In EL's listening room, the Curve System created a wider soundstage and greater clarity. Diffusors: $379.98–$606.98, depending on width. Absorbers: $327.98–$402.98, depending on width. Corner Traps: $799.96. Prices based on Guilford fr701, Anchorage and Acoustic Suede. All other sizes and fabric options quoted on individual basis. (Vol.35 No.2 Read Review Online)
ASC SubTrap: $469–$586 ✩
This "big, chunky black box" sits under a subwoofer to attack acoustic problems caused by the interactions of a subwoofer's output and the room's modes. Improvements in room acoustics were immediate, thought KR, even with the subwoofer disconnected: "There was less apparent energy from clapping, loud conversation, or just stomping around." With the system turned on, there was "less apparent bass energy from all widerange signals." With a Paradigm Servo-15 sub sitting atop a SubTrap, bass was deeper and more detailed: "Ah, yes—glorious bass without the boom!" Available in three sizes: 15", 18", and the 22" square model reviewed. (Vol.27 No.9 Read Review Online)
ASC StudioTrap: $449 ✩
Adjustable tripod-mounted room-tuning device that represents the "latest in TrapThink from ASC," according to J-10, who uses an array of StudioTraps to great effect in his Manhattan loft. The front half is treble-reflective for a brighter sound, while the back side is treble-absorptive for a drier acoustic. He highly recommended the Traps for "anyone whose family will allow them to populate the listening room with gobos." (Gobos are "sound-absorbing panels used to surround performers in recording studios.") Stereophile's "Accessory of 1999." (Vol.21 No.12 Read Review Online)
ASC TowerTrap: $274–$1096 ✩
Originally called the Cube Tower, the TowerTrap is a "smaller, more cosmetically acceptable, more affordable version of the classic TubeTrap," writes BJR. "Very effective at taming mid- and upper-bass room anomalies. Looks like an attractive Vandersteen speaker sitting there in the corner." (NR)
ASC TubeTraps: $380–$1046 ✩
Relatively inexpensive but remarkably effective room-acoustics treatment. Tube Traps soak up low-to-high bass standing-wave resonances like sponges. WP agrees, using Traps to optimize the acoustics of his room for MartinLogan SL3 electrostatics, while BD used "em to optimize his room while auditioning the Thiel CS7.2s. Using the Music Articulation Test Tone (MATT) from Stereophile's Test CD 2 (STPH004-2), he first positioned them for smoothest overall response and articulation, then "dialed-in depth, dimensionality, and ambience." A chart recorder graphically showed the changes. In the end, "The sound was fantastic," quoth BD, who recommends them unconditionally. (Vol.9 No.3, Vol.15 No.2, Vol.16 No.12, Vol.19 No.1, Vol.20 No.5, Vol.23 No.2 Read Review Online)
Auralex SubDude: $59.99 ✩
An MDF platform 23" long by 15" wide, covered with a carpet of thick felt and supported by two risers of high-density isolation pad, the SubDude has a rated load capacity of 300 lbs. KR found that the SubDude significantly isolated his Paradigm Servo-15 subwoofer from the live wooden floor, and made the sound "tighter and fuller, but, conversely, less obtrusive." When used under full-range speakers, the SubDudes offered similar bass results while affecting high-frequency performance. (Vol.27 No.12 Read Review Online)
Bag End E-Trap: $1758 ✩
Uses active electronics to control an acoustic device that acts directly on room acoustics rather than imposing anything on the electronic signal path. With its 10" driver, controls, and power amplifier in a box measuring 18" H by 13" W by 9.5" D, the E-Trap looks like a small subwoofer without input terminals. "While the appearance of the E-Trap is generally not noted, its effect on room acoustics is substantial," praised KR. It canceled out the superimposition of room modes, providing tight, clean bass while reducing the effects of ambient noise. (Vol.31 No.7 Read Review Online)
Cathedral Sound Acoustic Panels: $199.95/pair
These relatively unobtrusive damping panels from Nucore measure 11" by 16" by 2", weigh only 4 lbs, and are designed to be installed in the corners of your listening room, 6–8" from the ceiling or floor. They are covered in a black or white fabric that can be painted to match the room décor. With the panels installed as directed, RD noted a definite improvement in bass clarity. (Vol.32 No.7 Read Review Online)
MSR Acoustics Dimension4 SpringTrap: $909
Meant to be placed in a corner and available in custom colors, the solidly built Dimension4 SpringTrap stands 46" tall and extends 18" along each sidewall. The front of the cabinet is a diaphragm of nine-layer plywood suspended by six precision metal springs and sealed around its perimeter by a rubber surround. Inside the cabinet are three tuned and coupled enclosures that convert the mechanical energy of low-frequency soundwaves into heat. A pair of SpringTraps resulted in significantly cleaner, tighter bass in KR's room: "The SpringTrap's effect on sub-100Hz room modes was immediately apparent and positive." After extended listening with the Dimension4 SpringTrap bass absorbers in place, KR concluded: "The SpringTraps have made more of an impact on my room/system acoustics than any other passive acoustic product I have tried." (Vol.35 Nos.9 & 11 Read Review Online)
Ready Acoustics Chameleon Super Sub Bass Traps: $249.99
The Chameleon Super Sub Bass Trap measures 48" high by 24" wide by 6" thick, and is available in eight fabric covers and four frame colors, allowing it to be employed without dominating the view. Assembly and installation were simple. The Chameleons were "audibly and measurably more effective" than KR's Echo Busters corner traps, and produced "undeniable" improvements in the midbass and bass. (Vol.32 No.9 Read Review Online)
RealTraps MondoTrap: $300
Corner MondoTrap: $350 ✩
The MondoTrap is a large (57" H by 24" W by 4.25" D) acoustic absorber built from "double-density" rigid fiberglass and covered in a sound-transparent fabric. In addition to imparting to bass instruments a "fuller, clearer, more palpable" sound, the MondoTraps seemed to reduce a "glaze," allowing Jim Austin to hear deeper into the music. "Far from deadening the room," he said, "the MondoTraps made the music more involving." "I really liked what the Mondo Traps did in my room," adds KR, "although I have to agree with Jim (and my wife) that their appearance better suits a studio or dedicated audio room than a regular person's lifestyle." Adding four MondoTraps to WP's small listening room resulted in punchier, more coherent bass. Corner MondoTrap, designed to fit unobtrusively into a corner of a room, costs $350. (Vol.30 No.8, Vol.33 No.2 Read Review Online)
RealTraps Tri-Corner Trap: $250 each
These small equilateral triangles, 32" on a side, were the perfect fit for the lower rear corners of KR's weekend room, and increased bass response dramatically. "What a great idea! Completely inconspicuous bass trapping that made a noticeable and measureable improvement in my already well-treated room." A notable product for those with spousal and decorative restraints, he decided. (Vol.29 No.11 Read Review Online)
RealTraps: $110–$600, depending on size ✩
With these fiberglass panels set up across the junction of room boundaries and in corners, KR heard major improvements in imaging, detail, and soundstage width: "Every sound in the room, real or reproduced, is more defined in character and location." While KR was greatly satisfied with the results, he admitted that the panels were visually imposing: "The stand-mounted HF MiniTraps are in the way all the time." MiniTrap, $200; HF MiniTrap, $180; MondoTraps, $300; stands, $60. (Vol.28 No.1, Vol.29 No.11, Vol.33 No.2 Read Review Online)
Sensible Sound Solutions Fabric-Wrapped 2" Acoustic Panels: $70 w/standard edge ✩
Neat and effective sound absorbent panels, according to KR. Wall-mounted or constructed into corner/soffit bass traps, these come in a variety of GOM fabrics for high WAF. Other sizes and configurations are available. Custom edge details cost $5/panel. (Vol.29 No.7 Read Review Online)
Totem Acoustic Beak: $125/pair
The Beak is a precision-machined, bullet-shaped device, about 2" high by 1.5" in diameter, that's intended to be placed atop a speaker to control parasitic resonances. When the Beaks were used with the GoldenEar Triton Two loudspeakers, highs gained clarity and extension, percussion instruments had greater presence, and voices became more tightly focused, said RD. "The improvement wrought by the Beaks was such that I wouldn’t want to be without them," he said. See also EL's Totem Forest review in Vol.33 No.1. (Vol.35 No.2 Read Review Online)

Class K

Auralex Space Array diffusion panels, XIX Acoustics “Acoustic Ramp” diffusors.

Class Deletions

HighEndNovum Passive Multivocal Resonator Premium replaced by new version not yet auditioned.

Books & Computer Software

Amarra software: $189
The luxurious-sounding Amarra program (Mac only and in v2.2.3 at the time of the review) offers memory play, user-adjustable equalization, full compatibility with native FLAC files, a handy switch for comparing Amarra playback with iTunes, and a Playlist Mode that lets users bypass the iTunes interface altogether. Amarra had a naturally detailed and consistently involving sound with clean, extended trebles and a deep, wide soundstage, said AD. A free, 14-day trial version can be downloaded from www.amarraaudio.com. Amarra HiFi Music Player (the replacement for Junior) costs $49.99 and is an entry-level music player for use with iTunes. (Vol.34 No.7 Read Review Online)
Channel D Pure Music software: $129
Pure Music (Mac only) can play sampling rates of up to twice the 192kHz limit of Amarra and Decibel. Like those programs, Pure Music (Mac only) offers memory play, automatic sampling-rate changes, and full compatibility with native FLAC files and in its latest version, DSD files. Going from iTunes to Pure Music, the sonic improvement was modest but worthwhile, with cleaner trebles and improved pitch certainty. Compared with the less expensive Decibel, however, Pure Music lacked some openness and clarity, decided AD. Using Pure Music in its Memory Play and "Hog Mode" settings for optimal sound quality resulted in a wider soundstage and greater sense of ease, said JA. A free, 15-day trial version can be downloaded from www.channel-d.com. Included with Channel D's Pure Vinyl Version 3.0. (Vol.33 No.8; Vol.34 Nos.7 & 9 Read Review Online)
Channel D Pure Vinyl LP ripping software: $279 ✩
Used with a microphone preamp or non-RIAA phono preamp, Channel D's Pure Vinyl digitizes vinyl LPs at 24-bit/192kHz resolution and applies the RIAA or other EQ curves in the digital domain, where there's no interchannel phase shift, capacitor distortion, additional noise, or component variability. Record mode allows the user to apply over 50 EQ curves or create custom EQ settings; Editor mode allows the user to insert track breaks or remove surface noise. CDs made with Pure Vinyl sounded "much better" than those made with the Alesis Masterlink, said MF. Compared to the original LPs, the digitized versions lacked a touch of body but sounded "very analog-like." Compatible only with Apple Macintosh computers. Version 3.0 includes Channel D's Pure Music front-end program for iTunes. "Pure Vinyl will change the musical lives of collectors with large collections of pre-1954 discs," said MF. (Vol.32 No.3; Ver. 3.0, Vol.33 No.8 Read Review Online)
David Moulton's Playback Platinum Test CDs: $44.95 each if purchased separately, $159.80 for the set of 4 ✩
Four-volume lecture series that covers the fundamentals of audio from a popular-music production standpoint: Vol.1, Loudness, Compression, Distortion; Vol.2, Stereo Miking; Vol.3, Equalization; Vol.4, Digital Audio: Sensory Listening Tests. Each volume is on a separate CD, which comes in a hardbound, textbook-sized book that includes about 50 pages of additional text keyed to each track of each lecture. JM: "I'm impressed with how Moulton & Co. take material that has the potential to be dauntingly dry, and make it enjoyable and memorable by adopting at times a 'radio drama' approach." (Vol.26 No.5 Read Review Online)
Decibel software: $33 $$$
Unlike Pure Music and Amarra, Decibel (Mac only and in v1.2.4 at the time of the review) can be used without launching iTunes at all. Memory play and other options are selectable via pull-down menus, FLAC files are decoded natively, and sampling-rate changes are handled automatically. Its graphical user interface is plain and simple, and its playback engine accessed the music files in AD's iTunes library without a problem. Decibel removed haze and artifice from the highest treble range, and cleaned up the sound overall, making pitches and timbral colors clearer and more distinct. Compared to Pure Music, Decibel sounded clearer and more open. "The best $33 I ever spent," decided AD. A free, limited-time demo can be downloaded from www.sbooth.org. Requires Mac OS10.6. (Vol.34 Nos.7 & 9 Read Review Online)
Digital Recordings Audio-CD Hearing Test: $49.95 ✩
This system permits useful evaluation of hearing thresholds with only a CD player and a pair of headphones. KR reported that it reveals any significant gaps in your hearing. (His own results were "close to ideal, especially considering my age and usual haunts." Whew.) "Ever wonder why others don't hear what you do? This simple test will tell you, even though you may not like the answer." Such a card. (Vol.23 No.1 Read Review Online)
ELAC Technische Software CARA REL 2.2 Plus program: $74.95 ✩
To use CARA, one must create a full three-dimensional model of the listening room, using the program's CARACAD module. KR: "By 'full,' I mean that all room dimensions and surfaces are defined: doors, windows, furniture, soffits, bays, etc." Kal found it time-effective to reduce the complexity of the model (eg, remove smaller objects) and the order of reflections (3–4) for the early iterations, at which point the number of possible speaker and user positions is large—an 800MHz Pentium III can take 48 hours or more to run even that modest a set of variables. "Several simplified runs will tell you which arrangements deserve more investigation. After that, you can limit the range of positions for speakers and listener while progressively increasing the number of reflections and adding more feature details, as a confirmation of the optimum arrangement." Checking predictions against the results with ETF or with TacT RCS measurements confirmed CARA's conclusions to an amazing degree. KR: "Wouldn't you like to know how well a speaker might work in your room before you buy it? I would." Runs under Windows. Version reviewed was 2.0; 2009 version is 2.2. Web: www.cara.de. (Vol.24 No.9 Read Review Online)
Feickert Adjust+ computerized tonearm alignment program: €299 ✩
The Adjust+ software, sold direct from Germany, is Windows-compatible (Feickert recommends a 2GHz Intel Premium 4 or AMD Athlon 2000+ processor) and requires a soundcard capable of 24-bit/96kHz analog-to-digital conversion or an outboard USB box. Though Mikey had trouble with its instruction manual, he used Adjust+ to set his tonearm's azimuth, calculate his 'table's speed accuracy, measure wow and flutter, and determine the frequency response of his cartridge. "It's a powerful tool in the analog-setup arsenal, and when its manual has been rewritten in clear English, I'll be able to highly recommend it," he concluded. Only available from the manufacturer's website in Germany. Pro version with more features is available for €399; standard version can be upgraded. (Vol.31 No.10)
XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro: $330
The XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro comes as a kit in a nice aluminum case that includes a microphone, stand, and tripod adjusters; a USB preamp with XLR connections; two 20' XLR cables; a tabletop tripod; and a USB memory stick. The II Pro software includes everything from the original Room Analyzer and adds a sophisticated SPL meter, a delay alignment function, and frequency and room-analysis functions. Hardware improvements include a dedicated USB preamplifier and a more accurate microphone. "XTZ remains the least expensive, easiest-to-use package of software and hardware for acoustical analysis of a room and system," said KR, adding that "with higher resolution and more features than its predecessors, it has supplanted them as my Go-To acoustic measurement set." (Vol.35 No.5 Read Review Online; earlier version was reviewed in Vol.31 No.11 and Vol.32 No.11 Read Review Online)

Class K

Vinyl Studio, FuzzMeasure Pro, SignalScope, and SignalSuite for Mac OSX, Studio Six AudioTools app for iPhone/iPod Touch, TrueAudio spectrum analyzer for Windows.

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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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