2014 Recommended Components

Components listed here have been formally reviewed in Stereophile and have been found to be among the best available in each of four or five quality classes. Whether a component is listed in Class A or Class E, we highly recommend its purchase.

Each listing-in alphabetical order within classes-is followed by a brief description of the product's sonic characteristics and a code indicating the Stereophile Volume and Issue in which that product's report appeared. Thus the September 2013 issue is indicated as "Vol.36 No.9."

Some products listed have not yet been reported on; these are marked (NR), for "Not Reviewed." We recommend that you read any product's entire review before seriously contemplating a purchase (products without reviews should therefore be treated with more caution)-many salient characteristics, peculiarities, and caveats appear in the reviews, but not here. To obtain back issues of the magazine, visit our website: www.Stereophile.com. We regret that we cannot supply photocopies or e-mail copies of individual reviews. All full reviews are reprinted in our website "Archives" Section: these are marked "WWW." More are added each week, so check the on-line listing.

In general, components do not remain listed for more than three years unless at least one of the magazine's writers and editors has had continued experience with them. Discontinuation of a model also precludes its appearance. In addition, though professional components-recorders, amplifiers, monitor speaker systems-can be obtained secondhand and can sometimes offer performance that would otherwise guarantee inclusion, we do not generally do so. Stereophile's "Recommended Components" listing is almost exclusively concerned with products currently available in the US through the usual hi-fi retail outlets.

How recommendations are determined
The ratings given components included in this listing are based entirely on performance-ie, accuracy of reproduction-and are biased to an extent by our feeling that things added to reproduced sound (eg, flutter, distortion, colorations of various kinds) are of more concern to the musically oriented listener than are things subtracted from the sound (eg, deep bass or extreme treble). On the other hand, components markedly deficient in one or more respects are downrated to the extent that their deficiencies interfere with the full realization of the program material.

We try to include in "Recommended Components" every product that we have found to be truly excellent or that we feel represents good value for money. Bear in mind that many different tastes are represented. The listing is compiled after consultation with Stereophile's reviewing staff and editors, and takes into account continued experience of a product after the formal review has been published. In particular, we take account of unreliability and defects that show up after extended auditioning. The fact that a product received a favorable review cannot therefore be regarded as a guarantee that it will continue to appear in this listing.

The prices indicated are those current at the time the listing was compiled (January 2014). We cannot guarantee that any of these prices will be the same by the time this issue of Stereophile appears in print.

There is a near-universal consensus that at some point in the upward climb of component prices, severely diminishing returns (performance versus price) set in. However, there is no agreement as to the exact price level at which that takes place. Where we have found a product to perform much better than might be expected from its price, we have drawn attention to it with a $$$ next to its listing. We also indicate, with a ✩, products that have been on this list in one incarnation or another since the "Recommended Components" listing in Vol.34 No.4 (April 2011). Longevity in a hi-fi component is rare enough that we think it worth noting (although it can also indicate that the attention of design engineers has moved elsewhere).

We are not sympathetic toward letters complaining that the Symphonic Bombast A-123 that we recommended heartily two years ago no longer makes it into "Recommended Components." Where deletions are made, we endeavor to give reasons (there are always reasons). But remember: Deletion of a component from this list does not invalidate a buying decision you have made.

Individual reviewers mentioned by their initials are: John Atkinson, Jim Austin, Paul Bolin, Lonnie Brownell, Martin Colloms, Brian Damkroger, Robert Deutsch, Art Dudley, Michael Fremer, Larry Greenhill, Jon Iverson, Fred Kaplan, Erick Lichte, John Marks, Stephen Mejias, Paul Messenger, Thomas J. Norton, Wes Phillips, Bob J. Reina, Kalman Rubinson, Markus Sauer, Jonathan Scull (J-10), Chip Stern, and Sam Tellig.

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COMMENTS
billt1nh's picture

Aesthetix Atlas Amplifier : $8000 ✩has been a Class A recommended component for a few years including 2013 but does not show up this year. It is not mentioned under deletions for 2014. Was this a mistake?
 

John Atkinson's picture

billt1nh wrote:
Aesthetix Atlas Amplifier...has been a Class A recommended component for a few years including 2013 but does not show up this year. It is not mentioned under deletions for 2014. Was this a mistake?

Not a mistake. The Atlas was last included in the April 2013 "Recommended Components" but was deleted from the October 2013 listing on the grounds that it had been almost 4 years since anyone on staff had auditioned it under familiar circumstances.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

MikeMercer's picture

I've pulled an all-nighter writing, so I gotta be burnt-out.

How to get to the next page in the headphones section.

Is it only this one page???

Kal Rubinson's picture

Just click on the Headphone picture or on the "Headphones" in the list. 

MikeMercer's picture

ThanX Kal!!

That's how I got there.

I think it's only one page - which is a shame.  There's SO much great stuff for John and Co. to cover! Schiit Audio, Cavalli Audio, ALO Audio, Aurelic, JH Audio, Mr. Speakers, and DNA for example. 

John! If you EVER want any help covering the VAST personal audio universe?!?!?

My Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab!!

BTW - we're havin a BLAST over at Audio360!!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Stereophile has an entire online sister publication dedicated to personal audio, innerfidelity.com. It also has another that covers computer audio, audiostream.com.

Azteca X's picture

ThanX Mike!!  I wonder if you've compared your writing style to Tyll at InnerFidelity and wondered why he has the gig?!?!?!  

In all seriousness, InnerFidelity is great and has covered just about every brand you mentioned, I think.  Tyll tends to shy away from the super-custom year-long-waitlist stuff but I find it a good thing compared to forums full of people who drop $4K on amps like it's nothing. 

I also don't think Tyll posts unboxing vids.

Currawong's picture

The Sony MA900 headphones have a 70mm driver, just for your information.

subbanerjee's picture

Dear Editor:

I read the review of the Musical Fidelity DAC. I am not sure how that qualifies as a "formal" review. Yet, that product is placed in the A+ category? I would think that something that goes into the A+ Category would be thoroughly vetted in order to qualify to be a member of the Best-of-the-best category.

Not buying this recommendation...

Thanks
Subroto Banerjee

John Atkinson's picture

subbanerjee wrote:
I read the review of the Musical Fidelity DAC. I am not sure how that qualifies as a "formal" review.

We include in "Recommended Components" products that have been reviewed in one of our regular columns. Although these reports don't include measurements, they are as rigorously prepared as any other "formal" review in the magazine.

subbanerjee wrote:
Yet, that product is placed in the A+ category?

You will note that there is the reference "See ST's review in this issue." With all reviews that are published in the same issue as "Recomemnded Components," the rating is provisional.

subbanerjee wrote:
I would think that something that goes into the A+ Category would be thoroughly vetted in order to qualify to be a member of the Best-of-the-best category.

I have a second sample of the Musical Fidelity V90-DAC and will be publishing a Follow-Up review, complete with measurements, before the next "Recommended Components" listing is compiled.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

subbanerjee's picture

in the magazine".

Reading through the review, here is the section that refers to the performance of the DAC...

"Compared to the V-DACII, the V90 DAC offers still greater low-level resolutions, superior dynamics, and fatigure-free listening. It does space and place particularly well, and really shines with brass, where lesser DACs tend to turn dull. The Brass Ear would love it."

That's it. And it made it as an A+ DAC?

Come on. As the Editor-in-Chief,  I assume that you question your reviewers when they submit this and want it included in A+. Should you not say, "I don't know Sam, but let's give it a more thorough going over before we put this $299 DAC in A+."?

As you can discern by now, I am not buying this review or your disclaimer that it is a "provisional" rating. I think that a product should have got a thorough going over before it is placed in the rarified air of an A+ rating.

John Atkinson's picture

subbanerjee wrote:
As you can discern by now, I am not buying this review or your disclaimer that it is a "provisional" rating.

It isn't a disclaimer, just a factual statement. The definitive rating will be published in our October issue listing, following my follow-up to Sam Tellig's review. In the meantime, you are perfectly entitled to your opinion on what we write.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

WishTree's picture

Actually I got this DAC based on recommendations else where. It is properly run in but I did not get the performance of this DAC. It is bright and possibly a tad cleaner but no reason to be A+ product. And yes, it is definetly fatigue-ing. I liked Rega DAC better and Audiolab M-DAC is brilliant though they are a bit different in price range. 

Genesis's picture

No estan mas las KEF 207/2 en la lista, fueron borradas por que tampoco las veo en esta lista

 

gracias

John Atkinson's picture

Genesis wrote:
The KEF 207/2 is no longer on the list...

The KEF was positively reviewed in February 2008; see www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/208kef/index.html. The R207/2 hasn't been auditioned by a Stereophile reviewer since that review, so, as is our policy, it was deleted a couple of years ago. That is why there is no mention its deleion in this listing. However, as we say in the introduction on the first page: "Where deletions are made, we endeavor to give reasons...But remember: Deletion of a component from this list does not invalidate a buying decision you have made."

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Genesis's picture

Gracias por vuestra respuesta, tengo un par de estas cajas gracias a Uds. vivo en Argentina y solo pude escuchar unas 203/2 y con vuestra review m'as esa escucha decidi la compra. Me gustan mucho, solo que las vi en la lista hasta 2013 y por curiosidad consulte

 

Gracias nuevamente

alexandrov's picture

hmm.. I can see PSB Imagine T2 but not their top model Synchrony One. Is it that worse?

John Atkinson's picture

alexandrov wrote:
I can see PSB Imagine T2 but not their top model Synchrony One. Is it that worse?

We used to highly recommend the Synchrony One, but as with the KEF speaker mentioned above, our review was six years ago - see www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/408psb/index.html - and the speaker was dropped from the listing a year or so back due to none of us having any continued experience with it since the review.

The complete Recommended Components from 2003-2013 can be purchased from our on-line store.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bodhisattva's picture

John, it's hard to take a "2014 Recommended Components" list seriously without any mention of Magico S5's, Vitus components, Jorma Prime or Statement cables or Stillpoints isolation devices. Is this the swisse cheese list?

John Atkinson's picture

Bodhisattva wrote:
it's hard to take a "2014 Recommended Components" list seriously without any mention of Magico S5's, Vitus components, Jorma Prime or Statement cables or Stillpoints isolation devices.

From the introduction to the listing: "Components listed here have been formally reviewed in Stereophile..."

Unlike some other recommended lists, we restrict "Recommended Components" to products that have already been reviewed in the magazine and thus subject to full scrutiny. And there are products from Magico and Vitus included.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bodhisattva's picture

That's fair enough John. I'm pleased to see Magico and Vitus make the list! Both outstanding manufacturers.

Cheers, Bodhi

low2midhifi's picture

I would love to read further on your initial article (Sam's Space, I believe) about the Dynaudio Focus 160.  I have heard good things about this product and would like to know of your sound basis for making this speaker a recommended component.

I have searched fruitlessly for this article and it has evaded every type of google search.  Dynaudio mentions the review on its site but, alas, they provided no link either.

Is Stereophile Vol. 35 No. 1 not avaliable online?

Can you send us any kind of html link through this discussion thread?

Thanks.

John Atkinson's picture

low2midhifi wrote:
I have searched fruitlessly for this article...

With the exception of products that I have subsequently measured, we don't routinely reprint Sam Tellig's column on the Stereophile website. For that, you still need to subscribe to the print magazine. Back issues are available from (888) 237-0955.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

swillyums's picture

Is there a reason that this iteration of the list doesn't include any product images? I initially thought that it might just be my tablet, but I get the same wall of text on my desktop and phone as well. 

John Atkinson's picture

swillyums wrote:
Is there a reason that this iteration of the list doesn't include any product images?

Last year we could include images because we had the time to prepare the Web reprint from the tablet app. Thus year we are both temporarily operating short-staffed and wanted to post the complete Web version as soon as possible after the appearance of the April issue on the newsstands/in subscribers' mailboxes. This meant discarding both images and review URLs, I am afraid.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

NewB's picture

I was just wondering why the PSB Image line was removed.  

John Atkinson's picture

NewB wrote:
I was just wondering why the PSB Image line was removed.

As I wrote above, we drop products from the listing when none of the reviewing team has had any continued experience with it for more than 3 years since the original review. The complete listing for the 10 years from 2003 to 2013 can be purchased from our on-line store: http://store-badz031c.mybigcommerce.com/recommended-components-collectors-edition/ .

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Dan Moroboshi's picture

We could see ubber, ultra and expensive cables on interconnects and speaker cables, but not on digital cables. Is there a reason?

Some cables calls attentions, e.g. Stereolab Master reference 818 BNC/SPDIF, Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB, Kimber KS2020/2120, etc.

Byrnie's picture

Shouldn't the Centrance DACMini CX be listed under this section also given the DacPort is also?

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