2014 Recommended Components How to Use the Listings
The classes each cover a wide range of performance. Carefully read our descriptions here, the original reviews, and (heaven forbid) reviews in other magazines to put together a short list of components to choose from. Evaluate your room, your source material and front-end(s), your speakers, and your tastes. With luck, you may come up with a selection to audition at your favorite dealer(s). "Recommended Components" will not tell you what to buy any more than Consumer Reports would presume to tell you whom to marry!
Class A: Best attainable sound for a component of its kind, almost without practical considerations; "the least musical compromise." A Class A system is one for which you don't have to make a leap of faith to believe that you're hearing the real thing. With Super Audio CD, 24/96 DAD, and DVD-Audio now available, we have created a new Class, A+, for the best performance in those digital categories. Class A now represents the best that can be obtained from the conventional 16/44.1 CD medium. We also created Class A+ categories for turntables and phono preamps, to recognize the achievements of the Continuum Caliburn and Boulder 2008, respectively.
Class B: The next best thing to the very best sound reproduction; Class B components generally cost less than those in Class A, but most Class B components are still quite expensive.
Class C: Somewhat lower-fi sound, but far more musically natural than average home-component high fidelity; products in this class are of high quality but still affordable.
Class D: Satisfying musical sound, but these components are either of significantly lower fidelity than the best available, or exhibit major compromises in performance-limited dynamic range, for example. Bear in mind that appearance in Class D still means that we recommend this product-it's possible to put together a musically satisfying system exclusively from Class D components.
Class E: Applying to "Loudspeakers," these are entry-level products.
Class K: "Keep your eye on this product." Class K is for components that we have not reviewed (or have not finished testing), but that we have reason to believe may be excellent performers. We are not actually recommending these components, only suggesting you give them a listen. Though the report has yet to be published in certain cases, the reviewer and editor sometimes feel confident enough that the reviewer's opinion is sufficiently well formed to include what otherwise would be an entry in one of the other classes, marked (NR).