2016 Recommended Components Headphones

Headphones & Headphone Accessories

Editor's Note:

We strongly recommend those interested in headphone listening visit our sister website, www.InnerFidelity.com, which is edited by Tyll Hertsens.

A

Audeze LCD-X: $1699
These large, luxurious, circumaural headphones have planar-magnetic drive-units with a thin-film diaphragm energized by arrays of powerful neodymium magnets on both sides. They employ Audeze-patented Fazor elements, said to guide and manage the flow of sound in the headphone. The circular drivers are housed in polished, black-anodized aluminum earpieces, with generously sized pads, of either lambskin or leather-free microsuede, filled with foam. Adjustment is via notched, chromed metal rods attached to each earpiece, which fit into the sprung, leather-covered headband. The LCD-Xes produced a seductive, compelling overall sound, with precise imaging, rich mids, smooth highs, and clean bass, said JA. Compared to his longtime reference Sennheiser HD650s, the LCD-Xes resolved more detail, produced the more convincing sense of recorded ambience, and provided deeper bass. "Highly recommended!" JA concluded. (Vol.37 No.3 WWW)

Aurender Flow DAC–headphone amplifier: $1295.95
In the increasingly populous field of USB DACs, the Flow leaves its mark by being compatible with iOS and Android smartphone sources. Additionally, this compact, South Korean–made DAC, powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, can accept an mSATA drive (not included) of up to 1TB, thus giving it the ability to hold a great deal of music on its own. The Flow supports resolutions of up to 32-bit/384kHz, as well as DSD64 and DSD128, and allows the user to select from a range of filters. Despite an overall "light tonal balance" that made this DAC–headphone amp a better match for "relatively dark-sounding headphones like the Audeze LCD-Xes," JA enjoyed his time with the Flow: "a beautifully made, beautiful-looking, beautiful-sounding, and beautifully versatile audio component." On JA's test bench, the Flow delivered "superb measured performance." (Vol.38 Nos.6 & 12, Vol.39 Nos.1 & 2 WWW)

Benchmark Media Systems DAC2: $1995
See "Digital Processors" (Vol.37 No.2 WWW)

Chord Mojo: $599 $$$
Fans of James Cotton and Muddy Waters will be dismayed to learn that the name of Chord's latest D/A headphone amplifier is a contraction of mobile joy. But that is likely to be the only disappointment associated with the chunky little Mojo—which, like Chord's more expensive Hugo TT (see above), eschews an off-the-shelf DAC chip in favor of its own proprietary code, implemented with a field-programmable gate array (FPGA). The Mojo even runs the same Rob Watts–designed digital filter as its dearer stablemate, and its USB input is compatible with PCM up to 192kHz and DSD up to 11.29MHz (DSD256). No less striking are its three matte-surface glass control balls, which change color to indicate various functions and statuses. Used by JA with a variety of partnering gear—the Audeze LCD-X headphones suited it especially well—the Mojo "combined authoritative, well-defined low frequencies with smooth, detailed highs and excellent soundstaging." JA the measurer confirmed "performance that is superb for a portable device, and would not be out of place in a high-priced conventional D/A processor." But the last word goes to JA the listener: "Wow!" (Vol.39 No.2 WWW)

HiFi Man HE 400i headphones: $499 $$$
The least-expensive planar-magnetic headphones ST knows of, the HE-400i offers a 32 ohms impedance and 93dB sensitivity, and performs at its best with a dedicated headphone amplifier. The sound is "crisp, clean, clear, and lightning fast, as music is in real life. This is true of the bass, too. Indeed, the sound is seamless from the top down or the bottom up," summed up Sam. (Vol.37 No.12)

JH Audio JH16 Pro: $1149 (plus custom earmold fee) ★
Designed by Jerry Harvey (ex–Ultimate Ears), the top-of-the-line JH Audio in-ear monitor uses eight precision-balanced armatures (two dual-armature woofers, one dual-armature midrange, and one dual-armature tweeter) and a three-way crossover. It delivered clean transient attacks, a smooth midrange, big-hearted bass, and a detailed soundstage, said JA. The JH16 Pro exhibited excellent overall performance when driven directly by JA's iPod Classic, but offered more low-bass energy and greater articulation when driven by the Ray Samuels Emmeline The Tomahawk headphone amplifier. Price includes plastic Otterbox carrying case, felt drawstring bag, and cleaning tool. (Vol.34 No.8 WWW)

Meridian Prime D/A headphone amplifier: $2000
Notable as much for its praiseworthy headphone amplifier and analog inputs—which, when driven by the output of an Auralic Vega DAC, sounded "rich and warm" through JA's Audeze headphones—the Meridian Prime's asynchronous USB DAC handles incoming datastreams at 16 and 24 bits and sampling rates up to 192kHz, and applies to all incoming data an "apodizing" reconstruction filter. While noting the Prime's lighter weight and smaller body as compared with the Vega, JA praised the Meridian DAC's "clearer balance." Also singled out for praise was "the palpable way [the Prime DAC] had with imaging"—which, JA mused, might be attributable to that reconstruction filter. Use of Meridian's optional Prime power supply ($1295) in place of the stock wall wart added "a touch more body, a tad more authority." In his measurements, JA found discrepancies in the Prime's 24-bit performance but praised its well-engineered analog section. The verdict: "A cautious recommendation .ˇ.ˇ. for this beautifully finished, excellent-sounding headphone amplifier." In new measurements made for his November 2015 Follow-Up, JA confirmed Meridian's hypothesis that the aforementioned discrepancies were caused by the Prime Power Supply. Still, he mused, "Why did I prefer the sound of the Prime with the underperforming Prime Supply?" (Vol.37 No.10, Vol.38 No.11 WWW)

Sennheiser HD 800: $1599.95 ★
Sennheiser's attack on the state of the headphone art uses a 56mm ring-radiator transducer, the largest dynamic driver currently in use in any headphone. The HD800's large earpieces are made from a combination of absorbing composites and functional metal accents, and though the 'phones' weight is 11.5 oz without cable, its clever damping and padding made it comfortable for extended listening. The HD800's Y-cable harness uses braided, Kevlar-reinforced OFC copper wire; the cable is terminated with a very substantial 1/4" phono plug at one end, and two proprietary Sennheiser connectors at the earpieces. WP: "I was stunned by the Sennheisers' ability to project scale, to reveal dynamic nuance, to present timbre with realism." Compared to the Audeze LCD-Xes, the HD800s were equally revealing of low-level detail and recorded ambience, but sounded brighter, less laid-back, and lacked some bass extension and weight, said JA. (Vol.32 No.7, Vol.37 No.3 WWW)

Sennheiser HD 650: $499.95 ★
The HD 650s are an evolution of Sennheiser's very successful HD 600 open-back dynamic headphones, claimed to provide superior results due to hand-selected parts with closer tolerances and the use of a specially developed acoustic silk for the driver diaphragms. Compared to the Grado SR325i, the Sennheisers sounded richer but slightly darker. JM found that their very effective seal created a resonant cavity that produced "bass that is both quite deep and a trifle indistinct." JA's new reference cans. Compared to the Audeze LCD-Xes, the HD650s had a similar overall sound, but lacked bass control, detail resolution, and ambience retrieval, said JA. (Vol.28 No.6, Vol.31 No.9, Vol.37 No.3 WWW)

Sennheiser HD 600: $399.95 ★
WP, KR, and ST were unanimous in calling these the best dynamic headphones they've ever heard. "The only ones with which I have ever been physically or sonically comfortable," says KR. "Sennheiser has kept all of the qualities that made the HD 580 among the best of its breed, and in several areas has even managed to better it impressively," according to WP. Says ST, "The magic of the HD 600s is their midrange—a purity of tone, especially when driven by tubes, that is quite special." Astonishingly transparent when driven in balanced mode by a HeadRoom BlockHead, found J-10 in July 2002. (Vol.21 No.2 WWW)

Smyth Research Realiser A8 system: $2910 ★
Based on the Smyth Virtual Surround algorithm, the Realiser A8 subjects an audio signal to a DSP simulation of the hearing mechanisms needed for full spatial perception and then reproduces that signal through headphones, allowing users to effectively take the sounds of up to 64 different listening rooms wherever they go. The package includes the Realiser A8 processor box and power supply, the RC-1 remote control, a TU-1 Head Tracker, a TR-1 Head Tracker Reference, and two HTM-1 miniature in-ear microphones. (A set of Stax SRS-2050 II headphones adds $790 to price.) The Realiser A8 provided the same balance and soundstaging as KR's main system, and allowed him to hear subtle differences between his Manhattan and Connecticut systems. "For the first time in my life, headphone listening was not only convincing but enjoyable," Kal marveled, adding "Class A all the way. Not only does the Realiser sound transparent as a headphone amplifier, it transforms headphone listening both in stereo and in multichannel." (Vol.33 No.11 WWW)

Thinksound On1: $199.99
ST, who hates in-ear headphones and noise-canceling headphones of any sort, liked the closed-back On1 'phones from Thinksound, a new US company whose products are made in China. The On1's over-ear enclosures are machined from the mahogany-like wood sapele, sport earpads made from memory foam (the modern pillow stuff), and are covered with faux leather. Two cords are supplied—one with a smartphone-friendly microphone, one without—along with a carry pouch of unbleached cotton. ST described the On1s as "Bass-rich, full-bodied, nonfatiguing, comfortable to wear, [and] reasonably well isolating" in their passive, closed-back manner. (Vol.37 No.7)

Ultimate Ears 18 Pro Custom in-ear monitors: $1350 (plus custom earmold fee) ★
The 18 Pro is a three-way, in-ear, custom-mold design with six balanced armatures: two each for the bass, midrange, and treble, the latter allowing the 18 Pro to have the most extended top end of any UE model. It combined clean, airy highs with a smooth, detailed midrange and deep, well-defined bass. "Its ability to play low frequencies at high levels with minimal distortion is unmatched by other in-ear 'phones, and the clarity and smoothness of its midrange is Class A," said JA. Its mid-treble might sound a little laid-back with headphone amplifiers having a high output impedance, however. Price includes personalized aluminum carrying case and cleaning tool, but does not include the custom earmold fee; optional Ambient feature allows some leakage of exterior sounds and adds $50. (Vol.33 No.12 WWW)

B

Apogee Electronics Groove: $295
After 30 years of designing and making pro-audio gear, Apogee has taken aim at the consumer market with the Groove USB DAC/headphone amplifier. Housed in a 3.7"-long aluminum case, the Groove uses an eight-channel ESS 32-bit Sabre DAC chip in a Quad Sum arrangement (four DACs per channel) for PCM input up to 24 bits and 192kHz. The Groove's (asynchronous) USB input is a Micro B socket, and its headphone output is a 1/8" jack; preceding the latter is a current-drive headphone amplifier—Apogee calls this Constant Current Drive—and a proprietary circuit that provides a variable output impedance, depending on the headphones used. Consequently, JI reviewed the Groove in combination with several different headphones (and in comparison with other DAC–headphone amps). Among the Groove's consistent strengths were its clarity and abundance of detail, which JI described while enjoying a Christy Moore track: "Through the Sennheiser HD600s, the Groove revealed every detail of Moore's great voice, each breath and reverb tail clear to the end." After conducting his measurements, JA concluded, "Overall, the Apogee Groove offers superb measured performance, which is even more impressive when you consider it costs less than $300!" (Vol.39 Nos.1 & 2 WWW)

Audeze EL-8: $699
Available in both closed- and open-back versions—HR reviewed the latter—the US-manufactured Audeze EL-8 uses planar-magnetic drivers, the diaphragms of which are made with voice-coil traces of varying thickness, intended to produce a more uniform driving force from center to edge. Audeze's acoustical Fazors, used in earlier models as response-smoothing waveguides, also appear in the EL-8. (HR suggests that the Fazor-equipped Audezes "sound more airy and transparent, but less weighty and punchy than the non-Fazor models.") Fresh from his time with Audeze's more expensive LCD-2 and LCD-X open-back 'phones, HR wrote that the EL-8s' "special beauty was their holistic way with space and inner detail," noting that, on one recording in particular, "the roof of my head became the dome of a cathedral." (Vol.38 No.12 WWW)

AudioQuest NightHawk: $599
The AudioQuest NightHawk headphones feature dynamic drivers with 50mm bio-cellulose cones, housed in semi-open earcups with 3D-printed diffuser grilles. The cups themselves are molded from "liquid wood" and cushioned with soft "protein leather" earpads. Each pair comes with two 8' cables: a rather stiff perfectionist-quality one for listening at home, and a more flexible one for greater convenience while traveling (and a balanced-mode cable is available for an additional $109.95). Initially, HR felt that the NightHawks sounded "dull, dark, foggy, and compressed"—but after being told that they require considerable break-in time, he set about giving them just that, and ultimately declared that the 'phones were "transparent in a way I haven't quite experienced before." HR's summation: "The NightHawks take my listening to classical, opera, and choral music to levels I can only describe as psychedelic." (Vol.38 No.12 WWW)

Bowers & Wilkins P3: $199.99
Available in black or white, the sleek, elegant, on-ear P3s are designed specifically for portable use. They fold up neatly to fit inside a sturdy, hard clamshell case, and their iPod-compatible, tangle-free cord has built-in mike and volume controls. ST and SM agreed that the fabric earpads and thin headband were very comfortable. ST found the sound "slightly warm, surprisingly rich and full, without a tipped-up treble." Compared to the Beats Audio Solo HDs, the B&Ws were cleaner, clearer, more detailed, and altogether more enjoyable; compared to the Harman/Kardon CLs, the B&Ws had more delicate highs and a fine sense of space, but lacked some drama, impact, and scale, sounding a bit too polite, said SM. (Vol.35 No.12, Vol.36 Nos. 2 & 3 WWW)

CEntrance DACport: $249.99 $$$ ★
Built in the US, the bus-powered DACport is a small, well-finished, tubular device 4.5" long, with a 1/4" stereo headphone jack and a USB port. Although the USB interface operates in adaptive isochronous mode, CEntrance employs their proprietary, two-stage JitterGuard clock-management system. The DACport's D/A section will decode 24-bit data at sample rates up to 96kHz, and its direct-coupled output stage is claimed to run in class-A. Setup was simple; no driver is required, and the DACport is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems. Though it lacked the bass extension and control of the Benchmark DAC1, the DACport offered a clean, grain-free sound, with airy highs and natural transients. "A great-sounding product at a great price," exclaimed JA. (Vol.33 Nos.6 & 10, Vol.35 No.10 WWW)

Master & Dynamic MH40: $399
In the Master & Dynamic MH40, the earpads and the underside of the headband are covered in soft lambskin and the upper surface of the headband is made of cowhide. Nevertheless, democratic socialist (if not quite vegetarian) AD loved these 'phones, lavishing as much praise on their sound as on their comfort: "These Master & Dynamic headphones sounded clear and explicit—qualities they delivered in a manner that was smooth rather than brittle." AD also found the MH40s to be well balanced, with bass quantity in good proportion to their treble extension, and gave them extra points for their handy mute switch (which doubles as a right-channel indicator). (Vol.39 No.2 WWW)

PSB M4U 2: $399
The M4U 2s are closed-back, circumaural, noise-canceling headphones with a 40mm dynamic driver in each earcup. They use PSB's Room Feel equalization technology to produce an open, three-dimensional sound similar to what one might experience when listening to high-end loudspeakers in a typical listening room. Physically resembling Beats' ubiquitous Studio model, with an expandable headband and foldable polycarbonate frame (available in white, black, or red), the M4U 2s are large and bulky, but were extremely comfortable on SM's head. Unlike many active noise-canceling headphones, the M4U 2s also work in passive mode (without batteries). Though high frequencies sometimes sounded too aggressive, the overall sound was thrilling and physical, with an outstanding sense of space, excellent transient speed, and stunning dynamics, said SM. "The M4U 2s provided the most consistently thrilling headphone-listening experiences I've ever enjoyed," he summed up. (Vol.36 No.12 WWW)

Sennheiser Momentum: $349 (over-ear version)
$229.95 (on-ear version)
Sennheiser's fashion-forward Momentum models use a compact, closed-back design with a clean and sophisticated look equal parts modern and classic. The over-the-ear model is slightly larger and heavier than the on-ear, but the two have a similar overall look and feel. The oval earpieces slide up and down on the same stainless-steel headband, but while the over-the-ear design uses leather, the on-ear's earpads are covered in a synthetic material called Alcantara, which looks and feels practically identical to suede. Similarly, where the ridge of the larger version's headband is cushioned and covered in more leather, the on-ear version's cushioned headband is covered in more Alcantara. Though he loved the look and feel of both models, SM had a difficult time achieving a consistently secure and comfortable fit on his head with either, though he found the smaller on-ear version slightly more comfortable. And while both models combined true high-fidelity sound with great looks and durability, the over-the-ear design produced a bigger, more spacious overall sound, with sweeter highs, cleaner attack transients, a richer and more present midrange, and tighter bass, said SM. (Vol.36 No.12, over-the-ear version WWW; Vol.37 No.3, on-ear version WWW)

C

Audioengine D3: $149 $$$
The Chinese-built Audioengine D3, like the physically similar—and similarly portable—AudioQuest DragonFly, is a combination D/A converter and headphone amplifier with a USB standard A plug at one end and a three-conductor, 3.5mm mini-jack at the other. Its shiny aluminum case conceals an Asahi Kasei Microdevices AK4396 converter chip, a Texas Instruments LM49726 op-amp, and TI's popular TAS1020B USB receiver, with firmware for asynchronous streaming. Headphone users will delight in knowing that the Audioengine's price includes a 3.5mm-to-1/4" jack adapter; those who wish to drive their audio systems with the D3's 2V RMS output must supply their own miniplug-to-RCA-plug cables. SM considered the D3, fresh out of the box, "too sharp on top"—even when he factored in the inherent top-end emphasis of the Skullcandy Aviator 'phones he was using. But the brightness moderated over time, "though not at the expense of [the D3's] intoxicating speed and vibrant high-frequency color." (Vol.37 No.4 WWW)

Grado SR60e: $79 $$$ ★
The original SR60 offered a rather dark-toned balance, with a full bass and excellent resolution of detail. A more forward midrange, however. Uncomfortable. Upgrades from the original SR60 include a new driver and improved cables. While maintaining the original's freedom from obvious colorations and resonances, the SR60i went a bit deeper in the bass and had a slightly more vivid midrange for a more involving overall sound. "The SR60i is modestly better than the original, and remains one of audio's great bargains," said Jim Austin. (Vol.17 Nos.6 & 10 WWW, original, Vol.33 No.4 WWW)

Thinksound ms01: $99 ★
The handsome, understated ms01 in-ear headphone is the first product in Thinksound's Monitor Series. It uses a single 8mm driver, has a body of pear wood and aluminum, and comes neatly packed with earhooks, a cord clip, four sizes of silicone eartips, and an attractive carrying pouch. The Thinksounds fit lightly and comfortably in SM's ears and offered a smooth, easy sound with well-extended highs, a clean midrange, and warm, full bass. "One of the few in-ear designs that I can actually stand to have in my ears," he adds. (Vol.35 No.8 WWW)

No Class Disctinctions

Etymotic Research Custom-Fit earmolds: $150–$175/pair ★
Through the nationwide network of audiologists in its Custom-Fit program, Etymotic Research produces custom eartips for its headphones for a cost of about $150/pair. (Custom-Fit Network Audiologists may charge more for an impression appointment, handling & shipping so the total price may exceed the $150 base price. It is always a good idea to verify the exact price when making an appointment with a Custom-Fit Network Audiologist.) Custom-Fit earmolds are made of soft silicone, can be formed to fit all Etymotic models, and improve on the stock Etymotic eartips' reduction of ambient noise. WP: "With the Custom-Fit earmolds, the bass is better, the midrange is clearer, and the highs are crisper—but most important, they're comfortable." Once the master molds are made, additional pairs of earmolds are available at a discount. (Vol.33 No.12 WWW)

Westone UM56 custom earmolds: $129.99/pair made of vinyl; $149.99/pair made of silicone ★
Westone's earmolds are made from silicone material impressions taken by an audiologist. When Jim Austin used the UM56s with his Shure E4s, he noted strong bass response and excellent sound isolation. A positive, secure fit requires an open-jaw ear impression. Initial moldings, formed from a relaxed-jaw impression, resulted in poor isolation and a loose fit. "Highly recommended—but open wide," said Jim. (Vol.30 No.5 WWW)

K

Audeze LCD-4, Beyerdynamic T1, Sony MDR-7506, Ultimate Ears Custom Monitors.

Deletions
Benchmark DAC1 HDR, Musical Fidelity MF-100 and V90-HPA, Vinyl Flat Can Opener, all no longer available; Howard Leight Sync Stereo Earmuff not auditioned in a long time.



COMMENTS
Staxguy's picture

Class A

Audeze LCD-X: Why would you consider the Audeze LCD-X over the Audeze LCD-3? The Audeze LCD-3, though veiled, "digital" (too few bits of detail), and non-liquid, at least presents music as beautiful.

Not only this, but it (3) is a personal luxury product, with a gorgeous headband, ear-pads, and wood ear-cups.

There also is the issue of it (3) having phenomenal bass, on the non-Fazor version.

The LCD-X? It sounds like absolutely nothing. By nothing, one means about $600.

Audender Flow

Giving that you are Stereophile, this would be great in the Class C department. It has DSD, etc. and decent specs, but no balanced out, so no headphone enthusiast would consider using it.

Chord Mojo: A great DAC/amp. Great that you have it in Class A.

Sennheiser 650/600: certainly very comfortable, but no match for the 580. ;) While neither sounds like shit (the 600 is more natural), they lack any detail and air, although their true comfort makes them fantastic computer speakers. Still, Class C.

HiFiMan 400i: Shouldn't it be the HE-6? Where is the HE 1000? This is Class A guys.

Sennheiser IE 800: Where is this? Perhaps more detailed and fast than the HD-800 and only $1000. ($800 US). Obviously, no imaging like the HD. What an amazing headphone, the HD 800.

Omissions: Shouldn't the class A be the Stax 009 and perhaps some excessive (read: expensive) headphone amplifiers? Om.

Class B

Apogee Groove. Ok. Great. A pro-audio device.

Audeze EL-8: What? Ok. This one sounds like shit. Ok, have only heard the closed. Great cheap price ($699) and design job by BMW, but terrible sound an not even a part of the LCD-2. What a looser.

Audioquest Nighthawlk: Huh? Wah.

B&W P3: Why the P3 and not the P5 or P7? Isn't the quality of the P3 pathetic? Sound, gentlemen, sound.

CEEntrence DACPort: Ok. Great device. How about more CEntrance. Great specs.!

Master & Dynamic MD40: Is this a poor men's clothing magazine?

PSB M4U: Shouldn't this be Class E?

Class C:

Audioengine D3: for $149 a great made device with great components. However, the sound is worse than the stock Intel audio chip you'll have in your PC. Does have less hum and noise than an-in PC chip, though.

Overall: Where are the audiophile components?

Sorry to be a party-pooper.

dalethorn's picture

Mostly agree. Headphones don't seem as accurately covered here as the big stuff. Maybe the headphones and other portable gear should be covered entirely by Innerfidelity, in Stereophile Recommended Components.

Glotz's picture

Naw, just haughty, arrogant and disrespectful.

They reviewed various products for the magazine, and this is the list they came up with. The classes are explained in full, in relation to the other products's performance that have made the list. Older products, sometimes equally capable as current products listed, are removed due to age. Lastly, most reviewers have their own benchmarks and their own opinions about component performance, hence their choice of placement in the classes.

You can disagree all you want man, just do it with a modicum of respect. If you want to start your own magazine, go for it dude.

K.Reid's picture

Glad to see this mighty monitor included in Class A restricted low frequency. Very well deserved and impeccably engineered at a fair price. Most importantly it sounds great. An excellent effort by the folks at Technics. It's obvious they care about and love music by making a product like this.

low2midhifi's picture

I read JA's assessment of the Arcam A19 regarding its ability to handle low impedance, high volume listening.

I wanted to add my own, perhaps less scientific assessment of the Arcam A18 predecessor model.

I have my Arcam A18 integrated connected to Canton Ergo 32DC speakers whose impedance range is listed as 4...8 Ohm, 87 dB by the manufacturer. The owner's manual for my speakers, of about year 2000 vintage, states that the speakers can be "unhesitatingly operated with any standard amplifier" (with some small qualifications later in the manual).

Stereophile's tests of other Canton speakers show that the speakers tend to operate more towards the 4, rather than the 8 Ohm range of input impedance.

I have used my Canton speakers with my demo model Arcam A18 for several years now. I am not a loud volume listener, but I like room filling sound. For a benchmark of my listening, I will say that audio show rooms, for example, are, for the most part, way too loud.

I did a test this morning. On the integrated's volume range of 1 to 99, I did some listening around 38 on the volume scale. I listened to a Chandos recording of Bryden Thomson's LSO recording of Vaughn Willams's 8th Symphony and assorted string works (Chandos 8828, a great audiophile recording still in circulation). This volume is adequate to fill the room amply with sound. Vaughn Williams works will require a bit more gas-pedal than other orchestral works.

Then, for some higher octane listening, but with the volume set at the same 38 position, I did another test. I listened to the great recording of Don Juan, with the Cleveland Orchestra, and the late great Lorin Maazel (CBS Masterworks MDK 44909). If I had finicky neighbors adjacent to my listening room for this session, they might have complained over the volume in some sections of this work.

After listening to these CD tracks, I put my hand over the unobstructed top ventilation grate on the Arcam A18. After feeling the heat, which was almost imperceptible, I then put my hand to my cheek. After 5 seconds the heat from my cheek was noticeably warmer.

I'd guess that John's assessment would apply particularly--without mentioning brands--to low efficiency low impedance speakers, of the 84-85 dB and/or 4 Ohms nominal varieties. But for my speakers the Arcam never seems over-taxed, and certainly never clips with the music and volume settings that I employ.

If you are a moderate-to-room filling volume listener, have stand-mount speakers of 87-88 dB, and 8 Ohm nominal impedance, and love peerless sound, I'd say buy the Arcam A19 without hesitation. I'm not a dealer or a professional, but that's my assessment. A reader wrote in the Stereophile review of the A19 that he found the A19 to be a big improvement from the A18. My dealer says that if you have an A18, you can probably live with it without going to the A19.

Other publications, that score products in their reviews, show the Arcam A18/A19 models garnering the highest scores of the Arcam integrated amp line-up.

Those are my two cents on the Arcam A19.

makarisma's picture

What about products from companies such as T+A, YBA, Linn, McIntosh, etc., all of which also have outstanding models in the listed catagories?

pablolie's picture

based on the reviews, it seems to defy logic you give the Benchmark AHB2 a class A rating, and the NAD M22 a class B. to quote your own review, the AHB2 "failed to be as lively or exciting as the NAD". oddly enough, the word "loss" is not mentioned anywhere in the M22's review, so it surprises me it shows up in the recommended equipment guide.

sharethemusic's picture

i am the proud owner of raven audio amplification. "THE RAVEN" a 3oob tube based integrated amplifier. There can be no better amplification in the world. You see right thru the music. Your are drawn into it. All the details of the recording are there.Is there colorization by the tubes? Not sure.i can only tell you the music sounds exactly as intended and as natural and neutral as can be.it is rated at 15 watts per channel..Some may not understand. Raven audios 10 watts,is another tube companies 40 watts and solid states 80 watts. It is in the power supply and voltage regulation that all the power of god on earth is unleashed. the power is more than enough to fill my 20x 20 room with blasting clear,warm glorious sound. i have owned mcintosh,krell ,NAD AND MARK LEVINSON. There really isnt anything but maybe my old mac that sounds even close to the raven. andy rothman sharethemusic@aol.com

Ladokguy1's picture

I know Art Dudley has used Auditorium cables as a reference for several years, any reason they are not listed in Recommended Components?

AndySingh's picture

Hello

I went to my local store - Overture Audio, and auditioned the GoldenEar Aon 2 and Dynaudio Emit M10.

Listening to the M10's, I am surprised they (or other Dynaudio products) have never been reviewed on your site.

Is there a Dynaudio review on the horizon?

Glideyork's picture

Hi,

I bought the Dynaudio m20 few weeks ago. I'm not really expert, but I think my amp (yamaha r-n500) is not enough powerful for these speakers. If you make some emit reviews, could you give us some advices about the good amps to associate with :/

Thanks for all the other really interesting articles.

AndySingh's picture

Speaking to Northwoods AV of Grand Rapids, MI, I was told that Yamaha Aventage 750/760 would be a good choice for 4 ohm speakers such as Dynaudio Emit M20.

The dealer claimed he was running Magnepans off of these. For a stereo setup, this receiver would do, however they probably only support 4 ohm impedance for front left and right.

The power output would not be a concern for a stereo setup.

gasolin's picture

I use the Marantz PM8005 and that is the smallest amp i would recommend for the Dynaudio emit m10's

z24069's picture

There are some fine choices on the Transports, Digital Processors, Preamp and Amp listings. I am puzzled however at the total lack of mention of any Esoteric Audio product. They are current products well known for their performance and musicality. What criteria being utilized could yield a recommended components lists where at least one of their products (or more) would not make it into the results?

Waves200's picture

Oh to live in a country with a reasonable rate of exchange! Our local Velodyne distributors have the DD+ 15-inch sub listed at the equivalent of almost $2000 more than the listed RRP is in the US. By the time that customs and excise is added to the cost, and the retailers have added their markup, you would be paying almost as much for the 15 inch model as you would for a new family car!