Recommended Components: Fall 2016 Edition Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous Accessories

AI Technology ELGR-8501: $160.75/1 oz
AI Technology's ELG-8501 is thermal grease made of more than 80% silver. JM uses a light smear on the mating surfaces of wall-wiring connections to prevent oxidation. He warns: "Never use any kind of silver paste on audio connections such as RCA plugs or amplifier speaker terminals." (Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

Atlantic Technology WA-5030: $399
The WA-5030 wireless audio system comprises the WA-50-t, a transmitter module with USB and two-channel analog inputs; the WA-5030-r, a 30Wpc receiver with two-channel speaker terminals; a remote control; and miscellaneous connectors and power supplies. The only control on the transmitter permits the selection of one of three zones, allowing multiple WA-5030-r receivers to send signals to speaker pairs in different rooms. The WA-5030's success varied with the sensitivity of the speakers used, but produced a clean, balanced sound with decent bass extension when driving KR's small Paradigm Studio/20 surround speakers. Additional WA-5030-r receivers: $199 each. (Vol.35 No.11 WWW)

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)

Audioengine B1 Bluetooth receiver: $189
Like other low-cost Bluetooth receivers, the aptX-equipped Audioengine B1 is powered by a wall wart, and comes with an interconnect cable to take the line-level output from its RCA-jack outputs to the user's preamp or integrated amp. But the slightly-larger-than-average B1 adds an optical S/PDIF output, and boasts an effective range of up to 100'. Better still, as ST told it, the B1 offers considerably better-than-average sound, with its "natural harmonics, an extended top end, and crisp, clean transients. I have not yet heard a Bluetooth receiver that tops the B1. Consider this a rave." (Vol.37 No.12)

Audioengine Wireless Audio Adapter: $149/set ★
Audioengine's Wireless Audio Adapter (originally called AW3 then W3) 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 W3'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 W3 can transmit to up to three receivers. Current version redesigned to coexist better with other WiFi networks. (Vol.31 No.9 WWW)

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: $12.95 ★
A great idea improved—similar to the original Postman, but with a metal sleeve reinforcing the sockets. (Vol.20 No.9)

AudioQuest JitterBug: $49 $$$
With its USB Type A jack at one end and USB Type A plug at the other, the AudioQuest JitterBug is scarcely larger than the memory stick it resembles, yet its internal multilayer circuit board is packed with tiny surface-mount resistors, capacitors, and what appeared to JA to be common-mode chokes. The purely passive JitterBug, which is claimed by AudioQuest to remove noise currents and parasitic resonances from both the data and power conductors in USB ports, is intended to go between the computer and the USB DAC of a computer-music system; a second JitterBug, plugged into an unused USB socket on the computer, is said by the manufacturer to confer additional benefits. After using the JitterBug with his Mac mini, JA wrote, "I wasn't expecting the degree of improvement the JitterBug wrought with the first recording I played." He reported that low frequencies gained authority, applause sounded more like hands clapping than generic noise, and that once-clangorous pianos sounded, in the same challenging passages, more natural and smooth. From his test bench JA wrote, resignedly, that his measurements "didn't reveal why using the JitterBug improved the sound—which it most certainly did." ML started down this road by plugging JitterBugs into four USB sockets in his computer-audio rig. Upon removing all four, he heard a subtle loss of clarity. Reintroducing the 'Bugs one at a time, ML noted the most dramatic improvement with one, and a lesser but still appreciable refinement with a second—but after that, the "very subtle sonic gains" weren't worth the extra money: "One JitterBug = good. Two JitterBugs = better." Just when we thought there was nothing more to say about the AudioQuest JitterBug, KR tried it and wrote that he could hear its positive effect on a USB DAC's analog output: "When I removed the JitterBug, I missed it." (Vol.38 Nos. 9 & 11, Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

Ayre Acoustics Irrational But Efficacious System Enhancement CD: $20 ★
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, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

CAIG DeoxIT GOLD Wipes: $21.95/25ct; $39.95/50ct ★
These small pads are made of a slightly abrasive textile that has been impregnated with Caig's DeoxIT Gold contact cleaner. JM uses them on the outside of RCA jacks and on the pins of RCA plugs to treat corrosion, oxidation, condensation, and general grime. JM: "A small but powerful stocking-stuffer...You'll feel like a pro!" (Vol.25 No.12, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

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 WWW)

iFi iPower (5V, 9V, 12V, 15V): $49
The iPower is an ostensibly perfectionist-quality wall wart, said by manufacturer iFi to produce very little noise. The buyer selects the iPower whose output most closely matches the playback gear in question, the choices being 5, 9, 12, and 15V; beyond that, this wart is virtually universal: the AC end accepts any of four AC plugs (supplied), so that the iPower can be used almost anywhere 100–240VAC is available. Its DC cable is terminated in a 5.5 by 2.1mm DC connector—but again, iFi supplies adapters for an addition three sizes (3.5 by 1.35mm, 4.0 by 1.7mm, and 5.5 by 2.5mm), along with a polarity inverter for devices requiring a center-negative supply. Can a better wart make for better sound? According to KR, "recordings with open, ambient soundstages sounded cleaner, and both instrumental and vocal music was more distinct. This was no major change that struck me every time I listened, but it did make all of my listening much more relaxing." (Vol.39 No.3 WWW)

Littlite LED task lamp: $99.95
The latest generation of Littlite mixing-console lamps provides high-efficiency, long-life LED illumination; a rotary switch selects clear white or red light. JM finds the 18" version especially helpful near a turntable or CD player. (Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

Nordost 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 WWW)

Outlaw Audio BTR-100 Bluetooth receiver: $39.99
The unambiguously teensy Outlaw Audio BTR-100 Bluetooth receiver, which measures only 2.5" by 2.5" by 0.8", is dwarfed by the wall wart that powers it. The BTR-100 comes loaded with the current aptX codec and supports AAC, MP3, and other streaming codecs. Line-level analog output is via a 3.5mm jack; the BTR-100 is supplied with both 3.5mm-plug-to-3.5mm-plug and 3.5mm-plug-to-RCA-plug cables. Outlaw claims an effective range of 30'. Although the considerably more expensive Focal Universal Wireless Receiver impressed ST as offering "slightly more spacious, more extended sound" with "cleaner, clearer, crisper transients," he enjoyed the Outlaw BTR-100 and considered it a high-value product, with notably better sound than its even cheaper competitors: "This one's a steal." (Vol.37 No.11)

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 for a free sample of Cream Electret. (Vol.35 No.5 WWW)

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 for a free sample of Rainbow Electret Foil. (Vol.35 No.5 WWW)

Riedel Glas Microfiber Stemware Drying Cloth: $12
From an Austrian leader in the making of stemware comes a high-tech microfiber glass-drying cloth that JM has applied to an even higher calling: One evening, after washing and thoroughly rinsing a smudgy CD, he tried drying it with the Riedel cloth—radially, of course—and was "amazed at how it made the CD's data surface shine." Available online, the Riedel cloth may be, in JM's words, "the best CD-drying cloth ever." (Vol.37 No.6 WWW)

Schiit Audio Wyrd: $99
Informally described by its manufacturer as a "decrapifier," the Wyrd (pronounced weird) sports a single USB Type-A socket and a single USB Type-B socket, by means of which it is to be inserted between the user's computer and USB DAC. Once installed, the Wyrd does two things: An internal linear power supply takes over from the USB bus to supply the DAC with what is claimed to be a much cleaner 5VDC (the supply that powers the Wyrd itself is a wall wart), and the Wyrd's crystal oscillator reclocks the incoming datastream. Although Schiit Audio resists claiming for the Wyrd an ability to improve the sound quality, that was precisely the talent discovered by ML, who heard "a less brittle, less 'digital' sound, and increased weight and body." He also noted that the metal-encased, US-made Wyrd is "solidly built, and its lack of plastic is especially welcome at the price." (Vol.38 No.11 WWW)

SOtM sCLK-12.0 SuperClock: $500
KR, who dislikes having his system littered with lots of crappy-looking little boxes and cables, enjoyed this SATA-powered computer board, use of which was motivated by (SOtM-commissioned) tests suggesting its usefulness in reducing jitter. When he used the sCLK-12.0 SuperClock in tandem with SOtM's similarly wretchedly named tX-USBhubIn USB hub, KR got "an immediate impression that music was now louder and clearer." Not for the orthographically sensitive. (Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

SOtM tX-USBhubIn: $350
This horribly named accessory, which requires power from the SATA interface of the computer or computer-based server into which it is plugged (a SATA Y-connector may be required), is a USB repeater intended to preserve the integrity of the signal reaching an associated USB DAC. In KR's estimation, the tX-USBhubIn "made an easily audible improvement in the sound of a system that I'd already thought sounded entirely satisfying." (Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

Stabilant 22 contact enhancer: $55/Service Kit, includes 5ml concentrate, 15ml mixing bottle, applicator, microbrush ★
Available from Meant to strengthen electrical contacts while minimizing corrosion and oxidation, Stabilant 22 is a complex, nonconductive, block-polymer liquid that, under the influence of electricity in a contact, becomes conductive. Shipped in concentrated form, Stabilant 22 must be diluted with 99%-pure alcohol prior to use. JM recommends using it on all signal-level connections. JM: "Furthermore, it does not cross-link to form sludge. Pretty nifty!" (Vol.25 No.12, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

UpTone Audio USB REGEN: $175
UpTone Audio's USB Regen is a wall-wart–powered accessory designed to regenerate both a USB datastream and the USB bus's 5VDC before either makes its way to the DAC in a computer-audio setup. Intended to be installed between the user's computer and DAC—UpTone advises siting the Regen as close as possible to the latter, and includes a solid male-to-male adapter to enable this—the Regen is built into a sturdy aluminum case just slightly larger than a Fig Newton. (The Regen's wall wart is about three times the size of the Regen itself, and is of higher-than-average quality.) As for the Regen's audible effect on a computer-audio system, ML said, "Wow: not subtle," and described the Regen as the most effective such accessory he'd tried. Commenting on the effects of the UpTone Regen on one of his multichannel systems, KR wrote, "all hints of the abiding brightness were eliminated and, as a result, the frequency balance was smooth and unaccented." In a Follow-Up, and JA found that the Regen made no measureable difference in the output signal of an associated USB DAC. He also discovered that installing the Regen without first deselecting the associated DAC as an output device and twice relaunching the file-playing software—once before adding the Regen, and again after installing it and reselecting the DAC—served to prevent his system from playing high-resolution files at anything higher than 16-bit/44.1kHz. Whee! (Vol.38 No.11 WWW)


Sound Alignment Systems by American Recorder Technologies, SAS-1335, P-770 Pro laser alignment tool no longer available; iLive IAB13 Bluetooth receiver not auditioned in a long time.

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: $372.98–$593.98, depending on width. Absorbers: $320.98–$395.98, depending on width. Corner Traps: $697.98. Prices based on Guilford fr701, Anchorage and Acoustic Suede. All other sizes and fabric options quoted on individual basis. (Vol.35 No.2 WWW)

ASC StudioTrap: $499 ★
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 WWW)

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 WWW)

ASC TowerTrap: $411–$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. TubeTraps 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 them 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 WWW)

Auralex SubDude II: $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. Current SubDude II has a lower profile than the original sample reviewed. (Vol.27 No.12 WWW)

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 WWW)

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 WWW)

DHDI ZR Micro Twin ($800) and ZR Sample Rate 8 Bit ($357) panels
Delta H Design, Inc., or DHDI, is an acoustics and architecture firm in Los Angeles County that manufactures room-treatment products for the professional and domestic markets. Two of the latter are from DHDI's Zero Reflection line: the ZR Micro ($599), which measures 24" square by 1.25" and is covered with fabric, is intended for placement directly behind one's speakers, while the curiously and clunkily named ZR Sample Rate 8 Bit ($299) is a 20" by 40" by 0.75" sheet of MDF into which has been CNC-carved an intricate pattern of ridges. After treating his room with two ZR Micros and three ZR Sample Rate 8 Bits, JM noted an appreciable improvement in sound: "I loved it. Indeed, I was taken aback at how much of an improvement I heard." (Vol.38 No.4 WWW)

MSR Acoustics Dimension4 SpringTrap: $930 ★
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 WWW)

PSI AVAA C20 electronic bass trap $1999 each
In a field dominated by DSP products, the AVAA C20 stands out: this response-correction device uses pure analog technology. Inside the AVAA C20—its name stands for Active Velocity Acoustic Absorber—is a microphone, a perforated membrane, a velocity transducer, and an amplifier with feedforward and feedback. In principle, the C20 converts incoming pressure waves into velocity waves, thus absorbing them. It is said to work on pressure waves between 15 and 150Hz without affecting other frequencies—and more than one C20 can be used in a given room. In a guest review for Stereophile, acclaimed mastering engineer Bob Katz described the AVAA effect as more of polishing than "fixing" per se, and praised the active C20 for working well in tandem with his more traditional (and sizable) passive trapping products. (Vol.39 No.6 WWW)

Ready Acoustics Chameleon Super Sub Bass Traps: $259.99 ★
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 WWW)

RealTraps MondoTrap: $320 ★
Corner MondoTrap: $370 ★

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 WWW)

RealTraps: $130–$600, depending on size and type ★
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, $200; MondoTraps, $300; stands, $80. (Vol.28 No.1, Vol.29 No.11, Vol.33 No.2 WWW)

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 WWW)

Stillpoints Aperture room panel: $699+ (depending on finish)
Aperture room-treatment products from Stillpoints LLC, reportedly designed by the same acoustician who invented Sonex panels, are 22" by 22" wall panels that weigh 14 lbs and are just over 3" thick. They can be hung on the wall in the manner of great works of art or, as in MF's room, placed on a ledge—or even stacked one atop the other. The results, chez F? "Despite the fact that my room had already been well treated with Synergistic's HFT and FEQ devices, the Stillpoints made the boundary seem to disappear, greatly enhancing center-image stability, solidity, and focus—areas where I'd thought no improvements were possible." (Vol.38 No.2)

Synergistic Research HFT, Active FEQ, Atmosphere
A technology that Synergistic Research calls Uniform Energy Field (UEF) has found its expression in various system-tuning products: the High-Frequency Transducer (HFT), sold in packs of five for $295, resembles a tiny, cylindrical horn; used as directed—ie, adhered with putty to strategically chosen points on one's listening-room walls and ceiling—it's claimed to replace inharmonious resonances with musically sympathetic ones. With HFTs installed in his room, MF heard a "more open, spacious sound: there was less room in the room." MF quotes Synergistic's Ted Denney in describing the company's Active FEQ ($995) as a product that "generates ultra-low-frequency radio-frequency (RF) pulses that act as low-frequency dither to overpower a listening room's ambient fields of RF and electromagnetic interference (RFI and EMI) produced by a WiFi network, fluorescent and LED lights, etc." MF reported that a pair of FEQs added to his system's sound a measure each of depth, ambience retrieval, and transparency. Finally, Synergistic's Atmosphere ($2495) results from Denney's observation that playback systems sound best late at night, and his theory that human-generated and solar RF might be the culprits; the 3' 3""-tall, electrically powered Atmosphere generates very-low-frequency waves to counter those ill effects, and is adjustable in order to optimize the sound of the user's listening environment. MF said the Atmosphere worked as advertised, but "in subtle ways that I found hardly profound." (Vol.38 Nos. 2 & 12)

Totem Acoustic Beak: $130/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 WWW)

Stands, Spikes, Feet, & Racks

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 WWW)

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: $99/4
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 WWW)

Ayre Myrtle Blocks: $8.50 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 WWW)

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 (, 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 'em to the ceiling! "Really well-made and incredibly sturdy," reported The Analog One. Free shipping. Surcharge for signature "Clear Coat" finish costs $40 for the rack and $20 for the expansion kit. Anthracite Metallic or Black Matte Texture finishes are included in the base pricing. (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. Beautiful and sturdy, he said, and equipment stacked atop it sounded good. (Vol.32 No.2 WWW)

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, Extra Large feet: $49.99/set of 4, 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 WWW)

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 WWW IsoRock, Little Rock.)

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 WWW)

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)

Gingko Audio Cloud 11 isolation stand: $549 ★
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 ½" thick); Golden Sound Pads, $170 (12½" by 17½ by ½" thick); Acoustic Discs, $140/set of 12. (Vol.20 Nos.11 & 12, Vol.24 No.5)

Grand Prix Audio Monaco equipment stands: $2,495–$10,550 ★
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 $4850; 4-shelf system, $6450; 5-shelf system, $8400; base module, $3100; short or tall module, $1950; amplifier stand, $1950; Formula Shelf Carbon-fiber/Kevlar composite shelf, $2100–$2450. (Vol.24 No.7, amp stand; Vol.25 No.12 WWW)

Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR Audio Stand: $15,275 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 QPOD3: $1310, Magico QPOD4: $1680
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)

Mapleshade Maple Platform: $75
KM liked what this basic a 2"-thick board of solid, "ready-to-be-finished" maple did for the Music Hall MMF-7.3 turntable (Vol.39 No.9)."

Salamander S40 Core Module Rack: $1325.50 as reviewed
In search of a rack that would hold his growing collection of gear and provide easy access for swapping review samples in and out, KR hit on a double-width Salamander Synergy S40 rack, which he custom-ordered with two pull-out shelves and six Salamander Robot Feet. The finished product stands 44" high yet is "impressively stiff and rigid." KR concluded: "[I]t looks good, holds everything, and can accommodate visiting review samples." (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)

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)

Stillpoints ESS rack: $8140+
Intended to both dissipate vibrational energies occurring within playback gear and isolate that gear from external energies, the Stillpoints ESS rack is available in three widths and three heights, with various shelf options. Pre-tensioned steel cables isolate the acrylic shelves from one another, and various of Stillpoints' accessory feet also play a role in the somewhat modular design. Praising its contribution to "blacker" backgrounds and more precise transients in the sound of his system, MF described the ESS rack as an "ingenious and, I think, extremely attractive package." (Vol.38 No.12)

Symposium Rollerblock Series 2+: $449/set of 3, $599/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)

Symposium Super Plus 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 WWW)

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 ($625) includes three large cones, five discs, and four 1" discs. (Vol.20 No.5, Vol.21 No.11)

Art Vinyl Play & Display Flip Frame no longer available.

Books & Computer Software

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 Included with Channel D's Pure Vinyl Version 3.0. (Vol.33 No.8; Vol.34 Nos.7 & 9 WWW)

Channel D Pure Vinyl LP ripping software: $299 ★
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 WWW)

DeRemote: $4.99 ★
Available from the Apple Store, this iPhone/iPad App provides remote control of LAN-connected Denon and Marantz A/V receivers. Versatile screen menus allow the user to see and control zones, inputs, channels, and various audio, video, and Audyssey options. A navigation menu offers management of external sources, such as USB- and Ethernet-streamed files, and displays associated cover art. "Anyone who has a compatible Marantz or Denon device and an iPad or iPhone should also have DeRemote," said KR. (Vol.36 No.7 WWW)

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: (Vol.24 No.9 WWW)

Feickert Adjust+ computerized tonearm alignment program: $350 ★
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 $525; standard version can be upgraded. (Vol.31 No.10)

Roon v.1.2: $119/year, $499/lifetime
From the people who created Sooloos comes Roon, a cloud-based music-playback application that can be downloaded to the user's desktop or handheld computer, as well as to dedicated file players from such manufacturers as Auralic, dCS, Linn, and others. Described by JI as "a tour de force of programming, design, and metadata mining," Roon offers a graphically sophisticated user interface that, he says, looks good and feels natural. When first installed, Roon scans and incorporates the user's existing music collection, and continues, over time, to "groom" that collection, taking into account both new additions to it and Roon Labs' ever-growing library of metadata. JI's conclusion: "If you're thinking of putting together your first computer audio system, start with Roon and don't look back." (Vol.38 No.10 WWW)

XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro: $360 ★
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 WWW; earlier version was reviewed in Vol.31 No.11 and Vol.32 No.11 WWW)


Audirvana, iPeng.

Amarra app replaced by new version not yet reviewed; Decibel app.

germay0653's picture

For the past three years not one Pro-ject turntable has been in the recommended list but there is always some number of Music Hall models recommended. I believe they're made at the same factory, some even share the same arms. I'm not trying to take away anything from Music Hall because they're fine turntables but this just seems a little biased maybe.

jdaddabbo's picture

Having read and re-read many times over reviews for such speakers as the KEF R700, Monitor Audio Silver 8, B&W 683 S2, GoldenEar Triton One and Triton Five... I am finding it quite confusing to see the Triton Five listed under Class C. So I re-read all of them yet again, and then immediately doubled back to the R700, Silver 8, and Triton One... and still I'm expecting to see the Triton Five also listed under Class B. Can someone please help me understand what I am missing? Is it that I am not taking away strong enough some things stated about the Triton Five, or is it maybe that I am taking away to strongly comments made of all the others, which in either case is having me feel that all 5 speakers belong under Class B (or simply under the same Class). Thank you very much for any guidance you can give me! Ps. I'm currently in the market for 3 pairs of speakers for use in my new Home Theater setup and therefore both the Silver 8 and Triton 5 were looking quite good at their respective price points.

John Atkinson's picture
jdaddabbo wrote:
I am finding it quite confusing to see the Triton Five listed under Class C. . . Can someone please help me understand what I am missing?

When I polled the writers for their recommendations, the balance of opinion was that the Triton Five didn't quite reach the standard set by the other speakers. But it was a close call. If you like the sound of the Triton Five, don't worry about the rating - as it says in the introduction, we still recommend it.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

George Napalm's picture

I noticed that Music Hall MMF-7.3 is listed as Class B component. But despite being the cheapest turntable in this category it doesn't have a "$$$" mark...

User5910's picture

Re: "The SubSeries 125 (originally called SubSeries 1)"

It looks like the predecessor was the SubSeries 100 based on your 2014 Recommended Components article. The SubSeries 1 is ported, unlike the 100 and 125.

Marc210's picture

Are measurements correlated with listening experience(s) ?!

sophie1511's picture

That power amp showed in the picture looks more like over the range microwave...Lol. Jokes aside, i have been using Gemini XGA-2000 Power Amplifier and its been over a year since I purchased it.

I still have no problem or concern with it. It is highly recommended from my side.

ww85's picture

2016 was the worst. So it should have been no surprise to me that the Sonos Connect (aka ZP80/ZP90) finally fell off this list. Back in 2006, I had already been looking for years for something that seemed it should have been common sense simple. A way to take my entire cd collection and play it it all through my stereo without compression or having to leave the couch. After all, the files are digital and digital is digital… Once you get past the cost (and labor) of storing them on an external hard drive, it should just be a matter of getting the files to play on your system. What seemed like something that should be pretty straight forward turned out to be a major undertaking for the "industry"... Then along came Sonos with aspirations for a simple way to put music in every room of a house digitally. Speakers were built into amps, they marketed to people who used to love those cool looking B&O systems of the 80’s and 90’s. Fair enough... But when reading John Atkinson’s review of this new system, the proverbial lightbulb went off in my head. With regards to the ZP80, the processor that could be dropped into an existing system, it was exactly the answer I had been looking for. On top of that, it was cheap, sounded great if you used the digital out to a good Dac, (and measured well too) and once purchased, revealed a great interface from my ever present lap top that made it the most life changing component I ever owned. That is not just nostalgia talking. The Sonos ZP80 made listening to anything you wanted listen to, any song that ever popped into you or your kids head, just one click away. The music was CD quality and it was playing on my modest (but beloved) system. The queue feature let you add songs to your playlist as you thought of them. All of that for $349 in a box that is still available, and apparently, still looked down upon by high enders… When I read that review in 2006, not only did I see the interface I had always wanted, but what seemed like an apparent conundrum for the audiophile community. If you can take a cd and burn it to any hard drive, well, there goes the need for high end transports (and who knows what other components) And sure enough, after JA’s review, there seemed to be lots of backlash. The parts in the ZP80 were crap for God’s sake! Mods were out almost instantaneously. I was attracted to them of course, but in retrospect, I think everyone (me included) missed a salient point from JA’s review- “The Sonos can take the digital output from the NAS drive and convert it for you, or send it unmolested to your favorite DAC.” Unmolested! That was and is the beauty to the whole thing and what I think was and is being missed by a whole generation of audiophiles on a budget. With a simple setup, the Sonos Connect/ZP80/ZP90 can make the most modest stereo sound better than anything an mp3 weened music lover could imagine. I know, I did it in my NYC loft for family and friends for years. They always wanted to know where that music was coming from. Why was that song we were just talking about playing all of a sudden…
Of course, the system is not perfect and I’m always looking for better. Especially after visiting a local high end store and listening to them giggle when they find out what my front end is. (Not that they have any idea how I have it configured.) They hear the word Sonos and assume I’m listening to compressed files on powered speakers. “No” I protest. “I listen to lossless files…” They smirk and say ok, but the parts on that thing are a joke… I try to add that I just pass the signal digitally through it to a Bel Canto Dac, but no, he’s tuned out… He just wants me to hear that 5K music server that will blow me away. And that suggestion on his part was earnest. I did listen. I have looked. And overall, I find the same difficulty now in shopping for a new front end as I did back then. In addition to the sound, the way you access that sound, the interface, the playlists, the streaming services that work on the equipment are all major factors in how you use it on a day to day basis. Sonos has that stuff figured out to a large degree and I see nothing out there that does all that at anywhere near the price… I would say the way I use it almost constitutes a hack, because it’s not really what Sonos as a company is about. It’s also not how I’ve seen any other reviewer talk about it in ten years. Which is a shame, because it works really well and sounds better than it has a right to….

John Atkinson's picture
ww85 wrote:
2016 was the worst. So it should have been no surprise to me that the Sonos Connect (aka ZP80/ZP90) finally fell off this list.

As my original review was 10 years ago and the product has been changed since then, I didn't think appropriate to keep it on the list. But if the Sonos is still working well for you, that's what matters.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

ww85's picture

Thanks for the reply. It wasn't intended as a criticism for leaving it off the list and hope it doesn't read that way. Maybe it was more of a eulogy for an over performing old favorite and a thanks for reviewing it in the first place...

GustavoS's picture

I have been reading and reading for 100 times the Recommended Component Lists and am counting the days for the update in March. It is a tremendous help for some of us who have not the product offer available in the US or Europe. After reading extensively many, many reviews of different speakers, I have found that rock music is not always present (a site dedicated to vintage audio, fan of Tannoy Gold 15, has expressed that one the best track tests is the Anarchy in the UK single, 45 rpm, as it says that the track is very well recorded but only a very good speaker can manage the complexity of the track). Then, I would like to know what the "best" speakers below the 3 kusd line are:

- Kef R300
- ATC SMC 11 with subwoofer?
- MA Gold 50
- Polk LSim 703
- W. Jade 3
- Sonus Faber Venere 1.5 (auditioned it against the Paradigm Studio 20 vs, and I liked a litlle more the Paradigm)
- Dynaudio x14
- Dynaudio Emit M20
- Revel m106
- Others?

Your help will be very, very much appreciated.

Best regards from Argentina,