Budget Component Reviews

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Chip Stern Posted: Jan 04, 2002 0 comments
NAD has been out there on the leading edge of entry-level high-end sound long enough that some audiophiles reckon they invented the category. Sure, we should give serious props to the likes of Creek, Rotel, Musical Fidelity, Arcam, Denon, and Parasound, all of which have made significant contributions to the musical aspirations of budget-conscious pilgrims. But I continue to harbor warm feelings about my last extended visit with an NAD component: the inexpensive yet supremely musical L40 CD Receiver, which I reviewed in the June 2000 Stereophile.
Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 10, 2015 8 comments
In the mornings, just before I leave for work, I power up the system, turn the volume down low, and set the CD player to Repeat. I like to think that if I play calm, soothing music while Ms. Little and I are away, the cats will feel less alone and more relaxed. It's also nice, on returning home from work, to walk into a room filled with music. One evening a few weeks ago, I stepped into the apartment, dropped my bags to the floor, settled down into the couch with my iPhone, and began scrolling through text messages. I'd been seated for only a moment before I had to turn my attention entirely to the sound of the system, which, even at a very low volume, sounded warm, detailed, and unusually good—unbelievably, almost unbearably engaging.
Robert J. Reina Posted: Oct 18, 2010 1 comments
Even Mikey Fremer is surprised at vinyl's current popularity. Some pundits postulate that eventually CDs will die out, and we'll be faced with the choice of LPs or downloads. (I hope not. I'm just getting used to CDs.) With abundant sources of new pop releases and a wide range of reissues on vinyl, and a variety of used LPs, every audiophile should own a turntable. And with the availability of affordable turntables such as the Pro-Ject Debut III, which I reviewed in the February 2010 Stereophile, the cost of entry to VinylLand is not very dear. The problem is that so few entry-level integrated amplifiers and receivers available today include phono stages. (The Marantz PM5003, which I reviewed in the January 2010 issue, is a notable exception.)
Robert Harley Sam Tellig Posted: Aug 08, 1995 Published: Aug 08, 1985 0 comments
The $395 NAIT, rated at 20Wpc, is a good-sounding little amp. It's very open and spacious-sounding, but, like the $250 Rotel RA-820BX, sometimes sounds a little hard in the upper registers.
Ken Micallef Posted: Feb 02, 2017 16 comments
Reviewers of high-fidelity gear are a trend-sniffing, topology-bandying bunch. When four of our kin gathered last November over lunch, during the 2016 New York Audio Show, the high-end chatter flew fast and furious. "Did you hear those mother-rocking big horns on the seventh floor?" "Nah, man, the Bruno Putzeys speakers on nine were best in show." "What about those li'l Lowthers on eight? Great sweet spot, but small as peanuts."
Robert J. Reina Posted: Dec 23, 2010 0 comments
I've always enjoyed the time I've spent with NHT loudspeakers. The two bookshelf models I've reviewed—the SB-3 (Stereophile, November 2002) and its successor, the Classic Three (November 2006)—shared NHT's "house sound": liquid, balanced, and dynamic, with little coloration, and a slightly forward and lively midrange. The newer Classic Three, still in production, sounded more refined, natural, and detailed than the SB-3. I like to see speaker designers whose work improves over time.

So when NHT approached me about reviewing a new floorstanding model with a small footprint, the Classic Absolute Tower—their first new speaker design of the next decade, they say—I jumped at the chance. Not only had I not reviewed an NHT in a while, but I'm increasingly intrigued with—and applaud—the trend of manufacturers to add small-footprint tower speakers to their lines of affordable speakers. As most speakers costing under $1000/pair tend to be bookshelf models, shoppers need to worry about buying good-quality stands of the appropriate height, and about optimizing the speaker positions with respect to the front and side walls.

Robert J. Reina Posted: Nov 19, 2006 0 comments
When reviewing affordable speakers, it's critical to have benchmarks and comparisons for various price points. Inexpensive speaker designs are exercises in tradeoffs and compromises, especially for the least costly products. In all of my reviews, I try to compare the speaker in question with other designs close to the review sample's price, chosen from my list of previously reviewed speakers. From time to time, if a speaker particularly impresses me, I ask the manufacturer if I can keep the speakers around a while longer, so that it can serve as a comparison reference for a certain price point. That's not to say that any speaker I don't keep around is less desirable—there's just not enough room in my house to keep a sample of every speaker I like. An audio reviewer's wife puts up with enough as it is.
Robert Harley Posted: Jan 25, 2016 Published: Sep 01, 1990 4 comments
Now Hear This (NHT) was founded to produce low-cost loudspeakers a breed apart from the mass-market variety often found at the lower price points. Co-founder Ken Kantor has a long history in the hi-fi business as a designer at Acoustic Research, NAD, and as a design consultant to some large Japanese manufacturers. NHT's line ranges from the $180/pair Model Zero to the $1200 Model 100.

At $480/pair, the Model 1.3 is midway in NHT's product line. Finished in a gloss-black high-pressure laminate, the 1.3 is elegant, even beautiful, and is distinguished by its unusual angled front baffle. This design means that the rear baffle is nonparallel to the driver, thus reducing the amount of internal cabinet energy reflected back toward the woofer. This is said to improve imaging and midrange purity by reducing comb filtering. In addition, the angled baffle puts the listener directly on-axis with the loudspeakers pointing straight ahead. This increases the ratio of direct-to-reflected sound reaching the listener and further improves imaging.

Robert J. Reina Posted: Nov 30, 2002 0 comments
I first met NHT co-founder Ken Kantor in 1975 when we were both undergraduates at MIT. Kantor was sponsoring an extracurricular class entitled "Musical Ideas." The concept was to stick a dozen or so musicians in a classroom for free improvisation and hope to create music à la Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. The result was a mess; although talented guitarist Kantor meant well, there was no common vision or consistency of musical talent. Nevertheless, I had a blast trying to simulate a tamboura drone with a Hohner Clavinet, phase shifter, and volume pedal.
Corey Greenberg Posted: Jan 30, 1995 Published: Jan 30, 1994 0 comments
What makes someone a good hi-fi reviewer? A fine critical sensibility? A good technical background? Ears? Eyes? Nose? Throat? So many different people are reviewing audio gear these days that it's downright impossible to characterize a good reviewer. But I do know that Beavis and Butt-head would make killer hi-fi reviewers!
Wes Phillips Posted: Jan 25, 2009 1 comments
In a world of me-too products, NuForce distinguishes itself from all those other components whose names begin with i by actually using a capital I. Actually, that statement is unkind, even unfair—unlike the myriads of products designed to capitalize on the Apple iPod's current sexiness, the NuForce Icon isn't designed to be portable (although NuForce does offer an Icon Mobile). What the Icon unquestionably is is a fine little piece of audio engineering, which most of those other i components are not.
John Atkinson Posted: Mar 07, 2017 Published: Apr 01, 1989 4 comments
I like Brooklyn. I even got married under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge! (Almost the exact spot where Cher's grandfather let his dogs howl at the moon in Moonstruck. And if you're ever in the Park Slope area, check out McFeeley's for brunch.) I could be forgiven, therefore, for having a soft spot for any Brooklyn manufacturer, including Ohm Acoustics. Except that the only Ohm model I have heard was the omnidirectional Ohm Walsh 5 (favorably reviewed by Dick Olsher in Stereophile in 1987, Vol.10 No.4, and 1988, Vol.11 No.8), and the omni principle is something that I have never found to work, or at least to give me what I feel necessary in reproduced sound. The Ohm Model 16, however, is one of three more conventional Coherent Audio Monitor (CAM) speakers intended to offer good sound at an affordable price: $300/pair
John Atkinson Posted: Apr 09, 2006 0 comments
How to integrate a computer into a high-end audio system is a hot topic these days. I'm getting more and more e-mails from readers asking for advice, Wes Phillips wrote about transferring his LPs to audio files in his October and November newsletters, and a lively thread on this topic ran on the forum at www.stereophile.com.
Robert Deutsch Posted: Sep 16, 2007 5 comments
"Onkyo Returns to its Stereo Roots to Debut New Digital Amplifier Technology." This heading of the press release for Onkyo's A-9555 digital integrated amplifier was surely intended to warm the cockles of the two-channel audiophile's heart. Some of us remember the Onkyo Grand Integra amplifiers of the 1980s, which were considered competitive with the big Krells and Mark Levinsons of the day. To refresh my memory, I looked through my Stereophile archives and found the December 1985 issue (Vol.8 No.8), which included Larry Greenhill's review of the Grand Integra M-510, a 300Wpc power amplifier covered in lacquered persimmon wood, weighing 139 lbs, and costing $4200 (about $8000 in 2007 dollars). Larry was most impressed with the M-510, describing it as "a very powerful amplifier with outstanding sonics across the board—power with delicacy."
Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 23, 2008 0 comments
I first heard a CD player in my own system in 1984 or 1985, several years before I began writing for Stereophile. I was curious about the Compact Disc medium—I'd read about it, had listened to CDs in stores, and was eager to hear what they sounded like in my own system. I'd even bought a CD: the original-cast recording of 42nd Street, which I already had on LP. One evening, a friend who worked for Sony and knew that I was an audiophile brought over his latest acquisition: a CDP-501ES, the second from the top of Sony's line of CD players. He also brought along a bunch of CDs, including some solo-piano discs, and Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Symphony's then-famous recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (Telarc CD-80041).

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