Recommended Components Fall 2022 Edition

Every product listed here has been reviewed in Stereophile. Everything on the list, regardless of rating, is genuinely recommendable.

Within each category, products are listed by class; within each class, they're in alphabetical order, followed by their price, a review synopsis, and a note indicating the issues in which the review, and any subsequent follow-up reports, appeared. "Vol.45 No.6" indicates our June 2022 issue, for example. "WWW" means the review is also posted online.

Stereophile's Recommended Components list is concerned mainly with products available in the US through hi-fi retail outlets. Companies that sell only through dealers must have well-established dealer networks. Products sold online also qualify, but companies that sell only online must demonstrate the capacity for satisfactory customer support, preferably here in the US. A no-risk at-home audition is strongly preferred whether it's provided by an online or bricks'n'mortar dealer. Occasionally, we'll list a product of exceptional value when a restocking fee is required for returns.

We recommend you read our Recommended Components synopses to decide which reviews to read, then read each product's review carefully before seriously contemplating a purchase, as many salient characteristics, peculiarities, and caveats described in reviews cannot be covered in a circa 200-word synopsis.

Almost all reviews of current products are available online at stereophile.com. Back issues of the magazine can be ordered from the website. The editors regret that we cannot supply copies of individual reviews.

The Nuts and Bolts
This listing was compiled after consultation with Stereophile's reviewing staff and editors—including, notably, Technical Editor John Atkinson. Our ratings take into account what we heard during the review period but also our continued experience with the product (if we've had any) since the review was published. Post-review experiences may cause a product to be downgraded or removed.

Class ratings are based on performance—including performance in the listening room and on the test bench. Products are downrated when and to the extent that their deficiencies interfere with the full realization of the music and the pleasure of the listener (although obvious limitations, such as limited bass extension in a minimonitor, are understood and so not viewed as defects).

Measurements matter, but we do not expect every component to aspire to the best measurements possible; to do so would incentivize conformity, boredom, and metric-gaming, all of which we oppose. We do not expect our measurements of a traditional tube amplifier, for example, to resemble those of a perfectionist solid state design. Anyway, the reviewer's musical experience is the most important factor.

Class ratings are based on performance, but different reviewers value different aspects of performance so it's best not to expect thematic or methodological consistency. You'll find high-tech amplifiers with vanishingly low noise and distortion listed alongside old-school tube amps; what they share is a demonstrated ability to provoke musical bliss in their respective reviewers. Recommendations, then, are most useful to those who share, or at least are aware of, a specific reviewer's tastes and proclivities and of the reviewing context.

The best use of this list, and of the reviews from which it is derived, is to help you decide what to audition. In today's market, with fewer dealers, especially for high-end gear, you may need to travel to hear a component; that makes a resource like this more valuable than ever. Never turn down an opportunity to audition a component, especially if you can review it in your own system, because even the highest-quality component may not work optimally in your system and room. This is especially true of loudspeakers, but it's true of other components, too.

The prices indicated were current when the listing was compiled (July 2022). Some prices are likely to rise in these inflationary times.

There is a near-universal consensus that at some point in the upward climb of product prices, diminishing returns set in: Doubling the price may get you only a 10%—or 5%—improvement (whatever that might mean). Where we have found a product to perform much better than might be expected at its price, we have drawn attention to it with a $$$ next to its listing. Otherwise, class ratings do not, as a matter of policy, take price into account.

We believe that value in hi-fi is precisely that—a value—which is to say, it's personal. We can't make that decision for you. Still, it's fair to assume that every reviewer implicitly factors value into their opinions about products in their own particular way.

Products discontinued by their manufacturer are removed from the list, as are those that have been revised in ways that could affect performance. Such revisions often lead to a follow-up review, but not always. When a product is removed from the list, we endeavor to report why it was removed. Look for a Deletions listing at the end of each category.

Many products are deleted from the list while they're still in production. That does not mean we've suddenly decided they're unworthy or that they suddenly started sounding worse. Most products remain listed for just three years, for two reasons. The first reason is that there's only so much space in the magazine. The second: It's impossible to compare a component to others when your memory of it is dim.

When we have extra space, we use it to keep select products. We indicate with a star (★) products we have kept on this list for more than three years. Products part of a reviewer's "kit" may be kept on the list indefinitely because the reviewer has recent experience with the product, but a product may remain on the list simply at the editor's discretion. On this list, I've retained some inexpensive turntables and phono cartridges, because I want the list to cover those areas well. I've also retained loudspeakers, including in Class A (Full-Range) because those entries take up little space.

Reviewers are identified by their initials: John Atkinson, Jim Austin (JCA), Rogier van Bakel (RvB), Brian Damkroger, Robert Deutsch, Art Dudley, Michael Fremer, Tom Gibbs, Larry Greenhill, Alex Halberstadt, Jon Iverson, Fred Kaplan, Michael Lavorgna, Eric Lichte, John Marks, Sasha Matson, Ken Micallef, Julie Mullins (JMu), Thomas J. Norton, Wes Phillips, Herb Reichert, Bob Reina (BJR), Kalman Rubinson, Rob Schryer, and Jason Victor Serinus.—Jim Austin

COMMENTS
Auditor's picture

The text under the J. Sikora Initial is the same as under the J. Sikora Reference, which is obviously a mistake.

John Atkinson's picture
Auditor wrote:
The text under the J. Sikora Initial is the same as under the J. Sikora Reference, which is obviously a mistake.

Fixed. Thank you.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

lesmarshall's picture

I was very surprised to read that the Benchmark DAC 3 is no longer a Recommended Component . In the earlier 2022 edition of Recommend Components , it was an A+ component . Your stated reason for the deletion was because it was not auditioned in a long while . Well why not audition it then ? Also, why is an audition necessary ? It measured as one of the best DACs ever . Why would its measurements change simply because you have not auditioned it recently ? I understand its your policy , but it seems rather unfair to Benchmark that you no longer recommend it for that reason . I believe a much fairer policy would be that a highly rated component should only fall off the recommended list if it is auditioned periodically and you determine that its current level of recommendation is no longer justified based on the factors that you use to include a component of the recommended list .

JRT's picture

Les, toward some light hearted amusement, consider a reductio ad absurdum.

The quoted material below was excerpted from the first version (published 01 May 1963) of Stereophile's recommended components, just the A,B,C rated amplifiers and preamplifiers:

Quote:

Preamplifier-Control Units
A: Marantz 7, McIntosh C-20
B, C: Dynaco PAS-2

Power Amplifiers
A: Marantz 8B, McIntosh MC-60 (footnote 5), Marantz 9A (footnote 5)
B, C: Dynaco Stereo 70

Footnote 5: mono amplifier.

Reductio ad Absurdum... Should the old gear listed above continue as currently recommended gear, or is it best left in its original context in the circa 1963 article? ...and why or why not? ...and is it a much too different set of cases for comparison? ...why? Would that old gear be good fodder for a listing of recommended vintage gear, and is that good subject matter for the current Stereophile readership? These are mostly rhetorical questions, but not all.

JRT's picture

Would you also include the essentially similar PAS-3, and then also the PAS-3X with updated tone controls, and then maybe also Frank van Alstine's improved Super PAS Three, etc.? The original short-list can grow large.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/recommended-components-1-0

https://www.stereophile.com/tubepreamps/1088vana/index.html

xtcfan80's picture

lesmarshall...a few years ago I believe it was the late Art Dudley who explained why gear drops off the RC list. Do a search and read it, explained in classic Art Dudley fashion. Cliffs Notes Version: GET OVER IT! A piece dropping off the list does not invalidate any past purchasing decision, only the ego of the complainer...

georgehifi's picture

It would be nice if the "title" of the piece recommended was clickable, so one could easily then read the full review of all these thousands of "recommended components" instead of searching like a ???

Just a thought??

Cheers George

liquidsun's picture

I must say I'm surprised to see Perlistens into Restricted Extreme LF category as I thought they were full range speakers.

Kal Rubinson's picture

For most, they will be full range but, as you can see from JA's Fig. 4, the FR is rolling off smoothly below 100HZ such that it will easily mate with a complementary subwoofer. I believe that was Perlisten's intent. That said, unless you are assessing the sound of low, low organ pedal tones, explosions or thunder, the bass from the s7t is clean, powerful and musically satisfying.

Robin Landseadel's picture

There's a lot of Dance Pop/Techno music that gives the lowest octave a workout. Managed to blow out the small bass driver from a Paradigm bookshelf speaker with a Sarah McLaughlan track---"I Love You" from the album "Surfacing"---a quiet ballad with a synth bottom without overtones, so there's pure, deep bass. Another good example would be the work of Bill Laswell, a producer/bass player.

Kal Rubinson's picture

OK but how is this relevant? On the one hand, I am not surprised that one can blow out the small bass driver in a bookshelf speaker. On the other, I doubt if it would do that to the Perlisten.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Blowing out the driver of a Paradigm Atom might not be meaningful save that I blew it out with a track that is low in level and undynamic. More to the point, it sounds like the speakers in question could use a sub. Of course, you pointed out that the speakers in question are designed to integrate well with subs. My Infinity 250 speakers, small floor-standing speakers, also requires a sub for deep bass.

What is meaningful is that there is more to the bottom octave than organ pedals and explosions. Lots of modern productions take advantage of digital recording/playback's ability to record/reproduce the lowest octaves of sound.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Yes, there is a lot more to the bottom end than I cared to mention but the distinction between the small Paradigm Atom and the s7t is that the former needs a sub (or a LP filter) merely to survive wide-band signals while the latter does not.

Did you read my comments about the Garage Door test? I doubt that either your Paradigm or your Infinity could compete with the Perlisten, with or without a sub.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Doubtless. My point was more about program material and really deep bass. In any case, my Infinity Primus 250s are aided by my Sonance Son of Sub. As the system is in a small room, it's probably as much bass as the room can take.

Anton's picture

I like to hit this issue and pretend all my Hi Fi gear is gone and I have to start over with my budget and this list.

Glotz's picture

Droooooool.. and I'm done FOREVER.

Soulution, MBL... heaven.

KEFLS50W's picture

It will be interesting to see if Stereophile catches up to the focus on active, integrated designs. The relevance of separates seems to be waning in comparison to these sexy and modern designs (many of which are good value to boot) from KEF, B&W, Q Acoustic, ATC, Dali, and others. LS50WII for example gives me access to high quality, high current class a/b amplification I would not have been able to afford with separates. On another note, why are REL subs not listed - they would floor the competition listed in terms of sonics and build quality. Sorry but SVS is a home theater product and KEF KC62 is for kids.

Apollo's picture

Focusing on the Class A Solid-state Two-channel Amplifiers for sake of my question, I am struggling with the broad price range, from about $1K at the low end of the range, to about $100K at the high end of the range.

At its simplest, my question is: why spend $100K for an amp, when one can get a similarly rated amp, and therefore a similarly good amp, for $1K?

I am asking without sarcasm, criticism, or prejudice. I want the best SQ. And I would rather spend the $ difference on something else.

What I find fascinating, is that more and more reviews across publications/websites conclude with the statement to the effect: "unless you want to spend more money, this piece of gear is perfect and all one needs".

So how can the $100K audio OEMs survive when similarly rated gears can be had for 100x less? What am I missing? Why spend $100K for an amp, when one can get a similarly rated amp for $1K?

xtcfan80's picture

"I am struggling" ...and maybe hifi isn't for you if you don't understand why some Class A gear costs 1K and some 100K...Be Happy and Listen!!!

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