Recommended Components 2023 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 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
If you've read this far, please keep reading. Most of the questions we receive and see posted online are answered in this short essay. Finishing it shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes.

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 musical performance 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 closely resemble those of a perfectionist solid state design. In any case, the reviewer's musical experience is the most important factor in assigning ratings.

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 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 in your own system, because even the highest-quality component will not work optimally in every 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 (January 2023). Some prices may now be higher, others lower.

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. Where we have found a product to perform much better than might be expected at its price, we have drawn attention to it with $$$ next to its listing. Otherwise, class ratings do not explicitly take price into account.

We believe that value in hi-fi is precisely that: a value. 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 the products they review.

Products discontinued by their manufacturer are removed from the list, as are those that have been revised in ways that could affect sonic 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 little more than three years, for two reasons. The first 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 they have been heard recently, 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, and I've retained loudspeakers in Class A (Full-Range) simply because those entries take up little space.

Reviewers are identified by initials: John Atkinson, Jim Austin (JCA), Rogier van Bakel (RvB), Paul Bolin, 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, Jason Victor Serinus, and Michael Trei.—Jim Austin

JRT's picture

The listing includes, "Topping Pre90: $599 plus $249 for the Ext90 input extender"

Topping's more recent A90 Discrete, aka A90D ($599) seems to include similar preamplifier functionality as the Pre90 at the same price, including the relay switched R-2R attenuator, and facility to add the Ext90 ($249) input extender. However the A90D also includes a headphone amplifier, which is not included in the Pre90, and the A90D uses discrete electronics in the audio amplifiers.

I am suggesting that the A90D might be a good subject for future review; and in the review bundle, it might be worthwhile to also request the aforementioned Ext90, the D90SE ($899) DA converter, and the SR2 ($219) modular three shelf aluminum component rack, which has suitable geometry, is designed for use with these components.

This isn't SPAM. I have no financial interest in this, have no affiliation with Topping or any of the vendors. I was merely considering updating my old home office setup, maybe.

Indydan's picture

Can Stereophile please remove all MQA enabled equipment from the recommended list?

mieswall's picture

Well Torquemada, why so shy?
Along with those A+ sinners of BelCanto's, CH Precision, dcs, EMM Labs (average cost of the heretics close to US$31,000), and also those more modest but equal sinners of GoldNote, IFI, Meitner, Sonnet, etc; why don't we also include Bob Stuart and Peter Craven in the bonfire and joyfully watch them burn? We should also declare Michael Gerzon a black angel (after all, most of MQA ideas were conceived by this AIA Gold Medalist devil).
And beware Fremer, Serinus, Austin (and every other one suggesting the earth isn't flat, btw): Don't you dare praising MQA again! We are watching you!

Kal Rubinson's picture

Why? I think people who want it and those who don't are equally well served by the information.

(Posted by someone in the latter group.)

miguelito's picture

Devices supporting MQA also support most other standards - I don't see a reason to remove them. Also, I have some MQA albums (some white-glove albums were done extremely well) so I want to be able to play those going forward.

JRT's picture

I noticed that the front page does not list the annual Recommended Components articles in the footer. I think that adding that listing or adding a single link in the footer to a page loaded with a collection of links to those annual articles might attract more page views.