2014 Recommended Components Fall Edition

Components listed here have been formally reviewed in Stereophile and have been found to be among the best available in each of four or five quality classes. Whether a component is listed in Class A or Class E, we highly recommend its purchase.

Each listing—in alphabetical order within classes—is followed by a brief description of the product's sonic characteristics and a code indicating the Stereophile Volume and Issue in which that product's report appeared. Thus the May 2014 issue is indicated as "Vol.37 No.5."

Some products listed have not yet been reported on; these are marked (NR), for "Not Reviewed." We recommend that you read any product's entire review before seriously contemplating a purchase (products without reviews should therefore be treated with more caution)—many salient characteristics, peculiarities, and caveats appear in the reviews, but not here. To obtain back issues of the magazine, visit our website: www.stereophile.com. We regret that we cannot supply photocopies or e-mail copies of individual reviews. All full reviews are reprinted in our website "Archives" Section: these are marked "WWW." More are added each week, so check the on-line listing.

In general, components do not remain listed for more than three years unless at least one of the magazine's writers and editors has had continued experience with them. Discontinuation of a model also precludes its appearance. In addition, though professional components—recorders, amplifiers, monitor speaker systems—can be obtained secondhand and can sometimes offer performance that would otherwise guarantee inclusion, we do not generally do so. Stereophile's "Recommended Components" listing is almost exclusively concerned with products currently available in the US through the usual hi-fi retail outlets.

How recommendations are determined
The ratings given components included in this listing are based entirely on performance—ie, accuracy of reproduction—and are biased to an extent by our feeling that things added to reproduced sound (eg, jitter, distortion, colorations of various kinds) are of more concern to the musically oriented listener than are things subtracted from the sound (eg, deep bass or extreme treble). On the other hand, components markedly deficient in one or more respects are downrated to the extent that their deficiencies interfere with the full realization of the program material.

We try to include in "Recommended Components" every product that we have found to be truly excellent or that we feel represents good value for money. Bear in mind that many different tastes are represented. The listing is compiled after consultation with Stereophile's reviewing staff and editors, and takes into account continued experience of a product after the formal review has been published. In particular, we take account of unreliability and defects that show up after extended auditioning. The fact that a product received a favorable review cannot therefore be regarded as a guarantee that it will continue to appear in this listing.

The prices indicated are those current at the time the listing was compiled (July 2014). We cannot guarantee that any of these prices will be the same by the time this issue of Stereophile appears in print.

There is a near-universal consensus that at some point in the upward climb of component prices, severely diminishing returns (performance versus price) set in. However, there is no agreement as to the exact price level at which that takes place. Where we have found a product to perform much better than might be expected from its price, we have drawn attention to it with a $$$ next to its listing. We also indicate, with a ★, products that have been on this list in one incarnation or another since the "Recommended Components" listing in Vol.34 No.10 (October 2011). Longevity in a hi-fi component is rare enough that we think it worth noting (although it can also indicate that the attention of design engineers has moved elsewhere).

We are not sympathetic toward letters complaining that the Symphonic Bombast A-123 that we recommended heartily two years ago no longer makes it into "Recommended Components." Where deletions are made, we endeavor to give reasons (there are always reasons). But remember: Deletion of a component from this list does not invalidate a buying decision you have made.

Individual reviewers mentioned by their initials are: John Atkinson, Jim Austin, Paul Bolin, Lonnie Brownell, Martin Colloms, Brian Damkroger, Robert Deutsch, Art Dudley, Michael Fremer, Larry Greenhill, Jon Iverson, Fred Kaplan, Michael Lavorgna, Erick Lichte, John Marks, Stephen Mejias, Paul Messenger, Thomas J. Norton, Wes Phillips, Herb Reichert, Bob J. Reina, Kalman Rubinson, Markus Sauer, Jonathan Scull (J-10), Chip Stern, and Sam Tellig.

COMMENTS
j22928's picture

Why is Stereophile afraid to test a fully tricked out current model Linn LP12? The mush in Recommended Components just doesn't cut it.

John Atkinson's picture
Quote:
Why is Stereophile afraid to test a fully tricked out current model Linn LP12?

www.stereophile.com/tonearms/1007linn/index.html.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

daveyf's picture

Actually the top end LP12 Klimax is as follows: LP12, Cirkus. Keel, Radikal D, Tramp 2, Ekos SE-1. Also a Urika phono stage and a Kandid cartridge. If you are still using a Lingo and a Ekos, you simply have no idea as to what the table can bring. A 2007 model LP12 compared to a 2015 Linn LP12 Klimax is like comparing a Prius to a Tesla, they are both electric based, but that's where the similarity ends.

winefix's picture

Where does this speaker place?

John Atkinson's picture
Quote:
Where does this speaker place?

It hasn't been reviewed yet. (Our review is provisionally scheduled to appear in the January 2015 issue of Stereophile.)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

chrisstu's picture

Greetings. I could not find an indication of what the star means when it appears next to a component. Thanks

John Atkinson's picture
Quote:
I could not find an indication of what the star means when it appears next to a component.

A ★ indicates a product that has been on this list in one incarnation or another since the "Recommended Components" listing in Vol.34 No.10 (October 2011).

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

It's easy to see who JA Caters to .
Gentlemen , this is the 21st Century , Edison Players are a bit long of tooth , aren't they ?
Is there enough customer base there to support a Main Industry Mag. ? , I see the snaps of the Shows where the Product Rooms have a few old geezers like me sitting around on folding chairs .
I wonder if Motor Trend will now be giving 4 Barrel Carburetors from Holly a nice A+ recommendation ? or the 1957 Chevy Convertible ?

to JA ; even Ivor at LINN has gone over to 16/44.1
Are you lads starting a new Chapter of "Flat Earth Society" ?

Tony in Michigan

Allen Fant's picture

I concur gentleman, this particular issue, appears to get weaker every year?

j22928's picture

2007 was pre-Radikal, pre-Urika and pre-Kandid.

jimtavegia's picture

Vinyl and turntable sales, USB DACs and Streamers, and download sales all increasing. I can think of no better reason than all the turntables showing up. CD sales down and will continue to do so, but I do believe that the used CD market is strong. It is for me.

handler's picture

May I suggest the placement of the KEF LS50 in "Class A" be revisited. Having owned both it and the Revel M106, and having made my own recordings, the Revel is more "true to the recording" throughout the audio band. In fairness to all manufactures, I believe either some competing designs to the LS50 deserve to be moved up a class, or the Kef be moved down.

Ajani's picture

Being a Revel fan, I was a bit disappointed that the M106 wasn't rated Class A like the LS50. I would love to read a comparison between the LS50 and the M106 in Stereophile. It would be interesting to see whether the respective class ratings would remain the same after a direct comparison.

John Atkinson's picture
Quote:
I would love to read a comparison between the LS50 and the M106 in Stereophile.

I am planning on publishing this comparison in the January 2015 issue.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

corrective_unconscious's picture

I don't know your lead times or, obviously, who that other poster is, but did you already plan to do this comparison or did you decide to take a suggestion here? (I'll be interested in the comparison either way.)

John Atkinson's picture
Quote:
I don't know your lead times or, obviously, who that other poster is, but did you already plan to do this comparison or did you decide to take a suggestion here?

I set-up the Revel M106es in my listening room last week, so I could write a follow-up. Yes, it was the suggestion in this thread that triggered the idea of my also obtaining samples of the KEF LS50.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

handler's picture

Thank you, Mr. Atkinson. It's nice to hear the readership has a voice here on Stereophile.com

It'll be interesting to read your thoughts. I ended up keeping the Revel in lieu of the Kef. I did not expect to like the Revel as much as I do.

Dr.Kamiya's picture

Any idea what will happen to Pioneer and TAD speakers as Pioneer merges its HiFi business with Onkyo? Some of what I've read suggests that only the AV Receiver business will be sold, and I fervently hope that is true.

John Atkinson's picture
Quote:
Any idea what will happen to Pioneer and TAD speakers as Pioneer merges its HiFi business with Onkyo?

We don't know what will happen to Pioneer-branded products, but TAD's Andrew Jones tells us that the TAD brand will stay in Pioneer's portfolio of brands.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Anon2's picture

Dynaudio has come out with a new active speaker, the Focus XD. The gist of the very limited initial product information is that the speaker also has some sort of DAC capability.

On the subject of Dynaudio, does anyone want to posit any observations on what the differences might be between the Excite X14 and the Focus 160, which both received accolades in this latest edition of Stereophile?

What electronics would warrant, or would require, the Focus 160 for the additional outlay? Yes, I could go to a dealer, but this entails parking, expressways, gas, and a forgone weekend. Any thoughts before one takes the plunge to take up a dealer's time and effort?

Something's good (not fishy) in Denmark!

lo fi's picture

Hi,

Will John Atkinson be providing objective measurements to accompany John Marks's praiseful review of the ATC SCM19 speaker?

John Atkinson's picture
lo fi wrote:
Will John Atkinson be providing objective measurements to accompany John Marks's praiseful review of the ATC SCM19 speaker?

No plans to, I am afraid.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

lo fi's picture

Damn! ;)

Lago's picture

Why is the Sophia 3 in A Class Restricted Extreme LF, if they numbers for Frequency Response are: +/-3 dB 20 Hz - 22.5 kHz?

Thanks

MBL-Russia's picture

Es ist fantastisch!

Dushyant's picture

From your introductory comments, I understand that full-range class A products have LF extension down to 20Hz. It is confirmed by reviews and specs. What about the full-range class B and class C? Just scanning through the list shows that most, if not all, products in these categories do not have LF extension to 20Hz. My question then is what are your criteria for full-range in class B and class C? The restricted LF makes sense for all classes.

Thanks
Dushyant