2014 Recommended Components Integrated Amps & Receivers

Integrated Amplifiers & Receivers

A Allnic T-1500 300B: $6900
Made in South Korea and imported by Hammertone Audio, the 12.5Wpc T-1500 boasts exquisite industrial design: polycarbonate chimneys showcase, protect, and ventilate the tubes, while attractively molded handles make for easy lifting. It uses two PCL86 driver tubes, two choke-regulated 300Bs with user-adjustable fixed bias, and output transformers wound around a nickel-permalloy core. Though it lacked bottom-end extension, the T-1500 delivered harmonic richness, excellent transparency, and natural tonal colors, said ST. "One of the world's most beautifully crafted amplifiers," he said. "A stunning value." (Vol.34 No.8)

Audio Note Jinro: $26,500 ✩
Like Audio Note's staggeringly expensive Ongaku ($121,500), the 18Wpc Jinro has: enormous output transformers, a simple tube-rectified power supply, star-ground design, a solid-copper chassis plate that doubles as a ground plane, silver wiring throughout, and one directly heated 211 triode tube per channel. Though its midrange was a bit soft, the Jinro showcased powerful bass, unsurpassed flow and momentum, and an overall sound that was very subtly sweet. AD concluded: "The Jinro exists as an appealing alternative for those who can appreciate and afford such a thing: a wonderful, wonderful amplifier." Though the Jinro's performance will depend heavily on the tubes used, it measured well "for a single-ended triode design," JA qualified. (Vol.34 No.4 WWW)

Audio Research VSi60: $5000 ✩
In the 50Wpc VSi60, a passive line stage is combined with a JFET input stage driving one 6H30 driver tube per channel. Each channel's output stage has a matched pair of Svetlana 6550C push-pull tubes with a combination of pentode operation and ARC's "partially cathode-coupled topology." Convenient to use, the VSi60 provides output taps at 4 and 8 ohms, as well as four pairs of voltmeter test points. Though it lacked the ultimate control of more powerful amplifiers, the VSi60 combined a glorious midrange with clean, detailed high frequencies and outstanding low-level dynamic articulation. "In the VSi60, Audio Research has produced an integrated amplifier of staggering quality, versatility, and value," said BJR. Add $300 for tube cage. (Vol.33 No.9 WWW)

Ayre Acoustics AX-5: $9950
Ayre's statement integrated amplifier measures 17.25" W by 5" H by 18.75" D, weighs 46 lbs, and has a brushed-aluminum chassis with four balanced and two single-ended inputs. It uses a variable-gain transconductance circuit trickled down from Ayre's top-of-the-line KX-R preamp, a class-A/B diamond-circuit output section, and delivers 125Wpc into 8 ohms. The AX-5 offered a combination of incisive detail, perfect musical timing and momentum, and naturally warm timbral colors, said AD. "It's one of the three best, most musical, most human-sounding solid-state amps I've ever heard," he concluded. "Its wide bandwidth and low distortion are a testament to the intrinsic linearity of the diamond circuit," added JA. (Vol.36 No.8 WWW)

Ayre Acoustics AX-7e: $3500 ✩
The success of this 60Wpc, solid-state, two-channel, fully balanced, integrated amplifier depended on the associated sources. Used from balanced output to balanced input, "It was brilliant. Amazing. Stirring, even," said AD. However, used as an unbalanced amp, "The AX-7 still sounded good, but its musical performance lacked momentum and, ultimately, excitement." Overall, the Ayre was "colorful, clear, well-textured, and spatially convincing." It seemed sensitive to the type and length of speaker cable AD used, and seemed more sensitive to AC power quality than average. "I strongly recommend the Ayre AX-7 for use [only] in an all-balanced system." The "7e's power supply now includes greater filtering of the AC mains, increased peak current delivery, and filtering of the rectifier switching noise. In addition, the AX-7e's gain stages now use two-stage voltage regulators in place of the earlier version's single-stage regulators. The sound now combined classic Brit-style pacing and tunefulness with near-SET levels of presence and a fine sense of musical flow, a combination that allowed AD to become emotionally involved in the music. "The AX-7e is the best integrated I've ever heard," endorsed WP. "One heck of an involving amplifier," he summed up. Compared to the Luxman MQ-88 power amplifier, the Ayre offered greater bass extension and soundstage control but lacked the Luxman's beguiling midrange, said JM. Original AX-7s can be fully upgraded for $250–$350, depending on the age of the unit. (Vol.26 No.10 AX-7; Vol.29 No.1, Vol.31 No.3, AX-7e WWW; see also "The Fifth Element" in Vol.34 No.2 and Vol.35 No.4 WWW)

Bel Canto C7R: $2995 $$$
Made in the US, the versatile C7R is a 60Wpc solid-state FM receiver with four S/PDIF digital inputs (two coaxial, two TosLink), two pairs of analog inputs (one phono, one line), one pair of line-level analog outputs, a front-panel headphone jack, and a built-in DAC with USB input capable of handling resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz. Though it lacked some midrange clarity and high-frequency smoothness, the C7R sounded clear, immediate, and powerful, with excellent dynamics and tight, tuneful bass, said EL. "I loved the Bel Canto C7R. I recommend it to anyone who wants simplicity and great sound," he concluded. "Overall, the C7R is a well-designed piece of hardware," said JA. (Vol.36 No.3 WWW)

Devialet D-Premier: $15,995
" Made in France, the strikingly beautiful D-Premier is a remote-controlled, WiFi-capable, solid-state integrated amplifier with internal D/A section, phono stage, switch-mode power supply, and high-efficiency output stage. Specified output power is 240Wpc into 6 ohms, and connections include: two S/PDIF on TosLink; one pair RCA assignable to phono or line; one pair RCA assignable to phono, line, or digital S/PDIF; one AES/EBU digital; an analog preamp or subwoofer output; and S/PDIF digital output. The D-Premier combined remarkable versatility and a future-proof design with a sound that was clean, clear, detailed, and dramatic, said JA. Other than its slight loss of resolution via WiFi, the D-Premier exhibited very impressive measured performance. "Devialet's D-Premier is the most extraordinary product I have reviewed for Stereophile," JA concluded. "The Devialet Premier's phono stage sounds and measures up to the superb standard set by the amplifier's performance with line-level analog and digital signals," added JA in a "Follow-Up" review. (Vol.36 Nos.1 & 6 WWW)

Jadis I-35: $7995
Made in France, the beautiful I-35 is a tubed, integrated amplifier with five line-level inputs. Though rated to deliver 35Wpc into 1–16 ohms, the I-35 produced just 17W into 8 ohms at 1% THD. It uses five small-signal tubes (three 12AU7s and a pair of 12AX7s) and two pairs of KT120 output tubes run in autobias mode in an Ultralinear circuit, with plates and screen grids for each channel tied to the split-coil primaries of transformers expertly designed and made in-house. Build quality and cosmetics were outstanding, inside and out. Though it lacked the fullness and richness of Art's Shindo separates, the Jadis produced a natural and engaging overall sound, with an excellent sense of momentum and a very good sense of the spatial relationships between different sounds in a stereo recording, said AD. "This is a damn good amp for getting to the essence of music," he concluded. (Vol.37 No.1 WWW)

Kondo Overture: $33,900
" Made in Japan, the 32Wpc Overture uses a class-A, Ultralinear output circuit with minimal (3dB) global feedback, executed with split-primary output transformers custom-wound by Tango. It uses two Electro-Harmonix EL34 output pentodes, one 6072, and one 12BH7 per channel. Build quality was exceptional and marked by silver wiring, handmade capacitors, bespoke resistors, a solid-copper ground plane, and a tuned chassis made from a combination of steel, brass, and aluminum. The Overture has no balance control, remote control, mono switch, headphone amplifier, or phono stage, but does provide four pairs of line-level inputs and a choice of 4- or 8-ohm output sockets. Though it was slightly lean and not quite as colorful as AD's Shindo separates, the Overture produced a natural, compelling overall sound with a well-extended treble and exceptional senses of drive and scale. (Vol.36 No.11 WWW)

Leben CS300: $3395
With its wood side panels, gold-toned faceplate, and large balance and bass-boost knobs, the line-only CS300 has a decidedly old-fashioned look and feel. It uses two pairs of EL84 power pentode tubes running in class-A/B mode to deliver 12Wpc. A rear-panel output control allows the user to switch between transformer secondaries that are optimized for use with speakers with impedances of 4, 6, or 8 ohms. Construction quality was superb throughout. Though it lacked the color, presence, internote silence, and sense of flow of AD's Shindo separates, the Leben distinguished itself as a punchy and realistically textured amp with an especially deep, tight bottom end. It measured "about as well as can be expected from its retro design," commented JA. (Vol.34 No.11 WWW)

LFD NCSE: $6495
A bigger and more powerful version of LFD's excellent Mk.IV LE, the NCSE Mk.II measures 17.2" W by 3.25" H by 15.7" D, and is rated to deliver 70Wpc. The basic circuit remains the same, with a pair of MOSFET output transformers for each channel. The NCSE Mk.II retained the smaller model's speed, transparency, harmonic accuracy, and illuminated-from-within quality, but added improved bass and dynamics, said ST. "If you like the Mk.IV LE but feel you're running out of power, the NCSE Mk.II would be the better choice, particularly if you're driving bigger speakers in a bigger room," he advised. (Vol.36 No.11)

LFD Mk.IV LE: $3895 ✩
"If you like features, this integrated has none," says ST, but "If you like sweet, highly resolving sound, the LFD offers these aplenty." The latest refinement of LFD's LE integrated amplifier is rated to deliver 60Wpc and has a new chassis of extruded aluminum, a thick top cover, a much thicker faceplate, and three beautifully shaped knobs. The Mk.IV LE uses two MOSFET output devices per channel and a custom-made volume pot, but forgoes convenience features such as tone controls, specialized inputs, and remote handset. Compared with the Mk.III, the Mk.IV LE had a richer, fuller tonal balance, with deep, solid bass, astonishing immediacy, and exceptional dynamic range. "The LFD Mk.IV LE is artisanal hi-fi of the highest order, as much artistry as science," said ST, who bought the review sample.About to be replaced by the Mk.V at $4495. (Vol.34 No.1)

Pass Labs INT-150: $7150 ✩
"The push-pull, class-A/B INT-150 is rated to deliver 150Wpc (191Wpc at clipping), and has a high-quality volume control and five inputs: two XLR/RCA and three RCA-only. It uses Pass's Super-Symmetry Circuit, previously featured in all X-series models, to naturally eliminate distortions from the audio signal. Though it produced a slightly forward midrange and top end, the INT-150 combined wide dynamic range with great rhythmic drive, a broad soundstage, and tight, tuneful bass, said EL, who recommended high Class B. Measured performance was excellent in most respects, said JA, who feels low Class A is the appropriate rating. (Vol.34 No.1 WWW)

PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium: $3299
PrimaLuna's top-of-the-line integrated amplifier is rated to deliver 32Wpc with its stock EL34 output tubes or 43Wpc with optional KT120s. It uses PrimaLuna's Adaptive AutoBias feature for easy swapping of output tubes, and has a bad-tube indicator, power-transformer protection, and output-transformer protection circuitry. The DiaLogue Premium was extremely quiet and sounded bigger than its power rating suggested, with a rich midrange and an excellent sense of timing, said ST. "The DiaLogue Premium will be a dream come true for anyone who has a closetful of output tubes," he concluded. (Vol.36 No.6)

Simaudio Moon Evolution 700i: $14,000 ✩
" Robustly built of thick, ultrarigid aluminum, the 700i is a fully differential dual-mono design rated to deliver 175Wpc (190Wpc at actual clipping), running in class-A up to 5W and in class-A/B thereafter. Its output stages are powered by six bipolar transistors per channel for a wide bandwidth and low noise floor, while its "zero global feedback" design works to boost the speed of the signal response and eliminate intermodulation distortion. Though it couldn't match the Krell FBI's transient speed or deep-bass extension, the 700i had a full-blooded, dynamic, seamless sound marked by vivid tonal colors, harmonic integrity, and a strong sense of rhythm. With the 700i, "I found myself drawn deeper into the music," said FK. (Vol.34 No.3 WWW)

T+A Power Plant Balanced: $3300 ✩
The 140Wpc Power Plant looks almost identical to T+A's Music Player, and the two comprise a fully functional audio system in a single stack. Connection via a supplied RJ-12 cable coordinates the functions of the MP and PP, and allows the pair to be operated by a single remote. The PP's switch-mode output stages were developed in-house, and combine MOSFET transistors with high-energy driver modules. JI noted a "dynamic-sounding amplifier section that exhibited ample and well-controlled bass along with a smooth, detailed top end." Surprisingly robust and detailed sounding amp for such a small cool-running package, he concludes. (Vol.32 No.8, Vol.35 No.9 WWW)

Unison Research S6: $5395
Each channel of the Italian-made S6 uses three EL34 power pentode tubes in a class-A, single-ended, triple-parallel configuration to deliver 35Wpc into 8 ohms. Its distinctive chassis is longitudinally divided into three portions: a central raised center that houses the iron-core transformers is flanked by identical lower sections that hold the tube sockets, bias meters, and bias-adjustment controls. Compared with the Ars-Sonum Filarmon°a SE, the S6 was more forceful but gave up nothing in finesse; when partnered with the Opera Callas loudspeakers, the S6 was fatigue-free, with surprising dynamics and bass, said JM. (Vol.36 No.8 WWW)

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Cayin SP-10A: $2195
With its brushed aluminum faceplate and cabinet of gorgeous cherrywood (walnut and piano lacquer are also available), the 38Wpc SP-10A has a decidedly old-fashioned appearance. It uses four 6L6GC output tubes, two 12AU7 driver tubes, and one 12AX7 input tube; has four line-level inputs; and offers both 4 and 8 ohm output transformer taps. Though it lacked top-end sparkle and ran out of gas at high volumes, the Cayin offered a lush, natural midrange with outstanding resolution of inner detail and ambience, said BJR. JA's measurements uncovered a "curious instability" and lack of distortion-free power from the amp's 4 ohm tap. (Vol.35 No.4 WWW)

Creek Evolution 50A: $1195 $$$
Creek's new entry-level model is a class-A/B design claimed to deliver 55Wpc into 8 ohms. It offers four single-ended and one balanced input, one of which can accommodate one of three MM or MC plug-in phono boards. The clean front panel has input-selector and Volume knobs, Balance and Tone controls, and a large display. The Creek produced an uncolored midrange, impressive bass impact, and excellent resolution of high-frequency detail, delicacy, and air, said BJR. "An involving, flexible, and good-sounding piece of electronics," he concluded, adding that it "sounds more powerful than its rating would imply." "Considering its affordable price, Creek's Evolution 50A measures fundamentally well," said JA, though he points out that its output stage is underbiased. (Vol.36 No.8 WWW)

Croft Phono Integrated: $1895 $$$
Croft's 45Wpc Phono Integrated combines in a single package the company's Micro 25 preamplifier and Series 7 power amplifier to create a hybrid integrated in which line- and moving-magnet–compatible phono-stage gain is provided by ECC83 vacuum tubes, output power by transistors. In addition to its phono input, the Croft has three analog line inputs, but offers no remote control, digital inputs, headphone jack, or upgrade paths for USB connectivity. Apart from a small circuit board containing the bipolar timer and relays, the Phono Integrated is hand-wired, point to point, with neatly made solder joins and Bakelite terminal strips. AD liked the Croft's dual-mono volume controls, SM not so much. They agreed, however, that the Croft's sound was extraordinary: smooth, coherent, open, naturally detailed, forceful, physical, and dynamic, with a great sense of space and an expert ability to drive a beat forward. "If I were a designer or builder, this is how I would do the thing. If I were buying in this price range, this is the one I'd choose," raved AD. On JA's test bench, however, the Croft exhibited a nonflat RIAA response and high levels of harmonic and intermodulation distortion. (Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

Harman/Kardon HK 990: $2599
The gorgeous, versatile, 150Wpc HK 990 is a two-channel integrated amplifier with analog and digital inputs, tone controls, bass management, and system equalization. Line-level analog inputs include six pairs single-ended, one pair balanced, a processor HT bypass, and two subwoofer; digital inputs include two optical and two coaxial. In addition, there are moving-magnet and moving-coil phono inputs, two subwoofer outputs, two coaxial outputs, and a front-panel headphone jack. Its Analog Devices AD1955 DAC chip handles resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz. Though it was less transparent than the Parasound Halo JC 2 preamp, the HK 990 offered impressive performance with both analog and digital sources, exhibiting taut bass, clean mids, and outstanding power and control. "The HK 990 should be on every audiophile's shopping list," said KR, adding that it's "a harbinger of the future of integrated amplifiers." JA noted that the H/K's measured performance was not compromised by its wealth of versatile features. "I am impressed," he said. (Vol.34 No.12 WWW)

Linn Majik DSM: $4750 ✩
Designed to communicate with other music-playback gear by means of an Ethernet LAN, streaming files in accordance with current UPnP specifications, the Majik DSM (previously Majik DS-I) combines a networked 90Wpc integrated amplifier, D/A converter, and phono preamplifier. It has three line-level analog inputs, three S/PDIF digital inputs, and three optical digital inputs, but lacks USB and FireWire digital inputs. FLAC, AIFF, WAV, ALAC, AAC, and MP3 file formats are supported at resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz. Setup and installation proved time-consuming and frustrating, and required several additional pieces of hardware and software. The Ethernet-networked DSM provided "a more open, nuanced, explicit, involving, and altogether natural musical experience than any USB-based digital source I've heard," said AD. The DSM's integrated amp and phono sections lacked openness, texture, and resolution, however. "Fairly respectable measured performance," said JA, "let down only by its limited channel separation and the relatively high level of background noise." While the DSM accentuated the strengths of the Linn Majik 140 loudspeaker, it lacked the air, musicality, and ease of BJR's reference combo of Audio Valve Eclipse line stage and Audio Research Reference 110 power amp. Further testing revealed that the measured performances of the Majik DSM, connected via Ethernet or S/PDIF, were basically identical. (Vol.34 Nos.3, 4, & 6 WWW)

Manley Labs Stingray iTube: $6000 ✩
Manley Labs Stingray II: $5650 ✩

Direct descendant of the acclaimed Stingray (reviewed by CS in December 1999), the rugged-looking, gorgeously constructed Stingray iTube is built around eight EL84 output tubes, rated to deliver 32Wpc in ultralinear mode and 18Wpc in triode mode. It offers three single-ended inputs, a certified iPod dock, a subwoofer output, and a 1/4" headphone jack. An IR/RF remote control provides full control of the amp, as well as the track functions of a docked iPod. After about 250 hours of break-in, the iTube exhibited a sound marked by "elegance, subtlety, and charm." Though it lacked some body and color, and sometimes struggled at high volumes, the iTube had a grainless, extended treble and an overall sound that was "engaging and relaxing," said EL. Though it lacked the balanced overall sound of the Simaudio Moon i3.3, the iTube "had a midrange to die for, and it effortlessly hung images in the air," summed up EL. The Stingray II is identical to the Stingray iTube, but without the iPod dock. Though it lacked some bass control and low-level resolution, the Stingray II offered a surprisingly dynamic and expansive sound with a relaxed, romantic color, said ST. (Vol.22 No.12, original version, WWW; Vol.33 Nos.3, 9, & 11, Stingray II WWW)

Micromega AS-400: $4595
Housed in a metal enclosure with an attractive powder-coat finish, the AS-400 combines a class-D integrated amplifier with a high-quality moving-magnet phono stage, a D/A converter tailored specifically to computer music files, and a convenient iTunes-ready WiFi receiver. Though it lacked color and spatial depth, the AS-400 was dynamic, dramatic, and almost relentlessly exciting, for a consistently compelling overall sound, said AD. Music streamed from Art's iMac was slightly clearer and had a more natural sense of flow than that streamed from his iPod, but both sources provided enjoyable listening. "The Micromega AS-400 strikes me as a virtually perfect choice for the audio perfectionist who shares space with other listeners—and multiple iPods and/or iMacs," he concluded. (Vol.34 No.7 WWW)

Peachtree Audio nova125: $1499
The handsome, remote-controlled nova125 combines a 125Wpc amplifier, preamplifier with tubed buffer stage, headphone amp, and asynchronous USB DAC capable of handling resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz. It offers three S/PDIF inputs, one analog input, and a preamp output. Though it lacked some resolution, the Peachtree had a slightly warm and soft overall sound, with excellent tonality, well-defined bass, and smooth highs, said ST. "Peachtree Audio has delivered a plum," he concluded. (Vol.36 No.1)

PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium: $2299
Designed in Holland and made in China, the solidly built ProLogue Premium is rated to deliver 35Wpc with EL34 tubes or 40Wpc with KT88s. It has a heavy-gauge, ventilated case with a lustrous five-coat finish, features point-to-point wiring, and offers five pairs of RCA input jacks, a Home Theater bypass, and connections for speaker loads of 4 and 8 ohms. Though it lacked the three-dimensional imaging, detailed highs, and extended bass of more expensive amplifiers, the ProLogue Premium produced a natural, inviting midrange and performed well with a wide variety of speakers. "The PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium offers outstanding sound quality at a very reasonable price," said RD. JA noted respectable measured performance for a classic tube design. (Vol.35 No.6 WWW)

Rogers High Fidelity EHF-100: $7000
Made in the US by former NASA engineer Roger Gibboni, the EHF-100 is rated to deliver 65Wpc (JA measured 35Wpc) into 8 ohms; offers four pairs of line-level inputs; and uses two EF86 miniature pentode, two 12AX7 triode, and four KT88 power tubes. Fit and finish were excellent. Though not as nuanced, colorful, or dramatic as AD's reference Shindo separates, the EHF-100 distinguished itself as a tight, punchy-sounding amplifier with loads of natural detail, a very good sense of momentum, and an excellent sense of space. Despite differences in the noise floor between its two channels, the EHF-100 measured well "for a classic design," said JA. (Vol.35 No.11 WWW)

Shuguang Audio Classic S300MK: $1950 with Pavane 300B tubes
The single-ended-triode S300MK is made in China and sold direct by Grant Fidelity in Alberta, Canada. It measures 16" W by 8.2" H by 13.1" D, weighs 51 lbs, features hand-wound transformers and point-to-point wiring, and uses eight tubes: two 12AX7 inputs, two Treasure 6CA7 drivers, two autobiased Treasure 300Bs delivering the rated 8Wpc, and two 5AR4 rectifiers. The S300MK exhibited truncated transients and limited bass impact, but offered a beautiful midrange and smooth treble, creating an overall sound that was sweet, euphonic, and slightly soft, said ST. Price includes Pavane 300B Black Bottle tubes; price with standard tubes is $1400. (Vol.34 No.8)

Swissonor V.S.O.P.: $5475
The elegant, 8Wpc V.S.O.P. is a push-pull design with three line-level inputs. It uses a pair of ECC81 tubes for the preamp stage, and two pairs of 6V6 power tubes. The V.S.O.P. lacked some of the speed and articulation of the Unison Research Simply Italy, but nevertheless offered a smooth, coherent overall sound, said ST. "The V.S.O.P. is an amplifier to hear if you get the chance, especially with high-sensitivity speakers in a small listening space," he concluded. Options: moving-magnet phono stage, add $500; high-output moving-coil phono stage, add $750. (Vol.36 No.2)

Unison Research Simply Italy: $2695
"The solidly built Simply Italy uses an ECC82 driver tube and an EL34B output tube to deliver 12Wpc. It measures just 10" W by 7.5" H by 15.5" D and offers four line-level inputs, a tape loop, and a single set of outputs optimized for 4–8 ohm speakers. Solid-wood inlays around the hefty, stainless-steel volume and selector knobs help damp vibrations. Fit and finish were outstanding. Though it lacked the dimensionality and expansiveness of larger Unison Research amplifiers, the Simply Italy had a confident, solid sound with surprisingly tight bass, said ST. "My little bambino." He sums up. "Clear, crisp sound, tight bass for all of its 12 watts." ST thinks there may be no better amp for small-group jazz. The Simply Italy was an especially good partner for DeVore Fidelity's Orangutan O/93 loudspeakers, said ST. Replacing the amp's stock EL34Bs with Genelex KT77 output tubes resulted in an airier sound with less robust bass and improved top-end extension. (Vol.35 No.8; Vol.37 No.1)

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Arcam FMJ A19: $999 $$$
Rated to deliver 50Wpc into 8 ohms, the FMJ A19 is Arcam's most affordable integrated amplifier. It provides six line-level inputs, tape and preamplifier outputs, a moving-magnet phono stage, and two front-panel mini-jacks: one for driving headphones, the other for connecting an iPod. While the A19 gets its power from a hefty toroidal transformer, a second internal power supply can deliver a direct, isolated, and regulated 6V to two of Arcam's r-series products, such as the rBlink Bluetooth DAC that ST enjoyed. Build quality was excellent, setup simple, operation flawless. Though it lacked some smoothness and drama, the A19 combined a sweet treble, a clean midrange, and well-defined bass for a sound that was fun, involving, and never fatiguing, said SM. JA noted excellent measured performance, but warned that the A19 shouldn't be used to drive at high levels loads much below 6 ohms. Borderline Class B. (Vol.37 No.1 WWW)

AVM Inspiration C8: $4190
Made in Germany, the handsome AVM Inspiration C8 is a solid-state CD receiver with a 150Wpc class-D output stage, a phono stage, and digital inputs and outputs, including a USB input limited to 16-bit/48kHz resolution. Partnered with the Canalis Anima speakers, the C8 produced a neutral, powerful overall sound, said JM. However, with the speakers placed too low, JM noted an overabundance of high-frequency detail. Expensive for the sound quality on offer. (Vol.36 No.2 WWW)

Marantz M-CR610: $699
With a black case, rounded front corners, and blue illumination, the M-CR610 CD-receiver (orignally called M-CR603), rated to deliver 40Wpc into 8 ohms, has the appearance of a traditional stereo component. It has a front-panel USB port and provides wired network connectivity, but does not support WiFi. Compared to the TEAC CR-H500NT, the Marantz produced greater bass quantity but lacked refinement and control, said JM. Sounded essentially identical to its corporate sibling, the Denon RCD-N7. (Vol.34 No.10 WWW)

NAD D 3020: $499 $$$
Launched to celebrate NAD's 40th anniversary, the 30Wpc D 3020 takes only its name from the company's iconic 3020 integrated amplifier; every other aspect of the design has been thoroughly modernized. It uses a switch-mode power supply, lacks a phono stage, and has only a single analog input, but includes a front-panel headphone minijack; an optional 6dB bass boost; a subwoofer output; coaxial, optical, and 24-bit/96kHz-capable asynchronous USB inputs; and uses an audio-optimized aptX codec for Bluetooth streaming. Weighing just 3 lbs and measuring an unusual 7 3/8" H by 2 5/16" W by 8 5/8" D, the D 3020 can be placed horizontally, like a traditional component, or stood upright, like a modem or hard drive. Uncommonly sensual for a hi-fi product, it has a large, textured volume knob; soft, smooth side panels; and a touchscreen that occupies its entire front panel and extends through one entire side panel. The sound from every input was warm, present, and naturally detailed; even low-quality MP3s streamed wirelessly via Bluetooth were engaging, said SM. "Right now, NAD's D 3020 is the best bargain in all of hi-fi," added ST. Borderline Class B. (Vol.36 Nos. 11 & 12 WWW)

NAD C 316BEE: $379 ✩ $$$
Descendant of NAD's famed 3020 integrated amplifier, the 40Wpc C 316BEE uses a new variant of the PowerDrive technology found in NAD's Master Series components, said to maximize the short-term dynamic power sent to loudspeakers. It has five inputs, a single set of user-friendly binding posts for easy connections, defeatable tone controls, a headphone jack, and an iPod minijack. The NAD matched power with grace, providing a rich, forceful overall presentation and an impressive ability to follow complex musical passages and make clear, truthful distinctions among musical instruments. Compared to the JoLida FX 10, the NAD produced a far more compelling listening experience, with faster attacks, longer decays, and a wider soundstage, said SM. (Vol.34 No.7 WWW)

Outlaw Audio RR2150: $699 $$$ ✩
This 100Wpc, two-channel receiver showcases stylish, deco-like looks and a full range of features that include line, iPod, phono, and USB digital inputs, tape and processor loops, tone controls, headphone output, speaker equalization, bass management, and a mono line-level subwoofer output. JA was "astonished" to discover what the bargain-basement-priced RR2150 offered, both on the test bench and in the listening room. The RR2150's self-explanatory setup, versatility and convenience, and open, focused, and well-organized overall sound (though somewhat opaque and not fully fleshed out) make it "a great intro to hi-fi for a younger generation," said MF. Problems with production led to delivery delays through July 2006, but the situation is now resolved. Current production samples (made in a different factory) offer the same excellent measured performance as the original, but the RR2150's USB digital input, marred by limited resolution and high jitter, should be regarded as being for convenience only, advised JA. (Vol.29 No.3, Vol.31 No.1 WWW)

Peachtree decco65: $999 $$$
Peachtree's entry-level integrated combines a 65Wpc amplifier, a preamp with tubed buffer stage, a headphone amp, and an asynchronous USB DAC capable of handling resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz. Like the more powerful nova125, the decco65 offers three S/PDIF inputs, one analog input, and a preamp output. Its pleasantly forward sound had outstanding color and texture, believably crisp treble, and tight bass, said AD. "Peachtree Audio's decco65 is among the most recommendable affordable-perfectionist products I've had the pleasure of using," he concluded. JA was bothered by the decco65's poor volume-control tracking, but was impressed by its overall measured performance. Add $100 for Cherry or Rosewood finish. (Vol.36 No.3 WWW)

Rega Brio-R: $895
Minimalist in design and appearance, the 50Wpc Brio-R measures just 8.5" W by 3.25" H by 13" D and, like the Rega DAC, is housed in an attractive aluminum-and-steel case with a reflective front panel. It offers five line-level RCA inputs and one phono input. Though it lacked the definition, detail, focus, and frequency extension of the much more expensive LFD LE IV, the Brio-R delivered a relaxed, nonfatiguing sound with tight, full bass, said ST. "The Brio-R showed the excellence that's possible when a manufacturer aspires to deliver less," he said, adding that it includes "a very good moving-magnet phono stage, enough to satisfy the less fremerous among us. Yes, it's 'umble eye-fye, but very well done," ST sums up. (Vol.34 No.12)

D

JoLida Glass FX 10: $599
The autobiasing FX 10 is claimed to deliver a modest 10Wpc into 8 ohms and uses two matched pairs of Electro-Harmonix EL84 output tubes and two 12AX7 input tubes. With its heat-resistant glass enclosure in place, the adorable JoLida measures just 8" W by 7" D by 7" H and weighs a friendly 12 lbs. It provides two rear-panel inputs, smartly arranged gold-plated output terminals for speaker loads of 4 and 8 ohms, and a front-panel iPod input. Though it was very quiet and retrieved impressive amounts of detail, the JoLida produced a restricted overall sound with soft highs, a lean midrange, and weak bass, felt SM. "couldn't match the dynamics, scale, or tonal color of the NAD C 316BEE," sez he. (Vol.34 No.7 WWW)

Lepai LP7498E: $129.87
Rated to deliver 100Wpc via its TriPath class-D output stage, the Lepai is a small (4.5" W by 1.25" H by 7" D) integrated amplifier with one pair of RCA inputs, two pairs of speaker binding posts, and a dedicated 36V DC power supply. It uses STMicroelectronics' TDA7498 class-D module and supports Bluetooth streaming but not aptX. CDs played through the Lepai's RCA input sounded big, bold, and emotionally compelling, with a natural midrange, sweet highs, good bass weight, and well-focused images, but digital files streamed via Bluetooth sounded gritty, compressed, and murky, said SM. Sold by Parts Express with a 45-day money-back guarantee and lifetime service warranty. (Vol.37 No.2 WWW)

Marantz PM5004: $449 ✩ $$$
An updated version of the successful PM5003, the 40Wpc PM5004 includes upgraded preamp and power-amp sections, and benefits from additional sound tuning. Compared to the PM5003, the PM5004 offered "greater dynamic contrasts, a bit more delicacy, and an overall sound that was a touch more rich and involving," said BJR. "All in all, an improvement more evolutionary than revolutionary." (Vol.34 No.3 WWW)

K
Music Hall a15.3, Onkyo TX-8020.

Deletions
Arcam Solo Mini, Audio Analogue Crescendo, Leben CS600, Musical Fidelity M3, Mystäre ia21; Unison Research S9, not auditioned in too long a time to be sure of rating; Luxman SQ-38u discontinued.

COMMENTS
billt1nh's picture

Aesthetix Atlas Amplifier : $8000 ✩has been a Class A recommended component for a few years including 2013 but does not show up this year. It is not mentioned under deletions for 2014. Was this a mistake?
 

John Atkinson's picture

billt1nh wrote:
Aesthetix Atlas Amplifier...has been a Class A recommended component for a few years including 2013 but does not show up this year. It is not mentioned under deletions for 2014. Was this a mistake?

Not a mistake. The Atlas was last included in the April 2013 "Recommended Components" but was deleted from the October 2013 listing on the grounds that it had been almost 4 years since anyone on staff had auditioned it under familiar circumstances.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

MikeMercer's picture

I've pulled an all-nighter writing, so I gotta be burnt-out.

How to get to the next page in the headphones section.

Is it only this one page???

Kal Rubinson's picture

Just click on the Headphone picture or on the "Headphones" in the list. 

MikeMercer's picture

ThanX Kal!!

That's how I got there.

I think it's only one page - which is a shame.  There's SO much great stuff for John and Co. to cover! Schiit Audio, Cavalli Audio, ALO Audio, Aurelic, JH Audio, Mr. Speakers, and DNA for example. 

John! If you EVER want any help covering the VAST personal audio universe?!?!?

My Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab!!

BTW - we're havin a BLAST over at Audio360!!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Stereophile has an entire online sister publication dedicated to personal audio, innerfidelity.com. It also has another that covers computer audio, audiostream.com.

Azteca X's picture

ThanX Mike!!  I wonder if you've compared your writing style to Tyll at InnerFidelity and wondered why he has the gig?!?!?!  

In all seriousness, InnerFidelity is great and has covered just about every brand you mentioned, I think.  Tyll tends to shy away from the super-custom year-long-waitlist stuff but I find it a good thing compared to forums full of people who drop $4K on amps like it's nothing. 

I also don't think Tyll posts unboxing vids.

Currawong's picture

The Sony MA900 headphones have a 70mm driver, just for your information.

subbanerjee's picture

Dear Editor:

I read the review of the Musical Fidelity DAC. I am not sure how that qualifies as a "formal" review. Yet, that product is placed in the A+ category? I would think that something that goes into the A+ Category would be thoroughly vetted in order to qualify to be a member of the Best-of-the-best category.

Not buying this recommendation...

Thanks
Subroto Banerjee

John Atkinson's picture

subbanerjee wrote:
I read the review of the Musical Fidelity DAC. I am not sure how that qualifies as a "formal" review.

We include in "Recommended Components" products that have been reviewed in one of our regular columns. Although these reports don't include measurements, they are as rigorously prepared as any other "formal" review in the magazine.

subbanerjee wrote:
Yet, that product is placed in the A+ category?

You will note that there is the reference "See ST's review in this issue." With all reviews that are published in the same issue as "Recomemnded Components," the rating is provisional.

subbanerjee wrote:
I would think that something that goes into the A+ Category would be thoroughly vetted in order to qualify to be a member of the Best-of-the-best category.

I have a second sample of the Musical Fidelity V90-DAC and will be publishing a Follow-Up review, complete with measurements, before the next "Recommended Components" listing is compiled.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

subbanerjee's picture

in the magazine".

Reading through the review, here is the section that refers to the performance of the DAC...

"Compared to the V-DACII, the V90 DAC offers still greater low-level resolutions, superior dynamics, and fatigure-free listening. It does space and place particularly well, and really shines with brass, where lesser DACs tend to turn dull. The Brass Ear would love it."

That's it. And it made it as an A+ DAC?

Come on. As the Editor-in-Chief,  I assume that you question your reviewers when they submit this and want it included in A+. Should you not say, "I don't know Sam, but let's give it a more thorough going over before we put this $299 DAC in A+."?

As you can discern by now, I am not buying this review or your disclaimer that it is a "provisional" rating. I think that a product should have got a thorough going over before it is placed in the rarified air of an A+ rating.

John Atkinson's picture

subbanerjee wrote:
As you can discern by now, I am not buying this review or your disclaimer that it is a "provisional" rating.

It isn't a disclaimer, just a factual statement. The definitive rating will be published in our October issue listing, following my follow-up to Sam Tellig's review. In the meantime, you are perfectly entitled to your opinion on what we write.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

WishTree's picture

Actually I got this DAC based on recommendations else where. It is properly run in but I did not get the performance of this DAC. It is bright and possibly a tad cleaner but no reason to be A+ product. And yes, it is definetly fatigue-ing. I liked Rega DAC better and Audiolab M-DAC is brilliant though they are a bit different in price range. 

Genesis's picture

No estan mas las KEF 207/2 en la lista, fueron borradas por que tampoco las veo en esta lista

 

gracias

John Atkinson's picture

Genesis wrote:
The KEF 207/2 is no longer on the list...

The KEF was positively reviewed in February 2008; see www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/208kef/index.html. The R207/2 hasn't been auditioned by a Stereophile reviewer since that review, so, as is our policy, it was deleted a couple of years ago. That is why there is no mention its deleion in this listing. However, as we say in the introduction on the first page: "Where deletions are made, we endeavor to give reasons...But remember: Deletion of a component from this list does not invalidate a buying decision you have made."

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Genesis's picture

Gracias por vuestra respuesta, tengo un par de estas cajas gracias a Uds. vivo en Argentina y solo pude escuchar unas 203/2 y con vuestra review m'as esa escucha decidi la compra. Me gustan mucho, solo que las vi en la lista hasta 2013 y por curiosidad consulte

 

Gracias nuevamente

alexandrov's picture

hmm.. I can see PSB Imagine T2 but not their top model Synchrony One. Is it that worse?

John Atkinson's picture

alexandrov wrote:
I can see PSB Imagine T2 but not their top model Synchrony One. Is it that worse?

We used to highly recommend the Synchrony One, but as with the KEF speaker mentioned above, our review was six years ago - see www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/408psb/index.html - and the speaker was dropped from the listing a year or so back due to none of us having any continued experience with it since the review.

The complete Recommended Components from 2003-2013 can be purchased from our on-line store.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bodhisattva's picture

John, it's hard to take a "2014 Recommended Components" list seriously without any mention of Magico S5's, Vitus components, Jorma Prime or Statement cables or Stillpoints isolation devices. Is this the swisse cheese list?

John Atkinson's picture

Bodhisattva wrote:
it's hard to take a "2014 Recommended Components" list seriously without any mention of Magico S5's, Vitus components, Jorma Prime or Statement cables or Stillpoints isolation devices.

From the introduction to the listing: "Components listed here have been formally reviewed in Stereophile..."

Unlike some other recommended lists, we restrict "Recommended Components" to products that have already been reviewed in the magazine and thus subject to full scrutiny. And there are products from Magico and Vitus included.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bodhisattva's picture

That's fair enough John. I'm pleased to see Magico and Vitus make the list! Both outstanding manufacturers.

Cheers, Bodhi

Anon2's picture

I would love to read further on your initial article (Sam's Space, I believe) about the Dynaudio Focus 160.  I have heard good things about this product and would like to know of your sound basis for making this speaker a recommended component.

I have searched fruitlessly for this article and it has evaded every type of google search.  Dynaudio mentions the review on its site but, alas, they provided no link either.

Is Stereophile Vol. 35 No. 1 not avaliable online?

Can you send us any kind of html link through this discussion thread?

Thanks.

John Atkinson's picture

low2midhifi wrote:
I have searched fruitlessly for this article...

With the exception of products that I have subsequently measured, we don't routinely reprint Sam Tellig's column on the Stereophile website. For that, you still need to subscribe to the print magazine. Back issues are available from (888) 237-0955.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

swillyums's picture

Is there a reason that this iteration of the list doesn't include any product images? I initially thought that it might just be my tablet, but I get the same wall of text on my desktop and phone as well. 

John Atkinson's picture

swillyums wrote:
Is there a reason that this iteration of the list doesn't include any product images?

Last year we could include images because we had the time to prepare the Web reprint from the tablet app. Thus year we are both temporarily operating short-staffed and wanted to post the complete Web version as soon as possible after the appearance of the April issue on the newsstands/in subscribers' mailboxes. This meant discarding both images and review URLs, I am afraid.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

NewB's picture

I was just wondering why the PSB Image line was removed.  

John Atkinson's picture

NewB wrote:
I was just wondering why the PSB Image line was removed.

As I wrote above, we drop products from the listing when none of the reviewing team has had any continued experience with it for more than 3 years since the original review. The complete listing for the 10 years from 2003 to 2013 can be purchased from our on-line store: http://store-badz031c.mybigcommerce.com/recommended-components-collectors-edition/ .

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Dan Moroboshi's picture

We could see ubber, ultra and expensive cables on interconnects and speaker cables, but not on digital cables. Is there a reason?

Some cables calls attentions, e.g. Stereolab Master reference 818 BNC/SPDIF, Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB, Kimber KS2020/2120, etc.

Byrnie's picture

Shouldn't the Centrance DACMini CX be listed under this section also given the DacPort is also?

clasvi's picture

Next month,will be four years since I purchased new, my 5004 matching AV receiver and BDP. The AV receiver has died (processor) and the BD player still sounds great when you can finally get the disc to load (mechanical). On occassions, I have had to give up trying. I was very happy with my entry level setup until it died. I now will try a Fusion 8100 AV receiver as a preamp to a ATI AT2005 amp powering my PSB T6's

tigrenrike's picture

I don't see the GoldenEar Triton Seven, and the newer GoldenEar Triton ONE...!?!?!? I think the GE Triton ONE should be in the A Full Range Class. And the Triton Seven should be in the B restricted Class...!

John Atkinson's picture
tigrenrike wrote:
I don't see the GoldenEar Triton Seven, and the newer GoldenEar Triton ONE...!?!?!?

As it says in the introduction, "Components listed here have been formally reviewed in Stereophile..." Neither of these GoldenEar speakers had been reviewed when this listing was prepared (February 2014). However, the Triton One will be reviewed in the February 2015 issue of Stereophile.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile