2014 Recommended Components Preamplifiers

Two-Channel Preamplifiers

Editor's Note: Apart from the CAT, Fi, Shindos, and Placette, all the Class A preamplifiers offer balanced inputs and outputs. And unless noted, the preamplifiers listed do not have phono stages.

A

Aesthetix Saturn Calypso Signature: $6999 ✩
Aesthetix Saturn Calypso: $4999 ✩

" "A beautifully built, smartly designed, crisply functioning, versatile, and sonically brilliant preamplifier," the Saturn Calypso is a single-box, tubed unit that borrows technology from the more expensive, two-box Jupiter Callisto to offer "an attractive combination of couch-potato convenience without compromising its tweaky audiophilic performance potential," thought MF. It lacked the last bit of expansive air and resolution found in more expensive preamps but never sounded bright, hard, or artificial, and provided "one of the best-balanced sounds of any audio component I've come across at any price." Nearly identical to the stock version, the Signature replaces that model's polypropylene coupling capacitors with custom-made interstage Teflon-hybrid caps, and switches out the polypropylene caps between the main and output stages. In addition, the stock Calypso's five rubber feet are replaced in the Signature with Harmonic Resolution Systems Nimbus Couplers specially made for Aesthetix. Compared to the original, the Signature version created a wider soundstage and offered more low-level resolution, longer decays, and richer bass, found WP. (Vol.28 No.7; Vol.33 No.7, Signature WWW)

Audio Research Reference 5SE: $13,000
The Ref 5 SE is a tubed, remote-controlled line preamp with six sets of balanced and unbalanced inputs, three sets of balanced and unbalanced outputs, and a unity-gain Processor input. It uses 6550C and 6H30P tubes for power-supply regulation, and four 6H30P dual-triodes in the analog stage. Improvements over the original Ref 5 include new Teflon and hybrid coupling and bypass capacitors, new internal wiring, and a vertically mounted circuit board that nearly doubles the earlier version's energy storage. The Ref 5 SE exhibited incredible detail retrieval, bold and nuanced tonal color, outstanding dynamic range, and large soundstages with a slightly forward perspective, said BD. "The Reference 5 SE gets my highest recommendation," he concluded. JA noted superb measured performance. Compared to BJR's reference Audio Valve Eclipse, the ARC offered longer decays and resolved more inner detail but lacked some low-end impact. (Vol.35 No.11, Vol.36 No.2 WWW)

Ayre Acoustics K-5xeMP: $3500 ✩
"Like all of Ayre's 5-series products, the K-5xe uses the Ayre Conditioner, a built-in RFI filter that works in parallel with the AC line to reduce background noise, grain, and hash. The original K-5xe added nothing to the original signal and had no sonic signature of its own. ST: "It just got out of the way" subsequently adding that this "superb solid state line-stage preamp is everything you could ask for: neutral, detailed, dynamic, exceptionally low noise, fun to use." JA felt high Class B was a fair rating for the original version; the Maximum Performance (MP) version incorporates rare, low-noise Toshiba J-FETs for the output buffer stage. The K-5xeMP had dynamics equal to that of the original K-5xe, but produced quieter backgrounds and had a friendlier, more accurate overall balance, with better delineation of images within a wide, deep soundstage. Though it lacked the top-end air of the Parasound Halo JC 2, the Ayre sounded warmer overall, with a fleshier lower midrange. Its measured performance was "about as good as it gets for a solid-state preamplifier," said JA. Black finish adds $250. (Vol.29 No.5 original version; Vol.34 No.6 MP version WWW)

Classé CP-800: $5000
A new breed of audio component, the versatile CP-800 is a remote-controlled, solid-state preamplifier with a touchscreen display, DSP-implemented tone and equalizer controls, 10 digital inputs (AES/EBU, three S/PDIF on coax, four S/PDIF on TosLink, asynchronous USB, front-panel USB host connector), five analog inputs (two pairs balanced, three pairs unbalanced), and seven analog outputs (three pairs balanced, three pairs unbalanced, and a front-panel headphone jack). One of the first products to come from Classé's Chinese manufacturing plant, the attractive, solidly built CP-800 shares the curved aluminum front panel of earlier Classé Delta-series products. Though it lacked some flesh and warmth, the Classé produced a clean, clear, and detailed overall sound, with an especially delicate treble, said JA. On the test bench, the Classé's digital input showed about two bits' worth less resolution than the current state of the art, but its analog performance was beyond reproach. (Vol.35 No.9 WWW)

Conrad-Johnson ET3 SE: $4000
With its simple sheet-metal chassis and gold-toned faceplate, the ET3 Special Edition looks identical to the standard version ($2500), but adds high-quality parts throughout, including Teflon capacitors, Vishay resistors, silver-plated RCA jacks, and Cardas wire. It uses a tubed input stage, a FET buffer output stage, and offers four line-level inputs, a tape loop, an external processor loop, and a Home Theater output. The C-J had a sense of ease that benefited good recordings while minimizing the sonic shortcomings of poor ones, said ST. "It is easily the finest Conrad-Johnson preamplifier I've heard in my listening room," he concluded. (Vol.34 No.10)

Convergent Audio Technology SL1 Renaissance: $7995
The latest iteration of the heralded SL1 boasts a new circuit-board layout and improved power supply. It also includes an A/V bypass, user-selectable gain, and a switch-selectable, moving-coil transformer for the phono stage. Compared to the SL1 Ultimate, the Renaissance offered greater transparency, resolution, and dynamics, said RD. JA noted "superb measured performance and an equally superbly linear circuit topology." Phono stage adds $2000. (Vol.32 No.11 WWW)

darTZeel NHB-18NS: 31,700 CHF ✩
" The "stunningly transparent" darTZeel offered spectacular transient speed, resolution, and decay, while providing an overall coherence that "made recorded music, analog or digital, sound much closer to live," said MF. Bass lacked some authority, and the sound sometimes had "a slight velvety finish." With its warm, vivid combination of red chassis and dark gold front and rear panels, the NHB-18NS "looks like it sounds." Its fully dual-mono design, lack of global negative feedback, and ultrawide bandwidths are meant to eliminate phase shifts at the frequency extremes. JA was "puzzled" by some aspects of the darTZeel's measured performance, particularly the much poorer performance through the balanced inputs and outputs, but was overall impressed by the level of audio engineering. Compared to the harmonically rich Musical Fidelity AMS Primo, the darTZeel offered a more clinical sound: tighter bass, greater transparency, more precisely defined images, shorter sustain, and a diminished sense of musical flow. Compared to Einstein Audio's The Tube Mk.II, the NHB-18NS sacrificed bass weight for greater top-end air, transient speed, and bass extension, said MF. The darTZeel matched the resolution and transparency of the mbl 6010 D while managing to sound less mechanical, said MF about his reference preamp as of summer 2008. (He bought one!) US price will depend on the exchange rate from Swiss francs. (Vol.30 No.6, Vol.31 No.10, Vol.33 Nos.5 & 10 WWW)

Fi 2b: $8200, as reviewed ✩
The long-awaited successor to Don Garber's simply named Fi Preamplifier, the 2b retains much of its predecessor's physical appearance and gain-stage design, but uses Electro-Harmonix 6922 dual-triode tubes in place of the original's 6DJ8s, has three top-panel brass control knobs, and measures a little over 10" square. Premium parts include nude Vishay resistors, VH Audio Teflon and tin-foil V-Caps, and a pair of onboard, split-primary HM-3 step-up transformers from Hashimoto Electric. AD: "The sound of the Fi 2b preamp was like a Schubert piano trio: logical, perfect, well balanced, apparently immortal, and glowing with beauty of the truthful sort." MM-only version without step-ups costs $7600; line-only version costs $7000. (Vol.33 No.7 WWW)

Luxman C-600f: $9000
The solid-state C-600f has five single-ended and two balanced inputs, two single-ended and two balanced outputs, and a tape-processor loop, but no phono stage. Its bass and treble controls, as well as phase inversion and channel balance, are operable from the supplied remote control. Partnered with Luxman's MQ-88 power amplifier, the C-600f has an open, transparent sound with "a wonderful balance of detail and warmth," said JM. (Vol.35 No.4 WWW)

mbl 6010 D Reference: $26,500 ✩
The 77-lb 6010 D is an impressive-looking, superbly finished preamp with a black-lacquered façade, gold-plated volume and input knobs, and top-mounted input-level trim pots and tape-monitoring buttons. The MBL sounded "very quiet, transparent, and dynamic," with a slightly lean bottom end and "slightly aggressive but airy, clean, and well extended" top end, said Mikey. Though the 6010 D's reproduction of space was good, it could not match the image dimensionality or soundstage width and depth of the darTZeel NHB-18NS. Its measured performance, however, was "beyond reproach," determined JA. Used in an all-MBL system with Reference 9011 monoblocks driving Radialstrahler 101E Mk.II loudspeakers, the 6010 D worked to create clean, extended top octaves, fast transients, and a taut, muscular low end, said MF. Price includes remote and balanced input. (Vol.31 No.10, Vol.35 No.3 WWW)

Music First Audio Baby Reference: $8590
Slightly larger than Music First's less expensive Classic v2, the Baby Reference passive preamp measures 9.75" W by 3.4" H by 10.1" D and is available with a black, blue, red, or clear anodized faceplate. Standard connections include two balanced XLR inputs, four unbalanced XLR inputs, and one pair each of balanced and unbalanced outputs. Like the Classic, the Baby Reference provides 24 discrete volume steps, including mute, but forgoes the Classic's +6dB gain switch and uses a larger, more complex transformer. The sound was smooth, sweet, and extended, with exceptional transient speed and surprisingly deep bass, said ST. "[The Baby Reference] is the best preamp I've had in my system," he concluded, "probably because it's not a preamp at all." Compared with the Promitheus Audio Reference TVC4, the Music First offered deeper bass, cleaner treble, greater openness, and less dynamic congestion, said ST. (Vol.35 No.10, Vol.36 No.5)

Music First Audio Classic Magnetic v.2: $5290
The Classic Magnetic v.2 transformer volume control (identified as the V2 when reviewed) has two balanced and four single-ended inputs and one pair each of balanced and single-ended outputs. For improved low-frequency response and power handling, it uses transformers with mu-metal cores 25% larger than those found in the original Classic Magnetic. The sound was clean, smooth, and transparent, with surprisingly taut bass, said ST. (Vol.35 No.6)

Nagra Jazz: $11,650–$13,370, depending on options
The Jazz is a tubed line preamp with one pair balanced and four pairs single-ended inputs, and one pair balanced and two pairs single-ended outputs. It uses a 12AX7 dual-triode input-stage tube and a 12AT7 gain-stage tube. Measuring 12" W by 3" H by 10" D and weighing 7 lbs, it has a faceplate machined from a solid billet of aluminum, giving it the rugged, purposeful look and feel common to Nagra components. Though it lacked some bottom-end impact, the Jazz had a clean, clear, revealing sound with an uncolored midrange, extended highs, and lightning-fast transients, said BJR. "I enjoyed every piece of music I listened to through the Jazz, even when it ruthlessly revealed differences in recording quality," he concluded. JA noted excellent measured performance. (Vol.36 No.4 WWW)

Parasound Halo JC 2: $4295 $$$ ✩
Styled to match the JC 1 power amplifier and finished in the same brushed, natural aluminum, the JC 2 exhibits a high standard of construction. Each channel of the fully balanced JC 2 is on a separate PCB, with the audio and control power supplies on separate circuits, isolated from each other by 3/8"-thick aluminum partitions. ST was impressed by the JC 2's noiseless operation and excellent reproduction of space, which allowed music "to emerge intact—with body, bloom, and dynamics, with definition and detail—from an utterly silent background." JA agreed, but decided the JC 2 sounded best with warmer-sounding amplifiers and speakers, when it excelled in the areas of images and dynamics. "Perhaps the finest solid-state line stage I have heard," sums up ST. "This is what a great line stage does: lets all the other components perform at their best. The Halo JC 2 matched the Ayre KX-R in terms of openness and sparkle, but sounded leaner and could not reach the Ayre's level of deep musicality, said WP. Compared to the Simaudio Moon Evolution P-7, the JC 2 sacrificed body for leading-edge definition, felt JA. One of Stereophile's "Joint Amplification Components" for 2008. Configured for home-theater bypass, the BP version of Parasound's excellent JC 2 preamplifier ($4795) has a revised circuit board and front-panel control board that make possible the hybridization of a traditional analog two-channel system with a modern digital multichannel system. The Halo JC 2 BP looks almost identical to the Halo JC 2, with only the Bypass LED on the front panel and the letters "BP" added to the labeling front and rear. It offers both balanced RCA and unbalanced XLR inputs and outputs. KR heard no difference between a direct connection from pre-pro to power amp and a connection via the JC 2 BP's bypass function. Owners of existing JC 2s can have their units upgraded to BP status for $500. (Vol.30 No.12, Vol.31 Nos.3 & 11, Vol.32 No.3, Vol.34 No.6 WWW; "BP version Vol.34 No.3 WWW)

Pass Labs XP-30: $16,500
In its conventional two-channel model, the XP-30 comprises three separate chassis: one each for its control circuitry and power supply and each channel's audio circuitry. Using additional chassis, the XP-30 can be expanded to as many as six channels. Each audio chassis has both a Master and a Slave analog output, duplicated on balanced XLRs and single-ended RCAs; and six analog inputs, also duplicated on balanced XLRs and single-ended RCAs. The XP-30 uses an integrated-circuit volume control. It virtually transported JA to recording studios and performance spaces, consistently drawing his attention to aspects of music rather than of sound. "The XP-30 has rekindled for me the concept that the beating heart of an audio system is the preamplifier," he said. Measured performance was superb. (Vol.36 No.4 WWW)

Placette Audio Active Line Stage: $6995 ✩
The Active Linestage is intended to combine the transparency of Placette's purist Remote Volume Control with a usable level of functionality, providing five sets of unbalanced inputs, two sets of outputs, and a tape loop. Its absolute clarity, focus, solidity, and transparency were unrivaled in BD's experience. "Highly recommended." Sold direct, with a lifetime warranty and 30-day refund policy. (Vol.30 No.11 WWW)

Promitheus Audio Reference TVC: $890 $$$
Made by Nicholas Chua in Kuala Lumpur, the TVC4 passive preamp is housed in a compact (12.2" W by 3.75" H by 9" D) chassis made of merbau, an endangered Malaysian hardwood. It has two transformers per channel, separate left and right volume controls, and offers four pairs of unbalanced inputs and two pairs of unbalanced outputs. Though it lacked the tight bass, extended treble, and transparency of the much more expensive Music First Baby Reference, the TVC4 produced a warm, rich, tube-like sound, said ST. "Promitheus Audio's Reference TVC4 is worth the money and more," he concluded. Add $80 for shipping to the US from Kuala Lumpur. (Vol.36 No.5)

Shindo Vosne-Romanee: $19,900 ✩
The gorgeous Vosne-Romanee is packed with rare and vintage parts, including a pair of unidentified, hand-wound, 70-year-old output transformers; custom-wound Lundahl moving-coil step-up transformers; Telefunken EF800, Siemens C3m, General Electric 6072, and Philips 6189 and 6X4 vacuum tubes; and Sprague Black Cat and Vitamin Q capacitors. Compared to Shindo's Masseto, the V-R was more detailed and had a darker tonal balance, with deeper textures and richer colors, said AD. "The Shindo Vosne-Romanee is simply the most musically insightful, emotionally captivating, intoxicatingly beautiful, and thoroughly pleasant-to-use preamplifier I've had in my home," he concluded. Reconfiguring the V-R for true dual-mono operation resulted in "an entirely new level of playback quality." (Vol.33 Nos.10 & 11 WWW)

Shindo Masseto: $13,500 ✩
Like the less-expensive Aurieges, the Masseto is a full-function preamplifier, but adds a selectable choice between moving-magnet and moving-coil phono inputs. The dual-mono power supply is based on a pair of Philips 6X4WA rectifier tubes, the phono stage uses one Philips 6189W and one Philips 12AT7 per channel, and its line stage uses a single LCP86 triode/pentode per channel. With a "stunningly low noise floor," the Masseto consistently conveyed music in a way that allowed Art to become fully immersed in the performance. "Time after time," he said, "I found myself responding to my hi-fi the way I respond to real music." The Masseto's stock input MC transformer was "quiet in every way," and worked especially well with Art's Miyabi cartridge, providing "loads of texture, and enough drama to keep me happy indefinitely," he said. AD's reference preamp since 2007. Current model uses the same basic line, phono, and power-supply circuits found in the original, but has a fancier faceplate. Art has found that the Masseto does not respond well to isolation devices, aftermarket AC cords, or alternate tubes, and he recommends very gentle insertion and removal of interconnects to avoid damaging the Masseto's fragile Switchcraft RCA jacks. Still, the Masseto remains "satisfyingly musical and downright right," he said. "The most beauty you can buy for this kind of money." (Vol.30 Nos.7 & 10; Vol.36 No.6 WWW)

Simaudio Moon Evolution 850P: $30,000
The solid and beautifully built 850P is a two-chassis, dual-mono line-stage preamplifier with three balanced and four unbalanced inputs, a monitor/signal-processor loop, and two sets each of balanced and unbalanced outputs. It uses Simaudio's M-Octave mechanical damping system to decouple the audio circuit board from the chassis with eight compliant feet, each made of an elastomeric material and pre-loading chosen for their ability to damp the frequencies relevant to that part of the board. The 850P's complex power supply incorporates 40 examples of Simaudio's unique Independent Inductive DC Filtering topology, and its M-Ray volume-control circuit allows the user to precisely and quickly fine-tune the level in increments of 0.1 or 1dB. The sound was exceptionally transparent, with expertly reproduced transients, sharp image focus, and an outstanding sense of space, said BD. "No doubt about it," JA agreed—"Simaudio's Moon Evolution 850P is one of the best-measuring preamplifiers I have encountered." (Vol.36 No.12 WWW)

TAD Laboratories C600: $42,000
Part of TAD's Reference line, the C600 is a dual-mono, solid-state line preamplifier with a substantial external power supply. It measures 17.5" W by 5.9" H by 17.2" D, weighs almost 64 lbs, and has an attractive chassis of brushed anodized aluminum. It offers three unbalanced and three balanced inputs, two unbalanced and two balanced outputs, and two buffered Tape outputs. Each of the C600's inputs is associated with its own relay-controlled preamplifier, ladder resistor attenuator, and gain stage. The C600 combined airy highs, a somewhat lean midrange, and powerful bass for a sound that was exciting, resolute, and ruthlessly revealing, said MF. "TAD's C600 is a meticulously designed and exceptionally well-built high-tech wonder," he concluded. "Its construction and audio engineering are beyond reproach," JA added. (Vol.36 No.6 WWW)

VTL TL5.5 Series II Signature: $8000
VTL's most expensive all-tube preamplifier retains the basic circuit topology of the original TL-5.5 with a lower-gain, high-current 12AU7 tube circuit, a 12AT7 tube buffer, minimal negative feedback, and a low-impedance output stage. It uses a new, precision-regulated power supply and has a 117-step, chip-based differential volume control. There are two pairs of inputs that can be operated in either balanced or single-ended mode, as well as six additional single-ended inputs. Though it wasn't as resolving or detailed as the Nagra Jazz, the VTL produced delicate highs, a voluptuous midrange, and punchy bass, said BJR, adding "an extraordinary sense of lower bass extension and high level dynamic slam." "VTL's TL-5.5 Series II Signature is a nicely engineered preamplifier that offers no measured compromise resulting from its use of tubes," added JA. Optional phono stage adds $2500. (Vol.36 No.6 WWW)

Ypsilon PST-100 MK2: $37,000
Made in Greece, the PST-100 is a handsome tubed preamplifier housed in a thick, satin-finished aluminum chassis. It features transformer-based attenuation, 6CA4 tube rectification, choke supply filtering, a switchable passive mode, and a zero-feedback active stage based on a carefully selected Siemens C3m pentode tube. Though differences between the PST-100's active and passive stages were small, MF preferred the passive stage for its purer, more transparent sound. Compared to the darTZeel NHB-18NS, the Ypsilon produced more vivid tonal colors and greater physicality. "For now," MF concluded, "the Ypsilon PST-100 is the most transparent and, therefore, the most perfect audio component I have ever heard—or not heard." Though XLR input and output jacks are provided, the circuitry is unbalanced only. Without a line stage, the completely passive PST-100 TA costs $26,000. (Vol.34 No.7 WWW)

Zesto Audio Leto: $7500
See BJR's review in this issue.

B

Parasound Halo P 7: $2295 ✩
Full-featured analog stereo preamp with six stereo inputs, balanced and unbalanced outputs, front-panel headphone and MP3 jacks, and an MM/MC phono preamp—See "Multichannel Components." Delightful sound but "falls asymptotically short of the delicacy of the Nagra and Simaudio preamps I have used," says KR. (Vol.32 No.1 WWW)

C

Parasound Halo P 5: $1095 $$$
See AD's review in this issue.

Editor's Note: There are currently no Class D preamplifiers listed.

K
Audio Research SP20, NHT PVC.

Deletions
Ayre Acoustics KX-R replaced by 20th Anniversary Edition not yet auditioned; Lamm Industries LL2.1 Deluxe, Lightspeed Attenuator, not auditioned in too long a time; Amtrans Passive Controller APCG-01S no longer available in the US; AudioValve Eclipse, Musical Fidelity AMS Primo, PrimaLuna DiaLogue Three, 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