2016 Recommended Components Signal Processors

Signal Processors

A

BSG qøl Signal Completion Stage: $2395
The qøl Signal Completion Stage is a remote-controlled, solid-state signal processor with four pairs each of RCA and XLR analog inputs and two pairs each of RCA and XLR outputs. With the qøl activated, JA invariably noted a larger overall sound, with a greater impression of the ambience surrounding performers, increased image depth, and better layering within that depth. From JA's measurements, it appeared the qøl process is basically a variant of the well-known Blumlein Shuffler technique. "You must audition the effects of qøl yourself," he cautioned. Sold direct with a 30-day, money-back guarantee. (Vol.36 No.2 WWW)

DEQX PreMate D/A preamplifier/equalizer: $4995
In a field where, as KR puts it, "all automatic EQ systems conflate speaker correction with room correction," the DEQX PreMate stands out: In use, this DSP engine begins by measuring and analyzing the speakers—in exclusion of the listening room, to the greatest extent possible—then generates filters to correct frequency response, optimize time alignment, and, if desired, create a customized active crossover for that speaker. After that, the user can, if he or she wishes, completely discard the speakers' internal passive crossover components (although that's not required). Bass management and, ultimately, room correction can also be implemented with the PreMate: icing on the cake. The PreMate Incorporates a volume control and switches for choosing—or not—from three preprogrammed configurations. The usual variety of connectors provide S/PDIF, AES/EBU, TosLink, and USB inputs; there is also an XLR input for a calibrated mike (included), plus a variety of analog outputs, to use for the main stereo channels and subwoofers. Apart from noting that "the learning curve is steep," KR was unequivocal in his praise for the DEQX PreMate: "It made my very good speakers undeniably better, smoother and cleaner." (Vol.37 No.12 WWW)

Dirac room correction system: Full version: $709.67, Stereo version: $424.71
Of course, the sound quality is dependent on the hardware in the system, says KR, but the acoustic transformation capabilities of DLRC are well beyond what is found built into most processors. (Vol.37 No.5 WWW)

DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core digital room equalizer: $999
DSPeaker's Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core is a highly versatile, remote-controllable, two-channel room/system equalizer for full-range loudspeakers. It has two VS8053 IceDragon processor chips, a small color display, XLR and RCA analog inputs and outputs, a datalink connector for linking multiple Anti-Mode 2.0 units, and a USB connector for USB audio mode, firmware updates, and data downloads. By default, the Anti-Mode 2.0 measures and automatically corrects from 16 to 150Hz, but can be configured to work from 16Hz to an upper limit ranging from 80 to 500Hz. In addition, it provides a large array of filter and configuration options, and can store up to four different sound profiles. "The DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 may be a small and unprepossessing black box, but its performance and power are huge," summed up KR. (Vol.35 No.11 WWW)

Paradigm PBK: $99 ★
An adaption of the formidable Anthem Room Correction system used in Anthem's Statement D2 processor, the PBK includes USB cables and a microphone, and will work with up to four Paradigm subwoofers. While easier to use and considerably less expensive than either the SVSound or Audyssey devices, the PBK's subjective results were "no better or worse," said Kal. The PBK provided "a huge improvement" in the bass performance of the Paradigm Reference SUB 15, however. "The PBK, the SUB 15's obvious mate, is a bargain," KR concluded. (Vol.33 No.1 WWW)

Trinnov Magnitude Processor: $13,599 as reviewed
This digital audio processor includes Trinnov's powerful Optimizer room-correction software and has a modular architecture for customized arrays of inputs and outputs. The review sample was configured so that KR could feed it eight channels of balanced analog input and three S/PDIF digital inputs, and get from it eight channels of balanced analog output. The Optimizer measures each speaker's responses of frequency, phase, and impulse, and its relative volume level and distance from the calibration microphone; computes a digital filter set to correct for the frequency response, distance, and level of each speaker; and provides a 31-band graphic equalizer and level and delay controls for on-the-fly adjustments. Expensive but worth it, concluded Kal: "The superior abilities of Trinnov Audio's Optimizer to measure and equalize my surround system and correct for imperfect speaker placements were revelations." Replaced since review by basically identical Magnitude 32: 8 channels in/out (digital/analog), with calibrated microphone. (Vol.36 No.9 WWW)

B

DSPeaker Anti-Mode 8033C bass equalizer: $349 single-channel, $449, stereo $$$ ★
The Anti-Mode 8033C is a plug-and-play, DSP-based, single-channel bass equalizer with up to 24 Infinite Impulse Response digital filters. Its tiny chassis is powered by a 9V wall wart and has an RCA input jack and two RCA outputs. Kal noted tighter, cleaner low-end performance. "The DSPeaker Anti-Mode 8033 is a dandy little device for taking care of the major influences of room modes." Price includes shipping. The S version operate on stereo signals. (Vol.32 No.1 WWW)

miniDSP 10x10Hd: $599 $$$
Made in Hong Kong, the 10x10Hd has eight analog inputs and outputs (both balanced and unbalanced), and a stereo digital input and output (TosLink, S/PDIF, AES/EBU). It allows the user to set high- and low-pass filters for each output channel in increments of 1Hz; control gain, phase, delay, and compression for each channel; implement up to six parametric EQ filters per input and/or output channel; and select and store all options in up to four independent configuration presets. A simple front-panel push knob selects inputs and allows for nearly instantaneous A/B comparisons. Setup was simple and operation flawless. "The miniDSP 10x10Hd gave me the tools to do what I want in order to get the sound that I want," praised Kal. (Vol.37 No.1 WWW)

miniDSP nanoAVR 8x8 HDMI audio processor: $249
Taken to task by KR for its ungainly bass-management configuration—but nonetheless praised for offering real hands-on room EQ, like the miniDSP 10x10hd—the nanoAVR 8x8 now features reworked software and DSP firmware to allow standard bass management. (Registered owners of the previous version can download the update from the miniDSP website.) KR confirms that the changes address his criticisms: "I can now highly recommend the miniDSP nanoAVR 8x8 for use with high-end pre-pros that lack EQ or have limited or inadequate EQ." (Vol.37 Nos. 7 & 11 WWW)

C

Behringer DEQ2496: $524.99 $$$
Behringer's professional, rack-mount DEQ2496 offers a suite of signal-processing functions, including dynamic EQ, reverb, and digital room correction. It has AES/EBU and TosLink inputs but lacks a USB input. The sound was clear, fast, and lean, with good bass and dynamics, said JM. "If the idea of digital EQ doesn't make you run screaming from the room, the DEQ2496 is an amazing bargain, and might very well be the cheapest way to solve some problems in system matching or room acoustics," he decided. (Vol.35 No.4 WWW)



COMMENTS
Staxguy's picture

Class A

Audeze LCD-X: Why would you consider the Audeze LCD-X over the Audeze LCD-3? The Audeze LCD-3, though veiled, "digital" (too few bits of detail), and non-liquid, at least presents music as beautiful.

Not only this, but it (3) is a personal luxury product, with a gorgeous headband, ear-pads, and wood ear-cups.

There also is the issue of it (3) having phenomenal bass, on the non-Fazor version.

The LCD-X? It sounds like absolutely nothing. By nothing, one means about $600.

Audender Flow

Giving that you are Stereophile, this would be great in the Class C department. It has DSD, etc. and decent specs, but no balanced out, so no headphone enthusiast would consider using it.

Chord Mojo: A great DAC/amp. Great that you have it in Class A.

Sennheiser 650/600: certainly very comfortable, but no match for the 580. ;) While neither sounds like shit (the 600 is more natural), they lack any detail and air, although their true comfort makes them fantastic computer speakers. Still, Class C.

HiFiMan 400i: Shouldn't it be the HE-6? Where is the HE 1000? This is Class A guys.

Sennheiser IE 800: Where is this? Perhaps more detailed and fast than the HD-800 and only $1000. ($800 US). Obviously, no imaging like the HD. What an amazing headphone, the HD 800.

Omissions: Shouldn't the class A be the Stax 009 and perhaps some excessive (read: expensive) headphone amplifiers? Om.

Class B

Apogee Groove. Ok. Great. A pro-audio device.

Audeze EL-8: What? Ok. This one sounds like shit. Ok, have only heard the closed. Great cheap price ($699) and design job by BMW, but terrible sound an not even a part of the LCD-2. What a looser.

Audioquest Nighthawlk: Huh? Wah.

B&W P3: Why the P3 and not the P5 or P7? Isn't the quality of the P3 pathetic? Sound, gentlemen, sound.

CEEntrence DACPort: Ok. Great device. How about more CEntrance. Great specs.!

Master & Dynamic MD40: Is this a poor men's clothing magazine?

PSB M4U: Shouldn't this be Class E?

Class C:

Audioengine D3: for $149 a great made device with great components. However, the sound is worse than the stock Intel audio chip you'll have in your PC. Does have less hum and noise than an-in PC chip, though.

Overall: Where are the audiophile components?

Sorry to be a party-pooper.

dalethorn's picture

Mostly agree. Headphones don't seem as accurately covered here as the big stuff. Maybe the headphones and other portable gear should be covered entirely by Innerfidelity, in Stereophile Recommended Components.

Glotz's picture

Naw, just haughty, arrogant and disrespectful.

They reviewed various products for the magazine, and this is the list they came up with. The classes are explained in full, in relation to the other products's performance that have made the list. Older products, sometimes equally capable as current products listed, are removed due to age. Lastly, most reviewers have their own benchmarks and their own opinions about component performance, hence their choice of placement in the classes.

You can disagree all you want man, just do it with a modicum of respect. If you want to start your own magazine, go for it dude.

K.Reid's picture

Glad to see this mighty monitor included in Class A restricted low frequency. Very well deserved and impeccably engineered at a fair price. Most importantly it sounds great. An excellent effort by the folks at Technics. It's obvious they care about and love music by making a product like this.

Anon2's picture

I read JA's assessment of the Arcam A19 regarding its ability to handle low impedance, high volume listening.

I wanted to add my own, perhaps less scientific assessment of the Arcam A18 predecessor model.

I have my Arcam A18 integrated connected to Canton Ergo 32DC speakers whose impedance range is listed as 4...8 Ohm, 87 dB by the manufacturer. The owner's manual for my speakers, of about year 2000 vintage, states that the speakers can be "unhesitatingly operated with any standard amplifier" (with some small qualifications later in the manual).

Stereophile's tests of other Canton speakers show that the speakers tend to operate more towards the 4, rather than the 8 Ohm range of input impedance.

I have used my Canton speakers with my demo model Arcam A18 for several years now. I am not a loud volume listener, but I like room filling sound. For a benchmark of my listening, I will say that audio show rooms, for example, are, for the most part, way too loud.

I did a test this morning. On the integrated's volume range of 1 to 99, I did some listening around 38 on the volume scale. I listened to a Chandos recording of Bryden Thomson's LSO recording of Vaughn Willams's 8th Symphony and assorted string works (Chandos 8828, a great audiophile recording still in circulation). This volume is adequate to fill the room amply with sound. Vaughn Williams works will require a bit more gas-pedal than other orchestral works.

Then, for some higher octane listening, but with the volume set at the same 38 position, I did another test. I listened to the great recording of Don Juan, with the Cleveland Orchestra, and the late great Lorin Maazel (CBS Masterworks MDK 44909). If I had finicky neighbors adjacent to my listening room for this session, they might have complained over the volume in some sections of this work.

After listening to these CD tracks, I put my hand over the unobstructed top ventilation grate on the Arcam A18. After feeling the heat, which was almost imperceptible, I then put my hand to my cheek. After 5 seconds the heat from my cheek was noticeably warmer.

I'd guess that John's assessment would apply particularly--without mentioning brands--to low efficiency low impedance speakers, of the 84-85 dB and/or 4 Ohms nominal varieties. But for my speakers the Arcam never seems over-taxed, and certainly never clips with the music and volume settings that I employ.

If you are a moderate-to-room filling volume listener, have stand-mount speakers of 87-88 dB, and 8 Ohm nominal impedance, and love peerless sound, I'd say buy the Arcam A19 without hesitation. I'm not a dealer or a professional, but that's my assessment. A reader wrote in the Stereophile review of the A19 that he found the A19 to be a big improvement from the A18. My dealer says that if you have an A18, you can probably live with it without going to the A19.

Other publications, that score products in their reviews, show the Arcam A18/A19 models garnering the highest scores of the Arcam integrated amp line-up.

Those are my two cents on the Arcam A19.

makarisma's picture

What about products from companies such as T+A, YBA, Linn, McIntosh, etc., all of which also have outstanding models in the listed catagories?

pablolie's picture

based on the reviews, it seems to defy logic you give the Benchmark AHB2 a class A rating, and the NAD M22 a class B. to quote your own review, the AHB2 "failed to be as lively or exciting as the NAD". oddly enough, the word "loss" is not mentioned anywhere in the M22's review, so it surprises me it shows up in the recommended equipment guide.

sharethemusic's picture

i am the proud owner of raven audio amplification. "THE RAVEN" a 3oob tube based integrated amplifier. There can be no better amplification in the world. You see right thru the music. Your are drawn into it. All the details of the recording are there.Is there colorization by the tubes? Not sure.i can only tell you the music sounds exactly as intended and as natural and neutral as can be.it is rated at 15 watts per channel..Some may not understand. Raven audios 10 watts,is another tube companies 40 watts and solid states 80 watts. It is in the power supply and voltage regulation that all the power of god on earth is unleashed. the power is more than enough to fill my 20x 20 room with blasting clear,warm glorious sound. i have owned mcintosh,krell ,NAD AND MARK LEVINSON. There really isnt anything but maybe my old mac that sounds even close to the raven. andy rothman sharethemusic@aol.com

Ladokguy1's picture

I know Art Dudley has used Auditorium cables as a reference for several years, any reason they are not listed in Recommended Components?

AndySingh's picture

Hello

I went to my local store - Overture Audio, and auditioned the GoldenEar Aon 2 and Dynaudio Emit M10.

Listening to the M10's, I am surprised they (or other Dynaudio products) have never been reviewed on your site.

Is there a Dynaudio review on the horizon?

Glideyork's picture

Hi,

I bought the Dynaudio m20 few weeks ago. I'm not really expert, but I think my amp (yamaha r-n500) is not enough powerful for these speakers. If you make some emit reviews, could you give us some advices about the good amps to associate with :/

Thanks for all the other really interesting articles.

AndySingh's picture

Speaking to Northwoods AV of Grand Rapids, MI, I was told that Yamaha Aventage 750/760 would be a good choice for 4 ohm speakers such as Dynaudio Emit M20.

The dealer claimed he was running Magnepans off of these. For a stereo setup, this receiver would do, however they probably only support 4 ohm impedance for front left and right.

The power output would not be a concern for a stereo setup.

gasolin's picture

I use the Marantz PM8005 and that is the smallest amp i would recommend for the Dynaudio emit m10's

z24069's picture

There are some fine choices on the Transports, Digital Processors, Preamp and Amp listings. I am puzzled however at the total lack of mention of any Esoteric Audio product. They are current products well known for their performance and musicality. What criteria being utilized could yield a recommended components lists where at least one of their products (or more) would not make it into the results?

Waves200's picture

Oh to live in a country with a reasonable rate of exchange! Our local Velodyne distributors have the DD+ 15-inch sub listed at the equivalent of almost $2000 more than the listed RRP is in the US. By the time that customs and excise is added to the cost, and the retailers have added their markup, you would be paying almost as much for the 15 inch model as you would for a new family car!

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