Recommended Components 2022 Edition

Every product listed here has been reviewed in Stereophile. Everything on the list, regardless of rating, is genuinely recommendable.

Within each category, products are listed by class; within each class, they're in alphabetical order, followed by their price, a review synopsis, and a note indicating the issues in which the review, and any subsequent follow-up reports, appeared. "Vol.44 No.9" indicates our September 2021 issue, for example. "WWW" means the review is also posted online.

Stereophile's Recommended Components list is concerned mainly with products available in the US through hi-fi retail outlets. Companies that sell only through dealers must have well-established dealer networks. Products sold online also qualify. Companies that sell only online must demonstrate the capacity for satisfactory customer support, preferably right here in the US. A no-risk at-home audition is strongly preferred, whether it's provided by an online or bricks'n'mortar dealer.

We recommend you read our Recommended Components synopses to decide which reviews to read, then read each product's review carefully before seriously contemplating a purchase, as many salient characteristics, peculiarities, and caveats described in reviews cannot be covered in a circa 200-word synopsis.

Almost all reviews of current products are available online at Back issues of the magazine can be ordered from the website. The editors regret that we cannot supply copies of individual reviews.

The nuts and bolts
This listing was compiled after consultation with Stereophile's reviewing staff and editors—including, notably, Technical Editor John Atkinson. Our ratings take into account what we heard during the review period but also our continued experience with the product (if we've had any) after the review has been published. Defects discovered after the audition may cause a product to be downgraded or removed. Class ratings are based on performance—but that includes performance not just in the listening room but also on the test bench. Products are downrated when and to the extent that their deficiencies interfere with the full realization of the music and the pleasure of the listener, although obvious limitations, such as limited bass extension in a minimonitor, are understood and so not viewed as defects.

Measurements matter. But we do not expect every component to aspire to the best measurements possible; to do so would incentivize conformity, boredom, and metric-gaming, all of which I oppose. Measurements indicating poor engineering or revealing potentially audible defects may cause us to lower our rating, but we do not expect our measurements of a single-ended triode amplifier to resemble those of a perfectionist solid state design.

In any case, the reviewer's experience is the most important factor.

Class ratings are based on performance, but different reviewers value different aspects of performance, so it's best not to expect thematic and methodological consistency. You'll find high-tech amplifiers with vanishingly low noise and distortion listed alongside old-school tube amps; what they share is the demonstrated ability to provoke musical bliss in their respective reviewers. Recommendations, then, are most useful to those who share, or at least are aware of, the specific reviewer's tastes and proclivities, and the reviewing context.

The best use of this list, and of the reviews from which it is derived, is to help you decide what to audition. In today's world, with fewer dealers, especially for high-end gear, you may need to travel to hear a component; that makes a resource like this more valuable than ever.

In any case, never turn down an opportunity to audition a component, especially if you can review it in your own system. Even the highest-quality component may not work optimally in your system and room.

The prices indicated were current when the listing was compiled (January 2022). We cannot guarantee that they will still be current when you read this.

There is a near-universal consensus that at some point in the upward climb of product prices, diminishing returns set in: Doubling the price may get you only a 10%—or 5%—improvement (whatever that might mean). Where we have found a product to perform much better than might be expected at its price, we have drawn attention to it with a $$$ next to its listing. Otherwise, class ratings do not, as a matter of policy, take price into account.

We believe that value in hi-fi is precisely that—a value—which is to say, it's personal. We can't make that decision for you. Still, it's fair to assume that every reviewer implicitly factors value into their opinions about products in their own particular way.

Products discontinued by their manufacturer are of course removed from the list, as are those that have been revised in ways that could affect performance. Such revisions often lead to a follow-up review.

When a product is removed from the list, we endeavor to report why it was removed. Look for a Deletions listing at the end of each category.

Many products are deleted from the list while they're still in production. That does not mean we've suddenly decided they're unworthy or that they suddenly started sounding worse. Most products remain listed for just three years, for two reasons. The first reason is that there's only so much space in the magazine. The second: It's impossible to compare a component to others when your memory of it is dim.

We indicate with a star (★) products we have kept on this list for more than three years, usually because the product is part of a reviewer's "kit" so the reviewer uses it regularly, but there may be other reasons. A product may remain on the list simply at the editor's discretion. On this list, I've retained some inexpensive turntables and phono cartridges, because I want the list to cover those areas well. I've also retained loudspeakers, including in Class A (Full-Range) because those entries take up little space.

Specific reviewers identified by their initials are John Atkinson, Jim Austin (JCA, or occasionally JA2), Rogier van Bakel, Brian Damkroger, Robert Deutsch, Art Dudley, Michael Fremer, Tom Gibbs, Larry Greenhill, Alex Halberstadt, Jon Iverson, Fred Kaplan, Michael Lavorgna, Erick Lichte, John Marks, Sasha Matson, Ken Micallef, Julie Mullins (JMu), Thomas J. Norton, Wes Phillips, Herb Reichert, Bob Reina (BJR), Kalman Rubinson, Jonathan Scull, Rob Schryer, and Jason Victor Serinus.—Jim Austin

donnrut's picture

Not a single disc player reviewed under $4 thou??? Come on. I don't drive a Porsche Taycan or a Lambo. I have a $7 thou turntable rig assembled over several years of upgrades. My SACD player died 5 years ago, and now, I am in the market for $500 or $1000 disc player. I'll stream eventually but I have listened to my CDs, tossed out the bad ones and have maybe 200 that are well engineered/mastered, about 50 SACDs. I want S'phile to help me get a decent player. There are maybe half a dozen newish models.

johnnythunder1's picture

been doing a little research. The Hegel (discontinued) was 5k. The Bryston is 3+k. Ive had my eye on a Rotel CD 11 Tribute. It's like $600 and gets very good reviews.

AndyT2050's picture

I have a Rega Research Apollo Cd Player. Beautiful sound, nice design in my opinion. Not too expensive

moinau's picture

Nothing in the 500 to 1000$ range SACD player, although this Arcam might interest you.
Arcam CDS50

Ulfilas's picture

There is one recommended in the integrated amps category:

I have one myself, and grateful for the recommendation I am.

rlo's picture

Can you please bring back the links on the mobile page that let you jump to the relevant recommended component page? This has been missing for the last few. It’s quite annoying to have to switch to desktop theme to be able to go directly to the page I want (e.g. loudspeakers, amplifiers etc)

Jonti's picture

I've had mine for about 18 months and still have a sense of quiet awe every time I listen to/through it.

Tube-rolling can also yield excellent results. I have switched to NOS Mullards, which work a treat by (to my EAR) thickening the syrup and stirring the pot in such a way that the ends and edges of trailing sounds glisten, firing off from a weightier centre. (The stock EAR-stamped tubes were fine, just different: lighter-sounding, I think; I assume Tim would have approved the use of NOS Mullards given his views on the quality of many new tubes doing the rounds.)

Just for the benefit of any readers thinking about rolling those tubes, here's some extra instruction I received from an engineer at EAR Yoshino on how to go about it:

"Remove the top cover by removing four screws on the bottom of the unit. The jumper plug is located on the left side of smaller power supply circuit board labeled ECC83 and 13D16. The default position for the jumper is 13D16 with standard 13D16 valves fitted. If ECC83 valves are fitted then move the jumper one position to the right in the ECC83. position."

And finally, on the subject of MM/MC carts, I think it's fair to say (as correctly reflected in its rating here) that the Phono Box gives a solid platform to MC carts but really excels with MM/MIs. Try it with a London Decca!

[Edited version of post on Herb's original review]

hesson11's picture

The comments under the heading "Harbeth P3ESR XD" seem to imply that the XD version is identical to the 40th Anniversary edition, which Herb reviewed. Is that, in fact, the indisputable truth? I don't believe I've ever seen any official word that this is, in fact, the case.