Recommended Components: Fall 2016 Edition Cables

Interconnects

AcroLink 7N-DA2090 Speciale: $2375/1.5m pair
The less-than-snappily named 7N-DA2090 Speciale is technically laudable; commendably, AcroLink publishes the specs for this product's resistance (18milliohm/meter) and electrostatic capacitance (56pF/meter). It's made of 99.99999% pure multistrand copper, arranged in what AcroLink calls a "balanced twin core structure." According to MF, substituting the AcroLink interconnect for his TARA Zero Evolution "produced sharper but not unnaturally defined transients, shorter sustain and decay, and an overall well-detailed and more speedy sound." (Vol.39 No.3)

Audience Au24 SE: $1190/1m pair
Audience's latest interconnect uses an RCA plug of tellurium-copper alloy with a single, small contact point, meant to reduce the formation of eddy currents. Compared to Audience's Au24 e, the SE version offered superior detail, clarity, timing precision, and image focus, said BD. Au24 e owners can upgrade to SE status for $220. (Vol.36 No.12, Vol.37 No.2 WWW)

Audio Art Classic IC-3: $100/1m pair (RCAs), $125/1m pair (XLRs)
The IC-3—available with Audio Art's own gold-plated brass RCA plugs or, for $10 more, DH Labs' Ultimate XLR plugs—uses conductors of silver-coated, oxygen-free copper, a foam polyethylene dielectric, aluminum-Mylar shielding, and a PVC jacket. Compared to AudioQuest's Big Sur, the IC-3 lacked some midrange body and warmth but produced a pleasantly forward, detailed sound with an unusually wide soundstage, said SM. Sold direct with a 30-day, money-back guarantee. (Vol.37 No.2 WWW)

AudioQuest Big Sur: $109/1m
AudioQuest Golden Gate: $69/1m
AudioQuest Evergreen: $35/1m
AudioQuest Tower: $25/1m
AudioQuest's Bridges & Falls interconnects (of which these are the four least expensive models) put left and right channels in a single cable, thereby minimizing manufacturing costs while maximizing termination possibilities. Available terminations include RCA-to-RCA, mini-to-RCA, mini-to-mini, DIN-to-DIN, RCA-to-DIN, iPod-to-mini, or iPod-to-RCA, making these interconnects ideal for desktop and portable applications. The Tower and Evergreen use AQ's solid Long-Grain Copper (LGC) conductors. Golden Gate uses higher purity Perfect-Surface Copper (PSC) conductors. Big Sur uses even-higher-purity Perfect-Surface+ Copper (PSC+) conductors, and upgrades the other models' gold-plated RCA plugs to gold-plated plugs of pure purple copper. All four models are insulated with foamed polyethylene, and are attractive, well made, and very flexible. Moving up the line, SM heard improvements in image focus, tone color, drama, and overall clarity and extension. "If you're in the market for truly affordable, truly high-quality interconnects, I can think of no better place to start than AudioQuest," he concluded. SM used it between his laptop and PSB Alpha PS1 desktop speakers. Compared with the stock PS1 cable, the AQ produced a larger, more present overall sound, with deeper silences, longer decays, cleaner highs, more realistic bass, and richer tone color. "Suddenly, I had real high-fidelity sound coming from my laptop," SM enthused. (Vol.36 Nos.7, 8, Evergreen; Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

AudioQuest Earth (balanced): $750/0.5m pair
KR, who hates wrestling with stiff cables even more than Rick Grimes hates wrestling with stiffs, has welcomed into his home a set of AudioQuest's Earth balanced interconnects, terminated with XLR plugs and featuring AQ's 72V Dielectric Bias System (DBS). Cable conductors are solid, perfect-surface copper, while the plugs are high-purity red copper with hanging-silver plating. KR's only disappointment: AQ's omission of a latching feature from the "otherwise impressively designed" XLRs. (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)

BIS Expression: 500 (Canadian)/1m pair
From Quebec-based BIS Audio comes their middle-of-the-line interconnect, the Expression: a cable of moderate thickness and flexibility, covered in a sheath of braided polymer and terminated with Eichmann BulletPlugs (RCA). AD found that the BIS Expression allowed his system to perform "with good drive and momentum," and while the Canadian interconnect lacked the subtler musical and sonic strengths of his more-expensive Audio Notes and Shindos, the BIS performed "somewhat better . . . than its relatively humble price predicted." (Vol.38 No.6 WWW)

Cardas Audio Clear Rev.1: $2020/1m pair, balanced; $1840/1m pair, unbalanced
Rev.1 applies to both Cardas's Clear balanced and single-ended interconnects; JM tested the balanced version, which incorporates Cardas's heavy, gold-plated CG XLR plugs. With the Rev.1 in his system, JM gained significant measures of detail and transparency. (Vol.36 No.12 WWW)

Fono Acustica Virtuoso: $20,384/1.5m pair
The conductors are an alloy of silver and gold (shades of Burl Ives!), the styling is Spanish Cowboy Baroque, and the price is enough to buy a brand-new Volkswagen Golf and a couple of Brooks Brothers suits. What does that add up to? According to MF, when substituted for his reference TARA Zero Evolution interconnect, the Fono Acustica made for "more graceful, almost cautious, romantic, but somehow still precise and well-detailed attacks, and long, long sustains." On switching back to the TARA, did Mikey miss the Fono Acustica? "Yes—but you can't have everything!" (Vol.39 No.3)

Kimber Kable Hero: $329/1m pair with WBT-0114 ★
The "strong, silent type" when it comes to cables, says the inestimable JM. "And reasonably priced, into the bargain." (NR, but see "The Fifth Element" in Vol.33 No.6 WWW)

Kimber Kable PBJ: $117/1m pair, as reviewed ★
Originally released in the late 1980s, PBJ is a minimalist design comprising three high-quality, multistrand wires in individual Teflon jackets, braided together and terminated with Kimber's Ultraplate connectors. With the PBJs in his system, SM heard greater clarity, detail, depth, and presence. Compared to AudioQuest's Sidewinder, the PBJ lacked body and warmth but was more muscular, insistent, and precise, said SM. (Vol.35 No.6 WWW)

Kimber Kable Tonik: $84/1m pair
Kimber's most affordable interconnect uses three stranded copper wires neatly braided in a noise-canceling pattern. Though they lacked the resolution of much more expensive interconnects, the Toniks "offered clarity without brightness, and reasonably good amounts of color, texture, and touch. For $80, that was A-okay with me," said AD. Price includes Kimber's Ultratike connectors. (Vol.34 No.11 WWW)

Kubala-Sosna Anticipation: $400/m pair; $150/additional meter ★
Like the K-S speaker cables (see "Loudspeaker Cables"), the K-S interconnects are based on a low characteristic impedance and solid construction. The results are uncolored sound and extremely low noise pickup. (Vol.29 No.7 WWW)

Kubala-Sosna Elation Interconnect: $6000/pair first meter, $1200/each additional meter
Expensive but superbly transparent interconnect that JA found worked synergistically with YG's Sonja 1.3 speakers. (NR)

Luna interconnects
See Powerline Accessories.

Nordost Valhalla 2 interconnect: $7599.99/1m pair
Characterized by the inclusion of Nordost's Dual-Mono-Filament spacing between conductor and dielectric, as well as of Nordost's new Holo:Plug connectors, the analog interconnects, speaker cables, phono cables, and power cords in the company's Valhalla 2 Reference series impressed BD, whose system had been wired with Nordost's original Valhalla-series cables. With the new cables in place, BD heard gains in a number of areas—especially improved transparency and resolution, greater clarity in the reproduction of spatial information, and greater timbral warmth and richness—compared with his ca-2001 Valhallas. BD added that, of all the cable products in the new Valhalla 2 Reference series, "it was the 1m interconnect with RCAs ($7599.99) that had the greatest effect on the sound of my system." (Vol.39 No.7 WWW)

Pure Silver Connection (PSC) PST 8: $1500/1m pair ★
Balanced interconnects featuring solid, silver-plated 6N copper and round conductors. LG reported that they reduced system hum problems and were "highly recommended!" Price is for both balanced and unbalanced interconnects. (NR)

Stealth Sakra V16 interconnect: $12,000/1m, $7,600 each additional meter; balanced version fitted with XLRs: $16,000/1m pair, $9,500 each additional meter ★
Lightweight, very flexible, and finished in an outer jacket of near-opalescent white, the Sakra interconnect is built into a hermetically sealed, helium-filled tube and terminated with proprietary solid-silver connectors. The overall sound was open and clean, with lightning-fast attacks, generous sustains, and long decays. Compared to the TARA Labs Zero, the Sakra had a bit more midrange body and texture but lacked some air and speed, felt Mikey. (Vol.34 No.6)

TARA Labs Zero Evolution: $18,000/1m
The Zero Evolution is an all-new, physically flexible, easier to manage air-dielectric interconnect than the original Zero with non-insulated square solid-core conductors. Because neither end of The Zero Evolution's shield is attached to ground, TARA employs the Floating Ground Station, a heavy, black box containing Ceralex, a combination of ceramic materials and metallic compounds that absorbs RFI and EMI. Switching from the original Zero to the new Evolution Zero, MF's system benefited yet further from an enormous addition of lushness, texture, and warmth, along with major extensions of air, detail, and transparency. Due to The Evolution Zero's ultrawide bandwidth, some outside transient noise can leak into the system when nearby appliances are activated. But—"I've heard nothing like it," he declares, adding "a genuine breakthrough, though hideously expensive. The TARA Labs Evolution Zero had a fast, clean, open overall sound, with airy highs and tight bass. The Evolution upgrade adds the rich, textured midrange of the Stealth Sakra, while continuing to produce faster attacks, longer sustains, and deeper decays, said MF." (Vol.29 No.12, Zero; Vol.34 No.6 WWW, Zero Gold; Vol.36 No.11, Zero Evolution)

TARA Labs Zero GX DIN-to-RCA tonearm cable: $3800/1.0m ★
Though it was "somewhat bereft of physicality," the Zero GX's accentuated sibilants and precise attack made it "a good choice for detail devotees," said MF. (Vol.32 No.7)

Tellurium Q Black: $500/1m pair
A new company based in Somerset, UK, Tellurium Q is a cable specialist offering three lines of products, with Black squarely in the middle. JM responded well to a pair of Black balanced interconnects, which he found "on the slightly warm or musical side of neutral," and praised for sounding "quieter and far less closed-in at the top" than his comparatively plebian Canare interconnects. Extra points for emphasizing engineering over fancy packaging. According to JM, this entry-level-premium cable line is "well worth exploring." (Vol.38 No.4 WWW)

Teresonic Clarison Gold: $3495/1m pair ★
The Clarison Gold is handmade using gold-plated crimp sleeves and gold-plated RCA plugs. Its solid-gold conductors are enclosed in a spiral-wound, galvanized ferromagnetic material. Though it lacked the detail resolution of the much more expensive TARA Labs Zero, the Clarison Gold was dead quiet and produced sweet highs, a lush midrange, and clean bass, said MF. (Vol.36 No.8)

Wireworld Platinum Eclipse 7: $3000/1m pair
Though it wasn't as transparent as the TARA Labs Zero, when used with the Constellation Centaur Mono monoblock amplifiers, the Eclipse 7 "produced a much better overall picture in terms of tonality, texture, and transients," said Mikey. (Vol.36 No.11)

Deletions

Audience Au24 and Au24 discontinued, MIT CVT Terminator 2 not auditioned in a long time.

Loudspeaker Cables

Audio Art Classic SC-5: $235/10ft pair (spades), $240/10ft pair (bananas)
The SC-5 has silver-coated OFC conductors (14AWG), a foam polyethylene dielectric, a PVC jacket, and an internal packet of vibration-absorbing fibers. It can be terminated with gold-plated brass banana plugs or, for $10 less, DH Labs' gold-plated copper spade lugs. Compared to AudioQuest's Rocket 33, the SC-5 lacked body, weight, and warmth, but produced a detailed, dramatic overall sound, with clean transients and impressive dynamics, said SM. Sold direct with a 30-day, money-back guarantee. (Vol.37 No.2 WWW)

AudioQuest Oak: $3040/8' pair
AudioQuest's Oak speaker cable, available terminated for full-range, biwiring, double biwiring, or bi-amping, features double-counterspiral conductor geometry and AQ's 72V Dielectric Bias System (DBS). KR, who actually admits to not obsessing over cables—"confesses" would be more like it!—has now switched from older AudioQuest cables terminated with spade lugs to a set of Oaks terminated with AQ's SureGrip silver-plated beryllium-copper banana plugs, which "fit so tightly into the amp and speaker terminals that I can just barely insert or remove them by hand." (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)

AudioQuest Rocket 33: $329/10ft pair ★
AudioQuest's 14AWG, solid-core Rocket 33 speaker cable offered an exciting leap in performance over SM's RadioShack Flat Megacable speaker wire, infusing music with more low-level resolution, transient speed, clarity, and physicality. (Vol.34 No.9, Vol.37 No.2 WWW)

Cardas Clear rev.1: $4085/2m pair, terminated in spades ★
JM was most impressed by the Cardas Clear's low-frequency clarity and resolution, finding the Clear to give two or three more bass notes on a pipe organ, with a lower noise floor and "spooky" resolution compared with his reference MIT MH-770 CVTerminator cables. "The best-sounding cables I have heard," he concluded. JA agrees that these are fine-sounding cables. (Vol.33 No.10 WWW)

Kimber 4PR: $137/10ft pair, as reviewed
Practically unchanged since its introduction in 1979, the 4PR is Kimber's most affordable speaker cable. It employs the same braided geometry found in the company's more expensive 8VS, but instead of the 8VS's eight gray and eight black conductors, the 4PR has four pairs each of black and brown conductors in an apparently looser braid. Compared to RadioShack's inexpensive 16-gauge zip cord, the 4PR offered greater nuance, detail, clarity, and bass control, said SM. Price is $90/10ft pair without connectors. (Vol.35 No.7 WWW)

Kimber 8TC: $505/10ft pair w/o connectors ★
(NR, but see "The Fifth Element" in Vol.33 No.6 WWW)

Kimber 8VS: $271/10ft pair, as reviewed ★
Kimber's 8VS is made up of eight gray and eight black conductors in individual polyethylene jackets, braided together and terminated in a choice of high-quality spade lugs or banana plugs. Compared to AudioQuest's Rocket 33, the 8VS lacked body and warmth but offered greater clarity and control, said SM. Compared to Kimber's 4PR, the 8VS offered similar tonal qualities but presented music with even greater urgency, drama, and purpose, said SM. Price is $231/10ft pair without connectors, $271/10ft pair with bananas. (Vol.35 Nos.6 & 7 WWW)
Kubala-Sosna Elation Speaker Cable: $6000/pair first meter, $1200/each additional meter
A JA favorite. See "Interconnects." (NR)

Kubala-Sosna Fascination: $950/m pair; $300/additional meter ★
Kubala-Sosna claims that their OptimiZ technology "results in a lower characteristic impedance and a higher ratio of capacitance to inductance than any other cable." Each cable consists of a hefty pair of conductors twisted around each other, sheathed with a knitted cover, and solidly terminated in thick spade lugs. The current versions have sleek, tight jackets that make them easy to snake and arrange. With the K-S cables in his system, KR noted a decrease in overall residual hiss and softer but more precise highs. "I can't say that the change is substantial, but it is definable." Further auditioning with his multi-channel system completely wired with K-S cables led him to describe these cables as among the quietest and most transparent cables he has encountered: "Overall, they seem to get out of the way of everything else and let the system do its thing." (Vol.28 No.3, Vol.29 No.7 WWW)

Luna loudspeaker cables
See Powerline Accessories.

MIT CVT Terminator 2: $1999/8ft pair ★
Compared with earlier MIT cable designs, the CVT Terminator 2 has additional "pole networks" for wider bandwidth, and adds the CVT Coupler input module to minimize energy reflection. It offered "clear, crisp, clean highs" and outstanding dynamic articulation, but had "a touch of warmth" in the low end, said BJR. Biwire version costs $1299/8ft pair. (Vol.31 No.10)

Naim NACA5: $25/ft $$$ ★
Inexpensive spaced-twin cable that ST found to work well with the Spendor S100 loudspeaker. Unchanged in Naim's product line since 1986, the NACA5 is made of two chunky runs of stranded heavy-gauge wire twisted into a very tight bundle and molded into a thick sheath of Teflon. "Stiffer than Swedish roadkill," said AD. Compared to RadioShack's inexpensive SW-1650 speaker wire, however, the unwieldy NACA5 was better at communicating pitch relationships and had "a more realistic sense of flow." Worth investigating as a good-value cable, thinks JA. (Vol.32 No.8 WWW)

Nirvana Audio S-X Ltd.: $2780/2.5m pair ★
"A dynamite speaker cable," the S-X Ltd. was tonally neutral and produced well-defined images, powerful and fast transients, and incredible transparency. The only nit BD could pick was a slight compression of front-to-back soundstaging depth. "A big jump in performance from the company's SL." Add $50/pair for biwire configuration. (Vol.28 No.10 WWW)

Nordost Valhalla 2 loudspeaker cable, $9599.99/1m
See Interconnects.

Stealth Dream V16: $14,700/2m pair, $6,600 each additional meter ★
The hermetically sealed, helium-filled Dream V10 is a thick yet flexible cable made of three flat solid-silver wires and a conductive carbon-fiber core. Compared to the TARA Labs Omega Onyx, the Stealth cable had a richer, warmer sound, with a softer attack for a slower overall musical flow. Partnered with the Stealth Sakra interconnects, the Dream V10 cable produced a more textured midrange but lacked the TARA's upper-octave air, said MF. Bi-wiring adds $1300 regardless of cables' length. (Vol.34 No.6)

TARA Labs Omega Evolution SP loudspeaker cable: $34,000/8' pair
The new physically flexible TARA Labs Omega Evolution, incorporating almost twice as many rectangular, solid-core "8 Nines" oxygen-free copper elements (280 versus the Gold's 156), adds the speed, transparency, dimensionality and, especially, textural suppleness that the previous Gold cable lacked, thus losing the Gold's "somewhat laid-back overall sound," with no sonic penalty paid for the major improvements, said Mikey. (Vol.36 No.11)

TARA Labs Omega Evolution: $32,000/8'
The recent and physically flexible TARA Labs Omega Evolution, incorporating almost twice as many rectangular, solid-core elements of "8 nines" (99.999999%) oxygen-free copper (280 vs the Gold's 156), adds the speed, transparency, dimensionality, and, especially, textural suppleness that the previous Gold cable lacked, thus losing the Gold's "somewhat laid-back overall sound" while paying no sonic penalty for the major improvements, said Mikey. Even more recent is TARA's Omega Evolution SP speaker cable, a higher-inductance and identically priced variant intended as a better match for amplifiers with very low damping factors and/or speakers that present distinctly reactive loads. In his system, in comparison with the less expensive TARA Omega Golds, MF found the Omega Evolution SPs to offer "more precise note attacks" and "greater textural nuance," among other attributes. (Vol.36 No.11, Vol.38 No.12)

TARA Labs Omega Gold: $24,000/8ft
Compared to the Wireworld Platinum Eclipse 7, the TARA Labs Omega Gold has a somewhat laid-back overall sounded that lacked ultimate transparency, three-dimensionality, and transient speed, said Mikey. (Vol.36 No.11)

Wireworld Platinum Eclipse 7: $24,400/3m pair
Compared to the new TARA Labs Omega Evolution, the Platinum Eclipse 7 is equally transparent, resolving, and dimensional, but less texturally supple and extended on top, with a less richly drawn midrange, said MF. (Vol.36 No.11)

Deletions

Audience Au24 and Au24 discontinued.

Digital Data Interconnects

AudioQuest Forest iPod–USB cable: $39/1.5m
If you use your iPod or iPhone plugged into your system with the ubiquitous white USB cable, pick up this inexpensive replacement. Bits may be bits, but you'll be gob-smacked by the improvement in sound quality sez JA. (NR)

Canare DigiFlex Gold model RCAPOO3F: approx. $19.37/3ft $$$ ★
Before you try any of the expensive coaxial links, CG advises trying this inexpensive, true 75 ohm cable with Canare crimp RCA connectors. He rates it as his first choice in a digital cable at any price, even preferring it to the Kimber AGDL. JA uses the 110-ohm version in various lengths for CD mastering. (Vol.16 No.7)

DH Labs Silver Sonic D-110 AES/EBU: $99/1m
(NR, but see EL's review of the Bel Canto DAC3.5VB in Vol.34 No.6 WWW)

Kimber Orchid: $757.50/1m ★
Expensive, but the best AES/EBU link JA has used. J-10 loved the Orchid's midrange liquidity and detail, but preferred Illumination's S/PDIF cable overall. SD (almost) doesn't equivocate: "Probably the best out there for now....A stunner!" RH and RD are also fans. New lower price usefully brings this cable in reach of more music lovers. (Vol.19 No.5)

Kubala-Sosna Expression: $775/m, $210/additional meter ★ "A KR favorite. See "Loudspeaker Cables." (Vol.29 No.7 WWW)

Transparent Audio Performance USB: $100/1m
The Performance USB uses heavy-gauge conductors, robust connectors, and high-quality dielectrics and shielding, and can be used in runs of up to 30'. In addition to being significantly more durable than Art's reference Belkin cable, the Performance USB was quieter and produced blacker silences. Price increases by $30 for each additional meter. (Vol.33 No.1 WWW)

K

Esperanto Audio "Small-Batch" S/PDIF cable.

COMMENTS
germay0653's picture

For the past three years not one Pro-ject turntable has been in the recommended list but there is always some number of Music Hall models recommended. I believe they're made at the same factory, some even share the same arms. I'm not trying to take away anything from Music Hall because they're fine turntables but this just seems a little biased maybe.

jdaddabbo's picture

Having read and re-read many times over reviews for such speakers as the KEF R700, Monitor Audio Silver 8, B&W 683 S2, GoldenEar Triton One and Triton Five... I am finding it quite confusing to see the Triton Five listed under Class C. So I re-read all of them yet again, and then immediately doubled back to the R700, Silver 8, and Triton One... and still I'm expecting to see the Triton Five also listed under Class B. Can someone please help me understand what I am missing? Is it that I am not taking away strong enough some things stated about the Triton Five, or is it maybe that I am taking away to strongly comments made of all the others, which in either case is having me feel that all 5 speakers belong under Class B (or simply under the same Class). Thank you very much for any guidance you can give me! Ps. I'm currently in the market for 3 pairs of speakers for use in my new Home Theater setup and therefore both the Silver 8 and Triton 5 were looking quite good at their respective price points.

John Atkinson's picture
jdaddabbo wrote:
I am finding it quite confusing to see the Triton Five listed under Class C. . . Can someone please help me understand what I am missing?

When I polled the writers for their recommendations, the balance of opinion was that the Triton Five didn't quite reach the standard set by the other speakers. But it was a close call. If you like the sound of the Triton Five, don't worry about the rating - as it says in the introduction, we still recommend it.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

George Napalm's picture

I noticed that Music Hall MMF-7.3 is listed as Class B component. But despite being the cheapest turntable in this category it doesn't have a "$$$" mark...

User5910's picture

Re: "The SubSeries 125 (originally called SubSeries 1)"

It looks like the predecessor was the SubSeries 100 based on your 2014 Recommended Components article. The SubSeries 1 is ported, unlike the 100 and 125.

http://www.stereophile.com/content/2014-recommended-components-subwoofers

Marc210's picture

Are measurements correlated with listening experience(s) ?!

sophie1511's picture

That power amp showed in the picture looks more like over the range microwave...Lol. Jokes aside, i have been using Gemini XGA-2000 Power Amplifier and its been over a year since I purchased it.

I still have no problem or concern with it. It is highly recommended from my side.

ww85's picture

2016 was the worst. So it should have been no surprise to me that the Sonos Connect (aka ZP80/ZP90) finally fell off this list. Back in 2006, I had already been looking for years for something that seemed it should have been common sense simple. A way to take my entire cd collection and play it it all through my stereo without compression or having to leave the couch. After all, the files are digital and digital is digital… Once you get past the cost (and labor) of storing them on an external hard drive, it should just be a matter of getting the files to play on your system. What seemed like something that should be pretty straight forward turned out to be a major undertaking for the "industry"... Then along came Sonos with aspirations for a simple way to put music in every room of a house digitally. Speakers were built into amps, they marketed to people who used to love those cool looking B&O systems of the 80’s and 90’s. Fair enough... But when reading John Atkinson’s review of this new system, the proverbial lightbulb went off in my head. With regards to the ZP80, the processor that could be dropped into an existing system, it was exactly the answer I had been looking for. On top of that, it was cheap, sounded great if you used the digital out to a good Dac, (and measured well too) and once purchased, revealed a great interface from my ever present lap top that made it the most life changing component I ever owned. That is not just nostalgia talking. The Sonos ZP80 made listening to anything you wanted listen to, any song that ever popped into you or your kids head, just one click away. The music was CD quality and it was playing on my modest (but beloved) system. The queue feature let you add songs to your playlist as you thought of them. All of that for $349 in a box that is still available, and apparently, still looked down upon by high enders… When I read that review in 2006, not only did I see the interface I had always wanted, but what seemed like an apparent conundrum for the audiophile community. If you can take a cd and burn it to any hard drive, well, there goes the need for high end transports (and who knows what other components) And sure enough, after JA’s review, there seemed to be lots of backlash. The parts in the ZP80 were crap for God’s sake! Mods were out almost instantaneously. I was attracted to them of course, but in retrospect, I think everyone (me included) missed a salient point from JA’s review- “The Sonos can take the digital output from the NAS drive and convert it for you, or send it unmolested to your favorite DAC.” Unmolested! That was and is the beauty to the whole thing and what I think was and is being missed by a whole generation of audiophiles on a budget. With a simple setup, the Sonos Connect/ZP80/ZP90 can make the most modest stereo sound better than anything an mp3 weened music lover could imagine. I know, I did it in my NYC loft for family and friends for years. They always wanted to know where that music was coming from. Why was that song we were just talking about playing all of a sudden…
Of course, the system is not perfect and I’m always looking for better. Especially after visiting a local high end store and listening to them giggle when they find out what my front end is. (Not that they have any idea how I have it configured.) They hear the word Sonos and assume I’m listening to compressed files on powered speakers. “No” I protest. “I listen to lossless files…” They smirk and say ok, but the parts on that thing are a joke… I try to add that I just pass the signal digitally through it to a Bel Canto Dac, but no, he’s tuned out… He just wants me to hear that 5K music server that will blow me away. And that suggestion on his part was earnest. I did listen. I have looked. And overall, I find the same difficulty now in shopping for a new front end as I did back then. In addition to the sound, the way you access that sound, the interface, the playlists, the streaming services that work on the equipment are all major factors in how you use it on a day to day basis. Sonos has that stuff figured out to a large degree and I see nothing out there that does all that at anywhere near the price… I would say the way I use it almost constitutes a hack, because it’s not really what Sonos as a company is about. It’s also not how I’ve seen any other reviewer talk about it in ten years. Which is a shame, because it works really well and sounds better than it has a right to….

John Atkinson's picture
ww85 wrote:
2016 was the worst. So it should have been no surprise to me that the Sonos Connect (aka ZP80/ZP90) finally fell off this list.

As my original review was 10 years ago and the product has been changed since then, I didn't think appropriate to keep it on the list. But if the Sonos is still working well for you, that's what matters.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

ww85's picture

Thanks for the reply. It wasn't intended as a criticism for leaving it off the list and hope it doesn't read that way. Maybe it was more of a eulogy for an over performing old favorite and a thanks for reviewing it in the first place...

GustavoS's picture

I have been reading and reading for 100 times the Recommended Component Lists and am counting the days for the update in March. It is a tremendous help for some of us who have not the product offer available in the US or Europe. After reading extensively many, many reviews of different speakers, I have found that rock music is not always present (a site dedicated to vintage audio, fan of Tannoy Gold 15, has expressed that one the best track tests is the Anarchy in the UK single, 45 rpm, as it says that the track is very well recorded but only a very good speaker can manage the complexity of the track). Then, I would like to know what the "best" speakers below the 3 kusd line are:

- Kef R300
- ATC SMC 11 with subwoofer?
- MA Gold 50
- Polk LSim 703
- W. Jade 3
- Sonus Faber Venere 1.5 (auditioned it against the Paradigm Studio 20 vs, and I liked a litlle more the Paradigm)
- Dynaudio x14
- Dynaudio Emit M20
- Revel m106
- Others?

Your help will be very, very much appreciated.

Best regards from Argentina,
Gustavo

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