Recommended Components: Fall 2020 Edition Headphones

Headphones & Headphone Accessories


Focal Utopia Reference: $3990
The fully open-backed, circumaural Focal Utopias are designed around proprietary beryllium-dome full-range drivers that, uniquely, have no voice-coil formers: each coil is fastened directly to its dome, in a crease near its surround. The yokes are made of carbon fiber, and the earcups and headband are covered with lambskin. HR described the Utopias as capable of producing "a gut-level realism that is rare in high-end audio," adding that the Focals are "lightning-fast, extremely open, and profoundly uncolored." (Vol.39 No.10, Vol.41 No.6 WWW)

HiFiMan Susvara headphones: $6000
The HiFiMan Susvaras are over-the-ear headphones with planar-magnetic drivers, built around gold-coated Nanometer Grade diaphragms—their thinnest ever, the company claims. The drivers also use HiFiMan's Stealth Magnet grids, the individual magnetic strips of which have rounded edges to reduce interference with sound output. The Susvaras weigh 15.9oz and offer an impedance of 60 ohms and a sensitivity of only 83dB. HR later wrote that he thinks the Susvara is a contender for the world's best headphones. However, when he auditioned the Susvaras with the LTA Z10e amplifier, he found that, with the combination of low impedance and low sensitivity, the Susvara needed more power than the amplifier could deliver. Subsequently though, that amplifier was updated to provide its full available power—10Wpc—to headphones. (Vol.40 No.12, Vol.43 No.5 WWW)

JPS Labs Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC: $4995-$7995 ★
For those who regard the JPS Abyss AB-1266 Phi headphones as prohibitively expensive, HR offers perspective by suggesting that they, like such "notorious legacy products" as the Wilson Audio WAMM loudspeaker of 1983 and the Audio Note Ongaku amplifier of 1993, "exist in categories of price and performance all their own." The Abyss 'phones are built into black-anodized aluminum frames and use single-magnet planar-magnetic drivers separated from the wearer by rotatable lambskin earpads held in place with magnets. Specs include a sensitivity of 88dB and an impedance of 42 ohms. After listening to a Schoenberg piece through the Abysses driven by the Woo WA5 headphone amp, HR reported: "I scribbled the phrase perfectly natural several times. I never felt more kindred or connected to Schoenberg." He also suggested that the Abysses "delivered detail and soundstage images with an uncannily visual—nay, infinite—depth of field." HR later wrote that "The amazing part of the Abyss Phi TC 'phones is their complete absence of diaphragm breakup or modulation noise: They are the quietest speaker drivers I've ever heard. With the right amp, the AB-1266 'phones feel like they strip everything away between me and a recording." (Vol.40 No.8, Vol.43 No.5 WWW)

Raal-requisite SR1a: $3200 With Ribbon amp interface: $3500
Described by HR as headphones that will satisfy "headphone connoisseurs and stubborn contrarians" alike, the off-the-ear RAAL-requisite SR1a's have a physical design that prevents them from covering or putting pressure on your pinnae: Their sound character is not determined in any way by a padded acoustical chamber around the listener's ears. Electrically, the SR1a's are built using open-baffle ribbon drivers, the very low impedance of which force the need for an impedance-matching box (included) and a 50–150Wpc loudspeaker amplifier (not included). Herb had his best results driving the RAAL-requisite 'phones with solid-state amps and said of the SR1a/Pass XA25 amp combo, "No matter what hi-fi you have, it's unlikely to dig deeper and find more beauty in your recordings." When he tried the SR1a's with the Schiit Jotenheim R amplifier, HR commented that "The more I've used the SR1a, the more I've realized they reproduce recordings with unprecedented levels of musical texture and tactility" and concluded "No headphone images anywhere near as accurately or spectacularly as the SR1a, period." (Vol.43 Nos.1 & 7 WWW)

ZMF Auteur LTD: $1699.99
The zebrawood Auteur LTD weighs 490gm, uses biocellulose diaphragms, combines fairly high sensitivity (97dB/mW) with a high impedance (300 ohms), and comes with two sets of earpads. HR preferred the standard, perforated Auteur pads, which he said "generated one of the most delectable midranges I have experienced." He found the Eikon pads emphasized the bass enough to slightly obscure that luscious midrange. (Vol.43 No.4 WWW)

ZMF Pendant: $1999.99
Designed by Justin Weber of Ampandsound, the ZMF Pendant uses a single transformer-coupled EL84/6BQ5 pentode per channel, connected in Ultralinear mode. The Pendant is rated at 2.5W into 8 ohms and 1.5W into 300 ohms. The review sample was equipped with the stock JJ-branded tubes; both the Pendant's gain and its sonic character can be fine-tuned by experimenting with its small-signal tubes. Compared with the Feliks Audio Euforia amplifier driving the ZMF Vérité headphones, the Pendant made spoken words more intelligible and images more distinctly drawn. "The Pendant seemed like the best all-purpose headphone amplifier I have used since I died and flew to heaven reviewing the $5899 Woo Audio WA5," summed up HR. A custom wood chassis adds $300 to the price. A vintage tube set adds $200. (Vol.43 No.4 WWW)

ZMF Vérité Closed: $2499.99
The MonkeyPod-wood Vérité Closed headphones weigh 35gm less than ZMF's Auteur LTDs due to using a magnesium headband rather than aluminum. Offering a sensitivity of 99dB/mW and an impedance of 300 ohms, the Vérité Closed headphones use an "ultra-thin" polyethylene naphthalate driver with a vapor-deposited beryllium coating. Using the standard Universe earpads, bass was tighter and more powerful than HR could remember experiencing with any headphones. "Piano and plucked-bass notes exhibited a very distinct leading edge, followed by an unusually solid note-center, followed by a trailing edge that I perceived as mildly attenuated," he wrote. Replacing the Universe earpads with the Vérité pads made the low frequencies sound perfectly tight and tuneful. "The midrange came up and brought the presence region with it. The 1–8kHz octaves were exquisitely detailed and wide open, he summed up, adding in a follow-up that "the Vérité was the Schiit Jotunheim's favorite headphone." (Vol.43 Nos.4, 5 & 7 WWW)


Audeze LCD-X: $1699 ★
These large, luxurious, circumaural headphones have planar-magnetic drive-units with a thin-film diaphragm energized by arrays of powerful neodymium magnets on both sides. They employ Audeze-patented Fazor elements, claimed to guide and manage the flow of sound in the headphone. The circular drivers are housed in polished, black-anodized aluminum earpieces cushioned with generously sized foam pads covered in lambskin or leather-free microsuede. Adjustment is via notched, chromed metal rods attached to each earpiece, which fit into the sprung, leather-clad headband. The LCD-Xes produced a seductive, compelling sound with precise imaging, rich mids, smooth highs, and clean bass, JA said. Compared to his longtime reference Sennheiser HD 650s, the LCD-Xes resolved more detail, produced the more convincing sense of recorded ambience, and provided deeper bass. "Highly recommended!" JA concluded. HR found that the Audezes driven by the Schiit Jotunheim "gave reproduced music life and brilliance." "Creator Special" edition (without travel case) costs $1199. (Vol.37 No.3, Vol.41 No.6, Vol.43 No.7 WWW)

Audeze LCDi4: $2495
Essentially a cost-no-object version of Audeze's iSine in-ear headphones, the LCDi4 uses planar-magnetic drivers: ultrathin, 30mm diaphragms bonded to the company's patented Uniforce voice-coils (in which a slow-deposited metal layer is micro-etched to form the signal coil) suspended within the field of a Fluxor magnet array. Each driver is enclosed in a roughly hexagonal magnesium casing and coupled to the user's ear by means of a tapered tube, the end of which is fitted with an interchangeable eartip; spare eartips of different sizes are supplied, prompting Audeze to claim for the LCDi4 a "universal fit." The impedance is 35 ohms, and a 105dB sensitivity is claimed. Used with the Pass Laboratories HPA-1 headphone amplifier, the LCDi4s impressed JA with a combination of low-frequency clarity and bass extension "unexpected for in-ear headphones"—and when driven by an Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty DAC, the Audezes offered spatial realism from binaural recordings and further impressed with their "lack of mid-treble aggression." Also lacking was any useful degree of isolation from external sounds, making the LCDi4s unsuitable for private listening in public spaces. (Vol.40 No.12 WWW)

Feliks Audio Euforia: $2599
Built in Poland, the Euforia Mark II is an output-transformerless (OTL) headphone amp that uses 6AS7G dual-triodes as output tubes and 6SN7 dual-triodes as small-signal tubes. The Euforia has a single pair of (RCA) inputs and a single ¼" output jack. The amp is specified by its manufacturer as offering 130mW into 32 ohms and 200mW into 100 ohms. Herb said the Euforia made the Grado GS3000e headphones sound "more transparent and satisfying" than the other headphone amps he had on hand; he further observed that "the Euforia's radiant liquidity enhanced [the Focal Clears'] sense of flow and resolve." (Vol.42 No.12, Vol.43 No.4 WWW)

Focal Clear: $1490
The Clears are dynamic, circumaural, open-backed headphones built on a solid aluminum yoke with a soft leather headband. They use the same 40mm aluminum-magnesium domes and transformerless voice-coils as the 33%-less-expensive Focal Elears, yet here those coils are pure copper rather than copper-clad aluminum; their impedance is 55 ohms, their sensitivity 104dB—clearly drivable by an iPhone. Three cords are included: one with a 4-pin XLR for balanced use, one with a ¼" plug, and one with a 3.5mm plug. According to HR, with the Clears, "large-scale dynamics operated in marvelous ways," and they avoided the occasional glare experienced with Focal's flagship 'phones, the Utopias. For pure listening pleasure, the "absolutely comfortable, museum-quality-beautiful" Clears are Herb's "real-world reference" and driven by the affordable Schiit Jotunheim, the Focals "made full-spectrum tone color, haloed by a sunny brilliance." "Springy cord is a hassle to manage," notes JI. (Vol.41 No.6, Vol.43 Nos.5 & 7 WWW)

Focal Stellia: $2990
See HR's review in this issue's Gramophone Dreams.

Grado GS3000e: $1795 $$$
Grado's flagship "Statement Series" headphones, the made-in-Brooklyn GS3000e, feature 50mm Mylar drivers built with neodymium magnets and present the driving amplifier with an impedance of 32 ohms and a sensitivity of 99.8dB. According to HR, when driven with a complementary amplifier, the Grados impress with their "swaggering rock'n'roll boogie factor," but they can also sound "elegant and refined." As a bonus, the Grados "look and feel more expensive than [their] price would suggest." (Vol.42 No.12 WWW)

HEDD Audio "HEDDphone": $1899
The "HEDDphone" headphones use full-range, air-motion-transformer (AMT) drive-units and proved a synergistic match with the Pass Labs HPA-1 and Feliks Audio Euforia headphone amps, found HR, commenting on "an extraordinary level of transparency." (Vol.43 No.7 WWW)

HifiMan Shangri-La Jr: $8000 with energizer
For less than one-sixth the price of HiFiMan's flagship electrostatic headphone set, the Shangri-La ($50,000, including amplifier/energizer), you can own the Shangri-La Jr, whose companion amp/energizer uses a quartet of 6SN7 dual-triode tubes and provides two output ports for shared listening. HR praised the Jr for presenting and preserving vocal tones and textures, and noted its uncanny way with subtle details: "I heard the full Doppler effect of cars shifting gears as they passed [the recording venue]," he wrote, declaring that "this level of vibrant resolution makes the Shangri-La Jrs' $8000 price seem reasonable." The headphones are available separately for $4000, the amp/energizer for $5000. (Vol.42 No.6 WWW)

Linear Tube Audio Z10e: $6950
The all-tube Z10e integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier/electrostatic headphone amplifier is built around a David Berning–designed, push-pull, output-transformerless (OTL) EL84-tube power amplifier that is rated at 12Wpc into 8 ohms and 13Wpc into 4 ohms. "The Z10e is a distilled, shape-shifted version of the Z10, designed to appeal to today's new breed of headphone collector-connoisseurs," wrote HR. It also has a five-pin, 580V-energized output to drive Stax electrostatic headphones. Though he liked how this amplifier sounded with high-sensitivity DeVore and Zu loudspeakers, he mostly used it with a variety of headphones. The Z10e got the best from Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC, Focal Clear, and ZMF Vérité Closed dynamic headphones, and excelled with Stax SR-009S and Dan Clark Voce electrostatics. Herb found that it wasn't powerful enough to drive the demanding HiFiMan Susvaras, but it was subsequently upgraded to deliver the full 10Wpc to headphones. (Vol.43 No.5 WWW)

Pass Labs HPA-1 headphone amplifier: $3500 ★
Also usable as a line-level preamp—it has a pair of single-ended RCA output jacks—the Pass Labs HPA-1 is a perfectionist-quality headphone amplifier that uses a MOSFET-based current-feedback amplifier to drive headphones ranging from 15 to 600 ohms. Its single headphone-output jack, also single-ended, is a Neutrik locking jack sized for ¼" plugs. After auditioning the HPA-1 with a variety of 'phones from Audeze, AudioQuest, and Master & Dynamic, JA declared that "in bass quality and authority, and in midrange transparency, the Pass Labs HPA-1 is without peer." JA also brought the HPA-1 to his test bench, where it stood up to everything he could throw at it (well, not literally), prompting the appraisal: "superb audio engineering." One of HR's long-term reference headphone amplifiers. (Vol.39 Nos.7 & 9, Vol.43 No.7 WWW)

Schiit Audio Jotunheim: $399–$599 $$$
Schiit Audio Jotunheim R: $799

The basic Jotunheim provides two line-level inputs (one balanced and one single-ended), two "pre-out" outputs (one balanced and one single-ended), a volume control, switchable gain (6dB or 18dB), and both ¼" TRS and four-pin XLR headphone jacks. HR wrote that, powered by the Jotunheim, the hard-to-drive HiFiMan HE6se's had good flow and momentum, strong bass, a textured midrange, and vivid, detailed highs. "Only the [significantly more expensive] ZMF Pendant and Pass Labs HPA-1 amplifiers had played the HE6se with more life force and transparency," he noted. The Jotunheim R is a special edition intended to be used with the open-baffle RAAL-requisite SR1a full-range ribbon headphones. It offers a "baffle compensation" filter for use with the SR1a and replaces the regular Jotunheim's headphone-output jacks with a single four-pin male XLR that mates with the SR1a's female connector. The SR1a headphones, driven by the Schiit Jotunheim R, "transduce recorded music at a level of verity and resolution matched only by the best at any price," HR concluded. (Vol.43 No.7 WWW)

Sennheiser HD 650: $499.95 ★
The HD 650s are an evolution of Sennheiser's very successful HD 600 open-back dynamic headphones, claimed to provide superior results due to hand-selected parts with closer tolerances and the use of a specially developed acoustic silk for the driver diaphragms. Compared to the Grado SR325i, the Sennheisers sounded richer but slightly darker. JM found that their very effective seal created a resonant cavity that produced "bass that is both quite deep and a trifle indistinct." JA's new reference cans. Compared to the Audeze LCD-Xes, the HD650s had a similar overall sound, but lacked bass control, detail resolution, and ambience retrieval, said JA. (Vol.28 No.6, Vol.31 No.9, Vol.37 No.3 WWW)

Shure KSE1200SYS electrostatic in-ear headphone system: $1999
A less-expensive alternative to Shure's KSE1500 in-ear headphone system, the KSE1200SYS uses the same electrostatic transducers, driven by an amplifier/power supply with only a single (analog) input. Acoustic output is coupled to the user's ear via a small tube, covered with a detachable Soft Flex rubber sleeve to seal the ear canal. (A supplied Fit Kit provides pairs of sleeves in different sizes—something for everyone!) The accompanying amplifier is about the size of a deck of cards, and sports a 3.5mm analog input jack, a volume control, and a Lemo connector for the Kevlar-shielded cable, which carries the transducers' polarizing voltage alongside the high-voltage (+/-200V) audio signal. JA praised the pocketability of the new system's slightly smaller amp, not to mention the comfort of those Soft Flex sleeves. More important, he noted the "superb clarity" of the Shure system's midrange and its "extended, weighty low frequencies," adding that the KSE1500s' slightly bright balance was nowhere to be heard from the KSE1200SYS. JA's conclusion: "a must-hear product." (Vol.42 No.3 WWW)

Woo Audio WA5 (2nd Gen): $5899 ★
Described as a line-level integrated amplifier for headphones and loudspeakers (the latter must be able to get by on just 10Wpc into 8 ohms), the Woo WA5 uses, per channel, one 300B triode tube running in single-ended mode and driven by one 6SN7 dual-triode tube; a pair of 5U4G rectifier tubes straighten out the AC in this two-chassis, dual-mono, hand-wired design. Switches abound: for selecting between high and low output power, high- and low-impedance headphones, and headphones and loudspeakers. After harnessing the Woo to a variety of loads, HR declared it "a Darwinian step toward a new renaissance of audio humanism." It also sounds good—especially with less-sensitive, higher-impedance headphones such as Audeze's LCD-4s, which, according to Herb, the Woo drove "in a more satisfying fashion than any other headphone amplifier I've heard." After measuring the WA5, JA expressed reservations about its suitability as a driver of loudspeakers, but conceded that, for a single-ended amplifier, the Woo "performed better than I expected." (Vol.40 No.1 WWW)


AudioQuest DragonFly Red: $199.95 $$$
AudioQuest DragonFly Black: $99.95 $$$
AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt: $299.95

In 2016, AudioQuest replaced their original DragonFly USB D/A processor-headphone amplifier with two new models—the DragonFly Black and DragonFly Red. Like their popular forebear, both models were designed by computer-audio pioneer Gordon Rankin, and both offer 24 bit/96kHz resolution. AD wrote of preferring the DragonFly Black's "superior musical incisiveness" compared to the original 'Fly of 2012; for its part, the Red, which has higher output voltage than the Black, offered "surer reproduction of pitches and timing." But he felt that, for headphone listening with an iPhone, there's no sense opting for the twice-as-expensive Red if that's all the consumer has in mind. The new (2019) DragonFly Cobalt boasts a faster microcontroller and a newer processor chip (the ESS ES9038Q2M), plus improved power-supply filtering. When used in his home system, the Cobalt impressed JA with better bass extension and control than the Red, which also sounded "slightly 'harder' in the highs"—although he also noted that the distinctions between the two tiny DACs were "relatively small." JA the Measurer, who in 2016 noted that neither the Red nor the Black were at the head of the class in terms of jitter rejection, observed "excellent rejection of word-clock jitter" from the Cobalt, which he praised for "[performing] well on the test bench." JA adds some remarkable praise for a $300 DAC: except for its limited ability to drive low impedances, the Cobalt would be Class A. (Vol.39 No.9, Vol.42 No.12 WWW)

Auris Audio Nirvana: $5799
See HR's review in this issue's Gramophone Dreams.

HifiMan Jade 2: $2499 with energizer
A successor to the Jade—HiFiMan's first electrostatic headphone set—the Jade II weighs just 12.9oz (365gm) and comes with a solid-state amplifier/energizer. HR found the Jade II's sound to be "cool, clean, and well sorted" but lacking in the bass depth, grainlessness, and clarity of the company's more expensive electrostatic headphone set, the Shangri-La Jr. Using the Shangri-La Jr's tubed amp/energizer to drive the Jade IIs restored some, but not all, of the charms of the higher-priced set, HR noted. The Jade II headphones are available separately for $1399, their solid-state amp/energizer for $1599. (Vol.42 No.6 WWW)

iFi Audio Pro iDSD 4.4 D/A processor/headphone amplifier: $2749
See "Digital Processors."


Grado SR60e: $79 $$$ ★
The original SR60 offered a rather dark-toned balance, with a full bass and excellent resolution of detail. A more forward midrange, however. Uncomfortable. Upgrades from the original SR60 include a new driver and improved cables. While maintaining the original's freedom from obvious colorations and resonances, the SR60i went a bit deeper in the bass and had a slightly more vivid midrange for a more involving overall sound. "The SR60i is modestly better than the original, and remains one of audio's great bargains," said JCA. (Vol.17 Nos.6 & 10 WWW, original, Vol.33 No.4 WWW)

Hagerman Audio Labs Tuba: $649
The Tuba, like the ZMF Pendant, uses a transformer-coupled EL84 output tube but wired in triode mode to deliver 350mW into 32 ohms, which should be enough power to drive most headphones. "It played most headphones really well," decided HR, "but its limited gain and low power prevented it from being considered as an all-purpose giant killer." Compared to the Pendant or the Feliks Euforia, the Tuba had a clear but "short" sound, wrote HR. With Grado GS3000e open-back headphones, the Tuba generated a tidy, naturally detailed, highly musical sound that HR found 100% enjoyable. "Midrange tone was exemplary," he found. (Vol.43 No.4 WWW)

Koss PortaPro: $49.99 $$$
Imagine 60-ohm, 101dB-sensitive, perfectionist-quality 'phones that fold up small, clip together, and fit in your pocket. Imagine silver-dollar-size earpieces with easily replaceable foam earpads that rest gently on your pinnae. Imagine flying down a hill on your bike while grooving—and I do mean grooving—to your favorite music. Imagine that the ca-1979 Koss Porta Pro headphones are back again and sell for only $49.95 per pair. As it happens, and as HR reported in the June 2018 Stereophile, it's all true. (Editor JCA, who first tried them in the '90s and disputes "perfectionist" but agrees they're decent 'phones and a good value, has seen them for $35 on Amazon.) (Vol.41 No.6 WWW)

Meze Audio 99 Classic: $309
The Romanian-engineered, Chinese-made Meze 99 Classics are closed-back, circumaural headphones that feature Mylar-cone drivers, machined-walnut earcups, synthetic leather-covered earpads and headband, and a clever frame design that KM found comfortable. Standard accessories include a 4' remote-equipped cable for travel, a 9' cable for home use, and a resealable faux-velvet pouch. KM praised their "slightly buttoned-down sound," which he found to be more neutral than that of the AudioQuest NightHawks, although the latter provided a more "immersive" experience. JA measured the Mezes and found their impedance to be "relatively low" and thus needful of a current-capable amplifier—and after listening to the 99 Classics, he suggested that their low-frequency balance was "somewhat exaggerated." (Vol.42 No.6 WWW)

No Class Distinction

Shure Bluetooth 5.0 Earphone Communication Cable: $149
Intended as a convenience accessory for Shure in-ear headphones, the company's Bluetooth 5.0 Earphone Communication Cable plugs into the two earpieces, replacing their original cable, and dangles down to approximately mid-sternum, where it terminates in a Bluetooth receiver/DAC that's roughly the size of a USB flash drive, and that opens to reveal a USB-B Micro jack for charging. (Estimated playing time: up to 10 hours.) AptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, AAC, and SBC codecs are all supported. Used with a pair of Shure SE535 in-ear headphones, the Bluetooth 5.0 cable impressed JA with AAC-encoded sound that was "[not] as inferior as I'd expected" on classical music, with only slight congestion that, much of the time, "wasn't an issue." Hard-driving rock fared slightly less well. (Vol.42 No.3 WWW)

Dan Clark Audio Aeon, replaced by new model not yet reviewed. AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon, discontinued. IFI PRO ICAN, Sony Signature MDR-Z1R, Sony Signature TA- ZH1E, not auditioned in a long time.

partain's picture

I can't stand it !
Please review the new & improved KEF LS50s.
The things I've read are titillating , to say the least.

John Atkinson's picture
partain wrote:
Please review the new & improved KEF LS50s.

There is a pair of the new KEF LS50 Meta on its way to me.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Link's picture

Awesome, looking forward to the review. Wireless or passive? Just curious what to expect. Thanks.

John Atkinson's picture
Link wrote:
Awesome, looking forward to the review. Wireless or passive?


John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

rk11's picture

Auditioned the KEF R3s, Polk Legend L200s and the KEF LS 50 Metas a few days ago with 5 tracks of my choosing and thus far my rank ordering of these speakers is as noted. Personally, I found the Metas a bit bright and their bass response was the most lacking - not surprising given the size of the speaker cabinet. Never been a fan of the Polk speakers till the Legend series. The 200s were every bit as good as the R3s EXCEPT in the vocals. I am sure that JA's review will be under a much better controlled environment.

marlie's picture

I feel the same when went to the auditing room of a store to audit, that the bass response of LS 50 Meta is lacking compare to R3, feels more tin-ish to me.

Shangri-La's picture

In the written review, the Ares II was preferred over the Chord Qutest. Yet the Qutest is rated Class A and Ares II is Class B. Interesting...

LinearTracker's picture

BD gave the Duo an “A” rating and deservedly so, but I am listening to the new Duo with the linear power supply and believe it to be a game changer.
I hope to see an update soon.

Link's picture

I have been able to compare the BRXs to a true class A speaker in my system, and I do now agree with the class B rating. Thanks again for the great reviews.

Glotz's picture

with explanation...

Link's picture

Comparisons having been done, the BRXs are nothing to shake a 1M interconnect at. Although they are not quite up there in terms of transparency, detail, and air - they sure do get the timbre, neutrality, and imaging right.

thyname's picture

You butchered the name of T+A MP 3100 HV. Please fix it. There is no such thing as “ T+A MD 3001 HD SACD/CD player: $21,000”

Robin Landseadel's picture

The "A" rated Sennheiser HD 650 headphones have been reissued at a lower price [with a couple of changes that don't affect the sound] as the Drop HD 6XX. Drop is an online only operation, sells for $220 + shipping & tax. It's one of the cheapskate audio high points of the season along with Topping Headphone amps and DACS.

Ali's picture

Thanks but for whatever reason, I cant find AR new REF 6SE preamp here.

John Atkinson's picture
Ali wrote:
Thanks but for whatever reason, I cant find AR new REF 6SE preamp here.

The Audio Research Ref6 SE was reviewed in the November issue, after this edition of Recommended Components was published. It is eligible for inclusion in the April 2021 edition.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

ygbae's picture

I don't know whether anyone has noticed or not, but the header of PS Audio DirectStream Power Plant is hiding next to "See Interconnects." of Nordost Valhalla 2 AC power cord.

Jim Austin's picture

Jim Austin, Editor

Link's picture

I know that there have already been several follow-ups on this DAC, but am wondering if you have any plans to review the latest firmware, Windom. Thanks!

Kunst des Fugue's picture

(No idea why I'm shouting into the void.) Stereophile discusses equipment without accurately describing the context. Most vexing is the cavalier references to devices that can be connected by balanced or unbalanced lines. Stereophile might mention that devices are connected by a balanced line, but they never mention whether the balanced line is at "consumer" level (~2V) or standard professional level (+10dBu). The subsequent SNR are never addressed. Furthermore, incompatibility between devices is never addressed. For example, the Benchmark LA4 has pro-level outputs and their AHB2 accepts pro-level input. Does Stereophile bother to mention which other devices are compatible with these? I find no evidence of that.