Recommended Components Fall 2022 Edition Complete Audio Systems

Complete Audio Systems

B

Sonus Faber Omnia: $1999
RvB was impressed by the sound of this single-box, Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi–enabled, DSP-optimized, active stereo loudspeaker system. It uses a single 6.5" woofer, two 0.75" silk-dome tweeters, a pair of 3" midrange drivers, and two 1.75" drivers that fire to the sides to widen the soundstage. The Omnia includes an analog line input, a MM-compatible phono input, an HDMI ARC input, and an Ethernet port. While there is a remote control, the Omnia can also be controlled by a web page or by Roon. As you might expect from a 6.5" woofer in a small enclosure, the lowest octaves were restricted, though RvB found that definition and timbre were still quite good. "Most music I played had a proper foundation, with enough bass weight to satisfy, even seduce," he wrote. His conclusion: "The Omnia wireless speaker is beautifully designed, well built, and sonically gifted." (Vol.45 No.8 WWW)

Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation: $1799 with standard grille fabric
This slim, all-in-one, Roon Ready networked music system has a tweeter, a midrange unit, and an oval-shaped woofer for each channel, all powered by direct-digital, class-D amplification. The integral DSP offers three room compensation settings. There is also an alarm and a sleep timer. The major digital streaming services, including Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz, are handled natively, and the Mu-so also offers AirPlay 2 (iTunes and Apple Music) and Chromecast. There are analog, S/PDIF, USB, Bluetooth, HDMI ARC, and wired and Wi-Fi network inputs, though other than the USB port, the physical inputs are inconveniently placed on the bottom of the chassis. The Mu-so can be controlled by a remote control, by its own touch controls, and by the Naim app for Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android devices. JMu was well-impressed by this app. She was also impressed by the sound, writing "a few sonic characteristics stood out: crisp clarity with more detail and dynamic output than I expected. Subjective impressions of bass extension seemed to exceed what's possible from small drivers within a smallish box." How did JMu conclude her review? "The musical Mu-so 2nd Generation offers serious sound and engineering from a respected maker, but it's also built for fun. I wanted to keep on listening, and that speaks volumes." Additional grille color options add $90 to price. (Vol.43 No.10 WWW)

Sony SA-Z1 desktop speaker system: $7999.99
This unique, active desktop system is intended to be listened to in the nearfield, with the close-spaced boundaries reinforcing the lower midrange and bass. Back-to-back 4" anodized-aluminum woofers minimize enclosure vibrations, and the primary tweeter is flanked by two smaller tweeters, one above and one below. The three tweeters use soft domes that have been sputtered with titanium and are mounted on a gantry in front of the front-firing woofer. All five drive-units are powered by PWM amplifier modules featuring gallium nitride transistors. The SA-Z1 makes abundant use of DSP to optimize its sound quality. The system has balanced and single-ended analog inputs and USB and Toslink digital inputs. According to Sony, the latter are preferred. Several DSP functions can be applied with the digital inputs, including adjusting the crossover between the front and rear woofers, changing the time alignment of the flanking tweeters, and upsampling to PCM or DSD. Setup is crucial, advised JVS, but once he was satisfied with the placement and had replaced his large computer monitor between the speakers with his smaller-screened laptop, he noted (using the USB input) that despite the small woofers' inability to reach as low as a mighty organ can go, "bass was otherwise tight and convincing, the midrange was warm, and highs were as rousing as one might wish for. Images weren't gigantic, but the way the soundstage expanded beyond and through the speakers was awe-inspiring." He concluded that "the SA-Z1 is capable of opening up entire new realms of personal listening." (Vol.44 No.3 WWW)

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Andover-One: $1999 with Songbird streamer
This single-box stereo system marries a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB belt-drive turntable fitted with an 8.6" carbon-fiber tonearm and an Ortofon 2M Silver moving magnet cartridge to 200W of class-D amplification, four small woofers, and two AMT tweeters in a rigidly constructed enclosure. The Model-One also offers DSP-implemented effects modes, optical and coaxial S/PDIF, Bluetooth aptX, mini-USB digital inputs, and an analog input (this converted to digital), as well as headphone, line-level, and subwoofer outputs. DSP is also used to minimize acoustic feedback from the woofers to the turntable. JMu found at normal volumes that there was a "good impression" of bass. She added that "in general, the system served the midrange well, with textural detail and, especially on recordings without modern mixing tricks and complications, sufficient image-placement cues to draw you in." The Model-One "could be a starter system for an apartment or a second system for an office or bedroom," concluded JMu. Matching subwoofer costs $799; modular stand, $299. Now includes an external Andover Songbird internet music streamer for the same price. (Vol.43 No.9 WWW)

Deletions
Devialet Phantom I 108 dB not auditioned in a long time.

COMMENTS
Auditor's picture

The text under the J. Sikora Initial is the same as under the J. Sikora Reference, which is obviously a mistake.

John Atkinson's picture
Auditor wrote:
The text under the J. Sikora Initial is the same as under the J. Sikora Reference, which is obviously a mistake.

Fixed. Thank you.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

lesmarshall's picture

I was very surprised to read that the Benchmark DAC 3 is no longer a Recommended Component . In the earlier 2022 edition of Recommend Components , it was an A+ component . Your stated reason for the deletion was because it was not auditioned in a long while . Well why not audition it then ? Also, why is an audition necessary ? It measured as one of the best DACs ever . Why would its measurements change simply because you have not auditioned it recently ? I understand its your policy , but it seems rather unfair to Benchmark that you no longer recommend it for that reason . I believe a much fairer policy would be that a highly rated component should only fall off the recommended list if it is auditioned periodically and you determine that its current level of recommendation is no longer justified based on the factors that you use to include a component of the recommended list .

JRT's picture

Les, toward some light hearted amusement, consider a reductio ad absurdum.

The quoted material below was excerpted from the first version (published 01 May 1963) of Stereophile's recommended components, just the A,B,C rated amplifiers and preamplifiers:

Quote:

Preamplifier-Control Units
A: Marantz 7, McIntosh C-20
B, C: Dynaco PAS-2

Power Amplifiers
A: Marantz 8B, McIntosh MC-60 (footnote 5), Marantz 9A (footnote 5)
B, C: Dynaco Stereo 70

Footnote 5: mono amplifier.

Reductio ad Absurdum... Should the old gear listed above continue as currently recommended gear, or is it best left in its original context in the circa 1963 article? ...and why or why not? ...and is it a much too different set of cases for comparison? ...why? Would that old gear be good fodder for a listing of recommended vintage gear, and is that good subject matter for the current Stereophile readership? These are mostly rhetorical questions, but not all.

JRT's picture

Would you also include the essentially similar PAS-3, and then also the PAS-3X with updated tone controls, and then maybe also Frank van Alstine's improved Super PAS Three, etc.? The original short-list can grow large.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/recommended-components-1-0

https://www.stereophile.com/tubepreamps/1088vana/index.html

georgehifi's picture

It would be nice if the "title" of the piece recommended was clickable, so one could easily then read the full review of all these thousands of "recommended components" instead of searching like a ???

Just a thought??

Cheers George

liquidsun's picture

I must say I'm surprised to see Perlistens into Restricted Extreme LF category as I thought they were full range speakers.

Kal Rubinson's picture

For most, they will be full range but, as you can see from JA's Fig. 4, the FR is rolling off smoothly below 100HZ such that it will easily mate with a complementary subwoofer. I believe that was Perlisten's intent. That said, unless you are assessing the sound of low, low organ pedal tones, explosions or thunder, the bass from the s7t is clean, powerful and musically satisfying.

Robin Landseadel's picture

There's a lot of Dance Pop/Techno music that gives the lowest octave a workout. Managed to blow out the small bass driver from a Paradigm bookshelf speaker with a Sarah McLaughlan track---"I Love You" from the album "Surfacing"---a quiet ballad with a synth bottom without overtones, so there's pure, deep bass. Another good example would be the work of Bill Laswell, a producer/bass player.

Kal Rubinson's picture

OK but how is this relevant? On the one hand, I am not surprised that one can blow out the small bass driver in a bookshelf speaker. On the other, I doubt if it would do that to the Perlisten.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Blowing out the driver of a Paradigm Atom might not be meaningful save that I blew it out with a track that is low in level and undynamic. More to the point, it sounds like the speakers in question could use a sub. Of course, you pointed out that the speakers in question are designed to integrate well with subs. My Infinity 250 speakers, small floor-standing speakers, also requires a sub for deep bass.

What is meaningful is that there is more to the bottom octave than organ pedals and explosions. Lots of modern productions take advantage of digital recording/playback's ability to record/reproduce the lowest octaves of sound.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Yes, there is a lot more to the bottom end than I cared to mention but the distinction between the small Paradigm Atom and the s7t is that the former needs a sub (or a LP filter) merely to survive wide-band signals while the latter does not.

Did you read my comments about the Garage Door test? I doubt that either your Paradigm or your Infinity could compete with the Perlisten, with or without a sub.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Doubtless. My point was more about program material and really deep bass. In any case, my Infinity Primus 250s are aided by my Sonance Son of Sub. As the system is in a small room, it's probably as much bass as the room can take.

Anton's picture

I like to hit this issue and pretend all my Hi Fi gear is gone and I have to start over with my budget and this list.

Glotz's picture

Droooooool.. and I'm done FOREVER.

Soulution, MBL... heaven.

KEFLS50W's picture

It will be interesting to see if Stereophile catches up to the focus on active, integrated designs. The relevance of separates seems to be waning in comparison to these sexy and modern designs (many of which are good value to boot) from KEF, B&W, Q Acoustic, ATC, Dali, and others. LS50WII for example gives me access to high quality, high current class a/b amplification I would not have been able to afford with separates. On another note, why are REL subs not listed - they would floor the competition listed in terms of sonics and build quality. Sorry but SVS is a home theater product and KEF KC62 is for kids.

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