Recommended Components Fall 2023 Edition Digital Processors

Digital Processors:


Bel Canto e1X: $6800
The Roon Ready e1X DAC/Control Preamplifier offers AES3, coaxial and optical S/PDIF, digital inputs, and USB and UPnP/DLNA-compatible Ethernet ports. (The USB and Ethernet ports support MQA-encoded data and DSD data in the DoP format.) There are also line-level and MC/MM phono analog inputs, these converted to digital so that they can be adjusted with the DSP-domain Tilt, Bass EQ, and volume controls. The e1X features line outputs, a headphone output—the Tilt and BassEQ controls are not operative with this output—and a subwoofer output. Bel Canto's free Seek app (iOS only) allows the e1x to stream audio from Qobuz, Tidal, Spotify, and vTuner internet radio and to play files from DropBox, OneDrive, and iCloud folders, or from a drive plugged into the DAC's USB-A port. Like all of Bel Canto's digital products the e1X uses a Texas Instruments PCM1792A DAC chip, which may be a 20-year-old design, but, as JA's measurements revealed, is still capable of very high resolution and low linearity error. In his critical listening sessions, JA found it difficult to ascribe an identifiable tonal character to the Bel Canto. He noted that low frequencies were well-defined with good weight, high frequencies were neither exaggerated nor rolled off, and the midrange sounded natural, but the thing that did strike him was how clear a view into recorded soundstages he was experiencing. "Transparency to the source combined with low-frequency articulation and weight was the e1X DAC's calling card," he concluded about the e1X's performance as a DAC. JA found that even though the line and phono analog inputs offered excellent measured performance, the presentation was slightly darker with analog sources, "as if the analog input had placed a finely woven scrim between me and the recorded soundstages." The Tilt and Bass EQ controls proved useful in minimizing this character. (Vol.45 Nos.10 & 11 WWW)

Benchmark DAC3 HGC: $2399 ★ $$$
Benchmark DAC3 B: $1899 $$$
Benchmark's DAC3 HGC—the last three letters designate this as the audiophile version, with a headphone amp and two analog inputs—supports files up to 24/192 and DSD64, the latter as DoP (via USB). Bearing in mind the manufacturer's suggestion that there should be no audible difference between their DAC1 and DAC3, JCA wrote, "In fact, I found the sounds of the two DACs quite different. The DAC1 was brighter;...the DAC3 was all about depths, in several respects...I heard deeper into the music." The concise conclusion to JA's Measurements sidebar: "All I can say is 'Wow!'" In a Follow-Up, JCA wrote of using the Benchmark processor with the same company's AHB2 power amp—a combination of high source output voltage and modest amplifier gain that he describes as "optimal for minimizing noise and distortion" —and reported hearing "richer and more interesting" reproduction of very subtle details. The DAC3 B is a stripped- down, lower-priced version of the DAC3 HGC, which omits the headphone amplifier, balanced and unbalanced analog inputs, volume, mute, and polarity controls, and the remote control. It has a fixed output level of 12.3V, which is about 10dB too high to be optimal with a typical domestic audio system. The DAC3 B retains the HGC's high-resolution ES9028PRO DAC chips, and when he auditioned it using the USB input JA found it offered a fatigue-free, musically involving wealth of recorded detail. "An audiophile bargain," he concluded. (Vol.40 No.11, Vol.41 No.10; HGC version WWW; Vol.46 No.3, B version WWW)

Bricasti M1SE: $10,000 ★
With first-class fit'n'finish, the dual-mono M1 DAC offers five digital inputs (USB, S/PDIF, AES3, BNC, optical—an Ethernet module is available), a volume control, measures a rack-friendly 17" W by 2" H by 12" D, and weighs 12lb. "The best digital playback I have heard," concluded JM of the original version, who also wrote that "the fact that Bricasti's M1 can play DSD and DXD files is less important than the fact that its playback of plain old 'Red Book' 16-bit/44.1kHz audio is so compelling that I, for one, don't feel shortchanged when a good recording is not 'high-resolution.'" JA also praised the M1's state-of-the-art measured behavior as well as its sound quality. SM auditioned the current Special Edition (SE) version, with the MDx upgrade. (The factory-installed MDx upgrade from earlier M1s costs $1000.) The SE adds point-to-point wiring, capacitor upgrades, and a variety of new software features. It also includes Stillpoints feet, which, with their vibration-absorbing abilities, are said to provide "a more transparent sonic presentation." The MDx upgrade to the digital circuit includes improved clocking, a later-generation Analog Devices DSP chip, a choice of 15 upsampled reconstruction filters—Minimum Phase filter 2 was SM's favorite—and allows the USB input to operate at higher sample rates. SM noted that he "heard some subtle but important differences from what I had experienced prior to the upgrade," including an increased sense of "details of timbre and soundstage exactitude but without any increased brittleness or etching. Bass seemed firmer, and the clarity of musical transients improved." (Vol.34 No.8, Vol.35 Nos.2, 3, & 9, Vol.36 No.7, Vol.37 No.12, original version; Vol.44 No.7 WWW)

CH Precision C1.2: from $36,000; As reviewed $43,500
In standard form, priced at $36,000, this modular Swiss processor offers AES3 and coaxial and optical S/PDIF digital inputs. Optional inputs are asynchronous USB ($3000), Ethernet ($6000), an analog input board, with one balanced and one unbalanced input ($2500). An optional clock synchronization board costs $1500, while it can be used with an external power supply ($20,500) and clock ($24,500). The C1.2 incorporates a volume control and uses four 24-bit PCM1704 chips per channel. With the exception of the USB input, it upsamples the input data to 705.6Hz or 768kHz. It will also accept MQA data, and DSD data via DoP. JCA wrote that With classical recordings, what he heard with the C1.2 "is what acoustical instruments sound like, precisely rendered in space. The sense of that space, and of the sounds flowing through it, is expansive and relaxed; simply sounded right." On the test bench, its measurements indicated that the C1.2's reconstruction filter is a linear-phase type optimized for time-domain performance. Noise, jitter, and distortion were extremely low and resolution was high, between 19 and 20 bits. However, it appeared that the LSB with 24-bit data was being truncated. Nevertheless, the C1.2, both with and without its external clock and power supply, produced the best sound JCA had heard from a digital source. (Vol.46 No.2 WWW)

dCS Bartók APEX: $20,950, $22,950 with headphone amp
The result of extensive changes to dCS's Ring DAC hardware and an improved power supply, among other changes, the Apex version of HR's daily-driver D/A headphone amplifier produced musical sounds that were more fantastically appealing than the ones generated by the original Bartók or any other DAC he'd reviewed. Using the dCS Mosaic app, DXD upsampling, Filter 3, and Map 1, HE wrote that "the Bartók APEX has a wet feel to its clarity. The original leaned toward transistor-dry . . . [The APEX] mixed an R-2R naturalness . . . with a muscular, free- flowing dynamic that kept my attention focused on musical content." (Vol.46 No.8 WWW)

dCS Rossini APEX: $32,800
The successor to the English company's well-regarded Rossini, the Apex edition is based on a reconfigured Ring DAC circuit board with an all-new analog output stage. (Earlier Rossinis can be upgraded for $9000.) Using his preferred settings—Filter 5 for Red Book, F3 for 24/88.2 up to 24/192, F6 for higher PCM resolutions, F1DSD for DSD, and M1 for MQA, DXD upsampling, and Ring DAC Map 1—JVS compared the Apex with the earlier 2.0 version with an album of Ravel piano concertos and immediately noted that with the Apex there was "a deeper silence between notes, a greater sense of grace, flow, and warmth from string instruments, and a beautiful finish to the sound that epitomized fin de siècle elegance." With a Talk Talk track, he felt that the Rossini 2.0 "sounded thinner than the Apex, with less substance. Everything seemed diminished and less involving. There was less there." JVS concluded that the Rossini Apex DAC was "more than another upgrade; it's a major advance in digital sound reproduction, one that elevates an already excellent DAC to a much higher level." While noting that the behavior of the six choices of reconstruction filter were identical to those of the earlier Rossini and dCS Vivaldi processors, JA commented that overall, "the dCS Rossini Apex's measured performance was beyond reproach." (Vol.40 No.1, Vol.41 No.5, Vol.42 No.5, original version; Vol.42 No.6, 2.0 version; Vol.45 No.10 WWW)

dCS Vivaldi APEX: $46,500
dCS Vivaldi Master Clock: $19,500
dCS Vivaldi Upsampler: $27,000
The result of the same painstaking development process that produced the dCS Rossini Apex, the Vivaldi Apex features the same analog board and the same choice of coefficient mapping for its Ring DAC and reconstruction filters as the Rossini. However, its larger chassis allows for allows greater flexibility in transformer positioning, component isolation, and what can be done with I/O and the control board. According to dCS, "Vivaldi's hardware represents a much more ambitious approach to D/A conversion than the Rossini's digital processing platform." As the Vivaldi Apex doesn't have the upsampling options offered by the single-box Rossini, JVS auditioned the Vivaldi Apex with the Vivaldi Upsampler Plus ($25,500 with Ethernet network port), as well as with the Vivaldi Master Clock ($19,500). Compared with the superb-sounding Rossini Apex and its matching Clock, JVS found the midrange richer and the highs a mite less bright. The Rossini Apex's depiction "seemed lighter and less substantial, with smaller images," he wrote. In the test lab, the Vivaldi Apex offered superb measured performance, with very high resolution and channel separation, and extremely low noise and jitter. JVS summed up his experience of the Vivaldi Apex by writing "It is rare, in a home listening room, to experience anew the full impact of great orchestral music heard in a concert hall. But the Vivaldi Apex DAC, Vivaldi Upsampler Plus, and Vivaldi Master Clock together have made that possible, repeatedly." Upgrades for the earlier Vivaldi DAC and Vivaldi One cost $9000. (Vol.46 No.3 WWW)

EMM Labs DV2: $30,000
EMM Labs' newest product is the first D/A processor to make use of the company's new VControl, a high-resolution volume-control system. Of its seven digital inputs, the DV2's USB Type B input is its most versatile, enabling PCM conversion up to DXD, DSD up to DSD128, and full MQA unfolding. Also provided are two coaxial (RCA) S/PDIF inputs, two optical (TosLink) S/PDIF inputs, one AES/EBU (XLR) input, and one proprietary EMM Optilink for SACD and CD playback. In his listening tests, JVS tried using the DV2 in a variety of configurations; he noted that by the time he'd done so, "it had become clear that the DV2 is one of the finest-sounding DACs with volume control that I've ever heard in my reference system." Indeed, Jason praised the DV2 for delivering, compared to other processors he's enjoyed in that setting, "the smoothest, most naturally warm, most consistently engaging and non-fatiguing reproduction of music." Writing from his test bench, JA noted that the DV2 offers resolution that's "close to the state of the art." Check the EMM Labs website to see if your version needs the no-cost volume-control update. One of JVS's reference DACs. (Vol.42 No.3 WWW)

exaSound s88 Mark II: $7599
KR was impressed by this network-connected 8-channel D/A processor, writing that "the s88 sounded just right from the first notes, and that impression endured as I immersed myself in a wide range of music over several weeks...[I]n fact, it exceeds the performance of any DAC that I have used. I would describe its sound as transparent rather than detailed, dynamically responsive rather than lively, and honest in how it presents voices." On the test bench, the s88 offered a resolution of 21 bits, which is among the highest the magazine has found. The default reconstruction filter is a minimum-phase type and harmonic distortion, intermodulation distortion, and noise levels were all extremely low. KR concluded: "For some who are already committed to multichannel, the s88, with its superb DAC, convenient streaming and that oh-so-welcome volume control, may be the realization of their dreams. It is of mine." KR has since obtained the Mark II upgrade, which has no discernible effect on sonics. (Vol.44 No.4 WWW)

HoloAudio May KTE (Level 3): $5598 as reviewed
This well-constructed, hot-running, R-2R ladder DAC—based, two-box processor costs $3798—$4998 depending on options. It offers seven digital inputs—two coaxial, one optical, an AES/EBU, a USB, and two I2S over HDMI—and balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) analog outputs. The input stage uses op-amps, the output stage discrete transistors biased into class-A. It can be operated as a NOS (Non-OverSampling) DAC or in three different oversampling (OS) modes. (The DSD mode reduces the output level by 6dB.) When HR auditioned the top-of-the-line Level 3 version of the May in NOS mode, the very first album he played "sounded more fundamentally right than any digital reproduction I have experienced in my little bunker," he wrote. "Better than any DAC I know, the May recovers the natural pressure behind musical flow." He found that PCM oversampling added a harsh glare and muddled image specificity, and while the sound was clear with CD data and DSD oversampling, with a nice flow and fine musical textures, the bass was softer and soundstages less precisely drawn. "The May's true-to-life demeanor made recorded music seem infinite and beautiful," he concluded. JA was equally impressed by the transparency and neutrality of the May, though he found that the excellent soundstage depth and sense of musical "drive" in NOS mode had to be set against this mode's tendency to make pianos sound too "clangy." Piano in OS DSD mode remained clean and closer to the true sound of the instrument, he decided. In addition, densely scored climaxes "clogged up" a little in NOS mode while remaining clean in DSD mode. On the test bench, the May offered superb measured performance, including 22-bit resolution, greater even than that offered by the overperforming Weiss DAC502! (Vol.43 Nos.8 & 9 WWW)

Mola Mola Tambaqui: $13,500
This Bruno Putzeys–designed, Roon Ready D/A processor uses a proprietary digital filter/DAC stage and can be controlled with a smartphone app or an Apple Remote. No MQA capability, but the Tambaqui decodes DSD natively. Digital inputs include USB, TosLink and coaxial S/PDIF, AES3, Ethernet, and I2S over HDMI. Analog outputs are balanced on XLR and headphone on ¼" and four-pin XLR jacks, both with a volume control and a choice of maximum output level. HR loved what he heard, writing that "the Mola Mola's most conspicuous sonic trait was a bright, evenly illumined clarity" ; he added that "Mola Mola's Tambaqui did not whisper—it declared loudly: 'See! The truth is more beautiful than you thought it would be!'" In his follow-up review, KM agreed with HR: "The Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC is easily the finest digital-to-analog converter I've heard in my reference system, provoking fresh epiphanies with well-known music. Its beautiful remote control and its ability to function as a preamp adds more value to this expensive machine." JA found that the Tambaqui offered almost 22 bits of resolution, one of the highest he had encountered, and declared that his testing revealed state-of-the-digital-art measured performance. (Vol.44 No.12, Vol.45 Nos.1 & 6 WWW)

Okto dac8 Stereo: €1289 (€1378 with Streaming Option) $$$
Almost identical to the multichannel dac8 PRO in appearance, the dac8 Stereo features a 1/4" headphone jack, two pairs of balanced-output XLR jacks, and a plethora of inputs: one AES/EBU (XLR); four S/PDIF (two coaxial RCA, two TosLink optical); USB Type B; two USB Type A; and Ethernet (RJ45). The ESS Sabre DAC chips offer a choice of seven reconstruction filters for PCM data and two ultrasonic low-pass filters for DSD data. Despite its affordable price, the dac8 Stereo was one of the highest-resolution D/A processors JA had experienced—21 bits, rivaled only by the HoloAudio May, the MBL N31, the Mola Mola Tambaqui, and the Weiss DAC502. The USB input offers lower jitter than the S/PDIF and AES/EBU inputs, he found, and so is preferred. The dac8 Stereo "opened a transparent window into recorded soundstages, unaccompanied by any feeling of fatigue or undue tonal emphasis," JA wrote, adding that he continued to be impressed throughout his auditioning by the Okto processor's combination of upper-bass weight and leading-edge definition. "Not only does the Okto dac8 Stereo offer superb sound quality and state-of-the-art measured performance; its price is a fraction of what you'd pay for competing products," he concluded. Listed price includes a Raspberry Pi 4—based streaming module (€89 when bought separately) and an Apple remote control (€25 when bought separately). (Vol.44 No.2 WWW)

Weiss DAC502: $10,695
The earlier Weiss D/A processors reviewed in Stereophile offered astonishing resolution coupled with sound quality "to die for." The Roon Ready DAC502 more than equals its predecessors in both aspects of performance and adds an Ethernet port, balanced and single-ended headphone outputs, a volume control, a choice of maximum output levels, and several DSP functions including parametric equalization, room correction, binaural-to-loudspeaker processing, vinyl emulation, loudness normalization, and de-essing. The DAC502's low frequencies "combined clarity with an excellent sense of what the late Art Dudley used to call 'force'," wrote JA, adding that he had never heard the layering of recorded soundstages so clearly delineated as with the DAC502. "The Weiss DAC502 retrieves more information from the digits than any other DAC I have auditioned, with the possible exceptions of the Chord DAVE and dCS Vivaldi," he concluded. JVS was equally impressed: "Would I recommend the Weiss DAC502? In a heartbeat. It doesn't merely sound clear, alive, full, and supremely musical; it also offers a headphone jack and a host of DSP options that can address issues in many rooms, speakers, and equipment configurations;...if I were willing to forgo MQA playback (whose sound I love), I would be more than content to live with the DAC502 for many years to come." If you don't need the balanced headphone output, the smaller DAC501 ($8750) offers the same performance and feature set as the DAC502. (Vol.43 Nos.8 & 10 WWW)


Accuphase DG-68 Digital Voicing Equalizer: $18,950
The fifth iteration of a unique Japanese product that made its debut in 1997, the DG-68 offers high-resolution, DSP-based multiband equalization and versatile room-acoustic correction abilities (a microphone is included), coupled with a 35-band spectrum analyzer and, according to JA's measurements, state-of-the-art digital/analog conversion. The DG-68 has both analog and digital inputs and outputs. Using the analog inputs and outputs and experimenting with the DG-68's settings to optimize the sound of his reference system in his room, JVS found that with VC/EQ active, "guitar strums sounded more realistic, bass was fuller...Tonality was superb, and the slightest change in dynamics or emphasis was easy to hear and savor." He concluded that Accuphase's Digital Voicing Equalizer enriched his experience of reproduced music far more than he could have imagined. "It is transformational and performs flawlessly, to oft-astounding effect. For those who can afford it, its rich musical dividends may prove essential." JVS subsequently repeated his auditioning using the DG-68's digital inputs and outputs. He found that the sound was "more substantial in the best ways possible without, to these ears, any loss in transparency, color, [or] depth...The DG-68's digital in/ out operation enhanced my listening experience in every imaginable way short of transporting me to the actual recording venue." (Vol.44 Nos.8 & 12 WWW)

Audio-GD R7HE MK3: $4990 in silver and black
Designed and developed under the leadership of Mr. He Qinghua, the "First Prize Winner" of the National Semiconductor (USA) Audio Design Contest, the R7HE MK2 features the Chinese manufacturer's current-domain topology. This two-channel processor features eight sets of fully discrete R–2R DAC modules for decoding PCM data and four sets of discrete DSD hardware decoders. There are six digital inputs—USB, I2S (over RCA and BNC), TosLink, AES3, and HDMI—and both balanced and single-ended analog outputs. It offers 2×, 4×, and 8× oversampling modes, as well as a NOS mode. While HR found that the R7HE's 8× oversampling mode pristine, pure, tight, and clear in a manner he was sure many audiophiles will find compelling, overall he thought oversampling "felt awkward and emotionally detached. It did not express recordings with as much beauty or feeling as NOS." HR concluded that what was unique and special about the Audio-GD R7HE MK2 in NOS mode was "how it renders recordings in a heightened state of naturally lit beauty and how clearly it conveys the force and drive behind recorded sounds. The R7HE delivered the dynamism and clarity of the Mola Mola Tambaqui coupled with the triode-like splendor of the HoloAudio May and Denafrips's Terminator Plus." (Vol.45 No.11 WWW)

Gold Note DS-10 EVO: $3699
This modest-sized, MQA-capable, Roon Ready, Italian D/A processor includes a volume control, AES/EBU, S/PDIF, Ethernet, USB, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi inputs, and a headphone output. DSP presets allow the DS-10's functionality to be adjusted by an almost infinite amount. The sample reviewed was powered by the optional PSU-10 EVO supply ($1299), and while JVS didn't feel the DS-10 retrieved as much detail as his more expensive reference DACs, he felt its presentation delved deep into the music on his favorite files. The DS-10 "conveyed the smile, warmth, and love behind the notes in ways other DACs miss," he wrote. JVS summed up his time with the Gold Note by saying "This little baby sounded so good—so musical—with its optional, identically dimensioned PS-10 EVO power supply that I'd urge anyone who can shell out $4300 to try them together." (Vol.43 No.8 WWW)

HoloAudio Spring 3: $3098
The original nonoversampling (NOS) Spring, which HR and AD reviewed in Vol.41 Nos.5 & 7, was HR's reference DAC for two years. The Spring 3 is available in thee versions; the sample reviewed was the top-of-the-line KTE Level 3, which sports a flat-wire-wound O-core power transformer, high-purity 1.5mm OCC silver wiring, R-2R DAC modules hand-selected based on measured performance, and the "enhanced" USB module found only in the Level 2 and KTE versions of HoloAudio's May. HR found that the Spring 3 sounded more like the May than the original Spring but noted that it brought "something uniquely its own to the HoloAudio experience, something lively and bright and rosy-cheeked alluring." One might almost say "springlike." He summed his time with the Spring 3 by writing that in terms of build quality, engineering intelligence, and the ebullient character of its solid, stirringly vital sound, the HoloAudio Spring 3 is equal to or better than any DAC he'd used. (Vol.45 No.5 WWW)

Ideon Audio Ayazi mk2: $4000
Ideon Audio 3R Master Time Black Star Clock: $4000
Reviewed as a system, this pairing from Greece offers coaxial S/PDIF and asynchronous USB inputs and one pair of single-ended outputs. The Ayazi processor uses the well-regarded ESS DAC chips. Without the Master Time Black Star Clock, AH found that the Ayazi reproduced music with less resolution and timbral accuracy and created a spatially smaller, less lifelike sound. "Music sounded duller and less compelling," he wrote. With the external clock, nothing was exaggerated or missing, including deep bass and the high highs, and nothing sounded strident or splashy. This sense of order was heightened by profoundly silent backgrounds and remarkable resolution. "With a combined price of $7800, it is by no means inexpensive," AH concluded, "but it provides good value for the refined musical spectacle it creates." JA noted that the Ayazi did well on the test bench, but he didn't find any difference in its measured performance when fed USB data via the 3R Master Time Black Star Clock. Still, based on AH's subjective evaluation, the A+ rating is only when used with the 3R Master Time Black Star Clock; without the clock, this is a class B DAC. (Vol.45 No.8 WWW)

iFi Audio ZEN DAC Signature V2: $599 with ZEN CAN
Packaged with the iFi ZEN CAN Signature headphone amplifier—see Headphones & Headphone Accessories —the MQA-capable ZEN DAC Signature V2 offers a single USB 3.0 input and both single-ended and balanced outputs, the latter on a 4.4mm Pentaconn connector. (The package includes a balanced 4.4mm-to-4.4mm Pentaconn cable.) Both outputs can be operated in fixed- or variable-level modes. JMu found that in fixed mode the ZEN DAC's maximum output level was a little too high with the ZEN CAN driving her usual headphones—she used iFi's iEMatch balanced attenuating cable ($49). (Peculiarly, with the ZEN DAC's fixed level set to its lowest, JCA didn't find the attenuator cable necessary with the ZEN CAN and the same headphones.) Using the DAC in her main system, and using its volume control, JMu said its sonics exceeded her expectations: "Detail was maintained, and the sound was robust, full, and clear. Backgrounds remained quiet." JA found that the ZEN DAC Signature v2 had 19 bits' worth of resolution and very low levels of harmonic distortion. Excellent performance for the price. (Vol.45 Nos.1 & 3 WWW)

iFi NEO Stream: $1299
As the name suggests, this is a streaming D/A processor. It offers a choice of four digital reconstruction filters, including iFi's "Bit Perfect" type and features full MQA decoding. There is an RJ45 Ethernet input, an optical M12 Ethernet input, two USB Type A jacks (both input and output), a USB-C connection for system updates, a Wi-Fi antenna, and 12S on HDMI, TosLink, coax S/PDIF, and AES3 digital outputs. There are balanced (on a 4.4mm "Pentacon" jack), and single-ended (RCA) analog outputs. A small "OptiBox" transceiver, which converts an electrical Ethernet signal to optical, is included, this powered by a supplied AC-to-USB-C adapter, and uses a short supplied SC optical interconnect. SM streamed MQA-encoded music from Tidal Connect using Roon, the "Stream-iFi" app, and the galvanically isolated Ethernet connection. "Something just felt 'right" about the sonic product MQA achieves," he wrote. Using both the iFi's own DACs and separate DACs driven by the NEO Stream's AES3 digital output, SM concluded that NEO Stream's sound quality was beyond reproach and its versatility was impressive. "It's particularly well-suited to those who are happy with their traditional hi-fi rigs and are looking to add state-of-the-art streaming to the mix." JA was impressed by the NEO Stream's measured performance, though he did note that the analog output's resolution is limited to 17–18 bits. (Vol.46 No.8 WWW)

Jadis JS1 MkV: $21,900
A two-chassis processor with fully balanced circuitry, the Jadis uses tubes for its balanced and single-ended outputs. "Despite its majestic weight, size, and price, the JS1 offers few concessions to modernity or convenience: no volume control, no network connection, no selectable filters, no MQA, no wireless anything," AH wrote. It does have a USB input that accepts and converts PCM data up to 24/384, as well as DSD. AH "strongly" preferred the sound with USB data, which was corroborated by JA's measurements. The Jadis had an expansive, easy-to-listen-to, celebratory personality, AH wrote: "It allowed the music to flow with not a trace of the edginess, glassiness, and grayness that plagues some digital components." He felt that the RS1 MkV excelled in two areas: It created a vast, shimmering soundstage, and it portrayed instruments and voices with more tonal richness and more vivid colors than he imagined a digital component could. Summing up, AH wrote, "I can confidently say that the Jadis JS1 offers something that, if not unique, is at least highly distinctive: a digital source that uses tubes to offer a rich, colorful, tactile, propulsive sound, state-of-the-art soundstaging, complete freedom from digital artifacts, and an ability to breathe life into just about any recording." JA summed up the Jadis JS1 MkV's measured performance as "dominated by the behavior of the tubed analog stage. To the presumably clean output of the AKM4497EQ DAC chip, it adds low-order harmonic distortion and a random noisefloor that increases in level at low frequencies. In other words: tube sound." (Vol.45 No.1 WWW)

Lumin P1: $10,000
The elegant-looking, Roon Ready P1 offers a complete set of digital inputs—AES3, S/PDIF (coaxial and TosLink), USB, Ethernet (electrical and optical), with full MQA decoding—as well as balanced and unbalanced analog inputs, one HDMI 2.0 input, and three ARC-enabled HDMI 2.0 outputs with 4K video passthrough. There are balanced and single-ended analog outputs and S/PDIF (BNC) and USB digital outputs, and the digital volume control is based on Leedh processing, which minimizes the number of additional bits introduced in mathematical operations in order to reduce or eliminate truncation-related loss of information. JA auditioned the P1 with Lumin's L1 network-attached UPnP server ($1400 for the 5TB version; a 2TB version is also available), using both Roon and Lumin's app. He was surprised to find that bass guitar had a better sense of drive when played from the L1 with the Lumin app than when he used Roon to play the file from the Roon Nucleus's internal storage. JA concluded that the P1 was a superb-sounding D/A processor and "its transparent-sounding analog inputs and full video functionality are a welcome bonus." On the test bench, the P1 offered high resolution and low noise and distortion. The analog inputs had a low input impedance, which might be a problem with source components having tubed output stages. (Vol.45 No.4 WWW)

Meitner MA3 Integrated: $10,500
Trickled down from EMM's DV2, the MA3 uses the same fully discrete, one-bit DAC circuit, with an internal conversion rate of DSD1024. The digital-domain volume control is said to preserve resolution at low settings and, unlike the DV2, the Roon Ready, MQA-capable MA3 can stream music from a network-attached storage device (NAS) or from streaming services via its Ethernet and USB ports. Using either Roon or the free MConnect app, JVS noted that "the MA3's soundstage was impressively wide, its bass was quite strong, and its colors were true." His conclusion? "The MA3 doesn't just take you from Point A to Point B; it makes every journey a joy. Anyone in the market for a versatile one-piece, Roon Ready, MQA-capable streaming DAC with volume control that is capable of high-resolution PCM and DSD playback will be all the richer for taking it for a spin." In the test lab, the MA3 offered somewhat different measured behavior depending on whether it was decoding impulse-like data or continuous waveform data, this typical of Ed Meitner's DAC designs for 30 years. But with both kinds of data, the MA3's measurements were excellent, with high resolution and low noise and distortion. (Vol.45 No.6 WWW)

PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream MK2: $7999
The same size as its well-regarded predecessor, the MK2 processor replaces the rectangular, four-color touchscreen with a smaller display with a Mute/Menu button to its left and a blue-illuminated five-button controller to its right. However, it still upsamples PCM data to 30-bit words, now sampled at 2× the original's 28.224MHz, and these still processed by a digital-domain volume control before being resampled to single-bit, quad-rate DSD, and converted to analog with a low-pass filter. Though there is no Ethernet port, the MK2 has seven digital inputs: two AES3, optical and coaxial S/PDIF (one each), asynchronous USB Type B, and two I2S over HDMI. (The last two can be used with PS Audio PerfectWave transports.) Each digital input can be galvanically isolated to eliminate noise on shared grounds. There are unbalanced and balanced analog outputs. (The latter's XLR jacks don't have the usual locking mechanism; JA found that the weight of the AudioQuest interconnects he initially used kept pulling the plugs out.) Overall, JA enjoyed how the DirectStream MK2 played music, commenting that while its low frequencies don't have quite the drive he appreciates with the Benchmark and MBL processors, "it betters its predecessor in this respect and sounds more open in the highs." But he was bothered by the high levels of random noise in the MK2's output, this mostly ultrasonic but in-band, too, and some 20× higher than its predecessor's. In theory. this noise will compromise the processor's low-level resolution. While his auditioning did suggest that the DirectStream MK2's retrieval of recorded detail was not in the same class as the high-resolution overachievers that the magazine has reviewed, his enjoyment of the music didn't seem unduly impaired. (Vol.46 No.6 WWW)

Sonnet Audio Morpheus MKII: $3149
As well as the usual S/PDIF and AES3 inputs, this 24-bit, non-oversampling D/A processor offers a choice of USB or I2S input ports. Both balanced and single-ended outputs are offered, and, usefully, the Morpheus features a volume control. It doesn't decode DSD data. AH found that the USB input didn't sound as vivid as the AES3 input, but the I2S input was his favorite. Compared with AES3, "instruments became less homogenized, each sounding more distinct and colorful, and everything in the soundfield grew more precise, solid, and well-organized," he wrote. JA found that the S/PDIF and AES3 inputs had relatively high levels of jitter, though he was impressed by the 20-bit resolution offered by the Morpheus's R-2R ladder-DAC topology. AH summed up his time with the Morpheus, writing that "this thoughtfully designed Dutch DAC...resolved massive amounts of information while reproducing my favorite music in a natural, embodied manner that never sounded strident. It made listening to even early or poor recordings musically meaningful and fun." The optional MQA card adds $199, though AH couldn't get this to work with I2S data, just AES3. MKII upgrade is trivial, unlikely to affect sonics. (Vol.44 No.11 WWW)

Verity DAC: $28,000
This Canadian assault on the state of the digital/analog conversion art strikes a perfect balance between the retrieval of detail and the overemphasis of that detail, decided JA. It has three digital inputs—AES3, coaxial S/PDIF, and USB 2.0, this conforming to the Roon-recognized ALSA standard—balanced and single-ended analog outputs, but a single upsampled reconstruction filter, a conventional linear-phase type. As the Verity's name suggests, it can be operated in DAC mode, with a fixed output, or PRE mode, with a high-precision volume control. Although the much-traveled review sample had some reliability issues, when these had been resolved the DAC/PRE did well in the test lab, offering very low distortion and noise and >20 bits resolution. "Both the Verity's sound quality and its performance on the test bench are up there with the best I have experienced," concluded JA. An Apple remote control is supplied; optional isolation base costs $5000. (Vol.44 No.8 WWW)


Denafrips Enyo: $850 $$$
This affordable, recently renamed D/A processor retained all of the pricier Denafrips Terminator's features, and in OS Slow mode, "a majority portion of the flagship's engaging character," HR wrote, "but the sounds it projected seemed smaller and denser and tighter," while "the sound in OS-Fast was kind of forward, rough, and ringy, with sharpish, sometimes glaring highs." In NOS mode, the Ares II "was relaxed and musical but exhibited a slight diffusion and grainy flatness," he found. HR summed up his time with the Ares II by writing that it "recovered more ambient/reverberant information and generated larger, more precisely mapped soundstages than any DAC I've encountered under $1698...I see the Denafrips Ares II as a working person's superDAC." JA's measurements found that the OS filter modes overloaded with full-scale high-frequency signals, and that there was a peculiar modulation of the ladder DAC's linearity error with signal level. Otherwise this inexpensive DAC offers often-superb measured performance, he concluded. (Vol.43 Nos.9 & 11 WWW)

Lejonklou Källa: $8495
Audiophiles turn up their noses at the lossy compression used by the Spotify streaming service. But to his amazement, AH found that with this bare-bones Swedish DAC—it is limited to 16/44.1 resolution and the manufacturer says it's designed to work best with AirPlay—"Spotify drew me into my music in a way I hadn't experienced previously with digital. It did away with the invisible glass wall digital often places between the music and the listener more thoroughly than any device I've heard." Compared with lossless audio streamed to the Källa from Qobuz, AH found that while he heard slightly more solidity, more incisive detail, and maybe a bit more tone color with Qobuz, with Spotify "the music simply soared and jumped, while with Qobuz it kind of sat there, glowering." (Vol.46 No.3 WWW)

Mojo Audio Mystique X SE: $9999
The made-in-New Mexico Mystique X SE offers AES3, coaxial S/PDIF, and USB digital inputs, single-ended analog outputs, and features a pair of vintage 20-bit Analog Devices AD1862 ladder-DAC chips. The SE version that HR reviewed adds ultrafast, ultralow-noise, zero-recovery SiC Schottky rectification diodes, ups the capacitance of the four-pole Mundorf capacitors to 22,000µF, and employs a "massive" power supply with Lundahl amorphous-core chokes. HR liked what he heard: "The Mojo's extremely natural, easy-flowing sound trumped every inclination I had to do comparisons with some other digital source," he wrote, and complimented the Mystique's presentation of low-level detail: "The Mojo DAC made piano tones glow and whisper, how all the little quiet notes—ones I don't usually hear—got through, letting me enjoy their unique expressiveness and admire them individually." Overall, the Mystique X SE "produced a unique, sophisticated listening experience that presented digital recordings as beautiful, probing, and engaging." JA was less impressed with how the Mojo DAC measured. The Mystique's real-world resolution "was about 16 bits below 1kHz and 17 bits above about 4kHz," he wrote, and found that while low-level information was boosted in level, the background noise levels were both high and different in the two channels. He felt that the limited resolution and high positive linearity error at low levels were matters for concern, though he did note that these problems will be least audible with 16/44.1 data. In his own auditioning, JA also noted the enhancement of low-level detail but despite the disappointing measured behavior he didn't immediately notice anything questionable about the Mystique's sound quality with 16/44.1 USB data; the tonal balance was warm, and there was nothing fatiguing about the treble. Hi-rez audio didn't sound offer the expended improvement, however. He did find that the Mojo DAC formed a synergistic partnership with the Jay's Audio upsampling CD transport. (Vol.46 Nos.4 & 5 WWW)

Topping DM7: $599.99 $$$
This eight-channel processor from China has just one digital input, USB, and the balanced analog outputs are on TRS jacks rather than XLRs. It includes a master volume control and individual channel gain controls, all with 0.5dB resolution. (Level adjustments for individual channels can be made with the supplied remote control.) A front-panel display shows volume, whether the audio data are PCM or DSD, and bit depth/sample rate. Like other processors that use the ES9038PRO DAC chip, the DM7 offers a choice of seven PCM reconstruction filters and four DSD filters. There are also two choices for maximum output levels—4V, the default, and 5V—and fixed or variable volume. KR was able to use both Roon and JRiver with the Topping and commented on impressive dynamic range, both in stereo and multichannel playback, a believable soundstage, and "striking purity." KR decided that the DM7 "offers the hard-to-beat combination of simple operation, low cost, and excellent sound." in the test lab, the DM7 offered a high resolution of 19 bits, with low linearity error and very low levels of distortion, random noise, and jitter. "The Topping DM7's measured performance is superb, even without taking its affordable price into account," wrote JA. Still, absurdly high value for money. High Class B. (Vol.46 No.1 WWW)


WiiM Mini: $99 $$$
This tiny, unbelievably affordable, Wi-Fi—capable network bridge also has an analog input and output with A/D and D/A converters and a volume control. The analog input is limited to 16/48 but via Wi-Fi, the Mini will accept hi-rez data up to 24/192 and output those data from its TosLink S/PDIF port. It will also decode hi-rez data to analog, though the sample rate is limited to 96kHz. WiiM's Home app allows hi-rez audio to be streamed from Qobuz, and the Mini can also receive normal-resolution data sent via Wi-Fi using AirPlay 2 and Roon. Multiple Minis can be operated simultaneously for multiroom use—a built-in microphone allows each Mini's latency to be calibrated to ensure that they are synchronized. JA commented that the Mini's analog input and output are serviceable, but it was its ability to output hi-rez audio data from its TosLink output that got this bargain-priced product a recommendation. While preparing the review in April 2022, JA occasionally had problems with word-length truncation when streaming 24-bit data from Qobuz or from files on his iPhone when he changed the maximum TosLink sample rate with the Home app. These problems could be resolved with a reboot, and a firmware update dated July 1, 2022, solved it completely. Rating is for DAC performance; Class A as a network bridge. (Vol.45 No.8 WWW)

Deletions Chord Electronics DAVE, Métronome c|AQWO, not auditioned in a long time.

creativepart's picture

Does Stereophile ever question the validity of this twice a year list? Perhaps it really helps with newsstand sales, but I've come to dread it's release twice a year. First, there are the stupidly priced A+ turntables all reviewed by one staffer that's been gone for quite some time. The entire A+ section will go away with "not tested in a long time" and rightly so.

Some items are ranked by full reviews with testing and others are just columnists saying - highly recommended - at the end of their monthly column. And those items are many times totally out of the mainstream of the product marketplace.

And, while price doesn't indicate quality, it is so jarring to see $500 products achieve the exact same ranking (A or B usually) along side $15,000 products.

I'd love to see you folks test more of the items people are buying in fairly large numbers everyday... even though they don't have the same 5 popular distribution partners or those that advertise in the magazine. No, I'm not saying it's pay to play. But MoFi Distributing buys a lot of ads, it's friends with staffers and routinely gets their products reviewed. It's not payola, but it is a symbiotic relationship.

I'd recommend you scrap the listing and retool the whole thing - and put some thought into how and why you test the products you test.

tenorman's picture

Very objective , well written and fair . You’ve made some great suggestions . Thank you

HeadScratcher's picture

I too recommend scrapping the current format for a complete retooling of a listing that isn't so time lapse convoluted...

Glotz's picture

Creativepart is mincing words to that they fail to commit to... They are saying it's pay to play in no uncertain terms and views their listings with mistrust. To imply MoFi has a friendly relationship is complete conjecture and Stereophile does not make nor position themselves as a symbiotic relationship with any manufacturer or distributor. If they get their product reviewed, it's because a reviewer saw or heard their product at a show, and anything else is implied BS. Rather, they hate MoFi for their lack of transparency about their debacle on digital masters, and want to see any association of Stereophile's behalf as condemnation of their own lack of transparency and veracity. That implication stinks like jaded political pundits grasping for correlated facts.

What CP is also implying directly is that he or she would like validation of their mainstream products purchased to be favorably reviewed (so they can feel good about their purchases of gear). It's generally opposed to what Stereophile does and any long term reader or subscriber would know that as gospel and the very reason the magazine exists on one level- to provide a review of one person's experience with a hard to find or less-investigated piece of gear. It is easy to find, learn and buy any mainstream piece of gear. I do think that should change a bit.

What is important is for Stereophile to review these mainstream audio products and compare against their audiophile offerings and EXPLAIN why they are different and (if) superior. That would be bring in more readers if the descriptions of well known products (vs. audiophile products) could be compared and contrasted well enough. This acts to bring real-world reference points to levels of sound quality that more non-audio dudes would understand.

I do not think this magazine is as good at comparisons (though understandable) as they used to be in the 80's and 90's (less HR and JA). Manufacturers don't like comparisons to their products because often the context is misunderstood by readers. Yes, almost all products in any category are vastly improved and the 80's performance points were much more obvious to hear and report about as negative or positive. Technology marching forward has changed that and leveled the playing field drastically. The fundamental design approaches of audiophile companies still focus on sound rather than ergonomics or functionality.

What should happen is to NOT name the product under comparison in the review but only use price as an indicator of quality vs. price in any comparison. That way readers can understand the product from a price perspective and not feel they have a field day crapping on the product that they 'KNEW was audiophile garbage'.

Side note- Other than subscribers, no reader should be allowed to make comments on this or the other sister websites. By way of omission of the subscribed investment, we will be able to separate the dross from water. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of other websites that do this outright, but I get that Stereophile wants to increase it's readership. Perhaps, this is actually a better way to do it. Require subscriptions for posting comments here and there (AP).

Jazzlistener's picture

high when you wrote this? Talk about verbal diarrhea. Creativepart made some good points. Although I do personally enjoy the Recommended Components feature, I too find it questionable (e.g. the Rega P3 makes it into Class C but none of their higher end tables can crack Class A? Pluh-ease. What I would really love to see is more system recommendations in Stereophile like in some of the British Hi-Fi mags, and at different price points.

Glotz's picture

But I was pissed a bit. Implied collusion ruffles my s***.

Great recommend on the system point you bring up. That should be a regular feature if they can create very different systems for each 'type' of listener. From there they could build on hybrids of system types involving tubes and solid-state, etc.

These rankings are just one reviewer judging a component in relation to their system. The Benchmark reviews come to mind- Certain people loved them, others not. There's massive nuance there and goes to the heart of preference thing- accuracy to source vs. myfi, vs. 'the absolute sound'.

They all need to fit somewhere into the classes here. It may be a hodge-podge like it is, but whatever. It just is.

The Belles vs. McCormack amp comparison from Sam Tellig (2000) comes to mind as well. The pursuit of accuracy vs. warmth and obscuration of detail lent the McCormack the nod and the higher rating for ST in Class A and the Belles to Class B. Same realm of performance and price (in my listening as well) but they don't share a rating. In more ways and in my lighter balanced system (at the time), I preferred the Belles.

I think dollar amounts do have play a part here as sometimes there are positives that 'overweigh' the subtractions to placement a certain class and could serve one particular group of listeners as a justification for a higher cost or greater perceived value.

Expensive modern tube power amps are a great examples. To get to a greater level of measurement and subjective performance to that of solid state one has to spend sometimes thousands more. The classes do need adjustments for a positive listening value like 'superb depth', even though there may be subtractions for other weaknesses.

I look at the classes as just a rough guide. I doubt that the Project DAC reviewed as Class A a few years back could compete with the top dollar DAC's like dCS, but I haven't heard the Project. I would think there is enough areas of merit to make Class A, but probably not as many facets of performance as the dCS or other pricey DACs.

Anton's picture

One of those turntable must surely be A++, no?

And some of that 'A' gear must really be 'A-.'

I think we should switch to the Moody's rating system...

Or, perhaps the Robert Parker 100 point scale.

Glotz's picture


RobertSlavin's picture

First let me say I heard the Raidho D2-1 speakers several years ago and was very impressed.

However, given how uneven the measured frequency response of the Raidho TD3.8 was in the Stereophile measurements, I question whether it should have even qualified for Class E if it were sold for $700. Instead, we find it recommended at Class A+ for $117,000.

It is generally acknowledged that there is a strong correlation between even measured frequency response and generally perceived speaker quality.

I realize that to get in A+ just one reviewer has to think that way. But it does raise my eyebrow.


Scintilla's picture

Despite my recent foaming-of-the-mouth and throwings-under-the-bus here, I do think there is value in the list each year. I have used Stereophile reviews and the list to both narrow my choices and to purchase goods based on a long-standing relationship with a reviewers words. Fremer might think me a random hater but I used his reviews to pick both a phono preamp, and a tonearm. I trusted my own ears to pick other parts of my system before glowing reviews appeared here. Assembling a modern, high-quality audio system is made much more difficult by the sheer number of products available, companies and general noise on the Internets. In the 80's we could go to a hifi salon and listen to products like the Robertson 4010 with some Soundlab A1's (made my neck hair stand up) and find Celestions with omni subs paired with Bedini or BEL amps. In this age, having a curated list to help people at least find products to seek is more valuable than ever. What it comes down to is whether you trust the ears that made the choices. And I do not trust all the new reviewers and neither should you. They haven't earned it yet.

Glotz's picture

Haven't you given a reason why you can't trust them?

Specifically why.

Scintilla's picture

Because they can't actually hear differences. I only trust Kal, JA1 and nobody else; maybe Herb; maybe but he's one of those I just write for pleasure guys. So why trust them? Because the rest of the new writers, including JA2 have not proved themselves over time. It's one thing to have a good review when many people agree. Why is JVS reveiwing the highest-end equipment like J10 did? WTAF does he really know about that gear other than his association with the magazine? Not much, actually. He's an amateur listener no more skilled than me. At least Fremer proved himself as a real arbiter of sound quality. I may not agree with his choices for equipment, but the man proved his prowess as a listener. Not so with the rest of these newbies. They can be indignant all they want to be but until they have a record of salient, quality reviews, they are nobodies... And this is Stereophile's big fail.

Glotz's picture

I wasn't trolling you- You didn't give reasons until now.

I thought these reviewers had enough experience at shows, with their own multi-thousand dollar systems and constantly refining their own craft by interviewing and working with manufacturers.

It would seem strange that a manufacturer or distributor installed-system would be anything less than successful playback, as they don't leave until they are satisfied. They certainly have the respect of manufacturers, dealers and distributors when I see them talk together at shows. (And if collusion ruled those relationships, we would see a different dynamic here.)

MF's system is real close in many ways to JVS' so what is the culprit?

Is it your perception of measurements don't match JVS' experiences? Or is that HR has a more observable scientific method by way of comparisons of gear that seems more transparent? Or the way either communicates their observations?

It just may be about the type of subjective tests that reviewers are performing that fails to bring one type of measurement to be audible. Classical music omits a ton of performance areas for review parameters. The component review may be really for classical lovers. I certainly don't read anymore into it if he isn't remarking on other music.

Yet I do see JA defending JVS' experiences in his measurements section in last month's Infigo review. No one seems to ever acknowledge or comment on those reasonable defenses- ever.

Thank you for your explanation no matter what.

ChrisS's picture

...from mine?

No problem!

creativepart's picture

I went to pains to explain I wasn't claiming payola. And, I'm still not. I'm saying that products with distributors are granted more reviews due to attendance at shows, relationships with editors, and just increased personal contact. Companies expect their distributors to represent their brand for them and to advertise their brand for them. And, that's what they do.

Reviewed products end up on the Stereophile Recommended Products list because of this greater exposure to Stereophile writers and editors.

When someone from a small equipment company calls an editor their call will not be answered as readily as a call from that nice rep you met at the Munich show and shared a beer with last year. It's how the business works.

And, everyone should know when a product is getting a review in a future issue the Ad Dept is made aware and sales people call to suggest an ad be placed in that same issue. It's not pay to play because the ad sale has nothing to do with the product review being printed. But companies recognize synergy when they see it.

Add to this that most reviewers seem to be in Urban areas that have the traditional HiFi Shop. Where the rest of the country only has internet forums and online reviews to audition various products.

My entire point is... the list is tilted, skewed toward bigger budget, higher priced gear that is professionally represented and that is not necessarily representative of the broader equipment marketplace, and what mainstream audiophiles are buying.

Jazzlistener's picture

“My entire point is... the list is tilted, skewed toward bigger budget, higher priced gear that is professionally represented and that is not necessarily representative of the broader equipment marketplace, and what mainstream audiophiles are buying.”

I do not begrudge any company that does a good job marketing itself, attending shows, building a presence in the industry, etc. That’s a lot of hard work and investment. There is a boutique speaker company in my home town that makes outstanding speakers, but the owner has steadfastly refused to show them off at shows, market them properly, or work with dealers. The result has been failure to grow his company or draw attention to his speakers. That’s on him. Stereophile is only one of myriad sources on the Internet where audio enthusiasts can find reviews on gear. Many other reviewers cover mainstream products. In fact, if you’re interested in a product you’d be hard pressed not to find a reasonably to excellent credible review on it.

ChrisS's picture

Does no one know how to do that anymore?


Jean-Benoit's picture

It seems like an obvious thing to include, or else the reader is left to "manually" go looking for reviews of every component that piques his/her curiosity. Seems like a wholly unnecessary hassle for what is otherwise a really useful list.

CG's picture

Good suggestion!

I tried to search for the review of the Ayre VX-8. No luck, link or no.

John Atkinson's picture
CG wrote:
I tried to search for the review of the Ayre VX-8. No luck, link or no.

This review will be posted to the website on Friday. The other reviews in the new (October) issue will be posted over the next 10 days. (Stereophile gives priority to print subscribers.)

John Atkinson
Technical Editor/part-time web monkey

CG's picture

Ahh! Coming attractions, as they say. Fair enough, all around.

ChrisS's picture

The review for the EX is online...The new one should come up soon!

ednazarko's picture

Always stunned by how many people are compelled to tell the world at length how outraged they are about something online they don't like. Maybe insufficient joy in their lives? A lack of purpose? Afflicted with oppositional defiant disorder? I don't know. But if you think online comparison rankings of audio gear are a fruitless exercise, why read them? If you didn't read them, how can you have much of a useful opinion? Expressing outrage about something you refuse to read is mostly chest pounding and declaring superiority over the fools filling the world.

Don't like the comparison reviews? Really, just move on. Less rage hormones in your blood will extend your life span. Or raise money, buy the company, and show us your better ideas in action.

I enjoy reading through these comparison ratings. Don't agree with some, do agree with others. I've found over time that there are reviewers whose ears and preferences seem to match up with mine and others who don't. (In these twice yearly ratings, and in the ongoing reviews published.) These cyclical ratings and the ongoing reviews have been quite useful for me in trying and buying gear when living in a location that limits my ability to hear a lot of gear for myself.

Right now massively enjoying listening to Kingfish Live in London on my Okto stereo DAC, which I'd never have heard of without the review here, and would have never bought other than the reviewers were ones who's opinions and ears have matched with mine in the past, along with the wildly excellent measured performance. Through an old Anthem integrated that was well reviewed way long ago... and through B&W 702 speakers that got mixed reviews, but in the mix there were specifics that told me that they'd work well with my other components and in the large studio listening space I had. (And that I definitely needed the smattering of sound panels on the walls behind and to the side.)

Just because something pleases you not, or strikes you as ignorant and wasteful consumption of bits on the internet, doesn't mean that others don't find value and useful insights. Save your time and your cortisol and ignore the stuff you think it dumb. Life is short. Spend it well.

Glotz's picture


creativepart's picture

No anger, no stress on this end. Simply making suggestions in hopes of improving this twice a year feature (of the printed magazine). If you read anger and vitriol in phrases in my post like "I'd love to see you folks..." then it's not me that's overreacting.

If you like the listings as they are, then great. No one is stopping you. Me, I think they could be more meaningful than they are currently. But that's just me.

pinkfloyd4ever's picture

It would be really helpful if you posted a link to the full review of each of these products in this list