SoundStage! HiFi

  1. Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

    Some audio companies have a close association with a specific place: Linn and Glasgow, Scotland; Bang & Olufsen and Struer, Denmark; McIntosh Labs and Binghamton, New York. Like other industries, however, audio manufacturing has become increasingly international. Loudspeaker maker Markaudio-Sota is one example of a firm drawing on expertise from various parts of the globe to produce its products. The Mark in Markaudio is British speaker designer Mark Fenlon. Sota is Sota Acoustics, a manufacturing entity based in Hong Kong. And Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755-1824) was an Italian violin virtuoso and composer who lived for a few years in England -- a nod to the Italianate design of the Viotti One loudspeaker ($2495 USD per pair).

  2. After a dismal start to the year with the worst Consumer Electronics Show (CES) I’d ever seen, I was thrilled to attend High End 2017, held May 18-21 at the Munich Order Center (MOC), in Germany -- the biggest and best edition yet of this annual event. According to the High End Society’s follow-up report, the number of exhibitors was up 4% over 2016, and overall attendance was up 10%. Furthermore, of this year’s 538 exhibitors, 63% came from outside of Germany, reflecting the growing international flavor of this show. High End has become the most important hi-fi event in the world.

  3. Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

    Reviewers' ChoiceBryston Ltd., of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, produces not only amplifiers, preamplifiers, and digital source components, but also power conditioners, speakers, and cables; recently, they added a turntable to their product line. But for me, Bryston will always be, first and foremost, a maker of high-quality amplifiers. The company has been manufacturing power amps since the mid-1970s, and the subject of this review, the 4B3, has been in continuous production in various versions since 1976, when it debuted as the 4B.

  4. SoundStage! UKIt seems that I touched a nerve with last month’s attack on cable and cartridge pricing, but I remain unmoved: in the intervening weeks, I’ve had as many observers agreeing with me as not, that most of the high-end audio industry’s woes are self-inflicted, with the worst cause being pricing. The consensus seems to be that pricing is followed by the (admittedly innate) issue of having to match hardware from different manufacturers, with audiophile gibberish and arcane practices being the third and fourth.

  5. Recommended Reference ComponentIn his review of the Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty digital-to-analog converter (DAC), published on May 1, 2017, Philip Beaudette acknowledged that its price of $8950 USD “isn’t exactly affordable.” However, he also stated that that price “isn’t unreasonable” -- partly because it includes a headphone amplifier as well as a volume control, the latter allowing it to also function as a preamplifier, but mostly because it sounded better than any other DAC he’s had in his system.

  6. Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

    Reviewers' ChoiceAn unflinching commitment to iterative improvement is what sets “the best” apart from everything else, and in that respect, Devialet of France is competing only with itself. With a recent infusion of €100 million from a consortium of investors including Foxconn, Renault, and Sharp, Devialet’s aims clearly reach far beyond the listening rooms of audiophiles like you and me. Yet that show of confidence is predicated, in large part, on the success of Devialet’s Analog Digital Hybrid (ADH) amplifier, a patented circuit that earned its reputation for state-of-the-art performance in their line of Expert amplifiers, such as the 120, which I called “the single most impressive audio product I’ve ever spent time with” when I reviewed it in July 2014. Devialet claims that the newest iteration of the 120, the Expert 130 Pro ($7690 USD), is even better.

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