SoundStage! HiFi

  1. Opportunity, creativity, and experience must each play a role in the creation of a great power amplifier. Paul McGowan, head of PS Audio, created an opportunity in 2014 when he wanted his company, based in Boulder, Colorado, to develop “one of the top five power amplifiers in the world, regardless of price.” Creativity arrived when longtime reviewer and audio designer Bascom H. King -- who measures audio components for the SoundStage! Network -- agreed to lead the project, provided he’d be able to design the amplifier without restriction. Together, McGowan, King, and Arnie Nudell -- founder of Infinity Systems, who collaborated with King on the first hybrid tubes-and-solid-state amplifier -- brought more than 150 years’ worth of experience to the voicing of the final designs.

  2. Until only a few years ago, the norm for high-end hi-fi companies wanting to showcase their new products at the beginning of the year was to book exhibit space at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held each January in Las Vegas, and then to ship their equipment there, set it up, and show it off to thousands of industry-affiliated attendees from around the world. But for high-end audio, those days are no more.

  3. Reviewers' ChoiceThe LS28 tubed line-stage preamplifier is part of Audio Research’s new Foundation series. Other models in the series include the DAC9 digital-to-analog converter, PH9 phono preamplifier, and VT80 power amplifier, most of which the SoundStage! Network will eventually review. While the Foundations are now ARC’s least expensive models, they’re hardly cheap -- the LS28, DAC9, and PH9 each cost $7500 USD, the VT80 $8000.

  4. SoundStage! UKAt the mid-February Tonbridge Audiojumble, in the UK, there was a distinct groundswell of support for a forgotten genre. I am but one of many who has noted, over the past three or four years, that reel-to-reel is making a comeback. This event, where countless vendors sell second-hand gear, and which is genuinely hi-fi at “street level” with finger-on-pulse, confirmed it. But with a cautionary note. Let’s back up a bit, though, to provide context.

  5. Recommended Reference ComponentPS Audio’s PerfectWave DirectStream Junior digital-to-analog converter sells for $3999 USD and can be thought of as a scaled-down version of the company’s flagship DAC, the PerfectWave DirectStream ($5999). But such a description doesn’t do full justice to the Junior’s sound quality.

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

    It’s not often that I ask questions of a manufacturer about their product and don’t get detailed answers, and it’s downright rare that questions about technical details are met with the equivalent of, “I’m not going to answer that.” I understand that the high end is a competitive space full of companies big and small, all trying to appeal to a fairly small pool of buyers. But asking someone to part with several thousand of their hard-earned dollars for an audio component while refusing to tell him or her what’s inside it is a bit nervy. If Elon Musk debuted a new Tesla automobile but refused to give any details about its motor or batteries, I can’t imagine that consumers -- let alone Tesla’s shareholders -- would respond warmly.

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