Constellation Audio Revelation Taurus Mono Amplifiers

Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceIn the 22 years of the SoundStage! Network, I’ve reviewed audio products of all shapes, sizes, and types -- but I’ve tended to shy away from items that cost as much as or more than the average car (these days, in the US, that’s just under $35,000). If an audio product costs more than that, two questions inevitably pop to mind: 1) Who can afford it? and 2) Why in the world does it cost that much? That’s why, on SoundStage! Hi-Fi, in all these years, you’ll find few such components reviewed under my byline.

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Paradigm Persona B Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceParadigm’s previous top line of loudspeakers, the Signature models, was released more than a dozen years ago. With their high-tech drivers, high-gloss wood veneers, and many innovative features, they set a new standard for high-performance speakers at prices that, for the high end, were reasonable: from $1900 to $6000 USD per pair. Paradigm recently discontinued the Signatures, and has launched a new assault on the state of the art of speaker design: the Persona series. Featuring tweeters and midrange drivers with beryllium diaphragms, and other cutting-edge technologies, the Personas are considerable advances on the Signatures -- as is reflected in their prices, which range from $7000 to $35,000/pair.

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Markaudio-Sota Cesti T Loudspeakers

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

Markaudio-Sota is a recent collaboration between Sota Acoustics Ltd. and Markaudio Loudspeakers Ltd. Sota Acoustics was founded in 2014 by Steven Cheng, an electronics engineer who loves audio. As executive director of Telefield, a large electronics manufacturing company based in Hong Kong, Cheng has his own facilities to build loudspeakers, giving him a close hand in production. He assembled the Markaudio-Sota (M-S) team.

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GoldenEar Technology Triton Reference Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceGoldenEar Technology’s Triton Reference was never meant to be. At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, Sandy Gross, who cofounded GoldenEar with engineer Don Givogue, told me that the Triton One ($4999.98 USD per pair) he was then demonstrating was the biggest, most expensive loudspeaker his company would ever make. (I reviewed the Triton One for this site in April 2015.) But, as Gross later told me, as soon as the Triton One was released, people began asking for more speaker -- and at a higher price. As well versed as Gross is in the speaker business -- before GoldenEar, he cofounded Polk Audio with Matthew Polk, and, with Givogue, Definitive Technology -- he’d never anticipated that kind of pressure. He thought he should do something about it.

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Devialet Gold Phantom Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceThis review is the latest in a series of events that began in December 2014, when I was invited to Devialet’s headquarters, in Paris, France, for a private presentation of the Phantom ($3980 USD/pair) and Silver Phantom ($4780/pair) loudspeakers. Devialet was then so secretive about these models that their marketing director at first forbade me from photographing them. After a brief standoff, we agreed that I would cover them that month in a blog on SoundStage! Global. That blog proved immensely popular -- it was the world’s first detailed look at this drastically new loudspeaker concept. But it spawned controversies that continue to this day.

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NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Wireless Streaming DAC-Integrated Amplifier

Reviewers' ChoiceNAD has produced well-regarded amplifiers for more than 40 years, and for most of that time, owing to their need to dissipate copious amounts of heat, amplifiers have shared some basic physical attributes. But when I unboxed the C 338 ($649 USD), and before I saw its rear panel, it looked more like a CD player than an amplifier. While my NAD C 356BEE is covered on top and sides with vents, the smooth surfaces of the C 338’s case are unperforated. It’s also less than half the height of most integrated amps, but reassuringly dense, with a solid cabinet of black steel similar to those enclosing most NAD amps. The C 338, C 368 (recently reviewed by Al Griffin on SoundStage! Simplifi), and C 388 comprise NAD’s newest line of integrated amplifiers, and all include network features. The C 338 is further distinguished by being the first hi-fi amp to have Chromecast built-in (more about this below). It comes with a small remote control, an IEC power cord, three antennas, and two quick-start sheets (the full owner’s manual is available only online).

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Bryston BCD-3 CD Player

Does it have a built-in hard drive? No. Can it burn CDs? No. Does it play Blu-ray Discs? No.

These were the questions my friends asked as we sat on a patio, enjoying some beer before the rain that has plagued much of this summer began falling again. I’d told them I was working on a review of a new CD player, and I wasn’t too surprised. I don’t know many people who’ve bought a CD in the past year, let alone anyone who’s purchased a device whose sole purpose is to play CDs. If the medium hasn’t yet died, it’s certainly on life support, as demonstrated by the fact that sales of vinyl have actually surpassed those of the shiny plastic discs.

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Hegel Music Systems Röst DAC-Integrated Amplifier

Reviewers' ChoiceI remember my first experience of a Hegel Music Systems component. It was seven years ago, at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I’d never heard of the Norwegian outfit before curiously wandering into their exhibition room, but I left mightily impressed by what I’d heard: Hegel’s entry-level H70 integrated amplifier ($2000 USD) was driving a pair of power-hungry Bowers & Wilkins 802 Diamond speakers ($15,000 pair) to uncomfortably loud SPLs and making sweet, sweet music.

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Audio Research Foundation VT80 Stereo Amplifier

Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

Audio Research Corporation (ARC) and its reputation for high-quality audio equipment are well known to audiophiles. The company was founded in 1970 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by William Z. Johnson, who had a plan to forward the state of the art of music reproduction. ARC was sold in 2008 to Fine Sounds SpA (since renamed the McIntosh Group), which owns other well-known audio brands, including McIntosh Laboratory, Sonus Faber, and Wadia.

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Aurender A10 Music Server

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nine years since I last regularly used the CD player in my main system. I took my first tentative steps toward computer audio in 2008, when I laboriously ripped my very large collection of CDs to lossless files stored on my iMac’s 1TB internal hard drive. Originally, I used these files strictly for headphone listening, but later patched them into my main system through the addition of a Logitech Transporter ($2000 USD) and a Halide Design USB-S/PDIF bridge ($450), both since discontinued.

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