Shunyata Research Denali D6000/S Power Distributor

Power-line products such as Shunyata Research’s Denali D6000/S distributor pose a conundrum for me. On the one hand, I know from experience that having clean power at the proper voltage makes a difference. I learned this when I lived on the top floor of a 21-story high-rise, where power fluctuations and noise-related problems were really bad. An ExactPower EP15A power regenerator, which I reviewed and purchased in 2003, did a bang-up job of clearing up those problems -- whatever I plugged into it sounded better than when I plugged it directly into the wall outlets.

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Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeakers

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

Man, what a run.

I first read about Totem Acoustic’s Model 1 loudspeaker in a 1988 issue of Andrew Marshall’s Audio Ideas Guide. “That sounds like a cool speaker!” I remember thinking. Sure enough, I ended up with a pair about seven years later. The Model 1 was my first real audiophile speaker, and it began an obsession with audio, and a journey that led me on the path to becoming a writer for the SoundStage! Network. (I also still have that issue of AIG, stored in the under-sink cabinet of my upstairs bathroom.)

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Constellation Audio Revelation Pictor Preamplifier and Optional DC Filter

Reviewers' ChoiceLast fall, Murali Murugasu talked with me about the birth of his company, Constellation Audio, which he cofounded with David Payes in 2010. “We knew that to succeed, we would need to bring something new and special to the marketplace,” he said. Yet if you take a quick look at Constellation’s Revelation Taurus Mono power amplifiers ($39,000 USD/pair), and the Revelation Pictor preamplifier ($18,000) with optional DC filter ($5000) reviewed here, you might wonder how that could possibly be true -- from the outside, they look like typical audio separates.

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Schiit Audio Yggdrasil Digital-to-Analog Converter with Analog 2 Upgrade

Reviewers' ChoiceSchiit Audio was founded in 2010 by two audio veterans: Jason Stoddard, formerly of Sumo, and Mike Moffat, formerly of Theta Digital. In the 1980s, Theta was one of high-end digital’s pioneers, and Moffat was behind all of their designs. All of Schiit’s equipment is manufactured in Valencia, California, using parts mostly sourced from the US. They also have a retail shop, The Schiitr, in Newhall, California, where the public can drop in to see and hear their gear. The jokes and puns on Schiit.com aside (read it, it’s hilarious), these guys take their audio seriously.

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PS Audio Stellar M700 Mono Power Amplifiers

Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceThese days, when people think of PS Audio, they think of their power products and their digital models, particularly the highly regarded DirectStream DACs. A couple of years ago, PS Audio introduced their BHK line of preamplifiers and power amplifiers designed by and named for engineer Bascom H. King, of BHK Labs, who also measures amplifiers for the SoundStage! Network. By all accounts the BHKs are great products, and range in price from $5999 USD (BHK Signature preamplifier) to $14,998 (for two BHK Signature 300 mono power amps). While not low, these prices seem fair for statement-level products, and audiophiles will be interested to know that the final voicing of the BHK Signature models was performed by King, McGowan, and the late Arnie Nudell.

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Parasound Halo JC 3 Jr. Phono Stage

Reviewers' ChoiceMy experience with Parasound goes back 20 years. As a young, wide-eyed audiophile working the sales floor of a hi-fi shop, I’d often recommend Parasound to customers looking for high-value, high-performance gear that could compete with the very best out there. For the vinylheads who didn’t already know it, I’d talk about Parasound’s relationship with John Curl, one of the bright lights of analog in those dark days for vinyl. I’d mention that he designed some of the most acclaimed solid-state circuits around, such as for the Mark Levinson JC-2 preamp and the legendary Vendetta Research SCP-2 phono stage, and how great it was that Parasound made owning Curl-designed gear a more affordable proposition.

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Dynaudio Special Forty Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceThere’s a lot to be said for matching the speakers to the room. In my first nine years of writing about audio, beginning in November 1995, the staples of my review queue were compact, two-way, stand-mounted speakers. They tended to work well in the listening room of the apartment I then lived in, a space about 14’L x 11’W. Bigger, bass-heavier speakers -- typically, three- or more-way floorstanders -- usually overloaded that room. But in 2004 I began reviewing those much larger speakers -- by then I’d moved into a house, and now had a much bigger room that could support more bass and demanded more output. I still live in that house; overall, my room measures about 36’L x 18’W, though the listening area itself is only 18’ square. (The rest of the space is occupied by my office, photo studio, and storage.)

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Axiom Audio M5HP Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceRecently, in response to an editorial he’d written, fellow reviewer and SoundStage! Access editor Hans Wetzel received an e-mail from a reader. In his article, Hans had said that he was more interested in affordable loudspeakers (i.e., those costing $1500-$2500 USD per pair) from venerable manufacturers than in speakers retailing for north of $5000/pair. The reader called him out for losing perspective on how much most people can actually afford to spend on an audio system. He argued that, considering that approximately one-third of Americans have an annual income of less than $25,000, they don’t make anywhere near enough money to buy many of the products reviewed on SoundStage! Access -- the most budget-friendly publication in the SoundStage! family. His point is valid, and Hans was gracious in acknowledging this in a subsequent editorial, in which he promised to dedicate more time to writing about products more accessible to the average person.

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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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