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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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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