Rogue Audio Atlas Magnum II Stereo Amplifier

Reviewers' ChoiceRogue Audio has been designing and building tubed electronics in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania, for over 20 years. In that time, the company has established a reputation for exceptional performance at reasonable prices. To achieve his performance goals, Rogue’s president and chief designer, Mark O’Brien, believes in applying solid engineering principles, careful parts selection, and attention to details and in manufacture. What O’Brien doesn’t believe in is showy marketing, smoke and mirrors, and coming out with new models just to keep his customers on the upgrade carousel. As such, when Rogue introduces a new edition of a model that has been in their portfolio for over a decade, it’s because he and his team think they’ve found a way to make improvements to something other than the nameplate.

Read more ...

Focal Sopra No1 Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceIn May 2015, Focal introduced their Sopra line of loudspeakers with the Sopra No1 minimonitor ($9990/pair, all prices USD) and the Sopra No2 floorstander ($18,990/pair). In October 2015, Doug Schneider reviewed the Sopra No2 and liked it so much that it was named a Reviewers’ Choice. Then, in 2016, Focal released a larger floorstander, the Sopra No3 ($23,990/pair), as well as the Sopra Center ($3990 each) and the Sopra Surround BE ($6990/pair).

Read more ...

Clarus Aqua Mark II Interconnects and Speaker Cables

Clarus is described as the sister brand of Tributaries, the cable manufacturer best known for their extensive lines of A/V products. Founded just a few years ago, Clarus offers high-end cables based on the work of audio designer Jay Victor. Their products are made by hand in the US from proprietary materials, except for their power cords and USB links, which are made in China due to the machinery required to manufacture the molded plugs. Clarus’s Aqua line comprises balanced and single-ended interconnects, a subwoofer cable, a digital coaxial audio link, two power cords, and single and biwire speaker cables. Their costlier Crimson line has similar models, and adds AES/EBU digital and USB links. Clarus also makes two models of power conditioner.

Read more ...

PMC Cor Integrated Amplifier

The Professional Monitor Company Ltd., aka PMC, was founded in the UK in 1991 by Peter Thomas, of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and Adrian Loader, of audio distributor FWO Bauch. Their first product, the BB5-A active minimonitor, helped PMC become known for what would become a long line of monitors designed for use in recording studios. Since then PMC has ventured into consumer audio, and now offers many passive speakers in various model lines aimed at audiophiles. However, the subject of this review is not a PMC speaker, but the only consumer-electronics component PMC makes: the Cor integrated amplifier ($6000 USD), which was created to celebrate their 25th anniversary.

Read more ...

Lab12 Integre4 Integrated Amplifier

When I first got into audio, in the late 1980s, few makers of perfectionist hi-fi produced integrated amplifiers, especially here in the United States. Perhaps rightly so: Most audiophiles preferred separates, often mixing and matching components from different manufacturers. The integrateds then available often seemed like design anomalies -- hastily slapped together, serving as stand-ins to round out a manufacturer’s offerings or introduce new audiophiles to the brand.

Read more ...

Totem Acoustic Tribe Tower Loudspeakers

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

In November 2018, I concluded my review of Totem Acoustic’s Sky Tower loudspeaker with this: “It’s taken me 15 years to properly experience a pair of Totem Acoustic speakers. Having spent the last few weeks with the Sky Towers, I hope I won’t have to wait nearly that long to hear the next pair.”

Read more ...

Q Acoustics Concept 300 Loudspeakers

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

Q Acoustics was founded in 2006, and in competing with the UK’s old guard -- Bowers & Wilkins, KEF, Tannoy, Wharfedale, etc. -- Q likes to present itself as younger and fresher, focusing its speaker designs on high value, high sound quality, and great appearance. From their website: “Q Acoustics is a young brand. No heritage. No tradition. No old black and white photographs. We believe that to be the secret of our success.” I hope they realize that, if they succeed and survive, at some point they will be old -- just like the rest of us. But for now, they’re still one of the newer kids on their UK block.

Read more ...

Hegel Music Systems H390 Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Reviewers' ChoiceHere’s how upgrading your hi-fi used to work: In the early 1980s, when I got into the hobby, a separate preamp and power amp were what you bought if you were serious about sound. But if, like me, you couldn’t afford separates, you bought an integrated amplifier as an interim measure. That’s why, back then, you rarely if ever saw a truly “high end” integrated amp -- the “high end” was all about separates. I first had an NAD integrated, then a Denon, before I finally sprang for my first separates: models from Forte, a subbrand of Threshold Audio. I never looked very seriously at integrated amps again.

Read more ...

AudioSolutions Figaro M Loudspeakers

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

When, last July, I reviewed the AudioSolutions Figaro B stand-mounted loudspeaker, I was impressed with what I heard. I mentioned how, above 100Hz, the Figaro B’s midrange was accurate and smooth, while its top end was extended and grain-free, never sounding etched or over accentuated. Transparency, detail retrieval, and imaging were all topnotch. Below 100Hz, however, the Figaro B lacked weight and extension, even for a two-way minimonitor, and I said that I’d love to hear the B’s larger, three-way siblings.

Read more ...

SVS Prime Pinnacle Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceOne thing I’d like to see more of in reviews of extremely expensive high-end audio components is a comparison of the sound quality of the expensive product reviewed with that of real-world gear that doesn’t require its buyer to earn a salary of six or seven figures. For example, while I can appreciate that a $20,000 pair of speakers might sound really good, as a real-world consumer, I’d like to know how those speakers sound in comparison with something that costs a tenth as much. Any reader looking to buy one is unlikely to consider buying the other. But it would be nice if the reviewer of $20k/pair speakers at least had a pair of well-designed, more affordable speakers on hand as a point of reference to provide some context for how much better the pricier speakers sound -- if, indeed, they do.

Read more ...

More Articles ...