Q Acoustics 3020i Loudspeakers

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

A year ago in Munich, when I visited the exhibit room of UK speaker maker Q Acoustics at High End 2018, I knew little about them. However, former SoundStage! Simplifi writer Al Griffin was familiar with their reputation for making high-value, budget-friendly speakers, and wanted to see what they had to offer. They were displaying their Concept 500 floorstander ($5999.99 USD per pair), but what really caught our attention was their new 3000i series, which begins at $249.99/pair for the smallest minimonitor, and ends with a $799.99/pair floorstander that looks a lot like the Concept 500. That speaker was the floorstanding 3050i, which sounded extremely promising, with a captivating, smooth, and coherent sound throughout the audioband. I was so impressed that, when offered a chance to review the 3020i minimonitor ($299.99/pair), I jumped.

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Focal Kanta No1 Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceThrough no fault of the speaker or its manufacturer -- last year, shortly after Focal announced the launch of the Kanta No1, they sent me samples -- I wasn’t able to review it as soon as I’d hoped to. Other things got in the way. Better later than never, you might say, but really, it’s too bad -- when at last I got to seriously listen to the Kanta No1s, I wished I could have gotten out the word on them long before this.

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Paradigm Defiance X12 Subwoofer

Paradigm’s newest line of powered subwoofers, Defiance, comprises six models. The Defiance V subline ranges from $399 to $649 USD, while the Defiance X subseries ranges from $999 to $1499. All but the lowest-priced model, the V8 ($399), include advanced features such as Anthem Room Correction (ARC), a built-in wireless Bluetooth module for Paradigm’s Subwoofer Control app, and an optional wireless connection module ($199). The Defiance subs offer the value-conscious audiophile a wide range of options to extend the bass response of an audio system.

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GoldenEar Technology Triton One.R Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceThe bigger, the better, right? The old adage doesn’t always hold, but so far, it’s been true of my own experiences of reviewing loudspeakers from GoldenEar Technology: the Aon 3 bookshelf ($998.98 USD per pair), the Triton One floorstander ($4999.98/pair), and their flagship, the Triton Reference ($8999.98/pair), each bigger and costlier than the one before. And as the speakers increased in size and price, their sound quality and build quality, too, have improved.

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Dutch & Dutch 8c Active Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceWhen Doug Schneider asked me to review the 8c active loudspeaker from Dutch & Dutch, my first reaction was: “Dutch and what?”

I looked up the 8c on Dutch & Dutch’s website, and the description was intriguing: a speaker with built-in preamp and power amp, subwoofer, DAC, digital volume control, IP control, and advanced digital signal processing, all in a package that fits on a pair of minimonitor stands and costs $13,000 USD per pair. The 8c’s home page states: “Accurate. Adaptive. All-in-one.”

My response to Doug was enthusiastic: “Yes, please -- I’d love to review this product.”

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TEAC Reference NR-7CD Network CD Player and Integrated Amplifier-DAC

The Tokyo Electro Acoustic Company (TEAC), one of the older hi-fi brands around, was founded in 1953 by brothers Katsuma and Tomoma Tani. The company’s subbrands include TASCAM, which manufactures professional audio gear; Esoteric, which makes ultra-high-end products; and TEAC Consumer Electronics, or TEAC for short. In 2013, guitar maker Gibson acquired a majority stake in TEAC, which has over 1000 employees. While TEAC has been well regarded by audiophiles for its analog and digital sources since the 1970s and 1980s, the company's recent offerings, such as its Reference series, have focused on small, integrated electronics.

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Simaudio Moon 390 Preamplifier-DAC-Network Player

Simaudio, or Moon by Simaudio as they prefer to be called -- or just Moon -- was founded in 1980 in St-Hubert, Québec. As a proud Canadian, I’ve long admired their products but had never had the opportunity to use one in my system. And ever since I recently became engrossed in HBO’s dramatic series Sharp Objects, in almost every episode of which a full stack of topflight Moon electronics is prominently displayed, I’ve had Moon on the brain.

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Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 Loudspeakers

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

I remember the moment I was first exposed to -- and instantly hooked on -- the experience of high-quality sound reproduction. Still in high school, I heard a pair of lowly Bowers & Wilkins bookshelf speakers, the 201s. I then bought a pair of them, with money I’d saved from my part-time job. Ever since -- some 25 years now -- I’ve been an owner and fan of B&W speakers, from those original 201s through the 202, 610, 630, 640, Matrix 805, Matrix 804, Matrix 803, Matrix 802 S3, and 803D (first generation). After the 803Ds came a divorce, immediately followed by a period of imposed fiscal restraint during which I had to sell the 803Ds and a Bryston 4BST amp, and which has (temporarily) led me to my current speakers, SVS’s Ultra Towers ($2000 USD per pair).

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Parasound Halo JC 5 Stereo/Mono Amplifier

Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceLike its designer, John Curl, the recently discontinued Parasound Halo JC 1 mono amplifier is something of a legend. Introduced in 2003, the JC 1 was still considered one of the best values in a high-end, solid-state power amplifier when the last production unit rolled off the line in 2018, at $4495 USD each. Since the introduction of the JC 1, Curl has designed many other highly regarded amplifiers and preamplifiers for Parasound, including the less expensive Halo A 1 series of power amplifiers, of which I reviewed the three-channel Halo A 31. I loved its big, rich sound -- and with the stereo version, the A 21+ ($3150), the A 1 series has received universal acclaim for providing exceptional performance at real-world prices.

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Boulder Amplifiers 508 Phono Stage

When I started out in audio, hi-fi gear from Boulder Amplifiers always seemed like so much mythical unobtanium to this perennially cash-strapped, wide-eyed teen. It wasn’t just the five-figure prices that put their gear out of my reach: No dealers in my neck of the woods carried the line, thereby making auditioning impossible. Still, neither of those high hurdles kept me from salivating over Boulder’s visually arresting, no-compromise wares, including its now legendary, dual-chassis, model 2008 phono preamplifier, which, on its debut almost 20 years ago, sold for the almost unheard-of sum of $29,000 USD.

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