IsoAcoustics' zaZen I Isolation Platform -- Is It Worth a Budget-Conscious Audiophile's While?

If you’ve ever seen a Zen Buddhist sitting cross-legged in quiet meditation, what he or she might have been doing is called zazen -- “a means of insight into the nature of existence,” per Wikipedia, which goes on to say: “The aim of zazen is just sitting, that is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them.”

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Perfection from Pro-Ject for Under $1000? X1 Turntable with Pick it S2 Cartridge

Pro-Ject Audio Systems currently makes over 50 turntable models spread across 12 lines. The X1, from their X Line, stands out from that crowd for its lineage -- it’s essentially an update of Pro-Ject’s very first turntable, the 1 (aka P1), which debuted in 1991. The 1, Pro-Ject’s first product of any kind, was successful enough to give the company the kick-start it needed to eventually become the hi-fi manufacturing juggernaut it is today.

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Triangle's Borea BR03 Loudspeaker Sounds (Mostly) Spectacular

Of the reviews we’ve recently published, I was most intrigued by Diego Estan’s May 1 writeup of Triangle’s Borea BR03 loudspeaker, on SoundStage! Access. Of particular appeal was what he described as an “open, airy, lively midrange that was smooth yet rich, and with inviting tonality.” He concluded: “In these ways, the BR03’s midrange reminded me of that of my reference Focal Sopra No1s.” That’s high praise for a speaker costing just $549/pair (all prices USD) -- his Focals cost $9990/pair, more than 18 times the Triangles’ price -- and makes the Borea BR03 a perfect candidate for “System One,” my column devoted to budget gear.

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Pro-Ject Audio Systems VC-E Record Cleaner -- More Stuff to Wash

This month I try out the new VC-E record-cleaning machine from Pro-Ject Audio Systems, one of the world’s largest makers of turntables. At $499 (all prices USD), the VC-E isn’t the cheapest record cleaner out there, but it’s far from the most expensive, and costs less than Pro-Ject’s VC-S2 ALU ($649), on which the VC-E is based.

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The Q Acoustics 3030i Loudspeaker -- 18Hz-lower Bass Makes a Big Difference

In January, for this site, Diego Estan reviewed Q Acoustics’ Concept 300 loudspeaker ($4499/pair including stands; all prices USD). Last year, Roger Kanno reviewed Q’s diminutive 3020i minimonitor ($314.99/pair) for this site, and Hans Wetzel reviewed Q’s big 3050i floorstander ($839.99/pair) for SoundStage! Access. Preceding Roger’s and Hans’s reviews was my column about the 3020i and 3050i. So two months ago, when Q Acoustics asked if they could send me samples of their newest 3000 model, the 3030i minimonitor ($399/pair), I declined -- I felt that we and our readers were maybe a bit Q’d out.

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A Schiit-Hot Integrated Amplifier -- The Ragnarok 2

What’s in a name? For Schiit Audio, established in 2010 in Valencia, California, by Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat, it’s been a schiitload of marketing opportunities. From the beginning, they’ve delighted in playing with their company’s name in ads and other marketing materials, and it’s given them strong name recognition in the audiophile marketplace. It’s also given birth to their own retail store, The Schiitr, and a book written by Stoddard: Schiit Happened: The Story of the World’s Most Improbable Start-Up.

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First and Final Impressions -- Totem Acoustic’s Skylight Loudspeakers

When I look for products to write about in this column, I often search the Internet. Go to Google.com, type in “speakers $1000 bookshelf” or “complete turntables $500,” and you get a boatload of results. That’s how I found the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus and Fluance RT83 turntables, which I respectively wrote about in late 2018 and early 2019, and the Monoprice Monolith speaker stands I highlighted last month. But to find this month’s subject, Totem Acoustic’s Skylight loudspeaker, I went straight to the source.

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Cheap and Sturdy -- Monoprice Monolith 24” Speaker Stands

When people visit my house, particularly my main listening room, they’re often taken aback by how much hi-fi gear they see. With what’s in the room now, I could set up half a dozen complete systems, priced from $1000 to over $100,000. This is partly why I’ve been able to review the inexpensive gear that appears in this column as well as the stratospherically priced stuff that shows up in my full equipment reviews. Suffice it to say that, regardless of its retail price, I can almost always evaluate a review product in the context of a system comprising components of commensurate price that I know well.

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From Holiday to Heaven 11 -- the Billie Integrated Amplifier-DAC

There were two main reasons I wanted to test Heaven 11’s Billie integrated amplifier-DAC in my current System One. First was its reasonable price: $1450 USD. The other, far more important reason was how much careful consideration seemed to have gone into so many aspects of its design. This is a product -- and a company -- that began life as a Kickstarter project. Now that those Kickstarter pre-orders have been filled, the Billie is available for sale at Heaven11Audio.com, backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee and a five-year warranty.

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The Budget British Invasion Continues with QED and Wharfedale

These days I’m seeing so much great-sounding, great-looking, inexpensive audio gear, particularly from the UK, that I’m not sure there’s ever been a better time for the audiophile on a budget. In my August 2019 column, I wrote about two spectacular values from a British company founded in 1983: Audiolab’s 6000A integrated amplifier-DAC and 6000CDT CD transport, which respectively retail for $949.99 and $499.99 (all prices USD). This month I write about two high-value products from two other UK brands: Wharfedale’s Linton Heritage loudspeaker ($1199/pair, or $1498/pair with stands), and QED’s XT25 speaker cables ($84.99/2m pair).

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