After 25 Years -- Is This the World’s Best Audio System?

I founded the SoundStage! Network in November 1995 and have been here ever since -- which puts me in a fortunate position. In our 25 years we’ve not only launched a family of online audio publications covering a wide range of products, we’ve also traveled the world to report on the inner workings of many hi-fi companies, and what we see and hear at audio shows. Our longevity and global reach have meant that we’ve been able to review products of pretty much every shape, size, price, and place of origin -- and a lot of that gear gets reviewed, or at least heard, in my listening room.

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The Best of Florida Audio Expo 2020

When I flew to Tampa to attend Florida Audio Expo 2020, held February 7-9 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore, I had it in my head to do something I hadn’t done at an audio show in a while: listen as critically as possible to as many systems as I could. (See SoundStage! Global for our team’s coverage of the show.)

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Made in Canada! Axiom Audio and Totem Acoustic Insist on Making Affordable New Products at Home

Does it really matter where a product is manufactured?

It’s a question I often ask my audiophile friends, to learn if a product’s country of origin affects their purchasing decisions -- and lately, the topic has politically become a lot hotter.

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The Best of the Tokyo International Audio Show 2019

The annual Tokyo International Audio Show (TIAS) is small enough that, in the show’s three days, one person can cover it all. But while it’s much smaller than, say, Munich’s High End or Warsaw’s Audio Video Show, each of which requires a team of three or more reporters to get everywhere, TIAS is a significant show -- hi-fi is still big in Japan, and brands from around the world exhibit there, mostly through their distributors. (TIAS began as a distributor-run show, to showcase brands from outside Japan.) Some of these brands even use the show to debut products. But what I most like about TIAS are the unique products on display, made by Japanese brands that don’t exhibit at other shows, as well as products that may be made elsewhere but are sold only in Japan. For all these reasons, it’s important that we report on TIAS.

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The 2019 SoundStage! Network Products of the Year -- One-Sentence Summaries

If 2019 were like previous years, you wouldn’t see this list of SoundStage! Network Products of the Year until January 1, 2020. In the past, we waited till the first of the year, so that the announcement of our awards would more or less coincide with our presentation of trophies at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held each year in Las Vegas the second week of January. Times have changed.

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The Best of Warsaw’s Audio Video Show 2019

Politics isn’t the only polarizing topic at audio shows these days. At the last few hi-fi shows I’ve attended, I’ve talked with fellow audio writers about how much value there is in seriously listening to the systems set up at these events. To say that their opinions vary is an understatement.

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A Great Unknown Dane -- Discovering DALI

How does an audio manufacturer whose loudspeakers are distributed in more than 70 countries, and that has hundreds of employees, a 220,000-square-foot factory, and a history that dates back to 1983, go more or less relatively unnoticed by North America’s audio press? That was something that I and other audio writers from the US and Canada were wondering about when, early last May, we visited Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries (DALI), in Nørager, Denmark. Actually, the fact that DALI isn’t as well known on this side of the Atlantic as some think it should be was the main reason we were there -- DALI’s US distributor, Canada’s Lenbrook Industries, had invited us all to Nørager to get to know the brand better.

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Paradigm Shift -- The Bagbys Are Back!

On May 13, 2019, Paradigm issued a press release that stated, in part:

Scott Bagby and John Bagby are pleased to announce the successful purchase of Paradigm Electronics, Anthem Electronics, and MartinLogan Loudspeakers, effective May 10, 2019.

Scott Bagby, one of the original founders of Paradigm Electronics, continues as Chairman and assumes the role of CEO. John Bagby, who has been active in many areas in the business over the last several years, takes on the role of Managing Director.

When I read this, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’ve long admired Paradigm, but for many years have had some concerns about the company.

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EAT3: European Audio Team, Exceptional Audio Tubes, Expensive Audio Tubes

This summer I conducted an experiment that I hoped would answer a question that’s been on my mind ever since I heard that European Audio Team (EAT)’s KT88 Diamond vacuum tube would be made widely available in North America through their distributor, Vana Ltd., at the hefty price of $1795 USD for a factory-matched box of four (the KT88 Diamond is not available singly). Would it make sense to replace the eight output tubes in my pair of JE Audio VM60 monoblock amplifiers ($6400/pair when I reviewed them in 2013), whose stock tubes are already of decent quality, with an octet of third-party tubes costing $3590?

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Heaven 11: Here Today -- But Here to Stay?

Debut

Almost every hi-fi show presents a surprising number of startup companies showing a new product, or even a whole suite of new models. But by the time next year’s show rolls around, most of these companies have gone out of business.

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