Recommended Reference Component: AKG K371 Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentAKG’s new closed-back, over-ear K371 headphones ($149 USD), reviewed by Brent Butterworth for SoundStage! Solo on November 20, 2019, are designed for “professional” use, and they sound so good that that distinction shouldn’t discourage anyone from buying them for everyday music listening. As Brent wrote, “I think every serious headphone enthusiast should at least hear the K371 headphones, and I expect many will want to add them to their collection.”

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Recommended Reference Component: Focal Spectral 40th Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentIn his review of the Focal Spectral 40th loudspeakers, published on this site on September 1, 2019, Diego Estan wrote: “In their beautiful, superbly finished cabinets, the Spectral 40ths provided me with stunning sound that always left me grinning from ear to ear.” To our staff, he also remarked that the 40ths sounded so good that he seriously considered buying the review pair to use as references.

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Recommended Reference Component: Revel PerformaBe M126Be Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentWhen Revel first released the PerformaBe M126Be stand-mounted minimonitor, its retail price of $4000/pair (all prices USD) seemed a stretch. The M126Be is largely based on the Performa3 M106, which Philip Beaudette reviewed in April 2015 -- but the M106 costs only $2000/pair (both models are still available). To charge twice as much for a speaker of nearly identical size and appearance, with upgrades that at first glance aren’t at all obvious, seemed out of line. But as Philip explained in his review of the PerformaBe M126Be, published on SoundStage! Hi-Fi in August 2019, every component of the PerformaBe M126Be has been redesigned.

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Recommended Reference Component: KEF R11 Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentKEF’s latest generation of R Series loudspeakers, introduced in 2018, includes four main stereo models: the stand-mounted R3 ($1999.98) and three floorstanders, the R5 ($2799.98), the R7 ($3799.98), and the R11 ($4999.98). (All prices per pair, USD.) Last month, in Diego Estan’s review of the R11 for this site, he declared, “you’d be hard-pressed to find a better speaker at the price.”

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Recommended Reference Component: Dutch & Dutch 8c Active Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentIn a passive multiway loudspeaker -- that is, a passive speaker with more than a single drive-unit, and thus requiring a crossover to distribute the audio signal among its various drivers -- the electronic components of the analog crossover appear in the circuit after the signal has been received from the power amplifier, and before the signal is sent to the speakers’ drivers. In an active multiway loudspeaker, the audio signal is sent to the crossover first, before being sent on to the multiple amplifiers that directly power the drive-units.

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Recommended Reference Component: SVS SB-3000 Subwoofer

Recommended Reference ComponentThis month, we add to our list of Recommended Reference Components SVS’s sealed-box SB-3000, which Diego Estan reviewed for SoundStage! Access on June 1.

Priced at $999.99 USD in a finish of Premium Black Ash (add $100 for Piano Gloss Black), the SB-3000 is one of two models in SVS’s 3000 series. (The other is the larger, ported PB-3000, a review sample of which Diego has just received: $1399.99, Premium Black Ash only.) The SB-3000 weighs 54.5 pounds and measures 15.6”H x 15.2”W x 17.8”D with its grille in place. Its front-firing, 13” aluminum-cone woofer is driven by an internal Sledge STA-800DS amplifier with a specified power output of 800W RMS and 2500W peak. An Analog Devices digital signal processor (DSP) helps control the SB-3000’s output, and is used to adjust the volume level, equalization, crossover, etc.

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Recommended Reference Component: GoldenEar Technology Triton Reference Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentIn Doug Schneider’s May 2019 review of the GoldenEar Technology Triton One.R loudspeaker ($5999.98/pair, all prices USD), he repeatedly referred to its bigger, more expensive sibling, the Triton Reference ($8499.98/pair at time of review, now $8999.98/pair), which he’d reviewed in November 2017. GoldenEar’s flagship Reference model is the source of most of their latest technology that has trickled down into the One.R.

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Recommended Reference Component: Meze Audio Empyrean Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentBrent Butterworth began his review of the Meze Audio Empyrean headphones, published April 1, 2019, on SoundStage! Solo, with this declaration: “The Empyreans represent the gutsiest move the headphone biz has seen in a long time. At $2999 USD, they’re almost ten times the price of Meze Audio’s next-priciest over-ear headphones, the 99 Classics ($309). They use a new driver technology I’ve never seen before. And they’re designed and manufactured in the medieval country town of Baia Mare, Romania, which isn’t exactly a tech nexus.”

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Recommended Reference Component: Luxman L-509X Integrated Amplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentLuxman’s L-509X integrated amplifier ($9450 USD) has a phono stage, and a faceplate that showcases its retro styling and old-school features: output meters, tone controls, even a loudness control. It may lack a built-in DAC, but its sound quality doesn’t bow to current-day competitors, nor does it cede first place to separates. In his SoundStage! Ultra review of March 1, 2019, Jeff Fritz said that he couldn’t “think of a commensurately priced combo of separate preamp and power amp that I’d prefer.”

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Recommended Reference Component: Focal Stellia Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentFocal’s Stellia headphones carry a hefty price of $3000 USD, and are Focal’s second-from-the-top headphone model, just below the Utopias ($3999), introduced in 2016. Nonetheless, Brent Butterworth’s review of the Stellias, published on SoundStage! Solo on February 20, 2019, was briefer than most he’s written. “With every review of headphones or earphones I write, I always find something to complain about,” he wrote. “Not this time.”

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