Recommended Reference Component: EMM Labs DS-EQ1 Optical Phono Preamplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentLast month, we recognized the DS Audio DS 003 optical cartridge and its companion DS 003 phono preamplifier with a Recommended Reference Component award. As Jason Thorpe explained in his review of that combo on this site, DS Audio’s cartridges don’t “rely on magnets and coils to generate an electrical signal.” Instead, DS Audio cartridges use LEDs and light sensors, and the resulting signal must then be boosted and equalized by a phono preamplifier designed specifically for optical cartridges.

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Recommended Reference Component: DS Audio DS 003 Cartridge and Phono Preamplifier System

Recommended Reference ComponentThe resurgence that vinyl has experienced is certainly a boon for those who make and sell records, but there’s not much that’s new under the sun for this medium—the records, turntables, tonearms, and cartridges aren’t very different from how they were in vinyl’s heyday in the 1970s. But there has been one recent development that has advanced vinyl as a playback medium—the optical cartridges and accompanying phono preamplifiers that Japan’s DS Audio began making almost ten years ago. In July, Jason Thorpe reviewed the company’s DS Audio DS 003 cartridge and companion DS 003 phono preamplifier, a combination that he declared offers “paradigm-smashing performance” for the $6000 (all prices in USD) package price.

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Recommended Reference Component: KEF LS60 Wireless Speaker System

Recommended Reference ComponentIn Gordon Brockhouse’s enthusiastic August 1 review of the KEF LS60 Wireless speaker system on SoundStage! Simplifi, he called it a “landmark product” and wondered if it would “be named a SoundStage! Network Product of the Year,” as its predecessor, KEF’s LS50 minimonitor, was in 2012. Gordon went so far as to say: “Ten years hence, might we think of the LS60 Wireless as audio’s Product of the Decade for the 2020s?” To the best of our knowledge, Gordon has never spoken so highly of a product before.

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Recommended Reference Component: Sumiko Oyster Wellfleet Phono Cartridge

Recommended Reference ComponentSome products that are recognized with a Recommended Reference Component award are expensive; for example, last month’s winner, the Gryphon Audio Designs Apex Stereo amplifier, is priced at $99,000 (all prices in USD). That product can be considered to be a reference component when cost is no object. But a lower-priced product can also receive this award if it is the best—or at least, among the best—for its price. The Sumiko Oyster Wellfleet moving-magnet cartridge, which Thom Moon reviewed for SoundStage! Access last month, is such a product.

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Recommended Reference Component: Gryphon Audio Designs Apex Stereo Amplifier

Recommended Reference Component“Fortune favors the bold” is a well-known proverb that could certainly apply to Gryphon Audio Designs, a super-successful Danish hi-fi company known for making bold statements with its products. The industrial design of Gryphon components often makes them look menacing but beautiful; they’re big, well-built, great-sounding, and expensive. The latest example of the company’s bold approach is the Apex Stereo amplifier, which Jeff Fritz reviewed for SoundStage! Ultra in May.

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Recommended Reference Component: Simaudio Moon 310LP Phono Preamplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentSimaudio’s Moon 310LP phono preamplifier has been on the market for more than ten years—it was introduced in 2010 in a smaller case than you see today, then updated in 2016 to its current form with some improvements to the circuitry and a new look. Like all of the Canadian company’s products, the 310LP is made in-house in Boucherville, Quebec.

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Recommended Reference Component: Monitor Audio Silver 300 7G Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentIn March 2022, we presented the Monitor Audio Silver 500 7G loudspeaker with a Recommended Reference Component award. Philip Beaudette had reviewed the speaker on this site the month before, when it received a Reviewers’ Choice award. Dennis Burger reviewed Monitor Audio’s Silver 300 7G, the 500 7G’s little brother, on SoundStage! Access in March 2022, where it too earned a Reviewers’ Choice award. Now, like its sibling, we’re presenting the Silver 300 7G with a Recommended Reference Component award as well, because it performs to an equally high standard.

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Recommended Reference Component: Saturn Audio 401 Phono Preamplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentCanadian manufacturer Saturn Audio was founded in Cambridge, Ontario, in 2017, so it’s a relative newcomer to the hi-fi scene. The 401, which Jason Thorpe reviewed last month, is the only phono preamplifier the company makes. Despite its mere half-decade existence, the company boasts “100 years of professional experience.” This includes the circuit-designing talents of Gilbert Yeung, who founded Blue Circle Audio in the 1990s, and the manufacturing experience of Saturn Audio’s president, René Evans.

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Recommended Reference Component: Monitor Audio Silver 500 7G Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentLast month, we published Philip Beaudette’s review of a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 500 7G loudspeakers on this site. In that article, he declared: “Monitor Audio has been on a roll lately, if the number of its product launches offers any evidence to support such a cliché.” The company’s roster of new products includes the seventh generation of loudspeakers in its Silver Series, with the 500 7G as the flagship model.

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Recommended Reference Component: Meze Audio Elite Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentIn Brent Butterworth’s April 2019 review of the Meze Audio Empyrean headphones on SoundStage! Solo, he declared that they “clearly rank among the very best headphones you can buy.” The Empyreans were—and still are—$2999 (all prices in USD), and because of Brent’s praise, they earned Reviewers’ Choice, Recommended Reference Component, and Product of the Year (2019) awards.

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