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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Recommended Reference Component: VPI Prime Signature Turntable

Recommended Reference ComponentUntil now, the Rega Research RP8 has been the only turntable listed in our Recommended Reference Components. But that was destined to change after the publication on December 15, 2018, on SoundStage! Ultra, of Jason Thorpe’s review of the VPI Prime Signature turntable.

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Recommended Reference Component: Campfire Audio Solaris Earphones

Recommended Reference ComponentDoes it set a bad precedent to give a product a perfect score? Some might think so -- what if something better comes along? But that didn’t stop Brent Butterworth from rewarding Campfire Audio’s Solaris earphones with a perfect 10 for Sound in his December 10 review on SoundStage! Solo. So far, they’re the best-sounding earphones he’s heard -- though they’re also, as he confessed, “complex, bulky, and expensive ($1499 USD).”

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Recommended Reference Component: Fostex TH909 Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentIn his review of the Fostex TH909 headphones last month on SoundStage! Solo, Brent Butterworth remarked that “Fostex has one of the most unusual product lines in the headphone biz. They mostly split between pro ’phones priced under $200, and high-end consumer models priced at $599 or more.” Brent, who’s “been a Fostex fan since 1997,” wrote that “I had yet to hear a set of Fostex headphones I didn’t like” -- including the TH909s ($1799.99 USD).

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Recommended Reference Component: Hegel Music Systems H590 Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Recommended Reference ComponentHegel Music Systems’ new H590 is, by far, their most costly integrated amplifier-DAC to date, at $11,000 USD. Their next-most-expensive model is their previous flagship integrated-DAC, the H360, at little more than half that price: $6000. But at 17”W x 6.8”H x 17.6”D and almost 50 pounds, and specified to deliver at least 301Wpc into 8 ohms, the H590 is larger, heavier, better built, more powerful, and has more features. And according to Hans Wetzel’s review of the H590 on this site last month, it sounds better. Hans attributed much of that improvement to the H590’s “magnificent D/A converter,” and he should know -- he owned an H360 at the time of review, and before that he’d owned the H360’s predecessor, the H300.

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Recommended Reference Component: Muraudio SP1 Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentThe Muraudio SP1’s 42”-tall cabinet looks like a cylinder cut in half lengthwise, set atop a 15”-high integral stand bolted to the cabinet’s bottom panel. There are two 6” midrange-woofers at the bottom of the front panel and two more at the top, the two drivers of each pair positioned side by side. Between these pairs is an electrostatic panel about 21”H by 11”W, inset a little and looking like a window with a shallow sill. Most will agree that, even in one of Muraudio’s many nice finishes, the SP1 is an unusual-looking loudspeaker.

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Recommended Reference Component: Simaudio Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers

Recommended Reference ComponentEach measuring 22”W x 14”H x 27”D and weighing 230 pounds, and priced at $118,888 USD per pair, the Simaudio Moon 888 mono amplifier is as big and heavy as it is expensive and powerful. Simaudio says it can deliver at least 888W into 8 ohms or 1776W into 4 ohms from a typical 120V, 15A power source. But it wasn’t all that power, size, weight, or cost that most impressed Aron Garrecht, who reviewed the Moon 888 this month on SoundStage! Ultra -- it was that “Their sound quality is beyond anything else I have heard.”

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Recommended Reference Component: Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000 Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentWhen Brent Butterworth began listening to the Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000 headphones for SoundStage! Solo (the review was published July 10), he was “skeptical” about them: “At first glance, they don’t really seem all that different from their stablemates,” he wrote -- and while he’d liked the sound of A-T’s previous open-back headphones, he hadn’t thought any were “world-class.” Also, at $1999 USD, the ATH-ADX5000s are more than three times the price of A-T’s next-most-expensive open-back headphones, the ATH-AD1000s, which “seems a stretch.” By the end of his review, Brent’s skepticism had vanished.

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Recommended Reference Component: Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Recommended Reference ComponentVinyl isn’t the only audio sector that’s resurging these days -- integrated amplifiers, too, are back in style. But today, those who demand integrateds want much more than a preamp and power amp in a single box. They want not only the high power and sound quality of separate components, but also lots of features, digital and analog.

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