Choosing the Best Subwoofer for Your System

Choosing the Best Subwoofer for Your System

If you’re subwoofer curious, but not sure which way to turn, you’re not alone. We asked the folks at SVS to share some of their tips with us. Here’s their advice on how to choose the best sub for your HT or 2-channel system:


Bass is the sonic foundation of all movies and music, and when you want palpable, room-energizing bass, there’s no substitute for a high performance home subwoofer. The low frequency energy generated by a subwoofer can be incredibly subtle, like the pluck of a bass guitar string, or an all-out, chest-thumping assault on your senses, like an explosion filled car chase in a movie.

On their own, most loudspeakers don’t come close to generating the levels of low frequency extension and bass output as a powered subwoofer, and in many instances, subwoofers are one of the most impactful sonic upgrades you can make to a home theater or audio system.

With all the different subwoofer choices out there including ported and sealed models, different amplifier power ratings, and driver sizes that range from 8-inches up to 20-inches and beyond, it can seem daunting to find the best subwoofer for your room and listening tastes. To make it easier, we’ve listed some key variables to consider.

Décor and Room Integration

Successful integration of audio equipment with home decor is a high priority for many enthusiasts. When thinking about how a subwoofer will fit within your living room, home theater or other area, this is what you need to know:

Overall Size/Footprint: A subwoofer needs to fit into the allocated location without blocking or altering normal foot traffic patterns. For planning purposes, use the ‘real world’ footprint dimensions of the subwoofer, which includes the grille and some extra space for the power cord and signal cable. In locations where floor space is tight, consider a sealed box subwoofer, which tend to be more compact than their ported counterparts.

Finish Options: Most subwoofer manufacturers, SVS included, offer several finish options to complement your loudspeakers and other AV components. Piano gloss lends a high end feel to a home audio system and is perfect for upscale decors. Consider a more durable and scratch resistant black ash/oak or other wood grain finish for high-traffic areas with kids and pets or to match a classic wood look. In dedicated home theaters where the lights are dimmed, lower reflectivity finishes will help minimize light glare.

Room Size and Playback Level

Room size and layout has a major influence on subwoofer performance. Large rooms with open floor plans and vaulted ceilings require a more powerful subwoofer to deliver a convincing bass experience. Another option when feasible is to go with dual subwoofers since two smaller subwoofers generally offer better bass performance across the entire listening area, than a single large sub. You can read about some of the other benefits of having two or more subwoofers here: Why Go Dual.

In addition to room size, your preferred system playback level also has a significant influence. If you like to push your home audio system to loud levels (like an IMAX theater) and want to generate sound pressure levels that let you ‘feel the bass’ from action movies and music, consider a larger subwoofer with a higher amplifier rating and a bigger driver to achieve extreme performance. Conversely, if you listen at more moderate levels, a smaller and less powerful powered subwoofer can deliver a no-compromise experience that enhances all your audio content, and will also be easy to integrate in your room.


Most people don’t have unlimited funds to spend on bass, so budget is an important factor. High performance subwoofers require massive magnets and motor structures as well as powerful internal amplifiers, which makes them heavy. Cheaper lightweight subwoofers simply can generate the same amount of bass and SPLs to the limits of human hearing as larger, heavier models, which almost defeats the purpose of adding a subwoofer. You should be prepared to spend at least $500 for this level of performance in a small to medium sized room and more for larger rooms.

Common Home Audio System Applications

Below are some SVS subwoofer model recommendations for common system applications. While these recommendations are a good starting point, contact SVS for an expert consultation and comprehensive system evaluation to make sure you are choosing the best model.

PC-Based Audio System: Usually situated in an office, bedroom or den, a compact sealed sub like the SB-1000 subwoofer is a natural choice for PC-based audio systems, and it can fit almost anywhere in the room, even behind the PC monitor or under a work desk.

Secondary Home Audio System: Bedroom or Media Room: This increasingly common application typically involves a wall-mounted HDTV, some type of media streaming device, and a sound bar or small satellite speakers. Consider the SB-1000 or the slightly larger and more powerful SB-2000 subwoofer for a great combination of sound quality, performance and compact size.

Primary Media System: Living/Family Room: This popular set-up accommodates the widest possible range of subwoofer models, depending on the room size, playback level and décor integration. The SB-2000, SB13-Ultra, PC-2000 and PB-2000 are all excellent choices in this category for their combination of relative compactness and excellent performance across all genres of movies, music and audio content.

Dedicated Home Theater System: In this application, demanding Blu-ray movies and other high definition content are played at maximum output levels for an IMAX caliber bass experience. Maximum performance and high output (particularly at the deepest frequencies) is a top priority. This is where the larger, reference quality subwoofers come into their own, delivering a visceral and room-shaking audio experience on movie night. Depending on the room size, the following models are all excellent choices: PC-2000 or PB-2000, PC12-Plus or PB12-Plus, SB13-Ultra, PC13-Ultra or PB13-Ultra, SB16-Ultra or PB16-Ultra. The ported cylinder models offer essentially the same performance as their ported box counterparts, but with a smaller footprint, and are a great choice where floor space is tight.

2-Channel Music System: Whereas ported subwoofers shine with extreme low frequency extension and output, sealed box subwoofers are a natural choice for critical music applications because they deliver that tight, fast, detailed and articulate bass without sacrificing slam, which music lovers crave. Depending on the room size and playback level, the SB-1000, SB-2000 and SB13-Ultra will all deliver a fantastic music experience. For the ultimate in 2-channel bass, consider dual subs for true stereo bass and a more balanced soundstage.

Still Unsure About the Best Subwoofer for Your Home Audio System?

Chances are, if you’re in the market for a subwoofer, you already have loudspeakers. To help with the initial first step, SVS developed the Merlin subwoofer and speaker matching tool, which suggests the ideal subwoofer based on your specific speaker models. Merlin takes into account frequency range, output capabilities and other factors to offer an appropriate match, and with over 4,000 loudspeaker models across every brand on the market included, and recommendations generated by acoustic experts, Merlin is an excellent first step towards finding the perfect subwoofer match.

Still have subwoofer questions? We invite you to email the SVS Sound Experts at [email protected].

The new Sonus faber Homage Tradition Collection

The new Sonus faber Homage Tradition Collection

The question is often posed, “How do we get more people to engage in the world of high end audio.”

Too often this is followed up by a bunch of grumpy old men, sitting in chairs at a hifi show, somewhere between minor arguments over minutiae and falling into sleepy time.

If you’re a 20 or 30 something person casually observing this, I’m guessing you don’t want to be part of this group. I’m 50 something and I don’t want to be part of this group.

Arriving at the beautifully appointed World of McIntosh townhouse in NYC’s SoHo district for the unveiling of Sonus faber’s latest Homage Tradition collection. The tagline is “Everyday Luxury,” and I couldn’t agree with them more. They’ve come up with a range of new speakers between about $16,000 and $30,000 that incorporates everything they’ve learned building their flagship models.

I could go on and on about the technical and mechanical details, but it’s not necessary. When you hear them, you’ll know instantly. And when you see them and touch them for yourselves, the sheer quality is evident.

But I suggest you watch this video:

Sonus faber and the McIntosh group really get what it takes to not only make fine audio cool, but they give it the respect it deserves. Hence the name “Homage tradition.”

I wanna be this guy and you do to. Well, at least we can all have a pair of Sonus faber speakers and dream….

Custom Cardas!

Custom Cardas!

If you have cable requirements that are slightly off the beaten path, and don’t like the idea of keeping (or losing) multiple adaptors on a regular basis, call the folks at Cardas Audio and get some custom cables made, pronto!

Josh Meredith at Cardas Audio and the team just sent me a pair of Clear Light interconnects to go from XLR to RCA, so that I have a wider range of connectivity with the PrimaLuna HP Integrated that I use as a reference component on my Audiophile Apartment site, and it only took a short while. It’s always better to have a completely positive connection and this is the way to roll. Even those of you with Burmester gear, or others using a non standard pinout, it’s easy to call Team Cardas and get exactly what you need.

Cardas welcomes the opportunity to build custom cables and as Meredith told me, “We definitely want to promote that we can do custom cables. As a general rule, if the connectors exist, we can probably make a cable with them.”

I’ve been using Cardas Cables in my personal and reference systems for over 15 years now with excellent result. Here’s another great reason to purchase their products.

The ELAC Discovery DS-S101-G

The ELAC Discovery DS-S101-G

Why is the ELAC the world’s best music server? Because it fucking works. And it works right now.

I apologize if you are offended by my coarse language, but I have spent nearly a decade screwing around with music servers and “computer audio.” Before I did that, I was an early adopter in the world of digital imaging (I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop since version 0.8 – before it was even a commercial product) and I’ve torn out a lot of my hair over this stuff.

I am sick and tired of music servers that have gobbled up my life on setup, maintenance, tagging, metadata, etc., etc., etc. I have flushed hours of my life down the drain that I am never going to get back. You name it, I’ve tried it. I must admit I’ve stuck with my Sooloos system because it works most of the time and the interface is awesome. But back when I bought in, it was a pretty expensive system.

But the ELAC DS-S101G is $1,099 and you will have it up and running in less than 60 seconds. No joke. Plug in your Network cable, the digital output of your choosing and power that little jewel up. As soon as the LED indicator glows solid white, launch the LIFETIME, bundled version of Roon Essentials, tell it where your NAS or USB drive is, and enter the password to your favorite music service. TIDAL integration took 5 additional seconds.

That’s it. Done. It took me a lot longer to write this blog post than it did to hook up the DS-S101G. I hope you’ll be so kind to read my thoughts on sound quality shortly. In my Audiophile Apartment system, which features the outstanding Focal Sopra no.1 speakers, Audio Research Preamp, Nagra Power Amp and the MOON by Simaudio 780D, it sounds pretty damn good right now.

Seriously, don’t wait for my review. Just go buy one.

Here’s a link to the ELAC website….

The Cardas Audio 4181 Outlet – YES!

The Cardas Audio 4181 Outlet – YES!

Audiophiles love to argue about the subject of power delivery.

I can’t say I blame them, a lot of super expensive power products either do nothing, or worse yet, actually degrade the sound of your system. Unfortunately, this always seems to be a point of contention that the mainstream press loves to jump all over, further shaming those of us that are true believers.

30 years ago, I was paying 20 bucks a pop for “hospital grade” outlets in my listening room, and even though power conditioning products hadn’t even hit the market yet, combining this with a couple of dedicated outlets and paying attention to how my house and breaker box was grounded made for better dynamic contrast and a lower noise floor.

There are a number of boutique outlets out there that cost crazy money. The Cardas 4181 is $159. While that’s a lot more than a standard outlet, or even the go to hospital grade plug, which is now about $30 at Home Depot (and not a bad choice if you don’t want to plunk down $159 per on these blue meanies) but this outlet is built to a high standard.

No, I didn’t see God and installing the 4181 didn’t take me to a place of audio nirvana that will have me exhausting my adjective gland here, but what it did do, in conjunction with a pair of Cardas Clear Beyond power cords, each connected to dedicated 20 amp lines, each one feeding a Pass Labs XS300 monoblock (drawing 1000 watts each, all the time) was give the system an ease at high volume it did not have previously. And I’ve been listening to these amps for a few years now and am intimately familiar with their nuances.

Honestly at low volume, I didn’t notice a major change, but as the volume grew, adding the Cardas goodies makes a difference. I’d compare it to putting premium gas in your turbocharged car versus the cheap stuff. Slogging through the drive through lane at Starbucks, you’ll never notice it, but when you swing out to pass that slow moving Camry (and we have a LOT of these in the Pacific Northwest) it’s a little easier.

Whether that’s because of the high quality materials used for the contacts in the outlet, the firmness by which said outlet holds the power cord, or a combination of both, I know it works. While $159 is spendy for an outlet, in the context of your entire system, it’s a pinch.

I see optimizing your hifi system much like setting up a race car. You get a couple of horsepower here a couple of horsepower there, all from attention to the small details. That can add up to the difference between making the podium and not. Of course, hifi is not as serious as being the F1 world champion, but, all these little differences do add up.

While you’re swapping those outlets, double check the ground connection in your circuit breaker box, or have your electrician do it for you. Make sure the ground connection is tight, as well as all the connections to the circuit breakers, especially the ones feeding your system. Lastly, take a peek at the ground outside. If it’s not up to snuff, replace it as well.

I’ve seen audiophiles tear their hair out over noise issues and spend thousands of dollars on power cords and line conditioners, only to find out the major problem was the ground. The good news is that if you address this stuff first, you’ll notice the diff that the power cords and outlets make even more.

Should you choose to accept this mission, you can find the 4181 outlet right here:

And for our friends outside the US, they make a Shuko version as well. Good stuff!

So, happy listening. I hope that if you give a couple of these a try, you have the same result, or better, that I’ve had. The Cardas 4181 Outlet will definitely add a few more horsepower to your system.

The Best Boink Music…

The Best Boink Music…

Today, Spotify announced their list of “Top 10 Shagging songs” here:

I agree that most music is subjective, and we all have our favorites to initiate or accompany the mating ritual. Here’s mine – in no particular order. If this is all TMI, sorry about that! I hope you’re open enough to either be inspired or amused. Keep in mind, these are not staff choices. Like Captain Kirk, I stand alone on this one. Let the comments begin.

1.  Prince – One Night Alone

2.  Mickey Hart – Eliminators

3.   Pat Metheny – Are You Going With Me?

4.  Anja Garbarek – Big Mouth

5.  Dylan – I Want You or Just Like a Woman

6.  Crash Test Dummies – I Want to Par-Tay!

7.  Crowded House – Whispers and Moans

8. Dusty Springfield – Breakfast in Bed

9. The Tubes – Let’s Make Some Noise

10. Art of Noise – Moments in Love

Extra Credit:

Stephen Pompougnac – Hotel Costes (the entire series)

The Pretenders – Bad Boys Get Spanked

Judas Priest – Turbo

Kiss – Deuce

Squeeze – Tempted

Betty Davis – Game is my Middle Name

Sly & The Family Stone – You Can Make it if You Try

Fun, But Obvious:

Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get it On

Beatles – Why Don’t We Do It In The Road


Anything by REO Speedwagon, Journey or Styx

What you’ve got isn’t rubbish!

What you’ve got isn’t rubbish!

We all suffer somewhat from new product envy, and perhaps a little bit of ADD at times when it comes to hifi gear (or cars, cameras, etc.,etc.) wanting the newer, shinier thing the minute it becomes available.

Of course the people producing these products want to sell you a newer, better, zootier box. And while you might think that it’s all marketing driven, remember – that’s what said manufacturers have an engineering team for. They don’t just build a preamp or pair of speakers and send the engineering department on an indefinite paid holiday when the product launch is over. It’s their job once a product is finalized to figure out how to make it better.

Most products of any kind have a specific lifespan in mind. Some companies bring new models to market more often than others, with a number of factors to consider. Development cost, marketing cost and potential backlash all figure into the equation, and it’s always particularly difficult during the transition period for everyone when something new is launched.

There will always be a percentage of disgruntled purchasers that bought the “old model” a month or two before the “new model” hits the ground. I feel your pain, I’ve done this with more than one car, camera, computer and preamplifier over the years.

However, if it is possible to get into a more Zen state and realize that the preamplifier or phono cartridge you brought home a few weeks or a few years ago and thought was fantastic, still is. Think of how much joy you got opening the box and unpacking that shiny new jewel and hooking it up to your system; sitting back thinking “wow, this sounds great.” Revisit that feeling if you aren’t in the position to sign up for the latest/greatest new thing. It will calm you down. Your current preamp doesn’t suck, just because there’s a new offering from said manufacturer.

I drive a Porsche Boxster. Not a new, $85,000 Boxster, loaded with a Burmester audio system and tons of carbon fiber bits, but a 2001, non-S model that I bought used a few years ago for $9,000. With a 100 thousand miles on the odometer. And yesterday, out driving on a rare 67 degree sunny February day in Portland, Oregon, I was thinking about the first time I saw a Boxster on the floor of Scottsdale Porsche back in 1996, when I was driving an “old” 1988 944 Turbo. The dealer took me out for a test drive, and as much as I wanted that car, it just wasn’t the day to buy a new Porsche. 20 years later that used, blue Boxster still feels pretty damn good. So do a number of audio components that I’ve owned for years. Some for decades.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting anyone stop buying audio gear. And I love unpacking new, shiny things as much as anyone. But I do hope that if today’s not the day to upgrade your system, that you still enjoy your system as much, if not more as you always have.  - Jeff Dorgay

A New York November to Remember!

A New York November to Remember!

The team at Innovative Audio Video is hosting special November events to unveil their fully renovated showrooms, each brimming with fantastic audio components. Kicking off the celebration on November 12-14, products from Wilson, D’Agostino, Meridian, Spiral Groove, and BACCH-SP will be the main attraction. Special guest representatives from audio companies will be onsite too, including sessions with Wilson Audio’s Peter McGrath, Meridian’s Ryan Donaher, Dr. Edgar Choueiri from Theoretica, and also Bill McKiegan from D’Agostino.

For more details on each day’s calendar of activities, check out the Innovative website.

The party continues on November 19-21, with more special audio treats. Naim Statement equipment, the new Spectral pre-amp, Avalon loudspeakers, and other gear will be on hand to see, hear and enjoy.

RSVP for the events of your choice here, or call them at +1 (212) 634-4444 to let them know you’ll be coming. We’re sorry the TONE team won’t be able to join you there, but please share photos of your visit!

Happy birthday to us!

Happy birthday to us!

Do you remember where you were ten years ago? I do. I was rushing frantically to finish the first issue of TONEAudio. We had been working around the clock and were having last minute server issues, so the magazine actually was successfully uploaded five minutes before I jumped on the plane to head for the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest to show it off. It was a crazy time to be sure.

The first guy I met at the show was Lee Weiland, from Cryo Parts, who sadly passed away in 2011. We had both been up all night and were exhausted but enthused that this show would be a productive event for both of us. He handed me one of his machined record clamps to review and wished me luck. We always stayed in touch and for the next four years, he would always be the first guy I went to see arriving at the show. The next guy I met was Lew Johnson from Conrad Johnson, who took note of the Conrad Johnson t-shirt I happened to be wearing. “Nice shirt,” he smiled and after a few minutes he agreed to send me a Premier 350 power amplifier and ACT 2 preamplifier, which would become the anchor of my reference system for years to come. Overall, it was a positive experience. I came home with enough advertising support to keep TONE going for the rest of the year and it was on to CES for our next issue and the adventure that would become TONEAudio Magazine.

Ten years later, I’m still buried the day before RMAF, getting last minute shipments out to manufacturers, editing photos, and trying to squeeze every bit of work I can into this day before I hop on the plane tomorrow morning. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you all for being a part of it! I hope to see a few of you at the show!

New Kickstarter Campaign Update

New Kickstarter Campaign Update

Wow! Thanks everyone for their support. TONEAudio’s new Kickstarter campaign has been up only two days, and we are nearing 25% of goal.  If you are willing to help spread the word we will greatly appreciate your help. An easily paste-able link to the campaign page is below. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the campaign page yet, please do. For a tiny pledge of $8 we’ll send two print issues to your door. At a mere four bucks each, it’s like buying a latte. Except a 250+ page latte. Okay, that’s perhaps a poor metaphor, but you get my point. You can read a coffee cup in five seconds. But TONEAudio magazine can provide hours of reading joy. They say you can’t buy happiness, but we’re trying our best to make it possible. That’s how we roll at TONEAudio.

Many thanks for your help!

Rob Johnson, managing editor

Kickstarter campaign for TONEAudio in PRINT

Kickstarter campaign for TONEAudio in PRINT

Today is a big day in our history. Based on all our reader feedback, we decided to post a Kickstarter campaign to fund and print a 10th Anniversary Issue in November 2015, and a second issue in April 2016. Please check out our campaign page,share it with friends, and support us in any way you can. We’re 10% funded in 12 hours, so that’s a great start! And we still have a ways to go in the coming 60 days.

The November print book will be our “Best of 2015″ issue, and it will not be available for download. At only $8 for both, we hope you’ll join us by reserving your copies.  Thanks as always for supporting our endeavors! -Jeff

TONEAudio’s Products of the Year 2014

TONEAudio’s Products of the Year 2014

Another year has zoomed by and we’ve had the privilege of listening to a lot of great gear to report on.  Choosing a Product of the Year always carries the dilemma as to whether we bestow the title on something relatively unobtainable, or something modestly priced that we feel offers such over-the-top performance that it can’t be beat by a long shot.  Over the years, we’ve done both, and this year we’re taking the latter approach with the OPPO HA-1 headphone amplifier and their PM-1 phones.

We like to keep the trophies to a minimum in the hope that they remain meaningful, and we’ve actually handed out fewer than last year, with only five items in the Publisher’s Choice column.  As we’ve said in the past, we are always on a quest to help you find the most intriguing products for your short list, so on one level, everything we’ve taken the time to review is award worthy.

Check out the Oppos and other TONEAudio Products of the Year in our Spotlight section!


Jeff Dorgay

Old School: Sean Brady’s Vintage Favorites

Old School: Sean Brady’s Vintage Favorites

In this issue, Sean Brady from Audio Video Choices in Phoenix, Arizona is our guest columnist.  Though Brady has been in the hifi world for quite some time, he’s always understood the value of accepting the customers’ old gear on trade.  As many an audio enthusiast will tell you, “you have to get rid of the old before you can bring in the new.”

For many of us, cherished preowned gear is a great way to enter the hobby – not only from a financial standpoint, but from an ecological standpoint as well.  It’s definitely green thinking to recycle rather than just unbox something new.

Through the years, Brady, like the rest of us, has a few pieces that have become favorites to own, sell and share with the rest of us.  Here’s what an audio vet has to say:

Radio Craftsmen C500/500A

My first choices are two amplifiers that bookend the the production of vintage tube amplifiers. The Radio Craftsmen C500/500A Williamson Triode is a subtly refined Williamson triode amplifier. Using a pair of Mullard KT66 output tubes, 15 watts are available with an ultra-wideband response of +/- 1dB from 10Hz to 50kHz. Tube rectification, octal-based 6SN7 tubes for front end/driver, and high quality transformers are utilized in this classic implementation of the Williamson amplifier circuit.

Radio Craftsmen was founded in Chicago in 1947, around the same the time as  McIntosh, Fisher, Scott, and Harman Kardon. The C500A was designed in 1953 by Sid Smith, the same Sid Smith that went to work for Marantz in 1954 to design their famous tube amps, preamps, tuners, and crossovers. Even by today’s standards, the C500 is clear and sweet with superb musical performance. And the description of its performance in the original brochure reads like something you would find for a modern amplifier.

McIntosh MC-350o Amplifier

Next, the king of amplifiers (for me anyway), is a majestic pair of ultra-rare McIntosh MC-3500 designed by Mile Nestorovic. The MC-3500 is the limited home version of the McIntosh MI-350 industrial amplifier – a true piece of industrial art. Rated at 350 watts per channel, Stereo Review magazine revealed an astonishing 500-watt output at 0.08% distortion on the test bench.

These big Macs are the only vintage tube amplifiers that I have ever heard give a great ride to the demanding Wilson MAXX loudspeakers. (We usually pair the MAXX with solid-state amplifiers possessing major current reserve.) The MC-3500s have tremendous low-frequency extension and control with seemingly unlimited headroom. The effortless dynamics and smooth extended high end are so musically involving, it’s tough to believe these are vintage amplifiers.

For a little perspective, in 1968 a pair of 70-watt Marantz Model 9 amplifiers cost $780 when the McIntosh MC-3500 pair was $2200! To this day, this is the most powerful tube amp McIntosh has built.  At one time the Grateful Dead used fourteen MC-3500 amps in their famous “wall of sound” system, and they were loaned to the Woodstock festival as well.

Marantz Model Twenty FM Stereo Tuner

The exquisite Marantz Model Twenty FM Stereo Tuner, the first solid-state Marantz tuner after the legendary tube 10B, with arguably superior reception and sonics to its predecessor, features an oscilloscope for monitoring center of channel tuning, multipath, and audio output. The scope even has an external audio input. A world class tuner (still) it is preferred by many to the 10B, as it requires less frequent adjustment. This was made by Saul Marantz and company in Woodside, New York.

Electro-Voice Patrician loudspeaker

The Electro-Voice Patrician loudspeaker is one of the largest home systems at 325 pounds! Here is how E-V described it: “Let’s start at the bottom (as much as an octave below most other woofers). Our thirty-inch diameter Model 30W woofer reproduces 15 Hz fundamental at full volume without doubling. Nothing less than a live performance can compete with the sound you hear and feel from this giant speaker.”

Over a decade of engineering refinement has made this E-V Model SP12 woofer unexcelled in mid-bass performance (and it’s also an uncommon value as a full range speaker from 30 to 15,000 Hz.

It takes this sophisticated team of compression driver and patented diffraction horn to fully satisfy the rigorous demands of the treble range. There’s no smoother combination than the E-V T25A compression driver and 8HD horn.

Ruler flat from 3,500 to 23,000 Hz! But extended range is just one of the benefits of the T350 VHF driver. Its exclusive throat and horn design spreads undistorted highs to every corner of your listening area. Delightful!

These unusual components have been combined in the Patrician 800 – often acclaimed as the world’s finest loudspeaker system. $1,095.00 in traditional cherry cabinetry. It’s waiting to be challenged by the most powerful, widest range amplifier you can buy. Listen. The difference you hear is what high fidelity is all about!

Revox A700

Many regard the Revox A700 as a thinly disguised Studer professional analog reel recorder, as this machine is well built with the performance to match. It was very advanced for its time and  remains so today. This $3000 machine has three speeds – 3.75/7.5/15ips – and records two tracks on ¼-inch tape. At 15 ips the frequency response is 30Hz to 22kHz +2/-3 dB with signal to noise at 65 dB or better. High end reel-to-reel has a very natural sound, with no stress or congestion.

McIntosh MPI-4

Yes, we need a bright, shiny object with lights and switches, Let’s not forget the McIntosh MPI-4 is a laboratory-grade instrument. It provides the facility to continuously monitor the quality of the performance of a stereo system. The MPI-4 can sample and display signals from the tuner, preamplifier, and power amplifier without reconnecting cables. Signals are displayed on an oscilloscope screen calibrated with scales for tuning, measurement, and testing.

As a tuning aid, the instrument is a guide to exact FM station selection and precise tuning. The screen displays FM signal strength, modulation percentage, and multipath interference. Audio signals may be viewed for stereo balance, strength, phase, and channel separation. Output power of the power amplifier can be seen at any instant during program performance, or stored to develop a trend over several minutes.

With the addition of test discs, the MPI-4 can show compliance and trackability of a phono cartridge, frequency response of the preamplifier and power amplifier, audio distortion, and stereo speaker balance.

In one of its operational modes, the MPI-4 becomes a dual trace oscilloscope, and when operated thusly, the left and right stereo channels appear simultaneously, yet separately, on the screen for direct comparison. Featuring a  “triggered sweep,” the MPI-4 permits the viewer to choose a single tone and lock it on the screen for careful inspection and measurements.  In the ‘60s no righteous system was without an MPI-4, but this is still a very valuable tool today.

- Sean Brady

Four Favorite Upstarts

Four Favorite Upstarts

In the ten years of TONE’s history, we’ve seen a lot of new products come and go, but a few great ones have stuck.  It’s been fun to watch these four companies grow and mature, but it’s equally fun to wind the clock backwards and take a look at their humble beginnings.

ModWright SWL 9.0

Approx. $1,200

Back when the high performance audio segment of CES was held at the Alexis Park hotel in Las Vegas, I met a nice guy from Portland that had made a name for himself modding CD players named Dan Wright.  He had just started building his own preamplifiers, and had converted the entire basement of his house into a very tidy, organized workshop.  His first product that came into my world was the SWL 9.0 linestage.  It was a tidy box with great sound.  So much so, that I got rid of the Conrad Johnson PV-12 that I had been using in favor of this newcomer.

Shortly after our encounter, Wright moved into his own facility, started hiring employees and expanded his product line considerably.  Now a force at the major hifi shows, ModWright has become a well-established company, but that original 9.0 still stands out as an incredibly good bargain.  Wright still services them, and when you can find an owner willing to part with one, the SWL 9.0 makes for an incredibly good anchor to your hifi system.

Coffman Labs G1-A


Another Portland local, Damon Coffman hails from the medical equipment industry, yet his passion for music and design led him to build his own preamplifier after a life long quest for better sound.

The G1-A combines the best of retro and contemporary design, both inside and out.  Coffman auditions and hand picks what he feels are the best sounding NOS (new old stock) components, combined with contemporary parts, depending on application to create the G1-A.  With an onboard MM/MC phono stage and headphone amplifier, the G1-A is an incredibly versatile performer, like some of the great, full function preamplifiers of audio’s past, from McIntosh, Audio Research and C-J.

A new G2 is in the works, and Coffman has also put his stamp on the Prautes headphone amplifier from Cypher Labs, but this is where it all began.

PrimaLuna ProLogue 1

$1,095 (when new)

I began my hifi writing career at The Absolute Sound, and instead of the boring NAD integrated amplifier I was supposed to review for my first article, Robert Harley called one day (about two weeks after the ProLogue 1 appeared on the cover of Stereophile) and asked if I wouldn’t mind reviewing the ProLogue 1 instead.  Oh boy, would I, I thought.

This little tube integrated amplifier was built like nothing I’d ever seen for just over a grand, and it sounded pretty damn good too.  I got my first byline in the audio world and editor Harley left in, what would be a ubiquitous quote in PrimaLuna’s marketing campaign heard round the world.  “How does it sound? It sounds bitchin!”  11 years later, PrimaLuna amplifiers still sound bitchin, and their product line has grown tremendously.

Audeze LCD-2 Headphones


About seven years ago, when the headphone renaissance was just beginning, Audeze burst on the scene with a planar magnetic headphone that took everyone by surprise.  They not only cracked the ceiling with a $1,000 headphone, they produced a pair of phones with a sound that was, up until now, limited to the likes of electrostats like Stax, which are still nearly impossible to purchase.

They’ve done an update to the basic design, making them even better than ever.  Though the product line has expanded and they’ve gone through some growing pains, Audeze has held the line on the LCD-2s price, making them a best buy and a head to head competitor with OPPOs $995 PM-1, another titan.

- Jeff Dorgay

10 Favorite Headphones from HiFiGuy528

10 Favorite Headphones from HiFiGuy528

Though Mike Liang is no longer part of our staff, now that he’s gone on to be national sales manager for Woo Audio, he’s still the biggest headphone enthusiast we’ve ever met.  Between his YouTube channel, where he’s always unboxing new phones, and his own personal headphone collection of over 120 pairs, he’s a maniac.  And he’s definitely heard enough cans to have a solid opinion on what he loves.  Here’s his list.

AKG K3003


The AKG K3003 comes in two flavors, with and without Apple iOS 3-button in-line remote.  It is a reference-class 3-way design featuring one dynamic and two balanced-armature drivers in a tiny stainless steel housing.  The interchangeable sound-tuning filters (bass boost, reference sound, high boost) make these IEMs incredibly flexible.  The build quality is top notch and the sound is absolutely stunning.  The K3003 reveals more musical detail than I’ve ever heard in a universal fit IEM.  Pairing it with the Astell&Kern AK120II, I constantly ponder why I really home Hi-Fi system.

Sony MDR-CD900st

About $200

Sony is not a newcomer to the world of high-end headphones, yet often their coolest stuff never makes it here to the States.  The MDR-CD900st is a perfect example.  On the outside it looks a lot like the consumer-grade MDR-v6, but don’t be fooled.  The CD900st is a completely different animal in the sound department and more comfortable than its doppelgänger.   Its sonic signature is relatively neutral.  As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out” – so the better your source, the more you will be impressed.  In fact, this model is a studio monitor “officially” only offered in Japan through Sony Professional Division.  But our Japanese friends on Amazon can get you a pair for around $200 USD.  The MDR-CD900st is a gold nugget in the sand – a gem that is worth digging up.

Sennheiser HD700


Big soundstage, crystal-clear highs, tight bass, fast response, easy to drive, and extremely comfortable are all traits of the Sennheiser HD700.  Many of the design cues and materials used in this second-to-the-top model are derived from the company’s most technologically advanced headphone – HD800 (which will set you back almost twice as much).  For better or worse, the HD700 is more forgiving than HD800, meaning the low-resolution music in your collection will be a lot more enjoyable than listening through the flagship HD800. If you are on the fence about getting into personal audio, give the HD700 a listen on a good quality DAC/amplifier and you’ll see why the hobby is so strong.

RHA T10i


Reid Heath Acoustics is a relatively new headphone company based in Glasgow, Scotland.  My first experience with their products was the MA750i; it was love at first listen, and I felt it should cost more – a lot more.  The new T10i is even more impressive for only $199 – only a slightly higher price than the MA750i.  The T10i is made from injection-moulded stainless steel which is impressive at this price point.  Another impressive feature is the tuning filters that are similar in effect to the ones that the $1499 AKG K3003 uses.  Yes, you can change the sound by changing between reference, bass boost, and treble boost filters.  This functionality makes the RHA T10i an incredible value.

Beats Solo2


The new Beats Solo2 is a completely new design from the ground up. The stereotype that Beats headphones are kids’ overpriced neck candy – with below-average sound quality – no longer applies.  The new Solo2 sounds much more natural and is greatly improved over the model it replaced: the Solo HD.  Gone is the sonic signature that dogged early Beats designs; muffled midrange and boomy bass that overwhelms the rest of the music is a thing of the past.  The Solo2 sounds clean, clear, natural, and has tight punchy bass that sounds great with a wide variety of music genres.  Give the new Beats Solo2 a try before you dismiss it.  Honestly, you may not find a better portable headphone for $199.

Audio Technica ATH-M50x


The M50 has been around for a long time and shares equal popularity with the Sony MDR-7506 among audio professionals.  Audio Technica took a trusted old friend and gave it the modern features users have been demanding with the new M50x.  The ear pads are upgraded for extended comfort; the cable is now detachable and comes with coiled, straight, and a short one for mobile use.  The M50x sounds much like the M50, which is a good thing for those loving the sound of the old, now upgraded with more functionality.

Focal Spirit Professional


Focal is known for their incredible Utopia loudspeakers for the home listening room as well as a full line of studio monitors used by sound engineers around the world.   The Spirit Professional is part of Focal’s family of headphones – Spirit One and Spirit Classic.  Don’t let the low $349 price tag fool you, as the Spirit Pro shares a lot of DNA with Focal’s multi-thousand dollar studio monitors.

B&O H6


Bang & Olufsen practically invented the concept of audio gear featuring high style, so it’s no surprise they’ve contributed heavily to a segment of personal audio often referred to as “fashion headphones.”  The BeoPlay H6 is no stranger to this world, bringing aluminum ear cups, a genuine leather headband and lambskin-covered memory foam earcups together in a sexy and luxurious design.  But the most amazing part of the equation is that the magicians at B&O pulled it off for such a low price.

All would be lost if these were just a pretty pair of phones, but they’ve got the sound quality to make them much more than “just a pretty face. The H6 may have you rethink the fashion headphones segment.

Beyerdynamic T51


The new T51i is a closed-back headphone featuring memory foam pads for extended comfort, blocking out environmental noise while on the go. First and foremost, it’s high quality; audiophile sound comes from the Tesla drivers

that are derived from its much-pricier sibling – T5p.  The “i” signifies Apple “made for iPod/iPhone/iPad,” while MFI certification means you can control your iDevice and take phone calls right from the 3-button in-line remote.  At $299, the Beyerdynamic T51i has Hi-

Fi sound without the Hi-Fi price.

MrSpeakers Alpha Dog


Dan Clark, AKA MrSpeakers, modifies the modest $129 Fostex T50RP to a headphone rivaling some of the best headphones on the market – at only $599.  One of Dan’s modifications is replacing the ear cups with a 3-D printed housing.  MrSpeakers Alpha Dog is the world’s first 3-D printed headphone.   Dan also swaps the stock ear pads for custom lambskin pads that are extra thick and pillow-like comfy.  In fact, the only thing left from the original Fostex are the heavily modified planar magnetic drivers and the headband that holds the headphone together.  Before you spend $1K or more on a headphone, you need to give the Alpha Dog a listen first.  Thank me later by taking me out to dinner with the money you saved.

A few of my favorites:  Jeff Dorgay

While I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a headphone guy, Mike’s enthusiasm is overwhelming, and I can’t help but admit I’ve caught some of his fever.  I don’t have anywhere near the collection he has, but I do have a few of my own favorites as well.

Oppo PM-1


HiFiMan and Audeze are major players in the planar magnetic headphones, but even though Oppo is a bit late to the dance, their contribution is stunning.  Like all other Oppo products, the PM-1 offers world-class performance at a reasonable price, yet no corners are cut.  This is the Oppo magic.  While the PM-1s are obviously tailored to be a perfect match with their own headphone amplifier, the PM-1s sound fab with every amp I’ve plugged them into, and they are also incredibly efficient and easy to drive from an iPhone or iPad, making an external amp an option only for the most maniacal.  A definite plus for someone who is on a plane 40 times a year.

Koss Pro 4aaa

About $50 on the secondary market

Though no longer made, the original Pro 4aaa from the late ’70s is just as cool as hooking up an old pair of Advent or JBL speakers to a vintage receiver.  If you were there the first time around, grab a pair of these on Ebay, put on Dark Side of the Moon, and head back there for half and hour.  You’ll see what I mean.

Beats Solo 2 Special Edition


I agree with Mike’s take on the Solo 2s and share his respect for this brand.  Beats always gets a bum rap by snooty audiophiles, but after listening to more than a few pairs, I’ve become a staunch supporter.  And these feature a Hello Kitty motif.  What could be better, I ask you?

Sennheiser HD650


Sennheiser’s latest HD700 and HD800 phones are definitely more resolving than my workhorse HD650s, but especially when upgraded with a better cable from your favorite headphone aftermarket vendor (I suggest the cable from ALO Audio) about half of the darkness that surrounds this model is gone, and that makes them a hell of a lot more listenable.  They lack the ultimate resolution of the HD700 and HD800, but for long listening sessions are still one of my favorites, being entirely fatigue-free.

Jeff Dorgay’s 9 Favorite Amplifiers

Jeff Dorgay’s 9 Favorite Amplifiers

While many people argue that speakers are the anchors of an audio system, I will always contest that the power amplifier is just as critical (if not more so) to a system’s overall sound. A great amplifier can make a mediocre pair of speakers come alive, but a great pair of speakers powered by a mediocre amplifier still sound mediocre. In celebration of the power amplifier, I decided to list a few of my favorites from over the years, in no particular order. Hit us up on Facebook with your favorite power amp. We always love to hear from readers.

Audio Research D-79

From $3,250 to $6,000 (for the D-79C mk. II)

Many audiophiles have said that the D-79 is the best amplifier that ARC ever built. With a massive power supply for its modest 75 watts per channel, the D-79 drew 750 watts from the AC line at full output. All four versions of the amp utilize a matched pair of 6550 output tubes with an additional 6550 as a voltage regulator, though each iteration of the amp uses a different input, driver and phase splitter complement of tubes.  Personally (after all, this is a favorites issue), I prefer the additional warmth of the original D-79 with 12AX7 tubes.

These still run about $3,500 for a super-clean version, and unless ARC itself updated the power supply in the last 10 years, it’s going to need an overhaul—and it’s going to be expensive. This remains a wonderful amplifier, with big dynamics, a massive soundstage and tons of sheer grip. Ralph Lauren once said every man should own a 12-cylinder car. I submit that every true audiophile should experience a D-79.

Mark Levinson ML-2 Monoblocks

From $3,000 to $6,000 per pair

Much like the ARC D-79, the ML-2 monoblocks from Mark Levinson were big and beefy. Designed by John Curl and Tom Colangelo, these Class-A monoblocks ran hot. While they were only rated at 25 watts per channel into 8 ohms, they did double that into 4- and 2-ohm loads, making them a perfect match for the Magnepan Tympani 1Ds that graced my listening room in the early 1980s.

Since no replacement sheet metal is available, go for the cosmetically cleanest pair you can find. There are still a few people who can work on these, so get yours checked and rebuilt, stat!

Conrad-Johnson MV-50

About $1,000

Not CJ’s first tube power amplifier, the MV-50 was introduced right at the beginning of the ’80s and quickly became a staple of hi-fi stores carrying the brand. It offers 45 watts per channel of tube power and a magical midrange that would define the company for years to come. Using a pair of 6CA7 output tubes per channel, this understated, champagne-colored beauty made music like precious few other amplifiers could.

Those wanting a bit more modern CJ sound can have their MV-50 sent back to the factory to have the power supply rebuilt and premium CJD Teflon capacitors installed in the circuit to bridge the gap between old- and new-school sound. It’s a brilliant piece of gear either way.

Pass Labs Aleph 3 and Aleph 5

About $1,000 and $2,000

Nelson Pass likes to say that he creates amplifiers with “the sound of tubes minus the hassle.” When referring to the early Aleph amplifiers with heat sinks as the entire case, local hi-fi dealer Kurt Doslu likes to say, “Don’t play catch with it.”

All kidding aside, this single-ended, full Class-A design provides 30 watts of tube power with all the midrange magic of my beloved MV-50 but with major bass control and a dead-quiet background. It’s a combination you’ll either love or hate, but it will definitely become an addiction if you are on the love side of the equation. Pass builds everything like a tank, so these babies run forever. And the company can still fix the Aleph 3, so you can send yours back to Pass for a tune up anytime.  Should you want a little more juice, the Aleph 5 produces 60 watts per channel, but slightly less sweet than the lower powered model.

Pass Labs Xs 300 Monoblocks

$88,000 per pair

Moving from past to present, my current reference amplifiers are also from the mind of Nelson Pass. I make no apologies for being a Pass fan, and the last few generations of big Pass Class-A amplifiers have been wonderful; however, there was always that slight bit of delicacy that the Aleph 3 possessed, with its single output device, which was tough to find in the big amplifiers.

Those familiar with the design philosophy of Mr. Pass know that he is a fan of the less-is-more school of thought, but you just can’t achieve high power without a little bit of complication. But the Xs 300s bridge the gap, making big power with no sonic compromises. Drawing 1,000 watts of power for each channel, they will alter your carbon footprint somewhat, but for sound this glorious, isn’t it worth installing some LED lightbulbs as an offset?

Burmester 911 MK3


In issue 32, I called the 911 MK3 “the best solid-state amplifier ever made.” And though a few things have come down the road that exceed the performance of the 911 (you can bridge them together for even more power, which changes the game somewhat), it is still one of the finest solid-state amplifiers I’ve ever had the pleasure to use. While not quite as liquid as the mighty Pass Xs monos, the 911 is probably the most Class-A-sounding Class AB amplifier I’ve experienced; it is only one chassis and draws considerably less AC power.

Much like the Porsche automobile sporting the same name, the Burmester 911 offers a large dose of what the money-is-no-object amplifiers do, but for a lot less—just as the Porsche 911 has similar performance to the much more expensive options from Ferrari and Aston Martin.

Rega Brio-R


Rega’s little amplifier that can is an integrated that pumps out 50 watts per channel into 8 ohms and has an outstanding MM phonostage built in. For those of you who loved the original Naim Nait, here is an amp in a similar vein, but with enough power to drive quite a few more speakers.

The Brio-R, like my favorite Pass amplifiers, features a tonality leaning towards the warm side and while not quite tubey in nature, it will never be mistaken for a harsh, etched solid-state amplifier. The midrange is yummy, but there is still enough extension and slam to get the dynamic contrasts right. If I were on a tight budget and didn’t want to sacrifice sound quality, this is the one I’d choose and would match it up with a pair of MartinLogan Aerius speakers from my favorite used hi-fi store.

Nagra 300p


Okay, so I have expensive taste. But if we’re talking about favorites, I’ve never listened to a Nagra product that I didn’t like. The 300p is especially dear to me, as I had the privilege of seeing the prototypes coming right off the drawing board a few years ago when I visited the factory.

The 300p uses a pair of 300B output tubes per channel in a push-pull configuration, producing about 20 watts of power per channel—much better than the average 9 watts per channel that an SET design with a single output tube can muster. This topology is implemented to great effect, as the 300p is as mellifluous as any SET I’ve experienced and far less affected by speaker load. Topping it off, the 300p is dead quiet and produces way more low-end heft than you would expect from a 20-wpc tube amplifier. It’s kind of costly going in, but this is an amplifier that you will pass on to your grandchildren.

Decware Zen Mystery Amp


I was going to include the Decware Torii amplifier that I’ve been using for some time now as my last favorite on this list, but then a new package arrived from Steve Deckert.  Though it’s not nearly broken in yet, the Zen Mystery amp takes the basic design of the Zen monoblock amplifiers, puts them on one chassis with a slightly lower output (40 watts per channel vs. 60 for the monos) and offers a healthy drop in price to boot.

For those who need a bit more push over the cliff than the 25 watts per channel that the Torii delivers, but can’t afford the $11k pricetag of the monoblocks, the ZMA will be your pot of gold.  Much like the Torii, this is one of the most incredible amplifiers I’ve ever experienced.  With more power, the ZMA has a much wider range of speakers it can work well with.  If you want an amplifier to last the rest of your life, call Decware and get in the queue for one of these.

Mark Marcantonio’s 7 Cheap and Cheerful Favorites

Mark Marcantonio’s 7 Cheap and Cheerful Favorites

As the guy on the TONE staff who covers some of the more “reasonably” priced gear, I am a big fan of trickle-down technology. Amazing things are happening at the high end of the audio food chain, which means that what was once reference-grade technology is now available in much more affordable and even entry-level components. And so the pool for high-quality but inexpensive gear is growing. I’ve had the opportunity over the last few years to audition and review a lot of amazing examples. What follows are seven of my standout favorites.

Shunyata Venom 3 Power Cord


So, it’s time to replace those stock power cords sticking out the back of your recently upgraded system, but the thought of saving up some serious cash for just one replacement cord at a time makes you ill. Try a different approach. The Venom series power cords from Shunyata Research are designed for budget-conscious yet discriminating listeners, and it was developed as a way for users to affordably upgrade their entire system. For just $125, each the Venom 3 power cord has been widely praised for providing great value.

The company’s president, Caelin Gabriel, has put together all the critical elements: Shunyata-specified CDA 101 12-gauge oxygen-free copper, slow and steady cryogenic treatment, 100-percent aluminum shielding and brass connectors—the same base features found in the company’s excellent Helix series power cords. Don’t believe your ears? Hook one up to you high-definition television and see the improvement in color saturation and black level. My entire system receives its juice via the plum-colored Venom 3.

Magnepan MMG


With so much mystique surrounding panel loudspeakers, there’s no better place to start than with Magenapan’s entry level speaker.  The MMG can only be purchased directly from Magnepan, and thanks to their eliminating the dealer markup, you get a remarkable speaker for a very reasonable price.  While the MMG lacks the treble extension of the ribbon tweeter in the higher priced models, they are much easier to drive, making them a fit with a much wider (and less expensive) range of amplifiers.

The most interesting aspect of these speakers is that they will provide pleasant, room filling sound with a mass market receiver, yet they really come alive with a big, high current solid state amplifier, so they can be the last component you replace as you move down the upgrade path.

Magnepan has recently introduced a “Super MMG,” featuring a center bass panel for $1,200, and while it reveals more music than the original (which is still offered), it takes away from the mega budget ethos of the MMG.  The original MMG is perhaps one of the best buys in all of high end audio, and still the one I suggest to all my friends.

Audioengine D2 24-Bit Wireless DAC System


For those in search of a quality but budget-friendly solution for wirelessly transporting music from their computer/server in one room to their audio system in another, Audioengine offers the two-piece D2 wireless DAC system. It consists of a sender and a receiver unit, with a range of 100 feet. I found clean, quality sound at 70-plus feet and through several walls.

The 24-bit, 192-kHz asynchronous DAC of the receiver unit is controlled via the PCM1792A chip. The D2 does a very good job for a budget DAC at extracting the inner details from various recordings. The system does a particularly good job of resolving female vocals like Kathleen Edwards and mallet-played percussion instruments. And the DAC section is definitely not an afterthought. Users with multiple systems can add as many as three receivers. The D2 system continues Audioengine’s streak of impressive but affordable gear.

Peachtree Audio nova220SE Integrated Amplifier


Musical, powerful, solid and sexy are all words that accurately describe the Class-D nova220SE integrated amplifier. Sporting 21st-century input choices (USB, two optical and a coaxial), along with a very respectable built-in ESS Sabre 24/192 asynchronous DAC, the nova220SE is a digital-music-lover’s dream. Making the amplifier section sound even sweeter is a tube buffer in the preamp section.

At 220 wpc into 8 ohms, the nova220SE has no problems holding a solid grip on the notoriously power-hungry Magnepan 1.6s, even when the loads drop into 2-ohm territory. Skip the worries about careful speaker matching with this chip-based amplifier section; it plays nicely with at least five very different speakers types. And with a built-in DAC, the nova220SE a financial and sonic bargain.

Rega RP1 Turntable with Ortofon OM5 Cartridge


Looking for a turntable to start your vinyl journey? Head straight to the Rega RP1. Take it from someone who was in this mode a few years ago, when I wanted to reacquaint myself with analog but needed to stay on a slim budget (though the stunning Rega P9 at the TONE studio had me thinking of taking a second job). The RP1 has more than satisfied my thirst.

Ridiculously easy to setup and ground-wire free, the RP1 does all the basics right. Later on, one can move up the cartridge ladder from the solidly performing Ortofon OM5. (I’m currently running the Super OM40 with excellent results.) With the RP1, Roy Gandy of Rega has created a turntable that both the vinyl-curious youth and the reminiscing rest of us budget audiophiles can enjoy for years to come.

Lounge Audio Phonostage


Though I’ve only heard it at the TONE studio, the Lounge Audio LCR MKIII phonostage deserves every bit of the praise that publisher Jeff Dorgay wrote in his review. It’s warm, grain-free sound belies its miniscule $300 price tag. Designer Robert Morin nailed the RIAA curve reproduction, which the phonostage does with a wide variety of cartridges. Whether part of Jeff’s budget system or six-figure reference system, the Lounge makes a fine impression with a wide soundstage, excellent pace, and a surprising low-end frequency response.

With this phono pre, you can take the extra $800-plus you would have spent on another option and put it towards a finer cartridge or speakers. This little wood box perfectly illustrates how satisfying budget audio can be.

Golden Ear Technology Triton Seven Speakers

$1,400 per pair

On rare occasions, I can’t stop thinking about a product long after the review is over. The Triton Seven is one such example. No matter what room I placed them in during my review, the speakers managed to make the space their own. With surprisingly full bass response (down to 29 Hz) and terrific imaging, these speakers caught my attention and didn’t let go.
If the whole family is to share one system, the Triton Sevens could very well be the nirvana speakers. Whether hip-hop, metal, acoustic, jazz or symphonic music, these slim towers play each with enthralling gusto. Need them to be a part of a home-theater setup? No problem—they’ll give you enough dynamics, clear vocals, and bass response to have you skipping the purchase of a subwoofer. If I could turn back the clock, I would have bought the review pair and dealt with the wife’s scorn.

- Mark Marcantonio

Rob Johnson’s 7 Long-Term Favorites

Rob Johnson’s 7 Long-Term Favorites

I’ve been meaning to update my 20-year old car, but the love of music, and buying the audio gear that reproduces it, keeps getting precedence. Fueled by a life-long passion for audio, my reference system has evolved over the course of many years starting with a Sony boom box at age 12. During all those years many pieces came and went. As with many kindred audiophiles, the very slow process of sonic improvement involves selling the weak link component and buying a better one, whenever saving, horse-trading, or sweat equity makes purchases possible.

With so much great gear out there, it’s exceedingly difficult to skinny-down my own “favorites list” to a scant seven components. However, a few have stopped me in my tracks, arrested my desire to flip them, and elevated the performance of my reference system with a synergistic contribution aligning with my personal sonic preferences. Each of my favorites have taken long-term residence in my home due to their fantastic sound, marvelous build, and exceptional reliability – all equally important. In each case, I’ve purchased those pieces of gear as my budget permitted. Putting my money where my ears are is the greatest compliment I can give to any audio component, and I want to thank the manufacturer of each piece for their dedication, passion, and hard work producing something that brings so much musical joy to my life.

Sonus faber Olympica III Speakers

The Sonus faber Olympica III floorstanding speakers are beguiling for their astonishing sound as well as their dashing good looks. While they have limited capability for producing the lowest bass frequencies, they won me over with their organic sound, incredible ability to produce a three-dimensional sonic image of any well-recorded performance, and the almost tangible way the drivers re-create instruments and vocals. Sonus faber creates their own drivers in-house, and therefore can wrap them in an ideally mated cabinet design. Listening to Johnny Cash’s American IV album through these speakers still proves revelatory.

Closing my eyes, Olympicas can provide me the momentary illusion that Cash himself is sitting in the living room. In a world of cost-no-object speaker designs, $12,500 is a very fair price for speakers of this quality. While Sonus faber produces even higher-end speakers, the Olympica IIIs demonstrate very little compromise and reveal all the nuance of components upstream – even when those components might be more expensive than the speakers themselves.

Burmester 911 Mk3 Amplifier
Of the amps I’ve enjoyed over the years, the Burmester 911 Mk3 stands strong as a current favorite. First, the Burmester’s outward appearance demonstrates not only gorgeous aesthetics, but incredible attention to every detail. Beautifully crafted heat sinks and an equally elegant ventilated top panel hint at the musical beauty locked within. However, the 911’s voice confirms it immediately. Sound reaches ever so slightly to the warm side, but with detailed reproduction that captures every nuance of a recording. With 350 watts of solid-state power into 4 ohms there’s plenty of juice for virtually any speakers mated with it. Crystalline highs, beguiling mids, and a tight, controlled, musical bass leave no frequencies un-pampered. Along with the delicate sound reproduction comes a soundstage that extends away from the speakers in all directions. Vocalists stand out front, ambient details stretch to the sides of the speakers and though the rear wall behind them. This Burmester is a marvelous amp and certainly one that has proven itself worthy of standing the test of time, in both my system and our publisher’s.

SME Model 10 Turntable and Model 10 tonearm

While SME’s 20 and 30, exceed its capability, the model 10 proves itself a workhorse with sonic reproduction, and a show pony in aesthetics.  Yes, it was love at first sight. The SME model 10 turntable looks like a modern sculpture. Though it’s an entry-level turntable in the SME family, the model 10’s build quality does not reveal any shortcuts. With a unique vibration dampening system beneath the heavy platter, records spin uninhibited. A screw-down record clamp holds vinyl to the platter with a tight grip allowing the tonearm and cartridge to pull each nuance from the record grooves. Mated with a matching SME 10 tonearm and a great cartridge, the ‘table offers a wonderfully organic analog experience. The model 10 also offers an upgrade path for those who seek it. The SME V tonearm takes it to an even higher level of musical reproduction.

Oppo BDP-103 Blu-Ray Player

Price-performance wise, Oppo’s players are a pinnacle of achievement. At $499, the BDP-103’s produces stellar video and audio reproduction. On the video side, rendering of Blu-Ray discs and streamed video content offer a wonderfully crisp and colorful picture. On the audio side, 7.1 surround sound proves equally remarkable. As another plus, the BDP-103 is a very good Redbook CD/SACD player or transport when used solely in an audio capacity. With a wireless or Ethernet internet connection, BDP-103 enables streaming directly from Netflix, Pandora, and other sites as well as music streaming from a NAS. There are more resolving (and more expensive) players including the 103’s brother the Oppo BDP-105. However, for a one-box unit that serves so many purposes in a home audio-visual system, I find myself hard-pressed to suggest another player that does so much, so well, at its price point.

Jena Labs StreamDancer USB cable
$500/5 feet

As with power conditioners and vibration control, speaker and interconnect cables can have a sonic impact on system sound. The more revealing my reference system has become, the more the subtle differences between cables become evident. After experimenting with many to find the best synergy for my own system, my quest led me to a USB cable from Jena Labs. Made of braided, liquid nitrogen immersed, high-quality copper, all the Jena Labs cables are hand-made in Oregon. The cable enables wonderfully natural, rich sound, plus great extension of lows and highs without any harsh etch that can accompany higher frequencies with some cables. I keep several other high quality USB cables on hand for testing, but none get as much dedicated listening time as the Jena Labs USB.

Ultimate Ears UE18 Custom In-Ear Monitors

When traveling on planes, custom in-ear monitors are a best friend. Not only can they seal out the sounds I don’t want to hear, but they allow me to pipe into my head exactly what I do want to hear. With a tight ear seal keeping unwanted sound out, they can enable great sonics at a lower volume, reducing ear strain. I purchased my pair UE18s three years ago, and still use them many times a week at the gym, on walks, riding mass transit, and during all my travels. The fit is perfect, and the sound they produce offers a very detailed, but non-fatiguing quality. With a snug-fitting IEM hugging the ear canal bass is robust and tuneful, with great mids and highs elevating the sense of musical enjoyment. I also enjoy JH Audio JH16 IEMs, but the UEs were my first custom IEM purchase and they have proven durable well beyond my expectations. I love their sound as much today as I did when they first arrived in the mail.

Ultimate Ears Custom Ear Plugs

At the same time I sent my earmolds to Ultimate Ears to make UE18 IEMs, I also had them make for me a matching set of custom ear plugs. I love recorded music, but of course, have a passion for live music too. These provide the perfect way to protect one’s valuable hearing, but not completely muffle the sound of the performance.  UE’s ear plugs are made of a firm but flexible translucent material that seals the ear canal perfectly, just like their IEMs do. Because the ‘plugs are designed to maintain a neutral sound, it’s rather like having a volume knob for your head. No Frankenstein-esque bolts are needed though. To accomplish this feat UE offers each owner a choice of small filter inserts that slide into the earplugs and reduce external volume by 9, 15 or 25dB. Those who need varying levels of hearing protection for different environments can buy all the filters and change them easily on-the-go. I use the -15dB inserts every time I go to a show.

-Rob Johnson

More thoughts on the “Wife Acceptance Factor”

More thoughts on the “Wife Acceptance Factor”

Motivated by my friend Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney’s article on the same subject that you can read here, I must say I agree with her, but for some different and more wide-ranging reasons.

Having sold hifi years ago, I remember customers getting all excited about a system only to say, “My wife will never go for it.”  Granted, there are a lot more attractive speaker choices these days, but this was always a bullshit line, and my friends that sell automobiles say the same thing.  It’s usually a way to get out of wasting a salespersons time on things you can’t afford – throw your wife or girlfriend under the bus because she’s not there.  This is even more of a bullshit line because if you’ve been paying any attention at all to the person you’re married to or cohabitating with, you should have a really good idea as to what they deem acceptable or not.  And if you don’t, you’ve got way bigger problems than what speakers to try and put in the living room.

I can’t tell you how many people’s homes I’ve visited with massive televisions, and when I ask the fateful question, “how did you ever get that monster past your wife,” the answer is almost unanimous – “she’s the one that wanted it.”  Which leads me to believe that women aren’t the firewall between guys getting cool stuff and not getting cool stuff.

We’ve made fun of the dreaded WAF on more than one occasion, and our first cartoon in issue two of TONEAudio, drawn by world renowned New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly says it all.  Her feminist sensibilities have always helped to make light of our wacky audiophile world.

Ask any Meridian Sooloos dealer how many $15k Sooloos music servers they’ve sold and who the ultimate buyer was – it’s almost always been the gentleman customers’ wife or girlfriend that perked up when she saw how easy to use and engaging the Sooloos is.  It’s the same reason I have used their server since day one and continue to this day, even though there are better sounding choices out there. I really just want to listen to music, and though I’m engulfed in technology all day long, I’m tired of screwing around with it.

We’ve been seeing a similar response to the Devialet; men and women are tired of having that big rack system and loom of cables in their home.  Back when that was the only option, we had to deal with it, but after years of high performance gear that doesn’t look like something stolen from the set of a Mothra vs. Godzilla movie, there are clearly more stylish choices available.

How and why we buy

However, the further ranging issue here is how we shop for things. Having attended a number of hifi shows and events across the world, I tend to gravitate towards the women in the audience because I’m always curious what level they are participating.  They are usually kind partners in crime, hanging out with their significant other because they love gear, reluctant partners that would rather be anywhere else but here or women that own and appreciate fine audio. The first group is always affable and further discussion usually reveals that they love music and more often than not are leaned on heavily during set up because they have more acute hearing than their buddy that’s obsessed over said gear in the first place.  The second group is no fun at all, and the final group is incredibly intriguing to me because my limited experience with female audiophiles reveals an entirely different consumer.

Some broad sweeping generalizations

Granted, my experience with female audiophiles is limited, but much like my female friends that ride motorcycles and love automobiles as much as I do, I’ve noticed a similarity in approach.

The women I’ve chatted with see the hifi system as a means to an end – a way to listen to and enjoy music, and they tend to make a higher initial purchase than most men I’ve talked to.  Where guys more often than not are really caught up on the gear, and the constant upgrading of the system, women tend to actually enjoy their systems more.  One female customer I talked to at an event said, “If I need a $50k system to get the job done, show me why and if it makes sense I’ll write the check.  Don’t sell me a $10k system and then try and get me to keep upgrading it, I’m not interested.”

Talk to the average hifi guy and the first words out of his mouth tend to be bragging about his system, how it’s the best and how it kills, destroys, annihilates (etc. etc.) everything else out there, especially the substandard gear you own.  I’ve never had this conversation with a female audio or auto enthusiast.

My friend Kathleen Thomas, who works for AudioQuest recently said on Facebook, “Is the man cave the room with the shittier hifi?”  And I’d have to agree.  Most so called man caves I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of visiting were chock full of neon beer signs and a stereo system I wouldn’t give to my neighbors kids.  Now a dedicated listening room, that’s another story, albeit a luxury relatively few people can afford.

In the end, will we see more women interested in hifi?  I certainly hope so, because our industry needs more enthusiasts if it’s going to survive, but the bigger problem (and a great subject for a whole series of articles) is really free time.  Male or female, we live in a more accelerated world from hifi’s humble beginnings back in the late 1950s.

While we are bombarded with more data streams than ever before, perhaps it’s a better reason than ever before to sit back, relax and listen to some of your favorite music without distraction – something that both sexes enjoy.

Reflections on Another Record Store Day

Reflections on Another Record Store Day

Another Record Store Day has come and gone, with many of my friends and our readers home counting their booty.

And yes, some of this shit has gotten incredibly overpriced to the point where it is starting to look just a bit like exploitation, but all in all, still some good finds were available.

I just wish we didn’t have to wait for more unique content to show up on a solitary day.  I’m also curious as to how many people  actually get turned off by the inability to find the real treasure on RSD and just go back to digital files.  I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

This article from the BBC is interesting, because once again it pigeonholes people buying vinyl records into a cultish group that is mental at worst and naive at best.  Can’t you just enjoy music and happen to buy LP’s?  I guess that’s just not dramatic enough.

For all the born again vinyl evangelists, I’m curious if there are others like me, who just enjoy music and don’t really wig out about what format it’s on.  Don’t get me wrong, I love vinyl just the same and have plenty of them lying about.  I just don’t have to have my music on an LP to get in the mood.

So, for all of you that enjoy music, enjoy vinyl, yet don’t belong to a “tribe,” I salute you.  Carry on.

Why we refuse to predict the future!!

Why we refuse to predict the future!!

I write very few actual rants in this space or in TONEAudio‘s publishers letter for good reason:  I want this to be fun.  I’ve always felt that the minute we bring our personal baggage into the editorial, it really stops being fun.  I don’t care if audio writers from across the pond disagree on how to set up a turntable or how to rip digital audio files.  Really, I don’t. And I care way less about it when they make it a personal bitchfest.  BORING.  I’d much rather talk about anything but audio at that point.

But the one tired subject that does push me over the edge is the constant waste of bandwidth on articles dealing with the future of the hifi industry. I’ve spent a lot of time on an airplane over the last ten years, going to trade shows, visiting factories and talking to both dealers and end users about this stuff, tirelessly.  Music and hifi has been the major obsession in my life since about age 13, so you’d think I’ve got at least a bit of a handle on it, right?  Well, kind of.

However, as much as those of us in the audio press would like to think we are all so plugged in, we really aren’t and here’s why:  our filter is too small.  Way too small.  It’s simple math.  There are 317 million people in the United States alone, and as of the other day, TONEAudio is read in 129 countries, so how can we possibly know what everyone is thinking, doing, or purchasing.  Really?

I get it.  It makes for great Google numbers to print “the sky is falling” editorial copy about how the industry is dying, or no one listens to music anymore, or there is no good music, etc., etc., etc. This ends up being terribly inaccurate at best and self-serving at the worst.

First thing I remember from news writing 101, was “never assume anything.”  Considering that many of us know 50 – 100 people and maybe have a peripheral reach of a thousand people, how can we possibly make these broad, grandiose speeches, declaring the rise or fall of anything?  I know I can’t, and I won’t.  My data is way too skewed.

Most of my friends are music and hifi fanatics (like minds, eh?) so any data I would cull from them would be useless to the readership at large.  I can’t believe how many people I know that own six figure hifi systems and own thousands, if not tens of thousands of albums, so it would be equally easy to think it’s all ducky going forward from where I sit.

Having visited more than my share of manufacturers that are somehow, in spite of all this death-speak, managing to ship every box they can build, I’ve reached the conclusion that someone has to be buying this stuff.  And with new manufacturers like Sonos, Peachtree and others having similar success stories, I fail to accept that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train. But then, that’s not terribly compelling copy, is it?

My challenge to my colleagues for 2014?  How about some insightful commentary, instead of just going for the low hanging fruit.  Remember, almost all of you were right there proclaiming (with equal certainty) the death of analog twenty years ago.

NOS – New Old Stash

NOS – New Old Stash

I don’t know what your listening habits are…

While cleaning my office/studio/listening room, I found a cache of unopened and hence, unplayed records.  It gave me pause for a second, perusing through the stack, thinking that I was not only feeling nostalgic on this particular day of record shopping, but pretty lucky as well. A little bit of old school hip hop, some classic jazz and some major heaviness from the 60s. I even found a few vintage MoFi’s lurking in the pile.  Where were they when I was thinking of listening to them?

I realize that we all find our joy in a different place.  Some enjoy being completist collectors, some enjoy searching rarities, while others just dig hanging out in a record store and smelling the vinyl.

But I suggest that for a day or two (maybe even longer) you step back and enjoy the collection you’ve already acquired.  I’ll bet that you too have some hidden treasure!

-Jeff Dorgay

Bowers & Wilkins Partners with Maserati

Bowers & Wilkins Partners with Maserati

The two European manufacturers get together for the audio system in the new Quattroporte sedan, a dressed-up pair of 805 speakers, and a global DJ tour.

Maserati is far from the first luxury carmaker to market with a premium sound system in its cars—but pair that with the new 805 Maserati Edition speakers from B&W, which provides the stereo for the Italian carmaker’s 2013 Quattroporte sedan, and a DJ throw-down at a hanger in Hollywood, and you’ve most certainly got our attention. (The Hollywood event in early June was part of the global Seven Notes tour. For these events, DJ/producer Howie B, who has worked with Björk and U2, among other acts, spins music inspired by the seven tones of a Maserati engine in action, with B&W delivering the chest-thumping sonic goods. Click here for more details on the tour:

The Quattroporte audio system is no mere car stereo, and I’ve heard similar systems from

Naim (for Bentley), Bang & Olufsen (for Audi and Aston Martin) and Burmester (for Porsche). The B&W system in Maserati’s roughly $130,000 Quattroporte easily holds its own in this competitive market. With B&W drivers and tweeters and Harman-sourced electronics, the 15-speaker, 1,280-watt stereo produces an audiophile-grade listening experience from any of the car’s four seats. The system offers a big display panel in the dash with intuitive touchscreen control, and easy synchronization with your digital-music device of choice.

B&W’s 805 Maserati Edition speakers aren’t too shabby either. The stand-mounted monitors are basically B&W’s flagship 805 Diamond speakers dressed up with the same materials used in the cabin of a Maserati, including bird’s-eye maple veneer, black Italian leather, and the Maserati trident symbol. The cost of the speakers, which will be available this fall, are likely to come at a premium over the $5,000 price tag of the standard 805s—but if you’re paying well over six figures for a Maserati, you might as well throw in a few extra bucks for matching speakers.

-Bailey S. Barnard

How about Record Store Month?

How about Record Store Month?

Seriously, how about it?

With so many vinyl enthusiasts, new and old excited about this event, Record Store Day is growing to the point where it’s becoming more exclusive than inclusive.  Here in Portland, Oregon, my favorite record store owner, Terry Currier, of Music Millennium told me that “the line around the building started at 10 last night.”

A few other stores I know echoed the same sentiment, receiving so many titles that they got two or three copies of that could have easily sold a 100 copies, possibly more. Another store owner, preferring to remain anonymous, was a bit more bleak. “The limited edition model worked better when people weren’t aware of vinyl – it helped to build enthusiasm.  Now that the demand is there, customers go away from the store crabby when they can’t get the RSD goodies.”

So how about it Record Companies?  While you might lose a buck or two, making a few less RSD collectibles, you’d make a lot more money and achieve a lot more good will if those of us that actually listen to the records we purchase could get our hands on it.  Maybe compromise with Record Store Week? It appears the demand is there.

Update: NYC Show

Update:  NYC Show

I certainly had a lovely time at this years HiFi Show in New York City…

Put on by the Chester Group, the same folks that sponsored last years show, things went incredibly smoothly for the UK based firm, considering they overcame a few major hurdles. First, there was a lot of hotel construction that was in progress, that no one expected during show week, when it was being organized almost a year ago, and there were a few water and power failures that necessitated some major jackhammering during the day on Saturday as well as some tenant evacuations on Sunday evening.  Yikes.

However, the show was not only well attended, it was a diverse crowd, perhaps the most diverse crowd I’ve seen at an audio show in the US.  Montreal and Munich do an excellent job at attracting kids and women to the party, but the US shows tend to be more often than not, a high percentage of beard tuggers.

It was nice to see a few groups of younger people, like the ones pictured in the VPI Industries room, not only grooving on the music, but asking to “turn it up…”  It was also nice to talk music and audio with some of our female readers and get their feedback on things.

The Chester Group and their US liasons, Sally Goff (formerly the face of McIntosh) and Christina Yuin (our director of sales) made an excellent effort to bring some seminars and events that were a lot more music centric, and wider ranging than I’ve seen in a long time.

SoundStageDirect and The SoundOrganisation, along with PMC Speakers contributed with their “Studio to You” series of lectures, bringing in some famous recording and mastering engineers, to discuss their part of the process.

And, speaking of music, this was the first show in memory that also did not consist primarily of audiophile standards. I did avoid a couple of rooms (still) playing “Keith Don’t Go,” but by and large, it was a much more musical show overall.  The Rutherford Group was rocking everything from Swedish House Mafia to Elvis on acetate, AudioArts NYC had a wide range of jazz, classical and blues, on vinyl, and Johan Coorg of KEF was a mixmaster – spanning a very wide range of music as well.

Rounding things out, Stereophile’s Michael Fremer was there, with his turntable setup seminar, and Art Dudley (also of Stereophile) and I held a spirited panel discussion about vintage hifi, which I am told by the folks at the Chester Group, had the highest attendance of all the seminars.

Again a thanks to the Chester Group for performing above and beyond the call of duty, and all of you that attended.  I hope to see you again next year.

For those of you craving more room by room coverage, stop by Stereophile’s website, where they have done their usual concise job.

The Virtue of Vintage

The Virtue of Vintage

If you happen to be at the New York Audio show this weekend, please stop by and sniff around.

And, if you feel so inclined, I invite you to sit in on “The Virtue of Vintage,” a presentation Stereophile’s Art Dudley and I are putting on at  11am on Saturday.

Art’s tales of restoration have certainly inspired me over the years, so it’s an honor to be sharing the stage with him.  He’s invited some other vintage restoration experts, who will help you walk through the joys of using some of the best of audio’s past.

We look forward to seeing you there!

CES 2013

CES 2013

According to the official CES website, this was the most highly attended show ever, with attendance over 150,000.

This is quite a jump from when it was only about 110,000 back in 2009, shortly after the economy tanked in the fall of 2008. The number is calculated by tallying everyone who physically got a badge holder, not just those registering.

Just down the street, the Venetian hotel showcased 95% of the “High Performance Audio” exhibits, with dCS, Nagra, Audio Plus Services and a few others across the street, displaying in the Mirage hotel.  The Home Entertainment Show was located a few blocks down the street at the Flamingo, more of a consumer show; similar to THE Show in Newport Beach and managed by Richard Beers, who handles both shows. Unfortunately, the Vegas THE Show is nowhere near the draw of its southern California counterpart.  It remains the ghost town that it’s been for the last few years.

Without taking an official tally, attendance seemed a bit off at the Venetian this year, as it was last year since CES has moved to a “middle of the week” format.  Now taking place Tuesday through Friday, instead of the usual Thursday through Sunday, the schedule change eliminated a lot of the bloggers and such from the world of high end audio, as many were unable to leave their day jobs to attend, leaving foot traffic steady, yet manageable. Many vendors commented that though foot traffic was down, qualified inquiries were way up.

As I mentioned on our Facebook page, If you are interested in room by room coverage, with commentary on every rack of gear present, visit the Stereophile site.  They did an excellent job and had a full compliment of writers on hand, working tirelessly to get fresh coverage up each day.

Here’s my take on what was trending:

More products with high aesthetic sense.  While “lifestyle” is such a dirty word in the high end audio industry, more products are appearing that wouldn’t look out of place in a design conscious environment.  I.e., hifi doesn’t have to be just for the man cave anymore.  With some great examples from Meridian, BelCanto, Nagra and Peachtree, to name a few, perhaps the most stunning product introduced this year is the Intuition from Wadia Digital.

Combining a Wadia DAC with a 350 watt per channel (into 4 ohms) integrated amp, this product looks like a bit of a variation on the Apple MacBook Pro design brief.  Available in four finishes: matte black, matte silver, turned aluminum and the nickel plated masterpiece you see here, the Intuition features multiple digital inputs (of course, it will grab the digital bitstream from your Apple device) and an analog input.

Picking up on the trail blazed by Devialet at the 2011 CES (by far the coolest product at the 2011 show), the Wadia is poised for success.  Retail price, depending on finish will be in the neighborhood of $8,000.  We look forward to a full review as soon as it’s available.

Happily, vinyl just keeps gaining steam, with more turntables, phono cartridges and phonostages than ever.  Regardless of budget, spinning records has never been easier or more fun.  Who would have thought ten years ago, that vinyl would be so vital in 2013?

Streaming continues a meteoric rise, with nearly all of the majors offering a streaming product, incorporating your tunes ripped to various storage devices, along with incorporating your favorite internet radio station, or online music provider all from the convenience of your mobile device. Simaudio’s MiND 180 is the perfect example.  This technology has become far less garage and much more glamour in the last year, making it easier than ever to get music from the net to your home.

Personal audio is still on a rising trajectory, with more of the majors getting into the headphone amplifier game.  This Pathos Class-A amplifier shown here at $1,495 underscores the majors commitment to performance and style.

The most intriguing development on the software side of the equation is the new PONO player, brainchild of Neil Young and Bob Stuart (of Meridian Audio).  I heard a very exciting demo of music via the PONO process, and it is well done.  Neil Young is calling it “sound from God.” I’d say he’s not far off track. More info when my NDA’s expire.

Another welcome trend, is that of more women on both sides of the fence.  There were more women presenting and attending this segment of the show than in years past and this will dovetail nicely with the women joining the TONEAudio staff in the next few months.  Stay tuned for their observation on the industry, the gear and their own personal pursuit of hifi.

-Jeff Dorgay

Our Top Nine “UN Awards”

Our Top Nine “UN Awards”

The end of the year always brings award mania.

It’s like the end of your kids soccer season, everyone wants a trophy.  Now that our awards have been spoken for, there are still a few things that keep gnawing at me. But we can’t give everything an award, can we?  While my hope is always that you read every page of every issue of TONEAudio, I know you’re busy, or you don’t care.

But here’s nine more things that I spent time with this year that I just enjoyed the hell out of.  Are they the best in class? I don’t know.  But I had a ton of fun listening to them, and even wrote a check for a few of them.  I suggest they are worthy of your time.


-Jeff Dorgay, Publisher

1.  Thorens TD-125 Turntable, rebuilt by Vinyl Nirvana. (

Proprietor Dave Archambault’s home page says “Your internet resource for AR Turntables,” but he does a cracking job on the Thorens TD-125 as well.  I selfishly wish he’d start working on the LP-12, but I digress.  While I’m not quite finished with a full review of the TD-125, this thing is beautiful.  Archambault does amazing work and offers a true alternative to the analog enthusiast wanting something different than the popular choices from Rega, et. al. in the $1000 – $2000 range.  The model pictured here was fitted with an SME 3009 tonearm and a price tag of about $1600.  Vinyl Nirvana also works carefully with a custom plinth maker to really take these these tables to the next level of restoration, should you so desire.  Standard woods are about $375 each, and you can order more exotic wood at an additional cost.  Should you be motivated to either purchase a table from VN, or just have him restore yours, I can’t suggest the new plinth highly enough.

2. Thorens TD-124 Turntable, rebuilt by Swissonor. (

Forget everything you think you know about the Thorens TD-124 turntable.  Rebuilt by Swiss craftspeople, with a handful of improvements that will turn your head as well as your ear, including a non magnetic cast iron platter that sounds straight out of a Bond film, this turntable delivers an amazing sound that has one foot firmly planted in the past, with the other in today.  Capitalizing on the precision these tables were originally built with, Swissonor tastefully updates this turntable in a manner that reveals more music, yet doesn’t hide the true character of this classic.  If you love vinyl, you owe it to yourself to experience this turntable.

3.  Goldpoint SW2X Input Switcher. (

Those needing to add an extra balanced input, switch between amplifiers, or perform quick cable comparisons, look no further.  This is the droid you need.  Well made and reasonably priced.  There is a balanced version (currently in-house) with two inputs and a single ended RCA version with four.

4. Apple iPad Mini (

Apple haters, sod off.  I know it doesn’t have the Retina display and it will probably be replaced with a new model by the time you read this, but the Mini is the best way to control a music server that I’ve ever encounter, whether you use iTunes or a proprietary music server from Sooloos/Meridian, Aurender, Naim or one of the others.  The screen size is just big enough to see easily, yet small and light enough to fit comfortably in one paw, where the standard iPad does not.

5. Omega Headphone Stand (

These cost way more money than they should, but they are just so damn cool, they prove irresistible.

6. Solidsteel WS-5 Turntable Shelf (

Much like real estate in Manhattan or Tokyo, sometimes the only way to go is up.  If you’re adding turntables and out of rack space, this is the way to roll. Properly installed, it will support up to 130 pounds, so it’s perfect for a reel to reel tape deck too.

7. Furutech DeMag (

Sure to get you crucified on any audiophile forum by merely mentioning it, the Furutech DeMag works brilliantly on LP’s, removing the last layer of grain and grunge from the presentation.  How does it really work? Who knows? Yet it does and every skeptic I’ve given a proper demonstration walks away admitting defeat while they scratch their head.  If you’ve taken your system as far as it can go and you still crave more, the Furutech DeMag will give it to you.

8. Ikea Expedit Shelves (  Though a few internet pundits have circulated photos of collapsed Expedit shelving units showing catastrophic results, a bit of 1/4-inch plywood, a few strategically placed brads and a bit of heavy duty glue makes the Expedit a stylish and robust record shelf.  Just don’t put a heavy amplifier or turntable on the shelf with spikes.

9. EAT ECC88 and ECC803 Tubes ( Another expensive accessory, these precision crafted small signal tubes deliver sound quality that rivals any vintage tube you’ll get your hands on.

The Future of Audio is… Women!

The Future of Audio is… Women!

Every day there’s a new rant on what is or isn’t the “future” of high end audio.

One camp insists that the vinyl resurgence is essential to gaining more minions, another hates vinyl with a passion, claiming that LP’s have inferior specs and no potential for multichannel reproduction (talk about dead horses!), while still another feels headphones and personal audio will save the world. I submit they are all missing the boat in a major way.  The constant whining about formats and hardware is short sighted at best and drives people away from audio at it’s worst.

The enjoyment of music should enhance your life and the minute it becomes a hassle in todays fast paced, attention deficit driven world, people change the channel. As someone who’s been obsessed with audio most of their life, sold it and now covers it on a daily basis, I’ve discovered a major change in the game.  Women are the key to high end audio’s future.

Back in the early days of high end audio (to me, that’s the 70s and 80s), audio gear, like sports cars, motorcycles and such were manly things to do and women were rarely if ever considered or invited to the dance.  How many of you, long in the retail game, had customers that made purchases insistent on using a certain credit card or checking account that “their wives didn’t see?”  Much like the focus group scene in Mad Men, where Don Draper asks Roger Sterling what women think and he glibly answers, “who cares?”

But as Ice-T says, “Shit ain’t like that anymore.”

You need look no further than the recent T-Mobile ads with the devilishly attractive woman on the sport bike racing around, or the female hosts on The Attack of the Show, to see that times have changed.  Watching the teens and twenty somethings of today, women have become just as excited about technology as men are, and they are just as efficient.  While my 19 year old daughter doesn’t check her oil as often as I would like her to, she knows what’s going on under the hood and a number of her friends have geeked out cars with exhaust pipes big enough for Honey Badger to climb into.  And they are no slouch at setting up a wireless router, either.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last few years, I’ve gone to a friends house and commented on their massive flat panel TV only to find out it was their wife or girlfriend that insisted on a 70-inch screen instead of the 50-inch model they thought they would have to beg for.  You’ll get my wife’s Meridan F80 compact music system ($2,995 MSRP) away from her when you pry her cold, dead hands from it, and like many women I know, was very influential in our early adoption of the Sooloos music server. A recent visit to Ears Nova in New York City confirms this.  When we were discussing who makes the purchase decisions in 2012, owner Joshua Cohn said, “Women key in on great sound and the emotional involvement right away. It’s usually the men that need to do more research, compare specs, or get an additional opinion from someone on an internet forum. Women are rarely if ever the ones that object to the sale.”

The bottom line is that enthusiasm breeds engagement, which translates into purchases.  When your female partner says, “Let’s get that new pair of MartinLogan speakers,” or “I want a better turntable,” most guys aren’t going to say “Let’s buy a couch instead.”  The fact that we are living in a world of technologically savvy women can only mean good things for the consumer electronics industry.

This is NOT your Dad’s console stereo…

This is NOT your Dad’s console stereo…

For those of you old enough to remember the big, console stereo systems that resided in our parents and grandparents living rooms, you know they pretty much sucked.  Except for a few that offered Dual turntables, most of them featured a tonearm not much unlike something from The Flintstones, and many even had a television built in.  Pale brownish, mauve-ish grill cloth abounded and they were full of vacuum tubes.  My Grandmother’s Magnavox even had a “magic eye” tube for signal strength in the tuner.  Ok, that was pretty cool.

The crack design team at Symbol Audio takes a different approach.  These music loving furniture designers have built a music system that looks right at home next to an Eames Lounge Chair, or poised proudly in a gallery of fine art.  And it sounds pretty damn good too.  We’ll have a full review early in 2013, but suffice to say the Symbol folks have put together all the right bits to create something truly special.

Handmade in their Nyack, NY factory, these consoles have an MSRP of $26,000.  Not for everyone, but those who make the investment will have an heirloom that will truly be cherished – and able to be handed down to the next generation, just like an Eames chair.

You can find out more here, at the Symbol Audio website.

Krell KSA-50

Krell KSA-50

Many audiophiles still revere the original Krell KSA 50 power amplifier.  A 50 watt per channel monster, it is able to double its power with halving of impedance all the way down to one ohm.

Ken Kessler will have a full story in Issue #51′s “Old School” column, but suffice to say this amplifier is still fantastic, stacking up handily to todays hardware.

Our thanks to Michael Trei for finding us a mint, one owner example.

Time for some listening, and to revisit history!

KEF LS 50s

KEF LS 50s

After a productive visit to the KEF factory in the UK last month, our review pair of their latest masterpiece, the LS-50s has arrived.

The review will be interesting, though somewhat of a formality as they are staying.  Our art director has requested an upgrade for her office system.  And you thought women didn’t care about great sound!  Ha.

Watch for a full review in our Macro section.



Jeremy Kipnis and I are investigating the effects of the new LossLess Black Body field conditioner.

Black Body claims better sound via absorbing unwanted radiations in the listening environment,
both from equipment and room noise.  So far, this has been an intriguing exercise.  Watch for
details on our new site, aptly labeled, “Tweakasaurus,” coming soon.

Mozart Arrives…

Mozart Arrives…

We’ve just received the Mozart Grand speakers from Vienna Acoustics for review.

Clad in piano black, these compact speakers strike a stunning presence, yet are compact enough to fit in most rooms.  A 6-inch two and a half way system with 90db sensitivity won’t tax your amplifier.

You can read more details here. And watch for more info on our Facebook page as the review progresses.

TONEAudio Index Updated

TONEAudio Index Updated

The current version of TONEAudio’s Gear Index is now available for free download.

We admit after 47 issues, that’s a lot of content to go through when you’re looking for
that one review.

Now you can find them all here in one spot.  Take 15 sec to download our PDF, which
has every review, divide by category – revealing the issue that it was originally published.

Click this link to begin the download.


Pass Labs Aleph 3 Arrives

Pass Labs Aleph 3 Arrives

If you’re an automotive enthusiast, chances are you’ve had a car or two that you’ve always regretted selling. Hifi enthusiasts often face the same dilemma.

For me, it was always getting rid of my Quad 57′s (problem solved recently) and the Aleph 3 from Pass Labs.  A one owner model made it’s way to me and I couldn’t be more excited.

A 30 watt per channel (into 8-ohms) amplifier, the Aleph3 is fully biased Class-A and is a single ended design, just like your favorite SET tube amplifier.  The result is that single ended smoothness you get from a 300B amplifier, because the output transistors never shut off and there is no crossover distortion.  The Aleph sounds spookily like the best 300B you’ve ever heard, with major bass control and no problems driving a complex speaker load – welcome the Quad 57s. Remember, Class-A means hot. Give the Aleph 3 plenty of ventilation – as much as you would a tube amplifier.

This amplifier is bulletproof with no bias adjustments needed, so if you’ve got a clean one, hang on to it and enjoy it.  A quick call to Pass Labs service department confirms they are seeing no particular mortality on any of the components, including the power supply electrolytics. If you do have an Aleph that requiring service, the necessary parts are in stock and they can be easily repaired. As Kurt Doslu at Echo Audio likes to say, “Just don’t play catch with it!”

For those interested, you can read Stereophile’s original review of  the Aleph 3 here.  It certainly convinced me to buy one!

Stay tuned as we continue to build sound room 2.  We are almost sorted with the addition of the Aleph 3.

The Quad Adventure Begins!

The Quad Adventure Begins!

If you ask any number of audiophiles and speaker designers what they consider to be the holy grail of speakers, chances are high that many of them will answer “The Quad 57.”

The original Quads have a tonal purity and coherence that is still a benchmark, over 50 years after their introduction.  While this is not a full range speaker in the sense that they have limited output beneath about 45 hz, the quality of what is available is scrumptious.  And, yes, they have limited dispersion, making them a “one person” speaker, but building a system around the 57s is a somewhat self indulgent thing to begin with.  Lastly, these are not serious rock and roll speakers, but again with the GamuT S9′s in room one, we’ve got that box ticked.

While this sounds limiting at first, the second you put your favorite vocal record on the turntable, you forget about the Quad 57s limitations are and realize that what they do right, is intoxicating.

So follow us on the journey of putting together a system based around these wonderful speakers.

The room will be 13 x 16 feet and we’ve purchased a pair of rebuild 57s from Quads Unlimited.  An artisan shop, Quads Unlimited can work with your existing speakers, or find you a pair and do a complete rebuild.  We’ll discuss that more in depth in a future update, but suffice to say the end result is better than new. Keep in mind, QA is a small company, so it’s not like you can call today and have a pair delivered tomorrow. Your patience will be rewarded.

Adding the HRS Platform to the AMG V-12 Turntable

Adding the HRS Platform to the AMG V-12 Turntable

We’ve been living with the AMG V-12 turntable for some time now, and it sounds as exquisite as it looks. If you are looking for a turntable that is devoid of bling, that you can set up, forget it and just enjoy your record collection, it’s tough to do better than the V-12.

Exquisitely machined in every sense, this table is truly a work of fine art.  Garth Leerer, the president of Musical Surroundings feels that “With a table as high performance as the AMG, what you place it on will impact the ultimate performance.”

The AMG manual suggests placing the table on a granite slab for best results, so what better way to go than the current MX3-1921-AMGV12 platform from Harmonic Resolution Systems designed specifically for the AMG?  Machined from billet aircraft aluminum and incorporating a polished black granite surface, this platform is is load matched specifically to the weight of the AMG. It is priced at $2,650.

After listening to the AMG for a few weeks without the HRS, getting it under a proper platform made for a substantial jump in performance.  Having just played a few familiar tracks and then slipping the base underneath, it was evident that the upper bass tightened up and there was a larger spatial perspective on the music.  To make sure I wasn’t second guessing myself, I recorded the three before and after tracks on my Revox B-77 at 15 i.p.s. to see if I’d actually hear that difference, side by side.  Even on tape, it was still there, and at high volume I noticed the woofer cones on the GamuT S9′s did not have as much random movement (indicating acoustic feedback) providing a visual confirmation that the HRS platform was indeed getting rid of unwanted vibration.

Watch for our full review of the AMG soon, in the Analogaholic section.

New Bits for the Paganini

New Bits for the Paganini

Years ago, more horsepower meant getting under the hood and bolting on some parts.

Today, I get the engine management EPROM reflashed to achieve more horsepower.  And so it goes with digital audio.  While some may question the logic of a four-box digital audio player that still plays physical media, today just underscored why the dCS Paganini is worth the money I’ve invested in it.  It’s modular design makes it obsolete-proof.

Rather than having to take a bath on selling the Pag to get the newest thing from dCS, they sent me a pair of CD’s to upgrade the software in the Upsampler and DAC portions of my Paganini stack, which consists of a Transport, (for SACD and CD discs) the DAC, an upsampler and a word clock.

The whole process took about 40 minutes per box and the instructions were straightforward.  The result?  Being ever skeptical of digital, I was shocked at how much of an improvement took place.  Of course more listening will be required, but immediately there was a much bigger spatial perspective, with more clarity from the top to the bottom of the frequency spectrum and a huge layer of midrange cloudiness that I didn’t know existed is now gone.

It’s sounding a LOT closer to my analog rig.

Welcome to the Analog Barbershop

Welcome to the Analog Barbershop

On a recent excursion to the Oregon coast, as I was snooping for used records, who would have thought I’d find them in a barbershop!  When I saw the sign out front claiming “$15 Hair Cuts Until the End of the World” from the Analog Barbershop, I couldn’t resist.  Inside the lovely Olynxa was giving a gentleman a haircut amidst two walls of neatly bagged LP’s of all genres.

Pretty cool I say.

So, the next time you are in Astoria, Oregon, stop by the Analog Barbershop – located at 250 11th. Street.
Their phone number is 503-468-8277

Tell them TONEAudio sent you.

Turntables in Munich

Turntables in Munich

The Munich High End show opened yesterday and it’s clear that the Europeans are serious about analog!

This display from Pro-Ject is just a smattering of the wide range of turntables here on display.  Stay tuned for more tomorrow!

Gear Index Updated!

Gear Index Updated!

We’ve just updated our gear index again, through issue #44.  Now you can find all your favorite TONEAudio
reviews quickly….

Download it here.

Carver Cherry Amps: Tubey, SEXY!

Carver Cherry Amps: Tubey, SEXY!

Legendary amplifier manufacturer Bob Carver just sent us a pair of his latest tube mono block amplifiers, the Cherry 180′s, which produce 180 watts per channel into 8 ohms and feature six KT88 power tubes per channel.  Decidedly old school, these amplifiers are built in America at Carvers Kentucky facility.

These red machines sound even better than they look.

Full review and factory visit in progress.

Read more about Carver Amplifiers here:

ARC SE Models Arrive!

ARC SE Models Arrive!

The new SE version of the spectacular REF 5 preamplifier and REF Phono 2 have just arrived and our mascot is enjoying them even before they are out of the box.

According to ARC, both models have larger, improved power supplies, along with some internal parts upgrades as well.  Both of these units benefit from what ARC learned developing their 40th Anniversary preamplifier.  Reviews will be in process as soon as we can get the pup down.

For more info, click here:

Editor Bob Gendron’s new blog…

Editor Bob Gendron’s new blog…

It’s All One Song
By Bob Gendron

January is traditionally a slow time for live shows. Yet soon enough, announcements for spring dates, the excitement associated with South By Southwest, and the unveiling of lineups for destination festivals will put everyone back into a virtual club—or, in the case of Lollapalooza, a virtual lakefront park). Such anticipation prompts reflection on the year that just was.

In addition to reporting for the Chicago Tribune on the three-day fests otherwise known as Lollapalooza, Pitchfork Music Festival, and the Dave Matthews Caravan, and taking in the Montreal International Jazz Festival for TONE Audio, I had the privilege of witnessing more than 60 standalone concerts in 2011. Of the more than 250 artists I saw onstage, here are my ten favorite performances.

1. Deadmau5 at Lollapalooza (August 7, Chicago)
Starting his headlining performance almost exactly at the moment a pounding rainstorm commenced, the Toronto electronic maestro turned Grant Park into the world’s biggest and liveliest mud pit with a scorching light show and nonstop dance beats.

2. Drive-By Truckers at Vic Theatre (February 25, Chicago)
Playing with tremendous purpose and intensity, the always-reliable Truckers delivered a career-spanning set that made a case for the Alabama ensemble being the best live rock band on any given night.

3. Janelle Monae at Aragon Ballroom (May 27, Chicago)
Drawing on everything from golden-era silent films to science-fiction themes, the R&B phenomenon sang, danced, and painted her way through a breathtaking affair teeming with fervent energy and bold vision.

4. Guns N’ Roses at Allstate Arena (November 15, Chicago)
Fans that waited nearly two decades for Axl Rose to channel his old self were rewarded with a marathon extravaganza that, while falling short of the excellence displayed in 1991-92, eclipsed the original band’s 1993 trek. Don’t believe it? Cue up “Estranged” here:

5. (TIE) Prince at Metropolis; Brad Mehldau and Joshua Redman at Theatre Maisonneuve (June 25, Montreal)
On one night, pianist Mehldau and longtime collaborator Redman gave a clinic in pointillistic jazz while, hours later, the Purple One took over a small club with unrivaled showmanship, astounding instrumental acumen, and an enviable way with song.

6. Twilight Singers at Metro (May 17, Chicago)
On his best showing since the Afghan Whigs disbanded, Greg Dulli led his enthusiastic band through an unforgettably soulful show that renews one’s faith in music and prompts them to binge on the performer’s catalog for weeks.

7. Titus Andronicus at Lollapalooza (August 8, Chicago)
Setting a new standard that all Lollapalooza openers should follow, Titus Andronicus blazed through underdog-themed anthems tailor-made for a society mired in economic disparity and social unease.

8. Rihanna at United Center (June 15, Chicago)
No mainstream pop star better understands the secrets to an engaging arena spectacle than Rihanna, who buffeted a balanced blend of costume changes, visual props, and dance routines with a constant stream of contagious hits.

9. Elvis Costello at Chicago Theatre (May 15, Chicago)
The return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook concept found Costello recharged, tearing through five opening songs in less than 16 minutes and accenting older material with avant-garde solos plucked from Thurston Moore’s playbook.

10. Brandi Carlile at Park West (December 1, Chicago)
Blowing away anything she’s put on record, the Seattle-based singer-songwriter went it alone and charmed with a disarming voice and independent streak that suggested Adele-like fame could be in her future if she makes a solo record absent a backing band.

Sonus Faber Aida World Premier!

Sonus Faber Aida World Premier!

The New York audio press was treated to the world premiere of Sonus Faber’s latest triumph, the Aida, on Tuesday night (an open-to-audiophiles affair was on Wednesday night). When I arrived for the auspicious event at Stereo Exchange’s NYC showrooms the speakers were cloaked in cloth wrappers. The Aida’s statuesque 68 inch tall presence and imposing 363 pound weight left no doubt: this speaker is a no holds barred effort.

Sonus Faber importer John Hunter hosted the proceedings, and introduced Fine Sounds’ CEO Mauro Grange. Hunter then played a wide range of music over the Aidas, everything from solo acoustic guitar, funky jazz, large orchestral works, before turning up the heat with Yello’s thumpin’ beats.

The Aida uses an “Arrow Point” Damped Apex Dome tweeter, a proprietary cellulose pulp/kapok/kenaf and other natural fibers midrange driver, high-tech syntactic foam core and cellulose pulp sandwich woofers, and a nanocarbon/honeycomb infra woofer. The cabinet is an elaborate “Lyra-shape,” multi-chambered design, outfitted with numerous resonance control measures. The drop-dead gorgeous finish, even by Sonus Faber standards, was simply stunning. Aida was being played with Audio Research electronics, including a Reference 5 preamp, Ref CD8 CD player, and the speakers were biamped with Reference 250 and DS450 amps.

I wasn’t in the sweet spot for most of the auditions, but the sound was big, bold and juicy. I was in the ideal position for Yello, and the Aidas not only threw a massive soundstage, the out-of-phase elements of the mix were projected well out in front of the speakers. The effect was as close to surround sound as I’ve heard from a pair of speakers.

The Aida will retail for $120,000 per pair.

– Steve Guttenberg

PS Audio’s P10 in for review…

PS Audio’s P10 in for review…

PS Audio has come a long way since the end of the 90s’ when they introduced their first Power Plant PS300. Where many power line conditioners use extensive filtering schemes to scrub the noise and distortion components from your AC mains, the P10 regenerates new, 120 volt (or 220 for European customers) power, eliminating the noise and distortion from the power feeding your gear. We’ve just finished the photography on the P10 you see here, so watch for a review soon. We will be posting comments here and on our FB page, so feel free to ask questions and interact with us along the way!

TONEAudio Gear Review Index is Here!

TONEAudio Gear Review Index is Here!

We’ve reviewed a pretty big pile of gear in the last six years and it can be tough to wade through it all…

So, we’ve launched our new Review Index, which we will be updating 8 times per year to help you sort
it all out. Feel free to download it here:

Let us know what you think, and if there is anything we can do to make the data more accessible.

Now you can live in the Wilco Building…

Now you can live in the Wilco Building…

Our editor Bob Gendron (who lives in Chicago) just tipped me off to this incredible real estate deal…

No, it’s not a vacation timeshare in some bizarre place, it’s a luxury condo right in downtown Chicago. Show off your enthusiasm for modern architecture and Wilco with this 2 bedroom condo located in Bertrand Golberg’s Marina City, also displayed on the cover of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Here’s a link:

$535,000 and a 42nd floor view of Chicago can be yours. Very cool.

The SME 3009: A vintage analog beauty

The SME 3009: A vintage analog beauty

Have you ever attended a top level car show and marveled at the level of craftsmanship that goes into restoring a vintage sports car?  The best ones always look like the car just rolled off the production line, as if time had stopped for the moment you were gazing at it.  If your object of desire happens to be the SME 3009 tonearm, look no further than – they create, or more accurately recreate vintage SME tonearms at a concours level.

It didn’t hurt that my tonearm belonged to a good friends father and was actually a “one owner” model, so I had a decent arm to begin with.  And as any car restoration expert will tell you, the cosmetic bits are the toughest to replace, so if you can start out with a clean donor, it makes the job that much easier.  This particular arm looked fantastic and even had the original receipt in the box, when it was purchased new in the early 70′s with a Thorens turntable.

Proprietor Alfred Kayser is an affable guy and he knows vintage SME inside and out.  He assured me that the tonearm would be completely rebuilt from the ground up and completely rewired all the way back to the RCA plugs.  The final result is truly beautiful to behold, but Alfred also told me that one of their arms would stand up to the best that today’s market has to offer.  After a day of listening, I can’t argue with him, but the real differences will be revealed when we mount the 3009 to one of our two AVID Volvere SP turntables and compare it directly to another AVID Volvere SP with an identical Dynavector DV-20xl cartridge and a current SME 309 tonearm.  But for now, it certainly sounds fab on my AVID Diva II SP.

With 3009 arms selling as cheap as $150 these days (with a typical model about $300-$450), the $400-$600 that SME Tonearms charges is a bargain, perhaps one of the best bargains in high end audio I’ve seen.

One Response to The SME 3009: A vintage analog beauty

      Great info..... Very complete website just keep us posted...

    -XENON BULBS / August 20th 2011, 4:52 am

Leave a Reply