Recommended Reference Component: Devialet 400 Mono Integrated Amplifier-DACs

Recommended Reference ComponentDevialet, based in France, has shaken up the hi-fi world like no other company in recent memory. Their first product, the D-Premier integrated amplifier-DAC ($15,995 USD), which debuted in 2009, packed into its flat, shiny case Devialet’s newly developed, patented Analog Digital Hybrid (ADH) technology, which marries class-A and class-D amplifier topologies in a way never done before; a digital-to-analog converter; and a digital preamplifier, replete with a high-powered DSP engine that permitted customization of its features and sound.

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Recommended Reference Component: Rega Research RP8 Turntable

Recommended Reference ComponentUntil now, we haven’t included a turntable in our list of Recommended Reference Components, mainly because we hadn’t come across one that we felt established a performance baseline by which others could be judged. That changed in May 2014, when Oliver Amnuayphol reviewed the Rega Research RP8, which so impressed him that he purchased the review sample to use as his own reference turntable.

The RP8 comes equipped with Rega’s RB808 tonearm, for a total retail price of $2995 USD. When Oliver reviewed the RP8, Rega’s Apheta cartridge was available as a factory-fitted option, for a total retail price of $3995, representing a savings of $795 over buying turntable and cartridge separately. (The Apheta has since been replaced by the Apheta 2.) However, Oliver reviewed the RP8 and RB808 with the cartridge he knew best: the Lyra Delos.

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Recommended Reference Component: KEF Reference 1 Loudspeakers

KEF Reference 1Recommended Reference ComponentWhen KEF introduced its new Reference loudspeaker models at High End 2014, in Munich, the sight of their conventional-looking rectangular enclosures took most showgoers by surprise. KEF had seemed to be pushing the envelope of cabinet design with the release, in 2011, of its decidedly unconventional Blade loudspeaker. Yet it was because of the Blade’s avant-garde shape that KEF chose to style the new Reference series conservatively -- as Doug Schneider said in his review of the Reference 1 ($7499.99 USD per pair), published on this site on December 15, 2014, KEF wanted to offer models “more typically styled to appeal to those who want to have something that looks more like a classic loudspeaker in their living room, not a sculpture or an industrial-design statement.”

But in the case of the Reference 1, “conventional” doesn’t mean “pedestrian”; in fact, quite the opposite, given the technology it contains. Whereas most stand-mounted speakers are two-ways, the Reference 1 is a true three-way employing the newest version of KEF’s advanced Uni-Q driver technology -- a 1” tweeter sunk into the throat of a specially shaped 5” midrange cone -- and a newly developed woofer with a very shallow 6.5” cone. The woofer is crossed over to the midrange at 350Hz, and the midrange to the tweeter at 2.8kHz. Each speaker’s rolloff characteristics, and thus its bass depth and character, can be adjusted with the user’s choice of port tube: a long and a short tube are provided. (Doug tried the speakers with both tubes, but settled on the longer ones because of the way they worked in his room.)

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Recommended Reference Component: Ayre Acoustics KX-5 Preamplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentAt $7950 USD, Ayre Acoustics’ KX-5 preamplifier costs less than one-third the price of the company’s flagship preamplifier, the KX-R Twenty ($27,500), which was added to our list of Recommended Reference Components last July. But despite its substantially lower price, the KX-5 is exceptionally well built -- it measures 17.25”W x 3.75”H x 13.25”D, weighs 23 pounds, and features beautiful casework constructed with meticulously finished aluminum plates -- and is a topflight performer. In Aron Garrecht’s review of the KX-5 in January, he said, “I found nothing to dislike in the KX-5 -- it performed flawlessly, exhibited outstanding sound quality, and proved to be the quietest preamplifier I have ever heard in my system.”

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Recommended Reference Component: Luxman C-900u Preamplifier

Luxman C-900uRecommended Reference ComponentLuxman’s C-900u preamplifier ($19,900 USD) is something of a paradox. Although its Bass, Treble, and Loudness controls and its beveled-glass display make it look like a throwback to the 1960s and ’70s, according to Doug Schneider’s review of the C-900u in November, its build quality competes handily with that of the very best preamplifiers made today -- as does its sound, which Doug described as “beyond reproach, even when compared with a topflight preamplifier with minimal controls.”

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