Recommended Reference Component: HiFiMan HE1000 V2 Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentYou’d be forgiven for mistaking the HiFiMan HE1000 V2 headphones, which Brent Butterworth reviewed for SoundStage! Xperience in December 2016, for the original HE1000s, which Brent reviewed in October 2015 and which, the following month, we added to our list of Recommended Reference Components. They’re priced the same, at $2999 USD, and look almost identical -- but there are differences not only in the two models’ appearances, but in their sounds.

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Recommended Reference Component: Sennheiser HD 800 S Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentWhen we were determining our Products of the Year for 2016, we asked Brent Butterworth, our main reviewer of headphones, which headphones were the best he’d reviewed all year. Although he’d reviewed many pairs of ’phones in 2016, he didn’t hesitate to name his choice: Sennheiser’s HD 800 S headphones, which he’d reviewed for SoundStage! Xperience last April, and which then had received a Reviewers’ Choice award. They retail for $1699 USD.

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Recommended Reference Component: Gryphon Audio Designs Diablo 300 Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Recommended Reference ComponentIn a SoundStage! Shorts video filmed in August 2016 and released last month, Gryphon Audio Designs’ founder, Flemming E. Rasmussen, says: “The Diablo integrated amplifier has been a huge success for us, more than we would ever anticipated and hoped for.”

The original Diablo was released in November 2005; its replacement, the Diablo 300, reviewed by Hans Wetzel for SoundStage! Ultra in September 2016, was launched in May 2015 in Munich, Germany, at High End 2015. (Our video focused on the new Diablo, the 120, which debuted last month.) That the original Diablo lasted on the market for nearly ten years without change is a testament to great product design. Still, Gryphon found so many ways to improve it that, as Hans wrote in his review, the Diablo 300 “shouldn’t be thought of as a step in a journey, but as the final destination.” In Europe, the Diablo 300’s base price is €12,800. The unit Hans reviewed included the optional DAC module, which adds €4800 to that price; an optional moving-magnet/moving-coil phono stage adds another €1800. (Currently, Gryphon Audio Designs has no US distributor, hence the lack of equivalent prices in USD.)

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Recommended Reference Component: Devialet Expert 1000 Pro Mono DAC-Integrated Amplifiers

Recommended Reference ComponentWhen Devialet’s first product, the D-Premier integrated amplifier-DAC, debuted in 2009, it received wide-ranging critical praise, including from SoundStage! -- when Doug Schneider’s review was published, in May 2011, we gave it a Reviewers’ Choice award; the following month, we added it our list of Recommended Reference Components; and it was one of our Products of the Year for 2011. The unique technologies used in the D-Premier made it a groundbreaking design, and it was also rare in combining beautiful styling and small size with state-of-the-art sound quality. At the time, it was the best-sounding amplification component that Doug Schneider had ever heard.

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Recommended Reference Component: PSB SubSeries 450 Subwoofer

Recommended Reference ComponentWhen its output is poorly integrated with the outputs of the left and right main speakers, even the best subwoofer can screw up the sound of music and movies. But when the blend is right, there’s a seamless transition from where the main speakers cut off and the sub picks up. A well-designed subwoofer can tremendously benefit a system by producing deeper, more powerful bass than even very large, expensive floorstanding speakers can provide.

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