Recommended Reference Component: Benchmark Media Systems AHB2 Stereo/Mono Amplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentHans Wetzel is a cautious, subdued reviewer, more likely to understate than to overstate how a product performs. So when he raved about Benchmark Media Systems’ AHB2 amplifier in his June 1 SoundStage! Access review, stating that it “may be hi-fi’s biggest bargain” today, we knew that its performance must be as special as the measured results that accompanied the review, and about which Bascom King said: “I measured less distortion and noise in the AHB2 than in any other of the many power amps I’ve measured over the years.”

Read more: Recommended Reference Component: Benchmark Media Systems AHB2 Stereo/Mono Amplifier

Recommended Reference Component: Audio Research Reference 10 Preamplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentDespite being supplanted by the transistor more than half a century ago, the vacuum tube remains popular among hi-fi enthusiasts, with product designs that continually push the century-old technology to new heights of performance. Of the companies still producing tubed products and advancing the technology, Audio Research Corporation, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, remains one of the most popular and respected in the business. Last month, when Pete Roth reviewed the ARC Reference 10 preamplifier for SoundStage! Ultra, he proclaimed it “one of the most thrilling, intoxicating, musically engrossing preamplifiers ever made.” Until the Reference 10’s arrival, Pete’s reference preamp had been Audio Research’s Reference 5 SE.

Read more: Recommended Reference Component: Audio Research Reference 10 Preamplifier

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.

Read more: Recommended Reference Component: Devialet 400 Mono Integrated Amplifier-DACs

Recommended Reference Component: Luxman M-900u Stereo/Mono Amplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentLike Luxman’s C-900u preamplifier, which Doug Schneider reviewed in November 2014 and we recognized as a Recommended Reference Component the following month, the companion M-900u stereo/mono amplifier, reviewed last month by Doug, is exceptionally well built, perfectly finished, and superbly styled. The M-900u also has a bit of a 1970s vibe due to the attractive VU meters that adorn its front panel -- something not seen often today. Each component costs $19,900 USD.

Read more: Recommended Reference Component: Luxman M-900u Stereo/Mono Amplifier

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.

Read more: Recommended Reference Component: Rega Research RP8 Turntable