Recommended Reference Component: Moon by Simaudio Evolution 850P Preamplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentThe Moon Evolution 850P preamplifier, which Jeff Fritz reviewed for SoundStage! Ultra last month, represents Simaudio’s most ambitious effort to date to produce a state-of-the-art preamplifier that’s not only rich in features, but also provides a transparent path for any music signal passed through it. With two cases instead of one, it’s a clear step up in construction -- and, at $30,000 USD, in price -- from Simaudio’s single-box Moon Evolution 740P preamplifier ($9500), which in December 2013 was reviewed for SoundStage! Hi-Fi by Doug Schneider and recognized as a Recommended Reference Component.

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Recommended Reference Component: Hegel Music Systems HD30 Digital-to-Analog Converter

Recommended Reference ComponentIn the past, the digital-to-analog converters from Hegel Music Systems that we’ve reviewed have represented great value for the money; however, none was considered unqualifiedly great. With the recent introduction of Hegel’s new flagship DAC, the HD30, which Doug Schneider reviewed on this site last month, that changed.

The HD30 costs $4800 USD -- almost twice as much as Hegel’s previous flagship, the HD25 ($2500), which remains in production. The full-size HD30 is also more than twice as big as the HD25, to make room for its much larger main circuit board, dual transformers, and other component parts. As with all Hegel products, the HD30’s styling is clean and devoid of front-panel clutter: other than the small logo at the upper middle and “HD30” at the lower right, there are only the Source and Volume controls, to either side of a blue-LED display. The rear panel is busier -- in addition to the main power switch, IEC power-cord inlet, and fuse holder, there are balanced and single-ended outputs and eight digital inputs: one each for Ethernet, RCA, BNC, AES/EBU, USB, plus three optical.

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Recommended Reference Component: HiFiMan HE1000 Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentAt $2999 USD, HiFiMan’s new HE1000 headphones cost about two-and-a-half times as much as the company’s previous top headphone model, the HE6 ($1299, discontinued). But as Brent Butterworth pointed out last month, in his review of the HE1000s on SoundStage! Xperience, the HE1000s are “also a step up in sophistication.”

Brent began by pointing out one of the HE1000s’ key technical features: the thinness of the polymer planar-magnetic diaphragm in each earpiece. These diaphragms are what are moved back and forth to produce sound waves, and in the HE1000s, each panel’s thickness is measured in nanometers (billionths of a meter) -- they’re incredibly thin, and thus lighter and quicker to respond to the signal from the conductors. Brent went on to describe some of the HE1000s’ other technical features:

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Recommended Reference Component: Ayre Acoustics KX-5 Twenty Preamplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentOne week after we published Aron Garrecht’s review of the Ayre Acoustics KX-5 preamplifier on SoundStage! Hi-Fi, Ayre announced that the KX-5 was being discontinued and would be replaced by the KX-5 Twenty for $8950 USD -- a price increase of $1000. We immediately arranged for a review sample of the KX-5 Twenty to be sent to Aron, whose review of it was published last month on SoundStage! Ultra.

Ayre’s Alex Brinkman told Aron that the circuitry changes were mostly based on developments Ayre had made for their flagship preamplifier, the KX-R Twenty ($27,500). From the outside, the only thing distinguishing the KX-5 from the KX-5 Twenty is the gold “Twenty” badge on the right side of the faceplate. Aron thought the changes in circuitry were audible:

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Recommended Reference Component: Magico Q7 Mk II Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentAt 750 pounds each and $229,000 USD per pair, Magico’s Q7 Mk II is one of the least practical, most out-of-reach loudspeakers on the market today. It costs $44,000 more than its predecessor, the Q7, reviewed by Jeff Fritz for SoundStage! Ultra in June 2012 and named a Recommended Reference Component that July. Of course, neither version of the Q7 was intended to be practical, let alone affordable, for any but the wealthiest audiophiles. As Jeff said last month, in his review of the Q7 Mk II for SoundStage! Ultra, it’s “a technological tour de force of a loudspeaker from the imagination of the company’s chief executive officer, Alon Wolf, and the intellect of chief technical officer Yair Tammam.”

The Q7 Mk II differs from the Q7 in three ways: the tweeter, an entirely new design, now with a 28mm beryllium dome coated with a diamond-like carbon; the cone of the midrange driver, also redesigned, now partially made of graphene; and the crossover, reworked to accommodate these new drivers. The cabinet, and the midbass and woofers, remain the same. Owners of original Q7s can have Magico upgrade them to Mk II status for the difference in the models’ prices: $44,000.

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