Recommended Reference Component: NAD Viso HP50 Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentNAD’s Viso HP50 headphones ($299 USD) are unique in being the first product to be added to our list of Recommended Reference Components that, when reviewed, did not receive a Reviewers’ Choice award. The HP50s were reviewed on SoundStage! Xperience in August 2014 by S. Andrea Sundaram, who had also reviewed PSB Speakers’ M4U 2 headphones. PSB’s and NAD’s headphones are both designed by Paul Barton, founder of PSB, which, like NAD, is owned by Lenbrook Industries, of Pickering, Ontario. But the fact that the HP50s didn’t receive a Reviewers’ Choice award didn’t mean that Andrea didn’t think highly of their sound:

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Recommended Reference Component: RBH Sound HP-2 Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentFounded in 2008, Beats by Dr. Dre struck gold by emphasizing the styling of their headphones at least as much as their sound quality. They also promoted their products with a creative marketing strategy that involved using sports stars and celebrities. Their approach made headphones into trendy fashion items, and helped create a frenzied craze for headphones that has proved profitable for Beats and for many other headphone manufacturers. There are far more headphone buyers today than there were when Beats entered the scene. As a result, most of today’s makers of headphones, including those that long predated Beats, are paying more attention to their headphones’ appearance.

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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: HiFiMan Edition X Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentIn November 2015, we added the HiFiMan HE1000 headphones to our list of Recommended Reference Components, based on Brent Butterworth’s extremely positive review in SoundStage! Xperience, published in October 2016. A month later, we further recognized the HE1000s with a 2015 Products of the Year award. At $2999 USD, the HE1000s cost far more than many audiophiles can spend on headphones, but Brent stated in the closing sentences of his review why they’re something special: “I don’t know if the HE1000s are the ultimate headphones. But considering their impeccable sound quality and above-average comfort, I think they’re the closest thing I’ve found.”

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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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