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.

Read more: Recommended Reference Component: PSB SubSeries 450 Subwoofer

Recommended Reference Component: Mola Mola Kaluga Mono Amplifiers

Recommended Reference ComponentBruno Putzeys is one of the brightest, most inventive designers in high-end audio. He’s also one of the most prolific and influential, having left his mark on many companies, whether by helping to found them and design their products, or indirectly through the technologies he’s created.

Read more: Recommended Reference Component: Mola Mola Kaluga Mono Amplifiers

Recommended Reference Component: KEF Blade Two Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentKEF’s Blade Two has earned the nickname “Baby Blade.” Although it has the same shape as the original Blade, the Two is smaller (57.5”H x 13.3”W x 18.7”D vs. the original’s 62.5”H x 14.3”W x 21.2”D, including plinths), as are its woofers (6.5” vs. 9”), and its price is considerably lower ($24,999.99 vs. $31,999.99 USD per pair). However, none of that should be taken to mean that the Blade Two is too small to be taken seriously. When Doug Schneider reviewed the Blade Two for this site in April 2016, he found it to be “a top-drawer transducer as exciting to listen to as it is to look at.”

Read more: Recommended Reference Component: KEF Blade Two Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference Component: Ayre Acoustics AX-5 Twenty Integrated Amplifier

Recommended Reference ComponentWhen, in January 2014, Uday Reddy reviewed Ayre Acoustics’ original AX-5 integrated amplifier for SoundStage! Hi-Fi, he was so taken with it that he said: “as of today, the AX-5 is not only, overall, the finest-sounding amp I’ve ever heard, it ranks as one of the finest components I’ve heard of any type.” Of all the AX-5’s strengths, he most admired how it got out of the way, imposing on the music no colorations of its own -- or, as he said in his review, “This is the best damn integrated I’ve never heard.” This is very high praise, particularly as the AX-5 retailed for just $9950 USD.

Read more: Recommended Reference Component: Ayre Acoustics AX-5 Twenty Integrated Amplifier

Recommended Reference Component: Vivid Audio Oval B1 Decade Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentIn April 2014, we released a SoundStage! InSight video featuring Laurence Dickie, Vivid Audio’s chief designer and one of the company’s two founders. At the beginning of the video, Dickie said that “Vivid Audio is primarily an engineering-led company. We don’t make statements in industrial design, but they are statements in acoustic design.”

That engineering-led approach might surprise those who believe that the oddly shaped cabinets of Vivid loudspeakers look as they do for aesthetic reasons -- Dickie says that those shapes are determined by acoustical considerations. For example, the abundance of curves and the absence of hard exterior edges make possible the smoothest launch of soundwaves from the drivers -- Vivid claims no diffraction problems -- and the nonparallel surfaces of the speakers’ interiors discourage the buildup of standing waves.

Read more: Recommended Reference Component: Vivid Audio Oval B1 Decade Loudspeakers