Dutch & Dutch 8c Active Loudspeakers

Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceWhen Doug Schneider asked me to review the 8c active loudspeaker from Dutch & Dutch, my first reaction was: “Dutch and what?”

I looked up the 8c on Dutch & Dutch’s website, and the description was intriguing: a speaker with built-in preamp and power amp, subwoofer, DAC, digital volume control, IP control, and advanced digital signal processing, all in a package that fits on a pair of minimonitor stands and costs $13,000 USD per pair. The 8c’s home page states: “Accurate. Adaptive. All-in-one.”

My response to Doug was enthusiastic: “Yes, please -- I’d love to review this product.”

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TEAC Reference NR-7CD Network CD Player and Integrated Amplifier-DAC

The Tokyo Electro Acoustic Company (TEAC), one of the older hi-fi brands around, was founded in 1953 by brothers Katsuma and Tomoma Tani. The company’s subbrands include TASCAM, which manufactures professional audio gear; Esoteric, which makes ultra-high-end products; and TEAC Consumer Electronics, or TEAC for short. In 2013, guitar maker Gibson acquired a majority stake in TEAC, which has over 1000 employees. While TEAC has been well regarded by audiophiles for its analog and digital sources since the 1970s and 1980s, the company's recent offerings, such as its Reference series, have focused on small, integrated electronics.

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Simaudio Moon 390 Preamplifier-DAC-Network Player

Simaudio, or Moon by Simaudio as they prefer to be called -- or just Moon -- was founded in 1980 in St-Hubert, Québec. As a proud Canadian, I’ve long admired their products but had never had the opportunity to use one in my system. And ever since I recently became engrossed in HBO’s dramatic series Sharp Objects, in almost every episode of which a full stack of topflight Moon electronics is prominently displayed, I’ve had Moon on the brain.

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Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 Loudspeakers

Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

I remember the moment I was first exposed to -- and instantly hooked on -- the experience of high-quality sound reproduction. Still in high school, I heard a pair of lowly Bowers & Wilkins bookshelf speakers, the 201s. I then bought a pair of them, with money I’d saved from my part-time job. Ever since -- some 25 years now -- I’ve been an owner and fan of B&W speakers, from those original 201s through the 202, 610, 630, 640, Matrix 805, Matrix 804, Matrix 803, Matrix 802 S3, and 803D (first generation). After the 803Ds came a divorce, immediately followed by a period of imposed fiscal restraint during which I had to sell the 803Ds and a Bryston 4BST amp, and which has (temporarily) led me to my current speakers, SVS’s Ultra Towers ($2000 USD per pair).

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Parasound Halo JC 5 Stereo/Mono Amplifier

Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceLike its designer, John Curl, the recently discontinued Parasound Halo JC 1 mono amplifier is something of a legend. Introduced in 2003, the JC 1 was still considered one of the best values in a high-end, solid-state power amplifier when the last production unit rolled off the line in 2018, at $4495 USD each. Since the introduction of the JC 1, Curl has designed many other highly regarded amplifiers and preamplifiers for Parasound, including the less expensive Halo A 1 series of power amplifiers, of which I reviewed the three-channel Halo A 31. I loved its big, rich sound -- and with the stereo version, the A 21+ ($3150), the A 1 series has received universal acclaim for providing exceptional performance at real-world prices.

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Boulder Amplifiers 508 Phono Stage

When I started out in audio, hi-fi gear from Boulder Amplifiers always seemed like so much mythical unobtanium to this perennially cash-strapped, wide-eyed teen. It wasn’t just the five-figure prices that put their gear out of my reach: No dealers in my neck of the woods carried the line, thereby making auditioning impossible. Still, neither of those high hurdles kept me from salivating over Boulder’s visually arresting, no-compromise wares, including its now legendary, dual-chassis, model 2008 phono preamplifier, which, on its debut almost 20 years ago, sold for the almost unheard-of sum of $29,000 USD.

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T+A Elektroakustik MP 8 Multi Source Player

T+A Elektroakustik has applied scientific rigor to its formulation of audio equipment since the company was founded in 1978, in Herford, Germany. The 40-year-old, family-owned business designs and manufactures all of their equipment locally and ships worldwide. T+A’s product lines span nearly all aspects of the audio reproduction chain, from wall outlet to the listener’s ears. Their Series 8 range includes the MP 8 Multi Source Player ($4750 USD), the DAC 8 DSD digital-to-analog converter ($4450), and the AMP 8 amplifier ($3150).

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EMM Labs MTRX2 Mono Amplifiers

Reviewers' ChoiceFirst, the elephant in the room: EMM Labs’ MTRX2 mono amplifier sells for $85,000 USD per pair. What’s more, it’s the baby elephant of the two power amps EMM makes -- the MTRX Reference costs $130,000/pair. Those prices are so high that, for the vast majority of audiophiles, including me, these amps are impossible to buy new.

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Cambridge Audio CXN (V2) Network Streamer

Call them network players, music servers, or, as London-based Cambridge Audio does, network streamers -- these devices have become an almost essential source in home audio systems, whether as a separate box or integrated into another component, particularly integrated amplifiers and CD players. In the last few years I’ve bought far more music as files than as spinning discs, and I don’t think I’m alone -- with the likes of Spotify, Tidal, and Primephonic, streaming services are becoming ever more important. All we need are elegant and effective ways to integrate these services into home audio, and having a computer in the listening room is less than ideal.

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Bryston Middle T Active Loudspeaker System

Around five years ago, established Canadian electronics manufacturer Bryston began making loudspeakers. This began as a pet project of James Tanner, VP of Sales and Marketing, who wanted a reference speaker for his own use. To achieve the level of performance he desired, the speaker developed was a fully active design. The performance of that speaker was so good that Bryston decided to bring it to market. However, because of the complexity and added cost of active speakers, they decided to first offer it as a passive model. Now that Bryston has been producing their full range of loudspeakers for a while, they’ve introduced fully active versions of their top models, the T series.

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