Cambridge Audio Edge A Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Reviewers' ChoiceCambridge Audio’s first product, designed by Professor Gordon Edge in 1968, was the P40 integrated amplifier, which Cambridge claims was the first amplifier ever to use a toroidal (i.e., donut-shaped) transformer. While continuing to make amplifiers, Cambridge has come a long way in the half-century since then, producing CD players, D/A converters, surround-sound receivers, loudspeakers, and, more recently, network streaming devices and a 4K UHD universal BD player. They also make turntables, moving-coil phono cartridges, and phono preamps. Many of their products list for well under $1000 USD, and have earned Cambridge a reputation for providing extremely high value.

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Paradigm Premier 800F Loudspeakers

Reviewers' ChoiceAfter many years of producing, basically, the same few lines of loudspeakers, Paradigm recently revamped almost its entire range of hi-fi speaker models. Except for the Atom, the naming convention used for the new Monitor SE series is entirely different from that of the previous line, and comprises fewer models -- and completely gone are the venerable Studio and Signature lines, now replaced by the intermediately priced Prestige line. Of course, change can be good -- built into Paradigm’s tour-de-force model, the Persona 9H, is a powered subwoofer as well as Anthem Room Correction; the 9H and other Persona models offer state-of-the-art performance at prices that are reasonable by high-end standards. I was a bit disappointed to see the costlier but still high-value Studio and Signature lines retired, but the new designs, including the budget Monitor SE series, incorporate many cutting-edge technologies trickled down from their top models.

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Klipsch Reference R-820F Loudspeakers

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

In over 20 years of writing for the SoundStage! Network websites, I can’t recall our ever having reviewed a Klipsch loudspeaker (we may have -- my memory isn’t what it used to be), unless you count the Heritage Wireless Three, recently reviewed at SoundStage! Simplifi, or the headphone models reviewed on SoundStage! Solo. This is surprising, considering Klipsch’s long, rich history and excellent reputation in high-end audio circles, and their success in the budget market.

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Focal Spectral 40th Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceI’ve long been intrigued by Focal loudspeakers, but while I’d heard them at audio shows, I’d never had a pair in my listening room. My curiosity is always piqued by a speaker maker that manages to produce what is arguably one of the finest speakers in the world, the Grande Utopia EM Evo ($229,000 USD per pair), as well as models that most audio enthusiasts can afford -- not to mention Focal’s lines of headphones, and professional and car-audio products.

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KEF R11 Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceI first heard KEF’s R Series R11 speakers, however briefly, when reporting on the Montréal Audio Fest for SoundStage! Access. Show demos being inconsistent at best, I wasn’t sure what to make of the R11s, which sounded a bit bright. Then again, the exhibitor was playing them way too loud -- I wondered what they’d sound like in my own listening room.

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Revel PerformaBe M126Be Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceNearly four years ago, I reviewed Revel’s Performa3 M106 minimonitor ($2000 USD per pair). I was impressed by its nicely balanced, well-controlled, squeaky-clean sound -- traits it shared with every other Revel speaker I’ve heard. More recently, someone at Revel had the idea of putting this model and its bigger brother, the floorstanding Performa3 F208, on steroids. Every component part was redesigned, the prices were doubled, and they were made the first and, so far, only members of a new Revel line, PerformaBe. The results began shipping last year: the PerformaBe M126Be minimonitor ($4000/pair) and the PerformaBe F228Be floorstander ($10,000/pair). When Doug Schneider asked if I wanted to review the M126Be, I acceded to his request without hesitation.

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Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ DAC-Preamplifier-Headphone Amplifier

In the late 1980s and early ’90s, Michal Jurewicz worked as a technical engineer at the Hit Factory and at Skyline Recording Studios, which were then two of New York City’s major studios (Skyline closed in 2012). During his time there, Jurewicz, a native of Warsaw, Poland, saw a need for high-quality digital conversion in the recording of music, and in 1992 established Mytek to design and build the required hardware. Early designs of his were used to record albums by David Bowie, Mariah Carey, Lou Reed, and others. Mytek is based in Brooklyn, New York; with Jurewicz as lead designer, it continues to serve the professional recording industry, and since 2011 has also catered to the consumer hi-fi market.

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AudioSolutions Figaro B Loudspeakers

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

AudioSolutions, a small Lithuanian speaker maker I’d never heard of, was founded in 2011 by Gediminas Gaidelis, who still owns it. Other than that, their website is short on backstory, long on intrigue. On the homepage, the reader is greeted with this: “Development of these fine speakers is a true challenge. We combine laws of physics with design, manufacturing stability and customers’ needs to make perfect speakers. Every smallest part is hand crafted and inspected for any flaws.” From this, it appears that all design and manufacturing are done in house. Very nice. Then: “Years of hard work and research are hidden behind this revealing short name -- not only in the realm of achieving ideal sonic abilities, but also in practical realization of pioneering ideas. AudioSolutions steps firmly into High-End territory.” Intrigued, I took a peek at the images of AudioSolutions loudspeakers. Beautiful! But would they sound as good as they looked?

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Q Acoustics 3020i Loudspeakers

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

A year ago in Munich, when I visited the exhibit room of UK speaker maker Q Acoustics at High End 2018, I knew little about them. However, former SoundStage! Simplifi writer Al Griffin was familiar with their reputation for making high-value, budget-friendly speakers, and wanted to see what they had to offer. They were displaying their Concept 500 floorstander ($5999.99 USD per pair), but what really caught our attention was their new 3000i series, which begins at $249.99/pair for the smallest minimonitor, and ends with a $799.99/pair floorstander that looks a lot like the Concept 500. That speaker was the floorstanding 3050i, which sounded extremely promising, with a captivating, smooth, and coherent sound throughout the audioband. I was so impressed that, when offered a chance to review the 3020i minimonitor ($299.99/pair), I jumped.

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Focal Kanta No1 Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceThrough no fault of the speaker or its manufacturer -- last year, shortly after Focal announced the launch of the Kanta No1, they sent me samples -- I wasn’t able to review it as soon as I’d hoped to. Other things got in the way. Better later than never, you might say, but really, it’s too bad -- when at last I got to seriously listen to the Kanta No1s, I wished I could have gotten out the word on them long before this.

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