Rotel RA-1572MKII Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

Rotel was founded in 1957 as an original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) of audio components, but has been making high-value audio gear under its own brand since 1961. Other than NAD and Cambridge Audio, I can’t think of another company with a similarly long history or reputation, or as wide a range of entry-level and mid-priced models. So this longtime admirer of Rotel’s excellent budget gear was thrilled when a review sample of their RA-1572MKII integrated amplifier-DAC recently appeared at my door.

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iFi Audio iPhono3 Black Label Phono Stage

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceIt’s rare that I begin a review by confessing a personal bias, especially one directly relevant to the component I’m about to describe. Here goes.

I like big components—large, heavy ones, preferably in flashy cases with chunky faceplates and lots of heatsinks. And if the component bristles with tubes, odds are I’ll like it more. I guess part of my desire for big, ostentatious audio gear is the pleasure I take in building up a big, aesthetically pleasing system at the front of my listening room, right between my speakers. I’ve got a big, heavy audio rack, so I guess it’s reasonable for me to fill it with boxes to match. At least that’s what I tell myself.

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Focal Aria K2 936 Loudspeakers

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

After evaluating KEF’s diminutive LS50 Meta stand-mounted loudspeaker ($1499.99/pair, all prices USD), I wasn’t keen to raise my hand to review Focal’s far bigger and heavier Aria K2 936 floorstander ($5990). I knew they’d be a pain to schlep up to my third-floor listening room. I guess the little KEFs had made me a bit soft.

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Karan Acoustics Master Collection LINEb Preamplifier

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceEach of the websites that currently comprise the SoundStage! Network is devoted to a specific type of audio gear. SoundStage! Access covers home-theater and affordable two-channel hi-fi products, while SoundStage! Ultra is exclusive to two-channel hi-fi products, usually the esoteric and often the expensive; SoundStage! Simplifi focuses on convenience and lifestyle audio products of any price, and SoundStage! Solo reports only on headphones, earphones, and accessories; and so on.

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Bowers & Wilkins 705 Signature Loudspeakers

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

I have many fond memories of listening to loudspeakers from Bowers & Wilkins, and over the years have owned several pairs of B&W speakers—including the very first product I reviewed for the SoundStage! Network, the 705 S2 two-way standmount ($2999.99/pair, all prices USD), B&W’s smallest tweeter-on-top model.

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NAD C 298 Stereo/Mono Amplifier

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

Reviewers' ChoicePerched atop my ladder outside on a gorgeous fall Saturday, working through our home-improvement list—my favorite COVID-lockdown activity—I was excited to receive this message from the SoundStage! Network’s founder, Doug Schneider: “Your first review product is in—the new NAD C 298 power amp.”

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Aurelia XO Cerica XL Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceI traveled 4298 miles to discover Aurelia speakers, and in that first encounter, at the 2018 Warsaw Audio Video Show, I didn’t realize what I was hearing. Even at the best of times, the listening conditions at audio shows are terrible, and this wasn’t the best of times: the multitudes of attendees made it almost impossible to hear what was going on, and we had to keep to an insane go-go-go pace to cover the show for SoundStage! Global.

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Pro-Ject Audio Systems T1 Phono SB Turntable

Some audio gear is easy to write about. Other stuff requires more effort. I’m not talking about describing a component’s sound, but about describing the process of setting it up and evaluating its features. I find writing about loudspeakers relatively straightforward—the most important thing is to set them up correctly, a task made far simpler when you know your listening room well. I also find it easier to hear differences between two pairs of speakers than between, say, two good integrated amplifiers. Reviewing something like Anthem’s STR Preamplifier is even more challenging because it has so many features and functions, all or most of which should be evaluated if the aim is to write a comprehensive review.

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MayFly Audio Systems MF-201A Loudspeakers

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

MayFly Audio Systems was founded in 2020 by Trevor May, an engineer and musician who had begun his research and prototype development two years earlier. May lives and operates MayFly out of Ottawa, Canada, the city I live in—in fact, he lives on the street I grew up on. That made for quick, easy deliveries.

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Hegel Music Systems V10 Phono Stage

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio Electronics Lab, click this link.

Have you ever looked closely at the coils of a moving-coil cartridge? If you have a jeweler’s loupe and a cartridge with a relatively open body, it’s worth exploring this tiny, elegant universe. The coils themselves are so small that it seems impossible they could be made by hand, or mounted inside a cartridge, or that they can work at all.

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