JE Audio HP20 Phono Stage

With LPs on a seemingly endless comeback streak -- 2017 marks the 12th straight year of sales growth, according to Nielsen SoundScan’s figures, as reported in Billboard -- the demand for vinyl-related gear seems to have concomitantly increased: Turntables abound, with more models at more price points available than ever before. The number of available phono stages seems higher still, in a market well populated by less-well-known, specialty audio firms offering quality hi-fi at less-than-stratospheric prices. Among these is JE Audio.

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Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Reviewers' ChoiceAnthem began as a line of less-expensive audio electronics made by Canadian manufacturer Sonic Frontiers, which in the 1990s was known for its tubed components. In 1998, Sonic Frontiers was acquired by loudspeaker manufacturer Paradigm, and in the years since has built a strong reputation primarily based on their solid-state power amplifiers and their AVM and D series of audio/video processors, and eventually the Sonic Frontiers name was replaced with Anthem. While there have been a few Anthem stereo components over the years -- e.g., the budget-oriented TLP preamplifier, Integrated 225 integrated amplifier, the formidable P2 power amplifier (still in production), and, of course, their original tubed components, I would say that Anthem has never been considered much of a player in the high-end stereo market.

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Paradigm Prestige 15B Loudspeakers

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

Paradigm’s Prestige series is near the center of the Canadian company’s wide range of loudspeaker lines, slotted between the Persona models and the new Premier series. In Paradigm’s model-naming system, B stands for bookshelf: The Prestige 15B costs $799 USD each, while the Persona B goes for $3500 each, and the Premier 200B for $599 each.

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Simaudio Moon 240i Integrated Amplifier-DAC

In 2007, I reviewed Bryston’s B100 SST integrated amplifier. In its base configuration it was simply an integrated amplifier, but it could be outfitted with an onboard digital-to-analog converter and moving-magnet phono stage. At the time, it was easily the best-sounding amplification I’d ever heard, and I admired the fact that with the optional DAC and phono stage it could perform so many functions without the additional cables and space that separates would require. When I finished university and started working, I saved my money, and about a year later purchased a fully equipped B100 SST.

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Shunyata Research Denali D6000/S Power Distributor

Power-line products such as Shunyata Research’s Denali D6000/S distributor pose a conundrum for me. On the one hand, I know from experience that having clean power at the proper voltage makes a difference. I learned this when I lived on the top floor of a 21-story high-rise, where power fluctuations and noise-related problems were really bad. An ExactPower EP15A power regenerator, which I reviewed and purchased in 2003, did a bang-up job of clearing up those problems -- whatever I plugged into it sounded better than when I plugged it directly into the wall outlets.

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Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeakers

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

Man, what a run.

I first read about Totem Acoustic’s Model 1 loudspeaker in a 1988 issue of Andrew Marshall’s Audio Ideas Guide. “That sounds like a cool speaker!” I remember thinking. Sure enough, I ended up with a pair about seven years later. The Model 1 was my first real audiophile speaker, and it began an obsession with audio, and a journey that led me on the path to becoming a writer for the SoundStage! Network. (I also still have that issue of AIG, stored in the under-sink cabinet of my upstairs bathroom.)

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Constellation Audio Revelation Pictor Preamplifier and Optional DC Filter

Reviewers' ChoiceLast fall, Murali Murugasu talked with me about the birth of his company, Constellation Audio, which he cofounded with David Payes in 2010. “We knew that to succeed, we would need to bring something new and special to the marketplace,” he said. Yet if you take a quick look at Constellation’s Revelation Taurus Mono power amplifiers ($39,000 USD/pair), and the Revelation Pictor preamplifier ($18,000) with optional DC filter ($5000) reviewed here, you might wonder how that could possibly be true -- from the outside, they look like typical audio separates.

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Schiit Audio Yggdrasil Digital-to-Analog Converter with Analog 2 Upgrade

Reviewers' ChoiceSchiit Audio was founded in 2010 by two audio veterans: Jason Stoddard, formerly of Sumo, and Mike Moffat, formerly of Theta Digital. In the 1980s, Theta was one of high-end digital’s pioneers, and Moffat was behind all of their designs. All of Schiit’s equipment is manufactured in Valencia, California, using parts mostly sourced from the US. They also have a retail shop, The Schiitr, in Newhall, California, where the public can drop in to see and hear their gear. The jokes and puns on Schiit.com aside (read it, it’s hilarious), these guys take their audio seriously.

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PS Audio Stellar M700 Mono Power Amplifiers

Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceThese days, when people think of PS Audio, they think of their power products and their digital models, particularly the highly regarded DirectStream DACs. A couple of years ago, PS Audio introduced their BHK line of preamplifiers and power amplifiers designed by and named for engineer Bascom H. King, of BHK Labs, who also measures amplifiers for the SoundStage! Network. By all accounts the BHKs are great products, and range in price from $5999 USD (BHK Signature preamplifier) to $14,998 (for two BHK Signature 300 mono power amps). While not low, these prices seem fair for statement-level products, and audiophiles will be interested to know that the final voicing of the BHK Signature models was performed by King, McGowan, and the late Arnie Nudell.

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Parasound Halo JC 3 Jr. Phono Stage

Reviewers' ChoiceMy experience with Parasound goes back 20 years. As a young, wide-eyed audiophile working the sales floor of a hi-fi shop, I’d often recommend Parasound to customers looking for high-value, high-performance gear that could compete with the very best out there. For the vinylheads who didn’t already know it, I’d talk about Parasound’s relationship with John Curl, one of the bright lights of analog in those dark days for vinyl. I’d mention that he designed some of the most acclaimed solid-state circuits around, such as for the Mark Levinson JC-2 preamp and the legendary Vendetta Research SCP-2 phono stage, and how great it was that Parasound made owning Curl-designed gear a more affordable proposition.

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