Hegel Music Systems H590 Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceMy relationship with Hegel Music Systems has now spanned six years -- almost all of my admittedly brief reviewing career. While the Norwegian company has been around since 1997, its dramatic uptick in popularity seems to have coincided with my own introduction to the brand in 2012, through their H300 integrated amplifier-DAC ($5500 USD, discontinued). Integrated amplifiers with built-in digital-to-analog converters are now commonplace, but it’s fair to say that in 2012 Hegel was one of the first to make one. At the time, $5500 was no more chump change than it is now -- but cramming a top-shelf DAC, a high-quality preamp, and a 250Wpc (into 8 ohms) amplifier into a minimalist box of standard size (17”W x 4.7”H x 15”D) and including a nice, all-metal remote control was genuinely good value -- so much value that I bought one for myself.

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Pro-Ject Audio Systems Classic SB Turntable

Pro-Ject Audio Systems, of Vienna, Austria, makes a turntable model for everyone. Their lower-priced models range from the Essential ($299 USD) through the Debut Carbon ($449, the model I bought) to the Esprit ($599) and beyond. The features and bundles vary -- claimed improvements in motors, platters, and cartridges account for the rises in price. Visually, however, many of Pro-Ject’s turntables look similar, with 8.6” tonearms (though of varying materials), and glossy, rectangular plinths of MDF, the latter sometimes available in colors other than red, black, and white (as in the Debut). Many models come with the same dustcover.

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Gryphon Audio Designs Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceThe Gryphon. Just say it -- the name rolls regally off the tongue, sounding as mythical as it is. How do you live up to such a name? By producing audio components that look and sound beautiful. Gryphon Audio Designs’ reputation for excellent sound quality had for years been on my radar -- when offered the opportunity to review their Diablo 120 integrated amplifier-DAC ($15,450 USD as reviewed, with DAC option), I couldn’t say no.

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T+A Elektroakustik DAC 8 DSD Digital-to-Analog Converter

Herford, a town in the lowlands of northern Germany, is the home of T+A Elektroakustik. T+A -- aka Theory and Application in the Field of Audio Technology -- is an engineering- and science-based, family-owned and -operated business that has been designing and building audio equipment in Germany since 1978, and collaborates with universities and technical schools in the design of powered speakers and digital signal processing (DSP). Other than the music itself, their current product lines include just about everything required for the reproduction of two-channel audio: turntables, media players, disc players, DACs, amplifiers, integrated amplifiers, loudspeakers, interconnects, speaker cables, power cords, and power strips.

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Muraudio SP1 Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceMy experiences with Muraudio’s new, unconventional, two-way, stand-mounted hybrid loudspeaker, the SP1, began last March in Montreal, where I saw and heard its debut at the Montreal Audio Fest. (A single hybrid speaker has drivers based on different technologies; in the SP1’s case, electrostatic and dynamic.) We covered the SP1 on SoundStage! Global during the show, and I included it in “The Best of Montreal Audio Fest 2018.” In May, impressed by the innovative ideas that had gone into the SP1’s design, I wrote and published “Muraudio’s SP1 Loudspeaker -- Way Outside the Box Again,” and promised a full review of the speaker in June.

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Analysis Plus Silver Apex Speaker Cables and Interconnects

I’ve been using Analysis Plus speaker cables and interconnects in my reference system for many years now, but was a bit shocked when I realized that it had been more than ten years since I’d last reviewed and bought anything from them. In 2007, when I reviewed the newly introduced Black Oval 9 speaker cables and Micro Copper Oval-In interconnects, I noted that Analysis Plus had not substantially revised the designs of any of their cables in the roughly ten years since they’d been introduced. Now, another eleven years later, the bulk of their cable designs remain essentially unchanged. But as I also said in 2007, Analysis Plus has stated that they believe in producing well-built, properly engineered cables whose high quality is “scientifically verifiable” through measurements.

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Monitor Audio Silver 200 Loudspeakers

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

Reading SoundStage! Global’s coverage of the High End 2018 audio exhibition, in Munich, Germany, I was amazed and dismayed at how exclusive so much of it is. High End is the biggest event on the audio calendar, where companies, journalists, and consumers congregate each year to discover the industry’s latest and greatest -- but many of the new products introduced at HE2018 retailed for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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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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