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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Yamaha A-S3200 Integrated Amplifier

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

Though now perhaps best known for their motorcycles and other vehicles produced by their Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd. division, the Yamaha Corporation has a long, rich musical history—the logo of even the Yamaha Motor Co. is still a trio of crossed tuning forks. Founded as Nippon Gakki in the late 19th century, the Yamaha Corporation began as a maker of pianos, and has since become the world’s biggest manufacturer of pianos and other musical instruments. Yamaha has made audio equipment since the 1920s, and what many would consider high-fidelity audio components since the 1950s.

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Kinki Studio EX-M1+ Integrated Amplifier

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

I’ve reviewed a slew of exceptional integrated amplifiers in the last few years, from the likes of such well-known companies as Anthem, Cambridge Audio, Hegel Music Systems, Lyngdorf Audio, NAD, and Naim Audio. But this latest integrated to arrive is made by Kinki Studio, a Chinese company I’d never heard of. I didn’t know what to expect when Jeff Fritz contacted me about reviewing the EX-M1+, but what Kinki themselves say about it on their website made it seem at least promising. Later, when we posted a picture of the EX-M1+ on the SoundStage! Network’s Instagram feed, I was surprised by how many likes and positive comments it got from those familiar with it.

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Musical Fidelity M8xi Integrated Amplifier-DAC

A couple years ago, Musical Fidelity was bought by Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH of Austria, which is owned by Heinz Lichtenegger, a cordial and respected industry veteran who founded and is CEO of Pro-Ject Audio Systems. At the time, a news release stated, “The future vision for Musical Fidelity is to grow with new products and push into new markets, while still retaining the sound quality, reliability and striking industrial design that helped make the brand such an influential part in the annals of hi-fi history.”

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KEF LS50 Meta Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceKEF’s new LS50 Meta loudspeaker was released in October and sells for $1499.99/pair -- the same price the LS50, which it replaces, sold for in 2012. (All prices USD.) I was in Munich that May, at High End 2012, when the LS50 was announced; I reviewed the speaker in April 2013, and I’ve owned a pair ever since.

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Vimberg Amea Loudspeakers

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

Vimberg, founded in 2018, is a brand of Tidal Audio GmbH, a German company founded two decades ago. Vimberg was created to offer loudspeakers that share the Tidal DNA, but not the Tidal models’ very high prices. The Vimberg website explains their relationship with Tidal: their speakers are made by “the same people with the same engineering skills, the same ‘we care’ attitude and all is being designed and built under the same roof.”

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Raven Audio Avian Nighthawk MK3 Integrated Amplifier

Reviewers' ChoiceRaven Audio has been in business for some time, but had completely escaped my awareness until early 2019, when the SoundStage! editors hipped me to them. The Texas-based manufacturer (they have an office in Shreveport, Louisiana) sells all its products direct to the consumer with a one-year trade-up policy, a three-year warranty, and 45 days of free in-home trial. As a former engineer for a consumer-direct loudspeaker company, I’m familiar with both the value proposition and the challenges inherent in this business model.

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Monitor Audio Gold 200 Loudspeakers

In my years as an audiophile, I’ve encountered a few products that have left indelible marks on my memory because they offered something I’d never heard before. One such experience that stands out is the night I unboxed a Bryston B100 SST integrated amplifier and played Tori Amos’s Boys for Pele through it. From the first notes of her concert grand piano, I realized that while my NAD C 372 integrated was pretty good, the Bryston sounded much better -- even before I’d engaged its onboard DAC, which further improved its sound quality. I also remember the first time I heard a pair of Amphion’s Argon3 speakers. I was amazed that such clarity could be accompanied by so much warm bass.

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NAD Masters M33 Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Reviewers' ChoiceNAD’s Masters M33 integrated amplifier-DAC, announced last January in Las Vegas at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show, is the first commercially available product to implement NAD’s Hybrid Digital Purifi Eigentakt technology. This consists of Purifi Audio’s 1ET400A monaural, class-D power-amplifier technology, about which SoundStage! Network founder and publisher Doug Schneider wrote in June. Purifi Audio, founded in Denmark by entrepreneur Peter Lyngdorf and electronics designers Bruno Putzeys and Lars Risbo, was at first devoted to pure research. Later, after it had become a commercial enterprise, Purifi sent Doug an “engineering evaluation” version of the first Eigentakt amp. This comprised two 1ET400A modules, a Purifi-designed gain board, and a Hypex power supply, all housed in a DIY-style case. Doug was enthusiastic: “I was bowled over by the Purifi Eigentakt’s sound and operation. It turned on silently, made almost no noise, provided more than enough power while generating hardly any heat, and passed music through so transparently, at volume levels from low to high, that it left me in near disbelief that so small a box could accomplish so much.”

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Naim Audio Supernait 3 Integrated Amplifier

In January 2014, in Las Vegas, I saw and heard Naim’s Statement NAC S1 preamplifier and NAP S1 power amplifier at the Consumer Electronics Show. I was blown away by their sound quality, visual design, and construction, all of which were breathtaking -- even at a total price of $200,000 (all prices USD). Together, the NAC S1 and NAP S1 make a large, unique-looking, floorstanding amplification tower with gorgeously curved side-panel heatsinks. They looked totally unlike any other Naim product I’d seen, and their build quality, visible in a caseless display sample was extreme and uncompromising. Their sound quality was equally impressive. Even under difficult show conditions, they drove a pair of Focal’s very large Stella Utopia floorstanding speakers to great effect.

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