Recommended Reference Component: Klipsch Heritage HP-3 Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentIn his review of the Klipsch Heritage HP-3 headphones ($1199 USD), published in March 2018 on SoundStage! Xperience, Brent Butterworth wrote that “The Heritage HP-3s are Klipsch’s best headphones ever, and serious competitors for any headphones in the $1000-$1600 range,” and that they look “like something Paul Klipsch himself might have designed back in the 1950s.”

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Recommended Reference Component: KEF Q750 Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentUntil now, the lowest-priced floorstanding speaker in our list of Recommended Reference Components was the KEF R500 ($2599.98 USD/pair), reviewed in August 2012, and added to the list the following month. Hans Wetzel’s review of the KEF Q750 loudspeaker ($1499.98/pair), published in February 2018 on SoundStage! Access, changes that. In his review, Hans wrote of the Q750: “It’s one of the most neutral transducers I’ve ever heard, and for the money offers staggeringly transparent sound.” The Q750 is the middle of three floorstanding models in KEF’s newest range, the Q Series, now in its eighth generation -- above it is the larger Q950 ($1799.98/pair), below it the smaller Q550 ($1099.98/pair).

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Recommended Reference Component: Magico S1 Mk.II Loudspeakers

Recommended Reference ComponentWith a slender cabinet measuring 43”H x 9.8”W x 8.5”D and made entirely of aluminum, and a price per pair ranging from $16,500 (in standard M-Cast finish) to $20,295 USD (in painted M-Coat), Magico’s S1 Mk.II is very expensive for a two-way loudspeaker, even if it doesn’t need stands. But the S1 Mk.II wasn’t designed to be affordable, or even to look good, despite the high quality of its materials and finishes. In Hans Wetzel’s review of the S1 Mk.II for this site in June 2016, he wrote: “In any usual sense, the S1 is not beautiful. . . . For [Magico founder Alon] Wolf, flourishes of design and creative expression solely for the sake of appearance are ultimately at odds with an audio device’s intended purpose. . . . the S1 Mk.II is a tool designed for one thing: the delivery of brutal, uninhibited musical candor.”

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Recommended Reference Component: Acoustic Research AR-H1 Headphones

Recommended Reference ComponentThe Acoustic Research name is a legend in hi-fi circles. As Brent Butterworth pointed out in his January 2018 review of the AR-H1 headphones ($599.99 USD) on SoundStage! Xperience, “Audiophiles know AR as the pioneer of the acoustic-suspension loudspeaker, in 1952.” That’s a big deal. Today, however, AR’s name lacks cachet among audiophiles, as Brent pointed out: “[F]or the last 15 years or so the AR brand has been applied mostly to accessories, such as inexpensive cables and Bluetooth speakers.” He never expected to see from AR headphones of such high sound quality as the AR-H1s.

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Recommended Reference Component: EMM Labs DA2 Reference Digital-to-Analog Converter

Recommended Reference ComponentAlthough EMM Labs was founded only in 2007, chief designer Ed Meitner has been designing audio electronics of all types for more than 40 years. When he was part of Museatex, in the late 1980s and early ’90s, he even designed a turntable -- the platterless AT-2. Yet despite the breadth of his design work, Meitner is best known to audiophiles for his cutting-edge work in digital playback, which began in the 1980s with the development of Meitner Audio’s CD-3, and continues today at EMM Labs. The culmination of his work to date is the DA2 Reference DAC, EMM’s flagship, filled with bespoke Meitner technologies and parts developed over the years, and priced at $25,000 USD. Doug Schneider reviewed the DA2 Reference for this site in July.

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