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October 2020
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Legendary Performance Awards 2020  --  Enjoy the Music.com Celebrates Our 25th Aniiversary

Legendary Performance Awards 2020
Enjoy the Music.com celebrates our 25th Anniversary reviewing high-end audio gear.

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Enjoy the Music.com Legendary Performance Awards 2020

 

  Enjoy the Music.com's Legendary Performance Awards 2020 celebrates the incredible achievements by high-end audio manufacturers since we've been reviewing gear for over the past two decades. Unlike our annual Blue Note Awards, Enjoy the Music.com's Legendary Performance Awards is a once every 25-year event, so you know it is something very special indeed! We tasked our extensive staff in choosing products they felt earned an extra-special mention, which in turn shows the greatness of these legendary pieces of high-end audio equipment. Unlike our annual Blue Note Awards, there were no time constraints to earn this 'no-holds-barred' award.

 

Legendary Performance Awards 2020     Legendary Performance Awards 2020

 

While some pieces of gear may have been superseded, the point is to bring extra attention to the 'theme' of each piece by many impressive hi-fi manufacturers. Furthermore, some pieces of gear are not only no longer made, some of the companies may no longer be in business(!). As an example, an original 47 Labs Gaincard amplifier with a pair of Power Humpty power supplies may be hard to source, yet there's no doubt it brought about clones and a plethora of other types of designs that helped change and shape the audiophile landscape. Odds are some of the picks below may be a bit controversial, and so I look forward to your thoughts within our Facebook and Instagram social media pages.

 

Legendary Performance Awards 2020

 

Recipients have been carefully chosen after much debate and consideration by our staff of reviewers. With each passing year, our industry has experienced great advancements in technology including analog circuitry, vinyl LP and analog tape playback, digital-to-analog converters (DACs), headphones, loudspeaker design, plus of course portable media players, computer software, and streaming media. While there are many great pieces of high fidelity audio equipment now available within the marketplace, Enjoy the Music.com's Legendary Performance Awards 2020 brings a special focus to products that have earned extra special attention.

 

Legendary Performance Awards 2020

 

With that said, our longstanding staff here at Enjoy the Music.com, with hundreds of years in combined expertise, now presents to you our choices for Legendary Performance Awards 2020 as seen below.

 

 

Model 4706 Gaincard Review

47 Labs 4706 Gaincard And 4700 Power Humpty
Everything you know is wrong... or... I was fooled by mainstream audio gurus.
Review By Steven R. Rochlin
Most of us have heard this before. Class A amplifiers are the best for music reproduction. Or how about single-ended tubes sound good because of all that second harmonic distortion. Oh, then there is the one about how speakers must be placed in cabinets so solid a nuclear warhead can not destroy 'em. Wait, i got another one. All amplifiers sound the same (said the newsgroup Borgs). Resistance is futile! Of course the best amplifiers are those newfangled 1.21 jigawatt high efficiency Class D digital amplifiers, right? Did i forget to mention that with amplifiers that bigger the better?
---> Read our 47 Labs 4706 Gaincard and 4700 Power Humpty review.

 

 

Analogue Artisan A1 Series Turntable With Remote Control VTA/SRA Mongoose Tonearm And Pod Review

Analogue Artisan A1 Series Turntable
With Remote Control VTA/SRA Mongoose Tonearm & Pod
Truly reference sound quality with astonishingly low distortion.
Review By Tom Lyle
Brian Calaio, the owner and chief engineer of Analogue Artisan and I have two things in common. The first is our love of music; the second is that we both believe that once a high-end audio system gets to a certain level of refinement, everything contributes to the sound of the system. The problem is that if the manufacturer of a component believes that everything makes a difference, and designs equipment with that maxim in mind with no regards for price, things can get a bit hairy, that is, very expensive. Case in point is the subject of this review, the A1 series turntable and tonearm set-up (and their A1 isn't even Analogue Artisan's top-of-the-line model!).
---> Read our Analogue Artisan A1 Series turntable with remote control VTA/SRA Mongoose Tonearm & Pod review.

 

 

Audience ClairAudient 1+1 V2+ Personal Reference Monitor Review

Audience ClairAudient 1+1 V2+ Personal Reference Monitor
Engaging, with faithful timbre, harmonics and dynamically expressive.
Review By Greg Weaver
The ClairAudient 1+1, and its newer V2 version, the subject of this work, is an extraordinarily compact and extremely high-performance mini-monitor. Their uniquely truncated, multi-faceted, beveled trapezoidal shape, is just 8" high, 9.75" deep, and a scant 6" wide. Weighing well under eight pounds apiece, each speaker employ's a pair of Audience A3S active drivers in a bipolar configuration, one centrally located on both the front and back black baffles. They further employ a pair of slightly larger passive radiators, with one centered on each of the beautiful rosewood-grain finished side baffles. The result is a striking crossoverless point source design that is deceptively unassuming.
---> Read our Audience ClairAudient 1+1 V2+ review.

 

 

Audience Forte V8 Power And forte f3 Power Chord Review

Audience Forte V8 Power And forte f3 Power Chord
Clean power at an affordable price.
Review By Dr. Jules Coleman
There is no doubt that the quality of electrical power is a limiting factor in the performance of an audio system. I learned this lesson the hard way. In the mid to late 1970s, while living in Milwaukee, I had put together what at the time was a high-end system featuring an early version of the Magnepan Tympani loudspeakers, a Connoisseur Turntable with a Formula 4 arm and a Decca Plum cartridge. Between the TT and speakers, I employed as many different high powered amplifiers as I could get my hands on. Fortunately, I had a connection at Koss (a Milwaukee based company) and access to several amplifiers that were used in-house in the development of their electrostatic speakers.
---> Read our Audience Forte V8 Power and forte f3 Power Chord review.

 

 

The audiodharma CABLE COOKER Pro Version 2.5 Review

audiodharma CABLE COOKER Pro V2.5
Every parameter is materially improved by burning in system cables.
Review By Wayne Donnelly
I don't know about other reviewers, but doing audio cable reviews has always ranked somewhere above sucking face with a grizzly bear on my list of things to avoid. When do you know the cables are sounding their best? It's pretty clear (unless you are one of those self-appointed iconoclasts proclaiming "break-in is a myth") that most wires with no playing time tend to sound edgy, dynamically and spatially constricted, and relatively monochromatic. But how much break-in does a loudspeaker cable or interconnect or power cable need? Can you overdo it? Does break-in last?
---> Read our audiodharma CABLE COOKER Pro V2.5 review.

 

 

Audio Note UK Ongaku Single-Ended Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Review

Audio Note UK Ongaku Integrated Amplifier
A very temping aural pleasure.
Review By Steven R. Rochlin
Ah yes, the legendary Audio Note Ongaku. Many audiophiles around the world, rightly, consider it one of the 'Holy Grails' of audio... and for good reason! Here is the legend of handcraftsmanship, many pounds of hand wound silver transformers and a generous sprinkling of exotic parts all wrapped into a single chassis. Adding to the allure is that it is a single-ended triode integrated amplifier and uses the powerful VT4C/211 output tube. Of course rectification is also via tube, naturally. Over 15 year ago the Japanese version by Kondo-san graced my home for years as i was the only reviewer to put his money where his mouth is (was?) concerning the excellence of this design.
---> Read our Audio Note UK Ongaku Integrated Amplifier review.

 

 

Ayon Audio Triton Integrated Tube Amplifier Review

Ayon Audio Triton Integrated Tube Amplifier
The Triton most certainly knows how to sing in my system.
Review By Ron Nagle

Love at first sight that may be right but what a sight to see. Domes mirrored with chrome on a satin black base and glass glowing a warm red. Even sitting idle on a side table I was drawn by the Triton. Insinuated by sleek lines and shear mass there was a powerful promise and a no nonsense aura about it. By my measure it was just plain sexy as anything audio could be. Clearly it was a case of lust, at the very least it would take another audiophile to understand my reaction. Most certainly it's all about music but we must ask has Ayon Audio combined the visual and the aural esthetic into a single harmonious whole?
---> Read our Ayon Audio Triton int. tube amp review.

 

 

Benchmark Media AHB2 Stereo Power Amplifier

Benchmark Media AHB2 Stereo Amplifier
This little unit will change the way you look and listen to amplifiers.
Review And Images By Greg Weaver
My first taste of this remarkable new amplifier came earlier this year in April at Chicago's AXPONA where I discovered it driving a newly redesigned Studio Electric Pasadena loudspeaker, also bearing the Benchmark trademark. Now called the SMS1, the Pasadena's crossover had been reworked by Benchmark, upgraded with very low tolerance components, and the new look, more in line with the look of the rest of the Benchmark product line up, had been adopted. The subsequent sound in this room was one of the most musically engaging I encountered at this year's event, a remarkable result considering its modest overall system price of just over $7000, sans source.
---> Read our Benchmark Media AHB2 Stereo Amplifier review.

 

 

B&W Nautilus 800 Loudspeaker

Bowers & Wilkins' Nautilus 800 Speaker
An unusually refined and articulate high end, wide bandwidth loudspeaker.
Review By Alvin Gold
The B&W Nautilus 800 has an impressive pedigree, though not one that has always carried a great deal of weight at the high end. Its immediate predecessors are the 801 and the 802, but the 801 is the key model here. Prior to the Nautilus 800, this was the senior model in the range, built around a massive curved ply bass enclosure housing a 15" bass driver, with a surroundless midrange unit in a pod above, and a Nautilus tune metal dome tweeter in top of that, the two smalls units mutually decoupled to reduce intermodulation. The 801 become a mainstay in the studio world where a neutral balance and high SPLs were required.
---> Read our Bowers & Wilkins' Nautilus 800 review.

 

 

Bryston 9B SST2 C-Series Amplifier Review

Bryston 9B SST2 C-Series Amplifier
Quite simply in a class by itself.
Review By Brett Rudolph
Unlike many amplifier companies that seem to come and go, one of the most notable and definitely most consistent is Bryston Ltd. The Canadian company has been designing and producing what has been touted as exceptional audio equipment for over 35 years. Unfortunately while it's been my privilege to review a number of companies over the years, Bryston has never been one of them. Luckily Micah Sheveloff of WIRC Media offered me an opportunity to finally satisfy my curiosity and review one of their newest models the 9B SST2 C-Series. Micah and I have worked together on a number of reviews over the last several years, so when he said you will not be disappointed; I had high hopes for the arrival of this particular piece of equipment.
---> Read our Bryston 9B SST2 C-Series amplifier review.

 

 

Coincident Statement Vaccum Tube Line Stage Review

Coincident Statement Line Stage
Glorious music from this Statement Line Stage.
Review By Rick Becker
Within the first minute of listening to the Coincident Statement I realized that this is a very special preamplifier and that I would have to own the review sample. It took the remaining two months to figure out how to make that happen. My rig has recently experienced large improvements in transparency and resolution with the addition of the open baffle Tekton OB4.5 monitors and S12 subwoofers, both patent pending new technology, as well as the insertion of the PS Audio Power Port Premier at the outlet of my dedicated power line. But these merely set the stage for Israel Blume's all out assault on the state of the art to create the most transparent and purest line stage available today.
---> Read our Coincident Statement Line Stage review.

 

 

Combak Reimyo CDP-777 CD Transport / CD Player Review

Combak's Reimyo CDP-777 CD Transport / Player
A Worthy $17,000 CD/Transport?
Review By Rufus Smith
The Reimyo CDP-777 bills itself as the "Finest Transport/CD Player Ever Invented". Whenever I hear about a product that claims to be the best, my curiosity is piqued. As long as I can remember, I have been impressed with the quality and workmanship that goes into making a world-class product whether it be a motorcar, watch, camera or a piece of audio equipment. Whenever I evaluate such I product, the one question I have is whether or not the manufacturer has achieved their goal.
---> Read our Combak's Reimyo CDP-777 CD Transport / Player review.

 

 

The Complete Guide to High-End Audio Fifth Edition by Robert Harley

The Complete Guide to High-End Audio
Fifth Edition By Robert Harley
An excellent reference book for a newbie and seasoned reviewer.
Review By Heather And Steven R. Rochlin
Steven got this very helpful reference book for me, The Complete Guide to High-End Audio Fifth Edition by Robert Harley, as I slowly learn some of the ins and outs of high-end audio. I am very content listening to the awesome systems both within our home and at shows. Other times, there are great interests in what makes these products excellent, and so I really want to know about the what, why, and especially how these systems achieve their great sound. I realize there are people out there who actually enjoy reading technical manuals, such as my husband Steven, yet this is not for me. The Complete Guide to High-End Audio is perfect for me as a reference book.
---> Read our The Complete Guide to High-End Audio review.

 

 

Copland CTA 408 Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Review

Copland CTA 408 Vacuum Tube Stereo Integrated Amplifier
A tube amplifier in disguise.
Review By Dr. Phil Gold
It has been seven years since I reviewed the Copland CTA 506 Power amp which I liked very much at the time and is still available today. From my 2012 review of the CTA 506: The Copland CTA 506 combines classic design with the latest developments in vacuum tubes to create an impressive and attractively priced power amp that seems equally at home across musical genres. It stands up well against the other power amps – tube and silicon based – that have been through my listening room. It doesn't pretend to be the last word in power amps, but it sits at a sweet spot in the market where you'll need to pay a lot more to eke out small performance gains in most systems.
---> Read our Copland CTA 408 tubed int. amp review.

 

 

Dan Clark Audio (MrSpeakers) Ether 2 Over-The-Ear Headphones
Evolution of a classic open back planar magnetic headphone.
Review By Scott Lombardo
From their humble beginnings of modifying Fostex T50RP headphones, to developing patented V-Planar technology and eventually creating ground up electrostatic headphones, MrSpeakers has continued to push the envelope while staying grounded to their roots. Now with their latest flagship offering, the Ether 2, Dan Clark Audio (previously named MrSpeakers) aims to cement their legacy in the world of headphones. Let's take a look and listen. The Ether 2's lineage becomes even more evident when you hear them. The Ether series has always had an airy, ethereal quality to them and the Ether 2 takes those aspects to another level.
---> Read our Dan Clark Audio Ether 2 headphone review.

 

 

Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum Phono Stage Preamplifier Review

Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum Phono Stage Preamplifier
A championship phono stage from living legend Dan D'Agostino.
Review By Tom Lyle
When I heard that I would be reviewing the $28,000 Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Momentum phono preamplifier for this issue of Enjoy the Music.com, I was a very happy audiophile — on account of the time I spent with the $50,000 D'Agostino Momentum Lifestyle integrated amplifier that I reviewed earlier this year. If this phono preamplifier had any of the sonic characteristics of the MLife, I suspected I was going to hear my records through a state-of-the-art phono preamp, or at the very least one that was very close to state-of-the-art. When writing about their MLife integrated amp I declared that not only have I never heard an integrated sound so marvelous in my system, I never have heard one sound as marvelous anywhere.
---> Read our Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum Phono Stage Preamplifier review.

 

 

Dynamic Sounds Associates Pre I Linestage

Dynamic Sounds Associates Pre I Linestage
Articulate, smooth and magically engaging.
Review By Greg Weaver
I first met Doug Hurlburt, the man behind Dynamic Sounds Associates, some 20 years ago now; we were members of the same extended southern Maryland listening group. Doug has designed and built audio equipment for his own uses since his high school days. On my first visit to his home in (then) Potomac, MD, I was impressed by his clearly advanced comprehension of electronics and his passionate love of music. He had recently done an incredible mod, rebuilding his KEF CS5 loudspeakers, including totally redesigned crossover networks.
---> Read our Dynamic Sounds Associates Pre I Linestage review.

 

 

EAR / Yoshino 868 Tube Preamplifier Review

EAR / Yoshino 868 Tube Preamplifier With Phonostage
One of the best I have heard!
Review By Ron Nagle
The company that would evolve and come to be known as EAR/Yoshino was founded by Tim De Paravicini, one of the preeminent audio designers/engineers of our time. Tim is a legendary designer whose genius has been put to good use not only in the home audio market, but also within recoding studios! Tim's designs are not 'fave of the day' items mind you; they easily withstand the test of time. Just because the 868 preamplifier may be considered old by some, as it has been in serial manufacture for three years, that most certainly does not make it obsolete by any measure! A truly great piece of equipment should last a lifetime.
---> Read our EAR Yoshino 868 pre / phono review.

 

 

ELAC Alchemy DDP-2 DAC / Preamplifier / Streaming End-Point Review

ELAC Alchemy DDP-2 DAC / Preamplifier / Streaming End-Point
A benchmark accomplishment!
Review By Greg Weaver
Audiophiles exploring the boundaries of Red Book CD playback from the early to late nineteen-nineties will no doubt recall California based Audio Alchemy gear with great fondness; I know I do! Founded on the inspired design and engineering of one Peter Madnick, Audio Alchemy almost single-handedly set the stage for the acceptance and ascent of multi-box Compact Disc playback systems. Initially offering their lineup of very affordable yet remarkably high-performance outboard DACs, called Digital Decoding Engines, including the DAC-in-the-BOX ($199), the DDEv1.0, ($399), and the fabulous DDE v3.0 ($899)....
---> Read our ELAC Alchemy DDP-2 DAC / Pre / Streamer review.

 

 

Gershman Acoustics Grande Avant Garde Loudspeakers

Gershman Acoustics Grande Avant Garde Loudspeakers
Love at first sound.
Review By Rick Jensen
I first heard the new Gershman Acoustics Grande Avant Garde loudspeakers at the 2014 New York HiFi show. I was immediately and immensely impressed. Yes, I know that we are not supposed to make discriminating judgments in the variable and often-challenging show environment, yet let's also agree that such shows have become the major means of marketing for many manufacturers. And a cornerstone of the publishing schedule and content of review magazines (this one included) is the show reports. So we have a widely practiced sport of assessing fine components in that artificial environment.
---> Read our Gershman Acoustics Grande Avant Garde speaker review.

 

 

Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Power Station Review

Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Power Station
Battery power comparo with Goal Zero Yeti 400, PS Audio DirectStream Power Plant 20 (P20) and Stromtank S2500.
Review By Tom Lyle
I've always been a proponent of some sort of power conditioning for one's high-end audio system. This is because no matter how "good" the power coming from your wall receptacle might be, unless your locale power company has set up a transformer in your yard, you are not only sharing power with many others, the power that you are using has traveled quite a distance before it finally arrives at your home. During that journey the power picks up all sorts of electronic detritus, and that electronic debris will affect how your system sounds. Even if one uses a simple passive power conditioner, one that passively filters the power that comes from the wall, it is better than nothing....
---> Read our Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium review.

 

 

Grand Prix Audio Monaco Equipment Stand

Grand Prix Audio Monaco Equipment Stand
Shedding an entirely new light on how important isolation is.
Review By Rick Jensen
Over the past several months I have enjoyed telling friends, relatives, and other assorted victims about the "unbelievable" and "dramatic" improvement in my system. When they politely ask me what I've changed, I tell them it's an equipment stand, and then I wait for their eyes to roll. In this case, hearing is believing, though. What you hear from the Grand Prix Audio Monaco stand is nothing - and everything. I had the opportunity to see and "listen to" the Grand Prix Audio (hereafter, "GPA") stands at the Home Entertainment 2001 show in New York. They were in a pretty serious installation (Nagra electronics and Eggleston speakers), and the first thing one noticed was how great-looking they are.
---> Read our Grand Prix Audio Monaco stand review.

 

 

Gryphon Diablo 300 Integrated Amp With 32-bit/384kHz & DSD DAC Option Review

Gryphon Diablo 300 Integrated Amp
With 32-bit/384kHz & DSD DAC Option
Proven power, magnificent majesty and very versatile too!
Review By Steven R. Rochlin
Am no stranger to Gryphon Audio as have reviewed their impressive offerings over the years and always came away impressed. This includes a complete system review with their Atilla integrated amplifier, Scorpio CD player and Mojo speakers plus another review of their incredibly impressive Hi-Res Audio Kalliope DAC. Would the Gryphon Audio Diablo 300 integrated amplifier, as reviewed here, be within the same league of excellence? Or would it finally be something of a miss, with it being ever so close yet not quite. While I very much can take advantage of the 300 Watts per channel stereo @ 8 Ohms (950 @ 2 Ohms) of the Diablo 300, the recent announcement of the Diablo 120 stereo integrated amplifier, which as the name implies produces 120 Watts per channel @ 8 Ohms (440  @ 2 Ohms) is the newborn little sister, have been a better choice?
---> Read our Gryphon Diablo 300 stereo integrated amplifier with 32-bit/384kHz & DSD DAC option review.

 

 

Kharma Ceramique 2.2 Loudspeaker Review

Kharma Ceramique 2.2 Loudspeaker
Highly recommended, if you can handle the price of admission.
Review By Rick Becker
Something very exciting happens in life when you step out of your league and move up to the next level. And so it was when Bill Parrish of GTT Audio delivered a pair of Kharma Ceramique 2.2 loudspeakers to my home, along other associated goodies. I wish I had been home to watch when he carried each of these 100 lb. piano black beauties into my listening room. Linda was there to greet him, and I came home from work shortly thereafter. The price of my system just doubled.
---> Read our Kharma Ceramique 2.2 Loudspeaker review.

 

 

Kronos Sparta 0.5 Turntable And Upgrade To Full Sparta

Kronos Sparta 0.5 Turntable And Upgrade To Full Sparta
This is where I want my music to be!
Review By Rick Becker
We are all doomed to extinction in our own little way. It's called death. And the specter of death causes many to seek comfort in the familiar – LPs, old movies and TV re-runs, for example. But lest I be branded with the moniker of macabre, allow me to point out that turntables, cartridges and phono stages have made impressive strides in quality over the past two decades-long since the reported death of vinyl. The Kronos Sparta 0.5 turntable has the ability to be upgraded to full Sparta status. Meanwhile digital just can't seem to get the lid of the coffin nailed down. Men (and women) still seem to paddle.
---> Read our Kronos Sparta 0.5 turntable and Full Sparta review.

 

 

Linear Tube Audio ZOTL10 MK II Stereo Vacuum Tube Amplifier Review

Linear Tube Audio ZOTL10 MK II Vacuum Tube Amplifier
A paradigm shift in a box.
Review By Paul Schumann
Full disclosure here, I'm a tube guy. I was raised on Dynaco. I've had the same JoLida amp for 22 years. Sure I've listened to solid-state amps in my life, even had some in my home, but I've always gravitated back to those therimonic devices. Maybe I'm just brainwashed Dynascum. Maybe if I get a chance to hear one of Nelson Pass's well-received amps or a 47 Lab Gaincard I might change my mind, but right now that's where I plant my flag. And this brings me to my review of the Linear Tube Audio ZOTL10 MK II stereo vacuum tube amplifier.
---> Read our LTA ZOTL10 MK II tube amp review.

 

 

McIntosh MC611 Solid-State Monoblock Amplifier Review

McIntosh MC611 Quad Balanced Solid-State Monoblock Amplifier
McIntosh delivers 600 Watts of beauty and transparency.
Review By Tom Lyle
Yes, the McIntosh MC611 reviewed here is the same pair of power amplifiers of which Enjoy the Music.com's Creative Director Steven R. Rochlin wrote a fun-filled review of McIntosh's MC611 in April. No, the MC611s I'm writing about here aren't the same review pair as Mr. Rochlin reviewed, because he purchased his sight unseen, and so they are in his home to stay. The purchase and subsequent review of these amplifiers was a surprise to me, and since I'd already agreed to review the same model of McIntosh amplifiers, I resisted, and did not read his review.
---> Read our McIntosh MC611 monoblock amp review.

 

 

Manley Labs Absolute Headphone Amplifier / Preamplifier Review

Manley Labs Absolute Headphone Amplifier / Preamplifier
Rare Form: Manley creates a Masterpiece that looks and sounds like nothing else!
Review By Dave Hanson
I had the pleasure of meeting Manley Labs VP of Engineering and Design, Zia Faruqi, in the CanJam exhibit at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2018. While I was more than familiar with the Manley name, this was the first time I had seen them in the personal audio section of the show, so naturally I was quite curious about their debuting flagship headphone amplifier, the Manley Labs Absolute Headphone Amplifier ($4500).
---> Read our Manley Labs Absolute headamp review.

 

 

Merrill Audio Element 118 Solid-State Monoblock Amplifier Review

Merrill Audio Element 118 Solid-State Monoblock Amplifiers
A transparent, very powerful, refined, good looking, but admittedly pricey brute.
Review By Tom Lyle
In the past three years Enjoy the Music.com has reviewed four Merrill Audio components. In 2015 Ron Nagle reviewed their Jens phono stage, which won not only a Blue Note Award 2015, but also an Enjoy The Music.com's 20/20 Award. Plus, that year I reviewed Merrill Audio's Thor monoblock amplifiers, and later that year the Taranis stereo power amp. In May of 2017, I reviewed the Merrill Audio Christine Reference preamplifier, which was awarded a Blue Note Award 2017. Readers of Enjoy The Music.com might think that Merrill Audio has given to us some sort of under the table enticement to its writers, particularly yours truly.
---> Read our Merrill Audio Element 118 mono amp review.

 

 

Modwright SWL 9.0SE Preamplifier Review

ModWright Instruments SWL 9.0SE Preamp
Giant-killer from the Northwest!
Review By Wayne Donnelly
This exciting preamplifier is the first product to be designed and manufactured from scratch by Dan Wright, whose ModWright operation has for years been a leading source of high-quality modifications that turn moderately priced gear — CD players especially — from mass-market marques such as Sony and Pioneer into performers that frequently outdo the high-priced spreads, in both sound quality and especially in price/performance value. This writer has been a ModWright customer for some years.
---> Read our ModWright SWL 9.0SE Preamp review.

 

 

Nagra Classic Preamp Review

Nagra Classic Stereo Preamplifier
For those who have a system that can appreciate its ultra-luculent and musical sound.
Review By Tom Lyle
Nagra is a Swiss company that has a well-established reputation as a leading manufacturer of professional recording equipment. They were founded about 60 years ago, but it wasn't until 1997 that they also started making high-end audio equipment for home use. I was already afflicted with the audiophile bug back when Nagra introduced their first components for the high-end market, and it was then that I knew that I wanted to own one, or, at the very least hear one. I finally have a Nagra component in my system, their very attractive looking Class A vacuum-tube powered Classic Preamp.
---> Read our Nagra Classic Preamp review.

 

 

Oracle Audio Delphi MK VI Turntable Review

Oracle Audio Delphi MK VI Turntable
A first-class turntable with incredibly advanced power supplies.
Review By Tom Lyle
My first "real" turntable after years of listening to crummy mass-market contraptions was an AR ES-1. Mounted on its arm-board was a Grace tonearm, but I eventually upgraded to a Magnepan model, which as it turned out was not really an upgrade but merely a move sideways. At the time I was listening to the AR table in my humble high-end system I was also spending lots of my audiophile hours with the now legendary Herb Papier, the maker of the Tri-Planar tonearm. He became, for lack of any other term, my analog and high-end mentor.
---> Read our Oracle Audio Delphi MK VI turntable review.

 

 

Pass Labs X250.8 Solid-State Stereo Amplifier Review

Pass Labs X250.8 Stereo Amplifier
A powerful, detailed and delicate sound from the Pass Labs X250.8 amplifier.
Review By Anthony Nicosia
Not too long ago (in a galaxy...), during July 2012 actually, it was my privilege to review two products from Pass Laboratories. Specifically, their very impressive XP-10 preamplifier and outstanding XA 60.5 monoblock power amplifiers. Both were a joy to have in my audio system and were sorely missed when returned to the factory after my standard two month review period. So when the opportunity arose for me to borrow their new .8 series amplifier, the X250.8, there was absolutely no hesitation on my part to jump at the chance to again audition a Nelson Pass design. So one might ask, what is the deal with the .8 amplifiers and how does it differ from the .5 series?
---> Read our Pass Labs X250.8 stereo amplifier review.

 

 

PBN Audio WAS-2 Loudspeaker Review

PBN Audio WAS-2 Loudspeaker
Big room audio nirvana.
Review By Wayene Zufall
As a reviewer, you get used to things being delivered fairly frequently. However, when a driver is at your door telling you he has two huge crates to deliver, you know "the loudspeakers" have arrived. Walking out with the driver, he asked me what was in the crates. I told him they were loudspeakers. He could not believe loudspeakers that big could really be used in a home. Despite his disbelief, we moved each of the 520 pound crates into the garage and I began the process of removing the PBN Audio WAS-2 loudspeakers from their crates.
---> Read our PBN Audio WAS-2 loudspeaker review.

 

 

PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn1 Open Baffle Design Speaker Review

PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn1 Speaker
A trip down the rabbit hole.
Review By Paul L. Schumann
Before you continue reading this, I would recommend you read Rick Becker's excellent review of the PureAudioProject Trio Horn1's sibling, the first generation of the Trio15 with TB driver. Rick does an excellent job of going through the assembly process of these early and more DIY speakers. I have to honestly say the Trio15 Horns that arrived at my humble abode were the latest generation, with Aluminum Frame and almost completely assembled. All I had to do is put in the horns, add capacitors to the crossovers, connect the drivers and was ready to go. No soldering or woodworking required. If you've ever put together anything from IKEA, you get the idea.
---> Read our PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn1 speaker review.

 

 

Sennheiser HD800 Headphones With Cardas Audio Cable Review

Sennheiser HD800 Headphones With Cardas Audio Cable
Add in the must-have Cardas Audio cable and they're a screaming audio bargain.
Review By Phil Gold
Sennheiser has thrown down the gauntlet with their new HD800 phones. They are challenging all comers to the crown of best of breed. And I take it as a personal challenge too. Can they wean me away from my long term allegiance to rival AKG? Can they challenge the supremacy of electrostatic phones with their dynamic design? How do they compare to the superb custom fit canal earphones from Ultimate Ears (UE-10Pro)? Will people pay well into four figures for headphones anyway? All this and more in this month's exciting installment of the headphone challenge.
---> Read our Sennheiser HD800 headphones with Cardas Audio cable.

 

 

Schiit Mani MM / MC Phono Stage Review

Schiit Mani MM / MC Phono Stage
A thrill for any newcomer and satisfy most too.
Review By Rick Becker
The word went out on Facebook that my son-in-law Justin wanted a turntable for Christmas to try out the LP craze. Apparently the fine Sony noise cancelling headphones I gave him for Christmas last year planted a seed and the seed has sprouted. The $90 turntable on his list was a turnkey unit with cartridge and built in phono stage. All he would have to do is connect it to his mid-fi surround sound receiver. But you and I both know I couldn't let him go down that dead-end road. He's now 40 and steeped in debt from earning his MBA at Northwestern.
---> Read our Schiit Mani MM / MC Phono Stage review.

 

 

Silver Circle Audio PP1 5.0 Power Conditioner Review

Silver Circle Audio PP1 5.0 Power Conditioner
Raising the ante by lowering the floor.
Review By Rick Jensen
I will start with the conclusion because it shouldn't wait. The Silver Circle Audio pure power one 5.0 is a watershed product. There is life before you use the 5.0 and life after it. After is better. The pure power one 5.0 (PP1 from here on in) is a new product from Silver Circle Audio, which is based in Houston. Silver Circle has been making a range of interconnect and speaker cables, as well as power cords, since 2002. Also in the product line are the "predecessors" of the PP1 5.0, the pure power one and the pure power one 3.0.
---> Read our Silver Circle Audio PP1 5.0 review.

 

 

Sonus Faber Il Cremonese Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review

Sonus Faber Il Cremonese Loudspeaker
Sonus Faber's Il Cremonese speakers tell a story, and the more you listen, the more you not only get lost in the music, you appreciate and admire both in the story and the telling of it.
Review By Jules Coleman
If there is anything obvious about obvious truths, it is their truth. Nothing else about them need be, and often nothing else is. Moreover, some obvious truths are obvious only in retrospect. Obvious truths – truisms – can be revealing, insightful and even important Take what is certainly one of audio's most obvious truisms: an audio system is, after all, a system! Patently obvious? Yes. Uninteresting or unimportant? Hardly! In the first place, this truism implies that the sound to which one is listening is always produced by the system taken as a whole, and not by any of its particular components.
---> Read our
Sonus Faber Il Cremonese speaker review.

 

 

Sony NW-ZX2 Walkman Review

Sony NW-ZX2 Walkman
Hi-Res Audio sound quality within a seductively-styled portable package.
Plus the Noble Prestige Kaiser 10, JH Audio Roxanne and Ultimate Ears UE18 Pro IEMs.
Review By Steven R. Rochlin
Perhaps the hottest portable media player (PMP) device announced during CES 2015 was the Sony NW-ZX2 Walkman. The Sony NW-ZX2 is not for sale anywhere in the world and so could not purchase a unit. Nor is there a review sample available for Yours Truly. Those two little details make no difference as loyal readers know that nothing will stop me if I put my mind to it. This review of the Sony NW-ZX2 is after about three hours total within the official Sony store in Singapore. It was their showroom floor demo with many hours of use.
---> Read our Sony NW-ZX2 Walkman review.

 

 

Soulution Audio 330 Stereo Integrated Amplifier Review

Soulution Audio 330 Stereo Int. Amplifier
A wolf in sheep's clothing.
Review By Phil Gold
Sometimes a review is difficult to write. Not today! This review writes itself. I'm not quite sure if a twenty-grand amp can be called a bargain, but I'm going to do it anyway, and I'm going to have to tell you why. Forget for a moment the looks, the size of the box, the technological nuggets inside, just listen to the sound, experience this special imaging. If you were blind testing you'd swear this was a tube amp, so full and alive is the midrange. But what tube amp has such control in the bass? OK, let's not forget the looks.
---> Read our Soulution Audio 330 int. amp review.

 

 

Sound Lab Majestic 545 Full-Range Electrostatic Loudspeakers Review

Sound Lab Majestic 545 Full-Range Electrostatic Loudspeakers
The quest for realistic sound from a pair of speakers is likely to end here.
Review By Tom Lyle
The same pair of Sound Lab loudspeakers have been my reference for about 15 years. The reason I acquired them is simple: Back in the day, I heard a pair of Sound Lab A-1's in a friend's large system, and fell in love. To this day, these speakers are the best I've ever heard of any type, as they produce a sonic hologram of the recording that I can visualize with my ears. But I didn't immediately go out and purchase a pair of A-1s. This was not only because they cost much more than I could afford at the time, nor was it because they weighed nearly 200 pounds. It was because of their size. The massive Model A-1's are over seven feet tall, three feet wide, and at their base about two feet deep.
---> Read our Sound Lab Majestic 545 electrostatic speakers  review.

 

 

Spin-Clean Record Washer Review

Spin-Clean Record Washer
The best sixty bucks a vinyl lover can spend.
Review By Nels Ferre
I reviewed the wonderful Nitty Gritty 2.5FI-XP record cleaning machine ($899) in the December 2009 edition of Enjoy the Music.com. I loved it, and would have kept it but both of our cars have required some rather expensive repairs. A couple of weeks ago I happened to see the Spin-Clean Record Washer System featured on the daily industry news portion of Enjoy the Music.com. Saw the price and what the system comprised of: a bright yellow plastic container that the record is placed within that holds the cleaning solution, a pair of hard plastic rollers, and a pair of cleaning pads. The record is placed between the pads and rotated by hand to clean it, then dried by using the included drying cloths. Sixty bucks? Are you kidding? It can't be true.
---> Read our Spin-Clean Record Washer review.

 

 

Synergistic Research PowerCell 8 UEF SE, Atmosphere Level 2/3 Power Cords Review

Synergistic Research PowerCell 8 UEF SE & Atmosphere Level 2/3 Power Cords
Goosebumps with my favorite music!
Review By Rick Becker
So what's most important in a system – the front end or the speakers? Where should you put the most money? These are the kinds of questions that arose for me when I first became aware of high-end audio. And the answers were as numerous as the sales people that I spoke with. Without a lot of experience or knowledge, what seemed like outrageous prices were daunting barriers to investing. Fortunately, I lived in a town with a few high-end dealers who were sympathetic to my thirst. A variety of high-end audio shows including Toronto and Montreal opened my mind to a broad international spectrum of products. Gradually, I learned how to listen.
---> Read our Synergistic Research PowerCell 8 UEF SE and Atmosphere Level 2/3 Power Cords review.

 

 

VAC Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V With MM/MC Phono Stage Review

VAC Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V With MM/MC Phono Stage
For serious music lovers living at the cutting edge of what is possible.
Review By Ron Nagle
The letters VAC is not an abbreviation for vacuum, although the VAC Renaissance Mk V does have five miniature twin triode vacuum tubes on board. The company banner is actually an acronym for, Valve Amplification Company. This Mk V preamplifier is something entirely new in the VAC lineup for 2017. There is a basic MkV line stage preamplifier without the phono stage that sells for $9990. That configuration uses just two miniature Dual Triode tubes. The Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V, under evaluation here, contains an optional MM/MC (moving magnet and moving coil) phono amplification stage that adds three additional 12AX7 tubes.
---> Read our VAC Renaissance Preamplifier Mk V with MM/MC Phono Stage review.

 

 

Van den Hul The Frog MC Phono Cartridge Review

Van den Hul The Frog MC Phono Cartridge
Smooth and soothing sounds for vinyl lovers.
Review By Steven R. Rochlin
Over the past five years i have been fortunate enough to avoid the digital wars. Let the other guys deal with DVD-Audio, SACD, HD DVD and Blu-ray as I sit back and enjoy my 8000+ and growing vinyl collection. Almost a year ago my review of the Oracle Delphi MK V turntable with Oracle-SME 345 tonearm proved that vinyl indeed has much to offer music lovers worldwide. While attending the recent Munich High End show (2007), i was chatting with Aalt Jouk van den Hul (A.J.) at some press event for another manufacturer. Have known A.J. for well over a decade, as he attends many shows, and we have sat down and enjoyed some nice conversations about music, audio equipment... whatever.
---> Read our Van den Hul The Frog MC phono cartridge review.

 

 

YG Acoustics Carmel 2 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review

YG Acoustics Carmel 2 Loudspeaker
A thorough revision, with many improvements, to its previous design.
Review By Phil Gold
There are many schools of thought concerning the best way to make a loudspeaker. There is no doubt the folks at YG Acoustics with the Carmel 2 floorstanding loudspeaker ($24,300) as reviewed here think differently. Some will point you at electrostatic or planar magnetic panels, but most designers have chosen the more conventional approach of using dynamic drivers. Some will insist that all crossovers are evil, and the only way to avoid this evil is to use a single dynamic driver. A lot of creativity has been expended in this direction, particularly for those who wish to partner these speakers with low powered SET amplifiers, since single driver speakers can be highly efficient.
---> Read our YG Acoustics Carmel 2 speaker review.

 

 

ZMF Verité Closed Back Over Ear Headphones Review

ZMF Verité Closed Back Over Ear Headphones
ZMF's closed-back flagship is the perfect blend of fun and precision.
Review By Dave Hanson
Last year, the ZMF Verité took the flagship headphone landscape by storm. It was the first headphone to bring beryllium-coated drivers to the 300-Ohm format. The result was a punchy, precise and musically intoxicating combination which garnered a 2019 Enjoy the Music.com Blue Note Award. Also, you can read my World Premiere Review of ZMF's Vérité open back headphones at this link. Now, the Verité is back in a new incarnation with the Verité Closed ($2499). The Verité Closed is a somewhat new physical shape among the ZMF closed backs, moving away from the compound curve design of Atticus and Eikon in favor of a more rounded cup design.
---> Read our ZMF Verité closed back headphones review.

 

 

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Review

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker
Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics.
Review By Rick Becker
Young riders dressed in dark clothing dart about the urban industrial landscape on 883's and Forty Eight Sportsters in a Harley Davidson promotional video. My mind pans left into the Zu website where black and white photos of young dudes click in and out; segue to a video of the making of a speaker in their dusty shops. Of course Zu Audio Union speaker is there and noticed it only cost $3000 for what appeared to be quite an impressive speaker. Looking back at the pics, at least the guy in the spray booth wears a mask to protect his lungs. Both Harley and Zu Audio are fiercely American, one an elderly icon and the other just a teenager.
---> Read our Zu Audio Union speaker review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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