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The Absolute Sound


The Absolute Sound Issue 251 March 2015   Welcome to The Abso!ute Sound online! We explore music and the reproduction of music in the home. We believe that the sound of music, unamplified, occurring in a real space is a philosophic absolute against which we may judge the performance of devices designed to reproduce music. Our goal is to provide the resources consumers need to judge how a component's sound either honors or departs from the music's truth, and to make sound purchasing decisions that maximize their experience of reproduced sound. Below is our Issue 251, March 2015 table of contents and editorial.


Articles & Reviews In This Issue
8 Letters

12 From the Editor: The Absolute Sound's Editors' Choice Awards Editorial By Robert Harley

14 Future TAS
New products on the horizon

17 Industry News
Vade Forrester listens to the first commercial DSD256 recording.

170 Manufacturer Comments


2015 Editors' Choice Awards
31 This is the Big One!
Our top recommendations—complete with mini-reviews—of the very best speakers, amplifiers, DACs, turntables, headphones, cartridges, cables, phonostages, integrated amps, desktop audio, equipment racks, AC power conditioners, accessories, room treatments, and more.

32 Loudspeakers

55 Subwoofers

56 Power Amplifiers

65 Integrated Amplifiers

69 All-In-One Systems

70 Preamplifiers

76 Phonostages

80 Disc Players

84 Digital-To-Analog Converters (DACs)

88 Portable DACs/ Headphone Amplifiers

92 Music Servers

93 Digital Format Converters / Clocks

93 Turntables 

101 Tonearms

102 Cartridges

110 Tape Decks

110 Record Cleaning Machines

110 Equipment racks

113 Power Conditioners

113 DSP Room Correction

114 Interconnects & Speaker Cables

122 Digital Interconnects

122 Power Cords

124 Acoustic Room Treatments

126 Earphones/ In-Ear Monitors / Headphones

128 Desktop Headphone Amplifiers

129 Accessories

132 Books


Absolute Analog
18 VPI Classic Direct Turntable
The direct-drive turntable makes a spectacular comeback in this ambitious new model from VPI. Anthony H. Cordesman reports.


Equipment Reports
136 LH Labs Geek Out 450 DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Vade Forrester discovers a great-sounding and versatile portable DAC and headphone amplifier that costs $199. 

142 Larson Model 8 Loudspeaker
Robert E. Greene listens to a most unusual loudspeaker from Denmark that is designed to be positioned against a wall. 

148 MartinLogan Motion 35XT Loudspeaker
This affordable new compact speaker with MartinLogan's Folded Motion Tweeter brings high-end sound to an affordable price. Neil Gader has the good news.

152 VTL ST-150 Power Amplifier and TL-5.5 Series II Preamplifier
Wayne Garcia finds much to admire in this highly musical pair of tubed electronics from VTL.

158 Audio Physic Classic 30 Loudspeaker
Neil Gader reports on a superb, mid-priced, five-driver floorstanding loudspeaker from Germany's Audio Physic.

162 Kimber Kable KS 6800 Series Speaker Cables and Interconnects
We've always wondered what Kimber Kable could achieve if it pulled out all the stops. Now we know. Neil Gader shares the pleasure of auditioning Kimber's remarkable wires.

166 Jadis DPMC Phono Preamp
Dick Olsher on a French phonostage that adds joie de vivre to any LP lover's life.


174 The Great American Symphony
Never mind the Great American Novel—what's the Great American Symphony? Mark Lehman has narrowed it down to nine choices; now you decide.

184 Henry Mancini: The Classic Soundtrack Collection
Arthur Lintgen evaluates Legacy's new 9-CD collection of Mancini scores.

186 Download Round-Up
Andrew Quint, Alan Taffel, and Neil Gader review classical and high-res pop/rock downloads.

190 Rock
New releases by Howell Devine, Billy Boy Arnold, Greensky Bluegrass, and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, along with BBC performances by Todd Rundgren, reissues by the Notting Hillbillies and Alan James Eastwood, and The Basement Tapes Complete.

196 Jazz 
Rudresh Mahanthappa, Orchestra Nostalgico, Caterina Zapponi, and Chris Dundas; guitar duets with Nels Cline and Julian Lage; and a previously unreleased Frank Lowe 2-LP set on vinyl.

200 Classical
A new 14-CD Der Ring des Nibelungen, Gibbons' The Silver Swan, a slightly re-orchestrated Scheherazade, performances by the Turtle Island Quartet, and the string quartets of Matthew Barnson.

208 Back Page
We talk with Charles Van Oosterum of Kharma.


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