Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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

Longtime readers of SoundStage! Access with particularly good memories may be feeling some déjà vu right about now. Didn’t we already review the Musical Fidelity M6si integrated amplifier-DAC some years back, much closer to its release in 2014? We did.

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

Observers of the auto industry often speak of 1973 to 1983 as the “Malaise Era” of car design and manufacture, especially for General Motors. Styling was bland and undifferentiated, while acceleration, handling, and braking were lethargic. The results were cars no one especially liked or cared about.

Reviewers' ChoiceI’m somewhat ashamed to admit that, after two decades in this industry, my experience with Sonus Faber speakers has been rather limited. Some of that comes down to happenstance, but a lot of it is a function of specialization. Given the choice between a $5000 preamp and a $5000 pair of speakers, most publishers are going to give me the preamp to review. Even the company’s affordable Sonetto line is a bit pricier than the territory in which I tend to stomp around. But a $2799/pair (all prices USD) tower speaker is totally my jam, so the Lumina V—the new flagship of Sonus Faber’s entry-level Lumina collection—has been my crash course in the company’s style and sound.

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

Cambridge Audio, founded in Cambridge, England, has been making hi-fi audio equipment for half a century now—a mere drop in the bucket compared to, say, Cambridge University, founded in 1209, but a long time in the world of hi-fi.

Vincent Audio may not be a brand that’s on the tip of every enthusiast’s tongue, but over the past few years, the company’s hybrid integrated amps in particular have been generating a lot of hullabaloo on hi-fi discussion forums. By pairing vacuum tubes in the preamp stage with solid-state circuitry in the amplification stage, the German company (most of whose products are manufactured in China) promises to deliver the best of both worlds: the analog richness of valves and the durability of transistors.

Reviewers' ChoiceIn 2014, when the vinyl revival had already gained a lot of traction, I reviewed U-Turn Audio’s Orbit Plus turntable (then $299, now an even better deal at $289; all prices USD). I was very impressed by that turntable, one of the first efforts of a young, crowdfunded company based in Woburn, Massachusetts, near Boston.

In my review of Rotel’s A11 Tribute integrated amplifier, I called it a bit of an oddity, given its near reliance on all-analog physical connectivity, when most of the competitors near its price point have embraced the popularity of streaming and downloads. Oh, and there’s also its Bluetooth antenna, the only input with access to the DAC chip inside. Again, this wasn’t meant as a criticism—merely a recognition of how unusual that is in the current audio market. If the A11 Tribute is a bit of an outlier, though, its companion piece—the CD11 Tribute ($599.99, all prices USD)—is practically a mythical creature.

Some rooms in my house are best suited to speakers that don’t take up much floor space—e.g., in-wall or on-wall speakers. But in-wall speakers require cutting holes in drywall and running cables through walls from amplifier to speakers. Unless you’re handy with home repair, this is tough to do. It’s why I’m a big fan of on-wall speakers, which are easily installed and removed, without requiring in-wall wiring. The problem with many on-wall speakers is that they’re afterthoughts—a way of filling out a manufacturer’s speaker line.

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

Rotel’s A11 Tribute integrated amplifier is a bit of an oddity. That’s not a value judgment, mind you—merely an observation. What makes it a bit weird is that while most integrated amps in its price class ($799, all prices USD) feature built-in digital-to-analog conversion, if not full-blown streaming ecosystems, the A11 Tribute sports nary a coaxial or optical input, nor a USB port of any sort, and there simply isn’t a way to connect it to the Internet. Technically, it features a Texas Instruments DAC chip, but its only digital input is a Bluetooth antenna (with support for AAC and aptX codecs). But that really only adds to the enigma.

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

Reviewers' ChoiceIf you’re a regular reader of the SoundStage! Network websites, you know that we, and especially our founder and publisher, Doug Schneider, are big fans of Purifi Audio’s Eigentakt amplifier technology. Those class-D amp modules provide high power with extremely low distortion and, most important, extremely neutral and musically satisfying sound—as I discovered in September 2020, when I reviewed NAD’s Masters M33 integrated amplifier-DAC, which is based on the Eigentakt amp. The subject of this review is NAD’s Masters M28 multichannel power amplifier ($4999, all prices USD), which boasts seven channels of Purifi Eigentakt technology.