Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)

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To Hans Wetzel,

I'm French and I will try to write the best English that I can. I'm about to buy one of these amplifiers: Hegel's H300 or Musical Fidelity's M6 500i. I have just read your H300 review on the GoodSound! website.

Their prices are quite close in France, but still very expensive, and the products are a bit different.

The Musical Fidelity is very powerful, while the Hegel has a DAC inside (a very good one?), but with a less powerful 250Wpc power rating. My speakers are Dynaudio's C2. If you had to choose between these two amplifiers, which would you buy? Why? Thanks.

Best regards,

Bruno, if you've narrowed down your search to these two integrated amplifiers, you are in a very fortunate predicament. Both the Musical Fidelity and the Hegel are terrific, albeit different, products.

The $6999 Musical Fidelity M6 500i is a bit of a monster. Weighing in at more than 70 pounds, with a solid, overbuilt chassis, it's the kind of component that should last for more than a decade without any issues. It has a sonic personality that is not quite neutral, and errs on the warm side. While it does not have tube-like warmth, it's on the same continuum. Personally, I found it very engaging, and almost purchased my review sample. With 500W on tap, it's also highly doubtful that you would ever have need of a more powerful amplifier.

The Hegel has a different feature set and personality. Costing $1500 less than the M6 500i, at $5500, the Hegel H300 doesn't look or feel quite as substantial as its British counterpart. It's more sparse and utilitarian than the Musical Fidelity integrated in terms of its design, but also includes a high-quality built-in DAC. It also sounds a bit Scandinavian, in the sense that it's forward, and a little more honest and neutral. At 250Wpc, it sounds like it would be significantly less powerful than 500i, but in reality, doubling power only gets you 3dB in actual output. Unless you like to really pound out music through your Dynaudios, I doubt you'd need the overhead.

In the end, it comes down to what you prefer. The Dynaudio C2s are excellent, and pretty neutral, meaning you'll hear the coloration of the Musical Fidelity as much as you'll hear the forward nature of the Hegel. Personally, I'd lean towards the Hegel, but in an ideal world, I'd own both. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

I have read your review about Musical Fidelity's M6 500i integrated amplifier [on SoundStage! Hi-Fi] and it sounds really good to me. Would you recommend this amp to go with Spendor's A9 loudspeaker? Also, what CD player would be good to partner with the Musical Fidelity?

Thank you for your time.


I very much enjoyed my time with the M6 500i. Its build quality is terrific, and its sound is as revealing as it is sweet. Its huge power reserves mean that you can push the Spendor A9s -- a speaker I've not had the pleasure to hear before -- to very high SPLs without distortion. I can't imagine the Musical Fidelity being a bad match for any speaker, really. One thing to note, however, is that the M6 500i is not dead neutral. It has a slight warmth and relaxed quality about its sound that I happen to really appreciate. It's not quite as colored as a vacuum tube amp would be, but it’s along the same lines.

If you wanted something that's more neutral, check out Hegel's H300 integrated, which is perhaps slightly more resolving, while also costing less, and includes a built-in digital-to-analog converter. But you cannot go wrong with the Musical Fidelity. I seriously considered purchasing my review sample, and I think it'll be a classic.

As for your question about CD players, there are plenty of good ones available for reasonable money. I'm not sure what your budget is, but I would start my search with Oppo. Their BDP-95 looks to be a great value at around $1000, as it would allow you to use your CD collection with a top-quality Sabre 9018 Reference DAC. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

Nice review of the Hegel H300. But for that price wouldn't I be better off buying separates?

Philip J.

The $5500 USD price of the Hegel H300 is a substantial investment, no doubt. But given that it's an amplifier, preamplifier, and digital-to-analog converter in one chassis, the price becomes more understandable. Buying separates means that you're paying for three chassis and possibly two remote controls, to say nothing of the cabling that you will need to wire everything together. That's not to say that you couldn't buy separates and have a terrific system. But I highly, highly doubt that you could spend $5500 on separates and come close to the Hegel's overall performance and flexibility. If you're the type of listener who enjoys consistently altering aspects of your system, then maybe separates make sense. But if you're looking for an endgame solution, I can't recommend the Hegel highly enough. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

I am making the transition to using my Apple Macintosh as my primary audio source, but want to keep that CD-quality sound. I have a pair of ADS L990 loudspeakers, and like the compartmentalized quality of NAD's C 375DAC, but covet the extra power of Anthem's Integrated 225. I am also thinking of acquiring the KEF 201/2 Reference Series speakers later on. What will be a better investment when it comes to these two amps? I do like my sound on the warmer side, but also with a little kick to it, too.


Congratulations on making the jump to computer-based audio. I think you'll be surprised by just how good it can be. As for the amps that you're suggesting, I have a few comments.

The NAD that Sathyan Sundaram recently reviewed generates 150Wpc into 8 ohms, whereas the Anthem puts out 225Wpc into 8 ohms. They’re both priced about the same. However, the NAD also comes with a digital-to-analog converter built in, whereas the Anthem does not. The DAC would be a welcome feature for you as you transition your Mac to music duties. While more power is often a good thing, I'm not sure you'd really miss the extra power of the Anthem with the speakers you have now. NADs have always sounded a little on the warm side, to me at least, and so that might be another point in its favor.

If you do wind up with the KEFs, mind you, its sensitivity rating of 86dB might make power a more important consideration for you, especially if you enjoy cranking up the volume. In that case, the Integrated 225 might be the wiser choice. If you do wind up with the more powerful Anthem, however, just make sure to invest in a DAC as well, which will allow you to maximize your sound quality. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

I enjoy your reviews and insights into this hobby very much, but today I am seeking advice on an upgrade of a highly reviewed product. The Audiolab 8200CDQ is a CD player with a built-in preamp, and can be used as a standalone DAC in a computer-based audio system. The question of differences in sound quality of higher-end players versus cheaper ones is the debate, as I currently use a Yamaha DVD-S657 SACD player that I purchased back in 2005 for $350.

The Audiolab 8200CDQ retails for $1600 CAD. How much of an upgrade can I expect with a higher-end CD player/DAC, and, of course, the preamp? My current system is made up of an NAD C 272 amplifier, NAD C 162 preamplifier, and Axiom M80 speakers.


Thanks for emailing, Gerald. Unfortunately, I do not have any experience with Audiolab's products. It does appear that the 8200CDQ has earned some very positive reviews, however. I also noticed that the unit uses ESS Technology's Sabre 9018 Reference chipset. While a chipset is only as good as its implementation into a given design, I am currently reviewing Benchmark Media Systems' DAC2 HGC, which, like the 8200CDQ, is a digital-to-analog converter, as well as a preamp. It, too, uses the 9018 chipset, and in my early listening tests, I think it's seriously good. If the 8200CDQ comes close to the Benchmark's implementation of the 9018 chip, I would bet that the Audiolab 8200CDQ could work well as a replacement for both your NAD preamp and your current Yamaha SACD player.

As for how much of an upgrade it will be from your current setup, I can only speculate. I know that digital-to-analog conversion has come a long way since 2005, when you purchased your Yamaha. Sound quality has improved, both in terms of resolution and musicality, and prices have fallen dramatically too. It's a good time to upgrade, and I suspect that it won't take you long to appreciate the Audiolab if you wind up purchasing it. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

I read your write-up on the KEF LS50. What kind of amplifier were they using? Do you have any amplifier suggestions for them? I am looking for an integrated amplifier to use with this speaker, but will consider separates if the price is right.

Todd L.

The Audio Excellence folks at TAVES partnered the LS50s with Cary Audio Designs' 120S MKII tube amplifier, which develops 60Wpc in Triode mode and 120Wpc in Ultralinear mode. The reason I mention its power ratings is that the KEFs are pretty inefficient speakers, with a sensitivity of 85dB (2.83V/1m). Combined with a minimum impedance of 3.2 ohms, they're not going to be the easiest speaker to drive. I'd recommend an amp that can produce at least 100Wpc into 8 ohms and is stable into a load that drops below 4 ohms.

With that said, I don't think there's a need to invest in separates. There are a lot of terrific integrated amplifiers out there, and without knowing more about your preferences and budget, I'd suggest starting your search with Peachtree Audio's new $1499 nova125. With 125Wpc, a tube buffer, and a built-in Sabre digital-to-analog converter, you get your money's worth. For $1599, you could also check out NAD's C 375DAC. If you choose either of these, you'll have a really terrific $3000 system -- the KEFs are that good. . . . Hans Wetzel

Hi GoodSound!,

I liked your article on the three best speakers. Do you have any of these in for review? I also have another question: Is it okay to buy factory direct? Everything I read says to listen first. I can't do that if I order them online. Any advice is appreciated.

Yours truly,
Jim C.

Doug Schneider currently has the KEF LS50 in for review, and early signs point to their performance mirroring what he and I heard at TAVES. The review will appear on SoundStage! Hi-Fi. We inquired about the Cabasse 2.1 system, but have instead lined up another of their products for review. As for the Magnepan 1.7s, they are a few years old at this point, so it is unlikely that we'll get those in. I would be very curious to hear the company's future products, however.

As for factory direct, it's not an issue as far as I'm concerned. But if there's any opportunity to hear a product that you're interested in, or even another of the same company's products, I'd highly recommend it. When buying an audio product that you're going to have to live with in the long term, it's probably worth the extra effort to determine if you like it. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

I noticed in some of your recent responses to readers that you mention GoldenEar Technology's Triton Threes and Definitive Technology's BP-8020STs. Will there be reviews of these? If so, when?

Dave P.

I'm in the midst of writing up a review of the Triton Three, and the BP-8020ST is next in my queue. The reviews will likely be posted in the next six or eight weeks, and both will be worth the read. . . . Hans Wetzel

Dear GoodSound!,

I am thinking of purchasing a pair of Polk LSiM705 loudspeakers; however, I wonder if I have the right associated equipment in order to drive these marvelous loudspeakers.

My equipment consists of a Musical Fidelity XT-100 integrated amplifier, with 50Wpc into 8 ohms and 80Wpc into 4 ohms, and a Rotel RCD-1072 CD player. My interconnects are AudioQuest's Columbia and my speaker cables are Transparent Audio's MusicWave Plus. Could you tell me if I am going to have problems driving these loudspeakers with my equipment? If so, which amplifier would be more suitable for the LSiM705?? Lastly, is the Rotel RCD-1072 still a good CD player to use?

Thanks in advance for your useful reply!


I've seen the smaller LSiM703 in person, and I was deeply impressed with its build quality and overall appearance, so I can see why you're leaning towards Polk's larger LSiM705, which looks to be a very good speaker in light of our recent review of it. Polk lists the speaker as a nominal 8-ohm design, and they recommend 20-250W of power be used. However, the LSiM705 is also listed as being 88dB efficient, which is pretty average. All things considered, I think you could use the Musical Fidelity XT-100 to solid effect provided you neither have a large listening room, nor like to play your music terrifically loud. But if one or both of these is a reality, you might be better served with a power amplifier or integrated amplifier that delivers at least 100Wpc in 8 ohms.

As for your Rotel player and cabling -- you have pretty nice equipment, Rafael. See how the LSiM705s work out with your Musical Fidelity. If the tandem seems to do well, you may not feel the need to upgrade anything else. If you do, think seriously about transitioning to a computer-based system, and look to the many DAC reviews that we have written in the past two years to find something that fits your budget and musical tastes. Let us know if we can be of further help. . . . Hans Wetzel

Hello GoodSound!,

Hope all is well with you and the rest of the GoodSound! team. I am enjoying the articles and your intense passion for affordable audio gear.

What do you think of Aperion Audio's Forte Tower compared to their bigger brother that Jeff Fritz reviewed last year, and any other similarly priced floorstanding loudspeaker? Also, are you as "enthusiastic" (from Hans Wetzel's article "Honesty in Reviewing") about this speaker as Mr. Fritz was about its bigger brother, or is there another speaker in that price range that excites you more?

My listening room is 10' x 12' with ten DIY acoustical panels that are each 4" thick. My system consists of the Vincent Audio SA-31 preamplifier, Odyssey Audio Khartago stereo amplifier, Emotiva ERC-1 CD-player, Vincent Audio PHO-8 phono preamplifier, Shunyata Research Diamondback power cables, and Transparent Audio MusicWave speaker cables with MusicLink interconnects.

Speakers are the Parts Express' MTM kit. I also have two subwoofers by Dayton Audio, powered by an O Audio subwoofer amplifier.

This is fun again when I don't think about the return shipping of trying out speakers for a few weeks! I tried a pair of Wharfdale EVO2-30s, but thought they sounded too recessed, and I had to pay $107 to return them. Ouch!

Thanks in advance for your help,
LaDedric T.

I'm glad that you're enjoying the site's content -- we take a lot of pride in our work.

I've only briefly heard Aperion's Grand Verus Tower, and their Intimus 5T, which I recently reviewed and now costs only $632/pr. -- a bargain! Based on what I heard and saw of the Grand Verus Tower, Jeff's review is probably still right on target. Given that you have a relatively small listening room, but also have a pair of subwoofers, I think you could be happy with either the Grand Verus or Forte towers. One thing to keep in mind is that the Grand Verus is noticeably the more substantial loudspeaker -- it weighs 67 pounds, as compared to the 30 pounds of the Forte. Combined with the dual 6" woofers found on the Grand Verus, you might find their flagship model having far more robust bass. If it were me, I would probably ditch the subwoofers and rely solely on a pair of Grand Veruses.

As for other speakers in that price range, you definitely have some options. I am currently listening to a pair of Definitive Technology's BP8020-ST speakers, which retail for $1200/pr. The BP8020-ST is a bipolar speaker with a built-in powered subwoofer. It delivers a broad, but very focused sound. I also have in for review GoldenEar Technologies' $2000/pr. Triton Three, which also makes use of a built-in powered sub, as well as an Air Motion Transformer tweeter. The GoldenEar is a more relaxed sounding speaker than the DefTech, and offers better bass extension. My most unorthodox, but probably most emphatic recommendation is KEF's $1500/pr. LS50 minimonitor. I recently heard them while covering the TAVES 2012 audio show, and they are terrific. They offer better clarity through the treble and midrange than anything I currently have in my listening room, and that includes my reference Mirage OMD-28s, speakers that once retailed for $7500/pr. Since you already have a pair of subwoofers, you'd have excellent, almost full-range sound for a reasonable sum. I don't like being over-the-top about any product, for fear of sounding like I'm pandering; however, the LS50 is that good. . . . Hans Wetzel

To GoodSound!,

I am seeking the best sound quality out of my system without spending a great deal of money on bulky equipment. As a result, I am wondering if I should stick with my Aiwa LCX-70M stereo system, and simply install plug-ins to improve sound quality, such as those from Dolby Laboratories or DTS? If not, what would you recommend to replace it, and at what cost?

Star Stern

I am not sure what you mean by installing plug-ins, but if you're looking to improve on your Aiwa system, you can go in a few different directions. To retain all of the connectivity that your Aiwa system provides, you would probably want to buy a newer all-in-one stereo system from a big-box store like Best Buy. Take a listen to what they have and go with what you think sounds the best.

If you do not necessarily need a CD player or tuner, however, you can spend $300 or $400 on a pair of powered speakers (speakers with amplifiers and multiple analog inputs built-in) that will assuredly sound better than anything you would be looking to purchase from a place like Best Buy. Audioengine's A5+, which I reviewed earlier this year, would be an excellent place to start your search. You could also check out NHT's SuperPower, PSB's Alpha PS1, or M-Audio's AV 40. . . . Hans Wetzel