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.

It’s not my intention to go full-blown “get off my lawn” on you here. But when I was growing up, it wasn’t difficult to know what to call a component with volume control, source selection, and built-in amplification. Did it have an AM/FM tuner built in? It was a receiver. Did it not? It was an integrated amp. That’s hardly helpful with a product like the new SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase ($699.99, all prices USD), though. It lacks a radio tuner, sure. But it has so many other features that “integrated amp” hardly cuts it. SVS calls it a “smart integrated amplifier,” and I reckon that works.

Since my early days of audio madness, I’ve relied on Dual turntables, most of them automatic. Automatics are turntables that independently lift the arm and set it down on the lead-in groove, pick the arm up at the end of the side, return it to its rest position, and shut off the motor when done. So I was pleased to see that Dual had added a new automatic model to its lineup, the CS 329 ($499.99, all prices USD), a little brother to the more sophisticated CS 429 ($799.99) I reviewed back in October.

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

In a recent editorial about the appeal of vintage audio, I said, and I quote, “Build me a $1500 stereo receiver or integrated amp that looks anything like [the $9500 Technics SU-R1000 stereo integrated amplifier], and I think I could turn a lot more uninitiated music lovers into high-performance audio enthusiasts.” Needless to say, at $2699.99 (all prices USD), the Technics Grand Class SU-G700M2 integrated amplifier isn’t precisely that amp. Still, this new offering promises to be a much more value-oriented alternative to the company’s big-boy flagship, at a price that places it reasonably within the spectrum of attainability for many people, even if they’re not hardcore.

In 1991, at a time when most people thought vinyl was dead, Heinz Lichtenegger introduced the first Pro-Ject Audio Systems turntable. He knew there were probably millions of people who still owned billions of records and that many of them would want to hold on to their collections. So he set out to build a turntable that offered great sound at a budget price. That turntable was the Pro-Ject 1.

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

As I’ve said more than once here lately: with well-established brands, once you get to a certain level of product you can very nearly take performance for granted these days. At least in the two-channel domain. It really just comes down to whether or not the product in question fits your specific needs.

Reviewers' ChoiceAt one time—in the 1970s and into the 1980s—Dual automatic turntables were in probably half the entry-level stereo systems in the US. But when the CD came along, and turntables became yesterday’s story, Dual went through some very rough times.

The automatic turntable, absent from audio dealers’ offerings for years, is definitely making a comeback. The first unit I reviewed was the Andover Audio SpinDeck Max ($599, all prices USD). There are at least three more automatic turntables coming to me for review, and many more I haven’t reviewed or arranged to review. In this article, I’m looking at the Thorens TD 102 A ($1099), a fully automatic unit from the renowned Swiss/German company.

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

There’s this pervasive notion in the world of hi-fi that if a box does more than one thing, it simply must perform worse at its multiple functions than separate boxes performing the same tasks. In other words, there are people who argue that a separate amplifier and preamp will by definition sound better than an integrated amplifier with identical specifications, and that an integrated amp and standalone DAC will certainly sound better than an integrated amp with a DAC built in. The argument, as I understand it, is effectively: “something’s gotta give somewhere.”

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

Reviewers' ChoiceSomehow or another, I keep accidentally undermining my own arguments here on SoundStage! Access. First I questioned the need for standalone D-to-A converters in most modern audio systems. Then I found a standalone DAC compelling enough to add to my own reference system. Last month I took modern hi-fi manufacturers to task for not making affordable audio gear with anything resembling the sense of style or design found in vintage audio gear. Then—almost as if in response—Marantz dropped its new Model 40n integrated amp in my lap as if to say, “Hey, we’ve been rocking this high-style design for over a year now, since the launch of the Model 30.”

Back in 2008, I reviewed Rotel’s RCD-1072 CD player for GoodSound!, the predecessor to SoundStage! Access. At that time, I wrote: “Twenty-five years after the CD’s introduction and its promoters’ promise of ‘perfect sound forever,’ the little silver disc appears to be spinning out of our lives. CD sales are in a tailspin, superseded by downloads from websites such as iTunes and Rhapsody. Some people are as appalled by this situation as vinyl stalwarts were in 1983. I’m one of them.”