It’s a great era for analog, with accessibly priced record players that let you join the fun without betting the farm. Many audio manufacturers, new and old, are entering or reentering the field, and we’re covering as many of their offerings as possible.
SVS began some 20 years ago as a small company selling, via the Internet, a few models of high-value, cylindrical subwoofers. While SVS still sells direct to consumers online, they now have a dealer network as well, and make several lines of loudspeakers. Those early cylindrical subwoofers were nothing fancy but were excellent value, pumping out tons of great bass for not a lot of money. SVS continues to make cylindrical subs, but most of their subwoofers -- including some relatively high-end models -- are now the more common box type. They recently released the latest models in their top line, the Ultra series, of which I received the SB16-Ultra for review.
Recently, iFi Audio, a companion company to British ultra-high-end equipment provider Abbingdon Music Research (AMR), has made a name for itself with lines of affordable DACs, headphone amps, small music systems, and the subject of this review: the Micro iPhono2 phono stage ($499 USD). But its utility extends far beyond simply adding phono capability to an amplifier.
Along with Denon, Marantz, Pioneer, and Yamaha, Onkyo has been one of the mainstay Japanese consumer-electronics companies building home-theater receivers. Integra is the more upscale sister company of Onkyo. Since 1999, it has been available mainly through specialty A/V integrators, rather than the typical retail channels that carry Onkyo products.
Note: Measurements can be found through this link.
The M32 DirectDigital DAC and integrated amplifier ($3999 USD) is the newest offering in the second generation of NAD’s Masters Series, following the M22 stereo amplifier ($2999), M27 seven-channel amplifier ($3999), M17 A/V processor ($5499), M12 DAC-preamplifier ($3499), M50.2 digital music player ($3999), and M51 DirectDigital DAC ($1999). The M32 is also NAD’s second-generation DirectDigital integrated amp.
Outlaw Audio Ultra-X13 subwoofer measurements can be found by clicking this link.
The Outlaw Audio Ultra-X13 is more significant than its generic black enclosure might suggest. It’s the first subwoofer created under a new program in which original design manufacturer (ODM) Claridy Audio builds THX-certified speakers and subwoofers for brands that lack the resources to get a THX license and pay for the product testing. This could produce a mini-resurgence in new THX-certified speakers and subs, of which few have been introduced in the last decade or so. I think that’s great -- from what I know of the THX Ultra spec, it seems to force manufacturers into safe, sane designs that work well in all sorts of rooms.
Pro-Ject Audio Systems knows its customers well -- the Debut Carbon turntable ($399 USD), while not quite plug-and-play, comes with everything the aspiring vinyl-loving audiophile needs. And while not quite an exit-level turntable, its build quality tells me that Pro-Ject cares about the entry level of the market.
When I consider upgrade options for newbie audiophiles, a name that instantly comes to mind is Rotel. Like many, I bought my first hi-fi as a teen, at a store that, along with audio gear, sold major appliances: dishwashers, air conditioners, washing machines. Later, when I began browsing specialty audio shops, it was components from Rotel and NAD that caught my attention, mostly because they looked cool -- and I could afford them.
Today, selecting the right universal player isn’t always as simple as driving down to your local Best Buy and opting for the disc spinner with the highest number of codec badges or the hottest video engine under its hood. For many, particularly those of us who have a single system comprising components for both high-end music listening and watching movies, this decision is often one of the most multifaceted, complicated decisions we are forced to contend with. Consider the requirements: universal players must not only perform such basic chores as playing the DVDs -V and -A, BDs, CDs, and SACDs -- they must also be able to process, or at least pass along, 3D and 4K signals; decode the latest object-based 3D audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D; offer myriad connectivity options enabling both computer- and network-based streaming; and possess circuitry sophisticated enough to minimize the inherent problems associated with each of these demands. Additionally, universal players are also expected to provide satisfying levels of sound, video, and build quality, while offering efficient ergonomics.
Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
Dynaudio takes a lot of pride in the fact that it makes its own components, including its drivers, crossovers, and cabinets, and manufactures its loudspeakers in its various facilities in Denmark. But when I think of Dynaudio, cutting-edge industrial design is not the first thing that springs to mind. Their more affordable offerings of the past 15 years, such as their DM and Excite product lines, are unmistakable: simple, modest boxes with bolt-through drivers, including the company’s signature soft-dome tweeter. The drivers’ mounting bolts remain visible, despite most of Dynaudio’s competitors making efforts to shroud this unsightly and inelegant aspect of hand-built speakers.