2019 Product of the Year Award Winners

Audio Reputation Recommended Products

The year-end is near and it’s the perfect time to look back and try to make some reflections. 2019 was an incredibly productive and exciting year for all of us at AudioReputation. We’ve tested so many amazing products – headphones, earbuds, speakers, home theater systems, DACs, amps, preamps, etc. Some of them were incredibly innovative, even revolutionary. Some have pushed the boundaries of exceptional sound quality and listening experience. We wanted to honor those best of the best and tell the world about their excellence. That’s what this article is about. 

We’ve had a difficult time trying to make a comprehensive selection and not to forget something. There were so many great products but we finally did it. We’ve selected the best products of the year 2019 and arranged them into 3 main categories and many subcategories (21 to be precise).

We want to congratulate all the hard-working manufacturers and all the exceptional products that brought us so much excitement and pleasure over the past year. Hopefully, the next year will be even better. 

So, without further ado, let’s move onto our selection. These are Products of the Year 2019 by AudioReputation.


HEADPHONES

Audeze MOBIUS – Best High-End Gaming Headset

Audeze MOBIUS - Best High-End Gaming Headset

Audeze MOBIUS
Audeze MOBIUS

Audeze MOBIUS could easily be the most versatile pair of headphones on the market. It’s primarily a high-end gaming headset with surround sound capabilities, but it’s also a pair of portable Bluetooth headphones and it delivers the kind audio that borders audiophile standards. I mean, it’s not LCD-X or LCD-4 but, for the price, MOBIUS delivers impressive performance and it’s our favorite when it comes to gaming. 

Note: Audeze has already released the new version called LCD-GX, which is supposed to be even better than MOBIUS. It’s based on the famous LCD series of Audeze planar magnetic headphones and, according to some early reviews, this one truly brings an audiophile-grade sound to gaming. There’s a great chance that this will be our go-to gaming headset for the next year.

Reasons for winning

There’re so many reasons to go for MOBIUS. First, there’s the price/performance ratio. MOBIUS headphones are pricey but their performance still exceeds the price tag. They are incredibly versatile (3.5mm AUX connection, USB-C connection, and Bluetooth 5.0) and can be used with PCs, Macs, PS4, and Xbox One. 

The control scheme simple and easy-to-use. It’s designed for gamers and has all the necessary controls including separate mic volume and mic-mute, as well as 3D button that activates surround sound simulation. 

The headphones come with the Audeze HQ app (compatible with Windows and Mac) which allows you to play with all kinds of basic and advanced settings. You can even assign different head movements to different in-game actions. 

The comfort is above-average, which makes them a great choice for long gaming/listening sessions. Bluetooth connection offers reliable performance. Thanks to LDAC support, the sound quality in Bluetooth mode is quite impressive and it’s even better in wired mode. 

The headset comes with a detachable mic. The mic delivers flawless performance – perfect clarity and very good noise canceling. The built-in rechargeable battery delivers up to 9h of playtime in wireless mode, which is below average for Bluetooth headphones, but you have to remember that these are planar magnetic headphones.

About Audeze 

Audeze was founded in 2008, in Orange County, CA. For more than a decade, they’ve been one of the leaders on the planar magnetic headphone market. They make over-ear and in-ear audiophile-grade headphones. And, as you can see, they also make great gaming headsets.

Product Name: Audeze MOBIUS

  •     Price: $399.00
  •     Product Weight: 350g/12.3oz
  •     Product Warranty: 1-year manufacturer’s warranty
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Mic Quality: 5/5
  •     Comfort: 4.5/5
  •     Material quality: 4/5
  •     Durability: 4.5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 4.9/5

 


PSB M4U 8 – Best Over-Ear Noise Cancelling Headphones

PSB M4U 8 - Best Over-Ear Noise Cancelling Headphones

PSB M4U 8
PSB M4U 8

The ANC headphone market is growing constantly. BOSE and SONY are leading the race but we wanted to present to you something different and to introduce some new players. 

PSB is famous for its speakers. They have more than 50 years of experience in manufacturing all kinds of speakers but they decided to expand to other markets. M4U 8 headphones are PSB’s first wireless ANC headphones. They may look a little bit too ordinary but their sonic performance and their noise-canceling abilities are anything but ordinary. At a $300 price tag, PSB M4U is a very competitive headphone model and deserves our recommendation.

Reasons for winning

M4U 8 won’t win any ‘’best design’’ awards but there are still so many things to like about these headphones. The biggest selling points are noise canceling and sonic performance. 

The headphones can be used in wired (59in long AUX cable is included) and wireless modes. You can also connect them to your PC via USB to micro USB audio cable. The controls are very intuitive, easy-to-use, and responsive. 

Bluetooth connection is reliable and supports aptX HD which enables wireless streaming of HD audio files (up to 26bit/48kHz). In addition to aptX HD support, the headphones feature RoomFeel technology (it’s a technology developed by PSB with the idea to expand the soundstage). 

Compared to Bose QC35 and SONY ANC headphones, PSB M4U 8 headphones deliver more enjoyable, more detailed, and richer sound reproduction. Passive noise attenuation is very good. ANC is even better and it’s close to the ANC performance of reference-grade ANC headphones. 

The battery life is satisfying but not exceptional – 15h at 50% volume. What’s interesting when it comes to the battery is that the headphones use rechargeable and replaceable NiMH AA batteries but you can use just any two AA batteries.

About PSB 

PSB is a Canadian speaker manufacturer with almost 50 years of experience in designing and engineering speakers. The company was founded in 1972 by Paul Barton. The first headphone model was made in 2013 (M4U 1) and, since then, they’ve made a few more models. Their headphones are often praised for their sonic performance.

Product Name: PSB M4U 8

  •     Price: $299.00
  •     Product Weight: 342g/12oz
  •     Product Warranty: 1-year manufacturer’s warranty
  •     Design: 3/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     ANC Quality: 5/5
  •     Comfort: 4/5
  •     Material quality: 4/5
  •     Durability: 4/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

 


HIFIMAN TWS 600 – Best True Wireless Earphones

HIFIMAN TWS 600 - Best True Wireless Earphones

HIFIMAN TWS 600
HIFIMAN TWS 600

Looking for the most capable, great-sounding, and budget-friendly true wireless earphones? HIFIMAN TWS 600 is the best choice for you. HIFIMAN is probably more famous for its audiophile-grade planar magnetic and electrostatic headphones, but their affordable earphones deserve some praise, too. TWS 600 delivers everything you would expect from true wireless earphones, and then some more. 

Reasons for winning

The earphones are super small and extremely light. They come with 8 different pairs of ear tips (4 regular and 4 bi-flange) and a small but very capable charging case. Finding the right fit is a breeze. The earphones have ergonomically angled tips and provide great comfort and stability. TSW 600 earphones are IPX4-certified which makes them perfectly resistant to sweating and suitable for all kinds of sports activities. 

You can use either earbud/earphone to control the playback (play/pause/volume/activate assistant). You will get 5.5 hours of playtime per charge and the case will deliver an additional 38h (per earphone). The earphones need 1h to recharge and the case can be fully charged in 1.5h. 

The Bluetooth connection is perfectly reliable. The earphones feature Bluetooth 5.0. Under ideal conditions (unobstructed range), the range extends to 500ft. Under normal conditions (walls and other obstacles), you will get more than 100ft. 

Sound quality is one of the biggest selling points. It’s surprisingly good considering the size of the drivers and the price of these earphones. HIFIMAN’s ‘’topology diaphragms’’ deliver incredible sound with a great punch, clear mids, and very consistent highs. The soundstage is astonishingly wide. It’s not something you would expect from this type of earphone.

About the Manufacturer 

HIFIMAN was founded in 2007, in New York. HIFIMAN’s first planar magnetic headphone model was released the same year. It was named HE-5 and it was a huge success. Since then, HFIMAN has enlarged its production line. Today, HIFIMAN makes high-end planar magnetic headphones, earphones, electrostatic headphones, digital portable players, and headphone amps. The TOTL audiophile headphones coming from the HIFIMAN are HE1000 V2, SUSVARA, Jade II electrostatic headphones, and SHANGRI-LA electrostatic headphones.

Product Name: HIFIMAN TWS 600

  •     Price: $199.00
  •     Product Weight: 5.9g/0.2oz x2
  •     Product Warranty: 1-year manufacturer’s warranty 
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Comfort: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 – Best Closed-Back Headphones

Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 - Best Closed-Back Headphones

Dan Clark Audio AEON 2
Dan Clark Audio AEON 2

Dan Clark Audio (previously known as MrSpeakers) is a small but really great headphone manufacturer that deserves your attention. Their AEON 2 headphone model is rather a completely new headphone model than just an upgrade of the previous MrSpeakers AEON Flow. AEON 2 closed-back headphones are super-portable closed-back planar magnetic headphones with impressively detailed and accurate sound reproduction and surprisingly wide soundstage. They feature the same kind of magnets you can find on more expensive Ether 2 planar magnetic headphones.

Reasons for winning

Big sound in a small and super-portable package. That’s what these headphones are all about. And when we say big, we’re not talking about the loudness (not only about the loudness). Along with the headphones, you’ll get a small carrying case (significantly smaller than the one that comes with the first AEON version), detachable cable, and Dan Clark Audio’s damping pads. 

The headphones have a very innovative folding pattern with a down-folding headband. The build quality is excellent. They have Dan Clark Audio’s recognizable Nitinol headband. The cups are made from ABS and the earcup covers are made from carbon fiber. The comfort is impressive. They are surprisingly light for a pair of planar magnetic headphones and the pads are really thick and plushy.

The biggest selling point is, naturally, the sound quality. AEON 2 headphones deliver very detailed and rich sound. The bass is quite punchy and fast, but also very controlled. The midrange is impeccable – it’s extremely detailed, dynamic, and clear. The treble response is even better. AEON 2 headphones are a little bit warmer than the original AEON headphones, mostly because of the richer bass response (partially caused by the closed-back design). The most surprising part is the soundstage – considering the fact that these are closed-back, the soundstage is huge. That kind of openness is not something you would expect from closed-back headphones. 

About the Manufacturer 

Dan Clark Audio is a young headphone manufacturer with a great reputation. Their planar magnetic headphones are very popular among audiophiles and they have already won a few awards. Dan Clark is the sweetest guy – he’s always ready to help and he really cares about his headphones. We loved their Ether 2, VOCE, and AEON headphones. 

Product Name: Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 Closed-Back Headphones

  •     Price: $679.99
  •     Product Weight: 340g/12oz
  •     Product Warranty: 2-year manufacturer’s warranty
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Comfort: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


Meze Empyrean – Best Audiophile Headphones

Meze Empyrean - Best Audiophile Headphones

Meze Empyrean
Meze Empyrean

Empyrean planar magnetic headphones come from a small in-house facility in Romania and they could easily be the biggest revelation of this year. They are the best-looking and best-sounding headphones of 2019. Great job, Meze!

Reasons for winning

We don’t even know where to start. We have so many good things to say about these headphones. Their design is so innovative and unique. It’s the sexiest pair of headphones we’ve come across this year. The similarity in logo design between Meze and Maserati is maybe just a coincidence, but that’s how we see it – Meze is the Maserati of the headphone world.

Their build quality and durability are among the best on the market. Meze’s attention to detail is so amazing. Also, we mustn’t forget about comfort. It’s off the charts. They are kind of hefty but surprisingly comfy. Everything is simply perfect – weight distribution, clamping force, paddings. Meze even included two pairs of earpads – with a real leather finish and with Alcantara finish. Empyrean headphones are a perfect choice for long listening sessions.

The best thing about Empyrean headphones is the sound. Meze used a special kind of planar magnetic drivers called isodynamic hybrid array drivers made in cooperation with RINARO, a Ukrainian audio company. Together, they made a driver that’s super-easy to drive (31.6Ω impedance) and sounds wonderful. The frequency response is extremely extended (in both ways). The bass is so deep and powerful but also controlled. It doesn’t put any shadow on the midrange. The midrange is super-clear, dynamic, and so detailed. The treble is simply sparkling, without any brightness. Overall, Meze Empyrean is the most transparent and dynamic pair of headphones with a mind-blowing soundstage and perfectly accurate imaging. They are everything an audiophile dream about.  

About the Manufacturer 

Meze is one of the youngest headphone manufacturers. The company was founded in 2011 and it’s based in Baia Mare, Romania. In 2015, they have launched their first 99 Classics headphones. During the next four years, they have released a few more headphones, including 99 NEO and a few budget earphones. Their products were praised for their great value (price/performance ratio). In 2019, they have decided to enter the heavyweight class and launched their flagship Empyrean headphones. As you can see, it was a huge success. We are eager to see what the next year brings.

Product Name: Meze Empyrean

  •     Price: $2,999.00
  •     Product Weight: 430g/15.2oz
  •     Product Warranty: 2-year manufacturer’s warranty
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Comfort: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


Focal Utopia – Best Open-Back Over-Ear Headphones

Focal Utopia - Best Open-Back Over-Ear Headphones

Focal Utopia
Focal Utopia

Surprisingly, we’ve decided not to go for some of the newest flagship planars or electrostats. Instead, we’ve picked the older Focal Utopia, open-back headphones with dynamic drivers. They won our hearts three years ago and we still have some very strong feelings for them. 

Reasons for winning

The price will be too high for most people, but they most definitely deserve this kind of price tag. Everything about them is premium – design, build, and sonic performance. 

They come in a premium box with a hard-shell carrying case with a faux leather finish and two high-quality cables (10ft long with balanced XLR connector and 4ft long with 3.5mm connector and 6.25mm adapter).  

Their build quality is impressive. Focal used carbon fiber for most of the parts. The paddings are made from memory foam and have lambskin finish. 

What makes these headphones so expensive is not the design nor the build quality. It’s all about the drivers and sonic performance. Focal used Beryllium drivers (which they previously used for tweeter drivers in their high-end speakers). Beryllium proved to be a perfect combo of lightness and rigidity which is very important for accurate and detailed sound reproduction.

The bass response is excellent. It’s hefty and textured but also accurate and controlled. The midrange is very detailed with perfectly clear vocals. Treble tonality and resolution are simply perfect. Treble response is very extended and never gets bright or unnatural. The sound reproduction, as a whole, will leave you speechless. There’s a great sense of nuance, detail, and resolution. Frequency response is transient and none of the frequencies are too emphasized. The soundstage is not huge but the imaging is extremely precise and the separation between instruments is very good.

About the Manufacturer 

Focal is a renowned loudspeaker and headphone manufacturer. It’s a French company founded in 1979. For more than 30 years, they’ve been famous for their high-end speakers but then, they decided to expand their production and started making headphones (in 2012). Utopia is Focal’s flagship model, introduced back in 2016, and it’s still considered one the best-sounding headphones in the world.

Product Name: Focal Utopia

  •     Price: $3,992.00
  •     Product Weight: 490g/1.08lb
  •     Product Warranty: 1-year manufacturer’s warranty
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Comfort: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


DALI IO-4 – Best Wireless Hi-Fi Headphones 

DALI IO-4 - Best Wireless Hi-Fi Headphones

DALI IO-4
DALI IO-4

DALI is not a big name on the headphone market but if you like their speakers, you should give a chance to their headphones, too. IO-4 is a great pair of Bluetooth headphones with impressive battery life and impressive sonic performance.

Reasons for winning

Just like any other DALI product, IO-4 headphones look really stylish. The manufacturer used high-quality materials and made them very attractive and very durable. The control scheme is intuitive and easy to use. 

Connection versatility is one of the best things. You can use them in wired (AUX or USB-C) or wireless mode (Bluetooth 5.0). Bluetooth connection works flawlessly. The headphones support aptX, aptX HD, and AAC codecs. They are compatible with both Apple and Android devices. 

The battery life is simply amazing and makes them perfect for on-the-go use. These headphones can deliver 60h of playtime (at moderate volumes) and the recharge takes only 2-3h thanks to USB-C charging port.

Due to aptX and aptX HD support, the IO-4 will deliver above-average sound quality in Bluetooth mode. Their frequency response is relatively flat, without any obvious emphasis. The sound reproduction is not exactly on par with audiophile headphones but there’s a fair amount of detail, the bass has a nice texture and impact, the mids are dynamic and clear, and the treble is consistent and detailed. 

Considering the fact that IO-4 is the first pair of headphones ever made by DALI, we can only say – great job, DALI! Congrats!

About the Manufacturer 

DALI is a Danish speaker and headphone manufacturer, founded in 1983. DALI is known for its high-performance home theater speakers (especially award-winning EPICON series) and high-end Bluetooth speakers. Recently, they’ve decided to enter the headphone market and launched two pairs of hi-fi headphones (IO-4 and IO-6).

Product Name: DALI IO-4

  •     Price: $399.00
  •     Product Weight: 323g/11.4oz
  •     Product Warranty: 1-year worldwide warranty
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Comfort: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 4.5/5
  •     Durability: 4.5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


Monoprice Monolith Electrostatic Open-Back Headphone – Best Entry-Level Electrostatic Headphones

Monoprice Monolith Electrostatic Open-Back Headphone – Best Entry-Level Electrostatic Headphones

Monoprice Monolith
Monoprice Monolith

For most people, the world of electrostatic headphones is unknown territory. Electrostatic headphones are often considered the best-sounding and most accurate headphones in the world but they are also among the most expensive headphones in the world. Monoprice is giving you a chance to enter the world of electrostatic headphones and experience audiophile sound at an affordable price. Monolith electrostatic headphones are not exactly cheap but, compared to top-of-the-line electrostatic headphones, these are very much affordable.

 Reasons for winning

This one is pretty simple. The biggest selling point of Monoprice Monolith electrostatic headphones is audiophile performance at an affordable price. Still, there are a few more things we like about these headphones. 

Monolith headphones look much better than some more expensive electrostatic headphones. They are also extremely light and very comfortable. They’re perfect for long sessions. 

Also, the headphones come with an energizer so you don’t have to buy any additional equipment. The energizer features a built-in battery so you can use the headphones on the go. The battery life is estimated at 5-6h, which is not much but it’s satisfying.

The greatest thing about Monolith headphones is sonic performance. The bass is present and accurate, but not very textured or extended. On the other hand, midrange reproduction is very detailed, fast, and dynamic. The vocals are perfectly clear. Treble reproduction is consistent and detailed. 

They are not the best-sounding electrostatic headphones and have their flaws (bass response, plastic build, proprietary connections, undetachable cable) but, for the price, they will give you more than satisfying performance. 

About the Manufacturer 

Monoprice is a young electronics manufacturer. The company was founded in 2002 and it quickly became one of the synonyms for a great value. Their products are usually quite affordable and offer pretty good performance for the price. Monoprice makes all kinds of video and audio equipment, PC and gaming equipment, mobile accessories, etc. 

Product Name: Monoprice Monolith

  •     Price: $299.99
  •     Product Weight: 126g/4.4oz
  •     Product Warranty: 3-year replacement warranty
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 4.5/5
  •     Comfort: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 3.5/5
  •     Durability: 3.5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

 


Creative SXFI Air Headset – The Most Versatile Budget Headset

Creative SXFI Air Headset – The Most Versatile Budget Headset

Creative SXFI Air Headset
Creative SXFI Air Headset

Looking for something relatively affordable and incredibly versatile that you can use in any situation? Creative SXFI Air headset is the thing you need. It’s a pair of Bluetooth headphones, a gaming headset, a home theater headset, and a pair of USB-C headphones, all in one affordable device.

Reasons for winning

First of all, there’s versatility. The headphones feature USB-C and AUX inputs. They also have a micro SD card slot (supports up to 32Gb) so you can play your favorite songs directly from a micro SD card (MP3, WAV, WMA, and FLAC files). In the end, the headset features Bluetooth 4.2 and can be used in wireless mode.

Gamers will be happy to know that SXFI Air is compatible with PC, Mac, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. 

The design is maybe a bit too generic but there are nice RGB lighting rings on each cup and you can select and change the color of the ring.

The construction quality is not impressive (mostly plastic), but the headset feels quite solid. On the other hand, comfort is just perfect. Creative even included a spare pair of mesh earpads, which are softer and offer better breathability.

The control scheme is a mixture of touch-sensitive controls (volume and playback) and clickable buttons. It’s very intuitive and easy to use. You can also install the SXFI App which allows you to customize the sound for gaming, music listening, and movie watching. This feature is called holographic personalized audio and it’s one of the coolest things about this headset. 

The battery delivers 10-11 hours of playtime at moderate volumes. 

The headset also has a removable NanoBoom mic that can be used for call answering or gaming. You can also replace it with an optional gaming boom mic with a longer arm. 

Sonic performance is, along with versatility, the best thing about SXFI Air. Thanks to SXFI technology, you can customize the sound signature for every activity. The headset delivers very immersive and accurate 3D soundstage for gaming, it brings cinema-like experience when watching movies, and it expands the soundstage beyond the limits when listening to music. It’s great for all kinds of content. 

About the Manufacturer 

Creative was founded in Singapore, in 1981. It’s one of the leaders when it comes to digital entertainment equipment. They are famous for their PC components and peripherals, gaming equipment, speakers, and headphones.

Product Name: Creative SXFI Air

  •     Price: $139.99
  •     Product Weight: 338g/11.9oz
  •     Product Warranty: 1-year limited hardware warranty
  •     Design: 4/5
  •     Sound Quality: 4.5/5
  •     Comfort: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 4/5
  •     Durability: 4/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

 


SPEAKERS

Q Acoustics 3020i – Best Bookshelf Speakers

Q Acoustics 3020i - Best Bookshelf Speakers

Q Acoustics 3020i
Q Acoustics 3020i

Q Acoustics 3020i comes from the 3000i speaker series. These bookshelf speakers deliver surprisingly big and rich sound for their size and that’s their biggest advantage over the competition. 

Reasons for winning

Flashy design and impeccable build are the first two things you’re going to notice. Also, you will notice that these are significantly deeper than the previous 3020 version. That way, the manufacturer increased the volume of the cabinet and improved bass response. Another important design-related enhancement is the speaker terminal design. The manufacturer used low-profile binding posts which allow you to place the speaker closer to the wall (and get a better low-end response).

Q Acoustics used a 2-way driver configuration with a ported enclosure (rear-firing bass reflex port). Each speaker features 5in mid-bass cone woofer made from impregnated and coated paper. Above the woofer, there’s a .9in decoupled tweeter with much better sound dispersion than the tweeter on the previous version (which results in much wider and more precise soundstage).

Q Acoustics 3020i speakers deliver refined and detailed sound with nice and punchy bass, clear mids, and very nice, coherent, and detailed highs. The soundstage is quite wide and the imaging is very precise. It’s really hard to get better sonic performance at this price point. 

About the Manufacturer 

Q Acoustics is another young loudspeaker and home theater system manufacturer. It all started in 2006 with the introduction of the Q Acoustics 1000 speaker series, which was a huge success. Their home theater systems (especially Q Acoustics 7000 5.1 and 3000 5.1) and Concept speaker line are often considered the best in the class.

Product Name: Q Acoustics 302i

  •     Price: $314.99 (pair)
  •     Product Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 6.7in x 10.9in x 11.1in / 12.1lb/5.5kg (each)
  •     Product Warranty: 4-year manufacturer’s warranty (materials and workmanship)
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 Surround Sound System – Best Compact Home Theater System

SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 Surround Sound System – Best Compact Home Theater System

SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 Surround Sound System
SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 Surround Sound System

If you have certain space and money limitations, as many of us have, but you still want to experience true surround sound, SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 is the best system for you. It’s very compact yet surprisingly loud and immersive.

Reasons for winning

There are two major reasons for winning the award – compactness and value (performance). This system is super small. It consists of 5 Prime satellites and one powerful 12in subwoofer (SB-1000). It may seem odd that there’s no dedicated center channel but you can be assured that one Prime 2-way satellite (4.5in woofer, 1in tweeter) used as the center channel delivers perfectly clear dialogues without any distortion. 

Hooking up the system is a breeze. Each satellite features standard 5-way binding posts and is relatively easy to drive. The subwoofer is active/powered, it has a 12in front-firing driver, and its RMS is rated at 300W. The satellites can go down to 69Hz and the subwoofer can cover anything lower than that (down to 24Hz). 

The system will deliver the best performance in a relatively small room (something like 10×10 or up to 15×15). The sound is clear, the bass is thunderous, and the overall experience is super-immersive. The system is simply great for movies. 

One more thing that deserves some praise is the SVS warranty. They offer the most comprehensive 5-year unconditional warranty for all their speakers and subwoofers. They truly believe in their products.

So, if you have $1,000 or so and you want to spend it on a compact home theater system, don’t think twice. You can’t go wrong with SVS Prime Satellite 5.1.

About the Manufacturer 

SVS is an American loudspeaker and home theater system manufacturer, based in Youngstown, Ohio. Their most popular speaker series are Prime and Ultra. All their speakers are reasonably priced and offer great value for money.

Product Name: SVS Prime Satellite 5.1

  •     Price: $999 – $1,199
  •     Subwoofer Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 13in x 13.5in x 14in /27lbs
  •     Satellite Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 4.9in x 8.75in x 6in / 6.5lbs
  •     Product Warranty: 5-year unconditional warranty
  •     Design: 4.5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

 


MartinLogan Motion 40i– Best Floorstanding Speakers

MartinLogan Motion 40i– Best Floorstanding Speakers

MartinLogan Motion 40i
MartinLogan Motion 40i

Have you heard of electrostatic and hybrid electrostatic speakers? MartinLogan is one of a few companies making this kind of speakers. Their Motion 40i floorstanders are high-performing speakers inspired by MartinLogan’s high-end electrostatic speakers. They have impressive midrange clarity, mind-blowing bass, and extremely extended and detailed treble. Motion 40i is our top choice when it comes to floorstanding speakers.

Reasons for winning

MartinLogan 40i floorstanders are sleek and elegant speakers with a small footprint. They feature 3-way design (two bass drivers, mid-bass woofer, tweeter) and have hand-built crossovers (set at 500Hz and 2,600Hz). Connecting the speakers to your AV receiver will be a breeze. The speakers feature 2 sets of 5-way binding posts so you can bi-wire them if you want to.

Each speaker features two 6.5in bass drivers. They are at the bottom and are in charge of the lows (40Hz-500Hz). The mid-bass woofer is in charge of the 500Hz-2,600Hz frequency range. Near the top, you have a special Folded Motion Tweeter (1in x 1.4in). The tweeter frequency response spans from 2,600Hz to 25kHz. The speakers are relatively easy to drive and don’t require extremely powerful amps to shine.

They are equally good for music and for movies. The bass is very deep, fast, and rich. However, the speakers can’t reach those really low sub-bass frequencies and if you want the best possible performance, you will have to pair it with a high-quality subwoofer. These speakers won’t benefit from a cheap 10in sub. You’ll need something bigger and more powerful if you want to match the speakers’ performance. The midrange is clear and dynamic. The treble is extended and natural.

About the Manufacturer 

MartinLogan is one of the big and recognizable names in the audio industry. Founded in 1979 in Kansas, MartinLogan has 40 years of experience in making high-end subwoofers and loudspeakers. The founders of Martin Logan, Gayle Martin and Ron Logan have experimented with electrostatic technology since the very beginning and have lots of experience in this specific area. Motion 40i floorstanders and other speakers from the Motion series are inspired by famous MartinLogan’s electrostatic speakers and offer similar performance at more affordable prices.

Product Name: Motion 40i

  •     Price: -$1,200 (each)
  •     Floorstanding Speakers Dimension (WxHxD/Weight): 7.56in x 42.49in x 12.81in / 45lbs
  •     Product Warranty: Limited 5-year warranty coverage
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


Monitor Audio Silver 200 AV12 – Best Hi-Fi 5.1 System

Monitor Audio Silver 200 AV12 – Best Hi-Fi 5.1 System

Monitor Audio Silver 200 AV12
Monitor Audio Silver 200 AV12

The best hi-fi 5.1 home theater system of 2019 comes from Great Britain and it’s made by Monitor Audio. Silver 200 AV12 5.1 system is a beautiful, very capable, and immersive system. It consists of two Silver 200 floorstanders, one Silver C150 center speaker, two Silver FX rear/surround speakers, and one Silver W12 V2 subwoofer.

Reasons for winning

The whole system looks quite elegant, especially in rosenut and walnut finishes. Each speaker, except for the subwoofer, features C-CAM gold dome tweeters, which is one of the trademarks of Monitor Audio. They also have C-CAM bass drivers and mid-bass drivers. C-CAM stands for ceramic-coated aluminum/magnesium and it’s a material that was developed by aerospace engineers. Due to its rigidity and lightness, it’s also a great material for speaker drivers.

The speakers from the Silver series are all tuned to match each other’s sonic characteristics. Silver 200 tower speakers feature 2.5-way driver design (5.25in bass driver, 5.25 mid-bass driver, 1in tweeter) with crossovers at 700Hz and 2.9kHz. C150 center channels is also a 2.5-way speaker (two 5.25in woofers and one 1in tweeter) with crossovers at 650Hz and 3.1kHz. Silver FX speakers feature 2-way design (one 6in mid-bass woofer and two 1in tweeters) with a crossover at 2.5kHz. The sub features 12in front-firing woofer and has an adjustable crossover frequency (40Hz-120Hz) and phase control. The sub is very powerful (500W RMS)

Together, speakers from the Silver line will deliver unforgettable cinema-like experience. This system handles every single aspect of audio reproduction effortlessly. The subwoofer delivers some crazy rumble, the center channel delivers perfectly clear dialogs, those Silver FX surround speakers handle all kinds of special effects with great precision, and the floorstanders offer an impressive amount of detail and musicality. It’s a rare thing, but this system delivers equally impressive performance with music and with movies.

About the Manufacturer 

Monitor Audio is a British manufacturer of hi-fi loudspeakers and surround sound systems. They have 40 years of experience in these fields and are very good at what they do. This company is best known for its development and implementation of metal dome tweeters. Many speaker manufacturers use metal cone woofers but making metal tweeters is much harder (since they are much smaller) and that’s what makes Monitor Audio’s speakers different from others. 

Product Name: Monitor Audio Silver 200 AV12

  •     Price: $3,820 – $6,850 (depending on the seller)
  •     Floorstanders (Silver 200) Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 6.5in x 34.8in x 9.4in / 14.6kg
  •     Center Speaker (C150) Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 17.6in x 6.5in x 7.9in x 20.1lbs
  •     Satellites (Silver FX) Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 12.2in x 9.8in x 5.1in / 9.4lbs
  •     Subwoofer (Silver W12 V2) Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 13.4in x 14.in x 16.1in / 44lbs
  •     Product Warranty: 5-year craftmanship and performance warranty
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


AUDIO EQUIPMENT and PERIPHERALS– DACs, AMPS, PREAMPS, CABLES…

Nordost Heimdall 2 Tonearm Cable + – Best Tonearm Cable

Nordost Heimdall 2 Tonearm Cable + - Best Tonearm Cable

Nordost Heimdall 2 Tonearm CableEvery audiophile who cares about his/her audio equipment knows about Nordost but only a small percentage of those audiophiles can afford Nordost equipment. Nordost Heimdall 2 comes from the Norse 2 cable family. The price of this cable goes up to $815 (for the shortest possible cable and standard straight 5-pin din to RCA/XLR terminations). If you want longer cable, you will have to pay more (approx. $100 per 50cm/20in). Price is the biggest and probably the only downside of this cable. Heimdall 2 is, undoubtedly, the best tonearm cable for your vinyl record player and if you don’t mind spending that much, just go for it. 

Reasons for winning

Heimdall 2 tonearm cable (and all the cables from Norse 2 and Leif families) use silver-plated, OFC solid-core conductors. There are two twisted pairs of conductors shielded individually. This kind of construction is called micro mono-filament and it’s developed by Nordost in order to create a virtual air dielectric around the conductors. When it comes to terminations, you can choose between straight and angled MoonGlo 5-pin Din connectors on one end, and between RCA and XLR balanced on the other end. The manufacturer also used detachable ground whips and asymmetrical grounding with the sole idea to minimize the noise floor during the signal transfer.

Thanks to its revolutionary construction and high-quality materials, Heimdall 2 practically eliminates the noise or any interference and allows you to hear your LPs like you’ve never heard them before. 

About the Manufacturer 

Nordost is a US-based manufacturer of high-end audio cables and accessories (headphone cables, tonearm cables, speaker cables, subwoofer cables, bi-wire jumpers), video cables (HDMI and UHD cables), and other accessories for the consumer electronics. Nordost is the company that launched the first US-made HDMI cable. Their cables and accessories are, without a doubt, products of the highest possible quality but they are not for everyone. The thing is – they are quite expensive. If you have that kind of money and you are not willing to settle for less than the best, Nordost is your go-to brand. You won’t regret buying their cables.

 

  •     Price: $659.99 -$815.00 (for 1.25m)
  •     Product length: 1.25m
  •     Product Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty (covers manufacturing faults)
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


Fidelice Precision Digital-to-Analog Converter – Best DAC/Preamp/ Headphone Amp Combo

Fidelice Precision Digital-to-Analog Converter - Best DAC/Preamp/ Headphone Amp Combo

Fidelice Precision Digital-to-Analog Converter
Fidelice Precision Digital-to-Analog Converter

Fidelice Precision is a line of high-end consumer products, the first of the kind created by the legend of the audio industry, Rupert Neve. The line consists of Fidelice Precision phono pre-amp, Fidelice headphone amp, and Fidelice Precision DAC. They are all designed with one idea in mind – great sound starts and ends with analog. That’s the exact idea that led Rupert Neve while building this amazing DAC. 

Reasons for winning

Fidelice Precision is actually a combo device (DAC/Preamp/Headphone Amp) built around class-A topologies. It’s one of the most capable DACs on the market in terms of connectivity, performance, and sound purity.

The preamp output section includes RCA and XLR balanced outputs with a variable output stage.

The headphone amp output section is separated from the preamp section and it includes a ¼in TRS unbalanced output as well as balanced 4-pin XLR and balanced 4.4mm TRRS Pentaconn connections.

When it comes to analog inputs, you have RCA unbalanced and XLR balanced inputs. The amp also features 3 digital inputs – optical S/PDIF (24bit/192kHz), coaxial S/PDIF (24bit/192kHz), and USB (up to 32bit/384kHz). 

The DAC section can handle and decode high-res audio files effortlessly. In PCM mode, the DAC supports files up to 32bit/384kHz. It also supports the highest possible DSD standard – DSD512 (only when connected to Windows PCs). The DAC also has digital filters that allow you to make further customizations.

Fidelice DAC outperforms every DAC in its price range. It can handle anything you throw at it and delivers stunning sound quality in any configuration. This thing sets new standards in digital accuracy. It is truly a world-class product.

About the Manufacturer 

Rupert Neve Design’s is a company founded in 2005 and it’s based in Wimberley, Texas. The founder, Rupert Neve, is one of the pioneers in recording technology and professional audio equipment. After more than 50 years of making professional audio equipment, Mr. Neve finally released the first line of high-end personal audio equipment. The line is named Fidelice and it’s designed with the sole purpose of bringing high-end studio experience to regular people.

Product Name: Fidelice Precision Digital-to-Analog Converter

  •     Price: $4,995.00
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 6/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 6/5

 


SOtM sMS-200 Neo – Best Network Audio Player

SOtM sMS-200 Neo - Best Network Audio Player

SOtM sMS-200 Neo
SOtM sMS-200 Neo

SOtM sMS-200 Neo is a device you can live without but you shouldn’t if you are trying to achieve the best possible sound quality and minimal distortion and noise. Most audiophiles will argue that having separate audio components is a must if you want audiophile listening experience. That’s why you need sMS-200 Neo in case you are streaming music via your home network. It’s a simple and compact device with a single purpose of transferring network audio from a source to your DAC while preserving every single bit of detail and clarity.

Reasons for winning

sMS-200 Neo is a simple playback device (often called streamer). It’s super-small and the construction quality is quite impressive. When you look at the rear panel, you will only see a few inputs and outputs. It may seem like the manufacturer didn’t care about versatility but that’s not true. The manufacturer simply cared more about the performance and adding digital inputs and outputs would cause more interference and it would increase the noise. So, you will have just one Ethernet port, one USB audio output (for connecting your DAC), and two USB input ports for connecting external storage devices.

SOtM uses custom Linux OS that you can open by typing in the IP address assigned to the sMS-200 Neo. From the menu, you can select a variety of modes (sources) – MPD&DLNA, Airplay via Shairport, Squeezelite, HQPlayer. The biggest highlight is Roon Endpoint capability (sMS-200 Neo is a Roon-ready device). So, you can simply run Roon on some other computer in your home (it has to be connected to the same home network) and stream audio to your SOtM sMS 200-Neo.  

sMS 200-Neo introduces less interference and doesn’t distort the digital audio signal as much as your PC or laptop and, as a result, it delivers noticeably cleaner sound with minimal noise and distortion. Depending on other components in your setup, you will get different results but sMS 200-Neo will always make sure that the audio signal coming to your DAC is distortion and noise-free.

About the Manufacturer 

SOtM is a South Korean audio company founded more than a decade ago. SOtM’s main area of expertise is network audio. They make network players and streamers but also headphone amps, DACs, preamps, PC components, cables, and other accessories. 

Product Name: SOtM sMS 200

  •     Price: $450
  •     Product Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 4.2in x 1.9in x 6in / 3.3lbs
  •     Design: 4/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


Phono Box MM – Best Phono Preamp

Phono Box MM - Best Phono Preamp

Phono Box MM
Phono Box MM

Looking for a simple, functional and affordable phono preamp? Pro-Ject is your go-to brand. The company has a reputation for making great turntables and all the equipment for turntables. Phono Box MM phono preamp is a perfect example. 

Reasons for winning

Phono Box MM is a small, boxy, inobtrusive device with a simple input/output layout. At the back, you only have two gold plated RCA inputs, two RCA outputs, and DC power supply input.

Phono Box MM is compatible with both MM and high-output MC phono cartridges.

The possibility of electromagnetic or vibrating external interference is eliminated by the use of metal shielding and outboard power supply. The manufacturer also used low-noise internal circuitries to deliver the clearest possible audio signal.

Due to its small size, you can install it right next to your turntable without the use of long cables. 

About the Manufacturer 

Pro-Ject is an Austrian audio company founded in 1991. At first, they only manufactured turntables. Their Pro-Ject 1 turntable was a huge success and made the company recognizable. Today, Pro-Ject manufactures turntables and all the turntable-related equipment (phono preamps, cables, amps, etc.). They also make speakers, headphones, headphone amps, DACs. Their equipment is mostly made in the Czech Republic (turntables) and Slovakia (high-end audio components). Pro-Ject is a brand known for great value. Their products are usually affordable and deliver great performance for the price.

Product Name: Phono Box MM

  •     Price: $74.00
  •     Product Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 4.2in x 1.2in x 2.4in / 9.9oz
  •     Design: 4/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

 


dCS Bartok DAC – Best High-End DAC

dCS Bartok DAC – Best High-End DAC

dCS Bartok DAC
dCS Bartok DAC

dCS Bartok DAC is the end-game device. It’s a high-end DAC with a built headphone amp and preamp. Like that’s not enough, dCS Bartok also acts as UPnP renderer, music streamer (via Ethernet or via Airplay), and it supports streaming services like Spotify Connect and TIDAL. It’s a magnificent device with only one downside – the price. However, if you are looking for the most capable product on the market and want the best possible performance, dCS Bartok is worth it.

Reasons for winning

We have already listed one reason for winning – dCS Bartok is an incredibly versatile device. 

Bartok’s DAC is built around dCS’s proprietary Ring DAC topology. The DAC section features numerous inputs including two coaxial S/PDIF (up to 24bit/192kHz in PCM mode or DSD64 in DoP format), one digital optical (24bit/96kHz in PCM mode), two AES 3-pin XLR inputs for connecting dCS SACD transport (up to 24bit/192kHz in PCM mode or DSD128 in DoP format), USB  Type-A input for streaming from a flash drive (up to 24bit/384kHz or DSD64), USB Type-B (up to 24bit/384kHz in PCM mode or up to DSD128), and two Ethernet ports. The main Ethernet port serves as UPnP renderer and can be used for music streaming via local network (from a PC or NAS) and it can decode the most common lossless formats including FLAC, AIFF, and WAV (up to 24bit/384kHz and up to DSD128). In the end, Bartok supports wireless streaming via Airplay (up to 44.1 or 48kHz). 

The preamp output section consists of one pair of balanced 3-pin XLR connectors (max load – 600Ω) and one pair of unbalanced RCA connectors (max load – 600Ω).

The headphone output section is located on the front panel and it includes one unbalanced ¼in TRS output and one balanced 4-pin XLR output. You can use these two outputs to drive literally any pair of dynamic and planar magnetic headphones you can think. Bartok will do the job effortlessly, regardless of the headphone impedance.

dCS Bartok is, without a doubt, the best high-end DAC on the market. Its capabilities are almost unlimited and its sonic performance is beyond compare.

About the Manufacturer 

dCS (Data Conversion Systems) is a British audio company, based in Cambridge, UK. At the beginning, dCS made DACs and ADCs for military purposes and telecommunications companies. dCS’s converters became very popular even before they changed their focus and concentrated on making high-end audio and recording equipment (DACs, up-samplers, CD/ASCD transport, master clocks, digital music players). dCS devices are, almost by default, TOTL devices offering the best performance in the world. The most popular product lines are Rossini, Vivaldi, Vivaldi One, and Bartok.

Product Name: dCS Bartok DAC

  •     Price: $13,500 – $15,000
  •     Product Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 17.5in x 4.6in x 17in / 36.8lbs
  •     Product Warranty: 3-year manufacturer’s warranty (against defects in materials and workmanship)
  •     Design: 4/5
  •     Sound Quality: 6/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 6/5

 


MANLEY Absolute – Best Headphone Amplifier

MANLEY Absolute - Best Headphone Amplifier

MANLEY Absolute
MANLEY Absolute

MANLEY Absolute is one of the best tube amps in the world and it’s our first choice for this year. Its stunning aesthetics, a unique set of features, and impeccable performance are the biggest selling points. 

Reasons for winning

Let’s start with the design. The looks are not the most important thing when it comes to audiophile-grade equipment but it’s pretty cool when you get both – great looks and great performance in one product. MANLEY Absolute truly is one of the most unique and distinctive headphone amps on the market. Now, let’s move onto the more important stuff. 

MANLEY Absolute features two sets of RCA inputs (for connecting analog audio sources), one pair of RCA outputs (for connecting Absolute to a power amp when used as a preamp), balanced 4-pin XLR headphone output (for connecting balanced headphones), and a ¼in TRS connector. 

One of the coolest things about MANLEY Absolute is the amount of control you get. Aside from the volume thumbwheel and mute button, this headphone amp allows you to select the topology (push-pull or single-ended mode). Push-pull mode lowers the distortion and it’s perfect for more complex music. Single-ended mode increases the distortion and delivers more tube-like sound (warmer and airier) which is sometimes considered more musical.

On the top panel, right in front of the tubes, there’s a comprehensive control panel with input/output selectors, headphone load selector (L – 12Ω-50Ω, M – 50Ω-200Ω, H – 300Ω-600Ω+), feedback control (it stabilizes the output and reduces distortion), EQ control button with bass and treble dials, balance control, and mono control (for listening to mono LPs with a mono cartridge).

The best thing about MANLEY Absolute headphone amp is its performance, which is practically flawless. This Absolute headphone amp does everything you would expect from an audiophile headphone amp, and then some more. It can drive any pair of headphones you can think of and it sounds amazing.

About the Manufacturer 

MANLEY is an American audio company based in Chino, California. The brand has been around since 1989. Formally, the company exists as an independent entity since 1993. EveAnna Manley has been in charge of MANLEY Labs since 1996 and she is one of the main reasons for such a success of MANLEY equipment. In audiophile circles, EveAnna is known as ‘’The Manley Tube Queen’’ but she prefers the nickname ‘’Tube Chick’’. MANLEY is famous for its headphone amps, integrated and power amps, microphones, mic preamps, equalizers, mastering and monitoring equipment. We dare to say that Manley tube amps are one of the world’s best-sounding and best-looking amps.

Product Name: MANLEY Absolute headphone amp

  •     Price: $4,500
  •     Product Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 5.5in x 8.2in x11.5in / 12lbs
  •     Product Warranty: 5-year limited transferable warranty (against defects in materials and workmanship)
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


NAD M17 V2 Surround Sound Preamp Processor – Best AV Preamp

NAD M17 V2 Surround Sound Preamp Processor – Best AV Preamp

NAD M17 V2 Surround Sound Preamp Processor
NAD M17 V2 Surround Sound Preamp Processor

If you are an audiophile or a videophile looking for the best possible surround sound performance, you can’t go wrong with NAD’s amps and preamps. NAD M17 V2 is our top choice when it comes to AV preamps (especially when combined with NAD M27 7-ch power amp). 

M17 V2 houses all the audio and video controls and decoding functions in one compact box. It’s one of the most flexible and versatile AV preamps on the market.

Reasons for winning

M17 V2 is based on NAD’s proprietary MDC (Modular Design Construction) architecture which enables you to replace and/or upgrade all the major circuits and prevent premature obsolescence. That makes it completely future-proof. 

The preamp has all the inputs and outputs you could possibly need. Its fully balanced output stage supports 11.1 configuration. There are 5 HDMI inputs (they are all HDCP 2.2 compliant and support 4K UHD and HDR), 2 HDMI outputs (1.4 and 2.0), 2 coaxial inputs, 2 digital optical inputs, USB input, and Ethernet port.

M17 V2 runs on Blue OS operating system which doubles as a music management software.

The preamp can be connected to the internet (wirelessly or via Ethernet port) and you can use it to access all kinds of internet radio stations and streaming services (TIDAL, Amazon Music, Spotify, Deezer, etc.). 

Thanks to MQA support, M17 V2 will deliver high-res audio performance. The system also supports all popular surround sound formats including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Dolby True HD and DTS- HD Masters Audio. 

The installation and calibration are pretty simple thanks to a great room correction software tool called Dirac Live. It’s a very powerful and advanced software and it will adjust the sound to achieve the best possible surround sound performance. In addition, you can customize AV settings and save up to 5 AV presets.

M17 V2 delivers hyper-realistic performance with the most accurate and immersive surround sound performance, especially when combined with the right power amp, and right speakers. It will make your watching/listening experience unforgettable. 

About the Manufacturer 

NAD is a reputable British audio company founded in 1972, in London. NAD’s founder, Marty Borish and his lead audio engineer Bjorn Erik Edvardsen had a simple goal – they wanted to make affordable high-quality electronics. Their first big success was NAD 3020 hi-fi amp. 

Today, NAD is headquartered in Canada and it makes all kinds of audio and video equipment including stereo amps and preamps, DACs, home theater equipment (AV amps, AV preamps, receivers), turntables, audio source devices (CD players, streamers, and tuners), and headphones.

Product Name: NAD M17 V2

  •     Price: $6,000-$6,600
  •     Product Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 17in x 6.1in x 15.2in / 38.6lb
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


Warm Audio WA73-EQ – Best Mic Preamp/EQ

Warm Audio WA73-EQ – Best Mic Preamp/EQ

Warm Audio WA73-EQ
Warm Audio WA73-EQ

Most of today’s audio interfaces have preinstalled mic preamps but they don’t always work the way you want them to. Sometimes, they lack gain or they simply don’t offer the kind of coloration you expect. In these situations, buying a separate preamp with EQ is a viable option and WA73-EQ mic preamp might be just the thing you need. It’s a great and very capable recreation of Rupert Neve’s class A preamp/EQ 1073. The greatest thing about it is that it’s much more affordable than 1073 recreations made by other manufacturers. So, when it comes to price/performance ratio, there’s no better choice than WA73-EQ. 

Reasons for winning

WA73-EQ is a single-channel line/instrument preamp with a built-in EQ section. 

The front panel houses balanced mic input as well as a TRS instrument input for DI recording. There are also the EQ button, concentric EQ and cut/boost knobs, hi-pass filter knob (50, 80, 160, and 300Hz), gain knob, and output knob. You have 6 buttons on the left side of the front panel – +48V (phantom power for condenser mics and other equipment), polarity switch, tone switch (changes the tonality of dynamic mics and passive ribbons), line input, insert switch, and instrument switch (for engaging the instrument input on the front).

On the rear panel, you have balanced XLR and TRS line outputs, send/return inserts, TRS line input (instrument input) and mic XLR input.

WA73-EQ works with all kinds of microphones (ribbon, dynamic, condenser) and other sources (guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, etc. 80dB gain is more than enough to capture distant and soft voices and instruments.

Warm Audio used high-quality components (Carnhill transformers, Blore-Edwards EQ dual-concentric switch potentiometers, tantalum and polystyrene capacitors) and every single unit was hand-wired and assembled.

WA73-EQ mic preamp is one of the most capable, most versatile, and smooth-sounding preamps/EQs in its price range. It’s an excellent tool for recording and mixing. 

About the Manufacturer 

Warm Audio is a US-based manufacturer of professional audio gear. The company was founded in 2011 and it’s headquartered in Texas, USA. They make microphones, mic preamps, EQs, and compressors. Some of Warm Audio’s most popular and highly-praised products are WA-2A Opto Compressor, WA-412 4-channel mic preamp, WA-14 condenser mic, and WA73/273 mic preamps/EQs (single and dual-channel). Their equipment is known for great performance and reasonable prices. 

Product Name: Warm Audio WA73-EQ

  •     Price: $699.00-$799.00
  •     Product Dimensions (WxHxD/Weight): 25in x 4in x 14in / 11.06lbs
  •     Product Warranty: 1-year limited warranty (against defects in materials and workmanship)
  •     Design: 5/5
  •     Sound Quality: 5/5
  •     Material quality: 5/5
  •     Durability: 5/5
  •     Editor’s Rating: 5/5

 


 

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