George Warren Precision Sound Turntable ($3,995.00): The George-Warren Precision Sound turntable has been my vinyl collection’s salvation. I honestly didn’t think that an analog rig would be part of my reference system going forward because of all the fun that I’ve been having with downloads and streaming audio files. But this table has reminded me of why I got into high-end audio in the first place; the ability to accurately reproduce live musical performances in my home. I can’t praise this company enough for putting so much practical thought into designing a “real world” turntable that is as lovely to look at as it is to listen to. (reviewed here - Dave Thomas)

Pyon Sound Ultima Tankwood II Turntable: ($16,000 - $17,000 with the optional flywheel: And IRIS tonearm: $4,000). Pyon Sound is a team of dedicated professionals, craftsmen and musical purists from Seoul Korea. The company has set out to manufacture the best high-end isolation racks, turntables, tonearms, phonostages, tuning feet and cones available.  Although new to most of you, I've been referencing their excellent sounding VIB Zero Ultra isolation rack for nearly two years.  The wonderful sounding Ultima Tankwood II analogue rig is not only enormously beautiful sounding but is also gorgeous looking as well. Fidelis AV of Derry NH, imports Pyon Sound products and this most wonderful sounding 'table (www.fidelisav.com). (Clement Perry)

 

 

Bel Canto DAC3.5VB: ($3,495)
The latest iteration of Bel Canto’s top of the line digital gear is loaded with technological advances and innovations. Specifically, their updated DAC 3.5VB, coupled with either of their optional Virtual Battery Supply units (i.e., VBS1 or LNS1), raises the performance level of their digital products significantly. The overall improvement in enhanced jitter rejection, lower noise and overall higher resolution, raise the level of musicality to such an extent that one could easily think they were listening to (thru) much more expensive components. (Bill Wells)


 

Burson Audio HA-160D ($1,250): Add my voice to the throng. Burson Audio produces among the most densely musical DACs, preamps and headphone amps I have ever heard. So what? So the HA-160D has all of them in one box-- that's what!! In fact, it’s a sleek, sexy and superbly built one, to boot. Now, particularly in audio, nothing is all things to all men (and the women who put up with us), but individually, the dedicated DAC, preamp and head amp that reside within this solid silver box are pieces which, by turns, are capable of holding their own with individual standalone competitors at higher price points. And here's the rub-- not only can the DAC, preamp and head amp therein hold their own with pricier gear, there's something this little silver box does that's rare at any price-- it allows music to ebb and flow and breathe. In short, it does that ineffable something that only great gear does. That Burson has been able to bundle three such high performance, “emotionally riveting” pieces into a sleek box that sells for $1,250 bucks? Well that's just plain scary. Dunno what's in the New Zealand water, but Nicole Kidman and now this?! Order me a couple cases worth. (reviewed here - David Abramson)

 

Lyngdorf Audio DPA-1 Digital Preamplifier: ($5,700)


The Lyngdorf DPA-1 has made my listening experience much more enjoyable and gratifying. I love that I can use its different voicings and focus positions to subtly alter the sound of any recording at the push of a button. I can also tailor the sound of a given source component or cable to my personal taste. Don't be afraid of the “digital” implications. The Lyngdorf is as smooth, musical, and analog-like in its immersive presentation as any top quality analog system in my experience. Keep in mind that the DPA-1 is more than just a preamplifier, it is a preamp with and excellent D to A Converter, RoomPerfect room correction, and a sophisticated electronic crossover all on one elegant chassis. Very highly recommended. (reviewed here - Frank Alles)

North Star Design Model 192 CD Transport and USB DAC 32 ($6k)


What resonated with me most about this digital dynamo was the sense of breadth, ease and musical flow this digital duet lends to the music. Ultimately, I felt this combo sounded far better than its $6,000 asking price (reviewed here Clement Perry).
 

 The Memory Player 64 ($10,500 transport)

 

More than five years after its initial release, this newly introduced 64-bit version Memory Player outperforms the original and anything else CD-based or otherwise I've heard. I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future: the MP's designer Mark Porzilli (review in the works Clement Perry).

The Memory Player 64 ($10,500 transport)

I have owned two different model MP's in the four years of being a convert. To be truthful, I was perfectly happy with the previous 32-bit version. That is, until I heard this newest version.
Strictly from a user perspective, the model MP 64 is light years ahead of the previous iteration in terms of ease of use and the Graphical User Interface (GUI). Its 64-bit platform is not just simply better than the on it replaces - I  would go as far as stating - I think it's performance is better than anything I've ever encountered in a digital playback device, period. Having twelve-years under my belt as a college professor teaching computer sciences, I think I know a thing or two with respect to bits and bytes. For the life of me, I cannot technically grasp nor fully explain what its designer Mark Porzilli has accomplished. For the record, and based solely through my intense musical enjoyment (and many failed attempts at backward engineering), this college professor has become the bright-eyed student. What's different? A noise floor so freaking low it translates into new sense of dynamic scale. Moreover, these dynamics are contrasted against an inky, jet black and velvety background. Need I say more?  (review in the works: Moreno Mitchell) 
 

 

 

Pi Greco Sinfonio CD Player ($18,000): This beautifully crafted Pi Greco from Italy is my remarkable new reference CD player. It’s a fully balanced CD player with true class- A zero feedback and has USB inputs for CAS supports up to 24/96 kHz high res music files. The Pi Greco is quite simply the state-of-the-art in digital playback and among the finest digital playback I’ve heard. It has outstanding timbre quality, exceptional clarity and resolutions, and possesses amazing analog quality. (Key Kim)

 

 

 

BSG Technologies QOL Signal Completion Stage ($4k)

A signal-processor of sorts that's designed to "restore phase anomalies" in audio signals. Inserted between ones preamp and power amp, admittedly, I was skeptical considering all the newer "enhancers" that work independent of ones components. However, I like the open, airy sensation the QOL delivers and find it also very transparent in that I didn't notice any negative effects from its insertion between my components (review in the works Clement Perry).

 

Classe’ Audio CA-M600 Mono Amps ($14,000.00/pr):

   

Some nice technological advances, an increase in power output, increased product reliability and wonderful music; just another day at the office for this Canadian powerhouse. The performance and ultra-cool looks of the CA-M600 mono amps will continue to keep Classe’ Audio as one of the premier high-end audio component manufacturers around. (reviewed here - Dave Thomas)

Concert Fidelity CF-080 LSX2 Preamplifier ($21,000):

             

The new CF-080LSX2 tube hybrid preamplifier is the upgraded version of the CF-080LSX. According to Tsuda san, “…changes from the previous model include introduction of the state-of-the-art DC-DC converters in the critical power supplies of the input and volume control stages makes the preamplifier immune to AC-related noises and lowers the overall noise floor. In addition, resistors in the input and volume control stages were replaced with expensive “chip” resistors.” All these changes made this already world class reference preamplifier even better. It was more open, transparent, and incredibly musical at the same time. I was drawn into music more intimately than ever before. (Key Kim)
 

Exemplar XP-2 Preamplifier: ($12,999)

The fully balanced Exemplar XP-2 linestage, with its massive outboard power supply and after five years of development, has broken the realism barrier. I have never heard anything approaching its purity and realism. If you think a tube circuit cannot provide profound and well-defined musicality, you need to listen to this unit. (Norm Luttbeg)

 

Harmonix Reimyo KAP-777 Power Amplifier ($34,000) and CAP-777MKII Vacuum Tube Control Amplifier ($22,500):

    

   

This Reimyo combo is among the best I’ve heard. They have a magical synergy that can only be called special. They have a beautiful natural sound with incredible purity and remarkable timbre that brought me closer to the music. (Key Kim)
 

Vitus Audio RI-100 ($12,000):

 

This combination of power, musicality and system flexibility is rare. And while its $12,000 price tag is hardly cheap, given its stellar lineage, the RI-100 represents a flat-out steal. Adding the optional DAC and phonostage has the potential to make this the amp that redefines the genre. (reviewed here - Dave Thomas)

 

 

 

 

 

Emerald Physics CS3 Loudspeaker System ($2,995.00/pair): After only a couple weeks into our relationship, I was smitten by these rather unusual visitors from the future. The CS3 is the apartment-friendly baby of the Underwood Hi Fi managed/owned EP line, and consists of two flat panel speakers employing very high efficiency, large, concentric drivers, whose power handling stats fall just shy of Metallica’s touring rig. The system is designed to be used with a sub – kind of a must, as the main speaks hit bottom at about 70Hz or so. So now we’re talking ultra-high efficiency, super high power handling, large concentric drivers paired with a separate sub??!! Sounds like a mismatch in the making, right? And it would be—if you, my friend, were controlling how it all blends. Thing is, you aren’t. See, the crossover is external and completely digital and this processor also improves tremendously upon the system’s measured in-room performance, allowing for astonishingly flat in-room frequency response and ease of placement that would make a table radio jealous. But it all wouldn’t matter if… this system didn’t deliver punishing dynamics, the best imaging I may ever have heard from a pair of loudspeakers (it’s really uncanny at times!) and lightning quick pace. Yep—the computer-aided perfection extends to the tonality as well, making this system among the most amazing speaker systems I have yet to hear. Oh—I should probably add—at any price. (words by David Abramson: extra vote by Clement Perry)

 

Lawrence Audio Mandolin ($5,500/pair):

These speakers are exactly what they look like and I believe exactly what Lawrence Liao designed them to be: elegant, musical and perfect for an intimate room and intimate music. Placed in the right system and space they will reward you with a musical experience that enhances your quality of life without doing too much damage to your bank account. (reviewed here - Dave Thomas)

Penaudio Cenya ($4,000.00/pr): Two things I loved about these attractive mini-monitors from Finland: One, the Penaudio Cenyas maintain natural musicality over a broader spectrum of music than most other comparably sized monitors I’ve heard, including one of my personal favorites the Escalante Pinyons. And two, at $4,000 the Cenyas are actually significantly less expensive than previous Penaudio models I’ve reviewed. That in itself bodes well for our industry and shows that gorgeous, high quality, high performing speakers can be built at a reasonable price. (Dave Thomas).

 

 

 

 

TIDAL Piano Cera: ($26,000)

 

This modestly sized German floorstander handily outperforms many more expensive (even other German brands) at many times its asking price. I've grown to appreciate its lightening quick bass response and elegant sounding top end. My visit to the TIDAL factory last spring proved educational as well as insightful. Moreover, I got to see first hand, the long-admired style of German engineering at work (review in the works Clement Perry).


 

Tanagra Audio Lotus loudspeakers ($3500)


These fabulous French transducers boasts ribbon tweeters and a uniquely curved enclosure that allows as little cabinet noise as possible. The 90 dB sensitivity Lotus goes deeper than other mini-monitors, and has a noticeably quicker first step than most floor-standers (reviewed here - Clement Perry).



 

 



 

Exemplar Audio Silver Portal interconnects: (1m RCA $2800, 1m XLR $3200)


These cables use long linear crystal silver wire rather than the copper version in the standard Exemplar Portals. As good as the copper Exemplar Portals are, these are clearly superior. I spent only a brief moment with a prototype before deciding that I had to have the Silver Portals. (reviewed here - Norm Luttbeg)



Hemingway Audio Prime Signature MK II Cables (Speakers Cables: $12,000.00/3M pair, $6,000.00 per extra meter pair; Interconnects: $7500.00/1.5M pair, $3500.00 per extra meter pair; Power Cord $5500.00/2M):

    

If audio cables could be purchased in luxury department stores, the breathtaking cables from Hemingway Audio would be sold in Bergdorf Goodman’s. These cables scream luxury and carry a sound and price to match. Definitely worth seeking out if you’d like to see and hear how the other half lives. (Dave Thomas)

 

Jorma Design Unity Cables (Balanced XLR interconnect $4,000 per I meter, Speaker cable first meter $5,000 pair, each additional meter $1,100):

                              

Simply put, my system sounded great with the Unity cables. It didn’t matter what type of music I played. It sounded superb, whether it be chamber or orchestral classical music or Jazz for that matter; it just sounded better. It was like listening to live unamplified music. I’m in trouble! (reviewed here - Key Kim)

 

JPS Labs Aluminata Reference Series Cables: (Power Cord: $3999/2.0m, RCA or XLR Interconnects: $3499/1.0m pair, Speaker Cable: $7799/6ft. pair):

I found equal performance across the entire product line. The Aluminata products exhibited excellent performance in all parameters and were exceptionally neutral. Their biggest asset would be what I could sum up in a one-sentence review. “They are just so damn quiet.” That is in large part due to the extensive shielding provided by a thick layer of aluminum alloy particles surrounding the conductors. Installing a single pair of interconnects made their attributes obvious but an entire system’s worth of Aluminata cables and power cords was a transformation. They earned a place as my new system reference. (Donald Shaulis)
 

Kimber Kable Select Series 6068 Speaker Cables: ($17,800/6ft. pair)

                     


The Kimber Kable Select series 6068 speaker cables are the company’s top-of-the-line, ultimate statement speaker cables and features a solid core of silver wire. At Kimber Kable, their process for constructing cables is a methodical, painstakingly handmade process with extremely close attention to detail. For me, the opportunity to experience these cables was truly revelatory and has also raised my awareness, understanding and appreciation for just how important speaker cables really are. In particular, what I find so alarmingly enchanting about these cables isn’t just what they do but what they don’t do. Specifically, in a word - these cables simply get it right. They do wonders for preserving the natural character and authentic sound of real music. (Bill Wells)
 

Klee Acoustics Speaker Cable: ($9k/pair)

 

As their website so boldly boasts "Klee Acoustic “Grand Illusion” speaker cables are designed with the same patented special metal-alloy, oxide-free air-suspension polished ribbon technology as Klee interconnects, while adding an inner sandwich core of highly conductive metal ribbon necessary to transfer bass frequencies to the loudspeaker completely intact ...with unfettered ... elusive and diaphanous fine musical micro-detail so vital to recreating the “Grand Illusion” of a live performance." As in the words of Gil Scot Heron "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised!" I am absolutely smitten and still trying to grasp how this virtually unknown flat cable - designed from a mix of special woven metal alloys - can produce the most natural sound these ears have heard to date from any cable (review in the works Clement Perry).

Ramses-II Speaker Cables ($4,500 pair)

Kurt Hecker, one of the principles behind Munich, Germany's wildly successful High End show, also markets high-end audio cables. Namely, Ramses II flat-wire cables. He sent me a set and I, in turn, gave them to Dennis Parham for a listen. His impressions were similar to mine with respect to flat-wire based wires in the Klee Acoustic and Verastarr AC cords: there's something very special going on with the Ramses-II sparkly and airy demeanor. "A sound that is very addictive" says Dennis Parham.

Their website is also offers a rather interesting read on choosing a flat conductor: "When designing the RAMSES cable, the aim was to include the following criteria in particular. The main focus was on an electromagnetic field between the conductors that was as homogeneous as possible, as it is mainly the electromagnetic field, and the electricity flow to a lesser extent, that is crucial for the optimal transmission of the signal. For well-known technical reasons, the thinnest possible conductive material needs to be used. However on the other hand for loudspeaker cables in particular, a larger conductor cross-section is required for a low-loss transmission and the conductor must be sufficiently wide which necessitates the use of a film-like conductor. Finally, it is also vital to have the lowest possible loss in dielectrics between the conductors. Unlike the standard Teflon used by many cable manufacturers, RAMSES uses a special natural material which is more difficult to handle but is ideal for meeting the requirements of an optimum dielectric." (review in the works Dennis Parham/Clement Perry).

 

Skywire Audio 2020 Interconnects ($945.00/1m pair): This is it. The best interconnect and/or digital cable I have ever heard, and I've heard a lot (Fewer than Harry Pearson and more than Cory Greenberg-- somewhere in there). These are the best and I hate that word! I especially hate when other reviewers use it. But this is my award and I get to, so I am. Other cables have impressed me with their detail or their speed or their energy, but Skywire's 2020 cables are speedy, detailed and energized and yet- they are tonally glorious. There is nothing fatiguing, nothing overlying voices that shouldn’t and positively no grit or grain. Proprietary materials/ and technologies seem to work here as advertised-- rendering them graveyard-quiet without killing top end air or dampening down detail. As you work your way up the Skywire line, you go from solid value-for-money (the SEs), to “Wow, that's even better!” (the 1200s), to “Damn-- this is among the best cables I've ever heard-- soooooooo right on!” (the 1400s), to—“F?!# me!!! These are just soooo... is my credit card maxed? How much can I get for a 5 year old cat on Ebay who doesn’t eat that much?? I MUST have these!” That's the Skywire Audio 2020. (David Abramson)

Verastarr Audio Grand Illusion AC cords ($1750.00 ea)


Accuracy of tonality helps create the illusion that you are listening to the real thing and it’s difficult to find this in AC cords, no matter how dynamic they may be. The Grand Illusion seems to have accurate timbre miraculously woven into its very design. Percussive instruments, for example, when struck even gently, display abundant amounts of ambient cues. Cymbals and drum kits in particular, are presented with a more "flesh and bone" sense of soul and character (reviewed here Clement Perry).

 

 

 

 

Adona Corporation Zero GXT Equipment Rack ($2,400/3-shelf unit): When I decided to add the George Warren turntable to my system, it was a no-brainer to add this stunning equipment rack as well. This three shelf unit has a gorgeous granite top layer that is as attractive as it is functional. It helped the table to provide quiet and stable operation. Did I mention that it was gorgeous to look at? Well it is. It really is. (reviewed here - Dave Thomas)

 

High End Novum Passive Multi-vocal Resonator ($2190.00)

 

Via the insertion of the PMR, the music possessed a more authentic quality in terms of touch, tone and timbre and as a result sounded less electrical and thus less fatiguing. Image density also seemed to gain some weight, giving instruments more decay and "hang time" — the very ingredients that can fool one into believing real instruments are in the room (reviewed here Clement Perry).

 

High End Novum Passive Multi-vocal Resonator ($2190.00)

When Clement Perry stated “The very ingredients that can fool one into believing real instruments are in the room,” in his review of the PMR, I could not agree more. This is exactly what I felt within minutes of hearing this amazing device. Upon reading what Dan Secula and Ron Cook heard via this "singing bowl" did I realize that its effects are universal. Thus far, the PMR has acquitted itself from being some expensive tweak. It is far more powerful than some expensive front-end I've owned. Knowing this, attempting to label the PMR as a mere tweak is criminal.

If you're looking to upgrade an amplifier, DAC or even loudspeakers I dare you to give this device a listen first. For the serious audiophile and music lover who demands the best. The PMR is an absolute must. Highly recommended! (Moreno Mitchell).
 

SteinMusic H2 Harmonizer (Two Stein Harmonizer Package with seven Magic Stones, $2099):

A sextet of SteinMusic’s H2 Harmonizers, accompanied by Magic Stones, Black Magic Diamonds, and Blue Magic Diamonds, has together done more to enhance my recordings than any peripherals I’ve used so far. Indeed, referring to these SteinMusic pieces as peripherals demotes them from audiophile necessities to something less, and that they are not. Before they took occupancy in my listening room, I’ve said as much for the two Acoustic Revive RR-77 Schumann Resonance Generators I’d been using. My admiration of the RR-77 remains undiminished. It’s a matter of good and one hell of a lot better. In my SteinMusic review Holger Stein discusses in a limited fashion how his innovations do their thing. It’s an enlightening read. As for me, if something more impressive ever comes along, I’ll say so. I don’t see that happening any time soon. (reviewed here - Mike Silverton)


SteinMusic H2 Harmonizer & Magic Stones: (4 Stein Harmonizers @ $1,200/ea.)


My “Most Wanted Component” for 2011 is an easy one. When I put pairs of A and B SteinMusic Harmonizers and Magic Stones in my listening room, I had an aural epiphany. An enormous increase in the size and layering of the sound coming from around my speakers was immediately apparent. The boxes created a huge, holographic effect on the soundstage. There was a much more continuous wall of sound sensation and the speakers did more of a disappearing act. Music sounded very natural and authentic. No undesirable artifacts were introduced. My room was transformed into something completely different and on a much higher plane of reality. The new and improved experience was as if the walls moved back and the room became larger. I heard musical spatial cues and micro dynamics that placed me much closer in the recording’s venue.  The better the recording the more pronounced the layering and depth. This was far better and more enjoyable than I had had or expected. Although an expensive tweak one can get fine results with just a pair (A and B), especially in smaller rooms. Highly recommended. (reviewed here - Dan Secula)

Zilplex Resonance Devices: ($2,760.00/for an 11 piece set. Includes shipping):

   

After spending considerable time with these devices I am confident that I will not be without the Zilplexes in my rooms and thereby recognize them as a “Most Wanted Component” for 2011!. Wiebe Greydanus of Zilplex no doubt has put many hours of experimentation into the Zilplexes, and it is quite audible. (reviewed here - Norm Luttbeg)