When I first heard from Yamaha Canada about its yet-to-be-released integrated amplifier with an integral DAC and streaming capabilities over a year ago, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All of the previous models in the company’s four-digit series of high-end integrated amplifiers and preamplifiers have been all-analog affairs requiring an outboard DAC or optical disc player for digital playback. Case in point, the gorgeous A-S3200 integrated amplifier I reviewed a couple of years ago. While I loved the sound of the A-S3200, including its fabulous MM/MC phono stage and its absolutely stunning cosmetics and build quality, I lamented its lack of an internal DAC.
When I spoke with Rotel’s CTO, Daren Orth, last year about the company’s decidedly high-end Michi X5 integrated amplifier-DAC I was reviewing at the time, he emphasized how the Michi products weren’t just intended to be one-off designs to show off what Rotel engineers could create at higher price points. Instead, they were designed as scalable platforms that could be used as a basis for other Rotel products. Some of that Michi technology went into very affordable models like the MKII versions of the brand’s A and RA series of integrated amplifiers, but to celebrate its 60th anniversary, Rotel has gone all out by introducing two top-of-the-line components in its new Diamond series, the DT-6000 DAC/CD transport ($2299, all prices in USD) and the RA-6000 integrated amplifier-DAC ($4499). While products in the new Diamond series have the same general appearance as other Rotel products with traditional black and silver finishes and slightly updated cosmetics, they are described as having “Michi-inspired” circuit designs.
Can you call the Paradigm Monitor SE 8000F ($1699.98 per pair, all prices in USD) a legend if it is the first iteration of this new model? I do, because it’s based on the highly regarded and long-running Monitor 11, the largest model in Paradigm’s previous Monitor line. The model names for the Monitor SE line are mostly new, but the 8000F clearly owes much of its heritage to the beloved Monitor 11. In fact, Zoltan Balla and Blake Alty from Paradigm said as much in their recent interview with Dennis Burger on our SoundStage! Access website.
Back in 2015, I reviewed the Cyrus Audio Stereo 200, an excellent-sounding power amplifier based on the British audio manufacturer’s proprietary class-D amplification topology. Our own Hans Wetzel heard a prototype Stereo 200 during a previous Cyrus factory tour and was also impressed. I have not seen or heard much about Cyrus in the past few years, although I saw its products at High End 2018 in Munich, where it was displaying the One HD integrated amplifier-DAC, which also utilizes the brand’s class-D amplifier circuitry.
I’ve been listening to MartinLogan Masterpiece Classic ESL 9 loudspeakers in my reference system for five years now, and when SoundStage! Network editor-in-chief Jeff Fritz recently asked me if I was still happy with them, I answered with an emphatic yes. And when asked why, I realized that, although they have their limitations, I have yet to hear other speakers near their price that outperform them in the areas that I find most critical for my own musical enjoyment.
If you’re like me and use your audio system to both enjoy stereo music and watch films with multichannel audio, you’ll appreciate a high-quality, universal disc player. Optical disc players are still the best way to watch movies with 4K Ultra HD video and uncompressed Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, and there are also some audio enthusiasts who still like to play SACDs, CDs, and even DVD-As. Granted, there aren’t many audiophiles whose main systems do double duty like mine, and with the proliferation of streaming services for both music and movies, optical disc players in general, let alone universal disc players, aren’t as highly sought after as they once were.
With its large, analog VU level meters and old-school design aesthetic—and considering Technics’ reputation for producing turntables like the legendary SL-1200—you might think that the Technics SU-R1000 is an all-analog integrated amplifier at first glance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lurking below its impeccably polished casework are a plethora of novel technologies, including an all-digital signal path and the company’s effort to take on the absolute state of the art with its Reference Class integrated amplifier.
Usually I look forward to receiving a new audio component, unboxing it, and then admiring it in all its audiophile glory as I contemplate how best to integrate it into my system. However, with the Rotel Michi X5 integrated amplifier-DAC ($6999 USD) that I recently received for review, I was dreading this, as it’s a beast of an amp weighing a back-breaking 96.56 pounds. After picking up the X5 at local dealer Ayreborn Audio/Video, where the Canadian distributor, Kevro International, had shipped it, I drove home and struggled to get the large flight case out of my car’s hatch. I’ve wrangled amps this heavy before, such as the Musical Fidelity M8xi and SensaSound TPO-7300, but they arrived at my doorstep, which made things much easier.
When I reviewed Lyngdorf Audio’s TDAI-3400 integrated amplifier-DAC last June, I marveled at its implementation of the company’s proprietary Equibit, class-D amplifier technology and RoomPerfect room-correction system. It is also a very handsome, well-built, and luxurious component with a price to match, $7199 (all prices in USD) as reviewed. So when I heard about the company’s new compact, streaming integrated amplifier-DAC priced at only $2199, I was more than a little intrigued. I wondered how much of the TDAI-3400’s functionality and performance they could provide in this much less expensive component. And it wasn’t long after requesting a review sample from the company’s US office that a box containing a TDAI-1120 arrived at my doorstep via UPS from Lyngdorf in Denmark.
When I reviewed the original NAD Masters M17 surround-sound processor six years ago, I admired its exceptional sound and high quality of construction, but I found that the Audyssey MultEQ XT room correction was good with movies but just okay for music. It also didn’t support the recently announced Dolby Atmos object-based surround-sound format, so I thought it offered good but not outstanding value at the time. However, a couple of years ago, NAD introduced the M17 V2. I didn’t take much notice at the time, but I should have. Not only did the V2 version include Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based surround decoding, but it also featured Dirac Live room correction and support for the BluOS streaming system. And best of all, for those who had previously purchased the original M17, it was upgradable to V2 status simply by replacing two of its MDC modules, a refreshing change from the usual obsolescence of most surround-sound components after just a few years.
A recent business trip took me to Canada’s national capital, Ottawa. In addition to being the political center of Canada, it’s the home of the National Research Council, where SoundStage! performs its loudspeaker measurements. It’s also the location of electrostatic loudspeaker manufacturer Muraudio.
Last week, Bowers & Wilkins announced its new Formation line of wireless products, which I first read about on our SoundStage! Australia website. It really piqued my interest.
In his February 2017 SoundStage! Hi-Fi editorial, “The Best of the Worst CES in Decades: 2017,” Doug Schneider named Simaudio’s Moon 888 mono power amplifier one of the best new products of CES 2017 -- and it’s easy to see why. Weighing in at more than 250 pounds and rated by the manufacturer to deliver 888W into 8 ohms or 1776W into 4 ohms, this massive $59,444 USD behemoth monoblock ($118,888/pair) is an all-out assault on the state-of-the-art in amplifier design. It also just happens to be one of the most gorgeous solid-state amplifiers that I have ever seen, with a shining machined-aluminum faceplate offset by the matte-black, cast-aluminum heatsinks and a swooping top cover with an inset Moon logo.
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