Nearly every time I review an integrated amplifier, I get an email from a reader commenting on the fact that I didn’t have much, if anything, to say about the phono stage, assuming the amp has one. Some emails are friendlier than others, of course, but all boil down to something like this, which I received from a reader in the Netherlands:
Do you care what your subwoofer looks like? That’s not a trick question, and there’s no wrong answer; it’s merely something you have to consider when purchasing a new bass-maker. If you’re completely unconcerned with aesthetics, there are all manner of high-performance-but-unfortunate-looking black boxes that will put a rumbly in your tumbly. And if aesthetics come first, you have your pick of compact, cute-as-a-button micro-subs that do a great job of extending the bass response of your bookshelf speakers an octave or so while practically disappearing in the room, or even sitting behind your speakers unobtrusively.
The number of turntables on the market has increased massively since 2010, and the number of phono preamplifiers there are to choose from has grown along with it. You need a phono preamp if your amplifier or receiver doesn’t have its own integral phono stage. Among the scores of outboard phono stages available today, you’re unlikely to find one like the Music Hall PA2.2, which is priced at $449.99 (all prices in USD). That’s because of its secret ingredient: an analog-to-digital converter (ADC).
Read more: Music Hall PA2.2 Phono Preamplifier / Analog-to-Digital Converter / Headphone Amplifier
Don’t get too hung up on the hand truck you see in the image below. It gives, I fear, the impression that GoldenEar’s new ForceField 30 subwoofer ($900, all prices USD) is heftier than it actually is. In reality, I’m still recovering from pretty brutal surgery and have only just recently been cleared to lift 35 pounds—and nary an ounce more.
Blame it on my age, perhaps. Or blame it on four-plus decades of failed economic policy and the pacifying Orwellian language designed to prop it up. Either way, the term “trickle-down” sticks in my craw. Of course, I can see its utility in the consumer electronics industry, where technologies designed for flagship products become cheaper to produce as R&D costs are recouped and begin to appear on mid-tier products until economies of scale allow their inclusion even in budget offerings. It’s neat that we can sum all that up in one hyphenated adjective, and it’s certainly an effective marketing tool. After all, without much effort, you’re clueing the budget-conscious audio enthusiast into the idea that they can now afford technologies they might not have been able to spring for before. Hell, I’ll be giddy the day some design elements of the new Monitor Audio Hyphn loudspeaker finally work their way down to the level of the Silver Series models.
Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
I love it when I can look at a product’s designation and tell what it is and what it does without having to dig much deeper. Denon is really great about this with its A/V receivers, breaking the family into the S Series, X Series, and A Series, and keeping the incremental numbering consistent from year to year, so I can come pretty close to guessing a unit’s price and features just by ogling a string of letters and numbers such as “AVR-X3800H.” That sort of consistency isn’t unheard of in the two-channel world, of course, but we definitely need more of it. And based on the new MaiA DS3 ($1599, all prices USD), I’m guessing Pro-Ject Audio Systems agrees.
Read more: Pro-Ject Audio Systems MaiA DS3 Integrated Amplifier-DAC
It’s been nearly 30 years since automatic turntables were widely available. In the intervening years, I can remember only a few that were in general distribution. But it seems that automatic turntables have suddenly risen from the dead, just like vinyl. Why? Because they’re perfect for the casual vinyl listener who wants a no-fuss record player. Recently, I had the pleasure of reviewing four automatic turntables: the Andover SpinDeck Max; the Dual CS 429 and its less expensive companion, the CS 329; and the Thorens TD 102 A.
Read more: Pro-Ject Audio Systems Automat A1 Turntable with Ortofon OM 10 Cartridge
Along with the new Pro-Ject MaiA DS3 stereo integrated amplifier (my review of which you can read May 1), the company also sent along its new value-engineered CD player, the aptly named CD Box S3 ($549, all prices USD). It’s not the only current CD player in the “Box Design” range, as the company also has the more upscale CD Box DS3 ($899) as well as the positively highfalutin CD Box RS2 T ($3199). But I specifically requested the S3 in this case because readers regularly write me asking for advice on a good, affordable CD player that just plays CDs—not SACD or DVD-Audio or any other higher-resolution format—and I have to admit, I have a bit of a blind spot in this area. The only other CD player in this budget range I’ve auditioned in recent years was the Rotel CD11 Tribute, which (incredibly!) still sells for the same $599.99 it cost when I reviewed it two years ago.
Read more: Unboxing the Pro-Ject Audio Systems CD Box S3 CD Player
As I was wrapping up my review of the Atlantic Technology AT-3 loudspeaker, I called SoundStage! founder Doug Schneider to discuss the forthcoming measurements—something I rarely do. As is usually the case, there were things I liked about the speaker and some things I would change, but as I said in the review, my biggest concerns were that getting the acoustic center of the speaker aimed at ear level was a fight, its sound seemed excessively bright from a normal seating height, and its vertical dispersion was . . . distinctive.
Note: measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
If you want a stereo system capable of delivering truly deep, penetrating bass near the bottom end of the audible spectrum, you generally have two options: get yourself a pair of beefy tower speakers—ideally hybrid ones with powered bass sections—or opt for a 2.1-channel system with a subwoofer or two. But what if neither of those options works for you? What if your room requires something a bit more compact, and you either hate the look of subwoofers or you just don’t have the floorspace? That’s where something like Atlantic Technology’s AT-3 ($3298 per pair from authorized dealers or $3629 per pair via the company’s website, all prices USD) promises to be your best friend.