How do you follow up a review of a $6499 flagship receiver with 15 channels of amplification and nearly every feature under the sun? If you’re a publication that focuses mostly on affordable hi-fi with the occasional foray into home theater, you might go to the other extreme and review one of the most affordable AVRs on the market. That was the plan, anyway. But as the great Rabbie Burns once pointed out, the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Wookiees gang aft agley, so here I am reviewing an AVR that makes the Denon A1H look like a budget alterative: the $8000 McIntosh MHT300 (all prices USD).
The name Reloop was vaguely familiar to me as a brand that caters to dance club DJs. Then one day I ran across Reloop HiFi online and decided to investigate. As it turns out, Reloop HiFi is a new division that makes turntables for home listeners. As Reloop explains on its website,
Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
SoundStage! Network founder Doug Schneider and I have been talking a lot lately about the race to the bottom—specifically, the glut of imported amplifiers with unpronounceable names seemingly cobbled together out of capital letters pulled at random from a hat. All of them seem to boast a gazillion-and-three watts per channel of output for like $50. On the one hand, I’m happy to get gear into the hands of people who might not have felt like they could afford an amp before. On the other hand, my experience with these things, a few rare brands aside, indicates to me that they’re largely disposable.
Despite the enormous popularity of streaming services, radio keeps plugging along. According to a June 2023 report by Nielsen Audio, 91% of Americans 18 years and older use radio weekly, which is more than those who use audio apps on smartphones (87%), computers (79%), and tablets (57%). Radio is certainly not what it was in years past, but a lot of people are still tuning in. And while several home receivers are available on the market and many car receivers (nearly 70% of all radio use on weekdays occurs in cars), very few standalone tuners are still available for home use. Notable examples are those from NAD, Rotel, and Sangean. Some costlier offerings are from McIntosh and Magnum Dynalab.
I think it says something about our hustle-bustle world that one of the most common recipes we see these days boils down to “just add _____.” I don’t just mean cooking instructions. In the world of audio, we often talk about “just add speakers” solutions like the NAD C 399 and Cambridge Audio Evo 150.
Music Hall’s founder, Roy Hall, has a well-deserved reputation as something of a maverick. A Scotsman, Hall emigrated to the US to assemble Linn speakers. When that didn’t pan out as he or Linn had hoped, Hall turned his attention to turntables, starting his own company in 1998. Decks of Hall’s design have generally been built by Pro-Ject in Europe, but the two brands share only a few design elements.
Product refreshes in the hi-fi world often come in one of two forms: either the company knows it needs to introduce a new product so it can issue a press release and stay in the news, or it’s simply adding modern features to keep up with the times. At first blush, Rega’s new Mk4 version of its popular Elex integrated amplifier ($1875, all prices in USD) seems to fall into the latter category. At the very least, you get the sense that it doesn’t fall into the former.
A few days before I began this review, I received my new reference turntable, the Music Hall Stealth, which comes equipped with an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. I immediately set it up and started breaking in the cantilever mount. There were other strong contenders, the Pro-Ject X1, Thorens TD 402 DD, and Dual CS 518 among them. The Stealth was my final choice due to its exceptional musicality, extremely quiet direct-drive motor, easily adjustable vertical tracking angle, auto-stop feature, and interchangeable headshell.
Every time I review a CD player, it sort of feels like it’ll be the last time. I felt that way after my evaluation of the Rotel CD11 Tribute, and I feel that way now, after having boxed up Pro-Ject Audio Systems’ CD Box S3 ($549, all prices USD) and shipped it to Canada for custom photography.
Rekkord Audio is the new brand name for turntables produced by an old name, Alfred Fehrenbacher GmbH, maker of the Pro-Ject Automat A1. Headquartered in Germany’s Black Forest region, Fehrenbacher formerly controlled the Dual brand name but relinquished it after a court battle with the owners of the revitalized Dual organization.