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|Judging by the state of my system today, I must have had a great year. I've made more changes to my system than in any single year before. As a result of those changes, I'm even appreciating components that haven't changed in ways I didn't earlier. Such has been the elevation of both resolution and enjoyment. And not all of these enrichments have been confined to the listening room either. I've even installed a tube system in the kitchen.
The Quest R601P Tube Hi-Fi FM/AM Classic Tube Radio reviewed in November has taken residence in the kitchen (which is open to the family room) and is seeing lots of use at the hands of my wife in particular who suffers an irrational fear of component systems. Not that I blame her, particularly when I consider how often I'm changing things up on her. Nevertheless, she finally has a great sounding and easily accessible source of tunes that I'm pleased to show off to visitors. Classic styling, handsome finish, great sound and tubes - what's not to like? It's a great way to put music in rooms that have gone without as well as a way to include your music-loving yet equipment-phobic significant other in the fun.
|As the first-ever electronics component to receive a Lunar Eclipse award, the Bel Canto e.One Reference 1000 mono block amplifiers obviously deserve mention. After nearly a year of ownership, my admiration for these amps has only deepened. Initially I was exceedingly impressed by the tube-like solidity of images and their tonal saturation but what has continued to impress me is their naturally musical presentation. Paradoxically, only an amplifier possessing such high technology can manage to sound distinctly non-hifi and to avoid artificially spotlighting this parameter or that. Its holistic sound takes the listener deeply into the music and away from matters of the equipment, in much the same way that a good old- fashioned tube amplifier or a good turntable will. The Bel|
|Canto e.One Reference 1000 amplifiers are priced exceedingly fairly, they have the power to drive just about anything while not taking much shelf space. They sound extremely musical as they bridge the gap between tubes and solid-state borrowing from the best of each. Perhaps best of all is that they come in a cool-running, maintenance-free, dependable and easy-to-live-with package. At this point, I can't imagine ever having to replace them, let alone wanting to.
|While not competing with the Bel Cantos in terms of price or power, at $2500 the 250wpc Musical Fidelity A5 Integrated amplifier is certainly one of the year's best buys as well as an extraordinarily satisfying component. Its a powerfully good sounding amplifier and considering its fine level of fit and finish, it's a reasonable value. Now throw in an excellent line stage and a phono stage at no extra charge and how can anyone not get excited about the A5? Musical Fidelity's more lofty designs may offer an elevated level of overall performance but I have to believe that the A5 is where it's at within the Musical Fidelity lineup. If $2,500 comes close to breaking your bank, you won't do better than the A5. If that sum is your idea of pocket change, you'll be surprised at how much fun it'll buy you. And if you're looking|
|for a good source component you may just find another high recommendation within the same A5 review.
|If you're in the planning stages of an outrageously good sub-$10,000 system, I can enthusiastically recommend a pair of Anthony Gallo Acoustics' excellent Ref3.1 loudspeakers to go along with your A5 integrated amplifier. I was far from the first to discover these beauties and in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, they are dangerously close to becoming yesterday's news even as Anthony Gallo himself closes in on eclipsing them with his own more ambitious (and far more expensive) Reference 5LS.
Don't let it happen! The Reference 3.1 is a serious piece of audio engineering that will stand the test of time and likely remain at the top of its price/performance mountain for a long time to come. For what a lot of companies are asking for a pair of small bass-challenged monitors, Anthony Gallo Acoustics offers a high-quality pair of speakers that'll rock the house.
|Moving significantly up the price ladder, I come to the Genesis Advanced Technologies 7.1 Signature loudspeakers. They'll require a good subwoofer to get down really low but depending on your listening requirements and your room, these maxi-monitors may have all the punch you require on their own. In the areas of speed, transparency, the retrieval of musically vital detail and the ability to throw a large and airy soundstage while populating it with superbly focused instruments, the 7.1 Sigs are wonderful speakers and my favorite 'monitor'. With a slightly forward and exciting personality, they'll|
|even work well in large well-appointed rooms where their exceedingly high level of fit and finish may just add a bit of panache to the décor - but never dominate it. Moving a|
|rung or three up that skyward price ladder and making no apologies for it, I come to...
... the Tidal Piano loudspeaker. Quite simply, they are the finest audio reproduction components to ever grace my listening room. I was recently asked if they were really competitive with other speakers in their class.
My response was simple. They don't sound anything like most of the speakers in their class. If you're a gear head who wants to hear his equipment and be awed by all the tricks it can do, the Tidals may not be for you. But if you want to hear into the music in the most natural and involving of ways that I've ever witnessed at anywhere near their price, you simply have to score an audition of the Tidal Pianos. And it doesn't matter of you're an aficionado of tubes or transistors, high or medium power, the easy-to-drive Pianos are just about guaranteed to work with and quite possibly make the most of what you already have. So yes, I bought them and the Gallos and the Bel Cantos and the Musical Fidelity and the tube radio.
What can I say, 2006 was a very good year. I can't imagine what 2007 will do to compete but let's hope it'll come up with something!
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