This review page is supported in part by the sponsor whose ad is displayed above
Well, it's time for the 'best of ear' ... oops , I meant 'best of year' report for 2005. 2005 was a banner year for exceptional review equipment in the Day household and I have to admit it was not easy narrowing down my list of favorites to Srajan's limit of 'Top 5'.
|Take for example the Superscope PSD 300 CD-R/RW recorder/player and music practice tool that I reviewed in January. I couldn't afford to buy the review sample of this marvelous piece of electronics at the close of the review period so I saved my money and bought one some months later. That ought to be a recommendation right there, don't you think? I voted with my own money but the competition was so stiff, the Superscope still didn't make my top 5 so it receives honorable mention as a 'runner up'.
Then there was the fabulous gear from Keith Aschenbrenner of Auditorium 23 and Don Garber of Fi: the A23 Green speaker cables, the A23 Denon 103 moving coil step-up
|transformer and the Fi Yph phono stage. All three are superb products that I highly recommend and the Fi Yph and the A23 gear go together like peanut butter and jelly for a big dose of musical pleasure. They too receive an honorable mention in the 'runner up' category.
|So what made the Top 5, you ask? First up is the mind-blowing combination of amplification components from Tom Evans Audio Design. The $8500 Linear A power amplifier that I reviewed in August 2005 is so good, it's frightening. When paired with the Tom Evans Audio Design Vibe Series 7 preamplifier and its optional supercharger (the Pulse power supply), the Linear A is truly astonishing, bringing my Avantgarde Duo 2.1 loudspeakers to life like nothing else ever has. How good is the Linear A on my Duos? The Linear A is as much better than any of the great SET amplifiers that I've had in my system (like my
|beloved Fi 2A3 monoblocks or the amazing Yamamoto A-08 45) as those are better than an inexpensive mass market receiver - both musically and sonically. Let me say this: If you have Avantgarde Duo loudspeakers and haven't heard them with the full set of Tom Evans Audio Design gear, then you have absolutely no idea of the heights of performance they are really capable of! I was tempted to list my Duo 2.1s in my Top 5 for 2005 because the transformation was so remarkable. Then I decided to give the rest of the newcomers a shot at the top. The Vibe with Pulse power supply and the Groove Plus phono stage are in the same league as the amp and when used together, they are ... well, as TASmanian devil Stephaen Harrell said after hearing the TE stack in his own rig: "This is seriously good shit." Expect to see a Vibe preview shortly, with the full review hot on its heels. The Groove Plus review will appear sometime after that.
|The next in my list of Top 5 goes to the $600 47 Laboratory Cable Kit which has bested every set of high end cables I've had in my system. With the Cable Kit, you can wire your whole system with interconnects and speaker cables for all of $600 and have performance that goes toe-to-toe with anything. The Cable Kit creams a couple of my high performance favorites -- the Cardas Golden Reference and the Nirvanas -- and it does it while looking better than both and costing an order of magnitude less. If you are a cable manufacturer, you should be scared. Did I mention the Cable Kit has taken up residence in my system as my personal cable reference?
Next up is the combination of the $1100 47 Laboratory MC Bee phono cartridge & $960 Origin Live Silver tonearm. If I could have afforded to, I would have bought the review sample MC Bee - I loved it. In fact, when I'm ready to buy my next cartridge, the Bee will be at the top of my list because of its natural, smooth, detailed and musical sound. The MC Bee loves the Origin Live Silver arm and reveals what a great arm it is in a way that the low compliance Denon 103 never could during the review period. With the right cartridge -- like the 47 Lab MC Bee-- the Origin Live Silver tonearm is phenomenal and makes me realize what a bargain it truly is at its asking price.
|Anyone who has been following my columns knows what a ball I've been having with my vintage Garrard 301 transcription turntable sitting upon a Cain & Cain plinth. The level of performance available from this combination plus its easy to use ergonomics make it a shoe-in for my Top 5 list. Did I mention this combination easily bests any digital front end I've ever heard, regardless of price? The $900 solid hardwood Cain & Cain plinth is a thing of beauty, a breeze to set up and use and it sounds great. Even non-audiophiles drool over it when they stop by to visit. Part III of the Garrard Project series will be coming out shortly with a focus on tonearms. Many
|thanks to the generosity and patience of Origin Live and Jonathan Halpern for the loan of their tonearms for the Garrard Project. It has idle-wheeled on much longer than I intended. Thank you!
|Are you tired of dorky-looking steel audio racks that make your living room into geek central? I was too, so I bought a hand-made McKinnon Bellevue Symphony cabinet wherein to store my treasured HiFi electronics. McKinnon furniture in Seattle makes fine handcrafted heirloom-quality furniture the old fashioned way, much in the fashion that Gustav Stickley did years ago. Owner Sheila McKinnon explains that they use a labor intensive process of hand-selecting only the best hardwoods for careful matching of grains and color. Joinery is by mortise and tenon for ultra strong structures and each part of
|the furniture undergoes multiple hand sanding and finishing steps. McKinnon only uses non-toxic finishes and each made-to-order creation is signed by the craftsperson who made it. The wood is not stained so you get to see the natural variations in the grain of whichever hardwood you choose - a stunningly beautiful way to finish furniture. You get to choose what kind of hardwood you want to use and what sort of fittings you like best. I chose black walnut and it turned out beautifully, its simple elegance a real treat for the eyes and ears in my living & listening room. Cost depends on wood, features and any customization you might request but figure about $2300 for one like mine.