Fallen champions. War news coverage of the patriotic sort uses special language. Soldiers aren't referred to as having been killed or butchered. They are called the fallen as though they could get back up. Hifi discourse does its own killing by dint of our unending need for the new and presumably better. Reviewer fields of years gone by are littered with the fallen; components which have fallen out of favour or through the cracks of consciousness. Their day in the sun has come and gone. Now they're condemned to the cemetery of the forgotten and nameless. Considering this natural trend—unlike canned goods, reviews are news, hence perishable to go rancid in a flash—I thought to highlight two of my fallen hifi comrades. They're actually alive, kicking and in rude health. One plays my desktop. The other serves up tunes in our upstairs room where Ivette stores those paintings not currently on the walls; has her computer desk; and where I keep certain components in shelves and have my Pilates reformer and floor mat for workouts.

Meet my G.I. Jane, the Aura Vita. This slim $1'400 deck with the chromed front and bright large display bundles a driverless 24/96 USB DAC; an AM/FM tuner; a 50wpc Mosfet integrated with a single pair of push/pull transistors; and a 6.3mm headfi socket that taps the speaker-level Mosfets through a load resistor to manhandle HifiMan's HE6 as though they were an ultra-efficiency IEM. It also has an XLR input and variable RCA preouts to pass signal to my Gallo Acoustics TR-3D subwoofer on a stool beneath the desk. The only thing designer SImon Lee forgot was to mute the latter when a headphone inserts. One either has to connect a sub speaker-level; or manually turn it off during headfi sessions. That's a tiny price to pay for what remains one of my personal super-hot tips for such installations. Streaming Qobuz Hifi and Spotify+, I frankly give a toss about 24/192 or 88, 96 and 176kHz. 320mbkps MP3 or 1411kbps Redbook files are my diet here. I don't keep any music on my work computer. That's reserved for the dedicated music iMac in the big system. On my HP work station, I don't want to bother with USB drivers or loading down memory with stuff that's not directly work related.

I've had $1'400 high-value DACs through that couldn't hold a candle to Vita's headphone performance nor touch its converter. By sharing its boffo speaker power module with headfi, the Vita makes my ALO-rewired Sennheiser HD800 sound far more robust and fleshy than they do on a number of hi-falutin dedicated headphone amps. Its ΒΌ" socket also isn't centrally positioned to avoid having headphone cabling want to run across my keyboard. Sven Boenicke's W5se solid-wood monitors are Vita believers too. The only way I can explain this modestly priced deck's sterling performance is that like his friend Mark Levinson who now lives in Annecy/France less than an hour outside Geneva, Simon Lee knows how to make standard not boutique parts add up to rather more than the sum of their ordinariness. Although my review of it dates back to November 2012, an eternity in the news cycle's hamster mill, this 'fallen' champion does get back up if you just remember it and stop believing all the nonsense about newer being better and 24/96 USB without DSD signifying outdated. Poppycock, balderdash and steaming horse shyte!

Making double-decker use of the Artesania Audio Exoteryc mono amp stands when the downstairs rig uses the big stereo XA30.8 amp on the equivalent Krion stand, this ultra-compact system consists of a docked 160GB iPod Classic which feeds S/PDIF signal to G.I. Joe aka the $1'495 Wyred4Sound mINT integrated. Speakers are another pair of Boenicke W5 in non-Se version. The skinny but very long Crystal Cable speaker leads unfurl whenever the speakers exit 'park' mode and are moved forward and a few meters apart. They are so light and easily plucked, they lend themselves perfectly to stowing away as shown. That occupies minimal space.

My review of the minty one goes back to March 2012. That's another eternity. Like the Vita, the mINT garnered a well-deserved award. Its 3-input DAC goes beyond the deck from South Korea to shake paws with an iPod dock via S/PDIF; or a Toslink'd Astell&Kern portable as source. And it's also got a headphone output and the ubiquitous analog inputs for legacy kit. Revisit my review for the skinny. Or visit their website for plenty more applause from other writers. The point of this little piece wasn't to regurgitate what I wrote already. The point is to resurrect these two components in your awareness as still current problem solvers for when money is limited and one box expected to do it all with good sound. I still consider both of these at the top of their class and game. Don't consign them to the hifi cemetery of yesteryear. They've got plenty of juice left to enhance your life today without beating your wallet to a bloody pulp. Hence the header. Fallen champions, resurrected! As Leonard Nimoy would say who has passed on, live long and prosper.