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Reviewers' ChoiceI begin forming strong opinions of an audio component at the unboxing stage. While some audiophiles will tell you that they pay only for sound quality, and that any black-anodized case will do, anyone in the real world of 2019 knows that high-end audio components costing close to five figures also need to look like luxury audio gear if they’re going to succeed in the marketplace. Consumers pay enough money for this stuff -- they want to have their cake and eat it, too. The Luxman ticks both boxes with bold pen strokes.

Reviewers' ChoiceReview components come and go, and for the most part it doesn’t take me long to get their measure. Speakers, especially, don’t take much time to figure out, and I’m fairly confident in my speaker-analyzing skillz. It’s a mature technology, right? A mechanical device with three, maybe four moving parts: drivers and crossover in a box.

It could be said that 1970 was a tumultuous year: the Apollo 13 accident, President Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, and Paul McCartney’s announcement that the Beatles had officially disbanded. On the other hand, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was put into effect, Boeing had just introduced the world to the 747 Jumbo Jet, and William Zane Johnson founded Audio Research Corporation (ARC) -- the same month Aerosmith was born.

Funny how things come around. Ten years ago, when I first dipped a toe in computer-based audio, I considered using as my reference DAC Weiss Engineering’s DAC2 ($3380 USD when available). At the time, the only way to get digital audio out of a PC was with an add-on soundcard, and the only good way to get digital audio out of an Apple Mac computer was with FireWire -- digital audio via USB was still only a glimmer on the horizon. I was already a Mac user, and the Weiss DAC2 seemed an obvious choice: it had a FireWire input, in addition to TosLink, S/PDIF on coax, and AES/EBU on XLR. However, on hearing that Apple would soon no longer support FireWire, I bought a Logitech Transporter ($1900, discontinued) and began streaming digital audio via Bluetooth. When USB audio became more widely supported, I connected my Mac directly to the Transporter with a Halide Design Bridge USB-to-S/PDIF link ($450), so I could stream 16- and 24-bit PCM files directly to the Transporter. Later, Weiss added a USB input to their DACs -- but by then I’d purchased what is still my reference DAC, a Meitner Audio MA-1 ($7000).

In the mid-1990s, EgglestonWorks released the original Andra, the loudspeaker that thrust that Memphis-based company into the consciousness of audiophiles. I remember hearing a pair of Andras in New York City in 1996, at Sound by Singer, with Andrew Singer himself playing DJ for me. The Andras had replaced a pair of Wilson Audio’s WATT/Puppy speakers in the system, and Singer was in hard-sell mode. At the time, of course, I had no money to buy the Andras or anything else Singer carried, but I was a youngish audiophile learning about good sound, and Singer was a legend in the world of high-end audio retail. That audition made a lasting impression on me. I recall thinking how utterly powerful the Andras sounded for such relatively compact floorstanders. That was my introduction to EgglestonWorks, and 22 years later, I’m still impressed with the sound of their speakers.

Reviewers' ChoiceI first met Harry and Mat Weisfeld, of VPI Industries, at the 2016 Montreal Audio Fest. They’d driven north from Cliffwood, New Jersey, with a truckload of turntables, and had proceeded to pepper a number of MAF rooms with them. Over the next two days I ran into the Weisfelds a number of times, and spent an evening chatting with them in the lounge of the Hotel Bonaventure’s restaurant. Harry and his son Mat are exceptionally good conversationalists, and were as enthusiastic while on duty during the show as they were over beers that evening.

AVM is one of those companies I discovered at Munich’s High End years ago. Like myriad other German manufacturers that display at High End, AVM annually has a large presence at this audio event in their native land, with a room in which they display their entire product line. High End 2018 was no different -- I saw so many components in AVM’s big room that I wondered how their customers keep track of everything they make. At that moment I vowed to learn more about AVM and their offerings -- and to seek out a review sample of one of them.

Aware of my interest in master word clocks, Scott Sefton, Esoteric’s marketing specialist for the Americas, recently e-mailed me to ask if I planned to audition the Sigma Clock-50, a new clock cable from Shunyata Research, based in Poulsbo, Washington. Most audiophile clock cables are specified at 75 ohms; the Shunyata cable is interesting due to its 50-ohm specification. Copied on Sefton’s e-mail was Grant Samuelsen, Shunyata’s director of marketing and sales, whom I’d not spoken to in years. When Samuelsen received the e-mail, he contacted me directly.

If I were to freely associate on the stimulus “Burmester,” my immediate response would probably be “amplifier.” After that I might say “Dieter,” followed by “chrome” and then, probably, “quality.” What wouldn’t come to mind, at least not right away, is “loudspeakers.”

Reviewers' ChoiceAt the start of each episode of the original Star Trek TV series, William Shatner intoned “Space -- the final frontier.” For audiophiles, however, the final frontier may be the conquering of a space far smaller: the listening room. Typically the last variable to be addressed when assembling a sound system, room treatments are often greatly misunderstood in terms of their cost, effectiveness, and ease of installation.