I’ve been a reviewer of high-end audio gear for 22 years now, but precisely two years ago my expenditures on gear took a sharp decline. That was when I announced that “Jeff’s Getting a New Stereo System,” for reasons explained in that article. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still hanker for products I’ve heard or seen, whether at shows or in press releases from manufacturers, and it doesn’t mean I don’t still get super-enthusiastic about cool gear.
So, for no other reason than the fun of it, I’ve compiled a list of the products I’d like to go out and buy right now -- components that, at least on paper, seem as if they might be perfect additions to the arsenal of gear already in my listening room. In no particular order, and all prices USD . . .
Bowers & Wilkins 802 D3 Prestige Edition floorstanding loudspeakers: B&W’s current 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers have won almost universal praise -- not only for being better than the preceding 800 models, but also for being screaming bargains for what they offer. The new 800s deliver terrific sound quality thanks to technologies such as their new Continuum midrange drivers and Aerofoil bass units, in cabinets that sport some of the best build quality seen at anywhere near their prices. The 802 D3 is the second-biggest speaker in the line, and at 48”H x 15”W x 23”D and 208 pounds, it strikes me as having the perfect size and weight. Its list price of $22,000/pair seems completely reasonable for what you get. But B&W has upped that ante -- and yours, for an upcharge of $3000/pair -- with the 802 D3 Prestige Edition, which features a limited-edition finish of glossy Santos Rosewood that makes the 802 D3 a true work of art. According to B&W, applying, drying, and buffing the 13 coats of lacquer that comprise this finish increase the speaker’s manufacturing time by 40%. The 802 Diamond D3 is already an attractive, great-sounding speaker; the Prestige Edition looks amazing.
JL Audio Gotham g213 v2 subwoofer: It was April of 2008 when I wrote, “JL Audio Gotham g213: Integrating Super Subwoofers into an Ultra System.” At the time, Automatic Room Optimization (ARO), JLA’s room-equalization software designed to acoustically integrate their subwoofers into a user’s stereo system, was fairly unique. Now, more than a decade later, almost every manufacturer of subs includes some form of room-EQ software with their models. But JLA hasn’t rested on their laurels. The v2 version of the Gotham g213 includes JLA’s Digital Automatic Room Optimization (DARO), an upgraded version of ARO with greater processing power, to produce more refined (read: more linear) results. Coupled with JLA’s latest 13.5” W7 driver and a 4500W powerhouse of a built-in amp, the 360-pound Gotham g213 v2 ($16,000) is still perhaps the most potent single-cabinet subwoofer on the market.
Sonus Faber Electa Amator III stand-mount loudspeakers: What reviewer’s listening room doesn’t need, at all times, a smallish, two-way, stand-mounted speaker? I know mine does, and Sonus Faber’s Electa Amator III would be the perfect choice. As part of the company’s Heritage Collection, the EAIII inherits elements from both the original Electa Amator (1987) and the EAII (1997), while incorporating the modern engineering prowess of Paolo Tezzon, Chief Designer of Acoustics for Sonus Faber, and an industrial design by Livio Cucuzza, Chief Design Officer. The speaker’s base of Carrara marble with brass inserts, its solid-walnut cabinet, its hand-applied leather, its Damped Apex Dome tweeter and specially designed midrange-woofer -- all combine to make this $10,000/pair jewel of a speaker a sonic and visual knockout. Hans Wetzel’s review of the EAIII will appear on SoundStage! Ultra late this summer.
Vitus Audio SIA-030 integrated amplifier: If I could have one integrated amp to anchor my audio system, I think I’d go straight to Hans-Ole Vitus and order up a sample of his new SIA-030. Although far from inexpensive at €35,000, the SIA-030 offers many possibilities. First, it can be changed from outputting 30Wpc in class-A to pumping out 200Wpc in class-AB, to accommodate a wide range of loudspeakers with the flick of a switch. Although a phono stage and DAC are offered as options, courtesy expansion slots on the rear panel, I’d get mine in the base configuration to keep it simple -- though I might choose one of the cool color options, instead of the more typical silver or black. The SIA-030 features truly balanced circuitry throughout -- and, from what I could see of it in Munich, at High End, superb build quality.
Shunyata Research Delta interconnects and speaker cables: Shunyata Research has four series of audio wire, ranging from the top-of-the-line Sigmas to the entry-level Venoms. I don’t usually endorse super-expensive wire, which is why I’ve been eying what looks to be a super-high-value line of Shunyata models, the Deltas, which slot in below the Sigmas and Alphas and just above the Venoms. What I like about the Deltas is that they include a wide cross section of Shunyata features -- e.g., Ohno continuous-cast copper and VTX conductors -- at not-crazy prices: the Delta speaker cables costs $2000/2m pair, the Delta interconnects $1000/1m pair. I know from past experience that Shunyata products are built like champs, and that the company bases their designs on and develops them using solid engineering and careful measurements and listening tests.
Yeah, reviewers are just like other audiophiles, and I’m no exception -- we go online and research products we’d love to have in our systems.
What have you been researching?
. . . Jeff Fritz