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Marantz M-CR611 Network CD Receiver Review
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AV News Forum Topics:'s Best of 2001 List Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 December 2001
Updates To The Best Of Format
In 2001 we decided to list all of the best current products in a specific category which we are continuing for 2001. This year you’ll note we have more liberally added in accessory and auxiliary products that reviewers use in their reference systems. For example: because of space and editorial limitations we are unlikely to do a full feature review on a product like the Terk TV55 antenna but we did mention it significantly in the Sony HD100 review. In this year’s Best of, the Terk is eligible for an award.
This feature is a collection of the absolute best gear money can buy from the best value oriented equipment to cost no object components. Some products were de-listed from last years awards for any number or reasons ranging from they were discontinued to the items no longer being worthy of a Best of title. Please note the list of products we are likely to be reviewing in 2002 at the bottom of each category.

Audio Product of the Year – Revel Performa F30
Affordable Audio Product of the Year – B&W DM303
Theater Product of the Year – Sony SAT T60 (DSS – TiVo)
Loudspeaker of the Year – Revel B15 Subwoofer

Ultimate Loudspeakers (Over $10,000)

MartinLogan Prodigy
Bryan Southard mandates that music and film enthusiasts interested for speakers anywhere near the $10,000 price range must audition the Martin Logan Prodigy before purchasing any other speaker – they are that good. Although there are issues to consider before purchasing this loudspeaker, the sonic performance is nothing short of magnificent.

Revel Salon
Bryan Southard recommends you look into Wilson WATT Puppy v6.0, Martin Logan Prodigys and B&Ws before you invest the $18,000 in a pair of revel Salons yet he voted with his economic ballot, making the Revel Salons his reference speaker – upgrading from the Revel Studio.

Revel Studio
$9,995 per pair – Bryan Southard flipped for these speakers made by Madrigal, complete with the R&D budget of Harman International, makers of JBL and Infinity. The Studios have a warmer sound but are not as quick as the comparably-priced Wilson CUB IIs. The industrial design is excellent and the speaker is a fully integrated product that needs no stands.

Wilson WATT Puppy v6.0
$20,000 per pair – Controversially reviewed by Jerry Del Colliano as the best speakers money can buy, Wilson WATT Puppies were completely redesigned for version 6, with new cabinet materials, better drivers and a stunning finish. With 92 dB efficiency, the beautiful Wilson Gloss paint process and a relatively small footprint, WATT Puppies make it into many true high-end audio and theater systems when other great speakers physically can’t.


High End Loudspeakers ($2,000 to $10,000)

Athena Technologies (S3/P3/C1/P1) $4,200 for 5.1 system
Reviewed by Brian Kahn, the Athenas are a new product offering from API, the Canadian manufacturers of Energy and Mirage. Kahn noted the Athena’s flexibility in configuration. The smaller speakers interlock with larger powered subwoofers, allowing the user to configure the system to exactly fit the needs of a specific environment.

Evett and Shaw Elan
$2,000 per pair – If you are like Del Colliano, you spend at least eight hours a day in your office. However, your best audio gear is most likely at home. Evett and Shaw makes a tiny nearfield monitor designed for desktop environments that are something special. Finished to match your desk or computer, Elans sound as good as they look. They are also well-paired with the matching Flatte Design 50 amplifier, which is equally as beautiful.

Final 0.3
At $2,495 per pair the Final 0.3’s quickly established themselves as a contender in the hybrid electrostatic speaker market. Built in Holland, these speakers are ultra-slim and physically very slick. A perfect match for a plasma TV based theater system for an enthusiast who also enjoys wonderfully resolute music..

Martin Logan Scenario
$2,100 per pair – Reviewed by Michael Fuschi, the MartinLogan Scenario is one of the best speakers we have found anywhere near $2,000. While the bigger MartinLogans benefit from having larger electrostatic panels, the Scenarios still have the ability to wow you with how well they can reproduce live music.

MartinLogan Ascent and Theater
At their respective price of $4,195 per pair for the Ascents and $2,595 for the Theater center speaker, and based on the fact that the MartinLogan Ascents and the Theater center speaker can excitingly capture the live energy of a live musical event. At the same time , the MartnLogans play back surprisingly dynamic, yet hyper-detailed movie soundtracks.

Meridian DSP 5000
$6,950 per pair – Kim Wilson reviewed these digital, powered loudspeakers. Complete with DACs, 75-watt amps and their own control system, Meridian takes the idea of the loudspeaker into the 21st century. Very well suited for DVD-Audio and home theater applications, the Meridian DSP 5000s are a high-tech dream come true.

Monitor Audio Gold
Tim Hart found another bargain speaker in the $3,000 price range with the Monitor Audio GR20 and its associated 5.1 speakers. Competing directly with the Revel Performa F30’s the Monitor Audio Gold Series has shocked many a jaded audiophile with their dynamics and resolution.

RBH Signature Series System
While not the best known speaker manufacturer in Utah, RBH makes some of the most wonderful speakers you can audition at an affordable price. Bryan Southard favorably compared the RBH 1266 SE to speakers costing many times their $2,600 per pair price tag especially noting the gorgeous wood finishes.

Revel Performa F30 Publisher, Jerry Del Colliano has often raved about Wilson WATT Puppy’s at $20,000 per pair. In 2001 the $3,500 per pair Revel Performa F30 became the object of his affection. While not finished to the insane tolerances of the big dollar competitors, the Revel F30’s can sonically stand toe to toe with damn near any speaker costing as much as $20,000 per pair.


Loudspeakers Under $2,000

B&W DM303
At $300 per pair the B&W DM 303 is the reason why dealers worldwide drool over the idea of selling the B&W product line. The design both internally and aesthetically is stellar at a cost that makes these speakers the starting point for someone who came into a store to “just buy some speakers” an end up becoming a true audio-video enthusiast by the end of the shopping experience.

Taking slick to a whole new level, these diminutive $1,500 floorstanding speakers appeal to a more modern audience than B&W speakers of the past. Brian Kahn went so far as to power them with Krell electronics costing more than quadruple the CM4s when writing the review.

Dynaudio Audience 40
$699 per pair – Dynaudio, known more for supplying drivers for speakers like Cello’s Stradivari Series and Wilson WATT Puppy V6.0, make a set of speakers for the masses with the Audience 40s.

Energy e:XL 28p
$1,250 per pair and up for 5.1 system – Canadian loudspeaker maker API went all out to pack a powered sub in this sleek, floor-standing speaker. Tony Kaklamanos was a fan of the sweet highs and fast bass – characteristics usually reserved for speakers costing five times the price of the Energy.

Energy Take 5.2
The Energy Take 5.2 at $899 for a complete 5.1 speaker system is the type of product that would be at the top of your list if your next-door neighbor asked you to help him build a theater without blowing the budget.

Klipsch SA3 All Weather Speakers
With a rock and roll tradition that spans decades, Bryan Southard found the horn loaded $699 SA3s to be just what the Doc of Rock ordered for his high end patio listening enjoyment.

Paradigm Studio 80's
$1,500 to $1,800 per pair, depending on finish – Second from the top of Paradigm’s reference speaker lineup, the Studio 80s are floor-standing speakers that compete with other transducers costing double the price. Kim Wilson noted that the optional finishes were well worth the price and made these affordable speakers look even better.



Monitor Audio ASW 210 subwoofer
$999 – 200 watts of power, C-CAM technology and a moderate price tag make this British sub worthy of consideration for music and theater playback.

PSB Subsonic 7
Bryan Southard found the PSB SubSonic 7 to be a great choice for home theater systems with a large variety of price ranges. At $949, the Subsonic 7 can provide you with solid, accurate energy for both music and movies. The Sub 7 has power, accuracy and finesse at an affordable price and the ability to make your movies rock.

Revel B15
At $2,995 the Revel B15 is the first real advancement in high end consumer subwoofers since the Sunfire True Subwoofer. While the Revel is not nearly as small or as inexpensive as the Sunfire, it can rock harder because of significantly more physical size in both the cabinet and the driver. The most impressive performance element of the Revel B15 is its internal EQ (a needed component to get the most from any sub) with truly easy to use LFO software that shows us mere mortals exactly where to place the B15 in a room and how to get the most from it in terms of EQ, phase and volume.

Sunfire Signature Subwoofer
$1,895 – This subwoofer is the pinnacle of Bob Carver’s recent patented work. In true Carver form, Bob gets an incredible 2700 watts from the internal amp inside the True Sub Signature through his tracking downconverter design. The real draw to the sub is the fact it is small and really rocks at a very fair price.

Sunfire True Subwoofer Jr.
$895 – This is the smallest of the Sunfire True Subwoofers, at a diminutive nine inches cubed. It benefits from all of the technologies of the (only slightly) bigger Sunfire subs, but has a smaller price tag. Some use two Jr. Sunfire woofers in a stereo pair, as opposed to a single larger one to get better coverage in a listening environment, especially a large room.


Power Amps

Adcom GFA-5802
At $1,750 this Nelson Pass amplifier represents about the most good power you can hope for without selling a kidney. Perfect for driving nearly impossible speaker impedance loads, this Adcom can be used for speakers as demanding as electrostatics with great success.

Anthem Amp 2
$1,795 – Anthem gives its amps and its customers the white glove treatment with this half-tube, half-solid state amp. Unlike most mid-priced tube amps, the Anthem really puts out with a power rating of 165 watts per channel. It can also be bridged to mono to get as much as 600 watts in that channel. While not the most high-end amp we’ve reviewed, the Anthem is a favorite among the entire staff for its sweet highs, power output and value pricing.

Audio Research VT100
$4,999 - Bryan Southard’s former reference amplifier, the Audio Research makes up for its (dare to call it ugly) utilitarian looks with the sweetness of tube power. When paired with electrostatics, a VT 100 can take you to sonic heaven.

Krell FPB 600
$12,500 – The Krell FPB 600 has the best bass we’ve ever heard on any amplifier at any price. The FPB is a very critical amp that can also err on the side of clinical. It is an incredible amp for rock ‘n’ roll, even on speakers so demanding that they make other so-called high-current amps explode.
Krell KAV 300iL
$3,000 - The idea of an integrated amp fell out of favor at some point in the late 1980s. However, it is still a very viable solution for many music fans who want to minimizes costs and maximize performance. The Krell packs in 150 watts per channel with the type of bass impact you’d expect from this brand. The KAV 300I also comes with a good remote and an optional tuner.

McIntosh MC602
With the retro appeal of a Harley Davidson chopper, the MC602 has the needed juice to light up demanding speakers for both music and home theater applications.

Mark Levinson No. 336
This Levinson is Del Colliano’s reference amplifier. With 350 watts per channel, it can drive any speaker, but its mild-mannered excellence is what Del Colliano likes best. While some amps shine more brightly in select categories, the No. 336 excels at everything.

Proceed HPA2
$3,250 - Kim Wilson uses the Proceed HPA2 as her reference amp, powering everything from Revel F30s ($3,500 per pair) to any number of other speakers. While a Proceed amp will never be a Mark Levinson amp, it does share many design traits and sonic characteristics. Proceed is apparently being marketed as a home theater-oriented line. However, the Proceed HPA 2 is a very capable high-end stereo amp with a much more realistic price tag than some of its bigger Mark Levinson brothers.

Pass x350
$9,000 –Southard feels that the Pass Labs X350, designed by legendary high-end wizard Nelson Pass, competes well with some of the bigger and more expensive amps from Levinson and Krell.

Sunfire Signature Amp
$3,000 - Bob Carver takes the Signature part of his Signature amp so seriously that he personally signs the faceplate of each amp. The Signature amp features Carver’s Tracking Down converter technology to output incredible amounts of power. The Signature amp sounds as close to tubes as Del Colliano has heard in a solid state amp, without any of the hassles involved in owning a tube amp.

Sonic Frontiers Power II
Sonic Frontier Power II - $5,000 – As a guitar player, Del Colliano knows tubes, but this was the first tube amp that made him really fall in love. Tube amps may not have the weight in the low end that a comparably-priced solid state amp has, but tubes do have an aural appeal that is undeniable. Somehow tubes highlight harmonics and frequencies that excite emotions. For a perfect example, try a Power II with Wilson CUB IIs on Dark Side of the Moon.

Sonic Frontiers Power III Special Edition
Bryan Southard and Jerry Del Colliano both agree these $12,000 Canadian monoblocks are the best tube amps they have ever heard. The Power III SE not only have the ability to transcend reality with a insanely good midrange, they also have enough spank to properly power demanding speakers like Southard’s Revel Salons..


Multi-Channel Amps

Anthem MCA5
$1,395 – Unlike most other Anthem amps, the MCA5 is not a tube or tube-hybrid design. It is rated at 200 watts times five and has many of the sonic characteristics of Anthem and its bigger brother, Sonic Frontiers. They are all ready to go for home theater and 5.1 music.

Proceed AMP5
$4,995 – While it is far from inexpensive, the AMP 5 is a great solution for home theater, with good upgrade paths. Proceed has much of the Mark Levinson sound without all of the impact and control found in the big Levinsons. The AMP 5 can be used along with more high-end amps and can be bridged to give extra power to the center channel in order to keep up with, say, a Mark Levinson No. 336.

Proceed HPA2 - HPA 3
$3,250 and $4,750 – Coupled together, the HPA2 and HPA 3 are far more powerful than a Proceed AMP 5 at over 250 watts per channel. While this system uses two chassis to house five channels of amplification, they are very well sonically matched to provide lots of power specifically for home theater and 5.1 audio applications.

Sunfire Cinema Grand
At its price it is hard to argue the value of the Sunfire Cinema Grand. Powered by Bob Carver’s patented Tracking Downconverter technology, the Cinema Grand can rock harder than practically every 5 channel amp anywhere near its price category while retaining a smooth timbre.

Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature
$3,500 – This Bob Carver design is one of the best five-channel amps ever built. Despite its significant (though not astronomical) price tag of $3,500, the Cinema Grand Signature, with its incredible 405 watts x five channels, has won over many a fan. The Signature amp has a warm tube-like feel with the power of a V12 engine behind it. Of course, as a Signature Edition, each Cinema Grand has a faceplate personally signed by Carver.


AV Preamps

Adcom GTP 830
At $1,200 the Adcom GTP 830 is a logical upgrade from an AV receiver as well as a great sounding AV preamp capable of excellent musical and home theater performances. While missing component video switching, the sound of this affordable AV preamp makes it Best of winner for 2001.

Anthem AVM 20
While the review has been delayed until January 2002, the Anthem AVM 20 demands a Best of Award based on the glowing review from Bryan Southard. With all of the latest goodies like 7.1 processing, multiple component video inputs, 24 bit DACs and 5.1 analog inputs for DVD-Audio or SACD, the AVM 20 can pull of tricks that AV preamps costing triple the price fall short of - all at a price barely above $3,000.

B&K Ref 30
Another new value-priced contender that caught the attention of Brian Kahn, the B&K Ref 30 also is ready for the latest formats with 5.1 analog inputs and excellent video switching.

Proceed AVP
$4,995 – At its price point, the Proceed leads the others with great-sounding DACs and processors, along with software upgradeable feature sets that can be downloaded from the Internet.

Sunfire Theater Grand II
$3,200 – The Sunfire Theater Grand II has all-new circuitry, making it different from the first version. It is an audio preamp first, with Sunfire’s tube-like sound and many of the latest features and inputs needed for a modern home theater.



Kenwood VR-4090
At less than $1,200 this Kenwood receiver is well suited for home theater and DVD-Audio sources and was rugged enough to hang in there while powering Del Colliano’s demanding speakers.

Marantz SR 19
While not loaded with quite as much gingerbread as the Yamaha RX-V3000, the $2,250 Marantz SR19 has a little more attention paid under the hood including 24/192 DACs.

Onkyo TX-DS989
$3,199.95 – With 24/96 DACs, THX EX for 7.1 surround and 130 watts per channel, this Onkyo receiver is good enough to return Onkyo to its roots as the high-end leader for affordable AV electronics. It is also ready for DVD-Audio today, when only the very best AV preamps can make that claim.

Yamaha RX-V3000
Before the high end manufacturers get 7.1 trickery and 5.1 analog inputs to store shelves, Yamaha already had all of the goodies wrapped up in a $2,000 receiver. With DTS ES and THX EX, this receiver is better than you might think and is used by some as an AV preamp because of its lofty features.

Yamaha RXV1
$3,100 – With nearly every feature you can imagine packed into one chassis, the RXV1 is a do-it-all receiver, complete with 110 watts x eight channels. It has digital EQ, a host of surround effects and more. For many, it is a better choice than separate components.


CD Players - Digital

Apogee Digital PSX100
Damn near every good recording you own most likely has been run through an Apogee A to D or D to A at some point. With professional quality 24 bit DACs this $3,100 digital processor puts over-bloated high end DACs to shame.

Audio Research CD2
$3,495 – With 20-bit DACs and a design that looks about as bad a George W. Bush suit, the CD2 isn’t sexy, but it is built to reproduce warm, engaging music from a CD.

Linn CD12
At $20,000 most people wince at the hefty price tag before giving the Linn CD 12 a listen. Their loss. The Linn CD 12 is an artful yet very expensive player dedicated to the high art of compact disc reproduction.

Mark Levinson No. 39
$6,500 – This CD player offers analog and digital inputs, 20-bit DACs and digital volume control, which makes it an excellent front end for an integrated audio system. Just add speakers and an amp and rock. The No. 39 has a beefy remote and a killer CD drawer mechanism, much like what you’d expect from a B&O product with sound you’d expect from a Mark Levinson component.

Proceed PMDT
While the $6,500 Proceed PMDT is known as a DVD player and video processor, it is also one of the absolute best CD transports on the market. While the Jerry Del Colliano review is on hold until January 2001, we have decided to give the PMDT a Best of Listing for both DVD player and CD transport. It is that good. As one industry icon who owns damn near every component on the market says “the PMDT is only 1/10 a away from the performance of the Mark Levinson No. 31.5.”

Sonic Frontiers Processor 3
$6,999 – A handful of reviewers think this is the best DAC made. With 20-bit DAC chips and a tube output stage, the Processor Three disproves many critics’ claims that the CD format is unnecessarily shrill and bright.

Escient Tunebase 200
$2,500 estimated – The Tunebase 2000I pulls more tricks than a Heidi Fleiss girl at The Peninsula on a Saturday night. You can organize a huge CD collection, download cover art, song lists, lyrics and more. The interface can be on screen or on your touch screen remote. Really trick multi-room systems can access thousands of CDs in color in every room right on a Crestron control pad.


DVD Players

Camelot Roundtable
The Roundtable has practically every technology Camelot (and others) make, all packed into one case. It is called Progressive because the Roundtable has a DvDo line doubler built right inside the unit. The DACs are excellent, and the Roundtable makes for a great CD player as well. Built far better than the Theta DaViD, the Roundtable gives high-end theater some relevant, high performance features.

Kenwood DV5700
With a Faroudja based internal video processor and a 5 disc DVD-video/DVD-Audio transport, how could this $1,800 DVD player be ignored? In straight up comparisons, the Kenwood avoided many motion artifacts easily seen on other internal DVD player video processors.

Pioneer DV38a
At $2,000 this is a reasonable choice as a high performance singe disc DVD-Audio DVD-Video player at a modest price. With a very good video processor inside, you also get the luxury of 480p video along with 29/96 5.1 audio.

Proceed PMDT
Proceed PMDT – The $6,500 Proceed PMDT is the most advanced DVD player to come along so far. With a card based upgrade path and a highly functional video processor available, the $1,500 PVP does nearly everything right. The PMDT is an excellent CD transport and offers a host of goodies like being able to skip FBI warnings and adding delay to deal with outboard video processor lip synch issues.



Pioneer PDP-501m Plasma
$20,000 - To date, the Pioneer 50-inch plasma monitor is the best one made. The extra eight inches of screen size makes a big difference compared to a 42-inch screen, especially for non-stretched NTSC 4x3 video. The Pioneer is the largest plasma screen on the market, yet it is also the thinnest. We recommend a Faroudja line doubler with a Pioneer Plasma for video switching and progressive scan performance. It is far more reliable than a CRT and much easier to place in a room.

Proceed PVP
The $1,500 video processing or line doubling card is limited for use in the $6,500 Proceed PMDT but is capable of some of the smoothest, most accurate colors seen in 480p video to date.

Sim2 Multimedia Sèleco HT 200DM
With outrageous brightness and a reduced price of $8,500, this DLP projector can give movie enthusiasts a big, bright picture in a way even a 9 inch CRT projector can’t. While not an HDTV capable projector, the Seleco uses some very advanced color wheel technology to significantly improve on the quality of the video for DVD and other non-HDTV sources.

Silicon Image iScan Pro
At an affordable price of $699, the iScan Pro is the perfect companion for smaller video systems looking to perform like the big boys. Match an iScan Pro up with a system that has a good progressive video DVD player to handle inputs like DSS, VCR, video games and more.

Sony 36XBR450
$2,500 – Richard Elen has done the follow up review (slated for Jan 2002) to the former winner from Sony, the 36XBR200. This CRT tube set is the best of a dying breed. While the new fixed pixel digital video devices are ultra-cool, they don’t have black levels and contrast of WEGA flatscreen tube TV. For most people, this 4:3 ratio TV is the pinnacle of video performance.

Sony KW-34HD1
$7,000 – with the advantages of CRTs and the resolution of HDTV, this very expensive video monitor can make your jaw drop.

Vidikron Vision One
$75,000 - The Vision One is the king of CRT projectors. With nine-inch guns, auto convergence and the sexiest color-matched case, the Vision One is a projector that inspires lust. The colors are luscious and rich, while the depth of field is second to none. There are other digital video technologies pending, but right now, a Vision One can still blow your mind.

Personal TV (PTV), Video Game Systems, Remotes and Other AV Sources

Escient Tunebase 200
$2,500 estimated – The Tunebase 2000I pulls more tricks than a Heidi Fleiss girl at The Peninsula on a Saturday night. You can organize a huge CD collection, download cover art, song lists, lyrics and more. The interface can be on screen or on your touch screen remote. Really trick multi-room systems can access thousands of CDs in color in every room right on a Crestron control pad.

Philips Pronto
$399 – Still to this day the Philips Pronto is an amazing remote for most AV systems. Despite some programming issues in more recent updates of the Pronto, its value remains strong justifying a Best of Award.

Sony SAT T60
The Sony SAT T60 is used by each and every reviewer. Much like peanut butter and chocolate, a DSS receiver and TiVo in the same box just makes so much sense. At $250 (plus TiVo lifetime or monthly fee) this AV component will change the way you watch TV, allowing you to extract the best from the medium for as many as 35 hours of programming.

Sony HD100
At $799 the Sony HD100 is the best of an imperfect first generation crop of HDTV satellite receivers. With better and faster loading menus than other HD-DSS receivers and a sexy look, the Sony gets the nod from many custom AV installers.

Sony PlayStation 2
Sony’s PS2 at $299 is the gold standard for game machines in 2001 despite brand new competitors from Nintendo and Microsoft. PS2 can hook you on any number of compelling games that benefit from feature film sized development and programming budgets.

Terk TV55
While there is some good HDTV programming on DSS now like Mark Cuban’s HDNet and hit or miss broadcasts on HBO, the Terk TV55 is a essential accessory to pull down the best of terrestrial HDTV for network feeds from CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, ABC and more. The TV55 is a slender antenna that will easily avoid the detection of overly aggressive home owner’s associations.

dm2 Digital Music Mixer
Apzu Inc.
Do you have dreams of being the next Paul Oakenfold or Dimitri From Paris but don’t have enough chedda to pick up some 1’s and 2’s, a mixer, and a record collection that would make the Virgin Megastore jealous? With the dm2 Digital Music Mixer you can rock the party with those thousands of MP3’s you downloaded from Napster and Gnutella. If you have a Windows based PC, a decent soundcard and an extra $100 for the DM2 hardware/software package, you can plug this bad boy into an open USB port on your computer and mix and re-mix ‘till the break of dawn. The controls are an amazingly realistic simulation of a real DJ setup and because it’s all digital you don’t even have to worry about wearing out your Neil Diamond albums.

AC Power

Richard Gray's Power Company RGPC 1200s
Who says bigger isn't better? The Richard Gray's Power Company RGPC 1200s is the bad ass version of the controversial 400s unit. With more inputs and more AC storage power, Del Colliano raved the 1200s made both audio gear and video components look and or sound signifactly better.

Richard Gray's Power Company RGPC 400s
$750 – Using exclusive patented technology, the RGPC 400s is less of a power conditioner and more of a reserve of power for up to four components.

PS Audio Ultimate Outlet
For $299 it is hard to argue that the PS Ultimate Outlet isn’t a worthy upgrade for audio and video sources. Not limited by power requirements, the Ultimate Outlet works great on power amps as well as a video projectors, plasmas and video processors. .

PS Audio P600
$2,225 – This power product is based around the idea of amplifying signals to improve the power for your gear. Reviewer Southard and many readers have raved about it. The PS Audio is physically large and has limits on how powerful an amp you can plug into it.

EQ (digital and analog)

Avalon 2055
$5,000 – This fully balanced, dual mono EQ is really a pro audio component and requires a solid understanding of how music is made to use. If you’ve got the ears, the Avalon 2055 can help you get the music in your system sounding better to your ears.

z-systems RDP-1
$5,000 – Not only can the z-systems rdp-1 pull off some amazing feats such as a digital stereo EQ, it also upconverts your audio to dithered 24-bit audio output. This means your CDs sound far better with the added zeros and ones, while you have the digital bandwidth to either tune your room and or add flavor to your favorite music.



Apogee Digital
Apogee Digital – Apogee Digital’s $50 (and up) digital cable, despite its bright purple color, is about as good as it gets. Until you start looking at cables costing a few hundred dollars per meter, these suckers are the answer and can be configured for AES-EBU, COAX or otherwise.

ASC Tube Traps
Bryan Southard, Tim Hart and Brian Kahn swear by these magical acoustic cylinders. ASC Tube Traps come in a host of fabric finishes and right a variety or acoustic maladies like first order reflections and absorption for standing waves. Prices range from about $250 per tube – depending on size.

AVIA Video Setup disc
You simply can’t hope to set up your video system with out professional tools. The AVIA Video Setup disc has much of what you need to converge and set black levels on CRT projectors. It can also be useful for some setup needs for a digital projector (DLP and D-ILA) as well as plasmas especially for setting black levels.

Cobalt Cable Component Video
Starting at $65, the Ultimate Component Video Cable is a killer value used by many reviewers on the staff.

General Electric Black Light
For $3.50 Southard swears by the good old black light. While some may say he is stuck in the 1960’s others marvel at how cool that giant neon fuzzy Jim Morrison poster looks in his listening room.

Lutron Grafik Eye
The Lutron Grafik Eye lighting control is the system of champions. For around $1,000 depending on configuration, you can have total control over four or more lighting scenarios in your room. Don’t forget to have your electrician run control wire to your Grafik Eye when it is being installed because some day, you’ll want to have your lights on your touch panel RS232 controlled remote.

Middle Atlantic equipment racks
$500 and up – Audiophiles get scared of rack-mounting gear, but it really is better for performance and results in a far sexier look. You do need to consider cooling issues before you rack ‘em, stack ‘em and pack ‘em. When you are done, you’ll wonder how you lived without it.

Home Depot Brand AC Ground Floater
AC ground hum is an evil mutha that needs to be attacked with reckless abandon. Before you clip the third prong from the AC power plug on the offending component – try a 49 cent ground floater from Home Depot. Any good installer will tell you, they can be a life saver and a hum killer.

SAS Checkpoint
$200 – Lots of guys think they can set up speakers like nobody’s business. They’re normally wrong. You need the right tools. The SAS Checkpoint is used by the best pro installers out there. With a laser mechanism, the Checkpoint uses charts, graphs and laser pointing to help you calculate - not guess at - the best placement for your speakers in your room.

Transparent Reference Audio and Video Cables
There is a good reason why nearly every reviewer uses Transparent Reference Cable in their systems. While ungodly expentggsive, they are the best. Even pro audio gurus who normally scoff at such foo-foo consumer audio goodies have adopted these networked cables into their mastering and recording systems.

Two Channel Preamps

Anthem Pre2L
$1,299 – Brian Kahn noted the smooth sound and extremely good value in this Anthem preamp. A high end tube amp has a special effect on music and this Anthem Pre2L brings it home at a nice price.

$4,000 – Del Colliano noted BAT left very little on the drawing board with this solid state audio preamp design. Known for their tube designs, the VK40 is a highly engineered, enthusiast product built to military standards which could last a lifetime.

$598 – For less than $600 the B&K preamp is a breakthrough product that had Brian Kahn impressed. At the price the PT3 is the type of product that can get you hooked on high performance music systems.

Conrad Johnson Premiere 17LS
If you are considering a two-channel preamp, think about the $4,495 Conrad-Johnson Premier 17LS, a preamp that performs at the top of its price class. It produces a richness that will remind you of why you love live music. Instruments can lack some of the finest transient details and can sound a hair on the relaxed side of neutral, but on the other hand the 17LS reproduces 3-D images with great realism.

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