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“It either performs or it doesn’t.” There was a time when a statement like that might be true. But rarely anymore, because in today’s highly innovative audio and video world just about everything is exceptional. And especially with the esteemed brands we partner with—they are all masters at crafting awe-inspiring sight and sound.

So with so much incredible gear, how do you pick a favorite?

Well, it really just comes down to personal tastes. Are you into micro dynamics, live sound, warmth and texture, functionality, life-like resolution? There are literally hundreds of ways to define performance. That’s why, in our “Best Of” list, we considered you, our customers, and your variety of preferences. So no matter where your Hi-Fi and Home Theater tastes lie, there’s sure to be something in this list to give you goosebumps.

Note: We understand  a "Best Of" list will always have some level of subjectivity. Therefore, we strive to make our list as objective as possible by including input from the HiFi and Home Theater community, as well as a passionate staff who geeks out on everything—even if it's not something they would put in their personal system. 

 

BEST TURNTABLES

A Classic Refined

Technics SL-1200 GR2 Direct Drive Turntable System II $2,199

A classic way to listen calls for a classic table and the new SL-1200 GR2 is classic in its purest form. Originally made in 1972, this table is a go-to for vinyl lovers, providing a solid foundation for performance, while allowing for all the micro adjustments table heads love to do. So if you like the ability to fine tune and customize the sound this may be your new reference. See our full video review of the SL-1200 GR2 below.

BEST MUSIC STREAMERS/NETWORK PLAYERS

Streamer Over Achievers

Cambridge Audio AXN 10 ($599) & MXN 10 ($499)

The Cambridge AXN 10 and smaller MXN 10 (same streamer, smaller chassis) should not sound this good given the price. But sometimes audio companies over achieve and that’s what you have here. The AXN and MXN feature the intuitive Gen 4 StreamMagic App, and an ESS Sabre ES9033Q DAC that has been tuned brilliantly to milk every last drop out of its performance. And it does—these streamers sound like they should be twice the price.

Tried & True Improved

Bluesound Node X $749

Building off everyone’s favorite streamer, the Bluesound Node, the new Node X brings the same rock-solid performance along with a few upgrades. This Node includes an improved DAC (the ESS Sabre 9028Q2M DAC), a new THX Achromatic Headphone Amp with full-size jack, and an included remote—all improvements that make new Node X the Node to Behold. Learn more by watching our video.

Your End-Game Streamer

Aurender A15 Analog Network Player/DAC $8,400

So beautiful and buttery sounding it’s hard to believe it’s a digital source. Featuring balanced analog outputs and a resolving yet smooth dual-mono AKM4490 DAC, the A15 has a sound that is beyond luscious—your records will be jealous.

BEST A/V RECEIVERS

Surround Value

Denon AVR-X4800H 9.4 Channel Receiver $2,499

It’s powerful with up to 125 WPC. It’s immersive with 3D audio via Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, IMAX Enhanced. It supports 8k and offers seamless wireless music streaming with HEOS Built-in. This AVR does a lot of things, including being relatively budget friendly. Which is why we think the Denon AVR-X4800H is a great value all around.

AVR’s Sonic King

Sony STR-AZ7000 ES 13.2 Channel Receiver $3,299

Sony made waves in the 60s with their ES line of audio components—the first to achieve both powerful high output and low distortion tube-like sound. Now they’ve brought legendary ES performance back with a collection of AVRs, including STR-AZ7000 ES 13.2 Channel 8K A/V Receiver, which offers loads of functionality and that unmistakably captivating ES sound. Welcome back Sony ES!

Home Theater Super System

Marantz AV 10 & AMP 10 $7,000 each

A 15.4 Channel Balanced AV Processor with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X Pro Auro 3D, IMAX Enhanced, and 8K Ultra HD. That’s the AV 10. Its companion, the AMP 10—a Reference 16-Channel 200 WPC Amplifier with balanced line-level inputs. Together, and even separate, they are without question performance powerhouses. The only question…is “Super System” an understatement?

BEST LOUDSPEAKERS

Entry-Level That Aims High

Focal Vestia N4 $4,298/pr

The Focal Vestia N4 is a 3-way floorstanding loudspeaker that has dual 8.25” woofers to impart impressive low end.. But not in an overly boomy, bloated way. The bass is very much refined and accurate. Coupled with a precise yet fatigue-free high frequency presentation and a highly textured midrange, these speakers will wow you. Especially when you consider their price.

Forever Speaker Runner-Up

Sonus Faber Amati $36,000/pr

Some might say loudspeakers in this category are overly focused on micro details, but the Amatis are different. They sound alive, powerful, and emotive with natural, textured highs and mids along with bass that is profoundly impactful. If you love high-end detail but also want warmth and texture, then Amati will likely be your end-game loudspeaker. Interested in learning more about the Amatis? Chat with us for more information.

Forever Speaker

Bowers & Wilkins 801 D4 Signature $50,000/pr

If the Bowers & Wilkins 801 D4s are in the upper echelon of loudspeaker design, then 801 D4 Signatures are in the stratosphere. With various upgrades, including a new aluminum top plate to make the cabinet damper and more flawless sounding, plus, two new finishes—the opulent California Burl Wood and the refined Midnight Blue Metallic, the 801 Signatures are loudspeakers of a lifetime. If you are lucky enough to call these your own, we’ll just say “congratulations!” Watch our video with Andy Kerr, the Bowers & Wilkins Director of Product Marketing & Communications, below.

BEST SUBWOOFERS

Booming Value

Klipsch RP-1200 SW $649

With the new RP-1200SW, the latest addition to the Reference Premiere line of subs, Klipsch raises the bar to new lows. The redesigned cabinet and driver provide greater bass extension and the patented Aerofoil port keeps things surprisingly crisp and tight. This new design is proof that Klipsch is serious about subs and even more so about making them accessible.

Reference Level Lows

REL No.31 Reference Series $7,000

If you didn’t think a subwoofer could deliver delicacy and nuance then you’ve never heard a REL. And the Reference 31 is a standout in this department. Low frequencies are far more musical and intricate with a subwoofer of this caliber. It’s bass like you’ve never heard before—bold, authoritative, yet refined.

A New Category of Subs

McIntosh PS2K Powered Subwoofer $50,000

The PS2K has four 13” woofers and four 500 watt amplifiers, culminating in 2,000 watts of astonishing bass. But it’s more than just a powerhouse. Thanks to its line array of drivers at varied heights, the PS2K does mid and upper bass as well as it does the deep lows, putting forth a whole new range of low frequency sound you won’t hear with a traditional floor-level sub. McIntosh's PS2K subwoofer was released around this year's CEDIA Expo, and is not yet on listenup.com. Feel free to chat with us for more information.

McIntosh PS2K

BEST INTEGRATED AMPLIFIERS

Sometimes Minimal Is All You Need

Marantz Model 50 Analog Integrated Amplifier $1,800

Many of today’s digital source components like Streamers and CD players, have built-in DACs. So if you have those, you don’t necessarily need all the additional digital circuitry that might be creating noise. Also, why pay for it if you’re not using it. That’s why pure analog integrated amps like the Marantz Model 50 make so much sense. It provides basic power and control and it provides it well, utilizing 70 WPC of class A/B power for classic warm and rich Marantz sound. And at a fraction of the cost.

Integrated at Its Finest

Moon North Collection 641 Integrated Amplifier $11,000

MOON recently came out with the North Collection—a range of premium components that solidifies their prowess for ultra-performance design. And the new 641 is next level performance to say the least. With a striking chassis design, visually stunning display, distortion canceling system, and 125 WPC of pristine MOON power, you won’t miss having separates. It is an integrated amp to aspire to.

Mono Bloc Meets Integrated

Hegel H600 Integrated Amplifier $12,500

The Hegel H600 offers immense power in a compact, do everything package. With 303 watts in a dual mono design, it nears Mono Bloc-level performance and brings all the capability of a well appointed integrated, including digital & analog inputs and a built-in streamer/DAC. To have all this power and capability in a single chassis is just astonishing. Well done Hegel! Learn what makes the Hegel H600 an all-in-one super system in our video below.

 

BEST TV & PROJECTORS

Own Your Own Gallery

Sony Bravia X93L with Leon Studio Frame

Captivating even when it’s off. That’s the beauty, literally, of an Art TV. And the new Sony Bravia X93L & Leon Studio Frame combo is currently at the top of our list for TVs that can do double duty as decor. With brilliant Sony 4K Mini LED technology, the X93L is more than capable for home theater. And when paired with the Leon Frame with a built-in Sony Art app, it’s more than capable for home gallery. Available in 65” and 75”.

Leon Studio Frame for Sony BRAVIA XR TV

Larger Than Life Viewing

Samsung NEO QN990C, 98” 8K QLED

Home Theater is all about the immersive experience. And when you bring together a 98” screen with 8K Mini LED technology, as is with the Samsung NEO QN990C, well, it becomes surreal. Infinite colors, intense contrast, and never-before-seen detail, create an experience that blurs the lines between life and life-like. The QN990C is brand new and not yet on listenup.com, but start a chat with us you'd like to learn more.

Beyond Illuminating

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 4K PRO-UHD Laser Projector

With the ability to display a 4K picture at up to 2700 lumens, the Pro Cinema LS12000 produces incredible brightness, color accuracy, and image detail. This is next-level projector technology once out-of-reach for most home-theater enthusiasts, but now very accessible thanks to numerous innovations by Epson. Beyond illuminating to say the least.