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.
A classic way to listen calls for a classic table, and the new Technics SL-1200 GR2 Turntable 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 Originally made in 1972, this table is a go-to for vinyl lovers, providing a solid foundation for performance while allowing for all the micro-adjustments table heads love to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.
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 AurenderA15has a sound that is beyond luscious—your records will be jealous.
Building off everyone’s favorite streamer, the BluesoundNode, the Node X brings the same rock-solid performance along with a few upgrades. This Node now 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 it the Node to Behold.
The CambridgeAXN 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 StreamMagic app, Gen 4, and ESS Sabre ES9033Q DAC that has been tuned brilliantly to milk every last drop out of its performance. And it does—these sound like they should be twice the price.
Sony made waves in the 60s with their ES line of audio components that were the first to achieve powerful high output and pleasing, low distortion tube-like sound. Now they’ve brought that legendary performance back with a collection of ES AVRs, including STR-AZ7000 ES 13.2 Channel 8K A/V Receiver, that offer loads of functionality and that unmistakably captivating ES sound. Welcome back Sony ES!
A 15.4 Channel Balanced AV Processor with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X Pro Auro 3D, IMAX Enhanced, and 8K Ultra HD, that’s the MarantzAV10. 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?
It’s powerful with up to 125 WPC. It’s immersive with 3D audio via Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, IMAX Enhanced and more. 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. And that’s not an easy feat in this category, which is why we think the DenonAVR-X4800H is a mid-range AVR with a masterpiece design.
If the Bowers & Wilkins801 D4's set a new loudspeaker benchmark the 801 Signature D4s have pushed it even higher. With various upgrades, including an aluminum top plate to make the cabinet damper and even clearer sounding, plus, two new finishes—the opulent California Burl Wood and the refined Midnight Blue Metallic, the 801 Signatures are in the loudspeaker design stratosphere. If you are lucky enough to call these your own, we will just say “congratulations!”
Some might say loudspeakers in this category are overly focused on micro details, but the Amati doesn’t come across this way at all. It is alive, powerful, and emotive with natural, textured details in the mids and highs along with bass that is profoundly impactful–it really excels in this category. If you love high-end detail but also want warmth and texture the Amati is your end-game loudspeaker.
The FocalVestia 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 see their price.
If you never thought 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, allowing even those who prefer the upper ranges of the frequency spectrum to engage. It’s low like you’ve never heard before. Almost like an iron fist with a velvet glove.
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 keep things surprisingly crisp and tight. This new design is proof that Klipsch is serious about subs and even more so about making them accessible.
The PS2K has four 13” woofers and four 500 Watt Amplifiers, culminating in one seriously impressive sounding subwoofer that, thanks to its line array of drivers, does mid and upper bass as well as it does the deep lows. That means it potentially changes the formula for building a super system, because you don’t necessarily have to invest in floorstanding speakers with multiple bass drivers. Pro tip, if you have the means get two of them.
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.
The HegelH600 is like having a nuclear reactor in a smart phone—the ultimate power in a compact, do everything package. Delivering 303 watts in a dual mono design, it nears Mono Bloc-level performance when it comes to power and sound quality and brings all the capability of a well appointed Integrated, including digital & analog inputs and a built-in streamer/DAC. To have all this performance and functionality in one chassis is just astonishing!
Many of today’s digital source components like Streamers and CD players have built-in DACs. So if you have those, you don’t really need all that complex digital circuitry creating noise. Also, why pay for it if you’re not using it. That’s why pure analog integrated amps like the new MarantzModel 50 make so much sense. It provides 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.
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”.
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 SamsungNEO 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.
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.
That concludes our best-of-23 list—a great range of pieces that have been big hits with ListenUp customers over the past year. If you are in the market for something from these categories check out our selections at any of our stores or right here at ListenUp.com. You’ll get a great addition to your system.