Three High-End Audio Components To Elevate Your Sound System
Each piece is at the top of its category.
While every musical recording captures a moment in time, the technology that delivers it is anything but immutable. But that can be a good thing: Vinyl’s resurgence, along with new advances in CD playback, means that old-school delivery systems are rejoining the fray alongside cutting-edge cloud-based streaming. Here, three very different components, each at the top of its category.
Photo: NAD Electronics
NAD Masters M33 Streaming BluOS Amplifier
Essentially six components in one, the M33 is a music streamer, digital-to-analog converter (DAC), phono stage, preamp, power amp and headphone amp. Its wireless BluOS technology uses your tablet or smartphone to access streaming services while syncing with any other NAD BluOS devices in the house to offer wireless, whole-home audio.
Weighing about 18kg, the M33’s sleek aluminium chassis is beautifully machined and features a black glass touchscreen that displays metadata and album art. (Those with a fingerprint phobia can use its comprehensive remote rather than smudge the front panel or large volume knob.) Power comes from new Purifi hybrid digital-amplification technology that delivers a power output of 200 watts per channel at 8 Ohms with ultra-low distortion; even when driving relatively inefficient loudspeakers, the sound is transparent and immediate, with natural warmth and authoritative bass.
The M33 also offers a host of parlour tricks, including digital room correction (with Dirac Live equalisation software), which optimizes performance by analyzing speaker output and room acoustics to mitigate sound colouration and enhance clarity. On top of its outstanding audio presentation and build quality, it’s so versatile and simple that you can have a near-state-of-the-art configuration just by adding speakers, which means the NAD Masters M33 wouldn’t be overpriced at even four times its approx. $6250 price tag.
Luxman D-10X Super Audio CD Player
Founded in 1925, Japanese audio brand Luxman makes some of the finest solid-state and vacuum-tube electronics in existence. If your system is built around a serious CD library, the brand’s pure solid-state D-10X, at around $21,000, is the last CD player you’ll ever need. With a blasted-white finish, superb casework and thick aluminium front panel, it’s a statement piece. Inserting a disc is like making a deposit in a tiny bank vault, the tray closing with a pleasingly solid thunk.
Tipping the scales at just over 22kg , Luxman’s SACD/CD player offers MQA playback capability and can serve as a stand-alone DAC for computer-based or streamed music files. Plus, the DAC section is designed around a new chip set from Japanese manufacturer ROHM Semiconductor; the Luxman D-10X is its first application in a consumer audio product.
Photo: Andover Audio
Andover Model-One Turntable Music System
If vinyl has been in the back of your mind—or you rediscovered some grail records in the back of an attic—Andover Audio’s approx. $2,599 Model-One Turntable Music System is a one-box solution. Presented in a midcentury design and compact enough to sit atop Herman Miller’s Nelson bench, the Model-One includes a turntable sourced from Pro-Ject and featuring a carbon-fibre tonearm and a pre-mounted Ortofon 2M Silver cartridge. The multifaceted system also features built-in speakers and amplification. Inside the tidy cabinet are four 3.5-inch aluminium-diaphragm woofers plus two Air Motion Transformer tweeters driven by 150 w Class D amps, which create natural sound and a broad stereo landscape.
Andover’s proprietary IsoGroove Technology eliminates the kind of sonic mischief that can happen when a turntable is placed near speakers. In addition to the phono source, the system features Bluetooth 4.2 with APT-X wireless streaming from your smartphone or computer, a dedicated input for Wi-Fi streaming devices, subwoofer output and a walnut-trimmed remote. Optional cabinet stands create a 41-inch-tall tower that can house 200 LPs. For heftier bass, the $1015 Model-One Turntable Subwoofer, which uses a pair of 10-inch woofers driven by a 150 w Class D amplifier, can replace the lower cabinet to create a single, streamlined, do-it-all tower.