Audio Analogue Maestro CD Player and Duecento Integrated Amp ($3,400 and $10,000 respectively)
A couple of pieces of gorgeous Italian architecture that actually sound even better than they look. The amp is built like a tank and offers a wealth of audio features. It is the right combination of power and musical beauty. Combined with the equally gorgeous CD player you have a world class system that will satisfy for decades. [Dave Thomas]


Audio Valve Eklipse Preamplifier ($6,000)

This vacuum tube-based unit is a combination of looks, build quality and sonic enjoyment that I could not, in good conscious, bypass. The clear acrylic top allows you to peer inside and smile at how well itís built and show off for your friends, and of course, sonically, it makes music quite enjoyable. The biggest secret yet lays hidden deep inside of this preamp, beyond the visage of the human eye. Once you replace the stock tubes with NOS tubes, the performance escalates to a higher level and gives the Eklipse the ability to perform at a much higher level, comparable to preamps costing two to three times its cost. Using NOS tubes, the performance at the frequency extremes becomes noticeably better and the midrange becomes eerily life-like. Itís a good preamp with stock tubes that becomes an exceptional one using NOS tubes. [Mike Wright]

ASR Emitter II Exclusive B version Blue ($27,895)


The answer: the best amplification to ever grace my home. The question: What is the ASR Emitter II Exclusive B? I spent two weeks doing little more than listen to this creation after CES and havenít been the same since. Equipment like this is the reason why you bother with high end audio in the first place. [Dave Thomas]



Behold Gentile G192 Integrated amplifier (starts at $15k)

The long awaited introduction of behold's Gentile G192 was no disappointment. In hindsight, I was rather dismissive of all the so-called technology could be contained in its rather diminutive chassis. Well, I had the distinct pleasure to be the first to audition this gentile giant in my home thanks to, US distributor, Laufer Teknik. Its feature-laden options that include room correction, active digital crossover, additional multiĖchannel applications and a touch screen just to mention but a few DO perform as claimed. The behold Gentile may be the newest and smallest addition to the behold family however, the Gentile boasts very similar sonic characteristics as its more costly sibling minus a few hundred watts of lower octave energy power. Iím still in awe of how easily the Gentile can transform recorded music into a you-are-there-experience. As it stands in the here and now, the Gentile G192 has proven to be the single most important contributor to my musical enjoyment thus far. [read Gentile review here Dennis Parham]

Lavardin IT Integrated Amplifier ($7,495)               


Already a Classic after ten years of production, the IT relays the artistic message of music in all its complexity, depth, and subtlety better than anything else on the market. A must audition for any true music lover. [Paul Szabady]

NuForce Reference 9V2 SE Amplifiers ($5,000/pr.)

These top-drawer digital amplifiers from NuForce take on all comers in terms of their clarity, dynamic range, and expansive soundstaging. Whatís more, they sound as sweet and musical as solid-state gets. Tube fans can reap the benefits of the 9V2 SEís high power and clarity by pairing the amps with their favorite tube preamplifier. This approach is pure magic in my personal system. [Frank Alles]

NuForce P-9 ($3150)

NuForceís 2nd foray into preamp territory comes out strong with a juicy, quick midrange and hearty life-like bass. The highs, though not as extended and revealing as my Monolithic reference passive preamp, are nonetheless sweet and never fatiguing. This is a good case for those seeking speed along with warmth. The only trade-off I can hear is in soundstage expansiveness. [Alvester Garnette]


NuForce Reference 9 V2 Special Edition Monoblocks ($5k/pair)

The Ref 9 V2 SEís elicit oodles of effortless musical flow with flow being the key word. As much as I loved the earlier Ref 9 SE (which I gave an RC Award to in the past) this remarkable improvement in the V2 iteration has pushed the NuForce name, as far as Iím concerned, into legendary status. The V2 SEís have an uncanny way of getting to the essence of a musical performance that puts aside the electronics and just lets the music shine through. The bass is stupendous, the midrange is exceedingly nuanced, gloriously textured and the highs are true-to-life silky. The RF noise issues of the earlier Ref 9 editions are gone in the V2 and the improvement I feel warrants a ďRef 10Ē moniker. Time and time again Iíve amazed my musician buddies with a listen (some of them Grammy nominated even) and have grown used to the recurring comment from the uninitiated of ďIíve never heard THAT part in the music beforeĒ. If you want GREAT MUSIC and don't need much sleep (you'll most likely want to listen nonstop for hours and hours) try these. [Alvester Garnette]

Spectron Audio Musician III Signature Edition Amplifier ($6,495) 

The Spectron Musician III Signature Edition Class-D power amplifier is one of the most musical and engaging solid-state amplifiers I have heard at any price. The Spectron has a well-balanced and even presentation and maintains musicality and detail at all octaves while providing the power to drive difficult speaker loads with exceptional dynamic range. This cool-running amplifier is perfect for all music and all seasons. [Donald Shaulis]

Red Wine Audio 30.2 Integrated Amplifier ($3,000)

Would you buy an amp from a guy named Vinnie? No-- not my cousin Vinnie-- da udder guy... Does it add to da mystique if I tell ya he's in Jersey-- or is it Connecticut now? Datís right-- dis guy Vinnie makes amps in Connecticut. Not NEAR as cool as some guy named Yamada-san pulling tubes out of Japanese Zeros and taking a month to hand-hammer you a continuously-cast, distilled-element copper chassis 'neath the shade of a Banyan tree by the river Kyoto, eh?? Nah-- not near as cool, but trust me; just as musical-- maybe more so (I've done the comparison!). I'm not normally a huge fan of digital amps/chip amps and other flyweight binary life forms, but I'll tell ya- I could blindfold yous and you'd have no idea what topology this brick employed-- trust me. The Red Wine Audio 30.2 amplifier (integrated version) is superbly crafted (by hand) and its 30-watts-per, punches hard and purrs like a tube amp. No grit-- no grain-- terrific staging and superb pace and rhythm. Silent as a tomb between the notes, Red Wine Audio's battery powered study in minimalism is stylish, easy to place, a pleasure to use (fondle?) and dead-on balls reliable. Truly a sonic tour-de-force and NOT just at the price. This may be the finest all-around integrated I've heard. Others, like the Unico/Unico SE and the Lavardin amps I love, do certain things as well- but for all out brains and beauty from bolts to bass-- the RWA 30.2 is a crazy deal. I gave Vinnie da cash (or else!) and bought mine (review pending). Get your own! (N.B.- Word has it the spankin' new matching RWA tube pre-amp, also battery-powered, and named for Vinnie's new bouncin' baby girl Isabella, takes the 30.2 yet a notch closer heaven-wards...) [David Abramson]

XLH M-2000 Monoblock Amplifiers ($25,000 per pair)

At nearly 400 lbs. per pair, these mono-amps from China are remarkably musical and lively. In the past, amplifiers of this size, though possessing wonderful bass characteristics, also sounded a little slow and disconnected from the music. Not so with these amplifiers. When listening to music through the M-2000 the sound was always involving, exciting and lifelike while at the same time, delivering the goods in the nether regions. The build quality and finish of these amplifiers is top notch and reflects XLHís commitment to providing itís customers with equipment that will give lasting enjoyment. [Mike Wright]