Audio Valve Conductor ($16,000)
Hot on the heels of last year’s biggest surprise, the Audio Valve Eklipse, comes their new flagship preamplifier, the Conductor. To state it simply, the Conductor performs on another level from most preamplifiers that I have heard in my system. It's a vacuum tube preamplifier that is detailed, fast, dynamic, and possesses bass power with extension and impact. The Conductor elevated the performance of every component I hooked up to it. Eklipse owners beware: The Conductor is not just a better version of the Eklipse, but instead, is a totally different animal that provides a higher level of the music enjoyment experience. (Review in progress) [Mike Wright]

Elliott Studio Arts Model 66-100 amplifier ($2,999)

    

In my most recent review (here), I stated "The ESA Sixty-Six is the perfect amplifier for that special someone who doesn't care to be concerned about his or her system's cabling, isolation, acoustics and such like. The ESA Sixty-Six is geared more towards the music lover than the audiophile (who all too typically worries about what others are going to think!). The ESA Sixty-Six owner is more concerned about whether their favorite artists' (in my case Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald or Shirley Horn) latest box set is going to become available sooner rather than later. Highly recommended!" What else is there to say??? [Clement Perry]

Hephaestus Audio HMA-1000 Monoblock Amplifiers
($4,900 Per Pair)

This one kilowatt switch-mode Class -D design's magic stems from its simplicity (no power on/off or fancy LEDs), providing a emotional connectivity to the music unlike I've experienced at chez Sanchez. What immediately impressed me right out of the box was the improved dimensionality and the enriched harmonic overtones. This, from a kilo-watt powerhouse no less. Don’t let the small size of these dynamos (3.5 lbs) fool you either because they really do pack a punch! (review in the works) [Clement Perry, Carlos Sanchez]
 

Mastersound Final 845 Mono Amps ($14,995.00)
This is an amazingly powerful SET amplifier. The Mastersound Final 845 amps have opened my eyes and ears to the virtues of tube amplifiers. It was all there: music with weight and substance, balanced with delicacy within fine details. But most of all, it delivered that gorgeous midrange that one expects especially from SET designs. (Stay tuned for a full review) [Key Kim]

 

Nu Force 9V3SE Mono Amp ($5,000/pr)
In my Random Noise 21 comments about the NuForce Reference 9V3SE mono amp ($5000 / pair), I was at pains to reveal my involvement with the company whose top-shelf product I celebrate again here. In all candor, were I not working for NuForce I'd probably not have had the opportunity to acquire these remarkable devices. "Life is too short for cheap wine." And for the audiophile, life is too short for second-rate sound. Now and again I spring for my favorite single-malt, but only as a rare treat. Audio offers no parallel. It's an all-or-nothing proposition.

I enjoy music in the kitchen and my art studio via two decent FM radios (Henry Kloss Model 88 and Music Hall RDR-1), likewise listening to my car's FM. But when it comes to gooseflesh time, nothing compares to the experiences I've had in the inner sanctum, aka living room, which I can avail myself of any damn time I please. As a music lover and sound nut of more years than I like to think about, these miraculous little amps elevate the gooseflesh factor beyond anything I've experienced here or elsewhere. And that says it all. [Mike Silverton]

 

Red Wine Audio Isabella Preamplifier ($5,500.00 with Isabellina DAC)
Damn it's hard to find a good preamp, isn't it? I should know-- I've been through like umpteen of 'em in the past few years and judging by some of the more recent a-gon threads, so have you! Enter Isabella. Fleet of foot, compact, quiet, reliable and damnably low in coloration and seasoning, I've kept her around in preference to many a better known adversary. You're gonna change amps; you're gonna change wires- you're gonna change speakers- hell, you're an audiophile! So you owe it to yourself for once and all to have a centerpiece- a lynchpin- a piece around which everything else can turn. That's Isabella! Walking a quivering gnats' whisker between the dark and the light, Isabella might not be all to all, but I predict she'll be more to many. I'm home. Are you? [David Abramson]


Valvet Block A3.5 Mono Amps ($4,990.00)
The new Valvet Block A3.5s are incredible sounding amps. It was hard to believe these were only 50 watts per channel. They drove my reference Conspiracy loudspeakers with great authority and power. The Valvets possess purity and remarkable transparency that allows them to provide an amazing musical experience. At $4,990.00, it’s a bargain! (Stay tuned for a full review) [Key Kim]

Valvet Soulshine Tube Preamplifier ($5,290.00)
The Valvet Soulshine is the company’s new top-of-the-line tube preamplifier. The designer, Knut Cornils, uses tubes in this design in order to get the best of both worlds when the Soulshine is combined with the A3.5 amps. This preamp had a natural purity and open airy sound which brought me closer to music. (Stay tuned for a full review) [Key Kim]
 

 

Vitus Audio SL-010 Preamp ($25,000) and SM-010 Mono Amp ($50,000/pr)
The SL-010 preamp and SM-010 mono amps may be “more affordable” compared to their legendary siblings, the SL-101 Linestage and SM-101 mono amps, but at $25K and $50K respectively, they are still very much in the high-rent district. Thankfully, these components also deliver the sonic goods: musicality, detail, realistic presence, and imaging. The SL-010 renders music on a wonderfully defined stage while in “Class A” mode, the SM-010 not only gets room-heatingly warm but it sounds better than many of the best tube amps I’ve heard. Think CJ-MV50 warmth coupled with Krell KSA-50 power and control. This is an amazing-though-pricey combination. [Dave Thomas]

 

Wyred 4 Sound STI-500 Integrated Amplifier ($1999.00)
     

I am so gratified that Wyred 4 Sound has released this wonderful integrated ICE-Power amplifier. It uses high-power ICE output modules by B&O rated at 250 watts/channel into 8 Ohms or 550Wpc into 4 Ohms and has a great set of control functions via the remote control. It even has the semi-precious Phase Invert function, which should be standard on all preamps, DACs, and integrateds, but is sadly lacking in most of them. Of course the real “Icing” on the cake is the glorious sound that emanates from this little beast. A full review is in the works and I am very pleased to have the honor of penning it. Work, work, work! [Frank Alles]