Most Wanted 2020





Audio Technica AT OC9 XSL MC Cartridge ($729 Reviewed here): At the top of Audio Technica’s OC9 low-output moving-coil cartridge line, the $729 XSL offers an uncompromised level of sonic detail coupled to equally non-compromised musical communication.  Demanding of high tonearm quality and extremely conscientious SRA alignment, the OC9 XSL challenges much higher priced cartridges in performance and does it at a rational price.  A breakthrough, I’d call it. (Paul Szabady)



G.E.M. Dandy PolyTable & Charisma Audio Musiko Tonearm by Dave Thomas


Charisma Audio Musiko Tonearm ($2,500.00 reviewed here): The Musiko is a fabulous unipivot design that confidently tracks the grooves of your records and makes you feel as though you are getting everything that your recordings have to offer. It is elegantly designed and built and looks and performs as though it would be right at home on a mega-buck table such as the Continuum Caliburn or a modestly priced table like the G.E.M. Dandy Polytable that I used with it. If you’re devoted to vinyl and want to upgrade to an arm that gives you a significant portion of what you can get from arms like the Graham and Basis, you’d do well to look into the Musiko before plunking down easily 3-4 times the money. (Dave Thomas)




G.E.M. Dandy Polytable ($1,495.00 reviewed here)
: At a time when many turntable builders seem to feel it is best to make them bigger, bolder, pricier, and built with ridiculous amounts of exotic materials, legendary turntable designer George E. Merrill is taking a different approach. His minimalist designed G.E.M. Dandy Polytable removes as many unnecessary materials from the table as possible to make sure that the table makes an as little negative impact on the information pulled from the grooves of your records. The result is music that is closer to the truth of the recording. In other words, less is more. Less material equals more music. And relatively speaking, whole lot less negative impact on your bank account. Paired with a well-executed and reasonably priced arm like the Charisma Audio Musiko or Sorane SA-1.2 and you’ll have yourself a giant-killer of an analog front-end. (Dave Thomas) 


Koetsu.jpgKoetsu Coralstone Platinum cartridge ($14,995): Frankly, there aren’t that many new products in the market that have captured our collective imaginations for some time now. Most designs are rehashed from past catalogs and most are rather boring.


But one product stands head and shoulders above the rest of them. It is the Koetsu Coralstone Platinum cartridge. New, more expensive, more advanced cartridges have been released but the Koetsu more than holds its ground. Not many can touch its sheer tonal beauty and ability to portray a musical event as real and live. Gone are the days when Koetsus were blamed for tubby bass and rolled off highs. These platinum stone bodied carts do dynamics and frequency response as well as any other high end cart you can think of. Midrange, of course, remains it’s key magical quality. It is to die for.  And for a design that’s many decades old, that’s saying a lot. (Stephen Yan)


Origin Live Discovery 2 MM/MC Phono Stage (Reviewed here): Priced just below $2000, the Origin Live Discovery 2 offers levels of ultra-resolution, ultra-dynamics, and ultra-musical performance that invites incorporation into the highest resolution systems.  Able to handle any cartridge type, the Discovery 2 extends Origin Live’s legendary wizardry in State-of-the-Art turntables and tonearms to the phono stage.  An ultra-performing phono preamplifier at a definitely non-ultra price. (Paul Szabady)



Origin Live Gravity One Record Weight (just under $200 reviewed here): Origin Live’s lightweight, ultra-sophisticated record damper cuts the workload on the cartridge and tonearm by damping the mechanical energy generated into the record by the physical forces of stylus tracking. The result is freedom from spuriously generated energy that allows a purer rendition of the musical signal.  Expect a big increase in naturalness, fidelity, and low-level dynamic resolution and detail, plus the elimination of false brightness, edge, and distortion of the natural harmonics of instruments.  More of an essential than a turntable accessory, the Origin Live Record Weight sets the standard for effective resonance control and comes with a no-risk money-back guarantee.(Paul Szabady)





PS Audio Stellar Phono Preamp ($2,499.00 reviewed here): 
PS Audio’s Stellar Phono combines great, detailed, ear-pleasing sound and an ease of use few of its competitors can match. It’s remote provides a wonderfully thought out user experience, allowing the you to change settings from a distance. The Stellar Phono offers two remote-switchable inputs (MM and MC) – to serve two turntables or a table with two arms. (Greg Voth) 




Vincent Audio Phono Stage PHO-300 ($349.00 reviewed here): This compact unit is comprised of a phono stage and a separate power supply which gives this product a small and tidy footprint. The sonics were excellent with vinyl playback. It works flawlessly with Vincent Audio amp products or other manufactured units that can benefit from an outboard phono stage. It performed well above my expectations, Its usability and its clean design aesthetic make this unit very accessible for the investment. Bravo to Vincent Audio a key player in the audio field. (Tim Barrall)






Aric Audio Motherlode MK-II Preamplifier ($4,795): The Motherlode-MKII is a two chassis 6SN7 based, tube rectified, flagship model represents Aric Kimball’s all-out assault on building the finest vacuum tube line-stage that he could, regardless of cost. Besides the beauty of the exterior woodwork on the two-box chassis and premium internal parts, this preamplifier offers gorgeous timbres, holographic imaging, a black noise floor, and reference level speed/slam, which often is the weak link when using tubes in a preamplifier. Review coming. (Terry London)


Audio Note Tonmeister Meishu Phono Integrated (starting at $10,995)
: Miles Davis’s 1963 classic recording of Seven Steps to Heaven haunts me when I first turned it up on this 8-watt, 300-B musical maestro. It ever-so-gently drove my 98 dB sensitive Tekton Double Impact SE’s with a level of harmonic rightness I experienced only from the finest transducers. Not sure how this beginner’s level design could reach such lofty musical heights (the Jinro, Tomei, and Ongaku are its more expensive relatives), creating such a realistic and sincere attempt at realism. The Audio Note AN-SPe/HE loudspeaker is being prepared to match up with the Meishu very shortly to complete the Audio Note experience here. I shall have much more to share in my upcoming review so stay tuned. (Clement Perry)





Canary Audio M350 Monoblock Amplifier ($13,995.00 per pair without 300B tubes) and C1800 MK-II preamplifier ($12,995.00): The M350 design, based on the legendary Western Electric 300B vacuum tubes, which are Directly Heated Triodes – and are said to be one of the most linear of amplifying devices available.  The M350 uses four 300B output tubes per channel in a push-pull configuration to produce a powerful 50 watts of pure Class-A triode magic. The sound was as captivating. It was pure, transparent, and natural-sounding, with gorgeous midrange fidelity. The strings had a beautiful lushness and richness with intense realism. Review in the works.

The C1800 MK-II is Canary Audio’s newest two-chassis version reference-grade preamplifier featuring a matching external power supply. The new ultra-low noise linestage utilizes two 12AU7 and two 12AX7 vacuum tubes and a matching external power supply featuring one GZ34, two 6V6, and one 6SL7 vacuum tubes. The custom-wound EI power transformer in the power supply guarantees no noise and a hum-free operation. It features three pairs of single-ended and two pairs of balanced inputs and one pair of single-ended and one pair of balanced outputs. Review in the works.  (Key Kim)





PS Audio (59)Als Audio (66)Origin Live (58)

Stereo Times Masthead

Clement Perry

Dave Thomas

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Frank Alles, Mike Girardi, Key Kim, Russell Lichter, Terry London, Moreno Mitchell, Paul Szabady, Bill Wells, Mike Wright, Stephen Yan, and Rob Dockery

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David Abramson, Tim Barrall, Dave Allison, Ron Cook, Lewis Dardick, Dan Secula, Don Shaulis, Greg Simmons, Eric Teh, Greg Voth, Richard Willie, Ed Van Winkle, and Rob Dockery

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