The Most Wanted of 2022

Most Wanted 2022

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Brinkmann Balance Turntable ($38k with 12.1″ tonearm, HRS base and RoNt II power supply): None of the turntables I’ve tried and owned over the years has kept my interest or fascinated me more than the Brinkmann Balanced. Strapped with some lovely but affordable cartridges for a short run, this table unfortunately only hit its full stride once I installed the Ikeda KAI reference MC cartridge ($9,300). I fully understand why this turntable has been available and unchanged since 1985. The ease with which the music flows and its magical sense of pace and rhythm continues to startle me. (Clement Perry) 


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Charisma Audio ECO Cartridge ($795.00 – reviewed here): The ECO cartridge has a lot going for it. It has an aluminum body, low output (3.8mV), and a ceramic cantilever. Above that, it is a beautiful-sounding cartridge, especially in the under $1000 range. The high-end performance of the ECO is very good, with plenty of air and extension delivered naturally. The midrange performance of the ECO is exemplary and fleshes out vocalists, horns and saxophones, and guitars. It has a nice balance of detail and blooms without appearing soft and tubey. The bass performance of the ECO is very good, with a lower midrange/upper bass that is tuneful and has a toe-tapping quality. The ECO delivers its sound with a clarity and openness that you come to find with cartridges that cost much more money. A true audiophile bargain. (Mike Wright)



Charisma Audio Signature One Cartridge ($3990.00 – reviewed here): The Charisma Audio Signature One is an underrated, top-line performer. Though not cheap, the Signature One gives the listener a sonic performance on par with the much more expensive cartridges but at half their price. The strength of the Signature One was in its ability to be smooth, airy, and extended up top with a full, extended bottom end. At the same time, the Signature One’s ability with detail retrieval and transient speed made this a top overall performer that produces well beyond its price point. (Mike Wright)







AricAudio Super 300B SET amplifier ($5,575):
 This two-piece SET amplifier (reviewed here), is a piece of visual art and sonically is the best 300B SET I have ever auditioned in the last ten years. It retains all the beauty in the midrange of great 300B SET designs but adds an extended detailed top end and excellent bass extension and control. 
Terry London)


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Audio Note (UK) Meishu Tonemeister Phono Silver Integrated ($19,300): Another Audio Note Meishue Tonemeister has graced my listening space, and it’s another eight-watter!! Truth be told, I had no idea music could sound this good! I mentioned being transported by the Meishu SE in my review (here), this model, however, is the upgraded silver version, which, in a nutshell, sounds more dimensional, transparent, and sweeter. (review in the works, Clement Perry)

Benchmark Media Systems AHB2 Power Amplifier ($3,299 reviewed here)Merriam-Webster defines a benchmark as “something that serves as a standard by which others may be measured or judged.” This is what the AHB2s has become for me. The Class-H Benchmarks give me what I was searching for; great sound, lightweight, and cool operation at an affordable price. They can be operated in either stereo or monoblock mode. Iinitially scoffed at the Benchmark website claims and did not consider trying them because they did not “cost enough.”  I was very wrong. I experienced equal or better performance to more expensive Class A/B amplifiers without the weight, expense, or heat. Benchmark AHB2s offer high-quality but affordable performance. A pair of AHB2s are now part of my dedicated summertime amplification for my Sound Lab 545PX loudspeakers. (Don Shaulis)




Canary Audio M3000 Monoblock Amplifier ($38,995.00 per pair without 300B tubes):  The M3000 is a Class A push-pull monoblock amplifier utilizing sixteen 300B tubes in total (eight 300B tubes per monoblock), in triode mode producing glorious 120 watts of power without stressing or pushing the tubes to their limit. The M3000 offers a balanced input with a line input transformer. The M3000 delivers musical playback with a wide dynamic range, ultra-low distortion, and a quiet background. It was something extraordinary from the very first notes on the first album. The M3000 was superb. The M3000 produced the rich harmonic palette expected from only the best tube designs. As a result, voices and instruments appeared dimensional and lifelike, rendering the most glorious timbre, liquidity, and magical midrange purity. 300 B’s transparency and retrieval of details are extraordinary, with a sense of PRaT (pace, rhythm, and timing) without peers. Review in the works. (Key Kim)

The Canary Audio C5000 dual mono four chassis preamp ($25k): is the company’s newest reference-grade preamplifier featuring twelve vacuum tubes. Luxurious dual mono four chassis design (left and right channels fully separated) with matching external power supplies further guarantees interference-free performance. The newly designed line stage unit features two premium 12AU7 and two 12AX7 vacuum tubes, assuring a low-noise operation. The modified power supply units eliminate any power line noise and the redistribution of power supply noise. Listening to the Beaux Arts Trio recording of Beethoven’s Piano Trio was rendered exquisitely authentic in both weight and tonal acuity. The strings and piano were stunning, emerging from a darker and more alive background than I recall. The strings were a touch denser and more complex than my reference C1800 MK-II. The C5000 has an uncanny ability to dig into and thus reveal layers upon layers of subtle details. Review in the works. (Key Kim)




Musica Audio Cuculo-monoblocks, Cuculo-att and Cuculo-PS ($2500 – reviewed here): Established in 2005, the MUSICA Corporation is a hi-fi brand from Japan that develops high-quality audio equipment and offers many brands. The three examples from their Cuculo line were impressive – the Cuculo-mono, a pure analog 50W amplifier (universal power supplies come standard). The Cuculo-PS, a dedicated power supply that can be used with other components in the Cuculo and other MUSICA lines where 24 D.C. is required, and the Cujculo-att, a passive attenuator [line preamplifier]. Each Cuculo component is narrow, with a gloss black chassis, front-mounted brushed metal handles, and each topped with a slab of natural stone (measuring 4.64” W x 2.79” H x 8.5” D including front handles).


There was nothing shy about these Cuculo components – they came to play, with the music very well presented with good body and heft, compelling depth, and a nice thickening to images on the stage. Dynamics were notably present with speed and impact, and transients breathed with authority, offering nice leading edges. They worked exceedingly well with my 98.82db sensitive Tekton Design Double Impacts. Two mono amps are required for stereo output, and two ps units are necessary if dedicated power supplies are desired in the setup. (Greg Voth)



SPL S1200 amplifier
 ($7,332): I was floored by the performance of the SPL S800 amplifier when I reviewed it because of its purity of tonality, transparency, and quickness/dynamics on all types of music (reviewed here). SPL has, in the new S1200, retained all the musicality of the smaller S800 and added a more open-airy top end, a more extended taut, and a powerful bottom end foundation. (
Terry London) 



Valve Amplification Company (VAC) Sigma 170i Integrated Amplifier ($10,000 base; $11,500 with optional MM/MC phonograph input; add $800 for an optional balanced input): Many of the best rooms I have heard at audio shows were powered by VAC separate components. The Sigma 170i benefits from technology developed for its more expensive brethren while preserving build quality, fit, and finish without compromise. In my home, this 85wpc beauty transformed Magico A3 loudspeakers and brought life to Sound Lab Majestic 545PX loudspeakers. Both speakers are frequently paired with more powerful amplifiers, but I chose quality over quantity, and the Sigma 170i did not leave me wanting for more power or better sound. (Don Shaulis)




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