I really only have one review system, and that’s the big rig down in the basement. It’s LP-based, and I’ve never had a streamer, DAC, or CD player sending those filthy bits down its virginal, analog pathways.
We’re allowed dissenting opinions here, right? Okay, then. In his May 2023 editorial on SoundStage! Access, Dennis Burger threw down a gauntlet, whether he realized it or not. The gist of Dennis’s editorial was how reasonably priced class-D amplification technology, including the Hypex Ncore NC2K and Purifi Eigentakt modules, is finding its way into more and more high-end components. This trend, which Dennis called “trickle-up tech,” has resulted in a growing number of overperforming products, including some of NAD’s recent Classic- and Masters-series amplifiers.
The flight home from Rome to Toronto following my factory tours of Unison Research and Opera Loudspeakers, Gold Note, and Audia Flight and Alare was near-as-dammit ten hours. That gave me plenty of time to cogitate on what I’d experienced at each stop.
I was single at the time. I had two cats, both male, and the Siamese had started to lose its mind. Goddamn thing started pissing in my basement listening room and ended up soaking the carpet. Fortunately, it was old and already in poor condition. Have you ever smelled male cat piss? It’s a horrific ammonia stench that catches in your throat and makes your eyes water.
My first audio review, which detailed my experience with the Wisdom Audio Adrenaline Dipole 75 loudspeaker system, was published in October of 1998 on SoundStage.com—at the time, the equivalent of SoundStage! Hi-Fi. I’ve written hundreds of product reviews since then, along with a bazillion opinion articles, show reports, and features of all sorts. SoundStage!—the network that now includes ten sites, a YouTube channel, busy social media platforms, and measurement and photography labs—has been my professional home for about 25 years. Since this is the last article I’ll be writing for SoundStage!, I thought it fitting to share some of my favorite memories from my career as a SoundStager.
Sears and Realistic
I got hooked on audio gear at an early age. The first stereo system I owned—I was about 12 years old at the time—was an AM/FM receiver with a built-in cassette deck and record player, purchased from Sears, Roebuck and Co. The set came with a pair of lightweight bookshelf speakers that were wafer thin with nonremovable brown grilles. I hooked up the system on Christmas morning and was absolutely thrilled with what I’d received.
I can recall every stereo system I’ve owned over almost four decades of being in the hobby. The first few decades were spent on the seemingly endless ascent to what I thought was audio nirvana. As many have come to learn, it’s not necessary, or in some cases even wise, to attempt the climb. I’ve made some of the mistakes that audiophiles often make. I’ve fitted the wrong speakers to the wrong rooms. I’ve underpowered my system. I’ve shortchanged the source component. I’ve also paired products that I’ve liked on their own that had little sonic synergy when used together. That’s just to name a few.
On January 15 we took a deep dive into the initial construction phases of the Vitus Audio SIA-030 integrated amplifier ($46,200, all prices USD). In that article we looked at the transformer, the internal plate that the power-supply components are mounted on, the heatsinks and output stage, the input module, the rear plate (complete with input and output connectors), and the internal section of the faceplate. These individual modules are all tested on completion and their addition to the product follows a precise order to ensure that the final stages of manufacture can be accomplished efficiently.
In July 2022, I traveled with my family to Vicenza, Italy—home of Sonus Faber, the famous Italian loudspeaker maker. We were treated to a magnificent company tour, a delectable lunch and dinner, and great conversation with Livio Cucuzza—chief design officer for the McIntosh Group—and his staff. I recounted the highlights of that day in two articles published on SoundStage! Ultra: “Europe Tour 2022: Arriving in Vicenza and Visiting Sonus Faber” and “Europe Tour 2022: Sonus Faber Speaker Production and Design Lab.”
As I mentioned in my January 1 writeup here on SoundStage! Ultra, for several years I’ve been enamored with the idea of the super integrated amplifier. In that article, I listed the myriad models I’ve reviewed and mentioned that I’d soon be auditioning yet another super integrated amplifier in my Ultra Reference System. That product is the Vitus Audio SIA-030 integrated amplifier, which retails for $46,200 USD in its standard configuration (an optional DAC-streamer and/or phono stage can be added at additional cost).