Music Direct's annual catalog has been a source of joy for countless music lovers and audiophiles ever since company founder Jim Davis began hand-stamping catalogs and mailing them from a small rented home in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois, more than two decades ago.
Back then, our catalog, which covered a small but growing inventory of LPs, CDs, tweaks, and other audio goodies didn't amount to more than a dozen or so pages. It was copied at Kinkos and sent to addresses throughout the USA.
Over the years, however, the catalog morphed from its humble origins into a full-color, extravagant book that continues to dazzle customers with page after page of music and the latest products to grace our warehouses and listening rooms. The massive 296-page 2019 edition features more than two dozen new model introductions and brand debuts, including the arrival of Astell & Kern, Revel, Audio-Technica, Chord Electronics, Arcam, Klipsch, and SurgeX – as well as hundreds upon hundreds of new music titles to explore.
These integrated amps do not incorporate a trickle-down approach that sacrifices parts quality and cost for sound. Rather, they represent an incredible effort by Mark Levinson's engineering team (led by Todd Eichenbaum) to raise the bar on a price-to-performance value. Both units proudly stick to the brand's heritage and U.S.A.-built integrity. ESS SABRE DAC chips, surrounded by a glorious array of capacitors and more, deliver an amazing sonic portrait for music lovers using TIDAL with MQA, Qobuz, and other streaming services. HD Bluetooth is also onboard. Analog lovers will be happy to know No. 5805's architecture has a user-adjustable phono preamplifier.
With production limited to 400 pieces worldwide, THIS is the turntable to get. What impressed me the most during its unveiling at VPI's all-new ‘Experience' home was its sheer brutal honesty. From a Cranberries song to a whisper-quiet solo piece, the 'table makes analog magic happen with effortless grace. Infusing new technology in the uber-smooth VTA-on-the-Fly arm assembly as well as a revamped Direct Drive Motor, HW-40 is a remarkable achievement for company founder Harry Weisfeld and his son and VPI President, Mat.
Visionary audio designer Ken Ishiwata has held us in his mighty grip for four decades with his iconic product designs for Marantz. His "signature" KI Ruby editions are a testament to his desire to make products to stand the test of time. Fine-tuned with hand-selected parts, these components comprise a symbiotic pair, rich with sonics and features. From the disc player's all-new, in-house-designed transport to the amplifier's HDAM circuitry, nothing has been overlooked.
Let's be frank: I love a good speaker that tells me a story, and does not make me move my head around to catch a signal so much that I get whiplash. Revel speakers rank among the industry's finest for telling musical stories. I don't think I could ever recommend a more engaging product than any of those in the company's Salon Series. Each model boasts super-smooth bass, an excellent midrange, and a top end that doesn't have you running for the exits.
Quad exemplifies what's possible when a headphone and amp combo work with fantastic synergy. With a heritage culled from the company's electrostatic speakers, ERA-1 retains the distinctive focus of its sibling speakers and adds a level of micro- and macro-detail found in headphones that cost twice as much. PA-One is a tube lover's dream that exerts tonal balance and authority even when dealing with complex music. Factor in the onboard DAC for native playback of your fave material, and you're off to the races.
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