Graham said: All this for 305 bucks? Fuhgettaboudit. I don’t think I’ve heard the Silver MC’s equal for anywhere close to that amount. To better it, you’d need to move higher up the price ladder.
The gist: Get into good-sounding vinyl on a tight budget.
Garrett said: The EAR MC 4 step-up is one fine analog instrument. If rich timbral colors, tonal weight and impact, and rhythmic tightness are what you listen for in music, it should be high on your audition list. Add to those characteristics its flexibility in providing multiple gain options, its small size, and its handsome looks, and I think it’s a no-brainer: one of the best values in audio.
The gist: If you need one, this is a good choice.
Garrett said: The Miyajima Premium BE performed capably with both vintage and reissue mono LPs, proving itself more versatile across a wider range of mono recordings than either Ortofon’s SPU or their new Cadenza Mono, each of which seems to have a more specific application. Not only is the Premium BE a high-value product, it produces a satisfying, saturated mono sound that guarantees great fun with vintage recordings of mono jazz and pop albums, and with most reissues. If I were just getting curious about "going mono" and wanted to buy a single cartridge to play all my mono LPs, the Miyajima Premium BE might just be the one.
The gist: Specialty item for the mono-loving audiophile.
Garrett said: The Cadenza Mono is a lively, dynamic, superbly detailed transducer that can render monaural music with great tonal intensity. Best put to use with mid- to late-1960s high-fidelity mono LPs or contemporary reissue pressings of classic releases, it dug deep into the microgrooves of these records, tracked them with steady precision, and presented an intense tonal beauty and a dynamic explosiveness that, once heard, I found hard to do without.
The gist: Specialized analog, but just the ticket if this is your thing.
Pete said: John Curl and Parasound have done it again -- the Halo JC 3 is a worthy sibling to the other John Curl signature components of Parasound’s Halo line. I commend Parasound and Curl for transporting much of the legendary sonic achievements of the Vendetta phono stage across more than two decades and into such an accessible and cost-effective product. The Halo JC 3, with its absurdly reasonable price of $2350, sets the performance/price ratio ridiculously high.
The gist: Reference grade phono stage without being crazy priced.
Price: $1849.95 ($1899.95 in red)
Ron said: I can’t put an entry-level price point for such a system, but I can say that, at its price, the Thorens TD 309 should not have too much competition. An excellent job all around.
The gist: Turntable with great style and sound for a fair price.
Garrett said: The Raven arm had so much extension, pitch definition, and responsiveness that it could render very deep, complex bass with ease and superb musicality. It was more, umm, lifelike. And ain’t that the point? So I bought it. The Raven 10.5 tonearm is mine. If you have a turntable comparable to my Raven Two, I strongly suggest you consider making a Raven 10.5 yours as well.
The gist: Ain’t German engineering great?
Jason said: Whichever way you slice it, the Well Tempered Lab Amadeus is a cohesive, well-made, wonderful-sounding turntable that’s worth every penny of its $2850 asking price.
The gist: If you don’t mind a golf ball on your turntable . . .