12. December 2023 · Comments Off on Pick Of 2023 Best Of The Best Reviews · Categories: Hifi News, Hifi Reviews · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

HiFi PiG’S BEST OF THE BEST REVIEWS PICK OF 2023

We don’t usually do annual awards at HiFi PiG, but this year we thought we’d do a roundup of what our review team considered the best of what they have heard and reviewed in their own systems! There’s everything from budget audio kit to high-end solid-state and valve amplifiers, interconnects, power management systems, headphone amplifiers, DACs, and more.

Hifi Pig's pick of 2023 best of the best reviews

This really can be seen as the best of the best as we simply don’t review kit that we think is sub-par or falls short of our exacting standards to be deemed good enough for a review in HiFi PiG

Winners of this accolade include Sennheiser, S.M.S.L, iFi, Stack Audio, Audiolab, Melco, Chord Company, Musical Fidelity, Innuos, Blumenhofer, Vera Audio, 432 EVO, T+A, Børresen, Tellurium Q, Auralic, Qualio, Electrocompaniet, and JADIS.

Take a look at what the HiFi PiG team of reviewers had to say about the pick of their HiFi components from 2023.

OSCAR STEWART

SENNHEISER HD660 S2 HEADPHONES

An excellent sub £500 headphone that has an easy-to-appreciate sound signature that will appeal to many listeners, it doesn’t miss out on the finer details either and scales well with good amplification. 

Sennheiser HD660 S2 Headphones

S.M.S.L D6s DAC

objectively excellent, subjectively it just gets out of the way of the music and acts as a clean and linear DAC that lets the downstream components shine. All of this for under £200 and it even features balanced outputs, it’s hard to go wrong with this one. 

S.M.S.L D6s Balanced DAC 

iFi AUDIO iCAN PHANTOM

The Rolls Royce of headphone amplifiers this has a ton of output power for even the most demanding headphones, an electrostatic energiser stage, valves and much much more. It can be used as a reference, or tailored to your liking, it really is all the headphone amp most will need.

ifi Audio iCAN Phantom

JOHN SCOTT

STACK AUDIO AUVA  70 FOOTERS

The Stack Audio AUVA  70s provided a substantial improvement to a system that I was already very happy with.  As an alternative to a speaker upgrade, the AUVA 70s are very much worth considering, particularly if you have not investigated isolation products before.

Stack Audio AUVA 70 Speaker Isolators

MICHAEL FAIRBAIRN

AUDIOLAB 7000A AMP and 7000CDT CD TRANSPORT

The amplifier and CD transport are very well matched and make an excellent pairing, as one would expect from components designed as part of a series. As such, both are definitely a worthy investment.

Audiolab 7000A Amp and 7000CDT CD Transport

CHRIS BAILLIE

Melco N1-S38

Musically stunning flagship machine, the Melco N1-S38 is a top-class source.  In the manner of the best turntables, it gives your system the best delivery of musical information. If you already have a great digital system and can afford it, you owe it to yourself to try the Melco N1-S38.  

Melco N1-S38

CHORD COMPANY PowerHAUS M6

If your system is already at a level you are happy with, the PowerHAUS M6 from The Chord Company has to potential to make it sound even better. Who knows, it might stop you from spending even more money on a significant component upgrade.

The Chord Company PowerHAUS M6 Mains Distribution Block

JANINE ELLIOT

MUSICAL FIDELITY NU-VISTA 800.2 INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER

When I was told the 800.2 weighed in at two-thirds my own weight I could only hope its performance was worth its weight in gold, and was mightily impressed by not only its build quality but also the electronics. With the Nu-Vista label back in force this is an exceptionally impressive machine coming with the cute little metal-encased nuvistor valves. Would this 41kg amp be as good as its weight? I wasn’t to be disappointed.

Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 800.2 Integrated Amplifier

ALAN McINTOSH

INNUOS PHOENIX USB

For anyone who has taken their digital playback system to a good level of reproduction and resolution, relies on USB as a protocol and whose room is fit for critical listening the Innuos Phoenix USB is a must-try. The improvements it brings outweigh the investment and I’d suggest it could be a better next investment for one’s setup than a new DAC, streamer or certainly cables.

Innuos Phoenix USB

BLUMENHOFER ACOUSTICS TEMPESTA 17 LOUDSPEAKERS

If you are seeking a carefully and competently designed, natural, transparent, immersive, and highly engaging loudspeaker that delivers across the board, isn’t fussy about solid state or valve amplification and your budget is around £5000 then these should be near the top of your must-hear list.

Blumenhofer Acoustics Tempesta 17 Loudspeakers

ERIC VAN SPELDE

Eric van Spelde

TITAN AUDIO ARES MAINS BLOCK

The Titan Audio Ares offers six power outlets and an IEC inlet for the mains cable from the wall power outlet in a compact unit, making it versatile and upgradeable. Being hard-wired with very high quality, single crystal copper cable and obviously carefully considered in all other aspects relevant to sound quality, it will make a massive improvement on any system running from a standard, or entry-level power distribution block and offers outstanding value for money. Being offered with a 30-day return and lifetime product warranty, it´s a no-risk purchase too.

Titan Audio Ares Mains Block

ANSUZ MAINZ 8 C3 POWER DISTRIBUTOR 

The third generation of Ansuz Power distributors use extremely advanced and innovative technologies to keep noise and resonances from entering the power supplies of your audio equipment, without the ill effects associated with power filters. Sitting in the middle of the range, the Mainz 8 C3 offers most of the refinements of the (still) more expensive variants, like three different versions of the active Tesla coils that complement each other, and dither technology. As such it represents a significant step up from the more basic models.

Ansuz Mainz 8 C3 Power Distributor

STUART SMITH

VERA AUDIO POWER AMPLIFIER P400/1000

This Norwegian amplifier is beautifully and thoughtfully constructed around the Hypex NC500 modules with a buffer stage made by Vera Audio. Sonically it is much of what you would expect from a well-put-together Class D amplifier and majors on quietness allied with an unembellished sonic performance.

Vera Audio Power Amplifier P400/1000

432 EVO MASTER STREAMER

The 432 EVO MASTER is the 15K Euro range-topping music server from this Beligian brand that takes a wholly different and innovative approach to how files are served to your streamer. It’s a very interesting concept that once your brain “gets it” is hard to ignore. It gets my Editor’s Choice Award but you must read the review in full to appreciate why!

432 EVO MASTER Music Server

T + A SOLITAIRE S430 LOUDSPEAKERS

The T + A Solitaire S430 25K (euro) loudspeaker is fairly compact, has a downward-firing bass port, and tuning switches to allow use in a wide variety of homes. Its finish is excellent and sonically it performs amongst the best at this price, though you will need a gruntsome amplifier to get the best out of them.

T + A Solitaire S430 Loudspeakers

BORRESEN X3 LOOUDSPEAKERS

Audio Group Denmark’s Børresen X3 loudspeakers have cabinets built in China, but with other components being made in-house in Denmark to keep prices low but quality high. Sonically I think these speakers perhaps set the new benchmark at 10K if you have the room to accommodate them and I urge you to audition them if you have the space.

Børresen X3 Loudspeaker

TELLURIUM Q STATEMENT CABLES

Statement II by Tellurium Q represents the pinnacle of what this British Queen’s Award-winning company believes they can achieve with regard to the cables they make. They do represent a significant outlay financially and it is likely that they will find themselves in the upper-echelons with regard to system performance and so will be bought by those that see value in their perceived performance. In the HiFi PiG reference system, they (specifically the interconnects) offered up a clean and accurate sound that allowed you to hear into the depths of a mix with an apparent lowering of the noise floor.

Tellurium Q Statement II Cables

VINIUS AUDIO TVC -05 SE PREAMPLIFIER

The Polish Vinius preamplifier is a single input and output device that eschews features for a purity of reproduction that is uncommon. It neither adds nor takes away from the signal that it is fed and your music remains truthful to the file you are playing and the effects the DAC, the power amplifier and the speakers have upon it. If you can live with its limitations then this is an excellent product.

Vinius Audio TVC-05 SE Preamplifier

AURALIC ALTAIR G1.1 STREAMING DAC

Auralic’s Altair G1.1 Streaming DAC does what it says on the tin. It offers a one-box solution for those looking to simplify their home audio system, or for those looking to enter the world of high-quality audio, it offers an excellent package. It is easy to set up, sounds great, and is feature packed. I like that it has onboard Bluetooth and Airplay. I also love that you can add an external CD drive to play and simultaneously rip your music.

Auralic Altair G1.1 Digital Audio Streamer

QUALIO IQ LOUDSPEAKERS

From Poland, the Qualio speakers are an 9.5” driver in a ported box with an open baffle mid and AMT tweeter placed atop on a thick Perspex baffle. They come with different value resistors so you can attenuate the upper-frequency output. Sonically they are a treat and come across as a highly accomplished speaker from top to bottom. The open-baffle mid and top makes for a very open presentation and whilst this could feel disparate from the bass if not integrated properly by the crossover network, the guys at Qualio have done a fantastic job in making this a supremely integrated loudspeaker. Top marks! I love them!

Qualio IQ Loudspeakers

ELECTROCOMPANIET AW 800 M POWER AMPLIFIERS

Form Norway Electrocompaniet will be well known to many. These amps are big, heavy, and purposeful-looking, and when you turn them on they carry this on through their sound. They are hugely dynamic and fast, but with that, they also bring subtlety and nuance when a recording has it. They are equally happy banging out floor-shaking techno as they are female vocals and whilst they are expensive they are not as expensive as some that I don’t think have the same high-quality sound. There’s a couple of things I’d want done better, with my main quibble being that the binding posts wouldn’t accept my chosen Atlas spade-terminated cables. If you have the dosh, audition now!

Electrocompaniet AW 800 M Power Amplifiers

JADIS I300 INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER

The I300 amplifier from French brand JADIS is an integrated based around a pair of 300B tubes in push/pull configuration. It’s only got ten watts per channel but I found it drove all the speakers I tried it with well loud enough, though those with particularly difficult to drive speakers will no doubt need to look elsewhere. It has five line level inputs and its controls include a balance control which I think is a useful addition.

I don’t know how this measures with regards to the measurements that some think indicates an accurate and therefore good amplifier… and I don’t care. When listening to this amplifier I feel connected to the music I’m listening to on a really basic and human level. It bounces along with techno music and allows you to see into the recording without it being in-your-face analytical in character. In short, it is a refined and accomplished performer across the audio spectrum and with all kinds of music.

JADIS I300 Integrated Amplifier

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