What’s a reference?
It’s an excellent question, isn’t it? Glad you agree. So, lemme explain where I’m coming from. What I’m not saying about a reference is that this product is the be-all, end-all of its type or in its class. What I am saying is, rather, that a particular product is familiar and one that I can use as a reliable barometer to judge other products.
My targets for references tend to be high-performers, but I’m under no illusions that they couldn’t be bettered. In some cases, bettered significantly. Just wanted to put that out there.
Some of this stuff is very expensive. I get that. Some of it may be too expensive. I get that too. But this is the stuff I’m most familiar with because, well, this is also my stuff. Yes, I own it all. I think it’s important for a review to own his reference gear.
Note that this is different from my Most Wanted List. There’s stuff on both, to be sure, but if I had the dough, the lists would be closer to “unified”.
- TIDAL Audio Contriva Diacera SE ($64,190/pair)
- DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 ($12,000/pair)
- Joseph Audio Pulsar ($7,500)
- Rythmik Audio F12G subwoofers (pair) ($650 each)
- BorderPatrol S10 EXS stereo amplifier ($20k+)
- Luxman L-505u ($4,100)
- Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum integrated ($2,195)
- Vitus Audio RS-100 stereo amplifier
- BorderPatrol Control Unit EXT-1 ($12,250)
- Wyred4Sound STP SE preamplifier ($1,995)
- TW-Acustic Raven phono pre-amp ($9,000)
- Manley Labs Steelhead v2 RC ($8,000)
- Rogue Audio Ares phono pre w/ Cinemag Blue step ups
- Vitus Audio RD-100 DAC/pre
- TW-Acustic Raven AC-3 w/ Raven tonearm and Ortofon Windfeld cartridge ($30,000)
- Accuphase DP-85 SACD player ($16,500)
- Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series 2 w/ Alpha USB converter ($7,000 for the pair)
- HRT Streamer II+ ($495)
- Analog Research Technologies Legato v1 ($495, included custom USB and S/PDIF cables)
- Oppo BDP-105 with ModWright “Truth Mod”
- Silver Circle Audio Tchaik 6 ($10,000)
- Shunyata Research Hydra Triton ($5,000)
- PS Audio Juice Bar
- WyWires Power Broker
- WyWires (mix Silver and Platinum)
- MG Audio Designs Planus 3 and Planus AG interconnect
- Clarity Cable Vortex power cords
- TelWire Cord power cords
Rack, Isolation, Platforms, &c
- AudiAV Zirconia
- Eden Sound Audio Terrastone platforms
- Cavalli Audio Liquid Gold headphone amplifier
- Burson Audio Conductor headphone amplifier
- LH Labs Geek Out 1000 USB headphone DAC/amplifier dongle
- Noble Audio Kaiser K-10 custom in-ear monitor
- Abyss AB-1266: best bass from a headphone, ever.
- Sennheiser HD-800: best detail retrieval of any high-end audio system, headphone or not.
- MrSpeakers Alpha Dog: my default recommendation for reference-quality headphones, and one of the best values in audio’s high-end.
- Focal Spirit Pro closed-back headphones: my new “affordable” reference headphone for real-world use and listening.
- Astell & Kern AK240 digital audio player: expensive as all hell, but for “portable audio”, it does it all with no extra amp or DAC required.
- Double Helix Cables Complement² headphone cables: takes my reference headphones to 11.