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 Piano G2 Diacera SE ($ no idea)
- Volti Audio Rival (~12k/pair w/ upgrade veneer)
- DeVore Fidelity Gibbon X ($16k/pair)
- Living Voice Avatar OBX-RW3 ($13k/pair)
- Rythmik Audio F12G subwoofers (pair) ($650 each)
- Quad ESL63 (refurbished)
- FritzFrequencies Carerra Be ($3k)
- BorderPatrol EXS custom monoblock amplifier (SET and PP) ($35k+)
- Pass Labs INT-60 integrated amplifier ($9k)
- Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum integrated ($2,195)
- Bricasti Design M28SE monoblock amplifier ($30k)
- Odyssey Audio Kismet monoblock amplifier ($ no idea)
- BorderPatrol Control Unit EXT-1 ($12,250)
- TW-Acustic Raven phono pre-amp ($9,000)
- Rogue Audio Ares phono pre w/ Cinemag Blue step ups (~$2,200)
- BorderPatrol Analogue DAC Se (~$2k)
- Bel Canto Design CDT-3 transport ($2k)
- Bricasti Design M1LE (~$16k)
- Aurender W20 Computer server/transport
- UHA Phase 9 reel-to-reel analog tape machine
TW Acustic Raven AC-3 turntable, with 10.5 Raven tonearm and Kuzma 4Point tonearm
- Pi Audio Group Uberbuss
- Pi Audio Group Digi Uberbuss
- Triode Wire Labs Spirit interconnects, American speaker cables, various power cords.
Rack, Isolation, Platforms, &c
- Noble Audio Kaiser K-10 custom in-ear monitor
- 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.