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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.






  • BorderPatrol Analogue DAC SE (~$2k)
  • Bel Canto Design CDT-3 transport ($2k)
  • Bricasti Design M1 Limited Edition (~$16k)
  • Innuos ZENith computer server
  • UHA Phase 9 reel-to-reel analog tape machine
  • Kuzma Stabi R turntable, with Kuzma 4Point tonearm and ZYX Ultimate Omega X SB2/Zn cartridge


  • Pi Audio Group Uberbuss
  • Pi Audio Group Digi Uberbuss


  • Triode Wire Labs Spirit interconnects, American speaker cables, various power cords.

Rack, Isolation, Platforms, &c

Personal Audio



  • 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.

Things you may have missed

  • Alaia THE SHOW 2019