Klipsch RP-280FA Atmos-Enabled Tower Speakers, $2,400/pair
The RP-280FA is the top-of-the-line tower speaker in Klipsch's Reference Premiere line, and it's noteworthy for its Atmos-enabled up-firing drivers. As Brent Butterworth would discover, though, the Atmos capability is just the icing on the cake for these all-around great-sounding speakers.
Parasound Halo Integrated Amplifier, $2,495
Parasound's Halo Integrated Amplifier is the most full-featured integrated amp we reviewed this year. This 160-wpc amp includes a DAC with DSD support via USB , a headphone amp, a phono input, home theater bypass, and dual subwoofer outputs. As for performance, Dennis Burger says, "Pretty much anything you pump through the Halo Integrated's speaker outputs sounds downright sumptuous."
Emotiva XMC-1 7.2-Channel AV Preamp, $2,499
Emotiva products seem to inspire passionate responses, and Dennis Burger had a passionately positive response to the company's XMC-1 and its Dirac Live room correction, awarding the AV preamp five stars in both performance and value. It's the right fit for the "hardcore AV enthusiast" who loves to tinker under the hood to bring out the absolute best in a product's performance.
PSB Imagine X 5.1 Speaker System, $2,795
Bob Barrett reviewed an Imagine X system consisting X2T towers ($649 each), the XC center ($349), the XB bookshelf ($499/pair), and a SubSeries 200 subwoofer ($649). His verdict? These speakers "deliver more musical enjoyment and just plain perform better than they have any right to given their price point."
Integra DTR-70.6 11.2-Channel AV Receiver, $2,799
The DTR-70.6 is an 11.2-channel, 135-wpc, THX Select 2-certified AV receiver that's loaded with all the newest features--from Atmos/DTS:X to HDCP 2.2. to network audio streaming. Sean Killebrew calls this a "beast of a receiver" that is "a paragon of audio engineering, both in terms of sound quality and feature set."
Tekton Design Sigma OB Tower Speakers, $3,000/pair
The Sigma OB from Tekton Design is a hybrid open-baffle design that functions like a monopole in the low frequencies and a dipole in the midrange and high frequencies. The result, according to Terry London, is a speaker with soundstaging that "rivals the best large planar or electrostatic panel" but with better location accuracy and lower-end bass extension. (Stay tuned for Terry's full review in a couple of weeks.)
NAD M27 Seven-Channel Amplifier, $3,999
Part of NAD's flagship Master Series, the M27 offers 180 watts per channel of Hypex nCore Class D amplification. Bob Barrett applauds the M27 for offering "exceptional sound performance, high efficiency, compact size, and rich casework." It's a clear match for NAD's M17 AV preamp that Bob also loved, but he believes it would make a great mate with any high-quality AV preamp.
Marantz AV8802 11.2-Channel AV Preamp, $3,999
Brian Kahn reviewed this fully featured AV preamp, which includes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2, built-in Wi-Fi with network audio streaming, Audyssey's Platinum suite, and more. It also boasts improved performance compared with its predecessor, further narrowing the gap between it and the "audiophile brand" processors.
Paradigm Prestige 95F Tower Speakers, $4,998/pair
The Prestige 95F may look a bit different from previous Paradigm speakers, but Dennis Burger says that this "beautifully crafted and meticulously engineered" 2.5-way speaker, which sits atop the Prestige Series, continues the Paradigm tradition of offering outstanding performance.
First Watt SIT 2 Stereo Amplifier, $5,000
First Watt is the lab where Nelson Pass of Pass Labs creates his designs. The limited-edition, hand-built SIT 2 stereo amp uses a Static Induction Transistor, a solid-state gain device that behaves like a Triode tube. Terry London calls this a "unique and special amplifier" that "renders music with beautiful purity...and creates a large, open, and realistic soundstage."
Classe Sigma AMP5 Five-Channel Amplifier, $5,000
The new Sigma Series is Classe's value-oriented line of amps and preamps. The five-channel AMP5 offers 200 watts per channel of Class D amplification. Jerry Del Colliano says the AMP5 "can resolve the smallest audio cues yet, in an instant, roar into the most dynamic action your Blu-ray player and AV preamp can feed it."
Monitor Audio Gold 300 Tower Speakers, $5,495/pair
Bob Barrett awarded the Gold 300--along with its fellow Gold Series center, surrounds, and subwoofer--five stars across the board, calling it the "best-sounding surround system at its price point that I've ever heard, period." The flagship Gold 300 is a gorgeous three-way tower speaker that makes use of Monitor's acclaimed C-CAM material for all three drivers.
Thiel TT1 Tower Speakers, $5,798/pair
The TT1 is a beautiful speaker that's more versatile and a better value than previous THIEL floorstanders. Brent Butterworth describes its performance as being "great with all types of music...with no troublesome quirks"--perfect for the "neutrality-seeking audiophile."
Lawrence Audio Violin SE Speaker, $8,500/pair
Like the other models in Lawrence's "stringed section," the sublimely crafted Violin SE speaker mimics the shape of the stringed instrument after which it is named. Terry London found that the Violin SE's performance was remarkably similar to the larger and more expensive Cello that he uses in his reference system.
Perla Signature 50 Integrated Amplifier, $9,000
This integrated amplifier is hand-built with top-quality parts and features an innovative design. The Perla 50 carries a premium price tag, but Terry London says that it has "one of the finest syntheses I have experienced" in its ability to combine the transparency, speed, dynamics and control of great solid-state gear with the air, three-dimensionality, and rich, dense tonality that tubes can produce.
Pass Labs X-250.8 Stereo Amplifier, $10,000
The X-250.8 is a two-channel Class AB amplifier rated at 250 watts into eight ohms and 500 watts into four ohms. Terry London praises the X-250.8 for offering the warmth and airy sweetness of a Class A amplifier, yet with enough power to easily drive any speaker to any volume level, with great overall dynamics and total control over the deepest bass frequencies.
Sony VPL-VW350ES 4K SXRD Projector, $9,999
Ten grand certainly ain't cheap, but Sony's VPL-VW350ES is the lowest-priced true 4K projector on the market. Adrienne Maxwell says it combines "a very good black level with good light output, great detail, accurate color, and a clean, smooth image." If you want big-screen 4K right now, this is your most affordable option.
• Home Theater Review's Best of 2014 Awards at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• CEDIA 2015 Show Report and Photo Slideshow at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• CES Delivers Higher-Quality Audio at Lower Prices at HomeTheaterReview.com.