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Top Picks for 2008

The Best of the Best Speakers and Components

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Of all the components and speakers I've reviewed or profiled in the last year, these deserve special mention and are my top picks for 2008

Harman Kardon HK3490 Stereo Receiver: A Best Value

Harman Kardon is a legendary name in the stereo and home theater business, with a strong reputation that goes back several decades. Harman Kardon is known for their high-current, ultrawide-bandwidth amplifiers, a design that offers extended high-frequency response. The HK 3490 employs wide-bandwidth amplifiers that extends frequency response to 110kHz, and it shows in the receiver’s performance. Priced at $499 the Harman Kardon HK 3490 stereo receiver offers great audio performance and plenty of useful features. Read my full review of the Harman Kardon HK 3490.
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BG Z-92 Tower Speakers: Best Value Tower Speakers

BG Corp., known for their planar ribbon drivers has introduced the Z-92 floorstanding tower speaker as part of their Z-Series speaker line. The Z-92 is a 3-way stereo speaker that features two 6.5-inch Aluminum cone woofers, a Neo10 midrange driver and a Neo3 PDR tweeter. BG has built their reputation on planar ribbon drivers, which offer outstanding clarity and detail. The Z-92s offer exceptional clarity and high-definition with a clean, open midrange and a high-end that resolves details that otherwise go unnoticed in music and movie soundtracks. The quick attack of the ribbon drivers results in very good transient response.

B & W 685 Speakers: Best Value Bookshelf Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins, or B & W as they are commonly known, is a widely respected British speaker manufacturer that has been making reference quality loudspeakers since the 1960s. The B & W 685 is a bookshelf speaker for stereo or home theater that can be placed on a shelf or speaker stands. The 685 speakers are two-way vented enclosures with a 6.5" woven Kevlar bass/mid driver and 1" metal dome tweeter. They are available in four vinyl finishes: Black Ash, Wenge and Red Cherry. Overall, the speakers have a flat, accurate sound quality, a notable characteristic of B & W speakers. They have plenty of high frequency detail, yet no sizzle or peaks in the upper ranges. They're easy on the ears, and have a very balanced sound quality.

Russound Collage Multiroom Audio System: Most Innovative Product

The Russound Collage system is one of the most promising new products I've seen. Imagine being able to retrofit install a whole house music system into your existing home without running wires from room to room. Imagine that the system can also incorporate music from a CD player, iPod or other audio source and has intercom and video surveillance capabilities. If your lucky enough to own a home that is pre-wired for multiroom audio this is not for you. If not, the Collage system might be the solution. The Collage uses Power Line Carrier Technology that makes it easy, or at least easier, to retrofit install a whole house music distribution system without running new wires. Read my profile of the Russound Collage system.

Sunfire HRS-8 Powered Subwoofer: "The Little Subwoofer That Could"

The Sunfire HRS-8 subwoofer is the first model in Sunfire’s lineup of High-Resolution Series powered subwoofers and the smallest in the line. The ten-inch cube subwoofer is equipped with an eight-inch High Back-emf long-throw woofer and a built-in 1,000-watt amplifier. The HRS-8 is smaller than any subwoofer I’ve ever seen or used, and its size belies its performance, but based on listening to it in my system, I’d call it ‘the little subwoofer that could.’ Read my full review of the Sunfire HRS-8.

Noble Fidelity L-55 Speakers: Best Value In-wall Speakers

Noble Fidelity takes a back to basics design approach with the very affordable L-55 all channel in-wall speakers. Priced at $329 each, the L-55 has features and sound quality found typically in speakers costing much, much more. The L-55 LCRS is a rectangular in-wall loudspeaker from their Attaché Series of loudspeakers with dual long-throw 5.25-inch Kevlar drivers with a phase plug designed for coherent midrange dispersion. The Tetoron 1-inch soft-dome tweeter is mounted between the woofers in a D’Appolito driver pattern for consistent performance on and off-axis in both vertical and horizontal directions. They're a great value and you can read my full review by clicking the link below.

Induction Dynamics S1T Tower Speakers: High Performance Tower Speakers

You may not know the Induction Dynamics brand name, but they offer several speakers models that deserve your consideration if you're looking for a speaker that is equally at home with music and movies. They have excellent construction quality, fourth-order crossovers and are beautifully finished. I reviewed a full multichannel system but was most impressed with the sound quality of the main speakers, the S1T, a tower speaker is one of the most dynamic, transparent and clean sounding speaker systems I've reviewed. They're priced at a little over $5000 per pair, but have outstanding sound quality.

Audio Design Associates Suite 8200: Best Multiroom Receiver

Multiroom audio systems range from basic two-zone receivers to sophisticated multiroom/multisource systems with customizable control systems. On the more sophisticated side is the Audio Design Associates Suite 8200 Multiroom Receiver, an eight-zone, multi-source audio system. In addition to its sophistication, the Suite 8200 is well designed, easy to use and offers sound quality you’d expect from a higher end audio system. The Suite 8200 comes with any two built-in tuners (Sirius, XM, HD, AM/FM) and has a suggested retail price of $4,999. Read my full review of the ADA Suite 8200.

Room Acoustic Treatments: Best Audio Investment

Of all the improvements I've made to my stereo system, acoustic treatments are one of my top picks for 2008. After writing an article and review of three different room acoustic treatment systems, I chose to purchase the one that integrated most easily in my listening room and I have enjoyed the benefits ever since. By controlling the room acoustics I am able to listen to the speakers and not the effects that the listening room has on the sound. Acoustic treatments come in many different types, styles and colors and are usually grouped in two categories: sound diffusers and absorbers. Most companies also provide guidance to get the best system for your room. For more information, read my article about room acoustics and treatments.
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Lyngdorf TDAI-2200 Amp & CD-1 CD Player: High Performance Audio Components

Lyngdorf is not a brand name with ‘top of mind’ awareness and you’ll only find Lyngdorf at premium retailers. In its simplest form, the TDAI-2200 is a digital integrated amplifier with 200-watts x 2 into 8-ohms. However, the TDAI-2200 is a true digital amplifier. Most digital amplifier designs are actually analog-digital hybrids. While listening to the TDAI-2200, I struggled to find the right words to describe its sound qualities. It was easy to identify its luscious, rich, full, detailed, ultra-clean nature, but this is not a typical amplifier. Read my full review of the Lyngdorf TDAI-2200 to learn more about this incredible amp. They're priced out of reach for some, but when your 201K becomes a 401K again, check out Lyngdorf components.

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