One of the great bargains in high-end audio, this new version of the Nait 5i brings more than a taste of expensive separates to a mid-priced integrated amplifier. The Nait is sweet without sounding rolled-off, presents a huge sense of space and tremendous separation of images, and, most importantly, sounds like music. What really distinguishes the Nait from similarly priced integrated amps is its soundstage dimensionality and highly refined rendering of detail. In production in various forms for more than 26 years, the Nait is the classic British integrated amp—no frills, just great sound. The Nait has won more Editors’ Choice, Golden Ear, and Product of the Year Awards than any other component in TAS’s history. Its power rating of 50Wpc might not be sufficient for low-sensitivity speakers or large rooms. It’s also not the last word in bottom-end impact and authority. (Reviewed in TAS 183)
It’s notable that Rega’s entry-level ’table today sells for roughly the same price it did some 20 years ago. That doesn’t mean the P1 performs at exactly the same level as did the original P(lanar) 2 or 3, but it does mean that Rega’s commitment to value remains paramount and its knowledge of materials and manufacturing techniques has deepened. Perhaps even more remarkably, Rega is able to achieve this while keeping all manufacturing in the U.K.—no outsourcing for these guys! Building on success, the P1 uses the classic Rega motor, drive system, and main bearing, but instead of a glass platter this one is made of MDF. The arm is the new RB100, which comes pre-mounted with Ortofon’s OM5e moving-magnet cartridge. You won’t get much frequency extension or wide dynamics here, but what you do get are the pace, musical interplay, and involvement that make analog special. (Reviewed in TAS 171)
Magnepan’s smallest planar-magnetic (available factory-direct only), the Product of the Year award-winning MMG, and the multiple award-winning MG 1.6 quasi-ribbon are the best buys in the Maggie line, and two of the best buys in all high-end audio. If you have enough space and amplifier, you will be hard-pressed to find more realistic speakers than these slim, boxless Maggies. Though neither plumbs the depths in the bottom end and the MMG is a bit limited in the top treble, they are models of lifelike presence, tone color, texture, and imaging where they play. From about 40Hz up, the 1.6, in particular, challenges the best money can buy. (Reviewed in TAS 121, 177)
Although we have experience only with Transparent’s lower-priced offerings (at the moment), what we’ve heard has been extremely impressive. The $85 The Link interconnect brings more than a taste of high-end interconnects to an entry-level price. Similarly, the $200 The Wave speaker cable is a bargain, offering superior tonality, wider dynamics, and a more open soundstage. The $105 High-Performance Powerlink AC cable is a vast improvement over stock AC cords, and just might be the most cost-effective upgrade possible in an entry-level system. The Powerwave 8 conditioner is also an extremely cost-effective upgrade, rendering wider dynamics, smoother timbres, and a greater sense of musical involvement.
Although the 130Wpc Odyssey Khartago solid-state stereo amp has been around for better than a decade, it was new to JV until amp-connoisseur Alon Wolf (of Magico) told him he used it in his shop and it was excellent. The Wolfman was right. Although the Khartago doesn’t have all the articulation and transparency of the standard-setting $40k Soulution 710 stereo amplifier, it has a shockingly similar balance (albeit a bit warmer and less transparent), no discernible grain, high resolution, and a deep, wide soundstage. Positively, the best budget amp JV has heard (and the $2k Odyssey Stratos monoblocks are great, too). (Reviewed in TAS 194)