Because Santa Knows $h*t About Audio

Santa Doesn't Know Sh*t About High-End Audio

We do. We continue our gift guide.

Reed Muse 1C Friction Drie TurntableFrom Karelian birch to Fibonacci hole patterns, the temptation never ceases.

Let's dive straight into the second edition of our holiday gift guide, going again from great analog and digital source components to choice amps and, finally, terrific transducers.

Reed Muse 1C Friction Drive Turntable

Known for its high-end tonearms and advanced turntable designs, the Muse 1C is Reed's first step into a more traditional table design. It is aimed at what designer and owner Vidmantus Triukas considers the middle-range market.

While available in black, the Karelian birch (above) makes one of the most striking finishes in audio, rising above the audio rack like a rammed earth monument to the music gods.

Made in layers to be stable and resonance-free, the body carefully houses the main bearing and drive traction control inherited from the flagship Muse 3C. Thoughtfully included is an electronic inclinometer to help you level this beautiful confluence of technology and art.

Friction drive means you are immune to the vagaries of belts, but special care needs to be taken to isolate the platter from motor vibration. Those of you who think turntable design has remained the same for decades should know that significant advances are being made in materials and engineering. One of these areas is motor stability and smoothness. With a quartz-based phase-locked loop ensuring speed stability, the Reed Muse 1C will astound you with its bass performance and detail retrieval, as well as the naturalness that comes from perfectly locked-in RPMs.

Shop Reed Muse 1C Friction Drive
Reed Muse 1C Friction Drive

Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series 3

Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DACTalking to DAC designers such as Rob Watts of Chord Electronics and Michael Pflaumer of Berkeley Audio is a humbling experience. As you hear about their efforts to take digital technology to the limit, it is astonishing to learn that they exceed the limits of their measuring equipment long before they can exhaust the possibilities of our ears and brains.

Moving a clock a centimeter closer to the convertor, changing filter specs to drop noise so low that it's below laboratory noise thresholds, and other minuscule changes continue to bring audible advantages, often to even the designer's surprise.

Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series 3 is one such DAC, honed to this extremely high-resolution of engineering. Sure, it makes a chunk of change disappear from your bank account, but that's about the going rate for an audio component that is also able to disappear utterly. The result? It's as if all of the world's music was written just for you and that each performance is happening for the first and only time in your living room. You can't put a price on that.

Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC
Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series 3

Parasound Halo HINT 6 Integrated Amplifier

With Parasound, it's all about JC this season. John Curl, the legendary circuit designer has his imprint on all of Parasound's top products. The Halo HINT 6 is no exception featuring JC's class-AB design that uses high-bias class-A to give you the advantages of class-A for sensible listening levels, without the massive power draw.

Ken Micallef of Stereophile tried this amp with a range of speakers and found it worked well with "every speaker [he] threw at it", delivering an upfront, slightly cool, dynamic sound.

Parasound's trick is to spend the manufacturing budget on big, expensive internal components rather than on bejeweled "carved from one giant hunk of exotic metal" cases. Don't get us wrong, there are advantages to expensive chassis designs, but having both heavy internals and heavy cases takes the price point into a whole other universe.

Parasound gets the balance just right. As Ken puts it in his positive Stereophile review, "I can't think of another integrated amplifier that offers so many options and has such solid, generous sound. Recommended."

Parasound HINT 6 Amplifier
Parasound Halo HINT 6 Integrated Amplifier

Focal Maestro Utopia EVO

One of our team was in Singapore over Thanksgiving and happened to visit an "audiophile mall" called The Adelphi. He was startled to run into a familiar face at the very first shop on the corner: On the big TV was Kevin Deal in a clip from the video about his Focal Grande Utopia in his listening room at home.

There's a reason Kevin and Focal were in a high-end store's highlight reel, playing in a loop nearly 9,000 miles from Upscale Audio. Focal makes truly aspirational speakers (and yes, Kevin has a truly aspirational listening room and system), but few brands deliver so well on the promise to include this aspirational magic at every product level.

This is why we have the gall to have the $ 76,000-a-pair Focal Maestro Utopia in a gift guide. Talk to us about Utopia or Sopra if you're not at this budget level, and see just why Kevin's message has something for everyone from Singapore to London to LA.

And if you are shopping at Maestro's price level, we have a pair of the Dark Walnut finish in stock and ready to join you by the fireplace this winter.

Focal Maestro Utopia EVO Loudspeakers
Focal Maestro Utopia EVO Loudspeakers (each)

Pathos Acoustics InPol Ear + Abyss Diana TC

Headphone expert Grover Neville calls the Pathos InPol Ear "a beast of a headphone amplifier." Its tube input stage means it has a warm, smooth, rich sound, and the class-A output stage, with its high current delivery and detail, never gets soupy or gooey. This is why we dare pair it with the feared Abyss Diana TC, a planar magnetic that Abyss claims is the world's thinnest.

The combination has a sweet and musically engaging sound but doesn't lose out on transparency. As Grover says, it's as if the Pathos takes sandpaper to the highs of the Abyss and "smooths them out to make it very rich and dense and listenable."

"I wish more people knew about this amplifier," says Grover of the Pathos, and once you hear it, you will heartily agree. (Or not, if you like having cool stuff that no one else has.)

By the way, it's the Abyss that has that Fibonacci hole pattern, said to create a more linear, natural response due to the way the air moves through it.

Pathos InPol Ear Reference Headphone Amp Abyss Diana TC Headphones
Pathos InPol Ear Reference Headphone Amplifier


Abyss Diana TC Headphones


Feliks Audio x Western Electric: A Holiday Bundle of Joy

Feliks + Western ElectricOne of Kevin Deal's tasks these days is to go into his audio room, put on some great music on his monster system, and think up ways to make you all happy.

He has lots of great ideas, but every so often, he comes up with something so jewel-like that it's best named a Bundle of Joy because of how perfectly the products and price come together. His latest concoction brings together two world-leading tube brands to make an endgame 300B setup.

Buy a Feliks Audio Envy or Arioso and save an amazing $700 on a pair of Western Electric 300B tubes.

The Envy, pictured above with the WE tubes, is Feliks Audio's top headphone amp, and the Arioso is the Polish company's celebrated 300B speaker amp.

The Western Electric tube pair comes in a beautiful wooden box for just $799 bundled versus $1,499 on their own.

Western Electric 300B Tubes
Western Electric 300B Vacuum Tube

We love the Western Electric 300B tubes, a truly natural-sounding triode whose history dates back to the early years of telecommunications. The current 300B is made in Rossville, GA, using modern manufacturing practices that ensure tight tolerances and outstanding consistency. All tubes are factory tested and matched by Western Electric and shipped in a beautiful solid wood padded box with a carved lid.

The obsessive build and engineering of Feliks Audio makes this Polish brand a perfect pairing for Western Electric. The Envy comes stock with a pair of Fullmusic 300B. The Arioso ships with Electro-Harmonix 300B Gold Grid. You get to keep the stock tubes, of course and also get to make one of the most coveted 300B upgrades in history. It's time to experience the magic of the single-ended triode!

Feliks Audio Envy Headphone Amplifier Feliks Arioso Amplifier
Feliks Audio Envy Headphone Amplifier


Feliks Audio Arioso 300B Integrated Amplifier


Become A Devialet Expert

Grover leads us through the Devialet Expert series using the 140 Pro integrated amplifier as a hugely worthy entry point. This is an incredibly flexible piece, says Grover, "there are not too many things out there that are like this."

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