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2021 Audioholics Product of the Year Award Winners!

by December 06, 2021
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2021 Audioholics Product of the Year Awards

2021 Audioholics Product of the Year Awards

We've made it to the closing weeks of 2021. That means it's time to reflect on the highlights of this year's very best in consumer audio-video! It was only a year ago in the 2020 Audioholics Product of the Year Award that Gene confirmed 2020 was the “...year of suck”. Little did we know that baby New Year 2021 was about to say: “Hold my beer!”. The challenges of 2020 manifested even in the world of A/V, with chip-shortages, supply chain problems and for many, even more lockdowns that may have impacted product releases and retail sales. So, like 2020, we weren’t able to review quite as many new products as we had in previous years, but through it all, 2021 saw some great new releases worthy of our highest praise.

2021 Audioholics Product of Year Awards Youtube Discussion

Lest you think we're entirely negative about past year, let's not forget that 2021 presented some bright lights for the A/V industry. As movie theaters reopened, long-delayed films finally began screening in 2021, many of which are available to stream at home. This year brought us historic film-industry renegotiations with theater chains that permit home screenings of ever-newer films. Meanwhile, two of the biggest music streaming services, Spotify and Apple Music, raised the bar on sound quality with upgraded lossless streams, Apple even offers its lossless and Spatial Audio by Dolby Atmos free of additional fees. To help you get the best out of music and film media in 2022 and beyond, here are our product review highlights from 2021!

Best Portable Headphone DAC/Amp

THX Onyx | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $199

THX ONYXIn decades past, THX went from a George Lucas passion project intended to bring standards to movie theaters to a multi-tiered rating standard for home audio equipment. Although Lucas has long departed the company he started, THX was named after one of his better science fiction movies, THX 1138. The low-budget 1971 film was George Lucas's directorial debut and starred a young Rober Duval.

These days THX is still best known for its audio certification standards, but it surprised the audio industry in spring of 2021 with its first foray into manufacturing. THX Onyx is a portable headphone DAC/Amp using its own THX AAA amplifier design with the best distortion and noise specs in its category of product. Prior to Onyx, the THX AAA amplifier topology had been licensed to other companies to use in their own products and soon became renowned for its low-distortion, low heat and incredibly high efficiency. I've been using a THX AAA 789 headphone amplifier, built in collaboration with Massdrop, and can attest to hours of use with virtually no heat. It's this highly efficient amplifier design that makes the THX AAA amp a no-brainer as a portable headphone amp. THX Onyx has a 3.5-mm headphone jack on one end, and a USB-C port (USB-A adaptor included) on the other. It powers even higher-impedance headphones with what I can only describe as "almost" negligible drain on your phone's battery. The solid aluminum case around the business-end of this USB dongle still feels cool to the touch after an hour's play, and if you feel any heat at all, it's probably from being in your pocket. The Onyx has a ruggedly futuristic esthetic with a nifty magnetic clasp that clips onto itself to shorten its storage-space requirements when you're on the go.

The AAA amplifier pushes enough heft to run my planar magnetic cans at comfortable volume without breaking a sweat. The DAC-duties arrive compliments of Saber's ESS ES9281PRO SoC, for up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM that can decode nearly any file you can stream to it, including DSS and it will complete MQA unfolding.  

Yes, there are cheaper portable DAC/Amp solutions out there, Onyx retails for $200, just under the retail price of Audioquest's Dragonfly Cobalt, another excellent DAC/Amp, but now Cobalt has some premium competition for those of us who like carry our music out on the road.

Best Streaming DAC/Amp

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $3,290

Naim Uniti Atom HEIn recent years, Naim has built a name for itself (no pun intended, I swear) for its innovative digital music operating system, it's already been awarded recognition from EISA and CES for its Uniti line of multi-function amplifiers. The Uniti amp family shares a functional DNA, from the color display, to the signature craftsmanship in its overall design, right up to the extra-wide volume knob on top. But the beating heart of the Uniti line is Naim's unique streaming engine. In its latest entry, Uniti Atom Headphone Edition (HE), Naim’s award-winning streaming OS is packed inside a flexible multipurpose headphone amp/DAC/pre-amp, built to Naim's high-fidelity standards. However, the true raison d'etre is opening the world of digital audio in an intuitive user-experience that’s a joy to control, whether you're using Naim’s Android/iOS app, remote control, or its front panel button array. The Uniti Atom HE is designed to be flexible enough to permit you to use its digital streaming OS as a high-end source in your existing sound system. 

With Wi-Fi, UPnP/DLNA, Bluetooth, Apple Air-Play2, Chromecast, hi-res Internet radio and compatibility with nearly every music streaming service you can name, you may never need another source for two-channel digital audio. But what makes Uniti Atom HE so easily recommendable is that the Uniti OS is not a frozen-in-time snapshot of contemporary streaming technology. Uniti Atom's compatibilities are intended to grow with the industry through updates for which Naim offers continuous support. However, one digital audio trend Uniti Atom does not support is MQA, but that’s only because it doesn’t need to.

Best AV Processor

Storm Audio ISP Mk2 | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $24k (as configured)

Storm ISPBuilding the new Audioholics Smarthome provided me a unique opportunity to showcase the accumulation of the knowledge I’ve learned over the last 20+ years running this website. I wanted to build a theater room that not only surpassed the performance of the AH Showcase home built back in 2005, but also push the envelope of technology. The Storm Audio ISP MK2 is unlike a conventional AV processor from the big brands. It is not a single CPU PC type platform either. Instead, it’s a modular DSP based processor built around a preamp. This affords Storm incredible configuration flexibility and expandability that would otherwise be impossible to achieve. Storm Audio offers 16CH, 24CH and 32CH variants of this platform via analog outputs or AES/EBU or AES67 optional digital inputs/outputs (only the Trinnov Altitude has this same capability). With the ISP MK2, it is capable of processing up to 32 channels with 24 channels of native decoding. All three immersive surround formats (Dolby Atmos, DTS:X Pro and Auro 3D) are supported, with future firmware updates to also support IMAX Enhanced features that are now in the works. The Storm ISP MK2 has the most advanced bass management and bass routing I've ever seen from any consumer product regardless of price. Not only was I able to run digital signals for my front LCR active RBH Sound SVTRS speaker system for the best possible fidelity, I was also able to route LFE + summed bass from "small" channels to them while ALSO having a dedicated subwoofer channel for the other subs in my system. The result, epic bass on a scale I've never been able to achieve before with conventional processors. With a 20 band PEQ per channel and DIRAC Live on board, you're able to customize your sound in a way that very few alternative products can offer.  The Storm Audio ISP Mk2 did well on our bench tests, and future expandability looks very promising (ie. HDMI 2.1 and new audiophile DAC in the works for 2022). We look forward to continuing the support for this AV processor in our primary theater reference room so please come back to the review link for those updates.

Storm Audio ISP MK2 Youtube Video Overview

If you want the very best decoding for Atmos, DTS:X and Auro 3D, with the most sophisticated bass management facilities, and the most elaborate speaker layouts, the Storm Audio ISP MK2 is your ticket! If you still want the elements that make this processor so great but only plan on a channel count of 16 or less, check out their ISP Core-16 for more economical pricing.

Best Integrated Amplifier

Denon PMA-A110 | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $3,500

Denon PMA-A110

Denon PMA-A110 Integrated Amplifier

In 2020, Denon celebrated its 110th anniversary with a line that harkens back to its roots in innovative, premium audio products. The new 110 line includes a disc player, phono cartridge, and an A/V amplifier. But possibly the most exciting new product from Denon was the one Gene tested this year, the PMA-A110 integrated amplifier

Denon PMA-A100 back

Denon PMA-A110 Integrated Amplifier Back View

The  limited edition amp features Denon’s 7th-gen Ultra-High Current (UHC) topology promising 80-watts at 8-ohms per-channel. Integrated amps don’t get the kind of attention they used to with modern A/V receivers serving as control centers for many home entertainment systems. But there’s no doubt, an integrated amp is able to specialize in one important function, putting serious muscle behind an input audio signal. Because it’s the 21st century, the PMA-A110 is fine with either an analog or digital input thanks to its quad DAC array, consisting of Burr-Brown PCM1795s. However, Denon may have kept its new amp a little too old school by failing to include LFE outputs for your subwoofer. Despite including a pair of pre-ins, it doesn’t include variable preamp outs at all. So, you’ll have to use the PMA-A110 for exactly what it’s designed to be, the power-center of a 2.0 channel system. But it won't fall short on its promise of power! Gene calls the PMA-A110 as a “beast”, a moniker he doesn’t give out lightly. Gene’s testing concluded that it far exceeds the rated 80-watts with true low impedance drive capabilities and a strong build quality in the details to match. You can get all the details in Gene’s full review with test results. At $3,500, it’s the highest-end integrated amp Denon has ever introduced to the North American market. 

Denon PMA-A110 Video Overview

Best Mid-Priced Bookshelf Speakers

Arendal Sound 1723 Monitor THX | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $2,399/pair (Free shipping)

Arendal 1723 THX Monitors with Covers

Arendal 1723 THX Monitors - Magnetized Grilles On!


Arendal 1723 THX MonitorsArendal is a relative newcomer to the loudspeaker market. The company was founded as a passion-project by Jan Ove Lassesen in the seaside town in southeastern Norway that bears his brand’s name. Arendal is the very definition of a cottage speaker company that may brings to mind a literal Norwegian cottage by the sea, where the fishing is good and the sound is great. But Arendal employs technology that belies the cottage appeal along with great performance-to-cost value and the personalized customer service that only a small company can offer. That's no small feat considering Arendal delivers a confident 10-year warranty on its speakers. 

The 1723 Monitor THX aren’t your average bookshelf speakers, they’re actually stand-mount speakers, each with the size and 58-lbs of heft you’d usually find in tower speakers. They must be elevated on a stand or other stable platform to sit at optimal height. According to James’ review, the 1723 THX Monitors earned a five out of five in both Performance and Value categories, a rare thing in speakers at this price-range. The 1723 THX Monitors earned every bit of its THX Ultra certification and in his in-depth review, James says they stand out for their superb, linear sound quality, flat frequency response with tremendous dynamic range with terrifically controlled dispersion. They’re available in a tactful variety of colors to fit your listening-space with a look that’s sure to get as much attention as their sound.

Arendal Sound 1723 Monitor THX Youtube Discussion

Best Budget Tower Speakers

Paradigm Premier 800F | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $2,000/Pr

Paradigm Premier 800F

Paradigm Premier 800F Tower Speakers

Paradigm Premier 800F

For those of us with more modest budgets that still demand top-notch quality, we bring back our pick for this year’s Best Budget Tower Speakers, Paradigm Premiere 800F. Don’t let the budget category sway your impression of their sound. Paradigm has built a loudspeaker empire serving audiences with products that defy cost expectations. We had to revisit this speaker system in the AH SmartHome with Elite 80-A surrounds and 4X Elite 80-R Atmos tops. This 5.2.4 configuration with two JL Audio 13" In-Wall subs produced some stellar results that surprised us all.

Paradigm’s Premier 800F tower speakers are impressive-looking, standing at about 3.5-feet tall, they borrow design and technology cues from Paradigm’s own Persona line. The Premier towers are available in gloss black or white that adds a touch of sophistication as they sink into any living-room’s design. Each is a three-way ported tower speaker employing two 6.5” bass drivers, a 6.5” mid-range driver, and a 1” aluminum dome tweeter. According to our Audioholics review, the dual bass drivers do an excellent job of making the listener swear a subwoofer is engaged while listening in 2.0.

So, how do speakers made in the image of the Paradigm Persona towers, but costing a fraction of the price actually sound? In our review the Paradigm Premier earned a 4.5/5 for Performance, making it a shoo-in for its 5/5 in Value. High marks for speakers selling at $2K/pr. While they’re not exactly “low budget” loudspeakers, at this price the Premier series may have just made its own higher priced Persona series just a little redundant. 

Paradigm Premier 800F Video Review

Best Flagship Tower Speaker

Perlisten S7t Tower Loudspeakers | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $15,990/Pr

Perlisten S7t Towers

Perlisten S7t Tower, Certified THX Dominus

Perlisten S7t Towers Full-View

In 2021 Perlisten forced us to ponder the eternal question: Can a loudspeaker achieve perfection?

At the unequivocal apex of the high-end tower speaker category, sits the Perlisten S7t loudspeaker. The company brought us their new S7t speakers for testing in mid-2021 and at the time of the review the Perlisten had built the first and only speakers to ever achieve THX Dominus certification. The S7t is designed to front a line from Perlisten that includes a complete set of matching speakers and subs for the ultimate home theater that might well be anyone’s end game system. Perlisten’s complete Dominus line has met THX’s highest rating, sufficient for up to a 20-foot viewing distance inside a 6,500 cubic-foot room. So stringent are the requirements that it had long been speculated that no speaker would ever earn a Dominus rating. But Perlisten came through THX's rigors with a line of speakers that deserve consideration for the finest available at any price.

The S7ts are impressive to behold, a blend of elegance and science fiction with dark hard-wood finish enveloping a symmetrical esthetic. Standing at just over 4-feet tall, they may not be the largest tower speakers we’ve seen, but the front-facing, 5-driver array can be described as awe-inspiring. According to James’ review of Perlisten S7t speakers specialize at wide horizontal dispersion of sound to maximize optimal listening-space, a requirement for playing inside large spaces.

Every element in these speakers are a clinic in craftsmanship with the latest high-tech materials, right down to the drivers made with the same TPCD material, composed of broad weaves of carbon fiber with the strength of steel in lightweight, sensitive cones. You’ll find similar levels of spare-no-expense technology throughout these loudspeaker’s design. The resulting sound quality put our reviewer into a quandary where he could find no discernible weakness or the kinds of trade-off you’d expect in any speaker design. The only Con we could list in our review for the Perlisten S7t was its $16K price per-pair, but as the engineers at Perlisten could tell you, it’s difficult to put a price on perfection.

Best Powered Subwoofer

Monolith 16" THX Ultra | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $2,299

Monolith 16 Exploded Diagram

Monolith 16" Subwoofer, Exploded!


Monolith 16 Subwoofer

It’s still surprising to see how far online electronics retailer, Monoprice has scaled up the sound-quality ladder while maintaining its place as a reliable source for niche audio products. Long known for offering great value-for-price peripherals, Monoprice was built on an assortment of no-frills, private label products. But Monoprice’s Monolith line of subwoofers brings the brand’s ethic of performance-to-price to a decidedly high-end of the home audio spectrum. Monolith 16 sits atop Monprice’s line of THX Ultra certified subwoofers that includes 12”, 13” and 15” subwoofers.

Just gazing into the face of this huge ported sub is to stare at a beast that you know will deliver Fifth Element-levels of “Big Badda-Boom!” Its 16-inch, 2-layer long fiber pulp/fiberglass cone is backed-up by a CNC milled low-carbon steel motor that our review describes as large enough to easily throw around its large cone, along with the cone’s surround that lets it punch well above its 16-inches. It’s powered by an 2000 Watt-rms amplifier that includes a range of filters and DSP settings. Our review concludes that the Monolith 16" delivers on its promise of extremely high output, low distortion and excellent time-domain behavior with solid extension all the way down to a chest-rumbling 16Hz. To borrow our review’s polite understatement: “ The Monolith 16" THX sub is certified per our Extreme Bassaholic Room Size Rating good for >5,000 ft^3 rooms. This is one heck of a sub!”

Best Compact Powered Subwoofer

SVS PB-1000 Pro | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $800 (Free shipping)

SVS 1000 Series SubwoofersSVS has done it again! The subwoofer manufacturer is no stranger to Audioholic’s annual Product of the Year Award. Last year SVS was recognized as Best High-Value Subwoofer with its PB-2000 Pro. This year, we’re giving the nod for Best Compact Sub to the SVS PB-1000 Pro. The PB-1000 Pro is the slightly larger, ported brother to the sealed SB-1000 Pro that rounds out SVS’s new 1000-line. With the pair retailing at $600 and $800 respectively, they should succeed in getting the attention of any cost-conscious consumers unwilling to sacrifice on low-frequency effects. Both subs use the same 12” driver and SVS Sledge 325-Watt Class-D amplifier, but the PB-1000 Pro has the larger motor intended to push greater air-mass than its sealed counterpart. The PB-1000 Pro carries a rather staid, unflashy design with its distinctive back-ash finish. But we recommend removing the black fabric driver-cover off the front. Exposing the 12” cone accompanied by front ports just gives its overall presentation that extra bit of, “Grrr!”

Overall, our review gave them both high marks, 5/5 in Value and Performance and Certified Large Bassaholic for the PB-1000 Pro, Medium for the SB-1000 Pro for their punchy mid-bass, flat frequency response, and most importantly, honest-to-goodness extension down to 20Hz. A slight nod went to the PB-1000 Pro for its more lifelike movie performance for home theater and its overall capability to fill even a larger room with boom. It should be more than adequate for 3000 ft^3 viewing spaces while still providing good bass performance all the way up to 5000 ft^3 (PB-1000 Pro).

SVS Sledge Amp

SVS PB-1000 Pro Rear, w/ Sledge Class-D

Compact Wireless Speaker

Rocksteady Stadium Bluetooth Speaker System | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $210/pair

Rocksteady Stadium Top Panel

Rocksteady Stadium Speaker Control Panel

Rocksteady Stadium SpeakersOne of the biggest surprises in compact, portable audio is Rocksteady Stadium, which arrived in 2021 from a small smartphone accessory and wireless device company called Killer Concepts. Rocksteady Stadium is a Bluetooth 5.0 speaker system with a few tricks up its sleeve to differentiate itself from its increasingly competitive market. Killer Concepts founder and CEO Jeff Leitman had an idea for a line of wireless Bluetooth speakers that networks into a speaker array to let you customize stereo-sound from any Bluetooth source. A single Rocksteady Stadium speaker is an affordable portable speaker retailing at $109.99, not unlike others in this price category. But when you get two or more together they form a Bluetooth network that provides a surprisingly high-quality stereo soundstage. Since there is no cap on the number of Rocksteady Stadium speakers you can wirelessly connect together, you instantly gain access to an immersive, multi-room sound experience. At the heart of each speaker’s sound are two-way active drivers that include tweeter, midrange and dual side-firing passive radiators that extend into the bass frequencies. The system is backed-up by an adaptive, intelligent audio processor that doesn’t require any special codec compatibility to deliver highly detailed stereo sound.

In my review, I mention that I couldn’t get enough of experimenting with the stereo effect by positioning and repositioning a pair of them virtually anywhere inside or outside of my home. Once you get multiple Rocksteady Stadium speakers together you’ve got a great, low-cost way to get multi-room sound within Bluetooth range. Positioning four of them around your listening-area gives you nearly unlimited options for creating custom soundscapes. 

Rocksteady Stadium with Sub

Rocksteady Stadium System with Subwoofer (available soon)

Rocksteady World's First Portable Subwoofer Youtube VPE

The one drawback I did find, as with any speaker this size, you’re not going to get a lot of pumping bass or deep sub-bass from this form-factor. That is, until Killer Concepts releases the Rocksteady Stadium Subwoofer. Yes, a portable, dedicated sub that connects to the Rocksteady Stadium speaker array to provide that punch down-low. I had an opportunity to listen to the prototype sub designed by Jeff Leitman and his team and was blown away at how complete, detailed and musical a fully portable battery-powered system can sound. Best of all, the Rocksteady Stadium Sub connects using the same easy-to-use audio network system and the finished product promises the same 16-hour battery life. It will be the most complete portable Bluetooth speaker system on Earth.

Best Over-Ear Headphones

Focal Clear MG | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $1,490

Focal Clear & Clear MG

Focal Clear & Clear MG Headphones


Focal Clear MGFocal has become a mainstay in the hi-fi headphone market since the 2016 release of its first true, Made in France, audiophile headphone, Elear. Since that time, Focal has developed newer, improved headphones and has been known to even correspond to feedback from headphone & hi-fi communities online. We’ve heard what Focal can engineer in its extreme high-end headphones using Beryllium drivers found in their top-end cans like Utopia and Stellia. But for more mainstream audiences, Focal’s Clear and Elegia have become fan-favorites. Enter Clear MG, 2021’s new and improved Clear headphones by Focal.

According to one engineer at Focal, the original Clear was named for a description given during a listening session where engineers were putting the final touches on tuning a new headphone. They were described as “clear”, so clear in fact, designers thought it might be suitable for Focal’s Pro Audio team that makes Focal studio monitors and headphones for content creators. When Focal improved on what has grown into its most popular open-back headphones, Clear the company decided to release two versions of its new Clear headphone. Hence, Clear MG and Clear MG Pro were born.

The new Clear MG is an open-back headphone made in what’s become the familiar image of Focal’s high-end line with solid aluminum yoke and all. But Clear MG was designed to bring virtually the same clear sound signature that made original Clear a favorite, S-Tier headphone. It’s difference is in its improved, more sensitive all-magnesium driver, upgraded from the original aluminum/magnesium driver found in Clear. Focal may have borrowed its naming convention from the opening titles of the show Breaking Bad, using the elemental MG in its title. The result is MG presents a bit more dynamic range and high-frequency detail, otherwise the overall sound signature in the OG Clear is much the same.

Clear MG is sold in two forms. The first is for casual hi-fi listening, the regular Clear MG, and for audio professionals there’s the Clear MG Pro. I have it on good authority (one of the Focal engineers that designed it) that the Clear MG Pro version is the same headphone as Clear MG, but it includes different peripherals for the pro market. The Clear MG Pro is esthetically designed to match Focal’s Pro line with the same red-and-black highlights as its former premium pro headphone, Focal Listen Professional. So, if you're looking for a Focal Clear MG, you essentially have a choice in color and peripherals in the same great Clear sound.

Best Theater Seating

Valencia Seating Tuscany | Review | Buy Now

MSRP: $2,200 (pair) and up

Valencia chairsValencia Seating is a premier brand for home theater chairs and furniture. We ordered 7 of their Tuscany chairs customized for our color palette (primary color is roasted chestnut, secondary color is chocolate, and piping color is crimson wine with brushed stainless steal trim) in the new Audioholics SmartHome theater room.These chairs are fully customizable depending on the color, piping, and chair material and accessory options you prefer. Valencia Seating has a 3D rendering model so you can see the configuration of the chairs you selected before making your order.  The Tuscany chairs snap together very easily and come apart equally as easy should you need to move them. The chairs are a generous full recline (thanks to the Legget & Platt mechanism) so your feet don't overhang, though taller people can opt for their XL sized chairs. What really impressed us with these chairs besides their beautiful fit and finish is their incredible adjustable lumbar support which is a must have for someone like me with back problems. The full recline with headrest adjustment ensures maximum comfort as well as great ergonomics for the headrest that doesn't block the sound from your side/back channels. LED backlighting on the cup holders and under the chairs gives a nice bling. The accessory options are plentiful and we enjoy the graphite tray table and stainless steel cup holder for your glass of wine. These chairs really took our new theater room over the top and we are confident they will do the same for yours too.

Va;encia Seating Tuscany Youtube Review

Conclusion

XMAS Charlie BrownLike 2020, 2021 has been a year of unexpected challenges and steepening divisions, differences of opinion about, well-basically everything! But whether you agree with our picks this year or not, if you’re reading this, chances are we all share a love for great sound, whether from multi-channel home theater systems or two-channel hi-fi music. Perhaps that’s something we can all build upon to put some more love and camaraderie this upcoming holiday season. Wherever the world goes in the year ahead, we’ve covered some surefire hits to allow ourselves to indulge in some much-welcome escape.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Audioholics!

 

About the author:
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Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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Recent Forum Posts:

PENG posts on December 12, 2021 06:10
Hetfield, post: 1522398, member: 80792
I like the idea and it's what I do, an AVR with the latest everything in technology that has pre-outs and an external amp. That's what I do and it works quite well. Denon X3400H with a Parasound HCA-1205A 5 channel amp. All the tech, Audyssey XT32 and plenty of power from the Parasound amp.

Sent from my Pixel 4 XL using Tapatalk

Just fyi, I tested the AVR-X3400H for about 10 days in 2017 but only in 2 ch stereo and listening only other than plotting a few graphs with REW. During that time, I was shocked it sounded no different than my Cambridge audio preamp and Parasound Halo A21 combination, even just sighted test. I sat about 10 feet from the big R900s, with volume no higher than -20 so the >60 lbs with 2.5X the output had no advantage.

DBT is important for those who wants to argue, but I have been around too long to be fooled by just the look, weight, price, and all those subjective reviews that flooded audio forums.

So I hope you will keep it for something else if and when you upgrade to something better. And by the way, it was much later than I found out the X3400H's preamp/DAC section looks identical to the X4400H, 6400, and Marantz SR6012, 7012 (except the HDAMs). That thing has the same design, parts and circuitry as the higher models except with less channels. Had Gene reviewed and measured it on his bench, I bet he might have it on the 2017's best product list.
Mikado463 posts on December 11, 2021 17:03
The Arendal speakers, nice touch offering their matching stands. Converting to towers………

https://arendalsound.com/product/1723-stand/
Goliath posts on December 10, 2021 14:07
Eppie, post: 1523864, member: 94526
I'm running Studio 20 v5 with the CC-590 v5 centre and I really like the studio centre. Doesn't seem to have the same brightness that the 20's have. @stalag2005 in the Paradigm Owners thread has the 800F but is using the Prestige 45C centre. He might be able to comment on the Premier centre? The centre you have now might pair well with the Premiers if you don't mind non-matching exteriors.

The v5 Studios are good speakers already, so I was looking at the Founder 80F (the 100F is still out of my price league). Paired with the 70LCR that would make a great setup, although 3 of the 70LCR with a sub would work great as well. My local dealer has the 80F on display so I'm just trying to find the time to demo a pair.

Thanks for your response, appreciate it.
Eppie posts on December 10, 2021 13:47
Goliath, post: 1523830, member: 60330
Thank you Gene, appreciate your input as always! I'll definitely consider upgrading… I guess the only remaining question is regarding the center speaker. In your review, you had a few nitpicks regarding the smallish center - I'm not sure if the larger center in the line up would have been a better match and/or offered improved performance?
I'm running Studio 20 v5 with the CC-590 v5 centre and I really like the studio centre. Doesn't seem to have the same brightness that the 20's have. @stalag2005 in the Paradigm Owners thread has the 800F but is using the Prestige 45C centre. He might be able to comment on the Premier centre? The centre you have now might pair well with the Premiers if you don't mind non-matching exteriors.

The v5 Studios are good speakers already, so I was looking at the Founder 80F (the 100F is still out of my price league). Paired with the 70LCR that would make a great setup, although 3 of the 70LCR with a sub would work great as well. My local dealer has the 80F on display so I'm just trying to find the time to demo a pair.
Goliath posts on December 10, 2021 11:53
gene, post: 1523729, member: 4348
I had the equivalent inwall model of the Studio 20 V5 in the guest room of my old place. They were incredibly well crafted with excellent build quality. I did find them a bit bright. In comparison, the 800F are the most tonally neutral speakers I've ever heard from Paradigm. To answer your question, I'd probably sell the Studio 20s, and get the 800Fs. If you want to remove all reasonable doubt about the upgrade, then get the Founder LCRs and you'll likely have no regrets or buyer's remorse after.

Thank you Gene, appreciate your input as always! I'll definitely consider upgrading… I guess the only remaining question is regarding the center speaker. In your review, you had a few nitpicks regarding the smallish center - I'm not sure if the larger center in the line up would have been a better match and/or offered improved performance?
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