The Best Audiophile Gear: Headphones, Speakers, Amps, DAC

As far as the bookshelf speakers, my favorite pair is KEF LS50 Wireless II ($ 2,800 per pair). They have the biggest, most detailed sound I’ve ever heard from a couple of speakers their size. The cheaper KEF LSX ($ 1,250 per pair) also good model, like the wired KEF LS50 Meta ($ 1,600 per pair).

The KEF and iLoud models I just mentioned are enabled. They have amplification built-in, and they draw their power from a wall socket, so they can be used without a dedicated amplifier. If you already have an amp (or if you’re planning to buy one), a pair of passive speakers is the best way. Those hook up using regular speaker cables, and you don’t have to worry about plugging it into the wall.

Some passive bookshelf models I love are ELAC Debut 2.0 ($ 280 per pair) and JBL 4309 ($ 2,000 per pair). ELACs are great entry-level speakers that will quickly take you into audiophile territory with the right amp, where the 4309 is more or less strange to sound than anything that moves them. I’m a fan of the fun, lively sound when I listen to the speakers, and both of these models deliver that, but with enough detail you don’t feel like you’re sacrificing anything.

Moving away from the bookshelves and into the passive floorstanding speakers, I will highlight two very different models. the Paradigm Monitor SE 6000F ($ 1,000 per pair) a good pair of speakers for those who want things more clinical and precise — they’re unique for classical music, jazz, and folk, thanks to their unique detail. Some audiophiles prefer the kind of strict accuracy you get from speakers like Paradigms. the Klipsch Forte IV ($ 4,998 per pair) more alive. In fact, they are perfectly focused, mid -century -inspired masterpieces. They come with handmade wood cabinets and beautiful horn tweeters, and the 15-inch passive bass radiator behind the sealed speakers makes them deeper and more authoritative than one. professional boxer. If you’re looking for the most fun you’ve ever heard Hendrix at high volume, speakers like this are the way to go.

Your taste may be different from mine! The best way to find your favorite high-end speaker is to use your ears. Find a local retailer and listen to multiple models before you buy. For reference, other brands that make very good speakers these days include Yamaha, Bowers & Wilkins, Focal, Bang & Olufsen, and Polk Audio, among many other boutique brands.

You won’t know exactly what a pair of speakers will sound like in your room until you get it there, so try to try it out at home. Most high-end retailers allow one form of this, but big box retailers may not, so check the return policy on whatever you buy.

Digital-to-Analog Converters

the Chord Mojo ($ 500) a DAC with a built-in headphone amp.

Photo: Chord Electronics

Digital-to-analog converters (DACs) take the digital audio signal from your audio files and convert it into an analog audio signal that you send (via an amplifier) ​​to the headphones and speakers. Every piece of digital technology you own that has a headphone jack already has a DAC chip inside it, but it’s usually very cheap. If you route your signal through a dedicated DAC — one that has better components and higher build quality than anything on your phone or computer — then you get a higher fidelity from your digital files.

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