I remember the very first Woo Audio headphone amp I heard five years ago; it was the $520 WA-3, and they still make it. The little amp made a strong impression because it so radically improved the sound of Grado headphones. That amp transformed Grados, gave them more soul, more body, and sweetness. I've reviewed a number of Woo products over the years, but the new WA-234 Mono is a very different beast. First, it is as the name implies, a monophonic design, so you need two amps for stereo. The other big difference is that these tube amps … Read more
Schiit Audio's very first product, the Asgard headphone amplifier, left me shaken and stirred back in 2010. It sold for $249, looked and sounded amazing, and to top things off, it was made in the U.S. -- not just assembled here. Most of the Asgard's parts are sourced from U.S. companies.
The Asgard is still in company's product line, and it's still $249. But Schiit has grown since then, and now offers a full line of more expensive headphone amps and USB digital-to-analog converters (DACs) -- which is great. But the company's most recent offerings sell for just $99 each! The Magni headphone amp and the Modi DAC are also made in America, and they sound spectacular. … Read more
Audio Research Corporation (ARC), based in Minnesota, was in the vanguard of the American high-end audio movement in the early 1970s. By then mass-market transistor electronics had all but killed off the vacuum tube, but ARC's founder, William Z. Johnson, not only believed his tube amplifiers sounded better than solid-state gear, he thought tubes were technically superior. That's why ARC billed itself as a "high-definition" company since its start, decades before HDTV came on the scene. ARC was in large part responsible for starting the tube renaissance, and time has proven Mr. Johnson correct, as there … Read more
Decware makes low power amplifiers and high-end speakers in the United States. Their entry-level Zen Triode amplifier ($775) pumps out 2 watts per channel, and if you need more get the 6 watt Zen Taboo ($995), or the mighty 26-watt Zen Torii ($2,495). The Zen Triode was the company's very first model and has charmed tough to please high-end critics on a regular basis.
Trust me on this; you'd be amazed how good a few watts can sound, and when they're matched with the right speakers, micro power amps can definitely play loud enough to annoy … Read more
For over 10 years ElectronLuv has been producing custom amplifiers and high-end components.
I think they're awesome-looking things, and I love that they're built to order. In a way ElectronLuv's design ethos reminds me of the "American Chopper" TV series where they custom build high-end motorcycles to order. But in this case it's stereo pre- and power amplifiers, guitar amplifiers, turntables, and horn speakers designed to meet ElectronLuv's customers' desires.
Some might call it steampunk or retro chic, but I think ElectronLuv products are unique and represent the best of American high-end audio.
ElectronLuv's Josh Stippich needs three to six months to design and build each of his one-of-a-kind products. In the early design stages Stippich sends his customers drawings to get feedback so he can give them exactly what they want. … Read more
America may not make world-class cars anymore, we don't build plasma TVs, or iPods, cameras, or all that much technology of any sort, but in high-end audio, we rule!
Come 2009 I'd love to see the best of the best American audio installed at the White House. The sort of system that the President could, after a hard day's work solving the world's problems, use to kick out the jams with a few James Brown or Parliament-Funkadelic tunes.
I'll volunteer my services to assemble such a system (donated by the manufacturers), with the following components:… Read more