all of those aforementioned companies began as small underhyped non super-marketed companies.
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Iagree with justlisten Levinson Krell and the other started out very small they have put in their time and they get what they deserve. They make the best gear out there. There is also other great gear. In this market you get what you pay fro. You can buy an amp for half of the new retail of say a krell amp but who is to say that company will be around next week? Buying from these well known well respected high end companys gives you a sense of reassurance that if you amp goes down it will be fixed and done properly. Classe makes great sounding gear and their prices arent very high. Also why not look on the used market? It is a great way to get into highend for half the new retail. Good Luck
I think that Vandersteen Audio puts out a superior product for the money. I have owned 2CE's and 3A's in the past. I am sure that many of us have owned Vandersteens at some point. While better speakers certainly exist, I do not think that many offer as much in the price points that Vandersteen speakers cover. I also agree with Lev355 about Classe equipment.
Stan Warren, Dan Wright, Stephen Sank. Give these guy's the right piece of gear and let them do their thing. Often costs a ton less than the gear it will successfully compete with.
I just got my Moscode 300 back from Steve after his max blowout rebuild. I'll put it up against anything anyone wants to bring on - in or out of it's class, Levinson, Krell, Classe, Boulder - I don't care - bring it on! It is that amazing. And I know I'm not saying that because I have so much invested in it - the total cost to purchase, rebuild, and ship it around was less than 2k.
Dunno what Stan Warren does to CD gear, but after hearing some of his work, I do know I don't need to spend alot to hear alot. Aiwa competing with Accuphase? Stan can do it.
I haven't heard anything by Dan Wright, but I don't see anything but praise for his work, either. So my bid for "hidden gems" would be these and similar superb craftsmen and the gear they produce.
Monarchy amps have been very well received. The designer once worked at pass labs. They are all zero feedback class A designs that won't break the pocketbook. Check out the reviews at soundstage.com and audioreview.com.
If you are in fact infected with the audiophile bug, save yourself the pain of shopping, buying, looking for something better and repeating the process time and time again. Go hear some Atmasphere OTL's (they begin with a 30 watt stereo model($2500+-) and then a 60 watt mono blocks($4600.00+-) and so forth. They are very powerful amps whose wattage belies their voltage and gain. You will save yourself years of shopping, loss of time, and things not associated with the enjoyment of music.
Electronic Visionary Systems(www.tweakaudio.com). Ric Schultz uses the best parts available and, even more important, knows how to put them together. A good example is his Millennium DAC--it's got about $500 worth of premium parts(which he freely discloses) and would probably sell for around $3000 or more if made by an established company with high overhead and advertising expenses, but Ric sells it for $1050. He doesn't do any advertising and gets all his business through word of mouth, and he can't make the DACs fast enough. If you haven't already done so, I strongy encourage you to check out Ric's website which clearly states his mission and philosophy about audio products and the future of audio. In this day and age his absolute honesty, passion, and sincerity are refreshing. By the way, I've been using his DAC for over a year and am continually amazed at what this product does for my system and the music.