Quicksilver! Mike Sanders has quietly been building some of the finest tube amplifiers for over twenty years now. His products are well designed, sound remarkable, are hand-built like tanks, and are reasonably priced. Mike doesn't do any advertising, and has a very small operation, so his overhead has always been relatively low when compared to other manufacturers. I've owned three pairs of his mono amps and currently own and love a prototype pair of 300B SET's he built. Unfortunately Mike is not a big fan of SET design so he decided not to manufacture these. It's a damn shame as they are of the most amazing amps I've ever heard. I've also heard from a good friend back East that his new 6C33C based amps, called "The Triode", are to die for! I have not heard them myself, but do respect this person's opinion. They are pretty pricy at $5800 a pair. One of his highly regarded outright audio bargain's, at around $1000 a pair, is the 25 watt Mini-mite amps Mike builds.
Another tube manufacturer who is close to me (in location), and with whom I had the pleasure of meeting and touring his shop, is George Wright. His phono-stage...I think it's the PP100..has met with high praise by users, and is reputedly a bargain at the $800+ asking price. I think he recently came out with a new (and slightly more expensive) phono stage based on the use of some different tubes as one or more of the PP100's tube array is becoming harder and harder to find. I have no first-hand long-term experience with his products, so cannot comment other then they are highly regarded by many. Again, a small manufacturer with virtually no advertising and low overhead.
OK, now this is a big company, but in the guise of it's orgins it may have fallen into line with this thread: Paul W. Klipsch started out his company in a shed in Hope, AK with no advertising, a passionate conviction and great genius. The speakers Paul himself designed remain great, even among today's more modern designs. The company, sadly, has gone down the toilet as far as any remote resemblence to the high-end goes. The only good things they produce now are still the designs that Paul himself came up with. It is now owned and run by Paul's cousin, who seems to be more interested in the "Bose" market than in the high-end. Vintage Klipsch remain an all time audio bargain on the used market IMO.
I agree with Jax2. I have a pair of M-80's and a pair of V4's. Great amps.
BTW: The M-80's are for sale. I just got a pair of
I agree with Jax2 regarding Klipsch. The new Klipschorns (redesigned this year) are AWESOME!! I would put them up against any speaker near their $7500. retail price. Most people think of Khorns as antiquated, outdated relics. I used to feel the same until I bought this latest version.
I would also argue that Joule Electra and Klyne are two companies that get very little exposure and are among the best of the best. Oh, and Ohm speakers are gems without much fanfare, too.
Klipsch is also putting out another of Paul's designs that he never saw go to the public during his lifetime (he passed away only last year at 90 years young): The Jubilee is yet another horn-driven, large scale speaker that is only just now available through Klipsch. Looks promising, but I haven't heard them.
Also, speaking of High-end bargains; cables is another area where great value is readily available from smaller manufacturers with minimal overhead. The one I have direct experience with are DH Labs http://www.silversonic.com
. I've tried their very inexpensive BL-1 interconnects, their Air Matrix, as well as their Q-10 speaker cables. All are fantastic bargains at their respective pricepoints, offering tremendous bang4the$. There are many other small cable manufacturers, some are DIY guys just selling their gear here on Audiogon. Many of them, like DH Labs offer an end-run around the 400-800% markup that the 'boutique' manufacturers need to keep up their advertising and overhead, while putting out products that are every bit as good and sometimes superior.
My top 5 (somewhat unknown products I guess)
ESP Concert Grand loudspeakers- Among the best in the world at any price period. These make music.
Magnan Signature interconnects- Yes vacuum cleaner hose I know, but very underated products that balances right on the edge of ultimate resolution and detail and musicality. although some minor system interfacing issues are possibly due to very high resistance
Harmonix Studio Master A/C cord- incredible sounding A/C cord with equally incredible build quality. In an entirely different league IMO than most of the "accepted a/c cords" touted here on AUdiogon
Brentworth Sound Labs III's / IV's - Mind blowing speaker systems in the right SET setup. 102 db. Yes out of business and many issues with these speakers. Spookiest speaker I have heard. Incredible sound if done right.
Marigo Tuning dots: Use these things on a hi-rez system. Incredible and hard to believe what they do for what they are.
Common to all of the above in my experience are: brilliant, foward thinking people who love music. Also very pleasant type people/designers and their creative expressions. This is where I will spent my hard earned audio dollars. I Certainly will not spend it with the rude arrogant or overated at the opposite end of the spectrum. Just my opinions.
Marigo Tuning dots
A true bargain is the Monarchy Audio SE160 mono amps. These things are single ended hybrids with a 6922 front end, solid state output. They run in class A up to 50 watts. They are 160w into 8 ohms and 320w into 4 ohms. These things haven't been out that long, and they retail for $4000., but I just picked up some CES 2003 demos for under $2000. The imaging is the best I've heard from solid state. Images are dense and rounded, yet very focused. The mids are rich and full bodied, and the soundstage depth and layering is stunning. These things easily compare to some of the best amps out there after you replace the 6922s with NOS and use tube dampers. Really incredible for the money.
Supratek-- see the "best preamps under $10k" thread
They are not unknown but for my freinds who aren't 'Philes I always tell them to look at the Acurus DIA100/150.Built like tanks and fine sound with plenty of curent delivery they take the newbie into a new world.Used they go for $350 for the hundred watt and if they need the remote the 150 watt can be had for $750.Just trying to convince the uninitiated that doing without tone controls means better sound is the hard part as they can't have there cake and eat it to.Though it's good that there is McIntosh for for them albeit at a higher price.Always trying to drag the newcomer in as many of my posts attest to.
In my system(s) probably the Music & Sound, and Millersound interconnects.
Can I count my Albert Porter cyro'd Hubbel outlets?
The best "unknown" brand IMHO is Rosinante, owned and run by Ric Cummins. I own his speakers and cables and am incredibly happy with them all. You may be more familiar with Ric's original claim-to-fame, the highly regarded Argent Room Lens. I own a set of these as well. All his products are superb, and actually work together to create a sonic experience where the sum is greater than the whole. I believe Argent and Rosinante share manufacturing facilities.
For several years at CES Ric paired with Joe Fratus of Art Audio to exhibit his products. They always received glowing reviews from those that visited their room. In fact, that's where my friends and I first heard his incredible "Dulcinea" stand-mounted monitor. Using Focal drivers and a proprietary damping material known as "Dark Matter", Ric's been able to sculpt and assemble a startlingly good speaker. I use the word sculp, because besides being an obviously gifted speaker designer, Ric was originally a sculptor. He put those talents to good use in designing the interior cabinet of the Dulcinea, which has no internal parallel surfaces.
Unfortunately Rosinante suffers from the same problem other less well-known brands do, that being an almost complete lack of exposure. Due to the major mags policies of not reviewing equipment unless the manufacturer meets certain distribution requirements, this fine equipment never gets the press it deserves. However one exception is Clement Perry's review of the Dulcineas and Art Audio Jota amp in "The Stereo Times". The full review may be found on the Rosinante website, www.roomlens.com.
My audiophile friends, including a couple of dealers all marvel at the performance of Ric's speakers and cables. In fact I actually sold my Valhalla IC's and replaced them with Ric's Jaden line of cables after a direct comparison. Not only did I improve the performance of my system, but saved a bunch of money to boot, since Ric's cables are not nearly as pricey. BTW, Ric winds all his cables by hand.
OK, enough. After reading through this thread I realize I'm starting to sound like a paid advertisement. I have no stake or interest in Rosinante or Argent, other than I'd like to see the line prosper so that other audio enthusiasts can experience the level of performace and joy that my friends and I do.
As a follow-up to my previous post, I was just checking out the Stereo Times site, http://www.stereotimes.com, and noticed a follow-up review of both the Dulcinea speakers and Jaden cables done last month. Worthwhile reading.
BTW, I'm using an Art Audio Diavolo 13 watt SET amp with the Dulcineas, and I can attest to the fact that they are are a match made in heaven. You don't need high power with these speakers. In fact, less may be more.
I can't say that Quickies are unknown since they're known for their excellent value and built quality.
Three folks already spoken for them and I speak fourth on Quickies so logically they're well known.
My best buy has been my Fi preamplifier by Don Garber. I also second the quicksilver recommendation and have had Mike Sanders 60 watters, silver mono 90's, and now his M135's. Great stuff.
Not too many people know, but Michell ISO phono preamp that retails used $200 can easily humiliate Phonomena with BPS.
Just as a follow-up to what Kenl said, Ric Cummins provides fabulous customer service. I was an original purchaser of Argent Room Lenses. They arrived with a rather amateurish finish. Several years later, the Room Lenses were a big hit, and the production was much more evolved. I asked Ric if he would refinish mine, and he did so without a hitch, and even replaced a couple and paid for return shipping. Great guy! Exactly the kind of person you would like to see achieve success in this business.
HP 110 amps from star sound. Check out audiopoints.com. The site doesn't do credit to these remarkable amps. I have a big system with a dedicated acoustic treated room and had listened to great stuff from Levinson, Krell, Spectral, Pass, and many more. I was ready to buy these name brands when a friend convinced me to demo the HPs. When properly broken in these cool running seemingly low powered amps are as dynamic as anything I have heard. Very rememiscent of the tube amps. The more I play the more they have openned up and I am already way beyond being satisfied. I don't know how these guys do it and I really would like for someone else in the business to review these although I know what I am hearing and was skeptical at best at the outset. I have Revel Studios and these more power them up. Unless you need a big power rated amp to compensate for other lesser equipment than the HPs are more than enough for almost any application. My buddy is seamlessly running some big Dunleavys with these. Check audiopoints.com.
I am extremely pleased with the pure silver hand-made cables (interconnect and speaker) that I purchased from Ric Cummins 6-months ago. The "Jaden" cables were designed by Mr. Cummins, who is also the designer and manufacturer of the Rosinante Dulcinea Speaker and Argent Room Lens and Dark Matter Shelves.
Until acquiring the Jaden cables, I had tried many well known and regarded cables (Nordost Quattro Fil, Acoustic Zen Silver Reference, Siltech, Transparent, Cardas, and so forth) and was never fully satisfied. I have found the Jaden cables to be tonally balanced, highly detailed, very controlled in the bass, dynamic, smooth, and musical. I have not craved to find a better cable since. Unfortunately, the Jaden cables are not widely known, but my buddies who have auditioned these cables were thoroughly impressed and have made the switch too. I have heard the Jadens do extremely well with horn, planar, and dynamic speakers.
I am also extremely happy with my Dulcinea speakers. Because I have a rather large room, 17 X 30, with a cathedral ceiling, I am integrating the Dulcinea speakers with a REL Stentor subwoofer. The combination is sublime!
My hats off to Mr. Cummins for designing high quality products that are very thoughtful to the consumer. His products are again reasonably priced and deliver much sophistication.
Within my experience, system, etc. ;
Densen electronics, Wasatch Cable Works, Tekline power cords, Yamamura Art-Q Dampers
The Placette Passive Preamp is the best sounding preamp that I have heard regardless of price. The volume control uses nothing but the best resistors available anywhere. Most systems that have efficient speakers need only a passive preamp anyway. It only costs $1400 and has a remote control as well. If you have efficient speakers and do not have a turntable, you owe it to yourself to check out the Placette website.
No longer being produced,but for me it has been NEAR speaker's!I have a set of Modified M15's and am getting M50's!
Wasatch Cable Works interconnects. Stunning improvement over the Cardas and Synergistic Research I was using. A very well kept secret.
Quicksilver Phono Preamp. Not enough gain for Low output MC, unless you use the transformer. A great piece of equipment. Reliable and sounds great.
Just saw this thread for the first time. This information is what I would like to see more of here at Audiogon.
My nominations are
Acme Audio power outlets
Machina Dynamica Promethean Bases
Marigo tuning dots and bands
I agree with Dog_lover's statement above
"Common to all of the above in my experience are: brilliant, foward thinking people who love music. Also very pleasant type people/designers and their creative expressions. This is where I will spent my hard earned audio dollars. I Certainly will not spend it with the rude arrogant or overated at the opposite end of the spectrum. Just my opinions."
Any Threshold preamp from FET 9 through T2 is as good as anything available today. And one of their former tech's, Jon Soderberg, will keep them all tuned up at a reasonable cost. Same for the Threshold amps. And I second the above for Wasatch ICs. I really think they are a cut above and provide a superior sound to anything I've heard below $2K. And the Sony ES line from the late 80's thru the 90's was extremely musical, as was Yamaha from mid-70s thru the mid 80s. Any 192kHz upsampler would be my first choice for "can't live without" if you are into redbook CDs. Takes the edge off and makes them listenable, and, most times, even pleasant. But nothing tops vinyl. The liquid sound of good vinyl is almost believeable. Can't believe I almost quit listening to vinyl in the 80s. Happy Listening!
Source brand loudspeakers.
LAT International AC Power Cords
Here's another vote for Ric Cummins' wire. I have his Pursang interconnects and speaker cables, and I find it hard to even imagine better cable.
One other product worth mentioning is the NOH transformer passive from Bent Audio. Based on the S&B TX-102 transformer, this thing smoked my SimAudio P-5 for 1/3 the price. John Chapman, the designer, is as nice to deal with as Ric Cummins - the two of them exemplify the "high-end" in people as well as gear.
No question my H-Cat preamp. In my experience with at least 20 top preamps, none even approaches the revolutionary device.