Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

The fall of 2021 has been a busy time for NAD Electronics. In the past few months, the Pickering, Canada–based company has announced three new integrated amplifiers, all of them with intriguing feature sets.

In the past few years, UK-based iFi Audio has introduced an impressive series of compact, affordable components under its Zen sub-brand. These include the Zen Blue V2 Bluetooth DAC ($189, all prices in USD unless noted otherwise), Zen DAC V2 DAC-headphone amp ($189), Zen Phono MM/MC phono stage ($199), and Zen Can balanced headphone amp ($199).

Sometimes, I envy reviewers on other sites of the SoundStage! Network. Most of the time, they’re reviewing single-purpose products like passive loudspeakers, amplifiers, DACs, turntables, and headphones, so they can focus mainly on how the component sounds.

Reviewers' ChoiceI don’t know how many stereo systems are sitting unused in people’s basements and attics; but I’d guess a gazillion or so, give or take a million. That’s a pity, because it wouldn’t take much to update them. Just connect a streaming DAC like the new Bluesound Node ($549, all prices in USD), and that old system is ready to stream music from the internet, play digital music from an external drive, play soundtracks from a connected HDTV, and perform other 21st-century audio tricks.

Almost all of the products reviewed here on Simplifi, and on other corners of the SoundStage! Network, are fairly new to market—in most cases, less than one year old. And quite often, our reviews are of products that are brand new to market.

At first glance, Q Acoustics’ Q Active 200 ($1999/pair, all prices in USD except where noted) doesn’t look much like a loudspeaker. It could be an appliance of some kind, or maybe a minitower desktop PC. After setting up the speakers on the matching Q FS75 stands ($499/pair) in my living room, I sent close-up pix to a few friends and family members, and asked them what kind of product the pictures showed. Those were some of their guesses.

One of the hottest product categories in hi-fi right now is the streaming integrated amplifier—an amp with a built-in network streamer and Wi-Fi connectivity. Just add a pair of loudspeakers, connect the amp to your home network, log on to your favorite streaming service, and you have everything you need to play just about all the music in the world. Of course, these products also have digital and analog inputs to accommodate components like disc players, game consoles, and TVs.

During my three years on Simplifi, I’ve reviewed 27 different powered and active loudspeakers—more than any other product category. There’s a reason for this. Because of their all-in-one designs, speakers with built-in amplifiers work wonderfully for Simplifi’d hi-fi.

Reviewers' ChoiceIn the 21st century, has there been a more successful, more important bookshelf loudspeaker than KEF’s LS50? I doubt it. Just look at how the LS50 and its progeny have fared on the SoundStage! Network.

Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceIf there was ever an occasion for an audio manufacturer to release a statement product, this was it. On September 28, 2020, Brian Russell, Bryston Ltd.’s tremendously capable, tremendously affable president, passed away in his sleep from an apparent heart attack. He was 69.

In the past two years I’ve reviewed active studio monitors from Heinz Electrodynamic Designs (HEDD), Focal, and PMC. As you’d expect, all of these speakers work wonderfully for desktop audio. But what about listening Simplifi’d style: sitting on a sofa or comfy chair, cueing up music with a tablet or smartphone, and playing it from a streaming DAC connected to the speakers?