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

With network entertainment now solidly in the mainstream, we’re seeing more and more products that depart from the traditional source-amp-speaker paradigm. We’ve reviewed scores of such products on Simplifi: active speaker systems with built-in network streamers such as KEF’s LS50 Wireless II and Bang & Olufsen’s Beolab 28, streaming DAC-preamps such as NAD’s C 658 and Bryston’s BR-20, and streaming integrated amplifiers such as Bluesound’s Powernode and Naim Audio’s Uniti Atom.

Q Acoustics, founded in the UK in 2006, produces loudspeakers that range from the inexpensive 3010i compact bookshelf model ($299 per pair, all prices in USD) to the Concept 500 floorstander ($6499/pair), with a plethora of choices in between. These include a myriad of home-theater options, including several subwoofers and an active soundbar.

The Italian brand Sonus Faber is known for beautifully crafted passive loudspeakers that use luxurious materials, including exotic wood finishes and front baffles with leather inserts. Earlier this year, Sonus Faber announced its Omnia Wireless Music System ($1999, all prices in USD unless noted otherwise). With flowing lines, five-layer veneered walnut top panel, sculpted base, and textured fabric grilles, the Omnia shares the design aesthetic of Sonus Faber’s passive speakers.

If I had to name two products that laid the groundwork for Simplifi’d hi-fi, they’d be Apple’s iPod and Bowers & Wilkins’s Zeppelin iPod speaker. Before Apple launched the iPod in 2001, most people listened to their own music on physical media, one disc or tape at a time. The iPod let them store an entire music library on one pocketable device and play tracks at random.

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

The original NAD Masters M10 streaming amplifier, introduced in January 2019, is a compact, versatile unit that can form the heart of a modern high-fidelity system. It has everything you can imagine you’d want in an integrated amplifier: NAD’s BluOS streaming function, a two-channel amplifier, Dirac Live room correction, a DAC, digital and analog inputs, and more. The M10 fits NAD’s “just add speakers” philosophy perfectly. Gordon Brockhouse reviewed the M10 on this site in May 2019—it received a Reviewers’ Choice award and was subsequently named a SoundStage! Network Product of the Year.

The British hi-fi brand Mission is best known for its passive loudspeakers; but, late last year, the company introduced a lifestyle music system that combines a wireless hub with a pair of active bookshelf loudspeakers. Priced at $1699.99 (all prices in USD), the LX Connect was designed and engineered in the UK, with acoustic engineering by Mission and electronic design by its sister company Audiolab. Both brands are part of the International Audio Group (IAG), a Chinese company that also owns Castle Acoustics, Leak, Luxman, Quad, and Wharfedale.

When Linn Products announced its Series 3 active loudspeaker in October 2019, the Scottish company called it “the world’s best-sounding wireless speaker.” Given that bold claim, Linn chose an appropriate launch venue for the speaker. For several months, the Series 3 was available exclusively at Linn’s flagship showroom in Harrods department store in London, England. In 2020, Linn rolled out the Series 3 to its worldwide dealer network.

Reviewers' ChoiceIs there an audio manufacturer whose products exemplify Simplifi’d hi-fi more than Denmark’s Bang & Olufsen? I doubt it. Formed in 1925, B&O started offering “convenient, lifestyle-oriented hi-fi” components not long after the word “lifestyle” had been coined.

Reviewers' ChoiceHere’s a bit of audio trivia for your holiday enjoyment: Who was J.A. Hofmann? If you’ve been into audio as long as I have, you’ll know him as the H in the loudspeaker brand KLH. Along with Henry Kloss and Malcolm S. Low, Hofmann was a founding partner of KLH Research and Development Corporation, which was formed in 1957, and has recently been revived as KLH Audio.

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).