The American brand Audio Alchemy was founded in the 1980s and folded a decade later. It re-emerged in the early 2000s, and was purchased by Elac in 2016, where it has undergone a renaissance. Audio Alchemy founder Peter Madnick now acts as a consulting engineer for Elac, and is responsible for developing Elac’s Alchemy series of electronic components, now in their second generation.

Reviewers' ChoiceIn the past few years, the French speaker maker Focal has had an amazing run on SoundStage!. Reviewed by Diego Estan on SoundStage! Access, the Chora 806 ($990/pair, all prices USD) received a Reviewers’ Choice award, and was later designated a Recommended Reference Component. The same honors were bestowed on Focal’s Stellia headphones ($2990), reviewed by Brent Butterworth on SoundStage! Solo; and on the Spectral 40th floorstanding speakers ($9990/pair) and Sopra No1 minimonitors ($9990/pair), both reviewed by Diego for SoundStage! Hi-Fi. The Spectral 40th was also named a SoundStage! Network 2019 Product of the Year in the Hall of Fame category. That’s a mighty impressive record.

When computer audio took off, a decade ago, many hobbyists opted to use active studio monitors, rather than the usual amplifier and passive speakers. It’s not hard to see why. Especially for desktop audio, where space is at a premium, speakers with built-in amps are convenient.

Do you need a powerhouse computer just to play music? Not everyone does -- I use a nine-year-old, mid-tier Apple Mac Mini, and it does just fine. I’ve modified it for music playback, swapping out its spinning hard-disk drive for a solid-state drive (SSD), and bumping up its RAM from 4 to 16GB, so that music plays from memory rather than storage.

Can an audio component be more than the sum of its parts? Bryston’s new BDA-3.14 streaming DAC-preamp ($4195, all prices USD) invites that question. Essentially, it combines two products on one chassis: the acclaimed BDA-3 DAC ($3795) and a network streamer based on the BDP-Pi ($1495). The BDP-Pi derives its name from the Raspberry Pi single-board computer at its core. Hence the model number of the new integrated product -- 3.14 is an approximation of the mathematical constant pi (π), denoting the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

A half-century ago, when I got into audio, most amplifiers had front panels that looked like jet cockpits. And the higher a model was in its manufacturer’s product line, the more knobs and switches it had.

Is there a hobby that’s less domesticated than home theater? Ever since people began connecting their TVs to their stereos in the late 1970s, audio manufacturers have been encouraging them to add more and more speakers -- and it’s gotten a bit crazy.

Reviewers' ChoiceLast November in Warsaw, Poland, at the Audio Video Show 2019, I saw several products that fit Simplifi’s mandate to cover “convenient, lifestyle-oriented hi-fi,” many of which I knew I wanted to get in for review. At the top of the list were two new active loudspeakers from Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries (DALI): the Rubicon 2 C stand-mount ($5799/pair, all prices USD) and the Rubicon 6 C floorstander ($7999/pair). DALI’s passive Rubicon models are just one tier below their flagship Epicon series, so the prospect of reviewing these new active versions was mighty appealing.

The audio world knows of Pro-Ject Audio Systems as a major brand of turntables, but this Vienna-based company also makes an extensive line of electronics that lately have been winning all kinds of awards. For the past three years, Pro-Ject has received awards for its turntables and its electronic components from the Expert Imaging and Sound Association (EISA).

“You want to put those in our living room?” Over the years, words like these have scuttled countless plans for new home-entertainment systems. If the components themselves didn’t push the spouse acceptance factor into the red zone, the cables needed to connect them did.

At a press event last May at High End 2019, in Munich, a chorus of oohs and aahs rippled through the audience when iFi Audio unveiled, for the first time, its Aurora tabletop music system ($1399, all prices USD). A glance at the photographs accompanying this review make it easy to understand this reaction.