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Top 3 hi-fi brands (and "honorable mentions")

sprellemannen

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#1
What is in your opinion the top 3 brands in hi-fi ?

Here is my list:
1. Benchmark Media Systems (world-class performance, competitive price, comes in nice and small boxes, user-friendly gear, honest brand, anti-BS brand, outstanding customer service).
2. Revel Speakers (amazing performance, competitive price).
3. KEF (amazing performance, competitive price (must probably exclude the Muon)).

Honorable mentions (in random order):
RPG Acoustical Systems, Vicoustic and other manufactures of acoustic products,
Bang & Olufsen (for their Beolab 90 and Beolab 50),
NAD (great performance at an affordable price),
Cambridge Audio (very affordable price although the performance is great),
PSB Audio,
Sennheiser,
Pioneer,
RHA Audio,
and many more.

There are several brands that I know very little of (and therefore are not given a chance), but which my "intuition" says are great, including:
Genelec (seems like a serious brand),
and more.
 
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Grave

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#3
Benchmark equipment is extremely overpriced. The measurements on this site prove this. You might as well buy a $100 DAC with performance almost as good.
 
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VMAT4

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#4
I have a love/hate relationship with NAD. I've had checkered experience with NAD durability. Seems to go by model and it seems to be hit-or-miss.
Just my experience. YMMV!
 

VMAT4

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#6
I hope I didn't say the wrong thing there. But, I think the better brands optimize performance per dollar vs durability per dollar.
 

mansr

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#7
I hope I didn't say the wrong thing there. But, I think the better brands optimize performance per dollar vs durability per dollar.
I don't see why those goals need to be contradictory as long as we're talking about indoor domestic use.
 

VMAT4

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#9
I don't see why those goals need to be contradictory as long as we're talking about indoor domestic use.
Well McIntosh is supposed to very durable and high performance. But, the price you pay for it is outlandish. I just thought you pay some for performance and some for durability. Optimize your spending.
 

restorer-john

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#11
For currently active companies, producing high fidelity equipment:

1. Accuphase, by a clear country mile.
They have never deviated from producing the finest, best performing and luxurious Japanese product since their inception in the early 1970s. Their quality, support for old products, and guaranteed conservative specifications have set the bar for everyone else to aspire to.
2. Audio Research.
Again, a brand that has rarely strayed from its roots, has always maintained a point of difference, quality of construction and a devout following. Another rare survivor and I hope they continue.
3. McIntosh.
I'm not a Mac owner, but have seen enough of the internals of Mac gear to respect the history, the designers and their relatively unwavering support in the pursuit of improvements in high fidelity reproduction. Parts are still available for much of their gear and support is excellent.

For notable mentions and companies not necessarily still producing High Fidelity gear:

1. Sony.
Arguably the most innovative and engineering driven electronics company the world will ever see. Their history and dogged determination of their passionate engineers to bring us products that were deemed impossible over many decades is amazing. Their list of achievements is too long to even start.
2. Quad (Acoustical Manufacturing Co. Limited/Quad Electroacoustics)
Producing ESLs, sophisticated amplification, embracing solid state, pushing its boundaries early on and being one of the pioneers of stereo.
3. Matsushita (Panasonic)
For advancing the state of the art with the largest range of superlative and affordable turntables the world has ever seen, through the 1980s when everyone else was moving to digital. They still produce reference-grade new model turntables that are as good or better than anything, regardless of price
4. Rotel.
A small Japanese HiFi only company, family owned that continues to produce very good, affordable, well engineered product and have done for nearly 50 years. The perfect entrance to a quality HiFi journey for music aficionados.
5. Jamo
At one point, the world's largest manufacturer of loudspeakers with the most sophisticated production facility. Produced a huge number of truly excellent loudspeakers, finished and styled with typical Danish attention to detail. Sadly, not sold in great numbers in the US I believe and now a shadow of its former self.
6. Bowers and Wilkins.
Pioneered extremely sophisticated measurements for loudspeakers and advanced the state of the art in loudspeaker design over many decades.
7. JBL.
I don't think there is a more recognizable brand in High Fidelity, known the world over. Yes, Harman had pimped it out and I'm sure Samsung will do the same, but nobody can deny the heritage of the brand and the enormous range of excellent products (along with some horrors) they have produced. Successfully crossed the boundary into professional sound as well as domestic and generally walked a path of improvement and quality, again, over many decades.
 
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cjfrbw

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#12
I thought Rotel was Swiss. Yamaha has been very consistent in the quality/price game for a long time. Accuphase stuff is just amazing if you look at their insides, non pareil quality.
 

stunta

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#15
This is going to be fun.
Yes and I don't get the point. Its like "top cuisines" or "top vacation spots".
What criteria? Objective? Subjective? Both?
Based on a survey? Sample size? Demographics?

More questions than answers.

I'll throw in my top 3 just for kicks and staying on topic -
Google
Apple
Chinese brand X
 

jhaider

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#16
2. Audio Research.
Again, a brand that has rarely strayed from its roots, has always maintained a point of difference, quality of construction and a devout following. Another rare survivor and I hope they continue.
They lost my respect forever when I had to endure a sales pitch from one of their executives about the sonic improvement they "achieved" by changing the material for the case lid.
 

JJB70

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#17
I'd pretty much agree with everything Restorer John said, although I'd probably bump Sony into the top 3 (not sure at whose expense though). OK these days Sony aren't that active in audio compared to their former presence but if you look at their history of innovation and technology development it's a remarkable story. And their higher end ES products often set a benchmark for build quality and depth of engineering that urinated over far more expensive high end exotica. Rotel are a great company that consistently produce well made sweetly performing gear that isn't flash or just following the in vogue trend of the day but offer good solid down to earth products at sensible prices. At one time I would have put Quad front and centre for product support and service (their support for anything they'd ever made was legendary) but the current iteration of the company has lost a lot of that sadly.
 

solderdude

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#19
I have a nice story about Nakamichi and Quad. Both were imported by the same importer in the Netherlands (Transtec). Both great brands.
One day during an important event (talking over 30 years ago) both Nakamichi staff and Quad (P. Walker) were there and the Japanese were making a bit of fun about how 'old fashioned' the Quad was. Those that know both brands know what they elude to. Peter W walked up to them and asked them if they could open up their devices so he could see how advanced they were.
Needless to say a bunch of different types of tools came out of a bag and they started opening them up.
When they were done Peter W. asked them over to his table and took 1 flat screwdriver out of his pocket.
Those that serviced Quad will know what happens next..
Within a few seconds all sides came off and PCB's can tilt outwards for easy access.
All of his equipment was easy and fast to access/service with just 1 screwdriver..
He then turned to Nakamichi and said .... old fashion design eh ?
 

mansr

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#20
Well McIntosh is supposed to very durable and high performance. But, the price you pay for it is outlandish. I just thought you pay some for performance and some for durability. Optimize your spending.
How much durability is needed for something to sit on a hifi rack in a dry room? The demands are obviously much higher for pro gear that gets tossed about, or at the very least rewired regularly. Oddly enough, such gear is typically much cheaper than audiophile brands. Guess it's not durability you're paying for after all.
 
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