Well know high end companies… like Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, VAC, Pass, Aurender… etc. make world class products. I have used many of their lower level products…. They hold their own again the competition… but you can be sure each step up their lines represents significant performance gains.
More mainstream and less high-end options … as pointed out, just pick one of the mainstream lower models marketed out there ,,,, EZPZ…. Lotsa mid-fi options …. If that stirs your drink, just pick one of ‘em,
BUT …. Less well known in high end options out there .,,,more interesting .
- LFD or CROFT in amplifiers out of the UK
- Fleetwood Sound Company Deville SQ speakers out of Pennsylvania
- BLUE CIRCLE amps out of Canada
- REDGUM amps out of Australia……
-PLINIUS amps out of New Zealand
- XAVIAN speakers out of the Czech Republic
- small and less well known in the US ( much more so in Canada), but all are high-end (otherwise won’t make it or survive ,,,)
I dont like buying audio products from companies that probably will not be around long and have no customer service nor do they back their products very well. Stick with companies that have been in the business for decades and have a real track record of making high quality great sounding devices.
Yes when the better portion of their audio department can have the freedom and budget to play. Having the capacity and the resources they can still create amazingly good sound also and at better pricing. One has to see what competitors components they posses just for comparisons and evaluation.
One last thing is, like in the past, many expensive stuff is not exported so we do not have the whole picture.
I had a JVC FX-1100 AM/FM tuner which performed well until it started having reliability problems. It was a well-designed unit with lots of bells and whistles and jacks for two antennae, which would be useful for those trying to pick up stations from differing directions. Kenwood also had a reputation for their tuners, although I have had no experience with them. I now use a Luxman tuner that was Stereophile Class A in the '90s, and it still sounds good and works well.
My old Harman Kardon Citation gear (preamp, amp, tuner) was nearly state-of-the-art at the time; so maybe HK was a high-end company that evolved into more mid-fi. Those components performed well for decades.
I was using a NAD 3020 as a preamp with an early PS Audio Power Amp (can't remember the model) in the late 70's early 80's. Great phono section and the 80 WPC amp pushed any speakers I had. The 3020 was utterly unreliable but I fortunately worked for a large appliance retailer with a decent service department. That early PS Audio amp was relatively affordable, back then.
A triode obsessed "Inspire" preamp/amp buddy went from Hersey II, III, IV, to Omega for a while, and returned to the latest (revised) version of Hersey IV and likes it much better, notably so. Crossover, tweeter, port, design changes worked well in the new IV, fuller sounding and no fatigue now - he claims, fwiw.
When I bought a set of Heresy IVs to replace the IIIs I was impressed by the IVs better construction and thought the porting for 10hz lower frequency response was a great idea (although I use 2 REL subs in this heap, so...meh...). After listening to them for over a month with a frown (figured they were still breaking in), I narrowed the main issue down to an upper mid "honk" or aberration in piano music mostly as I listen to a lot of jazz piano trios. Man...I wanted them to be great, but put my trusty IIIs back in a realized how much better they sounded. More coherent, smoother...just better. Damn. I think the IIIs mid horn is simply better...titanium instead of plastic driver, more complex horn throat design...or something. Sold the IVs, still very much enjoying the IIIs.
Speakers: Vandersteen 2i or 2Ce + REL Sub (MAYBE, but I think the Vandies can do bass on their own without subs), JBL, Polk Audio, or Wharfedales
Electronics: Emotiva (I like their monoblocks on the Vandies, but the Emotiva monoblocks may be too powerful for the Vandies, but I think the Schiit monoblocks might be a better match for the Vandies, and I would put the Emotiva monoblocks on the Polk Audio's or GoldenEar's instead), otherwise, I'll go with either Sony ES, Pioneer Elite, Onkyo Integra or Grand Integra, Technics (now.... not their stuff from the 1980's) and Yamaha.
Thornes, Technics and Pro-Ject for Turntables.