Best High End Audio Manufacturer???

Wow, what a loaded question!! Nevertheless... which company has earned the right to be called number one, king-of-the-hill, top dog, etc. Is this even a fair question? Probably not. Is this your chance to make your objective/subjective voice heard? Yes indeed. So if you had to boil it down to ONE HIGH END COMPANY that more than any other represents the paramount position, THE EPITOME OF THIS HOBBY, this is your time to cast your vote.
Too vague of a question......
-best sonically
-best customer service
-best in terms of reliability
-best in cost to sonic benefit ratio
-best looking
-best measurements

we need some criteria to determine a "best"
Plasmatech...just like the auto ratings, throw everything you value in the equation to come up with your pick. Envelope please!!
Gotta be Bose, right?!


There is no one best, IMHO, so I won't bother giving you just one name.

But, if you were to ask who are my top tier manufacturers, I would say, in no particular order:

Audio Research
Avalon Acoustics
Lamm (If you put a gun to my head, this would be "the One".)

Fyi: Most of the names on this list are ones either I or my friends have owned.
I'm married to Aerial speakers since early 2000's and consider it best for the following reason:
1. Great value per performance
2. Extreamly realistic and natural voicing with huge soundstage
3. Hassle free customer service
I'm a big fan of CJ tubed equipment, Focal speakers, Esoteric digital gear Siltech cables and Stillpoints resonance control products. Over the years, I've been very pleased with the reliability and sonic signature of each company's equipment and, particularly, of their synergy when used together.
I have been very happy with the 4 Krell units I have owned (HTS 5.1, KSA-250, HTS 7.1 and TAS). Would love to own some MBL gear one day, short of winning the lottery, probably never going to happen.
If I had to name one, it would be MBL - their products, across the board, are astonishingly good...
Audio research and Macintosh based on number of paying customers I'd guess.

For speakers Klipsch magnepan and Ohm would get my vote based largely on longevity and number of happy customers.
For the absolute best overall I'd say Mbl. I could also make a strong case for Yamaha.

For turntables I'd have to vote for linn and thorens based again on longevity and number paying customers. Also technics.
I would like to thank everyone who has responded to this thread. What I've observed is that it's really hard to pick just one manufacturer, because (in truth) it's taken many talented individuals to corporately bring this hobby to the incredibly high level we all enjoy.

If I should personally pick just one, I would have to go with Audio Research Corp. I currently do not have any ARC gear, but having ARC components through the years has taught me the difference between HiFi and High Definition.

Every audiophile is/has been on a journey. Everyone has a story to tell. It will be interesting to see where the industry goes from here.
MSB...Rogue....Sutherland.....for their personal and exceptional customer service. Oh, and they make damn good products.

This revolutionary loudspeaker company has been around since about 1970. It was revolutionary because its speakers it did not use cones or electrostatics. Instead it uses a planar driver. Every model introduced over the years was affordable, and preserved the music. Their 3 most popular models, the 1.7, 3.7 and 20.7 are arguably best buys in their respective classes. I just love how this company quietly improve its products over time without losing focus.
ARC might have the deepest roots and MBL might have the wow! factor, but I'd be inclined to go with a company like Magnepan, Vandersteen or Rega. They still offer excellent products at real world prices. The MMG, Vandy 2, and RB 300 are the most impressive high end products out there for me.
Best in the sense of quality versus cost and in personal integrity, Keith Herron is hard to top. If record care products count, Walter Davies of The Last Factory is another person and product of unusually high quality. If these two examples are of too recent a vintage to be eligible, it's gotta be Peter Walker and the original Quad ESL loudspeaker.
I recently sent a message to The Last Factory. Walter replied the next day. Here's his message:

Yes, LAST Head Treatment is safe and effective as a head cleaner. This is actually accomplished during the application of the treatment to the tape heads. However, under conditions wherein excretions from the surface of compromised magnetic tape have established a hard, resistive, ridge (or coating) on the leading edge of the heads or guides, a stronger acting solvent such as Isopropyl Alcohol may be needed to dissolve and remove the offending material.

Head Treatment may also be used on pinch rollers, if used sparingly. The goal is to clean and maintain the flexible surface of the pinch roller without providing any excess that might be transferred to the capstan, thereby compromising its task.

LAST Tape Preservative is unconditionally safe for use on magnetic tape. I have treated my own seven and ten inch reels of tape for more than twenty five years. There is an operational caveat which relates to the amount of atmospheric moisture that has been absorbed by the tape's oxide layer. At the point wherein 20% of the oxide has been compromised by moisture, the polyester binder/matrix in which the magnetic particles are suspended, can begin to catastrophically break down. When this happens, large sections of magnetic oxide and binder separate from the plastic tape and can peel away and become lost information! Excessive amounts of oxide shedding onto the heads and guides is an indication that the tape carries a significant moisture content.

Some operations attempt to repair this condition by "Baking" the tape in an oven. We feel that this can lead to huge mechanical stresses on the tape and support reel as the tape first expands under heating, then contracts during the cool down phase. Our approach is to place the (potentially) problem tapes into a vacuum chamber and evacuate to a very high vacuum. In so doing, the moisture diffuses to the edge of the tape and is evacuated by the vacuum pump. With a High Vacuum pump this process can take several days before the tape is essentially moisture free. Once an end point has been reached, the tape(s) are brought back to standard air pressure and then treated with Tape Preservative. The Preservative prevents the uptake of new moisture, so that the tape remain viable for decades after. We have several customers, who lacking access to vacuum chamber/pump facilities, place their tapes into plastic, sealable containers with silica gel desiccant to achieve suitably dry tapes (ready for application of the Tape Preservative). This approach can take a couple of weeks to reach an end point.

Thank you for your questions. They required a thoughtful answer that became rather wordy. I hope the foregoing is helpful.


Walter Davies
The LAST Factory '

What a great response. I will certainly try his stuff.
Walter Davies is SUCH a great guy. He had a retail store in the 1970's, and I bought my first big system from him (Audio Research, Magneplanar Tympani's, Thorens/SME, Revox). As ethical, honest, and competent as they come!
Actually, it's not a bad question. It's like Rolex representing the high-end of watchmaking, even though it's far from the most expensive or the best. It just represents what everyone (except real collectors) think of as a high end watch. Following that train of thought, I would have to say that Esoteric may be thought of as the ultimate digital and Wilson as the ultimate high-end speaker. They've just established their brands to that degree.
The best audio manufacturer? It has to be Sony. After all ... wasn't it Sony that graced the planet with "Perfect Sound Forever?"

And my vote for the state with the largest number of the best audio manufacturers? Without a doubt ... Minnesota. ARC, Maggie's, Atmosphere, Van Alstine ...
I must say that I cannot imagine making the effort to identify the best manufacturer presently. There may have once been such an exceptional company, such as Marantz, Dynaudio, or ARC. None exist now.

I cannot even endeavor to identify the best speaker company, much less the best speaker. I have had many 'good" speakers that greatly responded to improved cables, amps, line stages and sources. But all speakers are compromises. I can also say that I have heard amps that show the benefits of ic, speaker wires, and power cords changed.

I should say that I cannot even think of an American company that makes electronics, cables, speakers, much less cartridges, tone arms, etc.

I also can understand the issue of best buy for the money, but this is even a further stretch. Furthermore, I cannot understand anyone arguing that a certain percentage of your money should go to speakers, electronics, etc.
Beats me. That said, I have always thought that deep-pockets Yamaha could outdo anybody at anything if they wanted to .
For the non-rich among us right now their integrated amps could well be the least expensive route to a good sounding system .
There are many exceptional companies these days, both large and small. Internet makes more accessible to more people. So its harder than ever to single any one out as the best.

Having been at this many years and having researched and experienced many in recent years as well, I can list the ones whose products I currently own and that are well established and I find myself still willing to go back to repeatedly.

Those are OHM , Bel Canto, Dynaudio, Audio Research, Triangle and Sennheiser. mhdt is another but a smaller lesser known more niche foreign vendor.

They are many others at all price points I have heard and think highly of and could easily recommend but do not own currently.
Mapman, I presently own: H-Cat X-10 amp and line stage; BMC M2 amps, MCCI phono stage, and Arcadia speakers; High Fidelity cables including power cords; Tripoint Troy Signature and Thor SE grounding cables, Star Sound Rhythm platforms and rack and Apprentice platforms; Nantais/Lenco Reference turntable with Ikeda arm and 9TT cartridge; Koda K-10 line stage; LSA Statement amp; Archiving Vinyl AMS music severer and mod. dac; and Zilplex room treatment cups.

We all go our separate ways. Certainly your and mine are quite different as I think we both knew long ago.
Tbg, since no two systems ever seem to be exactly alike, even at a particular price point, its a safe bet to say that most people do (go their own way).

Its also safe to say that some vendors have a much larger and well established reputation (over time) of delivering quality products that sound good than others.

The "best" is a purely subjective term. Impossible to quantify, but people tend to know a good thing when they see (or hear) it.

Mapman, obviously I agree, but I have had too many experiences at show in which rooms that my friends and I thought were quite awful won "Best of Show," to really believe it is just what people think and vote.

I once waited to hear a demonstration of a well regarded set of speakers, while a top reviewer had the room to himself. As he left, he exclaimed that these big speakers were extraordinary. I went in and asked where he was sitting in the Venetian Towers. He was at the lower level and thus quite close to the speakers. I had to go to my only place in these awful room, namely at the railing on the upper level and leaning over the railing. They sounded much better there, but still not worth their cost.

I really don't think there is much agreement of what is good between people.
Its true that someone raving about a product, even declaring one best of show, is not a reliable measure.

Lots of people jumping on teh bandwagon over an extended period of time... a safer bet you might like it.

is Hershey's or Nestle's the best chocolate? Probably not, but frankly there are few other I have tried that prevent me from still really enjoying those.
Mapman pushing Ohm again.
Norm pushing any brand that gives him a good discount.
Isn't high end audio fun folks?
Andrew9405, I think I am only saying that people differ and that there is little benefit from discussions like this or even the concept of "a best audio manufacturer."

When I first got into high end audio, there were at most ten audio equipment providers with anything like a national distribution. There were more local speaker providers. My first really high end setup's manufacturers were: ARC amps and line stage; Infinity speakers; Linn turntable; Decca cartridge and tonearm, and Radio Shack cables.
SPEC out of Japan. Has an amazing line of amps and turntables. Japanese only product. Some of the best sounding musicality I have heard. Impeccable

Also love Luxman in Japan. Top shelf internal electronics.

Love ATC speakers; also Sony's SS line.
I can only speak from my own experience. Who's the best? Beats me, there are many good ones. But in terms of repairs, my best experience had been with Bryston. I had a 4B that needed repair. I shipped it to Bryston on Monday- it was literally back at my house on Friday. That's exceptional. Pass has also been exceptional in repairs.

I've had other gear repaired and typically I have gotten my gear back in 2-4 weeks. Only once did I have to send something back after repair because it still didn't work right. At least then the manufacturer paid for round trip shipping.

In terms of communication, I've had excellent experience with Pass Labs and Wyred 4 Sound. Others have been good to very good.

Only once did I buy a new piece of gear that was DOA. Frankly, I found that to be entirely unacceptable.
Good point about Bryston. Excellent service means a lot and is one of the best ways to differentiate one companies products from another. nothing is so great when its not working right. Companies with a reputation for product reliability as well are special.
I cannot imagine how a company can expect to survive with poor service. Of course good design can reduce service needs sharply, but the word gets around quickly that a company has poor service.

This usually means they are in financial distress and about to fold.
Most companies with a long standing record of good service most likely also deliver high quality products initially. Otherwise they are not likely to survive. That's why the length and quality of a companies track record has to be a a major consideration in determining "the best".

Its always cheaper to get things right initially than to have to go back and fix them later.

Good things survive. Bad things seldom do over the long haul. Funny how that works....
Conrad Johnson; any and every tube amplifier and tube preamplifier they have ever made. Nice warm, clear and  transparent sound! Very good at creating a deep, wide  soundstage. None better!!
Even though I love Vitus Audio, there are too many other companies like
Soulution who are also building great amps and digital products, so I'll go
with Magico. With the M Pro and its advances in driver and cabinet
technology, and the Q7Mk2 & S7 models which followed, Magico took a big
leap forward. And if you look at their manufacturing capacity and use of
cutting edge software modeling tools and materials science, I think you
could say they've reached the top of the hill.
Melbguy1, I would love to hear their big horns, even though I would never buy them.
Tbg, It would be great to have the opportunity to audition the Ultimate 3's, if
only to marvel at the engineering of those $600k beasts! I've read more
than one reviewer say the Ultimates completely fill Magico's huge listening
room (and beyond). I've heard a pair of Acapella High Violins which threw a
large sound stage, so I can only imagine what the Magico's could do. I'm
sure I'll make it to the states one day to catch up with a number of audio
friends & do some factory tours. And Magico would be top of my list.
My vote is for Keith Herron of Herron Audio. His stuff falls under the normal radar but it sounds good, doesn't break, can be upgraded and he has some of the best service in the industry...what else do you want?