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This Technics Reference Class R1 audio system spends like a Mercedes, sounds like a McLaren

technics reference class r1 audio system amp and speakers
Image used with permission by copyright holder
At IFA 2014 electronics show in Berlin, the audio experts at Technics staged a comeback — literally — four years after parent company Panasonic shut them down. Helmed by and featuring Michiko Ogawa, a well-known Jazz pianist in Japan who served as an engineer for Technics starting in 1988, Technics held a private concert for a small press group, hammering home the notion that it was all about delivering the very best music listening experience possible. Once the musicians had cleared, two high-end audio systems took center stage, the small-but-potent Professional Series, and the size-and-cost-no-object Reference series. Rather than unleash a suite of sound solutions, Technics had decided to put all of its eggs in two baskets … two very big, very expensive baskets.

Later in the event, we were ushered into two demonstration rooms where brief auditions of each system were held. The listening conditions were, shall we say, less than ideal — it’s hard to transform a convention center meeting room into an audition space in a matter of hours. And so we walked away feeling like we didn’t really get to hear what Technics’ new pride and joy could really do.

We were right.

We recently received a 700 lb shipment that included two SB-R1 speakers, an SE-R1 power amplifier, and an SU-R1 Network Audio Control Player. All told, the total system cost with interconnect cables and premium Kimber Moncale XL 15-ft speaker cables comes to about $60,000. That’s a lotta cheddar, but it buys you a whole lot of incredible sound, and bragging rights for years.

No other audio system that’s graced our listening room has captivated and mesmerized our staff quite like Technics Reference system. Seriously, some of us are having trouble getting our jobs done because we can’t peel ourselves away. This is the sort of audio system that you must hear to understand. Listening to tracks that we’ve heard 100s of times — and on excellent systems at that — is now a revelation of once-hidden nuance and detail. Not only are we hearing things we’d never heard before, we’re hearing it in a way we’ve never heard it before. A music system that sounds like a live performance is a tough goal to attain, but Technics’ flagship nails it.

Of course, it’s fair to wonder if anyone that would lay down $60,000 for a stereo would be woo’d enough by the Technics name. While the brand is big in Japan, the US never gave Technics the sort of love it deserved — unless you count the wildly popular (but now discontinued) SL-1200 turntable, of course.

To see the system up close and personal, check out this video at our brother site, Digital Trends.

A version of this article has appeared at The Manual’s brother site, DigitalTrends.com

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