American Made Audio Equipment
Made in USA Stereo Equipment
Much of the best audio equipment in the world is made in America, and has been for years. Many of these are small operations hand-building equipment in the same place they design it. This started as “my” American audio list. American-made equipment from companies whose products I own, have spent time with, and have moved me. Based on the ever increasing google traffic that is coming to this page, it’s clear that there is a demand for American made audio equipment, so the list is growing. If you manufacture audiophile equipment in the US, let me know, and you’d like to be added to this list, leave a comment or email me at johndark (at) me.com
While music has the power to make an emotional connection over the humblest radios, earbuds and discs, there is nothing like connecting with the artist through spectacularly well-reproduced music. In this world of earbuds and MP3’s, more people are enjoying music in more places than ever, yet few know how close to the music you can get through high-quality musically-involving equipment. Your local high-end audio dealer might: I encourage you to visit a few to see what the world of American-made audiophile equipment is all about.
By the way, this site has a dual life – the other pages are dedicated to the terrific label Windham Hill Records. If you like acoustic instrumental music, or follow the ECM, Erased Tapes or MA Recordings labels, you also need to know about Windham Hill.
American Made Preamplifiers
& American Made Amplifiers
Founded by Jim White, who was previously with Theta Digital, this California-based manufacturer makes extraordinary tube and hybrid tube/solid-state electronics with exceptional sound and build-quality. Designed and built in Moorpark, California. The Aesthetix Calypso and Janus served as the reference preamps for Windhaming reviews 1001-1033.
Audio Research makes tube and solid state preamplifiers, amplifiers and phono stages in Plymouth, Minnesota. This is the company that invented high-end audio as it is known today (though many will argue, and with reason, that McIntosh deserves that accolade.) See the Soundstage Magazine Audio Research Factory Tour here. Italian-owned, but still made in Minnesota, Audio Research continues to craft beautiful, reliable and supremely musical equipment. Steve Guttenberg of CNET has a nice short piece on Audio Research. The Audio Research VT-100 Mk II was the Windhaming reference amplifier for reviews 1001 to 1033.
Boulder, Colorado based designer and manufacturer of electronics – noted for making equipment that fights well above its weight. For example, their V-5xe that is Stereophile Class A rated, yet only fraction of the price of the other big boys in that league. Gorgeous vault-like casework – I haven’t heard the equipment enough to form an opinion, but it sure looks good.
Makers of exceptional tube and solid-state electronics, the BAT factory is in Wilmington, Delaware. The BAT VK-P5 is the current Windhaming reference phono pre-amp.
Well reviewed and regarded electronics. Unfortunately, I have no personal experience with them other than quick listens at audio shows, and the prices aren’t exactly “entry-level”, but well worth checking out.
Coda Technologies builds power amplifiers, linestage preamplifiers, and phono preamplifiers in Sacramento, CA. From the Soundstage Magazine Factory Tour in Sacramento, California:
“What was most impressive about the production was seeing the quality of workmanship and the attention to detail. Coda Technologies is certainly not a large company, but they’re able to build audio components that are truly world-class in terms of technology, build quality, and performance.”
Makers of (mostly) tubed-electronics. Legendary. I’ve heard Conrad Johnson equipment make beautiful music many times.
Beautiful to look at (how do they get that crazy face finish), and a pleasure to hear the few times I’ve run into them at shows. Always well-reviewed electronics.
Gorgeous sounding amplifiers and preamplifiers. Some of the most realistic sounding equipment at any price.
Another legendary maker of electronics originally founded in 1949. For years McIntosh was a key leader in high-end audio. Amps, pre-amps, tuners, processors, and car audio. Currently made in Binghamton, NY.
Some of the Outlaw Audio products are made the the US. Outlaw explicitly does not own or operate its own factory, but rather specify then outsource production, some of which (such as amplifiers) are made in the US.
Pass Labs makes phenomenal solid-state electronics and speakers in Forest Hill, CA (near Auburn and Sacramento). Often described as solid state for tube lovers, Pass amps are designed by Nelson Pass and preamplifiers by Wayne Coburn. The don’t sound like what people normally mean when they describe the tube sound – fat bottom and rolled off highs. They do however capture what tubes do well – the liquid flow of music. Pass Labs is the current reference equipment for Windhaming: XP-10 preamp, XP-15 phono preamplifier and XA-30.5 amplifier.
Makers of power regenerators, DACs and transports, and cables, PS Audio has recently brought their top selling power line production back from China to their headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.
Makers of gorgeous looking pre-amplifiers and amplifiers, produced in Endicott, New York.
Well regarded wakers of amplifiers, pre-amplifiers and phono-preamps.
Makers of home theater equipment and stereo amplifiers. The Casablanca series Pre/Pro is top-notch, the amplifiers are well-reviewed. Their digital players are the best I’ve ever had, if a bit finicky and expensive to maintain. Theta is now owned by ATI (who also owns B&K Components).
American Made Speakers
San Diego based designer and manufacturer of cables and speakers, Robert Lee’s Acoustic Zen seems to get things just right. Musical, musical, musical. The equipment disappears and the artist is there with you. The Acoustic Zen Adagio speakers, Tsunami Power Cords and Absolute speaker cables are current Windhaming reference components. While the cabling is assembled in the USA, the raw single-crystal wire is produced in Japan.
Aerial makes their speakers in Massachusetts, including the popular Model 9 and the reference Model 20T.
Avalon Acoustics speakers are beautiful creations known for their imaging – the ability to “see” where each instrument is. Made in Boulder, Colorado. See the Soundstage Magazine Avalon Acoustics Factory Tour.
“Located in Memphis within the heart of the downtown historical district, the EgglestonWorks factory is but a stones throw away from the birthplace of Blues and Rock ‘n Roll.” Architecturally handsome speakers with a commanding sound.
Genesis loudspeakers are designed and made in Seattle, Washington.
Magico makes music. With a CNC facility in San Jose, CA, and an assembly facility in Berkeley, Magico produces speakers with their own drivers that are in rarefied company. Neutral, grainless and dynamic based on what I’ve heard at shows and reviews. See the Soundstage Magazine Magico Speakers Factory Tour.
One of the world’s top-selling audiophile speakers. Affordable, yet reference quality sound. Made in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Consistently rated as some of the best speakers available regardless of price, Magnepan is often the first and last speaker that any audiophile will purchase because of its ability to take you deeper into the music.
Follow Magnepan on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/magnepan
Made in China or Canada. MartinLogan was founded in, and once made all of their speakers in Lawrence, Kansas. While R&D remains there, their dynamic speakers are made in China, and electrostatic speakers are made in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
Direct marketers of two-channel and home theater speakers, based in Brooklyn, New York.
Makers of softball-sized mini-monitors for home theater applications that are extremely affordable and sound truly good. This is the American-made speaker that puts Bose to shame.
Speakers and Turntables from a farmhouse in Rockport, Maine. I spent three days at RMAF one year volunteering for an electronics company that used the Rockport Mirra Grande speakers. The liquidity, precision and micro-dynamics were impressive. Their price-no-object Arrakis has been hailed by more than one editor as one of the best ever made.
Beautifully finished, very heavy, and top-notch sounding speakers made in Lexington, Kentucky. I have heard many of their models in many different settings and always liked how they truly showed off the equipment upstream. See the Thiel Factory tour.
Made in Hanford, California, Vandersteen offers high-quality speakers with a wide range of prices, all very high value for the dollar.
Original makers of the Rolls-Royce priced speaker system, Wilson has thrived, and widened their range to include speakers priced more like a VW Jetta. I’ve only heard them at shows and dealers, but prefer the humbler of the two. Wilson has made their extraordinary Provo, Utah factory a key part of their marketing.
American Made Turntables, Cartridges & Vinyl Accessories
Many thanks to the folks on the Vinyl Asylum and Audiogon forums for their recommendations.
I use the VPI Turntable with a Dynavector XX-2 MkII cartridge (made in Japan, check out Grado for some fine US-made cartridges) for all Windhaming auditioning, and it’s a superb performer. Well regarded, often reviewed, the VPI Scout is a sweetspot for audiophile turntables – affordable enough for most everyone, but with sound quality that is not embarrassed by even the most expensive tables. The new VPI Classic is a retro-beauty, and the Scoutmaster and Aries have their acolytes.
Based in Southern California, Artemis Labs makes tables, tonearms and electronics.
Well-reviewed and beautifully industrial-looking turntables, Basis manufactures in New Hampshire.
Choir offers custom turntables in addition to some attractive pre-chosen models.
Small, strikingly-designed tables made in the Rocky Mountains.
Massive platters on lovely wooden plinths at this manufacturer.
Based in Connecticut, Merrill-Scilla was founded by George Merrill, the original designer of the original AR (Acoustic Research) table.
Massive, suspensionless turntables that start with a solid billet of aluminum. Based out of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Founded in 1981, for several years SOTA was the only high-end turntable manufacturer in the United States. The SOTA Comet and Sapphire are considered classics by many.
Soundsmith does a number of interesting things, right in New York. They make authorized reproduction Bang & Olufsen cartridges (I recently bought an SMMC4 for my son’s TX2 table), they make strain-guage cartridges and phono-preamps, and run a well-regarded cartridge re-tipping service, as well as repairing high-end electronics.
In Berkeley, California, Allen Perkins and Lisa Thomas founded Spiral Groove in 2005, Spiral Groove designs and produces high-performance turntables and tonearms.
Makers of turntables, and motors, tonearms and other turntable parts for DIYers.
Well-regarded Audoban, Pennsylvania, makers of tables and accessories. The Walker Proscenium has been called one of the top ten most significant tables of all time (as well it should be for the price of Maserati). Walker also makes a line of record cleaning fluids and wins my vote for product name with their “valid points” feet.
Makers of industrial and military vibration control equipment, the Portland, Oregon firm turned their skills to a turntable, the NVS, which is like no direct-drive table you’ve ever seen.
Record Cleaning Machines
The best thing you can do for your record collection is invest in a vacuum record cleaning machine. It’s one of the reasons that Windhaming is possible. While most of the Windham Hill Titles I pick up for a dollar or two are relatively clean upon purchase, the sound is many factors better after a good cleaning. The sound is significantly better with a much quieter noise floor, and better clarity and definition at all parts of the frequency range. It just unlocks so much more music on the album – making the performance more immersive. Alex De Grassi’s guitar really chimes like a bell or coos along gently as needed. The VPI HW-17 is the Windhaming reference Record Cleaning Machine.
I’ve always cared for my records – at least since my father bought me my first cleaning supplies for my 13th birthday in the late 1970’s. It was a great little kit with a walnut base and smoked acrylic top – holding a Discwasher brush, stylus cleaner, and a Milty Zerostat anti-static gun. This did a decent job keeping my ever growing collection clean enough. Unfortunately, Discwasher has changed the fabric they use to a cheap corduroy, and all it does now is line up the dust on your record, not pick it up.
In 2000, I picked up a Nitty Gritty Record Vacuum from GNP AudioVideo in Pasadena (Hi Laurence and Don!) This unit was a noticeable improvement over hand-cleaning. Pump on the fluid, vacuum off the fluid. Many people swear by their Nitty Gritty, and I got 10 years out of mine, but I now prefer the greater ease of use and cleaning power of the VPI.
If you can’t invest the several hundred dollars required in a vacuum RCM, you have some choices:
1) A Mobile Fidelity brush – these work really really well for dry cleaning, or wet cleaning by hand. If used dry, they do build up static, so you would need to use a Zerostat or other static remover, but for the price of $20, it’s a great place to start.
2) Wet cleaning by hand – this will still require brushes and fluids, and if you have enough patience to do this, good for you.
2) Spin Clean II Record Cleaner – at $129 this seems like a good way to wet clean easily and painlessly. I was unable to find the country of origin for these, they have been around since 1975.
A couple of notes:
Didn’t find the Made in USA Audio Equipment here that you were looking for? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list. I know that there are dozens more companies and would love to link to them.
It’s a global marketplace – often a piece of equipment may have components made outside of the country. My criteria is that not only final assembly occur in the US, but that the preponderance of manufacturing occur in the US. This will unfortunately exclude some excellent products, such as cables, which are manufactured offshore and simply terminated in the US.
There is also great equipment made in Canada – Bryston comes to mind, but they’re not alone. There is also the oddity of equipment by Parasound, who designs in my hometown of Walnut Creek, CA, but produces offshore. Your local audio dealer is the best place to hear equipment, borrow equipment for home audition and to gain knowledge and often friendship. The web is a great place, but visit your local retailer.
If you live in a metro area, check out a local audio society. These groups often get together with audio reps, or to listen to each other’s systems.
The best place to get a quick overview of the total audio landscape is at a show. There are many new local audio shows – California Audio Show, Axpona, THE Show in Newport Beach. In the past few years, the RMAF -Rocky Mountain Audio Fest – has become a national-scale show for the consumer, and is a great way to hear a wide range of the top manufacturers.