The Emotiva BasX TA-100 combines past with present as it marks the return of the affordable high-end stereo receiver.

Years ago there were dozens of stereo receivers available, including some high-end models that retailed for under $500. This allowed someone to build a distinctive, high-quality system without breaking the bank. Nowadays, most receivers are surround sound, and their performance is compromised compared with dedicated stereo models. If music is your system's purpose, then a stereo receiver is the way to go.

Lately, the two main stereo receiver choices have been the Onkyo TX-8020 for $199 and the Outlaw Audio RR2150 for $699. The Onkyo is a great performer for the money, but it is still a mass-market product that lacks the panache and performance that makes you feel your hi-fi system is a cut above. The RR2150 is a wonderful receiver that I am happy to recommend, but at $699, it is on the expensive side.

At $399, the TA-100 fills the performance and pricing gap perfectly. When you unbox the TA-100 you know you have something special. It feels like it was machined from a single block of metal, and reeks of quality. The metal faceplate is clean and attractive, with only two buttons, a headphone port and a volume/selector knob.

The specifications are from an audiophile's wish list: 50 clean watts per channel, 4-ohm speaker capability, a high-quality phono input with a moving coil-cartridge setting and excellent sound throughout. Something I had given up on ever finding again is a good FM tuner. Ever since the majority of receivers became surround sound, tuner quality has gone to pot. The TA-100 tuner was a shocking surprise, with great tuning sensitivity, good sound and extremely quiet backgrounds.

I say that the TA-100 combines past with the present because it also has an optical input, perfect for use with a television's optical output to provide better TV sound along with your music. A Bluetooth dongle is available for $49, and I consider it a must-have. It is incredibly easy to use, reliable in operation and the sound is first-rate.

As you can tell, I absolutely love the TA-100. My only real gripe is tuner ergonomics. Perhaps that faceplate is a little too clean and could use a couple of dedicated buttons for the tuner. As it is now, you have to alternate between the volume/selector knob and the two input buttons to tune stations and set presets, and it was not intuitive to me at all. I referred to the manual constantly, but I still felt like I had two thumbs.

That's a small complaint given everything that is so right with the TA-100. In terms of quality, capability, performance and value, Emotiva didn't miss a thing. See it at (direct product link) or

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