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- Written by Doug Schneider Doug Schneider
- Category: Monthly Column Monthly Column
- Created: 01 January 2018 01 January 2018
It’s time to announce the SoundStage! Network’s Products of the Year -- the best of the best products we reviewed in 2017. To be considered for a POTY award, a product must have been reviewed on one or more of our five main editorial sites -- SoundStage! Access, SoundStage! Hi-Fi, SoundStage! Simplifi, SoundStage! Ultra, SoundStage! Xperience -- and have received a Reviewers’ Choice award. Those products that qualify then went to our selection panel of five of our senior staff, who chose the winners based on the contents of those reviews.
There are three main categories of POTY award: Individual, Outstanding Performance, and Exceptional Value. This year, the subcategories within Individual are: Hall of Fame, for a product of outstanding performance that also has enjoyed a long life in the market, whether in a single, original model or multiple variants of the original model; Aesthetics and Sound, for products that look as good as they sound; and Pioneering Design Achievement, for outstanding sound quality that is the result of groundbreaking technical design. Outstanding Performance awards are given to products of topflight sound quality regardless of cost. Exceptional Value awards are presented to components whose sound quality is usually associated with products costing far more.
And here are the winners, each accompanied by a brief quote from its review:
Hall of Fame -- Gryphon Audio Designs Antileon Evo stereo amplifier, by Jeff Fritz (SoundStage! Ultra, March 2017): “It sounds stunning, it looks like a real power amp should, and for €29,000, it has all the technology and badass hardware you could want.”
Aesthetics and Sound -- Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature headphones, by S. Andrea Sundaram (SoundStage! Xperience, April 2017): “B&W’s superior industrial design and attention to detail are evident in the P9 Signatures’ quality materials and flawless finishing, which make them headphones you’d be proud to own and wear.”
Pioneering Design Achievement -- Audeze iSine10 earphones, by Brent Butterworth (SoundStage! Xperience, March 2017): “This is $4000 worth of sound for $400.”
Paradigm Persona 7F loudspeakers, by Aron Garrecht (SoundStage! Ultra, October 2017): “In the Persona 7F, Paradigm has created an all-out assault on the high end.”
TAD Micro Evolution One loudspeakers, by Jeff Fritz (SoundStage! Ultra, November 2017): “The TAD ME-1 is one of the finest loudspeakers I’ve had in my room.”
Constellation Audio Revelation Taurus Mono amplifiers, by Doug Schneider (SoundStage! Hi-Fi, December 2017): “Powerful, smooth, detailed -- you name it, the Taurus Monos took hold of the three pairs of speakers I used them with and made them sound their best.”
Audio Research Foundation LS28 preamplifier, by Vade Forrester (SoundStage! Ultra, March 2017): “If your budget can swing it, I strongly recommend that you audition the LS28.”
Hegel Music Systems Röst DAC-integrated amplifier, by Al Griffin (SoundStage! Simplifi, February 2017): “A good example of the dialectic in action, Hegel Music Systems’ Röst is also a versatile, forward-thinking hi-fi component -- I can’t think of another integrated amplifier with connectivity options that address not only the needs of audiophiles, but also those of the custom-installation market.” Also reviewed by Oliver Amnuayphol (SoundStage! Hi-Fi, October 2017): “If you think you might like to explore versatile source connectivity and networking capabilities without compromising your system’s sound, the Hegel Röst should be at the top of your audition list.”
EMM Labs DA2 Reference digital-to-analog converter, by Doug Schneider (SoundStage! Hi-Fi, July 2017): “EMM Labs’ DA2 Reference is exceptional: Rather than strike a balance between musicality and detail, it provides both without limitation or compromise.”
Pro-Ject RPM 10 Carbon turntable and 10cc Evolution tonearm, by Jason Thorpe (SoundStage! Ultra, December 2017): “Its ability to wrap the music around its little finger absolutely transfixed me.”
Oppo Digital UDP-205 4K Ultra HD universal BD player, by Roger Kanno (SoundStage! Xperience, August 2017): “The UDP-205 is by far today’s best value in a high-quality universal Blu-ray player.”
HiFiMan Susvara headphones, by Brent Butterworth (SoundStage! Xperience, July 2017): “The Susvaras gave me new, more intimate insights into my favorite recordings simply because they’re better.”
Synergistic Research Galileo UEF speaker cables, interconnects, and IFT jumpers, by Howard Kneller (SoundStage! Ultra, September 2017): “Synergistic Research’s Galileo UEF interconnects and speaker cables are technical tours de force that demonstrate just how far the art of cable making has come since the Golden Enz days of electrical-grade copper conductors and connectors of gold-plated nickel.”
Dynaudio Emit M10 loudspeakers, by Hans Wetzel (SoundStage! Access, March 2017): “Dynaudio’s most affordable loudspeaker wouldn’t be very good if it didn’t bear all the hallmarks of the brand’s identity; thankfully, it does.”
KEF LS50W Wireless loudspeakers, by Hans Wetzel (SoundStage! Access, October 2017): “That KEF has been able to stuff so much hardware and DSP know-how into one of their best-ever speaker designs and then charge only $2199.99/pair for it -- $700 more than the original -- is a mystery to me.”
Naim Audio Mu-so Qb Wi-Fi speaker, by Al Griffin (SoundStage! Simplifi, January 2017): “Naim Audio’s Mu-so Qb punched well above the quality of sound you’d typically expect from a compact, wireless speaker.”
Bryston 4B3 stereo/mono amplifier, by Roger Kanno (SoundStage! Hi-Fi, June 2017): "With virtually faultless sound and the ability to drive just about any speaker with ease, the 4B3 may well be the best value today in a high-end, high-powered, solid-state amplifier.”
NAD C 368 DAC-integrated amplifier, by Al Griffin (SoundStage! Simplifi, May 2017): “NAD’s C 368 is a highly competent, great-sounding integrated amplifier that in itself represents an excellent value at $899.”
Fluance RT81 turntable with Audio-Technica AT95E cartridge, by Thom Moon (SoundStage! Access, July 2017): “It’s the best entry-level turntable I’ve heard.”
Nordost Leif Purple Flare speaker cables and interconnects, by Al Griffin (SoundStage! Access, November 2017): “While the contribution to my system’s overall sound made by Nordost’s Leif Purple Flare speaker cables and interconnects was more subtle than earthshaking, I heard differences almost from the get-go, and those differences were improvements: better resolution of low-level details, and better spatial definition.”
Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC headphones, by Brent Butterworth (SoundStage! Xperience, October 2017): “The facts that these headphones sound great, deliver above-average noise canceling, have almost every feature most people could want, pack fairly easily into a laptop bag, and sell for what I consider the starting price for decent NC headphones, make them an outstanding buy.”
With the announcement of our 2017 Products of the Year now complete, next year’s products are already on our minds. Our websites are all updated for January 1 with reviews of new products -- some of them already contenders for Products of the Year 2018, to be announced next year at this time and place.
. . . Doug Schneider