Stereophile's Products of 2012
Each December since 1992, Stereophile has named a few special components its "Products of the Year." These are products that not only define the present audio landscape, but that we hope will someday be seen as classicsproducts you'll want to pass on to future generations of audiophiles and music lovers. Traditionally, we've awarded this distinction to components in five primary categories: "Loudspeakers" (including subwoofers), "Analog Sources" (turntables, tonearms, phono cartridges), "Digital Sources" (transports, processors, music servers, disc players), "Amplification Components" (preamplifiers, power amplifiers, and integrateds), and "Accessories" (all those extras that keep us busy and satisfied). In 2010 we added "Headphone Components" and "Computer Audio Components," two categories of gear whose popularity and potential for reaching an audience outside our own little world were then, and continue to be, unrivaled: when people aren't wondering how to play music from their PCs, Androids, and iPhones, they're taking it with them on their jogs and commutes. Finally, our two favorite and most important categories are the "Budget Component of the Year" and our overall "Product of the Year"the former leaves us with the most cash to spend on new records; the latter made the biggest splash of all.
In the next few pages you'll read about phenolic resins, femtoseconds, bubbles, a DAC named for a gem, a DAC named for a bug, a DAC with a feminine touch, and much, much moresomething for everyone, we hope.
The voting is simple: Each of Stereophile's hardware reviewers is asked to nominate up to six components in each of the nine categories. To be a contender, a product had to have been reviewed in one of the 12 issues of Stereophile published from November 2011 through October 2012, in a full Equipment Report, a Follow-Up review, or in one of the regular columns by Art Dudley, Michael Fremer, John Marks, Kalman Rubinson, Sam Tellig, or me. That way, only those components could be nominated for which a writer had put his opinion in print for public scrutiny. We then put together a ballot form listing all components nominated by three or more writers and/or editors. This process ensures that most of the nominees in most of the categories will have been auditioned by most of the reviewers. Thirteen of the magazine's writers and editors gave three votes for his first choice in each category, two votes for his second choice, and one vote for his third choice (if any). As the votes came in, the winners became clear. John Atkinson tallied the votes; address your love letters and hate mail to him. (See JA's comments on how the voting process works.)
The prices listed were current as of the end of September 2012. To order back issues mentioned in this article, call (888) 237-0955, or visit www.stereophile.com (MasterCard and Visa only). "Review" indicates that the review is available free of charge in our online Archives.
And the winners are . . .