The 2001 Products of the Year Editor's Choice
Bel Canto EVo 200.2 power amplifier (review) ($2395; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.24 Nos.3 & 11, March & November 2001)
As described in the introduction, voting for Products of the Year is a two-stage process, with reviewers being asked to first nominate products, then vote for products that had received sufficient nominations. I was shocked that the Bel Canto EVo 200.2 amp did not make it through to the final ballot for "Amplification Component of 2001," JA saying that it failed to win enough votes in the preliminary rounds. How is it that this groundbreaking Class A amp is excluded when almost all of the other nominees are not much more than subtly improved versions of earlier designs?
In the democratic process that JA has created, reviewers can vote only on products that they have personally auditioned, of course, but there's no formal system to ensure that important products get a wider hearing. I suspect that many high-end reviewers have not paid sufficient attention to this unusual amplifier because we have become a conservative lot. We are so often disappointed by primitive attempts at new technology that we are more likely to entertain a newish product of familiar heritage than to go out on a limb with a bleeding-edge design.
My most important criterion is sound quality, of course, but I also consider the distinctiveness of a design and its potential impact on future products. Compared to the other finalists in this category, the Bel Canto EVo 200.2 wins on points, with its novel switch-mode output stage. It's not as significant for future audio products as the TacT RCS 2.0 (my choice for "2001 Component of the Year"), but it's a real amplifier, not a processor. It's not a better power amp than the Simaudio Moon W-5, in my opinion, but its "class-T" digital design is a breakthrough in high-end audio technology.
I feel that the EVo 200.2 is the real "Amplification Component of 2001." It's innovative, compact, efficient, relatively inexpensive, and doggone it, people like it—that is, if they give it a fair listen.—Kalman Rubinson