The 2002 Products of the Year Joint Accessories
Grado SR125 headphones ($150; reviewed by Robert J. Reina, Vol.25 No.6, June 2002)
PS Audio Ultimate Outlet (review) ($299; reviewed by Robert Deutsch, Vol.24 No.12, December 2001)
Wally Phono Tools (Various prices; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.20 No.11, November 1997; Vol.21 No.5, May 1998; & Vol.25 No.5, May 2002)
Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):
Nordost Valhalla Interconnects & Speaker Cables ($3300/m pair and $4200/m pair, respectively; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, Vol.24 No.11, November 2001)
Synergistic Research Designer's Reference X-Series interconnects ($2000/m pair; reviewed by Chip Stern & John Atkinson, Vol.24 No.11, November 2001)
Of all the categories this one saw the closest race, and the grand prize is shared by three very different components.
First are Grado's open-air SR125 headphones. Bob Reina discovered how truly special they are when he used them to monitor his own recordings. Besides the Grados being a "neutral, detailed, and warm-sounding headphone overall, with extended frequency extremes, wide dynamic range, and the ability to sound natural at a wide range of volume levels," BJR found the SR125s "simultaneously musical and revealing of every nuance recorded," but never aurally or physically fatiguing. Undeniably, a very valuable tool at a great price.
With its balun transformer, PS Audio's Ultimate Outlet (UO) was designed to provide some of the benefits of power-line conditioning at a lower price than the company's AC-regenerating Power Plants (the P300 was voted "2000 Accessory of the Year"), and to further reduce noise and electromagnetic interference when used in conjunction with a Power Plant. With the UO in place, "there was a noticeable increase in transient crispness and dynamics, an improvement in the focus of images within the soundstage," noted Robert Deutsch, adding that "in general, music became more involving." Those with audio systems that are still powered by AC as it comes out of the wall minus the interface offered by the UO are, indeed, "unfortunate souls."
Finally, with his comprehensive Phono Tools, Wally Malewicz's goals are optimization of horizontal tracking geometry, tracking force, antiskating, vertical tracking angle (VTA), stylus rake angle (SRA), and azimuth. In addition to his WallyTractor, the toolbox now includes the WallyVTAGauge, WallySkater, WallyScales, and the WallyAzimuthShop. Our analog guru, Michael Fremer, finds Wally's help indispensable: "My job has been 100 times easier since Wally came on the scene." And that's what this accessory thing is all about: making life easier. Isn't it?