The 2004 Products of the Year Joint Products of the Year
Aerial Acoustics Model 20T loudspeaker
Focal-JMlab Nova Utopia Be loudspeaker
Linn Unidisk 1.1 universal disc player
Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):
Halcro dm38 power amplifier
Lamm ML2.1 monoblock power amplifier
MBL Radialstrahler 101E loudspeaker
Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista kW power amplifier
Sony SCD-XA9000ES multichannel SACD player
Velodyne Digital Drive DD-18 subwoofer
VTL MB450 monoblock power amplifier (review) ($10,000/pair; reviewed by Paul Bolin, Vol.27 No.4, April 2004)
Wilson Benesch A.C.T. loudspeaker
Winning in three categories this year, the Linn Unidisk 1.1 was an obvious choice for overall Product of the Year because, as we've already made clear, it does everything. While favoring no format at the expense of another, the Unidisk 1.1 turns audiophile dreams into realities with its Silverdisk processor, a board full of devices that recognizes the format of the digital signals of whatever 5" silver disc is inserted into it.
But you'll still need a great pair of speakers to deliver those signals into your listening room, and it's only fair that the title would again be shared by the Aerial Model 20T and the Focal-JMlab Nova Utopia Be. With each having the same number of first- and second-place votes, the struggle between these two couldn't have been a more even match. The 20T and Nova Be left Michael Fremer and Paul Bolin, respectively, hard-pressed to find any faults at all. MF: "The Aerial Model 20Ts were among the most convincing, tonally neutral speakers I've heard, revealing and unraveling heretofore hidden musical and/or spatial details in almost every recording I played through them." PB: "It's hard to conceive of a speaker more completely and uniformly musically rewarding [than the Nova Be], and impossible to imagine a large system as beautiful or as elegant."