40 years of Stereophile: The Hot 100 Products Page 3
Stereophile review: November 1983 (Vol.6 No.5). With this high-powered kit, David Hafler attempted to do for solid-state amplifiers what he'd already done for tubed designs with the Dynaco Stereo 70. He almost succeeded—the DH-200 proved an excellent platform for almost unlimited tweaking (called "Poogeing" by cognoscenti). Still in production 20 years later from Smart Devices, who have added a small-signal tube!
: Spica TC50 loudspeaker
First Stereophile review: February 1984 (Vol.7 No.2; also Vol.9 No.5, Vol.11 No.1, Vol.12 No.10, Vol.14 No.10). John Bau's ugly ducking of a time-aligned two-way miniature showed that great sound could be produced from a speaker without the designer having to throw unlimited sums of money at the problems.
: Advent 300 receiver
Stereophile review: December 1977 (Vol.4 No.1). Designed by a team led by Tomlinson Holman, of subsequent THX fame, the Advent combined a superb phono stage with an excellent 15Wpc power amp. It was also a pretty good FM tuner. And, like all of Henry Kloss's conceptions, it cost next to nothing.
 (tie): Sony CDP-101 & Philips CD-100 CD players
Stereophile review: Sony, January 1983 (Vol.5 No.10); Philips, no review.) They may not have sounded that good by today's standards, but they were the first, and you can't take that away from them. With its non-oversampled DAC shared between the channels and its complex analog filters, the Sony was a technological cul-de-sac. The Philips, however, and its identical Marantz-badged clone, introduced noise-shaping and oversampling to consumer audio, a development whose significance was not widely recognized for almost a decade.
: Shahinian Obelisk loudspeaker
(No Stereophile review.) I first heard the quasi-omnidirectional Obelisk 25 years ago, and it sounded as different then from what else was around as it does now. Richard Shahinian has always gone his own way, guided by his overwhelming passion for classical orchestral music; his speakers fall into the category of "If you love their sound, they're the best speakers in the world for you." However, for Dick to survive and even to prosper through the years lends his efforts a credibility that cannot be acquired in any other way.
: Sennheiser HD-414 headphones
(No Stereophile review.) Sennheiser has made better-sounding headphones since the '414s were introduced in the 1960s—their electrostatic Orpheus from the early 1990s was to die for, and their HD-600, driven in balanced mode by a HeadRoom BlockHead amp, is my current reference for headphone performance. But with its open-air, on-the-ear loading and with every part replaceable, the '414 showed how to achieve genuine high-end headphone sound, not only to Sennheiser but to every other headphone manufacturer.
: Shure V-15 series MM phono cartridges
First Stereophile review: December 1964 (Vol.1 No.9; also Vol.2 Nos.4 & 5, Vol.3 No.6, Vol.4 No.5, Vol.5 Nos.5 & 9, Vol.7 Nos.5 & 8, Vol.10 No.5, Vol.12 No.11, Vol.20 No.7). The idea of balancing an in-band, top-octave resonant peak against an electrical top-octave rolloff didn't seem particularly intuitive compared with the elegant simplicity of the wide-bandwidth moving-coil cartridges pioneered by, among others, Denmark's Ortofon (later to be owned by David Hafler). But given that the massive MCs of the time tended to plow rather than trace their way through the grooves, the excellent tracking offered by the Shures, even at low downforces, was a welcome development—"First, do no harm to the groove walls."—and the fact that the styli were interchangeable was a bonus. The conceptually similar ADCs, Empires, Stantons, and Sonuses had their fans, but Chicago's Shure Bros. owned the audiophile market for a long, long time. Except in Japan, where the MC flame was guarded for posterity.
: Grado (original) "moving-iron" phono cartridge
Stereophile review: Spring 1966 (Vol.1 No.12). There were moving-coils and there were moving-magnets, and then there were Joe Grado's cartridges, which were neither and perhaps sounded superior because of that fact.
 (tie): McIntosh MR 78 & Sequerra Model 1 FM tuners
Stereophile reviews: McIntosh, December 1984 (Vol.7 No.7); Sequerra, Winter 1973 (Vol.3 No.7). "Some consider this FM tuner to be the finest tuner made," writes Stereophile's Larry Greenhill about the McIntosh, "equal to the Marantz 10B in sound quality but having sensitivity greater than any other." A decade earlier, Richard Sequerra packed into his design the maximum amount of 1970s-vintage technology possible, including an oscilloscope-cum-RF spectrum analyzer for FM tuning, to transform radio into a true high-fidelity medium. Remanufactured by David Day for a while in the '90s, the Sequerra was easily the finest tuner LG had ever used. A shame that, in the 21st century, the compression-obsessed FM broadcasting industry strives but fails to achieve the audio quality of MP3 files.
 (tie): Avantgarde Uno & Sonus Faber Guarneri Homage loudspeakers
First Stereophile reviews: Avantgarde, September 2000 (Vol.23 No.9; also Vol.25 No.8); Sonus Faber, July 1994 (Vol.17 No.7). With American and British loudspeaker design philosophy running along rigidly defined rails by the 1990s, the appearance of these musically communicative German and Italian speakers, which danced to very different design drummers, blew a welcome breath of fresh air into the High End.
: Pass Labs Aleph power amplifiers
First Stereophile review: March 1995 (Vol.18 No.3; also Vol.20 Nos.4 & 11). Some critics nominated Nelson Pass's Threshold amplifier designs from the late 1970s, produced with the industrial design help of the talented René Besné, as being the most important. But I think Nelson's Aleph designs, with their use of high-voltage FETs and uncompromised single-ended operation, represent the true flowering of one of America's most distinguished electronics engineers.
: DNM solid-core loudspeaker cable
Stereophile review: October 1985 (Vol.8 No.6). "Imagine a company that promotes hardwired electronics, nonmetallic enclosures, split-foil capacitors, low-power amplifiers, and, of course, simple, solid-core interconnects and speaker wires. No big deal in the SET-happy 21st century? True, I suppose—but I'm thinking back to the DNM company of 1985." That's how Art Dudley, Stereophile's new editor-at-large, began his nomination of Denis N. Morecroft's DNM cable. And it's true that, while DNM-branded cables have almost zero market profile in the US, the idea of solid-core cable has become ubiquitous.