Stereophile's Products of 2005 Amplification Component
DarTZeel NHB-108 Model One power amplifier ($18,181; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.28 No.4, April 2005 review)
Runners-up (in alphabetical order)
Aesthetix Calypso preamplifier ($4500; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.28 No.7, July 2005 review)
Burmester 001 preamplifier ($14,995; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, Vol.28 No.7, July 2005 review)
Channel Islands Audio D-100 monoblock amplifier ($1599/pair; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.28 Nos.8 & 9, August & September 2005 review)
Classé Omega Omicron power amplifier ($20,000/pair; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.27 No.11, November 2005 review)
Coda Technologies S5 power amplifier ($3950; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.28 Nos.5 & 8, May & August 2005 review)
Conrad-Johnson ACT 2 preamplifier ($13,500; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.28 No.3, March 2005 review)
Grace m902 D/A headphone amplifier ($1695; reviewed by John Marks, Vol.28 No.6, June 2005 review)
Lamm Industries ML2.1 monoblock power amplifier ($29,990/pair; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.27 No.10 & Vol.28 No.9, October 2004 & September 2005 review)
Quad II Classic monoblock power amplifier ($2700/pair; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.28 No.8, August 2005 review)
Simaudio Moon Rock monoblock power amplifier ($37,000/pair; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, Vol.28 No.9, September 2005 review)
NHB stands for "never heard before," and the darTZeel NHB-108 Model One power amplifier just might live up to the name—there is nothing else quite like it. The thing is handmade, after all. As Wes put it, "The NHB-108 is a work of art painstakingly and individually assembled from raw components." Designer Hervé Delétraz says the unique design, which uses open-loop input and output stages with no global negative feedback, is based on principles of simplicity, purity, and reliability. Appropriately, there are no relays, switches. or fuses in the signal path, just six transistors per polarity side from input to output, and only a single pair of bipolar output transistors per channel.
Who cares about all that? How did the thing sound? So darn good it had WP pushing for a new classification in "Recommended Components": "Perhaps we should establish a super-category: Components I Would Run Off to a Tropical Island With."
Though WP warned that the darTZeel's operational idiosyncrasies could add up to shortcomings for some listeners, our editors finally found something they could all agree on: The NHB-108 received more first-place votes than any other component in our contest, outlegging its nearest competition by a significant margin.