Stereophile's Products of 2005 Joint Products of the Year
Ayre C-5xe universal disc player
dartZeel NHB-108 Model One power amplifier
Runners-up (in alphabetical order)
Brinkmann Balance turntable & 10.5 tonearm
Conrad-Johnson ACT2 preamplifier
dCS Verdi La Scala SACD transport & Delius D/A processor
Grace m902 D/A headphone amplifier
Linn Unidisk SC universal disc player
Simaudio Moon Rock monoblock power amplifier
Sonus Faber Stradivari Homage loudspeaker
Wilson Audio Specialties MAXX Series 2 loudspeaker
Within their respective categories, the Ayre C-5xe universal disc player and darTZeel NHB-108 Model One power amplifier amassed more points than any other winners, so it's fitting that we find them at the top of this chart as well. These remarkable, standard-setting products seem to have been created with a particular listener in mind: one who knows what he wants and is actually happy when he encounters it. Imagine that.
Designers Charlie Hanson of Ayre and Hervé Delétraz of darTZeel are not the sort of guys who go around compromising values, and this is clearly evident in their work. Though neither component will prove perfect for all—the Ayre is music- and two-channel only, while the darTZeel doesn't play well with all speaker impedances—both come as close to perfect for some as is possible. Wes Phillips should know; he reviewed—and fell in love with—both.
Although the C-5xe and NHB-108 place certain demands on their always-gratified owners, they are true references that combine superb sound quality with inspired and passionate engineering. And that is why we have made them our 2005 Products of the Year.