Stereophile's Products of 2006 Joint Budget Products of the Year
Rega Apollo CD player
Revel Concerta F12 loudspeaker
Slim Devices Squeezebox WiFi D/A processor
Runners-up (in alphabetical order)
Apple iPod Hi-Fi docking station
Monitor Audio Silver-RS6 loudspeaker ($999/pair; reviewed by Robert J. Reina, Vol.29 No.3, March 2006 review)
Music Hall RDR-1 table radio
Outlaw RR2150 receiver ($599; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.29 No.3, March 2006 review)
Pro-Ject Debut III turntable
Sonic Impact Super T Amplifier ($159; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.29 No.10, October 2006 review)
Sonos ZP80 & ZP100 WiFi music systems
Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 loudspeaker ($350/pair; reviewed by Robert J. Reina, Vol.28 No.11, November 2005 review)
We've come to my favorite category: Budget Products of the Year! Here's where you can have a little fun, dreaming of what you can do with your hard-earned cash. You can take, for instance, the combined cost of all three of our winners, multiply it by 25, and find you still have $30,000 to spend on LPs for your Continuum Caliburn turntable. That's great news! Right?
Who says hi-fi has to cost a fortune? I've read so many raves of the Rega Apollo CD player ($995) that I can hardly wait to get my hands on one. In this very issue, rogue melomane Sam Tellig named it his personal Digital Component of the Year. And when it came time to rate products for the October 2006 edition of our "Recommended Components," ST enthused that the Rega "smokes players that sell for twice the price!" Art Dudley, too, is a big fan: "The Apollo endeared itself to me—no other word for it—by cheaply doing well a great many things I consider crucial to music playback." Both scribes noted a strong rhythmic performance matched with a cleanness of overall sound that made listening to music easier and, consequently, more enjoyable.
While you're having fun with the Rega, why not partner it with a pair of Revel Concerta F12 loudspeakers ($1498/pair)? For this three-way, rear-ported floorstander, Revel cut costs without sacrificing quality by using outsourced components and moving assembly to Mexico. "Their fit'n'finish were impressive," said Kal. "Considering their heritage, the prices almost seemed too low!" While they lacked the soundstage depth of some more expensive loudspeakers, the F12s' excellent midrange rivaled that of much more expensive designs. "Compared directly with speakers costing in excess of $10,000/pair," KR summed up, "the difference was striking only until I put on some music and closed my eyes." John Atkinson was also impressed: "The Revel Concerta F12 raises the bar for what should be expected from a design in this very competitive price region."
What really got JA dancing, though, was the Slim Devices Squeezebox ($249–$299), a WiFi D/A processor that allows music files to be played on a conventional audio system and comes with a handy-dandy remote control. The Squeezebox soon became JA's primary source for leisurely listening, and the sound it produced while driving a high-end DAC from its digital output persuaded him to buy the review sample. In our mid-April eNewsletter, JA shouted with glee: "Physical discs seem so 20th century!" And, in a recent review.stereophile.com poll, 51% of participants said that our coverage of the music-server market is a sure sign that we're "on the trail of the next audio revolution." Slim Devices seems poised to be a part of that revolution.
The wildly popular Outlaw RR2150 receiver and the very impressive Sonos WiFi system (featured on our March and October covers, respectively) fell short of winning by just a hair, coming in with eight votes apiece. Perhaps we'll see more from these companies next year.