Stereophile's Products of 2008 2008 Joint Amplification Components of the Year
Conrad-Johnson ACT2 Series 2 preamplifier ($16,500; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.30 No.11, November 2007 Review)
Parasound Halo JC 2 preamplifier ($4000; reviewed by Sam Tellig & John Atkinson, Vol.30 No.12 & Vol.31 No.3, December 2007 & March 2008 Review)
Runners-Up (in alphabetical order)
Anthem Statement D2 multichannel preamplifier-processor ($7499; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.31 Nos.9 & 11, September & November 2008 Review)
Ayre Acoustics AX-7e integrated amplifier ($3500; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.31 No.3, March 2008 Review)
Creek Destiny integrated amplifier ($2495; reviewed by Robert J. Reina, Vol.31 No.1, January 2008 Review)
MBL 6010 D preamplifier ($23,800; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.31 No.10, October 2008 Review)
Nagra PL-L preamplifier ($9495; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.31 No.6, June 2008 Review)
Nagra VPS phono preamplifier ($5995; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.31 No.9, September 2008 Review)
VTL MB-450 Series II Signature monoblock power amplifier ($15,000/pair; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.31 No.1, January 2008 Review)
VTL Signature TL-6.5 preamplifier ($11,500; reviewed by Larry Greenhill & Wes Phillips, Vol.30 No.6 & Vol.31 No.7, June 2007 & July 2008 Review)
Tubey or not tubey? That's always the question. But why choose? The best of high-end audio provides both. And our two Amplification winners were separated by a single vote.
The original Conrad-Johnson ACT2 tubed line preamplifier impressed Wes Phillips with its uncanny ability to transport the listener to the musical event, and it went on to be named our Joint Amplification Component of 2006. In the Series 2, single-stage regulation is used in place of the original ACT2's cascaded power-supply regulators. Higher-quality Teflon capacitors replace the original's polystyrene capacitors, while an internal mechanical shield has been added to further reduce residual noise. The sound, Wes sighed, was even more dynamic and detailed, prompting him to declare that he would "gladly forsake all others for it."
If tubes aren't quite your thing, however, the Parasound Halo JC 2 provides state-of-the-art solid-state design at a real-world price. Though manufactured in Taiwan to cut costs, the Halo JC 2's design, circuit layout, and parts selection, by a team led by veteran engineer John Curl, are "unabashedly American." Each channel of the fully balanced preamp is on a separate PCB, with the audio and control power supplies on separate circuits, isolated from each other by 3/8"-thick aluminum partitions. Like the C-J ACT2 Series 2, the Parasound Halo JC 2 has the "ability to let the listener hear deep into the recesses of a recording's genesis," marveled JA. Which reminds us yet again that getting closer to the real thing is what this game is all about.