Stereophile's Products of 2009 2009 Editors' Choice
John Atkinson: Two solid-state preamplifiers, the Ayre KX-R ($18,500, November 2008) and the Simaudio Moon Evolution P-8 ($15,000, September 2009), both which proved that it is possible to design an active component that lets through more of the music than a straight piece of wire can!
Jim Austin: DeVore Fidelity Gibbon Nine loudspeaker ($6500/pair, December 2007 & May 2009). Art Dudley got it precisely right when he spoke of the Gibbon Nine's "sheer humanity." This loudspeaker may be named for a nonhuman ape, but communicating human emotion, and the deep, human logic of great music, is what it does best.
Brian Damkroger: My "Hang My Name On Component" is the Pass Labs XA30.5 power amplifier ($5500, May & August 2009). I absolutely loved listening to music through the XA30.5, album after album and night after night. Absolutely, positively, and enthusiastically recommended!
Robert Deutsch: Convergent Audio Technology SL-1 Renaissance preamplifier ($9995, November 2009). If I had to use just three words to name the attributes that make the latest version of the classic CAT special, they would be transparency, resolution, and dynamics.
Art Dudley: Keith Monks Omni Record Cleaning Machine ($6495, May 2009). Are you rich? Do you have lots of records? Then a good record cleaning machine is not a luxury but a necessity. And if you're looking for the best, well, here it is.
Michael Fremer: Ypsilon VPS-100 phono preamplifier ($25,000, August 2009). Class A+. I haven't got over the Ypsilon and I don't expect to for some time. If ever.
Larry Greenhill: Snell Illusion loudspeaker ($50,000/pair, December 2008). The Illusion's dynamic capabilities are almost without equal. Its reproduction of orchestral music has a startling, dynamic, almost Technicolor quality that rapidly became addicting. Over the years, I've auditioned many Snell flagship systems; the Illusion is the most listenable, exciting, and satisfying Type A I've heard to date.
Jon Iverson: Oppo BDP-83 universal player ($499, July 2009). Superb-sounding Blu-ray player at a very affordable price.
Fred Kaplan: YG Acoustic Anat Reference loudspeaker ($107,000/pair, March 2009). I heard these only briefly in Wes Phillips' system, but they were the most natural, neutral, dynamic speakers I've ever heard. This was a bit disconcertingly so at first, but then I realized they sounded odd only because all other speakers I've heard sound at least a little bit colored by comparison.
Erick Lichte: Benchmark DAC1 USB Pre D/A processor ($1595, March 2009). Hook up your computer to the Benchmark's USB input, your phono preamp to the analog input, add amplifier and speakers, and live happily ever after.
John Marks: Luxman L505u integrated amplifier ($3700, April 2009). Luxman's entry-level but heavyweight integrated amplifier delivers sonic authority, tactility, centeredness, continuity, easefulness, soundstage size, image specificityyou name itin spades. It's the difference between "This is pretty good" and "This is addictive."
Stephen Mejias: PSB Imagine B loudspeaker ($1000/pair, February, April, June, August, and October 2009). With bold sound and looks that belie its modest price, the Imagine B is just so easy to love. Every time I see this cute little thing, I want to hug it. Minding the drivers, of course.
Wes Phillips: Ayre KX-R preamplifier ($18,500, November 2008): Expensive, but exquisitely designed and constructed--and about as close to perfection as any component I have auditioned.
Robert J. Reina: Linn Majik 109 loudspeaker ($1590/pair, May 2009). This speaker has a level of high-frequency reproduction that far exceeds everything near its price. Its only shortcomings are those that you'd expect from a speaker this small: limited low bass and overall dynamics. Other than those, the Majik 109 effectively has no flaws that I can hear
Kalman Rubinson: It is a toss-up between two very different products, the "do everything well" Oppo BDP-83 ($499, July 2009) and, my essential companion, the XTZ Room Analyzer program ($320, November 2008 & November 2009).
Sam Tellig: The Radius Scuba Toothbrush is the product that has given me the most fun recommending all year, but if I am pressed to nominate an audio product, it is the Sony XDR-F1HD FM/AM digital tuner ($99.99, April 2009).