Stereophile's Products of 2010 JOINT COMPUTER AUDIO PRODUCTS OF THE YEAR
Logitech Squeezebox Touch network player ($299; reviewed by Kal Rubinson, Vol.33 No.10 review)
Channel D Pure Vinyl LP ripping & playback program ($299; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.33 No.8 review)
2010 RUNNERS-UP (in alphabetical order)
CEntrance DACport USB headphone amplifier ($399.95; reviewed by John Atkinson & Erick Lichte, Vol.33 Nos.6 & 10 review)
Channel D Pure Music iTunes front-end program ($129; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.33 No.8 review)
dCS Puccini U-Clock ($4999; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.32 No.12 & Vol.33 No.10 review)
HRT Music Streamer+ USB D/A processor ($299; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.32 No.11 review)
XTZ Room Analyzer with v2 software ($256; reviewed by Kal Rubinson, Vol.32 No.11 review)
Computer audio is hot. We know this. The results from a recent survey on www.stereophile.com showed that an overwhelming proportion of our readers want more coverage of computer audio products. While some audio enthusiasts remain timid, more and more of you are diving headfirst into the world of computer audio, searching for ways to best integrate a computer into your system and eliminate physical discs from your listening rooms. And with an increasing number of record labels offering high-resolution downloads, computer audio looks to be much more than just a hot trend. As John Marks argues in his August 2010 "As We See It," downloads may very well define the future of music distribution. High-end manufacturers are responding appropriately, with products that aim to soothe whatever worries or fears we may face in making the transition to computer audio. Several of these products can be found in our list.
With identical numbers of first-place votes (three) and overall votes (14), our very first Computer Audio "Products of the Year" are the Logitech Squeezebox Touch network player and the Channel D Pure Vinyl LP ripping-and-playback program. The original Squeezebox was quickly embraced by our writers, enticing them with its painless setup and friendly operation. It was named Stereophile's "Editor's Choice" and was one of our "Joint Budget Components" of 2006. Following in its footsteps, the Squeezebox Touch continues the tradition of fast, seamless integration into a stereo system. Within moments, Kal Rubinson, a self-proclaimed sideline player in computer audio, was up and running, streaming music from Radio BartÛk, setting up a Pandora account, downloading 24-bit/96kHz files, and installing appsall while having an absolute blast. "I cannot see living without it," he confessed.
But that was Kal. What about the audiophile who cherishes the antediluvian 12" disc? There might be no audio hobbyist more suspicious of this computerized revolution than the vinyl enthusiast. After all, vinylphilesfreaks that they arelike collecting stuff, like the process of playing records. For them, Channel D offers Pure Vinyl, a software package for the Mac that digitizes vinyl LPs at 24-bit/192kHz resolution and applies the RIAA or other EQ curves in the digital domain, where there's no interchannel phase shift, capacitor distortion, additional noise, or component variability. Nice! In Record mode, the user can apply one of over 50 EQ curves or create custom EQ settings; in Editor mode, the user can insert track breaks or remove surface noise. Fun! According to Michael Fremer, the digitized versions lacked a touch of body but sounded "very analog-like." There you have it: Even Mikey liked it, and Mikey hates computers.