Stereophile's Products of 2013 Editors' Choices
Pioneer SP-BS22-LR loudspeaker ($129.99/pair; reviewed by Robert J. Reina and Stephen Mejias, July & September 2013, Vol.36 Nos. 7 & 9 Review)
In almost any other year, the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR loudspeaker would have easily walked away with the award for Budget Component of the Year. Despite an unusually strong group of contenders, it did well in the category, winning three first-place votes, including my own. That the Pioneer also stole four total votes, including one first-place vote (from [ahem] Bob Reina) in our Loudspeaker category, is further testament to the high regard it enjoys among our writers. At just $129.99/pair (often discounted), the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR is, without a doubt, one of the greatest bargains in all of hi-fi.
From time to time, people ask me whether I've grown tired of reviewing "the cheap stuff." Ha! I've got the best beat in the business. When it comes to hi-fi, I find nothing more exciting than a great-sounding component that my friends and I can actually afford. I suspect most audio engineers feel the same: They want as many people as possible to hear their designs.
While reviewing the SP-BS22-LR ("The Entry Level," September 2013), I asked Pioneer's Andrew Jones whether he thought it important that the high-end audio industry provide such affordable products.
"I think it's crucial," he replied. "You only have to look at the comments when expensive hi-fi is mentioned on the blogs. I would say that such articles receive almost universal condemnation and derision in the comments sections. We need that to change, and the only way is to provide products at low enough entry prices that we attract new blood onto the upgrade path, so that they begin to understand that listening to hi-fi can be intensely rewarding and that the expensive product does ultimately justify itself in the performance it provides. It's also important that the very high-end companies take part, to show that we care about encouraging new listeners and that we are not just an elitist club."
I completely agree. Thank you, Andrew Jones and Pioneer. The SP-BS22-LR is my very favorite product of 2013. I recommend you buy a pair for yourself and additional pairs for two, three, or 1500 friends.Stephen Mejias
Devialet D-Premier integrated amplifier ($15,995; reviewed by John Atkinson, January & June 2013, Vol.36 Nos. 1 & 6 Review)
The Stereophile issues published between November 2012 and October 2013 contained reviews of products of extraordinarily wide ranges of price and performance. But of the 15 products I reviewed in those issueswhich included the wonderful KEF LS50 and the cost-no-object YG Acoustics Sonja 1.3 loudspeakers; Pass Labs' XP-30, the finest preamplifier I have ever experienced; and the superb Ayre Acoustics QA-9 A/D converterthe Devialet D-Premier integrated amplifier lingers longest in my memory. Yes, at $15,995 the Devialet (rhymes with Chevrolet) is expensive. But this slim, elegant component, the size of a small pizza box and just over an inch thick, from a new French company founded by erstwhile telecoms engineers, is so much more than an integrated amplifier.
"THE AMPLIFIER REVOLUTION STARTS HERE," proclaimed the cover of the January 2013 issue of this magazine. And the Devialet D-Premier is indeed a revolutionary product. The circuit, which combines a high-quality, class-A output stage for voltage delivery with a unique class-D output stage for current delivery, has just two resistors and two capacitors in the analog signal path. It takes both digital and analog inputs, including phono, and has an SD card slot to allow its input and output configurations to be customized. It features a 24-bit A/D converter that allows you to digitize analog input signals and rip your LPs. It allows its owner to stream audio from a computer via WiFi. The remote control even features a traditional volume-control knob!
Devialet's D-Premier is truly an "exit-level" product. The well-heeled music lover need add only source components and a pair of speakers to have a sonically superb, extraordinarily flexible, future-proof system.John Atkinson