Stereophile's Products of 2016 Editors' Choices of 2016

Editors' Choices of 2016

Convergent Audio Technology SL-1 Renaissance Black Path Edition preamplifier ($9990; reviewed by Robert Deutsch, December 2015, Vol.38 No.12 Review)
The Convergent Audio Technology SL-1 Signature preamp was Stereophile's Product of the Year in 1993. Now, 23 years later, when I consider possible candidates for this honor, I can't think of a better choice than the latest version of the SL-1. How's that for longevity?—Robert Deutsch

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DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 loudspeaker ($8400/pair)
For every piece of gear I review, the final proving ground is provided by the Orangutan O/93s. With their great transparency to the source, warmish tonal character, and superb sense of naturalness, the O/93s are top-shelf reproducers of music. From large-scale orchestral pieces to boogie-woogie, vocals, blues, jazz, and Krautrock, the O/93s remain consistently dynamic and revealing. Their transparency is obvious with every new audio component that comes their way, and they always surprise me with their unerring musicality and jump!—Ken Micallef

Elac Debut B6 loudspeaker ($279.99/pair)
Superb sound for less than $300/pair. Nothing more need be said.—Thomas J. Norton

Focal Utopia Reference headphones ($3999/pair)
Rarely do I experience something that makes me think the world I live in will never be the same again. Previously, wars, love, and disasters inspired such consciousness-altering moments. This year, the world I live in changed surprisingly and pleasurably for the better when I put on Focal's new Utopia Reference headphones.—Herb Reichert

Lyra Etna SL phono cartridge ($9995)
Lyra's top-of-the-line Atlas SL ($11,995) may resolve a bit more detail and express somewhat greater dynamics, but the Etna SL ($9995) does almost as well in those areas while producing a silky-smooth midrange that's positively addicting. The Etna SL and Atlas SL are destined to be classics that designer Jonathan Carr will have difficulty topping.—Michael Fremer

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Mark Levinson No.585 integrated amplifier ($12,000; reviewed by Larry Greenhill, December 2015, Vol.38 No.12 Review)
The Mark Levinson No.585 integrated stereo amplifier's 200Wpc into 8 ohms—more powerful than any integrated amp other than the 300Wpc Bel Canto Black—combined with a great-sounding internal DAC capable of processing 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD128, a uniquely versatile control menu, and a $12,000 price made a strong argument for combining separate high-quality components to maximize value.—Larry Greenhill

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Merging Technologies NADAC Multichannel-8 D/A processor ($11,500; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, March & May 2016, Vol.39 Nos. 3 & 5 Review)
From 16/44.1 to DXD to DSD256, in mono, stereo, or multichannel, the Ethernet-connected NADAC Multichannel-8 operated flawlessly, and provided some of the best sound I have ever heard in my home.—Kalman Rubinson

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Meridian Explorer USB D/A headphone amplifier ($299)
MQA for the masses.—Jim Austin

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Nordost Valhalla 2 Reference cables ($7599.99/1m pair, interconnects; $14,849.99/3m pair, speaker cables)
My selection process was simple: If someone else were writing the checks, which product would be in my system today? I considered several choices, but always returned to Nordost's Valhalla 2 Reference cables. They improved every aspect of my system's performance, and, more important, strengthened my connection to the music at a level I'd not heard before.—Brian Damkroger

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T+A DAC 8 DSD D/A processor ($3995)
Though I heard plenty of DACs this year, many with specific strengths, the T+A emerged as the best all-rounder. The DAC 8 DSD has a great feature set which includes selectable filters, headphone and preamp functions as well as all current digital formats. Efficient engineering keeps costs down and performance up, so this isn't a gratuitous statement piece, but instead a smart choice.—Jon Iverson

TotalDAC d1-tube-mk2 D/A processor (€9100)
While I'm not so sure a purchase is the highest compliment one can pay, I ended up buying a TotalDAC d1-six DAC. Vincent Brient's creations provide a one-way ticket to any journey your music calls for or calls forth.—Michael Lavorgna

Tzar DST phono cartridge ($10,000; reviewed by Art Dudley, January 2016, Vol.39 No.1 Review)
There are times when I feel like Pugsley Addams on a field trip to the Norman Rockwell Museum: While others recommend normal products—high-power amplifiers, wide-range loudspeakers—I'm besotted with things like the Tzar DST, a $10,000 Siberian remake of the Neumann DST phono cartridge of the early 1960s. The Tzar is a very-low-output design whose moving coils are fastened not to an armature at the base end of the cantilever but to the cantilever itself, just behind the stylus. (Readers who follow Michael Fremer's "Analog Corner" column will recognize this technology as also forming the basis of Audio-Technica's new AT-ART1000 cartridge.). And it sounds amazing: impactful, dramatic, nuanced, textured—but mostly impactful. The Tzar DST is, in many ways, the best phono pickup I've ever heard. Thank God it's unaffordable: otherwise, I'd feel completely out of step.—Art Dudley

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Vandersteen Model Seven Mk.II loudspeakers & M7-HPA monoblock amplifier ($114,000/system)
Many loudspeakers have passed through my listening room in the past year, but the one I most missed after its return to its manufacturer was this expensive, full-range Vandersteen. Driven by its almost-as-expensive dedicated amplifiers, it produced sound that was consistently to die for.—John Atkinson

Wilson Audio Specialties Sabrina loudspeaker ($15,900/pair)
Refined, simple, essential. The Wilson Sabrina loudspeaker is the result of an experienced company and design team distilling what they do best down to its essence. In the process, Wilson has created a masterful loudspeaker that is within budget-striking distance of anyone who loves listening to music. A new classic.—Sasha Matson

Wilson Audio Specialties Sabrina loudspeaker ($15,900/pair)
The coming-out baby of Dave Wilson's son and expected successor, Daryl Wilson, the Sabrina has constantly blown my mind with the strength of its bass, the solidity of its midrange, its overall tonal balance, and the convincing sizes of the aural images it produces. In my opinion, it outperforms all other contenders in its price range.—Jason Victor Serinus

COMMENTS
Staxguy's picture

While the Devialet Expert 1000 (1000 watts at 6 ohms) didn't hit my mind while thinking huh to ...

"The Mark Levinson No.585 integrated stereo amplifier's 200Wpc into 8 ohms—more powerful than any integrated amp other than the 300Wpc Bel Canto Black"

Jeff Rowlands Daemon (1500 watts at 8 ohms) Integrated Amplifier certainly did.

http://jeffrowlandgroup.com/us/daemon-integrated.html

Looking, I see that indeed Stereophile has covered it (I seem to remember it)...

http://www.stereophile.com/content/trade-day%C2%97lets-go-show#FKRbtL4Sh...

200 watts is certainly power-amp power-amp territory, and no slouch, but is not knocking on the Analogue Domain Apollo (4000 watt at 8 ohms) power amplifier territory, or the mind-numbing 160,000 watts of Pievetta Opera Only, which one could consider an integrated amplifier.

http://newatlas.com/pivetta-opera-only/29824/

Or Music-in-The-Round (Kal) amplifier at least.

It's nice to see a number of excellent products this year.

Did you try driving loudspeakers (high efficiency) with the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red's headphone out?

Many headphone enthusiasts use the Devialet Expert 1000's speaker outputs to drive their headphones, as an aside. :)

Love to see coverage of the Daemon.

Lucidear's picture

@Staxguy,

A little shortsightedness, on the part of staff perhaps, in copying Larry Greenfield's actual comments from his review of the 585:

"...Mark Levinson's No.585 is the most expensive integrated amplifier I have reviewed. At 200Wpc, it's more powerful than all but one of the integrateds listed in our "Recommended Components"—the Bel Canto Black."
---
Read more at http://www.stereophile.com/content/mark-levinson-no585-integrated-amplif...

And I think as of his writting's date the Musical fidelity 800, with a tad more power, was not on the RC list yet...
***Now if someone could comment whether this (the 585 or even the MF800) has enough juice to drive a pair of larger Maggies ie 3.7i or 20.7, it'd be much appreciated...

tonykaz's picture

I have to hand it to you lads, well done!!!

Seems like $5,000 builds a pretty darn good system ( digital, of course ).

Back in 1985 it would've taken well over $10,000, if I remember correctly.

Conrad-Johnson MV-45a & Electrocompaniet Ampliwire ( 50 watts ) were my all time favorite Amps, I no longer own either. Maybe I should arrange for a First Watt. You lads are part of a large group that love these Amps.

It seems, after 30 years of digital we have a tiny little device ( $200 ) to replace our record players, hmm. ----- Of course, it's not as good as a $10,000 Phono cart., $10,000 VPI, $??,??? Arm plus cabling and a "proper Pre-amp with a nice RIAA"

Nice cheap speakers ( costing less than LS3/5a in 1980 dollars ), get-outa-here. more hmmmmmms. And Wilsons for less than the price of a KIA Soul? get-outa-here sum-more

I love your work, OK, I'll subscribe to the print version ( if you still have one ).

Tony in Michigan

John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
I have to hand it to you lads, well done!!!

Thank you.

tonykaz wrote:
OK, I'll subscribe to the print version ( if you still have one).

Yes we do!

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

About $13, seems a bargain.

Tony in Michigan

AaronGarrett's picture

Just subscribed as well. Had lapsed for quite a few years. This has become a lot more than a hifi mag. It's clear that the love of music is what really drives Stereophile and its reviewers.

dalethorn's picture

I've found some interesting music through the reviews here - music I would have otherwise missed.

jporter's picture

Dale, I finally agree with you on something...Cheers!

dalethorn's picture

You may occasionally read where I say that I agree with what someone said, but you won't read where I say that "I agree with you."

Allen Fant's picture

The ML No. 585 integrated amp is on my short-list as well.

Atlet's picture

My impressions of the latest magazin review of the new PL300 II was Deutsch new reference. Shouldn't that make the PL300 II loudspeaker of the year and not the Wilson Sabrina?
Just confused..

rschryer's picture

Products for POTY consideration had to have been "covered in our November 2015 through October 2016 issues". The PL300 appeared in November's edition.

Atlet's picture

I guess the PL300 II would have become the winner if it had been reviewed before November if I have red and understood the review in the latest(Nov) issued Stereophile magazine..

rschryer's picture

Perhaps the more pertinent question is: How will the PL300 fare in 2017's POTY? *insert suspenseful music*

rschryer's picture

Keep in mind: The POTY system is consensus-based. RD's is but one opinion, as trustworthy as it may be.

mrvco's picture

Thank you for validating my recent J2 purchase. LOL. It's a great pairing w/ my single-driver Omegas. And yes, I'm a print subscriber. Can I get a badge?