1998 Products of the Year Announced

For the seventh consecutive year, Stereophile has named a select few audio components the "Products of the Year." In doing so, we recognize those components that have proved capable of giving musical pleasure beyond the formal review period.

There are five individual categories: Loudspeakers (including subwoofers), Amplification Components (preamplifiers, power amplifiers, etc.), Digital Sources (CD players, transports, processors), Analog Sources (phono cartridges, turntables, tonearms, FM tuners, etc.), and Accessories (everything else).

The two most important categories, however, are the "Product of the Year" itself---the Best of the Best---and the "Budget Component of the Year"---the best sound for the buck. There's also an "Editor's Choice" award, which John Atkinson reserves to himself to single out the superb-sounding product that impressed him the most. In the early years of this feature, to be eligible for "Editor's Choice," a component had to have been continuously available for at least a decade. However, we broke with that tradition in 1995 and '96, when the Wilson X-1/Grand SLAMM and the Nagra-D qualified with the sheer elegance of their cost-no-object engineering. Then, in 1997, Wes Phillips nominated B&W's DM302 loudspeaker for offering astonishing sound quality for just $250/pair.

The formal voting procedure consists of two steps: First, Stereophile's hardware reviewers were asked to nominate up to six components in each of the eight categories. To be a contender, a product had to have been reported on in Stereophile between the November 1997 and October 1998 issues, either in a full Equipment Report, in a Follow-Up review, or in Sam Tellig's or Michael Fremer's regular columns. Most important, only those components could be nominated for which a writer had put his opinion in print for public scrutiny. We then put together a ballot form that included all components that had been nominated by three or more writers and/or editors. This process ensured that most of the nominees in most of the categories would have been auditioned by most of the reviewers. The prices listed are those that were current at the end of August 1998.

Presented here is a summary of this year's winners; the full list of runners-up and comments can be found in the December issue of Stereophile. Eighteen of the magazine's editors and reviewers gave three votes for their first choice in each category, two votes for their second choice, and one vote for their third choice (if they had a third choice). JA tallied the votes; address your compliments and complaints to him.

And the winners are:

Joint Loudspeakers of 1998:
• Audio Artistry Beethoven ($28,000/system; reviewed by Shannon Dickson, Vol.20 No.11, November 1997)
• Revel Ultima Gem ($7500-$9500/pair with stands but without subwoofer, depending on finish; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.21 No.10, October 1998)

Joint Amplification Components of 1998:
• Conrad-Johnson ART preamplifier ($14,995; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.21 No.5, May 1998)
• Mark Levinson No.33H monoblock power amplifier ($19,950/pair; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.21 No.1, January 1998)
• VTL MB-1250 Wotan monoblock power amplifier ($27,500/pair; reviewed by Jonathan Scull, Vol.19 No.10, October 1996, and Vol.21 No.6, June 1998)

Joint Digital Sources of 1998:
• Meridian 508.24 CD player ($2995, reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.21 No.5, May 1998)
• Z-Systems RDP-1 digital preamplifier/equalizer ($5000, reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.21 No.7, July 1998)

Analog Source of 1998:
• Simon Yorke Designs Series 7 Analogue Disc Transcription System ($10,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.21 No.6, June 1998)

Accessory of 1998:
• Sennheiser HD600 headphones ($449.95; reviewed by Sam Tellig & Wes Phillips, Vol.21 No.2, February 1998)

Editor's Choice:
• Z-Systems RDP-1 digital preamplifier/equalizer

Budget Component of 1998:
• Creek 4330R integrated amplifier ($595, $495 without remote control; reviewed by Sam Tellig, Vol.20 No.11, November 1997; Wes Phillips, Vol.21 No.8, August 1998)

1998 Product of the Year:
• Conrad-Johnson ART preamplifier

Previous Winners:

1997
Product of the Year: dCS Elgar D/A processor
Budget Component: Epos ES12 loudspeaker
Loudspeaker: EgglestonWorks Andra
Joint Amplification Components: Krell Full Power Balanced 600 power amplifier
Pass Labs Aleph 3 power amplifier
Digital Source: dCS Elgar D/A processor
Joint Analog Sources: VPI TNT Mk.3 turntable
Magnum Dynalab MD 108 FM tuner
Accessory: HeadRoom Max headphone amplifier
Editor's Choice: B&W DM302 loudspeaker

1996
Product of the Year: Nagra-D 4-channel open-reel digital recorder
Home Theater Product: Lexicon DC-1 surround-sound processor
Joint Budget Components: McCormack Power Drive DNA-0.5 Special Edition amplifier
PSB New Stratus Mini loudspeaker
Joint Loudspeakers: Aerial Acoustics 10T
Dunlavy Audio Labs Signature SC-VI
Amplification Component: Krell Audio Standard monoblock power amplifier
Digital Source: Nagra-D 4-channel open-reel digital recorder
Analog Source: Naim ARO tonearm
Joint Accessories: Acoustic Sciences Corporation Tube Traps
Townshend Audio Seismic Sink
VPI HW-16.5 & HW-17 record-cleaning machines
Editor's Choice: Nagra-D 4-channel open-reel digital recorder

1995
Product of the Year: Wilson Audio Specialties X-1/Grand SLAMM loudspeaker
Joint Home Theater Components: Audio Research SDP1 Multichannel Music Processor
Meridian Digital Home Theatre surround system
Joint Budget Components: Audio Alchemy VAC-in-the-Box phono preamplifier
Dunlavy Audio Labs SC-I loudspeaker
The Parts Connection Assemblage DAC-1 D/A processor
Loudspeaker: Wilson Audio Specialties X-1/Grand SLAMM
Amplification Component: Pass Labs Aleph 0 monoblock power amplifier
Digital Source: Spectral SDR-2000 Professional HDCD D/A processor
Analog Source: Graham 1.5-T/C tonearm
Joint Accessories: Audio Power Industries Power Wedge 112 & 116 AC-line conditioners
Stax SR-Omega headphones
Editor's Choice: Wilson Audio Specialties X-1/Grand SLAMM loudspeaker

1994
Product of the Year: Dunlavy Audio Labs SC-IV loudspeaker
Home Theater Product: Proceed PAV audio/video preamplifier
Budget Product: Grado SR60 headphones
Joint Loudspeakers: B&W John Bowers Silver Signature
Dunlavy Audio Labs SC-IV
Amplification Component: Audio Research VT150 monoblock power amplifier
Digital Source: Sonic Frontiers SFD-2 D/A processor
Analog Source: Linn Sondek LP12/Lingo turntable
Accessory: Grado SR60 headphones
Editor's Choice: BBC LS3/5A loudspeaker

1993
Product of the Year: Convergent Audio Technology SL-1 Signature preamplifier
Budget Product: Sumiko Blue Point Special phono cartridge
Loudspeaker: Thiel CS3.6
Amplification Component: Convergent Audio Technology SL-1 Signature preamplifier
Joint Digital Sources: C.E.C. TL 1 CD transport
Mark Levinson No.31 CD transport
Analog Source: Basis Ovation turntable
Accessory: Lexicon CP-3 THX surround-sound processor
Editor's Choice: Linn Sondek LP12 turntable

1992
Product of the Year: Mark Levinson No.30 D/A processor
Budget Product: Spica SC-30 loudspeaker
Loudspeaker: Sonus Faber Extrema
Amplification Component: Melos SHA-1 headphone amplifier
Digital Source: Mark Levinson No.30 D/A processor
Analog Source: VPI HW19 Mk.IV turntable
Accessory: Audio Power Industries Power Wedge 1 AC-line conditioner
Editor's Choice: Quad ESL-63 USA Monitor loudspeaker

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