Some say it dates back 50 years, to when the late David Hafler introduced a tube amplifier with a "better-sounding" ultralinear output stage. Others claim it goes back to the introduction of electrical recording and playback in 1927, when Gramophone magazine's founder and editor, author Sir Compton McKenzie, thundered that electrical reproduction was a step backward in sound quality. But whenever it started, the "Great Debate" between "subjectivists," who hear differences between audio components, and "objectivists," who tend to ascribe such differences to the listeners' over-heated imaginations, rages just as strongly in the 21st century as it did in the 20th.
For the 13th consecutive year, Stereophile has recognized the components that have proved capable of giving maximal musical pleasure with its "Products of the Year." Based on a vote by the magazine's reviewers and editors, the 2004 winners were announced in the December 2004 issue and the awards were presented by Stereophile editor John Atkinson at last week's 2005 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
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The surging popularity of portable music players has been a boon to makers of accessories for them, especially earphones. Many music fans travel for business, requiring long hours in noisy airplanes and other forms of mass transit, and earphones that offer the added benefit of blocking or reducing noise are always desirable.
From the October 2004 issue, Larry Greenhill reviews the REL Studio III subwoofer, explaining, "Determined to experience sub-bass in my listening room, I arranged with REL's US importer, Sumiko Audio, to audition their largest subwoofer, the Studio III."
From the October 2004 issue, Michael Fremer reviews the mbl 101E Radialstrahler loudspeaker, enthusing, "In one night's listening orgy, I tore through albums by the Weavers, Harry Belafonte, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Tony Bennett, etc—all recorded live in Carnegie Hall. The results were nothing short of astonishing."