Stereophile's Products of 1998

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.

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:

Anton's picture

He was the audio-review pioneer of commentary via paragraph title.

Some classics....

"Wire we talking about this?"

"Beating against the bars of the cage of form"

"Mr. Polk, are you trying to seduce me?"

A killer title for a conclusion paragraph..."A panegyric untainted by poppy"

Dang, I miss Wes.

John Atkinson's picture
John Atkinson wrote:
Z-System's RDP-1 is my 1998 Editor's Choice. With its transparent control of tone, it points to a future in which audiophiles can eat their cake and have it too.

I bought the review sample of the RDP-1 and subsequently had it updated to handle data sampled at 88.2kHz and 96kHz. It's still in the rack but with my playback of digital audio now happening over the network with Roon and my PS Audio DirectStream DAC, it only very occasionally sees action.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Kal Rubinson's picture

The RDP-1 is the product that convinced me of the value and efficacy of DSP.

Robin Landseadel's picture

"Designing great-sounding gear is no simple matter no matter how much you spend, but it's doubly impressive when the product is available at a bargain price."

Guess that one went out the window.