The 2002 Products of the Year Joint Editor's Choices

2002 Joint Editor's Choices

Linn Kivor Tunboks hard-disk music server (review) ($20,000/system; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.24 No.12, December 2001)
Wilson Audio Specialties Sophia loudspeaker (review)

As seems to be the case with computers, the Linn Kivor system I reviewed was still "in beta," both the controlling software and the hardware lacking some of the specified functionality. But I decided to make this Linux-based server—its massive hard disks can store hundreds of hours of uncompressed audio data—one of my "Editor's Choices" for 2002 because of what the Linn Kivor Tunboks represents for the future of domestic sound reproduction: the concept of getting away from the idea of music as being something carried on a physical carrier such as a CD or LP or SACD or DVD, and toward something that exists in less tangible form but is therefore infinitely flexible in its relationship to its owner.

This move, as MIT's IT guru, Nicholas Negroponte, put it in his 1995 book Being Digital, from "bits rather than atoms" enables the iMerge-based relational-database software provided with the Tunboks to redefine the user's relationship with his or her music in a completely open-ended manner. It is a shame, therefore, that the record industry is actively trying to destroy the open nature of the CD standard, which makes products like the Kivor possible.

I have auditioned almost all the speakers reviewed in Stereophile in the past 12 months, but the one I remember most fondly is the relatively demure-looking Wilson Sophia. I have written before that the secret to designing a truly great loudspeaker is to balance all aspects of performance. So many speakers achieve great performance in one area while failing in others that my colleague Tom Norton, editor of Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, came up with the phrase "designer tunnel vision" to describe the syndrome. While it is easy to think of loudspeakers that surpass the Sophia's performance in individual areas, there are very few that do so across the board. The Sophia may be the least expensive model in the Utah company's two-channel line, but it features a superb balance of overall performance and has no areas where it offers anything less than excellence. I need no more reason than that to make it one of my 2002 "Editor's Choices."—John Atkinson