Stereophile's Products of 2005 Editor's Choice

2005 Editor's Choice
Apple Airport Express WiFi Hub-D/A processor ($130; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.28 No.5, May 2005 review)

Boy, there are some grumpy people on the Internet. To read a typical posting on any of the many audio forums, you'd think that Stereophile has betrayed audiophiles with its coverage of computer audio and its advocacy of the Apple iPod. Yet since the launch of CD in late 1982, one promise of digital audio has been the freeing of audio bits from the enslavement of a physical medium. I chose this year's "Editor's Choice" because it takes that freeing to the limit. While the Apple Airport Express's intended purpose is to act as a mundane WiFi hub—a role it performs very well in the Atkinson household, networking all of our computers in a no-muss, no-fuss manner—in conjunction with Apple's iTunes program it also allows any of those PCs, and my PowerBook, to act as a music source for the system in my listening room, feeding its S/PDIF optical data output to my he-man Mark Levinson DAC. Admittedly, the Airport Express is limited to CD-quality data—16 bits and 44.1kHz—but much of the time, that's enough for musical nirvana. The Airport Express is a revolutionary audio product; the only real surprise is that it comes from a computer company and not, say, from Sony, as similarly revolutionary products used to do back in the 20th century.— John Atkinson