Stereophile's Products of 2007 2007 Analog Source Component

2007 Analog Source Component

Linn Sondek LP12 turntable with Keel modifications ($7870; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.30 No.10, October 2007 review)
Lyra Skala phono cartridge ($3200; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.30 No.3, March 2007 review)
Kuzma Stabi XL turntable ($18,975; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.30 No.4, April 2007 review)

Runners-up (in alphabetical order)
Air Tight PC-1 phono cartridge ($5500; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.30 No.6, June 2007)
Koetsu Black phono cartridge ($1600; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.30 No.7, July 2007 review)
Linn Ekos SE tonearm ($4950; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.30 No.10, October 2007 review)
SME M2 tonearm ($1399; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.30 No.5, May 2007)
Transfiguration Orpheus phono cartridge ($5000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.29 No.12, December 2006)

It was an extremely tight race in the category of "Analog Source": three worthy products emerged victorious. The nearly essential Keel subchassis modification for the venerable Linn Sondek LP12 turntable and the smooth and speedy Lyra Skala cartridge each received two first- and two second-place votes, for a total of 10 votes apiece. They barely edged out the rock-solid Kuzma Stabi XL turntable, which earned three first-place votes, for a total of nine votes overall.

For Linnies, the Keel is a godsend. A single-piece subchassis, tonearm board, and Linn-specific tonearm mounting collar, the Keel surpassed Art's every reasonable expectation, providing greater size, richness, and detail without altering the LP12's singular character. "It's like buying a huge piece of land," Art said, "and being given the opportunity to add another 50-year-old tree to the mountainside: crazy, exorbitant—and something no man would pass up if he could afford it." A bit gluttonous? Maybe. But so what?

It seemed that Mikey Fremer felt similarly about the Lyra Skala. The first fifth-generation Lyra design matched the speedy transient attack, finely detailed textures, three-dimensional spatial presentation, and tonal neutrality of the Lyra Helikon, but added the warmth and smoothness that the Helikon missed. It was that touch of warmth and smoothness that gave Joni Mitchell's voice just a bit more flesh, Charlie Byrd's guitar just a bit more body and texture. And, around here, we find that getting even the slightest bit closer to our favorite artists is a whole lot of fun. But is it worth the extra money? Definitely, according to Mikey. With the Lyra Skala, you don't just get a cartridge that sounds different; you get one "that sounds considerably better."

Finally, the Kuzma Stabi XL charmed Mikey with its brassy good looks and impressive design. With a 50-lb platter of aluminum and acrylic, two 15-lb brass motor assemblies, and a 30-lb, height-adjustable tonearm tower, the hefty Stabi XL is "a work of mechanical and physical art." Of course, Mikey was most impressed by its way with music. Notes exploded from the speakers and quickly decayed into black backgrounds, leaving behind "convincing musical apparitions." In fact, the Stabi XL was so scary-good that MF considers it among the best turntables currently available. That's saying a lot, coming from a guy who owns a Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn, last year's champion.