Stereophile's Products of 2008 2008 Joint Budget Products of the Year

2008 Joint Budget Products of the Year

Paradigm Atom v.5 loudspeaker ($298/pair; reviewed by Wes Phillips & Robert J. Reina, Vol.30 No.9 & Vol.31 No.2, November 2007 & February 2008 Review)
Rega Planar 3-24 turntable & RB-301 tonearm

Runners-Up (in alphabetical order)
Cayin A-50T integrated amplifier ($1395; reviewed by Robert J. Reina, Vol.31 No.3, March 2008 Review)
Denon DL-103 MC phono cartridge
Soundsmith SMCC1 phono cartridge
Wadia Digital 170iTransport iPod Dock
Zu DL-103 MC phono cartridge

This is very important: There is no magical price point that characterizes a product as "high end." If a component conveys the emotional truth of music, to leave the listener feeling powerless, overcome by the musical performance, and to forget that he or she is listening to a stereo system, then that component is worthy of the High End. Our Budget category is where young and cash-strapped audiophiles should begin their quest for hi-fi bliss. Starting with our two Budget winners, you can put together a complete system that will reward you with a lifetime of beautiful music. I can think of only a few more valuable investments.

The Atom v.5 is the latest version of Paradigm's bargain-basement, two-way bookshelf design. It has a 1" titanium-dome tweeter and a 5.5" copolymer-cone bass/midrange driver with a diecast chassis. This small, unassuming marvel produced a rich, natural midrange, gobs of inner detail, and pristine, extended high frequencies. At just $300/pair, the Atom v.5 was a no-brainer. Several of our writers agreed: The Atom matched the Sooloos music server system for the most total votes within any one product category.

Coming in a very close second was the Rega P3-24 turntable. The Rega's no-muss, no-fuss design and attractive price make it a fun and easy choice for those new to the vinyl craze. There's nothing intimidating about the Rega; it practically sets itself up and begs to be played. And for fans who want to liven up its drab gray plinth, Rega now offers the P3-24 in five bold, high-gloss finishes. Supplied with Rega's TT-PSU power supply for greater stability and pushbutton speed selection, the newest Rega costs just $1295. I ordered one for myself! The only problem with the Rega is that, once you buy one, you'll find yourself spending wads of cash on LPs. Times are hard, but not that hard.