Stereophile's Products of 2010 ACCESSORY OF THE YEAR


DB Systems DBP-10 alignment protractor ($49; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.33 No.6 review)

2010 RUNNERS-UP (in alphabetical order)
Audience Au24e interconnects & loudspeaker cables (interconnect: $857.20/1m pair, unbalanced; $1352.50/1m pair, balanced; speaker cables: $1493.50/2m pair; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, Vol.33 No.6 review)
Audyssey Sub Equalizer ($799; reviewed by Kal Rubinson, Vol.33 No.1 review)
Musical Surroundings Fozgometer azimuth alignment device ($250; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.33 No.5)
Paradigm Perfect Bass Kit PBK-1 ($299; reviewed by Kal Rubinson, Vol.33 No.1 review)
Quantum RT Qx4 "scalar field generator" ($2499.99; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.32 No.12, Vol.33 No.1 review)
Spin Clean Record Wash System ($79.99; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.33 No.2)

Although, by definition, accessories are ancillary or superficial parts of our audio lives, they may also be considered gateways to periods of enhanced enjoyment and as invaluable sources of pure fun. Feeling the urge to produce some slight change in a system's sound—real or imagined, good or bad, it sometimes makes no difference—we turn to accessories. Needing to make some minor technical adjustments, demagnetizing this or elevating that, we turn to accessories. When money's tight and we feel that pull to upgrade but can't afford a new source component or loudspeaker, we satisfy our longings with accessories. For these reasons, accessories bring immediate and significant pleasure to this hi-fi game. They keep our fires burning. And while it can always be argued that there is no better accessory than a great record, here we have some very worthy (and some very wacky) alternatives.

Indeed, the race for "Accessory of the Year" is always one of the most entertaining because it involves such a diverse cast of characters. Where else in this event would you find a $79 record-washing system made of plastic (the fantastic Spin Clean) or a $2500 "scalar field generator" (the fascinating Quantum RT Qx4)? On the surface, the two have nothing in common—until we remember that both fulfill those audiophilic needs of immediate gratification and unbridled fun. (Don't try to deny it: I know you like fun.) Neither scalar-field generation nor grime-free records posed a real threat to this year's winner, however.

With four first-place votes and significantly more total votes than any other contender in this zany category, our winner is the DB Systems DBP-10 phono alignment protractor, a simple little product that's been loved by audio enthusiasts for decades—the copyright date on the sample I borrowed from JA is 1979, making this fine tool an audiophile classic. The DBP-10's instruction sheet, which is clearly written and even welcoming, informs us that "The objective of the alignment procedure is to achieve lateral tracking error of zero degrees at two points which are 2.60" and 4.76" from the center of the record. When the cartridge is parallel to the grooves at these points then the distortion is optimally low across the recorded area of a modern LP record."

There you go: The DB Systems DBP-10 turns a daunting task into a pleasant one, and squeezes greater performances from the records we love. For the vinyl enthusiast, this inexpensive accessory just might be mandatory. Yeah! You want optimally low distortion, I'm telling you. With the DBP-10, you won't only achieve it, you'll have fun getting there.