Stereophile's Products of 2011 JOINT BUDGET COMPONENTS OF THE YEAR


Oppo BDP-95 universal Blu-ray player
Peachtree iDecco D/A integrated amplifier ($999; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.33 No.12 Review)

2011 RUNNERS-UP (in alphabetical order)
Decibel music-playback software Direct Acoustics Silent Speaker II ($748/pair; reviewed by John Marks & John Atkinson, Vol.34 Nos. 6 & 7 Review)
HRT Music Streamer II & II+ USB D/A processors
Peachtree iDac D/A processor
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR loudspeaker ($149/pair; reviewed by Robert J. Reina & Stephen Mejias, Vol.34 Nos. 9 & 11 Review)
Pure Music music-playback software ($129; reviewed by Art Dudley & John Atkinson, Vol.34 Nos. 7 & 9 Review)
Rega RP1 turntable
Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 loudspeaker ($350/pair; reviewed by Stephen Mejias & Robert J. Reina, Vol.34 Nos. 2 & 4 Review)

In part due to "The Entry Level," my new column about affordable hi-fi, this year's Budget category heaved with worthy contenders. But I can't take all the credit. Like headphones and computer-audio products, affordable hi-fi is especially hot these days because it's fun, exciting, and, well, affordable. Sure, it's nice to dream of owning a cost-no-object product from one of the world's most exclusive and exotic brands—but it's even nicer to actually own something that will bring long-lasting pleasure and leave you with money to spend on more records. As I write these words, it's been several weeks since the annoyingly named Pioneer SP-BS41-LR speakers were last in my listening room, and I still haven't gotten over how much beautiful music they make for just $149/pair. Have you bought a pair yet? What are you waiting for?

The Pioneer received three first-place votes, including mine, but didn't come close to the number of total votes awarded to our joint winners, the Peachtree iDecco D/A integrated amplifier (18) and Oppo BDP-95 universal Blu-ray player (17). At $999 each, our winners aren't exactly cheap, but they represent outstanding value for money, providing exceptional build quality and versatility and wonderful sound.

The iDecco combines a tube-buffered preamplifier, a 40Wpc power amplifier, a digital iPod dock, and a 24-bit/96kHz–capable ES9006 Sabre D/A converter with USB interface in a tidy, attractive package that shares the cool, retro-modern styling of other Peachtree products. Though it lacked the spatial depth, presence, and tonal color of more expensive components, the iDecco produced a naturally extended treble, fast and well-controlled bass, and a strong sense of momentum—and you know how Art Dudley loves a strong sense of momentum. "Great source, great styling, great sound," he concluded. Meanwhile, John Atkinson, aroused by the resolution and jitter rejection of the iDecco's D/A section, bought an iDecco for his bedroom system. Sexy.

Speaking of sexy, Oppo's BDP-95 Universal Audiophile 3D Blu-ray Disc Player boasts a solid, hefty chassis and a substantial toroidal transformer built by Rotel. Most significant, however, are the player's two Sabre32 Reference ES9018 DAC chips: one for the 7.1-channel analog output, the other dedicated to the stereo output, thus improving the signal/noise ratio and allowing the BDP-95 to run fully balanced to its XLR outputs. In addition to its analog outputs, the Oppo provides an Ethernet LAN port, HDMI 1 and 2 outputs, two USB ports, and optical and coaxial digital outputs. Add it all up and you get a consistently open, spacious sound with superb articulation of instruments and voices. Yum. "An outstanding value in a universal player," raved Dr. Rubinson.

soulful.terrain's picture

Never would have guessed the Voxativ Ampeggio would have garnered this awarding from Stereophile. Especially since this speaker is a single driver unit. Who'd a thunk it?

I too, was fortunate enough to hear them at Axpona in Atlanta this year. I remember saying to a buddy of mine that attended with me, "I can't believe the level of musicality I'm hearing from this somewhat minimalist speaker"?

If you take a look at all the German engineered speaker systems, the question begs to be asked: Are there any German made products that fall short of the sublime? If so, I haven't encountered any.

FranklinFQ's picture

Interesting choices in your headphone category. Among users on HeadFi as well as other headphone enthusiast circles the UE18 is seen as somewhat of an Also-Ran product, released as a response to the JH Audio JH13 and the "driver wars". Very few people who have experience with the category would choose the UE18 as their top choice. 

There have been lots of significant advances in the headphone world of late. Audeze LCD-2 and now the new LCD-3. HiFiMAN HE-6 and HE-500. Westone ES5. Unique Melody Miracle and Merlin. Even UE's own Reference Monitor is more highly regarded than the UE18. I really can't see why you chose it. 

Regarding your comment about the "True Blood" headphones. Those are the V-MODA V-80 headphones, and are actually very highly regarded. You might check with your own headphone expert Tyll Herstens - he recently gave them a rave review, as have many other HeadFi members. I agree that the marketing seems goofy but you might want to look into things a bit before commenting. And speaking of Tyll - why wasn't he involved in this? You have one of the world's foremost experts in the field of headphones on your staff, and you don't bother to consult him?

Stephen Mejias's picture

 Regarding your comment about the "True Blood" headphones. Those are the V-MODA V-80 headphones, and are actually very highly regarded.

I know what they are and I've read Tyll's review. I was just making a joke. I do, however, think it's funny to market a headphone around an HBO show about sex-starved vampires and mind-reading fairies. (Yes, I watch every Sunday night with the girls.) The press releases for the headphones do include the bit about "supernatural sound" and "immortal durability," so, they're clearly having fun with it, too.

And if audiophiles start wearing True Blood headphones, I will laugh. A lot.

And speaking of Tyll - why wasn't he involved in this? You have one of the world's foremost experts in the field of headphones on your staff, and you don't bother to consult him?

Something to consider for next year.