Stereophile's Products of 2011 PRODUCT OF THE YEAR


Voxativ Ampeggio loudspeaker

2011 RUNNERS-UP (in alphabetical order)
Ayre Acoustics DX-5 Blu-ray player
Ayre Acoustics K-5xeMP line preamplifier
Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond loudspeaker
Classé CT-M600 & CA-M600 monoblock power amplifiers
dCS Debussy D/A processor
Kuzma 4Point tonearm
Magico Q5 loudspeaker
Musical Fidelity AMS100 power amplifier
Sony SS-AR1 loudspeaker
Vivid Audio B1 loudspeaker
VPI Classic 3 turntable
Wilson Audio Specialties Sophia 3 loudspeaker

This is really weird. Our overall Product of the Year is a loudspeaker—but it's not our Loudspeaker of the Year, the Magico Q5. It's not the Vivid B1 or the Sony SS-AR1 or the B&W 800 Diamond—all worthy candidates. It's not even the Wilson Sophia 3. The 2011 Overall Product of the Year is the Voxativ Ampeggio, an unconventional, single-driver speaker designed in part by the German piano manufacturer Schimmel and distributed in the US by Audioarts, a very young, very small, appointment-only audio salon in Manhattan. What the hell?

Before we try to understand how this could have happened, let's take a look at the Ampeggio itself. This distinctly gorgeous loudspeaker uses a single proprietary 7" dual-cone driver with a large, convex surround, designed to accommodate a much greater excursion than the typical Lowther driver. The complex cabinet, designed and voiced in collaboration with Schimmel Pianos, incorporates a series of faceted internal boards for optimal radiation resistance, and houses a twice-folded horn nearly 9' long.

Last spring, I accompanied Art Dudley on a brief visit to Audioarts to listen to the Voxativ Ampeggios. Had you told me then that this strange, humpbacked speaker would be our Product of the Year, I would have considered you crazy. In the small listening room, the Ampeggios sounded okay at best: Though they had an uncommonly smooth midrange, they lacked spatial depth and image specificity, and offered little to no low-end impact. But Art heard something in the Ampeggio that I simply missed. He heard its potential, he heard its heart. He got up from his listening seat, walked over to one speaker, crouched low, gently caressed that lovely driver, and requested a pair of review samples.

Art's brave, I thought.

Weeks later, the word from Art was that it had taken quite a bit of work to position the Voxativs for optimal bass response, bass extension, and treble response, but once that was done, the speakers sounded . . . superb. They offered the typical Lowther traits of transient speed, spatial presence, dramatic ease, and physical impact, but added deep, well-controlled bass and excellent soundstaging. I was surprised. John Atkinson made a trip up to Art's place, in Cherry Valley, New York, and returned with a similar report. While JA was also impressed by the Ampeggio's sound, he raved about the speaker's superbly flat in-room response and genuine 98dB sensitivity. What the hell?

Weeks later, I got to hear the Ampeggios again, this time at the Atlanta AXPONA show. Carefully positioned in a room that was usefully large but far from ideal, the Ampeggios sounded sweet, relaxed, and dynamic. I could have stayed and listened forever. Finally, I heard what Art had heard all along. From his review: "The Voxativ Ampeggio went beyond sounding good: More than once, with too many records to mention, I found myself stopping to marvel at its brilliantly good pitch certainty. . . . And while it's one thing to focus on such a characteristic for a moment at a time, it's quite another to bask in it subconsciously—and the Voxativs allowed me to do just that. I was able to enjoy everything I played through them—not just as sound but as music—without fatigue, frustration, or, worst of all, lack of interest."

Clearly, the Voxativ Ampeggio fuels our passion for music. And with that in mind, it really should come as no surprise that this strange new speaker is our Product of the Year for 2011. In its design, appearance, and sound, the Voxativ Ampeggio is bold, beautiful, distinct, and fun—a product to admire, love, and honor. Congratulations, Voxativ—and thanks.

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.