Stereophile's Products of 1992

"You're only as good as your most recent gig," was literally drummed into me in my pro musician days; I've found it to be just as true in magazine publishing. No matter how much hard work went into, say, an equipment review, a couple of months down the line that review will be as fresh as yesterday's undunked donut. And no matter how good-sounding the product, or how much it excited the writer, it will always tend to be overshadowed by the latest and greatest products written about in the new issue—the "moving finger, having writ..." syndrome.

Needless to say, this is a drag. I want to remind readers of the good products we've listened to in the past. So without shame, I organized the first of what is intended to be an annual ritual: Stereophile's "Products of the Year."

One problem with awards schemes in general is that there tend to be far too many categories—all those well-deserving people who get dismissed with an "earlier this evening, the award for best on-location catering for a foreign-language movie shot in black and white went to..." at the Academy Awards, for example. We decided, therefore, to keep the Stereophile categories down to a minimum. "Loudspeakers" (including subwoofers and headphones) was an obvious genre, as was "Digital Source" components. But all amplification components—preamplifiers, power amplifiers, etc.—have been lumped together, as have all analog source components: phono cartridges, FM tuners, and everything in between. "Accessories" includes everything else, be it interconnect, CD tweak, or any of those essentials that enable you to optimize the sound from your system but which I can't remember the name of right now.

The two most important categories are self-explanatory: the "Component of the Year"—the Best of the Best—and the "Budget Component of the Year"—the component offering the best sound for the buck. Which is more important? You tell me.

The awards procedure went as follows: To be a contender, a product had to have been reported on in Stereophile between the November 1991 and October 1992 issues, either in a full review or in a "Follow-Up." In this way, only those components for which a writer had had to put his opinion on the line for public scrutiny could be considered. I then asked each of our hardware reviewers, as well as Larry Archibald and myself, to nominate just one eligible product in each of the various categories from the more than 150 reviewed (other than "Editor's Choice," which I reserved to myself and whose brief is more far-ranging). If they didn't feel a worthy enough component in any category had been reviewed in the time period, they were then free to leave that category blank. Some writers also decided not to nominate products in some categories because they felt that, while the products they had reviewed would not be worthy, they hadn't heard the obvious contenders in those categories.

After everyone had responded—thanks, guys—I tallied the results, and, in true democratic manner, the contender with the most votes won the category. If your fave rave didn't get the nod, we take collective responsibility, therefore. (But if you really think we blew it, write me with your choice.) The runners-up are listed in alphabetical order, by the way, so don't try to Monday-morning–quarterback the scoring. I've also included the current retail price and the date of the original review(s) so you can read the full text of what we had to say about each product.—John Atkinson

dalethorn's picture

Sonus Faber speaker: I bought their first headphone, the Pryma ($550) in 2015, yet it's still essentially unknown months later in headphone circles. So do I assume their speakers have fallen out of audiophile favor?

Spica SC-30 budget speakers: I think Stereophile's earlier reviews of the Advent and the FMI-80 fell into this category, or maybe even moreso.

michael green's picture

Thank you Stereophile for the mention and Guy for the fun listening! "92" was an exciting time!

michael green