Stereophile's Products of 1992 Amplification

Amplification component of 1992:

Melos SHA-1 headphone amplifier ($995; reviewed by Corey Greenberg & John Atkinson, Vol.15 No.10, October 1992 Review)

When I tallied the close voting in the amplification category and realized that this strange little beast was the 1992 winner, I smiled. It might be expected that in awards schemes like this, the contenders whose designers have been allowed effectively unlimited design budgets have an overwhelming advantage. Yes, there are some very expensive components carrying away kudos from the Stereophile scribes, but this line/headphone preamplifier shows that sonic purity can be obtained for under a grand by a design team—Mark Porzilli and George Bischoff—who assign the right priorities. The SHA-1 offers cost-effective engineering to serve the music—something that more companies ought to be able to achieve at less-than-megabucks prices.

This may not be a preamplifier for all reasons—two inputs only, no phono stage, no tape loop, no balance control, no mono switch, no polarity inversion, no remote control, no balanced inputs or outputs—but its simple signal path featuring premium passive parts, a single 6DJ8 tube, and a FET source follower (with an additional FET follower for the headphone jacks), subjectively benign measured performance, and low output impedance seems to ensure the minimum sonic damage to the music. The Melos SHA-1 "is the closest thing yet to sticking the interconnects in your ear," raved CG in his review. I agree.

Finalists (in alphabetical order

Boulder 500AE power amplifier ($3999; reviewed by J. Gordon Holt, Vol.14 No.10, October 1991; Robert Harley & Thomas J. Norton, Vol.15 No.4, April 1992; Lewis Lipnick, Vol.15 No.7, July 1992 Review)
Bryston 4B NRB power amplifier ($2095; reviewed by Larry Greenhill, Vol.15 No.5, May 1992 Review)
Counterpoint SA-5000 preamplifier ($3595; reviewed by Guy Lemcoe & Thomas J. Norton, Vol.15 No.1, January 1992)
McCormack DNA-1 power amplifier ($1995; reviewed by Robert Harley, Vol.15 No.4, April 1992 Review)
Jeff Rowland Design Group Consummate preamplifier ($8750; reviewed by Thomas J. Norton, Vol.15 No.1, January 1992 Review)
Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 line preamplifier ($1395; reviewed by Dick Olsher, Vol.15 No.8, August 1992)

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