Stereophile's Products of 2014

The December issue is here and it features our annual "Products of the Year" (cutely referred to as "PotY" in-house). 67 products made it through to the final round of voting from the magazine's editors and reviewers—read Art Dudley's comments to find out who the winners are.

Featured on the December issue's cover is the twentieth-anniversary upgrade of Ayre's KX-R preamplifier. John Atkinson sums up his experience thusly: "While $27,500 is a high price to pay for a line preamplifier, the KX-R Twenty is as good as a preamplifier can get." Two very differently engineered D/A processors, from Allnic and Cambridge, are examined in this issue, while the extraordinarily versatile DEQX PreMate D/A preamplifier and equalizer impressed Kal Rubinson.

Herb Reichert extols the joys of listening in mono with a Grado cartridge, Robert Deutsch finds some PrimaLune tubes add delight to his listening, and Robert J. Reina auditions a high-value LP player from Music Hall. All in all, the December Stereophile is one heck of a magazine issue!

Bmullock's picture

I must question if these reviewers live in the real world. At a time when most people are finding it difficult to make ends meet to pay 27500usd for an amplifier is sheer lunacy. I would need to see scientific evidence that this amplifier sounds that much better than several costing less than a 1000usd (which is a lot of money for mere mortals to pay). And even then I still wouldn't be so self indulgent as to buy one. I guess only rich bachelors or reviewers could afford one!

kb0000's picture

I do not remember when I first subscribed to Stereophile, but I recall the Original AR Turntable was the first JGH recommended component I purchased, and I think that was in 1959. Since then I've owned a bunch of Stereophile recommended components, including the ultimate pairing of the Quad ESL 63 speaker & the Berning EA- 230 amp, but it must be said that it was the Gramophone's review of ESL 63 that made the first person in North America to own the ESL 63 (BTW these circa 1982 speakers are still going strong and still beat the competition when it comes to listening to classical music).

Yet, even though I often rely on Stereophile to guide my purchases, I fully agree with Bmullock that Stereophile's advice is mostly BS. To assert that any pre amp, regardless of price, is "best" is BS. When such a claim is based on the opinion of one reviewer, as is the Ayre review, rather than on what Bmullock call ed "scientific evidence" is BS squared.

To see how stupid Stereophile's review process is, consider how I came to buy the ELS 63 speaker. I happened to be in London a couple weeks after the ELS 63 came on the market, and I went to Kj Leisure Sound to hear it. I was not impressed, for it sounded exactly like my home speakers, IMF TLS monitors, one of the finest speakers in a box of its time. While listening to the ELS 63, I noticed the store had a pair of IMF TLSs in a corner, so I told the salesman to set up an A-B comparison with the IMFs. He was reluctant (these things weighed 110 lbs each), but he finally gave in, and in the A-B comparison, the Quads simply blew away the IMFs, so I bought the Quads on the spot.

There is an important point here-- sonic memory isn't. The only way to subjectively assess the quality of a component is by A-B comparisons to all the competition, and Stereophile does not do that.

Now, to the $27,000 pre amp. Bmullock is right-- you'd be really stupid to waste your money on this thing, but Stereophile is also right, up to a point-- if you are dumb enough to buy this thing, you will like it. Is it the best? Who knows? But for sure, Stereophile doesn't know.