Stereophile's Products of 2014 Budget Component of the Year

Budget Component of the Year

NAD D 3020 integrated amplifier ($499; reviewed by Stephen Mejias, November & December 2013, Vol.36 Nos.11 & 12 Review)

Here's the least surprising surprise of this year's balloting: NAD's D 3020 integrated amplifier coasted to an easy win for Budget Component of 2014. Hell, even I saw that coming.

The D 3020, designed to commemorate NAD's 40th anniversary, was named in honor of the company's classic 3020 integrated amp of the 1970s and onward. Both products were designed by the estimable Bjørn Erik Edvardsen, but this time he managed to squeeze in a D/A converter with a USB input, a Bluetooth receiver, and a little more output power (65Wpc, in contrast with the original amp's 20Wpc). Placed at the heart of Stephen Mejias's system, the D 3020 provided "the most fun I've had with my hi-fi." SM went on to wonder, "Will [the D 3020] be the component that introduces a new generation of music lovers to true high-fidelity sound? I don't know, but it has every right to be."

1214poty.nad.jpg

Notes on the vote: As Stephen Mejias said in this space one year ago, 2013's POTY polling saw an unusually healthy number of high-value products: Fully seven products on last year's Budget Component of the Year list were also named among 2013's best in their respective product categories. For 2014 that trended down a bit, but the proportion remains healthy, with six Budget Component of the Year products placing in other lists: the Dynaudio Excite X14, GoldenEar Aon 2, and Sonus Faber Venere 1.5 loudspeakers; Sennheiser's Momentum headphones; the Ortofon 2M Red phono cartridge; and the Rogue Audio Sphinx integrated amp. It's worth noting that one finalist in the Amplification Component of the Year category, the Naim NAIT 5si ($1895), wasn't far from also qualifying as a Budget Component of the Year.

Finalists: (in alphabetical order)

Arcam FMJ A19 integrated amplifier ($999; reviewed by Stephen Mejias, January 2014, Vol.37 No.1 Review)
Bluesound Vault, Powernode, Node, Pulse, and Duo ($449–$999; reviewed by Michael Lavorgna, July 2014, Vol.37 No.7 Review)
Dynaudio Excite X14 loudspeaker ($1500/pair; reviewed by Robert J. Reina, October 2014, Vol.37 No.10 Review)
Epos Elan 10 loudspeaker ($1000/pair; reviewed by Robert J. Reina, February 2014, Vol.37 No.2 Review)
GoldenEar Technology Aon 2 loudspeaker ($799.98/pair; reviewed by Robert J. Reina, November 2013, Vol.36 No.11 Review)
Musical Fidelity V90-DAC D/A processor ($299; reviewed by Sam Tellig & John Atkinson, April & August 2014, Vol.37 Nos. 4 & 8 Review)
Ortofon 2M Red phono cartridge ($99; reviewed by Stephen Mejias, May 2014, Vol.37 No.5 Review)
Rogue Audio Sphinx integrated amplifier ($1295; reviewed by Herb Reichert, August 2014, Vol.37 No.8 Review)
Sennheiser Momentum over-ear headphones ($349.95; reviewed by Stephen Mejias, December 2013, Vol.36 No.12 Review)
Sonus Faber Venere 1.5 loudspeaker ($1198/pair; reviewed by Robert J. Reina, January 2014, Vol.37 No.1 Review)

COMMENTS
AllanMarcus's picture

What's a Yearp?

John Atkinson's picture
AllanMarcus wrote:
What's a Yearp?

A typo, now fixed. :-)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

corrective_unconscious's picture

It was one of Oxford's new words for 2012, if you recall.

tvandewalle's picture

And what about The Brinkmann Bardo that you also reviewed?
Maybe you should do a follow up with the 12" tonearm and the EMT Ti element?

lo fi's picture

What about the 2014 Editor's Choice? Has John Atkinson actually heard this speaker? I know that he hasn't measured it. I understand that the editor's choice category has been expanded to give every Stereophile contributor the opportunity to nominate an audio component that particularly impressed, but that seems to defeat the purpose of having an editor's choice. I hasten to add that I have heard the SCM19 and regard it highly. However, it is not an efficient stand-mounted speaker and requires a powerful amplifier for optimum performance - a drawback of the sealed enclosure design presumably (Ben Lilly of ATC recommended an amplifier rated at 150W plus). That notable caveat is missing from the "Editors' Choice" blurb.

John Atkinson's picture
lo fi wrote:
What about the 2014 Editor's Choice? Has John Atkinson actually heard this speaker? I know that he hasn't measured it.

No, I haven't heard this ATC.

lo fi wrote:
I understand that the editor's choice category has been expanded to give every Stereophile contributor the opportunity to nominate an audio component that particularly impressed, but that seems to defeat the purpose of having an editor's choice.

I thought it appropriate to expand the category, to give each the reviewer the opportunity to nominate their personal favorite of the past year. I don't think that was unclear.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

lo fi's picture

I find it odd how a component that has not been auditioned by the editor of Stereophile can qualify as an editor's (or editors') choice.

I didn't find the explanation for expanding the category unclear, but I think that the title has become misleading as a consequence. Changing the title to reviewers or contributors favourites would more accurately reflect just who is making the choices don't you think?

John Atkinson's picture
lo fi wrote:
I find it odd how a component that has not been auditioned by the editor of Stereophile can qualify as an editor's (or editors') choice.

It is usual in publishing in the US to refer to regular contributors to a magazine as "editors," with the person who edits the magazine (me in the case of Stereophile) called the "editor-in-chief." Hence each product listed in this year's "Editor's Choice" is indeed the choice of an editor.

If you wish, you can think of this feature as being called "Editors' Choices." But I am okay with the existing title.

John Atkinson
Editor (In Chief), Stereophile

lo fi's picture

That's interesting. An editor and a contributor are distinctly different roles in publishing - hence the titles. I'm familiar with the structure of an editor-in-chief, editorial staff and writing staff.

So you are saying that at Stereophile there is effectively no practical distinction between an editor and a contributor and this is common practice in US publishing. Then why make the distinction at all and why formalise it by naming a category after it?

Given that Stereophile's Editors' Choices of 2014 are actually those of the contributors, I think a change of title to reflect this actuality would be appropriate and more meaningful.

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