Stereophile's Products of 2016 Joint Accessories of the Year

Joint Accessories of the Year

Audeze LCD-4 headphones ($3995; reviewed by John Atkinson, July 2016, Vol.39 No.7 Review)
AudioQuest Niagara 7000 Low-Z Power Noise-Dissipation System ($7995; reviewed by Michael Fremer, February 2016, Vol.39 No.2 Review) We finally come to one of only two ties for first place in 2016: between an expensive pair of headphones and a no-less-expensive power conditioner.

1216poty.access250.jpgAre the Audeze LCD-4s the best headphones you can buy? In his review, John Atkinson came close to saying just that, describing them as "the best-sounding headphones I've heard in the 45 years since I bought my first high-end cans." Based on Audeze's tried-and-true planar-magnetic technology and enhanced with the company's trademark impedance-matching waveguides (Fazors), the easy-to-drive if somewhat insensitive LCD-4s seem on the verge of tempting many headphone holdouts into giving up their loudspeakers.

One of last year's Joint Accessories of the Year (along with the Roon music-playback software) was AudioQuest's JitterBug, a USB noise-reduction device ($49) that shouldn't work but does. This year's other Joint Accessory of the Year is also from AudioQuest, and also a noise-reduction product—but it costs 163 times as much as the JitterBug and is considerably less portable. On neither of those counts is the Niagara 7000 AC conditioner unreasonable: It provides 12 grippy outlets and incorporates noise-reduction technologies both active and passive, the latter including isolation transformers enhanced with AudioQuest's signature Dielectric-Bias System (DBS), found in many of their audio cables. And it impressed the heck out of Mikey.


Notes on the vote: Density, schmensity—this vote wasn't terribly interesting. The two first-place winners received more votes than the second-place winner, the Focal Utopia headphones, which in turn received more points than the third-place winner, UpTone Audio's USB Regen USB buffer: nothing to see here, folks. Sadly, of the products that placed in this year's running, only the USB Regen ($175) sells for less than $200—an outcome that confounds some hobbyists' understanding of the concept of accessory, if not the word's literal meaning.

Finalists (in alphabetical order)

Audeze EL-8 headphones ($699/pair; reviewed by Herb Reichert, December 2015, Vol.38 No.12 Review)
AudioQuest NightHawk headphones ($599/pair; reviewed by Herb Reichert, December 2015, Vol.38 No.12 Review)
Focal Utopia Reference headphones ($3999/pair; reviewed by Herb Reichert, October 2016, Vol.39 No.10 Review)
Master & Dynamic MH40 headphones ($399/pair; reviewed by Art Dudley & John Atkinson, February & July 2016, Vol.39 Nos. 2 & 7 Review)
Nordost Valhalla 2 Reference cables ($7599.99/1m pair, interconnects; $14,849.99/3m pair, speaker cables; reviewed by Robert Deutsch & Brian Damkroger, February & July 2016, Vol.39 Nos. 2 & 7 Review)
PS Audio P10 Power Plant ($4999; reviewed by Jim Austin, July 2016, Vol.39 No.7 Review)
Synergistic Research Active Frequency Equalizer ($995; reviewed by Michael Fremer, December 2016, Vol.38 No.12)
UpTone Audio USB Regen USB buffer ($175; reviewed by Michael Lavorgna, Kalman Rubinson & John Atkinson, November 2015, Vol.38 No.11 Review)

Staxguy's picture

While the Devialet Expert 1000 (1000 watts at 6 ohms) didn't hit my mind while thinking huh to ...

"The Mark Levinson No.585 integrated stereo amplifier's 200Wpc into 8 ohms—more powerful than any integrated amp other than the 300Wpc Bel Canto Black"

Jeff Rowlands Daemon (1500 watts at 8 ohms) Integrated Amplifier certainly did.

Looking, I see that indeed Stereophile has covered it (I seem to remember it)...

200 watts is certainly power-amp power-amp territory, and no slouch, but is not knocking on the Analogue Domain Apollo (4000 watt at 8 ohms) power amplifier territory, or the mind-numbing 160,000 watts of Pievetta Opera Only, which one could consider an integrated amplifier.

Or Music-in-The-Round (Kal) amplifier at least.

It's nice to see a number of excellent products this year.

Did you try driving loudspeakers (high efficiency) with the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red's headphone out?

Many headphone enthusiasts use the Devialet Expert 1000's speaker outputs to drive their headphones, as an aside. :)

Love to see coverage of the Daemon.

Lucidear's picture


A little shortsightedness, on the part of staff perhaps, in copying Larry Greenfield's actual comments from his review of the 585:

"...Mark Levinson's No.585 is the most expensive integrated amplifier I have reviewed. At 200Wpc, it's more powerful than all but one of the integrateds listed in our "Recommended Components"—the Bel Canto Black."

And I think as of his writting's date the Musical fidelity 800, with a tad more power, was not on the RC list yet...
***Now if someone could comment whether this (the 585 or even the MF800) has enough juice to drive a pair of larger Maggies ie 3.7i or 20.7, it'd be much appreciated...

tonykaz's picture

I have to hand it to you lads, well done!!!

Seems like $5,000 builds a pretty darn good system ( digital, of course ).

Back in 1985 it would've taken well over $10,000, if I remember correctly.

Conrad-Johnson MV-45a & Electrocompaniet Ampliwire ( 50 watts ) were my all time favorite Amps, I no longer own either. Maybe I should arrange for a First Watt. You lads are part of a large group that love these Amps.

It seems, after 30 years of digital we have a tiny little device ( $200 ) to replace our record players, hmm. ----- Of course, it's not as good as a $10,000 Phono cart., $10,000 VPI, $??,??? Arm plus cabling and a "proper Pre-amp with a nice RIAA"

Nice cheap speakers ( costing less than LS3/5a in 1980 dollars ), get-outa-here. more hmmmmmms. And Wilsons for less than the price of a KIA Soul? get-outa-here sum-more

I love your work, OK, I'll subscribe to the print version ( if you still have one ).

Tony in Michigan

John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
I have to hand it to you lads, well done!!!

Thank you.

tonykaz wrote:
OK, I'll subscribe to the print version ( if you still have one).

Yes we do!

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

About $13, seems a bargain.

Tony in Michigan

AaronGarrett's picture

Just subscribed as well. Had lapsed for quite a few years. This has become a lot more than a hifi mag. It's clear that the love of music is what really drives Stereophile and its reviewers.

dalethorn's picture

I've found some interesting music through the reviews here - music I would have otherwise missed.

jporter's picture

Dale, I finally agree with you on something...Cheers!

dalethorn's picture

You may occasionally read where I say that I agree with what someone said, but you won't read where I say that "I agree with you."

Allen Fant's picture

The ML No. 585 integrated amp is on my short-list as well.

Atlet's picture

My impressions of the latest magazin review of the new PL300 II was Deutsch new reference. Shouldn't that make the PL300 II loudspeaker of the year and not the Wilson Sabrina?
Just confused..

rschryer's picture

Products for POTY consideration had to have been "covered in our November 2015 through October 2016 issues". The PL300 appeared in November's edition.

Atlet's picture

I guess the PL300 II would have become the winner if it had been reviewed before November if I have red and understood the review in the latest(Nov) issued Stereophile magazine..

rschryer's picture

Perhaps the more pertinent question is: How will the PL300 fare in 2017's POTY? *insert suspenseful music*

rschryer's picture

Keep in mind: The POTY system is consensus-based. RD's is but one opinion, as trustworthy as it may be.

mrvco's picture

Thank you for validating my recent J2 purchase. LOL. It's a great pairing w/ my single-driver Omegas. And yes, I'm a print subscriber. Can I get a badge?