Stereophile's Products of 2016 Joint Budget Components of the Year

Joint Budget Components of the Year

AudioQuest DragonFly Red & Black D/A headphone amplifiers
Elac Debut B6 loudspeaker
Perhaps the nicest thing about this tie for 2016 Budget Product of the Year is that one can easily imagine the Elac Debut B6 speakers and either of AudioQuest's new DragonFly DACs in the same system. No less nice is the fact that you could buy both—assuming even the costlier DragonFly Red—and still get change from a $500 bill, if such things still existed.


While we're handing out laurel wreaths, let's not forget that AudioQuest has, in the new and old DragonFlys alike, created a line of notably high-value audio products that are made in the US. With their Chinese-built Debut B6, Elac doesn't manage quite the same trick, but they more than make up for it by offering a sub-$300/pair speaker capable of "pumping tangible musical energy into the room," as Herb Reichert put it. The two-way, 14"-tall Debut B6 may not be perfect, but this Andrew Jones design deserves to be thought of as more than "just" a budget speaker. As HR put it: "'Dorm-room speakers'? Not hardly!"

Notes on the vote: Density is back, with a vengeance: Of the two first-place winners, the Elac Debut B6 had fewer votes overall, yet won twice as many first-place votes as the AudioQuest DragonFlys. Also interesting is the fact that these two top winners beat the second-place winner—a DAC-headphone amp from Chord, the Mojo, which is indeed workin'—by the largest margin of votes in this year's POTY voting.

Finalists (in alphabetical order)

Apogee Groove USB D/A headphone amplifier ($295; reviewed by Jon Iverson, John Atkinson & Jim Austin, January, February & June 2016, Vol.39 Nos. 1, 2 & 6 Review)
Chord Mojo D/A headphone amplifier
Dynavector DV-20X2L phono cartridge
Rogue Audio RP-1 preamplifier ($1699; reviewed by Herb Reichert, August 2016, Vol.39 No.8 Review)
Meridian Explorer2 USB D/A headphone amplifier
Music Hall MMF-7.3 turntable & tonearm
PS Audio NuWave DSD D/A processor
VPI Scout Jr. turntable & tonearm

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?