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Stereophile's Products of 2017 Amplification Component of the Year

Amplification Component of the Year

Boulder Amplifiers 2150 monoblock power amplifier ($99,000/pair; reviewed by Michael Fremer, February 2017, Vol.40 No.2 review)

A quick spin through the archives at Stereophile.com will show that, for whatever reason, very-high-power solid-state amplifiers don't often take our top honors in this category: the last time that happened was in 2011, when we honored the Classé CT-M600/CA-M600 amps. Yet the Boulder 2150 monoblock isn't just any high-power amplifier: This 220-lb beast delivers 1000W into 8 ohms, and every one of those watts is claimed to be pure class-A, thanks to a microprocessor-based circuit that adjusts bias in accordance with input-signal voltage and loudspeaker load at any given millimoment. Yet for all that, said JA, "the Boulder 2150 runs relatively cool"—thanks in part to integral (non-fin) heatsinking created in Boulder's own machine shop. In a word, also courtesy JA: "extraordinary."

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Notes on the Vote: The big Boulder outdistanced the runners-up by a relatively modest number of votes, second place being taken by the class-D Bel Canto e.One REF600M, which charmed both Kal Rubinson and Herb Reichert. But here's the thing: third place was a four-way tie among three tubed products and one perhaps inspired by thermionic valves: respectively, the Audio Research Reference 6 preamplifier, PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium power amplifier, Shindo Monbrison preamplifier, and Pass Labs INT-60 integrated amplifier.

Finalists (in alphabetical order)

Audionet Max monoblock power amplifier ($30,500/pair; reviewed by Jason Victor Serinus, July 2017, Vol.40 No.7 review)
Audio Research Reference 6 preamplifier ($14,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, December 2016, Vol.39 No.12 review)
Bel Canto Design e.One REF600M monoblock power amplifier ($4990/pair; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson & Herb Reichert, October 2016 & September 2017, Vol.39 No.10 & Vol.40 No.9 review)
Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Progression monoblock power amplifier ($38,000/pair; reviewed by Jason Victor Serinus, October 2017, Vol.40 No.10 review)
darTZeel Audio NHB-18NS Mk.II preamplifier ($38,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, June 2017, Vol.40 No.6)
Lamm Industries L2.1 Reference preamplifier ($22,790; reviewed by Art Dudley, July 2017, Vol.40 No.7 review)
Pass Labs INT-60 integrated amplifier ($9000; reviewed by Herb Reichert, December 2016, Vol.39 No.12 review)
Peachtree nova300 integrated amplifier ($2499; reviewed by Art Dudley, June 2017, Vol.40 No.6 review)
PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium power amplifier ($2199; reviewed by Herb Reichert, November 2016, Vol.39 No.11 review)
PS Audio BHK 300 monoblock power amplifier ($14,998/pair; reviewed by Michael Fremer & Jim Austin, February 2016 & August 2017, Vol.39 No.2 & Vol.40 No.8 review)
Shindo Laboratory Monbrison preamplifier ($12,500; reviewed by Art Dudley, September 2017, Vol.40 No.9 review)

COMMENTS
stereoGoodness's picture

I'm not sure I understand the following:

"One can parse this in any number of ways, but to me, all those second-place votes speak of voters who may have lacked full confidence in the Kii's ability to take top honors, but who nevertheless said to themselves, while pulling the lever, 'Maybe this one isn't as crazy as we think?' Can't think what that reminds me of . . ."

Can someone less obtuse than I please enlighten me?

dalethorn's picture

The price isn't out of line for PotY, but given the relatively low price plus the fact that it's self-amplified *and* it's DSP-controlled is extremely unusual. After all, you're accepting not only its amplifiers and preamps, but whatever the DSP codec does to the sound.

Kal Rubinson's picture

They are, of course, inseparable and that should make one's assessment less complex, not more.

Glotz's picture

Would the unit be considered as an extension of the original DAC1 and its variants?

The Kii system does seem very next gen, and I agree, it reduces a set of system variables by the integration of its technologies. If I had the dosh...

John Atkinson's picture
Eligible products for the 2017 Awards had to be reviewed between November 2016 and October 2017. The Benchmark DAC3 is reviewed in the November 2017 issue so will be a contender for the 2018 awards.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Shangri-La's picture

Did the GoldenEar Reference speakers not make the cut to compete in this year's competition, or it was included but just not good enough to win/be nominated for anything?

John Atkinson's picture
Shangri-La wrote:
Did the GoldenEar Reference speakers not make the cut to compete in this year's competition?

As it says in the introduction, eligible products had to be reviewed between November 2016 and October 2017. The GoldenEar Triton Reference speaker is reviewed in the January 2018 issue.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bodhisattva's picture

How the Magico S5 Mk2 speakers are sitting in a lonely group of finalists which include Wharfedale, Monitor Audio and that abomination from Bang and Olufsen is completely beyond me. Sure, the $12k 0/96's sound musical, but better than the S5 Mk2's? Maybe if you're an SET guy and aren't particularly fussed about things like speed, accuracy or transparency.

scottsol's picture

The Ayre does not have “an abundance of analog and digital inputs”. Only digital inputs are available. The unit is now also available at a lower price by excluding the USB and/or Ethernet inputs.

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