Stereophile's Products of 2017 Editors' Choices of 2017

Editors' Choices of 2017

Audiodesksysteme Gläss Pro Vinyl Cleaner ($4199)
Without playing a note, the Audiodesksysteme Gläss Pro Vinyl Cleaner rocked my listening world. This wonderfully designed car wash for LPs accomplishes far more than I expected: reduction in noises of all kinds, and a magical lifting of yet another veil from the music. Brilliant!—Sasha Matson

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Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 loudspeaker & Kii Audio Three loudspeaker (Joint Award) ($84,990/pair & $13,255/pair)
These remarkable products prove that the traditional loudspeaker paradigm has a successor. While not indisputably superior to all passive or powered speakers, they compel all speaker designers to consider the acoustical advantages of DSP or risk being surpassed by those who do. Both are outstanding, but the Kii is more so, simply because it's much smaller and costs far less than the B&O.—Kalman Rubinson

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Bryston BDA-3 D/A processor ($3495)
While it was frustrating not to be able to decode MQA files, that didn't stop the Bryston BDA-3 from being the most versatile and the best-sounding DAC I've heard in my listening room. It delivered superbly effortless, delicate, subtly revealing, tube-like output from a wide variety of digital formats, including, via its HDMI input, DSD64 datastreams from SACDs. Its unusual flexibility makes it an ideal reviewer's tool for evaluating other high-end gear. I had no choice but to buy the review sample.—Larry Greenhill

CH Precision P1 phono preamplifier ($31,000)
Aside from thoroughly enjoying the P1's sound (or lack thereof) and exceptional background quiet, its multiple inputs one based on current amplification and one based on voltage amplification, make a reviewer's life so much easier. Owning the solid-state P1 and the tubed/LCR-based Ypsilon VPS-100 gives me the best of all phono-preamplifier worlds.—Michael Fremer

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Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Progression monoblock power amplifier ($38,000/pair)
Even amid outstanding new products from dCS, Mytek, and Wilson, Dan D'Agostino's Progression monoblocks stand out for their superb bass control, imaging, detail, and musical authority. They are truly "Master Audio Systems" achievements that, in my system, bring me closer to the source of artistic creation and inspiration than ever before.—Jason Victor Serinus

dCS Rossini D/A processor ($23,999)
The dCS Rossini D/A processor is one of the two finest-sounding DACs I've heard.— Michael Lavorgna

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DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 loudspeaker ($12,000/pair)
The Orangutan O/96 is not what you'd expect, given its old-school morphology. Its midrange is its best feature, as you might expect. But, in contrast to its vintage shape, its highs are punchy and extended, and its lows are natural and relaxed, but not tubby. Unorthodox, but a complete and satisfying package.—Jim Austin

KEF Reference 5 loudspeaker ($19,000/pair)
It was difficult choosing a personal product of 2017, as I have reviewed several superb-sounding loudspeakers and some wonderful DACs in the past 12 issues. But by a small margin I'll go for KEF's Reference 5, which, in the three months the review samples lived in my listening room, continually seduced me into wanting to play just one more album before I went to bed.—John Atkinson

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MartinLogan Masterpiece Renaissance ESL 15A loudspeaker ($24,995/pair)
This speaker can truly hang with the high-end crowd, but at a fraction of the price. No speaker is perfect for everyone—some may not like the outright honesty of a panel speaker like this—but here in a single package are powered subs, soundstage for miles, life-size imaging, and a midrange as clear as a bell. Flat-out gorgeous, too.—Jon Iverson

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Monitor Audio Platinum PL300 II loudspeaker ($14,495/pair)
"Let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them." Hamlet's Advice to the Players can be applied to loudspeakers. The ideal speaker would reproduce recorded music without adding any sound of its own. Of all the speakers I've reviewed over the years, the Monitor Audio Platinum PL300 II came closest to this ideal. So I had to buy them.—Robert Deutsch

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Mytek HiFi Manhattan II D/A processor ($5995)
I had no choice but to nominate the Mytek HiFi Manhattan II as my personal Product Of 2017. More than any other 21st-century audio component, the Manhattan II changed how I perceive the relative merits of headphones, of digital, of streaming, and of MQA.— Herb Reichert

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Shindo Laboratory Monbrison preamplifier ($12,500)
A 6.5"-tall monument to the idea that the best hi-fi products are the ones that have a point of view, and a bearer of not-so-mute testimony to the endurance of Shindo Laboratory following the death of its founder, the new Shindo Monbrison preamp is a thing of beauty—and it's here in my system to stay.—Art Dudley

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Sutherland Engineering Duo phono preamplifier ($4000/pair)
My choice of Ron Sutherland's Duo phono preamp as my personal Product of 2017 was an easy one to make. The Duo was beyond excellent, beyond superb or sublime. It was perfect. Every aspect, every detail, everything about it was exactly as it had to be.—Brian Damkroger

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Volti Audio Rival loudspeaker ($7900/pair)
In no uncertain terms, the Volti Audio Rival loudspeakers created a personal audio revolution that continues to echo around my cranial orb to this day. The Volti Rival's superior traits are many, and form a singular whole that I found intoxicating. Allying horn purity, sensitivity, and projection to midrange transparency and a low end that I at first thought was lacking but soon realized was exceptional, these large speakers "disappeared" from my small listening space, and defined every strain of the audioband with ease and lovely clarity. For the base asking price of $7900, a pair of Rivals constitute one of today's great audio bargains.—Ken Micallef

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.

sb6's picture

Late to the game, but I'd like to understand more about criteria. Specifically, was price or more explicitly sonic value per $ considered when each reviewer made their picks?

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