Stereophile's Products of 2017 Joint Analog Components of the Year

Joint Analog Components of the Year

Sutherland Engineering Duo phono preamplifier ($4000/pair; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, September 2017, Vol.40 No.9 review)
VPI Prime Scout turntable with JMW 9 tonearm ($2199; reviewed by Art Dudley, October 2017, Vol.40 No.10 review)

First place in our Analog Component of the Year competition is a tie between two solid and solidly American audio components, one the upmarket refinement of a well-proven design, the other a product whose perfectionism is tempered with enough thrift that it also tied for second place in the category of Budget Product of the Year.

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Sutherland's Duo phono preamplifier is as dual-mono as dual-mono gets: two separate, identical enclosures, each with its own power supply, gain and loading adjustments, solid-state voltage amplifiers—even two separate shipping cartons. If you could talk Ron Sutherland into selling you just a single Duo, it would be perfectly at home in any monophile's system.

With the Prime Scout turntable, VPI nudges their well-loved, budget-priced Scout in the direction of their more upmarket Prime (darned if I know where they got the name). The result is a belt-drive turntable with a curvy solid plinth, a damped aluminum platter, and a sturdy outboard motor. It's bundled with VPI's JMW 9 tonearm, an aluminum-and-stainless-steel unipivot with an effective length of about 9.5".

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Notes on the Vote: There was a big drop in the number of votes—around 33%, appropriately enough—from the two first-place winners to the product that took second place, Audio Union's Döhmann Helix 1 turntable with Schröder CB tonearm. The drop from there to the number of votes won by our two third-place winners was no less precipitous, and it's a remarkable pairing, given their drastically different prices: CH Precision's P1 phono preamplifier, which so impressed Mikey, and the half-century-old Denon DL-103 cartridge, which has found favor with Herb Reichert, Ken Micallef, and me, among others.

Finalists (in alphabetical order)

AMG Giro turntable with 9W2 tonearm ($10,000; reviewed by Herb Reichert, October 2017, Vol.40 No.10 review)
Audio Research Phono Ref 3 phono preamplifier ($14,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, January 2017, Vol.40 No.1)
Audio Union Döhmann Helix 1 turntable with Schröder CB tonearm ($40,300; reviewed by Michael Fremer, March 2017, Vol.40 No.3)
Bob's Devices Sky 40 MC step-up transformer ($1250; reviewed by Art Dudley, March 2017, Vol.40 No.3 review)
CH Precision P1 phono preamplifier ($31,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, April & June 2017, Vol.40 Nos. 4 & 6)
Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum Phono Stage ($28,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, February 2017, Vol.40 No.3)
Denon DL-103 phono cartridge ($379; reviewed by J. Gordon Holt, Art Dudley, Stephen Mejias, Ken Micallef, September 1975, October & December 2007, April 2010, June & August 2017, Vol.3 No.9, Vol.30 Nos. 10 & 12, Vol.40 Nos. 6 & 8 review)
Kuzma Stabi M turntable with 4Point 14" tonearm ($28,220; reviewed by Michael Fremer, November 2016, Vol.39 No.11)
Rega Research Planar 3 turntable ($1145; reviewed by Herb Reichert, February 2017, Vol.40 No.2 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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