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

Joint Budget Components of the Year

Roon 1.3 music app
Wharfedale Diamond 225 loudspeaker

Once again, Roon 1.3 finds itself in the winner's circle, this time sharing the honor with a distinctly overachieving stand-mounted loudspeaker: the Wharfedale Diamond 225. The diminutive Wharfedale, which combines a 1" tweeter and a 6.5" mid/woofer in a reflex-loaded cabinet made of MDF, was described by Herb Reichert as "a connoisseur-level audio component," and was similarly hailed in Follow-Up reports by Ken Micallef and me. Some day, this review pair will make its way beyond New York State!


Notes on the Vote: Again Roon earned a healthy number of first-place votes: five. The Wharfedales won the same number of votes overall, but in a spread that included one fewer first-place vote than Roon. Second place was a tie between the AudioQuest Niagara AC power conditioner, which took third place in the Accessory of the Year voting, and the VPI Prime Scout, this year's Analog Component of the Year. Third place was also a tie, between the AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon headphones and the Denon DL-103 phono cartridge. That's right—two third-place showings for a 52-year-old product in a category that was supposed to be dead 20 years ago. Is this a great industry or what?

Finalists (in alphabetical order)

AudioQuest Niagara 1000 AC power conditioner
AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon headphones
Denon DL-103 phono cartridge
Emotiva XPA Gen3 two-channel power amplifier
($999; reviewed by Herb Reichert, August 2017, Vol.40 No.8 review)
Rega Research Brio integrated amplifier ($995; reviewed by Ken Micallef, October 2017, Vol.40 No.10 review)
Rega Research Planar 3 turntable
VPI Prime Scout turntable with JMW 9 tonearm

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

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?