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

Joint Digital Components of the Year

Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty Digital Hub D/A processor ($8950; reviewed by John Atkinson, September 2017, Vol.40 No.9 review)
Mytek HiFi Brooklyn D/A headphone amplifier ($1995; reviewed by Jim Austin, Kalman Rubinson, Herb Reichert, November 2016 & May 2017, Vol.39 No.11 & Vol.40 No.5 review)

Our 2017 Digital Component of the Year competition was also a tie—and both winners are the sorts of products that stretch our thinking on what to expect from a digital processor.

917ayre.pomro_.jpg

More than just a digital source component—a label more suited to their USB-only QB-9 DAC, which took top honors in this category in 2009—Ayre Acoustics' QX-5 Twenty Digital Hub D/A processor can take the place of a preamplifier in a digital-music playback system. That distinction owes as much to the Ayre's 100-step digital-domain volume control as to its abundance of analog and digital inputs—the latter including Ethernet connectivity and adherence to DLNA/UPnP protocols, for playing locally stored files and streaming music from the Internet—and the QX-5 Twenty is certified Roon Ready.

The no-less-flexible Mytek HiFi Brooklyn DAC, which handles DSD and PCM natively and independently, offers digital and analog volume controls, and—remarkably— supplements its inputs with a moving-magnet/moving-coil phono stage. The Brooklyn's good-quality headphone amp is also a plus—but to both Jim Austin and Herb Reichert, the Mytek's real calling card is its ability to decode MQA files. A heck of a package for just under $2000. 917mytek.promo_.jpg

Notes on the Vote: Once again, the runners-up weren't terribly close to the winners in numbers of votes won. Second-place honors went to Mytek HiFi's Manhattan II—yes, that company's $1995 processor edged out the newest version of their own $5995 processor—while third place was a tie between two products also made by the same company: dCS's Rossini DAC and Rossini Player.

Finalists (in alphabetical order)

Brinkmann Audio Nyquist D/A processor ($18,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, August 2017, Vol.40 No.8 review)
Bryston BCD-3 CD player ($3495; reviewed by Art Dudley, August 2017, Vol.40 No.8 review)
Bryston BDA-3 D/A processor ($3495; reviewed by Larry Greenhill, December 2017, Vol.39 No.12 review)
Chord Electronics DAVE D/A processor ($10,588; reviewed by John Atkinson, June 2017, Vol.40 No.6 review)
dCS Rossini D/A processor ($23,999; reviewed by Jason Victor Serinus, January 2017, Vol.40 No.1 review)
dCS Rossini Player ($28,499; reviewed by John Atkinson, December 2016, Vol.39 No.12 review)
Meridian Ultra DAC D/A processor ($23,000; reviewed by John Atkinson, May 2017, Vol.40 No.5 review)
Mytek HiFi Manhattan II D/A processor ($5995; reviewed by Herb Reichert, September 2017, Vol.40 No.9 review)
Schiit Audio Yggdrasil D/A processor ($2299; 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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