Stereophile's Products of 2020 Component of the Year

Component of the Year

NAD M33 integrated amplifier ($4999; reviewed by Kal Rubinson, October 2020, Vol.43 No.10 Review)

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Finalists (in alphabetical order)
Audio Research Reference 160S stereo power amplifier ($20,000; reviewed by Jim Austin, February 2020, Vol.43 No.2 Review)
HoloAudio May (Level 3) D/A processor ($4998; reviewed by Herb Reichert & John Atkinson, August & September 2020, Vol.43 Nos.8 & 9 Review)
Krell K-300i integrated amplifier ($7000 plus $1000 for DAC option; reviewed by Jason Victor Serinus, December 2019, Vol.42 No.12 Review)
Magico M2 loudspeaker ($56,000/pair plus $7500 for MPod Bases; reviewed by John Atkinson, February 2020, Vol.43 No.2 Review)
Volti Audio Razz loudspeaker ($5999/pair; reviewed by Tom Gibbs, August 2020, Vol.43 No.8 Review)
Wilson Audio Sasha DAW loudspeaker ($37,900/pair; reviewed by Sasha Matson, January 2020, Vol.43 No.1 Review)

Life is good for the NAD M33—winner of both our amplification component prize and this, the overall prize for Component of the Year 2020. What can I write here that I haven't written above?

The last few years have brought a fundamental change to music-listening. Sure, it's true that vinyl is thriving (which I'm very happy about, except for the effect it has had on used-vinyl prices). But meanwhile, otherwise, the long-anticipated fade-away of physical media is finally actually occurring, because streaming services have become ubiquitous and also very good. Meanwhile, much other music has gone virtual, via downloads, ripped CDs, and the odd vinyl needle drop. And let's not forget about smartphones, tablets, internet radio stations, podcasts. Factor in multiroom audio and wireless speakers (and other output devices), and you have a music-reproduction ecosystem utterly different than it was just a few years ago—and far more complicated.

Devices like the M33 bring order to the chaos. It takes this complicated ecosystem and makes it simpler than ever.

At least as important for Stereophile and its readers is that it does all that with unassailable quality. Sure, there are people out there who will prefer the sound of their tube or class-A amplifier, but the amplification technology inside the M33—Purifi's Eigentakt—has the potential to win over even the most anachronistic audiophiles.

About the Vote
A clear win for the NAD, with two premium loudspeakers—the Magico M2 and the Wilson Audio Sasha DAW—tied for second place a few votes back.

COMMENTS
mtrot's picture

No doubt an exceptional product but lacks both a USB-B port and a true home theater bypass, which makes it a no-go for me.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Update for USB in the pipeline. It will be in the form of an MDC module.

mtrot's picture
BlackH20's picture

A whole article on cost, you have already lost generations by arguing over the wire and can't let a young working man get into the basic hobby or even understand the value in it.

tonykaz's picture

If you were young again, which of today's gear choices would you invest in?

I'm thinking Schiit & PS Audio probably.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tony in Venice

PeterG's picture

Yes on Schiit and PS. Let's add in NAD, Bluesound, and lower priced B&W

tonykaz's picture

like a ultra-niche watering hole for eclectics ( something like me ) featuring artistic writing on rather intellectual subjects like 'transparency'. This might be an out-of-the-way Bar where the Audiophile Junta meet in semi-secret. hmm.

and yet,

The group's nominated Product of the Year is a Chinesium , of all things.

Why wasn't it Chad Kassem's Company and thier work in accessible High Quality Music ? It could've be a No.1 choice.

or

the Schiit Company for making Audiophile gear available to anyone that can afford cigarettes.

Stereophile has a higher calling than a normal glossy Mag.

Stereophile is the Carrier/Keeper/Curator & Documentor of a beautiful Music Culture where, I'm hoping, rising prices won't be the measure of raising the Bar.

The Audiophiliac remains my nomination for Audiophile of the Year.

Tony in Venice

Glotz's picture

Goes to YOU, Tony!

Kudos.

monetschemist's picture

This comment:

"Best of all, readers who bought one because of the review emailed me to say they were thrilled.—Michael Fremer

Here we have a reviewer, who has been "doing this" for a long time, who is at the top of his game, who impresses both manufacturers and readers for his efforts, who has the reputation and technical chops to review 6 figure audio equipment.

And here, where we might therefore expect to see swagger and an "I told you so" attitude, we see instead his delight in readers who are pleased by his recommendations.

Thank you, Mr. Fremer, for sharing your wisdom and experience and for maintaining your humanity.

Glotz's picture

For giving me incredible, accurate recommendations every year!
I put my money where their mouths are!

Despite Corona virus whupping the world economy's ass, I bought in 2020:

PS Audio Stellar phono preamp (Stereophile- MF)
Benchmark HPA4 line/headphone amp (KR)
Hana ML cartridge (HR)
NAD C427 tuner
Schiit Modius DAC (Analog Planet- ML)
Magneplanar 1.7i speakers
REL T5i subwoofers -2
HiFi Man He-400i headphones
AudioQuest Colorado XLR & RCA interconnects
AudioQuest Carbon Coax and USB interconnects
Shunyata Defender
Audio Reference LP Carbonmat record mat
Aesthetics ABCD-1 Demagnetizer
Belles 150a Hot Rod amp re-chip (ST)
Soundsmith Carmen 1 cartridge re-tip (HR).

All of the parenthesis show which reviewer recommended it, and I feel their perceptions on every product were spot-on accurate. The rest of the equipment were also well reviewed and recommended by other magazines.

I truly thank them for reporting on their observations, insights, and thoroughness when reviewing. My trust is shown by purchasing this gear!

I also thank them all for fun and truly superlative writing! And to JA for his measurements and insights...

The take-away is great sound isn't by accident. We need great writers who adhere to truth and art, and understand the fine line between both and make salient recommendations for the audience they believe it fits.

And thank you to Stereophile and its web presence (and the AP), where real audio debate and discovery are available to everyone.

davemill's picture

I'll second Sterophile's gear advice with one notable exception. Gear that is manufactured and designed in China is a definite no go for me. This includes such companies as Holoaudio and Denafrips. I will not support communists. My wife grew up under communism in Romania. I also avoid gear that is manufactured in China although if I wasn't fortunate to have funds for a higher budget I might be tempted to buy the lower end B&W and NAD equipment. That being said I am very happy with the following purchases I made over the past 12 months.

Revel PerformaBe F228 (KR)
Parasound Halo A21+ (KR)
Shunyata Research Denali 6000/S v2 power distributor
Shunyata Research Sigma XC and 2 Alpha NR v2 power cords
Shunyata Research CopperConn duplex outlet

The impact of the Shunyata products was mind-blowing to me. I will likely replace my Synergistic Research interconnects and speaker cables with Shunyata's new v2 products in 2021.

YRMV

Glotz's picture

Killer speakers and amp!

I do love Shunyata's approach to their entire line. While I don't like the Venom interconnects, I do love and use the speaker cables. But I will be looking to the V2 line next year, probably the Deltas.

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