Stereophile's Products of 2023

When we introduced Stereophile's Product of the Year awards in 1992 (footnote 1), we decided that, unlike some other publications' awards schemes, we would avoid what the late Art Dudley once described as the "every child in the class gets a prize" syndrome. We decided to keep the number of categories to the minimum. That way, in Loudspeakers, for example, high-value minimonitors would compete with cost-no-object floorstanders. In Analog Products, turntables would compete with tonearms, phono cartridges, and phono preamplifiers. And in Amplification, single-box integrated amplifiers would go up against separates. In Budget Product of the Year, we lumped everything together, recognizing products from every category that offered the best sound for the buck. The overall Product of the Year, meanwhile, would be the winner of all the winners—a single product, unless the voting resulted in a tie.

To be considered for our 2023 awards, products must have been subjected to a full review or considered in a column published from the November 2022 issue through the October 2023 issue. Each product was subjected by the reviewer to a thorough evaluation over a period of weeks or months—plus, for regular reviews (not columns), a session in my test lab.

As Stereophile Editor Jim Austin wrote in the introduction to the 2022 awards: "The resulting review documents what's almost certainly the most thorough evaluation that product will receive outside the manufacturer's development lab. ... That document, then—the review itself—is a product's best argument for winning an award—or against it if the review lacks enthusiasm."

Three Rounds of Voting
In early September, I compiled and shared with Stereophile's audio-equipment reviewers a list of eligible products (footnote 2). Each reviewer was invited to nominate three products in each of seven categories: Amplification Component of the Year, Analog Source Component of the Year, Digital Source Component of the Year, Headphone Product of the Year, Accessory of the Year, Loudspeaker of the Year, and Budget Product of the Year. Reviewers were asked to award three points to their top choice, two points to their second choice, and one point to their third choice (footnote 3). The result of Round One was a list of Finalists comprised of top vote-getters in each category.

The Budget category is, of course, a bit different from the others. For the 2022 Awards, Jim Austin decided not to put an absolute maximum price on products eligible for the budget category; "after all, a $500 amplifier or pair of speakers is obviously budget, but a $1000 phono cartridge might not be," he wrote. So he played it by ear, on the grounds that a "budget" component was one that, in his judgment as Stereophile's editor, was considerably cheaper than most of the products that had been reviewed in its category. I followed his example for the 2023 voting.

In addition to qualifying for the second round of voting in their category, every Finalist from every category—not including Budget or Accessories—remained in the running for overall Product of the Year.

In the second round of voting, reviewers were again asked to award three points, two points, or a single point to their favorites in each category—but this time, the lists were shorter. The highest vote-getter would become the category winner.

There were clear winners in every category except for the overall Product of 2023. A third round of voting was therefore necessary—I sent out a third ballot that listed the 10 products that had garnered the highest number of nominating votes. As you will read, the result was a tie between two high-performance products.

Some final notes: The prices listed herein were current at the end of August 2023; some may have changed by the time you read this. Finalists in each category are listed in alphabetical order.

We regret that back issues of the print magazine are no longer available. However, electronic issues can be purchased from Zinio. Reviews of all the products listed are available online, free.

And the winners are ...

Footnote 1: Past Products of the Year articles can be found here.

Footnote 2: Because Jim Austin was traveling for much of September 2023, he delegated the voting process and the preparation of this feature to me.

Footnote 3: See my explanation of how this voting system works here.