Stereophile's Products of 2023 Joint Budget Components of the Year

Joint Budget Components of the Year

Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-600M II Loudspeaker
($749/pair, plus stands; reviewed by Herb Reichert in Vol.46 No.8 review)

NAD C 3050 LE Integrated Amplifier
($1972; reviewed by john Atkinson in Vol.46 No.4 review)

Finalists (in alphabetical order)
Benchmark DAC3 B D/A Processor ($1890; reviewed by John Atkinson in Vol.46 No.3 review)
Elekit TU-8600S Power Amplifier ($1880, plus tubes; reviewed by Herb Reichert in Vol.46 No.1 review)
iFi Neo Stream Streaming D/A Processor ($1299; reviewed by Sasha Matson in Vol.46 No.8 review)
LSA Discovery Warp 1 Power Amplifier ($1499; reviewed by Tom Fine in Vol.46 No.7 review)

A tie between two deserving products was not unexpected in this category. The Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-600M II is a revised version of the standmount loudspeaker that Herb Reichert reviewed in March 2019 and that was a Finalist in our Budget Component of 2019 category. The II features a redesigned woofer, which Klipsch says sports Faraday rings and a larger voice-coil, a larger tractrix-flare horn opening for the tweeter, which is now mounted flush with the front baffle, and upgraded binding posts.

Compared with the original, the high frequencies emerging from the RP-600M II's larger horn felt smoother and more refined, with less noise in the crossover region, HR wrote. "The combined effect of the revised horn and bass driver is to add weight, presence, and low-signal delicacy to the presentation. The new Klipsch is simply more refined-sounding. ... In my system, it sounded exactly as romantic or resolving, as thrilling or dull, as the amp I chose to drive it with," he concluded.

The retro-styled C 3050 LE BluOS streaming integrated amplifier was released in 2022 to celebrate NAD's 50th anniversary. Reflecting the year the company was founded, just 1972 samples were manufactured at a price of $1972. (A non-LE version, which costs $1899 with the BluOS module, $1299 without it, is also available.) Despite the styling, the 100Wpc C 3050 LE is a thoroughly modern amplifier, with line and phono analog inputs, HDMI eARC, Type-A USB, coaxial and optical S/PDIF digital inputs, and an Ethernet port and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas to allow streaming with the BluOS app. The amplifier incorporates Dirac Live room correction, which I found very effective, bringing my KEF LS50s' midbass region into good balance with the upper bass and lower midrange.

"Excellent upper-bass articulation was combined with a natural-sounding midrange and clean highs," I wrote in my review, concluding that while considerably more expensive systems could play louder, deeper, and clearer, with a greater sense of scale, what I heard from the NAD with Dirac Live optimizing the low-frequency output of my minimonitors "didn't leave me wishing for more."

Notes on the vote
The price spread in the Budget category is the narrowest of any in this year's awards. But the least expensive product, the Klipsch loudspeaker, and the most expensive, the NAD amplifier, scored the same number of votes, which was considerably more than the third-place Benchmark D/A processor.