The 2004 Products of the Year

Stereophile's "Products of the Year," now in its 13th year, recognizes those rare components that prove capable of giving musical pleasure beyond the formal review period. These are the components that can be recommended with no ifs or buts, that will grace any system in which they are used.

There are six individual categories: Loudspeakers (including subwoofers), Amplification Components (preamplifiers, power amplifiers, etc.), Digital Sources (CD players, transports, processors), Analog Sources (phono cartridges, turntables, tonearms, FM tuners, etc.), Music Surround Components (new this year), and Accessories (everything else).

The two most important categories, however, are the Product of the Year itself—the best of the best—and the Budget Component of the Year—the best sound for the buck. There's also an Editor's Choice award, for which John Atkinson usually singles out the product that has most impressed him in the preceding 12 months.

The formal voting procedure consists of two steps. First, each of Stereophile's hardware reviewers is asked to nominate up to six components in each of the seven categories. To be a contender, a product had to have been reviewed in Stereophile between the November 2003 and October 2004 issues, in a full Equipment Report, a "Follow-Up" review, or in one of the regular columns by Sam Tellig, Art Dudley, Kalman Rubinson, John Marks, and Michael Fremer. That way, only those components could be nominated for which a writer had put his opinion in print for public scrutiny. We then put together a ballot form that lists all components nominated by three or more writers and/or editors. This process ensures that most of the nominees in most of the categories will have been auditioned by most of the reviewers.

The prices listed were current as of the end of August 2004. Almost all the product reviews are available free of charge in our online Archives.

Each of the magazine's editors and reviewers gave three votes for his first choice in each category, two votes for his second choice, and one vote for his third choice (if any). JA tallied the votes; address complaints and compliments to him.

And the winners are...