Stereophile's Products of 2008

Times are hard. Our current economic landscape bears more than a passing resemblance to that darkest of American nightmares, the Great Depression. As I write this, the House of Representatives is set to vote on a $700 billion bailout plan to buy distressed mortgages and thereby offer a crutch to our ailing financial system. Times are hard, yet we persevere. Though we may lack some discretionary income, we find ways to maintain the essentials: food, clothing, shelter, and, for audiophiles, music. So for a short while at least, let's put aside our struggles and lighten up. After all, this great hobby of ours is meant to be fun, and is supposed to cure any depression. Let's celebrate music, and those wonderful audio components that bring us closest to it.

Since 1992, Stereophile has named a few choice components as its "Products of the Year." In doing so, we happily recognize those products that are capable of providing musical pleasure without boundary, far beyond our formal review period. We break it down into five categories: "Loudspeakers" (including subwoofers), "Amplification Components" (preamplifiers, power amplifiers, etc.), "Digital Sources" (transports, processors, music servers, disc players), "Analog Sources" (phono cartridges, turntables, tonearms, FM tuners, etc.), and "Accessories" (all those little extras that keep us busy and satisfied). New for this year, our writers and editors declare their personal favorite components. Finally, the two most important categories are self-explanatory: Our overall "Product of the Year" is the best of the best and our "Budget Component of the Year" leaves us with the most cash to spend on new records—an economic bailout of sorts.

The voting was simple: Each of Stereophile's 14 hardware reviewers and editors was asked to nominate up to six components in each of the eight categories. To be a contender, a product had to have been reviewed in one of the 12 issues of Stereophile from November 2007 through October 2008, in a full Equipment Report, a Follow-Up review, or in one of the regular columns by Art Dudley, Michael Fremer, John Marks, Kalman Rubinson, and Sam Tellig. That way, only those components could be nominated for which a writer had put his opinion in print for public scrutiny. We then compiled a ballot form listing all components nominated by three or more writers and/or editors. This process ensured that most nominees in most categories will have been auditioned by the most reviewers. Each editor or reviewer 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). A consensus emerged, and the winners became clear. Editor John Atkinson tallied the votes—you can see JA's comments on how the voting process works here—address your love letters and hate mail to him.

The prices listed were current as of the end of September 2008. To order back issues mentioned in this article, call (888) 237-0955, or visit (MasterCard and Visa only).

And the winners are . . .