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Stereophile 2020 Products of the Year

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by hoffmanuser2020, Nov 20, 2020.

  1. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Hong Kong
    With Class D the only ones I have liked so far are the ones from Wyred 4 Sound - they sounded quite good at the California Audio Show. I wasn't all that enamored with NAD and never been much of a fan of Bel Canto - and didn't like the Anthem or PS Audio units.

    I understand there are competing technologies in Class D - I have not looked if there is a correlation to my preferences yet. They don't seem to review Wyred 4 Sound but the brand seems to do well in TAS.

    I might bring some in to try. My follow up Parasound auditions didn't retain the charm over a variety of music. Still not giving up. I'll try the NAD on speakers I like more.

    Most stuff they review gets into the recommended component listing - advertisers or not. The only research that would matter is the percentage breakdown of what gets class A. But the Audio Note Jinro got class A and Peter Qvortrup doesn't advertise with Stereophile.

    In fact, I give Stereophile credit because John Atkinson and Peter Q had a fairly public disagreement on audio asylum about DAC technology and yet Stereophile still reviewed the CD 4.1 and still, I think, gave it class A even though the measurements were, to use JA's word, "Broken."

    So a non-advertiser and public disagreements and still Stereophile gave them class A.

    So I would not be concerned with those conspiracy theories.

    Still, I would go by reviewers, not the magazines themselves. All magazines hire different reviewers with very different tastes. You can ask Kal to help you build a stereo system for $20,000 and if you asked Art Dudly - I can guarantee you that you would end up with two completely different stereo systems and you may not have a single shared component in the set-up.

    And that is true for every magazine out there including mine. When I used to read Stereophile I put my stereo together from their lists and wound up with rubbish (well rubbish to me) Arcam and B&W. What I should have done was a lot of listening - kept a list of the great-sounding systems and then found the reviewers that liked the stuff I liked so they could put me onto the good equipment for me. Arcam was getting raves in the 1990s - editor's choice - least expensive component ever to make class B etc. And B&W - argh.

    When a review consistently recommends all the stuff that I hated - there is no point in reading their reviews. So it doesn't matter if a magazine has 3-4 reviewers who all say XYZ is the best. If the reviewer that hears it the same way I do isn't one of the 3-4 then who cares?

    This is like rotten tomatoes movie reviewing. I'll give you an example of two recent films (just a rough example):

    Marriage Story 94% fresh
    Jo-Jo Rabbit 80% fresh.

    The way it works is if a movie gets a thumbs up - even marginal thumbs up it is a fresh tomato.

    So going by the numbers Marriage Story is the better movie because it had more thumbs up. I would give it a thumbs up - my review was ***1/2 out of ***** stars and was solid.

    JoJo Rabbit because it is a satire (and a holocaust satire at that) was going to walk a line that would create some emotions in people that would be put off just at the premise of the story. So it's a polarizing film like SS versus SET. If you "get SET" amplifiers then you will probably REALLY get them and you will give it your top marks. If you do not get it they will be a weird niche thing that perplexes you as to why you would like it.

    With Jo Jo Rabbit I did a quick poll of friends who saw all the academy award films of 2019 and quite a lot of them chose JoJo rabbit as the best film - nobody chose Marriage Story.

    So JoJo rabbit is likely to have more *****/***** star ratings than Marriage story but will also have more detractors. This would also be true for say Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction is held up as being a classic today for people who are really into film - Forrest Gump is considered a nice little confectionary movie at best.

    And in the end, which movie you like is the one you like not what most people liked. Think of all the things most people like and you roll your eyes. I like dark chocolate - 3 people out of 4 can choose white chocolate as the chocolate of the year - umm that's great - I'll stick to the Dark chocolate thanks.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020
    avanti1960, Tim 2 and gabbleratchet7 like this.
  2. stax o' wax

    stax o' wax Forum Resident

    The West
    It's a nice acknowledgment to get a "Product Of The Year" award from Stereophile.
    I think it certainly means that it could be a product you want to consider.
    However in my opinion great componenets are those that have stood some test of time.
    I tend to take a wait and see approach if a component really proves itself in the real world for a while before I consider investing in it.
    Tim 2, Agitater and gabbleratchet7 like this.
  3. Kal Rubinson

    Kal Rubinson Forum Resident

    I had assumed that the LPF setting invoked a complementary HPF in the main speakers. I never tested it although the LPF and HPF were evident when I examined them in DL. It seems the basic issue is important only if one wants to use a subwoofer but not to use DL. Seems like an unlikely choice.
    Agitater likes this.
  4. Noel Patterson

    Noel Patterson Six pack of stout, and a stick of sensi

    Ontario, Canada
    Yep you're right, easy peasy this time around. Last year around this time I had a horrible time trying to subscribe and gave up. Anywho, worked well this time!
    Agitater likes this.
  5. LakeMountain

    LakeMountain Vinyl surfer

    Didn’t say that it was a steamer only, but an integrated amplifier with BluOS streaming module, WiFi, MQA, room correction, etc. This and the fact that it works in digital mode makes it ideal for (hi-res) streaming.
    The PUtzey RIsbo FIdelity technology puts it into the top of Class D amps. Great development, which provides lots of power and makes clipping almost impossible!

    However there are also other top Class-D amps, IMO, which are less advertised. Like the Lyngdorf TDAI3400 for example, which also has lots of features and an attempt to “decompress” loudness of maltreated digital recordings, which is an very sympathetic feature and good that someone pioneers a development in this area!
    The Devialet amps also are great and feature the Speaker Active Matching (SAM) technology, which has been well received.

    These are all interesting evolutions of the Class D concept and who knows what is more to come?
  6. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    I personally think that the thought provoking aspect of the CAD grounding box relates mainly to the fact that so many otherwise intelligent and experienced reviewers (e.g., Michael Fremer, among several others) can still fall prey to the persuasive ministrations of the marketing writers charged with promoting technically unsupportable nonsense.

    In the real world of physics, electrical theory and practice - as opposed to the fantasy world of ‘high-end’ audiophile accessories in which physics and electricity exist primarily as a target for derision and deceptive manipulation by gadget shills - none of the grounding boxes work. I have not tested or assessed the CAD box specifically. However, all other grounding boxes I’ve tested add noise to the system in which they’re installed. The added noise is often faintly audible and easily measurable (as the difference between the pre-box/post-box background system noise levels). As well, many of the ground box so-called systems, create loops in previously quiet systems that then cause hum rather than reduce what is already effectively inaudible background noise in those systems.

    What Fremer and other reviewers react to, I think, is a change in sound, not an improvement in sound (i.e., not a reduction in background noise). It’s a change similar to that of the pleasant background noise level (compared to primarily digital systems) of analogue-based systems used primarily for playing LPs. That analogue-based systems are measurably noisier than comparably priced digital systems is an inherent quality of the media; LPs by definition have noisier backgrounds than CDs, high fidelity and high resolution digital streams, and stored commercial music files. That the best cared-for LPs (including many of my own) have relatively quiet backgrounds at a level at which most listeners declare them to be essentially silent is irrelevant in a technical comparison because comparable digital systems are measurably even quieter than that.

    So I’d suggest that the question to ask is - when even mid-priced analogue and digital systems and even some of the better-matched budget systems, in my experience for more than twenty years, can be set up to perform with effectively silent background noise levels - exactly what benefit does a CAD grounding box or any of the other grounding boxes on the market actually confer? I suggest that the answer is no benefit at all other than a cleverly wrought psychological one. That’s a lot of money spent in return for a bit of temporarily assuaging mental petting.
  7. LakeMountain

    LakeMountain Vinyl surfer

    Grounding box could to be a misnomer. From the description it sounds more a like electricity filter that eliminates high frequency noise up to 10 GHz that is generated by all kind of digital equipment and converts it into heat. There seems to be no dump into the ground, but it cleans the noise (1-10000MHz) in the signal ground.
    CAD claims that this HF noise is the cause of what many call “digital “ or metallic sound.
    It indeed seems to be a novel product!
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020
    avanti1960 likes this.
  8. Stunsworth

    Stunsworth Forum Resident

    Via the Zinio app. It’s $10 for a year’s subscription (or 10 GBP in the UK).
    Glmoneydawg likes this.
  9. sharedon

    sharedon Forum Zonophone

    In the US, some public libraries provide free access to magazines in digital from via PressReader and the like.
  10. jeffmackwood

    jeffmackwood Forum Resident

    My Ottawa Public Library membership (free) provides free online Zinio access (through OPL's web site) to hundreds and hundreds of magazines, including Stereophile, Sound & Vision, etc., not to mention a huge collection of CDs, DVDs, as well as streaming services. Oh yeah - books too! :)

    As sharedon says, I suspect that many public libraries offer similar membership benefits.

  11. Kal Rubinson

    Kal Rubinson Forum Resident

    Indeed, this seems to be a claim, although not a novel one.
  12. LakeMountain

    LakeMountain Vinyl surfer

    The claim of reducing HFnoise on the signal ground may be novel?
  13. MattHooper

    MattHooper Forum Resident


    The signal to noise ratios in even modest equipment tends to be well beyond the ability of human hearing as it is.

    But when you read purely subjective accounts of tweaking systems to counter "noise" virtually everything "makes a difference." There are audiophiles on audiogon who have every "Noise floor lowering" tweak in the book in their system - big thick audio cables, cable risers, fire-hose AC cables, power conditioners, noise-lowering footers, pasty things and bags on various areas - you name it. And for every addition a new "lowering of the noise floor" is claimed. It's as if the audiophile has Super Hearing with an infinite dynamic range where there is no bottom to the "noise" he can not detect, beyond that even of our best instruments!

    In other words: pretty much exactly as you would expect, if the results are due to the audiophile's imagination. :)
  14. Kal Rubinson

    Kal Rubinson Forum Resident

    I doubt it is novel but I have not made a survey.
  15. hoffmanuser2020

    hoffmanuser2020 Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Los Angeles, CA
    I checked out Zinio. You have to view the publication in a dedicated Zinio app, not a PDF file. I suppose that's fine, as long as I get Stereophile in its print layout format.
  16. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Hong Kong
    Back in the day I was at A&B Sound which was a large chain of music stores in Western Canada where some outlets sold higher end hi-fi like Totem or Energy Veritas and Bryston.

    So the demonstration was this:

    Playing some music through a $1200.00 Marantz receiver the dealer connected a Monster Power conditioner. The noise level dropped a substantial amount. I was surprised at how effective it was. I pushed the dealer to do the same with Bryston. Listen to the Bryston - then put on the power conditioner - no difference. Why? Because the Bryston suppresses noise - the Marantz AV did not.

    The basic conclusion is that Bryston is simply a lot better as an amplifier at noise suppression. So the power conditioner is a great value to the Marantz AV and a complete POS waste of time to the Bryston buyer. And since the conditioner cost almost as much as the Bryston - my advice would be to use the preamp out to a pair of Brystons than buy the power conditioner.

    Here is one for all you tech guys to explain to me.

    As you know I live in Hong Kong and we have different power cords here - all of them come with a 13a fuse.

    I wander the shops and I see Shunyata galore and various competition - they ALL have US style plugs. That's odd. All of the dealers say the same thing - the US plug sounds better because it doesn't have a fuse. So they buy the US plugs instead. Another dealer calls BS on this and says it's a way to sell you these pricey power conditioners and that the UK style plug is actually superior (unfortunately I forget the technical reasons he gave).

    In general, the only time I investigate power conditioners and the like is if I am actually experiencing a noticeable problem. I had a Sugden amp that hummed like crazy and the fix was actually addressing the television cable - I attached some sort of grounding device for like $8 - TV cable to device to cable box and the hum completely disappeared. You can argue the sound improved LOL - because unlistenable to listenable is a pretty big improvement.

    And My power conditioner in Canada helps out my CD player's treble a fair bit. But that apartment building was still using tubes for circuit breaker and it was the same building with the Sugden hum problem. The building was "old" so I can' say if this conditioner would do much use in my newish 4 year old townhouse.

    Noise suppression for me hasn't been a huge deal-breaker because I have had that Bryston at home and quiet digital and I went from that zero-noise stuff to tubes more tubes and vinyl. All of which is considerably noisier on paper and in the real world. So it goes.

    For me this is sort of what I hear - CD Version Stands in for SACD/DVD Audio and 24/192 and DSD etc.

  17. Stunsworth

    Stunsworth Forum Resident

    It’s in the printed format.
  18. LakeMountain

    LakeMountain Vinyl surfer

    Not everything is measured and is measurable! Therefore indeed
    Rule Nr.1: Test it!
    Rule Nr.2: Ensure you have to option to return it!

    I quite like small passive power filters over big (costly) power conditioners, like this one Kemp Elektroniks | SNS PLUG | (SHUNT NOISE SUPPRESSOR PLUG)
    They do not affect dynamics and are a fraction of the cost of a power conditioner . They might be a bit less efficient ( I am not even sure if they really are less efficient) but you can always add more.

    These products treat the distortion of the power phase within the audible frequency range and a bit above that. The aim is to provide a cleaner phase for amplification of the music signal. They do not per se lower the noise floor.

    Another ( unproven for me) category is filtering very high frequency noise well above the audible range. The CDA is even filtering the HF noise on the ground phase.

    In the 2 pin power plug world like in Europe we have the problem that you can insert the plug in 2 possible ways. One way causes a higher residual voltage on the ground phase than the other. You can also measure it with voltmeter after unplugging everything from the piece of equipment. This has to do with the connection of the hot phase and neutral phase on a transformer. Some equipment can be quite sensitive in terms of SQ to this phenomenon, whilst some are not. For example, it made a difference how I plug in the PSU of my TT. I did not expect that.

    The advantage of the UK 3 pin plug is that there is only one position possible and developers can hook up the transformer correctly phased.
    Richard Austen likes this.
  19. JackG

    JackG Forum Resident

    Regarding the NAD M33 and Purifi, there's a great interview with Bruno Putzeys on John Darko's podcast. Really smart guy, and a big fan of measurements.
    avanti1960 likes this.
  20. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
    Also would like to mention that I've purchased - Products of the Year - equipment after listening myself only to find out the hard way that they broke down a lot.
    Not blaming anyone other than the manufacturer, but a good product should also work well for many years.
    stax o' wax likes this.
  21. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    sad if true, i mean they gushed over this thing and it was a runaway in its category.
  22. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    i wonder if that audio note review is an exception. i see less than "stellar" pieces getting networked to the publication circuit , receiving rave reviews and then winding up in the resale marts.
    good products but ultimately not worthy of the hype. we trust reviewers to be wary of this as well as being patient enough to render the final verdict with care and especially after the honeymoon is over.
    seems like there is a breakdown in the process.
  23. LeeS

    LeeS Martinis.

    I was happy to see the Audioquest Cobalt. I have loved mine. Compact but excellent sound.
  24. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    From the safety point of view it is an excellent plug because so far as I know they all include a fuse which is what Richard Austen was told to be a negative in the audio world. I have never played with the audiophile fuses so I can't specifically comment but I have seen or heard enough effects caused by different power cables to keep an open mind in regard of such claim.

    I would add that the main advantage of the US plug could be the variety of audiophile options available.
  25. LeeS

    LeeS Martinis.

    I'm not sure that applies to the newer models. Alon and team have done a superb job on the new midrange driver. The A5s are truly spectacular.

    I love both the Magico M2 and the Wilson Audio Sasha DAWs. I'm not sure I would want to choose just one for the award.

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