Our Products of the Year are chosen very carefully and with you in mind. No industry politics, no advertiser influence, no bias.
They are simply the products we believe represent the best in each category - the products we would most want to own ourselves!
The categories are:
These represent the highest performing products of the year. Price is not as much as limiting factor, though price is always a consideration at Stereomojo. If two or more products in the same category are roughly the same in performance and features, we chose the less expensive model. Always bear in mind that there are many people who have been audiophiles for decades and they have steadily built up their systems to higher and higher performance. Those folks are not as interested in products that are high value, inexpensive models. They've been there and done that. No, they are looking for high value, higher performance - maybe even ultimate performance. But, just because something has a high price tag doesn't mean it has performance commensurate with the number of zeros in its price. They ARE rip offs out there. Those people are important, too.
What you won't see regularly at Stereomojo are the ridiculously priced items we've all seen grace the pages of virtually ever other high-end audio publication. usually on the cover. High price, high profit. Those companies can afford lots of expensive advertising. They get lots of expensive, uh, impressive reviews. That's not our mission, we'll leave those for others.
To illustrate, here's a quick, very true story we've heard many times from different designers and companies:
A guy walks into a dealer or exhibition at a show. He listens to a pair of speakers or an amp or turntable. He says, "Wow,that sounds much better than what I have at home! I've never heard anything sound so good! How much did you say they are?
"$25,000", the dealer smiles.
The horrified look on the customer's face is as if he just caught the salesman with his pants down peeking into his daughter's bedroom. "Oh no! I can't buy those!", he growls. "They are not nearly as expensive as what I have now!"
Yes, those guys are out there, the ones who are more interested in impressing their friends than great reproduction of music, but we don't exist to please or inform them. Read on, you'll see what we mean.
Here, price plays a more significant role. As we all know, the law of diminishing returns is very sign if cant in high-end audio.
For example, if you own a pair of $500 speakers, you probably would get a significant performance step up by spending another $500 for a $1,000 pair.
However, if you own a $5,000 pair of speakers, spending that same extra $500 probably isn't going to help things much. You'd probably have to spend another $5,000 to get a significant improvement over what you have.
The higher you go, the less improvement your dollars buy!
Value then comes in to play when a $1,000 speaker gives you, say, 80% of the performance of a a $10,000 speaker.
Those are the gems, the type of products that we beat the bushes all over the world to find for our readers.
STEREO FOR CHEAP BASTARDS (or S4CB) AWARD
In 2011 we inaugurated a new feature called "Stereo for Cheap Bastards". Here we set a limit of $1,000 or less for the product's price.
We asked our readers to let write us and tell about any products they may own or have heard of that meet this limit and would be something they or our other readers would like to get the honest, unbiased Stereomojo review.
The response was overwhelming and they are still coming in! You told us you love the snarky name. So do we. Audio should be fun, right?
So, our new Stereo for Cheap Bastards Award represents the best of those under $1,000 products we've reviewed in 2011.
THE BEST OF 2011
KODO “THE BEAT”
It’s time to stop talking about the come back or resurgence of the lowly vinyl LP. The come back is over – it is now just as much part of the high-end universe as any other source component. Many other publications declared it and turntables obsolete, but not Stereomojo. More and more turntables are coming to market every year and just about any new and worthwhile recording is released as an LP as well as CD these days. No fretting over what digital format or whether it’s really hi-res or not. THE BEAT is a perfect example of how great analog can sound. It is lovingly hand made by Steve Dobbins. No worries about whether a table this sophisticated is set up properly or not, either. Steve himself comes to YOUR home to set it perfectly for you and teach you how to do it yourself if you ever want to change arms or cartridges. How valuable is that?!
KODO “THE BEAT” REVIEW
Simply the best preamplifier we have heard. In fact, “heard” is not a good choice of words because you don’t “hear” the Purity Audio Reference preamplifier, you experience the music that flows through it.
The Purity Reference is a Class A, transformer coupled balanced linestage that utilizes transformer coupling at both the input and output. Transformer coupling output results in a low output impedance making the Purity Reference a versatile unit that is capable of driving both solid state and vacuum tube amplifiers. The full function remote handles mute, balance, source selection and phase inversion. The volume is handled by a modified shunt type hybrid resistor design with precise 1dB attenuation steps.
With 3 sets of balanced inputs, 3 sets of unbalanced inputs and 2 sets each balanced and unbalanced outputs, connection possibilities are vast. When an unbalanced input is selected, the single still passes through the input transformer maintaining a low output impedance as well as the resolution and transparency transformer coupling is known for. Absolute phase and balance control are selected both through the supplied aluminum remote handset and the front panel controls.
A full review is coming soon.
BEST INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
darTZeel CTH-8550 Integrated
20,300 Swiss Francs
Sound as stunning as its looks, you’d never guess that this was not a tube integrated. The best sounding solid state and one of the best sounding amp of any kind we’ve heard. Priced in Swiss Francs because it is made in Switzerland even though distributed by Bluelight in the US. Blame the US dollar. Full review coming soon.
BEST TUBBEST TUBE INTEGRATED AMPLIFIERTEGRATED
MELODY AN 211
Elegant, sophisticated and refined describes this gorgeous integrated. Yes, that’s the way it sounds, too. Looks and sounds uber expensive. Tailor made for the serious listener who wants to get every ounce of texture, nuance and subtlety in their classical, vocal and jazz collections. This is all about truth and beauty. Death metal and those who want an amp to make them sweat need not apply here. Full review coming soon.
EVOLUTION ACOUSTICS MMMiniTwo
Simply the best speaker of any type; electrostatic, open baffle, single driver, horn or conventional, at any price, we have experienced. And that’s saying a lot. This speaker is a game changer. Full, extended range that is virtually perfectly seamless from top to ultra-low bottom. You can have your Magicos, Wilsons, Focals, Maggies or whatever brand you choose. We would put this speaker up against anything in a typical room. If your room is, say, over 30 feet and heavily damped, you may need to step up to its bigger brother that sounds almost identical but just moves more air for very large spaces. The MMMiniTwo is actually a two-way monitor attached atop a separate 1,000 watt, powered subwoofer system. Simply take every superlative you’ve ever heard ascribed to any speaker and double it for this stunner from Evolution. Our publisher James Darby says, “If there is one speaker I’d most like to own out of all I’ve seen and heard, it is the Evolution MMMiniTwo.”
Speaker of year, indeed. Full review coming soon.
LAMPIZATOR LEVEL 4 TUBE DAC
Direct Price: $4,950 USD
We have reviewed a lot of DACS. We even did a blind shootout of six DACS in 2011. The winner was the Lampizator Level 4. While it sounded superb in the shootout, the real magic happened when James Darby got it home and inserted it into his system. In the review, he said, "To my ears it sounds very natural and musical at the same time. I can forget about technicalities and get immersed in music". And that, dear friends, is exactly what I and everyone else experiences when listening to the Lamp 4. Even though you may be the world's most critical, cynical or inquisitive audiophile, you don't give a damn about the technicalities of the DAC, you are too immersed and transported by the music it makes. I can sit here and wax poetically about the liquid, non-digital presentation of the Lamp, the exquisite linearity from ultra high to ultra low frequency, the perfect sound stage and on and on, but that would be a disservice to you because I'd just be filling space to make this sound like a typical ‘review’. Suffice it to say that this DAC has transformed the event of listening to recorded music for Linda and myself. It is in a different class than any other DAC I've heard in its sheer ability to produce music in my home.”
LAMPIZATOR LEVEL 4 REVIEW
CARDAS CLEAR BEYOND
In the first ever hands-on review of the ultra exclusive Cardas Clear Beyond cable, our Brian Boehler said, “No, this cable is NOT a candidate for our Stereo For Cheap Bastards category; not by a long shot. But it is definitely a top candidate for "Stereo For Bastards Who Won't Settle For Anything Less Than The Very Best".
“I believe this is the best speaker cable Cardas has ever produced and certainly among the very best available at any price or brand. Be advised however that this cable, because of its double stranding, is specifically designed for high power, ultra high-quality amplifiers. Lesser amps should use the standard but still amazing top of-the-line Clear at half the price. Also be warned the Clear Beyond is a limited production cable and may be hard to find”.
CARDAS CLEAR BEYOND REVIEW
2011 BEST VALUE PRODUCTS
2011 STEREO FOR CHEAP BASTARDS AWARDS
OVERALL BEST PRODUCT OF THE YEAR
Back to HOMEPAGE