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August 2002
Enjoy the Music.com

Enjoy the Music.com    Best of 2001 Award

Best of 2002 Awards
by Editor, Steven R. Rochlin
As Chosen By The Staff At Enjoy the Music.com
Click here to e-mail the staff

 

 

Enjoy the Music.com   Best of 2002 Award

Analog

Kuzma Stabi Reference Turntable and the Graham Engineering Model 2.2 Tonearm
Kuzma Stabi Reference Turntable And
The Graham Engineering Model 2.2 Tonearm
Price: $9,100
Click here to read the complete review.

My search for a definitive analog front end and a personal reference is over. While the Kuzma isn't the most expensive, exotic, or prestigious table out there, it is extremely well-built, reliable, and does exactly what a turntable should do. An extremely quiet bearing, coupled with an excellent drive system, and effective suspension and isolation give the Kuzma a real-world edge over other turntables I've lived with. The record clamp may not appear as sophisticated as a vacuum hold-down system, but it works well enough to satisfy my requirements. The upgraded pivot system of the Graham Model 2.2 gives better bass precision versus the Model 2.0 and nudges the spatial and detail resolution capabilities of this design to its full potential. -- Dick Olsher, Senior Editor

 

 

Enjoy the Music.com   Best of 2002 Award

Amplification

 


Loth-X's Silbatone C-102 Pre-Amplifier
Price: $30,000
Click here to read the complete review.

Let it be said here and now that i make no apologies for choosing the amazing Loth-X Silbatone C-102 vacuum tube pre-amplifier. It completely redefined for me just what a pre-amplifier should, and should not, do. With an amazing amount of custom made parts and 99.999 pure silver used throughout, this MM/MC/line stage is completely battery powered while internals are 100% hand wired on custom made extra thick Teflon. While there are too many other amazing details in the design of this unit to being waxing lyrically here, it is the music that matters. To quote my conclusion (though please read the entire review) "The end result is a unit that reproduces music beyond that of any other pre-amplifier ever heard... and i have heard more than one cares to mention. This is not a subtle improvement... What we have here is something so far beyond what i previously felt possible that the gauntlet has been raised for other designers to step up to the challenge. " -- Steven R. Rochlin, Editor

 

 

Volksamp Aleph 30 SE Stereo Power Amplifier
Volksamp Aleph 30 SE Stereo Power Amplifier
Price: $1,990
Click here to read the complete review.

The Aleph 30 represents an upgraded version of the much praised Aleph 3, and is arguably Nelson Pass' finest implementation of his vision of single-ended Class A topology. Forget the ideology of tubes versus transistors, and don't let its "plain Jane" looks fool you: this is one amazing little amplifier. It weaves a magical musical carpet better than any solid-state amp I've auditioned to date. A delicious blend of solid-state and tube virtues, and at its asking price, is is undeniably a gift to music lovers. -- Dick Olsher, Senior Editor

 

 

WAVAC EC-300B Single Ended Triode Amplifier
WAVAC EC-300B Single Ended Triode Amplifier
Price: $20,000
Click here to read the complete review.

This amplifier is a jewel, a treat to the eye and ear. It is not only an extraordinarily beautiful piece of audio art, but also the best 300B amplifier I have heard. Engineering, parts and construction are superb, so good that the $20,000 price tag does not seem exorbitant. The patented circuit employs Inverted Interstage Transformer Coupling (I ITC) to feed an optimized signal to the 300B tubes. A special circuit adaptation cancels DC magnetization in the I ITC transformer, enhancing bass and harmonic richness. The EC-300B contains one power, two I ITC and two output transformers.

With no coupling capacitors, the EC-300B signal path delivers maximum purity of reproduction. The 300B heaters are supplied from a filtered DC source to minimize hum and noise. The amplifier also has an AC powerline input filter. The EC-300B is easily the quietest SET I have evaluated. It takes thirty days to complete an EC-300B. This amplifier exemplifies the highest order of design, engineering and craftsmanship. It is in every way a luxury product, and a champion performer. -- Wayne Donnelly

 

 


Manly Labs Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B
Price: $7,200
Click here to read the complete review.

Last year, along with Dick Olsher I nominated the Manley Labs Stingray integrated amplifier for a product of the year award, which makes this year's choice harder as I am returning to Manley Labs and nominating the Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B. Perhaps it is their roots and continuing endeavors in the pro-audio world that allows Manley to create products that are unfailingly musical. Their experience in the pro market would also explain their sophisticated and yet bulletproof engineering as one thing a working musician or studio simply cannot accept is downtime due to equipment. But nothing except for the sheer joy with which they approach their work explains both the whimsy and the fanatical attention they lavish on everything that leaves their hands. The Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B fits every last one of those descriptions.

Musical? It is the most musical amplifier I have had in my house. It is switchable from single-ended to push-pull on the fly, and allows for feedback adjustment from 0 to 10 dB, in one dB steps, also on the fly, which adds up to a pretty sophisticated design to me. Easy to setup, bias and operate, it is as bulletproof as tubes get. And the design! Neo-Classic hardly begins to get it right. The narrow, deep chassis, suspended on integral cones is as lovely as gear gets. Best of all, it sounds better than it looks. The Manley Neo-Classic 300B is as good as audio gets. -- Todd Warnke

 

 

Audiomat Prélude Reference Integrated Amplifier
Audiomat Prélude Reference Integrated Amplifier
Price: $3,490
Click here to read the complete review.

This amplifier is so deceptive and yet so rewarding. With a tube complement of three 12AX7 and four EL34EH, it looks as if it could be any of a dozen amplifiers. But it stands out from the others, way out. It is dead-quiet at all volume levels from complete to nil attenuation. It offers bass slam and fast mids and highs which take you unaware - can you really believe the 30 watt specification it shares with other, similar amplifiers? The Audiomat Prélude Reference is the perfect demonstration of why specifications give only the roughest guide to evaluating audio gear. It pulls so much from your source that you may find yourself suddenly either much more contented or much more dissatisfied with your existing gear.

Above all, you appreciate the magic this amplifier creates. It has the precise resolution and accuracy to give you the tactile satisfaction of hearing the abrasion or brushes on drum, the metal of the cymbal, the tugging of the rosined bow at the violin's string, the muttering of the bass viols, the snap of the bari sax's reed. It also provides a pleasant visual experience. Its aluminum face plate and cover carry two equally sized knobs, two tiny switches, two lights and an infra red sensor (for its minimal remote control) When you remove the cover, the build quality and the simplicity of layout add another level entirely to its visual aesthetics. -- Neil Walker

 

 

Enjoy the Music.com   Best of 2002 Award

Loudspeakers


Meadowlark Blue Heron
Price: $8,800
Click here to read the complete review.

The Blue Heron's speed, tonal accuracy, spatial resolution and top-to-bottom coherence seem improbable in a front-firing box loudspeaker, and its startling bass and dynamic capabilities belie its compact dimensions. Priced at $8800/pair -- more for some of the many gorgeous, exotic available veneers, this beautifully constructed and finished loudspeaker stands up comfortably to comparisons with far more expensive competitors.

Two transmission-line-loaded Scan Speak seven-inch carbon graphite woofers, with very fast rise and settle times, deliver superb speed, dynamics, pitch definition and articulation. The 3.5" Audax midrange driver handles a bandwidth from 300 Hz to 5 KHz. Its symmetrical drive system ensures identical cone movement on instroke and outstroke, for superior waveform fidelity. The non-magnetic "gas piezo" tweeter, also from Audax, has no pole piece, suspension or back cavity. With a thin film diaphragm as its only moving part, it sounds uncannily like a ribbon, but with broader dispersion. This tweeter is one of the most impressive drivers I have heard.

Two factors account for the time coherence of the Blue Heron. First, the slanted baffle aligns the acoustic centers of all drivers. Second, only first-order (6dB/octave) crossovers are used. Also contributing to the Blue Heron's clarity and openness are the radiused baffle and frameless grille cloth, which virtually eliminate diffraction. -- Wayne Donnelly

 

 

 

Von Schweikert dB-100 Loudspeaker
Von Schweikert dB-100 Loudspeaker
Price: $9,995
Click here to read the complete review.

The Von Schweikert dB-100 loudspeaker establishes a new category of high-sensitivity loudspeakers for Single Ended Triode and other low-powered amplifiers -- and a formable alternative to horns. The combination of 100 dB/w/m sensitivity with fast, deep and powerful bass has until now been virtually a contradiction in terms for SET devotees.

The Audax midrange driver is 100dB sensitive without horn loading. It is as fast, dynamic and resolving as any horn, and superior in openness and tonal beauty. The dB-100 is not entirely horn-free; its front- and rear-firing 1" soft-dome Vifa tweeters are horn-loaded, which raises their 93dB sensitivity to the requisite 100dB. The horn loading also aligns the front tweeter's motor with that of the midrange, which together with the crossover achieves time alignment. The rear-firing tweeter provides variable ambient and timbral control, enabling compensation for excessive brightness or dullness in the sound. Bybee Quantum Purifiers at both front tweeter and midrange driver significantly enhance resolution and musicality.

The dB-100 does everything extremely well -- tonality, detail, dynamics, extension, soundscaping, imaging. No horn system I know, with or without subwoofers, matches the smoothness, coherence and dynamics of the dB-100. At $10,000/pair, it's an extraordinary value. Audition it against the speakers at twice the price.  -- Wayne Donnelly

 

 

Harbeth Monitor 40 Loudspeaker
Harbeth Monitor 40 Loudspeaker
Price: $6.949
Click here to read the complete review.

I doubt there is a better all-around loudspeaker for domestic use in the world than the Monitor 40. It transcends all talk of warm, cool, analytic, sensuous and very simply reproduces an utterly convincing version of what live music sounds like in a live venue. It needs some space and it needs a minimum of 100-125 watts into 6 ohms. It will reward a high quality front end, excellent electronics, and fine cabling; but it will perform extremely well on less than reference quality equipment. To my ears, it is the standard by which all high-end loudspeakers are judged. -- Bob Neill

 

 

Enjoy the Music.com   Best of 2002 Award

Cabling

Nirvana Audio S-X Ltd. Cabling
Nirvana Audio S-X Ltd. Cabling
Price: 2.5m $2,780 ( bi-wire add $50)
Click here to read the complete review.

There must be a good reason the Nirvana Audio S-X Ltd. loudspeaker cable is the only one to make Enjoy the Music.com™'s  Best Of 2002 Awards. While not inexpensive, it is far less than many of the competition. With a solid background in engineering concerning the physics of transferring signals through cabling, the Chief designer and owner of Nirvana Audio (Stephen Creamer) has improved his already well received and critically acclaimed SL series with the new S-X Ltd. While the design is far beyond my complete understanding (see specification within the review for details), the S-X Ltd loudspeaker cable thoroughly and easily unseated all other loudspeaker cables due to the sheer speed, accuracy, and incredible definition. Those looking for the proverbial rose-color glasses in cables should seek other alternatives. Music lovers who seek the truth may find it with this loudspeaker cable. i would easily put the S-X Ltd. against loudspeaker wire costing a multiple of times their price (including the all silver jobbies). -- Steven R. Rochlin, Editor

 

 

Kimber Kable Co. PK10 Palladian A.C. Power Cord
Kimber Kable PK10 Palladian A.C. Power Cord
Price: Six feet length $1,060
Click here to read the complete review.

 

Harmonic Technology Fantasy 10 A.C. Power Cord
Harmonic Technology Fantasy 10 A.C. Power Cord
Price: Six feet length $399
Click here to read the complete review.

I don't even like the idea that A.C. power cords can affect the sound quality of the components we use to enjoy the music. In fact they do and as often is the case, the better your sound system the more noticeable the differences. Yes, some A.C. power cords sound just about the same and cost has little to do with that! Yes, just replacing the power cord has little to do with all that A.C. wiring in your wall and from out in the street and back to the closest transformer to your home.

It may be heresy, but I do not think that the materials in power cords, how they are or are not configured or how excellent the connectors are constructed are the most important or only things, in power cord design; there is more than one way to "skin that cat".

The first A.C. power cord to demonstrate this sweeter or less added brightness to me, was the Purist Audio Dominus A.C. cord about three years ago; it is a very expensive power cord and extremely good. For two years, I had not heard its equal at any price. This past year I auditioned two other A.C. power cords that are its equal: the merely expensive Kimber PK10 Palladian and the bargain priced Harmonic Technology Fantasy 10. In the top half of the audible range, the three are almost identical in sound quality and lack of harshness or edginess with my components in my listening room. Read the complete comparison reviews as listed below and find out about this Kimber product's added bonus, reducing standing wave reflections resulting in a more solid, cleaner or tighter bass range reproduction. So far that is unique. Yes, the audio world may seem strange when A.C. power cords can be top products, but remember they can affect every other product. In addition, the effects are usually cumulative and can alter the sound of anything or everything from power conditioner to CD player, pre-amplifier and power amplifiers! Not all are affected to the same extent. -- Karl Lozier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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