Enjoy the Music.com's Best Of 2016 Blue Note Awards celebrates the many great achievements by audiophile manufacturers within the high-end audio and Hi-Res Audio industry. Our 2016 Blue Note Awards is a culmination of sixteen years of reviewing and carefully choosing what products have earned special recognition for our annual awards. Our Best Of 2016 Blue Note Award celebrates the very best products we have reviewed during the previous 12 months. Recipients have been carefully chosen after much debate and consideration. With each passing year our industry has experienced great advancements in technology including analog circuitry, vinyl LP and analog tape playback, digital-to-analog converters (DACs), headphones, loudspeaker design, plus of course portable media players, computer software and streaming media. While there are many great pieces of high fidelity audio equipment now available within the marketplace, the below list is compiled from products we have reviewed within the past 12 months that have earned extra special attention.
In 2014 our staff found a mere 13 products plus a special $5000 system to earn this award. In 2015 we bestowed only 11 high-end audio components to receive an Enjoy the Music.com Blue Note Award. Let it be said here and now we make no apologies that during 2016 our staff found 15 products to receive our special Best Of 2016 Blue Note Award. With so many products spanning an array of categories reviewed from late 2015 through September 2016, this does not mean that everyone gets an award. This is not to say that other products do not merit your attention, it is simply that only the very best of the bunch should stand out and be recognized clearly and concisely. Take note that we do not carry over products from our Blue Note Awards 2014 and Blue Note Awards 2015. Giving away so very few awards each year seems to be the anti-norm for a magazine hoping to get free commercial promotion, since such awards always find their way into being featured on Web sites, social media networks and of course within print advertisements.
Our longstanding staff here at Enjoy the Music.com, with hundreds of years in combined expertise, now presents to you our choices for Best Of 2016 Blue Note Equipment Award. And the winners are:
Parasound Halo Integrated 2.1 Channel Amplifier With DAC
"I've never met a Halo product I didn't like," says Phil Gold, "and this one isn't going to be the first." A small sun m of $2495 will buy you a 160 Wpc amplifier, somewhat old fashioned in style but up to date in most other ways. It has a built in highly specified DSD compatible DAC based on the ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018K2M with USB and optical inputs, a well implemented headphone output, phono inputs for moving magnet and moving coil cartridges and it's available in a black or silver finish in a very sturdy 33 pound chassis.
The feature list is impressive. It includes an ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC, USB 2.0 support for PCM up to 384kHz/32-bit plus DSD64, DSD128, DSD256 and DoP DSD. Add to that a phono input for MM and MC cartridges, a high current headphone amp, balanced and unbalanced inputs, front panel 3.5mm AUX input, subwoofer level control, home theatre bypass and defeatable tone controls and you begin to get the picture. Even a rack mounting kit is available. What you won't find is wireless streaming, Internet radio or an interactive front panel display. Unusually, this unit not only offers unbalanced preamp out, it also includes balanced pre out and record out. You'll also find 12V Input and Output Jacks, an IR Input Jack and an IR Loop Output Jack. When connecting a subwoofer you can control the low pass and high pass settings at selectable crossover frequencies on the rear panel or you can use a balanced sub out. The subwoofer levels can be adjusted on the front panel.
Add to that a full featured remote control, a front 3.5mm input jack, defeatable tone controls, home theatre bypass, subwoofer output and bass management and you can see how the value keeps adding up. All this would be for nothing if the sound quality were suspect, but even for a straight two-channel amp at this price, the performance of the John Curl designed circuitry is competitive.
A hands down winner this year, at a bargain price!
Previous Annual Blue Note Awards