Wow! Is this really the 200th magazine issue here on Enjoy the Music.com? It seems like only yesterday that... oh who am i kidding! It seems like an eternity, when one thinks in Internet time, that Enjoy the Music.com was just a humble little site with a couple of show reports and some lust pages and humor. Looking in the mirror, there are now more than a few grey hairs, some tell-tale age wrinkles... and a cast of over 30 writers and here we find ourselves at the 200th issue. To celebrate this event i am personally awarding five, and only five products with my Legendary Performance award. As of this writing am still whittling down the list due to the goal of keeping it to strictly five, and only five, products.
So what is the criteria of earning a Legendary Performance award you ask. Well, since this is the 200th issue, it must be a product that stands the test of time that has been within my humble abode. Obviously this immediately counts out any DAC or old-school transport as they seem to be flavors of the year plus who actually bothers using physical digital discs nowadays when you can rip them to a NAS drive? Naturally there is a single-ended tube amplifier, horn speaker and a few surprises along the way. The product must be something that i loved when first using it, perhaps still being loved today, or perhaps something no longer here yet holds a special place in my audiophile heart. As my list has not been finalized as of this writing, looks like i better get to work on this list and then continue writing...
More time passes...
Hair pulling ensues...
Oh my God, even more time has passes.
Why oh why am i limiting this to only five pieces of equipment? How about seven? No, no and NO, only five are allowed! But i am the editor dammit, doesn't that mean i make the rules. Well, yes and no and once a limit is set it shall be adhered to. Damn you Steven, damn you!!!
Ok, the list is now complete.
My #1, King of the Hill, the Master of All Things is my beloved Wavelength Audio Cardinal X-1 monoblock 300B tube amplifiers. Dare i tell you that this amplifier, from original form to the X-1 version, has been in my home for over 12 years (or is it 15?). When the awesome Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio got them for the X-1 upgrade even he was amazed at how the pair here were one of the very early versions. Now fitted with the X-1 upgrades, they easily earn my highest rating ever for 300B tube monoblock amplification and this still holds true today.
So naturally #2 would have to be speakers. The Avantgarde Acoustic Duo fit the bill nicely. Talk to any Avantgarde Acoustic owner and ask them if they love their speakers and odds are you had better have time to hear passionate praise of glorious music reproduction. Speed, accuracy, stunning soundscaping and so much more.
Now is when it gets hard for me to choose. The first two may have been sorta easy, yet here is when my personal list changed, then changed again. And so....
In #3 we have the Oracle Delphi MK V turntable with Oracle/SME 345 tonearm, Van den Hul Frog cartridge and Ray Samuels Audio Emmeline XR-10B MM/MC phonostage. This setup was just 100% pure unadulterated fun. This setup easily had me forgetting about the whole critical reviewing and analyzing thing and just made my feet tap while enjoying the music. Sure classical and jazz were great, yet drop on the 'table some funk and there is no way to sit still. It makes you want to get up and shake your groove thang baby, yeah! Another way of putting it is "STFU and enjoy the music!!!" So for all the many hours of allowing me the joys of music and not the damn reviewer-itus thing, the Oracle/SME/Frog/Ray Samuels XR-10B phonostage combo gets my sincerest thanks... and an award. And yes technically that is four products yet as any vinyl lover knows this is a front-end system (singular).
For #4 the pick is not easy, as there is so many great items to choose from. And the winner is Dynamat. Dyna....whaaaaaat? Yes, Dynamat. For those not familiar Dynamat, it is a resonant tuning tweak for which i have used time and time again on the chassis of electronics, the basket of speaker drivers, speaker cabinets... and even on the cymbals and drumheads of my drumset. It is easy to attach and tune a product's resonance, or remove it and you have no worries about it leaving any tell-tale sign you tried this tweak. Over the years what i have learned is that more is not necessarily better. This is why i say "tuning" and not "killing" when using Dynamat. If you have never tried Dynamat, start with a roll of their Original Dynamat and give it a try. You can cut small circles or squares for the chassis of electronics, custom pieces for your speaker's driver baskets... and even stop that annoying hum of the chassis of your home computer. WARNING: Once you start playing with Dynamat Original it can get addicting. Good thing this stuff is cheap ($48 for a 32" x 54" sheet).
And with a deep breath we come to the last choice. There were three pieces of equipment fighting for this space and so maybe in the future will be able to give them an award they so deserve. So my #5 pick for the Enjoy the Music.com Legendary Performance Award is the Audio Note Onga.... Naa, i'm just futzing with you as that has already been given many an accolade from Yours Truly. Am coming from Left Field is my choice.... which is... not a product at all!
My final and last choice for a Enjoy the Music.com Legendary Performance Award goes to Nelson Pass of Pass Labs. From my early days of being in awe of the Threshold Fet 10e solid-state preamplifier to the first single-ended solid-state monoblock amps, to DIY projects and the new series of amplification. It is almost impossible to be a longstanding audiophile and not have heard, or better still owned, something in which Nelson Pass has had a hand (and ear) in. Nelson Pass is the Ying to the tube equivalent conrad-johnson Yang. Since CJ has already received my accolades a while back, it is now time to give Nelson Pass the award he has earned in the truest sense of the word. So to you Nelson i hold up a glass and say thank you for the many decades of providing musical bliss to so many audiophiles all around the world.