Stereophile's Products of 1995

This is the fourth year Stereophile has named a select few components as "Products of the Year." By doing so, we intend to give recognition to those components that have proved capable of giving pleasure beyond the formal review period.

There are six individual categories: Loudspeakers (including subwoofers); Amplification Components (preamplifiers, power amplifiers, etc.); Digital Sources (CD players, transports, processors); Analog Sources (phono cartridges, turntables, tonearms, FM tuners, etc.); Home Theater Components (other than video); and Accessories (everything else).

The two most important categories, however, are the "Component of the Year"—the Best of the Best—and the "Budget Component of the Year"—the Best Sound for the Buck. There's also an "Editor's Choice" award, which John Atkinson reserves to himself to single out one superb-sounding product that has impressed him the most. Usually, to be eligible for "Editor's Choice," a component must have been continuously available for at least a decade, but this year the sheer performance of the chosen component allows such rules to be broken with impunity, he argues.

The formal voting procedure consisted of two steps: First, Stereophile's hardware reviewers were asked to nominate up to six components in each of the eight categories. To be a contender, a product had to have been reported on in Stereophile between the November 1994 and October 1995 issues, either in a full review or in a Follow-Up. Most important, only those components for which a writer had put his opinion on the line for public scrutiny could be nominated. We then put together a ballot form that included all components that had been nominated by three or more writers and/or editors. This process ensured that most of the nominees in most of the categories would have been auditioned by most of the reviewers.

Twenty of the magazine's editors and reviewers gave three votes for their first choice in each category, two votes for their second choice, and one vote for their third choice (if they had a third choice). JA tallied the votes; address your compliments and complaints to him.

COMMENTS
tonykaz's picture

Geez, this gear seems like a lifetime ago. It's barely familiar to look at.

Was this stuff great, does anyone still own this stuff? I do!

I bought the Sennheiser HD580 and still own them. That HD series continued to 600,650 and now the fresher HD 660s and 660s Apogee. Prices seem to not change much. I've been giving Sennhieser as Gifts along with the Audioquest Dragonfly devices. It's probably all the Audio System any person needs. I cringe to think of the MSRP for a Music System competitive with these Headphones.

Thanks to Tyll & Steve G., the Audiophiliac, for the headphone recommending and JA1 for the Audioquest Dragonfly nudges.

Tony in Venice

AaronGarrett's picture

I don't own them anymore but those Pass amps were glorious. Such a crystalline pure sound, in particular on chamber music and small group jazz. If they didn't produce so much heat I still would!

John Atkinson's picture
AaronGarrett wrote:
I don't own them anymore but those Pass amps were glorious.

Stereophile's review of the Pass Aleph 0, including a followup, will be posted in the magazine's free online archives later this week.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

prerich45's picture

I own a pair of Prelude P-FR's that are refoamed and good to go! I've had no issue with the amps (nor the amps in three pairs of Overture 1's that I have in my system as well)! My son has resently bought a pair of P-FR's as well, many people do not realize how good that speaker was.

tonykaz's picture

Thank you for this.

This Loudspeaker transducer system is one I've been hunting for.

Lucky you, you've avoided the seemingly endless transducers search and were wise enough to not fall prey to the neurosis/psychosis of Speaker ownership.

Tony in Venice

prerich45's picture

It's hard to upgrade after these. Everything I've heard after owning these, instead of leaving me with a desire to upgrade, they leave me settled (now I hope I can do the same thing with amplification LOL)! Truly though, IMHO these speakers just get it right. I'd have to spend a lot of money to find something that matches it's balance, sensitivity, imaging, and outstanding measurements in one package. I run them with a B&K 200.7 and refer to them as my death speakers (the one's that may out live me), hopefully my death amp (a McIntosh MC8207) will replace the B&K by August.

tonykaz's picture

The B&K on eBay is under $1,000 with the McIntosh quoted price around $17,000.

I feel your pain. ( future pain )

7 Channels of Amplification is a whole lot of fire breathing.

Will you have Transparent Speaker Cables and interconnects that sum into the thousands of Dollars range?

I seem to be grumpy about the intrinsic costs in "Music in the Round". I hope it's not contagious.

Upgrading does appear to be "hard"

Tony in Venice

prerich45's picture

The B&K 200.7 Reference runs between $1200 to 1700 used (every now and then you can get them for a grand). There's one on eBay that has just started and it's at $500 with $100 shipping - its a heavy beast. The McIntosh is overpriced (whoever quoted you is jiving...) it retails for $6000 and I'm getting mine for much lower than that.
Tony I either make my own cables or I use.....watch this....Monoprice or C2G cables. I'm of the ilk that doesn't spend thousands on cables.

tonykaz's picture

You are certainly an alert person.

I'm sort of curious about those Monoprice. Jason Stoddard is a Monoprice proponent.

I, for my part, represented MIT interfaces, S.E.Michigan, in years past. An MIT cable system would probably cost far more than the Mcintosh & Loudspeakers.

You are of the ilk? what is ilk? it sounds ilky? I'll quit watching "Hobo Shoestring" in Fargo Cold to google ilk. ---- ilk means of that family, it's Scottish. Thanks for the education in linguistics. ilk has a plural "ilks" So you are of many ilks: Multi-channel , make your own wire, audiophile, conversant, value persuer and probably many more ilks. Hmm.

I wonder if I should claim to be an ilks person ? ( someone might confuse my orientation on various maters )

A man of many ilks,

Tony in Venice

prerich45's picture

That was funny indeed....now that I think about it, I'm more than likely an ilks person!!!!

prerich45's picture

With the McIntosh, I met a cool guy that I've bought stuff from before. The McIntosh came up and for me, it's a dream amp. I'm expecting a lump sum of cash and he's really been patient with me. He's allowed me to pay on it until it's paid off. He's just keeping it in the box, as he doesn't want to ship it. It was fate how we met each other, but it's been a great fellowship - and he always has some great gear that he's selling cheap (compared to the retail).

tonykaz's picture

You have a nice find.

My oldest Son is good at finding nice stuff.

Tony in Venice

prerich45's picture

My son's P-FR's arrived two days ago. He fell in love with mine when he visited a few years ago. He had his shipped from Cocoa Beach Florida to Portland Oregon!!!! He loves them and states that these may be the last speakers that he ever buys.

tonykaz's picture

Nice for all y'all.

Were they in the $2,000 to $3,000 price range? Do you mind me asking?

Somebody in South Florida rebuilds Infinitys.

How could anyone go wrong with these things. ?

Tony in Michigan

ps. what did you give him for Amplification?

prerich45's picture

He got a deal, $1k total!!! He's currently using an older receiver (Pioneer VSX-1014TX) but he's thinking about buying my B&K from me. ;)

Ortofan's picture

... the Audiophiliac thought was unexceptional?

Go to about 6:40 (right after the costume change) in this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQqFqOj5-wk

Maybe Dr. Floyd Toole should analyze Steve Guttenberg's hearing in order to determine which design factors might result in a speaker with exceptional sound quality?

prerich45's picture

That speaker is not the P-FR. That speaker is the Prelude MTS. The MTS was designed by Mr. Toole - and received a Class A full range rating. My speaker, the P-FR was designed by Andrew Jones and Fincham (both previously from KEF).
The P-FR was a different animal, as it was 96db sensitive - while the MTS is a respectful 91 db. There are some that prefer the P-FR over the MTS, Stereophile wasn't one of them. To me - with my subjective hear - they're the most balanced speakers I've heard (other than maybe Legacy Whisper XD,JA Pulsars, Tidal Piano Contriva Diacera SE loudspeakers, and the Scaena Spiritus 3.4, these are my all-time best to my ears price no object speakers....I didn't enjoy the MBL's).

tonykaz's picture

I've heard that complaint a few times.

What replaced them, how long did you own them, what was your best sounding Amp ?

I had only a small few outstanding Amplifiers and a small few superb Pre-Amps.

The ZU Loudspeaker Guy says that there are only a small number of great Amplifiers now a days. Do you share his opinions?

Tony in Venice

ps. Arnie Nudel of Infinity had strong feelings about Amplification. He was Tubes.

AaronGarrett's picture

I replaced the Pass with a Tact Millenium III, which I bought used and still have, although it's on loan to a friend. An extraordinary amp and feat of engineering. I've had a Devialet which was great, but no better than the Tact. I now have a Grimm LS1be system, which is my endgame.

There are lots of good amps in my experience. But the Pass and Tact are really special, in different ways. The Grimm is far and away the best system I've ever had, and it includes a Putzey Class D.

tonykaz's picture

I admire the design concepts that Grimm seem to aspire to.

I'd never heard of this Company previously.

Now I'm reading thier Home Page About us and am impressed as I would be by reading a nice engineering report.

You might be the first person to report owning Grimm or even mentioning them in any Stereophile piece.

Florida does not have a Grimm Dealer.

Tony in Venice

AaronGarrett's picture

They are quite extraordinary technically and sound-wise. They are the monitors that Al Pryor used to produce the Cecile McLorin Sanvant record [https://www.grimmaudio.com/news/third-grammy-for-al-pryor/] so they have some traction in the pro world in the US. I've thought about trying to become the distributor, but I know nothing about doing it!

tonykaz's picture

Importing Grimm is a large undertaking.

I've Imported & Exported since the 1980s.

Audiophiles don't typically buy Active Loudspeaker systems or Class D.

However

Pro-Audio seems very accepting of powered systems and Class D.

I imported Meridian and kinda failed with it. It was great Dog Food but the dogs wouldn't eat it.

Tony in Venice

AaronGarrett's picture

Thanks for the warning. I'm not going to, I just really admire their work!

Charles E Flynn's picture

https://www.channelclassics.com/general-info/equipment/

Also of interest:

https://positive-feedback.com/Issue75/grimm_ls1.htm

dial's picture

The Graham has no detachable headshell and costs the price of a high end turntable with arm. Years ago, i was able to bring my own pre & amp to a dealer selling only british gear, they sounded great, and considering the prices differences I think they won. Am I right ?
Well i can't give you the names of the brands but if you insist, it was Naim, Cambridge and Linn.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Adcom GDA-700 DA processor, reviewed in Dec.1995, not included in the list, $1,000 ....... RH said Adcom had 'superlative' performance :-) .......

John Atkinson's picture
Bogolu Haranath wrote:
Adcom GDA-700 DA processor, reviewed in Dec.1995, not included in the list, $1,000 .......

As it says in the introduction to the article, "To be a contender, a product had to have been reported on in Stereophile between the November 1994 and October 1995 issues . . ."

The Adcom processor was eligible for the Products of 1996 awards, which will be posted in a few weeks.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Yes, I know ...... I just mentioned it because it was reviewed in 1995 :-) .......

Anton's picture

Still making up your minds, eh?

;-D

JRT's picture

The Adcom GDA-700 utilized the excellent (relative to its contempory competition) Burr Brown PCM1702 DAC chip (Burr Brown was later acquired by Texas Instruments in 2000), but that GDA-700 also utilized the flawed Pacific Microsonics PMD100 proprietary DSP chip for digital filter upstream of the DAC. The Adcom GCD-750 CD player likewise utilized the PCM1702 and PMD100, and included facility for external digital input so could also be utilized as an external DA converter.

Before fading from the marketplace, Pacific Microsonics later corrected the problem in their PMD200, which used Pacific Mircosonics code in an off the shelf DSP chip, which was physically different and not backward compatible with the proprietary PMD100.

The marketing of SACD and DVD-A soon overshadowed the marketing of HDCD, and then Microsoft acquired Pacific Microsonics and their HDCD processing.

If you want Pacific Microsonics DSP processing, look for the PMD200.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I think, some of the Sonic Frontiers models around year 2000, used PMD200 :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JA1's editor's choice 1995, $67,500 ........ JA1's editor's choice 2019, $350 :-) ..........

'The Times They Are A-Changin' :-) ..........

music or sound's picture

I had the stereo version to replace a Krell KSA50 and the main reason to get the Pass was to get an amplifier without fan (at some time I had the Krell on the other side of the wall just to be able to listen at low level too). I like the sound of both even they each did have their own not absolutely neutral sound signature but both produced too much heat which led to deterioration of sound quality over time of the Pass 0s (caps are not as heat resistant as they should be for class A).
I decided to try class D and got Kharma MP150 mono blocks but I did not like their upper frequency sound. Now I am using Devialet D250 pro(upgraded from Premier) and I have no desire to change that!

dial's picture

Devialet doesn't produce separates only integrated amps. If one day I can use my pre, I'll take one of their offers. That said, would love a Graham arm, but with SME headshell please.
Also all this old gear is beautiful, a lesson for today designs, extremely ugly most of the time (see all Chord products, contact Stark if you want ! Same for ZYX cartridges, a lot of cables, speakers etc).

pbarach's picture

I've never understood what this term means.

Thanks for reprinting this; there are many of these components I would love to hear in my system!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

They are all connected with a joint, like knee joint or shoulder joint ...... or, they meet at a joint and enjoy a joint :-) .......

JRT's picture

A the link below, scroll down to the defition of the adjective joint.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/joint

Jim Austin's picture

... the component you enjoy most after smoking a joint. ;-)

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

John Atkinson's picture
pbarach wrote:
I've never understood what this term means.

It means the products received the same vote tally.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

To solve that problem, Stereophile could allow only odd number of people to vote, like the Supreme Court, for example ...... 9 Judges :-) .......

Kal Rubinson's picture

We're all somewhat odd here. :-)

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Oddly enough, I believe you :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Stereophile currently has 10 hardware reviewers :-) .......

pbarach's picture

All of the winners were determined by votes of multiple editors (see below), so what is different about "joint" items?

"Twenty of the magazine's editors and reviewers gave three votes for their first choice in each category, two votes for their second choice, and one vote for their third choice (if they had a third choice)."

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The editors are like politicians ...... They can't agree upon things :-) ......

prerich45's picture

Where can I find the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater review of the Infinity Composition Prelude P-FR speakers? Also, if anyone can help me, what actually kept this speaker out of class A full range for audio (it received class A for HT if I'm not mistaken along with the Snell, B&W, and Meridian systems).

Bogolu Haranath's picture

How low in bass frequency, can you hear them from your listening position? :-) ........

prerich45's picture

I can competently run these in my HT with no subwoofer support if I so desired. According to the review they're down 6db at 25hz but reproduced usable (but rolled off) output at 16hz. They were placed in Stereophile's recommended components as Class B Full range (Class A in the Sterophile Guide to HT).

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If you read the reviews of the two different Stereophile reviewers, there seems to be some concern about certain amount of 'lean-ness' in the bass and also in the upper bass/lower midrange region ...... Also, some concern about treble 'polite-ness' ........ May be that is reason for the rating ....... I'm guessing :-) ........

prerich45's picture

My room is somewhat smaller than the room they were tested in. I sit approximately 10.5 ft from the speakers and they are roughly 8 ft apart. They're 3 ft from the back (front) wall and the room is about 19 feet deep and 16 feet wide. The ceiling is 8ft. Highs are not rolled off to me and the soundstage is huge.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The Stereophile reviewers got different results with different amplifiers ...... What amplifiers are you using, may I ask? :-) ........

Kal Rubinson's picture

It should not be an issue with these speakers since the subs are powered by internal amps.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

True, agreed ...... The two reviewers experimented with different kinds of tube amps for the midrange and tweeters ...... ST for example, liked them with more powerful Quicksilver tube mono blocs :-) .......

prerich45's picture

I'm using a B&K Reference 200.7 7 channel power amp.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be Stereophile ran out of space to include them in Class-A rating list ...... So, they included them in Class-B rating list ....... Just kidding ...... Like RH said, their measurements look excellent, except for some roll-off above 10 kHz :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

As an alternate to McIntosh MC8207, you could look into the new Legacy Audio I.V-7, multi-channel amp ...... It is a class-D, ICEedge amp ...... Less heat and less weight :-) .......

prerich45's picture

I just read up on the Legacy Amp...and yes, it's a BEAST!!! However, it's selling for about $8K, I'm getting the McIntosh for less that half that amount.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You may already be aware of this ........ McIntosh also makes 4-channel and 8-channel class-D amplifiers :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You could use McIntosh 4-channel class-D amp for height channels in the future, if you add height channels :-) .......

prerich45's picture

I run my heights of of older Yamaha Power amps (MX series), I have Front and Rear heights. One day - that will happen, but I've got to get the MC8207 in the house first :)

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Time for Dolby Atmos music and Atmos live concert music :-) ........

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