Stereophile’s Products of 2018

Since fake news is on everyone’s minds these days—I would say it’s been in the news a lot, but that kind of reasoning is too circular even for me—it’s worth keeping in mind that there’s also such a thing as fake praise. You see it every day, whether it’s a fake Google review—an alarming number of businesses seem unaware that real people don’t actually say things like “the team at New Hartford Chevrolet really listened to all of my needs”—or fake trophies handed out to all 20 co-captains of your child’s soccer team.

Then there are fake awards.

Let’s say you’re a hi-fi enthusiast with strong opinions on what does and does not constitute goodness in an audio product, so you’ve started your own website on the subject. Good for you! Now let’s say you have a friend who knows how to create really impressive diplomas and certificates, and your mom still has that red carpet you used to wipe your feet on when you came up from the basement. What’s to stop you from handing out your very own awards?

Apparently, nothing: an Internet search for audio product awards turns up more pages than you can read in a day, most from web-based publications and trade organizations you’ve probably never heard of.

But here’s the thing: For an award to mean anything, the person or people dispensing it must be well known and well regarded. It also helps if they’ve been around for a long time, and if they’ve created a significant body of work, preferably in print: No offense, but Google reviews pretty much came in with Google.

On the other hand, Stereophile‘s Product of the Year awards, now in their 27th year, matter because Stereophile matters: not only is it the highest-circulation domestic-audio magazine on the planet—our nearest competitor has only a third as many readers—but we’ve been around since 1962. That’s as long as the Rolling Stones, for God’s sake!

And considering that scores of whiners on the audio gab-sites go apoplectic whenever we write anything more controversial than “Christmas occurs in December,” one could be forgiven for thinking that Stereophile is also the most talked-about magazine in audio.

It all boils down to one thing: In the world of perfectionist audio, ours is the publication of record, and our Product of the Year awards follow suit.

How we did it
This year’s awards process began in mid-September, when editor John Atkinson asked my colleagues and me for nominations in seven categories: Loudspeaker of the Year, Amplification Product of the Year, Analog Component of the Year, Digital Component of the Year, Headphone Product of the Year, Accessory of the Year, and Budget Product of the Year. The candidates were limited to products evaluated in our November 2017 through October 2018 issues, whether in a full Equipment Report or Follow-Up, or a column by me or my colleagues Michael Fremer, Herb Reichert, and Kalman Rubinson. We did not consider products that took top honors in any previous year’s PotY celebration.

The next step was when JA compiled and distributed a list of every component that had been nominated by at least three Stereophile contributors, the idea being to ensure that every one of those finalist products had been heard by as many of our reviewers as possible. Then each Stereophile contributor’s job was to cast three votes in each of the categories: to give three points to his first choice, two points to his second choice, and one point to his third. In this way, the results reveal a certain density of information: Surely there are distinctions between a product that receives three first-place votes and the one that receives nine third-place votes.

After the votes were in, JA asked us to vote one more time—for the Overall Product of the Year.

The final step: John Atkinson asked me to compose this essay, and allowed me to tart it up with a few puerile jokes (though he asked me to change “obese, intellectually dishonest, chronic masturbators” to “whiners,” which I willingly did). Indeed, it is JA who tallies the votes, so it is JA to whom noncomplacent firebrands should send notes of praise and blame. (See JA’s comments on the voting process here.)

Final notes: The prices listed herein were current as of August 2018. To order back issues mentioned in this article, call (888) 237-0955 or visit shop.stereophile.com (MasterCard and Visa only).

And the winners are . . .

NEXT: Joint Loudspeakers of the Year »


Page 1
Joint Loudspeakers of the Year
Joint Amplification Components of the Year
Analog Component of the Year
Joint Digital Components of the Year
Headphone Product of the Year
Accessory of the Year
Budget Component of the Year
Joint Overall Components of the Year
Editors’ Choices of 2018

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