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September 2020
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Best Of 2020 Blue Note Equipment Awards

Best Of 2020 Blue Note Equipment Awards
Enjoy the Music.com celebrates the best high fidelity audio gear of 2020!

Click here to e-mail our staff

 

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers Review

 

  Enjoy the Music.com's Best Of 2020 Blue Note Awards celebrates the many great achievements by audiophile manufacturers within the high-end audio and Hi-Res Audio industry. Our 2020 Blue Note Awards is a culmination of 20 years of reviewing and carefully choosing what products have earned special recognition for our annual awards. Our Best Of 2020 Blue Note Award celebrates the finest products we have reviewed during the previous 12 months.

 

Chord Electronics Huei MM / MC Phono Stage Review

 

Recipients have been carefully chosen after much debate and consideration by our staff of reviewers. 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.

 

Audio Research Reference 160M Monoblock Amplifier Review

 

While there are many great pieces of high fidelity audio equipment now available within the marketplace, Enjoy the Music.com's Best Of 2020 Blue Note Awards is compiled from products we have reviewed within the past 12 months that have earned extra special attention.

 

CH Precision I1 Universal Integrated Amplifier Review

 

Many of our loyal readers have noticed we've been hiring more writers, which in turn has produced more great high-end audio gear reviews. From September 2019 through September 2020 our staff chose 27 products that have earned our prestigious Blue Note Award. This is quite generous as in 2019 we chose 21 products, and in 2018 our staff chose 18 high-end audio components to receive an Enjoy the Music.com Blue Note Award. Thus, choosing 27 products during 2020 is in fact the highest number of audiophile products we have ever awarded!

 

KEF LS50 Active Wireless Speaker System Review

 

Let it be said here and now we make no apologies that during 2020 our staff chose only 27 products to receive our special Best Of 2020 Blue Note Award. With so many products spanning an array of categories reviewed from late 2019 through September 2020, 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.

 

Kimber Kable Carbon 8 Interconnects, Carbon 18 XL Speaker Cables, Ascent Power Cables, And Select Copper USB Cable Review

 

Enjoy the Music.com does not carry over products from our Best Of 2019 Blue Note Awards, Best Of 2018 Blue Note Awards, or from our Blue Note Awards 2017 (or any other awards for that matter). This year we've made it easier for you to see all the products that have earned our special Blue Note Award too! Instead of having to click various pages, all winning products are on Enjoy the Music.com's September 2020 Review Magazine home page.

 

LampizatOr Golden Gate 2 DAC Review

 

With all that said, 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 2020 Blue Note Equipment Awards as seen below.

 

 

AGD Andante Preamplifier And Vivace Monoblocks Review

AGD Andante Preamp. & Vivace Monoblocks
AGD's Andante and Vivace will transport you to the musical venue.
Review By Rick Becker
It is always an honor when a manufacturer asks me to review their product. It is, after all, their 'baby'. They have poured their heart and soul into it. And often times, the smaller the company, the more heart and soul is to be found within. Such was the case with the AGD The Audion monoblocks to which I not only gave a very positive review, but also bought as my new reference. The Gallium Nitride Power MOSFETS in this Class D power amp were not only acoustically outstanding, but the visual design of these diminutive monoblocks also spoke to the tube-lover within me.
---> Read our AGD Andante Preamplifier and Vivace monoblock review.

 

 

AGD The Audion GaNTube Monoblocks Review

AGD "The Audion" GaNTube Monoblocks
Class D reaches the upper echelon of high-end audio.
Review By Rick Becker
Back at the turn of the millennium you could put together a pretty good audio system for $10,000, and you could listen to many of those components in a local brick & mortar store if you lived in a decent size city. Sure there was some stratospherically priced gear in the $10,000 to $20,000 range you might be able to see if you went to one of the audio shows on the left or right coasts. Then along came "quantitative easing" and the internet. Gear got more expensive, the brick & mortar landscape eroded and major as well as regional audio shows proliferated.
---> Read our AGD "The Audion" GaNTube monoblock amplifier review.

 

 

Allnic H-7000 Vacuum Tube Phono Stereo Preamplifier Review

Allnic H-7000 Vacuum Tube Phono Preamplifier
Bringing you closer to the musical performance.
Review By Tom Lyle
I've been lucky enough to be able to review a variety of excellent preamplifiers during the last few years, from the more affordable to the quite extravagant. As with the Allnic H-7000 vacuum tube phono preamplifier, as reviewed here, I'm hoping that these different types of phono preamplifiers that I've reviewed might help some audiophiles make a decision as to which phono preamp might be best for their system's analog set-up.
---> Read our Allnic H-7000 phono preamplifier review.

 

 

Audio Analogue aaDAC Hi-Res Audio DAC Review

Audio Analogue aaDAC Hi-Res Audio DAC
The converter to beat within this price range.
Review By Tom Lyle
Audio Analogue's aaDAC digital-to-analog converter is the latest high-end audio component from their PureAA line, which also includes their AAcento integrated amplifier and AAphono phono preamplifier. Audio Analogue says on their website "the aaDAC is a product that perfectly fits in the Audio Analogue philosophy: its simple design, its remarkable sound performances and its great care for the finish and the materials and parts selection, make it a perfect partner for your digital sources".
---> Read our Audio Analogue aaDAC Hi-Res DAC review.

 

 

Audio Analogue Maestro Anniversary Integrated Amplifier Review

Audio Analogue Maestro Anniversary Int. Amp.
A sonic wolf in sheep's clothing.
Review By Tom Lyle
When I was asked if I would like to review Audio Analogue's newest integrated amplifier, I exclaimed "Yes!". Why? Because even on paper it seemed as if it was an extremely well-designed integrated amplifier, and also could easily power my reference speakers with a healthy 150 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms, its power doubling each time its impedance load is halved – and besides all this, I love equipment that's made in Italy. Even if some of this gear isn't a perfect match for the system in which it would be auditioned, I never have been disappointed in the sound quality of any of those components.
---> Read our Audio Analogue Maestro Anniversary int. amp. review.

 

 

Audio Research DAC9 Digital-To-Analog Converter (DAC) Review

Audio Research DAC9 Digital-To-Analog Converter
An organic sound that draws you into the music.
Review By Tom Lyle
This past summer I was in a showroom auditioning a new line of speakers that included a system that was made up of mostly Audio Research components. Even though I heard four other products from that same line of speakers that day, it was their smallest model that impressed me the most. As it just so happens, this system included the Audio Research DAC9 digital-to-analog converter that is the focus of this review.
---> Read our Audio Research DAC9 review.

 

 

Audio Research Reference 160M Monoblock Amplifier Review

Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier
Another home run from Minnesota!
Review By Rufus Smith
I was reintroduced to Audio Research around two years ago when I had the opportunity to review the outstanding LS28 / VT80 combination for Enjoy the Music.com. In the past, I have found Audio Research's amplifiers to be very analytical but somewhat sterile sounding. The ARC LS28 / VT80 still had all of the traditional ARC sounds, but they now had developed some of the classic euphonic conrad-johnson sounds. For me, this combination was heaven on earth. It was the best of both worlds. I ended up buying the combination and have used it as part of my reference system for the last three years.
---> Read our review of the Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier.

 

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor
An unending oasis of musical reality.
Review By Dr. Michael Bump
As a professional musician and university professor of 36 years, I can appreciate the weight behind Benjamin Franklin's infamous quote. Though people may well forget what you say or present, engaging them holistically – mind, body, soul – often translates into a life-learning moment. Thus the question; Are we involved within the moment and, in turn, an extension of the moment? The power of music, in particular, is a spiritual transfer of learning energy.
---> Read our BØrresen Acoustics 01 monitor review.

 

 

Chord Electronics Huei MM / MC Phono Stage Review

Chord Electronics Huei MM / MC Phono Stage
Making music sound like music, which is what makes high-end audio high-end audio.
Review By Tom Lyle
In the past I've had the pleasure of reviewing two other components made by Chord Electronics from East Farleigh, Kent UK. In December of 2014 I reviewed the first version of their Hugo, a battery powered digital to analog converter. During January 2019 I reviewed their Symphonic moving coil phono stage, which in this case is more than noteworthy because the Huei phono stage that is being reviewed here is a smaller version of their excellent Symphonic phono stage.
---> Read our Chord Huei MM / MC phono stage review.

 

 

CH Precision I1 Universal Integrated Amplifier Review

CH Precision I1 Universal Integrated Amplifier
A new paradigm for the integrated amplifier platform.
Review By Greg Weaver
CH Precision was founded by Florian Cossy and Thierry Heeb, two alumni of the highly influential and innovative Swiss high-end audio firm Goldmund. Given the wide-reaching acclaim and the host of industry awards they have garnered since their founding, it is hard to believe this company is just rounding out its first decade! For reasons that will become clearer as you get further into this evaluation, I must preface this examination by noting that my experiences with their early offerings had left me somewhat wanting.
---> Read our CH Precision I1 Universal Integrated Amplifier review.

 

 

Coincident Dynamo SE34 MK III Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Review

Coincident Dynamo SE34 MK III Vacuum Tube Int. Amp.
A tube amplifier that is true to the master tape with soul.
Review By Tom Lyle
Back in March 2016, Enjoy The Music's Rick Becker reviewed the previous incarnation of this vacuum tube stereo amplifier, the Dynamo SE34 MK II. It was bestowed Enjoy the Music.com's 2016 Blue Note Award, and so, I suppose the best thing I could do would be to read Rick's review, and simply tack on an addendum, adding my thoughts on the differences between the two. Even though Rick Becker is an excellent high-end equipment reviewer, without listening to the older Dynamo 34SE MK II, I would feel more than a bit uneasy making any assumptions about how the MK II would sound in my system and listening room as compared to the MK III.
---> Read our Coincident Dynamo SE34 MK III amplifier review.

 

 

EMM Labs DV2 Integrated Digital-To-Analog Converter Review

EMM Labs DV2 Integrated DAC
A truly magical musical machine!
Review By Phil Gold
It's many years since I've owned a standalone DAC. When your CD Player is from EMM Labs it not only contains a world class DAC, but that DAC keeps improving sonically with regular free firmware updates. On top of that, EMM Labs has updated the XDS1 CD Player to V2 and now V3 with new physical components for a reasonable update charge. Without doubt today's XDS1 V3 shows remarkable improvements over the initial model I first reviewed in 2010.
---> Read our EMM Labs DV2 integrated DAC review.

 

 

KEF LS50 Active Wireless Speaker System Review

KEF LS50 Active Wireless Speaker System
KEF's bookshelf speakers still tower over much of the competition.
Review By Rogier van Bakel
I've long had a predilection for prix-fixe meals. And why not? Hacking your own path through the culinary scene is fine, but it might be unwise to turn up your nose at three or four courses pre-selected by a talented chef. I don't presume to know his cooking better than he does, so if he tells me that the suggested dishes are his way of combining quality ingredients, his special skill in preparing them, and a reasonable bill at the end, I'm in.
---> Read our KEF's LS50 active wireless speaker review.

 

 

Kimber Kable Carbon 8 Interconnects, Carbon 18 XL Speaker Cables, Ascent Power Cables, And Select Copper USB Cable Review

Kimber Kable Carbon 8 Interconnects, Carbon 18 XL Speaker Cables, Ascent Power Cables, And Select Copper USB Cable
Mega-transparent, plus satisfying every other trait one would expect.
Review By Tom Lyle
I've often said that the best way to test audio cable is to rewire one's entire system with that brand or model. This way one will be able to hear the difference in sound quality with any influence from other types of cable, and truly hear its affects. Kimber Kable (not a typo, Kimber likes to replace the "C" in cable with a "K") is one of the only brands of cable that I have found where I could replace once interconnect in my system, and hear a very distinct improvement of the sound of my system due to this one cable change.
---> Read our Kimber Kable Carbon cables review.

 

 

LampizatOr Golden Gate 2 DAC Review

LampizatOr Golden Gate 2 DAC
An accurate and unfettered music source for my system.
Review By Matthew Clott
Vacuum tubes versus solid-state are the Audiophile's version of red versus white wine. Both are lovely and both have die-hard fans and haters alike. I don't buy into either club completely, and I don't want to start the next Vacuum Tube Versus Solid-State war. I have enjoyed and currently own both tube and solid-state gear, and use both for reviews. That said, years ago I developed an aversion to tubes in my DAC's, partly due to experience and partly due to unsubstantiated personal bias (hey, at least I'm honest!).
---> Read our LampizatOr Golden Gate 2 DAC review.

 

 

Lindemann Musicbook SOURCE And POWER 500 Review

Lindemann Musicbook SOURCE And POWER 500
Beautify, simplify, electrify... may the SOURCE be with you.
Review By Clive Meakins
The old days are gone... well, almost. How many of us still have piles of audio equipment connected via cable spaghetti? Is it crazy to dream of simplifying Hi-Fi systems into a very few items of equipment? Doesn't such simplicity come at the expense of quality? There are of course economies in reducing the Hi-Fi box count; chassis costs are high so fewer of these should result in a major saving. Reducing the number of power supplies is beneficial too as is directly connecting circuits internally which can cut the costs associated with providing external connectivity.
---> Read our Lindemann Musicbook SOURCE & POWER 500 review.

 

 

Metronome Le Dac Digital-To-Analog Converter Review

Metronome Le Dac Digital-To-Analog Converter...
...and the Technicolor Dream.
Review By Paul Schumann
Those of you who have read some of my previous reviews know that I am in some ways a throwback, sticking with my compact discs while some audiophiles have moved to uncompressed digital files and others have embraced the vinyl side. I have a lot of CD's, and by god, I'm going to still listen to them. A few years ago I purchased the iFi Audio iDSD, and that opened up my world on how far digital has come in the last decade.
---> Read our Metronome Le Dac review.

 

 

Mola Mola Tambaqui Hi-Res Stereo DAC Review

Mola Mola Tambaqui Hi-Res Stereo DAC
An astonishing benchmark in musical expressiveness and transparency.
Review By Greg Weaver
At the introduction of the Makua linestage with its optional phono stage and DAC ($22,490 as configured) in 2016 driving a pair of their Kaluga mono amps, I was very taken by the systems engaging attributes; fast impactful bass, clean transients, articulate mids, and luxuriant body and bloom. So when GTT Audio's Bill Parish, the North American importer for Mola Mola, asked if I'd like to take a listen to and report on the Mola Mola flagship DAC, the Tambaqui, without hesitation a resounding, "Yes, please" flew out of my mouth!
---> Read our Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC review.

 

 

Pro-Ject X2 Vinyl LP Turntable Review

Pro-Ject X2 Vinyl LP Turntable
Easy to set up and very easy to use. You will not be disappointed.
Review By Tom Lyle
As the technology advances, it's only natural for any decent audio manufacturer to take advantage of this new technology. And so, when Pro-Ject was faced with improving upon their Debut and Xpression series of turntables, which are both very successful designs, they decided to, in their words, "improve on the technologies that had already been established". As a result, Pro-Ject introduced their X1 and X2 turntables. The X2, the subject of this review, besides many other improvements, makes the most of higher quality raw materials to use in its production (even though they are more difficult to source).
---> Read our Pro-Ject X2 vinyl LP turntable review.

 

 

Raidho TD4.2 Floorstanding Loudspeakers Review

Raidho TD4.2 Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Raidho's TD4.2 delivers the meaning of music.
Review By Tom Lyle
I admit it. The pair of TD4.2 speakers that have taken residence in my listening room are the best speakers I have ever had the pleasure of auditioning. They are also the most massive, most substantial, and at $122,000 to $142,000 a pair, the most expensive. It was a bit of a humbling experience unpacking these speakers. This is because getting them out of their crates and into the listening room required hired help - there was no way I could move these speakers into the listening room upstairs by myself.
---> Read our Raidho TD4.2 speaker review.

 

 

Rotel RC-1590 Stereo Preamplifier Review

Rotel RC-1590 Stereo Preamplifier
A stereo pre that should be on your list to audition.
Review By Brett Rudolph
The world of stereo equipment started with very humble beginnings. Many types of equipment have changed from their historical roots to today's modern versions. For example, the preamplifier began as nothing more than a device to amplify low-level signals into ones that are capable of being amplified for playback. The same is true of many companies that produce the equipment for the audio industry.
---> Read our Rotel RC-1590 preamplifier review. 

 

 

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers Review

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers
These are immensely sexy speakers with the build quality, and attention to detail, that you would expect on an Italian sports car.
Review By Dean Cacioppo
Let's get this started with a hi-fi thought exercise. When does a loudspeaker become something that is considered a luxury item? Is $1000 per pair of speakers a luxury item? How about a $5000 pair? What about those that are priced at $100,000? Although we all may have a different idea of what luxury is, we all know when we are in the presence of something that is truly luxurious.
---> Read our Sonus Faber Nova II speaker review.

 

 

SVS Pinnacle 3.5-Way Floorstanding Speakers Review

SVS Pinnacle 3.5-Way Floorstanding Speakers
These speakers can rock, plus produce excellent macro and micro dynamics too!
Review By Dr. Matthew Clott
SVS came on the scene several years ago and impressed everyone with their range of high performance subwoofers. They established themselves as a high value to performance product and sold primarily dealer direct. Their subwoofers come in multiple sizes, multiple price points and in both sealed and ported versions to seamlessly mesh with home audio and home theater systems. With their success, speaker production was an obvious progression and they introduced a 5.1 HT system, bookshelf speakers, dedicated surround speakers and floorstanders.
---> Read our SVS Pinnacle speaker review.

 

 

Synergistic Research Foundation Cables Review

Synergistic Research Foundation Cables
Oracles house themselves within temples of the humble.
Review By Rick Becker
Like with climate change, it's hard to believe there are still cable deniers in this world, but they show up in the forums with a loud voice. You would think the multitude of High End cable manufacturers would be a clue. After all, if high end cables were all snake oil would so many companies exist? Would so many people buy them? And importantly, would brick & mortar stores, who build their reputations and depend on repeat customers, be selling them? At audio shows nobody runs generic power cords or interconnects.
---> Read our Synergistic Research Foundation cables review.

 

 

Top Wing Suzaku - Red Sparrow MC Phono Cartridge Review

Top Wing Suzaku / Red Sparrow MC Phono Cartridge
Perhaps the last cartridge you will ever need.
Review By Tom Lyle
A few years ago I reviewed the Van den Hul Crimson Stradivarius phono cartridge. I began that review by expressing my love-hate relationship with phono cartridges. The love stems from my love of music, and the fact that I prefer music reproduced by vinyl, and that the phono cartridge converts vibrational energy from the grooves of the records into an electric signal and then this electrical signal is somehow converted into the music that comes forth from our speakers.
---> Read our Top Wing's Suzaku / Red Sparrow MC review.

 

 

Verity Audio Otello Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review

Verity Audio Otello Floorstanding Speakers
A loudspeaker for music lovers.
Review By Rufus Smith
Founded in 1995, Verity Audio hit the ground running in 1996 with the debut of their first speaker, the Parsifal. The Parsifal has gone through at least four iterations since its introduction, retaining the qualities that made the original so special. The speaker was known for a smooth treble that tended oh so slightly toward the dark side of neutral, a midrange that was transparent but is somewhat laid-back and bass that has weight and meaningful extension.
---> Read our Verity Audio Otello loudspeaker review.

 

 

YG Acoustics Hailey 2.2 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review

YG Acoustics Hailey 2.2 Floorstanding Loudspeaker
The middleweight contender....
Review By Phil Gold
Cards on the table. I've owned the YG Carmel and the YG Carmel 2, each of which I've reviewed in these pages in January 2012 and July 2015 respectively. You can read them here and weep. I'm addicted to the ultra-high resolution, low distortion, lightning reflexes, dynamic range and the holographic imaging of the Carmel speakers.  They are not for everyone. Due to the particular way they are constructed from billets of aircraft grade aluminum, they cost a lot of money, and due to their relatively small size, they don't reach down all that deep. The sealed box design does provide a superbly fast accurate bass, but while the quality is high, the quantity is limited.
---> Read our YG Acoustics Hailey 2.2 speaker review.

 

 

 

 

Previous Annual Blue Note Awards

Best Of 2020 Blue Note Award

Product of the Year Awards 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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