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September 2021

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Best Of 2021 Blue Note Equipment Awards By Enjoy the Music.com

Best Of 2021 Blue Note Equipment Awards
Enjoy the Music.com celebrates the best high fidelity audio gear of 2021!

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Enjoy the Music.com's Best Of 2021 Blue Note Equipment Awards

 

  Enjoy the Music.com's Best Of 2021 Blue Note Awards celebrates the many great achievements by audiophile manufacturers within the high-end audio and Hi-Res Audio industry. Our 2021 Blue Note Awards is a culmination of more than two decades of reviewing and carefully choosing what products have earned special recognition for our annual awards. Our Best Of 2021 Blue Note Award celebrates the finest products we have reviewed during the previous 12 months.

 

Bayz Audio Courante 2.0 Loudspeaker 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.

 

Rogue Audio RP-9 Vacuum Tube Stereo Preamplifier 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.

 

Nagra Tube DAC And Classic PSU Power Supply 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 2020 through September 2021 our staff chose 19 products that have earned our prestigious Blue Note Award. This year we've become a bit more particular as our 2020 Blue Note Awards featured an outstanding 27 products! In 2019 we chose 21 products, and in 2018 our staff chose 19 high-end audio components to receive an Enjoy the Music.com Blue Note Award. Thus, choosing 19 products during 2021 is normal for us, and considered very few as compared to many long school-grade lists with hundreds of products, or those typical Best Of 50 as seen elsewhere.

 

Aavik Acoustics I-180 Integrated Amplifier, D-180 DAC, And S-180 Streamer / Network Player Review

 

 

Only The Very Best
Let it be said here and now we make no apologies that during 2021 our staff chose only 19 products to receive our special Best Of 2021 Blue Note Award. With so many products spanning an array of categories reviewed from late 2020 through September 2021, 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.

 

AGD The Audion MKII Monoblock Amplifier Review

 

Enjoy the Music.com does not carry over products from our Best Of 2020 Blue Note Awards, 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! All winning products are seen below, and we want to congratulate all manufacturers whose product have rightly earned our Best Of 2021 Blue Note Award.

 

 

We feel both the consumer electronics industry, and our readers, should have full transparency by knowing products are chosen by our writers and reviewers. There is no conflict or questionable financial benefit. Enjoy the Music.com's Best Of 2021 Blue Note Awards are earned. Let us celebrate life, and the 19 chosen award winners! As always, in the end what really matters is that you... enjoy the music.

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 2021 Blue Note Equipment Awards!

 

 

Aavik Acoustics I-180 Integrated Amplifier, D-180 DAC, And S-180 Streamer / Network Player Review

Aavik Acoustics I-180 Integrated Amplifier, D-180 DAC, And S-180 Streamer / Network Player Review
A symbiotic sonic relationship... for your listening pleasures.
Review By Tom Lyle
The Danish high-end audio manufacturer Aavik was nice enough to send me three components from their entry level-line. I call this gear "entry-level" not because it is a system priced for those new to the exciting world of high-end audio but because they are the least expensive components in Aavik Acoustics' 180 / 280 / 580 line. I did not know the price of these three components when they arrived at my home for review. On looks alone, I assumed that they would cost much more. About halfway through the review period, I peeked inside the cabinet of this integrated amplifier. Its innards looked as if they were constructed by an engineer but also by a visual artist. Its complex yet very neatly arranged interior was impressive. During my audition of all three components, I determined that their display and intelligent functionality belied their relatively low price.
---> Aavik Acoustics I-180 integrated amplifier, D-180 DAC, and S-180 streamer / network player review.

 

 

AGD The Audion MKII Monoblock Amplifier Review

AGD The Audion MKII Monoblock Amplifier Review
The Audion MkII takes this prized monoblock to the next level.
Review By Rick Becker
To be a successful manufacturer it is imperative to know when to draw the line on product development and call it ready for production. The problem is most designers know the creative process can go on indefinitely. Technology rarely stands still. What is cleverly called "passion" often can be arguably described as an obsessive-compulsive addiction to perfection. Those who cannot draw the line and commit to even small-scale production become artisans of serial, unique products, no two of which are alike. A clever way to avoid this trap is modular construction. Alberto Guerra was thinking several chess moves in advance when he came out with his stunning Vivace monoblock Class D amplifiers with GaN MOSFET transistors.
---> AGD The Audion MKII monoblock amplifier review.

 

 

Audience adeptResponse aR6-T4 Passive Power Conditioner Review With Audience's frontRow powerChord

Audience adeptResponse aR6-T4 Passive Power Conditioner With Audience's frontRow powerChord Review
Reacquaint yourself with the art of deep listening.
Review By Dr. Michael Bump
I recently came across an article written in early March 2020 by LA Times Staff Writer, Randall Roberts. The write-up, entitled, The Lost Art of Deep Listening: Choose an album. Lose the phone. Close your eyes, is offered as a challenge (to those who are otherwise not of an audiophile persuasion) to listen with all manner of intent as if binge-watching all seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy (which I admittedly have done now on three occasions). The assignment: Clear your schedule for the next three hours of all distractions. Choose three full recordings from your collection and put them in an ordered queue (as if you were programming a triple feature binge-watch). Then, close your eyes, and just listen... Roberts reflects, "There was a time when listeners treated the mere existence of recorded sound like a miracle – a wonder, a kind of time travel. Vintage images from the space age, recalling couples seated around their high-fidelity systems as if being warmed by a fireplace."
---> Audience adeptResponse aR6-T4 passive power conditioner with Audience's frontRow powerChord.

 

 

Bayz Audio Courante 2.0 Loudspeaker Review

Bayz Audio Courante 2.0 Loudspeaker Review
A new and innovative design in speaker technology.
Review By Dr. Matthew Clott
You might have to stand on your head for this review because Zoltán Bay turned the concept of speaker production upside down and inside out when he created the Bay Radial Speaker (BRS) Tweeter. And when you see the absolutely unique and creative Bayz Audio Courante 2.0 speaker design ($60,000), you're not going to be able to figure out how to stand, so just have a seat and enjoy the read. Maybe have the computer or tablet read it to you while you listen to your favorite composition in the background.... Be sure to grab your favorite beverage and have that cute dog (or cat) of yours sit in your lap and snuggle in; this is gonna be good!
---> Read our Bayz Audio Courante 2.0 speaker review.

 

 

Black Cat Graceline Level-2 Interconnect & Speaker Cable Review

Black Cat Graceline Level-2 Interconnect & Speaker Cable Review
Worth every freaking penny because your system will appreciate it.
Review By Tom Lyle
In March of 2019, I reviewed Black Cat's 3200 interconnect, speaker, and digital cable in Enjoy The Music. I was very impressed by these relatively affordable cables. The Graceline (by Black Cat Cable) Level-2 interconnects and speaker cables reviewed here are a considerable step up from those cables in sound quality. In case one might not have heard of Black Cat cables, and even if you have, I strongly suggest one read the "We Ask 10 Questions..." interview with Chris Sommovigo, which appeared in November 2020's issue as part of the celebration of Enjoy The Music's 25th Anniversary. In this interview, I learned that Mr. Sommovigo is a very knowledgeable, level-headed designer and inventor. Some of his cables were very sonically successful, such as his digital cable, of which he sold several of his designs to Kimber Kable.
---> Black Cat Graceline Level-2 interconnect & speaker cable review.

 

 

Dynamic Sounds Associates Amp I Review

Dynamic Sounds Associates Amp I Review
Class-A tour de force!
Review By Greg Weaver
I've had the pleasure of writing about Dynamic Sounds Associates gear for over 16 years now, with my first take on the original Phono-ONE phonostage appearing back in November of 2004! Since that time, I've reviewed, or used as reference, the superb Phono II phonostage (with the Phono III coming on deck soon!), the exceptional Pre I Linestage, and now, I am privileged to bring you the world premiere review of the exceptional Amp I monoblocks. The engineering mind behind all these fresh and exceptional designs is one Dr. Douglas Hurlburt, whom I first met while living in southern Maryland during the early to mid-nineteen nineties.
---> Dynamic Sounds Associates Amp I review.

 

 

Gingko Audio Sextet Speaker System Review

Gingko Audio Sextet Speaker System Review
Enjoying everything the Gingko Swarm has to offer with many options available too!
Review By Brett Rudolph
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to review several different speakers and speaker systems. Each one has the character that sets it apart from the next. So, when you can audition speakers and have the designer help set them up and explain them to you, it aids in giving a full review. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself late last year, I jumped at the chance. Usually, the first contact is a brief discussion on the product and a time to work out logistics. However, Vinh Vu from Gingko Audio, and I spoke more about the Sextet system's potential.
---> Read our Gingko Audio Sextet speaker system review.

 

 

Gryphon Audio Essence Preamplifier And Essence Stereo Power Amplifier Review

Gryphon Audio Essence Preamplifier
And Essence Stereo Power Amplifier Review
Blown away by an amazing musical performance!
Review By Tom Lyle
The Gryphon Essence preamplifier and Gryphon Stereo power amplifier are gorgeous looking and beautiful sounding Danish high-end audio components. Those who can afford either or both of these components will not only enjoy stellar sound quality but most likely will also be able to enjoy the fact that they are the epitome of audio equipment that has a look and "feel" of luxury goods. Gryphon founder Flemming E. Rasmussen was responsible for the stunningly beautiful exterior of the rather large (and heavy!) Gryphon Essence preamplifier and Stereo Essence power amplifier. Good looks and operational refinement are especially true of the Gryphon Essence preamplifier. Its weighty infrared metal remote was only one indication of this Danish audio manufacturer's recognition of many audiophile's appreciation of the intangibles that are available on many preamps.
---> Gryphon Audio Essence preamplifier & Essence amplifier review.

 

 

Kimber Kable Naked Interconnects Review

Kimber Kable Naked Interconnects Review
Let's go skinny dipping... with an impressive leap in cabling technology!
Review By Paul L. Schumann
Ok, we've all done it. We've swum in the water in our birthday suits. It may have been in a swimming pool, maybe in a lake or stream, maybe even in the ocean. I don't want to know your details, and I'm sure you don't want to know mine. But one way or another, we got naked outside and took the plunge.  And no matter the outcome, it was a memorable experience. Such as with the Kimber Kable Naked Interconnects. My familiarity with Kimber Kable goes back further than I like to admit. Back then I was still a novice to the world of high-end interconnects. It was 1997 and I just upgraded my CD player.
---> Read our Kimber Kable Naked Interconnects review.

 

 

Mojo Mystique EVO B4B 21 DAC Review

Mojo Mystique EVO B4B 21 DAC (2021 Version) Review
It sounds like music.
Review By Dr. Matt Clott
Mojo Audio, located in Albuquerque, NM, is the brainchild and passion of Benjamin Zwickel, President, CEO, and chief designer. Although not as well recognized as the big-name manufacturers, Benjamin has established his brand as a manufacturer direct digital source alternative that offers enormous value in performance and routinely hits way above its price point. Do not confuse this Mojo with the Chord Mojo portable DAC... not the same. I have previously had a positive experience with his DACs within my pre-reviewer days and I was thrilled at the opportunity to formally review the Mojo Audio Mystique EVO B4B 21 D/A Converter. Having gone through several iterations, the current model line-up nomenclatures are all Mystique EVO 21 DACs.
---> Mojo Mystique EVO B4B 21 DAC (2021 version).

 

 

Nagra Tube DAC And Classic PSU Power Supply Review

Nagra Tube DAC And Classic PSU Power Supply Review
Sonic glory... worth it!
Review By Tom Lyle
Nagra is a Swiss audio equipment manufacturer that has been in business for over 65 years. Their professional portable tape records were an industry standard for many decades, even appearing as props in many films and television shows. Their reputation was rock-solid even before they started manufacturing high-end audio equipment in the 21st Century. Because of this, and because of the fine high-end audio components they've been designing and manufacturing since 2012, I suppose there are many audiophiles, and plenty of non-audiophile, who might add the Nagra Tube DAC and its matching Classic PSU power supply to their systems without an audition, or without reading reviews on the subject.
---> Nagra Tube DAC and Classic PSU Power Supply.

 

 

NPS 1260 3D Enhancer Solution Review

NPS 1260 3D Enhancer Solution Review
A big leap toward reality!
Review By Rick Becker
A recent discussion in the Audiogon Forum asked "How much reality do you really need? Some of the replies included:
If it's on the recording, I want to hear it.
For my critical listening, I want the full Monty.
It's the nature of man to want more or different.
Reality is highly overrated.
Just FYI, "reality" is not really my jam.
Enough to hold my attention.
I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.
If a recording needs a playback system in order for you to hear it, and every system is different, how do you really ever know what's on the recording?
...My only ultimate goal is to enjoy music. Reality blah blah-blah.
---> NPS 1260 3D Enhancer Solution review.

 

 

Pass Laboratories INT-25 Solid-State Stereo Integrated Amplifier Review

Pass Laboratories INT-25 Solid-State Integrated Amplifier Review
A fantastic sounding Class A stereo amplifier!
Review By Tom Lyle
Lest one think that this review is simply not only more evidence that I have somehow formed an untoward relationship with Pass Laboratories, I'd build my defense around the fact that every time I reviewed one of their high-end audio components, I was "assigned" the task. Sure, the fact that I use not only the power and preamplifier but also the headphone amplifier I use as references, must not help my case. The next thing I know I'm asked to review their INT-25 integrated amplifier. It's tough work, but someone has to do it. Yes, I'm grateful for my problems.
---> Read our Pass Laboratories INT-25 stereo integrated amplifier review.

 

 

PureAudioProject Quintet 10 Open-Baffel Loudspeaker Review

PureAudioProject's Quintet 10 Open-Baffle Loudspeaker Review
Look ma, no boxes! I spent 100 days and nights with PureAudioProject's Quintet 10 open-baffle speakers — and found that they are sonic shape-shifters of the highest order.
Review By Rogier van Bakel
"Audiophile" and "oenophile" don't just sound similar. The words have this in common too: they describe a world where subjective judgments of quality must rule without a chance of different opinions being resolved. After all, no one can make valid generalizations about what the ideal power amplifier or the perfect pair of speakers sound like — any more than a wine lover can claim with universal authority that a bottle of 1979 La Mission Haut Brion is better than a 1988 Château Léoville Barton, or vice versa.
---> Read our review of the PureAudioProject Quintet 10 speaker.

 

 

Rogue Audio RP-9 Vacuum Tube Stereo Preamplifier Review

Rogue Audio RP-9 Vacuum Tube Stereo Preamplifier Review
Exceeding the listener's expectations.
Review By Bob Grossman
Rogue Audio's RP-9 is the latest flagship preamplifier from the ingenious designs of the American manufacturing workshop of Mark O'Brien.  Having an interest in doing this review of the new RP-9 was a simple decision as a long-time user of the Rogue RP-7.  I have been using the remarkable powerhouse Rogue Apollo Dark Amps for several years as both a sonic and output upgrade to my previously owned Rogue 180 Amplifiers that were used to run Magnepan 3.6 speakers.  I replaced the Maggie 3.6 speakers with their 20.7 models several years ago and needed more powerful amps. I wondered if the increased musical experience of moving further up in the Rogue Amplifier line was going to be repeated with their new preamplifier by going from the RP-7 to the RP-9 model. However, before proceeding and hearing the RP-9, I wondered what was going on since the RP-7 has received numerous accolades, recognition, and rewards. Could designer Mark O'Brien improve upon the noteworthy RP-7 that I have been enjoying?
---> Rogue Audio RP-9 vacuum tube stereo preamplifier review.

 

 

Silversmith Audio Fidelium Loudspeaker Cables Review

Silversmith Audio Fidelium Loudspeaker Cables Review
A new paradigm in speaker cables.
Review By Greg Weaver
I first met the engaging Jeffrey Smith, founder and design engineer of Silversmith Audio and recently retired Navy Commander, some nineteen years ago during his third CES, in January of 2002. To save space here, as there is quite a bit to cover, I'd refer you to his "About Us" link at the Silversmith Audio web page to see his remarkable story. He was showing his then flagship silver ribbon interconnects and speaker cables at the Alexis Park paired with gear from Pass Labs including their X0.2 linestage and X600 amplifiers driving the EgglestonWorks Andra II speakers.
---> Read our Silversmith Audio Fidelium loudspeaker cable review.

 

 

SOTA Nova VI Vinyl LP Turntable Review

SOTA Nova VI Vinyl LP Turntable Review
The new Sota sound allows music to become tactile.
Review By Ron Nagle
There was a time when my school shoes wore out; my mom would take them to the shoe repairman. He would fix them like new with Cats-paw rubber heels. At about that same time I remember when our Zenith console television died. My father would go down to the local hardware store to use their tube tester. For three or four dollars he would buy a new vacuum tube. Very soon we would be back to our black and white TV bliss. I guess since then a few things have changed. But let us now carry that forward to the present. Understand that for 20 years I spun vinyl disks on my reliable reference, a Sota Sapphire 2, but alas time takes a toll. So what can you do if you have something you can't part with?
---> SOTA Nova VI vinyl LP turntable review.

 

 

Tekton Moab Floorstanding Speaker Review

Tekton Moab Floorstanding Speaker Review
With their thunderous bass complementing a dazzlingly beautiful midrange, Tekton's Moab full-range speakers stand tall both in appearance and in musicality.
Review By Rogier van Bakel
For virtually everyone on the planet, this past calendar year brought a range of challenges and sorrows; 10/10 would not recommend. Hooray for 2021, with its promise of health, actual instead of virtual hugs, and a return to normalcy. When looking back on our collective annus horribilis (Latin for dumpster fire), I consider the arrival of a pair of Tekton Moab speakers in my listening room a welcome ray of light. Like many audiophiles confined to home by the pandemic, I've found much meaning and comfort in music these past nine months. With my photography business on the skids, there was suddenly occasion to burrow into a couple of thousand standout tracks, old and new. I almost didn't miss the roughly two dozen concerts I would've attended in a normal year. I think that's in part because, well, if any stereo speakers I've ever heard sound just like live music, it's the Moabs.
---> Tekton Moab floorstanding speaker review.

 

 

Zu Omen MK.II Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review

Zu Audio Omen MK.II Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review
A classic loudspeaker from Zu Audio that remains new. 
Review By Ric Mancuso
I asked this question of Sean Casey, owner and creator and founder of Zu Audio loudspeakers. "You know, how did you come with the name for the company?" He said, One evening having some conversation about birthing the company with his wife, the name Zu popped into her head! It sounded cool and they came up with a logo and from then on it was Zu Audio. Sean heard members of the industry say never to disclose the origin of the name, fearing it would evoke a perception of fictionalization, that would somehow undermine the brand's quality. What's in a name? Well, Prince did pretty well with his symbol and his brand. Sean Casey's background in audio is an interesting one. He and Ray Kimber, both Utah audio heads knew of each other and crossed paths involving PA's and sound systems for clubs in the early days in Ogden. Ray of course started up Kimber Kable.
---> Zu Audio Omen MK.II floorstanding loudspeaker review.

 

 

 

Previous Annual Blue Note Awards

Best Of 2020 Blue Note Award

Product of the Year Awards 2021, 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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