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 Awards celebrates the many great achievements
by audiophile manufacturers within the high-end audio and Hi-Res Audio industry. Our
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.
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.
While there are many great
pieces of high fidelity audio equipment now available within the marketplace, Enjoy
the Music.com's Best Of 2021 Blue Note Awards is compiled
from products we have reviewed within the past 12 months that have earned extra special attention.
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
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
Only The Very Best
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
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.
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
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
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
A symbiotic sonic relationship... for
your listening pleasures.
Review By Tom Lyle
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
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
---> AGD The Audion MKII
monoblock amplifier review.
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
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
Bayz Audio Courante 2.0
A new and innovative design in speaker technology.
Dr. Matthew Clott
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
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
Class-A tour de force!
Review By Greg Weaver
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
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
Enjoying everything the Gingko Swarm has to offer with many options available too!
Review By Brett Rudolph
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
Blown away by an amazing musical performance!
Review By Tom Lyle
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
Let's go skinny dipping... with an impressive leap in cabling technology!
Paul L. Schumann
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
Mojo Mystique EVO
Pro (was B4B 21) DAC Review
It sounds like music.
Dr. Matt Clott
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 Pro D/A Converter.
Having gone through several iterations, the current model line-up nomenclatures
are all Mystique EVO DACs.
Mojo Mystique EVO B4B 21 DAC (2021 version).
Nagra Tube DAC And Classic PSU Power
Sonic glory... worth it!
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
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
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 Integrated
A fantastic sounding Class A stereo amplifier!
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'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
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
Exceeding the listener's expectations.
Review By Bob Grossman
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
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
---> Read our Silversmith Audio Fidelium
loudspeaker cable 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
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
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
(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
Tekton Moab floorstanding speaker review.
Zu Audio Omen MK.II Floorstanding
A classic loudspeaker from Zu Audio that remains new.
Review By Ric Mancuso
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
---> Zu Audio Omen MK.II
floorstanding loudspeaker review.
Previous Annual Blue Note Awards
Product of the Year Awards 2021, 2020,
2019, 2018, 2017,
2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012,
2009, 2008, 2007,