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September 2022

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Best Of 2022 Blue Note Equipment Awards By Enjoy the Music.com

Best Of 2022 Blue Note Equipment Awards
Enjoy the Music.com celebrates the best high fidelity audio gear of 2022!

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  Enjoy the Music.com's Best Of 2022 Blue Note Awards celebrates the many great achievements by audiophile manufacturers within the high-end audio and Hi-Res Audio industry. Our 2022 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 2022 Blue Note Award celebrates the finest products we have reviewed during the previous 12 months.

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. While there are many great pieces of high fidelity audio equipment now available within the marketplace, Enjoy the Music.com's Best Of 2022 Blue Note Awards is compiled from products we have reviewed within the past 12 months that have earned extra special attention.

From September 2021 through September 2022 our staff chose 20 products that have earned our prestigious Blue Note Award. This year we've become a bit more particular as in 2021 our staff chose 19 products that have earned our prestigious Blue Note Award. Thus, choosing 20 products during 2022 is normal for us.


Only The Very Best
Let it be said here and now we make no apologies that during 2022 our staff chose only 20 products to receive our special Blue Note Award. With so many products spanning an array of categories reviewed from late 2021 through September 2022, 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.

Enjoy the Music.com does not carry over products from our Best Of 2021 Blue Note Awards, Best Of 2020 Blue Note Awards, Best Of 2019 Blue Note Awards (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 2022 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 2022 Blue Note Awards are earned. The below is not a pay-for-play list.

Let us celebrate life, and the 20 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 2022 Blue Note Equipment Awards!



Acoustical Systems Aquilar Anniversary Tonearm & Palladian Moving Coil Phono Cartridge Review

Acoustical Systems Aquilar Anniversary Tonearm & Palladian Moving Coil Phono Cartridge Review
The a golden age of analog playback.
Review By Robert C. May
Acoustical Systems Aquilar Anniversary Tonearm, and their Palladian cartridge are exceptional pieces of audio equipment. Beautifully engineered, when mated they present state-of-the-art analog performance, allowing the listener to simply sink into the music. For quite a while now, my good friend, philosophical colleague, and fellow reviewer Jules Coleman and I have been having an ongoing conversation about what we have dubbed, perhaps somewhat pretentiously, but certainly tendentiously, the philosophy of audio. In this branch of the philosophical tree, the philosophical issue that has animated our discussion is this: In what terms can we truthfully and fruitfully describe the experience of listening to an audio system? Jules and I have discussed this question from the four corners of the philosophical landscape, epistemology and metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics, and our conclusion has been maddingly philosophical it is complicated, and we had better keep talking about it!
---> Acoustical Systems Aquilar Anniversary Tonearm & Palladian Moving Coil Phono Cartridge Review.




Ayon Audio CD-35 II CD Player And USA Labs RS9 Music Server Review

Ayon Audio CD-35 II CD Player And USA Labs RS9 Music Server Review
Two very versatile, and impressive, performers.
Review By Bob Grossman
The Ayon Audio CD-35 II as reviewed here, is the latest introduction to a long lineage of CD players that have been well regarded going back to the various models in the 3 and 5 series, along with ideas derived from their special edition CD35HF. But the CD-35 II is more than a CD player it is also a fully functioning preamplifier and DAC. It is a single-ended triode pure Class A design using a 6H30 and a 5687 tube for each channel, and a GZ30 tube as a rectifier for the power supply. It is also a zero-feedback design. Ayon Audio's CD-35 II built-in DAC can be used to play music files from your computer via the USB connection. The DAC also has a coaxial RCA input for S/PDIF, I2S, BNC, AES/EBU, and three other BNC inputs for DSD. For this review I also evaluated the USA Labs RS9 music server to coordinate streaming of music from Qobuz.
---> Ayon CD-35 II CD Player And USA Labs RS9 Music Server Review.




Aric Audio Custom 300B PSET Amplifier Review

Aric Audio Custom 300B PSET Amplifier Review
A music lover's amplifier.
Review By Paul Schumann
I have something to admit. I am a music lover. No, it's worse than that, I'm a certifiable music junkie. I listen to music at home. I listen to music at work. I listen to it in the car. I even hear music in my head when no music is playing. I'm always looking for new music to feed my addiction. My wife complains that my Christmas list is boring because all I ask for is music. Well, I do throw in a request for a pair of Berning 845 Monoblocks, but that never happens. Oh yes, my wife is a music junkie, also. She's always on the prowl for new music to add to her collection. Our tradition on Saturday and Sunday mornings is to listen to an album all the way through while eating our breakfast. It may be something brand new, or an album we haven't listened to in a long time. Usually, after our meal, we'll share what we think about it. Yes, music runs through our veins.
---> Aric Audio Custom 300B PSET Amplifier Review.




Artesania Audio Exoteryc Rack Review

Artesania Audio Exoteryc Rack Review
A rack that answers an often asked question in audio.
Review By Rufus Smith
Is a rack considered a component in the audio world, or is it just an accessory for holding our equipment? When I purchased my first audio system, the only requirements I had for a rack were that it was stable, supported the weight of all my equipment, had enough shelves to hold all the equipment, and, importantly, was cheap. The concept of vibration control was foreign to me, and honestly, I believe my dealer had not heard of it either, as all the racks in his store were the type that could find at any music store or chain electronics store. Alas, my budget barely covered my equipment, so my first rack was the same one found in college dorms or apartments across the country. The stand, constructed out of concrete blocks and 1x12 pine boards, was everything a college student needed. It was somewhat stable, infinitely adjustable, held all the equipment, and was very cheap.
---> Artesania Audio Exoteryc Rack Review.




Black Ice Audio Fusion F100 Monoblock Vacuum Tube Power Amplifier Review

Black Ice Audio Fusion F100 Monoblock Vacuum Tube Power Amplifier Review
Plus a great story about Jim Fosgate's Odyssey circuit.
Review By Ron Nagle
To tube or not to tube? Strange as it may seem, that age-old question is still relevant. Today new materials and innovative designs have taken vacuum tube audio components to a higher level. When I first saw the Black Ice Fusion F100 in room 504 at the Capital Audiofest, they were powered with Russian Tung-Sol KT150 beam tetrodes. This innovative tube is only one type of power tube the F100 can use, each with a different musical voice. This ability has a substantial fundamental advantage. Unlike solid-state amplifiers, you need not be stuck with one solid-state sound. Like a fine wine, the sound of vacuum tube audio components can appeal to many diverse tastes.
---> Black Ice Audio Fusion F100 Monoblock Vacuum Tube Power Amplifier Review.




Canor DAC 2.10 Digital-To-Analog Converter Review

Canor DAC 2.10 Digital-To-Analog Converter Review
It don't mean a thing, if you ain't got that swing.
Review By Paul Schumann
One of the things Enjoy the Music.com's Creative Director Steven R. Rochlin and I have in common is that we were both Heathkit kids. Decades ago Heathkit was widely known for offering electronic kits that were, generally, easy to build and of very high quality. I made some simple projects when I was young and then graduated to more sophisticated things like a shortwave radio and electronic timer. Although what I built paled in comparison to my dad, who assembled our first color television, I kept the skills, so later on, I was able to make simple repairs to my JoLida amp and other components. Two years ago, I built my loudspeakers. Last year I started working on a Zen amp clone before I had a bit of a nervous meltdown and halted. (Note to self, never work on a challenging project again during a pandemic and a record snowstorm).
---> Canor DAC 2.10 Digital-To-Analog Converter Review.




Critical Mass Systems Center Stage 2M Footers Review

Critical Mass Systems Center Stage 2M Footers Review
Good things come to those who wait.
Review By Dr. Michael Bump
Live musical performance is an enriching experience that, by in large, cannot be replicated through any other means. The price of admission is an incredible bargain, considering the impactful, often unforgettable effect such an experience has on the mind, body, and soul. It is a unique consequence of the human condition, a product of immense influence and power, able to move both individuals and the masses to life-motivating consequences. Sounds daunting (and perhaps a bit overly dramatic), but I sense most would agree that more than a modicum of truth lies within. I can attest that, for the varied professional musicians on the stage and in the studio creating these performances, it's rarely anything less.
---> Critical Mass Systems Center Stage 2M Footers Review.




FiiO E10K-TC And K3 USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Review

FiiO E10K-TC And K3 USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Review
Going back to school.
Review By Paul Schumann
If you have read any of my previous reviews, you know that I am a fan of Classical music. Sure, I listen to rock, pop, and jazz, but classical music is where I will always be grounded. I'm sure it is because I grew up listening to my father's music. While he did listen to a mixture of stuff as I was growing up, it was mostly classical, especially Bach. By the time I reached high school, I found prog-rock, which of course had a heavy classical influence. And while my Dad prefers his baroque music, as I got older, I started leaning towards the romantics. I think it is fair to say that Brahms was my favorite composer through my 20s, 30s, and 40s. But while I still love that music, there are only so many times one can listen to Brahms Violin Concerto or Beethoven's 5th Symphony before they lose their mystery. So, in my 50s, I started branching out in my musical journey with 20th- and 21st-century composers. What made this exploration possible was the internet.
---> FiiO E10K-TC And K3 USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Review.




Furutech Power Cord, Powe Distributor, XLR, And RCA Cables Review

A Fabulous Variety Of Furutech Reviewed
Much more than 'just' accessories... and worth every dollar too!
Review By Bob Grossman
The focus of this review is a lineup of Furutech products. It includes interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords assembled with their bulk cable lines, along with the PowerFlux-NCF 18 factory-made power cords, the GTO-D2 NCF(R) Power Distributor, and the GTX DR NCF duplex outlets. The premise of the bulk cables is to offer a more economical approach for the DIY assembly of Furutech cables using their wire designs with Furutech termination plugs of your own selection. Scot Markwell, President of Elite AV Distribution assembled the cables for this review to the lengths needed for my stereo. While every audio system needs cables to connect components and power supplies, it can be a complicated range of choices based on cost, design, and various product lines from the many cable manufacturers in the market today.
---> A Fabulous Variety Of Furutech Reviewed.




JPS Labs Superconductor V Interconnects, Speaker Cables And USB Cables Review

JPS Labs Superconductor V Interconnects, Speaker Cables And USB Cables Review
Connecting to the Soul of Music.
Review By Paul Schumann
There has been quite a bit of discussion, lately, in this publication and other forums, about the current direction of the music industry. One of the hot topics is how popular music is recorded and produced. Many argue that the use of software, like ProTools, to snap everything to a grid and correct any "flaws" is robbing the music of its soul. Many times the result is music that, while initially appealing, quickly loses the interest of the listener. It is soulless music. The question is, what is this soul and how do we recognize it? I think most of the time, this occurs at a subconscious level. Why do we want to go see an artist in concert when we've already heard all of their songs multiple times in studio perfection?
---> JPS Labs Superconductor V Interconnects, Speaker Cables And USB Cables Review.




Kronos Discovery Turntable Review Drive-by reviewing at Long Valley.

Kronos Discovery Turntable
Drive-by reviewing at Long Valley.
Rick Becker Investigates A Treasured Turntable.
It was supposed to be a nearly five-hour trip but my wife missed a turn on the shortcut and took the Shooting Brake through an all-terrain parking lot to buy lunch at Subway. Then there were accidents on I-80 to slow us down. Nevertheless, Bill Parish was all smiles, as usual, when we pulled into GTT Audio to get a listen to Louis Desjardins' latest masterpiece, the Kronos Discovery turntable. Bill had sent me his GTT video newsletter with a pow-wow after David W. Robinson, Editor in Chief and Senior Writer Maurice Jeffries of Positive Feedback had spent an afternoon listening to the new turntable. Emails flew and Louis sent me a copy of Alan Sircom's review in HiFi+ magazine. I emailed Louis and told him I thought it was a very good review. He replied that he thought it was an Excellent!
---> Kronos Discovery Turntable Review.




LampizatOr Amber 4 Stereo DAC / Preamplifier Review

LampizatOr Amber 4 Stereo DAC / Preamplifier Review
It's hard to imagine a more musical DAC in its price.
Review By Rick Becker
A decade ago LampizatOr was not yet on my radar. My review of the LampizatOr Amber 4 stereo DAC / preamplifier, as seen here, is a testament to their efforts over the years. It wasn't until the New York Audio Show in 2014 that I first heard one. The rig was totally comprised of gear that was new to me. The only familiar thing was Lyle Lovett singing "North Dakota." I didn't have much to say about the sound quality, which is neither good nor bad. Spring forward to November, at the Capital AudioFest 2021 and there were more than a handful of their various DACs on display. LampizatOr has become a top brand, and while they are best known in the US for their DACs, they offer four levels of "turnkey" systems in which everything, including cables, is made by LampizatOr. Their speakers feature open baffle midrange and tweeters with enclosed woofers, much like the early Tekton Design speaker I found so delightful back in 2009. Today, I dare say they are at the leading edge of DAC design.
---> LampizatOr Amber 4 Stereo DAC / Preamplifier Review.




LampizatOr Baltic 3 Hi-Res DAC Review

LampizatOr Baltic 3 Hi-Res DAC Review
A new approach to Noval tube design from Poland.
Review By Greg Weaver
Founded near Warsaw Poland in 2010, while LampizatOr builds electronics and speakers, many are not aware of those offerings, as it was their exceptional tubed DACs that first put the company on the map. Owned and operated exclusively by its designer Łukasz Fikus, after hearing the disarming $17,250 Golden Gate DAC some seven years ago, then the even more engaging $27,000 Pacific DAC at a show during 2018, the reason for their success became apparent. Both these SET-based devices offered a conspicuous step closer to the undeniable naturalness, organic coherence, and space and dimensionality offered by the very best LP transcription systems. Łukasz and Lampizator North America principal Fred Ainsley have recently announced the launch of the nearly $50,000 Horizon DAC, which I will get to hear at its official launch during the third Florida Audio Expo in mid-February of this year.
---> LampizatOr Baltic 3 Hi-Res DAC Review.




Pass Labs X260.8 Monoblock Amplifier Review

Pass Labs X260.8 Monoblock Amplifier Review
Prestigious power, glorious grace, and terrific transparency.
Review By Dwayne Carter
Pass Laboratories, Inc., is a name that most audiophiles utter, after describing a product that comes close to perfection. "XXX amplifier almost sounds as good as the Pass Labs XXX model". We've all done it. Fortunately, "as good as" will have to wait. Thanks to the good people at Pass Laboratories; I get the real thing. As the world was on pause, my listening room entertained a pair of Pass Labs X260.8 monoblock amplifiers. In full disclosure, I would like to admit that I have been a fan of Pass Labs products for many years. I've never owned or reviewed any of their products, so I was looking forward to this delivery.... The Pass Labs X260.8 monoblock amplifiers require two people to move. I know most amplifier manufacturers recommend this, but this is the first time I heeded their recommendation. Luckily, my good friend Michael was able to help me wrestle these beasts into place.
---> Pass Labs X260.8 Monoblock Amplifier Review.




Raidho TD 3.8 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review

Raidho TD 3.8 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review
Wonderfully cohesive and engaging.
Review By Dr. Matthew Clott
The art of weaving pros allows us to convey description, imagery, opinion, impression, and emotion. Yet Raidho's TD 3.8 floorstanding loudspeaker, as reviewed here, lends itself to the elegance of the solitary word; my notes are awash with them.... "Behold, Shimmer, Brilliant, Wow, Delicious, Holographic, Cohesive, Decompressive." I think I made up the last one, but I'll explain later.... Raidho, as a company, has gone through some changes. The Raidho of old has matured, retaining much of the DNA of its' previous incarnation while looking to the future with a redefined path. This metamorphosis has resulted in some voicing changes and a slightly different design philosophy yet retained the passion for physical beauty and all-out audiophile performance without restrictions.
---> Raidho TD 3.8 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review.




Rogue Audio Pharaoh II Integrated Amplifier Review

Rogue Audio Pharaoh II Integrated Amplifier Review
A new King is crowned!
Review By Ric Mancuso
Rogue Audio has once again upped the ante with their Pharaoh II hybrid integrated amp. I'm always a bit wary of the 'New & Improved' versions of any products that come to market. I seem to gravitate to original models (brands) of most premium products. Why do you ask? Well, because Herculean engineering efforts usually go into the development and production of a groundbreaking design. The Pharaoh I was launched in 2013, nearly ten years ago! It has been my reference amp for years. I have seen the evolution of many Rogue Audio products over time and had asked Mark O'Brien, designer and owner of Rogue Audio, periodically if there was going to be a revamp of the now classic Pharaoh. His answer was always, not at this time.
---> Rogue Audio Pharaoh II Integrated Amplifier Review.




Soundastic Reference Stereo Integrated Amplifier Review

Soundastic Reference Stereo Integrated Amplifier Review
From Poland, a passive pre with solid-state output.
Review By Ric Mancuso
The founder, head engineer of Struss Audio and designer; the late Zdzisław Hrynkiewicz-Struss 1951 to 2021, Started up Struss Audio about 40 years ago dating back to the early 2000s. He passed away recently, and the company has reformed under the name Soundastic. Their first product in the line is the model Reference, which is the subject of this review. Struss began his career at the Polish Academy of Science as a specialist in Engineering and Electronics. Zdzisław was inspired by the work of the late Finnish professor and top-notch audio engineer Matti Otali. Matti passed away in 2015. Matti had collaborated with Phillips and other audio manufacturers. The basic designs are based on the concept of a three-part amplifier. Zdzisław and Struss Audio held many patents for amplifier designs, which have been incorporated into the Reference integrated amplifier.
---> Soundastic Reference Stereo Integrated Amplifier Review.




Taiko SGM Extreme Hi-Res Music Streamer Review

Taiko SGM Extreme Hi-Res Music Streamer Review
The best music server I've ever heard.
Review By Dr. Matthew Clott
Oh Snap! Did he just say that in the title? Did he use the "best" word as a reviewer? I didn't think they were supposed to do that.... A'yup. I did. But I qualified it! SGM has been evolving for over six years, changing development, changing production sources, and changing core processes of implementation. When Taiko, with Emile Bok at its' helm, fully took over SGM development and production, they raised the bar with an attitude of going stratospheric or going home. Emile made it clear to me during our conversations that he wanted to do it right, from layout to implementation, without concern for cost or limitations in manufacturing techniques or pretty much any obstacles that stood in their way. One look at the exterior and you're seriously impressed.
---> Taiko SGM Extreme Hi-Res Music Streamer Review.




Synergistic Research Atmosphere Excite SX Cables Review

Synergistic Research Atmosphere Excite SX Cables Review
Achieving higher sound quality from mid-priced gear.
Review By Rick Becker
Last night I finally took on the challenge of cleaning out the top drawer of my filing cabinet the one marked "Audio". With the vengeance of Marie Kondo I pulled out the fat hanging folder labeled "My Stereo". Over the next three hours I divvied it up into "My Stereo" (current), "Old Stereo" (inactive), "Former Stereo" (sold off), and one for "Turntable." One piece of paper, one brochure, one sales receipt at a time. There were little block diagrams of systems built and dreamed of over the years. Print-outs from my years surfing rec.audio.high-end newsgroup. A letter to John Hellig of Musical Designs documenting my trip to CES in Chicago in 1993.An obituary letter of the death of my friend John Barnes of Audio Unlimited in Denver. Linda had warned me that papers would be the hardest part of decluttering. Those five inches of file space were a deep dive into my three decades of being an audiophile, and almost as many years as a writer.
---> Synergistic Research Atmosphere Excite SX Cables Review.




Von Schweikert Audio Endeavor SE Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review

Von Schweikert Audio Endeavor SE Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review
Experiencing the joy of music!
Review By Dr. Michael Bump
Ah, describing sound with words. Alas, I am no William Shakespeare. Yes, words matter, but the listening experience matters more. Even for a professional musician and academic, crafting a written narrative that accurately describes an aural impression will, to a fair degree, remain a flawed science. When teaching a masterclass to my percussion students, I always struggle to convey musical truth through words. Ultimately, performance is the final arbiter of musical thought, which I find myself deferring to time and again. Musical aesthetics are inherently aural expressions, "organizing sound through time" (to quote Edgard Varese) via the construct of four fundamental properties of sound: Pitch, Intensity, Duration, and Timbre.
---> Von Schweikert Audio Endeavor SE Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review.





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