The Sound Advocate products of the year for 2021 were filled with fun and a bit of unexpected excitement—So here they are ! Howard Milstein reports
As our site continually grows, more of the finest audio designers, manufacturers, and distributors are contributing some of their finest products for us to evaluate; and for this, we are utterly grateful!
Many more extremely noteworthy components are being offered up for review, and while this has obligingly kept us busy, (but a bit behind), we are still ardently excited as we await some new evaluations and/ or reviews of some most noteworthy audio gear slated for this month as well as next January.
Although other larger high-end audio sites like to separate components into numerous categories, we still insist on combining our complete overall evaluations on all the different types of components that have been reviewed here. They are then quite pensively and reflectively sorted out to those we feel had the greatest and most noteworthy impact on our combined emotions, auditory senses, and overall enjoyment of the music and sound reproduction each one of them brought forth to us.
Although for 2021 there were 3 components nominated for our “Product of The Year” awards, unfortunately, one of them is still in its closing aspects of evaluation, and as such, should possibly be included for next year’s award profiles. Otherwise, here are are our 2 winners! We offer thanks to all our subscribers; happy new year!
1. The darTZeel CTH 8550 MK.II integrated amplifier
For the few uncompromising audiophiles that have heard this profound amplifier, many have come to recognize it as one of, if not the world’s best high-end amplifier currently being produced today. The unit is a conquering hero that produces a subjective sound quality that is an uncompromising “triumph” in reproducing the dynamic range, detail, subtlety, and the most natural musical harmonics and sound fundamentals that may be contained within a great recording!
The darTZeel CTH 8550 Mk.II produces music that is indescribably beautiful, exact, nimble, and subtle to the ears, dynamically extraordinary, and incredibly profound. It also is so filled with such musical “correctness’ that one can’t help to sit and listen to music with a feeling of such satisfaction as its sound permeates through your senses without barely…. any type of limitations!
Ultimately, at its formidable price point, the question concerning the darTZeel CT-8550 MKII may not be “can you afford one– but sooner or later, when could you be able to purchase one?” I am still anxiously waiting!
2. The Pass Labs XA30.8 Class A stereo Amplifier
The Pass Labs XA30.8 stereo Class A power amplifier was mostly designed by Nelson Pass while Wayne Colburn’s ideas can be found within this startlingly exceptional power amplifier.
Some paraphrasing from the initial review:
“We are talking here about a quality of sound that was unprecedented in the overall body and smoothness — a silky, overtly encompassing midrange with superbly plush and subtle high-frequency detail. Nothing here is overexposed or in any way deviates from its pure, beautifully nuanced tonal response.
It thereby offers exceptional and subtle detail, dynamics, and a superbly smooth but stunning transient response, crystal clear high frequencies while also offering a phenomenally distinguished, easy to listen to, and elegantly, delicately balanced 3-dimensionality.
The XA30.8” s stereophonic instrumental locational effects on just about all program material are breathtakingly accurate, with center soundstage imaging second to none, the only comparable reference here would be the darTZeel CT-8550 II which is also outstanding in this respect.
The best way to describe this audible sincerity would be “truthful, beautifully accurate realism” to the music it reproduces! The Pass Labs XA30.8 is one of the best amplifiers I have ever heard in my home listening environment. The XA30.8 at its current price is the consummate amplifier on the market today!
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