To round off the year René and Jason have picked out their three favourite products. The components that have brought them the greatest musical thrills and the ones that they feel will stand the test of time in any well put together system. There was one product that both reviewers fell in love with but the guy that commited with his wallet gets to put his name to the fact.12.
René van Es
It was hard to choose the three products that impressed me most this past year, because so many products are of such high quality these days. I enjoyed PrimaLuna, Naim, Einstein and Harbeth among others. What I looked for was outstanding sound quality, all round excellence and value for money.
Focal Aria 948
In my opinion the Focal Aria 948 loudspeaker represents the best value product I’ve heard this year. This large system is smooth, yet dynamic, useful for all kinds of music, better tuned than a lot of Focal’s over the last decade and delivers real bass from its two large woofers.
The NAD M50 digital network player in combination with the M52 Digital Vault is a clear winner when it comes to ease of use. It rips your CDs, stores the content on a raid set of hard disks and the excellent app helps you to play whatever content you want. NAD promised at introduction that small software bugs would be solved and that extra functionality would be added. They delivered, hi res downloads and streaming direct from the internet is now possible, the app has improved and in day-to-day use the M50/M52 never fails.
The most outstanding product for me is the PMC fact.12 loudspeaker. After using the fact.8 for a few years I was eager to get the fact.12 at home. Entertaining some friends during the review period one of them said just the right thing: “This is no longer high fidelity, this is the truth”. After they went back to the distributor I used up all my savings and bought a pair. The longer they play, the better they get, the more I appreciate them. They tell you exactly what happened in the studio, they show all faults in the recording, but never in a nasty way. OK, they tell you the truth, on the other hand what is wrong with the truth? The fact.12 is an amazing loudspeaker for those who have the budget, the room and the associated equipment.
2013 has been a good year for new audio equipment, hardly a month has gone by without some new distraction coming into the system and getting in the way of the writing. I asked René to pick three so I will use the same discipline here but would like to mention a few that got very close: Metrum Acoustics Hex, Naim NDS, Chord Co Tuned ARAY, Longdog Audio VDT1 and Constellation Audio Virgo & Centaur. The PMC fact.12 would have made my top three but René got there first so all I’ll say is he’s not wrong.
The best value product I’ve found this year is one that I have yet to get down to covering for the ear, but it will happen. This is the DNM HFTN, a small network that sits between amp and speaker cables. Its purpose is to “control the RF load presented by the cable to the amplifier” and its effect is to make the sound more open, clean and intelligible. HFTNs cost £192 a pair and you can use them at both ends of the speaker cable but with most of the cables I tried the amp end brings the best results. So much so that I have them permanently hooked up.
This substantial turntable proves that high mass has much to offer the discerning vinyl enthusiast. Having let it return to its maker my vinyl collection sounds lacklustre and at least one other turntable had difficulty in making a positive impression. There are few quieter and less sonically obtrusive works of engineering excellence in our field.
Townshend Audio Isolda EDCT
This is the speaker cable I have been using for some time but only got around to reviewing this year. I can’t find anything better and I have tried, nothing comes close when it comes to three dimensionality of soundstage and control, depth and power in the bass, it’s also more than able in the timing department. The EDCT treatment puts it even further ahead of the competition.