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Awards of the Year 2010 HERE

Awards of the Year 2009 HERE

Awards of the Year 2008 HERE

Awards of the Year 2007 HERE

Awards of the Year 2006 HERE

Awards of the Year 2005 HERE

Awards of the Year 2004 HERE

Tekst: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

We can discuss and debate about the sense of awards, not only in audio and not only in the magazine “High Fidelity”. This is good – discussion is needed and is healthy. I am not claiming, that every discussion will lead to a consensus, that the “bigger good” will prevail, I know myself and I know life a little, but exchange of opinions will refresh our attitudes, sometimes even unlock something inside us, and even if in a certain case nothing will change, there is a chance, that in the future, the seed planted inside us will bear fruits.
This is also the case with the Award of the Year in the magazine “High Fidelity”. Introduced in the beginning of the existence of the magazine, in 2004, for years it remained for us the beacon of what interesting happened during the year. This is the reason, that there was no need to change the way it was awarded – always individually, depending on the author of a given review and nothing else.
For all those years we awarded regardless of categories, prices, manufacturers, etc – only the sound and quality of a given product was important. We chose everything that we thought was worth recommending and would reach more of the music lovers having an extra promotion.
This model was initially ideally tailored to the magazine and was accepted by most of the readers, distributors and manufacturers. But in time, with the increase of the number of tests and brands presented on our pages, the amount of awards grew in such a way, that they were no longer prestigious and exceptional. For us the case was still clear – if something is good, then we award it, regardless of the fact, if we have two or twenty products of that kind.

But like I said, discussion is needed, and when it reaches fertile grounds, when it results in something significant and valuable, sooner or later, it will bear fruits. That is the case of our awards.
During last two years more and more often I heard from the distributors and read in the emails from our readers, that there are too many awards, that we award everything and everyone. Statistically this is not true, we awarded about 20-25% of the tested products, but visibly the impression was as stated above.
This year, with an aching heart, we decided to change the way the prizes are awarded – their number was significantly limited: we have one main prize – the Statement Award, fourteen Awards of the Year 2011 and two distinctions for companies for their entirety – this year those distinctions are granted for innovativeness. And a few awards for best recording. This means a decrease of the number of awards by around 2/3. And this means, that we had to make a real rout among the tested products. The methodology of choice, at least in my case (Marek Dyba chose individually), was simple – first I wrote down all the tests that left some trace in my mind. That were about 60 devices, loudspeakers or accessories. Why so much? Well, it is so, that in HF we test only products chosen by us, and not the distributors, and we publish only those articles, that tell about something interesting. Weak products, or those that do not appeal us (for any reason) – are sent back. So there is a double filter in the beginning, allowing us to select the most interesting things.

With all this we have to note, that despite the objectivism we want to have in all our doings, objectivism gained by a discipline in testing, methodology and experience, finally it is a subjective choice, like any other choice. And this is the reason, that the steps taken to eliminate the “surplus” of devices pretending to the prizes were so important. Like I wrote, in the first phase I had 60 points. Then I removed those, that seemed to me too obvious, too easy. Maybe this was a bit controversial, but also very releasing – about 40 points remained, which I could justify in ten different ways. And here the problems started.

Because why I should cut the Soulution players, really innovative and splendid, and leave the cheap Musica DAC? Why not award the fantastic Lavardin IT-15 amplifier, and give the prize to the debuting Hegel? And finally why to award the niche Scheu Analog turntable, leaving the splendid SME without a mention? Etc. There were a lot of such questions and dilemmas. Different elements were decisive, related to price, to the “value” of the products, our commitment to them, their potential and finally an attempt to show something, that will leave a lasting trace in the audio world. And from the almost 200 tested, presented, described products we chose fifteen. We could not minimize this list further.

The heart is bleeding, but we think, that this is what our readers did expect – those from Poland as well as those from abroad (the latter are now almost the half of people visiting; we have in total over 30000 unique readers each month and about 160000 entries). Less awards means a higher prestige for those, that were assigned, and an even stronger recommendation for them. And in result – an easier choice. Because almost all products were tested until the beginning of November, similar to last year, we sent information to all who received the awards before the Audio Show 2011 – so that they would be able to share this information with the visitors. Foreign manufacturers also received this information directly.
And now I have to tell a few words about the way such events are treated, the attitude to the press, etc. Or actually about the difference between how this is handled in Poland, seemingly an European, mature country, and the rest of the world. From Poland I received three emails, three acknowledgments. THREE! From the world, although not all awards were for foreign companies, I received thirty four emails with congratulations, thanks, remarks, comments. I received those from the manufacturers as well as dealers from all over the world, who also received this information. Only two manufacturers ignored the awards. No comments.

Well – only one thing remains now: I CORDIALLY CONGRATULATE EVERYONE!!! I congratulate all the awarded people, but also those, who were not among those this year – you are doing a great job! I thank all of you personally for your help, engagement, positive attitude and finally for the friendship I have from many of you, not only me, the whole “High Fidelity” team. Thank you!


The cartridge Shilabe, coming from this tiny, Japanese manufacturer, which I tested earlier was brilliant. It had a warm, nice sound with high saturation of detail. And when it seemed, that this is a kind of summit of the abilities of the company, Kansui came. Even better, even more engaging, with a more beautiful sound. And at the same time friendlier for the turntable and vinyl, as it needs less tracking force and has higher compliance. And although Mr. Noriyuki Miyajima wrote me, that those are slightly different cartridges, and equal to him, the Kansui went deeper into me, closer to my musical nerve. It is beautiful.


Manufacturer: Otono-Edison Labs
Distribution in Poland: Audio Classic

Floor standing loudspeakers PYLON PEARL

An unusual debut of this Polish company could probably not fit better in its time. Inexpensive, fantastically sounding loudspeakers were something we all were waiting for since a long time. We could add to that, that those are Polish loudspeakers, but it is probably not necessary, as it would flatten the value of the choice. Those are just splendid loudspeakers, with a full, dynamic sound and very well placed timbre, for little money. This should be enough to justify the choice.


Manufacturer: Pylon Audio
Stand mount loudspeakers MONITOR AUDIO GOLD GX50

The British Monitor Audio is an almost certain candidate for an award each year. Because each year they present something new. This time it was something special – the new Gold series, this time with the GX suffix. We will find there many solutions from the top series Platinum, like a ribbon tweeter, and splendid finish. Those small loudspeakers show us, what is speed and warmth; dynamics and refinement – there is nothing in abundance, but also nothing is lacking; everything is well balanced. A step in the right direction.


Manufacturer: Monitor Audio Ltd.

Distribution in Poland: Audio Center Poland
Floor standing loudspeakers PMC OB1i

Those are loudspeakers, where it is most easy to catch splendid bass. This is a thing, we could expect from loudspeakers with a transmission line. Foreseeable is also the very high dynamics, known mostly from stage and studio products – and PMC is dealing with both. The things surprising in those loudspeakers are the refinement and splendid coherence. They are resolved, but not exaggerating in this, I mean without celebrating the details for themselves. They are even warm, due to the strong and massive bass. Finally we have loudspeakers for those who like balanced sound, but also like to listen sometimes to Slayer, Anthrax or Tool.


Manufacturer: PMC Limited

Distribution in Poland: MJ Audio Lab
Floor standing loudspeakers DYNAUDIO FOCUS 260

The new series from Dynaudio is an absolute surprise. It would seem, that everything has been squeezed out of the drivers used and manufactured by that company, and that Dynaudio will be associated with one and only one type of sound. The new Focus, although coming from the same idiom, go much further – they are more saturated, smoother, more dynamic and at the same time they fit in many different systems better, they cooperate with a wider array of devices better – being solid state or tube; digital or analog. This is real progress! The loudspeakers received also the RED FINGERPRINT award.


Manufacturer: Dynaudio A/S

Distribution in Poland: Eter Audio
Floor standing loudspeakers GENESIS G7.1f

Marek Dyba wrote in their test: “The sound is neutral, but not cold, very detailed, but not overly analytical. The sound stage is exceptional and this is probably due to the dipolar setup of the tweeters.” And further: “The sound detaches from the loudspeakers without any problems – it is enough to close your eyes and it will be difficult to pinpoint their location.” And that would be it… Unless we add, that those are loudspeakers for lovers of SET type tube amplifiers.


Manufacturer: Genesis Advanced Technologies

Distribution in Poland: Studio Vanderbrug
Stand mount loudspeakers HARBETH M40.1 DOMESTIC

Those are my new reference loudspeakers. I did not expect that – plastic midrange driver and woofer, soft tweeter, worked out cross-over, quite thin cabinet walls, stands. In one word – everything I do not like in loudspeakers and what is – in my opinion – a baggage of the past being carried over to the present. And here such a surprise! The loudspeakers from Harbeth are like a chameleon – warm, allowing to listen to music for hours, and on the other hand incredibly resolved, showing each vibration in the system or recording. And they are beautiful! Big, seemingly clumsy while in reality very presentable. For now I am fully in love – this will pass, but it is not yet the case.


Manufacturer: Harbeth Audio Ltd.

Distribution in Poland: Audio System
Floor standing loudspeakers FRANCO SERBLIN KTÊMA

Those are loudspeakers, which were a surprise for everybody – Franco Serblin is a demiurge and it was known, that after selling the company Sonus Faber he will not stay unemployed for long. But not many people expected such a radical departure from previous projects, especially from the last loudspeaker he prepared for SF, the model Elipsa. Despite that, or due to that, a unusual construction was created, in terms of external design as well as equally intriguing sound wise. An innovative woofer system, things done with midrange drivers to improve dispersion of the sound, etc – everything combined gave one, splendidly working whole. A beautiful limited edition piece of furniture playing exceptional sound – is this the ideal speaker?


Manufacturer: Franco Serblin

Distribution in Poland: Grobel Audio

Power amplifier AIR TIGHT ATM 211

Marek Dyba, who reviewed this amplifier, wrote that this is one of the best SET amplifiers he heard in his life. And he knows what he is talking about, because he breathes SET, loves SET and nourishes SET… A beautiful, Japanese amplifier with significant output power and a precise, transparent sound.


Manufacturer: A&M Limited

Distribution in Poland: SoundClub
Preamplifier + power amplifier HEGEL P-30 + H-30

The Norwegian duo gives the listener that, what music, also the one reproduced at home is about – emotions. Slightly warm, focused, coherent sound without harshness and annoying distortion. A system to listen for a long time without getting tired but also without getting bored. Dynamics, current output and black background – we have everything here and listening to the Hegel we wonder, why this is not there in so many other amplifiers, even very expensive ones, why we first hear the amplifier and not the music. Here the technology was nicely hidden behind the music. Splendid construction only completes the picture.


Manufacturer: Hegel

Distribution in Poland: Hegel Polska
Integrated amplifier VITUS AUDIO SS-010

I called this amplifier an ‘integrated amplifier’, although the manufacturer calls it a ‘power amplifier’. And this is because it has only one input. But it also has a volume control, also without a remote. And it can be switched off. This universality allows us to experiment with external preamplifiers and players with variable output. Regardless of what we choose the amplifier will sound with a beautiful, dense sound. Splendid midrange, better than in a lot of tube amplifiers and at the same time fantastic bass. A very universal sound. Or just plain beautiful.


Manufacturer: AVA Group A/B

Distribution in Poland: RCM

Software audio player JPLAY

Giving an award to a product like that is true joy. Although mentally I am still in the analog, through my whole life as acoustic engineer working with stereo and multi-track analog recorders, I cannot turn a blind eye to the fact, that the digital revolution finally is approaching. The player software written by two enthusiasts allows to extract all of the best from a PC computer and audio files. The program is continuously updated and improved. Software for true music lovers.
The software player received the RED FINGERPRINT award.


Manufacturer: JPLAY


A small company from Japan, lost somewhere among forests, creating products in small quantities, exquisite looking and most of all exquisite sounding! This is even more interesting, that the awarded product is related to computers. Using an old chip, adding to it a miniature tube, they received an incredibly saturated and dense sound. From files. A tiny, beautifully made unit, where we can feel the spirit of their constructors from Japan.
The DAC received the RED FINGERPRINT award.


Manufacturer: Musica Corporation


It was splendid already in the basic version. Seemingly soft, seeming warm, in reality incredibly resolved and precise sound. It shows the errors in the system very well. In the V-edition, with expensive V-Cap capacitors something is added to that – musicality. The built-in fully fledged analog preamplifier, option with a digital input (it works then as a DAC) make this a very universal device. It sounds beautiful, regardless of the system we install it in or with what we compare it. It is not touched by sound sources costing even 200000zł, and only a turntable can show, where the digital device has its problems. Despite that the Air V-edition goes over most of them with charm and grace. My reference player.


Manufacturer: Ancient Audio


You have to like this turntable. Its constructions resembles somewhat DIY, but in the good meaning of that word, meaning that everything is maximally functional in it. The external design is also important, but only after sound. This results in an unusual form and a feeling of using something exceptional, one of a kind. The sound is saturated and mature, warm. This is analog at its best.


Manufacturer: Scheu Analog

Distribution in Poland: Pełne Brzmienie

An award for entirety may seem a “booby prize”. But it is not the case. The truth is, that it would be difficult to decide, what to choose from the rich, Japanese arsenal of Acoustic Revive – there are so many options, that we would have to prepare special prizes only for this company. I use many of their products in my reference system and every time I use them, I praise Mr. Ken Ishigura, who is responsible for that, thanking him for his involvement and ingeniousness.


Distribution in Poland: Eter Audio

Ayon Audio is a company, which seemed to slowly move along the steps of sound and fame. This is why this year’s acceleration probably surprised not only me. Due to the new, manual-automatic system of the calibration of tubes, new, proprietary KT88 tubes, new improved CD players or finally a file player, Ayon jumped in front of the queue and moved in a new, exciting direction. Its owner, Mr. Gerhard Hirt probably does not sleep – this would be enough for a few Gerhards…

Manufacturer: AYON AUDIO

Distribution in Poland: Eter Audio


“The recording of Grabek is a subsequent example for the fact, that high class recording brilliantly supports the music itself, and that those two arts are inseparable. And the music of Wojciech Grabek is based on rhythm and space – the playing with those two elements makes us sit in front of the loudspeakers as if we would be hypnotized.” – this is what I wrote in the review and I support it fully. Hypnotic, deep musically and intellectually, music, but not overdone, working on the internal “me” of each one of us. And at the same time for sure not easy and “nice” in the common meaning of that word. Just good. And splendid recording.

Review : HERE

Sound engineer: Bartłomiej „Franiu” Frank

Issued by: Polskie Radio


A Japanese extreme label – in their work everything counts, including earth magnetic field lines and “fluids”, the aura around each human being. They issue music in the form of 24/192 files, CR-Rs and 200g/45rpm vinyl, combining them into one, thus alleviating the disputes about which one is better than the other. Very good music adds to the assets. Interesting edition for collectors.

Review : HERE

Sound engineer: Takaaki Konno

Issued by: Issued by: T-TOC Records


The artist known earlier as Noon prepared a surprising, surprisingly good disc, where he used live instruments. But he did it in an original way, using the assets of a recording studio. Interesting, but it resulted in a fantastic, hypnotizing disc with outstanding sound. Mikołaj Bugajak decided to issue it on vinyl together with a CD and WAV 24/44.1 files. Vinyl and files are prominent sound wise, the CD is very good.

Review : HERE

Sound engineer: Mikołaj Bugajak

Issued by: Nowe Nagrania


An almost yearly interruption in the work of the label, caused by the illness of Mr. Ma caused an interruption in reviewing their discs. However the new set of discs I received shows another evolution, pushes again the borders of what seemed possible to do with a CD, even further than K2HD. And there are plans for vinyl discs and hi-res files to be downloaded by internet. Yes, that is the way to do that! Congratulations!!!

The web pages of First Impression Music HERE


This Canadian labels slowly but surely, consistently and without much ado builds its catalog, issuing it on CDs and SACD, and lately on Master Flash, a version of a pendrive, where there are WAV files in high resolution. And it really works – I mean the combination of refined music and equally subtle recording supplied in such a form is brilliant. I recommend it to everybody, who wants to breathe some fresh air – in terms of jazz as well as classical music.

The web pages of Fidelio Musique HERE

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"High Fidelity OnLine" is an internet magazine, published since may 2004, devoted to high quality reproduction of sound and picture. It is a monthly magazine, but the articles are uploaded twice a month - in the beginning of the month and in the middle. The news column is updated on on-going basis, if possible. The main sections are: "Tests", "Events" (interviews, reportages, and similar), "Hyde Park" (user tests, opinions) and "Who asks..." (readers questions and HFOL answers). Articles from earlier issues can be read in the "Archive". Have a nice read!

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