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AWARDS | 2018


The end of the year is coming so it is the time for some summaries. We do this in "High Fidelity" by awarding the most interesting, in our opinion, products with the Yearly Awards. We would like this list to be your guide you can use as advise while developing your systems. Let's get to it!

POLAND | Krakow/Warsaw

he following list has been divided into four groups. First, you will find our Special Awards. This year we decided to give two of these to: Polish Audio Cluster and Shunyata Research. Another category is the Statement Award - prizes are awarded to best-of-the-best products. Usually, we give very few of them, so as much as seven, that we awarded this year, says a lot about the current, great state of the high-end world.

The biggest group includes products awarded by us with the Best Sound award. In 2018, we REVIEWed 132 devices, loudspeakers, cables, accessories, out of which we chose, in our opinion, representative group. We divided it according to the type of product and each subgroup we present in an alphabetical order. And finally, we have a separate group for recordings, that received from us the Best Recording award.

We would like to congratulate all awarded companies. We are proud that we could host your products in our homes. And our readers are invited to read and re-read the REVIEWs, to compare and to draw independent conclusions. Thank you for your trust - no REVIEW, no description and no prize makes sense without it. Once again - THANK YOU !!!


TEXT: No. 173 | September 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The Polish Audio Cluster is a perfect proof of the fact that cooperation pays off. Although it is made up of people with different characters, temperaments and views on audio, they share a passion for music. It works really well for them, which has been confirmed by several musical and hardware events they participated in both in Poland and abroad. The quality of individual products has been confirmed by flattering REVIEWs you can find in the special High Fidelity issue dedicated to them. I wish there were more such well-organized, professional groups in Poland! WP


TEXT: No. 175 | November 2018, see HERE

Shunyata Research has something that others would die for – a sensitivity to changes in sound. What's more, they also have a solid theoretical preparation that allows them to anticipate changes that will occur in the sound after changing one or another component. And even though their engineers can not explain everything, Shunyata's power conditioners belong to the world's leaders. Each of them will be an irreplaceable part of an audio system, from medium-budget to top high-end ones. WP


YG Acoustics

REVIEW FROM A COVER: No. 175 | November 2018, see HERE

These are the best speakers I've listened to in my home so far. But also just one of the best speakers I've ever listened to in my life. They do not fully match my ideal sound, or "BBC" sound, which does not prevent me from appreciating what they do. They are perfectly balanced, clean and dynamic. And their make and finish is perfect. WP


IO-M + SF-z

REVIEW: No. 172 | August 2018, see HERE
Distinction: GOLD Fingerprint

It's a Kondo product so it is clear that it must be damn good! And yes, IO-M is simply one of two absolutely best cartridges I had a chance to listen to in my system and paired with SF-z step up and Kondo's phonostage it simply blew me away. The presentation is so musical, so real, so engaging that... one tends to forget it's just a presentation from a record and not a live performance. Remarkable products absolutely deserving our award. MD



REVIEW: No. 174 | October 2018, see HERE

Accuphase is one of the last manufacturers who seriously value digital physical media: Compact Disc and Super Audio CD. Although probably in the future they will offer streamers, here and now they are the specialist in the field of physical media playback. They developed the DP-750 player that perfectly plays not only classic discs, but also those on which PCM or DSD files were saved. It is extremely versatile player and its design is simply amazing! WP


Acoustic Revive

REVIEW: No. 176 | December 2018, see HERE


Hard Glass CD-R

|1| No. 169 | May 2018, see
|2| No. 172 | August 2018, see HERE

Briphonic is one of those companies that are constantly looking for ways to improve. They do it at the highest level, without sparing effort and money. Thanks to such companies, we get better and better recordings and CDs. Briphonic is not blindly tied to one type of recording, because they work equally well with analog and digital DSD recordings. A model company that should be followed by others! WP


Crystal Cable

REVIEW: No. 168 | April 2018, see HERE
Distinction: GOLD Fingerprint

The Ultimate Dream puts Crystal Cable in a difficult position - it offers such a fantastic sound, so pleasant, well-arranged, delicate, but also dynamic, that it is difficult to imagine what could be still improved. Although, we have to remember it's the Crystal Cable we are talking about - and that means that we can be sure that in the future we will see new reference models :) WP


Tellurium Q

REVIEW: No. 168 | April 2018, see HERE
Distinction: GOLD Fingerprint

The name: Statement chosen for this line is no accident - Tellurium Q has prepared cables that perfectly define their idea of the top sound. It's a warm sound, but also incredibly fast, which refers us to the best high-end products. They convey a lot of emotions, and this is probably the most important thing in our industry. And at the same time they do not cost as much as their competition from a similar quality range. In a sense, this is a true price opportunity... WP


Acoustic Signature

REVIEW: No. 175 | November 2018, see HERE

Compact, solid, good looking, well thought through, one you can rely on - these are a few words that come to my mind when I think about the Double X turntable from the German company Acoustic Signature. It's a turntable that plays every record well, no matter the pressing or master. And with the best releases it presents something extra - the warmth and richness that we expect from the analogue source. A great choice for both, a medium-price, as well as for expensive systems. WP


Muarah Audio
MT-2 + PSC

REVIEW: No. 175 | November 2018, see HERE Distinction: RED Fingerprint

If you're looking for a turntable that sounds like a turntable without trying to top digital sources in detail resolution, the Muarah MT-2 is something just for you. It is a turntable that delivers a smooth, dense sound with a strong midrange, while saturating its lower part. Adding the PSC speed controller results in an even more saturated, even smoother sound incredibly enchanting, along with nicely extended, dense bass. WP



REVIEW: No. 174 | October 2018, see HERE Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The Premium version of the Air Force III turntable is unique. Its sound delights with the harmony of individual elements, with how musicians play "with each other" and not "side by side". The terms that we referred to in the REVIEW most often were: coherence, smoothness and richness. With a high quality tonearm and cartridge, it becomes a turntable that will satisfy all our needs. From poorly released records, it will deliver sound better than expected, and with the best ones it will get as close to the sound of a master tape as possible for that money. WP


Top Wing

REVIEW FROM A COVER: No. 169 | Mat 2018, see HERE

The sound of the Red Sparrow cartridge is extremely refined and simply perfect. It offers a beautiful, spacious, impressive sound stage - bigger than any other cartridge I had listened to at home. It presents recordings at their natural speed, being "here and now", without coloration of the lower midrange. Because it is very elegant sound. Open, but natural, dynamic, but in check and under control. Very direct. A truly unique creature! WP



REVIEW: No. 167 | March 2018, see HERE

It offers a fantastic, "analog" sound that is natural, engaging and just makes you want to spend every available moment with it to listen to your favorite and getting to know also new music. It's performance is very convincing and real, plus it beautifully conveys emotions. If you're looking for a source that will bring you best memories from live performances – Nyquist might be your answer. How good is it? So good, that Mr. Brinkmann, the analogue man, decided to develop a new version of his phonostage because this DAC got dangerously close to his phono in terms of sound quality... MD



REVIEW: No. 168 | April 2018, see HERE

The Liberty DAC is an extremely versatile device - no matter how we use it, it will do a good job. It offers a dense, natural sound, which will be a wonderful remedy for too thin, too light sounding systems, it shall restore their vitality. Its real self reveals itself with high resolution files, also those played from Tidal, encoded in MQA. Plus there is also a great headphone amplifier, good enough not to look for a separate device of this type, not even for expensive headphones! WP



REVIEW: No. 168 | April 2018, see HERE

A key to the success, that I hope it will achieve, of this DAC is its coherency, smoothness and naturalness. It was created by engineers, but also great music fans, who knew exactly what to do to achieve certain results – natural, lively, engaging sound. It's another fantastic Polish product that, in my opinion, in terms of sound quality is on a par with the LampizatOr DAC that I use as my reference device. In other words – it's simply damn good! MD


Fezz Audio

REVIEW FROM THE COVER: No. 171 | July 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

Ω Lupi sounds sensationally well – it delivers a deep, low sound with saturated colors, with great momentum. It emphasizes bass a bit and models it, without the ultimate control at the bottom. However, it did not bother me at all – and even if it did at all, it was only when I compared it with something significantly more expensive, I mean, costing even three or four times more. The resolution is very good, really fantastic and only single-ended amplifier using high quality tubes can do even better in this regard. But for the money? It is simply a Burgundy sensation! WP


Final Audio

REVIEW: No. 169 | July 2018, see HERE

Emotions, ability to engage listener, unrestricted dynamics and a close presentation - these are the main qualities of the D8000 headphones. They are extraordinary in conveying emotions within soundstage, as well as in presenting larger groups. Their main job is to involve us in musical events to such an extent that we forget about hi-fi and start listening to music seriously, just for the music itself.


IE 80 S | IE 800 S

REVIEW: No. 165 | January 2018, see HERE

Both versions of Sennheiser headphones – the cheaper IE 80 and more expensive IE 800 S - fit nicely into the tradition of this manufacturer, which can be described in one word as: reliability. IE 80 S will be perfect for anyone who often listens to music on the road, not necessarily with an expensive, external DAC and amplifier, and who wants to enjoy any music. These are headphones that offer a lot of fun. In turn, the IE 800 S are more demanding, both in terms of the accompanying system and music. But they are also not cheap and will be a good choice for people who don't run away screaming from jazz and classical music, who actually love SUCH music. WP

Audia Flight
F L S 10

REVIEW FROM THE COVER: No. 172 | August 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

As I wrote in the REVIEW, one would have to have a lot of ill will not to appreciate the beauty that the Audia Flight amplifier brings to one's life. The FLS 10 offers an intense performance, activating emotions in listener, awaking our body reflexes that are asleep while listening to other amplifiers. In terms of character, it is very similar to what I heard in the same system with the Kondo Ongaku amplifier – the emotions are very similar. A beautiful amplifier with excellent design and exceptional functionality. WP


REVIEW FROM THE COVER: No. 174 | October 2018, see HERE

The first super-integrated amplifier in Hegel's history had to be something special. And it is. It also had to stand out among other devices of this manufacturer. And it does. It is super-dynamic, super-precise and super-resolving. What's more - each of its components sounds similar, it does not modify the sound. A component particularly worth attention is the digital-to-analog converter. The amplifier controls the speakers, just like only a very few can. It does not impose bass on a listener, but if it does appears in the recording, it is shown perfectly in a clean and selective way. WP

Norma Audio Electronics

REVIEW: No. 168 | April 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The Norma amplifier is a modern device - its performance suggests reflection on the limitations of particular solutions and offers a specific proposal on what to do about them. What we get is a warm and dense sound, which is also dynamic and open, and very resolving. So, we get is what MOSFET transistors are valued for but without their drawbacks, such as limited resolution and slowed down sound. This is a proof that techniques that seemed to have fixed vectors can be used in a much more creative way, thus bringing the listener closer to the music. WP

Struss Audio
DM 250

REVIEW: No. 171 | July 2018, see HERE

The sound of this amplifier is beautifully saturated, dense, but it does not blend everything into mush. Its high tones have exceptional ease in filling the band without any brightening or sharpening. The bass is incredibly deep and powerful, but the most important part of the band is the midrange. The vocals, small chamber ensembles sound so beautiful, but also the electronic music sounds great. Despite so shaped tonality, it is a very universal amplifier, because it delivers a very fast and clean sound, although it is hidden under rich tones and saturation. WP


REVIEW: No. 165 | January 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The Audioform Adventure 50 loudspeakers are within their limitations simply excellent, they are like LS3/5a monitors, but in a bigger, more developed form. If you have a powerful amplifier and listen to jazz, classics particularly performed by small ensembles, older rock, etc., all you need to do is to sit down with a few discs and give them a chance, because they are exceptional in what they do. Wow! WP

Avatar Audio

REVIEW: No. 165 | January 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

As I mentioned in the REVIEW, these are extraordinary loudspeakers for extraordinary people. Jazz and classical music are something that will sound best with them. You should pair them with a good tube amplifier, and they will offer a sound that no one else has. Their unbelievable resolution, response time and transparency will place you in the center of events. The foreground will be close to you, but you will feel as if you were sitting in front of the performer, not because he sits on your knees, and because you are in the same space with him. Plus this unique finish! WP


REVIEW: No. 175 | November 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The Dynaudio Contour 30 speakers sound a bit different than what one expects from a product by this company - they are warmer and richer. During the REVIEW they sounded smoothly and dark, but with lots of details. They are extremely accurate, but there are also very pleasant to listen to. And above all natural. The CDs sounded in a well-differentiated way with them, none of them sounded the same as the previous one, but the speakers stopped one step before the moment when one could claim that "the treble got too bright", "bass is too contoured" or "midrange too bright" . This is how high-end loudspeakers should sound like! WP

Graham Audio

REVIEW: No. 170 | June 2018, see HERE

These Grahams are slightly different than other designs of this manufacturer. Preserving advantages of Graham's stand-mount models, they offer a more universal sound in the sense that it's closer to the mainstream. You will hear with them everything that we all value Graham with, that is fantastic tonality and coherency. The dynamics will go beyond our wildest expectations. Even loud listening will not cause distortions such as irritating brightness or harshness. These are loudspeakers for long listening sessions, but not to nod off to the presentation - the open top does not allow it. Very nice transfer of the "BBC school" to the mainstream. WP


REVIEW: No. 167 | March 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

I've spent a much longer time with these speakers then with any other reviewed product. It's been a year already and I still love them! The offer a close, intimate contact with music, a fantastic, dense, full of air, naturally huge soundstage. Also amazingly immediate, precise, but rich, saturated and crazy musical sound. The music flows smoothly, but the control over every aspect of the sound is uniquely perfect. One more thing - 95 dB (@ 8Ω) allow you to use any amplifier, should it be GrandiNote's own wonderful 37W Shinai or, say, 8W 300B SET. Simply a brilliant product! MD


REVIEW: No. 175 | November 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The Monitor 30.2 40th Anniversary Edition are excellent at what they do. They offer an open, energetic sound with a good extension of the band on both ends. They implement the BBC's idiom, that is they focus listener's attention on the midrange, beautifully presenting vocals and other instruments from this part of the frequency range. They will work best with a powerful amplifier and set fairly far apart from each other. With such setup they will deliver a full-blown "British" sound, but at the same time extremely modern. Wonderful speakers! WP

hORNS by Auto-Tech

REVIEW: No. 173 | September 2018, see HERE

Atmosphere are clean, dynamic, transparent sounding speakers that do not over-emphasize any of these qualities. They will provide everything that this type of loudspeakers is loved for: above all a large sound stage, loudspeakers that simply "disappear" from the room, precision, no coloration. There is also smoothness, fantastic treble and dynamics, which are not there to wow listener by themselves but to be an important element of the whole presentation. Great speakers, which in the right room and with the appropriate amplifier will become the pride and joy of every owner. WP


REVIEW: No. 176 | December 2018

The JBL L100 Classic speakers prove that modern design techniques can be used to achieve much of the sonic features of the 1960s and 1970s loudspeakers but with some added bonus on top. So there is an incredible dynamics, speed and open sound. The band is nicely extended on both ends, but these are not loudspeakers that "pump up" the bass. The soundstage, or rather: imaging, is great, much better than what you get with all the loudspeakers with wide front baffles that were once produced. There is a great depth, there is proper scaling of the size of instruments, there is finally a wide panorama. Listen to them, give them some time, even if you're looking for something else. These are speakers that present acoustic engineering of the highest order and from the best side of it. A classic, but for the 21st century - that's what L100 Classic is. WP

Pylon Audio

REVIEW: No. 174 | October 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The Pearl 27, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting Pylon speakers. Match them with a nice amplifier and, for example, a turntable, and you will have a system that many who have spent much more money can only dream about. These are loudspeakers that will do well not only with amplifiers and sources for PLN 2,000, but also for PLN 4,000 or even PLN 6,000. Yes, they are that good. WP


REVIEW: No. 167 | March 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The grea strength of the these speakers is that they are absolutely self-sufficient, have their own character, which appeals to our sensitivity and does not need refinement or support. Absolute lack of brightness, absence of underlined sibilants (hissing sounds), great opened lower midrange, beautiful rhythm for a closed cabinet - these elements will allow you on one hand to hear much more from the known recordings, and on the other it won't be a will not be a "flashy" performance to impress, but a high quality performance. WP


Black Cat Cable
3202 + 3232

REVIEW: No. 169 | May 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

This is a rare case when one may claim that these cables are "too cheap", both because they perform better than other cables in this price range, and also because inexpensive systems need something else - warmer tonality, lower bass, they don't require such high dynamics and speed, because they would not know what to do with them anyway. So, when thinking about Chris Sommovigo's cables, I think "wider" and "more powerful" in the context of expensive, advanced systems. That's where their place is. WP



REVIEW: No. 169 | May 2018, see HERE

The Hijiri H-SLC25R "Million" has everything that we expect and require from top high-end product: proper tonal balance, depth, resolution, dynamics, etc. However, above all, it has a soul that is the soul of a warrior and an artist in one. Like a man who is responsible for it. This cable sounds remarkably natural, reminiscent of the aesthetic choices known from XRCD24s. An outstanding cable, for this money hard to top. WP


Luna Cables

REVIEW: No. 174 | October 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The sound of Luna Cables from the Orange series has been refined and tuned during long listening sessions and is a reflection of the needs, sound philosophy and taste of the designer, Mr. Danny Labrecque. This sound takes us to the warm sun of Tuscany and to the azure waters of the Cote d'Azur. There is density and warmth in it, which combine with music in an incredibly natural way. There is also excellent dynamics and strong, low bass. WP


Synergistic Research

REVIEW: No. 172 | August 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The Atmosphere X cable series offer very smooth, liquid sound with a center of gravity placed quite low. They also offer a beautiful, vibrant and clear treble, which, however, is rather "golden" then "iron". It is simply an excellent sound that proves that silver conductors - if used properly - are the RIGHT ones. It is a company based on a solid technical foundation, which knows what to do with it, so that users can enjoy the music with genuine pleasure. WP



REVIEW: No. 174 | October 2018, see HERE
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

The GigaWatt conditioner proposes features that are not available with power strips, primarily reducing the background noise to such a low level that it seems that the sound is quieter. We increase the volume by a minimum value and get a more dynamic, more vivid sound than without this conditioner. Another equally important element is more powerful, richer bass and a much clear mid-bass area. And all this combined with a silky, pleasant treble. It offers a real, tangible, worthwhile improvement to system's performance in the direction that every one of us dreams of - music lovers, fans and audiophiles. WP


KBL Sound

REVIEW: No. 167 | March 2018, see HERE

The power supply system based on the Reference Power Distributor Mk3 will be extremely effective, and in many respects will deliver top quality - especially when it comes to the resolution, richness and clarity of the band's extremes. The bass extends very low and the dynamics is thunderous. Let me add that the high resolution and detail, which we get with the KBL Sound Power Distributor, is also important. It's simply an AC power strip from a very high shelf. WP


WK Audio

REVIEW FROM THE COVER: No. 165 | January 2018, see HERE

The WK Audio One power cable is extremely musical. The sound with it is extremely “self-confident”, energetic, but at the same time always smooth and fluid. On the one hand, it stimulates the system to more powerful performance, while on the other it does not turn it upside down in search of this one feature. Instruments operating in the upper part of the band are more present than with my reference cables, but it does not change the tonal balance. The latter is very, very good, simply excellent. WP


Telegärtner Japan Limited

REVIEW FROM THE COVER: No. 167 | March 2018, see HERE

The LAN switch by Telegärtner Japan Limited is extremely robust, but its appearance is rather quite ordinary, very industrial. And not by accident - it has been based on an experience gathered in difficult conditions of data transmission devices built for industrial use. Its operation can be compared to the best power conditioner - the sound of files played through it is unique in terms of resolution, saturation and dynamics. It's on of these products that make computer audio finally a valuable part of the high-end scene. WP


Divine Acoustic


REVIEW: No. 176 | December 2018

The sound with Divine Acoustic feet is delicate, open, accurate and intrinsically complex. It is also extremely resolving - it is with them that expensive products will present even more of their class. And all this without any brightness in the top, on the contrary - with a silk coating put on everything. This is due to the outstanding differentiation and resolution around which the entire system can be built. Keplers will help you extract additional information from recordings, speed up their pulse and show speed in a better way. And at the same time it is fantastic engineering and top-class make and finish. WP




REVIEW: No. 166 | February 2018, see HERE

SPEC Real-Sound Processor RSP-AZ9EX is a part of the “High Fidelity” reference system

The SPEC loudspeaker filters are a unique addition to the top high-end audio systems. The laREVIEW version, RSP-AZ9EX, is much better than all previous ones of this company. This is a version that is even more resolving - it's the real resolution coming from better presentation of relations, from the richness of harmonics, from a better attack. The new SPEC filter sounds so organic, dense, beautiful. And even with warm sounding speakers it was a value, an amazing addition that brought out the beauty of this kind of sound. Highly recommended! WP



REVIEW: No. 172 | August 2018, see HERE Sound quality: REFERENCE Distinction: RED Fingerprint & BIG RED Button

Silence is an album recorded and mastered in a perfect way. This is a modern approach to electronic music, without the brightness and sharpness known from the 1980s, in a way a return to the analogue 1970s. Whether it is due to the ever better devices used to generate sound and to record it, and then to process it, or there is something in "the spirit of the times", which makes producers to follow this direction - I do not know. This is one of the best, also best-recorded releases with electronic music I've heard recently. WP

Komeda Recomposed


REVIEW: No. 174 | October 2018, see HERE
Sound quality: 9/10
Distinction: RED Fingerprint

It's just great sound! Soft, dense and full. You can hear that the instrument has been recorded from close-set microphones, because it is so intimate, almost at your fingertips. Same as the trumpet coming in immediately after it, shown broadly, with a large share of the out of phase shifts, which makes it literally coming from both speakers. It is also a dark, rather warm presentation, with selectivity not being the most important element. But not because resolution is lacking – it is very good. The foreground is placed close to us, except for the beginnings of tracks in which a long reverb is applied to the piano and trumpet. It's sounds a lot like recordings from small clubs, where the microphones are placed close to the instruments and the musicians are close to each other.

Wonderful music, performance and release. WP



REVIEW: No. 167 | March 2018, see HERE
Sound quality:
| LP 9/10
Distinction: BIG RED Button

The album of Mr. Tomasz Pauszek offers a "wide" sound – I mean with a lot of momentum and energy. However, you can also use this term also in relation to the sound stage. I expect such a sound from this type of electronic music and the album does not disappoint in this respect. Sound is wide, dense, high, deep. Musically it is a perfect example of how to prepare something new and fresh using quotes, inspirations, etc. It is clear that Jarre and Oldfield, even Vollenveider, were inspirations. And yet, it is still an original project, unique, different. I really like this double album, it sounds great and is just interesting. The CD version was the best for me, but also the LP sounds really well. Bravo! WP