The SoundStage! Network includes four main review publications:SoundStage! Hi-Fi (this one),SoundStage! Xperience, SoundStage! GoodSound!, and SoundStage! Xtreme(aka Ultra Audio). Throughout the year, each site gives awards to those components considered better than the rest: the Reviewers’ Choice Award for Hi-Fi and Xperience, the Great Buy Award for GoodSound!, and the Select Component Award for Ultra Audio.
It’s from this list of Reviewers’ Choice, Great Buy, and Select Component recipients that we choose our Products of the Year, which are divided into two main groups: Exceptional Value and Outstanding Performance. Exceptional Value emphasizes performance and affordability, while Outstanding Performance recognizes performance regardless of cost.
We also give two more Product of the Year awards: Pioneering Design Achievement, for a product that brings something new and innovative to the high-performance-audio market, and Aesthetics and Sound, for a high-performing product that looks as good as it sounds. And that’s important — high-end gear is seldom onlylistened to; it’s looked at and admired as well.
Aesthetics and Sound Award
If there’s a company that knows how to mix superb sound with luxury-goods styling, it’s Italy’s Sonus Faber, and the exquisitely styled and exceptional-sounding Amati Futura loudspeaker is the best example of their work right now. It sells for $36,000 per pair, and Jeff Fritz reviewed it for Ultra Audio last April. Audiophiles know that “good sound” is notoriously subjective; so are looks. I think everyone who sees the Amati Futura will like it, but they’ll also find something different to admire about it. What I most favor is the mix of materials used — wood, metal, and leather — and how they all look so different, but work together beautifully to create a modern masterpiece of hi-fi. I’d take a pair of these in my room any day of the week.
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