pl | en

AWARDS • 20th Anniversary

i.e. the twenty most important products in "High Fidelity" history.

Part 2

Such an opportunity happens once in a while. Taking the opportunity of two decades of “High Fidelity” on the Internet, we would like to share with you our suggestions of twenty (plus) devices that we have remembered and loved best over this time. Welcome to Part 2.

. KRAKOW ⸜ Poland


images "High Fidelity", Nagra & Usher press materials

No 241

June 1, 2024

The following list is the result of our reflection on the last twenty years, or rather on the devices we have tested. We present it to you believing that in this way we also point out the companies that have stood the test of time and whose products are not only interesting, but simply iconic. Welcome to part two.

IN THE FIRST PART of the article that you are reading now, we presented ten devices from the first years of the existence of our magazine, as well as three awards: the main award for the HARBETH company for the 40.1 speakers and two overall achievement awards – for the ACOUSTIC REVIVE company and for JÜRGEN STRAUSSMAN.

We arranged our suggestions chronologically, taking into account the year when the given review was published. This is not an entirely precise division, as some products are successors to a long string of predecessors, any of which we could highlight – this is the case, for example, of Accuphase – but we hope it makes sense.

⸜ The anti-vibration pads included in the "honorary five" were tested by me already in 2004, in the 6th issue of "High Fidelity"

As can be seen, there are two editions of "20/XX"; The first one was published on May 1 and covered the period from 2004 to 2017. This time we are dealing with newer products, the second ten ending with Accuphase's DP-770 player, tested in this very issue of HF in detail. In addition, we also suggest the "Honorary Five." These are products that were important to us but did not fit into the basic list.

Let me welcome you to the second part of our journey through the twenty years of history of our magazine!


˻ 20/XX ˼
» Part 2 «

integrated amplifier/power amplifier
» 2018 «

MY FASCINATION with SPEC amplifiers goes back to 2012, when I tested the company's first product, the RSA-V1 integrated amplifier; test → HERE.The beautifully crafted device, which combined metal and wood, hid a secret: it was a class-D amplifier. Today we know more about this type of devices and we can point out their advantages and disadvantages, but most of all appreciate their sound. At that time, twelve years ago, it was still "an inferior species" for many audiophiles.

However, it was enough to listen to what Mr. Shirokazu Yazaki, the company's long-time chief engineer, had done to stop in amazement: such an analog, such a tube-sounding solid-state amplifier cannot be called anything but beautiful. A year later, Mr. Yazaki-san wrote the story of his life for us, and in the following years I tested his new devices.

The RPA-MG1000 monoblock speakers are the peak achievement of the company. Beautiful, powerful, unique, they can work as an integrated amplifier, with input volume control, or as a power amplifier. Marcin Ostapowicz, co-owner and designer of the JPLAY, JCAT and XACT companies, has his pair in the system.

» Publications:
• TEST: № 179, APRIL 2019, test → HERE
• SHIROKAZU YAZAKI, My private history of audio, No. 109, MAY 2013, article → HERE


linear preamplifier
» 2005, 2008, 2018 «

I have a multidimensional relationship with the Nagra brand. Firstly, as a man who took his first steps in the audio world in a recording and production studio; secondly, as an audiophile for whom the company's over-the-top approach to building equipment is a model; thirdly, as a good friend of René Laflamme, mastering engineer and co-owner of the 2xHD label, and head of sales for the brand in North America; finally, through a visit to their factory and getting to know the managers, and the people working there, thanks to which I only got reassured in my views.

At least the first two of these points led to the PL-P preamplifier being the only product I tested in "High Fidelity" twice – once in 2005 and then in 2008, just so I could see it again. Because although today the company offers even better devices of this type, this small preamplifier, sharing its chassis with the legendary Nagra IV-S tape recorder, has something about itself that is hard to resist. If I were to go to a desert island, and I could take several devices with me, the PL-P would definitely be on my list.

» Publications:
• TEST ˻ I ⸜ № 19, NOVEMBER 2005, test → HERE ˻ PL ˺
• TEST ˻ II ⸜ № 50, JUNE 2008, test → HERE ˻ PL ˺
• COVERAGE ⸜ NAGRA. The story of a passion, № 174, OCTOBER 2018, more → HERE


anti-vibration feet
» 2019 «

The Finite Elemente company has been part of the "High Fidelity" reference system for many years, mainly in the form of the Master Reference Pagode Edition rack, first in the original version, and for some time in the Mk II one; more → HERE. However, my adventure with it began with anti-vibration feet. And that's because this company came up with a solution to vibration problems different from what everyone was recommending at the time – either spikes or soft decoupling.

We are, of course, talking about the ball bearing, in which a ball, made of ceramic, tungsten or other material, works between two planes. Its micro-motion converts vibrations into heat, thanks to which they are dampened. This solution has been picked up by many other manufacturers - and that's good. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to get rid of vibration in an audio system.

» Publication: № 177, JANUARY 2019, test → HERE


integrated amplifier
» 2019 «

Hans Ole Vitus Nielsen is currently working as Vitus Audio's chief designer and has entrusted control of the company to his son, Alexander. But the SIA-030 model still dates back to the days when he was at the helm and when I managed to invite him to my house, where we had the opportunity to listen to music together. And there was a lot to listen to. The SIA-030 is a stereo integrated amplifier whose power amp can operate either in class A or AB. It puts out 30 watts in the former and 200 watts in the latter, with an 8-ohm load. And it looks insanely good.

It produces equally good sound as well. As I wrote at the time, this is one of the best integrated amplifiers I've ever heard. It received the ˻ GOLD FINGERPRINT ˺ distinction from us and still remains a model for this type of devices that I test at my place.

» Publication: № 179, MARCH 2019, test → HERE


» 2021 «

The choice of this particular model is quite arbitrary. It could just as well be one of the many other machines from this manufacturer, starting with the original Debut turntable from 1998. However, I decided to pay homage to the company by pointing to a model that combines the entirety of this company's experiences in a well well-developed form, but still at an inexpensive price. After all, this was something that made Pro-Ject conquer the audio scene, and in the process assist the renaissance of the black disc.

As I wrote in its test, it is one of the most interesting turntables of the entry-level price range that I have heard for a long time. It has tonally equalized sound that at the same time sounds "somehow," that is, it does not kill emotions contained in the recordings. It differentiates recordings well and will show the change in pressing from 33 1/3 to 45 revolutions, different release methods, and even the depth of compression a release was subjected to. And, it's also important, it looks excellent.

» Publication: № 210, OCTOBER 2021, test → HERE ˻ PL ˺


digital-to-analog converter
» 2023 «

I first heard the complete four-piece SACD player, or rather the Vivaldi system from the British company dCS, at the Krakow Sonic Society № 92 meeting in January 2011; more → HERE. They were presented to us at the time by Raaven Bawa, head of sales in Europe, and a wonderful companion. I vividly remember the shivers down my spine when he played Glen Gould from the CD version on a glass disc, it was an unforgettable experience.

After a few years, however, came the Apex version, which pushed the sound even further in the direction of naturalness, excitement and music. Testing the DAC along with an SACD transport at the time, I got perfectly seamless, smooth and collected sound. As I wrote in its test, spatiality, or rather stereoscopic illusion of space, was absolutely top-of-the-range. As for color, emphasis on the midrange was noticeable, but it was not warmed up, but rather illuminated. I summed that text up with the words: "Simply a top digital source, one of the best ones in the world, that is why we award it with the ˻ GOLD FINGERPRINT ˺". And everything is clear.

» Publication: № 226, FEBRUARY 2023, test → HERE

integrated amplifier
» 2023 «

It can be said that to some extent the HFSA-01 amplifier from the Japanese company Aurorasound picks up the "orphans" of another amplifier of this type, the CS-300 from Leben. Their form, functionality and the idea of the whole are very similar, but not the same. Mr. SHINOBU KARAKI, owner and designer of Aurorasound, made the preamplifier and output tube driver section on integrated circuits, not tubes – the power amplifier is a tube one instead. The HFSA-01 is thus a hybrid amplifier, but with a reversed configuration.

And the sound! The amplifier offers open clear sound with incredible energy. It is not stifled or lifeless, as large devices tend to be. At the same time, it has enough authority at the bottom of the band to show the scale of events, the volume of instruments and the depth of the soundstage. It's a small, sleek device with more than enough functionality, as it both has a headphone output and a phono preamp. It's perfect for small systems and as a headphone amplifier.

» Publication: № 230, JUNE 2023, test → HERE


integrated amplifier
» 2023 «

The I-880 belongs to a "new wave" of amplification devices. Although it uses a classic amplifier operating in "adaptive" class A, it features an impulse amplifier. It's a high-end trend pioneered, if I recall correctly, by Chord Electronics and Nagra, and today also offered by Constellation Audio and Soulution, to name a few off the top of my head. The I-880, however, is more than that. It features solutions typical of this manufacturer, including Tesla coils for minimizing noise, as noise is at the moment on the minds of everyone who knows what the game is all about.

The device is brilliantly made, using copper, aluminum and titanium, but still compact. And it sounds phenomenal. I think all the attendees at the 142nd meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society were impressed by it, and some very much so; more → HERE. I was also among them. The precision, resolution, and yet naturalness of its sound combined with incredible dynamics make you want to listen to music with it again and again. That is why it's another product honored with our award – the ˻ GOLD FINGERPRINT ˺.

» Publication: № 234, OCTOBER 2023, test → HERE


» 2023 «

As with Pro-Ject, choosing this particular turntable is a subjective choice. And that's because it could be any model from the Planar series, preferably the P1, P2 or P3, because all of them, from any year, are simply perfect in what they do. The version in question, however, sums up forty years of activity of this English company and, on top of that, looks great, hence the choice.

This distinction is meant as a reminder that Rega was one of the absolute few manufacturers of affordable turntables, which never gave up on the format, even in the “dark years” when the Compact Disc dominated the music world, and quietly, at its own pace, modified more designs, adding more and more solutions to them. In addition, the RB arm developed in the company's workshop, in its many incarnations, is an example of what such a component should look like. Congratulations!

» Publication: № 234, OCTOBER 2023, test → HERE ˻ PL ˺


SACD player
» 2024 «

I said earlier that I have a special relationship with the Nagra brand. The same is true with Accuphase. I have known its bosses for years, and for years I have been exchanging records with Mark Suzuki, formerly chief engineer and now CEO of the company. For a long time, i.e. since 2005, I also test most of its products and see how the sound offered by this Japanese manufacturer is changing. And it is changing for the better. It's getting more and more resolved, more and more natural, and more and more musical. But, interestingly, even the oldest products I can remember still sound great, and maybe that's why they are sought after by collectors and music lovers alike, also because few of them break down.

Indeed, Accuphase products are a model to follow regarding construction, finishing and even packaging. They are also unsurpassed when it comes to functionality. And they have their own distinctive “look”, almost unchanged since 1972, when the company was founded. And why an SACD player and not an amplifier? Only because I'm a fan of the format, and I believe that with the DP-770 the company achieved an outstandingly high level, keeping everything in one chassis. A wonderful device!

» Publication: № MAY 2024, test → HERE



» 2004 «

» Publication: № 6, OCTOBER 2004, test → HERE ˻ PL ˺


» 2006 «

» Publication: № 21 JANUARY 2006, test → HERE ˻ PL ˺


AC power cable
» 2012 «

» Publication: № 97, MAY 2012, test → HERE ˻ PL ˺


» 2021 «

» Publication: № 204, APRIL 2021, test → HERE ˻ PL ˺


» 2022 «

» Publication: № 213, JANUARY 2022, test → HERE ˻ PL ˺


HERE GOES THE SUMMARY. Going back to the tests of devices that have been included in our summary of the twenty years of existence of HIGH FIDELITY has been absolutely amazing for me. Reading them, I saw how they changed over time, grew up, became more serious and professional. And yet, I was so proud already of the ones featured in Issue 1 of May 2004! Coincidentally, the Vibrapod isolators featured in the “Honorary Five” came from the same issue.

One thing struck me in the process – I didn't really need to read these tests at all to say what I wanted to say about these products. I remembered all of them clearly, As if they were “burned” in my memory. Maybe that's why, subconsciously, I relate all the products I test to them? But I guess it had to be that way, because, after all, it's all about emotions, and they are the basis of music. So if I feel warm thinking about either the Ayon Audio SACD player, or the Nagra PL-P preamplifier, or, last but not least, the Dynaudio loudspeakers, it says a lot not so much about the products themselves, but about their manufacturers.

Designing an audio product that will stand the test of time and that will be a model for others is a feat bordering on magic. I know, I know – it's all about technology. But the combination of knowledge in the field with musical sensitivity and intuition at this level is difficult to explain. That's why we talk about such designers as "masters" and "visionaries". At the same time, this would be of little importance if their companies were not characterized by longevity. And this, in turn, is something that even fewer companies have mastered. That's why we congratulate all the manufacturers included in our summary and thank them at the same time – we are in your debt!