2014 Golden Ear Awards: Anthony Cordesman

Equipment report
Categories:
Floorstanding,
Disc players,
Digital-to-analog converters,
Turntables
|
Products:
EMM Labs XDS1,
Legacy Audio Aeris,
PS Audio DirectStream,
VPI Classic 3,
Wilson Audio Alexia
2014 Golden Ear Awards: Anthony Cordesman


Wilson Alexia and Legacy Aeris Loudspeakers
$47,500; $18,500
One of two ties this year, although I’m tempted to give the Wilson the edge just to try to push Bill Duddleston into adding an automatic set-up feature to the Aeris. I haven’t had so much fun using speakers to re-explore my music in a long, long time. In spite of their radically different features and design, both the Wilson and the Legacy have detail, dynamics, full deep bass, extended upper octaves, and soundstaging that are truly exceptional at their very different price points. They have a natural musical realism with classical music and acoustic jazz for which I’ve searched a great deal longer than I care to remember. (Issues 238 and 235)


VPI Classic 3 Turntable
$6000
It may seem a bit odd to give the Classic 3 a Golden Ear award when I’m firmly convinced that the VPI Classic Direct and Classic 3D tonearm is a real breakthrough in analog. The reason, however, is that the Classic 3 and its new tonearm do an amazing job at a far more affordable price. Sure, if you have the money, then the Classic Direct is my clear winner, but the Classic 3 outperforms VPI’s far more expensive HRX, is virtually bulletproof in reliability and setup, and is the winner in cost-effectiveness for most audiophiles. (216)

EMM Labs XDS1 Disc Player/DAC and PS Audio DirectStream DAC
$25,000; $5995
Once again, two radically different technologies and price points. The EMM Labs is an older design, but has been upgraded to have a USB input, and is superior in dynamic detail and midrange realism. The PS Audio DirectStream DAC is a cutting-edge effort and offers superb sound quality at a far lower price, plus it has excellent Ethernet streaming with its “bridge.” I’d throw the Oppo 105 or 105D in as a truly affordable third party to this tie with outstanding sound quality at its far lower price, but Robert Harley would never let me get away with this. (Review forthcoming)