2019 Golden Ear Awards: Anthony H. Cordesman

Equipment report
Music servers and computer audio,
2019 Golden Ear Awards: Anthony H. Cordesman

Magico S7 Loudspeaker
I’ve been using the Magico S7 as a reference for some years now, and the only nitpick I can make that it may be too revealing. It does a superb job of providing every bit of musical detail throughout the entire frequency spectrum at every level of dynamics from the lowest passages to loudness levels far beyond what I want to hear. It does so with as detailed and musical a soundstage as any speaker around. Its only problem is that you do hear the entire recording with no forgiving colorations—and you also hear the virtues and shortcomings of the rest of your components, cables, and listening room. Usually, it is the speaker that limits the system. In this case, the system (and far too many mediocre jobs of recording) usually limits the speaker.

Qobuz Streaming Service
$10/month, $25/month for hi-res
Is a streaming service a “component?” Quite frankly, I don’t care. Good as Tidal can be—and it certainly is easier to use—Qobuz does a superb job of providing high-resolution recordings and is the first streaming service I’ve encountered that directly rivals the hard-disc recording or direct recording company download in every aspect of sound quality. It also outperforms the MQA versions of the same recording on Tidal when I’ve been able to compare them—although both can be very, very good. As a result, I find Qobuz to be essential for a classical music buff, particularly in an era where reviews cover so few new recordings. In fact, I’ve come to regard Qobuz, Tidal, and Roon as essential parts of a high-end system. And for once, no one can argue that such praise is coming from a reviewer who is focusing on the equipment instead of the music

Soundsmith Sussurro Mark II Moving-Iron and Ortofon Cadenza Black Moving-Coil Cartridges
Every cartridge sounds different, and one of the great joys of analog is that you can always find one that suits your particular taste. Far too often, however, what sounds more romantic or musical for a while eventually reveals a lack of information or some constantly present form of low-level coloration. These two cartridges differ in many respects, but they are both very revealing in neutral ways, and they are both consistently involving and musical with a wide range of recordings. I slightly prefer the Soundsmith Sussurro Mark II, so they are not an exact tie in terms of my own taste. However, there are still many recordings where the slight addition of life and air provided by the Ortofon provides a more involving experience. No cartridge can be all things to even one audiophile, but both are great products that are extremely revealing rather than romanticizing some aspect of the music.