This year we limited ourselves to two Golden Ear awards apiece. I’m not going to tell you which two products I picked—for that you’ll have to wait for Issue 193 of TAS—but I am going to pay a little attention here to those products that were in the running but didn’t make the final cut. In the past, when we weren’t restricted to just two top picks, all of these would’ve been awarded Golden Ears by me.
First, the Symposium Acoustics Isis equipment stand, Rollerblock Series II, and Ultra equipment platform. There are a lot of stands, cones, and platforms out there, folks, but these are the ones I would buy with my own money. Symposium’s Peter Bizlewicz has two patents on the Isis equipment stand, which uses his Rollerblock technology (an ingenious tungsten-carbide ball-bearing-based isolation system), his constrained-layer-damped Svelte Shelves, his Lightning Rod struts (made of solid aircraft-grade aluminum), and several other damping techniques. Like Peter’s constrained-layer Ultra platforms and his Rollerblocks, the isolation that the Isis provides for gear that is markedly affected by vibration, such as turntables and tonearms, is clearly audible. When I compared the Isis topped with an Ultra to an ultra-high-mass stand using the same turntable, the difference in the audibility of heavy footfalls on loose floorboards was astonishing. I could literally jump up and down beside the ’table mounted on the Isis/Ultra without disturbing the tonearm. http://www.symposiumusa.com/products.shtml
Second, the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme phono cartridge. Along with the DaVinci “Grandezza Reference” and the Clearaudio Goldfinger v2, this is the highest-fidelity moving-coil cartridge I’ve heard—a huge improvement over the original PC-1, which wasn’t chopped liver. The Supreme is much more finely detailed, much more extended in the bass, much richer in tone color, and overall much more dynamic than the original. Though not quite as neutral and transparent to sources as the DaVinci Grandezza or as wide open and dynamic as the Goldfinger, the Supreme is denser in timbre and more gemütlich than either. http://www.axissaudio.com/allComp.htm
Third, Tara Labs Omega Gold speaker cables and Zero Gold interconnects. You may recall that I rave-reviewed the Tara Labs’ Omega speaker cable and Zero several years ago, declaring them to be the best I’d heard. Well, the best got better. The Omega Gold, in particular, astonished me. I didn’t think that the original Omega—so detailed, so dynamic, so sensational in the bass octaves—could be enhanced this significantly, but, folks, this is an order of magnitude improvement. Part of the credit, it appears, must go to the way the Omega Gold is terminated—or should I say, not terminated. Unlike the original Omega, there are no spades or bananas or provision for the attachment of same with the Gold, which only has tinned “tags” of bare wire at either end. Apparently no solder joints are superior to even the best solder joints, because the difference here in resolution, transparency, neutrality, and sheer naturalness is marked. If there is better wire to be had, I haven’t heard it yet. http://www.taralabs.com/products.asp
Fourth, Feickert Adjust+. For those of you heavily into vinyl, the Feickert Adjust+ is a must-own. Using this software/hardware kit with your PC permits you to set sometimes tough-to-get-just-right things like azimuth or turntable speed with a precision that is standard-setting. Adjust+ also lets you literally measure the level and phase of crosstalk (to optimize channel separation), wow and flutter, cartridge/tonearm resonance, even THD. A snap to install and use, Adjust+ is a supremely intelligent solution to a whole bunch of analog problems. http://www.feickert.com/