Chris from Timbernation is a down-to-earth guy, who knows how to build a solid product customized to your exact needs at a fair and reasonable price. He utilizes thick shelves of solid maple to reduce resonance and incorporates brass spikes when the customer requests them to create a functional, great-sounding, and beautiful piece of audio furniture. There is no state-of-the-art, constrained-layer-damping tech or suspended isolation implemented—just good ol’ high-quality carpentry and hand-built quality. I had Chris make me a custom-designed two-tone equipment rack (from tiger maple), and he knocked it out of the park (around $4k retail for my build). I chose Timbernation for its sonic performance, value, quality, and Chris’s willingness to customize. To augment the sonic performance of my rack, I utilize Symposium Ultra shelves and double-stack Rollerblocks. So, my first Golden Ear this year goes to Timbernation. Chris also built an LP rack I designed to perfectly match the audio rack ($750). No, it does not provide the levels of isolation of Critical Mass Systems, HRS, or a full-on Symposium rack. But I wasn’t willing (at that time) to invest the massive amount to acquire what I needed from those exceptional companies.
Magnepan LRS Loudspeaker
These speakers have been reviewed and raved about ad nauseam. So, I’m going to make you more nauseam! My office system consists of a simple Hegel all-in-one integrated and a pair of Magnepan LRS speakers, along with an old sub I’ve had since college (and my kids are now in college). For $650, the LRS simply gets me to the music, and that’s just crazy! With a massive stage, articulate and well-defined presentation, and the speed of a McLaren, the LRSes get out of the way and leave behind just what I want to hear. Add my rave to the pile.
Pilium Electronics Alexander Preamplifier and Achilles Power Amplifier
I was exposed to Pilium Electronics when I visited Rhapsody Audio in NYC and reported on it in the blog section of our website. I have been back several times to Rhapsody since then to hear various and sundry other components (Bob is always a terrific host), and the Pilium always impressed—like really impressed. Eventually, I requested a home audition and was even more impressed. The Pilium Achilles (300Wpc stereo amp) and matching Alexander two-chassis preamp have since become my ultra-references. Unlimited power combined with the finesse of a neurosurgeon, the dexterity of a magician, the accuracy of a NASA astrophysicist, and the majesty of the entire Himalayan mountain range about sums it up. No-brainer Golden Ear Award!