ONLINE - ISSUE 10
The Higher End: Announcing the Premiere of the Brutus Awards and the Gizmo Award
Introduction to annual awards at Positive Feedback Online
Historical note: as of January, 2004, Positive Feedback in both its print and, now, its online formats, will enter its 14th year of publication. During that time, Ive not taken the time to establish annual awardsnot out of a lack of interest, but because I didnt feel that PF was at the point of maturity as a creative group to warrant pursuing it.
Over the past year, however, my fellow un-indicted co-conspirator of an editor, Dave Clark, and I have been discussing getting some meaningful fine audio product awards launched. The PFO artistic community has come together well, and is reaching the point at which we believe that the time has come to establish an annual system of recognizing superior fine audio design work.
The first new annual award: the Brutus!
We at Positive Feedback Online are going to have two main categories of annual awards. The first will be our Brutus Award. This will be recognition given to "the best and the brightest" products that we have experienced in various categories in a given year. In hardware, these will range from "best bang for the buck" to "the best period, and hang the expense!" designs. In recordings, well be paying tribute to the best that weve found in various formats. In addition, well have a "Lifetime Achievement Award" that will recognize individuals whose contributions to fine audio in various respects has been both superior and sustained.
All products that are so recognized by PFO will be work that has been reviewed by us personally; no design will be recognized that we do not have experience with in our listening rooms. This means that you, our readers, may disagree with our selections, wondering why this or that component, recording or individual was not mentioned. Quite apart from differences in taste/opinion, the answer is simple: we wont be mentioning any design that we havent spent time with in our own listening rooms. If a product does not win a Brutus Award in a given category, this does not signify lack of meritwe just may not have gotten to work with it. Youre certainly welcome to write to us and bring worthy components to our attention.
The second new annual award: the Gizmo!
Long-time readers of PF and PFO know that Harvey Rosenberg (AKA "Gizmo") was a close friend of mine, and a valued member of the PF writing community for a number of years. His untimely death a couple of years ago was a real blow to fine audio, the loss of a uniquely creative writer. In Harveys memory, we have created an annual award that (like Harvey!) will be unique: a one-only-per-year recognition of a person/design that is surfing the edge of audiomania, going all-out to push the frontiers of fine audio. There will be no multiples of this prize no hard-and-fast categories and if nobody floats our boat in a given year, it wont be awarded.
The new award: the Gizmo.
Terry Cain, a good friend of Gizmo, a gifted designer in his own right, and a long-time acquaintance of PFO, is working up a brief article to explain the meaning of the Gizmo Award. Hes done an excellent job of summarizing what we want to do with this award, so it will be appearing as a guest article to this The Higher End column in the very near future.
The awards for 2003
This premiere year for the PFO Brutus Awards, Dave Clark and I will be the ones selecting the prizes, based on our reviewing in 2003. By 2004, we plan to involve the larger PFO editorial group in the choices.
Dave Clarks Brutus Award choices for this year will be appearing in a separate column. Mine are as follows:
Lifetime achievement awards
Since this is the first time for PFOs "Lifetime Achievements," the list is long. Future lists will be shorter as we catch up, and pay homage to whom homage is due. Note that the names are presented in alphabetical order:
Digital: SACD and CD
Ed Meitner and EMM Labs for the EMM Labs DAC6, our new world reference for digital playback of SACD and CD sources in either two or six channel mode.
Analog: Turntables and accessories
Ivor Tiefenbrun and Linn for the Linn Akiva reference phono cartridge, a truly superb extension of the capabilities of the classic Linn LP-12 system. As the years go by, the LP-12 system just gets better and better!
Phono amplifiers/head amplifiers
EveAnna Manley and Manley Labs for the Manley Labs Steelhead phono amp, a brilliant achievement in tubed phono preamp design.
Solid State preamplifiers
Ivor Tiefenbrun and Linn for the Linn Kontrol preamplifer, a design that fuses both beauty and awesome neutrality in a preamp, and closes in on the ideal of "pure gain" in preamplification.
Nobu Shishido (posthumous), Yuzuru Ito and WAVAC for the HE-833 SET amplifier (100 Watts per channel), simply the finest SET amplifier that Ive ever heard, and my choice as answer to the question, "If I could have only one amplifier, which one would it be?"
Jennifer Crock and JENA Labs for the Pathfinder speaker cables, the best speaker cables that Ive ever had in my listening roomand Ive had a lot of them!
Jennifer Crock and JENA Labs for the Fundamental Power 6.1 Line Conditioner, a breath-taking achievement in the provision of AC to the source components here at PFO River City. Simply put, its the best that Ive ever heard, bar none.
No contest here: Charles van Oosterum and the Kharma Grande Ceramique loudspeakers are the winners in my listening room. The reviewing is upcoming, but the Kharma Grande Ceramiques are absolutely the finest speakers that have ever resided in this editors sanctum audiophilii.
The Sistrum SP-101s used in conjunction with the WAVAC HE-833s showed a remarkable ability to join beauty with sonic clarity. Smash-o! A clear winner! (Its been a few years since I was so impressed with an isolation platform in my listening room.)
Deadline is here, and Ive got to get this off to press. Ill be doing a follow-up column looking at SACDs of particular worth in 2003; this has been a good year for great music!
The Gizmo Winner for 2003
The inaugural Gizmo winner wasnt hard to pick; this is an exceptional new audio designer whose work Ive been following with real interest for a couple of years now. He does precisely the sort of audiomaniac sculpture that Harvey would have raved over, taking audio to some extreme new places.
The PFO Gizmo winner for 2003 is Josh Stippich of Electronluv. His outrageously wonderful tubed designs make him the easy and obvious choice for PFOs "Gizmaniac of 2003"! (Any reader who needs an education on Joshs designs can check PFO Issue 9 for the VSAC 2003 show reports youll get an eyeful of why this choice was so easy for me.)
Congratulations to all of our winners! Stay tuned for Dave Clarks award selections (see Issue 11 next month), as well as our picks for some terrific recordings.