Best Of Awards 2014

The SECRETS Editorial Team is pleased to announce the Best of 2014 Awards.

Again this year we have the Products- of- the-Year Award, “BAD ASS” Award and our Best Products and Best Media. This year the Editorial Team considered a number of technologies that are emerging and being promoted in current products, but we selected just one to to discuss for 2015.

Check out the SECRETS selections for 2014 and….

Congratulations to All of our Winners!

Best Mid-price Floor-Standing Speakers

Best Mid-price Floor-Standing Speakers: Revel F208

Best Budget Speaker System

Best Budget Speaker System: Paradigm Millenia CT 2 Speakers and Subwoofer System

Best Value Speaker

Best Value Speaker: Goldenear Triton Seven

Best Home Theater Speaker System

Best Home Theater Speaker System: Revel Performa3 System

Best Soundbar

Best Soundbar: Goldenear Supercinema 3D XL

Best Mid-price AVR

Best Mid-Price AVR: Anthem MRX 510/710

Best Value AVR

Best Value AVR: Anthem MRX 310

Best Value Integrated Amplifier

Best Value Integrated Amplifier: Marantz PM6005

Best Stereo Power Amplifier

Best Stereo Power Amplifier: ATI 6002

Best High-end DAC


Best Projector under $3000

Best Projector under $3000: Epson 5030UB

Best Projector Value over $3000

Best Projector Value over $3000: JVC X500R

Best Compact Subwoofer

Best Compact Subwoofer: REL T9

Best Value Tube Preamplifier

Best Value Tube Preamplifier: Audio by Van Alstine FET Valve CF Vacuum Tube

Best Subwoofer

Best Subwoofer: M&K Sound X12

Best Surround Sound Processor 7.1

Best Surround Sound Processor 7.1: Bryston SP3 7.1

Best Value CD Player

Best Value CD Player: Emotiva ERC–3

Best Desktop Amplifier

Best Desktop Amplifier: NAD D 3020

Best Mid-price Stereo Preamplifier

Best Mid-Price Stereo Preamplifier: Parasound Halo P 5

Best Phono Preamplifier

Best Phono Preamplifier: Emotiva XPS-1

Best Audio Accessory

Best Audio Accessory: Bryston BUC-1 USB Converter

Best Value DAC

Best Value DAC: Emotiva Stealth DC-1

Best Headphone Amplifier

Best Headphone Amplifier: OPPO HA-1

Best Headphones

Best Headphones: HiFiMAN HE-560

Best Monoblock Power Amplifier

Best Monoblock Power Amplifier: Pass Labs X600.8

Best Product of the Year – 2014

Best Of Awards 2014

2014 Product of The Year: Mark Levinson No 52 Stereo Preamplifier

Best Of Awards 2014

Bad Ass Product Award – 2014

Best Of Awards 2014

2014 Bad Ass Award: Legacy Aeris Floor-standing Speakers

Best Movies for 2014

Best Overall for Sound and Picture Quality

Best Overall For Sound and Picture Quality: Gravity

Best Animated 3D

Best Animated 3D: Lego

Best Remastered Blu-ray

Best Remastered Blu-Ray: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Best Vinyl Releases for 2014

Best Vinyl Reissue of the Year

Best Vinyl Reissue of the Year: Blue Train

Best New Vinyl Recording of the Year

Best New Vinyl Recording of the Year: Morning Phase

Technologies to Watch in 2015

Looking Forward to 2015 Technologies and Product Development

It is always interesting to look back at projections for the future and be gratified at how close the current reality is to the projection or to chuckle at how far off the projection might have been.  As the SECRETS Team looks back at the commentary for 2014, we are more gratified than laughing-in-the-aisles!  So check out what we projected as 2013 drew to a close.

In past years we have talked about a number of technologies on the rise……..3D, High Resolution Music Delivery, Cloud Technology, Room Correction on the PC, and 4K to name a few.

This year there has been much discussion among the editorial team around some of these earlier topics and the newer technologies.  

High Resolution Music Delivery continues to expand, with a number more providers.  Our  2011 award was general and did not make any mention of sampling rates. Today, a consensus of what constitutes Ultra High Resolution audio does not exist:  there is a lot of dialog about defining standard high definition!

Many involved in recording DXD or DSD 128 do not want to use the term Ultra in the context of audio at all for fear it will be confused with ultra-high resolution video (4k). Storage is an issue as no compression format supports. At the moment, these formats do not appear to be practical to store.

We are looking forward to providing more coverage of this technology and plan to add a regular feature in 2015, reviewing selected releases.

4K Video continues to expand with flat panels and projectors but the limitation of the availability of true 4K content remains.  Chris Eberle, Senior Editor, is reviewing the new Sony 65-inch Ultra HD LED TV and will publish his review in early 2015.

Atmos and Auros

The buzz in the speaker and processor camps over the past year has been around Atmos and Auro.  So the questions now are whether consumers will make the investment to add more speakers, and on the ceiling, no less.  And will consumers invest in processors able to support these technologies.

Atmos is aimed for movies, because the EQ for the height speakers is targeted to enhance our ears sense that we are hearing height.
Auro includes films and music. Microphones capture the height in the Auro. Height in music has been a topic at AES for many years for microphone  placement to encoding of the signal for playback.
So height channels is a rising technology. Is it going to deflate as a gimmick…. we do not know until we test it in our rooms. And since Auro and Atmos will not work with speakers on the floor alone, will this be a technology that came and went.
 Which brings us to our Award for Technologies to Watch in 2015

Laser Projector Light Source

Forward Looking Technology

There’s no doubt that front-projection technology has come a long way since film’s earliest days. Digital models first made it possible to create reference-quality cinema in our homes and now we enjoy a relatively inexpensive way to avoid the crowds at the giga-plex and oftentimes improve upon the presentation.

But one element has remained nearly unchanged – that darn bulb! Not only does it create a lot of heat (necessitating loud fans and a complex ventilation system) it dims as it ages and shifts in color. In as little as one thousand hours and two or three re-calibrations, it’s time to spend around $400 for a replacement. Image quality has improved year after year but there has been little progress made towards finding a better light source – until now.

At September’s CEDIA Expo, Epson introduced two projectors lit by laser phosphor technology. They use lasers to excite phosphor coated filters to create as much light as a 230 watt mercury-vapor lamp. The light engine is rated for 30,000 hours with no loss of output and no change in color during that time. And the best part is the top-of-the-line model retails for just $8000.

A few years ago we thought LEDs might usher in a new age of long-lasting projectors that only need an initial calibration to provide years of reliable service.  Unfortunately, just a few high-end manufacturers embraced LED technology, and today it’s still going to cost you at least $15,000 to put an LED light source projector in your theater.”

With Epson’s new LS10000 and LS9600e projectors, you can truly make a long-term investment in a high-performance reference-quality unit that has the potential to last 10 years or more with regular use. Now you can truly replace your flat-panel with a projector if you want.

Because laser projection technology enables such flexibility, and reduces the overall cost of ownership, we’re giving it Secrets’ Forward-Looking Technology Award.

For more information, refer to Laser Light Sources in Digital Projectors.

– Chris Eberle, Senior Editor