SECRETS is pleased to announce the Best of Awards for 2019.

Again in 2019, SECRETS had an opportunity to review many great audio and video products. The Editorial Team spent several weeks debating and considering, which is challenging, as so many products are excellent, but some products are truly outstanding. It is to the outstanding products that we award the SECRETS Best of Award.

Every year we are asked why we do not award a product in every conceivable audio and video component category. Simply, it is our practice to carefully consider the award nominations across all A/V component categories. Consequently, we do not award a product in every possible component category. Our categories change from year-to-year. Also, we do not attach a “recommended” stamp as we publish reviews throughout the year, although we have been asked to consider. And our reviewers are pretty candid about their views about products: if they really like the product, that opinion is reflected in the product highlights and review conclusion.

In 2016 we added our SECRETS “Thumbs-Up Award” which highlights the products that we recommend, in addition to the Best of Award recipients. The 2019 SECRETS Thumbs-up Awards recognize the products that we found to be excellent and which we, as SECRETS, would recommend to any buyer. So the SECRETS Thumbs-up Award is SECRETS Recommended!

As anticipated, in 2019 we considered many more video products, projectors and displays, focusing on the UHD/4K product offerings. And, as expected, SECRETS evaluated an increasing number of “vinyl” products, including turntables, phono preamplifiers and cartridges. We anticipate that this trend will continue into 2020.

SECRETS reviews and admires many products that do not receive awards. Just check out the reviews and the opinions of the SECRETS reviewers: we have the pleasure of reviewing many outstanding products.

In 2019 we have awarded the “Product of the Year” to the VIZIO PX65-G1 Ultra HD TV. In the words of Chris Eberle, the SECRETS Video Editor, “There isn’t much more to say about the VIZIO PX65-G1 other than WOW!”.

SECRETS has not awarded the Bad Ass Award in 2019. We did not name a Bad Ass Award in 2018 either. This award is not given out every year and is reserved only for products that test outrageously well. John Johnson, Editor-in-Chief, initiated the first SECRETS “Bad Ass Award” in 2010. This award is selectively conferred on products that have intense output, ultra-low distortion, substantial build quality and/or extreme engineering. So the “Bad Ass Award” is given to the product that is outstanding and clearly evokes a Bad Ass response from our team…“you just know it when you see it!” Maybe in 2020?

Product of the Year

At SECRETS, a “Product of the Year” is a product that not only sets the bar for its category, it is a product that we believe will inspire real innovation and progress from its competitors. We consider new technologies, performance and value; and when a component excels at all three, we afford it this prestigious recognition.


Product of the Year


There isn’t much more to say about the VIZIO PX65-G1 other than WOW! The PX65-G1 sets a new standard in affordable displays with 384 dimming zones, support for HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG, higher peak light output, and a color gamut that tickles the underside of Rec.2020. Add to that, VIZIO SmartCast with built-in ChromeCast and a slick bezel-free design, and you have a winner for just $1999. After calibrating, reviewing, and watching literally hundreds of televisions over the past 10 years, this one is easily the best I’ve experienced. Contrast rivals that of an OLED panel. It delivers a huge color gamut. And it has fantastic video processing. These qualities combine to create a stunning image worthy of the designation “ REFERENCE-LEVEL”.

Chris Eberle, Co-Editor

Best of Awards

McIntosh MC312 2-Channel Solid State Amplifier

Best Stereo Power Amplifier

McIntosh MC312 2-Channel Solid State Amplifier

McIntosh simply exudes class, quality, and that “it” factor that’s very hard to achieve. Made in Binghamton, New York, McIntosh has been designing and manufacturing some of the absolute best audio gear for 70 years now. The new MC312 2-channel solid-state amplifier has enough power, finesse, and flexibility to serve as the heart of any hi-fi system. I can easily say that this just may be all the amplifier you will ever need!

Todd Cooperider

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD (4K) Blu-ray Player

Best 4K Blu-ray Player

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD (4K) Blu-ray Player

The Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player is a high-end source component built in the tradition of fine electronics. Built with premium components, it delivers reference quality video and sound to any home theater or media room. The player supports HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and HLG; along with dual HDMI outputs, 7.1 analog audio, and balanced stereo connections. The Panasonic even earns a THX certification. Those seeking the ultimate in video and sound quality may very well have found their ideal source component.

Chris Eberle, Co-Editor

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo Wireless Speakers

Best Wireless Speaker

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo Wireless Speakers

The Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo Wireless Speakers are among some of the best speakers I have ever heard, regardless of size or price. The integration with Roon, which is a superb music manager for music lovers, providing extensive background information on artists and the music, can’t be beaten by anything else on the market. I see the B&W Formation line as ideal for someone starting fresh, with a large library of lossless hi-res files, and that customer is looking for ease of use, not a lot of boxes and wires, and the ability to integrate things like internet radio or file-based streaming services like Tidal or Qobuz into their musical lifestyle.

Mel Martin

Paradigm Premier 200B Speaker Review

Best Bookshelf Speaker

Paradigm Premier 200B Speaker

The Premier 200B speakers are designed for use on a stand and sound considerably better than their small size would lead you to expect. These speakers sound excellent when compared with other speakers in their rough price range. The MDF case is resonance free. The tweeter is a wide dispersion driver with very musical characteristics, and the ducted port midrange/woofer design, while only a 6 1/2 inch diameter, put out some clean bass. I liked the speakers even better with an added subwoofer, they hold their own when depending on their own built-in drivers.

Mel Martin

Auralic VEGA G2 DAC and LEO GX Master Clock Review

Best High-end DAC

Auralic VEGA G2 DAC and LEO GX Master Clock

I don’t know how much better digital audio decoding can get. Auralic has achieved a new level of performance with the VEGA G2 DAC and LEO GX MASTER CLOCK. The distortion is so low, it is reaching the limits of my Audio Precision spectrum analyzer. Jitter, which is an important issue to be dealt with, is dealt with superbly. Bottom line: The VEGA G2 is the best DAC I have ever tested. The LEO GX turns it into perfect.

John Johnson, Editor-in-Chief

KLH Kendall 5.2 Speaker System Review

Best Home Theater Speaker System

KLH Kendall 5.2 Speaker System

KLH managed to defy my expectations!. This new KLH 5.2 speaker system has convinced me that quality and performance do not have to come with a hefty price tag. These speakers utilize quality components throughout. They are solidly built and excellently finished. Most importantly, they exhibit strong stereo and surround performances and should have no difficulty in getting audio aficionados’ stamp of approval. The KLH 5.2 speaker system is a winner in many respects. And they are affordable!

Yongki Go

Revel Performa F228Be Loudspeaker Review

Best Floor Standing Speakers

Revel Performa F228Be Loudspeaker

The Revel F228Be speakers are a very dangerous pair! They are stealthy, unassuming and impeccably well engineered. They are the kind of product that makes you ask yourself if you really need anything more when it comes to loudspeakers. Now, a price tag of $10,000.00 for the pair is not chump change by anyone’s standards, but I’ve heard speakers that cost twice that much and more, that don’t bring me the level of enjoyment while being as easy to live with as these speakers are.

Carlo LoRaso, Senior-Editor

HiFiMan Jade II Electrostatic Headphone and Amplifier Review

Best Headphones

HiFiMan Jade II Electrostatic Headphone and Amplifier

The HiFiMan Jade II headphone system redefines what kind of sound quality is possible at this price point. And it can be used in place of an entire two-channel system. The sound quality is excellent, and the system was able to effortlessly portray every variety of music I could play through it. Not once did I hear distortion or a bad note.

Gene Hopstetter

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphone Review

Best Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphone

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are, without a doubt, some of the best wireless headphones that I have heard to date. If you want bass, it’s there. If you want less, it’s very easy to turn down. For smartphone users, the Sony Connect App is a handy and effective way to tune and manage your headphones. I would certainly put the Sony WH-1000XM3 at, or near, the top of the wireless headphones that I’ve heard. If you are looking for a pair of Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones, check out the Sony WH-1000XM3. They set the standard, end of story!

Carlo LoRaso, Senior-Editor

Mark Levinson No 585.5 Integrated Amplifier Review

Best Integrated Amplifier

Mark Levinson No 585.5 Integrated Amplifier

The Mark Levinson No 585.5 integrated amp is a complete success in every area of its build and performance. From the very moment I first started listening to the No 585.5, I found that it speaks with a clarity unrivaled among competing products. I think that it is also a very good value when you consider everything that it offers. This amplifier has all the bases covered from high resolution digital to sumptuous yet accurate analog playback. It would serve indefinitely as the hub of a high quality playback system.

Jim Clements, Co-Editor

Astell&Kern KANN CUBE Digital Audio Player and Billie Jean IEM Review

Best Digital Audio Player (DAP)

Astell&Kern KANN CUBE Digital Audio Player and Billie Jean IEM

The KANN CUBE is a device built for those who seek a no-compromise musical experience in their day-to-day listening, even if it means a bulkier device and a shorter battery life. It was eye-opening to listen to music reproduced on such an elevated level from something that you can carry around.

Peter LoRaso

Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier Review

Best Stereo Preamplifier

Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier

The Anthem STR preamplifier and amplifier are every bit the statement 2-channel products that they are billed as; individually, they are some of the very best sounding examples of their respective categories. Together, they comprise as seamless and powerful a playback chain as you are likely to find!

Carlo LoRaso, Senior Editor

Marantz AV8805 Processor Review

Best Surround Sound Processor

Marantz AV8805 Processor

If you are looking for a new 13.2 channel processor, put the Marantz AV8805 on your short list for an audition. Its primary competition currently comes from other products in the Marantz and Denon product lineup, but that gives the consumer some choice in terms of feature-set and budget.

Robert Kozel, Co-Editor and Carlo LoRaso, Senior Editor

BenQ CinePrime HT3550 Ultra HD DLP Projector Review

Best DLP Projector under $3000

BenQ CinePrime HT3550 Ultra HD DLP Projector

BenQ’s CinePrime HT3550 Ultra HD DLP Projector is hard to beat. It delivers nearly all of the DCI-P3 color gamut along with solid HDR and superb clarity thanks to a single-chip DLP light engine with XPR technology that provides a true Ultra HD experience. After comparing it to several native 4K displays, I am hard-pressed to see a difference in quality. At $1499, it represents a phenomenal value.

Chris Eberle, Co-Editor

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K PRO-UHD Projector Review

Best LCD Projector under $3000

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K PRO-UHD Projector

The EPSON Home Cinema 5050UB easily matches performance with high-end projectors costing two and three times more. For $3000, it’s one of the best projector values available today.

Chris Eberle, Co-Editor

Paradigm Defiance X10 and Defiance V10 Subwoofer Review

Best Subwoofer

Paradigm Defiance X10 and Defiance V10 Subwoofer

Paradigm offers consumers a nice array of subwoofer options. The Defiance V series offers outstanding value and the muscular Defiance X series offers deeper, more powerful bass. Both series are greatly enhanced with the use of ARC and the easy to use Paradigm Subwoofer Control App. It is the easiest, most flexible bass tuning system I have ever used.

Jim Clements, Co-Editor

Mark Levinson No515 Turntable Review

Best Turntable

Mark Levinson No515 Turntable

The Mark Levinson No515 Turntable with Ortofon Cadenza Bronze Cartridge had the best musicality I have ever heard from any source component I have reviewed or owned.

Jim Clements, Co-Editor

Thumbs Up Awards

McIntosh MCD600 SACD/CD Player Review

SACD Player

McIntosh MCD600 SACD/CD Player

The McIntosh MCD600 SACD/CD Player is like no other disc player in the consumer market today. It is worthy of its pedigree, offering solid construction and excellent, detailed sound. If you have not invested in SACD, this player may make you change your mind about the sound quality of your music. The differences I heard during my time with the MCD600 made me glad that I have invested so much into an SACD collection. This player may not be for the first-time buyer, but it certainly is a player we aspire to own someday. Long live the shiny discs!

Jim Milton, Senior Editor

DALI Callisto 2C Speakers with BluOS Module

Powered Monitors

DALI Callisto 2C Speakers with BluOS Module

The Dali Callisto 2C Speakers, with the BluOS module from Bluesound, was very rewarding, despite the minor wi/fi issues I experienced. I can say that with so many in my house using the Callisto/BluOS system, it brought fun to high-end audio. I encouraged everyone to use it, enjoy it, and listen to excellent playback.

Piero Gabucci, Co-Editor

GoldenEar Triton One.R Tower Speakers Review

Floor Standing Speaker

GoldenEar Triton One.R Tower Speakers

You’ve loved the sound of the GoldenEar Triton Reference but you’re on a Triton One budget or size requirement. The new One.R may be the speaker for you (and me). Having reviewed both the Triton One and the Reference, and having itched to keep them both, I may have decided that the (unexpected) wait for the One.R was in the cards. Physically and sonically, the scale of the Triton One.R suits my listening space. Just right…

Piero Gabucci, Co-Editor

NAD D 3045 Hybrid Digital Amplifier

Desktop Integrated Amplifier

NAD D 3045 Hybrid Digital Amplifier

Some enthusiasts may have a hard time wrapping their minds around the idea of a tiny amp with such lofty capabilities. But it’s very real. It doesn’t have to be a large and heavy box to sound good. NAD proved it with the D 3020 five years ago and they’ve proved it even more with the D 3045. It doesn’t just think outside the box, it throws the box in the recycling bin. This amazing component receives my highest recommendation.

Chris Eberle, Co-Editor

Zappiti Pro 4K HDR Media Player Review

Video Streamer/Server

Zappiti Pro 4K HDR Media Player

The Zappiti Pro Media Player a content surfer’s dream! If all you want to do is stream content, there are a myriad of cheap boxes and smart TVs available everywhere. But for those who want a more high-end solution with storage, there’s the Zappiti Pro 4K HDR Media Player. This solidly-built box can accommodate up to 32 terabytes of storage and supports all the latest video standards like Ultra HD, HDR, and 10-bit color. It also includes complete audio codec support right up to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. With quality hardware and an intuitive user interface, you can browse content on the internet or on any storage device connected to your home network, as well as the player’s two internal hard drives.

Chris Eberle, Co-Editor

Legacy Powerbloc2 Stereo Amplifier Review

Stereo Power Amplifier

Legacy Powerbloc2 Stereo Amplifier

A LEGACY POWERBLOC2 can make your current speakers sound their very best. Clean, dynamic power is achieved with a Class D amplifier that is built to last for a very long time. An amplifier is an investment. For the price, I would consider the Legacy Powerbloc2 to be a good value considering the power, sound, and construction of the amplifier. If you are in the market for a two-channel sound system and you want these qualities in your sound system, give the Legacy Powerbloc2 a closer look and listen. Your speakers will thank you.

Jim Milton, Senior Editor

BenQ CinePro HT9060 Ultra HD LED Projector Review

Projector over $3000

BenQ CinePro HT9060 Ultra HD LED Projector

The BenQ CinePro HT9060 DLP LED PROJECTOR is in many ways the best projector I’ve ever reviewed. It isn’t cheap, but I think it’s worth every penny.

Chris Eberle, Co-Editor

Bowers and Wilkins Formation Bar and Bass Review


Bowers and Wilkins Formation Bar and Bass

Aimed towards the high-end soundbar market, the Formation Bar and Bass module are beautifully designed and constructed. The Formation Bar supports Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth (aptX HD, v4.1 Class 2, AAC, and SBC), Dolby Digital (via the TOSLink optical connection), and it’s Roon Ready. Even better is support for 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution sources, which is still very rare in the wireless streaming market. The B&W Home app makes things very easy to control and allows the user to set up lots of zones and other ways of controlling multiple Formation products.

Tyler Stripko

Paradigm Premier Speaker System with X12 Subwoofer Review

Home Theater System

Paradigm Premier Speaker System with X12 Subwoofer

Paradigm’s tradition of offering high price-to-performance ratio products is alive and well! The Paradigm Premier 5.1 speaker system is comprised of versatile speakers that perform well in home theater settings and possess satisfying levels of musicality for stereo music applications. The system’s strong overall performance is built upon the strong individual performances of the individual components and delivers outstanding performance for stereo music and home-theater/surround applications.

Yongki Go

FIBBR cables blog

HDMI Cables

FIBBR cables

I really liked the connectors; they are solid and well built. The first word I could think of would be “quality” when I felt the solid metal connectors. Its biggest plus is the flexibility. I can’t believe how effortlessly it bends up to 180 degrees. This is a custom integration game-changer!

Indiana Lang

Movie Awards

In 2019 our SECRETS Movie Review Team reviewed almost 100 movies. This year we saw more releases of old movies as well as current films in 4k UHD. We review movies released in Blu-ray format (not DVD) and 4K UHD.

This year, as last, we have a tie for the Best UHD 4K movie…. read on to see what two movies we are choosing.

The Big Lebowski

Best UHD Blu-ray

The Big Lebowski

Apollo 11

Best UHD Blu-ray

Apollo 11

Spiderman- Into the Spiderverse

Best Animated Film

Spiderman- Into the Spiderverse

First Man

Best Blu-ray

First Man

2001: A Space Odyssey

Best Restored Film

2001: A Space Odyssey

Vinyl Awards

Jason Crawford has been our SECRETS’ vinyl-secret for over 10 years, reviewing over 500 vinyl albums! In fact, Congratulations are in order! December, 2019 is Jason’s eleventh anniversary with SECRETS! DRUM ROLL…… Jason’s first vinyl collection review was published in December, 2008! You can find it by scrolling through all of his vinyl reviews or search on “Dylan”, for Bob Dylan, and go to Page 7. (Our many back-end conversions have not been able to keep all of the linkages accurate.)

Again in 2019, Jason continued his pace of “north of fifty” vinyl album reviews. You won’t find any vinyl reviewer more knowledgeable and entertaining than Jason.

And in 2019, we added a metal vinyl roundup by Peter LoRaso. Stay tuned: more to come.

For 2019 Jason is adding an honorable mention for The Beatles and Esher Demos, not exactly reissue, not exactly new!

Read on for the Best Vinyl selections…

Blues Walk: Lou Donaldson

Best Vinyl Reissue

Blues Walk: Lou Donaldson
Music Matters Jazz

Sound & Fury: Sturgill Simpson

Best Vinyl New Release

Sound & Fury: Sturgill Simpson
Elektra Records

White Album: The Beatles and Esher Demos

Best Vinyl Honorable Mention: Reissue + New

White Album: The Beatles and Esher Demos
Capitol Records