Home Theater Review's 2010 Best of Home Theater Awards
Who are they for?
As an audio writer, I've always had a love/hate relationship with "Best of" lists, awards, certificates, and plaques. The writing is easy (you just cut and paste what you've already written), and the pay is good (anytime you get paid twice for the same words it's good pay), but do they really give the reader any new information that enables them to make a more informed buying decision? Most times I think not.
You can see the awards here
Manufacturers, PR folks, and anyone in a marketing department LOVE awards, especially awards that come with nice graphics that will look good in an ad. Quotes such as "Best I've ever seen/heard" that can be excerpted from the copy are also very popular in ad-land. But for the consumer what do these awards mean? Basically they mean that the product receiving the award probably doesn't suck or if it does suck at least it's backed by a lot of ad dollars and hopefully customer support, and it may actually work in their system.
System, that's a word I'd like to emphasize. Take the best whatever, put it in the wrong way in the wrong system and it will probably not perform optimally. The context for operation of any individual component is critical, and many "best of" awards skate blithely over this fact. Even the best amplifier will sound like crap when hooked via a string to a Dixie cup.
Looking at the recipients of this year's awards, there's only one product on the list that I've had any personal experience with - the Wadia DAC power DAC. I read the Dr Taraszka's review here:
I also reviewed the Wadia for TAS. Unfortunately it's not yet on the AvGuide.com website. The Wadia 151 also received a "best of" award from TAS as well. That says something when a products gets "Best" awards from two sources. Basically I found the Wadia to be an exceptionally good performer for its price. While not nearly as flexible as the Peachtree Nova, I felt the Wadia was more revealing and precise in its rendition of USB digital sources. As a one-box DAC/amp solution for desktop use, it fills the bill nicely. Match it with a pair of medium efficiency speakers such as the ATC SCM7s or Paradigm S-1s and you'll have a computer desktop system that may require a power outage to drag you away from it. The only tricky part will be hooking up a subwoofer - you'll have to use the speaker-level inputs on your subwoofer since the Wadia doesn't have a line-level analog output. No big deal as long as your sub has high-level inputs (most do.)
Looping back to the value of "Best of" awards. As long as you use them as a place to start, not finish your research, they can be useful. But as with any piece of data - don't take any single writer's words as gospel, unless of course, you like being disappointed.