I’m not a big fan of looking back. But since the first day of the New Year is such a prime time for contemplation, I figure that at least I’d reveal my favorite product that I reviewed for 2010.
The first runner-up product was a dead heat between the Joseph Audio Pulsar speakers and the Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 3. The Pulsars had me contemplating going back to two-channel in my upstairs listening room, displacing the far more expensive Genesis 6.1 system. In the end I kept the Genesis 6.1s, but the Pulsars very nearly became my small-room references.
From the very beginning the Empirical Off-Ramp 3 was a very useful tool for not only comparing USB cables and the quality of other USB DACs. But it also serves as a superb bridge product allowing USB data streams to be processed by DACs that lack a USB input. Steve Nugent, Empirical Audio’s designer, opwner, and chief bottle-rocket washer is among an elite few audio designers who are exploring the upper limits of computer audio’s sonic capabilities.
But my top choice for best component of my 2010 reviewing year was the Weiss DAC 202. I love its sonics, ergonomics, and even its cosmetics. I’ve linked to the full review I did for The Absolute Sound. As I wrote in my conclusion, “It’s difficult to remain complacent when you review a component that outperforms anything you’ve reviewed in the past. The natural tendency is to go into rave mode and turn the review into fan-boy screed. I have gone to considerable lengths to avoid this, even though the DAC 202 is good enough to cause a meltdown of any reviewer’s critical facilities.”
After an additional six months of use I still feel the DAC 202 is an exceptional product. Weiss delivers excellent support. I found this out first-hand after I screwed up and inserted a hot Firewire cable into the Weiss backwards and blew out its receptor board. I sent it directly to Weiss in Switzerland in a US Post flat-rate medium box, and three weeks later it was back home, good as new. Yes, I bought my review sample, one of the few purchases of hi-fi gear I made in 2010. Every time I take the Weiss out of my system to review another DAC I always look forward to when it will be reinstalled. It is THAT good.