Editors' Choice Awards 2001 Page 4
ATC Multichannel Concept 7 Collection
($93,000; reviewed by J. Gordon Holt, October 2000)
J. Gordon Holt is not normally given to superlatives, so when SGHT's most experienced and respected reviewer gushes almost uncontrollably over a set of home-theater speakers, you know he's on to something. Well, Gordon fell all over himself with praise for the internally powered, tri-amped ATC system. He found their spectral balance nearly perfect, and his first exposure to them set off "the most protracted orgy of auditioning of any review system I can recall." He was in "pig heaven." He praised the system's performance on all types of program material, noting in particular its lack of dynamic compression and astonishing realism.
But the price for all this is . . . the price. Gordon took pains to point out that he is not typically a fan of extremely expensive products. But when he asked himself if the ATCs were really worth their cost, he also had to ask himself if there is anything as good that costs less. His answer: "I'm not sure there is." He'll keep looking; in the meantime, the ATC Multichannel Concept 7 Collection is his nomination for the best speaker system in the world.
($9000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, January 2001)
They aren't pretty, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder—or, in this case, in the ear of the listener. And Michael Fremer had some great listening with this flagship home-theater package from NHT. See his review in this issue.
($4500-$5200, depending on finish; reviewed by Michael Fremer, May 2000)
When Michael Fremer reviewed Aerial's SW12 together with a complete Aerial home-theater speaker system, the subwoofer was a standout performer. Weighing in at a back-breaking 130 lbs, the SW12 combines a 400W amplifier with a 12.5-inch, long-excursion, aluminum-cone driver with a cast frame. Setup is exceptionally flexible, including a single-band parametric equalizer to help compensate for the most prominent room mode.
The Aerial sub could shake the room with bass that was not only powerful, but harmonically right; Michael's praise included such terms as "substantial," "momentous," "musical," and "totally transparent." The SW12 blended well not only with the Aerial system, but with other speakers as well. It's the best subwoofer Michael has yet had in his house or heard elsewhere, and its performance continues to amaze him. It's now his reference.
PS Audio P600 Power Plant
($1995; reviewed by Steven Stone, September 2000)
Not everyone needs a line conditioner—whether or not you do depends on the quality of the power in your area. But if you do need one, PS Audio's P600 is about the cleverest we've seen. It takes the power from the wall and uses it to literally regenerate clean, pure AC voltage, whether at the standard 60Hz line frequency or at anything from 50Hz to 120Hz. Driven at frequencies higher than 60Hz, the power supplies of most components connected to the P600 Power Plant operate more efficiently, though such non-standard frequencies will not be suitable for all products.
If you simply want to use this device for front-end components such as DVD players and surround-sound processors, PS Audio makes the smaller, less expensive P300; models larger than the P600 should be available by the time you read this. Because they're far from cheap, Power Plants are likely to be used only with the highest-end components—the sort of equipment that should, in theory, have the best internal power supplies and thus require assistance the least. But we all know how theory goes. If you need a line conditioner, the PS Audio Power Plants are probably the closest you can get to having your own generating station.
Rotel RB-985 Mk.II THX 5-channel amplifier
($999; reviewed by Michael Fremer, October 2000)
Separates are prized by many home-theater enthusiasts for flexibility, easy upgradeability (no need to discard a complete A/V receiver to get more power), and, most of all, by the promise of better performance. Separates can be expensive, but once in a while a manufacturer manages to beat the odds. When Michael Fremer reviewed the Rotel RB-985 Mk.II power amplifier, which offers 100Wpc for barely a grand, he was seriously impressed by what he heard. The Rotel "exhibited an outstanding grip on the musical goings-on (and sound effects) while maintaining its essentially rich yet detailed sonic character." And while its performance was excellent on music, its character complemented movie soundtracks as well. It also sounded more powerful than its rating might indicate. The RB-985's top end was distinguished by a lack of edginess or brightness, and its bass, while less tight and well-damped than that of more expensive amplifiers, never sounded weak or ran out of control. The RB-985 is a "no-brainer" foundation for an affordable system based on separates.