FutureAudiophile.com 2023 Gear of the Year Awards 

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve been doing FutureAudiophile.com for a whole year now, but since our late-2022 launch, we’ve reviewed over 150 audiophile components ranging from very high end to sub-$200 Chi-Fi integrated amps and seemingly everything in-between. Getting back in the audiophile game and bringing both high-value and cost-no-object products to a new demographics of readers has been even more fun than we expected. 

2023 FutureAudiophile.com Gear of The Year Awards
2023 FutureAudiophile.com Gear of The Year Awards

We’ve got a new format and name for our 2023 Gear of the Year Awards that has drawn from 25 years of publishing experience, as well as more mass-market awards such as the Oscars or the Emmys. Our format is to take our categories or derivations of them and give out awards based on a pool of excellent competition. 

Please note: angry forum-type skeptics will say that awards are worthless because they are bought and paid for. When it comes to FutureAudiophile.com, this is absolutely not the case.Other AV publications do actually sell their awards, but not us – and we never will. What we did was compile a short list of the best products per category with the input of our editorial team. They all had say in each category that was relevant to their professional experience. Additionally, please understand that we only review the best audiophile gear, which is its own filter, if you will. We don’t go looking for review products to trash like some on social media and YouTube these days, even if it gets high user engagement. We just don’t roll like that. The FutureAudiophile.com Gear of the Year awards are an even a more concentrated list of the best of the best audiophile gear, and only so many products can be nominated for an award, let alone win. 

With all of that said… let’s get down to the categories, the runners-up, and the winners!

Bricasti M21 DAC reviewed
The Bricasti M21 DAC in its platinum finish

Best Digital Audiophile Product of 2023 (Cost No Object)

And the winner is: Bricasti’s M21 Platinum Series DAC

The T+A was a close-close runner up, but in the end, the “value” (we need quotes here as these are both expensive digital components we are talking about here) was better with the Bricasti. The PS Audio is a gorgeous and ultra-accurate DAC, as one might expect. The Meitner is a pro audio world killer that transitions easily to the audiophile world with stunningly good results. 

SVS Prime Wireless Streamer
SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase Streamer etc…

Best Digital Audiophile Product of 2023 (Sub-$1,000)

And the winner is: SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase

This was another dog fight between the BlueSound and SVS, as both are a just-add-speakers low-cost solution that brings the audiophile experience to mainstream consumers. The Schiit Modi 3e DAC is the number one product that readers buy via our affiliate program (I guess that is a de facto vote from you guys), and our staff loves this small, affordable DAC for so many unique applications. The Grace Audio DAC looks like a guitar effects pedal but is a shockingly good digital-to-analog converter, as well as headphone amp from the pro world. We actually shipped this item around to a bunch of readers for them to hear just how good this small and affordable DAC sounds. The Rotel CD 11 Tribute disc player is a sad story (the famous designer died during the project just after coming over to Rotel) that resulted in one hell of a good/affordable audiophile player of silver discs. 

Pro-Ject Carbon Evo. An award winning turntable in bright red
Pro-Ject Carbon Evo. An award winning turntable in bright red

Best Audiophile Turntable of 2023

And the winner is: Pro-Ject’s Debut Carbon Evo

At $600, the Pro-ject Debut Carbon Evo strikes a perfect balance between affordability, design sexiness, and performance to get the win. The Andover SpinDeck 2 is a great place for people to start with vinyl or to dabble with the old-school world of analog. Music Hall is one of our favorite value/performance audiophile brands and they specialize in turntables but make many other cool, value-priced audiophile components too. Rega’s Planar 1 was a close runner up to the Pro-Ject in terms of design, value, and performance. 

Anthem STR Preamp Review by Andrew Dewhirst
The Anthem STR stereo preamp in silver and packing ARC room correction and a high-end internal DAC

Best Stereo Preamplifier of 2023 

And the winner is: Anthem STR

The Anthem STR does everything but HDMI switching in a $4,000 DAC-preamp that sounds killer. Literally three of our 10 staff reviewers wrote the check for the Anthem STR stereo preamp. The Bricasti is one of the most underrated high-end preamps in the space as it can compete very favorably with the luxe audio brands without the $50,000-plus price tag. Classé’s Delta PRE actually has HDMI switching, which is amazing, as well as tone control and other cool features. But unlike the Anthem STR, it doesn’t offer room correction. Topping’s Chi-Fi value is hard to argue with, as it gets to hobnob with the big-dollar players in the awards category, which is a major statement. Pass Labs’ XP-12 is a handmade audiophile gem and likely a good value at over $6,000 considering its wonderfully engineered and minimalist approach. The Pass Labs XP-12 is able to resolve amazing levels of detail compared to other preamps in its class. 

The AMPED America AAP-1 stereo preamp and DAC rack mounted
The AMPED America AAP-1 stereo preamp and DAC rack mounted

Best Audiophile Power Amp of 2023 (Cost No Object) 

And the winner is: Amped America AMP 2400

The Amped America AMP 2400 uses the same Pascal chipset that Jeff Rowland Design Group uses in its $35,000 reference switching amp. The AMPED 2400 is small, light, and runs cool like all of these new school, class-D amps, but it has a ton of power too and can drive any speaker we have tested it with. It doesn’t have its own signature sound, per se, but it punches well above its weight class. Just look at the other contenders in the group. Speaking of others in the new school Class-D world, the ADG Productions Tempo di GaN is a solid performer but expensive as compared to its direct competitors. The Pass Labs XA25 sounds fantastic as you’d expect from any of Nelson’s design. but comes at a more friendly asking price thanks to stripping out a few features like the sexy gauge and balanced inputs. The Pass Labs 60.8s are worthy of selling body parts for. They are big, heavy, and create a lot of heat while also using a lot of energy but boy do they sound fantastic. It is no wonder why Greg Handy bought his review pair. T+A isn’t a household name in the audiophile world in the U.S., but it will be soon. These German-made and incredibly well-engineered amps use distinctive voltage rail technology that others in the uber-high-end space are now using. 

The Orchard Audio Starkrimson Ultra 2.0 Gallium Nitride amp is the latest new player in the GaN amp game
The Orchard Audio Starkrimson Ultra 2.0 Gallium Nitride amp is the latest new player in the GaN amp game

Best Audiophile Power Amp of 2023 (Affordable) 

And the winner is: Orchard Audio Starkrimson Ultra 2.0 GaN Amp

The Orchard Audio Starkrimson GaN Amp deliver all of the promise of Gallium Nitride but comes in at a much more approachable price. It is a bit of a generic package physically, but sonically, nothing is sacrificed here. Those on staff who’ve heard this amp are just loving it. The NAD C 338 is a tremendous value, which is almost always the case with NAD products. The Anthem MCA225 is also a great value, as well as a beefy powerhouse that can drive nearly any speaker connected with finesse and ease. The Parasound Halo A 21+ is a classic design from a company under new management that has resulted in higher prices in recent years, which hurts value but doesn’t change its lovely sound. 

NAD C 3050 is a retro-looking but forward thinking integrated amp with every cool feature we could hope for at a very fair retail price
NAD C 3050 is a retro-looking but forward thinking integrated amp with every cool feature we could hope for at a very fair retail price

Best Audiophile Integrated Amp of 2023

And the winner is: NAD C 3050

One might think that our editorial staff has fallen for the whole vintage audio trend, but the NAD C 3050 is only vintage in terms of its look. For $1,400, it comes packing HDMI connectivity, room correction, a steaming endpoint, Bluetooth, and so much more. That’s literally everything, when no other audiophile component delivers on this many levels. The Marantz Model 30 uses one of the new-school amp technologies but comes with the care and design that only their team in Japan can deliver. The Model 30 is also truly gorgeous physically, at a price that many can actually aspire to own. The PS Audio Sprout 100 really gets the job done for audiophiles at a price that most can afford and with a fit and finish that might be expected from an integrated amp costing triple the price. People think of Pro-Ject for just turntables, but they need to look deeper into the line for products like this audiophile gem. The S.M.S.L. DA-8S was the first product reviewed by FutureAudiophile.com and for good reason. For under $200, this gorgeous but simple integrated amp is the best of what Chi-Fi brings to the table. 

STAX SR-009 electrostatic headphones reviewed by Steven Stone
STAX SR-009 electrostatic, audiophile headphones

Best Audiophile Headphones of 2023 (Wired)

And the winner is: Stax SR-009 Electrostatic Headphones

When you think of an audiophile classic in terms of headphones, who could blame you if you thought of Stax? These electrostatic Japanese headphones aren’t cheap or portable, but they sound like heaven in a world where escaping external noise has never been more important. Go to a CanJam headphone event or an audiophile show and spend 10 minutes with these headphones to experience what we are talking about. Apos Audio is one of our favorite resellers of affordable Chi-Fi gear, but they also source their own products, including some very suitable and somewhat affordable wired, audiophile headphones. The Focal Utopia headphones (2022 edition) are great sounding and truly a beautiful design. They are a bit pricey (unless you are comparing them to Stax) but there is a lot to love here. Sennheiser HD600s are a total workhorse of the wired headphone market and have been so for close to 20 years. They are affordable, high performance, and attainable. The Ultimate Ears Capitol Records Remastered in-ear-monitors are among the coolest concepts in headphones ever. These are truly portable, non-colored IEMs that are designed for studio use (and need a custom fitting, which isn’t as hard as it sounds) that easily crosses over to audiophile use as a number of FutureAudiophile.com reviewers travel with these light, super-cool headphones as part of their travel rig. 

Mark Levinson No. 5909 audiophile Bluetooth Headphones reviewed
A side view of the Mark Levinson No. 5909 Bluetooth, audiophile wireless headphone

Best Audiophile Headphones of 2023 (Wireless)

And the winner is: Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones

The Harman target curve is a description of three different headphone voicings that most people are likely to prefer and find sonically neutral, and nobody gets closer to the reference than Harman’s top-of-the-line brand Mark Levinson and the no. 5909 wireless headphones. They are comfortable, have great bass, can be worn for hours, and have great noise canceling. They aren’t cheap at $999 per pair, but you can’t want for a better set of travel headphones. The Focal Bathys are, like every Focal speaker/headphone, gorgeous. They are a bit bass-forward and have a tight fit on your head to get there, but they are an excellent option in the high-end wireless headphone space. HIFIMAN’s Deva Pro is an open-back design that brings some of what we love from our other category winner (STAX) to an under-$300 pair of headphones that now can also work via Bluetooth. These are easy to add to your headphone collection and give you a good reason to do so. The T+A Solitaire headphones measure closest to the Mark Levinson No. 5909 and are sexy as hell in white (with red ear cups). They are pretty expensive but are ultra-cool and sound simply fantastic. 

Polk Audio Reserve R200AE speakers as a pair in their only (wood) finish
Polk Audio R200AE speakers as a pair in their only (wood) finish

Best Audiophile Speaker of 2023 (Bookshelf)

And the winner is: Polk Reserve 200 Anniversary Edition Speakers

To say that we’ve been blown away by what Polk could do with these small speakers would be an understatement. These limited-edition speakers sound fantastic and image like monsters, but the build quality at this price is simply mind-blowing. Most manufacturers can’t make a speaker this well-built at any cost, let alone at this low price. Buy a pair before there aren’t any left. ELAC speakers are gorgeous and image like nobody’s business at an incredibly fair price. Speaking of ELAC, their former designer Andrew Jones, left to design speakers for MoFi that are are both a little expensive and very, very good. SVS’ Prime Wireless Pro are a killer value in the powered speaker space. We’ve heard them (and tested them) in audiophile situations and they can hang. Tekton Design brought their amazing multiple-driver midrange array to a bookshelf speaker for a mere $1,500 and they kill it. They don’t have the bass that a Pendragon does but they don’t cost as much either. 

Tekton Pendragons Reviewed by Michael Zisserson
Tekton Pendragons in Philadelphia Flyers orange

Best Audiophile Speaker of 2023 (Under $2,500 Floorstanding)

And the winner is: Tekton Design Pendragons

The industry cliché (borrowed from the wine industry) says, “If you want to be a millionaire in the speaker business, start with $20,000,000.” Yet somehow Eric Alexander has bucked that trend with his audiophile speaker brand, Tekton Design. His easy-to-drive, American made, custom painted, patented speaker designs are an audiophile sensation, and – in the case of FutureAudiophile.com – a reviewer favorite too. MartinLogan’s ElectroMotion ESLs are the company’s most affordable hybrid electrostatic and are an evolved classic at an incredibly fair price. Paradigm’s Premier 700F is as good of a dynamic speaker as you will find at its price. PSB’s Alpha T20s are another vintage-inspired audio product, but they deliver on new-school, high performance sound in ways that no old speaker could ever dream of. ScanSonic’s speakers were a very close runner-up in the voting as they are incredibly fairly priced and come with lots of trickle-down technology from their bigger  brothers. 

Bowers & Wilkins 802 D4 speakers in white
Bowers & Wilkins 802 D4 speakers in white get sanded down to a 2000 to 3000 “grit” sandpaper with actual sanding robots. No human arms were hurt in the finishing of these speakers.

Best Audiophile Speaker of 2023 (Floorstanding)

And the winner is: Bowers & Wilkins 802 D4

After all of these years, we thought we knew what 800 Series Bowers & Wilkins speakers sounded like. We were wrong. Way wrong! The revisions in the company’s latest update are so radically positive that they earned this sought-after award. If you think you already know what these $28,000 speakers sound like, we encourage you to hear them again as they are kicking $50,000 speakers square in the ass. The 802’s little brother is the Bowers & Wilkins 702, and their latest version is priced at a far more reasonable $10,000 per pair and bring a lot of what’s great about 800 Series speakers to audiophiles at a far more attainable price. The Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers are also a great high-end value in the low $20,000 range as they, like the Bowers & Wilkins 802s. compete with uber-high-end speakers costing $50,000 per pair. The Revel F328 BE speakers might be one of the best engineered speakers in the market today – so much so that a few of our staff writers use them in their reference systems. The RBH SVTR are a world-beater in the uber-expensive market thanks to their DSP, amazingly powerful bass, and large format. 

SVS SB-3000 audiophile subwoofer reviewed
SVS SB-3000 is an $1,100 sealed box (meaning not ported” subwoofer that dives to 16 Hz.

Best Audiophile Audiophile Subwoofer of 2023

And the winner is: SVS SB-3000

This was a tricky winner, in that how do you pick between the SB-3000 and SB-4000? The boss owns (and loves) the SVS SB-4000, but the price of the SVS SB-3000 versus its performance makes it the consensus winner among our staff. The ELAC Varro Reference RS500 was a real powerful contender at a very fair price. The Monoprice SW-12 quietly has a celebrity designer and (as usual) incredible value for a larger subwoofer that is good enough to hang in the audiophile world. The REL T/7x was recommended to us for use with the Magnepan LRS+ review by not one but two industry luminaries. The REL setup and user experience is great and the price makes it an easy add-on to any audiophile speaker looking to go a little bit lower than their already low lows. 

PS Audio PowerPlant 3 Audiophile Power Regenerator Reviewed
The PS Audio PowerPlant 3 is the latest version of the company’s lauded AC power regeneration products.

Best Audiophile Accessory of 2023

And the winner is: PS Audio Stellar PowerPlant 3 AC Power Regenerator

The technology in the PS Audio Stellar PowerPlant 3 isn’t new, but is vastly improved over the years to solve even more of today’s real-world power problems. The AudioQuest Niagara is a beast in its largest format and capable of delivering amazing amounts of current to your audiophile system at a slit-second’s notice. The iSonic record cleaner is for big collections and does an incredible job. The Spin-Clean system is better for smaller record collections and is ultra-easy to use and has a very low cost to get started. The Schiit Loki Max EQ brings a little bit of a Cello flash back for those of us who like the idea of equalizing our music on an album-by-album basis. 

SVS Prime Wireless Soundbase
SVS Prime Wireless Soundbase

Best Audiophile Value Component of 2023

And the winner is: SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase

This is a new category for us and the SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase is a worthy champion in that, for an impossibly low price, you get basically everything an entry-level audiophile needs to enjoy great sound – just add speakers. The NAD C 3050 impresses big time, as it has literally everything you ever need for a mere $1,400 asking price. We’ve already waxed poetic about the Polk Reserve 200s and why wouldn’t we? You need to actually see these speakers in person and you will be won over quickly. Topping is one of our favorite Chi-Fi brands and the A90D is a killer product, especially for the price. 

Don't be fooled by the retro appeal of the NAD C 3050 integrates amp as it packs room correction, Bluetooth, HDMI and much more
Don’t be fooled by the retro appeal of the NAD C 3050 integrates amp as it packs room correction, Bluetooth, HDMI and much more

FutureAudiophile.com Audiophile Component of the Year (2023)

And the winner is: NAD C 3050 Integrated Amp    

Much like at the end of the night before we all head off to Spago for the Vanity Fair Party, we need to pick the top audiophile component of the year. We mentioned that the NAD C 3050 has everything and we are not kidding. HDMI connectivity, room correction, integrated multiroom wireless audio streaming, a powerful internal amp, advanced Bluetooth, and so much more. So many audiophiles started with an NAD product back in the day and this product has even more promise than the old NAD integrated amps of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Anthem STR was a close runner-up in that over 30 percent of our staff use this $4,000 stereo preamp with room correction and a high-end internal DAC. Sonically, the Anthem STR hangs with preamps costing $10,000 than can’t do nearly as much. It was close in the voting. Are the Bowers & Wilkins 802 D4s a value at $28,000 per pair? We think so, as they will give $50,000 speakers from the biggest names in the business a run for the money (and win). The Mark Levinson No. 5909 are the headphones that you want in your travel bag or charging in the locker at the gym. They have that Harman curve sound and they are super comfortable as well as durable. 

Now it is your turn to chime in. Where did we get it right? Where do you disagree with the staff voting? Get your say below in the comments. We want to hear from you!

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You reviewed some great components this year and that made this an impressive list. Well done! Great work.
I want to let everyone know, the Polk Reserve 200 Anniversary Edition Speakers are on sale @ Polk for $799! I’m getting me a pair!

Jerry Del Colliano


Thanks for your kind words.

That’s a sick deal on those speakers!!!!

Neal Rogers

Excellent summations, clean and clear and to the point. I love the fact that there are comparisons and the way those are done.
My only wish is that the testing was also done on electrostats, as they are a very different animal ( highly resolving but with hectic impedance swings )
That said, I’ve had my eye on the STR pre-amp and AGD (Duets) (Theta Prometheus, Pass XA60 as well) to replace my RME ADI 2 FS dac and Predator hybrid integrated (250w) amp, driving Martin Logan Montis.
The Starkrimson has now also entered the fray.
Any reccomendations?
Many thanks

Jerry Del Colliano


Great to hear from you!

I own the Anthem STR as does Dewhirst and Prager. So much for SUCH a fair price. I could hear many compounded, small changes when listening to say a $10,000 Pass Labs XP-22 but that’s a TON more money, no room correction, no DAC etc…. The Anthem is SUCH a deal and you can add an external DAC (I do that currently) etc…

Regarding amps – that world has been turned on its side. I’ve had the AGD in my house and did The Pepsi Challenge with my Pass Labs XA-25 and sonically it was very close. I would go with a Starkrimson over the AGD. I think Steven Stone and Michael Zisserson (who owns an AGD at least for now). The Pass XA-60 is Greg Handy’s reference (that’s where my XP-22 went – DAMN IT:) and they are INCREDIBLE. Lots of heat, big and what not. Look at AMPED’s 2400 that uses a Pascal chip. Boris makes one hell of a power amp. Same chipset as Rowland uses for like $35,000 but Boris is $5,000. You can’t want much more unless you want to get very fancy and it will ROCK some MartinLogans. Buckeye Amps is another good one to look into. They just became a client. They use Hypex like NAD and others. Another disruptive player in the market which is a GOOD THING.

I hope this helps.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x