iPod named Stereophile’s Editor’s Choice and Budget Product of the Year

In its December 2003 issue, Stereophile magazine has named the iPod as the Editor’s Choice and Budget Product of the Year. Our informant, Bill S. notes that the Editor’s Choice ‘usually goes to $30K CD players and so forth.’ Click ‘Read more’ for an excerpt from Stereophile magazine.
Reprinted with permission from the December 2003 issue of Stereophile magazine: www.stereophile.com

STEREOPHILE PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

The formal voting procedure consists of two steps: First, each of Stereophile‘s hardware reviewers is asked to nominate up to six components in each of the seven categories. To be a contender, a product had to have been reviewed in Stereophile between the November 2002 and October 2003 issues, in a full Equipment Report, a Follow-Up review, or in one of the regular columns by Sam Tellig, Art Dudley, John Marks, or Michael Fremer. That way, only those components could be nominated for which a writer had put his opinion in print for public scrutiny. We then put together a ballot form that lists all components nominated by three or more writers and/or editors. This process ensures that most of the nominees in most of the categories will have been auditioned by most of the reviewers.

Each of the magazine’s editors and reviewers gave three votes for his first choice in each category, two votes for his second choice, and one vote for his third choice (if any). JA tallied the votes; address complaints and compliments to him.

2003 Editor’s Choice: Apple iPod

Not much needs to be said about my choice for 2003. The admission may not earn me any points in politically correct audiophile circles, but Apple’s cute little iPod was the product I most enjoyed using this past year. Its large-capacity hard drive and ability to play back uncompressed AIF and WAV files pushes it ahead of run-of-the-mill portable players, while its intuitive, playlist-based interface is a harbinger of how all of us will be surfing our recorded music libraries in the near future.

Barry Willis said it best in a private e-mail: “The iPod is a groundbreaking device, a paradigm shift of the first magnitude. A designer can do anything with a big enough development budget and unlimited number of chips. While the result may be impressive, it is not really a great leap forward, given the prohibitive retail cost and cumbersome implementation. Packing the iPod’s level of performance, accessibility, and ease of use into such a small, sleek package ranks right up there with some of the great inventions of all time.”

I’ll give Chip Stern the final word: “As the stalking dawg for a new class of audio products, the iPod represents part of a long-term survival scheme for two-channel audio.”

Amen to that. Hook up an iPod to a pair of in-the-ear headphones like the Etymotic ER-4s or the new Shure E5cs, and you have true high-end sound to go. Now if only it had an S/PDIF digital output!

2003 Budget Product of the Year

Apple iPod

Everyone was surprised by this one.

Holding tight to their audiophile morals, Wes Phillips and John Atkinson did the unthinkable dirty deed: They went on a run with the fashionistas and rubbed shoulders with the beautiful people to get to know Apple’s sexy white box a bit better. Someone had to do it. Could true audiophiles take this cute little gadget seriously?

JA found that the iPod’s measured performance was better than that of many CD players, while WP was most impressed by its ease of use and lack of a single playback standard, allowing it to support even hi-rez digital files.

JA: “Excellent, cost-effective audio engineering from an unexpected source.”

WP, channeling a different Apple: “Baby, you’re a rich man!”

Stephen Mejias: “I still can’t afford it.”

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