The SoundStage! Australia Products of the Year Awards 2023

Here we go folks. I’m sitting at my desk looking out at the Narrowneck escarpment – and yes, it’s blue – thinking about what this time of year means for this publication. To me, it literally feels like it was just last week I was compiling last year’s SoundStage! Australia Awards, and now I’m doing the exact same thing again for 2023’s selections. Amazing. Going back and surveying the extraordinary products we reviewed throughout the year, I am pleased with the breadth of categories we, as a dedicated SoundStage! Australia team of authors, smashed through in 2023.

Of course, the Awards’ shortlisting process involved applying our usual standards and measures with, as always, the dominating criteria being sonic quality as the unyielding ‘Priority Number 1’. Then, secondary aspects such as build quality, functionality and features come into play. Product heritage plays a part, as does aesthetic beauty and the potential for longevity. Value for money is also deliberated over. All factors are considered and reconsidered before, AI-like, our human algorithm chews-over and expels out a decisive final result for the 2023 shortlist.

Products of the Year

I’d like to thank our dedicated writers around the country who have played a vital part in expanding our reviewed products catalogue. Their product examination served as a support system for awards appraisal and the eventual short-listing of the select components. Like any demographic, our reviewing team features diverse writing styles and personal approaches to the evaluation process. Thanks also to my Network colleagues up ‘True North’ for their assistance throughout the year. What unites us all is our common passion for music and an enthusiasm for discovering the nuances of outstanding audio products.

SoundStage! Australia owes its Australian and global growth to a loyal, expanding readership via our website and strong social media following. And of course, the growing viewership through our YouTube channel’s varied series, with a special mention going to our excellent, must-see ‘InSight’ productions. Also ICYMI, you’ve got to check out our ‘SoundStage! Audiophile Podcast’. This year’s Season 2 has a mix of really cool topics and guests.

Finally, I’m filled with gratitude for the continued backing by our network of corporate supporters. Thank you all!

Wishing each and every one of you a Festive Season filled with musical discoveries and here’s to a Peaceful 2024!

Cue Awards entrance…

… Edgar Kramer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Below is a short description of each category in order to provide a measure of insight into our award rationale.

Hall of Fame Award recognises an outstanding product that is current but has been inspired, or pays contemporary homage, to an earlier generation with a rich history or that may have achieved classic status. This Award may not be presented every year, of course.

Evolutionary Design Achievement awards products which are inspired by, or are an advancement of, a respected multi-generational lineage, now re-engineered with modern materials and refined manufacturing methodologies. Of course, the sonic performance is state-of-the-art.

Outstanding Performance is awarded to a fine-tuned product presenting exceptional sound quality and is among ‘the best of the best’.

Innovation in Design places importance on a product that offers a point of difference in terms of unique features, advanced engineering or innovative design.

Aesthetics & Sound Quality is self-explanatory but with an emphasis on high-performing audio that is also aesthetically beautiful.

Exceptional Value combines dollar mileage with superb performance aspects.

Extraordinary Auxiliaries honours the excellence of essentials which are in supplementary support to audio components.

Products of the Year 2023

Please note: We include a short reviewer’s ‘grab’ as a general prompt, however, we suggest reading the originally-published review (click on the product title) for the complete reviewer’s evaluation.

Evolutionary Design Achievement

Totaldac d1-triunity DAC, Reviewed by Edgar Kramer – May 2023


“An inescapable digital-speed attraction. Within my realms of obtainability, it reigns supreme and, beyond that, it’s in line with the very finest DACs I’ve reviewed. There were some doozies there too… The d1-triunity sits right there, with select peers, among the DAC reference products available today.”

Wilson Audio Sasha V Loudspeakers, Reviewed by Edgar Kramer – September 2023


“There’s an extraordinary, even obsessive, level of attention to detail across all aspects of the product… [Sasha V] motivates engagement, presenting all the information required for such involvement. Yet, it does so in a way that draws the listener away from dissecting and scrutinising the music. Sasha V provides effortless musical participation… it’s almost like it urges a locked bond with the music and its creators.”

Outstanding Performance

Bowers & Wilkins 702 S3 Loudspeakers, Reviewed by Edgar Kramer – August 2023


“What should a floorstanding speaker in the AU$10K space offer? It should be neutral, transparent to the signal being fed, provide powerful dynamics and deep low frequencies… it should throw a large soundscape with well-placed images. Tonality should be neutral and detail rendered with mindfulness to the source… Yes, Bowers & Wilkins’ 702 S3’s wide scope of talents meets each and every one of those attributes.”

Electrocompaniet AW 800 M Power Amplifier, Reviewed by Tom Waters – September 2023


“The AW 800 M is firmly into the more impassioned, clear, full-bodied and articulate style of modern amplifiers. Its slight upper bass and lower midrange emphasis and ultra-clean sweet treble gives it an inviting and very “musical” presentation… If you can afford the sticker price, then definitely give the AW 800 M a listen. If you can’t, then don’t, because you’ll then know what you’ve been missing, and you’ll definitely want to buy it. Yes, it really is that good.”

Revival Audio Atalante 5 Loudspeakers, Reviewed by Steven JM Polley – February 2023


“The Atalante 5 speakers completely involve you by synchronously interlacing rich details, impeccable imaging, sonic purity and musicality… If you are in the market for a new pair of speakers and have an appetite for the finer things in sound with a nod to nostalgic looks, the Atalante 5 speakers will nourish your ears and trigger your musical senses to greater heights. You’ll be as astonished, as I was, at how good these speakers sound.”

Soulnote S-3 Reference SACD Player + X-3 Clock Generator, Reviewed by Edgar Kramer – July 2023


“I was struck by the Soulnote S-3 Reference’s superb tonal faithfulness and its overall refinement in the way it handles micro-detail. There’s no doubt however, that the two products [S-3 and X-3] are like hand in glove in terms of working together to bring forth what could be a sonic performance on par with the very best of digital at just about any price point.”

Stenheim Alumine Two SE Loudspeakers, Reviewed by Barry James Johnston – November 2023


“No fuss, no esoteric nonsense in their aesthetics, just pure simple, elegant, albeit slightly brutalist designs, well-engineered crossovers, and extremely well thought out fit and finish. And above all else, they perform. This is a purist’s company, an engineer’s company, an intellectual offering in a sea of ever-increasing eclectic exoticism.”

Innovation in Design

Weiss Engineering HELIOS DAC, Reviewed by Tom Waters – October 2023


“I didn’t think I was possibly in the market for a new DAC, until I heard the new HELIOS… HELIOS is beautifully balanced across all frequencies and with all genres of music. And it has the ability to bring out the tiniest micro detail imaginable – it has by far the best detail retrieval I have ever heard. Its retrieval of depth in recordings and its layering of the sound stage are also by far the best I have ever heard.”

Aesthetics & Sound Quality

Aqua Acoustic Quality La Diva M2 CD Transport, Reviewed by Edgar Kramer – November 2023


“The Aqua Acoustic Quality La Diva M2 is at the vanguard of the CD format’s purest principles… with La Diva M2 and Formula xHD, you’ll hear fluid, full-bodied, solidly dynamic, cinemascope-dimensioned music, which is also rich in tonal textures. Simply, the combo is a must-audition if shopping in this combined price point.”

Metronome Technologie Le Player 4+ CD Player/DAC, Reviewed by Barry James Johnston – July 2023


“With the Le Player 4+ it feels like a great balance of visual aesthetic, quality build, premium product, future proof integration and pure and simple enjoyment. This is a solid offering from Metronome Technologie and one that is technically extremely capable… this unit is killer. If you have the dollars, and you’re looking for a new CD player, or an upgrade, I highly recommend the Le Player 4+. Vive La France!”

Sonus faber Serafino G2 Homage Loudspeakers, Reviewed by Edgar Kramer – November 2023


“As the orchestra ebbs and swells, so does Serafino, tracking the expressiveness of the composition without stressing the drivers, nor hardening the highs when played rather loudly… Sonus faber’s creations have paid homage to famous violin artisans who have produced instruments of extraordinary craftsmanship. Yes, Serafino G2 Homage also expresses that very beauty while sustaining it… and progresses the tradition.”

Exceptional Value

Dellichord FR6 Loudspeakers, Reviewed by Edgar Kramer – April 2023


“I’m indeed struggling to think of another standmount which is so superficially common-looking, yet with its guts hiding a high quality isobaric driver and its rear end flaunting an oval passive as key elements of its design architecture. Plus, for a first offering, my opinion is that the FR6 succeeds at presenting a refined, full-bodied and musical sound signature.”

Yamaha NS-2000A Loudspeakers, Reviewed by Barry James Johnston – August 2023


“Nothing seemed to fall short, or at any point become disappointingly lacking on any level, with the Yamahas being simultaneously revealing while perhaps forgiving with some less well mastered material… I think, even if we are focused on the dollars, the esoteric, or the status, you will find that if you sit in front of the NS-2000A, you’ll hear that Yamaha just brought back a little bit of magic.”

Extraordinary Auxiliaries

Aspire Audio Belgravia Equipment Rack, Reviewed by Edgar Kramer – March 2023


“The Aspire Audio Belgravia component rack features an immaculate level of finish while its precision-cut shelves are available in a wide selection of high quality timbers. Further, the metalwork is expertly machined and finished. The standard configurations will cater for a very wide assortment of electronic component sizes. Add to all that the clever, yet simple coupling schemes, and you have a hi-fi racking system of an elevated standard…”

VYDA Laboratories Orion Silver Line HFC Cables, Reviewed by Edgar Kramer – April 2023


“Once in a while I receive for review a product which synergises within my system in a way which meets my somewhat hard-to-please requirements. Said product must be musically and emotively provoking. It must be a trigger for enjoyment… it must also be truthful enough, analytical enough (in a literal sense), to expose sonic variances in a wide mix of products. When that happens, if I can make the splash, I’ll dive right in. And right now, I’m well below the surface…”