Home Theater Review's Best of 2012 Awards

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Home Theater Review's Best of 2012 Awards

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Wyred-4-Sound-DAC-2-review-large-keyart.jpgWyred 4 Sound DAC-2 Digital to Analog Converter - $1,499
The Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 proved to be not only an exemplary digital to analog converter but a high-end, albeit digital, audiophile preamp too. Managing Editor Andrew Robinson was so taken back by the DAC-2's performance that he felt it more ideal than traditional preamps and one better suited to today's digital culture. The DAC-2's ease of use, neutral sound and high value made it a no brainer for us, which is why it has made our best of list. 

Wyred 4 Sound mINT Integrated Amplifier - $1,499
The mINT came to us late in the year just sneaking in and are we glad it did.  This tiny but full-featured integrated amp from Wyred 4 Sound, not only packs a rack's worth of features into a small, unassuming box but provides ample power to drive most any loudspeaker - and drive them as well as Andrew Robinson found out. Playing out like a greatest hits collection of Wyred 4 Sound's finest works - including the renowned DAC-2 - the mINT is arguably all the two channel system any audiophile needs. Simply add your favorite pair of speakers and a source or two and you're done. Make that source an Oppo or Dune player and one could argue you've got the perfect modern two-channel rig available today.  Not bad for under $1,500.

NAD-T-757-AV-Receiver-Large.jpgNAD T 757 AV Receiver - $1,599
While the NAD T 757 may not do everything many modern receivers do, it more than makes up for it with soul. In the NAD tradition, the T 757 AV receiver proved to be among the better sounding AV receivers we've ever tested for both music and movies. Plus, the T 757's lack of 'bloatware', ease of setup and use make it ideal for those who just want to get on with the show. For those looking to simplify their two channel and home theater systems without having to sacrifice sound quality the NAD T 757 is waiting.

Panasonic-TC-P55ST50-plasma-HDTV-large.jpgPanasonic TC-P55ST50 Plasma HDTV - $1,699
Panasonic is known for making some of the industry's best HDTV displays and when it comes to their plasma based offerings few, if any, do it better. With the release of the TC-P55ST50 55-inch plasma HDTV, that storied Panasonic quality just became more affordable. Video Editor Adrienne Maxwell loved the ST50's updated styling and picture quality, especially for the price--stating, "...Panasonic has set the bar high in 2012 with the TC-P55ST50."

Tekton-Design-Pendragon-floorstading-speaker-review-large-keyart.jpgTekton Design Pendragon Loudspeaker -$2,499/pair
Tekton Design, a little known, Internet direct brand out of Utah, rocked the audiophile and home theater world this year with the introduction of their new, flagship loudspeaker -the Pendragon. These large floorstanding speakers are hand-made in America, use professionally sourced drivers and can be finished to the same exacting standards as another, well-known, high-end Utah brand. What makes the Pendragons even better is their sound, which our Managing Editor compared against venerable heavyweights such as Wilson Audio's MAXX 3 and Wisdom Audio's LS4 on-walls. For true, full-range, high end sound there may not be a better value in all of hi-fi right now than the Pendragon.

Sony-VPL-HW30AES-projector-large.jpgSony VPL-HW30AES SXRD Front Projector - $3,999
For those who are assembling a front-projection system on a smaller budget, the VPL-HW30AES earns our vote as the best all-around projector we've reviewed in the sub-$5,000 space. It has a lot of setup flexibility for the money, and it strikes a great balance between black level and light output to deftly reproduce 2D and 3D content. The HW30AES package includes the 3D transmitter and two pairs of active glasses; other features include 1.6x zoom, horizontal/vertical lens shifting, and 240Hz technology.

Sunbrite-4610HD-LCD-HDTV-large.jpgSunbrite Model 4610HD Outdoor HDTV - $4,295
While some of us here are still not entirely sold on the idea of outdoor viewing, no one in our offices could argue with the results achieved when testing the Sunbrite Model 4610HD. The Sunbrite Model 4610HD was so tough and impervious to the elements that we had to go to extremes in order to try and break it -extremes that included lighting it on fire, feeding it to a bear and even shooting it with a variety of high powered riffles. Believe it or not the display withstood all that punishment and then some; coming up short only when struck with multiple rounds from an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Don't shoot it with an AR-15 and the Sunbrite Model 4610HD should last a lifetime.

Classe-CP-800-stereo-preamp-review-large-keyart.jpgClasse CP-800 Stereo Preamp -$5,000
This monster two channel preamp from Classe boasts a feature set more akin to an AV receiver and yet it's a strictly two-channel product. The CP-800's almost infinite configurability matched by its neutral and wholly enjoyable sound quality make it not only one of the best preamps Classe has ever produced but among the best preamps we've ever heard. At $5,000 retail the CP-800 isn't cheap but as Andrew found out, you'd spend as much (or more) trying to match its performance and connection options a la carte, which is why we think it's a terrific value in the high-end marketplace.

Pass-Labs-XA30_5-amplifier-large.jpgPass Labs XA30.5 Class A Stereo Amplifier - $5,500
While it may not be the most "green" amplifier we've ever tested, the Pass Labs XA30.5 is one of the best sounding. Why? The XA30.5 is 100-percent pure Class A goodness for that rich, organic tube-like sound with none of the drawbacks or maintenance. Plus, with 30-Watts of power on tap the XA30.5 can power most modern loudspeakers to satisfying levels with the utmost precision and quality. That and it's from Pass Labs, so you know it's built to last right here in the good 'ol US of A.

Legacy_Audio_Signature_SE_Floorstanding_Speaker_review_large_keyart_close-up.jpgLegacy Audio Signature SE - $6,995/pair
Legacy Audio is a brand that has been around for a number of years and despite not producing a new loudspeaker every time the wind blows, when they do come to market with a new model it's generally a hit. Reviewer Brian Kahn found out first hand just how good the all-new Legacy Audio Signature SEs were when he put them through their paces in his reference system, comparing them (and favorably) to loudspeakers four to five times the Legacy's asking price.

Focal-Diablo-Utopia-bookshelf-speaker-large.jpgFocal Diablo Utopia Bookshelf Loudspeakers - $14,995/pair
While nearly fifteen grand for bookshelf speakers may seem like a lot of money (okay it is) the Focal Diablo Utopias are among the only, if not the only bookshelf speakers we've encountered that manage to run with their floorstanding counterparts. As publisher Jerry Del Colliano found out, owning a pair of Diablo Utopia bookshelf speakers was a lot like having mini Grand Utopia BEs but for a 1/20th of the cost. While we hesitate to use the word "bargain" when describing a $15,000 pair of speakers the Diablo Utopias may just be a bargain.

Sim2-M-150-LED-projector-review-large-keyart.jpgSIM2 M.150 LED DLP Front Projector -$27,995
In a year when 4K debuted at the consumer level you'd have to imagine that one of our best projectors of the year would be the Sony VPL-VW1000ES and not the HD M.150 LED DLP from SIM2 -but that's what has happened. While 4K may technically be the "better" technology, the SIM2 M.150 produced the better image, proving (again) that HD isn't ready to go quietly into that good night. While the M.150 is expensive, its superb optics, LED-based light engine and ability to be calibrated to perfection make it one of the finest projectors Managing Editor Andrew Robinson has ever laid eyes on.

Additional Resources
Explore reviews of Flat HDTVs to see if you agree with this year's pick.
Learn more in our AV Receiver and AV Preamp review section.
Find more reviews in our Floorstanding Speaker and Bookshelf Speaker review sections.
Check out our Soundbar Review section.
See last year's Best Of winners.
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HTR Product Rating for Home Theater Review's Best of 2012 Awards

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