Reviewers Choice Awards | 2021

Reviewers Choice Award Winners for 2021

Before we hand out our Editors Choice, Best Value and Product of the Year Awards for 2021, here’s a summary of the winners of our Reviewers Choice Award for 2021. These are the products that received a formal review in the pages of Part-Time Audiophile over the last year and earned the Reviewers Choice–from one of the PTA writers–at the time of review publication.

Please hold your applause until the end. Thank you.

reviewers choice

Reviewers Choice 2021: Loudspeakers

Bowers and Wilkins 603 S2 Anniversary ($1,990 pr USD)

Eric Franklin Shook: “What Bowers & Wilkins have done with the 603 S2 Anniversary, and possibly the 600 Series at large, is create a speaker that is immediately compelling to listen to with what could be considered the widest variety of music that real people enjoy most frequently—twentieth century rock-n-roll.”

volti razz

Volti Audio RAZZ (starting at $5,900 pr USD)

Marc Phillips: “I love playing ‘and now for something completely different’ when it comes to high-end audio. The Volti Audio Razzes were that, but so much more. They can charm both camps—the people who want to listen critically in a quiet room alone, or those who want to invite a few people over for a memorable evening of music. A Reviewers Choice award winner.”

marten oscar duo

Marten Oscar Duo ($6,999 pr USD)

Marc Phillips: “Based on sound alone, these are incredible values—you’re definitely getting a small monitor that sounds much larger than it is, but the world-class imaging and soundstaging takes the Duos to another level.”

living voice pta

Living Voice IBX-R3 (starting at $7,750 pr USD)

John Richardson: “Well, I’ll cut directly to the chase and tell you that I bought the review pair. Why? The short answer is that I’ve wanted for some time a pair of speakers that would bring out the best in the low-powered amps I love to collect and feel real passion about.”

acora acoustics

Acora Acoustics SRB ($15,000 pr USD w/SRS-G stands +$5,000 USD)

Marc Phillips: “These are people who know what they’re doing in terms of design and execution, but they are also warm and friendly people who understand why we do this, why we make loudspeakers out of stone and why we pay prices most people think are insane just to get a little closer to our music.”

Reviewers Choice 2021: Preamplifiers

Audio by Van Alstine FET Valve CFR (starting at $2,099 USD)

Marc Phillips: “The Frank Van Alstine FET Valve CFR deserves a Reviewer’s Choice Award—it offers a resounding YES to the idea that you can still get a preamplifier that performs extremely well and has plenty of features and does everything you want it to do.”

reviewers choice model 125

Jeff Rowland Design Group Capri S2-SC (starting at $4,950 USD)

Marc Phillips: “If you want, you can have all that. That’s why “lifestyle” products are all about…a way to shake things up and do it your own way and get great sound the way you want it. Something that challenges my beliefs in this manner deserves a Reviewers Choice Award.”

pass labs

Pass Labs XP-22 ($9,500 USD)

Marc Phillips: “I had so many random epiphanies about the music I was playing, so many ideas that I ultimately wrote down, with at least some level of clarity because the Pass Labs gear allowed me that space to do the deep thinking about music.”

mola mola reviewers choice award pta

Mola Mola Makua ($12,200 USD)

Grover Neville: “It feels like it has just enough of that human touch to temper the startling clarity and detail into something eminently listenable, yet that will still satisfy the high-end listener in search of the highest heights of resolution and detail at almost any cost.”

reviewers choice allnic

Allnic Audio L-8000 DHT ($22,900 USD)

Grover Neville: “When was the last time you heard a piece of gear that let you listen how you like, to whatever you like? I can’t recall the last time a piece of gear didn’t direct my attention in one particular way or another. And somehow this coexisted with that DHT magic that made everything just a little more beautiful and special sounding.”


Reviewers Choice 2021: Amplifiers

Decware Zen Triode SE84UFO2 ($1,395 USD)

John Richardson: “But it’s not simply about quantity of watts, but rather the quality of the watts that you do get. And here, you get some pretty refined, high quality power, and more than you might think when it comes down to actually driving (and enjoying) a pair of quality speakers of reasonable sensitivity.”

reviewers choice jrdg

Jeff Rowland Design Group Model 125 ($3,300 USD)

Marc Phillips: “This level of high-end audio performance can be enjoyed with someone who is working with a small space, or maybe just a crowded domicile. How many new audiophiles could be recruited when we stop showing them photos of dedicated listening rooms with 1200 lb. loudspeakers and 500 lb. amplifiers?”

parasound reviewers choice pta

Parasound Halo JC 5 ($5,995 USD)

Graig Neville: “It provided a fine balance between the fork in the proverbial audiophile road of good sound and accuracy. Inherently neutral, accurate without being dry, no solid state etching or harshness whatsoever, and imaging and soundstage that could compete with similarly priced tube amps – this all adds up to what I think is a big win for Parasound. Reviewers Choice.”

reviewers choice mcintosh

McIntosh MC1502 ($11,000 USD)

Dave McNair: “It has the cleanliness, low noise, and bandwidth of the best sounding modern amp designs with just enough of the special sauce that I love about tubes and transformers. True high-end audiophile sound in all its refined glory, without any rare tube types, finicky setup, or usage idiosyncrasies. Plus, LOTS of power and some fun features all in a beautiful package built to last a lifetime and beyond.”

border patrol reviewer's choice

BorderPatrol P21 EXD (starting at $13,150 USD)

John Richardson: ‘It’s one of the most beguilingly neutral and honest amplifiers I have ever experienced. As I mentioned before, it took me some time to adjust to its uniquely open presentation and fully learn to appreciate it. It’s still kind of amusing to me that my non-audiophile friends got it right away, and yet it took me a long time to fully appreciate what they were trying to tell me!”

margules audio

Reviewers Choice 2021: Integrated Amplifiers

Margules I-240 ($6,000 USD)

Marc Phillips: “Or maybe you just keep this little gem as it is and bask in its natural and utterly realistic glow and spend the rest of your days thinking about neural acoustics and engaging sound instead of bells and whistles.”

pta reviewers choice

Audio Hungary Qualiton X-200 ($6,499 USD)

Dave McNair: “Any minute sonic compromises made by Qualiton for this price point are of a very mature and thought-out nature. If this is the kind of system you want to build, the Audio Hungary Qualiton X200 should be at the top of your list for a serious audition.”

lfd reviewers choice

LFD NCSE Mk. III ($7,350 USD)

Marc Phillips: “Once I plugged the LFD NCSE Mk. 3 into the reference system, it didn’t come out until it was time to send it back even though there were other more expensive amps waiting in line. I simply didn’t want to be without it. Those rich musical textures were too addictive, and the NCSE was strong enough to make some very fine and expensive gear sound its very best.”

reviewers choice part-time audiophile

Jeff Rowland Design Group Continuum S2 (starting at $10,499 USD)

Marc Phillips: “Wait, there it is again. That sound. That feeling of power and control and everything humming together—ironically, with no hum—as a precision machine. No electronic artifacts, no glitches, just pure quiet and the giddy anticipation of more music.”

total dac

Reviewers Choice 2021: Digital Players

TotalDAC d1-tube-mk 2 ($10,985 USD)

Grover Neville: “Not that I want DACs that sound like vinyl, but rather DACs that channel the really dense, filled-in soundstage that are part of what make vinyl so satisfying. The TotalDAC channeled this while preserving the linearity of digital audio in the frequency domain, rather than taking on the frequency response colorations of the vinyl cutting process.”

reviewers choice grimm

Grimm Audio MU1 ($11,625 USD)

Grover Neville: “If you’re in the pursuit of the best, I can see this server taking an epic system to the very summit of the peak. For the true digital perfectionist, this could very well be the perfect piece of summit-fi you didn’t know you needed. For the rest of us, there’s many great flavors of beer.”

triode wire labs

Reviewers Choice 2021: Cables

Triode Wire Labs ($399-$1,399 USD)

Grover Neville: “There’s an elusive shimmer to audio plankton and micro-detail when things in a system are playing right, that causes them to dance just at the edge of perception. Not too forward, not absent, but just present enough to make you lean in and want to hear more. For me, the Triode Wire Labs cables collection of little improvements all drove towards this point.”

technics sl-1210GAE

Reviewers Choice 2021: Turntables and Tonearms

Technics SL-1210GAE Anniversary ($4,000 USD)

Mohammed Samji: “The Technics SL-1210GAE Anniversary was a blast to have in my room. It wasn’t the best turntable that I have tested, but it was the most fun. What stood out is its simplicity and how approachable the table was. It is a table that is made to be played.”

acoustic signature

Acoustic Signature Typhoon NEO ($15,595 USD)

Dave McNair: “I heard a whole lot more of what I love about playing records when I played them on the Acoustic Signature Typhoon NEO/TA-5000 setup. Enough said.”

reviewers choice phono preamplifiers

Reviewers Choice 2021: Phono Preamplifiers

Parasound Halo JC 3+ ($3,000 USD)

Marc Phillips: “Like other Parasound products that are far closer to the state-of-the-art than the price would suggest—the big Halo monoblocks come to mind—you have to treat the JC 3+ as something of a gift, a product from a great engineering mind produced by a company that keeps impressing me over and over.”

reviewers choice turntables

Reviewers Choice 2021: Phono Cartridges

Hana Umami Red ($3,950 USD)

Marc Phillips: “I’m not fond of making number-based judgments on the sound of a component, so I really don’t want to say something insipid like ‘it competes with cartridges at twice the price!’ But that’s what the little opinionated voice in the back of my head is telling me to write.”

Reviewers Choice 2021: Accessories

Acora Acoustics SRS-G Speaker Stands ($5,000 USD)

Marc Phillips: “If there’s still a question of who would buy such a stand for li’l ol’ two-way monitors, at least other than people like me who are obsessed with finding the perfect bookshelf transducer, remember that there are plenty of five-figure mini-monitors out there that will reach new heights of performance with the SRS-Gs.”


Once again, congratulations to all of these PTA Reviewer’s Choice winners for 2021. And please stick around for Editor’s Choice, Best Value and Product of the Year in the coming days.

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