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EISA awards 2018/19 ring the bell for Future-Fi

  • EISA. The European Image and Sound Association is a conglomerate of (some of) the world’s finest tech journalists who annually bestow awards on the best in in-car electronics, mobiles devices, home theatre, photography and hi-fi equipment.

    Winning EISA awards in the hi-fi for 2018/19 are:

    1. Micromega M-One M150 for ‘High-end innovation’
    2. Focal Clear for ‘High-end headphone’
    3. Sennheiser HD660S for ‘headphone’
    4. Harman Kardon Citation 500 for ‘Smart loudspeaker’
    5. Q Acoustics 3050i for ‘Best buy loudspeaker’
    6. ELAC Adante AS-61 for ‘Loudspeaker’
    7. Technics SL-1200GR for ‘Turntable’
    8. Chord Electronics Hugo 2 for ‘DAC’
    9. Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra for ‘Streamer’
    10. NAD M32 for ‘High-end amplifier’
    11. Pioneer A40-AE for ‘Best buy amplifier’
    12. Primare I15 Prisma for ‘Amplifier’
    13. Yamaha R-N803D for ‘Stereo receiver’
    14. Marantz ND8006/PM8006 for ‘Stereo system’
    15. Dali Callisto 6C & Sound Hub for ‘Wireless system’
    16. Naim Uniti Atom for ‘All in one system’
    17. Denon CEOL N10 for ‘Compact music system’
    18. Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 for ‘Analogue music system’
    19. iFi Audio xDSD for ‘Portable DAC/headphone amplifier’

    That’s the news but what’s the story?

    A good proportion of this year’s award-winning amplifiers advance the tradition of their sub-category to put more than one function in a single, often stylish chassis. In other words: over half a dozen pieces of Future-Fi.

    The Chord Electronics Hugo 2 gives other DACs at its price point (and beyond) a serious run for their money (especially on detail retrieval and soundstaging/stereophony) but adds beefy headphone output and a battery for a full portability to its port-holed chassis. Its bug-eyed buttons light the way so that this DAC/headphone amplifier goes where you go. Ergo, Hugo. More information here.

    Wallet won’t run to a Chord Hugo 2? iFi Audio’s xDSD portable DAC/headphone amplifier is a cheaper, smaller and considerably more stylish alternative – easily the best-looking product ever to spill from the Southport headquartered manufacturer – and one that adds aptX Bluetooth and MQA support to its array of digital inputs. Video here.

    The Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra has only just begun shipping but I’m told that EISA committee members have been hands-on with pre-production units since February of this year. This Roon Ready streamer’s outward aesthetic might err toward the pedestrian but inside is a stripped down Raspberry Pi with customised HDMI video output and low noise power supplies, augmented by a custom USB output that can double as a USB reclocker/de-noiser. More information/video here.

    The Dali Callisto 6C‘s proposition is simple: it puts amplifier/s inside each loudspeaker cabinet to add BluOS (Bluesound) streaming functionality. And if active loudspeakers remain a step too far and you’d prefer to choose your own amplifier, consider…

    The Micromega M-One M150 integrated amplifier puts Class A/B loudspeaker power – unexpected given the form factor – alongside DAC, phono stage and room correction in a single low profile chassis that, like the Devialet Expert series (also from France), looks like no other integrated amplifier. Black or white are a standard issue but any RAL colour finish is available for an additional fee. More information/video here.

    …or…

    The Naim Unit Atom is one of the finest audio products ever made. There: I said it. Why? A shoebox chassis takes the hassle out of streaming with seamless interchangeability between vTuner radio, Tidal, Spotify Connect, Roon and – far less common – Chromecast. And its top deck volume wheel oozes luxury. Just add passive loudspeakers and live happily ever after. More information/video here.

    The Primare I15 Prisma puts a DAC and streamer in front of a 60wpc amplifier for Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, Spotify Connect and Chromecast connectivity.

    The Pioneer A40-AE integrated ditches the streamer in favour of an MM phono stage; digital and turntable hook-ups in a pedestrian-looking but affordable unit.

    Lastly, and perhaps the wildest of the lot: the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 is a turntable that challenges purist sensibilities with a bespoke fit phono stage, 50wpc loudspeaker amplifier and Bluetooth streaming module fitted to its undercarriage.

    The EISA awards for 2018/19 will be formally presented to manufacturers during IFA Berlin 2018 at the end of August.

    Further information: EISA

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John is the editor of Darko.Audio, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is an occasional contributor to 6moons but has previously written pieces for TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile. John used to live in Sydney. Now he lives in Berlin.

    Follow John on YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter

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