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Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson
December 2000

Reviewers' Choice: Right and Right

With this issue of SoundStage!, we finish our fifth full year of monthly publishing on the Internet. We've changed greatly over time, brought on new writers, improved the way we review products, and generally worked very hard to make SoundStage! a continually better source of information on high-end audio.

And for our fifth anniversary, as well as to end Y2K with a bang, we publish five reviews of Reviewers' Choice products. Interestingly, the two speakers named Reviewers' Choice this month, the Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 6 and Axiom Millennia 3Ti, are very different, yet each earns the RC nod. I'm reminded of one of Stereophile's more noteworthy covers (and perhaps, not coincidentally, the first cover when the magazine switched to a full-size format). It shows a Cary SET tube amp along with the big Krell KSA-300S, and its caption reads: "If either of these amplifiers is RIGHT…then the other must be WRONG."

Yes, it sticks in the mind, as it was intended to. It's provocative, and the same is true of the fact that the costly floorstanding WATT/Puppy 6 and dainty budget-priced Axiom Millennia 3Ti are both named Reviewers' Choice products. The honor has two different aims, and they are put into high relief by these two fine speakers.

On the one hand are products rightfully state of the art in performance regardless of price. Although the WATT/Puppy 6es are not the most expensive speakers Wilson Audio makes, they are still very costly. But of greatest importance is their sound, which is breathtaking in its beauty and truth. The WATT/Puppy 6es are state of the art for sure, and they will make it harder for speakers that enter my room in the future to earn Reviewers' Choice status. Truly great products do that -- reorder the ranks.

The Axiom speakers, in contrast, are neither expensive nor state of the art. But they are tremendous bargains, offering sound quality that far exceeds their meager cost. As much as I love products like the WATT/Puppy 6, it's products such as the Axioms that really catch my attention -- because they surprise me. The old adage that anyone can build a good expensive product, but it takes some real skill to build a good cheap one is soooo true. I've heard from Doug Schneider about the Axiom speakers for months, so I was especially interested to read their full story -- and finally know more about the little speakers that could.

If you look through the Reviewers' Choice lists for this and previous years, you'll see impressive product after impressive product, and that's the point. These are the best of the best -- based on sheer performance or value -- and we're proud to have told you about them. But there's more to come. At CES 2001, we'll once again give out our year-end Reviewers' Choice awards, to products in seven categories. Of course, the companies whose products we honor love to be praised above and beyond the reviews they've received, and we love to get the chance to give another plug to products we think are exemplary -- all of which sound good, but some also being especially good values.

So watch us while we cover the CES and T.H.E. Show from Las Vegas and plug some products that were right to begin with -- and right again as the new year begins.

...Marc Mickelson

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