AVRev.com's Top 100 of 2003 
Home Theater Feature Articles Best Of & Top 100 Lists
Written by AVRev.com   
Monday, 01 December 2003

We have changed up the format for our Best Of awards this year to reflect the top 100 audio-video and home theater products in the world. Any product found on this list is worthy of consideration for any good AV system. While we pay due respect to ultimate products that cost a fortune, special attention is paid to more affordable gear. You’ll see high-performance gear that doesn’t break the bank making its way towards the top of the list this year.

If the list seems controversial, that is okay with us. The gear mentioned has been reviewed by us and is still current (to the best of our knowledge) in the marketplace.. The rankings for the list have been compiled from the opinions of AudioRevolution.com’s reviewers and editors. Final say was determined by AudioRevolution.com’s publisher Jerry Del Colliano. Products on the Best Of list receive a framed award, as well as art for their website.

100. PS Audio P600 (AC power)
The originator and heavyweight champ of the AC power regeneration world, the P600 is an impressive design. Its large size and limited ability to work with all amps bumps it down our list.

99. Outlaw Audio ICBM (bass management device)
Not all AV preamps or high-res players have very good bass management. This affordable device allows you to send the frequencies that you want to the speakers that you own in a way that guarantees your DVD-Audio and SACD sound their best. Many systems cannot live without this component.

98. Slappa Storage (CD-DVD storage)
What a unique way to take your music and movies on the road. A number of AR reviewers mentioned their desire to ditch their jewel cases completely and store their music in Slappa cases.

97. Klipsch SA3 (outdoor speakers)
People say that you should enjoy your music in the quietest environment possible. Southard says his Meridian-Levinson system sounds best outside, while a fine filet can be heard grilling in the background.

96. SAS Checkpoint (speaker setup tool)
You can’t eyeball the placement of your speakers, but with this laser tool, you can get your imaging to come to life.

95. Camelot Technology Roundtable 2 (DVD player)
One of the best-sounding DVD players we have heard for music as well as film soundtracks. This player is built like a brick shithouse and includes a fancy video processor.

94. Escient Fireball (music storage device)
This unit goes head to head with the Request server and offers the user incredible flexibility in creating playlists and archiving of music collections, all in once place.

93. Jolida JD202a with Level One Mods (integrated amp)
Another value-oriented audiophile product that captures the passion of music without damaging your credit rating.

92. Crystal View 2 (CRT projector)
All AudioRevolution.com writers argue that CRT projectors still make the best picture one can buy. Crystal View continues the tradition of big-bun, big-dollar projectors, but offers a new twist: in-home set-up and performance mods.

91. Mark Levinson No. 390s (CD player/preamp)
The No. 390s are all you need, other than an amp and a pair of speakers, in order to have a high-end audio system that rivals the best.

90. ASC Tube Traps
Less expensive than RG treatments, ASC acoustical treatments are a bit more in your face, but one or two pairs can quickly solve evil acoustic problems in your room. Think we’re kidding – try removing them from your room and then do some critical listening.

89. RPG (room acoustics)
There comes a point in all high-end audio systems when your room is more a factor in the success of your sound than your gear. RPG’s room treatment products (absorption, diffusion, etc.) allow you to make the most of the room and gear you have.

88. Etymotic Research ER4 (in-earmonitors)
Jam these little suckers in your ears (you might need custom ear molds) and enter your own world of audio. Perfect for a travel audio system using an iPod and a Headroom Airhead amp.

87. Sony PlayStation 2 (video games)
The machine that allowed video gaming industry to compete with Hollywood Movie studio in terms of revenue. The PS2 is still a force to be reckoned with, even with Xbox on the scene.

86. Microsoft Xbox (video games)
Bill Gates’ video game system adds even more technical sophistication to the world of video gaming. Online gaming and a growing list of strong titles makes Xbox hard to resist for the home theater enthusiast.

85. Digital Video Essentials (DVD setup disc)
Use this $25 DVD to find the last level of performance from your TV, projector or plasma. All with the latest grids, graphs and tuning techniques from video guru Joe Kane.

84. SIM2 HT200 (DLP projector)
SIM2 takes the DLP concept and adds in important performance enhancements to elements like the color wheel and then wraps it in a very sexy package. Hard to go wrong for movie playback on a big screen.

83. Meyer Sound EQs (pro audio EQ)
The tool of the serious room tuner, this EQ gives audio gurus like Bob Hodas the chance to polish the little details of your system to a fine glow. Don’t believe the anti-EQ hype. A professional tuning of your room with a good EQ gets you the most from your system in your room.

82. Marantz SR19ex (receiver)
Another receiver that does it all for a fair price that specifically caught editor Bryan Southard’s attention.

81. Shanling T100 With Level 1 Mods (CD player)
One look at this CD player makes you want to own it. With the appeal of an old Oracle turntable, this CD player, with its performance mods, has the sound to back up its beauty.

80. Rogue Audio Magnum 88 (tube amp)
The AR editorial staff loves tubes, and this modestly-priced tube power amp hits the market niche left by Sonic Frontiers.

79. Krell KAV300iL (integrated amp)
Del Colliano’s dad uses this integrated amp on an older pair of Wilson WATT Puppies for a more reasonable solution for someone looking for a serious high-end audio system on a budget.

78. Mark Levinson (formerly Proceed) HPA2 HPA3 (power amp)
When you are looking for Levinson-like sound for all of your channels and your budget can’t swing Mark Levinson amps for every channel, these bad boys are the call. They are soon to be re-released under the Mark Levinson brand name.

77. Portal Audio Panache (integrated amp)
The idea of the integrated amp is not a new one, but selling a high-end one direct is. Sonically, this all-in-one package is something to behold.

76. Energy Connoisseur C5 (loudspeakers)
Another killer floor-standing speaker from Canada that doesn’t break the bank. If you had to pick between the CM4, you’d have a tough choice. Whichever one sounds better with Barry White would get our vote.

75. B&W CM4 (loudspeakers)
These B&W floor-standing speakers have become a reference standard for reviewer Brian Kahn because of their modern look and resolved sound.

74. Linn Classik Movie system Di (combo DVD-receiver)
The Linn Classik Movie DI gives you a nice taste of a reference Linn home theater system at a far lower price all-in-one chassis. Many improvements were made from the DI version from the original.

73. RBH Compact Theater (loudspeakers)
If you like the idea of home theater in a box but are offended by the crappy speakers that you get for under $1,000, you need to look into this RBH system.

72. Anthem Pre 2 (preamp)
For people with expensive taste in high-end audio gear who can’t buck up for the big-dollar gear, this Anthem preamp is a winner.

71. Krell FPB 400cx (amplifier)
This big beefy Krell amp powers Augie’s MartinLogans to unbelievable levels, never running out of current.

70. Sunfire True Subwoofer Jr. (subwoofer)
Bob’s baby woofer is far more affordable than his signature woofer, but it still rocks unbelievably hard for its size and price.

69. Yamaha RXV1 (AV receiver)
This receiver has the power to hang with separates and the flexibility to handle all of the latest AV formats for a fair price.

68. Madrigal Imaging MPD-1 D-ILA (digital projector)
While Madrigal Imaging might have been a failed marketing experiment for Harman, this projector is anything but a failure. Madrigal Imaging now has a new owner and this projector represents an even better value.

67. Meridian 568.2 (AV preamp)
The new G series Meridian gear is on its way, but the 562.2, with a direct digital connection for DVD-Audio, might be the best-sounding real-world high-end audio combo you can buy.

66. Linn Klimax Twin (amp)
With its diminutive physical size yet big sound, this $9,000 amp powered Bryan Southard’s Revel Salons like a champ.

65. Conrad Johnson Premier 17LS (preamp)
Far less expensive than the Linn or Levinson, the CJ 17LS caught our attention for its notably more tubular and American sound at a fair price.

64. Linn Kontrol (preamp)
Just like the CD12, the Linn Kontrol takes the audio preamp to the limits of analog technology.

63. Kenwood Sovereign VR5700 (receiver)
For those who want it all from their home theater controller without all of the cost.

62. Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature (amplifiers)
Powered by Bob Carver’s tracking downconverter amp technology, this amp packs 400 watts times five for a price that makes the ultra-high end guys jealous. Some AR reviewers use this amp along with a high-end stereo amp in $100k-plus systems because its smooth sound and reserve of power can easily keep up.

61. DynAudio Audience 52 (loudspeaker)
Everyone needs small speakers somewhere in their lives and these are as good as you will hear for a home theater.

60. Clark Synthesis Tactical Transducer (accessory)
Whether you are standing on stage or luxuriating in your Hot Springs home spa or playing a movie at awesome volumes, the Clark Transducer creates low-frequency energy that goes lower that practically every subwoofer we have ever seen.

59. Parasound Halo P3 (stereo preamp)
Finally, cool-looking audio that people can afford. The fact it looks great is secondary to the audio performance that Brian Kahn loves.

58. MartinLogan Descent (subwoofer)
MartinLogans are famous loudspeakers, but they have never been known for their ultra-low bass. That is, until now. This sub is based on technology derived from MartinLogan’s $70,000 E2 Statement speakers and fits nicely even in non-ML speaker systems.

57. Mark Levinson No.436 (amp)
The days of the high-end Mark Levinson amp being parked between your speakers is coming to an end. Now it is parked in your equipment rack and it sounds even better.

56. Philips Pronto (remote control)
The original touch screen remote remains one of the best and most affordable ways to make your system behave without pulling off a balancing act with 12 remotes.

55. Revel Studio (loudspeaker)
Physically smaller than the Salons, the Revel Studios get very groovy for way less money than their bigger sisters.

54. Transparent Power Isolator (AC power)
Ed Masterson and Bryan Southard swear that this unsung hero is one of the best AC power devices on the market.

53. Krell TAS (amplifier)
Krell amps are legendary but rack-mounting three FPB600’s might just be physically impossible. The TAS packs big Krell power into a more feasible, home theater-friendly package.

52. Kenwood Sovereign DV5700 (DVD player)
A handful of AR reviewers use this player as their DVD-Audio player of choice. Do not miss out on the internal Faroudja video processor, all for under $1,000.

51. MartinLogan Aeon-I (loudspeakers)
Part of the beauty of MartinLogans is their within-reach pricing in the world of high-end loudspeakers. The Aeon-I’s will take you places musically that more traditional speakers will not.

50. Stewart Film Screen
Another AudioRevolution.com reviewer consensus is on Stewart Filmscreens. Whether you have a CRT or a digital projector, Stewart has a screen and fabric that optimizes your picture.

49. Mark Levinson No.32
A number of AudioRevolution.com reviewers would go to the mat over this component being the best stereo preamp on the market today.

48. Lexus SC430 (car audio)
The ride is smooth and the audio is tight in any Lexus, with the Mark Levinson sound system installed as a factory option. Traffic jams have less focus on traffic and more on jam.

47. Paradigm Studio 80 (loudspeakers)
Floor-standing speakers that our reviewers recommend to our friends when they want it all without spending a lot of hard-earned cash.

46. Lexicon RT10 (DVD-Audio, SACD player)
There are an increasing number of inexpensive “universal” DVD-Audio/SACD players on the market, but if your system is more high-end, you will enjoy the performance advantages of this Lexicon.

45. B&K AVR307 (receiver)
Another receiver that sounds like high-end separates but packed in one chassis, the B&K is an awesome value.

44. Sony HD200 (HDTV receiver)
While it will soon be upgraded to an HD300 version, the HD200 is a radical improvement over the HD100 unit. If you want to pull in HDTV from DirecTV or an antenna, this is the component to do it with.

43. RBH Signature Series (loudspeakers)
Don’t confuse RBH as the “other” speaker company in Utah because they make some of the most killer speakers on the market, especially their Signature speakers. RHB owners rave about their dynamics and wives love the exotic custom wood finishes that are nothing short of spectacular.

42. Xhifi XDC-1 (desktop loudspeakers)
Most of us find ourselves spending more time listening to music at our desk than in front of our rigs at home. The XDC-1 is a sexy little setup for $995 that sounds silky smooth with a bit of bump from a nice subwoofer powered by a digital amp.

41. Definitive Technology Super Cube 1 (subwoofer)
Another small subwoofer with impressive low-end bump is the Definitive Super Cube.

40. Krell HTS 7.1 (AV preamp)
Sexy-looking, with features and sound to go along with it, the Krell HTS 7.1 allows for a no-compromise audio guy to make the move to home theater without selling out on his audiophile roots.

39. Runco 61-Inch Plasma (HDTV)
At 61 inches and including a badass video processor, this Runco set-up begs the question of why you would want a projector. There might not be a better picture on a plasma anywhere in the world, and at 61 inches, it is a big picture.

38. Morel Nova (speaker)
With a very unique physical design from a company known for their fantastic drivers, the Morel Nova is a speaker that caught the attention of our reviewers.

37. Meridian 598 (CD DVD player)
If it weren’t for the Meridian 800, the 598 would be ranked higher. It does the same digital connection for DVD-Audio into Meridian preamps and can toast all but the best CD players on the market in a head to head comparison. If you only have one source component in a high-end system, the 598 might be it.

36. Sunfire Ultimate Receiver (Receiver)
What more mainstream receivers lack is seven channels of beefy Bob Carver power and the ease of use of the Sunfire Theater Grand III AV preamp all in one chassis.

35. Richard Gray's Power Company 12 (AC power)
RGPC’s AC technology is very simple (and patented) and it works like a champ to provide your video and audio gear with a reserve of rock-solid power and the best surge protection we have seen to date. Some AR reviewers use both an Exact EP15a and multiple RGPCs.

34. Exact Power EP15a (AC power)
Patented sub-cycle waveform correction, precision voltage regulation, and up to 1500 watts on-demand in one cool box. The EP15A delivers lab standard power in the home so your AV gear can perform to its maximum potential.

33. Lexicon MC12 (AV preamp)
At $10,000, the MC12 is an expensive AV preamp by anyone’s measure, but its studio-inspired sound and rock-solid stability wins over fans quickly.

32. Meridian 861 (AV preamp)
Priced close to $20,000, the Meridian 861 is one of the (if not THE) finest AV preamps money can buy. Unique features include digital room correction and a special digital connection for DVD-Audio and DVD-Video soundtracks.

31. NAD T571 (CD-DVD Changer)
Custom installers agree with Augie that this DLP is the king of the hill right now. With DVI inputs, it allows you to hotrod your DVD picture or connect your Faroudja NRS digitally.

30. Marantz VP12s2 (projector)
Custom installers agree with Augie that this DLP is the king of the hill right now. With DVI inputs, it allows you to hotrod your DVD picture or connect your Faroudja NRS digitally.

29. Request Server (music storage)
You can archive more songs than you ever thought possible in ways you never dreamed of with touch-screen access to the song titles and cover art via your Crestron remote. Request defines music at your fingertips.

28. Revel F30 (loudspeakers)
At $3,500 per pair these speakers are an outright high-end AV steal. Their look and size are soon to be updated, but the F30s might be the best speaker value in the history of high-end AV.

27. Krell FPB 350 MCx (power amp)
These mono block amps are the makings of a high-end audio dream come true. Krell amps might have the best bass performance of any amp on the market.

26. Fujitsu 50 Inch Plasma (HDTV)
With DVI inputs, a new lower price and a sexy exterior design, the latest Fujitsu 50-inch plasma appeals to the video enthusiast who wants a stunning picture for both movies and HDTV.

25. Gallo Due (loudspeakers)
These little grapefruit-like loudspeakers are perfect to fit into places where speakers just won’t go. Unlike other small, overly marketed speakers that you see late at night on infomercials, Gallos sound smooth and dynamic, while being easy on the pocketbook. They do need a sub for full-range performance.

24. Transparent Reference (AV cables)
Another consensus among AR reviews is on Transparent Cables. Their component video cable is more affordable than you might think and looks outrageously good. Their speaker cables and interconnects are the reference standard of high-end AV systems worldwide. Their dealers also have a liberal trade-in/trade-up policy for consumers working their way up the AV food chain.

23. Rocket RS750 (loudspeakers)
Some say they look like Sonus Fabers. Others say they look better. Some think they sound like speakers from the U.K. but for way less money. For the customer who wants an amazing amount of high-end audio bang for the buck from an Internet-only speaker, Rocket’s RS750 is a lot of speaker for just over $1,000 per pair.

22. MartinLogan Prodigy (loudspeakers)
The number two most popular speakers among AR reviewers, the MartinLogan Prodigy can rock harder than past ML speakers, allowing for them to keep up with the dynamic impact in crash-and-burn Hollywood blockbusters, as well as the most delicate string quartets.

21. B&W DM303 (loudspeakers)
They might be small but they rock. At their well under $500 per pair price point, it is hard to beat the B&W DM303.

20. Classé SSP30 (AV preamp)
Priced to kill and more reliable than much of the competition, the Classe’ SP30 won over the heart of Ed Masterson as well as custom installers who love both the sound and the reliability of this preamp.

19. Axiom Audio Epic Grand (loudspeakers)
Another company ready to bend over backward to sell you a pair of value-oriented, high-performance speakers is Axiom Audio. For those who love the sound of the best Canadian speakers but want big-sounding speakers on a small budget – these demand a click to check out.

18. Linn CD12 (CD player)
Back up the Brinks truck for this $20,000 CD player, but if you have the coin to be able to make the CD12 an owned reality, you are in for a treat. The CD12 is to the compact disc than the LP12 is to vinyl – the state of the art.

17. Aperion Audio Intimus (loudspeakers)
Of the new breed of direct-to-the-consumer speakers, Aperion Audio makes one of the absolute best. Their website is ultra-slick yet personable. Readers rave about how Aperion bends over backward in the buying process.

16. Definitive Technology BP3000TL (loudspeakers)
Surprisingly smooth for music yet suitably powerful for movie soundtrack playback, the Definitive BP3000TLs are nothing short of impressive and, compared to the more pricey big speakers on the market, a great value.

15. Mirage Omni Sat (loudspeakers)
This new application for loudspeakers allows custom installers and creative end users the ability to fit high-performance 5.1 speakers into rooms that normally wouldn’t accommodate top-notch speakers.

14. Sunfire True Subwoofer Signature (subwoofer)
Smaller than the Revel B15 and a lot less money. AR reviewers still marvel at how Bob Carver is able to get so much bass from such a small box. This woofer can fit in spots that other woofers simply cannot.

13. Revel B15 (subwoofer)
The B15 was the first subwoofer to give the average Joe a chance to actually setup his sub with the correct levels, EQ and phase, thanks to its slick set-up software. At $3,000, it is far from cheap, but it integrates seamlessly with the best speakers the AV industry has to offer.

12. Faroudja NRS (video proccessor)
Literally every AR reviewer with a plasma or a projector in his/her system also has a Faroudja NRS in as the video processor. The NRS can be configured in many ways to improve the picture of Plasmas, digital projectors, CRT projectors and beyond.

11. Wilson WATT Puppy Version 7 (loudspeakers)
Dave Wilson and his design team keep refining an already historic speaker design. New WATT Puppies boast smoother mids and even better bass. A speaker to sell a kidney for.
Review coming soon...

10. Revel Salon (loudspeakers)
More AR reviewers own Revel speakers (and pick fights with Del Colliano about them) than any other brand. Revel’s smooth and warm sound never loses accuracy even at absurd Bryan Southard listening levels.

9. V Inc. Bravo D-1 (DVD player)
No reviewer can believe this player costs $199. Its DVI output into a plasma or digital projector is breathtaking and then you realize again that it is $199 and you are even more impressed.

8. Anthem AVM 20 (AV preamp)
Barely anyone can afford or justify a $30,000 AV preamp, but tens of thousands of AV enthusiasts can afford the investment in an AVM20. This sucker has all of the bells and whistles, and offers audio quality that makes you wish you never even looked at a receiver.

7. Sunfire Theater Grand III (AV preamp)
The Sunfire TGIII goes head to head with the Anthem AVM20 in the marketplace. Our reviewers comment on its warm, Bob Carver sound and its remarkable simplicity.

6. Sony 34XBR910 (HDTV)
CRT TVs are on their last legs, with LCD and plasmas now on the market, but for the a little over $2,000, this TV makes the best picture any of us have seen this side of $30,000. While 34 inches isn’t huge for a home theater, this XBR WEGA makes a frighteningly good picture for every home theater and HDTV enthusiast.

5. Meridian 800 (DVD player)
The 800 might be the ultimate source component. Its audio performance is unmatched for CD and DVD-Audio, but its video performance for DVDs makes the 800’s $20,000 price tag something that causes serious video nuts to write big checks.

4. Energy Take 5.2 (loudspeakers)
Bang for your buck defined. These speakers are a complete solution, easy to use and also great-sounding. Oh yeah, you can afford them, too.

3. Apple iPod (music storage)
The fact that the Apple iPod allows you to carry 4000 songs in your pocket is certainly a perk, but now, with their iTunes software and pay-per-download service, the iPod is even more essential. If you love music, you need an iPod to take with you to the gym, to play in the car, to connect to your computer at work and beyond.

2. Mark Levinson No.40 (AV preamp)
This $30,000 AV processor oozes cool factor and has the technology to back up its lofty high-end audio history with both stunning audio and video performance. The two-chassis monster pulls off feats like video transcoding (converting S-Video, for example, to component) that you won’t find in other AV preamps. The No. 40, if you can find one these days, is the perfect no-compromise product to convert an audiophile system into a true high-end home theater that doesn’t forget its audio roots.

1. TiVo (personal video recorder)
We couldn’t imagine living without TiVo. This one service makes television exponentially more valuable. Easier to program than a VCR and far easier to use, TiVo is a must-have for anyone with a TV. We dream of a day when there is an HDTV TiVo. We hear DirecTV will have one available in Q1 2004.

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