AVRev.com's Top 100 of 2004 
Home Theater Feature Articles Best Of & Top 100 Lists
Written by AVRev.com   
Wednesday, 01 December 2004

We are back again with our list of guaranteed winners from the world of high value and high performance audio video. Many changes have been made to the list from 2003 to 2004 including the addition of many new and exciting plasmas, LCDs, projectors and other video products.

The AVR staff considered overall performance, value, design, uniqueness and stability as a basis for our rankings. It is important to note that any winner on our list should be considered a fantastic AV product. Ranking matter but to make the list in its own right is the ultimate compliment considering how competitive the multi-billion dollar consumer electronics business has become.

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

99. Slappa CD and DVD storage
A unique way to ditch those jewel cases. These cases contain SLAPPA's special d2 pockets, which allow you to store your discs with the original covers without taking up extra space. SLAPPA's are available in a wide-variety of sizes, ranging from the petite 40-disc case to the 360 Pro.

98. Etymotic Research ER4 earphones
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.

97. Canton Ergo 5.0 speaker system
Brian Kahn compares this speaker system to ones from MartinLogan and Revel at a lower price.

96. Pioneer Elite DV-47Ai DVD player
For the money, this player covers all of the high-resolution formats in a way that sets the bar for value.

95. Outlaw Audio ICBM
The ugly problem of bass management - solved.

94. Dynaudio Audience 5.1 speaker system
It might not get all of the hype of B&W, Paradigm or PSB, but Dyn's Audience line can definitely hang with the big boys.

93. Krell KAV400xi integrated amp
Del Colliano’s Dad uses this integrated amp's older brother (the 300iL) 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.

92. Anthem Statement P5 amp
Dr. Zell compares this amp favorably to ones costing many times the retail price.

Linn Classik Movie DI system
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.

90. Sony PlayStation 2
PlayStation 2 shows its long-term relevancy for yet another holiday season with great game titles and lower prices.

89. Morel Octwin 5.2M speakers
One of the most unique speakers you will ever see and hear - and you will definitely be glad you heard it.

88. Microsoft Xbox
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.

87. Equi-Tech Model Q AC power conditioner
The AC power product used by the pros in the studio can reduce your noise threshold like no other product. Review coming soon.

86. Lexicon RT10 universal 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.

85. 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.

84. ASC Tube Traps
Less expensive than RPG 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.

83. RPG room treatments
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.

82. Meyer Sound EQs
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.

81. Anthem Pre 2 stereo 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.

80. AVIA: Guide to Home Theater (home theater setup disc)
Simpler than Digital Video Essentials, the AVIA disc is an affordable way to get more from your video system.

79. Humax DRT-800 DVD Recorder with TiVo
One of the latest products by Humax, incorporating the best of both worlds - TiVo and DVD recording.

78. Harman Kardon AVR630 receiver
Pair sexy industrial design with some technological heat and you have a winner for a $1,299 receiver.

77. Digital Video Essentials home theater setup disc
More complex than AVIA's disc but also covers more in terms of HDTV. It also comes in HDTV formats like D-VHS.

76. Yamaha RXZ9 receiver
In the fast-moving world of high-power receivers, Yamaha's best has some serious staying power.

75. Paradigm SA-35/SA-15R In-Wall 5.1 speaker system
Most in-walls are nothing more than speakers cut into drywall. Paradigm's are something much more.

74. RBH Compact Theater speakers
Crafted in Utah, these tiny speakers have the power to play back big Hollywood movies and concert-like soundtracks.

73. Paradigm Studio 100 V.3 speaker system
If you ever wanted to teach a snobby audiophile a lesson about speakers, you might A-B test these Paradigms versus their speakers costing four times the price.

72. 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.

71. Linn Kontrol stereo preamp
Just like the CD12, the Linn Kontrol takes the audio preamp to the limits of analog technology.

70. Exact Power EP15a power regenerator
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.

69. 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.

68. Definitive Technology SuperCube Reference subwoofer
Like the trend that Sunfire started, this small Definitive sub certainly doesn’t sound diminutive.

67. Goo Systems Screen Goo paint-on video screens
With the prices of good HD digital projectors dropping, this affordable “paint” system allows you to roll a screen (with a paint roller) right on to your drywall for a fraction of the price of a fixed or roll-down screen.

66. SIM2 DOMINO 20 DLP projector
DLP projectors are not all created equal and SIM2 has fine-tuned this projector for optimal performance in the home theater environment.

65. Integra DTR-6.4 receiver
A mid-priced AV receiver that comes packed with all sorts of bells and whistles that you might expect to see in a high-end AV preamp.

64. ReplayTV 5504 DVR
TiVo isn’t the only game in town for the TV enthusiast. ReplayTV offers a number of features that set it above the pack.

63. Energy Connoisseur C5
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.

62. V, Inc Bravo D2 DVD player
Sold direct, this ultra-affordable DVD player is highlighted by its DVI video outputs designed for the video enthusiast.

61. Middle Atlantic equipment racks
As theaters get increasingly complex, the new status symbol for installers and clients alike is a really tricked-out rack installation. Middle Atlantic has all of the stock and custom parts you need to make your rack a work of art.

60. Revel Studio loudspeakers
Physically smaller than the Salons, the Revel Studios get very groovy for way less money than their bigger sisters.

59. Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature amp
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.

58. Richard Gray's Power Company 1200s and SubStation
Ben Shyman learned to love the combo of the lauded RGPC 1200s and the new Substation to cure his Manhattan AC power maladies.

57. Velodyne Digital Drive Series DD-12 subwoofer
Velodyne was one of the first to the market with a self-correcting EQed subwoofer that is reasonably affordable.

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

55. Ultralink HDMI digital video cable
The HDMI spec allows for HD video, high-resolution audio and system control on one cable. Ultralink is a leader in high-performance, reliable HDMI cable.

54. Meridian G98 DVD player
If you were thinking of splurging on one component for your home theater that plays sultry music and dynamic soundtracks, the G98 is the choice.

53. Marantz VP-12S3 DLP projector
A number of top AV installers repeatedly tell us that this is their DLP of choice. Tom Garcia agrees.

52. Definitive Technology 7002 Bipolar Super Towers
We wouldn’t call these speakers “bi-polar” in terms of their personality, unless you were talking about how well they play back rock music and thunderous movie soundtracks.

51. RBH Signature Series speakers
In the world of ultimate speakers, RBH simply doesn’t get enough credit for making fine speakers that compete with MartinLogan, Revel, Linn and even their neighbor Wilson. In terms of speed and dynamics, RBH’s Signature speakers get it done.

50. MartinLogan Montage speakers
Unlike any MartinLogans ever released, Montages have the ability to blend into modern rooms with ease and playback home theater material better than past models at a lower price.

49. Linn Sondek LP12 turntable
The first and last turntable AVR will ever review. The player is so finely tuned and over-engineered that it can bring a dead audio format literally back to life right before your ears. AVR editor Bryan Southard can’t stop going into San Francisco to buy used LPs each weekend.

48. Rotel RDV 1060 DVD player
Smooth industrial design is the sexy dress on this hard-body DVD player.

47. 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.

46. Linn CD12 CD player
Most likely the best dedicated CD player ever built. Linn is selling the last 50 units of this limited edition player in 2005.

45. Marantz DV8400 universal player
This player is a high-end DVD player masquerading as a mid-priced universal player. Built like a tank and truly a value.

44. 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.

43. Sunfire Ultimate 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.

42. Sunfire True Subwoofer EQ Signature
Sunfire invented the small sub and now have the tools to make it perform better in your room.

41. 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.

40. B&W DM303 speakers
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.

39. Stewart Filmscreens
The industry standard for video screen technology for home theater use, Stewart has products that have motorized masking and roll-down features, as well as unique fabrics that are custom designed to get the most from your digital projectors.

38. Anthem AVM30 AV preamp
Even if they didn’t drop the price by $500, this preamp has all of the features you need in 2005 to rock your theater.

37. Apple 60 GB iPod
A former AVR Product of the Year, the iPod, along with iTunes, has changed the way we all enjoy, buy and store music.

36. Energy Connoisseur 5.1 speaker system
Slim speakers with, as Spinal Tap would say, a “Big Bottom” perfectly suited for theater applications.

35. Sunfire Theater Grand IV AV preamp
Sunfire’s latest version of their value-oriented AV preamp boasts hot new DSP features but also, best of all, solid reliability that preamps costing five times more would die for.

34. Paradigm Reference Seismic 12 subwoofer
Engineered like the sub was built for a NASA project, this little woofer rocks to depths only heard on a Roland 808 synth.

33. Outlaw Audio LFM-1 subwoofer
Value, value, value – you get more boom for your room with a tiny investment.

32. NAD T773 AV receiver
NAD’s feature-laden receiver is the gateway to high-performance home theater without having to fork over ten grand.

31. Fujitsu 50 Inch plasma
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.

30. Revel Sub 30 subwoofer with room correction
With dramatically improved styling and clearly audible sonic improvements over the B15, the Sub 30 makes a strong case for being the absolute best AV subwoofer in the world.

29. Request ARQ-Fusion 250 music server
Like an iPod on steroids in your equipment rack, the ReQuest Fusion 250 allows you access to your music in ways that are not possible with a simple CD player.

28. Runco 61-Inch plasma
Superior contrast stats, vivid colors and a powerful video processor make Runco’s case for why it is king of the hill in the big-dollar plasma market.

27. MartinLogan Prodigy speakers
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.

26. Classe CA-M400 mono power amps
The winner of the coolest-looking new AV product of the year is the completely redesigned Classe line. These mono block amps are feature-laden and ready to successfully compete with Levinson, Krell and Linn at the absolute highest level.

25. LG 52 Inch Widescreen DLP Rear Projection HDTV Monitor
HDTV that is big, bright and thinner than Paris Hilton yet affordable is the reality with this rear projection DLP set.

24. Linn UNIDISC SC player
In the ultimate source category, the Linn Unidisc has to be considered on the very short list of players that do it all and is engineered to tolerances that are what you would expect from a Rolls Royce aircraft engine.

23. Gallo Due speakers
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.

22. Revel Performa F32 speakers
Ask audiophiles if they had to sell their $20,000 speakers and get a much cheaper pair and they may tell you that they would order Revel F32s.

21. Axiom Audio Epic Grand speakers
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.

20. Aperion Audio Intimus 5.1 speaker system
Direct sales from Aperion allows them to sell Home Theater enthusiasts speakers that would cost three or four times more in a traditional retail store. Worried about buying speakers on-line? Just ask their customers how glad they are that they bought Aperion.

19. Polk LSi9 speakers
These speakers have the energy and life to bring both high-resolution audio sources and the most incredible movie soundtracks to life with sound as brilliant as your HDTV’s picture.

18. Meridian G68 AV preamp
When most high-end AV companies simply outsource the development of their preamps to Asia, Meridian has an entirely new platform for their more affordable line that Southard is raving about in early testing.

17. Meridian 861 AV preamp
Cost be damned with this $24,000 AV preamp, with results that sound better than darn near everything on the market at any price. Version 4 adds a tricky new room correction card to optimize the speakers in your room.

16. Panasonic PT-L500U LCD Projector
When industry insiders started snapping up this $2,400 LCD projector, we took note. HDTV on a large screen has never been more reasonable. A perfect projector to combine with Screen Goo in a large-scale, value-based video system.

15. Escient Fireball DVDM100 DVD and music server
In 2004 the category of video management devices really blossomed and for the dollar the Escient is the best of the best.

14. Samsung PPM63H3 63 inch plasma monitor
Bigger is always better to most Americans. Samsung proves this point with their whopping 63 inch plasma that is easy to use yet super stealth in most rooms.

13. Mirage Omni Sat speakers
Among the most unique speakers to be released in the last few years, the Omni Sats allow you to install speakers in places where speakers never used to go. The sound is open and liquid, all for a bargain price.

12. Transparent Reference audio-video cables
In 2004, Transparent’s audio cables went on a diet, with their network boxes shrinking for rack-based installations. Their new video cables, including Reference Component and HDMI, are about as good as it gets.

11. Wilson WATT Puppy Version 7
Wilson’s classic speaker design is continually being refined as if it were the Porsche 911 of loudspeakers. Fast, sexy, slim and lust-worthy - if you’ve got the funds to make it happen, owning these speakers is a dream come true.

10. Sony 34 inch XBR CRT HDTV
CRT is very close to going away forever, thanks to the rise in the popularity of flat TVs. However, for $2,500, you simply cannot beat the picture of this set at any price.

9. Xhifi XDC-1 desktop speakers
You spend more time at your desk than in your theater and xHiFi’s nifty $995 system, including digital amps and a subwoofer, is a worthy investment for any AV enthusiast. Enjoy your music from Internet radio, MP3s, CDs, video games and elsewhere with audiophile performance. It won’t take you 10 seconds listening to the XDC1s before you toss your cheap computer speakers in the trash.

8. AMX MVP8400 Modero remote control system
Modern systems have become too complicated for the average person to control. An eight-inch color AMX control system with professional programming is the high-end answer to making your system jump through all of its hoops for each and every member of your family.

7. Revel Salon speakers
Still the reigning king of the hill of high-end speakers, say the majority of AVR reviewers.

6. Sharp LC30HV6U Aquos LCD widescreen television
LCD sets haven’t gotten as big as plasmas yet. However, many insiders like their blacks better and think they are more likely to last longer than today’s plasmas.

5. DirecTV HD10-250 HDTV DVR with TiVo
Being able to record HDTV using TiVo’s interface is simply too cool to resist. Now the idea of “nothing being on in HD” is your fault because you can easily program your TiVo to record everything you could ever hope to watch while you are out.

4. 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.

3. B&W 703 speakers
These speakers do everything right, just as you’d expect from a $20,000 pair of floor-standing speakers. The surprise is that they cost $3,000 per pair. Every detail is meticulously engineered from the actual drivers down to the incredibly well-made packaging. Anyone would be impressed with these speakers.

2. Anthem Statement D1 AV preamp
There are more expensive AV preamps, but there might not be a better one than Anthem’s D1 Director. With upgradeability to multiple HDMI and DVI switching, along with tons of processing power, this preamp well exceeds its $4,999 price tag in value. It couldn’t have come closer to winning the number one product of the year on the AVR Top 100 list.

#1. Sirius Satellite Radio
It isn’t Howard Stern’s pending arrival that makes Sirius so good – it is the superior programming as compared to their satellite and terrestrial radio competitors.

Each musical niche is covered on Sirius, with careful attention to always sticking with the hits in ways that other broadcasters repeatedly fail to do. Nationwide coverage is just the beginning for Sirius, which plans to promote music in surround sound, as well as video broadcasts as the company transcends from a satellite radio company to a wireless content provider.

Whether you retrofit your current car with aftermarket equipment or order your next ride with satellite radio, the idea of living without Sirius is nothing short of unthinkable.

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