The EISA Awards 2014-2015 announced in Berlin

September 5 2014, 23:07
EISA Awards are chosen annually by Expert Groups representing nearly 50 prominent Photography, Hi-Fi, Home Theatre Audio, Home Theatre Display & Video, In-Car Electronics and Mobile Devices magazines from up to 20 European countries. All Expert Groups work separately, but are under contract to the European Imaging & Sound Association.

EISA member magazines in each group make regular, detailed and objective test reports on Photography, Hi-Fi, Home Theatre Audio, Home Theatre Display & Video, In-Car Electronics and Mobile Devices equipment. Every year, each member magazine nominates an initial short-list of products to be considered at the Expert Group’s Awards voting sessions, held during EISA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). Prior to submission, every magazine’s short-list is approved by each title’s Editor-in-Chief. The short-list reflects each magazine’s findings during tests, as well as day to day use, and is based upon the results of each magazine’s standard test procedures.

Every year, the EISA Awards applaud the new products that combine the most advanced technology, the most desirable features, the ultimate expression of design, the most satisfying ergonomics and, of course, the greatest value for money. In short, EISA recognizes the features most likely to be appreciated by an enthusiast public seeking high quality and creative facilities.

Every year the EISA Awards are presented during an official Awards Ceremony at the starting day of the IFA show in Berlin, where official representatives of every winning company receive the corresponding Award trophy.

Here is an audio selection of some of the winners in the Hi-Fi and Mobile categories. The remarks are those from EISA's 2014-2015 Awards.

Asus Essence III
With a reputation for both advanced computer hardware and some of the best performing soundcards on the market, Asus is ideally placed to develop an external USB DAC with real audiophile pretensions. This is the Essence III, a highly versatile DAC/preamplifier with DSD-compatible USB (DSD64 and 128) plus optical and coaxial S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital inputs. The analogue stages are especially sophisticated, employing a stepped-attenuator volume control and dual-mono DACs to drive balanced line outputs and also a balanced headphone output on mini-XLRs – typically the preserve of very high-end headphone amplifiers. Its performance is as clean and incisive as the engineering, with an honest and compelling sound that puts many traditional hi-fi marques to shame!

Avantgarde Acoustic ZERO 1
Who says horn-loaded loudspeakers have to be large? This three-way active design stands just 104cm tall with each sleek-looking 32cm-deep moulded enclosure housing modified versions of the company’s XA-series high-quality 50 W amp – one for each of its two horns – plus a 400 W Class D Hypex module driving a ported 30cm woofer. Source signals are fed to just one speaker, which then syncs wirelessly with the other. What’s more, the ZERO 1 is a Plug & Play system thanks to on-board 66-bit FPGA digital processing and six built-in 24-bit Burr-Brown DACs, meaning all you have to add is your source. Advanced digital filters allow calibration of the system’s output with great accuracy to ensure time, phase and amplitude coherence across the entire audible range. Clean-sounding and airy, the ZERO 1 represents a compelling fusion of futuristic tech in a compact and user-friendly package.

Bowers & Wilkins 683 S2 Theatre
Ever since the first 600-series loudspeakers were launched in 1995, B&W’s most popular range has continued to be defined by its application of innovative technologies. The new 600 Series is no exception with all its models benefiting from the latest generation of woven Kevlar bass/mid cones that saw their debut some 20 years ago. In the slim 683 S2 floorstanders these Kevlar units are supplemented by a pair of aluminum bass drivers while the entire range of 683 S2, smaller 686 S2 wall-mountable surrounds and impressive HTM61 S2 centre speaker all feature B&W’s latest decoupled double-dome aluminum tweeter. While the 683 S2 floorstanders would grace any high quality stereo set-up, in combination with the 686 S2, HTM61 S2 and ASW610XP subwoofer they make for a glorious multichannel speaker system.

Part of the Danish brand’s five-strong RUBICON series, this full-range on-wall speaker features a version of the high frequency module first heard in the company’s EPICON line. This sees a 29mm soft dome tweeter allied to a 17x45mm ribbon tweeter, just 1mm thick, this hybrid module being ‘rotatable’ when used as centre-channel in a bid to disperse sound around the room and so avoid the traditional listening sweet-spot. A 16.5cm wood fibre cone takes on bass duties while two hidden bass-reflex ports running up the rear of the cabinet boost lower frequencies. A stylish and flexible speaker (it can also be used on a stand or shelf), the RUBICON LCR is a persuasive one-stop solution for both stereo and multichannel sound.

iFi nano iDSD
Beautiful sounds can certainly come from very small packages, as iFi’s nano iDSD serves to demonstrate. This USB DAC is powered via an internal Lithium battery that’s charged via the connected USB hub on a PC or Mac, offering up to 10 hours of playing time with most headphones or via the RCA line outputs. The single USB input confers compatibility with the highest resolution music files including 32-bit/384kHz DXD and quad-speed DSD256 and will even play DSD files directly from a mobile phone (iOS/Android) or iPad using a third-party App. The specification includes precision, temperature-compensated clocks and a bespoke headphone amp rated at 80mW but it’s the impressively sweet and insightful sound that is the nano iDSD’s most memorable feature. This has to be the hi-fi bargain of the year!

JBL Authentics L16
With styling that echoes the company’s legendary L100 Century bookshelf model from the 1970s, this desktop speaker system sees a single walnut-veneered wooden enclosure housing three drivers per side, each powered by a dedicated 50W amplifier. It also offers wireless playback via AirPlay for Apple products, DLNA for Android users, Bluetooth with NFC, twin USB inputs for charging devices, and an optional Qi charging pad can be connected for those with devices that support it. For turntable lovers, one input can be switched between a line-in, phono MM or MC. Signal processing is at 24-bit/96kHz and includes Harman’s Clari-Fi technology, which is designed to improve the sound of compressed music files. A compact classic, this stylish desktop system deserves pride of place in any music-lover’s living room.

KEF Reference 5
For over 40 years KEF’s flagship range has been distinguished by the name ‘Reference’ – an exercise in high quality engineering brought bang up-to-date for 2014 with the launch of five new Reference class loudspeakers. Available in Piano Black, Satin American Walnut and Luxury Gloss Rosewood finishes, the 1.35m tall Reference 5 stands proud as the flagship of the range. The combination of four newly-designed 6.5-inch bass drivers, with gently contoured aluminum cones designed to complement the Uni-Q point source array, deliver a deeply impressive and realistic sound. This, plus its above-average sensitivity, excellent bass extension and handsome appearance earns the Reference 5 EISA’s High-End Audio accolade.

Marantz SA8005/PM8005
Proving that stereo separates can still pack a host of functionality into a single chassis, Marantz’s SA8005 SACD player is so much more than a simple ‘disc spinner’. Not only does it breathe new life into plain vanilla CD but its full complement of digital inputs, including DSD-compatible USB, ensures the SA8005 can form the hub of a cutting-edge computer-based music system. This player/DAC is ideally partnered by the PM8005 integrated amplifier, rated at 70W/8ohm and fitted with a MM phono input to further increase the versatility of the system as a whole. The slick and richly detailed sound of this combination is more than reminiscent of Marantz’s costlier Premium series – it’s an impressive blend of performance and value.

They may be the first headphones from a company with no history in the market but these open-back, isodynamic designs are a remarkable debut. Painstakingly engineered, each of the PM1’s planar magnetic drive units features a seven-layer, yet thin, diaphragm with flat aluminum conductors on both sides. What’s more, these conductors follow a spiral pattern in a bid to maximize the spread and evenness of the driving force. It’s a design that not only saves weight but one that results in a huge leap in sensitivity compared with rivals. Add hefty yet superbly even bass and a lusciousness with richly recorded material and the PM-1 can rightly be described as the most exciting new headphones to have been released this year.

Pro-Ject Xtension 9 Evolution SuperPack
Pro-ject kicked off its Xtension line-up back in 2009 with the Xtension 12, a relatively large deck designed to take 12-inch tonearms. This SuperPack sees the company’s more rack-friendly Xtension 9 Evolution turntable pre-fitted with the latest version of its one-piece carbon fibre 9CC Evolution tonearm plus the range-topping Black moving-coil cartridge from Ortofon’s Quintet series. The result is a turntable that sounds smooth and assured, yet is certainly no slouch when it comes to digging deep into the grooves in search of detail. Add clarity, crispness and a presentation that manages to sound solid yet punchy when the occasion demands and you have a turntable package that is nothing if not value for money.

Samsung M7
This stylish, wedge-shaped wireless speaker has a trick up its sleeve. Not only can it stream music from a variety of sources and access services like Spotify and Deezer directly, but run the company’s Multiroom app on a tablet or smartphone and music can be sent to other M7 speakers around your home. The speaker itself houses twin 19mm tweeters, two 56mm midrange drivers and a 10cm woofer while Bluetooth connectivity, a touch-sensitive volume control and the ability to decode FLAC files up to 44.1kHz/16-bit only add to its appeal. And it’s no slouch when it comes to sound quality either, the M7 boasting a rich, weighty and room-filling presentation that is able to punch hard when appropriate.

The multinational corporation responsible for audio milestones such as the revolutionary Walkman, the digital compact disc and SACD is embarking on another initiative to bring hi-fi replay back to the top of consumers’ wish lists. Its new ‘hi-res audio’ separates are fronted by the HAP-Z1ES digital music file player featuring a built-in 1TB hard drive and USB expansion port. The HAP-Z1ES connects to a home network via wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and it provides internet radio using the vTuner platform but it replays music files directly from its internal drive for a truly consistent and self-contained performance. Dynamic and spacious, the HAP-Z1ES has the capacity to sound all the sweeter with its user-selectable DSD-upsampling mode. It’s the perfect digital source for all your hi-res downloads.

Focal Dimension
When designing its premium HDMI 2.0-equipped soundbar, Focal naturally began with the drivers, producing a full-range wide-dispersion speaker just 3.6 cm deep. The Dimension soundbar includes five of these ultra-thin drivers coupled to a 6 x 75 W class D amplifier. Low frequencies up to 200 Hz are mono reproduced by all the speakers except the center channel, with a bass reflex port tuned to 65 Hz. The additional sixth amp can be used to power the optional external dual-driver subwoofer that integrates with the soundbar to form a soundbase design, and brings an even more impactful bass ideal for movie soundtracks and big orchestral pieces. Advanced DSP optimizes the Dimension’s performance to the listening environment, with phase and delay controls helping to control the 5.1 audio. And when you don’t fancy a movie, the Dimension can also function as a direct music player via its AUX input and optional Bluetooth aptX connection.

Not only is LG’s LAB540 a slim soundbase speaker that fits neatly beneath a TV, it is also a complete home theatre 4.1 system, offering a 3D-compatible Blu-ray player, Smart TV functionality and audio playback. This king of convergence packs four speakers (40 W per channel) into its main unit, joined by a wireless 160 W subwoofer to ensure a deep, bass-rich performance. An HDMI port and an optical audio input are provided for external connections, while networking with mobile devices is possible via DLNA, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth. Drives and other mobile devices are supported through the USB port. With audio compatibility extending to popular formats such as AAC, FLAC and DTS-HD Master Audio, convenient control via LG’s dedicated app and headphone listening courtesy of the Private Sound feature, the LAB540 is a remarkable all-in-one solution.

Panasonic DMP-BDT700
Panasonic’s range-topping Blu-ray player, the DMP-BDT700, focuses on bringing top-quality video – and audio – to a home theatre setup. For the latter, its improved UniPhier chipset separates processing of audio and video signals, with the video path able to be switched off entirely. The result is audiophile sound, delivered through discrete 7.1-channel analogue outputs and 192kHz/32-bit DACs, or via digital outputs. Picture and audio quality can be adjusted via in-depth tuning options – including color and gamma settings – in a simple-to-use interface. Full HD Blu-ray images showcase impressive detail, and the DMP-BDT700 can upscale them to THX-certified 4K resolution. Additional features of this elegantly-designed player include external media playback from USB, SD card and a home network (with support for hi-res FLAC and WAV files), plus access to Panasonic’s content-rich Viera Connect platform. Overall, this is a modern, forward-thinking disc player.

Philips Fidelio E5
With its detachable wireless speakers, the Philips Fidelio E5 goes a step beyond a traditional home theatre solution, offering consumers the ability to switch effortlessly between normal stereo and a 4.1-channel surround experience. Switching is simple – just a matter of removing the two rear speakers from the top of the stereo cabinets and placing them in the surround positions. When reverting to two-channel playback, the speakers re-charge their batteries. The inclusion of aptX Bluetooth streaming, Dolby Digital/Pro-Logic II decoding and dual HDMI inputs transforms the Fidelio E5 into a versatile home theatre hub, and the performance from its soft dome tweeters, full-range drivers and separate wireless subwoofer is as accomplished with music as it is with movie and TV material. And not only does the E5 sound good – it’s also beautifully made.

Pioneer VSX-924
A home theatre receiver that offers excellent value, Pioneer’s VSX-924 is packed with up-to-date technologies, providing enthusiasts with HDMI 2.0/4K compatibility with 18Gbps bitrates and 4:4:4 color sampling. This potent video stage is matched by Pioneer’s signature sound. Advanced Energy Direct amplification (7 x 105W) and audiophile D/A circuitry – including a sophisticated ESS SABRE DAC – ensure multichannel movie soundtracks are rich and detailed. For music fans, the VSX-924 supports numerous file formats, even DSD, and connective options include both AirPlay and Bluetooth, plus full DLNA 1.5 compatibility. Meanwhile, the iControlAV5 app for tablet PCs and smartphones (iOS and Android) streamlines operation. An inspired product that delivers masses of high-end entertainment at a truly affordable price.

Yamaha CX-A5000/MX-A5000
Yamaha’s flagship AV pre-/power amplifier combination from its AVENTAGE range features an 11.2-channel, 4K-compatible processor that offers state-of-the-art connectivity and all the features the serious home theatre fan could want, plus a heavyweight 11 x 150W power amp. The two separates, both of which employ rigid vibration-damped chassis, hook up via balanced XLR or cinch connections. In tandem they are exhilarating and able to enliven even the dullest-sounding speakers. The CX-A5000’s parametric equalizer produces superb room correction, including extensive bass management, with all eleven channels individually assignable to suit a variety of configurations. Meanwhile, the MX-A5000 utilizes its discrete amps to deliver astonishing levels of power. Overall, Yamaha’s CX-A5000/MX-A5000 pairing makes a superb choice for a high-end home theatre.

It is sound quality that has won these AKG headphones an EISA Award. The K845BT is an over-the-ear headset that uses 50mm drivers, a bass reflex design, large ear pads and a metallic headband. The headphones offer a choice of cable connectivity or Bluetooth pairing, assisted by NFC. Lightweight, comfortable and stylish, the set folds for portability and storage, and when used wirelessly batteries last almost 8 hours - charging is carried out via a Micro-USB adapter. This is a good looking headset with easily accessed controls, deep bass, and well balanced, enjoyable sound. AKG’s K845BT is not only ideal for listening to music, as with an integrated microphone these headphones are also great for mobile calling.

Harman Kardon Esquire Mini
A highly attractive, portable and stylish active loudspeaker that features 2x4W of power, the Esquire Mini delivers an excellent audio experience with remarkably high sound quality. The design is slim and elegant, and the construction is durable, while a built-in stand keeps the speaker upright for best performance. The Esquire Mini is made for people on the move so it comes with built-in 8 hour rechargeable battery and USB for charging external devices. In addition, it can be used as a hands-free speaker for phone calls. The Esquire Mini wins this EISA Award for its excellent features and its impressive sound quality.

Morel ULTIMO 10 Titanium
The ULTIMO 10 Titanium represents today’s top of the range product from one of the founders of modern loudspeaker technology. This model uses a titanium former in the voice coil, which allows it to withstand a huge amount of power. In addition, the ULTIMO 10 Titanium uses a unique over-sized 13 cm Hexatech External Voice Coil. This subwoofer also features Morel’s new and efficient Dual Magnet Motor, which has a copper skin around the magnet to achieve top-notch sound quality. Well suited for compact boxes, this is one of the best subwoofers available, offering a combination of power and sound quality rarely seen in a single product.


Alpine X800D-ML

Audison AP8.9 bit

Audison bit Play HD

Ground Zero GZPC 163SQ-LTD

Morel ULTIMO 10 Titanium


Pioneer AVIC-F60DAB

Rainbow GL-C6.2
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