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The end of each year has publications everywhere assemble their 'best of year' lists, features or even issues. One does appreciate how such internal stock keeping and retrospectives distill the essence and highlight what each magazine is about. Of course the sheer breadth of audio-related sites these days turns all such earnest efforts into a mad glut not unlike the commercial gluttony and pushy season's cheer which can surround the end of December. So we'll keep this short and hopefully sweet. Culling once again from just personal reviews which ended in awards and acquisitions, here are the five hifi components which for the reasons given have most lit my fire and lust in 2013. Let's start at the bottom of associated costs to partake.

The Job 225 is a genuine Swiss-made DC-coupled 200kHz stereo amp from the same Geneva factory that builds Goldmund. In fact Goldmund has a far costlier model whose only difference is a gussied-up enclosure and twin rather than single power toroid. The circuit otherwise is the same. Initially available only in 115V to Americans via eBay, the new 115/230V version ships worldwide direct from the factory for all of $1.695 delivered. Sonics are in the Bakoon/Crayon vein if not as refined and more stark. Useful power is a lot higher though. Mating the Job 225 to price-matched speakers is likely to expose their flaws and have you wish for more tone density. This very neutral ultra fast amp really belongs with more advanced speaker specimens which can handle its truth.

If that's you, don't let the compact size and price dissuade you. Perfectly quiet and based on a circuit multiple R&D teams have refined over literally decades, the Job 225 is the real deal and a true Goldmund amp in a bland casing.

If you want an equally lit-up-all-over sound but with more 'micro triode' tone and decay elements; if you want/need remote, phono, multiple inputs and a preout; and if you can do with slightly less power than the Job... the €4.250 Crayon Audio CFA-1.2 integrated is essentially a slightly sweeter Bakoon AMP-12R for less coin which significantly ups power and features. Having let the original get away after my review years ago, I'd learnt from my withdrawal symptoms in the interim. As a sonic soul brother to the Bakoon but with far higher real-world appeal, the CFA-1.2 is my favorite mid-power amp in the super-lucid category. For a slightly mellower more relaxed reading I go to my low-power FirstWatt SIT-1 monos. For loads more power than the Job I'd need Mola-Mola's Ncore Kaluga monos.

Which gets us to the whole 'who needs a preamp when your DAC's got volume' dilemma. Until I cross path with a converter that does 384kHz PCM and DSD128, has remote analog volume and sonics as good or better than my Nagra Jazz, an expensive highly engineered valve preamp still has a place in my rig. With its superlative S/N ratio, responsive remote, 0/12dB gain option and true transformer-coupled XLR i/o ports, the Jazz is the elegant heart of my system. It also ups layering and audible space and improves decays. The only DAC I could see replace it is Nagra's own set to bow in Q1 of 2014. But that'd also paint my source into a far higher price bracket than my current €3K Metrum Hex/AURALiC Vega comfort zone. So I'm still a 'two box' guy of DAC + dedicated preamp.

Part of my New Year's resolution last year had been to transition my big rig to simple 2-way monitors complementing my big Zu Submission sub. I get far more linear and resolved sound from such 3somes than from big multi-way towers. When the tiny Boenicke W5 came up for review, I thought it predestined for the desktop. Yet hearing it in the designer's 140m² loft proved otherwise. On its short skinny stilt stands the W5 + Submission worked so brilliantly in my living room that I traded Sven Boenicke back my four times pricier B10 floorstanders for two pairs of these minis - one for me, one for Ivette. It looks all wrong and blows any remaining audiophile cred to smithereens but hearing is believing. These plus a sub are honestly all most people will ever need. It's death to machismo however. Sorry.

A 93dB widebander plus Raal ribbon in a genuine tonewood enclosure with mini 'scoop' loading, the soundkaos Wave 40 is my ideal 1st-watt mate for the SIT1. With a 45Hz low-pass on the Zu sub for bottom-octave assist, this speaker plays it truly full-range. Its peculiar energy transmission works just like a violin or guitar as two instruments which relative to their size sound surprisingly big to carry. Low-volume excellence is key for this townhouse dweller. And it's here the Wave 40 maintains unbelievably satisfying 'fill'. Like the solid-wood W5, its tone mass and color saturation are perfectly satisfactory with quick wide-bandwidth transistors whilst avoiding the THD and noise liabilities of triodes.

Looking at this list, I've plainly if unwittingly succumbed to the Schweizermacher syndrome (a 1978 movie of that name poked acerbic fun at then Swiss immigration practices). Four out of my five candidates are Swiss, the fifth just crosses a border into neighboring Austria. 5½ years of living here have clearly rubbed off. Too bad hifi doesn't issue passports or we'd be proper Schweizer by now. Of course not eating fondue, flying the flag, attending Sunday church, hobnobbing with bankers or speaking French—we live in the Southern French section—takes us out of the running altogether if that movie still factors. Happily it matters not. Running a site with global reach and international product mix crosses all arbitrary borders. If for 2013 this page would suggest otherwise, it's simply a reflection that relative to its size there's really a lot of very good hifi product made right here in La Suisse. It's not all watches, chocolate and cheese then. For hifi discoveries, 2013 was a fabulous vintage indeed! So grüezi mitenand! Which is Swiss German for 'cheers'. Well, close enough. Drink up then with a toast in your mother tongue to the many hifi designers and their staff who have dedicated their lives to making ours more enjoyable. Prost!