It's Been a Year Full of Highlights ... When Looking Back over This Year's Products in Order to Choose the Best, the Real Problem Has Been Deciding What to Leave Out

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One of the questions I'm often asked is how I manage to get products to review. The answer is that the main problem is trying to cram all the interesting new arrivals into the limited space available. Now comes the end-of-year task of picking the best for Audio Editor's Choice honours.

The most obvious contender is the Naim ND5 XS network music player, reviewed in the April issue: significantly more affordable than the company's NDX player, the ND5 XS is a very accomplished network 'tuner' able to bring to life everything from low-bitrate internet radio stations to the highest-resolution downloads widely available right now. It's upgradable, too--you can add the company's XP5 XS power supply, at which point you have a level of performance dangerously close to the NDX.

Also striking were the tiny Neat Iota speakers, reviewed in May: suitable for use on desktops, shelves or wall-brackets, the Iotas deliver a sound way beyond their size both in scale and finesse, with a fast, clean bass and superb imaging. Just about everyone I know who's heard them has been amazed.

On the subject of speakers, I was impressed with the compact PMC twenty-21 standmounters I reviewed back in January last year but the true stars of the new range turned out to be the slim PMC twenty-23 speakers, featured in the November issue, and striking just the right balance between serious audio capability and domestic acceptability in their high-quality wood finishes.

Another review where I was taken with the quality of the finish and then went on to be delighted with the sound was that of the excellent Heed Audio CD player/amplifier combination in the August issue: separates more than a match for anything else at the price and with a fresh, contemporary look.

A towering achievement in amplifier design is the 'direct digital' NAD C 390DD, seen in the October issue: a 2000+[pounds sterling] amplifier is hardly mass-market but the NAD is more than good enough to embarrass some much pricier designs. …