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Positive Feedback ISSUE 10
october/november 2003


The Higher End: Announcing the Premiere of the Brutus Awards and the Gizmo Award
by David W. Robinson


Introduction to annual awards at Positive Feedback Online

Historical note: as of January, 2004, Positive Feedback in both its print and, now, its online formats, will enter its 14th year of publication. During that time, I’ve not taken the time to establish annual awards—not out of a lack of interest, but because I didn’t feel that PF was at the point of maturity as a creative group to warrant pursuing it.

Over the past year, however, my fellow un-indicted co-conspirator of an editor, Dave Clark, and I have been discussing getting some meaningful fine audio product awards launched. The PFO artistic community has come together well, and is reaching the point at which we believe that the time has come to establish an annual system of recognizing superior fine audio design work.

The first new annual award: the Brutus!

We at Positive Feedback Online are going to have two main categories of annual awards. The first will be our Brutus Award. This will be recognition given to "the best and the brightest" products that we have experienced in various categories in a given year. In hardware, these will range from "best bang for the buck" to "the best period, and hang the expense!" designs. In recordings, we’ll be paying tribute to the best that we’ve found in various formats. In addition, we’ll have a "Lifetime Achievement Award" that will recognize individuals whose contributions to fine audio in various respects has been both superior and sustained.

All products that are so recognized by PFO will be work that has been reviewed by us personally; no design will be recognized that we do not have experience with in our listening rooms. This means that you, our readers, may disagree with our selections, wondering why this or that component, recording or individual was not mentioned. Quite apart from differences in taste/opinion, the answer is simple: we won’t be mentioning any design that we haven’t spent time with in our own listening rooms. If a product does not win a Brutus Award in a given category, this does not signify lack of merit—we just may not have gotten to work with it. You’re certainly welcome to write to us and bring worthy components to our attention.

The second new annual award: the Gizmo!

gizmo.jpg (335788 bytes)
One of the last known photos of Gizmo, courtesy of Dr. Longbeard

Long-time readers of PF and PFO know that Harvey Rosenberg (AKA "Gizmo") was a close friend of mine, and a valued member of the PF writing community for a number of years. His untimely death a couple of years ago was a real blow to fine audio, the loss of a uniquely creative writer. In Harvey’s memory, we have created an annual award that (like Harvey!) will be unique: a one-only-per-year recognition of a person/design that is surfing the edge of audiomania, going all-out to push the frontiers of fine audio. There will be no multiples of this prize… no hard-and-fast categories… and if nobody floats our boat in a given year, it won’t be awarded.

The new award: the Gizmo.

Terry Cain, a good friend of Gizmo, a gifted designer in his own right, and a long-time acquaintance of PFO, is working up a brief article to explain the meaning of the Gizmo Award. He’s done an excellent job of summarizing what we want to do with this award, so it will be appearing as a guest article to this The Higher End column in the very near future.

The awards for 2003

This premiere year for the PFO Brutus Awards, Dave Clark and I will be the ones selecting the prizes, based on our reviewing in 2003. By 2004, we plan to involve the larger PFO editorial group in the choices.

Dave Clark’s Brutus Award choices for this year will be appearing in a separate column. Mine are as follows:

Lifetime achievement awards

Since this is the first time for PFO’s "Lifetime Achievements," the list is long. Future lists will be shorter as we catch up, and pay homage to whom homage is due. Note that the names are presented in alphabetical order:

  • George Cardas of Cardas Audio, for crafting superior cables and components, broadly in use in fine audio, and for his sustained encouragement and support of the recording arts and the greater good in our world of audio lovers—there is simply no finer person in audio than George Cardas.

  • Bernie Grundman of Bernie Grundman Mastering for a lifetime of exceptionally well mastered LPs and a new body of work done to SACD.

  • Steve Hoffman for his exceptional mastering work with Audio Fidelity and DCC Compact Classics over many years now.

  • Chad Kassem and Analogue Productions for his work to preserve our blues heritage, and for meticulous, consistently excellent reissues of jazz and rock on LP and SACD.

  • Winston Ma, First Impression Music/Lasting Impression Music (and previously on Golden String) for his superlative production values, and for his extraordinary original recordings and re-mastered SACDs, XRCDs, HDCDs, and CDs over many years—Winston is a true gentleman, and a person of focused passion in the world of fine audio.

  • Tim de Paravicini of Esoteric Audio Research (E.A.R.) for his brilliant design work in both fine audio and studio audio settings.

  • Stan Ricker of Stan Ricker Mastering for a lifetime of incredible recordings and terrific LPs, plus a love of music that just won’t quit!

  • Doug Saxe of The Mastering Lab for a lifetime of remarkable recordings, and exemplary skill in his re-issue SACDs.

  • The entire group at Telarc Records for consistently pioneering in digital audio over many years now, and particularly for their sterling work in DSD surround recordings.

  • Ivor Tiefenbrun and Linn for a lifetime of service to fine audio, and for both quality and quantity of audio achievement, worldwide.

Product Categories

Digital: SACD and CD

Ed Meitner and EMM Labs for the EMM Labs DAC6, our new world reference for digital playback of SACD and CD sources in either two or six channel mode.

Analog: Turntables and accessories

Ivor Tiefenbrun and Linn for the Linn Akiva reference phono cartridge, a truly superb extension of the capabilities of the classic Linn LP-12 system. As the years go by, the LP-12 system just gets better and better!

Phono amplifiers/head amplifiers

EveAnna Manley and Manley Labs for the Manley Labs Steelhead phono amp, a brilliant achievement in tubed phono preamp design.

Solid State preamplifiers

Ivor Tiefenbrun and Linn for the Linn Kontrol preamplifer, a design that fuses both beauty and awesome neutrality in a preamp, and closes in on the ideal of "pure gain" in preamplification.

Tube amplifiers

Nobu Shishido (posthumous), Yuzuru Ito and WAVAC for the HE-833 SET amplifier (100 Watts per channel), simply the finest SET amplifier that I’ve ever heard, and my choice as answer to the question, "If I could have only one amplifier, which one would it be?"


Jennifer Crock and JENA Labs for the Pathfinder speaker cables, the best speaker cables that I’ve ever had in my listening room—and I’ve had a lot of them!

Power/line conditioning

Jennifer Crock and JENA Labs for the Fundamental Power 6.1 Line Conditioner, a breath-taking achievement in the provision of AC to the source components here at PFO River City. Simply put, it’s the best that I’ve ever heard, bar none.


No contest here: Charles van Oosterum and the Kharma Grande Ceramique loudspeakers are the winners in my listening room. The reviewing is upcoming, but the Kharma Grande Ceramiques are absolutely the finest speakers that have ever resided in this editor’s sanctum audiophilii.

Isolation platforms/stands

The Sistrum SP-101s used in conjunction with the WAVAC HE-833’s showed a remarkable ability to join beauty with sonic clarity. Smash-o! A clear winner! (It’s been a few years since I was so impressed with an isolation platform in my listening room.)

More later!

Deadline is here, and I’ve got to get this off to press. I’ll be doing a follow-up column looking at SACDs of particular worth in 2003; this has been a good year for great music!

The Gizmo Winner for 2003

The inaugural Gizmo winner wasn’t hard to pick; this is an exceptional new audio designer whose work I’ve been following with real interest for a couple of years now. He does precisely the sort of audiomaniac sculpture that Harvey would have raved over, taking audio to some extreme new places.

The PFO Gizmo winner for 2003 is Josh Stippich of Electronluv. His outrageously wonderful tubed designs make him the easy and obvious choice for PFO’s "Gizmaniac of 2003"! (Any reader who needs an education on Josh’s designs can check PFO Issue 9 for the VSAC 2003 show reports… you’ll get an eyeful of why this choice was so easy for me.)

Congratulations to all of our winners! Stay tuned for Dave Clark’s award selections (see Issue 11 next month), as well as our picks for some terrific recordings.