The Gruvy Awards: AnalogPlanet Selects the Best Reviewed Products of 2023

The Gruvy Awards are back yet again! An annual event, The Gruvys are given to the best products AnalogPlanet reviewed in the most recent calendar year. This time around, the Gruvys honor the gear we tested in 2023 and subsequently found to possess a combination of high build quality, exceptional sonics, and in the case of less expensive gear, provide great value for the money. (While a Gruvy indicates a product is deemed to be exceptional, products that haven’t been so awarded should not necessarily be considered unworthy.)

Rest assured, we will be reviewing even more analog-centric products in 2024 than we did this past year, so we expect to see and hear plenty of Gruvy-worthy gear in the offing.

Without further ado, let us present AnalogPlanet’s Gruvy Awards for the best tested gear of 2023!

TURNTABLES

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ACOUSTIC SIGNATURE MAXIMUS NEO TURNTABLE
$4,995 / reviewed with the TA-1000 NEO tonearm ($2,495) and Maximus MCX3 moving coil cartridge ($1,695)
Granted, the name “Maximus NEO” sounds like an unholy alliance of Roman gladiator bloodletting and ’80s-era New Wave fashion, but make no mistake — the Maximus NEO is an exceptional turntable. The Maximus NEO ’table bettered other comparable models in its nearby class in terms of dead-silent sound and black backgrounds, playing LPs with sweeter tone, more natural flow, and a cleaner, if lighter low-end. At close to $9,200 all-in, the Acoustic Signature Maximus NEO turntable packages punches well above its class.

Read our full review here.

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EUROPEAN AUDIO TEAM (E.A.T.) C-DUR TURNTABLE
$4,599 as tested / with E.A.T. Jo No. 5 moving coil cartridge
Handmade in Europe, the E.A.T. C-Dur is built from sturdy, serious components. Among said components are a 50mm MDF plinth and a heavy, 13.5lb platter with a sleekly elevated upper ridge, which holds an LP ever-so-slightly above the plane of the platter, with a 1in outer area of the platter exposed. The C-Dur’s oversized dimensions recall the transcription platters found on turntables in the 1940s. The C-Dur got up to playing speed in three seconds flat. Its cueing arm slowly lowered stylus to vinyl with undeniable fluidity, record after record. And, for a belt-drive machine, its sense of pace, rhythm, and timing was superb. In short, the E.A.T. C-Dur turntable played by rules of its own making, and it came up golden.

Read our full review here.

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MICHELL TECHNODEC REFERENCE TURNTABLE
$2,698 / with included Michell T3 tonearm
Stalwart British manufacturer Michell is back in the turntable game bigtime with their quite affordable TechnoDec Reference model. The belt-driven, non-suspended TecnoDec includes Sorbothane feet inserts in three pod-like aluminum footers, an inverted oil-circulating main bearing, an impedance-matched platter, and a hefty motor. Practically right out of the box, the TecnoDec took our reviewer Ken Micallef, his records, and his apartment by almost immediate storm. In fact, Micallef is confident in saying the Michell TecnoDec Reference turntable is one of the finest turntables he’s ever reviewed by noting, “it accomplished perfect synergy with my review system. I felt sealed in sound while playing records on the TecnoDec. Every record turned into a performance, gluing me to my seat and having me marvel at what TecnoDec designer John Michell hath wrought.”

Read our full review here.

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SOTA QUASAR TURNTABLE
$2,995 / without tonearm
SOTA has the rare vantage point of both understanding what U.S. customers want while also addressing a large international following. The SOTA Quasar, part of the company’s entry-level Urban series, is a handsome turntable. Its old-school wood look recalls prime ’60s hi-fi consoles and ’70s teak bowls, but this machine is as modern as Class D amps, Roon, and Qobuz — and, frankly, it sounds better. The SOTA’s sense of solidity and boldness instantly struck ace reviewer Ken Micallef. Nothing pallid, small, thin, or lukewarm here — only propulsive, heart-pounding music reproduction that would only get better, spin after spin. Further, Micallef noted that the SOTA Quasar turntable provided “the largest soundstage of excellent image weight, respectable depth, and — perhaps most importantly, for this audio punter — tonal satisfaction.”

Read our full review here.

CARTRIDGES

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KUZMA CAR-30 MC CARTRIDGE
$2,950
The Slovenian-made Kuzma CAR-30 moving coil (MC) cartridge is such a fine sight to see. Its micro ridge stylus is claimed to be of a similar shape as that used in a cutting lathe, affording the greatest detail and retrieval of information in the final product. The CAR-30 cart’s profile is similar to that of a line-contact stylus, its tiny, ridged stylus covering only a few microns of contact with the groove walls. Depending on what was downstream, the CAR-30 was an extremely capable performer, whether it involved its clean, extended treble, generally lucid midrange, and dependably tight and taut low-end. It impressed because it simply made great music while revealing the peculiarities and personalities of individual records. The Kuzma CAR-30 cartridge is one smooth performer indeed. It’s well-behaved, and transparent to records and equipment.

Read our full review here.

PHONO PREAMPS

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PATHOS IN THE GROOVE MM/MC PHONO PREAMP
$1,895
An “entirely redesigned” analog solid-state product, the Pathos In The Groove MM/MC phono preamp features high-quality integrated circuits, “fitting with flexibility to any kind of phono detector” (according to the company’s site). The In The Groove MM/MC model — a.k.a. the ITG — is smaller than most phono preamps. It can fit practically anywhere — as long as you make room for its sidekick-like power supply, that is. The PSU is less than half the size of the main unit, making for a cozy fit wherever the two are situated. Playing a variety of records and genres, the ITG phono preamp spoke with alert boldness, commanding clarity, and attention-grabbing dynamics. It didn’t favor a particular area of the frequency range — its sparkling clarity made for an equal-opportunity phono signal interpreter. Furthermore, Pathos In The Groove phono preamp delivered music with force and exacting, determined instrumental power.

Read our full review here.

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VINCENT AUDIO PHO-701 MM/MC HYBRID PHONO PREAMP
$799.95
Consisting of two black or silver boxes stationed either one upon the other, or side by side (as was done for this review), and connected by a DIN cable, the Vincent Audio PHO-701 MM/MC phono preamp looks to be cut from the same cloth as its big brother, the SV-747. It has the same single glowing tube viewed through a circular glass display on its façade, similar simple rubber feet, and brushed black finish with silver trim. Out of the gate, the PHO-701 impressed with its drive, energy, and wide soundstage. This is no shrinking violet of a phono stage either. There’s nothing closed in, reserved, or sixth-row recessed about the 701. Its locomotive force was allied to strong treble detail, neutral midrange, and clean bass response. The Vincent Audio PHO-701 is a truly meaningful addition to the illustrious lineup of quite-worthwhile $800-ish phono signal amplifying products.

Read our full review here.

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GOLD NOTE PH-5 PHONO PREAMP
$999
The Italian-made Gold Note PH-5 phono preamp is one clever device. Its fascia sports only a glass touchscreen control panel — no dip switches nor bleeping LEDs, stepped dials, or illegible notation. (That said, a small single LED does indicate power status.) Once powered, the PH-5 presented the full-on sensory experience at a touch of its display control window. The PH-5 offered clean, smooth, lucid delivery. There’s nothing aggressive, harsh, or biting from this Gold Note phono preamp. It is uncolored, more transparent, and flat-sounding than, say, some tubed-phono stages. It never lacked for richness, though that was not the design goal for this unit. Rather, the PH-5 is voiced to sound neutral, allowing for greater transparency and speed. The Gold Note PH-5 phono preamp is flat-sounding, coherent, neutral, and transparent — a fine piece of gear that also manages to pull emotion and character from a myriad of vinyl recordings.

Read our full review here.

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MARCHAND ELECTRONUCS LN112 MC PHONO PREAMP
$1,400
Built and manufactured by Dr. Phil Marchand of Rochester, New York, the Marchand Electronics LN112 MC tube phono preamp is a compact unit with a big, tube-generated sound. The electronics of the Marchand LN112 are situated in a small wooden frame that acts as an insulator. Power is provided via an included 15VDC external power supply. You simply plug it in, it powers up, and off you go into analog land. The Marchand LN112 captured the rhythmic drive and pungent tonality of a number of Blue Note RVG-era LPs, including Jackie McLean’s horn on his Right Now! LP — not to mention the spirited nature of the album’s ensemble with good energy and pacing. The Marchand communicated the drive and burning swell of the session well, and it also sounded open, appealing, punchy. The Marchand Electronics LN112 is a musical-sounding — and quite satisfying — MC tube phono preamp that, without question, deserves an audition.

Read our full review here.

The balance of the gear photos in the story are courtesy of AP chief product reviewer Ken Micallef.
If you want to see which products won our Gruvy Awards in 2022, go here.

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COMMENTS
mp's picture

Every turntable, cartridge & phono preamp reviewed in '23 received your award.

Glotz's picture

Stick me with that Maximus Neo for 2024! Prayers up, fingers crossed!

Arletamiri8's picture

Enhance your style by wearing it because its color is very calm and eye-catching So wear it optimus prime bomber jacket and adorn your party.

sharase's picture

In slither io the thrill of growing your snake while dodging others creates a highly engaging gameplay loop.

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