With another year flown by I thought it might be interesting to look back at the Lotus Stars of 2016. The Lotus product portfolio is already finely handpicked (we don’t automatically list every single product that our brands manufacture) so almost every item you see on this website comes highly recommended and will sell at some point or other. There are of course products that sell in far greater numbers though. It might be because they are one in million items, amazingly competitive in their own marketplace or just reflective of new trends and habits. Let’s check over the sales figures and take a look at the things that sold in their droves in 2016.
I’m going to list the H1201 phonostage first because truth be told it’s been a Star product here since it’s very inception. At £2250 Allnic’s entry phono preamp is very cost effective by highend standards and yet affordable for customers coming from popular UK brands and ‘mid-fi’ setups. It can go head to head with Phonostages costing £3000 or even £4000 and its simplicity and good looks nearly always go down a treat. It’s lofty sonic performance though is perhaps not it’s greatest trick. No, the true secret of the H1201’s amazing success and the reason why I have been selling a steady stream of these month by month for the last 3 years, can be summed up in one word – balance. The H1201 fundamentally just sounds right. It will fit perfectly in a solid state system or a valve system and will delight a Rock and Pop man or a Jazz and Classical lover. It’s open, alive, neutral, has huge reserves of resolution and never really puts a foot wrong. Natural is the word we have to retun to, like all great pieces the H1201 gets the hell out of the way.
The Vitus Reference and Signature amps and digital sources are always amongst the biggest sellers here at Lotus but in 2016 special mention must go to the SCD-025. The original SCD was always a very special DAC/CD player by any standards but the mk2 upgrade carried out at the begining of 2016 has catapulted it way way beyond its £17,500 pricepoint, so much so that until Vitus revises it, the £25,000 Masterpiece DAC has been rendered all but redundant. I sold many many SCD’s last year. This is digital at it’s most pleasurable and few people can resist an SCD once experienced, whether that be streaming into it or spinning good old CD’s. Yes there are better DAC’s with a little more resolution and microdetail but these are all into crazy money, £40,000 and beyond. In point of fact, we only had one home demo last year where the SCD failed to score a sale and that was against a £100,000+ Audionote DAC setup and even then, the customer came away really impressed for what you get for less than 1/5th of the price from this Danish Highend brand. Stick a set of Stillpoints Ultra 6 under an SCD and you get another 20% again !
The first forays into streaming were pretty awful. Mechanical, digital, unnatural, all the worst criticisms could be deployed aplenty. The world has moved forward an awful lot since then though and the Melco N1Zh represents the absolute sweet spot as far as streaming is concerned. Not only do we believe Melco to be the industry leaders when it comes to out and out sound quality but the middle of the range model offers the biggest bang for the buck and appeals on price to the widest range of customers. I have no hesitation in naming it as a star of 2016; it sold by the bucketload and made a lot of people very very happy !
TIDAL PREOS + IMPULSE
You would never dream that a £50,000’s worth of German Highend would be a particularly big seller, especially from a brand that is completely new to the UK but in 2016 the response we had from the Preos Impulse Pre/Power/Dac/Phono combination simply blew us all away. Look through the Tidal Audio section on my website or Tidal’s own website, the multitude of show videos on Youtube or the way in which this company is spoken about across the web and it’s easy to start to understand why anything made by Tidal might be a superstar product. What any of the literature out there won’t fully tell you however is just how insane the performance is that you get from these two boxes. Make no mistake, once you include the performance of the built in DAC and phonostage this sort of level can only be acheived with a £100,000+ pricetag. Customers twig this very early on and for most of the sales we made in 2016, the Preos/impulse was the best system they’d ever heard whether in their own homes or at other dealers and hifi shows.
It’s no secret that Entreq has been keeping all its dealers very very busy this past few years. An Entreq grounding demo is one of the easiest you can do. It just works, plain and simple, and the improvements witnessed are in nearly all cases good value for money relative to what else that cash would get you if you tried to spend the money elsewhere in the hifi chain. The Posiedon takes grounding and ease of use to a new level. Not only is the new Olympus technology a big performance jump up from the older ‘Silver’ technology but the Posiedon makes grounding speaker outputs so user friendly. Slotting one of these boxes into your system is like the difference between a waiter bringing you your dinner on a plastic tea tray versus a mirror polished platter complete with Spode china, Stuart crystal, fine linen and the very best Arthur Price silver plated cutlery.
VITUS RI-100 + DAC
Both the Vitus RI-100 and signature level SIA-025 are consistently 2 of the biggest sellers here at Lotus. Many of the lofty pre and powers that litter my preloved section year in year out find there way there precisely because of one of these guys. When we trade in against an RI or an SIA in nearly all instances the traded in equipment originally cost quite a lot more than what the Vitus is costing. Yes, ignore the fact that its just one box, both of these amps are absolute superstars and deserve to go down in the Hifi halls of fame in no uncertain terms. We can only pick one here though and whilst they are almost impossible to split and both sold in big numbers, the RI-100 just about gets the nod on account of it’s new role as a one stop music solution when ordered with its inbuilt DAC. The DAC module costs you another £2000 but like the amplifier, the performance you get from it could easily be from a DAC costing 2 or 3 times that price. The RI-100 is an amp for life and unlike the £20-£40k pre power combinations which it often usurps, it will be a long time before it’s the weakest link in your system.
Last but not least we come to Avalon’s entry level floorstander the Idea. Like the Allnic H1201, these speakers do so much right and absolutely nothing wrong. They go in small or big rooms, work with puny triode amps or huge solid state powerhouses and will play everything exceptionally well from Aphex Twin to Albinoni. Endlessley open, holographic and natural they will teach you more about your music and delight you for years and years to come. They don’t have a sound as such, they just project the music into the room leaving behind no sense of cabinet, drivers or crossovers. In 2016 they made a lot of my customers happy and simply have very little competition at the sub £10,000 pricepoint.
That then is the Stars of 2016. By no means an exhaustive list (Stillpoint isolation feet for example sell in their handfuls on an almost weekly basis) but hopefully an interesting one worthy of 5 minutes of your time.