BLOG: Because it’s 2016 – Nathan’s Selection

Before I get too far into what rocked my socks off in 2016, let me remind you of what didn’t. The Essence HDACC left a bitter taste in my mouth. Then there was LEAR’s Natrosound NS-U1, which sounded great, but fit in the ear like a rake up the bum. Venturecraft’s Valoq, as good as it sounded, rode on the back of a sadistic hardware and graphic user interfaces.

But it is 2016, which is reason enough to virtue signal about the right side of history, audiophile or otherwise.


  • Oriveti Primacy: Review: Oriveti Primacy – primate. Before we even get to sound, in Primacy’s favour are finish, fit, comfort, and branding. That it sounds good and goes for just 299$ seals the deal. Great earphone, but not quite this year’s pick.
  • Nuforce HEM2. Great fit, amazing price, and sound worth it at almost any price. Nuforce’s HEM2 is killer from any angle you look. Its twisted cable,   however, isn’t.Campfire Audio Andromeda detail - 03-1
  • Winner: Campfire Audio Andromeda: Review: Campfire Audio Andromeda – Topping The Maker Game. I’ve not heard an earphone with smoother transitions between mids and highs that also balances on such tight bass foundations. Its wide, detailed sound stage are almost unparalleled. The only issue I have with it is fit.astell-kern-akt8ie-mkii-5
  • Winner: Astell&Kern AKT8iE mkii: Review: Astell&Kern AKT8iE mkii – Age of Consent. No, it doesn’t sound as good as Andromeda. But it is damn close. And thanks to a single driver, so much smaller. Perfect fit, great isolation, and brilliant sound make this my earphone pick of the year.

Headphones on the next page:

4.3/5 - (21 votes)

Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.


  • Reply January 1, 2017

    Barun C

    Yeah, the hits and misses are pretty much in line with what you wrote through out year Nathan. But I am surprised in once instance, you didn’t include PHATLAB AUDIO PHANTASY in the best of the year list.

    Anyway, happy new year to you, your family and all the people at HeadFonia. Watch the skies, look at the trees, stay away from any screen or digital devices and see how good it feels.

    • Reply January 2, 2017

      ohm image

      Barun, check page 5. Because damn, I would not forget PHAntasy. No way.

      • Reply January 3, 2017

        Barun C

        Oh. I missed that one. I thought to my self, after so much high praise you didn’t include that product. How can that be. Anyway, one thing, which I felt was a big change in 2016 is inclusion of two AK products in the best list, that was quiet a surprise.

        • Reply January 3, 2017

          ohm image

          It’s a hard tale: PHAntansy is the most beautiful amp I’ve ever used. It also makes a wonderful sound. But it is only really suited to high-Ω headphones. This is both audible and measurable.

          If it were stably able to drive headphones of less than 80Ω, I would have considered it for first spot. But the provisos attached to it are a bit heavy. Again, it is the most perfectly haptically engineered amp I’ve used, and when paired with the right headphone, superb.

          And yes, the AK thing is a bit surprise for me, too. I think their ducks are finally in a row.

  • Reply January 2, 2017


    I was wondering if anyone had a recommendation for a desktop amplifier that cost less or up to 250 USD that beats my current FiiO E12a in terms of detail and soundstage. It would be driving the beyerdynamic Dt990 (250 Ohm).
    Cheers and thanks in advance for any replies !

    • Reply January 3, 2017

      ohm image

      I’m afraid that I’ve got not experience with that FiiO.

    • Reply January 10, 2017


      I see Audio-GD NFB 11 for the same price and very popular on head-fi.

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