What to say about 2016… It was an awful year for humanity but a great year for audiophiles with very good (portable) gear. The portable market is still booming and looking at the number of reviews we did of portable gear, this clearly shows. I myself didn’t even review a single desktop sized amplifier and that hasn’t ever happened to me as far as I can remember.
Portable gear simply keeps getting better as new technology more easily finds its way to the portable market. At the same time that means a lot of good sounding gear is getting cheaper but it also means a lot of portable gear is getting extremely expensive. The nice thing is that there’s something for everyone.
But without further ado, here are my picks of the year for 2016. Don’t forget to check out Nathan’s picks right here: https://headfonia.com/because-its-2016-nathans-selection/
Best Open Headphone – Hifiman Edition X V2 ($1299)
There were several excellent sounding new open headphones and they mostly were updates of existing models such as the HE-1000 V2 and the Sennheiser HD800S. At the same time we saw new interesting headphones as well such as the Beyerdynamic DT1990PRO which is going to replace the classic T90. With the Amiron Home, Beyerdynamic almost took the title but that honour this year goes to the Hifiman Edition X V2.
The Edition X V2 hasn’t only become a whole lot cheaper but its sound – which already was excellent – remarkably improved as well. Fang has done a terrific job updating the Edition X and made it an excellent sounding, musical and detailed headphone which hardly requires any amplification. I already said it should have been on everyone’s Christmas list, so the V2 taking the title might not be a big surprise, yet it is more than deserved.
Best Closed Headphone – Beyerdynamic DT1770PRO ($599)
With the cheap and really good DT770, Beyerdynamic always had a strong contender in the closed headphone category. This year they managed to improve that headphone and keep the price very reasonable.
The DT1770PRO has replaced the DT770AE as my favorite closed Beyerdynamic headphone. The Tesla drivers and the latest Beyer technology have made the sound quality of these headphones go up even more and that combined with the higher level of the materials used and the excellent build quality, simply puts it on the N° 1 spot
Best Portable Headphone – Audeze Sine ($449)
I first listened to the Sine in San Francisco when I was on my honeymoon. That means I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with it but it certainly convinced me in that short period.
At the price the Sine is going for they’re an absolute steal. If you need a portable headphone the Sine should definitely be the first one to look at. Dave’s article title couldn’t have said it any better, they’re “Spot on”. Audeze has delivered an audiophile, on-ear portable headphone at a price that doesn’t break the bank. This thing is a very solid performing headphone at its price point.
Universal IEM – oBravo EAMT-1A (± $4250)
I never was the biggest fan of universal IEMs as my ears simply wouldn’t accommodate the standard shells. Lately however, with awesome designs from Campfire Audio, Radius and Inear, just to name a few, things have improved and I end up using universal monitors a whole lot more than before. The very expensive winner in this category isn’t particularly small or comfortable but it is the best sounding universal IEM that my ears have ever had the pleasure listening to. The Inear ProPhile 8 comes in as second and while it is an extremely good monitor for its price, the oBravo just sounds more magical and so it takes 1st place.
The oBravo EAMT-1A is a unique sounding universal inear that wowed me from the start and believe me, after 7 years of doing personal audio reviews, that isn’t something that’s easy to do. The EAMT-1A isn’t cheap, but all I can say is that this simply is the best sounding universal inear monitor that ever was in the HFN headquarters.
Custom IEM – Jomo Audio Samba ($1685)
2016 was an excellent year for custom inear monitors and I was so lucky to add several great ciems to my collection such as the Unique Melody Maestro and the CustomArt 8.2. The winner however is the 8-driver Jomo Audio Samba which I reviewed last December.
I have loved every single second listening to the Jomo Samba. It simply checks a whole lot of boxes and this without doubt is one of the best neutrally tuned monitors and even one of the best CIEMs in my collection. If you have the budget and you’re looking for a neutral, yet musical tuned monitor with a lot of detail, clarity, precision and a wide/deep sound stage, then you have to give the Samba a listen. Be warned though, you’ll love it.
More AWARDS after the click HERE or below