After Linus and Berkhan, it’s my turn for the 2017 awards. And my best bets are…
Best bet amp – Vorzüge VorzAMP DUO II
If neither Pure II or II+ isn’t enough for you, DUO II should do. Amazing three-stage bass boost and two-stage gain make for powerful choices. And by now, you know that VorzAMPs mate perfectly with your iPod Video and first-gen AK120. Vorz amps’s latest are easy to use, and despite not getting as good battery, hold signal under harsh loads even better than before. DUO II’s bass boost is more refined than before, but before was damn good. Vorzüge work so hard that besting their own line of amps must be bloody hard. Nailed it.
Best bet IEM – Beyerdynamic Xelento Remote
Like the AKT8iE MKII which preceded it, Xelento Remote fits better than any earphone you’ll ever use- that is, if your ears fit a variation on 80% of the world’s population. I’ve never fit an earphone as comfy. Come to think of it, Xelento Remote is just about as singularly disposed to great sound. Its mid is a bit stretched, but lateral extension and overall sound pressure are nigh on perfect. The earphone also works with Sony’s amazing MUC-M2BT1 wireless MMCX cable, making Bluetooth not only work better than before, but sound better, too. Nailed it.
Best bet Wireless – Flare Audio Flares Pro
I wasn’t sceptical per se, but I hadn’t expected Flare Audio to surpass my expectations. From the moment I popped its top, Flares Pro blew my mind. It fits, sounds, and works, excellently. It gets great range, nails the neutral-but-laid-back signature, and is full of quality accessories that embarrass the competition. If you think your wireless earphones are good, just you wait; Flares Pro will force you to see another think coming.
Best bet Wireless runner up – RHA MA750
Despite carrying a price tag of about half of Flares Pro’s, the MA750 is in the same league. Great connection quality, solid and neutral sound, accessories that rival, and ergonomics good enough for your grandparents, MA750 is practically peerless. Its one gaff is the low-level hiss that you’ll hear in all your music if you listen quietly. That gone and it’s not even fair. MA750 for the win (caveat if).
Best bet 2017 – Apple AirPods
“Uhm… Nathan, AirPods came out in 2016; isn’t it silly to crown them with anything but a late pass?”
Uhm, no. And genres be damned, AirPods it is- and always will it be.
If you’re not in the mainstream feminist press there’s no way in hell you got AirPods before this year. And it makes sense. AirPods are easy to use, fit great, and sound way better than anyone expected. They charge easy as pie, look decent, and jus work. More than any other single audio product I’ve used in the last ten years, they have changed the way I work, listen, and spend leisure. I’d love for the next generation to return lower line noise, but apart from that (and for me), it’s AirPods from here on in.
It’s a bit strange ending on an Apple note, especially as Apple Notes ate the first draft of this essay. But AirPods have done more for my listening/exercising/reading habits than any device in the last ten years. They work and they sound good. But it’s the Flares Pro that deserves the biggest audiophile praise. Wireless though it is, it sounds brilliant, performs flawlessly, and probably gives its competition nightmares. RHA’s MA750 is part benighted Flares Pro competition and part exuberant victor. It’s hard to fault either company’s choices, but gee whiz, Flare Audio nailed it on the wireless front. Xelento is brilliant, especially with amazing amps like the DUO II. It’s a great time to be alive.