This year sure has passed quite fast, lots of great sounding gear has been walking over my table and into my ears. I for one have mainly focused on reviewing custom in ear monitors, most of them were great surprises, but there also were disappointments.
At the end of the year we always give another shout-out to the products that have convinced the Headfonia staff for their sound or for their impressive price-performance-ratio. In this article you will find out what the junior reviewers, Berkhan and yours truly, here will award for their outstanding performance. Nathan’s and Lieven’s awards will be published soon!
Best Accessory 2017
Chosing my personal best in the category accessory isn‘t easy, as I have been enjoying a few different cables. All of them have their respective values and bring their qualities to the audio chain. But one has been standing out from the rest, not just because of its obscure mix of materials, but also for its impressive sound and build quality. PlusSound‘s Exo-series T-Metal cable has proven to me that a high quality cable can come with moderate price tags. It is impressively balanced and organic with shimmering warm highs and well controlled bass. It matches almost any of my IEMs and has become one of my daily companions.
Thus my personal Best Accessory 2017 award goes to plusSound for their T-Metal Exo cable!
Best Source 2017
I haven‘t been playing with many different sources this year, at least not for headfonia. One source that has taken my heart by storm is the impressive Hugo2 from Chord Electronics. It only took two listening sessions to know that I have to possess this unit, despite its price. It has won me over with its incredible resolution and effortless reproduction of sound. Its mighty sound stage and outstanding precision is something truly unique. Hugo plays nicely with all my gear, in ear monitors, full sized headphones and fits perfectly in my main audio chain at home. It has replaced not only my office DAC at work but also my main-chain DAC at home. I gladly take it with me each and every day, back and forth. The sound it brings is just too good to leave behind.
Best Source 2017 – Chord Electronics Hugo2!
Best IEM 2017
Now I am definitely torn between two models, both from the same manufacturer though. During the past year the Noble house sound has definitely grown on me. Precision, details and coherence is what Noble tickles out of their models with ease. I had the pleasure to review a good number of Noble in ear monitors this year. Katana and Sage both came into my life as universals and both have their incredible strenghts. Katana has this one-of-a-kind precision and accuracy paired with a balanced, clean and clear sound. A smooth top end and powerful lows with emotion-filled mids. Sage stands out for its incredible balance and pinpoint imaging which is hard to find in its class. It still baffles me how the Wizard has created such a great sounding piece with just two balanced armatures.
I really can‘t just pick one out of these two. Sage wins for its unrivalled price to performance ratio, Katana for its incredible coherent and resolving sound, that‘s why they both share the crown for Best IEM 2017!
Best Custom IEM 2017
I have reviewed a total of six different custom in ear monitors this year. I have been mighty impressed by quite a number of them, but there was one that has been standing out of them still. 64 Audio‘s flagship with a monstruous driver count of 18 balanced armatures per side. Their proprietary Tia and Apex technologies have convinced me. It has the airiest and probably most extended treble, with highest resolution and powerful dynamic mids. It sports the biggest sound stage I have yet heard in an IEM and is wonderfully balanced over the entire spectrum. You can even change the sound within seconds by exchanging the M20 Apex module to the M15 counterpart. Giving you a richer treble‘d signature.
These and more reasons have made the 64 Audio A18 Tzar my choice for Best Custom IEM 2017!
These are my personal picks for products of the year 2017, now read all on page 2 to find out what Berkhan impressed the most the past 12 months!