BLOG: 2018 Awards – Lieven’s Selection

This is an article many of you, well mostly the companies actually, always anxiously wait for. This is the article in which we award the best gear of 2018. First up: My own selection!! You can find the other writer’s selections here:


2018 Awards – Year overview

It was another great year that flew by even faster than last year. A year in which we somewhat saw of a comeback of desktop / full sized gear. That being said though, we’re still living in a world where DAPs and IEMs are the most used.

For myself, next to all the excellent new gear I got to listen to, it was important to see Headfonia continue to grow. We’re trying to introduce new things all the time and of course there is our +$50K audio giveaway which is still running till September 2019. I’m very happy with the writer staff we have at the moment and I can’t thank Linus, Berkhan and Nano enough for being part of HFN. We did have to say goodbye to Nathan as a staff writer, but if all goes well I’ll have some exciting news to share with you over the next few days.

But without further ado, here are picks of the year.

2018 Awards – Winners

This year we have some new categories and there’s a total of 18 awards in many different categories. Later this week you’ll also find out who Linus, Berkhan, Nano and Nathan are giving their awards to.

1. Portable Players aka DAPS

Best Portable Player (Best Value): Hiby R3

We’re lucky to get to test and try many different types of Portable Players but very often they’re just another MP3 player with its good and bad points. It for me was different with the Hiby R3 and I really enjoyed both the design, functioning and sound of the little devil. As the review title says, it brought sexy back and an award it gets! Read the full review here.

Best Portable Player (Price no objection): Cayin N8

I only recently reviewed the Cayin N8 and it went straight to the recommended DAP list. Now in addition to that it’s also getting the award for Best DAP in the PNO category. A well deserved spot as the N8 brings you top quality sound and no less then 3 different sound signatures in one compact package. And then there’s the introduction of a vacuum tube in a DAP… Well deserved.

2. DAC/AMP Units

Best AMP/DAC (Best value): AK Acro L1000

The Acro L1000 has been a really good companion in my office and I really didn’t want to return it to Astell&Kern but that’s life. Great design, a high level sound and not breaking the bank, that can only mean one thing, an award.

Best AMP/DAC (Price no objection): Chord DAVE

One of the very best units that have ever passed here in the office. The Chord Electronics DAVE in an incredible DAC/AMP unit and it performs so well with all types of headphones. If you’re in the market for a high end DAC/AMP unit, it doesn’t get any better than this.

3. Earphone/Headphone Cable

Best Cable (Best Value):  Linum SuperBaX

The Linum Superbax has only very recently been released in a balanced version but I’ve been using the prototypes for a long time already. Very affordable, extremely comfortable and great transparancy, that’s what SuperBaX brings you. Ultimate Ears even is using the SuperBax now with their TOTL monitors, and that says a lot!

Best Cable (Price no objection): DHC Clone Fusion

I haven’t reviewed many cables in 2018 but the one that impressed me most was the Clone Fusion from Double Helix Cable. Not only is the Clone Fusion a true one of a kind product, that convinces with outstanding sound, wonderful build quality and great flexibility. It cures the weaknesses of two of my favourite custom monitors and matches well with a good number of other monitors too.

4. Best Universal IEM

Best IEM (Best Value): Etymotic ER3-XR

You owe it to yourself to ever own a set of Etymotic IEMs. While Is till prefer the higher End ER4-XR, the ER3 series brings even more value for money. Great and affordable sounds, that again gets you an award

Best IEM (Price no objection): StereoPravda SB-7

The SB-7 for sure is one of the most unique looking universal IEM in the whole wide world. StereoPravda thinks outside of the box and it works, just try one with a good source and amp and you’ll know why it’s getting an award.

Best IEM (Hors Catégorie): Ra C CU

Unique and expensive, that’s what the oBravo Ra C CU is. Of course it isn’t for everyone but if you have the money and the correct source and amp to use it with, then you’ll know why the Ra C CU is getting our 2018 award.

5. Best Custom IEM

Best CIEM (Best Value): Jomo Haka

As usual from Jomo Audio, you can expect a great build quality and top comfort. The Jomo Haka is easy to drive and pair with a whole series of sources and it delivers a really nice sound with a focus on musicality and naturalism. Jomo calls it a coherent and pure sound, and it’s exactly that. The Haka is affordable and it’s the perfect monitor to enjoy your music with. The Haka has an easy to like sound signature and it lets you dream away with your favorite tunes. For a one driver, you’re getting a lot in return

Best CIEM (Price no objection): Mason V3

What an exquisite custom monitor the Unique Melody Mason V3 is. My hopes were very high as I love the Maestro V1 and even gave the ME1 the 2017 award, but it’s safe to say the Mason V3 exceeded them all. The Mason V3 plays well with all the sources I used it with and it certainly is one of the very best CIEMs on the market at this point. A top quality monitor with these high end qualities doesn’t come cheap, but what you get in return is one of the very best customs out there.

6. Best Amplifier

Best Amplifier (Best Value): Feliks Audio Euforia

With the Euforia, Feliks Audio has built an excellent sounding and sexy looking top of the line tube amplifier. As Feliks Audio says, the strong points of the Euforia are in its transparency, dynamics and perfectly back background under all circumstances.

Best Amplifier (Price no objection):  Auris Audio Nirvana

The Auris Audio Nirvana is one of those amps that performs great with every single headphone you throw at it. It seems to bring out the best of every headphone and especially the balanced output for me is really special. The Auris Nirvana is the perfect mix of Auris’ previous models and it combines the best of both amps to bring you to Nirvana, a place of perfect peace and happiness. Apart from the fact that it’s maybe too powerful there absolutely isn’t a single thing I don’t like about the amplifier. It again looks stunning and the separate power supply gives it an extra classy look. It sounds like you’re in heaven with a dynamic, wide and very well layered sound with a good amount of warmth and tube smoothness. The Nirvana gets sound (and looks) just right and it simply is impossible not to like.


There are many more awards on Page Two of this article, just click HERE or use the jump below

3.9/5 - (42 votes)

Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.


  • Reply December 25, 2018

    Phong Ngo

    Can’t wait to see what 2019 brings us! Thanks, Lieven!

  • Reply December 25, 2018


    google search: dragonfly red seller
    urge to buy increases

  • Reply December 25, 2018


    Thank you Lieven for compiling this 2018 list of recommendations.

    Have you been able to try the Xduoo MK1 with the AK Acro L1000? Wondering if the AK is a compatible DAC/amp, according to their website specs compatibility is/could be limited.

    Have a wonderful Christmas!

  • Reply December 27, 2018


    I’d like to see best portable headphone. Something that doesn’t cover an entire side of your head like the Hifiman Ananda lol.

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