Linus – Senior Writer
During the past twelve months I have published a total of 53 different articles, of which 37 were reviews from 29 different brands. 37 individual products that made it to me from all over the world. I spent countless hours with them, and if they were good enough, they got my stamp of approval. Naming the best of the year has never been so difficult than this year though.
We have seen so many great new products launched at various times. If you think about it, we can absolutely say we’re lucky. There’s so much good stuff to chose from. But what is the best of 2019? Let’s find out together!
In some cases I will give you two products. For large and smaller pockets.
Best Universal IEM
Large Pockets: 64 Audio – Fourté Noir
We start with what was the hardest decision for me this year. Until just a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t pick a single monitor out to be the best of 2019. It was an endless inner discussion with myself. Finally, after much consideration, I granted the Fourté Noir the award for its impressive all-rounder nature.
The Fourté Noir convinces me with great technicalities, a superb overall tuning and a genre-flexibility that is unmatched. The biggest downside of the Fourté Noir is, that it is a limited edition. Right now, 64 Audio only has five units left. So if you want the best to be yours, now’s the time!
Smaller Pockets: Audeze – LCD-i3
I would be lying if I’d say the LCD-i3 isn’t one of the top-dogs. The Audeze has redefined what In Ears are capable for me. Its extremely open sound, coupled with a beautifully neutral-natural tuning make it one of the go-to grabs for home listening when I don’t want to sit down to a big stationary amplifier.
Best Custom IEM
Large Pockets: qdc – Anole VX
The Anole VX is proof that you don’t have to squeeze in multiple different driver technologies to make an excellent sounding CIEM. With only ten Balanced Armatures it even doesn’t top the current leader for most BA’s in one shell. However, with those 10 BA’s it creates a vastly natural and organic sound that can be adapted with three dip-switches to better suit your style. Superb sound and custom-tuning, what more could you want?
Smaller Pockets: Vision Ears – VE3.2
Less sometimes truly is more, the VE3.2 is one of the best examples for that. With just three drivers the VE3.2 pulls off a sound that I see speaking to audiophiles and Pro customers alike. It features a reference neutral signature that uncovers details in galore. If you like a clean tuning, go get this one!
Best Tube Amplifier: Auris Audio – Euterpe
This year’s award for Best Tube Amplifier goes to Serbian Auris Audio for their Euterpe. A unique looking tube amplifier that pairs beautifully with many of my headphones. Its dual-purpose design even makes it moonlight as a headphone stand, which comes in handy if you run out of space. The Euterpe features a relatively neutral-ish sound for a tube amp. For the tube-rollistas out there I suggest looking at Mullard replacement tubes, to unleash the full potential of this sexy amp.
Best Solid State Amplifier: JDS Labs – Atom
With only 99 USD the Atom amp was the cheapest amplifier I tested the entire year. However, at the same time it was the most impressive as well. It offers a very clean sound with a punch and is best paired with a warm-musical DAC. The Atom can handle harder to drive headphones and spits blasting volumes in them. This one definitely was one of the biggest surprises this year for me. It proves that you don’t have to pay big chunks of money for great performance.
Best Desktop DAC/Amp: Matrix Audio – Element M
If there’s one device that does it all, it’s the Element M by Matrix Audio. It is network-enabled, can be App-controlled, it decodes digital streams and even has storage inputs. With the Element M I have more needs covered than I thought I’d have. Using it is super easy and comfortable. I have mine connected to my integrated speaker amp, but also use it with my arsenal of headphones. It even drives the Susvara to my satisfaction…
Best Portable DAC/Amp: Woo Audio – WA11
If there’s one portable DAC/Amp that drives any headphone and that sounds like a desktop source, it’s the WA11. The Woo Audio WA11 has left a lasting impression on me. Superb build quality, good battery life (considering the power of this beast) and amazing sound. Whatever I throw at it, it sounds fantastic. My personal favorite combo is the WA11 with the Abyss Diana Phi. Portable summit-fi.
Abyss Headphones – Diana Phi
The Diana Phi is a headphone that is not like many. It’s small, it’s funky and it’s freakishly impressive. What Diana Phi offers is a sound that’s probably best described as an SR009 with bass. It is supremely fast and detailed, it’s uncolored and astonishing. Looking at the, comparably, small 63mm drivers, it’s even more impressive how they managed to make a headphone that size that good. The Diana Phi certainly ranks among the absolute best of the best out there.
Lotoo – PAW Gold Touch
It doesn’t stream, nor does it allow to run Android Apps on it. But the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch offers truly unique features. It’s the only DAP I can think of, that gives the user the option to up-sample all digital data to the highest available variable. The PAW Gold Touch gives a super-reference signature that can be altered with its PEQ to your own preference. It features an extremely potent technical performance, coupled with enough power to even drive some planar over ear headphones of mine. Lotoo’s blazing fast and simple UI puts some of the market leaders to shame. No quirks, no frills. Just pure sound. But in the best way possible. That’s the PAW Gold Touch.
Best IEM Cable
Large Pockets: Effect Audio – Code 51
With the Code 51 Effect Audio has launched their statement piece for 2019. At a hefty price of 2,388 USD it is even more expensive than some flagship IEMs. The upgrade it brings to them is uncanny though. Heaps of details, a massive stage expansion and all paired with the house sound Effect Audio is known for. It’s pricey, but damn good.
Smaller Pockets: Linum – SuperBax
The SuperBax is the epitome of a comfortable cable. Wrap it around your ear and forget it’s there. The Linum features a nicely uncolored and transparent sound, that easily mates with just about any IEM. Its superior comfort and high matchability has made it one of my personal go-to cables on the go.
Best Headphone Cable
Large Pockets: Double Helix Cables – Prion4
You haven’t heard seriously good silver until you gave the Prion4 a listen. This year I was lucky enough to have become an owner of DHC’s ultimate headphone cable. And boy, ultimate it is. The Prion4 breathes new life into just about any headphone I hook it up to. My Empyrean or HE1000se have never sounded that good. It delivers incredible details with hyper-resolution, it extends the spectrum and gives a transparency that is classic DHC. The treble is oh so precise, but oh so silky. Bright and harsh silver? Forget about that. This is quality!
Smaller Pockets: Double Helix Cables – Clone Silver
If you want a taste of DHC’s super silver, but don’t want to carve out the cash for a Prion4, the Clone Silver is the way to go. It offers many traits of the Prion4, but at a more moderate price. The Clone Silver screams transparency, resolution and naturalness. It takes my headphones and In Ears to new levels while being super light-weight. Peter Bradstock crafts every single of his cables with dedication, and he wants you to see that. Every DHC cable is made to perfection, but you have to be patient, as the demand is high.
Roon Labs – Roon
Roon is one of the quint-essentials in my home audio chain. Ever since I discovered it a couple of years ago, it has been impossible to move away from Roon. A great music experience starts with Roon for me. It lets me discover my entire library and dig deep into the meta data. I don’t know how much new music I discovered using Roon over the last years. But the amount of information that gets uncovered while using it, is just outstanding. Ever since I started using it, I knew what I was missing from a PC based listening session. It simply rocks.
Congratulations to all of our winners! May it motivate the competition to do even better next year 😉
If you have questions or suggestion about how we’re doing things, head over to the comments section and we’ll do our best to make Headfonia.com even better in 2020!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!