BLOG: 2020 Awards – Part 1

Awards 2020

Lieven – Editor in Chief

A lot of great gear was reviewed this year and it seems like it’s getting harder each time to pick the very best gear in their category. Especially the headphone awards were very hard but after a few sleepless nights (not really), I chose the winners.

1. BEST Universal IEM

Wireless: Beyerdynamic Xelento Wireless

In general, I’m not a fan of universal IEMs, purely because of the fit and comfort. With the Xelento Wireless, I have no issues at all and on top of that the build quality, design, and sound are incredibly good. A well-deserved award.

From the review:

The Beyerdynamic Xelento Wireless doesn’t come cheap but you get a beautiful, comfortable, well-built, and very good sounding IEM in return. The Xelento wireless is small and the mini Tesla inside is doing miracles, delivering a real high-end sound. 

Cabled: Vision Ears EVE20

This was my first Vision Ears’ universal IEM and I certainly liked it. As said in the review, the tips are very important but that very often is the case. As it’s a 2020 limited edition, I do wonder what VE will come up with.VE has confirmed these still are available atm, so hurry up.

From the review:

Vision Ears yet again has managed to deliver a top-quality monitor with a unique and different sound signature. Not only is the EVE20’s tuning great, but also the packaging, the accessories, and the build quality are top-notch.

2. BEST Custom IEM

Unique Melody MEST

My most easy award of the year. The Unique Melody MEST not only is a 2020 award winner, it simply is one of the very best Custom IEMs in my collection. It’s also one of the monitors I listen to most in my non-reviewing-time. The bone conduction tech is amazing!

From the review:

What a great monitor Unique Melody has built with the MEST. If you like a musical sound with good speed, clarity, precision, and detail, you will love the Unique Melody MEST. MEST delivers great bass, lovely mid timbre, and energetic treble and it mixes that up with a wide and deep sound stage. The bone conduction driver gives the MEST something extra which we haven’t experienced before and I am sure many other brands will follow UM’s example. For me, the MEST, in custom form, is an almost perfect all-around monitor that punches way above its price point. We don’t give scores here on HFN but if I would this monitor would get an easy 9 out of 10.

3. BEST DAC/Amp Portable

EarMen Sparrow

These mini USB DAC/AMPs are incredibly popular and it makes perfect sense: Top quality sound, in a small & affordable package, what’s not to like.

From the review:

EarMen with the Sparrow promised a lot but they also delivered in all possible ways. The Sparrow is an affordable and tiny device that you can carry around with you at all times. Just hook it up to your phone or laptop and be amazed at how good it sounds. If you want a small, portable DAC/AMP with a balanced output, there’s no doubt at all about which one to get.

4. BEST DAC/AMP Desktop

Small pockets: Topping DX7 Pro

Topping is probably the most successful or popular brand of the year, and they have released so many awesome units. For me the top one is the DX7 Pro. What you get for $599 is amazing.

From the review:

The DX7 Pro is impressive as a DAC/AMP and it’s outperforming many of the more expensive units on the market. What I like about the DX7 Pro is how small it is on your desk but how big it is in performance. It doesn’t only look great but it sounds great too with a whole set of headphones. It becomes extra nice when you look at all the digital inputs and how well it performs as a DAC only.

Large pockets: Burson 3XP

Burson Audio always stands for top quality products. They this year released a series of new units, but the one I really like is the Conductor 3XP. A top-quality desktop DAC/AMP with great musicality and power. It’s absolutely impressive.

From the review:

The 3XP is the kind of amp that drives all different types of headphones with ease and from the test results, we can obviously say it matches well with all kinds of headphones. The 3XP will make your headphone sound best, it being the $6000 USD Hifiman Susvara or the $130 USD Beyerdynamic DT770/32. This for many will easily be an end-game unit. Fully recommended.

5. BEST Headphones

Very Large Pockets: Rosson Audio Design RAD-O

The Rosson Audio Design RAD-O is a unique headphone. Every single unit looks different and they sound-wise impress. The RAD-0 wows you just as much as the first time you listened to the original Audeze LCD-2, only it’s better. The only downside for many is its weight, but sound-wise this is sooo nice.

From the review:

The RAD-O is a high-end headphone for the music-lover and so far we love every bit of it. I do recommend to “use” it with a good amplifier as you’ll be rewarded by getting it right. It really impresses in that case, delivering a great mix of technicalities and musicality. 

Large Pockets: HEDD Audio HEDDphone

Unique, new, different, engaging, addictive, etc. One can use so many words to describe the AMT-driven HEDDphone. Just like with the RAD-0, the weight here is the elephant in the room but sounds wise it’s as good as perfect. I love it.

From the review:

HEDD has managed to create a high-end headphone that brings freshness to the personal audio world. As a first headphone, this can seriously count, though they of course have a lot of experience already producing speakers. Forget about planar and dynamic drivers and their typical sound signature. The full range AMT drivers in the HEDDphone prove that there’s room for diversification, and they bring you a really special, typical, high-end sound.

Small Pockets: Audeze LCD-1

When I reviewed the LCD-1 back in February, I already told the readers this would be a serious contender for our headphone of the year awards. And guess what… Such an easy award to hand out.

From the review:

Not only the Audeze LCD-1’s sound is great but the whole package is. Design, size, comfort, price, and sound: everything works in favor of this headphone. It’s going to be tough for the competition to beat this headphone at this price.

Entry Pockets: Hifiman HE-400i 2020

When I received the HE-400i for review I didn’t know it was selling for only $199 USD and less. Then when I found out its price, I was shocked. It’s incredible to see how great Hifiman can make a headphone sound at such a low price. The competition has some serious work to do in this price class.

From the review:

When starters or normal headphone users like my friends ask me for a recommendation of a closed headphone, the Beyerdynamic DT770 32 is the easy recommendation. Starting from now the Hifiman HE-400i is my recommendation for an open design headphone.

You don’t have to know a lot about headphones and technology to love these headphones. And for the very accessible price these are going for, they’re the ideal recommendation to a whole lot of people.


HiBy Audio R8

The AK SP2000 receives our product of the year award, but to me, the HiBy Audio R8 DAP is the other best one I’ve had my hands on in 2020. Gorgeous, sublime sound, and super versatile. What’s not to like?

From the review:

I have really enjoyed my time with the R8 and I feel it makes for an excellent TOTL player. Not only is the HiBy R8 an extremely versatile DAP, but it also sounds great. As you can read in the comparison part, I feel the HiBy R8 also is the best performing player in this segment at this moment.


And now on to the personal awards of BERKHAN on the next page! CLICK HERE

4.7/5 - (228 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.

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