BLOG: 2020 Awards – Part 1

Awards 2020

Berkhan – Senior Writer

It has been a very difficult year so far with an unprecedented pandemic situation all over the world. It was tough with the restrictions and lock-downs for the most part of the year but nevertheless, there are still positive things to be found. At least that was my story this year in my private life.

That is also the case for our hobby with great product releases this year and some of them provided me a great experience overall. I posted 37 different articles in 2020 and it was quite a busy year despite the pandemic. Hopefully, we can have a more “ordinary” year in 2021.

Let me share my selections for 2020 without further fuss.

1. BEST Universal IEM

Very Large Pockets: Lime Ears Pneuma

Pneuma is an exceptional IEM that proves hybrid IEMs can sound cohesive and consistent with excellent technical performance. Its marvelous sound quality and incredible design are enough to make it undoubtedly the best IEM of this year for me.

From the review:

What more can I say about Lime Ears Pneuma? Although being late to the hybrid market, they took their time and release one of the best hybrid IEMs you can find. Sure, it doesn’t come cheap but so the others. In return, you have great musicality, an incredible tonal balance, a huge sound-stage, tremendous imaging, and great definition in all frequencies.

Lime Ears Pneuma Review

Large Pockets: Kinera Nanna

Kinera was once an unknown manufacturer and they came a long way after the H3 model. Now they’re one of the well-established IEM brands and they proved it with the Nanna. Its treble performance is simply phenomenal and the overall resolution and transparency are also on a high level.

From the review:

Overall Kinera Nanna is an excellent IEM and I think it has one of the best treble performances in the market right now. Highs are simply phenomenal and if you like your treble to be sparkling, this is one of the IEMs that you should look for. Other aspects like bass quality and depth, sound-stage, and smooth mid reproduction are the other things that shine in this IEM. 

Kinera Nanna Review

Small Pockets: Shozy Form 1.4

It’s hard to beat Shozy when it comes to price/performance. They have a very good track record so far and Form 1.4 is one example of their excellence. For the price, it’s one of the best all-around monitors with a very versatile performance.

From the review:

Once again, Shozy has put up an IEM that performs very well for the price. If you’re looking for an all-rounder with a warm and full-bodied presentation, the Shozy Form 1.4 can definitely be your answer. Don’t miss out that it has a great treble performance as well, despite its warm tuning.

Shozy Form 1.4 Review

Wireless: Noble Falcon

The TWS market is still growing and there are great products of this type. Yağız will probably give more info about this in his awards, but the Falcon surely impressed me with its performance. It’s priced well, gives a great sound which is not digital but rather natural. It’s a v-shaped tuning so be aware of that though.

From the review:

My favorite two TWS IEMs are the Sennheiser Momentum TWS 2 and this Noble Falcon. The Falcon is a bit better for popular genres, whilst the Momentum TWS 2 presents the sound in a more classic way with a more balanced and flatter response. However, you can take more out of the Falcon with its EQ, and make it closer to the Momentum TWS presentation-wise.

Noble Falcon Review

2. BEST Custom IEM

itsfit Lab Fusion

With its magnetostatic high-frequency driver, the Fusion gives one of the best treble performances you can hear in this market. It’s a very neutral monitor with excellent resolution and sound-stage. Overall it’s not easy to find a deficiency in its sound, maybe expect the thin-sounding lower-mid area, which is not a big issue in my opinion.

From the review:

The Itsfit Lab Fusion is a new fresh air for the market for a competitive price. You get great craftsmanship and design, great fit, great build quality, and a great sound. It is simply excellent. I can understand if people would want big bass, more colorful mids, or simply a signature with more fun. However, the Fusion is one of the most well-balanced and cohesive hybrid monitors you can find.

Itsfit Lab Fusion Review

3. BEST Amplifier

Desktop: iFi Audio ZEN CAN

The ZEN can. It’s simple as that. It can drive power-hungry headphones with ease with great performance. It costs much lower than many desktop amps and if you pair it with the ZEN DAC, you get a strong setup for just $280.

From the review:

iFi ZEN CAN is surely an excellent performer with a tiny price. You might find it a bit sharp, colorless, and sterile. But I don’t think anyone can criticize its performance especially for the amount of power for high impedance headphones. Sure, there are spectacular amps out there but there aren’t many options cheaper than this. The only thing that comes to my mind is the JDS Atom amp, which doesn’t have this build quality, power, or these features.

iFi Audio ZEN CAN Review

Portable: Dethonray HA-2

Dethonray surely wowed people when they released the DTR1 DAP, but the HA-2 amplifier is no slouch either. It’s very powerful and it also has a great sound quality with excellent dynamics, attack, and control. It brought every setup I tried to the next level no matter what.

From the review:

The Dethonray HA-2 is easily one of the best portable amplifiers I’ve heard with its full Class A design. Together with great output power, the sound quality is also exceptional. After the DTR1, Dethonray once again did a marvelous job when it comes to raw sound quality. If stacking is OK for you, I heavily recommend the HA-2 for excelling your existing DAP’s sound quality to another level. If you already have a full-size can that needs some power, then it’s even better.

Dethonray HA-2 Review

4. BEST DAC/Amp

iFi Audio Hip Dac

The field of DAC/Amps is iFi’s specialty and they continue to release great products for audiophiles. We will review their newest offerings like the iDSD Signature and Neo iDSD very very soon, but the Hip DAC is surely one of the best products of 2020. And it comes relatively cheap too.

From the review:

The iFi hip-DAC has only one goal; improving your sound quality compared to the direct outputs of laptops and smartphones. After the time I’ve had with this device, I can smoothly say that it reaches that goal perfectly. For just $149, you get a very natural, uncolored, and slightly warm sound with forward mids. Technicalities-wise the device is excellent with great resolution, transparency, and separation.

iFi audio hip-dac Review

4. BEST Headphone

Hifiman Deva

Last year my best headphone was no other than the Hifiman Ananda BT, and this year it’s another Hifiman wireless offering. Deva is a very good headphone with its wireless BT module and it all costs just 299$. Sure, the Ananda BT is expensive but you can go for the Deva if you don’t have that kind of a budget for a wireless headphone. Normally I’m quite skeptical about BT headphones but Hifiman changed my mind in the last two years.

From the review:

The new Hifiman Deva to me is an excellent headphone. I wouldn’t have minded a bit better staging performance but rest assured, for the price and for a wireless headphone, everything else is very impressive. The design, the build, and comfort are all fabulous, and Hifiman once again nailed it in the sound department.

Hifiman Deva Review

5. BEST Accessory

Large Pockets: Brise Audio YATONO Rh2+

Brise Audio is a Japanese cable manufacturer with a “no prisoners” approach to details and materials. They don’t make any compromises in their design and approach so the cables of Brise Audio are excellent performers. Last year it was the STR7-Ref that won the award and this time it’s from the flagship series of Brise Audio, the Yatono Rh2+. Yes, it’s very expensive but if your aim is the end-game in terms of portable audio, then this cable scales your TOTL IEMs/headphones to the next level.

From the review:

Based on my experience, this is one of the best cables you can get. It has a fantastic build quality, a very thoughtful design with high-quality materials, and most importantly a great sound. I did not expect this kind of dynamic range, resolution, and definition. You also gain great technicalities like texture, timbre, energy, and separation. The cable is also built to last with fantastic attention to detail. The Japanese craftsmanship is really something else and the attention to detail in this cable’s structure is simply excellent.

Brise Audio YATONO Rh2+ Review

Smaller Pockets: Effect Audio Grandioso

Effect Audio is one of the most recognizable brands in portable audio and their new Vogue Series is very stylish. I always said that Eros II is one of the best options for people who want to improve the performance of their IEMs at a moderate price. Grandioso is simply a more stylish and low profile version of the Eros II and it’s my go-to cable in my daily listening.

From the review:

I really like the Grandioso simply because it’s not a cable that changes one particular area in terms of quantity or presentation. It stays true to the sound but improves technical aspects like resolution, transparency, dynamism, and texture. You get closer to the true recording, and you also see your monitor’s capabilities. And since the price is not on the level of flagship cables, you can actually argue that this is one of the best cables you can get on the market. It’s a great option if you want better technical performance from your IEMs.

Effect Audio Grandioso Review

The personal awards of Yagiz can be found on the fourth page! CLICK HERE for Yagiz’ awards.

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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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