Welcome, Weary Traveler!
Welcome to the Hall Of Fame, the location where only the best of the best resides!!
Audiophile-Heaven is now at over 650 reviews posted to date, so here’s my personal hall of fame, where the best of the best can sit, both budget products that offer outstanding price-to-performance ratio, but also products that offer a truly high-end experience.
New products will be added here, when something is golden in every way, or so amazing in some way, enough that it deserves a place here. Here you’ll find a few words about each product, why it was added here, and a link to the full review, where you can explore it, as well as a purchase link.
All products presented here are handpicked by the creator of Audiophile-Heaven, George, and this is a personal ranking based on their actual abilities, each of them having a good reason to be here. I will also remove products from the Hall of Fame, based on how they stand in today’s market, or if they are discontinued, for example, for products that can hardly be found anymore. This doesn’t mean that the reviews will be removed, and Audiophile-Heaven will not remove any review, regardless of whether a product is still available or not.
Entry-Level (Below 150 USD)
The Entry-level area is usually dominated by products from China, or as most name them Chi-Fi.
Of course, there are good products made in every part of the world, but lately, the market there exploded with a wide palette of high-quality products, and happily for us, they’re getting more and more amazing by the day.
OneOdio Monitor 60 Closed Back Dynamic Headphones (80 USD)
Product Link: https://amzn.to/3xg2Po5
OneOdio Monitor 60 is a high-quality monitoring headphone priced at about 80 USD at the moment of writing this review, made for music producers, DJs and artists on a budget. It features a 50mm full-sized dynamic driver, and it will be compared to Sivga SV021 (150 USD), Dekoni Blue Planar Magnetic Headphones (250 USD), and Master & Dynamic MH40 Wireless (250 USD). I simply have not listened to many other headphones priced so low, so it will be hard to keep the price out of the equation, but let’s have a look at what OneOdio managed to pull while on a budget. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a passionate listener, beginner creator, or just need an affordable headphone, as long as you don’t mind some slightly sharp edges, and if you want a clean, open, detailed headphone with good bass, and good comfort, which is closed back, then Monitor 60 will be the perfect choice at this moment.
FiiO BTA30 Bluetooth LDAC / aptX Receiver / Transmitter (90 USD)
BTA30 feels like the best thing since sliced bread, but for audio. Like the first guy to discover that you can record on magnetic tape, discovering so many usage scenarios at a very entry-level price point made me smile, and BTA30 with its receiver / transmitter abilities, along with a great quality on the digital output, and even a decent DAC inside is a fully recommended Bluetooth Receiver / Tansmitter / DAC.
JDS Labs Atom AMP+ Headphone Amplifier (100 USD)
Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/3zQzrmH
Sometimes all you need is a high-power low-price Amplifier, and this is exactly what JDS Labs managed to deliver here. Altough AMP+ is marketed as just an upgraded version of the original JDS Labs AMP, the new AMP+ has much better control, much lower noise, and can now be considered a full time headphone amplifier in its own right.
ddHIFI TC44C DAC/AMP Dongle (119 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3SQyGEa
ddHiFi TC44C is a dongle or DAC / AMP priced at 119 USD at the moment of writing today’s review, and it is made for smartphones designed for IEMs and portable earphones, but with enough power for larger, harder to drive headphones too. Given the price point and design, it will be compared to other dongle DACs such as Hiby FC5 (159 USD), HIDIZS DH80 (139 USD), iFi Audio hip-dac2 (190 USD), and FiiO BTR5 2021 (130 USD).
iBasso IT-01X (120 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3hajnop
I noticed that some Amazon reviewers did not like the hot stuff that IT01X is but that only means that they don’t understand what a basshead IEM is and who it is made for. For sure IT01X has tons of bass, and lots of energy. They won’t be for everyone, but their signature is already tradition for iBasso, all their entry-level IEMs are bassheavy and centered for this thick, fun and deep sound.
FiiO BTR5 2021 Bluetooth Receiver – DAC/AMP (120 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3Gg3sPB
FiiO BTR5 just got an update, and the new 2021 variant is even better than the original was, now with MQA support, and a similar feature set like the original. The sound seems to be vastly the same, with a similar driving power, but that isn’t a bad thing, since the original was well regarded, so it is time to have the updated version in the Hall Of Fame as well.
HIFI Walker H2 Portable Music Player (125 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3KlbE3B
Today’s review will focus on the 125 USD HIFI Walker H2, a DAP with a navigation wheel, Hi-Res play abilities, and support for up to 256GB microSD cards. It will be compared with other entry-level DAPs like Shanling M3X (340 USD), Hiby R2 (100 USD), Surfans F20 (125 USD), and Hiby R3 PRO (200 USD). At the end of the day, for 125 USD, HIFI Walker H2 is the DAP I can recommend the most to you, it does what FiiO BTR5 2021 is supposed to do, acting as both a USB DAC, Bluetooth receiver, can decode music, and for the price comes with some high quality Chifi IEMS, making most competition look really bad in terms of price / performance ratio.
Cleer Enduro ANC (129 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/44SWz3O
Cleer Enduro ANC is a $129 USD pair of Bluetooth Headphones with ANC or Active Noise Canceling, up to 60 hours of battery life, and a 40mm dynamic driver for your hearing and silence pleasure. They will be compared to other Bluetooth headphones, including PadMate Pamu Explore (56 USD), Valco VMK20 (180 USD), and FiiO EH3NC (170 USD).
Final Audio E4000 IEMs (150 USD)
Final E4000 is one of my favorite IEMs from Final, and although you’d have guessed that E5000 would take a sit in the Hall Of Fame, it is actually E4000 that does, because it has both a really good price, excellent price-to-performance Ratio, and E4000 has a more balanced, more natural sound compared to its bigger brother. Where E5000 is a really thick, warm and lush IEM, E4000 is more natural and organic, yet it still is a very full and lush IEM with a good amount of detail, and an excellent comfort.
FiiO K5 PRO Desktop DAC/AMP (150 USD)
Just like I added K3 a while ago to this list, I am adding K5 PRO too, it really deserves its place among the best, it has enough power for most reasonable headphones, including Ananda, Arya, and even HE6SE, or sundara, it has a nice design with a glowing volume button, and it has a background that’s quiet enough for IEMs that are less sensitive. Add the 150 USD price point, and a ton of dynamics, and you have the ingredients for a high-quality desktop DAC/AMP that will bring fun for years!
Sivga SV021 Headphones (150 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3rvmkGe
If you’re a basshead with a strong love for lows, good quality, and a fair comfort, SV021 is excellent for the low price you’re supposed to pay. Some users didn’t get this comfort, as the cups don’t swivel horizontally, but the earpads are soft, and the headband has soft padding too.
Midrange (150 – 500 USD)
The Midrange is actually where I started my audio more than ten years ago, when I bought a pair of Sennheiser IE80. Back then, I had no idea how much fun this hobby would be.
Products in this price range usually have both an excellent sound, and a great price-performance ratio, and are what you’re most likely to be using after a few years in this hobby and when looking for a significant upgrade.
Shanling UP5 Bluetooth Receiver DAC AMP (179 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3UoQEOa
Shanling UP5 is a 179 USD, flagship Portable Bluetooth Amplifier / DAC, with Dual DACs, MQA decoding, and up to 240mW / 32 OHMs of power. It will be compared to other DAC/AMPs and Bluetooth Receivers, including FiiO BTR5 (110 USD), Earstudio ES100 MKII (90 USD), Questyle M15 (250 USD), and iFi hip-dac2 (190 USD).
iFi hip-dac2 portable DAC/AMP (190 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3KpRaHn
If you want a really high-quality product for an entry-level price, but with a fairly good battery life, and good overall driving ability, then hip-dac2 is a highly recommended purchase, having one of the best sonic performances, along with one of the best aesthetics and ergonomics for the price you can find.
Grell TWS1 / TWS 1 Bluetooth IEMs (199 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3bHofSs
Created by the worldwide-renowned engineer Axel Grell, the 199.99 USD grell TWS 1 IEMS are a new chapter in the industry of IEMs, here to change how we feel and interact with TWS IEMs. Given their price point, TWS 1 will be compared to other high-end TWS Bluetooth IEMs, including GravaStar Sirius Pro+ (150 USD), 1More ANC TWS EHD90001TA (200 USD), Fostex TM-2 TWS IEMS (300 USD), and Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus TWS IEMs (300 USD).
ThieAudio Legacy 4 IEMs (200 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3hejI9z
Coming with two cables, or rather with one cable that can support both a Balanced 2.5mm connection, and a Single Ended one, via the adapter, having a very balanced overall signature, and also scaling with the source, being one of my personal favorite IEMs from the 200 USD price range. They come with a nice carrying case, have zero driver flex, and they are easy to drive, making them an ideal travel IEM.
Dunu Falcon PRO (220 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3GPJVWZ
The best part about Falcon PRO is that it is better than any of the previous released from Dunu, even those more expensive, and this is the kind of revealing, detailed IEM that is really easy to recommend to anyone looking for an engaging and uplifting sound. It has replaceable jacks, so you can use it with both SE and Balanced outputs from your sources, and it has excellent build quality, with good attention to minor details, so all the more fun to those looking for a high quality product for a low price.
7Hz Timeless Planar IEMS (220 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3IoRR2n
7Hz Timeless is one of the hottest selling IEMs by Linsoul, and priced at 220 USD, with planar driver technology, and with a really engaging sound. It will be compared to other hot selling IEMs or Earphones like Unique Melody 3DT / 3D Terminator (400 USD), Mangird Tea (300 USD), and FiiO FH5s (280 USD).
xDuoo XD-05 Plus DAC/AMP (250 USD)
Regardless whether you’re looking for a really strong pocket-amp, or if you just want to tone down brighter and vague-sounding IEMs, XD-05Plus surely will do a good job for you. I consider it to be the best price/performance ratio you can get from a strong porable DAC/AMP at the moment it was added to the Hall Of Fame. It basically replaced Earmen TR-AMp in the Hall Of Fame, which was a great DAC/AMP, but which was never supported properly by the company who took a turn for the worse in terms of public relations, absuing reviewers and considering them pure marketing instead of what we are – reviewers who are supposed to stay true and honest.
Dekoni Blue Planar Magnetic Headphones (250 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3hA1Gj4
The price of the Dekoni Blue is really good if you want a basshead headphone with excellent impact, great overall resolution, and if you don’t mind it being really hard to drive. In fact, it is so hard to drive that you mainly need a high-end AMP or something with a crazy high power to control it, but once you get it in line, the Dekoni Blue should be your best friend for a long period of time, and it is a headphone that won’t break the bank.
AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Headphones (250 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3EnTQlq
If you ever had or heard the HD-25 and wanted a proper follow-up, with actually good ergonomics, excellent sonic performance, but great support, AIAIAI’s TMA-2 Studio is an excellent option. This is a natural, clean and distortion-free headphone with fair comfort. They are modular, and you can replace every part if any is to break.
Master&Dynamic MH40 Wireless Headphones (250 USD)
MH40 has an even better sonic tuning than MW65, thanks to their more energetic nature. MH40 works really well for rock, post-hardcore, metal and uplifting music in general. Surely, you shouldn’t get them if your main music taste revolves around Jazz, Classical or Downtempo, but even for someone into Rap and who loves artists like Stromae, MH40 Wireless will be the perfect companion on the go.
Lotoo LE-M1 Monitoring IEMs (250 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3AbIKA5
Lotoo LE-M1 is an IEM or In-Ear Monitor, in the true sense of the word. They are priced at 269 USD, and they are designed, created and engineered for music production, rather than music listening. The best part is that they are light, portable, and given the price point, they will be compared with Earsonics ONYX (561 USD), IMR Audio Ozar (500 USD), and FiiO FH5S (280 USD).
Lotoo Paw S2 DAC AMP Dongle (279 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3FZbGi3
The Lotoo PAW S2 is a 279 USD portable DAC AMP with an AKM4377 DAC inside, and up to 150mW at 32 OHMs of power over the 4.4mm Balanced Output. Given the price which is higher than most dongle DAC AMPs, Lotoo PAW S2 will be compared to Qurstyle M15 (250 USD), Hiby FC5 (159 USD), Shanling M3X(279 USD), and Khadas Tone 2 PRO (250 USD).
FiiO FD5 Single Dynamic Driver IEMs (300 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/341RF6d
They are a typical V-Shaped IEM, but with an unnaturally good bass, treble sparkle, and what could be considered the best overall price / performance ratio you can get around 300 USD. FD5 can be a bit strong in the highs, so won’t be for those looking for easygoing IEMs, but if you appreciate an engaging sound, it will be simply perfect for you.
iBasso DX120 Player (320 USD)
DX120 is the entry-level DAP from iBasso, but in this rank, it sits in the Midrange given its price tag. Now, the quality of it is absolutely impressive, full metalic body, with a glass back, a very ergonomic design, and a beautiful display. It comes with a screen protector, has two microSD slots, and it is what I’d call a true upgrade from FiiO’s well known X5-2, but with a better, more versatile sound, more versatile body, and also two microSD slots. DX120 is a true success in every way, and it is easy to recommend to anyone looking for a Player that can play music and be done with it. Be warned though, it doesn’t have Wifi, or streaming abilities.
HIFIMAN Deva PRO Planar Magnetic Headphones (330 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3dmpMKR
Deva PRO is the better Deva, now with R2R tech inside the Bluetooth receiver, and the Stealth Magnetic technology backing up the excellent comfort, wide soundstage and warm sound of Deva. We have what is the best open-back Bluetooth headphone, where the receiver can work as a USB DAC, but is able to fully drive those music makers.
Aune X1s GT DAC/AMP/Streamer (349 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3JHVf9M
Aune X1s GT is a 349 USD DAC/AMP with LDAC Bluetooth, Balanced 4.4mm Headphone Output, and Hi-Res decoding. Given the price and design, it will be compared to the Soundaware A1X (700 USD), iFi xDSD DAC/AMP (400 USD), and Palab M1 Mini (500 USD).
Shanling M3X Music Player (DAP) (350 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3tlrWla
Sweet and spicy, versatile and well built are just a few of the was I would describe M3X, the latest DAP from Shanling. It is really good for a portable, and you can always grab one for a fair price, so it surely made it here for the type of quality it offers.
HarmonicDyne Zeus Headphones (350 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3otCkVD
One of the headphones I fancied the most, despite not being the most neutral out there. A bit hard to drive and to get right, but once you do get it right, it plays right into your head and heart. Excellent overall soundstage, clarity and detail for the price paid, and it is one of the headphones that is really comfortable. At 350 USD, it is a bargain.
Yamaha YAS-207 Soundbar + Subwoofer System (350 USD)
Coming with the magical DTS: Virtual X, YAS-207 is a system that looks like a single mini speaker, but sounds like a home theathre. It has a deep bass, excellent natural midrange, and a large soundstage, although the treble is a bit sparkly and has a bit too much power at times. This being said, for 350 USD, it beats most stereo systems, and finding something better wasn’t possible at the moment I wrote the full review.
Verum Audio 1 (One) Planar Magnetic Headphones Mark 2 (350USD)
Link To Purchase: https://www.verum-audio.com/
The second iteration of Verum One has a more neutral presentation with more dynamics, better detail, better ergonomics, more comfort and is generally a better headphone than the first was, making competition for Audeze LCD2C even.
Austrian Audio HI-X60 (399 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3MgvAYF
Austrian Audio HI-X60 is a $ 399 USD pair of closed-back headphones, with a 44mm high excursion dynamic driver, two detachable cables and metallic hinges for maximum durability and made in Vienna. They are going to be compared to other high-end headphones, including OLLO S5X (489 USD), SIVGA SV023 (499 USD), HIFIMAN Edition XS (499 USD), and KLH Ultimate One (400 USD).
KLH Ultimate One Open-Back Headphones (400 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3uhB4tm
KLH Ultimate One is a high-end, open-back pair of headphones priced at 400 USD in Europe (including taxes), sold and fulfilled by Hifi Expert in Romania. Given the price point, the main competitors will be Sendy Audio Apollo (500 USD), Sennheiser HD660S (500 USD), Avantone Pro Planar (450 USD).
iFi xDSD DAC/AMP (400 USD)
xDSD is one of my favorite products from iFi, a truly shining device, with both an excellent sound, the ability to drive anything, from Beyerydnamic Xelento, Dita Fidelity, all the way to Sennheiser HD660S and Audeze LCD-MX4, and with two features, a Bass Boost, and a 3D Sound, that I keep turned on more often than not. The build quality and aesthetics are pretty awesome, the battery life is fairly good, and overall, it makes a great purchase, even having a Bluetooth receiver inside, in case you wanted to connect it that way to your smartphone / Player.
OLLO S4X Monitoring / Mixing / Listening Headphones (400 USD)
S4X is the kind of headphone you just want to keep using, regardless whether you’re listening, mixing or mastering. Their smoother, yet detailed sound makes it really easy to spend hundreds of hours with your music, without ever feeling tired. They also have enough textures, detail and dynamics to keep that music going and interesting, plus the good comfort will make you forget you’re wearing them.
Unique Melody 3DT IEMs (400 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3wj5XMc
If you enjoy a wide stage, you will enjoy the magic of the 3D Terminator. They are indeed one of the best IEMs there are in terms of staging, refinement, detail, and clarity. There was nothing that I could critique them for, at this price point, except for a very energetic top end that may sound fatiguing to those that are more sensitive to treble. Even that part, tends to settle down and aid the stage, once you get used to the signature.
Dethonray SG1 Pegasus Bluetooth Receiver / DAC / Headphone Amplifier (400 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3zWjLQX
Dethonray SG1 Pegasus is a 400 USD Bluetooth DAC/AMPlifier, with DPPU (Desktop Plus Power Unit), support for LDAC, aptX HD, aptX LL, aptX, and a large 3000mAh battery. It will be compared to other DAC/AMPs, including iFi xDSD (400 USD), iBasso DX160 (400 USD), Palab M1 Mini (500 USD), and Soundaware A1X PRO (700 USD).
Avantone Pro Planar Headphones (450 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3rKzZJL
Avantone Pro Planar is the latest headphone from Europe, with a Planar technology behind, but without the pocket-emptying price that most of those have. The unit I’m reviewing today is red and ready to fight, and they have to be compared to other headphones costing around 450 USD or more, as well, so the competitors will be Beyerdynamic T1 (1000 USD), AIAIAI TMA-2 HD (400 USD), OLLO S4X (400 USD), and Dan Clark Aeon Flow (500 USD).
FiiO FH7 IEMs (450 USD)
FH7 is one of those IEMs that can deliver a really worthwhile upgrade, especially if you had FH5, and if you wanted a much larger soundstage, great refinement, detail, and clarity. For the 450 USD they cost, they can take on the Fibae Black, and even throw punches with DK-4001 which is twice the price.
iBasso DX170 Music Player (449 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3fXMy0x
iBasso DX170 is a 449 USD DAP or Music Player made by ibasso, with Dual Cirrus CS43131 DAC Chips, DSD setup, a 5″ IPS Display, and 3200mAh battery. It will be compared to other high-end DAPs and music players, including Shanling M3X (350 USD), iFi Audio xDSD (400 USD), QLS QA 361 (800 USD), FiiO M11 PRO (650 USD) and iBasso DX240 (950 USD).
EverSolo DAC-Z6 (459 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3nVUymS
EverSolo DAC-Z6 is a $459 USD / 2299 RON DAC, Headphone AMP with a large display, designed for music enjoyment by the parent company Zidoo, under the sub brand EverSolo. It is part of a new line of DACs, and it comes with ESS ES9068AS DACs in Dual configuration, it is a full MQA Decoder, and it has Bluetooth up to aptX, as well as Hi-Res Support. It will be compared to other midrange DAC/AMPs, including Dethonray SG1 Pegasus (400 USD), Aune X1s GT (349 USD), Palab M1 Mini (500 USD), and Singxer SDA-2 (700 USD).
Shanling M3 Ultra (469 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3O3IKtn
Shanling M3 Ultra is a $469 USD DAP / Digital Audio Player, basically a portable music player, with Dual ESS ES9219C DAC Chips, Dual RT6863 AMP Chips, Balanced Output, Super high endurance for the battery, and a lot of driving power. In today’s review, we will explore together how it sounds like and how it compares to other high-end DAPs, including TempoTec V6 (399 USD), iBasso DX170 (449 USD), Hiby RS2 Darwin (479 USD), and FiiO M11 PRO (650 USD).
Hiby RS2 Darwin R2R Portable Music Player (479 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3A017rn
Hiby RS2 Darwin is a 479 USD DAP with a beautiful aesthetic design, a minimalistic and practical OS design, and full Hiby Support, including R2R DAC and a 256-Tap FIR Filter that’s adjustable. Given the price point, it will be compared to other popular midrange DAPs, including iBasso DX170 (449 USD), TempTec V6 (399 USD), Dethonray DTR1+ (1000 USD), and FiiO M11 PRO (650 USD).
OLLO S5X (489 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3MkrYVr
OLLO S5X is a $489 USD Dynamic Headphone with an open-back design, a flat frequency response, made in EU. It is designed for studio usage, but also can be used for audiophile / enthusiast music listening, and it will be compared to other similarly priced headphones, including SIVGA SV023 (499 USD), HIFIMAN Edition XS (499 USD), HIFIMAN HE-R9 (599 USD), Sendy Audio Apollo (500 USD), and Avantone Pro Planar (450 USD).
SMSL DO200 Balanced DAC (490 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3FPKYoD
If you’re looking for the perfect DAC to go with AO200, then DO200 is just it. This is a high-end MQA DAC that can decode MQA on every single input, and has a balanced outputs, plus a really nice detailed sound that’s still smooth and enjoyable.
Hiby R6 III (499 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/42KCXwP
Hiby R6 III (Gen 3) is a $499 USD midrange DAP with a Dual Class design (you can change whether it is currently running in Class A or Class AB), Android 12, Snapdragon 665 CPU, and Balanced Output + Balanced Line Out. It will be the focus of our review today, and it will also be compared to other DAPs, including Shanling M3 Ultra (469 USD), Hiby RS2 Darwin (479 USD), iBasso DX170 (449 USD), and TempoTec V6 (399 USD).
HIFIMAN Edition XS Planar Magnetic Headphones (500 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3BWrTCL
HIFIMAN Edition XS is a revolutionary headphone made by HIFIMAN, released in 2021, and priced at an aggressive price of 499 USD, creating competition for everyone, and pushing the market to bring the best headphones possible at more affordable prices. They will be compared to other similarly priced headphones, and more expensive ones as well, including Sendy Audio Apollo (500 USD), HIFIMAN Ananda (999 USD), Denon AH-D7200 (700 USD), Dan Clark Aeon Flow RT (500 USD), and iBasso SR-2 (500 USD).
Palab M1 Mini DAC/AMP (500 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3px8IaU
Palab M1 mini is a DAC/AMP made by Palab, and it is no secret that it is a mighty good one, with a price tag of 500 USD, MQA decoding abilities, and a Balanced output. The main comparisons included in today’s review will be with really capable competitors, Chord Mojo, iFi xDSD, and FiiO Q5S.
IMR Audio Ozar (500 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3fKtbEM
This used to be the spot of FiiO FA9, but IMR Audio provides a better sound with the same philosophy, but also three cables, better comfort and a better sub-bass, more punchiness, and a more pleasing customer experience, for about the same price, so the place now belongs to Ozar. This is a limited run IEM, and that’s the only part that I can consider a disadvantage for it, you really need to be careful to grab a pair once they become available, else you may miss it.
Dan Clark Aeon Flow RT Headphones (500 USD)
Luxury build quality, comfort and an amazingly detailed sound are all reasons to go for Aeon Flow RT. Mr. Speakers and Dan Clark (pretty much the same company) managed to design something really good with their Aeon series. The biggest surprise was how capable the driver itself can be, when removing all of the filters inside. It can get to detailed, it could easily sit in the ~1000 USD price range, but happily Dan Clark was very safe with the pricing, so that those with a more limited budget can totally enjoy the Aeon Flow RT.
iBasso SR-2 Open-Back Dynamic Tesla Headphones (500 USD)
SR-2 is made for those looking for a really comfortable headphone, and one with a beautiful musical, rich and antural sound. It is not a detail extractor, and it prefers to stay musical, fun and light. The best part is the natural soundstage, and beautiful vocal performance, making SR-2 one of the best experiences one could ever exprience.
Sendy Audio Apollo Planar Magnetic Headphones (500 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/35MWJjt
Sendy Audio Apollo is a 500 USD headphone based on the QUAD-Former technology, basically a Planar magnetic driver with double magnets + double sided coils and double sides of coils. This means that it gets to be compared with Adam Audio Studio PRO SP-5 Headphones (550 USD), iBasso SR-2 Open Back Headphones (500 USD), Sennheiser HD660S (500 USD), Dan Clark Aeon Flow RT (500 USD) and Avantone Pro Planar Headphones (450 USD). At the end of today’s written review, Sendy Audio Apollo is an excellent purchase, for both those who love to relax, and those who want to hear beautiful music, it has extremely good performance for the price, and a fully recommended purchase for those who enjoy a mid centric sound with a smooth and relaxed nature.
Periodic Audio Carbon C Earphones / IEMs (500 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3Pg0mPw
Periodic Audio decided to refresh their IEM like with detachable cables, and a slightly tweaked sound, so today’s review will focus on the flagship Carbon, priced at 500 USD, and which will be compared to other popular IEMS in the price range, including Earsonics Onyx (560 USD), IMR Audio Ozar (500 USD), Campfire Audio Holocene (650 USD).
High-End (500 – 1500 USD)
The High-End Area is for those who are already deep in this hobby and who love music and are looking for an exciting update hard enough to drop quite a hefty amount for this hobby.
Once you’re here, the price-performance ratio becomes less important, and you’re lookint at the latest, cutting-edge developments, and products that really refine the experience further away. Since the price-performance ratio starts to drop, most products in this price range must perform really well to exist.
JDS El Stack II+ Balanced (El DAC II+ Balanced + El AMP II+ Balanced) (550 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3I2uNrT
JDs Labs El AMP II+ Balanced is a 249 USD Balanced Headphone Amplifier / Preamplifier, and today’s variant will be with Balanced TRS Inputs, RCA outputs, and will be compared to other headphone amplifiers, such as Feliks Audio Echo 2 (800 USD), Burson Funk (650 USD), and Rebel AMP (500 USD).
Burson Funk Headphone / Stereo Amplifier (550 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3DmBgJ2
There’s no DAC inside this one, but it can act as both a headphone and a Stereo Amplifier, actually having more than enough power for diving pretty much any headphone, IEM and Speaker you throw at it, including both bookshelf and floor standing speakers. Funk likes to play, it has a musical presentation, excellent overall detail, and great dynamics. Class D for the Hifi Stereo speaker AMP, and Class AB for the headphone amplifier means that it won’t burn through your pockets with the energy it gurgles.
Earsonics ONYX IEMs (561 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3jiRV8w
ONYX is the name of the latest high-end In Ear Monitor handmade in France by the French company Earsonics, priced at 490 EUROs or roughly 561 USD. This is a proof of art movement made by the company, trying to create the most affordable high-end IEM they could, all while including all their best technology inside an IEM that’s made to last. Given the price point, it will be compared to other high-end IEMs like Campfire Mammoth (650 USD), Moondrop Illumination (800 USD), Metalure Wave (600 USD), and NX Ears Baso (550 USD).
Aune S6 PRO DAC / Balanced Headphone Amplifier (550 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/S6-Pro-Headphone-Amplifier-Black/dp/B08GY27ZDH
When looking for a high-quality DAC/AMP for your headphones, especially if you’re into gaming, and if you love a modern and aesthetic design, Aune’s S6 PRO is a really good desktop piece to won. It comes with a Single Ended, and an XLR Balanced output as well, and it allows for both high-resolution, DSD, and PCM signals, making the most out of your music collection and games. It works with xbox, playstation, and other gaming consoles as well.
STE Audio AG W16 IEM Silver Cable (580 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3Aeg6i1
STE AG W16 Cable for IEMs is a 580 USD option for those who are looking to improve their IEMs, designed with an ergonomic build, extremely similar to the STE Cu W16, which I reviewed in the past. Given the price point, STE AG W16 will be compared to other high quality cables, including STE Cu W16 (400 USD), Effect Audio EVO 1 (440 USD), and Ares Audio Sakeishi (450 USD). To give you some idea of what IEMs work best with STE AG W16, I will be exploring in the sonics part of today’s review how it works with some of my favorite IEMS that use a 2-Pin standard connector, including Oriveti OV800 (999 USD), Unique Melody MEXT (1200 USD), and Metalure Wave (600 USD).
HIFIMAN EF400 R2R DAC / Headphone AMP ($599 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3hnbPlb
HIFIMAN EF400 is a 599 USD balanced DAC/AMP with an R2R DAC inside, the Himalaya recipient of 2022 VGP Technology Award in Japan, and with a fully balanced design for the headphone output part. It will be compared to the best DAC/AMPs I reviewed on Audiophile-Heaven in the past, including Matrix Audio Element i (1150 USD), Pro-Ject DAC Box DS (400 USD), Palab M1 Mini (500 USD), Soundaware A1X PRO (700 USD), and even Aune s6 PRO (550 USD), SMSL DO200 Balanced DAC (490 USD), and Keces S3 (1300 USD).
Campfire Holocene IEMs (600USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3orke8p
If you’re looking for a detailed, yet musical IEM with great ergonomics, and an IEM that’s actually a big danger to the company’s own flagships, Campfire Holocene will surely be one of the first IEMs that come to mind. This one has a good build quality, excellent, over-the-top value, and the same Campfire design we come to love.
Metalure Wave IEMs (600USD)
Link To Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/S6-Pro-Headphone-Amplifier-Black/dp/B08GY27ZDH
Wave is the kind of IEM that I want to give more ear time, and actually manage to do so. They are made for bass, musicality, a really full and smooth bass, great impact, and tons of dynamics. The aesthetics are also beautiful, and for the 600 USD they cost, they totally beat up and down the Xelento from Beyerdynamic, previous bassy flagship.
Zoom F6 Portable Recorder Interface / Mixer (700 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3r9rzu1
Zoom F6 is the latest, strongest and best (spec wise) portable recorder made by Zoom, and comes with a price tag of 700 USD. Today we will explore it and its abilities, and we will also explore how it compares to Zoom H5(280 USD), Zoom H2n(200 USD), Lotoo Paw 1(500 USD), and we will also be exploring pairings between Zoom F6 and Rode NTG-2 Shotgun Microphone and Rode NTG-3B Shotgun Microphone. At the end of today’s review, zoom took me by surprise with their F6, and although I was not a strong believer in the quality of interfaces, F6 delivers really nicely, and delivers on everything it promises to deliver. It is an interface with a detailed, vivid, and clean sound, no distortions, and it is perfect for both novices, but also professional film makers, and game developers too.
Soundaware A1X PRO DAC/AMP/Streamer (700 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3hCD0X9
Just by looking at what else you can find in this same price range, and which made it to the Hall Of Fame, you know that A1X PRO is a hard rocking Streamer, that is best described as a really versatile DAC/AMP with a really good headphone driving stage. Certainly not perfect, it is more than enough for all enthusiasts, and will power pretty much anything from IEMs to Planars. Only downside to it is that you need to press the remote for every single increment of volume.
Rubyoung Master R830 Stereo Hi-Fi Speaker (749 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3HZIPul
Rubyoung Master R830 is the $749 USD star Bluetooth speaker of today’s review, and this version is the Alcantara Blue, with the Blue Love cover, and which can be purchased directly from the Rubyoung or hopefully Amazon. The speaker has a Bluetooth 5.1 protocol, and it has a powerful woofer too, so it will be compared to other high-end speakers, including NHT C3 (1249 USD), Vifa Copenhagen 2 (700 USD), and AIWA EXOS 9 (300 USD).
HIFIMAN He-R9 Dynamic Headphones (750 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3bHB0MS
HIFIMAN HE-R9 is the latest 599 USD headphone from the master Chinese producer, and this time we have a closed back design on our hands, with dynamic drivers, and a bluetooth receiver, that will increase the cost to 749 USD. Given the price point, I will be comparing HE-R9 to other high end headphones, including Dan Clark Aeon Flow RT (500 USD), Sennheiser HD660S (500 USD), Adam Audio Studio PRO SP-5 (550 USD), HIFIMAN Ananda (700) and Beyerdynamic Amiron (599 USD).
IMR Acoustics ELAN (800 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://imracoustics.com/
IMR Audio Elan is the current IEM flagship priced at 600 GBP or about 800 USD, made by IMR Audio, with a 10mm CNT ADLC Driver + Bone Conduction motors, and a highly customizable design. Given the price point, it needs to be compared to other flagships like Moondrop Illumination (800 USD), Campfire Ara (1300 USD), Unique Melody MEST MK2 (1500 USD), and Campfire Vega 2020 (900 USD).
Moondrop Illumination IEMs by TTAudio (800 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3Evq7H4
Sold by the Canadian shop, TTAudio, Moondrop Illumination is a crème-de-la-crème IEM, made by the Chifi producer Moondrop. I actually was surprised that I could add this one to the Hall Of Fame, as Chifi rarely is worth the asking price at high-end levels. It looks like Western IEM and Headphone makers have reasons to fear, the Chifi market quickly catching up with them. Illumination has a wide, airy, presentation, excellent details, and a very dynamic sound. Despite their odd aesthetics, they are plenty comfortable.
QLS QA361 Digital Audio Player (DAP) (800 USD)
QLS QA361 is a magical one, because it is the answer to the question and request of many music lovers. Many wanted a DAP that has the sound of a true flagship, but which doesn’t rely on many features to work. QA 361 put all the money on the sound, and left all of the extra freatures out, as it is able to play music from its microSD card, and has physical buttons for its navigation. The sound is soft, musical, neutral and has a wide soundstage, and an amazing amount of details, making you wonder, where has it been for all your life.
Dan Clark Aeon 2 Noire Closed-Back Planar Magnetic Headphones (899 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3tdYazA
Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Noire is an 899 USD pair of headphones with a full black design, in-house designed and created planar magnetic drivers, and a multitude of cables available for you upon purchasing them. They will be compared to other high-end headphones, including Sendy Audio Peacock (1500 USD), Underwood HIFI LSA-HP1 (1400 USD), HIFIMAN Ananda (1000 USD), Crosszone CZ-8a (1600 USD), and Audeze LCD-XC 2021 (1800 USD).
Campfire Vega 2020 IEMs (900 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/2WY0FsQ
Smooth Warm and Bassy is what Vega 2020 is all about. Campfire does not have a house sound, and every single one of their IEMs is made with a unique tuning in mind, Vega 2020 being the smooth, musical, laid back and fun of the bunch. They are also some of the most comfortable IEMs I tried my entire life, so you have the build quality, comforts and sonics to guarantee you’re going to be in heaven with Vega 2020.
iBasso IT07 IEMs (900 USD)
One of the few IEMs that really made me smile during the Corona Lockdown was the IT07. I heard it at the beginning of 2021, but it kept me smiling even months after, with that natural, slightly warm, full and rich sound. There’s something magical about the way it can deliver a very detailed experience, but never fails to stay natural and smooth, natural and also comfortable. It may be a bit pricey compared to iBasso’s previous IEMs, but it is perfect for the music lover looking to experience a proper flagship, yet less pricey than today’s most flagships.
Crosszone CZ-10 Dynamic Headphones (900 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3ncPmbp
I was honestly expecting this one to be a soundstage-centric headphone, but it turns out that when properly powered CZ-10 can be a true high-end bass cannon. They are still somewhat midrange forward and peaky around 1 kHz, so they won’t be comfortable for everyone, but when you do find comfort in their sound, CZ-10 sounds brilliant, deep, impactful, fun and heavy.
IMR Acoustics Dark Matter / God Particle IEMs (700 GBP / 910 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3C0NWs9
IMR Acoustics PRO Dark Matter is an IEM priced at about 700 GBP or Great Britain Pounds, or about 910 USD, handmade by pros for pros, with two drivers, one dynamic and one bone conduction in its design. Given their price point, Dark Matter resides in the territory of flagships, and will be compared to other high-end flagships, including Unique Melody MEXT (1100 USD), Fir Audio VxV (999 USD), Rhapsodio Zombie (2000 USD), Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD), Oriveti OV800 (999 USD), and Campfire Dorado 2020 (1100 USD).
iBasso DX240 Digital Music Player / DAP (950 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3lz6GG4
iBasso DX240 is the latest DAP from iBasso, made to work with the same AMP modules as those made for DX220. This is one heck of a high-end DAP, with support for MQA, Hi-Res files, as well as apps, and a pure music Mango Mode. The sound is extremely live, raw, and direct, with a wide soundstage, and excellent detail. Driving power is a bit low by default, but you can get alternative AMP modules for more juice.
Oriveti OV800 IEMs (999 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3vT6C9l
OV800 by Oriveti is a premium high-end universal IEM priced at 999 USD, with 8 Balanced Armature drivers, and a handmade cable. Aiming to offer a natural and balanced sound, with a luxurious low-end delivery, OV800 will be compared to other flagships, including iBasso IT07 (900 USD), Campfire Dorado 2020 (1100 USD), Audeze Euclid Planar IEMs (1300 USD) and Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD). I will also include pairings with iBasso DX240 + AMP8 MK2 (950 USD + 219 USD), Astell & Kern SE180 (1500 USD), and Dethonray DTR1+ Prelude (1000 USD).
Fir Audio VxV IEMs (999 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3jbR5KS
Fir Audio VxV or 5×5 is a high-end IEM priced at 999 USD, and with five drivers per ear, a full bodied presentation and a special ATOM pressure venting system. Given their price point, they will be compared with Campfire Ara (1300 USD), Unique Melody MEST MKii (1500 USD), Audeze Euclid (1300 USD), iBasso IT07 (900 USD), and Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD). I will also be including pairings with iBasso DX240 running AMP8 MK2 Module (950 USD), Dethonray DTR1+ Prelude DAP (1000 USD), and Astell & Kern SE180 (1500 USD). At the end of the day, if you’re looking for one of the most versatile IEMs ever designed, with a really comfortable fit, high quality chassis and driver technology, support well by the producing company, and sporting unique tech for their sound, Fir Audio VxV is going to spend a lot of time with you, and find a place in your heart, as one of the most natural sounding IEMs ever creating.
HIFIMAN Ananda Planar Magnetic Headphones (1000 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3xc9RKw
HIFIMAN Ananda is the headphone I took the most photos of for the past 3 months, and it is a high-end planar magnetic design priced at 1000 USD, sometimes going on sale for 700 USD. They have been the culmination of price / performance ratio for HIFIMAN, and they will be compared to other high-end headphones, including Crosszone CZ-10 Dynamic Headphones (900 USD), LSA HP-1 (1400 USD), Sivga Peacock Planar Magnetic Headphones (1500 USD), HIFIMAN Arya Stealth (1600 USD), and Audeze LCD-XC 2021 (1800 USD). For this special headphone, I will also be including pairings with Astell & Kern SP2000T (2500 USD), Cyrus One Cast (2000 USD), and Lotoo PAW 6000 (1200 USD). At the end of the day, Ananda meets the best characteristics and strengths found in every HIFIMAN Headphone released to date, it is affordable, but it is well made, it has good comfort, but it is pretty sleek in aesthetics, it sounds sweet, but has a wide soundstage, has good impact and bass depth, but has a good instrument separation and detail, being really easy to recommend to anyone looking for what the perfect open back headphone with a sweet signature priced at 999 USD should sound like.
Dethonray Prelude DTR1+ Music Player (1000 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3tKGjlc
We’re reviewing a music player priced at 1000 USD, and made for those who don’t want no touchscreen, and who want a pure music experience with no distractions. This means that the first competitor it needs to have is QLS QA361 (700 USD), a DAP also made on this philosophy, but also high-end DAPs from this price bracket like FiiO M11 PRO (650 USD), iBasso DX240 (950 USD), and Lotoo PAW 6000 (1200 USD). For the pairings part of today’s review, we will be doing pairings with Dethonray’s own Tender 1 IEMs (700 USD), Campfire Audio Ara (1300 USD), Sendy Audio Peacock (1750 USD), and Crosszone CZ-10 (900 USD).
Plussound Copper+ IEM Cable (1000 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://plussoundaudio.com/customcables/inearmonitor.html
If you’re wondering if this is a spout of insanity, adding a cable review to the Hall Of Fame, it actually makes a lot of sense when you really think about it, this is inherently a part of an IEM, and this one cable will improve any IEM, having good synergy, good build quality, and despite its high price, being a good overall purchase for those who’re already running a high-end IEM and wanting more copper magic to that sound.
Campfire Dorado2020 Hybrid IEMs (1100 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3uX4JWu
Dorado2020 is the kind of IEM that I do recommend on a daily basis, and if you watch my Youtube video review about it, you’ll know by the public comments that everyone who got it is really satisfied. The biggest thing is that it is comfortable, detailed, but also fun, with an impactful rumbly bass, full sound, and a large stage. Great overall deal, for a falgship IEM. I am sure I will still be using this one in 2024.
Westone Mach 60 IEMs (1100 USD)
Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/3EjZBTF
Westone Mach 60 are a pair of IEMs priced at 1100 USD, currently found on sale for 879 USD, with 6 Balanced Armature Drivers, and a unique sound to match the super ergonomic design. They will be compared to other high-end and flagship IEMs, including Ambient Acoustics MAD16 (2500 USD), Oriveti OV800 (999 USD), Unique Melody MEXT (1200 USD), Fir Audio VxV (999 USD), and Campfire Ara (1300 USD).
Matrix Element i Streamer / DAC / Headphone AMP (1150 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3SEMKjV
Matrix Audio Element i is a Streamer with a headphone output, DAC output, and much more, priced at 1150 USD, and will be compared to some of the best streamers, DACs and headphone amplifiers in the price range, including Cyrus One Cast (2000 USD), cocktail N25 Music Streamer (1400 USD), Keces S3 (1300 USD), Soundaware A1x PRO (700 USD), and Mano Ultra MKii (1200 USD).
Lotoo PAW 6000 DAP (1200 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3fxdTSX
I am still using this one, because it makes up for a great tiny, convenient Desktop DAC/AMP that I can take with me as a DAP whenever I need. Excellent battery life, driving factor, and the only real downside to it is that it doesn’t have strong Tidal and other app support. Still, my listening is done 90% from my own discography ripped by me directly from CDs, or purchased online, so PAW6K is and will be for the foreseeable future a nice partner in crime.
Unique Melody MEXT IEMs (1200 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3LJ0QMU
Unique Melody MEXT is the latest high-end IEM from UM, priced at 1099 USD right now, usually priced at 1200 USD, sporting Bone Conduction drivers, Dynamic Drivers, and Balanced Armatures. Supported by Unique Melody’s high-end 4.4mm balanced cable, MEXT will be compared to other flagship IEMs that left an impression on me over the years, including Unique Melody MEST MK2 (1500 USD), Final Audio A8000 (2500 USD), Rhapsodio Zombie (2000 USD), Campfire Ara (1300 USD), Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD) and Audeze Euclid Planar IEMs (1300 USD). I will also be pairing MEXT with the Astell & Kern SP2000T (2500 USD), iBasso DX300 (1200 USD), and Lotoo PAW 6000 (1200 USD). An option for custom fitting is available, and it is priced at 1399 USD. At the end of today’s review, if you’re looking for high-end IEMs with an excellent build quality, superb instrument separation, dynamics and a totally new technology, developed by one of the best companies out there, namely Unique Melody, then MEXT should be at the top of your purchase list, as it comes with all the best tech they have to offer, and has probably the best price / performance ratio they have to date.
NHT C3 Stereo Bookshelf Speakers (1250 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3QzulDf
NHT C3 is a high-end premium speaker priced at 624.99 USD per piece or 1249.98 USD for a stereo setup, with a 3-way design, sealed Box Design, and with a beautiful aesthetic. It will be compared to Buchardt S400 (1800 USD), Aurender S5W (3000 USD), and Audioengine A5+ Wireless (500 USD). I will also be pairing NHT C3 with Cyrus One Cast (2000 USD), Burson Funk (550 USD) driven by an AAdac from Audio Analogue (4000 USD) , and SMSL AO200 (280 USD) driven by SMSL DO200 (490 USD).
Campfire Ara IEMs (1300 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/32XH5jv
If you want to know how a scientific sounding IEM would sound like, that’s Ara. This one has the most detail from everything I heard around this price point, and is dangerously close to 2000 USD flagships, it is comfortable and has the reliable build / support of Campfire Audio. In fact, Ara has been in my top 10 IEMs for 2021, and will probably stay in my heart for much longer, with that sweet, detailed sound that has a natural amount of bass, a wide soundstage, and incredible detailing.
Audeze Euclid Planar Magnetic IEMs (1300 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3u2f6an
Now, 1300 USD is quite a bit for an IEM, again, but it is money well invested if you want to have the only closed-back planar magnetic IEM in the entire world. Euclid has excellent stage, detail and clarity, along a nice comfort.
Keces S3 DAC/AMP (1300 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3n88K9p
S3 has the power, refinement, detail and overall build quality to be among the best DAC/AMPs ever created. With a warm sound, an XLR headphone output, but also controllable gain, you’re sure to be able to pair it with pretty much anything, from relatively easy IEMs and earphones to hard to drive headphones.
Underwood HIFI LSA HP-1 Headphones (1400 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=kennerton
The price point of the LSA HP1 may seem high, but it is actually very low, compared to the headphones they are the baby of. It is almost half the price of the Kennerton Odin, and much less than half the price of Thror, which I also reviewed, but the HP-1 deserves to be here, they are natural in the mids, but if driven well, they have the impact, detail, and even comfort to rival most 3000USD flagships. The trick is to always purchase them from Underwood Hifi USA, but don’t worry, they do deliver everywhere, including Romania.
Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://drop.com/buy/limeears-aether-r-universal-fit-iem
Aether R is one of my all-time favorite IEMs for sure. It really has a unique tuning, and this one is a trickster, really hard to get right. Once you do get it right, it is amazing, one of the best IEMs to ever exist in the entire world. The best part about Aether R is how magically emotional and nuanced it can be, while keeping impact and dynamics top notch. A colorful performance, it won’t be able to satisfy absolutely everyone, but for those that it can satisfy, it shall stay a love for a lifetime.
Cocktail N25 Music Streamer (1400 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3JiYD9t
Coming straight out of the technologized South Korea, N25 is a flagship streamer with DAC functions, and priced at 1400 USD. For this price, it features a Streaming function, network player, Roon point, and MQA decoding, along with a DAC function, so you can connect it straight to an external Amplifier. It will be compared to other high-end and flagship DACs / Streamers, including Magna Hifi Mano Ultra MK2 (1200 USD), Cyrus One Cast (2000 USD), and Soundaware A1X PRO (700 USD). Given that it has a DAC function, it will also be tested as the main DAC for a few headline systems, a Violectric HPA V340 Amplifier (2000 EURO) + HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Headphones (1600 USD), and SMSL DO200 Amplifier (280 USD) + NHT C3 Speakers (1000 USD). At the end of the day, if you’re looking for beautiful sonics, excellent usage scenarios, with support for Bluetooth inputs, bluetooth outputs, MQA decoding, Roon Point support, External HDD support, and even USB DAC support, with a beautiful, well isolated, detailed sound, and good Wifi coverage, then cocktail Audio N25 is the best streamer I can recommend you out of everything I reviewed so far.
Summit-Fi (1500+ USD)
The Summit-Fi is the end, products here dropped most sense of price-performance ratio, and are all about reaching the cutting edge of what is humanly possible at the moment of their release.
Things can get pricy, but the experience with a product must be sublime for it to exist in a hall of fame once you hit this kind of price. A product must be pretty flawless to exist here.
Sivga Peacock Planar Magnetic Headphones (1500 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3pswlkY
Sendy Audio Peacock is the latest headphone from Sendy Audio and it is priced at about 1500 USD at the moment of writing this full written review (USA), and 1750 USD (Europe after taxes). The main comparisons will be with Kennerton Thror (3000 USD), Audeze LCD MX4 (3000 USD), Rosson RAD-0 (2600 USD), Spirit Torino SuperLeggera (2000 USD), and Crosszone CZ-1 (2000 USD). We will also be having pairings with Astell&Kern SE180 (1500 USD), Analog Audio AAdac (4000 USD), Keces S3 (1300 USD), and Lotoo PAW6000 (1200 USD).
Astell & Kern A&Futura SE180 Music Player (1500 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=se180
This one DAP has been on my mind for such a long time, and I’ve been so happy to review it that I’ve been using it ever since reviewing it. Literally, while writing this piece, I have it on my desk. It is impressive, musical, yet smooth, yet detailed, punchy and dynamic. If you’re looking for the best the musical world has to offer, you need to check out Astell & Kern and their DAPs, they surely have an amazing thing going on for them, and there’s a reason they are considered kings in this hobby.
Unique Melody MEST MK2 IEMs (1500 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3yQ9bHP
More drivers aren’t always better, but this time around they mean a much better sound, and I’m really excited to say that MEST MK2 is one of the best IEMs I heard in my entire life, period. They even beat those Xelento bass-heavy IEMS at the bass department, and also outdo Dita’s Fealty and Fidelity, so you know they mean business when you hear Unique Melody announcing a new IEM, with MEST MK2 being one of my absolute all-time favorites.
iBasso DX320 DAP / Music Player (1600 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3QdckLp
Ibasso DX320 is the 1599 USD flagship DAP or Digital Audio Player made by iBasso, with a modular AMP design, two colors available for purchase, and with new ROHM MUS-IC DACs instead of ESS or AK chips. Given the price point, it will be placed against the wall and compared to all the other flagships, including Astell & Kern A&Futura SE180 (1500 USD), Lotoo PAW 6000 (1200 USD), FiiO M17 (1800 USD), Astell & Kern A&Ultima SP2000T (2500 USD), iBasso DX300 (1200 USD), and Dethonray Prelude DTR1+ Music Player (1000 USD).
HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Headphones (1600 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/2ZSeyL2
Arya Stealth is the new level of Arya, and the new 2021 variant of Arya is the best variation of Arya, now with an even more transparent sound, better resolution, more detail, and better clarity. HIFIMAN even improved on the build quality, and Arya Stealth is the Arya that will be replacing the Empyrean and most competition, as the original Arya did, but now for even better reasons.
Crosszone CZ-8A Multi-Driver Dynamic Headphones (1600 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3LM0vcd
Crosszone CZ-8A is the latest headphone made by Crosszone, with 3 drivers, all of them dynamic, and in multiple sizes and are priced roughly 1700 USD, and mostly available on the Japanese and Asian markets. Those are some high-end over-the-ear flagship headphones with ingenious design, so they will be compared to other flagships, like Kennerton Thror (3000 USD), Rosson RAD-0 (2200 USD), Spirit Torino SuperLeggera (2000 USD), Crosszone CZ-1 (2000 USD), HIFIMAN Arya Stealth (1600 USD), and Audeze LCD-XC 2021 (1800 USD). I will also include pairings with Cyrus One Cast (2000 USD), Astell & Kern SE180 (1500 USD), Lotto PAW 6000 (1200 USD), and iBasso DX240 (950 USD). At the end of the day, if you want to listen to full sized high-end speakers, in a well designed room, but simply can’t, and if you don’t want to argue with your loved ones, but still can’t scratch your itch with your everyday headphones, Crosszone designed the CZ-8A just for you, a headphone that’s perfect for every music lover who’s used to a wide stage and who wants to hear that, but portably and in their own intimacy.
Audeze MM-500 Studio Planar Magnetic Headphones (1699 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3DUNU45
Audeze MM-500 is the 1699 USD pair of Planar Magnetic headphones designed by Audeze for Studios, Music Producers, Sound Engineers and everyone who wants to hear the latest word in detail and resolution, without breaking the bank. In fact, this is going to be not only hard to beat, but almost impossible if you’re here for resolution, precision and a crisp studio sound. The comparison list will include all the best headphones I’ve reviewed before, like Audeze LCD-XC (1800 USD), HIFIMAN HE6SE (1800 USD), Crosszone CZ-1 (2000 USD), Spirit Torino SuperLeggera (2000 USD), Rosson RAD-0 (2600 USD), and HIFIMAN HE1000 V2 (3000 USD). For driving MM-500 I’ve been using a collection that’s modest compared to the usual suspects, and it includes iBasso DX320 (1600 USD), HIFIMAN EF400 (600 USD), and Astell & Kern SE180 (1500 USD)
Unique Melody Maven PRO (1799 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://www.uniquemelody.org/products/maven-pro
Uniuqe Melody Maven PRO is a pair of $1799 USD pair of IEMs with 10 Balanced Armature Drivers and two EST Drivers playing in each ear, a Titanium Shell, and outstanding cables, all for the ultimate musicality. They will be compared to other flagship IEMs, including CTM Clear tune Monitors Da Vinci X (2400 USD), Unique Melody MESt MK2 (1500 USD), Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD), Ambient Acoustics MAD 24 (3500 USD), and Final Audio A8000 (2400 USD). I will also be doing pairing for this flagship IEM, including pairings with Astell & Kern SP2000T (2500 USD), iBasso DX320 (1600 USD), Lotoo PAW 6000 (1200 USD), and Hiby RS2 Darwin (480 USD).
Buchardt S400 Stereo Bookshelf Speakers (1800 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/32XLgfb
Buchardt S400 are a pair of speakers made with ingenious marketing and design, and they are sold for 1800 USD at the moment of writing this review. They will be compared with Aurender S5W, Edifier S1000DB, and Audioengine A5+. For driving the S400, we will have pairings with Roksan Caspian M2 Amplifier, driven by a Keces S3 DAC, Cyrus One Cast HD DAC/AMP/Streamer, and a Class D Arylic A50 Receiver / Amplifier.
Audeze LCD-XC 2021 Planar Magnetic Headphones (1800 USD)
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/3DwKnXA
Sometimes you need a good headphone for both your mixing, mastering, and listening needs. This is exactly where LCD-XC 2021 comes in handy, as it has a good price / performance ratio, but also one of the most detailed, clean sounds you could get, and with a smoother texture presentation, it won’t be fatiguing and you won’t feel the need to take them off every few minutes because you can’t stand the sound or the comfort. Audeze made those lighter, for long hours of listening, and if you don’t need the rugged case, you could get them for around 1300 USD.
HIFIMAN He6SE Planar Magnetic Headphones (1800 USD)
HE6SE is one of those headphones that you either love at first listen, or you feel it has too much detail. At any rate, they are a really hard to drive and hard to master headphone, that will reveal the finest textures, details and tiny wonders in your music, all while being comfy, and costing less than what other flagships do.
Cyrus One Cast Smart DAC / Integrated Amplifier / Headphone AMP (2000 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/33Rpn1E
If you’re looking for a DAC / Headphone AMP / Stereo Hifi Integrated AMP to be the one center of all your entertainment, then One Cast should be the ideal thing to get. It has excellent sonics on all outputs, enough driving power for both speakers and all headphones out there, has no background noise, can work as a USB DAC, and can do streaming as well. It is, basically, the one media center you will stop at, because upgrading from it will be both tedious and come with drawbacks, compared to the convenience of using it.
Violectric HPA V340 Headphone Amplifier / PREamp (2000 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3GPNXP7
Copious amounts of driving power, a high-end build, along with both Single Ended and Balanced Headphone outputs are just a few of the reasons you may be considering the HPA V340. This is one of the finest solid state Headphone AMPs that you can find on the market at the moment, and can be used as a Preamp for a full sized hifi system as well.
CrossZone CZ-1 Headphones (2000 USD)
CZ-1 isn’t open nor closed back, but semi-open, having ventilation, but not having a fully open cup. They are one of the best headphones there is, being in fair and straight competition with some of the most expensive hifhi speaker setups, when it comes to playing classical music. They sound huge, but fair, natural, and they are one of the most comfortable headphones in the world, relying on a very unique mechanism for being this comfortable, and they easily enter the Hall Of Fame for their interesting build, aesthetics and impressive sound that’s gentle and easy to listen to.
Spirit Torino SuperLeggera Headphones (2000 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://ouo.io/T1k7NN
When browsing headphoines, you sometimes come across a really unique headphone with a fully unique desgin. The Spirit Torino Supper Leggera is one such headpohone, and if you’re curious how it stands to the test of time, this is still a personal favorite, as musical as it is playful, open, yet focused on the music in front of you.
Feliks Euforia Flagship Tube Amplifier (2000 Euro)
Link To Purchase: http://feliksaudio.pl/
There are a lot of amplifiers that are amazing as flagships, but Euforia is one of the very few that is neutral in tuning, being a clear window, and relying on transparency, rather than a colored sound to impress. The driving power is now just right for most headphones, regardless whether you have an IEM, a large headphone, Planars, or high-impedance cans, it should do just fine with anything. Like with any Tube AMPs, you can roll some tubes, until you find your favorite setup and make Euforia truly yours in sound and characteristics.
Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000T Tube DAP (2299 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3pyaP1Q
Astell&Kern Acro CA1000T is a $2299 USD Tube DAP or Digital Audio Player, with a display, microSD slot, insane-level 4 headphone outputs, volume wheel, separate charging and USB Data ports, RCA outputs, 4.4mm Line In, and Optical, Coaxial Input. The only players that really compete are other Astell & Kern music Players, but it will be thoroughly compared to all the other flagship music players available at the moment, including iBasso DX320 (1599 USD), Astell&Kern A&Ultima SP2000T (2500 USD), Lotoo PAW 6000 (1200 USD), iBasso DX220 MAX (1880 USD), and HIFIMAN R2R2000 (2500 USD). Given the price point of CA1000T, as well as its ultra high driving power, I’ll also be doing pairings with Dita Perpetua (2999 USD), Audeze MM-500 (1699 USD), Westone MACH 60 (1100 USD), FiR Audio Frontier Series NE4 (2299 USD), and HIFIMAN HE1000 V2 (2999 USD).
FiR Audio NE4 Neon 4 IEMs (2299 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3Ej0DPK
FiR Audio NE4 IEMs are a pair of Universal IEMs that can also be bought as customs, priced at 2299 USD, and designed with a superb sonic quality for both musicians and audiophiles. They aren’t the priciest IEMS I review on Audiophile-Heaven, by a good margin actually, but as we’ll explore today, they’re actually exceeding others easily, and are also different in tuning from the iconic VxV that I reviewed previously. This means that FiR Audio NE4 will be compared with the best of the best, including Ambient Acoustics MAD24 (3500 USD), CTM Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X (2400 USD), Unique Melody MEST MK2 (1500 USD), Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD), FiR Audio VxV (999 USD), Final Audio A8000 (2400 USD), and Campfire Ara (1300 USD).
HIFIMAN HE1000 V2 Stealth (1600 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3nRDIFK
HIFIMAN HE1000 V2 Stealth is the $2400 USD latest revision to the HE1000 series, and it now comes with stealth magnets, and is also sometimes called HIFIMAN HE1000 V3. It will be compared extensively with He1000 V2 the original, but also with other high-end flagship headphones, including Audeze LCD-5 (4500 USD), Kennerton Thror (3000 USD), Crosszone CZ-8a (1700 USD), Spirit Torino Super Leggera (2000 USD), and Rosson RAD-0 (2600 USD). I will also be exploring pairings things time around, and mainly with HIFIMAN EF400 (599 USD), Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000T (2299 USD), and EverSolo DAC-Z6 (459 USD).
Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X IEMs (2400 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3DLY72q
CTM Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X is simply put, one of the most clear, most revealing, most detailed IEMs I have heard to date. It has a very neutral, and an even slightly bright overall tuning, but it totally is worth its money, and will satisfy detail-addicts quite nicely, not to mention that it will surely make you see music in a new way, and this works evAmbient Acoustics MAD16 is an in-ear monitor priced at 2500 USD, designed with 16 balanced armature drivers, under the Main Audio Destination naming scheme. Given the price point, they have to be compared to other flagship IEMs, including CTM Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci IX (1800 USD), Unique Melody MEST MK2 IEMs (1500 USD), Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD), Final Audio A8000 (2400 USD), Audeze Euclid (1300 USD), and Fir Audio VxV (999 USD).
Ambient Acoustics MAD16 IEMs (2500 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3A2QBzs
Ambient Acoustics MAD16 is an in-ear monitor priced at 2500 USD, designed with 16 balanced armature drivers, under the Main Audio Destination naming scheme. Given the price point, they have to be compared to other flagship IEMs, including CTM Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci IX (1800 USD), Unique Melody MEST MK2 IEMs (1500 USD), Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD), Final Audio A8000 (2400 USD), Audeze Euclid (1300 USD), and Fir Audio VxV (999 USD).
Astell & Kern A&Ultima SP2000T Portable Music Player (2500 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3nHrSdW
SP2000T is currently the best DAP in the whole world to implement Tube AMP and Solid State tech, and to also blend them together, allowing their users to select how much of the Tube and how much of the SS tech they want with their sound. The usual high-end Astell & Kern build quality, reliability, along with support for streaming services, MQA, and beautiful aesthetics are present. They include a high-end leather case as well with SP2000T, plus it has tons of driving power, perfect for basically any headphone or IEM.
KLH Model Five Acoustic Suspension HIFI Stereo Speakers (2500 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3WRTwVM
KLH Model Five is a 2499 USD Per Pair / 1249 USD Each Hifi Stereo Speaker setup with huge 10-Inch Bass Drivers, 3-Way Design, and superb 3/4″ MDF enclosure. They will be compared with other speakers I reviewed, including NHT C3 Bookshelf HIFI Speakers (1250 USD), Buchardt S400 (1800 USD), Aurender S5W (3000 USD). They will also be paired with a multitude of driving amplifiers, including Cyrus One Cast (2000 USD), SMSL AO200 (280 USD), Burson Funk (550 USD).
Rosson RAD-0 Planar Magnetic Headphones (2600 USD)
Link To Store: http://www.rossonaudiodesign.com/
With Rosson RAD-0, you get a headphone that is solid, well built, but also has an absolutely grain-free sound, with each sound flowing into each other, with a natural soundstage, clear presentation, and with one of the best sounds ever to exist to present guitars, rock, metal and electronic / pop.
Dita Audio Perpetua (2999 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3BhRzbg
Dita Perpetua is a $2999 USD high-end flagship IEM, designed a single dynamic driver, the new PPT-D 12mm driver, and wit a super high-end cable included in the package, namely Dita’s New Coil/Cover cable, with a PCOCC Copper, with internal wiring from Kondo Audio Note Japan. It will be compared to other high-end flagship IEMs, including Ambient Acoustics MAD24 (3500 USD), Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X (2400 USD), FiR Audio NE4 Neon 4 IEMS (2299 USD), Unique Melody MEST MK2 (1500 USD), and Final Audio A8000 (2400 USD). I will also include pairings with a selection of sources, namely Astell & Kern SP2000T (2500 USD), iBasso DX320 DAP (1600 USD), and Lotoo PAW 6000 (1200 USD).
Audeze LCD-MX4 (3000 USD)
LCD-MX4 is the true power of a high-end Planar, a Headphone good for both listening to music, but also mastering, mixing, and general work with music production. They are a bit heavy, but they are one of the most precise, most detailed, most clear headphones that ever existed. With a smoother treble, so you can work on for hours, and an easy-to-drive nature, so they can pair with virtually any AMP or Workstation, LCD-MX4 is truly an amazing headphone that has a bright future ahead, not just in music lover’s homes, but also in the work space of many music producers, looking for a really precise tool to better their work.
Ambient Acoustics MAD24 / MAD 24 Flagship IEMs (3500 USD)
Link To Purchase: https://amzn.to/3AbS5rL
Ambient Acoustics MAD24 is an in-ear monitor priced at 3499 USD, designed with 24 balanced armature drivers, under the Main Audio Destination naming scheme, and which is quickly gathering recognition in the Audiophile World. Given the price point, they have to be compared to pretty much every single other flagship IEM, including CTM Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X (2400 USD), Unique Melody MEST MK2 IEMs (1500 USD), Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD), Final Audio A8000 (2400 USD), Audeze Euclid (1300 USD), Campfire Ara (1300 USD), Fir Audio VxV (999 USD), and Oriveti OV800 (999 USD). I will also be pairing the MAD 24 with the best sources I have on hand, including iBasso DX300 (1200 USD), Lotto PAW 6000 (1200 USD), Astell & Kern SE180 (1500 USD), Dethonray DTR1+ (1000 USD), and Astell & Kern SP2000T (2500 USD). I will also be taking notes on the matching with the Plussound Copper+ Cable (999 USD), STE Cu W16 (400 USD), and Effect Audio EVO 1 (440 USD)
Analog Audio AAdac (4000 USD)
Link To Store: https://amzn.to/3ypUL2e
When you want to experience the best dynamics a DAC can have, the AAdac is there waiting for you. The shape unique to Analog Audio, it surely is refreshing to see a new design compared to the old fashioned DACs by other companies. There is one 6.3mm Headphone output, as well as an IR port, but most of the part happens at the back, as I explain in my full in-depth written review above.
Smyth A16 Realiser Headstand DXP / HT / Processor / DAC / AMP (4000 USD)
Link To Store: https://ouo.io/EF46JS
If you wanted to check out something that has waaaay more usability than your average DAC, here comes the winner, like DGD would say. A16 is a Home theather, DXP, Processor, DAC, Headphone AMP, and many other things in one unit. As I noted in my full in-depth written review about it, while checking it out, you can’t miss the features it has, as it can measure, EQ and plan for your headphones, transform them sonically into soundstage and bass monsters, but also be used as a Desktop DAC, used with an external headphone amp, and do so much more.
Audeze LCD-5 Flagship Planar Magnetic Headphones (4500 USD)
Link To Store: https://amzn.to/3QdBtFv
Audeze LCD-5 is the top dog planar magnetic headphone, and it is on a kill streak to destroy all the competition, with a price tag of 4500 USD, to match the ambition that went into designing and producing it. Given the design, purpose and overall market position, LCD-5 will get compared to absolutely all of the other flagships I reviewed in the past, including Kennerton Thror (3000 USD), Rosson RAD-0 (2600 USD), Spirit Torino Super Leggera (2000 USD), Crosszone CZ-1 (2000 USD), HIFIMAN He6SE (1800 USD), Sendy Audio Peacock (1500 USD), and HIFIMAN Arya Stealth (1600 USD). For such a special flagship I will be including pairings with the best sources available to music lovers, including Audio Analogue AAdac (4000 USD), Feliks Euforia paired with a Smyth A16 Realiser DAC / Processor (2000 USD + 4000 USD), Violectric HPA V340 paired with a Keces S3 DAC (2000 USD + 1300 USD), Cyrus One Cast (2000 USD), and an Astell & Kern SE180 Music Player running the SEM2 DAC/AMP module (1500 USD).
Sonoma Model One Electrostatic Headphone System (5000 USD)
Sonoma Model One surely didn’t have the sound you’d expect it to, it was magically quick, having an excellent detail revealing ability, and they have a forward presentation. The build quality is actually great, they stand the test of time quite well, and they also have both a DAC, an AMP, and a headphone in the price, being an All-In-One, so for the most part, getting them or getting a 3000 or 4000 USD Headphone will end up costing the same.
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Full Playlist used for this review
We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature. I recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music! The playlists are different for Spotify, Tidal and Youtube, and based on the songs I enjoy and are available on each!
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