The HEADPHONE Community Year in Review 2019

As the year (and decade) comes to a close, this is a place to discuss any noteworthy headphone events that happened in 2019.

Please provide links if relevant.

p.s. Since we’ve done this 2 years in a row, it’s now officially a HEADPHONE Community tradition.

I’ll keep this first post up-to-date as a synopsis:

Launches

  • Focal: Stellia
  • Focal: Arche
  • Rosson Audio Design: Rad-0
  • Rupert Neve: Fidelice Line
  • Apple: Airpods Pro
  • Campfire Audio: IO
  • Campfire Audio: Polaris V
  • Dan Clark Audio: Aeon 2
  • ZMF: Verite C
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Focal launched the Stellia in February 2019 as their first flagship closed-back headphone.

That brown color looked a little aggressive in the pre-release pictures from Focal, but when we got our first unit in the office we loved it.

The Stellia also inspired an amazing parody ad:

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Alex Rosson (a former Audeze founder) launched Rosson Audio Design and the beautiful (but heavy) RAD-0 planar headpone

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How about Rupert Neve stepping back into home audio with the absurdly beautiful Fidelice line?

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Along with the Stellia, the aesthetic impact for which rapidly went from “WTF?!” in print to “HF!” in person, another Focal surprise was the Arche … which turned out to be excellent (and WAY better than I expected):

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Apple released the Airpods Pro which many people have said are a pretty big improvement over the original Airpods.

MrSpeakers rebranded to Dan Clark Audio and released the new Aeon 2 which has been getting pretty positive reviews

On top of their headphone / amp releases, Focal France purchased their North American distribution back from Audio Plus / Plurison and is now handling all the distribution, shipping and warranty issues themselves

A fair bit of Campfire Audio Drama here and here to go along with the release of the Campfire Audio IO, Campfire Audio Polaris V2, Campfire Audio Andromeda V3 and the special edition Andromeda Black Gold and Solaris.

RAAL-Requisite released the SR1a and this forum happens to have the most traffic’d thread on the internet for it thanks in no small part to @Torq This did not happen in 2019 and has been sent back to 2018 where it belongs.

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The Verite C…and my “Purple People Eaters”

Not only do they sound awesome they look outstanding as well! PPE

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I think it’s important to acknowledge the amazing arms race happening in entry / mid level amplification:

  1. Drop THX AAA 789
  2. Monolith AAA 887
  3. SMSL SP200 THX AAA 888
  4. JDS Labs EL AMP II / EL DAC II / ELEMENT II

Especially the first 3 are absolute game changers with the amount of clarity and distortion free linear power that they provide at their price points. In fact, knowing that my 789 is so capable gave me confidence to order a TOTL headphone. Otherwise, I would always have this feeling that I am missing out until I get equally good amplification.

I suspect there are many others who are looking to explore the high end precisely because of these amps.

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Is the idea to keep posts to items/events that occurred in 2019?

If so, we’ve got stuff creeping in from 2018 already. If not, no worries! :wink:

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Yup the AAA 789 “launched” in 2018, but realistically most people outside of reviewers got it in 2019. That’s why I included it here. Strictly speaking though, yeah it’s not a 2019 part :slight_smile:

The same is true of the JDS Labs EL Amp and DAC … and maybe the SR1a. Hence my question to Andrew.

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Did the DAC II and AMP II launch in 2018? I see their blog post announcement in Nov 2019: https://blog.jdslabs.com/2019/11/jds-labs-el-amp-ii-el-dac-ii-official-release-benchmarks/

Nope, but then I read your post as EL DAC, EL AMP and ELEMENT II with the ELEMENT/II part being separate! Seems you mean EL DAC II, EL AMP II and ELEMENT II.

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Let me correct that

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Yes, the idea is to keep it to events that occurred in 2019. There is a post for 2018 if anyone wants to make it more complete.

I’ll keep it to 2019 stuff in the summary post up top.

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Cool, so that takes the 789 out of this discussion then, since the first big shipments did go out last year.

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I thought that Meze Empyrean headphones were launched last year but because I haven’t seen them listed in the 2018 post I guess I was wrong, we might want to add them to the 2019 post then.

I’m a bit biased given that I own one, but I would add Matrix Audio’s new Element lineup to the list.

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Agreed. I wasn’t sure when it launched, but it’s a great unit.

Apparently the Matrix Element line launched in Fall 2018. So it belongs in the 2018 thread.