My copypasta from a similar thread elsewhere. This year was mainly trimming down my equipment and headphones still partaking in chifi fotm/y.
- Goldplanar GL-AMT16
With foams to tame the pinna and on the Rupert Neve RNHP → Schiit Bifrost 2/64 stack, they are superb gaming (& music listening) IEMs. Did my entire playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom with them. There’s a reason I sold the Monarch MK2, Prestige, and Twilight, this thing kicks ass (on the right source with some tweaking.)
- Bakoon AMP-13R (is probably true of the Enleum AMP-23R as well)
Wonderful amp for the Susvara, LCD-5, and LCD-XC ('21)… So all of my remaining headphones. Smooths out the mids and adds a ton of body whilst keeping the detail up-top. I prefer a minimal setup, so this is basically endgame until something better in that form-factor comes along and goes on the used-market.
- Simgot EA500
The Hidiz MP145 comes really close since on the red filter it’s a non-destructive and more cohesive version of the modded Z12 I own, but the EA500 deserves its place. The most impressed I’ve been of a clean budget option since the original Tin T2 back in 2018.
Interesting to see that solid-state amplifiers can pair very well with ZMF. For the sake of simplicity, solid-state done right is the way to go. After much reading, I bought a SPL Phonitor se and have no need to look elsewhere. With the HD6XX, the midrange is glorious.
I agree that solid-state is a much simpler solution than dealing with all the complications that come with tubes. It’s just a matter of finding the amp/DAC pairing that works really well with your headphones and for your preferences. I think I’ve found that with the MJ3/Yggy A2.
You say “basshead” like it’s a bad thing…
(cue demonic laughter)
In terms of which 2023 acquisitions I use the most:
- tube upgrades for my Viva Egoista: RCA 5u4gb, Elrog 845, 1960s Melz 1578 and Voskhod Rocket 6n1p-ev. I use this to drive my Susvara and is my go to setup
- Warwick Bravura - I use this out of convenience esp. since I always keep it on and plugged into my Mac
- ZMF Caldera - as an alternative to the Susvara and Bravura
A few honorable mentions for this year
- a Dukei built CFA3 amp
- Focal Utopia 2022 - haven’t quite dialed in my source setup for this, so I don’t use so much
- Ferrum OOR with Hypsos power supply - used this heavily until I picked up the CFA3
- Apple Airpods Pro 2 - I actually use these more than any other gear, but I am often listening to podcasts and not music
Looking back on this, it was a pretty great year for audio!
It’s tough to plan out the year sometimes, right? For audio stuff, my top 3 picks might surprise you. First off, these old school Koss headphones from '83 blew my mind. Then there’s this new Bluetooth speaker that’s just killer. And lastly,
Don’t get me wrong: my best friend owns a pair of beats (!).
Here are my three favorite audio things I’ve spent my own money on this year:
- Apple AirPods Pro 2 - a big enough leap forward in both tuning and technical performance from the original AirPods Pro that I don’t see much of a point to other IEMs, at least until more IEMs are developed are developed around the insights from the 5128 measurements. Between the Apple and Samsung TWS sets, normal people have it really good these days for audio.
- Sennheiser HD 600 - You ever get really excited to drink a nice, normal lager after trying a bunch of boutique sours and IPAs? That’s what listening to a 6XX at an audio show earlier this year felt like to me after listening to a bunch of kilobuck headphones at the same show. I ended up buying a 600 shortly after that show because of that experience, and Tyll Hertsens’s impresions. The 6X0 still holds up a quarter-century later for three reasons: it sounds generally correct through the mids and treble, it’s durable, and it’s comfortable.
- Kali IN-UNF - a great pair of desk speakers if you don’t have the space for a traditional pair of studio monitors. I don’t use headphones at my desk much anymore because of these speakers.
1: Schiit Audio LiM dac. By far the best improvement in my audio chain.
2: New style pads for my LCD-4z.
3: GSX Mini amp. This little guy rocks!
Perfect synergy with these components, just enthralled with this setup.
Top 3 things I bought or listened to for the first time this year:
My own stuff:
- Subtonic Storm - the best iem (or headphone) available.
- Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones - my new favorite wireless product. Great comfort, good sound quality, and quite acceptable noise canceling for my long flights
- Holo Audio Bliss KTE - My new headphone amplifier to match my Spring 3 KTE
Notable mentions: Apple Airpods 3rd Gen (not pro version) - I love these things. Perfect wireless “earbud”. Great fit and sound quality.
Stuff I heard this year:
- ZMF Caldera - technically, I heard this late last year before it came out, but close enough.
- Zahl HM1 - what a great piece of hardware, but its impossible to get and cost a fortune
- Cayin N7 - great sounding DAP, but too bad the battery life is poor.
Top 3 that have made a difference in my system & therefore life, during 2023
- Revised Headphone Amp & Cable. Going from a Bursen Soloist SL to a Bakoon HPA-21 and from the DCA VOCE cable to a custom dual mono pure Silver cable (of the right length too)
- Sean Jacobs Power Supply for the Socket2 supply on the Naim NDS network player (my digital source). This splits the power supply arrangement for the Digitial circuitry, which remains from the Naim 555DR supply, and the Analogue circuitry which is now from the custom DC3-based supply. A relatively small change but with big impact.
- Revised mains cables and fuses - introducing a set of Harmonic Technologies Magic Reference cables to the above Power supply and the Sim Audio Moon amplifier, over the existing Harmonic Technology AC11 Copper cables. These References are pure silver for Live & Neutral with copper earthing, and they are chunky to position, never mind reterminate from US to UK plugs (Furutech ones were just big enough). Then Synergistic Purple fuses in key places, moving the Red versions around.
Three items I’ve bought/rebought this year.
Built a pretty decent PC for HQPlayer & Roon around the i9-14900K & Noctura 4080. It can upsample to 1024X out to my Holo Red & May front end.
Bought a pre 2020 Utopia. I previously owned a 2020 instance that I purchased new and never really loved it. For whatever reason, even with the same amp (Stellaris), this time I’m a big fan.
Ikea Besta unit for all of my gear. Fully customizable with shelves, drawers, and doors. It holds my equipment, headphones, and tubes all on one piece of furniture. BESTÅ TV unit, black-brown, 707/8x153/4x251/4" - IKEA
Fortunately I didn’t spend as much this year compared to the previous two (or I would be bankrupt)
- Cayin RU7. Just what I needed for the cayin C9. I’m finally in peace with it.
As I don’t have other stuff to put in the list, the other two goes two music that have been very important to me in 2023:
- Grissini Project of Attack on Titan, specially Vogel Im Kafig.
- Luiza Lara. Many years ago I started listening to her music, I’ve ‘found’ her on YouTube because of a song I wanted to play at the piano (Lua Branca, written by Chiquinha Gonzaga). She had an album that became my number 1 on deezer on that year. Now, many years later, she just added some videos on YouTube that I like even more than the album I already loved in the past.
I’m excited for my copy!! Which tier did you go with? I went for the basic digital + CD copy.
Assuming they have to me new to me at least
- Viva Egoista 845 - picked this up because it was available, Probably my favorite amp at this point, stunningly dynamic, massive stage (even compared to other tube amps I’ve owned or heard), dead silent, and very resolving, I think the stock tubes hurt it (especially the Shugang 845’s), but with the right tubes (Swapped to Elrogs), you get all of that, and a really natural timbre.
- TotalDAC D1 Unity - was looking for a TotalDAC at the start of the year, and this showed up as a US return, replaced my Aqua LaVoce S3.
- Pacific 2 upgrade - I was really wary about doing this, shipping the Pacific to Poland for the upgrade was daunting. In the end the process was painless, and the result quite enjoyable, one of those didn’t know you were missing it until you heard it things. The Pac 2 does something I’d never heard a digital source do (and I’ve heard quite a few, assumed it was a vinyl thing), it gives the instruments area without them losing focus, I’m hard pressed to explain it in a more useful way than that, but makes the stage even more compelling than it already was.
Others worth mentioning
I picked up an SR-1A after being very impressed with the CA-1A, I like it a lot, I still prefer the MySphere to the Raal’s, but they have their place, and the speed it quite addictive.