Best products of 2021 thread

Dear mods,
I have suggestion for a topic/thread. As the title says “Best products of 2021”. Can you open a general thread or is it better to open a thread in each category best DAC 2021, best IEM 2021, best Covid variant 2021 etc.?

Certainly would be interesting for headphones. Someone might find that hidden gem that they didn’t know about.

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We could just use this as a general thread. I don’t know about opening a thread for every category as I think it would likely just be better to consolidate here, also opens people to more options than they might have not seen if it were all fragmented in different threads (since not everyone visits topics in all categories)

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Apple music high resolution/ATMOS/spatial audio not gear but its a significant change in media for HIFI gear.

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Ok here is my best of 2021 list maybe there are products that have been released in 2020.
All favourite products were purchased in 2021.

My gear list can be seen at the end of the post.

Best Headphone

Dan Clark Audio Ether 2

My endgame HP. As long this unit works I don’t need anything else headphone-wise (for at home listening).

Best “Budget” Headphone

Monolith M1060C

Great closed back planar for office use.

Best IEM

JQ Audio 4U

This IEM was a total surprise. Haven’t found a better tuning and sound signature for my tastes. Personal S-tier. Like these more than Moondrop Variations.

Best Budget IEM

Blon BL-Max

This was also a surprise. Buttery smooth satisfying tuning for long listening sessions. Fit is perfect in my ears.

Best DAC

Musician Draco R2R

Love the “analog” R2R sound for room speaker setups.

Best Dongle Dac

Colorfly CDA-M1

Versatile dongle dac with 3.5 and 4.4 mm for 90$. Great value and excellent sound.

Here follows my much overcrowded gear list. 2022 will be the year of the tiger selling stuff.

Gear List

Headphones

Audioquest Nighthawk Carbon and Standard
Audeze LCD-X
Dan Clark Audio Ether 2
Monolith M1060C
Beyerdynamic 1990 Pro
Sony MDR-1ADAC

IEMs

KZ DQ6, AST, ZEX, ZS10 Pro
Focus EDM
Final E3000
Kinera Tyr
7Hz Timeless
ISN H40
Magaosi V3
TFZ T2 Pro
Blon BL-Max
Tripowin Mele
Moondrop Aria
Moondrop Variations
Kbear OS1PRO
Monolith M350
Reecho SG-03
TFORCE YUANLI
HZSOUND Heart Mirror
TRI Meteor
Hiby Seeds 2

TWS
Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
Master & Dynamic MW07

DACs
Aune X8
Sabaj D5
HIDIZS DH80S
Musician Draco R2R
ifi Zen DAC
Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital
Chord Mojo

Headphone Amp
Monolith THX AAA 887

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Something I didn’t ask would be if this thread is for things that were personal tops for the year that didn’t have to be released this year, or for strictly new things that came out this year

Edit: also just realized this was in site feedback, moved to off topic so it will actually be seen lol. Wish the color of the category both wasn’t gray so I would have realized quicker lol

This might be a biased list, but Dekoni invited Zeos, Crin, DMS, and Andrew to give their 2021’s best headphone(s), each under 1 min. Zeos’ was fricking hilarious lol

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In terms of products not released in 2021, but my fav products I’ve used and heard in 2021:
Headphones: iBasso SR2
IEMs: MMR Thummim

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Spotify HD…oh, wait… :frowning:

edit - Utopia are the pinnacle of French engineering? how do I correlate that to how many times they dropped it? :wink:

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Oh yeah vaporware of 2021. I’ve been waiting for this all these months.

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Whatever floats your boat. My take is on personal favorites bought in 2021.

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In that case I’ll just copy over what I’ve said somewhere else (and add some extra elaboration as well). Will just do each category

Headphone - Mysphere 3.1: Man I was shooting myself in the foot by only having a 3.2 for the past few years, it scales much higher and has much better synergy with my current gear, causing it to basically be my most used headphone of the year. Just need to grab another cable lol. Already the 3.2 was slowly becoming one of my most used, this really just better suited what I was asking out of it.

IEM - Oriolus Traillii: It’s such a nuanced and refined iem allowing it to be a fantastic all rounder and excel at almost everything while doing it. The stock cable definitely makes it overall as well, a real one and done package for some. I do think other iems I have trade blows, but overall this feels the most complete as a whole

Speakers - Raidho D1.1: Now this is a bit cheating since I already owned them, but due to my years of laziness I had only run them nearfield at a desk, and while they were good they never truly wowed me. This year I set them up in a proper well treated room with almost as good source gear, and they entirely transformed, likely becoming my most capable speakers I have now. Kicking myself for not trying it beforehand and not giving them proper space to perform

Source - Antipodes K50: Basically took any dac that was attached to it to the next level, basically a dac upgrade in terms of difference in most cases and more insight into relocking and regenerating signals (both good and bad lol)

DAC - Lampizator Pacific: Not much to say about this besides it’s amazing, does almost everything I could want from a dac, caused me to purge the mass majority of my other dacs without much question. Still awesome after honeymoon period, although the totaldac setup and aries cerat still trades some blows lol, but really hard to make any real complaints

Amp - Angstrom Stella Headphone MK2: This was going to be the AIC 10, but after getting the 3.1s it’s stolen that spot since the myspheres became my most used headphones and this amp suits those better. It really just takes everything the 3.1 does well and improves upon it greatly. Also surprisingly solid with the susvara and utopia

Cable -

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@M0N do you have anything remotely affordable for the 99% in your lists? LoL!!!

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Just my personal best of the year here lol

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My thoughts exactly :sweat_smile: Why is he even talking to us plebs?

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just swap the word she for he and pull out all the sex stuff…

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I have already posted a long winded version of this but as a quick summary of the things that have impressed me the most in 2021 (not necessarily released in 2021)…

Extreme Budget IEMs: Moondrop Quarks

Budget IEMs: T Force Yuan Li

IEMs: Symphonium Helios

Budget Headphones: Hifiman HE400se

Headphones: Hifiman Aria with Stealth Magnets

Source: iFi Diablo

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I’ll use this section to champion great value/usability items that sit on top-of-mind:

ddHiFi TC35B - incredibly useful and my original has been super-robust.

xDuoo XD-05 Basic + BT - Bought this despite little need on 11.11 with the crazy deal at Linsoul - In my future life as a vagabond in a van, it will be incredibly useful. Big portable/desktop, whatever you like. Love the build/fit-finish/price of xDuoo, honorable mention to MT-602.

Quarks! So tiny, so light, so simple and imposibly cheap.
I only look for incredible price in IEM because I don’t enjoy the form factor. given how light they are, I prefer the fit of these over so much. Underdog awesomeness.

Hifiman HE-X4 - These were $99 when I got them. I think that’s crazy! There’s a lot of wow-factor to these for first-time planar users, and I still prefer this headband and cable to a number of other HFM models.

Koss 60-ohm on-ears. So much versatility here. I value the fit of the PortaPro, the simplicity and sound of KPH30i, and the ultimate bicycle solution and sound of KSC75 - I’ll forgive that the fit with Yaxis is a struggle for me, the pain of a dig makes any ear discomfort disappear.

AKG K340 - The party tricks that this performs in the instrument separation/holographic imaging department still out-do many headphones today and my budget will have to drift skyward to match those elements. Given the acquisition cost I had, it is both mind-blowing and dispiriting - and obviously very personal.

Was looking forward to adding the Liquid Platinum to a list like this…

I AM looking forward to in 2022: finishing a few (4!) repair/mod headphone projects, then maybe thinning the herd some — and finally getting hands on a few of my wishlist cans: T1.2, Higher-tier A-T open-backs. Then of course there’s all the speaker projects that demand attention…

I hope I can listen to music through all this. :laughing:

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How do you like the X8 compared to the Draco? Trying to decide on one of these two DAC’s but not a lot of info on both.