Best Of 2020

December 2020.

Empeiros Audio is 1 year old.

Before we jump into the Best Of 2020, here’s the highly anticipated transparency report I know everyone is waiting for.

Ten reviews (4 DAPs, 4 DAC/Amps dongles, 2 IEMs and 1 pair of Headphones), one feature and one interview.

1411 visitors from 68 different countries. Donation(s) accumulated over a period of a single year: 1. Total amount: USD$15. Origin of the donation: private individual.

So, essentially, everything you read here is still paid and reviewed by yours truly. Free gear sent by companies in exchange for reviews still aren’t accepted. Discounts offered by companies in exchange for reviews still aren’t accepted. (And, yes, ExpatinJapan still thinks I’m crazy.)

Best Music DiscoverIES

Difficult to say, they were so much. Soul / Funk / R&B as well as Jazz replaced Pop / Rock as the main genres I listen to this year. More on this later…

Best Help

ExpatinJapan, i.e. Head-Pie’s puppet master, has been of tremendous help to me this year — so thank you.

Look him up on Head-Fi, Head-Pie or Instagram. His reviews and humoristic — yet extremely pragmatic — take on the (audio) companies – customers – reviewers ecosystem are worth your time (not for the faint of heart though).

Over on Head-Fi, mashuto, Rockwell75 and Tristy have been extremely constructive and helpful — thanks to all of you.

Best reviewer

Difficult to ignore Twister6’s reviews. If you haven’t already done it, go check his website.

Best DAP

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25

It was a tough battle in-between Astell & Kern’s A&norma SR25 and Cayin’s N3 Pro. However A&K’s SR25 is the DAP I always come back to. Overall, it’s also a more mature DAP which can stream and is well worth it if you can afford it. When it comes to DACs, I also have to come to the conclusion that I’m not much of an AKM person and prefer Cirrus Logic. With that said, in terms of pure bang for buck, Cayin’s N3 Pro still has the lead.

Best DAC/Amp

Ikko’s Zerda ITM03

The Zerda uses the same DAC as the SR25. If you’re on a budget and/or don’t want to carry another device on top of your smartphone, know that the Zerda and SR25 are close, too close for comfort for some given their price difference…

Best Headphone

Grado Labs RS2e with G-cush pads

Easy, I only tested one pair this year and it has been my favourite pair of headphones by a long stretch — with one condition IMHO: you have to get the RS2e with the G-cush pads.

Best IEM

Campfire Audio Dorado 2020 — Not yet reviewed

Campfire Audio released an impressive number of IEMs, including the Ara which I promptly returned. The Dorado 2020, however, seem to slowly but surely get the attention they deserve and are likely going to become a standard in their lineup. I would go as far as to say that they might take the Solaris’ second position in terms of most appreciated IEMs in CA’s lineup, right after the Andromeda.