This Scrooge is back on track. And that track leads to another year’s Year End Ohmage — which, dare I say it, is as close to becoming a tradition as any at this 2 year-old site.
The following is a list of products which I feel rocked 2014’s socks off. Every one I have reviewed, or fondled, and every one is worth its porridge weight in ohmage. Runners up show up when, and if, I see fit. This is my site, cry if you want to.
Note: I don’t give a shit for Christmas buying lists. I’m down with niche-creating, forward-thinking products, not holiday mammon, or market-grubbing discounts. You want a last-minute buy list?You have myriad options from myriad blogs, most of which are connected, in some way, to kickback programmes. Go support them.
Here are the custom earphones that are more than worth their weight in porridge:
1st ohmage: Lear BD4.2 (~1300$ USD)
ohmage: This unique hybrid earphone pushes sound farther than I thought was possible from an in-ear earphone. It pumps effortless, natural sound, and resolves a good amount of detail. Its use of two dynamic drivers per side is a first in a custom or custom-cum-universal earphone; it is also a nod toward the future. Expect numerous imitations. Kudos Lear for supplying gold-trimmed tote bags which drip with Lunar New Year innuendo.
porridge: Artwork is sub-par for the price, and general workmanship isn’t up to the standards set by companies like Noble Audio, FitEar, and Vision Ears.
bonus: comes in a universal version, too.
web: Lear Audio BD4.2
Runner up: Vision Ears V6 (~2300$ USD)
ohmage: Wonderful workmanship, great quality artwork, excellent branding. Sound is contrasty, resolves the minutest of details, and casts a super-wide sound stage. Trance fans, this is your earphone.
bonus: Best custom case this side of a bespoke Italian suit.
web: Vision Ears VE6
Here are the universal earphones that are more than worth their weight in porridge:
1st. ortofon e-q8 (~350$ USD)
ohmage: assuming your source/amp gear is up to spec, this thing packs a punch, and bottom to top, it has heavenly transitions into, and out of, every frequency. It fits great, to boot. The e-Q8 kicks way above its bracket despite being assembled by a team professionals that also floss their teeth.
porridge: It is one of the hardest to drive earphones on the planet. If your source is poor, you will know it: no bass, horrible, scratchy treble, peaky mids, not to mention hiss out the wazzoo. Also, some manufacturing defaults have been noted. Finally, it is way too sensitive, easily attaining casual listening levels at extremely low volume settings.
While the e-Q8 is as full of porridge as a product can be, if used properly, it is an earphone which is nearly impossible to top.
Runner up: Dita The Answer (~600$ - ~1000$ USD)
(While not from 2014, The Answer was properly rolled out in 2014, and as such, fits right in.)
ohmage: Nonpareil balance of bass and treble. It has a great sense of space, and very sweet voicing in all frequencies. Very good branding and above average finish quality.
porridge: Poor fit for small ears. Insertion angles are obtuse; as a result, the earphones can jut out of the ear at slightly awkward angles.
web: Dita Audio
Here are the headphones that are more than worth their weight in porridge:
1st. Philips Fidelio X2 (~300$ USD)
ohmage: Spits phenomenally beautiful, easy-listening sound in any genre. Comfortable, robustly built, and sports an easily exchangeable cable.
porridge: Ugly as sin, and just as large. While I prefer it to the Sennheiser HD650, in ten years, I'd rather own the Senn.
web: Philips USA
Here is the portable headphone amp that is more than worth its weight in porridge:
1st. Fostex HP-V1 (price)
ohmage: That juicy, warm sound I loved in the Jaben Portatube, but with way, way better workmanship, and from a company not known for appropriating others's designs. It drives most earphones and headphones with as much poise as the best solid-state amps out there, but with the flavour only valves can muster. Mostly great ergonomics for both portable and HiFi usage. Simply the most underrated amp of the year, and an absolute peerless portable tube amp.
porridge: Where is the 6,3mm jack? Seriously, where is it?
web: Fostex HP-V1
Runner up: Portaphile Micro (449$ USD)
ohmage: Class-leading performance, branding, and workmanship. Comes in two audible distinct versions, both with great gain and amp stages. On/off light won't keep you up nights.
porridge: Where did the battery go?
Here is the DAC that is more than worth its weight in porridge:
1st. Linnenberg Vivace (~1800$ USD)
ohmage: It goes without saying that the Linnenberg Vivace sounds good. It sounds so good, in fact, that after a single listen I was looking to change all my output gear to match it. But it is easy to use, easy on the eyes, made well, and 100% stable in all uses, for any format 16, 24, or 1-bit. A simpler, more sanguine DAC does not exist at this price point.
porridge: No optical input? Really?
Web: Linnenberg Vivace