The year 2021 is coming to an end. It has been one of the most interesting years in the history of headphone audio, hence this year’s awards were exceptionally interesting for us. Let’s unveil our choices for the best products of 2021!
First of all, we’re considering products that we have reviewed or tested this year, not only the ones that have been released in 2021. We’re choosing not only from the products we had reviewed though, as we’ve tested a lot of equipment this year and some of them haven’t been reviewed yet (you know we’re quite busy!).
Also, we’re not only about the TOTL gear but mainly about value. You’ll see many more expensive products, as this year is focused on such. Some products have not their reviews done yet, so soon you will be able to know more about them.
The best High-End Headphones of 2021
That was definitely a year of flagships, and the one we find the best is Hifiman HE1000SE. Okay, technically it’s not a flagship, since there’s the Susvara, but at $3500 these definitely fight in the big-boy league. It matches great comfort, superior sound, and excellent value. They’re also very easy to drive, so you don’t have to own TOTL DAC and amplifier (but it’s recommended). They have outstanding detail retrieval, a vast soundstage, and a rather neutral sound signature that’s great, as you can easily change it with different sound sources.
They have their price, as it’s $3500, but trust us. It’s worth it. It is THE headphone that comes to my mind when I think “full package” in headphones.
The best Bluetooth Headphones of 2021
No doubt, that’s another award for the Hifiman, but this time they made it with model Deva Pro. It’s fairly similar to regular Deva, but it has been updated with different colors, Bluemini R2R DAC, which is superior, and stealth magnets. Keep in mind that the BT dongle can be unplugged easily, and you can use Deva’s Pro with your stationary gear. Oh, and it can work as a USB DAC with your computer. Functionality at its finest.
All of that costs $325, which might let someone think that it’s too much for BT headphones, but the very popular Sony WH1000XM4 is about that price, and, in terms of sound, they are nothing in comparison to the Hifiman Deva Pro. This is the most exciting product that we’ve reviewed in 2021, and to be honest…we didn’t expect that at all.
The best Headphones of 2021
The Audeze LCD-X 2021 gets the award for the best headphones of 2021. It is built like a tank, it looks incredibly elegant and industrial, it’s comfortable and it offers a fantastic sound quality for the price. Coming at $1199 it is everything you could ask for, with near TOTL audio performance at a fraction of the price. Audeze listened to their customers and updated their best-selling model so much, that it is a completely new product.
It is the most used headphone in my office next to the Hifiman Susvara, which is literally 5x more expensive. The LCD-X 2021 is my go-to headphone for my vinyl setup, and I don’t see it changing soon. All of that for $1199. Spectacular.
The best DAC of 2021
We’re moving from China to the USA, as it’s the moment for the Earmen Tradutto. It’s a balanced DAC with ES9038Q2M inside, Bluetooth capabilities, and full MQA support. It provides a full-bodied sound, which can easily shock with the detail retrieval when it’s needed. Even if it’s a little warmer, it keeps everything in line. This DAC is capable of everything, and it will be a great match for even way more expensive amplifiers and headphones. After an underwhelming time spent with the Topping D90SE, I was in the market for the “best” overall DAC that won’t kill your wallet, and I found it.
It’s priced at $799, which makes Tradutto the best mid-range DAC in 2021.
The best portable DAC of 2021
The one who can carry this name proudly is Cayin RU6. Maybe it doesn’t have the same amount of features as its competitors, but in our opinion, it has the best sound quality. If you’ve listened to Cayin N6ii with the R01 module, imagine yourself the kinder version, and boom, you have the RU6. It sounds natural, with a decent soundstage for such a small DAC. Also, it provides plenty of power, especially through the 4,4mm Pentaconn Jack. The final touch was made with oversampling mode, which performs great when you’re listening from MP3 files or Spotify.
Its price is set at $249, which makes it available for most dongle lovers.
The best Amplifier of 2021
We had plenty to choose from, but we are still most satisfied with the XI Audio Broadway S. It might not have the most power, but it’s a battery-powered class-A amplifier that can easily drive headphones like Hifiman HE-1000SE, LCD-X, or Meze Audio Elite. It provides a rather technical presentation, with a nice dose of sweetness in the mids. As the icing on the cake, I should mention the wildly huge soundstage.
All of that isn’t the cheapest option on the market, as the price stands at $1699, but it’s absolutely worth it.
The best IEM of 2021
No doubt, that’s the place for Unique Melody MEST. It uses four types of drivers and each of them is used exemplary. UM MEST provides the best detail reproduction at this price range, and it’s combined with a lovely sound signature, that greatly matches with many sound sources. After that, we’re getting a really good set of accessories, and you can choose the termination of the cable, so you can get the best for you. The UM MEST has been our favorite IEM ever since it landed in our office in early 2021 and it’s definitely our most used and loved IEM of the year, by a lot.
The price stands for $1399, which could be even higher with MEST’s capabilities. TOTL IEM at a fantastic price.
The best CIEM of 2021
The best CIEM we’ve seen, tested, and reviewed in 2021 is the Fir Audio M5. It is the best-built IEM I’ve ever had in my hands, and the choice of design is almost unlimited. We went for their signature black matte shells, which are just spectacular.
As for the sound, they do offer a romantic, rich, and fun signature paired with brilliant technicalities. The ATOM modules allow you to tune them to your liking, choosing between four different sound signatures.
You’re basically getting four pairs of CIEMs that are perfect in terms of comfort, and the build quality is in its own league.
At $2948 they definitely are up there with some of the most expensive Custom IEMs on the market, but absolutely everything about them is TOTL.
The best budget IEM of 2021
Our choice for the budget IEM of the year goes to Dunu Falcon Pro. They come with the best set of accessories you could find in this price range (by far), and the build quality is brilliant. The sound quality is punching above its price range, and considering the fact that they do offer 12 different sound signatures left us with no questions whether it earned this award.
At $220 the Dunu Falcon Pro is a brilliant choice, especially for those who are looking for a “one and only” pair of IEMs. It can do it all.
The best TWS of 2021
Drop + Grell TWS1X is a child of one of the best-known community-based companies, and an audio engineer, Axel Grell. As the result of the cooperation, we received TWS earphones with great ANC, battery life at 8 hours at a single charge, IPX4, and, what’s the most important, they offer awesome sound quality, with a lot of fun and excitement. Well, that’s how wireless IEMs should sound to me.
With all of that, they’re the best TWS we’ve tested, and probably one of the best on the market, and that’s all for $199.
The best IEM cable of 2021
Well, that’s the part when high-end comes in. Erua Audio Tawa is the best cable we’ve heard till today. It’s made of top-notch components, it’s really comfortable, and it provides the best sonic impressions. That cable has probably the best imaging we can get, natural, rich sound that lets the listener dive into the music for long hours.
It’s one of the best companions for expensive IEMs, and it comes with a price tag of $1299.
The best product of 2021
It’s official, the Hifiman Deva Pro is our product of the year 2021!
It is a marvelously sounding headphone, that is a milestone in Bluetooth over-ear headphones. Hifiman officially created a wireless headphone that sounds like a wired one, and a fantastic one to be specific. Brilliant detail retrieval, unrivaled resolution, and speed for a Bluetooth product, all that has been achieved thanks to their commitment and years of research and development.
But it doesn’t end there. The Deva Pro can also work as a wired headphone by simply plugging the cable. The Bluemini R2R module has a USB DAC functionality as well, which makes them the only pair of headphones you’ll ever need indoors.
See, for us, the product of the year award is not only about the audio quality. It is also about pushing the boundaries, being innovative, introducing things never seen before, and the Deva Pro is all of the above. It was an easy choice for us, and the Deva Pro has earned it. Congratulations Hifiman!
That’s all for our 2021 awards. At the end of this article, we would love to thank you all for your lovely support throughout the whole year 2021. We couldn’t have been here without you.
We have one wish for the upcoming year, and it is to go full-time and never look back. More content, Youtube stuff, better quality of our work, etc. Hopefully, the wish will come true! Happy new year folks!