nymz’s articles: 2022 Wrap-up and current favorites

Table of Contents

  1. The explanation
  2. The desert island podium
    1. 64 Audio U12T
    2. Focal Clear
    3. TGXEAR Serratus and TGXEAR Ripples
  3. Other Current Favorites
    1. Sony IER-Z1R
    2. 64 Audio Trió
    3. Thieaudio Monarch Mk2
    4. Softears RSV
    5. DUNU x Z Reviews: SA6 Ultra
    6. Symphonium Meteor
    7. XENNS Mangird Top
    8. Hifiman Edition XS
    9. Sennheiser HD600
    10. DUNU Vulkan
    11. XENNS Mangird Tea 2
    12. Sony XBA-N3
    13. TANGZU x HBB Wu Zetian (Heyday Edition)
    14. Tripowin x HBB Olina SE
    15. Rikubuds
    16. QKZ x HBB
  4. Honorable Mentions
  5. Favourite Sources
    1. Shanling M6 Ultra
    2. Chord Mojo2
    3. Hiby R5 Gen2
    4. Topping L70
    5. Hiby R3 Pro Saber (2022)
    6. Xduuo Link2 Bal
    7. Qudelix 5k
  6. Top 5 most played albums of 2022
    1. Lorde – Pure Heroine
    2. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
    3. The Fearless Flyers Live at Madison Square Garden
    4. Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons
    5. Daft Punk – Alive 2007

The explanation

Christmas decorations are now gone and a new year just started, so you all know what time it is – it is time to to make an introspection about the year of 2022, in an usual late as per nymz’s style.

Last year I mainly focused on products that were released during those 12 months, but this year I decided I’d do it differently. This year I will make a summary of my current all-time favorites, so those released in 2022 will have to “battle” older models, making a fun way to see how the market shifted but also my own tastes. Afterall, good audio is timeless and doesn’t go bad overnight.

Speaking of tastes, I will have to do a segway of what changed for me personally, and for that I had to revise my previous takes, posts and hear some of the sets again. I’m now confident to say that this year:

  • My perception of the treble changed. I went from preferring darker signatures to now fall around the neutral tunings a lot. I also focus on treble extension more and more – I’m now way less tolerant to treble roll-offs.
  • My tastes for bass developed, but not that much. I am still a midhead and preferring quality over quantity in the bass, but I’m now both more tolerant and more picky about it. Overly dry and overly warm are two lines that I don’t usually cross anymore. I do have to admit I tend to prefer a db more bass nowadays than before, as a whole.
  • My love for the mid-range didn’t change, but I find myself okay with sets without forward mids, but I still despite overly recessed ones. A set that doesn’t have good vocals, especially female, still gets a giant strike – shouting is a deadly sin in my book.
  • My appreciation for technicalities got more balanced. When I started listening to IEMs, I was focusing a lot on the imaging chops. After quickly moving up the ladder, resolving power was a focus. As the time went by, timbre, ADSR and dynamics were more and more brought to the table. More recently, I found myself attracted to the overall package, giving these three factors a fair share of the scale, as a whole. I also realized how subjective these are and how differently everyone hears, especially stuff that is HRTF related, so always take these parts as YMMV.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s dive into the actual round-up, that consists in three segments: my favorite overall picks, the ones I love and consider best around their budget range as of my preferences and the ones that could have easily entered the previous list and must be honorably mentioned. Do keep in mind this is an absolute biased take according to my tastes, library and ranked by price, approximately.

The desert island podium

64 Audio U12T

Product page: 64 Audio
Tips used: Azla Sedna Short

One of the most cliché picks out there, but also the most praised one since the moment I’ve demoed it back then, to this day still. The 64 Audio U12T is my favorite IEM and strangely enough, one of the first I had a chance to demo, after joining the hobby.

Often described as “boring” or “too safe of a tuning”, the U12T is a masterclass of technicalities with a well thought out tuning, turning it into an all-rounder while also being one of the most technical sets out there and as for me personally, I have yet to hear better and it just sits right in with my preferences. 

Despite being a fully balanced armateur’s set, don’t be fooled by its bass: it has enough quantity and quality to put most traditional dynamic drivers to shame. The mid-range is carefully preserved and spot on neutral, including the vocals. The treble is just the right amount, ending up in a beautiful serenade of extension thanks to its Tia drivers, making 20k hz audible with ease.

The technical part is all you can dream off, with a center imaging as a cherry on top of the cake, giving it a speaker-like experience that you can’t find everywhere.

Focal Clear

Product page: Focal
Pads used: Dekoni Audio Elite Fenestrated Sheepskin

This year, I decided to include headphones in this list. I am known for being picky and not usually impressed by headphones, and up to recent times they did not make sense. I was always on the move, hence the IEMs making the cut and over-ears not.

Right before Autumn settled in, I decided to buy some headphones again, and I was blessed by having a Portuguese fellow to lend me some as well. One day I received a giant Focal box, but it took me a day or two before having the time to pick it up. When I did, it was lunch break at home. I plugged the Clear to my amplifier and pressed play. My GF was right next to me, looked at my expression on the first track and just mumbles “Okay fine, but you have to sell something first”, and I just nodded. Later that afternoon I explained to her it would be too expensive and they are now discontinued (replaced by MG) and we just shook it off.

Oh boy was I wrong. The tonality is Clear’s biggest selling point – and I did not just connect with it, I got teleported. In short, it’s a warm neutral that has not much fault to it. If I had to nitpick it, I’d probably say the mid-treble that sometimes leaves out a more metallic timbre to brass instruments.

The technical part is very much top notch but what is really surprising to me is the mid-range separation and layering – it’s just something else. Something else that I really enjoy about this set is the bass tactility after switching to Dekoni pads, which comes online.

Not just a pretty face, huh? Also, feel free to assume I failed my gf’s request (damn you black friday sales), but in the end this pair was the only set of open backs I kept. Touché, Focal.

TGXEAR Serratus and TGXEAR Ripples

Product page: TGXEAR
Foams used: Stock

I am not distributing named titles this year, but if I was you better be sure these two would be getting the “value” or “bargain” ones. For full disclosure, Tgx is a close friend but it has nothing to do with his work. After my initial review of the Serratus, many people bought the set and there are now impressions all over the internet – I guess that if you don’t believe me on this one, you might as well believe other people’s opinions.

(If you are completely new or clueless about earbuds, please click WoodyLuvr’s link in the menu above. He has earned the earbud encyclopedia title everywhere and for a good reason. You can also join the Flathead Sanctuary, a discord server exclusively for talks about buds and experience sharing.)

Tgx also known as Jim Park did not just make an entrance this year, he did the impossible. In a couple of months he did not just release his first set (Serratus) into the market, but he also redefined it. The Serratus clocks in at around $200, but you should leave your expectations of price to performance at the door. From the quality of its sub-bass to its outstanding imaging, Serratus made its name around the block pretty quickly.

To complement Serratus, another pearl was released by the maestro: a flagship called Ripples featuring a fancier cable, a $300 price tag and a more palatable tuning. And god, did it deliver.

Contrasting to the market-rumbler Serratus, the Ripples has less sub-bass focus but rather mid-bass elevation and quality, to a point of absurdity – the good type. The treble is more relaxed than its younger older sister, culminating in a better balanced tuning and a different kind of timbre – if Serratus leans into the drier side, the Ripples is as wet as my dog after a walk in the rain.

As for the subjective part, two notes must be done. The imaging chops of the Ripples are more intimate, closer to an IEM but its dynamic range is from the top shelf.

Given all the above and the differences between the two sets, I had no option but to pick both as my go to instead of just one. Give me both sets and a proper source, a quiet ambient and a drink, and I’m settled for the night. Forever.

Other Current Favorites

Sony IER-Z1R

Product page: Sony
Tips used: Final E

If you read my review of the Sony IER-Z1R, it’s pretty easy to spot the love I have for this set, but also the quirks that made me not buy one myself, but that doesn’t mean I would not love to have it or it doesn’t have what it takes.

The Z1R is probably the most overwhelmingly astonishing experience I’ve had in audio right after I put them on my ears – it screams top of the line from heads to toes. From its unreal bass response, to a masterclass treble and the cathedral-like stage, this set could easily be my top desert island pick if not for the physical fatigue (weight) and the recessed mid-range.

This is the set I always entice everyone to demo if they have the chance to, both for tasting its finesse but also to test the fit – which is either a blessing or curse, depending on your wallet status.

64 Audio Trió

Product page: 64 Audio
Tips used: Azla Sedna

The ultimate quality-over-quantity basshead set. The bass texture of the Trió is widely known by now, but it’s also one of those things that you won’t know until you try it. In more demanding bass tracks, the Trió takes over U12T in my heart, but they are more alike than they look.

The Trió takes a more aggressive or engaging replay, mainly in the treble while the U12T still reigns sovereign in the technical department, but only by a bit. This hybrid set is also a technical mastercall and takes a different approach to the imaging chops, coming out as more holographic to my ears instead of centered.

When someone says he prefers U12T over Trió or vice-versa, I have no arguments as they are both top performers and your personal priorities will dictate the final score between the two. For a good while, I thought about buying it and having both, but in the end I had to make a rational financial decision, as they are more alike than strangers. But damn me if I miss that bass…

Thieaudio Monarch Mk2

Product page: Linsoul
Tips used: Azla Vivid

I arguably joined the Monarch party pretty late, and I have yet to hear the first version of it, but oh my god did the revision blow my mind. 

The MMk2 is what I would describe as the perfect mid-range galore – and not just in quantity. They are most likely my preferred mid-range replay of all the sets I have heard to this date, and that has to count for something. The sub-bass has no points to it other than good ones, but the mid-bass is the polarizing factor for most people. Just like its predecessor – and also found on tuning like the Helios or Moondrop Variations, – the mid-bass is rather lean, turning the presentation into a more dryer than usual. The treble has nothing to me to pick on other than it could use more extension.

Technically wise, it fairs very well everywhere but the stage depth is slightly above average for this price range.

For me, this could very well be my end of the line since I’m a mid-head without any salvation. Pure Heroine album by Lorde or Lana Del Rey’s Venice Bitch are some examples where it just shines and twists your brain with its separation and layering – which won’t make it your best set for productivity, unless you consider that to be listening to music non-stop.

While not being as refined as the top of the line dogs here, it surely throws its pouches for half the price. Recommended.

Softears RSV

Product page: HifiGO
Tips used: Tripowin Mele/Olina stock wide tips

Inoffensive tuning that does nothing wrong, sinning ever-so-slightly in the technical side. Under a warmer neutral, the vocals on this set are insanely good and natural, making it one of my favorite sets ever.

Another surprising selling point of the RSV is its timbre, given the driver composition, that is more similar to a dynamic driver than a full BA set. All this also means the bass is pretty well represented, although outclassed by the mid-range and treble of the set.

For all this and more, if I could not afford kilobucks on my desert-island trip, the Softears RSV would be for sure on the table as a main option.

DUNU x Z Reviews: SA6 Ultra

Product page: HifiGO
Tips used: Azla Sedna Short

Let me rip the band-aid right away: this set can’t be purchased anymore, as it was a 300 units limited run. Your best bet right now is the second-hand market and a prayer or two.

Now, with that in mind, let’s talk business. On the side of the table, a favourite brand of mine, DUNU. On the other side, a youtube’s favorite, Zeos. In the middle, a collaboration on a crowd’s favorite piece: the SA6.

Well, the task was hard for everyone involved. Doing something to a well established and loved set is not only hard, but risky. This is the main problem with re-tuning and collabs, as the comparison with the previous model is inevitable. And against all odds they did not just do it, they nailed it.

Despite the frequency response looking so similar to the original, they don’t have the similar effect on me. The more refined upper mid-range and treble areas, and especially the added extension air make the Ultra one of the best surprises of 2022 for me. It’s a great all-rounder, with a tuning that I really enjoy (QDC pinna region ftw) and the technicalities are avant garde for its price range, culminating in a very balanced sound with great cohesiveness and timbre.

Speaking of QDC, compared to the Anole VX, the Ultra is basically copycat, minus the insane resolving power that the QDC set offers, but having less of that nasty plastic timbre to it. And all that for a fraction of the price.

Someone must start a petition for this set to be re-released by DUNU…

Symphonium Meteor

Product page: Symphonium Audio
Tips used: Azla Vivid

You know that feeling when you put a set on your ears and you just get frustrated in the first seconds?

The Meteor was that and more for me while I searched my pockets for money. First of all, it earns its merit in this list and my collection by being a U-shaped tuned instead of my typical favorite neutral with a bass boost.

Despite its driver configuration, Meteor’s bass is excellent and well textured. It gives a warmth to the replay that is just enjoyable rather than negative. The neutral mid-range and lower treble have nothing to be picked on, but its extension needs a few words. It is extremely good, and hence the U-Shape, to a point that it still pours out air and details despite the bass presence. Cymbal strikes decay and trails are simply amusing and one of my favorite ever.

On par with its extension, comes its techs. The Meteor is no slouch, but rather one of the pack leaders around its price range. It still pours out great technical chops despite the not so conventional tuning, that leaves you breathless on live replays (like the live album on MSG by The Fearless Flyers).

There are some sets you don’t like, there’s some you do and there’s some you know you love on the first note. Meteor is the latter for me. Can’t recommend it enough.

XENNS Mangird Top

Product page: Linsoul
Tips used: BVGP W01

Honeymoon period or not, the Mangird Top has been one of my most used sets over the last couple of weeks since it set foot in my desk. First, despite all my love for some of the previous models made by Mangird, I have not a single problem to say that the Top is easily my favorite model made by Mangird – and on a very objective lens, it’s also the best.

Warm but balanced, not so shy treble this time around and more balanced armateurs over the previous hybrids to accommodate a better extension. Due to a more shy lower-midrange and the well executed treble, this IEM really reminds of the Moondrop Variations, despite the latter being more technical. Tonally speaking, I do prefer Top’s tuning up to the upper mid-range while from memory the treble on the Variations is still more refined, probably with the help of the EST drivers.

Given the bass is the main star, I should say some words about it. It is well controlled and very present on the most lower frequencies, but this also means there’s a slight bleed into the mid-range warmth. Those who prefer the more analytical or harman tunings should look elsewhere. While not being overly tight, the dynamic range adds some bounciness to the replay that I find lovely on more electronic genres or hip hop beats.

As for me, I find the Top one of my favorites around its price range. With that said, there’s nothing more to say than to give it a good recommendation and hoping this one won’t go unseen.

Hifiman Edition XS

Product page: 
Pads used: Stock

It is no news to most people that Hifiman has been trying hard to reforge the price to performance brackets in this hobby, and by most metrics has been successful at it, especially at their planar line-ups. Hifiman Sundara has been one of the crowd’s favorites by craving the phrase “punching above its price bracket” on every wall. 

In 2022, Hifiman released Edition XS to compete in a somewhat dead bracket, with a price tag of $500. EXS did not just follow its sibling steps, but went further, culminating in a taste of “kilobuck sauce” by a fraction of the price, that can be found for even less during sales. Build wise, the XS uses the same cups as the Arya or Ananda, but a different headband, which is a lookalike to the HE400 family.

Comfort wise, they were pretty perfect for me, but I used this pair almost on the lower setting. People with very small heads won’t fit it and I seriously doubt anyone has a big enough head to use the max setting of the headband.

The tuning falls under the neutral bright category, with a flat curve up to the pinna-gain region, followed by a somewhat just-above-neutral treble response – which is the only tuning flaw I can nitpick on, as most people will find it a hair too much around the mid-treble area, but that will depend on the individual.

The bass, despite being flat on paper, has no lack of presence and dynamics to it, making you forget about its tuning. The subjective analysis of this set falls under the above average, with the resolving power and dynamics being very good, but stage not being the widest or accurate for the market, when compared to more expensive offers.

By doing some quick math, there’s no doubt that the Edition XS is the new $500 benchmark and one most people should try, especially when on sale – and of course, you have a big enough head.

Sennheiser HD600

Product page: 
Pads used: Stock

At the same time I got the Edition XS, I also got the world famous HD600, which has been on the market for a very long time now (since 2013 to be exact). Don’t let the age fool you, there’s a reason it’s still called a benchmark and one of the most used or paired headphones in history.

The tuning is much more palatable than the Edition XS, which can be described as plain neutral, with a slight roll off in the sub-bass. For me, this is the type of tuning that I can just listen to for hours and hours, and it’s pretty much spot on for my preferences, minus some quirks.

Tuning aside, and because you can probably find hundreds of reviews out there, the only point I will make is the technical part. The imaging chops are pretty weak, often described as 3 blobs, and I have to agree with that. Despite that, and if you abstract from it, I find myself hard pressed to name transducers of any kind as tonally balanced as the HD600 for its price, which is very recurrent to find for $300-350 on big sales.

If you check both graphs, it’s pretty easy to understand how I ended up with Focal Clear after loving HD600 so much, right?

DUNU Vulkan

Product page: DUNU
Tips used: BVGP W01

It is no secret that DUNU is one of my favorite brands and that VULKAN has been one of my most pleasant surprises of 2022. There’s one more reason for it to reach this list – the fact that I think it got completely overlooked by most consumers.

Fair enough that the competition is stiff around its price bracket, but the often seen on sale VULKAN is no technical slouch. In fact, the technical sectors of its sound are some of its most prolific characteristics. A very nice depth to the stage and a good sense of dynamics are some of its best traits, while I do have to point out that the level of detail and transient sharpness are its most average weakness. Nonetheless, the coherency and timbre of this set is top notch.

On tonality matters, the VULKAN adopts an all-round approach that is not overly engaging (U12T, anyone?), that makes it a master of the trades. Impactful but not overly exposed bass, clean mid-range and a well thought out treble turn this beast into a pure neutral replay. As for a critic, the extension is not the best, but after some manual sweeps, the graphs seem to indicate it being worse than it really is and I’ve never felt I’ve lost much information of the harmonics during my sessions.

With that said, the VULKAN gets nothing from me but love, a place in my collection and a recommendation.

XENNS Mangird Tea 2

Product page: Linsoul
Tips used: BVGP W01

This would not be a list made by Tea Cult’s CEO without a Tea model on it. Everytime someone asks me about what set I would get around its price range, Tea2 always comes to mind.

I do have to disclose that the mid-treble dip is something I don’t enjoy as much nowadays, but overall, it’s still my favorite tuning in the bracket – which is pretty obvious if you see my own target and its frequency response squiggle.

While being less technical than the likes of the Blessing twins, I do enjoy its tuning way more and its coherency, while being not so far away from the other two in regards to techs, but that’s a trade-off I will do any day.

One of the most underlooked IEMs of this list, in my opinion, and still one of my overall favorites to this day.

Sony XBA-N3

Product page: Sony
Tips used: DUNU S&S

The most biased and guilty pleasure pick of this list, in my opinion, but proving that good audio doesn’t get affected by time. From its unusual shape, to the fit and its muddied bass, the Sony N3 had a lot of reasons for me not to like it, and yet, here it is.

Sony sauce is real and the quality inside the hood is undeniable. With good mids, masterclass treble, timbre and coherency, the N3 is addictive and once you get past its bleeding bass, you just keep asking for more. Sure, the technical prowess shows its signs of age, especially at this bracket, but still a top performer when music and fun are the focus.

TANGZU x HBB Wu Zetian (Heyday Edition)

Product page: Linsoul
Tips used: Stock balanced tips (BVGP A07)

Before we enter into more budget-friendly offers, there is no denying 2022 was the year of the planar IEMs. In the beginning of the year we had Timeless and S12, but by the end of it we had more than a dozen planar releases. To me, it felt every other month there was a new top contender, even more accentuated by revisions/colabs. The thrill of trying a new planar IEM went the opposite direction though, with every release after Timeless being less and less exciting, culminating and me feeling very warm-luke about this segment. My previous favorite planar IEMs all had their quirks somewhere, mainly in treble tuning or in the imaging department.

All this culminates into Heyday. Heyday was the last planar release of 2022 and it literally took me 5 minutes for it to make it into this list – which would not most likely contain a planar since it’s a biased one.

The pros?

  • It is very well tuned, not just for a planar.
  • It is technical, just like other planars.
  • It’s well built and comfortable, not just for a planar.
  • At $200 it’s still a great value pick, not just for a planar.

Given most good planars fall under the same tree technically wise – with the Heyday being no exception, – what really sets it apart from me is the tonality. Good bass that is not overly boosted but neither too pillowy or shy. The star of the show is the mid-range focus and its pleasant preservation of balance. The cherry on top is the treble – which is usually where planars fall short, – which is very well tamed without feeling overly so. Cymbal strikes, electric guitars or violins feel natural, minus the fast decay which I can easily get by after 30s of adjustment.

With all that in mind, it’s easy to understand how clarity is pretty much spot on in this set, and for me it murdered the competition, as far as my preferences go. Touché Heyday, from no planars on my desk to one on my ears as I’m writing this.

Tripowin x HBB Olina SE

Product page: Linsoul
Tips used: BVGP W01

I do not think that in 2023 Olina needs any introduction. The original got a stellar recommendation for me and the SE revision only took it a step further. I still believe to this date it’s the best set you can get for $100 (often found around $80 on sale), and for sure my personal favorite.

Not only does it feature a very palatable approach of a warmer harman target, but it is packed with nice techs to back it up, which are very outstanding given the price it sits on. The metal shell and nice fit make it simple to use for very long sessions for years.

Given its single dynamic driver nature, the replayability of instrumental timbre is impeccable making it my favorite beater in the market.


Product page:  Rikubuds (Instagram)
Foams used: Stock

Former reviewer Rikudou_Goku crossed the line from assessments to building his own favorite genre of transducers: earbuds. In a vast catalog to cover a lot of needs and starting at $50 plus shipping, the Rikubuds are a new staple on budget audio that can’t get overlooked.

While they are still a step being TGXEAR picks, the Rikubuds clock in at a much more affordable price and overshadowing of-the-shelf brands up to its price point and more. Personally, I would recommend the Berserker (L-shaped) and Lancer (W-Shaped) series.


Product page: Linsoul
Tips used: BVGP W01

One of those releases that came in clutch by the end of last year. Up to this point, the 7hz Salnotes Zero was still the budget king in my books, but QKZ x HBB just won my heart.

Featuring a warm/bassy neutral tuning, and offering an alternative to the usual harman related ones, the QKZ x HBB focus mainly on the bass and note weight, that can sometimes be a hair too much, but has a well tuned treble to keep it up and a terrific extension as extra topping.

If you only have $20 and a dongle, this will be my recommendation if you prefer warmer tunings.

Honorable Mentions

  • Symphonium Helios – A great alternative and somewhat more technical to the Monarch Mk2, that I cannot pick much on, but unfortunately being too dry in the mid-bass for me, but otherwise a top contender.
  • DUNU Zen Pro – After reviewing my list, I decided to include here my favorite single DD of my collection. The Zen Pro really touches my soul but it’s very source picky, being completely transparent and sensitive to it. The main con of this set is for sure its price, given today’s marketing speed into releasing cheaper options. The main pro of the set has to be the bass texture, for sure.
  • LETSHUOER EJ07m/Kinda Lava – I considered for these to enter the above list, but in the end I decided not to, especially since the Kinda Lava has been discontinued. This segment has terrific bass texture and good tonality, even though I do not approve of its treble so much nowadays, but still worth a mention.
  • FatFreq Maestro Mini – Despite not making the top list since I’m not a basshead, the Maestro Mini is a beast like no other. If sub-bass is your bread and butter, make sure you try this one – just be careful with the volume if you have any love for your eardrums.
  • 7hz Timeless AE / RAPTGO x HBB Hook-X (or OG version) / TANGZU Wu Zetian – Apart from the Heyday, these are my favorite planars at this point, and the only ones I’ve recommended in the last months.
  • Sennheiser HD560s – If you are looking for a cheap pair of open backs and you don’t want to mess with Koss, look no further. Neutral warm with some good natural feeling to it, it’s my default rec around its price bracket.
  • Fiio FF3 – For those who love warm and bassy earbuds, and don’t wanna mess with DYIers or just wanna try something new, the FF3 are a great pick. Despite its tuning, the stage on the FF3 is amazing and I really enjoy it for that. I do recommend using stock bass foams.
  • 7hz Salnotes Zero / TANGZU Wan’er S.G. – If you aren’t looking for a warm/bassy tuning like the QKZ x HBB, don’t worry. The Zero and Wan’er are perfect examples that good tuning shouldn’t cost a thing and are great alternatives. The Zero is brighter and the bass will be more pillowy, which also helps with the sense of detail and stage. The Wan’er is the more balanced between the three, catching a bit of both worlds. Terrific choices for those in a budget – my advice: if you can, buy the three of them and make your own mind for yourself.
  • Moondrop Quarks (DSP version) – If you only have lunch money to buy a set and you don’t even have a DAC, look no further than the Quarks DSP. The tuning is pretty spot on but the bargain price tag shows on the technical part. Still a crazy price to performance ratio, nonetheless.

Favourite Sources

Shanling M6 Ultra

Product page: Linsoul

Hammer time! – Or is it brick?

The M6 Ultra was my last addition to my source collection and currently my main one on the go or simply around the house. It contains all the bells and whistles you can expect at this price point, from a Quad AKM DAC, Android 10 and a 5-inch display.

To me is more than enough and sometimes feels overkill, but covers all my needed corners on the move, from FLACs to Streams, at a snappy speed and providing 720mw@32ohm on balanced outputs. The battery life is around 10 hours using balanced but has a 18w Quick Charge that I can’t leave without anymore.

So far, the only con I can see is the price, that is very steep – like most DAPs in the market.

Chord Mojo2

Product page: Chord

The Chord Mojo2 is the strangest source I’ve tried in a while.

It includes a terrible interface, micro USB for charging the battery and you better read the manual to get it running properly…

But it sounds so good. It really does. I found it on the V-Shaped fun side, with a good sense of space and incredibly dynamic. In fact, for a “colored” source, it might as well be my favorite ever.

But that interface will make you cry sometimes. Recommended nonetheless.

Hiby R5 Gen2

Product page: Linsoul

Class-A on the go, 475mW on balanced output and Android OS makes the Hiby R5 Gen2 a true pocket rocket at its price range.

Battery life is around 10 hours on Class A and it for sure gets very warm, but when you go into economy mode (solid state) the battery levels rise to an outstanding 20 hours, making it the perfect travel companion on your holidays.

Topping L70

Product page: Linsoul

Linear is the name of the game and Topping has been doing it like no other, for less and less every time.

The L70 is my main desktop source and the one used for my reviews. It’s reliable, pushes out a whopping 7.5w @ 32ohm on balanced mode, has 0.1ohm output impedance and includes a remote control to switch profiles just by pressing a button.

By having a display and three outputs, the L70 makes my life easy to volume match and A/B/C without much trouble. 

If you need a very powerful desktop amp and don’t wanna spend the top dollar, look no further!

Hiby R3 Pro Saber (2022)

Product page: HifiGO

When I feel my M6 Ultra is not safe outside but I still want to use a DAP, the Hiby R3 Pro Saber (2022 Version) is my go to.

Very affordable – it’s basically the price of expensive dongles, – and with an incredible form factor are the reasons I keep using it more regularly than not.

This small-sized DAP features a whooping 340mW@32Ω (Balanced) and has Tidal included in the player, which is my desired stream app.

Sure, it won’t be as powerful, snappy or have a pixel perfect display compared with expensive DAPS, but it won’t cost you a kidney and fits in any pocket. 

This packed yet simple unit is my default recommendation at this price point and the battery life will make you dance for around 20 hours.

Xduuo Link2 Bal

Product page: Linsoul

Everyone knows by now that my relationship with the dongle market is not the best. To me, they are somewhere between a love and hate relationship and completely polarizing.

I do not use dongles on-the-go, as I distaste the added cable into my phone’s USB-C port. But not even me can deny their utility – personally they shine when I just need a DAC to plug into something really quick and some set to it, like a work computer.

This is where Link2 won my heart. From the moment I stopped neglecting it and gave it a listen, I fell in love with its neutral presentation and a good sense of stage. Since that moment, it never left my desk again and is my most used source during work hours. An easy recommendation is at hand.

Qudelix 5k

Product page: Qudelix

The all-you-will-ever-need device.

Small form factor, nice battery duration and the best app in the game are some of the amazing features of this little device. The Qudelix 5k is the source everyone should own and have it always on hand, making your life easier, especially when you wanna go out without TWS or a DAP.

The included Parametric EQ in the app is a wonder for those who wish to EQ their sets on the go, without any frills and simply by using your phone. The major con of this device has to go to the annoying buttons that I ended up disabling after 5 minutes and using the phone to control every aspect of this amp while it remains in the pocket.

A terrific unit and a true must have, no matter how deep in the hole you are and especially if you are not a dongle fan like myself.

Top 5 most played albums of 2022

Lorde – Pure Heroine

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

The Fearless Flyers Live at Madison Square Garden

Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons

Daft Punk – Alive 2007

3 responses to “nymz’s articles: 2022 Wrap-up and current favorites”

  1. Gui aka Cameleon303 Avatar
    Gui aka Cameleon303

    Absolutely love Recomposed by Max Richter.
    Great takes and well written.
    Quarks DSP is amazing for the price.


  2. How does U12t compares to Heyday in terms of technical performance?


  3. Awesome stuff! Thanks for all the hard work!


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