The year 2020 was, to put it mildly, a special year. A disrupted year especially in which a lot of things were questioned and in which we showed our best but often also our little side. Because of the measures imposed, we stayed in our listening room even more than usual. But hey: this was not a punishment for us! A lot of great products came our way in the past year but the five below stayed with me the most. Some of them we couldn’t recommend without hesitation. But some of them left an unforgettable impression. And some we even bought, because we just couldn’t part with it. Yes, well… that’s the way mankind works. He wants to own what he loves
Emas, non qoud opus est, sed quod necesse est.
B.M.C. Audio – Ultradac (3198 euro)
This separate d/a converter made an impression although it is based on a very popular Sabre chip. But what the people at B.M.C. have done with it is truly amazing. There’s a lot of patented technology in this dac and you’ll hear that when you integrate it into your system. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget and a dac I didn’t like to send back to Berlin. We keep a close eye on the people of B.M.C. Audio from now on and are curious about what the future brings.
Rega IO integrated amplifier (489 euro)
The Brio’s little brother performs above average and despite its limited number of connection options, is still an amplifier you have to take seriously. Pair it with the best bookshelf you can afford and connect a bluesound node 2i to it and you have an insanely addictive set. Or find a fine turntable to connect to the excellent phono input and enjoy your vinyl collection carefree. Even our Hifiman Sundara did not know what happened to it when he got that magical warm blanket over it. We are importer Joenit grateful that it can stay for a while.
Denafrips Ares 2 d/a converter (820 euro)
This dac was without a doubt the most contested product of the past year but it definitely belongs in this list. This Chinese brand is only for sale online and only has a distributor in Singapore but that shouldn’t spoil the fun. The Ares 2 is an affordable NOS dac that sounds fantastic and can be seen as a real game changer. In the right system it simply battles with more expensive devices. The Denafrips Ares 2 has gained a permanent place in our second set up.
Acoustic Energy AE509 floorstander (2800 euro)
Although we have tested a lot of great monitors this year, ironically it is the only one that made it to the shortlist. But the Acoustic Energy AE509 is just so good that we couldn’t get around it. In fact, we bought the demo pair because these speakers sound almost flawless in our room. The fact that they also look great completes the picture of course.
NAIM NAIT XS3 (2799 euro)
The Naim Nait XS3 immediately felt at home in our listening room. No matter which loudspeaker it chose, it just took off and pulled you into the music over and over again. This amplifier doesn’t do anything conspicuous, but it does everything right. We never tended to replace it and never felt like we were missing anything. This is a reference product in its price range and one we should have as a test instrument. Recommended!