The Headphone List: A Year in Review

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While we were puttering about and testing things out for a few months beforehand, The Headphone List officially launched last September, initially intended to be no more than a better-organized extension of our efforts on Head-Fi. The feedback from the community surpassed our wildest expectations and it’s been quite a year for both myself (ljokerl) and average_joe.

I wanted to make this post to sincerely thank all of our readers and supporters, as well as to take a look back at our first year in the great internet expanse and share some thoughts, statistics, and takeaways.

Reviews, reviewed

The best way we could think of to sum up the first year of a review site was to put together a short list of our favorite new headphones and earphones in the past 12 months. So here it is – a by-no-means-exhaustive list of the products that most stood out to us over the course of the year.

From ljokerl:

Earphones

Dunu DN-2000

Dunu DN-2000 (full impressions) – Dunu’s second-generation hybrid is an excellent all-rounder and one of my favorite hybrid designs so far, alongside AKG’s ridiculously pricey K3003. The DN-2000 boasts a balanced sound signature with a lift in the sub-bass and upper treble regions, as well as Dunu’s usual solid construction and extensive accessory kit.

SteelSeries Flux In-Ear (full review) – This $50 in-ear headset from a manufacturer of gaming peripherals took me entirely by surprise with audio quality that easily puts it among the very best earphones in its class.

Xiaomi Piston 2 (full review) – A full-featured Android headset from China’s #1 smartphone vendor, the Piston 2 is a bargain at $25 and a must-have for any Android user. I liked it so much, I reviewed it at Innerfidelity as well.

TDK BA200 (full review) – Sound reminiscent of flagship earphones from the likes of HiFiMan and Shure, an ergonomic form factor, and good noise isolation all make the TDK BA200 a fantastic all-rounder for not much money. The untimely discontinuation of this earphone is a shame, but units are still floating around online vendors.

Sony SBH80 (full review) – Sony’s ergonomically-challenged MH1C headset was among my favorite earphones last year. The wireless SBH80 model does away with the troublesome cables and delivers a warm, clear, and smooth sound – the best I’ve heard from a wireless IEM – in a “wearable” form factor and with all of the latest Bluetooth tech.

HiFiMan HE-560

Headphones

HiFiMan HE-560 (full review) – Not having tried any of HiFiMan’s previous full-size cans, the HE-560 impressed me more than I had anticipated, going so far as to replace the Sennheiser HD600 as my full-size reference headphone thanks to the outstanding bass performance and clarity.

Other gear

OPPO HA-1 – While I have not yet had a chance to post a full review, OPPO’s full-size DAC and headphone amp has received more ear time this year than any other piece of audio gear own, acting as a hub for my headphones and powered monitors. Boasting more connectivity options than I know what to do with, the HA-1 is an extremely versatile device that I now can’t do without.

From average_joe:

Earphones

EarSonics S-EM6 (full review) – This is the best sounding universal IEM I have heard to date. Not only does it perform at a very high technical level, but I appreciate the sound signature, which I think has a wide appeal for audiophiles and non-audiophiles alike.

ADL X1

Custom Art Music One (full review) – On the lower cost end of the spectrum, I was pleasantly surprised by the technical capability of the Music One considering it uses only a single balanced armature driver. It is a winning proposition – a low cost silicone CIEM that is musical, yet capable. I am looking forward to trying the new Custom Art Harmony 8.

Perfect Seal Fusion 11 (full impressions) – Mike from Perfect Seal is back in the CIEM game after about 10 years of focusing on the hearing-aid market. His product lineup has impressed me in the price/performance category and includes the SportBud Silver canal size workout CIEM and the Fusion 11, the first ever hybrid CIEM in silicone, which sounds great for the price.

Other gear

ADL X1 (full review) – Sure, the amp isn’t quite perfect due to hiss with some high-sensitivity headphones, but the relatively low level of hiss gets forgotten due to the musicality of the amp section, and there is a pretty good integrated DAC. The X1 took some of my CIEMs to levels I haven’t heard them perform at before.

Still going strong

Some gear continues to impress regardless of its age, and I wanted to recognize some of my stalwarts including the iBasso DX100 DAP, Portaphile 627 amp, Lear FSM-02 V2 amp, Spiral Ear SE 5-way Reference, Hidition NT-6 Pro, Hidition NT-6 with Whiplash Hybrid V3 cable, and M-Fidelity SA-43.

 

By the numbers

Our growth has been tremendously encouraging, and we love that you like reading what we write. Here’s some statistics for the past year that I found interesting.

Pageviews for the past year


The couple of times we went offline are visible, as are some of our website milestones such as new review tables and buyer’s guides

 

Alexa traffic rank, then and now


Left: Alexa traffic rank in September of 2013; Right: Alexa rank in September of 2014

 

According to analytics, you – our readers – logged on from an incredible 199 different countries in the past year. 1134 comments have been posted on the site. Another 798 were replies from average_joe and myself, and we received an incredible 24615 spam comments.

Our main earphone buyer’s guide has been meticulously maintained, with 9 IEMs removed and 7 new ones added in the last 12 months. Despite two of the most expensive sets being added this year, the average price point of an earphone featured in the buyer’s guide has dropped from $86 to $78 – not a big surprise considering the trend for great entry-level and mid-range earphones.

Aside from the tables and buyer’s guides, which receive the lion’s share of pageviews, our most popular posts are IEM reviews. The top ten most popular reviews are:

1) RHA MA750
2) HiFiMan RE-400
3) Ultimate Ears UE600
4) Sony MH1C
5) SteelSeries Flux
6) VSonic VC1000
7) Custom Art Music One
8) JH Audio JH13
9) Dunu DN-1000
10) LG Quadbeat

By the way, running the numbers for all of my own reviews, about 54% of headphones and earphones received a strong overall recommendation.

What the future holds for The Headphone List

The future of THL is looking bright – the past year has acted as a proof of concept, showing us that there is interest in our style of content, and in the year ahead we will be investing even more time and resources into improving the site.

You may have noticed that we have been expanding our affiliate network and developing other ways of supporting the site. Some of you have even helped out by using our affiliate links or pledging donations, which we greatly appreciate. At this point our operating costs are covered most months, though The Headphone List is still a long way from being our day job.

Our long-term vision is for a more dynamic and interactive website with a cleaner interface – one that is better able to answer common questions and actively provides product recommendations and comparisons. The implementation of new features and site makeover will start to take place in the near future. If everything goes as planned, the end result will be worth the effort!

Wrap-up

Thank you for visiting The Headphone List and for reading, liking, commenting, and sharing us with your friends.

We are extremely grateful for all of the support and encouragement we have received from the global headphone community in the past year and will continue making it our mission to help our readers make informed buying decisions when it comes to personal audio. We will strive try to provide more of the content you want, namely buyer’s guides and roundups, and of course more reviews. We will also be keeping an eye out for the best headphone deals going into the holiday season.

So again, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you, and keep an eye out for more website functionality (and, of course, more reviews) in the future!

P.S. While writing this post, I have listened to four full albums. I wish I had the statistics for how many hours of music we consumed while writing reviews and creating other content over the past year – I’m sure it’s a very large number. On that note here’s some of my favorite albums released in the past year:

Arctic Monkeys – AM RÜFÜS – Atlas Krusseldorf – Fractal World
Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun Young the Giant – Mind Over Matter La Dispute – Rooms of the House
Touché Amoré – Is Survived By Cage The Elephant – Melophobia Russian Circles – Memorial

 

Got any thoughts on our first year in existence? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

20 Comments

  1. Claritas on

    Congratulations joker! You and your worthy partner have built an excellent resource to show audiophiles that full-size are as good as in ears. (Yes, you read that right.) I wish you both many successful and enjoyable years.

    • ljokerl on

      Cheers, thanks for your support!

  2. YamaVega on

    Live long and prosper, Joker! You are one of the headphone reviewers I trust, with confidence and wallet 🙂

  3. Altrunox on

    Congratulations guys, undoubtedly you`ve helped a lot of people with this site, keep the great job.
    Cheers!

    • ljokerl on

      Thanks – that’s the plan!

  4. CTC Audio on

    Congrats guys! Thank you for being a solid reference site for potential new audiophiles!

    • ljokerl on

      Thank you very much!

      • Bintouch on

        happy birthday!

  5. Abhishek on

    Hearty congratulations to |joker| and average_joe for the astonishing labour of listening, thinking, writing again and again and again to come to the final outcome so that it becomes easy to understand for the casual listeners like us.

    I am very short of words in writing my feelings towards you guys and this splendid treasure of knowledge website.

    I wish that in future theheadphonelist will hit the no. 1 spot in alexa web ranking. 🙂

    Thank you!

    • ljokerl on

      I don’t think google would like that :p

      Thank you very much for your support in the past year!

      • Abhishek on

        It was and will always be my pleasure 🙂 My support was negligible compared to your support to lacs of music lovers and listeners.

  6. Lord Sinister on

    Hello,

    Congratulations and Happy Birthday to THL. Your incredible hard work is truly appreciated and I’m sure a favorite world wide. While I haven’t read every single post, probably 85% and I’ve enjoyed them all. Because of the awesome reviews you’ve done, I recently started my new hobby of collecting IEMs, that I can afford of course, comparing them to your reviews and enjoying every moment of it.

    Thank you very much and I’m looking forward to year #2.

    • ljokerl on

      >looking forward to year #2.

      Thank you very much, and so are we!

  7. getclikinagas on

    What a year indeed! It’s incredible what you and average_joe have achieved with the site. This has been one of my favorite sites over the past year, with an unhealthy amount of page-views.

    I cannot count the number of times I’ve recommended the site to friends and family. Recommending Head-fi always warrants the warning tag “Wade through the subjectivity”.
    The astronomical number of reviews is one thing(amazing, might I add) but the quality of the reviews (which keeps improving from the already excellent baseline) is the reason why this site is going to be acquire it’s legendary status. And by the looks of it, it is well along the way.

    Standout articles and reviews for me:
    1) Triple Hybrids: Now that is a three way comparison done right.
    2) Wireless fidelity: An intriguing read and a supreme effort . I can only imagine the effort it must have taken.
    3) Auditory memory & review technique: An insight into the brains behind THL. A detailed and well rounded gem of an article.
    4) Every. Single. Review. by average_joe: I find it very hard to pick one review over the other. Clear, thorough, detailed and objective. If I absolutely had to pick one: I particularly enjoyed the Music One review.
    5) Custom in-ear monitors fit guide: A must-read for every potential CIEM owner.
    6) HE-560: Benchmark review for a benchmark product.

    Wrap up: Thank you ljokerl and average_joe. I do not have the money to indulge my passion for music and IEMs but your reviews and articles are the closest I can get to the real thing. Verified this fact when I finally got the RE400 and realized the review was spot on.

    average_joe : “Get what you will enjoy and not what others prefer. If you don’t yet know what that is, buy cheaper stuff and figure out what you like, then ask for “upgrades” to stick to a similar signature.”
    Amen.

    PS1: There are 199 countries!? IEM love all over the world and beyond!
    PS2: ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’ was excellent. Revelation of the year for me was “Lake Street Dive”
    PS3: Looking forward to the site improvements. Now that you have a huge database, you could think of implementing sound sig filter options as a sound score alone may not deliver the complete picture. Speaking of pictures, I’m sure ljokerl must have received a million requests to include more images. I like the single image showing two angles of the IEM along with the connector. However one more picture could be included: the IEM sans the tips next to a ‘common/well known’ IEM for housing/nozzle size reference.
    PS4: Thank you both once again.

    • average_joe on

      Thank you for your repeated visits to our site and kind words. We are very happy we can help people make the right decisions and provide informative and enjoyable content, and we plan on continuing for a long time to come! I am glad to hear you now have the RE400 and hope you are enjoying audio bliss!

      Happy listening!

      average_joe

    • ljokerl on

      Thank you for your support! It’s incredibly rewarding that someone out there has read pretty much everything we’ve put out!

      It’s interesting that you mention improving review quality – one of the things I am not satisfied with these days is the lack of thoroughness in my oldest (circa 2009-2010 reviews). Good thing many of those products have been/are being phased out.

      I really appreciate the suggestions. One thing I’d like to implement in the tables in the short term is the ability to only show sets that we singled out as highly recommendable. This should be easy to do and provides a filtering level somewhere between the buyer’s guide, which only has ~20 earphones on it, and just looking at the average scores in the table. Sound signature filtering will be a little harder to implement, but it is also coming.

      More pictures is definitely something that needs to happen. I just wish I had as much of a passion for photographing earphones as I do for listening to them.

      PS – as of today, it’s a full 200 countries, and that video of Lake Street Dive performing on the street is awesome!

      • getclikinagas on

        And one more thing. You guys reply(very promptly to every single question/query/suggestion(no matter how repetitive), be it Head-fi or THL or facebook. That must eat up a major chunk of your time. Thank you on behalf of us all 🙂

        @average_joe: Looking forward to your next review/article!
        The RE400 was a major experiment that paid off(more than I could have imagined). Also, esanthosh was so kind to gift me his RE272. I now have an idea of what I’d like my next upgrade to sound like. And I know where to turn for advice 🙂

        @ljokerl: The extra pictures can slide, but I expect snazzier badges this year 😀
        PS: Yeah, their studio sessions are amazing too.

        • ljokerl on

          It’s become a routine – check THL for comments first every time I think of checking my email 🙂

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