What a year it has been – from our time in Munich to AVS Warsaw, with every great review in between. Each year is more exciting and full of work than the last, and 2023 has been no exception. Let’s round up this year’s favorites.
As was the case last year, 2023 presented us with the same conundrum – which products do we choose as the best for our “Rewards” article? After all, this was quite a busy year, especially around the time of the audio shows we’ve attended. Establishing this list took us quite some time, and, not without a considerable amount of discussion, we finally came to our conclusions. One thing remains unchanged, however – our gratitude for your unending support. Whether you’ve subscribed to our YouTube channel, given some likes on social media, or just visited this page for an afternoon read – thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We can’t wait for another great year with you on board!
The Best High-End Headphones of 2023
As great as this year has been for high-end headphones, one choice stands out notably, and that choice is no other than Erzetich’s latest flagship offering – the Charybdis. This one lived up to our highest expectations and then some.
With this product, the Slovenian headphone makers at Erzetich proved to the world that they deserve a seat among the big boys when it comes to the summit-fi of headphones. The design is toned down, yet interesting, and the sound is technical yet pleasant. This combines to make for a great piece of kit and makes me all the more excited for what comes next out of the woods of Trnovo, Slovenia.
The Best Headphones of 2023
Meze delivered yet again, and once again their product is featured in the Ear Fidelity Awards. And rightfully so – the 109 Pro treads new paths for the industry when it comes to price-to-performance ratio, and if that doesn’t deserve recognition, I don’t know what does.
Thanks to its high level of craftsmanship, comfort, and versatility, it’s hard to call the 109 Pro anything else than a solid offering. All of this, however, is merely a compliment to its pleasant sound signature, turning longer listening sessions into pure bliss. Meze 109 Pro punches well above its modest price range of 799$, making it the best headphones of 2023 in our eyes.
The Best DAC/AMP of 2023
This spot is once again taken by Hifiman, this time, however, it’s the Serenade – one of the latest DAC/AMP combo offerings by them. This one is a whole package, combining an R2R DAC and a powerful amplifier, hell, it even packs a streamer!
This one hasn’t gotten a full review yet, but it will very soon, and with the testing we have already done, we are certain it is the best piece of gear of its kind to grace our desktops this year. Can’t wait to take a closer look, and, more importantly, can’t wait to see what’s next for Hifiman.
The Best Portable DAC/AMP of 2023
The M15 was the first Questyle product that we got a hold of for a review, and immediately, the impression it made was a lasting one. It surely is one of the best dongles out there at 250 bucks and for a few reasons.
The first striking thing about it is its exposed innards, which is a design language that I love. Pair that with an ESS sound that’s sharp and full of resolution, great driving capabilities, and a sensible relationship with your mobile’s battery, and you end up with the Questyle M15 – a small device with a big performance.
The Best Amplifier of 2023
Throughout his review, Michał was adamant that Schiit Audio Midgard is an appropriate candidate to be one’s endgame amplifier. And for a good reason – the Midgard is truly a jack of all trades.
Great measurements, versatility enabling both full-size headphones and IEM use, good build quality, and enough power to drive even a Susvara decently – that puts the Midgard on the pedestal for us when it comes to the best amplifier of the year. And don’t get me started on that price-performance ratio…
The Best IEM of 2023
If you’ve read my review of the Craft Ears Omnium, you know how hard it was for me to pick out a clear winner between it and Hifiman’s own Svanar. Well, the choice has been made, and I’ve settled on the former. Let me tell you why.
The jaw-on-the-floor factor of those is through the roof, more so than with any other piece of gear I’ve reviewed, perhaps ever. This is one of the best pairs of IEMs, not at its price point, but one of the best, period. The Omnium is like a full-on firework show taking place in your ears, but without bastardizing the more intimate and calm recordings. Easy recommendation.
The Best TWS IEM of 2023
This spot was a much easier pick. Hifiman Svanar Wireless sports not only a great sound but is also an interesting solution in terms of technological advancements.
If you told someone 40 years ago that an R2R DAC can be fitted inside an item smaller than a human ear, while making enough space for a dynamic driver and a battery unit, you would most likely be declared a witch and burned at a stake. Well, that is exactly what the Svanar Wireless has – the built-in R2R DAC is an amazing performer, making the Svanar Wireless one of the best TWS options on the market.
The Best Budget IEM of 2023
Letshuoer DZ4 is a great IEM both in terms of the tech squeezed inside, as well as the sound. Seeing what 89$ can get you nowadays, I’m excited for the future of personal audio.
The best thing about the DZ4 is how universal they are thanks to their spacious staging and a rich midrange. Throw whatever music genre you like at those – they won’t disappoint. Grab your dongle… No, that sounds wrong. I mean, your mobile DAC/AMP, and be amazed. Great moves by Letshuoer – can’t wait to see more.
The Best DAP of 2023
FiiO having numerous great DAPs under their belt is no news. M15S only adds to that statement, versatility and refinement being its main strengths. Let me elaborate.
FiiO M15S has a great midrange-focused sound signature with amazing technical performance to boot, as well as enough power for full-sized headphones. On top of that, the device is just comfortable to use, with a snappy user interface and great ergonomics. Versatility is the main reason to pick DAPs as your main source of music, and M15S fits that description perfectly.
The Best Cable of 2023
Effect Audio products have been featured in our reviews numerous times, and for a good reason – they are simply amazing. Fusion 1 is no exception, being a great performer in terms of versatility as well as sound.
This one stands out with its sonic performance and great craftsmanship. Another worthy contender for the title was Gladiator Cables Grafene – while also at the top when it comes to sound and craftsmanship, Effect Audio edges it out a bit thanks to its use of ConX and TermX, making it usable with any IEM/source combo you can imagine. Great stuff by Effect Audio, and surely not its last feature on Ear Fidelity.
The Best Product of 2023
Every year we’re giving out our “best” awards, but the best product award has always been the most important, which is quite logical. We’ve always given this one to products that are not only incredible, but also the ones that help redefine the market.
To be truly worthy of our Best Product Of The Year award, a product has to be something more than just a good offering. It has to be a meaningful event in the manufacturers history, as well as offering something new to the market as a whole.
And what better choice there is, than a product that basically came out of nowhere, made by a smaller manufacturer, and the product itself is easily on the same level as TOTL models from the biggest manufacturers in the market?
This headphone is not only a great product by itself, but also a testimony to what it means to be Summit-Fi worthy. I believe this product can be a turning point for this manufacturer. It’s my pleasure to announce, that our Best Product of 2023 is…
Some of you might have seen it coming, but it’s quite surprising even for ourselves. However, the Charybdis is worthy of being called the best product of the year in our book, as it is truly a TOTL offering by a company, that we didn’t expect is capable of creating such a beast. Congratulations to Erzetich Audio, and we highly recommend trying the Charybdis to everyone.
As always, thank you very much for an exciting year and for your continuous support! This all wouldn’t be possible without you. We’re grateful for every single visit to the website, every private message, every phone call and recommendation. Thanks to all of you we get to do what we love – sharing our opinions on the most exciting products in audio every single year.
The end of a year is always a time when we’re focusing on our families and friends, and we wish all of you a great time and a successful year 2024.
See you very soon, and once again – Thank You!
Paweł, Mateusz, Michał and Kamil.
Founder of Ear Fidelity. I’ve been into audio for many years, working in production, distribution, retail, and marketing throughout my career. Now trying to revolutionize the art of reviewing audio gear, but one thing will never change: Music is the most important.