Golden Schlong Awards 2020

Discussion in 'Leaderboard, Overboard, and Deals' started by purr1n, Feb 8, 2021.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    PRIOR YEARS
    Holy Cow! I can't believe we are now in our sixth year of GS awards. Wait a minute. I just realized something. Why did Schiit name the closeout OG Yggdrasil with the firmware updates Yggdrasil GS? Did the GS refer to Golden Schlong? LOL

    Golden Schlong Awards 2020
    [​IMG]

    We call these awards Golden Schlongs because we don't take ourselves seriously. I think it's hilarious that some people would actually think that people on SBAF were serious about themselves after reading a post or two... Anyway, the GS is a very serious award: while we do not take ourselves seriously, we do take audio seriously. However, anyone in this hobby who doesn't think there's at least a little bit of comparing schlongs is lying to themselves. (HINT: it only gets worse the more we spend).

    There have been no changes to the format this year other than the addition of the infantile Brown Starfish award. Golden Schlongs and Silver Dongs are granted on per category basis (headphones, amps, sources, portable, and other). Each category will not necessarily have a GS winner; but each category will have at least a SD. It is also possible for a category to have multiple GS winners.

    Factors such as product longevity (L) and value (V) are taken into consideration. There's always something to be said for products which have withstood the test of time or provide exceptional value. Face it: while there have been some incremental improvements in audio, it really hasn’t gotten any better in the 70 or 80 years from the mono record days; the industry has seemingly gone mad and catered more and more to the ORFAS, AKWRP, and now OME crowd. That’s Old Rich Fart Audio Society, Asian Kid With Rich Parents, and Objectivist Measurement Extremist.

    And the winners are... (please don't reply to this thread until I have posted the honorable mentions).
     
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    Last edited: Feb 8, 2021
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Note: Prior winners will not be relisted unless they have been upgraded from honorable mention to Silver Dong or Silver Dong to Golden Schlong. Once a winner, always a winner. We are careful with our selections and don't randomly give out awards to anything that is new. The Kryptonian science council has decided to be stingy in some categories this year.

    GOLDEN SCHLONG WINNERS 2020

    HEADPHONES

    -none-


    AMPS

    [​IMG]
    SW51+ (EVL)
    Upgraded from 2019 SD. So good that it makes amps in no-man's land ($500-$1500) that much worse. Seriously, it's that good. Despite being a tube amp, it sounds very clean and almost SS-like with a slight tinge of warmth. Don't let the measurements fool you; this is a legit tube amp and won't be beat unless you get into the real big boy stuff where you will get marginally improvements in plankton, space, and more slam. Undeniably high value. Being designed and made in Russia instead of California / China, the SW%1+ will survive nuclear explosions, protests, and insurrections - and can be passed to future generations.


    IEMS

    [​IMG]

    Campfire Audio Ara (E)
    Needs tip massaging to get around upper mid peakage (try smaller tips with deeper insertion). The Ara is an evolution of the Andromeda. More neutral, less v-shaped. The technicalities are a huge step ahead with obvious clarity (makes the Andromeda sound veiled). Still a BA type, but Campfire has worked on the timbre, particularly in the lows, to sound a bit less BA and more toward DD. If you want DD lows, it's still best to get a hybrid. However, the Ara with all BA drivers will sound much more cohesive.


    [​IMG]
    Gaudio Nair (E)
    The Nair really deserves more attention. The craftsmanship is top notch. Not the best, but "merely" very good in various aspects (space, clarity, detail, slam, top end extension, etc.). However, the totality is greater than the sum of its parts. Those who miss the UERM tonality will love this (it's better than UERM, think UERM FR tweaked to perfection). The Nair does nothing wrong. I don't think enough people appreciate this approach.


    DACS

    [​IMG]

    Soekris DAC2541 (E)
    Similar in many respects to the DAC1541, the DAC2541 has that extra magic to push into GS league. The DAC is voiced cooler or more neutral than what one would expect for R2R. Lines are incisive, bass is textured and articulate. This is not warmpoo and there is not even a hint of warmpoo. The balanced output sounds slightly better than SE. Not the final word in plankton or slam; but put in right system, and it will be hard to put the headphones down. And this is what matters most.

    [​IMG]

    MOTU Ultralite (EV)
    Making a bold statement here. Not worth it if you want a DAC only. But if you want only two of the following functions: DAC, ADC, EQ, mixer, multiple IO, impedance measurement instrumentation, simple headamp measurement instrumentation, microphone preamp, handy headamp, noise gate, compressor, et. al. then this is the best thing since sliced bread. As a DAC, the darn thing sounds halfway decent too with some inner warmth, maybe slightly laid-back, and Sabre timbre mostly dialed-out. If I could only have one audio related box next to my PC, this would be it.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 10, 2021
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Note: Added DACs above to GS.

    SILVER DONG WINNERS 2020

    HEADPHONES

    [​IMG]
    Nectar Hive (EV)
    I felt this deserved something stronger than honorable mention. Nectar has taken an approach to estat headphones that sounds different from STAX. The Hive sounds more along the lines of the Sennheiser stats of long ago. By design, there is more slam - a more tactile experience. The tuning is on the bright side (think HD600 +), but can be mitigated by tweaks (pads, foam, bias, etc.). The construction is a bit DIYish, but in return, the price is right. The customer service is probably x10 better than STAX in the USA.


    AMPS

    [​IMG]
    Eddie Current Studio B (EV)
    Probably Craig's last and best non-custom amp. Doesn't need expensive 300B tubes either. The sign of a great amp is that it doesn't need exotic tubes to sound good. The real secret is that people who have purchased this amp don't know how good it really is, especially compared to other TOTL tube amps at more than three times the price. The Studio B is a hidden gem. Silver Dong because of low availability, wait times, poor email etiquette, and occasional issues with international shipments. Postal workers dropping packages can do a number on point to point wiring. If anything goes wrong, make sure you get an RMA and always send back with insurance. That being said, the vast majority of customers don't have any major problems.



    IEMS

    -none-


    DACs

    [​IMG]
    Burl B2 Bomber (E)
    This was when AKM made great sounding chips before VELVET SOUND. I hope that Burl has a stash of the AKM4399 lying around since these chips are not made anymore. (The new AKM chips will no be made anymore either, at least for a certain period of time). The output voltage dial is sort of a warm setting. Burl has managed to make the AKM4399 sound really good. Not the last word in nuance or plankton, but dynamic and lively sound that doesn't mess up guitars or drums. Not as "colored" as some press reviews makes it out to be. The coloration is that it sounds like vintage gear in the studio, and that is a good thing. Not a tour de-force in terms of technicalities and not a impressionist painting DAC. The B2 Bomber just simply sounds gud and fun - and normal enough to work on music with.




    OTHER STUFF

    [​IMG]
    iFi Zen Phono (V)
    Less resolving and clear than iFi TOTL iPhono3, but perhaps better sounding - that is easier to pair with other components - because of its slightly organic presentation. The Schiit Mani has some serious competition here as the iFi Zen Phono handily beats it on sound quality for a few bucks more. The only way to get better than this is to spend hundreds more. This is our defacto recommendation for an entry level phonostage.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 11, 2021
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    HONORABLE MENTION 2020
    Don't discount this stuff either!

    • Rockna Wavelight DAC - little brother of Wavedream
    • Schiit Yggdrasil GS DAC - many prefer the less outright organic Yggdrasil GS to the Yggdrasil 2
    • Bryston BHA-1 Headamp - great SS amp at used, serves as a good stopgap until TOTL gear
    • Grado Hemp Headphone - why do I think Grado released F-pads because of my TTVJ pad reviews
    • ZMF Aeolus Headphone - Zach's take on headphones lively TPE drivers
    • Aurorus Borealis Headphone - super interesting fast traditional dynamic headphone, instead of another ortho!
    • SoundSmith MCP2 Phono - I trust the NY crew, but let's get more ears on it - was trying to arrange a loaner but that fell through.
    • Shanling M6 Portable Audio Player - We need to get this out on a loaner


    BROWN STARFISH 2020
    [​IMG]

    Bryston BHA-1
    Gets both an honorable mention and a brown starfish. The brown starfish is for Bryston jacking up the price over the years to almost double what it came out at. Shame! Shame! People and companies who do stuff like this deserve to take the walk of shame and have feces thrown at them.

    Sennheiser HD560S

    We would otherwise care less about the the HD560S, but there's been way too much hype, therefore a statement must be made. Take the HD558, increase the price, make the highs shitter, and leave the distortion / weaksauce transients alone. I was going to leave this alone, until @Hands was like WTF. Sure the staging is better, halfway to HD800. But anyone who thinks the HD560S is on same technical level as HD6xx (let's not even talk about FR) either mistakens bright for resolution, has shitty gear, or is deaf. Seriously, get an HD558 for less $ and run crossfeed.

    Harmon Target / Sean Olive
    I wish Tyll had never given this dude any attention. It was never quite made clear that is was a consumer preference curve and some dumb people actually thought it was a perceptual neutral curve or variant of it. Olive never made any effort to correct any misconceptions of the Harmon target. What makes things worse is how the target has changed and evolved over the years with more "research". There's light at the end of the tunnel: influential measurement people like @Crinacle and Oratory have come up with their own targets which are MUCH better. Unfortunately RTings is still dumb as rock. Fuck Sean Olive and his dumbass two AES papers every decade.

    Topping L30

    Less for blowing up headphones, but more for Topping's confused customer interactions, not making things right, and a MOT rep (John Yang) who never hesitated to crap on competitors products on Audio Science Review. Karma is a bitch.
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    go for it now... post away.
     
  6. fraggler

    fraggler A Happy & Busy Life

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    Fun to see the SW51+ get upgraded from a Silver dong to a Golden one. I know we are a relatively small community, but I really hope @Zampotech appreciates/has fun with the support he has found. Obviously money talks, but to find this kind of support nowadays is really special. Looking forward to seeing what happens with the Jot 2, as it was really late in 2020.
     
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  7. TomNC

    TomNC Friend

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    Congratulations on Hive as a sole headphone award winner, It doesn't reach the top levels in term of technicality (e.g., resolution/speed) for ES headphones, but it is solid in some fundamental sonic aspects (e.g., overall FR/tonality, dynamics).

    I wish that improvement can be made with the earpads. Either the headphone cup frame can be slightly enlarged to be compatible with more mainstream 105-110 mm O.D. earpads or the earpad ear space is enlarged with a narrower foam frame.
     
  8. dematted

    dematted Almost "Made"

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    Really nice to see the Aeolus get some recognition. I was hoping for a Silver Dong for it, but the Kryptonian council is undoubtedly wiser than I. Still, I think it speaks well of this headphone that I miss it even having the Auteur, and that I think recouping the one that I unwisely sold will be my next purchase, even though I am lucky enough to have the cash to jump on a Verite, Utopia, or something like a used DSHA-3F. Maybe one day I'll end up with all of these, though I know I want the Aeolus -first-.

    Congrats, of course, to both Soekris and Zampotech. I've listened to both their products this year and have been extremely impressed. Can't wait to see what these two come out with in the future - no doubt, it will end up hurting my wallet, but it'll be a boon for my ears.
     
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  9. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I would have immediately given the Aelous an SD if I had only heard that and nothing else from ZMF. It's on the cusp. Perhaps next year if we hear more votes for it. i think there was a feeling that there should be one headphone this year - sort of a statement. The council is fickle. :)
     
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  10. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    The Aelous and Borealis are a tough sale with the Focal Clear possibly being the most "All-Around'er" in the perfect trio of close to the magical sub-$1,000 USD headphone that we deserve.

    I have personally had time with the Aelous and ALMOST purchased one. It sounds lovely, but imparts a bit too much of itself and blunts the dynamics too much for it to be my one and only headphone. The Focal Clear does a better job conveying dynamic nuance and timbre on the whole.

    I have only had anecdotal experience with the Borealis. It was supposed to be my personal HD6X0 replacement, but one thing after another happened and it just never came to be. The early issues and sell-out (I didn't even know they were beginning to take orders) and subsequent reviews and sales here kept my hunger at bay. The Focal Clear thirst was never quenched though. Many times I attempted to quench it with the Elex, but as some of you may know, something truly saddening in our community came of that - RIP.

    The Clear under 1K is going to be tough to replace for me. I'm sure there will be better (there already is with the Utopia, but not my flavor of tea) and possibly better under 1K, but it's going to take something near the Orpheus 1/2 level of performance at under 1K. It shouldn't be too much to ask in 2021.

    In the IEM category - I think the MoonDrop Blessing 2 / Sony WF-1000XM3 / Air Pods Pro should get a "fistbump of friendship" Good value / ease of use / quality of life improvement

    Great list Marv! I look forward to this year being exciting in audio development!
     
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  11. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I need to get MoonDrop into my hands. Same for the Sony and Air Pods Pro.
     
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  12. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    This is probably a bit pedantic, but should the Soekris 2541 fall under 2021 instead given that it wasn't really available to general public to order until mid or late Nov 2020?

    With that being said, I do think it deserves an award and had every intention of nominating it in 2021.
     
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  13. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    The 2020 season lasts from Super Bowl to Super Bowl.
     
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  14. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    Congrats to all who didn’t receive a Brown Starfish.

    Seriously though congrats to @Zampotech and @soekris . Good members of the community making great products.
     
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  15. fraggler

    fraggler A Happy & Busy Life

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    Then should the Jot 2 have been nominated?
     
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  16. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Next year.
     
  17. Soups

    Soups Sadomasochistic cat

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    I agree it's worthy, but it did show up a bit after the nomination process. I'd be quite surprised if it didn't take gold/silver eventually, especially when all that's competing with it is the soul-less Topping types.
     
  18. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    I'm a big fan of the Aeolus (especially with the Perforated Suede Universe pads) but it should be noted that these are TPE drivers not the Biodyna like Auterur...great list!
     
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  19. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Yeah, TPE is like a better version of it.
     
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  20. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    On the one hand, as a Canuck I feel like I should defend Bryston because I know a little more about all the stupid hoops and extra costs they have to jump through to keep the manufacturing in Canada. On the other hand, it's just so damned expensive now... :(
    I kick myself for not getting one a few years ago, but now even the used prices have gone up.
     

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