I have been blessed in life, this I know. One of my life passions is listening to and connecting with music and this has been with me since I was around 8 or 9 years old. I have had an audio system in my life ever since I was 15 and I listen each and every day so how awesome is it that I get to hear all kinds of audio gear that makes listening to music more of an “experience” than just a “listen”.
The video version…
As for audio gear, there is no shortage of it on offer these days and we have so many brands and pieces to choose from. Lucky me, I have been able to hear so many amazing HiFi Audio products in 2023 alone and some of them are the finest I have experienced over all of these years. Without question, 2023 was a great year for audio and yes, this industry is growing by the day.
While I enjoy ALL the pieces I review, NOT ALL are my favorites. The pieces I did not like in 2023 never made it to review so this page here is meant to showcase my tope ten favorite audio products of 2023. Of course I have not heard everything, so this list is restricted to only what I have had the ability to hear. In 2023 I had 50+ pieces sent to me for review. Not that many in the grand scheme of things but enough to keep me busy as I am only one man!
This list is strictly my top 10, and they are in order. Let’s start with #10 and count down all the way to my favorite of the year, #1!
#10 – Focal Bathys Bluetooth Headphones.
I have been enjoying these headphones for most of 2023 and they come in at #10 on this years list. I use these for music listening while doing yard work as the noise canceling is quite good. I also use them as my video editing headphones as they are able to cut the noise from my environment and let me focus on my work. The comfort is fantastic and the sound is sublime. Battery life is solid. These get used daily by me and while there are tons of wireless bluetooth headphones out there for less, the Bathys offer luxury, comfort and quality for the investment. You can see my review in the video above!
#9 – Triangle AIO TWIN speakers
See my review in the video above. These are small, well designed and are powered all in one speakers for under a grand but they sound phenomenal. Made by Triangle these are the opposite of the cheap, hollow sounding speakers we see offered up for $2-300 all over the place. These have amazing punch, dynamics and have a permanent home in our bedroom. We use them for Television and Music both and I knew they would be staying from the moment I set them up. These are really nice speakers for those who want everything in the speaker. Amp, DAC, inputs, and they even have a remote. These are very versatile as well and can be used for two channel music, television, or even a small office or bedroom system without going broke. These are quality!!
#8 – WIIM PRO + Streamer
This made it to my favorite list because of the low cost for what is on offer here. No, this does not have any fancy display. It doesn’t have any display at all. It is not made of metal, doesn’t weight 15 lbs and is a simple plain black box. What this does offer is the ability to stream music to your audio system using streaming music services such as Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz. Also, Apple Music and others all while being very kind to your wallet at $219. This competes with the Bluesound Node that costs hundreds more and yet the WIIM also offers up a decent DAC and remote control. This is the choice of many who get into audio, and is a perfect first streamer for starter and mid fi systems. While it can not compete in sound, build or design to streamers that cost much more, it does amazing for the cost and punches well above its price point for sound and function. You can see my review above or buy one at Amazon for a couple hundred bucks HERE.
I almost placed the Eversolo DMPA6 here as it is also a killer streamer fir around $800 that offers much more than the WIIM but I have to say that for $219 I had to make this choice the WIIM as it allows so many more to get into high res streaming,
#7 – Billie MKII Integrated Amp
I love this integrated amp for its size, design and performance. This is a hybrid class D mixed with a Class A tubed preamp and it’s a quality product that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The Billie MKII is an amp that may not be the last word in detail and air but what it does do, it does extremely well. It has punch, attack, balls and body. There is a sense of power and drive here with a musical flow I do not always hear in the much more pricey stuff. I love this amp as well as the great customer service from Heaven 11 who makes this amp. It can be customized with various knobs and comes in various colors and designs. The Billie MKII is a great choice for the money if you want something that is just going to sound beautiful and look stylish at the same time. Tubes and Class D make for a truly wonderful pairing and the price is crazy good for what you get. See my review in the video above.
#6 – Weiss DAC 204
I went nuts over this DAC when it was released because it offered up the sound of the $9k WEISS DAC 501 for thousands less. It may not have the DSP functions of the 501 but it has the Weiss sound which is very studio like and lifelike. This is a DAC for those who want every detail exposed but with body and great bass included as well. This one doesn’t sound lean or bright but rather is extremely balanced and neutral. It’s a true audiophile DAC hat costs much less than most, and therefore one of my favorite pieces of 2023. Another product that offers performance well above its cost. See my review in the video above!
#5 – CHoco Sound EMEI Integrated
This little amp surprised me when it arrived. I was not sure what to expect but this one has a beautiful tube like sound with warmth and body (traits I love as long as they are not overdone) yet just the right amount of details to add a 3D depth to the sound. The amp is small but hefty and with a nice looking design as well. Comes with a remote and has powered every speaker I have used with it in a musical and beautiful way. This one sounds like a $4k amp yet comes in for $1700 or so. This is one of my favorite integrated amps as it has simplicity, and uses the “less is more” concept. Sometimes LESS really is MORE!
#4 – Daniel Hertz Systems
I love these systems as they are as unique as it gets in modern day HiFi. Using proprietary tech created by Mark Levinson these systems deliver matched performance and stunning sound. They offer the looks of a bespoke high end system because that is what they are. When I reviewed the Eva system it came in at $14k retail and was worth every penny. It has since been raised to $19k and at that price I would jump to the Amber system ($24k) which is quite different from the Eva’s in sound. I reviewed and enjoyed them both and ultimately bought the Amber system for myself to use as a reference for a while. While I raved about these systems in a big way, they did not make my top 3 due to recent price hikes and the fact that these are very pricey systems that not everyone will be able to enjoy. These are in the “special” category not only for the price point but of course the performance. While these systems are the nicest sounding pieces of gear in this list (for my ears) the next three items, in my top 3 of 23, offer up quite a bit more for your money. Even so, the Daniel Hertz system is for those who want class, style, and refined analog sound from digital. This is what these systems excel at and they do it very well. They will set you back a pretty penny but I believe in the “buy once, cry once” mentality when it comes to anything I take serious. See my review of the Amber System in the video above! There is only one dealer in the USA for Daniel Hertz and they are RIGHT HERE.
#3 – Yamaha R-N 2000
Now we are into the top 3 of 23! This is a recent integrated amp/receiver from Yamaha that made me a huge fan of modern day Yamaha. This amp sounds phenomenal, much better IMO than previous gen Yamaha audio 2 channel integrated amps. There is more “beef” to the sound, so the old “natural sound” from Yamaha has changed. It’s now more muscular, dramatic, dynamic and sweet. Warmer, fuller and just gorgeous to look at. While this comes in at $4k retail you can find deals on them from time to time. If I didn’t own the Daniel Hertz Maria amp, this would be in my system now. I didn’t want to send it back after the review. With amp, preamp, dac, radio, streamer and room correction built in this is one serious but useful receiver. Also has true and beautiful VU meters. See my written review HERE. Buy this one at Amazon (Prime) HERE.
#2 – HiFi Rose RS130 (Finest Digital Source I have heard)
I’ve been in love with this streamer since it arrived at my door. I even went through two of them, one in Silver and now one in Black. I kept the black but both are drop dead gorgeous. While I enjoyed the 150B from HiFi Rose, the 130 is their latest flagship streamer and comes in at $5200 yet it is a bargain at this cost. Why? The build is as good as it gets. The design is truly out of this world good. The features like fiber USB and fiber ETHERNET are wonderful. The super capacitors make it noise free and the SSD Cache drive keeps everything lag free and fast as lightning. This streamer sounds leagues better than any other I have here or have had here. As a streamer into my DAC it has bested all others up to $13k in sound for my tastes (big, bold, punch, kick, air, wide open soundstage with precise yet full bodied imaging with a slightly big and warm leaning midrange). The sound with the RS130 in the system is huge, airy. slams with huge bass and has a way of making everything sound so so good. Ive not had issues or problems with the 130, just gorgeous refined analog sound. There is something in the way this streamer makes all digital crud vanish. I have heard much more expensive digital sources but none that sound as good as the RS130. I do prefer it in black. As of this writing it is still not Roon certified yet, but should be very soon. I use it with the Rose app for Tidal and Qobuz and also use this streamer with Spotify connect. This one came from John over at Lone Crow Audio.
#1 – Buchardt Audio Anniversary 10 w/Platin Hub
THESE ARE GOLD my friends! Not something you see every day. Some may call these a “unicorn” within the audio world as they offer up beauty and sound that is unreal for what they cost. These play with the bigger boys and I prefer their sound to other two way speakers I had that cost 5X as much as these, and that wasn’t including the amp. These have it all built into the speakers. Amp. Dac. High Res Stream. etc.
These special Anniversary 10 speakers from Buchardt have been with me for many months and they just keep growing on me. Instead of tiring of these speakers I love them more now than when I reviewed them. They are small yet sound HUGE. I have not heard any two way or bookshelf speaker best these for bass besides maybe the $100k borrenson speakers. Maybe it’s because they use what Buchardt calls “The world’s best woofer”. It may look funny but holy wow can this woofer bring the bass, and what bass it is. Tight, tuneful, punchy and fills/pressurizes my 13X18 space with ease when very deep (20hz) bass is in the track. The mids are a touch warm and very full bodied while the treble is airy and extended yet never over done. They are self powered, need no cables (besides the power cables) and hook up wirelessly to a hub (that ships with the speakers) where you can use the inputs for digital or analog sources. I have the Rose RS130 streamer hooked up (though you can stream direct to the hub) to the hub and it brought these speakers to the next level. Such a simple yet powerful system that is magical, musical and just oh so right in my room.
With the Buchardt app you can do room correction as well, and it works well. There is a remote it comes with that looks and feels divine. One of the finest remotes I have used for audio gear. The sound is high end, and delivers bass better, tighter and more controlled than my dedicated subwoofer I have here.
These are as special as it gets because they deliver the goods in sound but also build, using REAL WOOD for the enclosure, made by Buchardt in Denmark. The sound is full, refined, clear and magical. The imaging is solid but with body and a richness that brings zero grain or harshness, especially when used with the Rose RS130. It’s a sound I have had in my head for 35 years as the sound I seek. I have heard it only a few times but usually at a much higher cost and with a more complicated system.
I’ve had these in my reference room for the last few days and do not want to remove them. No matter what I listen to they just sound so good and always suck me in to have a seat and listen. The system of A10’s, the Platin Hub, the HiFi Rose RS130 deliver a performance I am not used to hearing for under $20k yet the cost comes in at around $9500 total. Even using the much less pricey Eversolo Streamer (A6 or A8) vastly improves the sound quality vs streaming right to the Platin Hub.
These are not as detailed or open as my Daniel Hertz system but these better the Hertz Ambers in bass and bring a larger midrange voice.Buchardt also offers these with an upgraded Primare hub, which is superior to the Platin Hub. It’s about a grand extra in cost but I would say it is worth the cost to upgrade if you can as this hub should sound better than the Platin Hub. The A10’s come in various colors and finishes and can be had as a complete system with speakers and hub for around $4-5k. Let me tell you now, THIS IS A STEAL for what these are. I’ve ever heard powered speakers quite like these and while I am sure you can get more “detailed” and “leaner” offerings I seriously do not think you can get any that sound as rich, big, full and musical as these for this kind of money.
Did I mention they sound fantastic with all music? Yes, it can be done. Magic and Musical lives in the Anniversary 10 from Buchardt.
You can check these out at Buchardt Audio HERE. They sell direct to keep prices down and my guess is that these would be $7500 if sold through dealers, maybe even more as dealer profit on HiFi is HUGE. These are my #1 fave product of 2023 and may sit in my ref system for some time to come.
So there ya go! These are my all out faves for 2023 and the top 2 are all in system now and being enjoyed daily and may never leave! These are pieces I have bonded to and appreciate for what they offer for the cost and for the all out enjoyment I get from them.