2016 – Goodnight, I say

  • Before we turn the light out on 2016, let’s briefly shine it on you, the reader. This site’s WordPress backend tells us that the total number of page views per year moved from 1.9 million in 2015 to 2.6 million in 2016 – a tidy 32% jump in in-bound traffic. Nice.

    Those are the broad brushstrokes. In asking what really resonated with readers we look to DAR’s ten most read posts of the year:

    1. AudioQuest’s DragonFly Red puts high-end DAPs on notice [LINK]
    2. Audiophile-grade streaming with the AURALiC Aries Mini [LINK]
    3. How to enable aptX Bluetooth audio on your Macbook, iMac [LINK]
    4. Future-fi now: KEF’s LS50 Wireless active loudspeaker [LINK]
    5. Zesty and sweet – the stunning Schiit Gungnir Multibit DAC [LINK]
    6. CES 2016: AudioQuest mobilise DragonFly Black, Red USB DACs [LINK]
    7. Not as the artist intended: Google Chromecast Audio w/ Tidal [LINK]
    8. KEF LS50 loudspeakers w/ three budget amplifiers [LINK]
    9. Three (more) amplifiers for the KEF LS50, ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 [LINK]
    10. Go anywhere with AudioQuest’s DragonFly Black [LINK]

    As one might expect, it’s the crossover products, those that build a bridge to mainstream that drew the most eyeballs: the Aries Mini, the LS50 (Wireless) and the Google Chromecast. But with THREE entries in the top 10, this was the year of the DragonFly – well played, AudioQuest.

    Think about your first system. I doubt you’ll be recalling big ticket items. And without the entry-level, high-end audio would be a niche of nerds adrift on the open sea. Products that simultaneously appeal to audiophiles and more mainstream listeners are what keep it tethered to dry land.

    Entry points like those listed above eventually drag people up the spending chain to more luxurious fare: the Hugos, DirectStreams, Vegas, INVICTAs and even La Scalas.

    That said – the enormous reader interest in KEF’s LS50 Wireless tell us that mainstream appeal isn’t only a matter of price but also of form and function.

    About to embark on its seventh year of operation, DAR’s intent is to keep a foot in two boats without falling into deep water. A glass ceiling of ~US$10K still applies to each item. In other words, I won’t review what I can’t afford.

    #Berlin's final sunrise for 2016 is cold and bright. #stadtmitte

    A post shared by DarkoAudio (@darkoaudio) on

    Notable by its absence from the top 10 is my coverage of Rega’s RP1 and its heavy contrast to vinyl’s ongoing darling status in the mainstream press – so much for accusations of click-bait. The heated discussion that followed saw the comments section become the first in DAR’s six year history to be manually locked.

    At the other end of coverage the spectrum, I’m delighted to see my Schiit Gungnir review place at number five. It stands as (what I believe to be) my best piece of writing to date.

    Also notable in the reader top 10 is the single show coverage post. As much as I love ’em and as much as they’ll remain part of DAR’s MO, show reports are little more than a glorified ‘show-n-tell’ from which very little sound quality information can be derived. For that, we must get the boxes home. A familiar room and familiar music eliminate (show) hotel room variables. There’s no audition like a home audition, right?

    I’m sitting out CES in January not only because high end audio’s relevance and manufacturer attendance in Las Vegas is on the slide, but in order to prioritise meat (reviews) over sizzle (shows). Besides, now living in Berlin, I’ve a home advantage for shows previously untouched by much of the English-speaking press. DAR’s 2017 show coverage will kick off with Hamburg’s HifiTage event in early February.

    Until then, I wish you all a safe and personally enriching 2017.

    For ongoing glimpses of what’s to come, you can follow DAR on Instagram here:

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John is the editor of Darko.Audio, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is an occasional contributor to 6moons but has previously written pieces for TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile. John used to live in Sydney. Now he lives in Berlin.

    Follow John on YouTube or Twitter


    1. John,

      I love reading your site, you always have your own style of writing that makes your reviews and articles interesting and I really love that you focus on things most of us value as well (form, function, style & value for example). I know I’ve bought a few pieces of gear myself based upon your reviews or even just enthusiasm (Dragonfly Red, Auralic Aries Mini & KEF Wireless LS50’s just to name a few).

      Anyway, despite all the hate for 2016, I think it was actually the most exciting year for audio since I’ve gotten into it over 10 years ago, and I think 2017 looks like it could be even better. Cheers to you for doing the work that leads the way for us devoted music & audio fans and Happy New Year to you!


    2. One reason I would like to say Goodnight to 2016 is because of the terrible number of important artists we lost. The most difficult to lose for me were David Bowie, Merle Haggard, and Leonard Cohen; but there were plenty more all lost in one year.

      • Agreed, although I’m not sure I’m going to mourne the lack of a new Wham U.K.! or George Michael album. Obviously, I’m never happy about anyone’s passing, but for some year end perspectives to compare George Michael to David Bowie or Leonard Cohen seems, to me at least, farsical. As always, YMMV.

    3. Hi John, and thanks to you for an excellent site with superb objective info. All the best to everyone for 2017

    4. Hip hip hooray for DAR and happy new year Looking forward to more coverage from Darhaus in 2017!

    5. Hi John, Thanks a lot for this great site… And may all your wishes come true in 2017!


      PS. Is it true that now, after Berlin has become the centre of your life, we may post our comments in German? ;D

    6. The traffic increase on this site is well deserved. There are other sites I don’t frequent anymore. Some because I don’t have the time. One in particular because I feel the editor is too defensive and opinionated. This site gets right to the point with eloquently written articles. Thanks and good luck in 2017.

    7. Happy New Year John!
      You’re off to a great start with great numbers to back that up. There are only a few reviewers I like to read and yours is at the top of my go-to list. Here’s hoping that your start in Germany is but one of many great audio steps to come, and if your success so far is indicative of that, then all will be well indeed.

      Tim P.

    8. Happy New Years and congratulations on your site’s performance. I’d read each of the top ten postings when they came out and try to read most everything you write. Thank goodness you don’t do reviews of cables OCD-laden pieces about the pros and cons of different alloys used in connector plugs.

      Reread the article re the Schitt DAC piece. You did, however, muff the punt (as we say in the US) on two issues. First, how much is a “fuck-ton?” The Schitt spokesman uses that as a unit of measurement but it’s hard to convert a fuck-ton to either a metric tonne, a US ton or even a kiloton.

      Second, I see you they use a variety of citrus fruit on top of their device. In your view, what’s the best fruit to use on top of a DAC for resonance control? I find banana make the blacks blacker and the tones more toney when dealing with solid state DACs although apricots are best for tubed DACs; for amps, the plum has it over all other fruits, hands down.

      Again, best of everything for 2017.

    9. Keep going! I loved also your tours inside companies!
      I wish to see even more, interviews with designer as well…

    10. Hey John, many thanks for the informative reads, great needle drops, your passionate enthusiasm for audio gear and more importantly music. Job well done! Happy New Year and Happy New Home in Berlin!!! Cheers mate!!!

    11. You have a great site, John. I signed up for a one year subscription of both Absolute Sound and Stereophile, but now I get the feeling that your site is more readable than either of those publications. Their gear is often not of the affordable variety, and they don’t have as much interest as you in reviewing affordable digital gear. The gear they do review have wild prices – either too low to be a long-term investment, or too high for the average bloke (or gal).

      I was surprised to see Michael Fremer’s comments in your article about the Rega RP1. If vinyl is really so resurgent, I don’t see the need to be so aggressive. I personally plan to stick to audio CD’s for the foreseeable future – they are good value for money.

      Since your ceiling is $10k, some of the gear from the German company T+A (Theory + Application) might be of interest to you, they have a couple of pre-amp\DACs under US$5k (one of them also doubles as a CD player and network streamer, which is not Roon Ready to the best of my knowledge). T+A is not very well known here in the US, they may have 4-5 dealers at the most. AudioStream and Computer Audiophile have reviewed some of their gear, so perhaps they are putting in more effort to get the word out. They could be an alternative to McIntosh – which I feel is high-priced.

      • Yes, I read AudioStream’s T+A review with interest. Not that I’m short on gear to review and/or request from manufacturers z

    12. Berlin Sunrise?

      It’s beautiful
      Right before the end of summer
      It’s true
      Truth be told
      The truth is that we’re whatever we can hold on to
      Berlin sunrise
      You’re gonna come down
      Berlin sunrise
      You’re gonna come down
      Let’s do some more and
      Just ignore the day that’s coming
      Right on cue
      It’s good to know
      That good things don’t last for ever, no they don’t
      Not for you
      Berlin sunrise
      You’re gonna come down
      Berlin sunrise
      You’re gonna come down
      Fall into your lover’s arms
      And remember those whose lovers’ arms are closed
      And remember those whose lovers’ arms are closed..

      Copyright Fink:

    13. The two images of Berlin venues at the top of this article are terrific, John. Please tell us what structure is in the top-most image: the night scene of the lighted entry way. Great shot! Your photo-composition skills are (nearly) as keenly honed as your audio smarts and excellent writing skills, if that was you working the shutter, of course. Your work in this site is arguably the most interesting and valuable “audio news” I’ve experienced in many years, and which I look forward to each morning, as opposed to all the other rats__t emails laying in my Inbox.

    KEF LS50 Wireless review & DAR’s Product of the Year 2016

    Coming over the hill: the monstrous Roon 1.3