DAR’s favourite bits of 2016 (6moons remix)

  • Counting backwards. ‘Twas easy enough to pick nine – soon to be ten – favourites from the year all but gone. The only (self-imposed) criteria were that I keep it honest and live by the dictum so often doled out readers: that “there is no audition like a home audition”. News announcements and/or show experiences alone weren’t enough for an item to qualify; it had to be heard at home, with my own ancillary gear and my own music selections.

    DAR’s favourite bits of 2016 were also chosen primarily for their mainstream crossover potential. Hardware and software that carries the conversation about better sound out of the audiophile ghetto over to people who have yet to reach their fortieth year on earth, to women and to those for whom aesthetics and the physical intrusion matter. A hifi system can seriously impact the look and feel of a living space and only the very fortunate (?) few have access to a dedicated listening room.

    If there were only one word to summarise DAR’s frame for 2016 retrospection it would be elegance. That meant dismissing the workarounds and kludgey hacks endured by our kind. Rubber-strapping DACs/amps to phones would be show the door. Android-only fixes for gapless playback on the Google Chromecast got the red card. Sayonara to third party music players. Auf Wiedersehen to the potentially endless “What if?” tinkering and the tyranny of choice enjoyed/endured by vinyl die-hards?

    Do the mainstream not dig stuff that ‘just works’ and does so without qualification and (some degree of) physical discretion: like Sonos; like Bluetooth speakers and headphones; like set-and-forget turntables?

    Audiophile manufacturers beating a path to the mainstream are fewer than we might expect: Audeze and their Apple Lightning connecting Cipher cable; Roon’s visual elegance with Tidal integration and network extensibility; Peachtree Audio’s attempt to drive down box count and wrap the outcome in an über-attractive shell; AudioQuest’s DragonFlys and their gauntlet throw down to DAPs.

    In my 2016 overview, penned for 6moons, I discuss how many of DAR’s favourite bits of 2016 are taking moving the ‘better sound’ conversation forward, toward a more mainstream audience that now streams more than it downloads or with which it gets physical.

    In other words, my picks of 2016 discussed in a broader context and with one eye on the future.

    Click here to read more. Polite and courteous comments welcomed below.

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. supposedly at upcoming CES show there is to be a ‘high res’ booth with a group of vendors/production people from various companies….will be interesting to see what they propose into 2017 vs what will happen…hope free streaming is taken away…but then again i read it’s also pulled many people into the market…but look at what the quality they’re accepting as listenable.

    2. I think i can guess what youre number 10 is going to be before u even put out the review of it!! We have all been long waiting for it.

    3. Good article over on 6moons, John.
      Liked your point about the $3000 dollar vinyl setup being needed to start to beat reasonably priced digital.
      I’m personally a digital fan, and I’m not sure the argument can’t go farther up the price scale.

      I’ve got a microRendu and an Uptone LPS-1 Power Supply – it costs under a grand, and fed from a server on my network to a good DAC – let’s say all of that in the $2000-$3500 range – I’m not sure it can’t beat a lot of $3000 and more vinyl setups. To my ears it does, even for some well over $3000. And I do like the sound of vinyl – just not as much as good digital.

      I’m not writing this to engage in the vinyl vs. digital argument – that’s pointless – but more to say a lot of the argument is just taste in SQ. Meaning some people really like the sound of vinyl, and some people really like the sound of good digital.

      I think often that’s all there is to it – personal preference.

    4. Hi John,

      Thanks for your 2016 favorites. I enjoy your saavy price/performance selections, and plan to purchase some of them to expand my sources. I could spend far more on hifi, and red wine, but for me it is very enjoyable to get 90% there for 30% of the big rigs/reds price.

      I bought my friend a Rega RP-1 with Performance pack (better belt, better cartridge) for Christmas. She was so excited to be spinning records through her new Sprout. (I talked her out of the VPI/Shinola as her first ‘table) Over the last two weeks, she has played exactly one album twice. Why? Because my lossless Ipod on shuffle is easier and sounds better. Happy New Year!

    5. Hi John, nice article as always. I can concur what you said about upgrading the Squeezeboxes. I added a better power supply and a reclocker and engaged USB out through one of my Touches and it’s great. Better than streaming through the Transporter, but not quite as good as my Bryston. You don’t always need to throw your old gear in the trash as u transition to better and better sound. It seems having a couple of good power supplies on hand and reclockers is something to keep in the mix trying new gear anyway. As for the Schiit Fulla 2 I like it better than my dap killing Dragonfly Red which is great. Performance for the masses if they want to try!

    6. Bravo Mr Darko for treading where few audiophiles do and where all audio manufacturers should.

      The single most important thing about an audio product is how it looks! Yes, that’s sacrilege for the audio community but it’s truth. With modern manufacturing processes it’s very difficult to build a product that sounds bad unless the technical design is poor. So if most Hi-Fi sounds good why would I settle for something that looks like crap? I wouldn’t and neither do the vast majority of casual music / audio fans.

      So well done on picking mostly affordable, one-box type solutions that don’t look like a dropped pie. I can only assume the Devialet integrated didn’t make the cut as it is several years old now, and rather pricey…?

      That Schitt is a looker too.

      P.S. Thanks for steering clear of any dubious tweaks.

    DAR’s favourite bits of 2016

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