2022 was most certainly the year that many of us spent a lot more for less. Inflation took a significant bite out of the non-essential purchase slush fund and that included some planned home theater makeover items and a lot of new vinyl and movie releases that will have to wait until 2023.
Having to spend an additional $4,000 on food alone over the past 12 months left us with less money to spend over the holidays and we know that millions of consumers found themselves in the same situation. Manufacturers ran early sales with huge discounts to salvage the year.
Our requests for holiday sales data have gone unanswered by more than a few high-end and mainstream brands and that doesn’t suggest that sales were overly brisk.
CES 2023 looks like it will be a huge show in January but we’re starting to sense that companies are pulling back in fear of a looming recession; our early coverage and news that we are sitting on until next week seems to suggest that companies will be releasing fewer new models in 2023 to limit their exposure.
Affordability and sustainability were big trends this year and that applied to almost everything including loudspeakers, shoes, headphones, clothing, amplifiers, and even media.
What did the eCoustics staff purchase in 2022 that made us feel pretty good?
Ian White, Editor in-Chief
2022 involved using things until they died and that included a pair of running shoes that were purchased at the very beginning of the pandemic; after at least 2,000 miles — it was time for them to go. Even the dog didn’t want to use them as a toy at that point.
On Cloudgo Running Shoes ($139.00)
These are my fourth pair from the Swiss manufacturer and the level of support when running or chasing the dog is superb. The build quality is superior to my older pairs of the On Cloud 5 Running Shoes and while they are heavier — my feet don’t hurt as much after a 4 mile run or 10 hours on the go. $139 is a lot of money for running shoes but I’m wearing these until 2024.
Where to buy: $139.99 at on-running.com
Monoprice Soundstage3 Portable Bluetooth Loudspeaker ($249)
The portable Bluetooth loudspeaker category made some huge strides in 2022 with the DALI KATCH G2 earning top marks for its industrial design and sound quality. Much to my surprise after a very long 3 months of cross-border travel for medical reasons, the Monoprice SoundStage3 knocked the DALI off its perch and currently resides in our kitchen where it gets used on a daily basis.
Compared to most portable Bluetooth speakers, it is on the larger side as well; the Soundstage3 is 13.6″ x 6.9″ x 7.3″ (345 x 176 x 185 mm) and the black finish doesn’t make it look any thinner.
The Monoprice Soundstage3 does not deliver the resolution, detail, or tonal balance of the DALI, but it does almost everything else better.
Music has a greater sense of scale and low end impact and that will matter to a lot of people who are not as concerned about timbre, texture, or the last word in transparency.
It’s the perfect backyard speaker and worth every cent.
Where to buy: $249.99 at Monoprice.com
Q Acoustics M20 HD ($599)
My favorite affordable desktop wireless/Bluetooth loudspeaker system of 2022 has taken up permanent residence on my desktop flanking a 27-inch Apple iMac. If you like the Q Acoustics ‘house” sound — the M20 HD is a powered Bluetooth option that sounds very full and detailed. It’s not as polite as the 3050i loudspeakers but also lacks the bottom end.
A very well made system that keeps me going all day and night.
W. Jennings, Sr. Headphone Editor
Astell & Kern SP2000 Copper DAP ($3,499)
Astell&Kern released the SP3000 in 2022 and while many audiophiles felt the need to upgrade, I was far more interested in picking up a pre-owned A&K SP2000 Copper DAP which I found for $1,000 less than the SP3000.
The SP2000 is still better than 99% of DAPs on the market and is far from obsolete with A&K typically providing support for 6-8 years. The A&K SP2000 Copper DAP gives me an on-the-go system that when combined with the UE Live IEMs creates sonic magic that will rival some high-end loudspeaker systems.
Where to buy: $3,499 at Audio46
Eric Pye, Sr. Contributing Editor
Energy 22 Reference Loudspeakers
I wrote previously about my love of Sansui amplifiers and my desire to add the AU-777 and AU-9500 to the collection. I managed to snag both this year, but my favourite score was a pair of Canada’s most iconic speakers; the Energy 22s. The Reference model has a front-firing bass port, making placement super flexible. The tweeter is sweet and non-fatiguing, and the 7” woofer somehow digs down to 28Hz. You would be surprised how many of these are still in circulation which are reasonably priced and well worth considering.
Jeremy Sikora, Sr. Contributing Editor
Douk Audio T4 Plus Phono Pre-amplifier
Color me surprised that a $100 tube phono preamplifier could make that much of a difference with my growing collection of turntables and cartridges. The Douk Audio T4 Plus was the first external phono stage that I have ever considered and its ability to support both MM and MC makes it very versatile.
The Ortofon MC10 took a noticeable step forward in performance when I set the proper load settings and the MM section is cleaner sounding than a number of the existing phono sections in the vintage receivers that I enjoy using.
Where to buy: $109.99 at Amazon
Chris Boylan, Editor At-Large
Emotiva Airmotiv A1 Loudspeakers ($232)
I’ve had Dolby Atmos in my basement home theater system for some time, but the living room system was previously just a standard 5.1-channel surround system. I thought it would be tricky to get height speakers that were a decent tonal match to the Martin-Logan electrostats in the main system.
But Emotiva makes a simple, compact pair of Dolby Atmos speakers that feature a folded ribbon tweeter that matches nicely with electrostatic speakers. So now thanks to a pair of the Airmotiv A1 speakers and 5 minutes poking around in my receiver’s settings, I can listen to movies and music and (“Andor”!) in Dolby Atmos surround sound in my living room.
Where to buy: $232 at Emotiva
Lynn Miller, Headphone Editor
Astell & Kern ACRO CA1000 ($2,199)
Astell&Kern had a very ambitious 2022 releasing a myriad of DAPs, IEMs, and portable headphone solutions that push the envelope. The ACRO CA1000 is a rather incredible device that can serve as a DAP, headphone amplifier, and network streamer with four headphone jacks and a wide range of connectivity options.
From a performance perspective, it bests any DAP that I have tried.
Where to buy: $2,199 at Amazon
Mitch Anderson, Podcast Producer
Audeze LCD-X ($1,199)
The Audeze LCD-X had a profound impact on how I work and no other purchase made sense in 2022.
As I talked about in the eCoustics Podcast “Hearing What’s In Our Heads.” it’s very important to me to constantly try to archive in recorded form, sounds that are as close as possible to the intensity I feel them in my brain and body.
The LCD-X have made me aware of what it feels like to get uncomfortably close to that feeling.
An interview I had with Audeze’s Artist Relations Manager, Chris Berens, has more information in it than many would like to know regarding how I use these headphones on the daily.
Where to buy: $1,199 at Amazon