Editor’s Choice Under $500 – InnerFidelity 2019

Another year has flown by and with it another of year experiencing as much of the personal-audio hobby as we’re able to here at InnerFidelity. There have been many standout products that we were fortunate enough to have grace our pages in 2019, but the following were truly impressive for not only performance, but for price and build quality. This is the first of three Editor’s Choice Awards, with $500 – $2,500 USD and Over $2,500 USD categories still to come.

$500 USD and Under

The Audeze LCD-1 planar-magnetic over ear headphone – MSRP of $399 USD

Audeze has brought the LCD series to its lowest price point yet with the new LCD-1, and this is a headphone that’s easy to be enthusiastic about. While It doesn’t have the dynamics and resolution capability of the higher-end LCD series, it has a spectacularly well-tuned frequency response that will work with everything from music to gaming to audio production. If you need something attainably priced this is a Swiss army knife; take it on the go, run it form a phone or a nice amp, use it to test mixes or for a casual game of Overwatch. The LCD-1 is efficient enough and well-tuned enough to handle it all without annoying treble spikes or excessive bass.

The AudioQuest DragonFly Red portable USB DAC/Preamp/Headphone Amp – MSRP of $199 USD

Without a doubt one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck high-fidelity buys in the industry. For very little money the AudioQuest DragonFly series allows you to turn your smart phone, tablet, laptop or PC into a truly musical device for the playback of the recorded event. At $199 USD, the Red is the middle of the line and the sweet spot as far as I’m concerned. There are many other in-line portable solutions, but nobody does the design, implementation, ease of use, and most importantly, the sound as well as AudioQuest does with the DragonFly. Hands down, the best-sounding improvement you can make to your listening rig if you’re on a budget and want to keep things simple, portable and swappable between kit.

FiiO FH7 In-Ear Monitors – MSRP of $499 USD

FiiO’s FH7 is a pricey but excellent IEM. The tuning is close to the Olive-Welti IEM curve, with perhaps gentle deviations towards the slightly warm. The result is an IEM that is not a bass-cannon, but is exceptionally balanced and does a great job with a large variety of music. The tuning on the midrange has been done just right and the depth and imaging of this IEM is among the best I’ve heard at any price, IEM or headphone, and with all the benefits of isolation and no leakage that come with an IEM. Worth an audition if you are looking in this price range.

Campfire Audio Io In-Ear Monitors – MSRP of $299 USD

For those looking for something slightly less expensive than the Fiio FH7 or Meze Rai Penta, the Io has a generally neutral tuning, with a hint of warmth and a very organic, dynamic sound. This won’t satisfy IEM bassheads, but it has that organic, ever-so-slight Campfire Audio warmth, while maintaining an extremely high degree of clarity and detail. If you love the Rai Penta but want to spend less, this could very well be all the IEM you ever need.

Simply Nobody's picture

AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC/pre-amp/headphone amp, $300 :-) ......

Simply Nobody's picture

Meze Rai Solo in-ear headphones, $250 :-) ........