Bang For Buck 2023 featured image

Our 2023 Bang For Buck Awards

Another year has almost ended so it’s time to bring you our annual Bang For Buck Awards for 2023. These awards officially recognize the audio gear that we believe offers excellent value or performance for their price.

You can check out our previous five year’s awards here:

‘Bang For Buck’ does not necessarily mean low cost for the review team at Headfonics. Whilst price is a factor we also consider what value you get for that price so it is not about “the cheapest being the best”.

For our 2023 Awards, we looked for the outstanding value aspect and how well all the gear performs relative to their price point, the features they offer or the level of innovation relative to the competition around it.

If that sounds slightly subjective, then yes it is. Our award scores play a small role but are not the only deciding factor. If you prefer pure score picks then we do have the Top Gear Awards this weekend and they go through the time-honored highest score selection process.

Our awards are split into 2 pages with the first focusing mainly on portable and headgear and our second page on desktop as well as our Editor and Writer’s personal choices for 2023.

As ever, we will only consider products that we have done a full review on for this calendar year. So what hit the mark and gave the friendliest nudge for 2023 to our review team? Let us find out.

2023 Bang For Buck Awards Best Open Headphones

Bang For Buck Open Headphones 2023

MOONDROP PARA Review featured image

The MOONDROP PARA is a flexible set of planar headphones with impressive tuning.

It can deliver a smooth and vivid sound on various portable devices while offering room for improvement with better decoding and amplification to achieve a more resolving and dynamic performance

8.6
Reader's Score
Pros
Easy to drive
Vivid signature
Good distortion control
Cons
3.5mm terminated only
Slightly plain design

The MOONDROP PARA is a flexible set of planar headphones with impressive tuning.

It can deliver a smooth and vivid sound on various portable devices while offering room for improvement with better decoding and amplification to achieve a more resolving and dynamic performance. It strikes a better balance in tone compared to the Venus, which is not as controlled in the treble.

The performance remains steady and distortion-free even at higher volume levels which is a big plus, and I do wish that it came with a 4.4mm cable and a converter as standard, also that the design could be slightly more innovative.

Overall, the PARA offers excellent value with its engaging sound and impressive technicalities, truly raising the bar within its competitive landscape.

MOONDROP website | Shenzhen Audio Website

2023 Bang For Buck Awards Best Closed Headphones

Bang For Buck Closed Headphones 2023

Drop + Ultrasone Signature-X Review featured image
The Drop + Ultrasone Signature X headphones are right up my alley and have earned their place as one of my favorite mid-tier headphones at the time of writing. The bass is clean, deep, and immensely fun. This headphone is a great deal on the market and really good for bass enthusiasts.
8.2
Reader's Score
Pros
Very good fidelity top to bottom
S-logic provides a natural feel
Cons
Below average build quality
New thick pads are overly stiff

The Drop + Ultrasone Signature X headphones are right up our alley and have earned their place as one of Mike’s favorite mid-tier headphones at the time of writing.

He hopes to see yet another revision of this with the same cups and design of the Edition series models instead. Much better build quality but keep the great cables though.

It responds really well to removing or adding more bass to an already extreme bass experience. However, the bass is clean, deep, and immensely fun. This headphone is a great deal on the market and really good for bass enthusiasts. Highly musical, enjoyable, useful, fun, and vividly engaging without fatigue.

Drop Website

2023 Bang For Buck Awards Best Wireless Headphones

Bang For Buck Wireless Headphones 2023

1MORE SonoFlow Review
Hey look, the 1MORE SonoFlow retails for $99 and sometimes lower already it seems. This is a top pick for casual audiophile listening on the go without breaking the bank. I’m sure most will love it. The SonoFlow is cheap and fun, without going too far into being overly warm or annoyingly grating, or sharp sounding.
7.7
Reader's Score
Pros
Amazing battery life
Vibrant and engaging mids
Strong EQ support from the app.
Cons
Imaging a bit fuzzy
$99.99

The 1MORE SonoFlow retails for $99 and sometimes lower already it seems. This is a top pick for casual audiophile listening on the go without breaking the bank. We are sure most will love it.

The SonoFlow is cheap and fun, without going too far into being overly warm annoyingly grating, or sharp-sounding.

The ANC features are lovely with strong app integration and excellent battery life. If you run in wired mode though, the experience sounds quite different, so be prepped to offset that with a warmer-than-usual source player and you’ll have a great time.

1MORE Website

2023 Bang For Buck Awards Best Universal IEM

Bang For Buck Universal IEM 2023

Sennheiser IE 200 review featured image
I think Sennheiser has done a sterling job with the IE 200 in terms of what it brings to this very competitive price point in the portable audio world.  You get a slice of their higher-end models with a pleasingly balanced sound combined with clever tuning flexibility via a dual-tip positioning system. A system that can leave it sounding clean and bright or smooth and more natural to the ear.
8.5
Reader's Score
Pros
Balanced sound signature
Variable tuning with tips
Very light in the ear
Cons
Lacks a balanced stock cable
'Open position' a bit too lean sounding

We think Sennheiser has done a sterling job with the IE 200 in terms of what it brings to this very competitive price point in the portable audio world.

You get a slice of their higher-end models with a pleasingly balanced sound signature combined with clever tuning flexibility via a dual-tip positioning system. A system that can leave it sounding clean and bright or smooth and more natural to the ear.

One final thing to note, the IE 200 is power-friendly but not as efficient as you may think. However, with most DAPs and decent dongles, it is responsive to quality power. If you can find a balanced cable for it that works it gets even more competitive.

Sennheiser USA Website

2023 Bang For Buck Awards Best TWS

Bang For Buck True Wireless System 2023

TOZO Golden X1 Review featured image
The TOZO Golden X1 TWS set has a lot going for it as far as, features, sound quality, and function. They sport a full-fledged app that the user can use to access many of its built-in features plus a hybrid ANC set that lets the user create custom noise-cancelling curves to suit one’s needs. As it stands, the Golden X1 is certainly a top-ten contender.
8
Reader's Score
Pros
Above-average sound quality with LDAC
Adjustable and effective ANC
Ample feature set
Cons
No aptX capability
Midbass-biased tuning
Moderate top volume levels

The TOZO Golden X1 TWS set has a lot going for it as far as, features, sound quality, and function. They sport a full-fledged app that the user can use to access many of its built-in features plus a hybrid ANC set that lets the user create custom noise-cancelling curves to suit one’s needs.

They offer a lot for a moderate investment. They offer a stable platform to go hands-free and completely wireless. They offer up a decent plate of audio that can be molded and tinkered with plus it offers an ability to store sound curve profiles.

The bass does veer from flat, especially with ANC engaged but just consider it part of the fun because the sound profile is flexible and is malleable from within the app.

With recent developments over the horizon, we have a feeling we’re going to see more from TOZO. Hopefully, they’ll push the bar further next time and aim for the top spot. As it stands, the Golden X1 is certainly a 2023 Bang For Buck choice.

TOZO Website | TOZO Amazon USA 

2023 Bang For Buck Awards Best DAP

Bang For Buck DAP 2023

HiBy R3 II Review featured image
The HiBy R3 II stands out with its compact form factor, offering impressive power and battery life. It serves as an excellent secondary device, seamlessly integrating with smartphones to extend the music listening experience on the go, particularly when used with 4.4mm terminated IEMs. The MSEB feature is again a killer feature implemented to make any pairings more euphonic.
8.2
Reader's Score
Pros
Nicely layered bass
Good wireless performance
Long playback time
Cons
Limited treble extension
No onboard memory
3.5mm output lacking in power

The HiBy R3 II stands out with its compact form factor, offering impressive power and battery life.

It serves as an excellent secondary device, seamlessly integrating with smartphones to extend the music listening experience on the go, particularly when used with 4.4mm terminated IEMs. The MSEB feature is again a killer feature implemented to make any pairings more euphonic.

For those who find dongles lacking in functionality or experience power drain issues, this DAP presents itself as a viable alternative that does not draw power from the phone.

There is, in fact, little competition as more manufacturers move to dongles. With its versatility, it would be an easy recommendation for newcomers to the hobby and individuals seeking streaming capabilities or a mega portable digital source for their DACs.

HiBy Website | HiBy Amazon USA | Musicteck USA

2023 Bang For Buck Awards Best Portable DAC/amp

Bang For Buck Portable DAC/Amp 2023

iFi Audio hip-dac 3 Review featured image

They say the third time’s a charm. It’s a fitting phrase for the iFi Audio hip-dac 3 since it happens to be the best version of this compact DAC and portable headphone amplifier to date.

The additional IEMatch feature fills in the missing gap and remedies the channel imbalance issue which was the only previous issue and also improves on synergy.

8.5
Reader's Score
Pros
Conservatively rated power output capability
Dark background
Improved gain level functions
Cons
I miss the rear large countersunk input port
Their new control app wasn’t implemented

The hip-dac 3 has a hip, energetic sound signature that’s bright but simultaneously warm. It portrays the full frequency spectrum in a punchy manner. All along, a background that seems to disappear because it’s completely dark.

There is a remnant of warmth, yes, but the overall curve is flat and one unrobed of dynamics. The hip-dac 3 also has a musical aspect that makes it fun to listen to. The XBass feature when engaged, for example, adds some grunt in that lower bass area that seems to be hidden on most headphones.

We like the feature because it never veers the bass into boominess territory and it raises the bottom octaves to a point that you almost feel the bass and not just hear it anymore. This adds a sense of feeling and emotion to the music in general.

The hip-dac 3 does have an uncanny ability to extract details from music. At this tier, it seems to be one of the leaders in this aspect. You can safely pair the hip-dac 3 with headphones and IEMs above its tier and it will deliver the goods time after time.

iFi Audio Website | iFi Audio Amazon USA

2023 Bang For Buck Awards Best Dongle DAC

Bang For Buck Dongle DAC 2023

FiiO KA5 Review featured image
FiiO stuffed the KA5 with lots of good stuff like dual flagship DACs and dual amplifier chips, gave it an OLED screen with lots of accessible, useful features, and put a modest price tag on it. What’s not to like?
8.4
Reader's Score
Pros
Plenty of driving power
Not too hard on battery life
Featureful for a dongle DAC
Cons
Runs warm if you push it hard
Slight sharpness on the endcaps

FiiO stuffed the KA5 with lots of good stuff like dual flagship DACs and dual amplifier chips, gave it an OLED screen with lots of accessible, useful features, and put a modest price tag on it. What’s not to like?

Perhaps you could nitpick at the slight sharpness of the end caps but that’s certainly not a dealbreaker. Because there’s nothing else to complain about here.

FiiO and Jade Audio executed this launch well and gave credence to the phrase “practice makes perfect” because it’s FiiO’s latest best dongle DAC to date. We can’t wait to see what the team will come up with their next dongle.

FiiO Website | FiiO Amazon USA

2023 Bang For Buck Awards Best Wireless Streamer

Bang For Buck Wireless Streamer 2023

FiiO BTR15 Review featured image

The FiiO BTR15 not only fulfills the long-awaited desire for a 4.4mm version of the BTR5, but it also exceeds expectations with improved output power and functionalities.

Its ability to power sensitive headphones effectively while delivering pleasing tonality and quality, combined with the flexibility of parametric equalizers, makes it a true audio Goliath.

8.3
Reader's Score
Pros
Decent output power
Versatile PC/USB modes
Captivating aesthetics
Cons
No quick charge capability
Provided case might not offer sufficient protection

The FiiO BTR15 not only fulfills the long-awaited desire for a 4.4mm version of the BTR5, but it also exceeds our expectations with improved output power and functionalities.

Its ability to power sensitive headphones effectively while delivering pleasing tonality and quality, combined with the flexibility of parametric equalizers, makes it a true audio Goliath.

It’s not just about power. This device truly blurs the line with small DAPs as it can power some of the more sensitive headphones effectively while delivering pleasing tonality and audio quality.

Even when compared to other USB dongles in its price range, the BTR15 remains highly competent and worthy of recommendation.

While there may be a few minor gripes, such as the absence of a quick charge and a leather case, these are just small blemishes on an otherwise outstanding device.

FiiO Website | FiiO Amazon USA

2023 Bang For Buck Awards Best Cable

Bang For Buck Cable 2023

ddHiFi M120B Review featured image
The ddHiFi M120B went beyond simply giving a solution to a problem. They have engineered the M120B to be a leap beyond the stock cables that IEMs provide, without breaking the bank. This is an ideal additional cable for beginners and veterans in the audiophile community.
7.9
Reader's Score
Pros
Impressive clarity
Versatile plugs (mmcx, 2-pin, lightning, USB-C)
Low power consumption
Cons
Energetic highs might not be suitable for others
Soundstage can be better

The ddHiFi M120B by no means is competing with higher-end cable, it simply is not made for that. What M120B leverages is its plug-and-play design, catered to both audiophiles and casual listeners looking for a solution to the absolution of 3.5mm plugs in mobile phones.

ddHiFi went beyond simply giving a solution to a problem. They have engineered the M120B to be a leap beyond the stock cables that IEMs provide, without breaking the bank. This is an ideal additional cable for beginners and veterans in the audiophile community.

ddHiFi Website | ddHiFi Amazon USA 

Click on page 2 below for our desktop, Editor’s Choice, and Writer’s Choice Awards for 2023.

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