The Return of ‘Stuff of the Year’

It’s that time of year already, the time where I start quantifying the music, the apps, and the gadgets That made my year, not that those things really made my year when compared to becoming a father (my ten week-old daughter is lying next to me at the moment asking what it is I’m up to…and telling me she peed. Anyway…) 

I’m going to start with my product of the year again because I’m still deciding the album of the year. While I have a few great condensers for PotY, it’s a much easier decision to make than picking an album this year. So what have I chosen as my product of the year in 2013? Well…

I could have chosen the HTC One, my first foray into the world of Android. A pretty beast of a device, this thing has changed (most of) my expectations of smartphones. The Ultrapixel camera, while great in theory, only really works with HTC’s camera software. There’s a visible difference between the Instagram photos I shoot with the built-in camera software and the photos shot within the app itself. I shouldn’t really complain, but it would have been nice if HTC could share the love with Android’s other popular camera apps. The camera wasn’t what kept me from choosing the One as my product of the year though. My product of the year is a bit closer to my person.

Which brings me to the House of Marley Zion in-ear headphones.

The top of the line until HoM released their $US200 Legend balanced-armature in-ear, the Zion model run a single 9mm dynamic driver in each side. The earphones themselves are made from FSC-certified wood and recyclable aluminum. The cable is still braided fabric and still has a three-button remote (whose volume controls only work on Apple devices, I do kinda miss that on the HTC), the plug is the same tough rubberized right-angle jack with a gold-plated TRRS jack. The sound difference when compared to my previous in-ears, the Marley Redemption Songs, comes across as more of a smiley-face EQ curve than the aforementioned model. Not so much so that mid-heavy music loses out, but more top-end clarity and more brain-stem tickling bass are present in the Zion model and make for an even more engaging listen. Engaging and entertaining enough that I may or may not have bought a second pair to keep for the eventual time when the first pair gives out. not sure when that will be though. These things have legendary build quality.

Despite waxing lyrical about the Zions, They aren’t my product of the year. My product of the year is even closer to my ears than that. 

It’s those squishy-looking blue bits on the end of the earphones that have won this year, the ComplyFoam ear tips.

I finally took the plunge on ordering a set of these in the winter and when I tried them on I knew I was having another Pink Floyd moment. I’d heard these things praised online for years but I didn’t want to fork out for a pair because I was still unconvinced They would fail my weird weird ears. When I got them though, and when I used them, I kicked myself for not trying them sooner. These things could have made the $180 I spent on Shure E2Cs when I was in high school worthwhile, for crying out loud! Granted I probably wouldn’t have the Marleys I have now if that were the case, but getting into Comply tips earlier would have kept me from missing out on a lot. Like a real lot.

Oh, I also have an honorable mention to give put this year, the TDK IE500 in-ears headphones. If you’re on a budget these things are pretty hard to beat. The ceramic housing does good things for the single dynamic driver and while the box comes with no frills, save for extra eartips, the sound is the icing on the cake for a pair of earphones that seem to sell for $35-$65. Only problem is that they’re rare. I picked up the last pair in Dunedin and the only other place I’ve seen them is Wellington airport, so good luck finding them.