HEADPHONE REVIEWS

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Leslie Shapiro Posted: Feb 29, 2016 1 comments
Bone conduction technology has been around for a while, even before Beethoven pressed his ear against a piano and clasped a rod in his teeth to hear his compositions. But AfterShokz is bringing it mainstream to the active community with the new Trekz Titanium (MSRP $130) wireless headset. While you might not think bone conduction is right for you, there are plenty of advantages of the technology, including situational awareness, that you might want to consider.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 04, 2016 8 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $250

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Musically coherent sound
Comfortable velour earpads
Moving parts don’t creak
Minus
Not especially rugged
Limited low bass
No carry case

THE VERDICT
The affordable Sennheiser HD 598 is styled differently from its famous and more costly sibling, the HD 600, but is just as beautifully voiced and just as insanely comfortable.

The motley crew that lives in my headphone drawer was getting long in the tooth when I decided to add a widely acknowledged classic to the collection. The new acquisition was the Sennheiser HD 600, now more than 20 years and umpteen generations old, and he’s become my go-to guy when I want to spend an evening kicking back with headphones that guarantee total physical and listening comfort. Lately I’ve had a chance to try the HD 600’s little brother, the HD 598. At $250, it lists for $150 less than the HD 600, though as of mid-November it was widely available at major online e-tailers (Amazon, Best Buy, B&H) for $150 to $175.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Jan 25, 2016 2 comments
Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, the giant behind the Fender Stratocaster, has just announced a new product line: in-ear monitors from the legendary guitar manufacturer. There will be five models when the products hit the shelves in March. However, it’s the history of these products that is the most interesting.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 13, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
50mm biocellulose drivers
Liquid wood ear cups
Deliciously comfortable
Minus
Cable much too long for portable use

THE VERDICT
NightHawk’s use of sustainable materials, high comfort, and sweet sound bode well for AudioQuest’s debut headphone.

Everything about the AudioQuest NightHawk headphone, from its materials, design, and sound, differs from what came before. Take a gander at those ear cups: They’re made from something called Liquid Wood. Don’t worry, they’re not the least bit squishy or soft. The cups are crafted from sustainable plant fibers that are liquefied and precision injection-molded. Then their insides are elastomer-coated to minimize resonance. The ear cups also feature a 3D-printed grille, inspired by the underlying structure of butterfly wings, and the grilles are said to reduce the cups’ internal reflections.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 31, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,190

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Hybrid dynamic/electrostatic design
Brilliant high-resolution sound!
Wide open imaging
Minus
The relatively stiff cable is kinky

THE VERDICT
The EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000 seamlessly melds dynamic and electrostatic drivers to produce ultra high-resolution sound.

Even though I was hearing good reports from friends about the EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000 hybrid electrostatic/dynamic headphone, I was still more than a bit skeptical about how successful the blending of its two drivers could be. AKG made hybrid dynamic/electrostatic headphones in the late 1970s. I auditioned a pair just a few years ago and heard the electrostatic tweeter and dynamic driver as two separate sound sources. Thankfully, the Dharma D1000 aced the blend—the two drivers sound like one.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 22, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
New lossless wireless audio technology
Two-year warranty
Lightweight design
Minus
Wireless ’phones can’t play loud

THE VERDICT
The Sennheiser RS 185 raises the bar on audiophile-grade wireless headphone sound quality.

I’ve auditioned a number of wireless Sennheiser models over the years and was always satisfied with the sound. Sennheiser claims their latest ’phones are better than ever, and the RS 185 is the best sounding of the twelve wireless models the company currently offers. No other brand has as broad a range of wireless headphones, starting with the $99 Sennheiser RS 120.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 09, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Two-way hybrid dual-driver design
User-replaceable cables
Two-year warranty
Minus
Resolution no match for all-armature in-ear designs

THE VERDICT
The PSB Speakers M4U 4 blocks a good amount of external noise, feels comfy, and sounds sweet. What’s not to like?

PSB Speakers’ Paul Barton is a quick learner. After decades designing his company’s speakers, he jumped into headphones with the PSB M4U 2 full-size, noise-canceling ’phones. The M4U 2 was hailed by critics and consumers alike, and his next design for NAD, the Viso HP50, was even better, Barton was clearly on a roll. Now, with the M4U 4, Barton may be the first celebrated speaker designer to ever tackle crafting an in-ear headphone.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Dec 07, 2015 2 comments
V-MODA is forcing me back to high school chemistry and I don’t like it one bit. I guess most people probably know that Zn stands for zinc without having to break out a periodic table, and the properties of zinc are great for making acoustic devices. The new Zn in-ear monitors are the first in-ears released by V-MODA in four years, and they’re aiming for the modern audiophile with a blend of features that balance convenience and luxury.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Nov 16, 2015 0 comments
There’s no doubt that custom earphones are way more comfortable and fit better than off-the-shelf one-size-fits-all earphones—and that snug fit usually means better sound too. The problem is that customs take a long time from fitting to delivery and are usually quite expensive—around $1,000. Revols, a Kickstarter-funded company is changing that with a proprietary technology that turns soft Nano-composite gel earphones into permanently-molded custom fit wonders for much less than traditional customs and the magic happens in just 60 seconds.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 29, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $2,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Luxurious design
Extraordinarily spacious sound
Advanced nano-thin planar magnetic drivers
Minus
A big, definitely not-so-portable headphone
Crazy expensive

THE VERDICT
The HiFiman HE1000 is pricey, but it sounds so clear and open other headphones sound dull and drab by comparison.

What? $2,999 for headphones? Can they be worth it? Yes, and yes. It’s not just that the Hifiman HE1000 sounds more transparent, spacious, and dynamic than other headphones: With the HE1000, music arrives more intact—there’s more there there.

The Hifiman HE1000’s open quality makes you realize not all open-back headphones sound equally open. You don’t have to be an engineer to understand why: Just look at the HE1000 ear cups’ thin horizontal blades that minimize reflections to a remarkable degree and expose most of the back surface of the diaphragm to the air.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Sep 07, 2015 0 comments
When Optoma, a home-theater projector company, and NuForce, an audio company joined forces, I’ll admit it I was initially confused. NuForce made nice, niche audio products, and Optoma is mainly only doing projectors. What would their combined efforts produce? Light-emitting earbuds? Projectors with built-in speakers? But it actually makes sense; Optoma purchased NuForce to be able to provide both excellent video and audio to consumers, and they’ve kept the high quality that you would expect from NuForce. How do two new pairs of earphones, the NE750M and the NE800M from Optoma NuForce sound? Let’s find out.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 18, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High-resolution sound
Planar magnetic drivers
Made in the U.S.
Minus
Lacks mic and phone controls

THE VERDICT
The Audeze EL-8 may be the first planar magnetic headphone sensitive enough to come alive with portable music players.

I’ve reviewed a lot of headphones, but I’ve never encountered anything quite like the Audeze EL-8 before. It’s the first high-end planar magnetic headphone to come alive and sound fully transparent with portable music players. Now, sure, we’ve heard similar claims for other high-performance, full-size headphones; and yes, they play, but too much of the headphone’s potential is forfeited with portable devices. The EL-8 sounds scary good with my humble little iPod classic.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Aug 17, 2015 0 comments
Everything needs to be enhanced these days to stand out from the crowd—everyone needs a schtick. Potato chips need wacky truffle-oil flavoring, cars need a carbon fiber wrap, and well, most celebrities keep their plastic surgeons on speed-dial. Even headphones need a hook to make a splash in the over-saturated market. While the Plantronics BackBeat Sense wireless headphones look like ordinary headphones, they are packed with enhancements, including knowing when they’re on or off.
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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 08, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
UE’s tip-fitting system ensures a perfect fit
User-replaceable cables
Sweet, nicely detailed sound
Minus
Premium pricing

THE VERDICT
The Ultimate Ears UE900s look, feel, and sound right, they’re big on transparency, without shortchanging body and soul.

I was in for a big surprise when I opened the Ultimate Ears UE900s box. The headphone not only comes with a generous selection of sizes and types of ear tips, UE’s color-coded, systematic fitting process makes it easier than ever to achieve the perfect fit. This ensures maximum isolation from external noise and the full bass potential of the UE900s.

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Darren Ankosko Posted: Jun 30, 2015 0 comments
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $70

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Comfortable in and out of the water
Impressive sound while swimming (with some limitations)
1-year warranty
Minus
So-so sound above water

THE VERDICT
The Swimbuds Sport headphone gets the job done in the water but falls somewhat short in its quest to provide a high-quality, multi-sport solution.

I was pleasantly surprised when my audition of the Swimbuds Sport Waterproof headphone began with a familiar voice. After discarding multiple plastic baggies and opening the mesh pouch and zipper case, I was greeted by a card with an access code for a downloadable 30-minute swim workout guided by Rebecca Soni. Her staggering career accomplishments—including eight world records and, for Team U.S.A. at the Olympics, three gold medals and three silver—were severely understated here with a title that read: Olympic Medalist. I trained with Rebecca at the Scarlet Aquatics Club in New Jersey from the late 1990s through 2005, and so welcomed the excuse to pick up the phone and call an old friend.

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