HEADPHONE REVIEWS

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Leslie Shapiro Posted: Jun 14, 2012 0 comments

Anyone who's ever been out on a bike path or trail knows the hazard of approaching another runner who's wearing earphones. You know you should announce that you're passing them, but you know they can't hear you. As a cyclist, I always shout out "passing on your left" or even just a friendly "hello" to let someone know I'm behind them.

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Michael Berk Posted: Jun 12, 2012 0 comments

The look of V-Moda gear may be a little Versace for some mild-mannered audiophiles, but make no mistake: Val Kolton knows a thing or two about good sound, and beneath the flashy exteriors of his gear you'll find thoughtful engineering, well-conceived ergonomics, and impressive sound quality.

So when Kolton told us he had a portable source device in the works, were we excited? You bet.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Jun 06, 2012 0 comments

There must be hundreds of brands and thousands of models of in-ear monitors (IEMs) now, and probably 95 percent of them are as generic as 2x4s. But it's obvious that a lot of thought went into the Rock-It R-30.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: May 28, 2012 0 comments

There are speaker companies better-known than B&W, but I doubt any has a more enviable reputation. B&Ws have been a fave of audiophiles and recording engineers for decades. But the best indicator of B&W’s rep would probably be a walk through an audio show in China, where you’ll see no other speaker brand so brazenly copied.

Nowadays, though, B&W seems focused on compact and portable products, such as its Zeppelin Air and P5 and C5 headphones. Can’t blame B&W for wanting to surf the market trends, but headphones, especially, are so different from speakers that a company’s expertise in one is little indicator of skill in the other.

All three of the products I just mentioned have received rave reviews, though. That praise gives us great hope for the P3, a smaller, more portable, $100-less-expensive version of the P5.

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Michael Berk Posted: May 24, 2012 0 comments

When we got our hands on the latest iteration of Denon's flagship headphone, the AH-D7000, we had no idea it would be the end of the line for these spectacular wooden-cupped cans (and for the entire Dx000 series, at least as we know it today). Suffice it to say that however curious we are to learn what the Denon headphone design team has up its collective sleeve, we will be sad to see 'em go.

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Michael Berk Posted: May 16, 2012 0 comments

A couple of weeks back we took a listen to a couple of DAC/headphone amplifier combo units from ADL and FiiO that did it all - covering your digital audio and headphone amplification needs at home and on the go - but you don't always need to do it all, do you? There are plenty of us who really just need better audio on the desktop. Luckily, you'll find that the market's rich these days with small, do-it-all USB devices meant to do just that - at surprisingly little cost.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: May 14, 2012 0 comments

Thanks to Bose’s overwhelming success in the category, most of us now think of noise-cancelling headphones as products that cost about $300. I’m sure every other headphone company would like to thank Bose for that, even if none of them ever will. But there’s really no reason that a noise-cancelling headphone has to cost so much.

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Michael Berk Posted: May 01, 2012 0 comments

Everybody wants better sound out of their headphones, but (and here's a shocker, I know) not everyone wants to own a lot of hardware to make that happen, especially if you want to take your show on the road every now and then. Whether budget-tightening precludes your investing in a portable listening rig to supplement your home setup or you're just a minimalist, you might just be in luck. Low-cost audio gear leaders FiiO and Alpha Design Labs (the personal audio wing of high-end connector kings Furutech) have each introduced some impressive do-it-all devices that just might cover all of your digital listening needs.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Apr 30, 2012 0 comments

Philips has been making headphones for decades, but the company hasn't been a prominent presence in the market for a long time. Now that headphones have gotten hot, the brand's re-emerging with all-new models.

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Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Mar 31, 2012 0 comments

NOTHING in consumer electronics is more popular right now than headphones. Pick a price and you’ll find no fewer than a billion different offerings (source: Wikipedia). Recent surveys indicate that many consumers look for celebrity endorsements to decide what to buy. Because celebrities and corporations have one thing in common — desire for money — all the A-, B-, and C-list celebs have already paired up with major ’phone manufacturers.

These trends have not escaped the keen eyes of Dr. Loof Lirpa. After making trillions from the incredible Liberty Freedom 1776 A-FY tower speakers covered last year and proudly not paying taxes on any of it, Lirpa has turned his gaze on a whole new market.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 21, 2012 0 comments

We haven't made any secret of our general disdain for headphones endorsed by hip-hop artists. Not that we have anything against hip-hop artists, nor is there any good reason why hip-hop 'phones should sound bad.  It's just that many of them do.

In last year's celebrity headphone test, we didn't dig the Soul by Ludacris SL300WB at all, and had a mixed reaction to the Beats Pro and Skullcandy Roc Nation Aviator. But our not-unpleasant experience with the Sync by 50 SMS-WS got us thinking that maybe someone in the hip-hop world was starting to understand that while crazy, bass-heavy tonal balances may be initially impressive, they're not something most of us want to live with on a day-to-day basis.

Next up in the battle of the rapperphones is the $275 WeSC Chambers by RZA.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 09, 2012 0 comments

I love the form factor of on-ear, or "supra-aural" headphones — the kind where the ear pads press against your ears’ pinnae instead of surrounding them —  because they usually fit easily into my laptop computer case. But I’ve had a problem finding a model comfortable enough to wear for more than an hour. What’s more, I’ve found no on-ears whose performance compares to that of a good over-ear (or circumaural) headphone — until now.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Feb 20, 2012 0 comments

Companies that sell in-ear monitors seldom talk much about the technologies inside their products. But they should, because there are big differences between the ~$20 Philips and Skullcandy IEMs you buy at Target and the ~$200 models you get from Etymotic or Shure.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Feb 08, 2012 1 comments

Ask any group of audiophiles what kind of speakers they have, and I guarantee you at least one and probably several will answer “Magnepan.” Why do audiophiles so love this relatively obscure brand? No, not (just) because it’s obscure. They love Magnepans because of the incredible detail, soundstaging, and natural timbre of their planar magnetic drivers. For the same reason, headphone enthusiasts are embracing planar magnetic headphones.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Feb 03, 2012 0 comments

At the CanJam section of last fall’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, a manufacturer said something that’s resonated with me ever since. “The fit is the sound,” he told me, referring to the fancy new tips included with his company’s in-ear monitors. With that simple statement he summed up the reason why different listeners can have such different opinions of headphones. With IEMs, unless the tips seal well and the sound tubes fit properly within your ear canal, you’ll get little or no bass, and your treble and midrange will be out of balance at best and grossly uneven at worst.

Perhaps 50 feet away in the same ballroom, Phonak — the world’s largest manufacturer of hearing aids — showed me a way they’d come up with to address the fit problem with IEMs. The company’s Perfect Fit system employs L-shaped earpieces designed to conform to the folds of your pinna, allowing the body of the earpiece to reach further and more consistently into your ear canal for a better fit.

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