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HEADPHONE REVIEWS

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 27, 2012 0 comments

WHEN I FIRST SAW the Sennheiser HD598’s beige-and-brown color scheme, woodgrain accents, and air-cushioned headband, images of all sorts of 1970s products fl ooded through my head: Kustom guitar amps with “tuck and roll” covering, lacquered driftwood furniture, waterbeds, Roger Dean posters.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 27, 2012 0 comments

IT MAY BE ONLY 4 YEARS OLD, but the HiFiMan brand has had a major impact on the growing world of portable audiophilia. The new HE-300, which uses conventional dynamic drivers, is the company’s most affordable over-ear headphone yet. With its solid, mostly metal construction and audiophile-grade detachable cables, it sure doesn’t look like it costs $249. You even get an elegant hardshell case in the deal.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 27, 2012 0 comments

ANY AUDIOPHILE CAN RECOGNIZE a pair of Grado headphones from 50 feet away. The distinctive, old-school leather band and earpieces mounted on sliding rods give them a World War II vibe. But audiophiles love them for their sound, not their looks.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 27, 2012 0 comments

THE ONLY MAJOR MANUFACTURER I know of that makes the same headphone in different impedances, Beyerdynamic offers the DT-990 in a 32-ohm version for use with portable devices, a 250-ohm version for average home gear, and a 600-ohm version for high-end headphone amps. We requested the 32-ohm version because the other headphones tested here run in that range and because we figured most S+V readers would at least occasionally want to plug straight into a smartphone or a computer.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 27, 2012 0 comments

YOU’LL NEVER BE TEMPTED to take this headphone on the bus. The earpieces of Audio-Technica’s ATH-AD900 are huge, measuring about 4.5 inches in diameter and concealing a big 53mm driver. Unlike almost all other headphones, the ATH-AD900 does not have an adjustable band. Instead, it features a pair of spring-loaded, padded “wings” that support it on your head. The soft padding and big earcups made the ATH-AD900 super-comfortable for Howard, Joe, and me. But it felt droopy to Will, and Geoff found the feel of the wings on his bald pate intolerable after a few minutes.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 04, 2012 0 comments

Mention noise-cancelling headphones and most people think of large, over-ear models like the Bose QC15. Comfy as those big cans can be, they’re waaaay too big to slip into a pocket or purse. But not all noise-cancelling headphones come in cases sized like jumbo donuts at the State Fair. In fact, a few manufacturers have added noise-cancelling technology to their in-ear monitors (IEMs), using a little “lump in the line” to house the needed electronics.

One might fairly ask, though: Do IEMs really need noise cancelling? After all, when used with tips that fit your ears properly, IEMs completely seal off your ear canals. However, IEMs do most of their noise-blocking at frequencies above 1 kHz. Below that, they’re not so effective at keeping the noise out.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Dec 23, 2011 0 comments

After trying several Bluetooth headphones, I’m surprised this category hasn’t taken off yet. With Bluetooth, you’re unencumbered by pesky cables. You can leave your cell phone in your pocket, on a table, etc., and control volume and track forward/reverse wherever you roam, as long as you don’t stray further than 30 feet. And unlike almost all mic-equipped headphones, Bluetooth headphones work as well with Androids as they do with iPhones.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Dec 14, 2011 0 comments

After hearing the enthusiastic sales pitch from SOL Republic, one of the latest of many new entrants into the headphone biz, I was disappointed when I heard the company's first model, the Tracks $99 on-ear. While the Tracks is beautifully made and incredibly comfortable for an on-ear model, its extremely bass-heavy balance made me feel like I was locked in the trunk of a Honda Civic with two 12-inch woofers and the complete works of Deadmau5 cranked way up.

When I received the company's first in-ear monitor (IEM), the $99 Amps HD, I wondered if the company would be able to achieve the blend of design and sound quality it originally promised - or if it'd be another well-crafted but sonically intolerable product.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Dec 09, 2011 0 comments

When we heard about the Sync by 50 headphones from SMS Audio, our hearts soared. We hoped that company founder and hip-hop star 50 Cent — or Fiddy, or Fif, or Cent, or Curtis, or whatever the hip-hop cognoscenti are calling him this week — would tap his fabled entrepreneurial skills and no-nonsense business attitude to create the world’s first hip-hop headphones that don’t at least kinda suck.

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Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Nov 07, 2011 0 comments

Expanding on our recent bout with celebrity-endorsed headphones, here we go one step further (back?) with a TV-show-endorsed headphone.

Maybe "endorsed" isn't the right word. "Branded" perhaps, which is more than appropriate given the subject matter of Showtime's vampire-themed soap opera.

Given that preamble, the V-MODA True Blood Maker headphones turn out to be something of a surprise.

Filed under
Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Oct 05, 2011 0 comments

The success of Dr. Dre's Beats sent up a signal flare that alerted the rest of the celebrigentsia - who've realized that there's no safe money in music anymore - that there was cash to be had in them thar 'phones. They've since had at it in a big way, with everyone from Justin Bieber to Quincy Jones to the estates of Miles Davis and Bob Marley slapping their names on hardware.

But are any of these headphones any good? We set out to figure out which - if any - of these celebs deserve your hard-earned dollars. We called in a team of expert listeners to pick 'em apart, and then put each headphone through some rigorous lab testing to figure out what was really going on underneath those fancy designs.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Sep 07, 2011 0 comments

When I got the press release for the new InTune in-ear headphones from Fuse, it made me think: How is any particular genre of music supposed to sound? And does it already sound that way, or do you have to do something to it to make it sound like it’s supposed to?

The InTune headphones inspired this question because they’re available in four varieties, each tuned for a certain type of music: red for rap and hip-hop, orange for rock, blues and country; blue for jazz and classical; and green for pop and easy listening.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Mar 31, 2006 0 comments
Who says you need speakers for discrete surround sound?

Listen To Believe (LTB) offers an assortment of discrete 5.1 headphone systems for just about every home theater or gaming scenario, depending upon your tastes and budget. Three transducers within their own independent speaker chambers are positioned inside each ear cup to render a true 5.1-channel experience, including dedicated delivery of center-channel and subwoofer information. Because they can work with both the optical and coaxial digital audio outputs of a source component, most headphone models can serve as a secondary audio solution, in addition to whatever speakers we might be using. Is the optical audio output from your DVD player already running to the receiver? No problem, since most DVD decks also offer a coaxial output. LTB's optical input also makes it a great match for PlayStation 2, Xbox, or Xbox 360.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 23, 2006 0 comments
Flying is brutal. And the cramped seat and substandard food aren't the only things that do you in. Noise is the unseen enemy. You may think you can merely adjust to it and ignore it—but that is physically impossible. Jet-turbine noise gives your eardrums and the other delicate parts of your inner ear a beating, and that messes up both your hearing and your sense of balance. That's why you often feel disoriented after a long flight. The wise traveler is therefore one who carries a good set of noise-canceling headphones or earbuds.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 18, 2005 0 comments
One of the most mortifying moments of my life came when I realized I’d lost my Sony MDR-NC10 noise-canceling earbuds. Well, I didn’t exactly lose them—what I lost was one of the rubber earpieces. I was ransacking the front pockets of my Levis in the men’s room of the Dallas airport and the friction of dragging out the earbuds must have dislodged the precious morsel of rubber. That effectively exiled the MDR-NC10 to my useless-gear drawer. Living without them was so impossible that I broke down and bought the successor model, the MDR-NC11.

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