HEADPHONE REVIEWS

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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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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 11, 2013 Published: Aug 09, 2013 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $449 At a Glance: Stellar build quality • Folds up into a compact bundle

AKG credits producer, recording artist, and DJ Tiësto (Tijs Michiel Verwest) with the sound tuning of the headphones that bear his name, and that’s cool, but I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that’s not necessarily a good thing. I haven’t been swayed by any celebrity ’phones, but I try to approach every review with an open mind, and by first judging their look and feel, the K267 Tiësto doesn’t give off any overt DJ vibes. As soon as I started listening, I relaxed. It didn’t sound like a DJ headphone; there’s no pumped-up bass or zippy highs. The K267 Tiësto sounds, above all, balanced, which puts this new AKG in the top ranks of audiophile headphones in its price class.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Mar 13, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Hand-crafted in Austria
Ear coddling comfort
User-replaceable cable
Minus
Expensive
Lacks mike or inline remote

THE VERDICT
The AKG K712 Pro’s winning combination of comfort, build quality, and superlative sound puts it in the top tier of headphones in its price class.

Headphone shoppers should never forget that sound quality should always be balanced with comfort. Sure, sound is the thing, but you’d be unwise to assume all headphones are equally comfy. I wish. The majority of full-size headphones on the market—including a lot of very expensive ones—can be a chore to wear for more than an hour or so. AKGs have no such problem; the company nailed big headphone comfort with their K701 that debuted in the U.S. in 2006, and this new model, the K712 Pro, looks and feels much the same (the less expensive K701 remains in the line). Both models feature similar drivers, but the K712 Pro’s two-layer Varimotion driver has been redesigned to increase bass output.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 20, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Bass to die for!
Rock-solid build quality
Advanced technology drivers
Minus
It’s crazy expensive!
They’re heavy!

THE VERDICT
Every now and then, a headphone comes along that truly advances the state of the art. Audeze LCD-XC is a game changer!

Even now, in the midst of an unprecedented boom market, American-made headphones are pretty rare. There’s Grado and Koss, but Audeze joined the fray just four years ago, when their LCD-2 debuted at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver. I was knocked out by its big and brawny sound; it was easily the most powerful headphone I’d ever heard.

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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.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 17, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $199 At a Glance: Basic styling with solid build quality • Supremely comfortable to wear • Sounds swell with tablets and receivers

Universally loved audio products are rare, but you won’t find too many folks with a bad thing to say about the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones (it has around 800 five-star and just nine one-star ratings on Amazon). The headphone consistently garners raves, but the mundane styling won’t cut it with folks craving the latest fashion statements from the likes of Beats by Dr. Dre, V-Moda, or Bowers & Wilkins. While the ATH-M50 is mostly made of plastic, it feels remarkably durable, and its two-year warranty offers double the length of coverage of most headphones, even higher-end models.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 02, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $189

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Compact
Inexpensive
Lively sound
Minus
Converts 192-kHz files to 96 kHz

THE VERDICT
The Audioengine D3 is a fine- sounding entry-level headphone amp as well as the best USB-stick DAC I’ve heard so far.

If you find the whole concept of a headphone amp scary, Audioengine’s D3 might be comforting. It takes the form of a USB stick with a USB plug at one end and a 1/8-inch minijack at the other. Mediating discreetly between your computer and headphones, it gets far better sound out of your computer than you’d get from the computer’s potentially messy analog output.

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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.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 21, 2013 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Euro design
Real lambskin ear pads
Oodles of detail and resolution
Minus
Not vegan friendly

THE VERDICT
A beautifully balanced headphone that’s beautiful to look at.

Bang & Olufsen isn’t just another high-end audio company. Far from it. The Danish firm started making TVs in 1952, and their 1970s turntables were the best looking of the era. I’m not alone in admiring the industrial design; the Museum of Modern Art in NYC has 18 B&O products in its permanent collection. B&O is no Johnny come lately to headphones, either; they’ve been making outstanding ones as far back as the late 1970s!

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Jun 23, 2014 0 comments
On the heels of Apple’s buyout of Beats, it’s unfair to expect Beats to suddenly stop production of anything that isn’t Apple white. The newly designed Beats by Dr. Dre Solo2 headphone actually comes in a rainbow of colors, including, umm, white. This is a revision of the original Solo headphone. While I was unboxing, I wondered, did Beats dial back the pounding bass that plagued the first generation of their headphone lineup?

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Aug 25, 2014 0 comments
Look around you - wires are so passé. If you’re in the gym and your earphones are connected to your phone or iPod, you might as well trade in your Crossfit membership for a circa-1989 Step aerobics class. How can you complete your WOD with a tangle of wires getting in the way? The new Powerbeats2 in-ear earphone from Beats By Dr. Dre is Bluetooth 4.0 compatible, and other than the snag-free wire connecting the left and right side, it’s completely wireless. You couldn’t connect it to your iPhone with a wire even if you wanted to - plus and negatives to that situation to follow.

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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.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Jan 25, 2016 1 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.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Feb 09, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
The best noise-canceler, period!
Headphones can play after batteries are drained
Light and very comfortable
Minus
Sound quality isn’t stellar

THE VERDICT
The QC25 widens Bose's significant lead in noise-canceling technology, though it trails some other competitive headphones on sound quality.

The QuietComfort 25 (QC25) is the latest model to join Bose’s massively popular noise-canceling headphone lineup; it replaces the QuietComfort 15, the best noise-canceling headphone I’ve heard, till now.

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