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.

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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.

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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: 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.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 11, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Comfort
Value
PRICE $400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Bowers & Wilkins’ first over-the-ear headphone
Unique styling
Lavish build quality
Minus
Not quite as graceful looking as B&W’s onear models

THE VERDICT
The Bowers & Wilkins P7 continues B&W’s evolution as a world-class headphone manufacturer.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen quite a few speaker companies dip their toes into the headphone market, with inconsistent results. Sure, it’s easy to slap your logo on a pair of generic headphones, but Bowers & Wilkins didn’t do that. Their elegant design sense was immediately apparent with their very first headphone—the P5—and the sound was what you’d expect from Bowers & Wilkins. No wonder that headphone attracted a sizable cognoscenti following and turned on countless newbies to the glories of audiophile headphone sound.

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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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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 27, 2014 1 comments
Your ears have never had it so good. From entry-level ‘buds to the state of the art, the sound quality of headphones has radically improved in recent years. Choices abound: in-, on-, or over-the-ear ’phones; open- or closed-back; noise-canceling or noise-isolating. And they all sound and feel very different from each other. Which one’s right for you? Unlike other types of audio gear, headphones are worn, so their comfort and build quality and durability are major considerations. Faced with so many options, picking the right model can be a little daunting, but I’m here to help clarify which one will best titillate your eardrums. Let’s get to it.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 02, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
HDMI input for high-res music on Blu-ray
Adjustable ’phone impedance and sampling rate
Sounds good with different ’phones
Minus
None to speak of...

THE VERDICT
Essence’s HDACC bridges the gap between Blu-ray music content and legacy audio systems with an extremely adjustable and great-sounding DAC.

The most unusual product in this roundup is the HDACC HD Audio Center from Essence Electrostatic, a company that also markets flat-diaphragm loudspeakers. Like the NAD, it qualifies as a headphone amp, DAC, and stereo preamp with TosLink, coax, and analog inputs. But its greater claim to fame is a pair of HDMI jacks, input and output, on the back panel.

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