HEADPHONE REVIEWS

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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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Chris Chiarella Posted: Sep 30, 2005 0 comments
5.1 for your head.

After more years writing about sound technology than I care to count, I've had two revelations of note: A full 5.1-channel speaker system is too much for some people, while, for many of those same folks, traditional stereo just isn't enough. With content—movies and games—growing ever more sophisticated, we need adequate gear on which to enjoy it. However, not everyone has the space, the budget, or even the basic technical know-how to wire five speakers and a subwoofer.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 17, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Comfort
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
3D-printed headphone
Big, highly dynamic sound
Dig those ear pads
Minus
Lacks mike and phone controls

THE VERDICT
MrSpeakers dared to go where no headphone manufacturer went before and used 3D printing technology to make a better-sounding headphone.

While MrSpeakers’ Alpha Dog may be the first high-end headphone to fully exploit 3D printing technology, the original intention was to speed the development process, and then make injection-molded plastic ear cups. But as MrSpeakers owner Dan Clark revised and refined the design, he realized it would be more cost effective to 3D-print his production headphones’ double-walled ear cups and added an intricate lattice to the printing process to increase the ear cups’ rigidity. He took the next step and bought enough 3D printers to keep quality control in-house. After the ear cups are printed, they’re chemically polished, hand sanded, sealed, primed, and finished with automotive-grade paint.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 02, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Well-balanced sound
Space-saving footprint
XLR and RCA outputs
Minus
No data rate conversion
Incomplete sampling indicators

THE VERDICT
NAD’s D 1050 is a well-rounded DAC and headphone amp with outputs to feed a stereo preamp or receiver.

NAD’s D 1050 USB DAC, to use its official name, is one of a trio of products introduced at the same time. Like the D 7050 Direct Digital Network Amplifier ($999) and D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier ($499), it includes a headphone amp and USB DAC. Unlike those two products, it doesn’t directly drive a pair of speakers—only your humble cans and the analog inputs of an audio system. However, its shape and design are similar to that of the other two products, building their digital-to-analog and preamp guts into a smaller package.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: May 07, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb sound
Elegant good looks
Comfy to wear for long trips
Minus
Non-hinged headband doesn’t collapse for compact storage

THE VERDICT
NAD’s first headphone scores high on every front—style, sound, comfort, and value.

This was an easy review to write; the NAD Viso HP50 sounds as smooth as silk, with excellent detail retrieval, a big soundstage, and bass with the perfect balance of speed and low-end oomph. As a long-term NAD fan, I wasn’t surprised. The company has always made fuss-free, great-sounding, affordable gear; why would the Viso HP50 be any different?

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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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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Feb 04, 2014 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $150

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dynamic and balanced armature drivers
All-metal earpieces
Tangle-free, flat cable
Minus
Zippy highs
May not suit audiophile tastes

THE VERDICT
The Om Audio InEarPeace may stray too far from neutrality for some, but it’s definitely not boring!

Om Audio is the recent brainchild of a select group of consumer electronics, audio, and technology professionals, including former staff members from Dolby, Velodyne, and Gracenote. While Om’s InEarPeace in-ear monitor looks pretty standard, it features a rather unusual two-way driver complement, with a 10mm bass driver and a midrange/tweeter balanced armature driver in each all-metal earpiece. Nice!

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 24, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $179

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean styling
Neutral and highly accurate sound
Looks more expensive than it is
Minus
Could have more headband padding

THE VERDICT
Onkyo’s debut outing in the headphone market is near perfect.

We are living in a golden age for headphones. New models and even types of headphones are announced, and a month or two later, there’s another deluge. The waves of entry-level, midrange, and high-end models never let up. But even in the midst of headphone mania, Onkyo’s ES-HF300 distinguishes itself on a number of counts. I’m happy to see that rather than take the shiny plastic design route, the ES-HF300 sports brushed, black anodized aluminum construction, and it looks thoroughly modern and yet classic.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 31, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,099

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Planar technology
Rich sound
Understated good looks
Minus
Voicing too rich for some
Crosses the $1K barrier

THE VERDICT
Oppo’s first headphone, the PM-1, uses a planar diaphragm to produce a luxuriously warm sound that becomes addicting on its own terms.

There once was a piano tuner named Opporknockity. A customer asked him to re-tune a piano he’d done the week before. “Sorry,” he replied, “Opporknockity only tunes once.” Luckily for consumers, Oppo Digital isn’t as stingy as Opporknockity. You can buy all the Oppo products you want.
Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 18, 2013 2 comments

Performance
Features
Comfort
Value
Price: $299 At a Glance: Sinfully comfy • Artfully balanced frequency response • Lavish build quality boasts aluminum trim and real leather

It wasn’t that long ago that Philips wasn’t the first name that would come to mind for audiophile headphones. Things picked up early last year when the company totally revamped its headphone lineup, and the Fidelio Series turned a lot of heads. Philips was in the big leagues and fully competitive with the majors.

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Lauren Dragan Posted: Feb 16, 2015 Published: Feb 15, 2015 0 comments
Editor’s Note: This review was first published on 1/31/15, based on what proved to be a defective sample, and revised on 2/15/15.

Speaker company RBH has expanded their headphone lineup with new Bluetooth in-ears, the EP-SB. Lightweight and sweat resistant, RBH want the EP-SB to be your go-to headphones for on-the-go and at the gym. I got my hands on one of the first pairs available (literally!), and put them through their paces. How did they hold up? Lace up your sneaks and meet me after the jump.

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Leslie Shapiro Posted: Aug 27, 2012 0 comments

After seeing our initial  review of the Bell'O BDH650, Bell'O sent us a replacement, feeling that our review sample must have been a prototype. Yes, we've heard this kind of thing before, but the argument, in this case, did make sense (the 650 doesn't seem to have made it into Bell'O's final headphone lineup anyway). So we took another listen.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 27, 2013 0 comments

The 808 headphones prove I'm way hipper than any of our West Coast headphone testing panel, who range from 10 to almost 20 years younger than me. "You can tell from the name it's targeted to hip-hop fans," I told them.

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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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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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