HEADPHONE REVIEWS

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Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 14, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Four balanced armature drivers
Customizable frequency response
User-replaceable cables
Minus
Not as good at isolating outside noise as custom in-ears

THE VERDICT
The SE846 combines state-of-the-art engineering with great musicality.

You guys know Shure; it’s best known as a microphone manufacturer, but millions of vinyl lovers have had long-term affairs with Shure’s phono cartridges. The company jumped into the earphone market in 1997 and focused on pro users—musicians and sound engineers—but audiophiles quickly got the word. Microphones, cartridges, and earphones have one thing in common: They’re all “transducers.” Microphones convert sound into electrical signals; cartridges convert groove wiggles into electrical signals; earphones convert electrical signals back into sound. The all-new SE846 reference-grade earphone was in development for four years.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 09, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Real carbon-fiber ear cups
Really hushes external noise
Really, really comfortable
Minus
Lacks mike and phone controls
Doesn't fold for compact storage

THE VERDICT
Shure's rich-sounding, full-size headphone flatters a wide range of music genres.

First impressions count for a lot. This is especially true for headphones, because, unlike other types of audio gear, you wear headphones. When you first try a pair on, do they feel good, or do they hurt? How do they feel in your hands? From the get-go, I knew Shure's engineers struck just the right balance of rugged build quality and elegant design with the new SRH1540 over-the-ear headphone. I could have written this review after just a few minutes into my first encounter, but I just kept listening to the SRH1540 and loved it more and more. It looks, feels, and sounds right.
Filed under
Ken C. Pohlmann Posted: Oct 01, 2013 0 comments
Much to the dismay of audiophile old fogies, the audio scene has been overrun by punks and their celebrity endorsements. Everywhere you look (Dre, I’m looking at you) you see audio gear, headphones in particular, with a famous DJ or other artist name attached. Of course, even old fogies were young once, and now it’s another generation’s turn to discover how cool audio is.
Filed under
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.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: May 17, 2013 1 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $200 At a Glance: Excellent isolation from the world outside • Bass so solid, you won’t miss your subwoofer • Modular construction

I’ve reviewed more than a hundred headphones, but the Sol Republic Master Tracks is the first to require some “assembly.” No worries; Slip the headband through the ear cups’ slots, plug in the cable, and you’re done. The whole operation takes about a minute.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 16, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Professional monitor sound, par excellence!
Extended high-frequency response
User-replaceable cable
Minus
No-frills design
Not as open sounding as open-back headphones

THE VERDICT
Sony’s MDR 7520 is something of an “anti-Beats” headphone that fashionistas will shun, but its real strength is its neutrality.

Just as I started working on this review, I met with Naotaka Tsunoda, one of the designers of the Sony MDR 7520, in NYC. This soft-spoken man is responsible for a number of Sony’s very best headphones including the legendary Qualia 010 ($2,400), a model that dates from 2004. That one had extraordinary high-frequency response, all the way up to 120 kilohertz, making it a good match for high-resolution audio.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 20, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Sweet mids, solid bass
Super comfortable
Sporty look
Minus
Reticent highs
Plastic construction

THE VERDICT
These full-size headphones are comfortable, sweet sounding, and suitable for portable signal sources.

Some companies jump into the now-trendy headphone category on a wing and a prayer. Sony, on the other hand, is the steward of Sony Music and the master of numerous audio product categories, including a long history in headphones. So a set of midpriced ’phones from Sony raises high hopes. With the MDR-1R, they are largely fulfilled. I like these headphones, not because they’re perfect, but because they feel right.

Filed under
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.
Filed under
Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 27, 2012 0 comments

BEING THE ONLY CLOSED-BACK headphone pair in this bunch gave the Sony MDR-Z1000 a potential advantage and disadvantage. The advantage, we assumed, would be that the MDR-Z1000 would have more robust bass than the open-back models. The disadvantage, we assumed, would be that it wouldn’t sound as, well, open — i.e., spacious — as the open-back models.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Mar 20, 2015 1 comments

Sony MDR-Z7
Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value

PRICE $700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Yummy sound, nice bass, clear top end
Impeccable Japanese build quality
Huge soundstage for a closed-back design
Minus
Doesn’t fold for compact storage

THE VERDICT
Sony's back with a winner! The MDR-Z7 looks, feels, and sounds like a high-end headphone.


Sony PHA-3
Performance
Build Quality
Features
Value

PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Handles ultra-high-res 384-kHz/32-bit files
Does DSD at 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz
Single-ended and balanced headphone outputs
Minus
No indicator for remaining battery charge

THE VERDICT
The Sony PHA-3 has undeniable synergy with the MDR-Z7, but sounds terrific with other headphones as well.

Sony's hardly a newcomer to the upper echelons of the headphone scene. Some of you might recall the legendary MDR-R10 from 1989—at $2,500, it was the most expensive headphone in the world. The sleek Qualia 010 debuted in 2004, and that one bore a remarkable resemblance to Sennheiser's current flagship, the HD-800, but the Qualia 010 arrived five years before! Now, with the $700 MDR-Z7, Sony's back with a new, considerably more affordable flagship. For this review, we mated it up with the company’s also-new flagship portable DAC/headphone amplifier, the PHA-3.

Filed under
Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Dec 12, 2013 0 comments
All other headphones bow to these. All other headphones are NOTHING compared to these. These are, to put it simply, a collection of the greatest headphones on Earth.

One of them even looks like bacon.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 02, 2014 0 comments
Headphones aren’t just about mobile audio. They’re also a cost-effective way to get good sound into your ears even when you’re not on the go. If you have $400 to spend on a set of speakers, your options are of limited fidelity, but the same money will buy you the Sennheiser HD600, one of the most popular high-end headphone models of all time. Try getting a comparably great-sounding set of surround speakers for that price.
Filed under
Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 12, 2013 0 comments
When testing headphones with multiple listeners—our standard practice at S+V—I've learned that perceptions of a headphone's tonal balance can differ among listeners. Of course, individual taste in sound varies, too.
Leslie Shapiro Posted: Apr 20, 2015 0 comments
Good news for audiophiles who like to take control of their music. A while back we reviewed a rather unique pair of in-ear monitors, the Torque t103z (MSRP $180). While they were a really good-sounding earphone, what made them stand out were the interchangeable passive filter valves—patented by Torque as PAVT, Passive Acoustic Valve Technology. When Sound&Vision initially reviewed the t103z, there were only three filter options. Now, we get a chance to listen to three new offerings from Torque Audio. For choosy music lovers (and who here isn’t?) this is great news.

Filed under
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.

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