HEADPHONE REVIEWS

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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.
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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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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.
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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.
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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
Chris Chiarella Posted: Nov 01, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE Vamp Verza, $598; Metallo case, $101

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Elegant two-piece add-on to enhance smartphone audio
More power, superior DACs
Sleek, serious metal construction
Minus
Makes phone heavy and bulky for your pocket
Metallo case a pricey add-on

THE VERDICT
V-Moda offers a stylish solution to turn your smartphone into the sonic titan you always dreamed it could be.

The Samsung Galaxy S III (a.k.a.GS3) was arguably last year’s second best-selling mobile phone, behind the iPhone 5, and the popularity of this non-Apple device—reportedly over 30 million units in consumers’ hands—in a sea of Android competitors speaks volumes. Smartphones do a lot, often serving as many folks’ primary media player, but they face the quandaries of all modern portable gear: Performance must contend with the realities of physical size and weight, as well as battery life. One such casualty is the diminutive digital-to-analog converter inside the phone, which turns the digital audio signals into analog audio that we can hear over headphones or the built-in speaker. As a GS3 user for the past 11 months, I have no major gripes about the onboard DAC (in this case built into the Qualcomm WCD9310 chip), but it is fair to say that it wasn’t selected only for audio quality, but perhaps partly because it’s tiny and it won’t overwhelm the phone’s battery.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Nov 06, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Wowie-zowie style
Nearly indestructible
High-impact sound
Minus
Over-40 crowd might feel awkward wearing something as hip as the XS

THE VERDICT
With the XS, V-Moda somehow made a bassy headphone even an audiophile could love.

Val Kolton started V-Moda ten years ago, but I didn’t meet the man until 2011. I thought he was their sales guy; he definitely didn’t look like an owner of an audio company, at least not like any I’ve met before. He’s a young, skinny, rock-star type, decked out in black leather and long, jet-black hair. Get him started, and Kolton will talk a mile a minute about music and headphones, but then again, so do I.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 24, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699 ($899 as reviewed)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Warm, tubey sound
Headphone impedance switch
New York born and bred
Minus
No DAC
Too polite for some headphones

THE VERDICT
Woo Audio’s WA6 is a Class A headphone amp whose glowing tubes are voiced to warm up any headphones.

The glow of vacuum tubes has fascinated me all my life. When I was a kid, my parents bought a Magnavox console TV with a built-in phonograph and AM/FM radio, the early-1960s equivalent of a home theater system with all the trimmings. It stood on 18-inch legs, and I loved to crawl under it, lying on my back to stare up into the orange glow of the tubes. My first few audio systems were solid state, but a cadre of die-hard audiophiliacs never really gave up on tubes. Now they’ve also wiggled back into my life and onto my desk, where the Woo Audio WA6 headphone amplifier sits, with three glowing obelisks keeping the retro audio flame alive.

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