WHEN I FIRST SAW the Sennheiser HD598’s beige-and-brown color scheme, woodgrain accents, and air-cushioned headband, images of all sorts of 1970s products fl ooded through my head: Kustom guitar amps with “tuck and roll” covering, lacquered driftwood furniture, waterbeds, Roger Dean posters.
Like wine, sushi, and plumbers, headphones can get a lot more expensive than most people realize. At Sound+Vision, we focus on under-$500 models. But when Dr. Fang Bian, the visionary entrepreneur behind the HiFiMan headphone company, asked if I’d like to try the company’s top-of-the-line, $1,299 HE-6 headphone and its new $1,599 EF-6 headphone amplifier, I thought it’d be a great chance to give our usual listening panel a sample of what only the most devoted and/or wealthy headphone aficionados usually get to hear.
You might think that by now engineers would be out of ideas for speakers. After all, how many ways can you combine a woofer and a tweeter? But this year's Consumer Electronics Show proved there's still lots of life left in this category. In fact, I can't recall a past CES that showcased so many new speaker models, and this was the 22nd time I've attended the January show.
I've heard Skullcandy 'phones ranging from the well-balanced RocNation Aviator to the heavy-handed Hesh to the hard-driving Titan, an inconsistency that led me to guess that the company wasn't making a serious effort to voice its headphones.
I would never do what SVS did with its new subwoofer, the SB13-Plus. The company originally sent me a review sample last fall, but despite the fact that it sounded (and measured) great, SVS asked me to hold the review while its engineers tweaked the sub’s Sledge STA-1000D amplifier. It took months for the new amplifier to arrive.
With the vPulse in-ear monitor, Velodyne managed a trick most other headphone brands haven’t—it created a big-bass headphone that didn’t sound dull. Now the company has launched two over-ear models: the $399 vTrue, a large, audiophile-oriented model, and the $299 vFree, a relatively compact headphone equipped with Bluetooth wireless. S&V’s Michael Berk reviewed the vTrue, while I’m taking on the vFree.
Bang & Olufsen knows its customers value style and ease of use more than being the first on the block with the latest thing, so the Danish company tends to wait for the bugs to be worked out of new technologies before it embraces them.
Two pretty big pieces of news hit the audio world this week. Jade Design, makers of Emotiva products, purchased Bob Carver LLC and has begun making his products in the U.S. at substantially lower prices.