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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 28, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rebooting a classic, making it better
Hand-crafted in Germany
Smoother sound than the original HD 800
Minus
Not as transparent as the very best planar headphones

THE VERDICT
The Sennheiser HD 800 S refines the original, hugely influential headphone, and makes it better than ever.

The hoopla surrounding the introduction of Sennheiser’s original HD 800 headphone in 2009 was monumental because it was such a radical upgrade over the HD 650, the previous Sennheiser flagship. So, we’re due for another flagship, but the HD 800 S is more like a reboot. What about a new flagship? As you’ll read below, it’s coming, too!

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 21, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Features
Comfort
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Driver designed by George Cardas
Accommodates balanced cables
Extraordinary sound quality
Minus
Lacks mic or smartphone controls

THE VERDICT
The Cardas A8 is big on transparency and soundstage and delivers remarkably deep yet tuneful bass.

Cardas Audio is best known as a manufacturer of audiophile cables, but the Bandon, Oregon–based company jumped into headphones a few years ago with its EM 5813 Ear Speakers. Their sound was big and bold, but comfort issues limited my listening times to short bursts because the earpieces were heavy and the cables unwieldy. Now Cardas is back with new in-ears, the A8 Ear Speakers. I’ve known George Cardas for decades, and he’s normally a soft-spoken dude, but he’s really jazzed about what’s going on with headphones.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 28, 2016 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Two-way design with super tweeter
High sensitivity makes it ideal for use with portable hi-res music players
Handcrafted in Japan
Minus
No padded storage case

THE VERDICT
The Technics EAH-T 700 sounds sweet at home, and its high sensitivity makes it ideal with high-resolution portable players.

Remember Technics? They made turntables, right? Yes, they did, and now they’re making them again. The brand’s history dates back to 1965 when it debuted the Technics 1 monitor speaker. The brand went on to create a wide range of components, including a tube amplifier in 1966, and in 1970 the world’s first direct-drive turntable, the SP-10. Many other products followed, but the Technics name faded from view a few years ago and then roared back to life in 2015 with a couple of stellar speakers and a new line of electronics. This year, Technics showed an all-new SL-1200 Series turntable and these remarkable headphones, the EAH-T700.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 09, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Features
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,099

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Concise, clear sound
Five-year warranty
Minus
High-impedance design limits portable use

THE VERDICT
Beyerdynamic reboots and refines their flagship T1—and significantly improves its sound quality.

The Beyerdynamic T1 (2nd Generation) over-the-ear headphone may look nearly identical to the original T1 that debuted in 2009, but trust me on this: The two headphones sound very different. The first thing I noticed is that the new T1 has meatier, bigger, punchier bass, and the treble is sweeter, clearer, and more refined. It’s much more than a reboot.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: May 17, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $3,995

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Audeze ups their game, again!
Solid build quality
Made in Costa Mesa, California
Minus
They’re heavy!

THE VERDICT
You’ll know it when you hear it—there’s something very right, natural, and organic about the Audeze LCD-4’s sound.

The uber headphone field is getting mighty crowded—we have the Abyss AB-1266 ($5,495), Hifiman HE1000 ($2,999), Stax SR 009 ($3,999), Sennheiser Orpheus ($55,000!)—and now we have Audeze’s latest, the LCD-4 ($3,995). Talk about sticker shock! But let’s put those prices in perspective: All of them put together cost far less than a single Wilson Audio Alexandria XLF speaker, which sell for upwards of $200,000 per pair. So, as extreme as toptier headphone price tags have become, most are still within reach of a vastly larger group of enthusiasts than the very best high-end speakers. By that criterion, uber ’phones like the LCD-4 are comparatively affordable. Expensive, yes, but the best stuff always is.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: May 03, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $250

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Smooth, highly detailed sound
Svelte good looks
User-replaceable cables
Minus
Headband padding is too thin

I really wasn’t expecting this. While I liked KEF’s original M500 headphone when it arrived in 2013, I can’t say I was ever smitten by the sound. But the new M400 was quite the opposite: I loved it from the get-go and immediately connected with it. The newer model is a smidgen less expensive, and it features a cleaner design and deftly executed, mostly aluminum construction, deliciously ample ear pads, and a rich tonal balance.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 29, 2016 4 comments
I met singer-songwriter Amber Rubarth when she was recording her first Chesky Records album, Sessions From the 17th Ward, back in 2012. I instantly fell in love with her music and the sound of her voice, but more than that, I was amazed by how relaxed she was making an entire album in just two days. Most of the tunes were hers, and they were consistently good, but her covers of Tom Waits’ “Hold On” and Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” blew me away. No wonder legendary record producer Phil Ramone said Rubarth was “part of the new old-soul generation.”
Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Mar 23, 2016 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $229

AT A GLANCE
Plus
A crisply styled, downright elegant design
Sweet balance takes edge off harsh recordings
Hinged headband allows for compact storage
Minus
Highish ear pad pressure, comfort issues

THE VERDICT
The NAD Viso HP30 on-ear headphone’s plush midrange and punchy bass supply a visceral kick beyond the reach of most on-ears.

NAD rocked the audiophile world in the late 1970s when it introduced its astonishing 3020 integrated amp. That amp eventually became one of the best-selling of all time and established NAD as the brand that prioritized performance over superfluous features and glitzy styling, at affordable prices. That “sound quality first” ethos continued over the decades, and NAD recently scored another direct hit with its Viso HP50 over-the-ear headphones. So, I was eager to check out their new Viso HP30 on-ear model.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 13, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
50mm biocellulose drivers
Liquid wood ear cups
Deliciously comfortable
Minus
Cable much too long for portable use

THE VERDICT
NightHawk’s use of sustainable materials, high comfort, and sweet sound bode well for AudioQuest’s debut headphone.

Everything about the AudioQuest NightHawk headphone, from its materials, design, and sound, differs from what came before. Take a gander at those ear cups: They’re made from something called Liquid Wood. Don’t worry, they’re not the least bit squishy or soft. The cups are crafted from sustainable plant fibers that are liquefied and precision injection-molded. Then their insides are elastomer-coated to minimize resonance. The ear cups also feature a 3D-printed grille, inspired by the underlying structure of butterfly wings, and the grilles are said to reduce the cups’ internal reflections.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 31, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,190

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Hybrid dynamic/electrostatic design
Brilliant high-resolution sound!
Wide open imaging
Minus
The relatively stiff cable is kinky

THE VERDICT
The EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000 seamlessly melds dynamic and electrostatic drivers to produce ultra high-resolution sound.

Even though I was hearing good reports from friends about the EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000 hybrid electrostatic/dynamic headphone, I was still more than a bit skeptical about how successful the blending of its two drivers could be. AKG made hybrid dynamic/electrostatic headphones in the late 1970s. I auditioned a pair just a few years ago and heard the electrostatic tweeter and dynamic driver as two separate sound sources. Thankfully, the Dharma D1000 aced the blend—the two drivers sound like one.

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