Steve Guttenberg

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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.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 29, 2014 Published: Aug 28, 2014 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $40

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Lotsa bass
Comfortable lightweight design
Low price
Minus
Maybe a little too much bass

THE VERDICT
The JVC HA-FR301 isn't an accurate-sounding headphone, and fashion conscious buyers may turn up their noses at the design, but these inexpensive in-ears are a lot of fun to listen to.

Emphasized, or should I say pronounced bass is a guilty pleasure a lot of headphone loving audiophiles rarely admit to indulging in. Funny, almost all headphones, including a fair share of high-end models, have elevated bass, so what we're talking about here is a matter of degree. JVC's HA-FR301 is designed for bass fanatics who can't get enough low-end punch. Indeed, JVC markets them as part of its Xtreme Xplosives headphone line up; that pretty much says it all. But while most bassy headphones suffer from muffled highs and a missing-in-action midrange, the HA-FR301 isn't lacking in detail, not by a long shot.

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
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 27, 2014 1 comments
Your ears have never had it so good. From entry-level ‘buds to the state of the art, the sound quality of headphones has radically improved in recent years. Choices abound: in-, on-, or over-the-ear ’phones; open- or closed-back; noise-canceling or noise-isolating. And they all sound and feel very different from each other. Which one’s right for you? Unlike other types of audio gear, headphones are worn, so their comfort and build quality and durability are major considerations. Faced with so many options, picking the right model can be a little daunting, but I’m here to help clarify which one will best titillate your eardrums. Let’s get to it.
Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 20, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Bass to die for!
Rock-solid build quality
Advanced technology drivers
Minus
It’s crazy expensive!
They’re heavy!

THE VERDICT
Every now and then, a headphone comes along that truly advances the state of the art. Audeze LCD-XC is a game changer!

Even now, in the midst of an unprecedented boom market, American-made headphones are pretty rare. There’s Grado and Koss, but Audeze joined the fray just four years ago, when their LCD-2 debuted at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver. I was knocked out by its big and brawny sound; it was easily the most powerful headphone I’d ever heard.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 19, 2014 Published: Jun 18, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Super tiny and lightweight
Accurate and transparent
Wide-open soundstage
Minus
Lacks microphone and phone controls

THE VERDICT
Hifiman's uber-comfortable RE-600 offers superb transparency and accurate tonal balance.

Even when I heard one of Hifiman's very first headphones, I had no doubt it was fully competitive with the best AKG, Beyerdynamic, Grado, Koss, and Sennheiser had to offer. That was back in 2006, and the Tianjin, China-based company's headphones have only gotten better over the years. They're all proprietary designs, engineered and manufactured by Hifiman.
Filed under
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?

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 29, 2014 1 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,495

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Big, highly dynamic sound Super easy to drive Made in the U.S.
Minus
Limited dispersion Must be used with a subwoofer

THE VERDICT
It may not be a universal solution, but for buyers seeking wide dynamics in a fairly compact speaker, the Zu Audio Cube delivers a big sound.

I’ve heard my share of tiny cube speakers with 3- or 4-inch woofers, and while the best of them can sound decent enough, the Zu Audio Cube is a very different beast. It’s still a compact speaker, but big by comparison to those pipsqueaks—big enough to house a 10-inch driver. That ability to move air makes no small difference, and trust me on this: The Cubes are turn-it-up-and-party speakers.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 11, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Comfort
Value
PRICE $400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Bowers & Wilkins’ first over-the-ear headphone
Unique styling
Lavish build quality
Minus
Not quite as graceful looking as B&W’s onear models

THE VERDICT
The Bowers & Wilkins P7 continues B&W’s evolution as a world-class headphone manufacturer.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen quite a few speaker companies dip their toes into the headphone market, with inconsistent results. Sure, it’s easy to slap your logo on a pair of generic headphones, but Bowers & Wilkins didn’t do that. Their elegant design sense was immediately apparent with their very first headphone—the P5—and the sound was what you’d expect from Bowers & Wilkins. No wonder that headphone attracted a sizable cognoscenti following and turned on countless newbies to the glories of audiophile headphone sound.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Mar 13, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Hand-crafted in Austria
Ear coddling comfort
User-replaceable cable
Minus
Expensive
Lacks mike or inline remote

THE VERDICT
The AKG K712 Pro’s winning combination of comfort, build quality, and superlative sound puts it in the top tier of headphones in its price class.

Headphone shoppers should never forget that sound quality should always be balanced with comfort. Sure, sound is the thing, but you’d be unwise to assume all headphones are equally comfy. I wish. The majority of full-size headphones on the market—including a lot of very expensive ones—can be a chore to wear for more than an hour or so. AKGs have no such problem; the company nailed big headphone comfort with their K701 that debuted in the U.S. in 2006, and this new model, the K712 Pro, looks and feels much the same (the less expensive K701 remains in the line). Both models feature similar drivers, but the K712 Pro’s two-layer Varimotion driver has been redesigned to increase bass output.

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