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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 25, 2016 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $309

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Handsome design
Extraordinary build quality
Rich sound
Minus
Doesn’t fold for compact storage

THE VERDICT
It’s easy to be distracted by the Meze 99 Classics’ good looks, but they’re also great-sounding headphones.

Call me shallow, but I fell deeply in love with the Meze Classics 99 headphones even before I heard them. Those precision carved, hand-finished, solid wood earcups, stainless steel headband, self-adjusting headband strap, and sumptuous earpads all lend a luxury feel to the design, though the price is solidly affordable. No other headphones near the price look and feel like the 99 Classics.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 04, 2016 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $129

AT A GLANCE
Plus
So beautiful, it’s in the Museum of Modern Art!
Spacious sounding, especially for on-ear headphones
Ultra-light design
Minus
Doesn’t fold flat for storage

THE VERDICT
The Bang & Olufsen Form 2i may be pushing 30 something years old, but it’s stuck around because it still looks and feels great!

No doubt about it, the Bang & Olufsen Form 2i are remarkable headphones in a number of ways. Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen set up shop in 1925 in Struer, Denmark, and the company went on to make more than its share of iconic speakers, amplifiers, etc. But my interest in B&O first sparked in the late 1970s when B&O turntables and electronics were among the most astonishingly beautiful and technologically advanced products on the scene. The company has remained on the forefront of industrial design and technology.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 04, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $695

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Hand-crafted in Brooklyn!
Lightweight design
Incredibly open soundstage
Minus
Cable isn’t user-replaceable

THE VERDICT
The Grado RS1e is lightweight and has a big-as-all-outdoors soundstage and clarity that are unbeatable in its price class.

Grado Labs is located in a nondescript four-story building in the Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn, where Joe Grado started manufacturing phono cartridges in the early 1950s. John Grado (Joe’s nephew) took over day-to-day operations in 1978, and in 1989 Grado Labs jumped into the headphone market. John and Joe hand-built all of the company’s first-generation headphones—the HP-1, HP-2, and HP-3—and those ’phones now fetch anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 on eBay! Grado Labs is still a family-owned business, and John’s son Jonathan came aboard in 2014.

Filed under
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!

Filed under
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 1 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.

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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.

Filed under
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 1 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.”

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