Performance Build Quality Comfort Value PRICE $399 AT A GLANCE Plus Most affordable ever three-way from the designer Uber comfy Vivacious sound Minus The voluptuous bass might be too much of a good thing THE VERDICT The Astell & Kern Michelle brings JH Audio headphone sound down to a new, more affordable price. Sound &amp; Vision readers probably know about Astell&amp;Kern&rsquo;s portable high-resolution digital audio players. But I&rsquo;m guessing you&rsquo;re less aware of Jerry Harvey Audio&rsquo;s in-ear headphones, which have found favor not only with audiophiles, but also musicians and pro sound engineers who make up a sizeable percentage of Harvey&rsquo;s customer base. The Michelle Limited in-ear headphones from Astell&amp;Kern were designed by Jerry Harvey.
Performance Build Quality Comfort Value PRICE $999 AT A GLANCE Plus Handmade in Germany Stunning good looks Best-in-class sound Minus Tangle-prone cable THE VERDICT The Beyerdynamic Xelento Remotes look, feel, and sound like a true luxury design. It&rsquo;s a stunningly beautiful design: The Beyerdynamic Xelento Remotes are most definitely a looker. Better yet, their ergonomically balanced design made for a perfect fit in the concha of my ears; these are some of the most comfortable in-ears I&rsquo;ve ever worn. As for the sound, it was spectacular!
Performance Build Quality Comfort Value PRICE $49 AT A GLANCE Plus Great sound on the cheap! Triple driver design Nice and comfy Minus Ho-hum looks THE VERDICT The Monoprice TripleXXX&rsquo;s sound quality definitely ups the ante for budget-priced in-ear headphones. The Monoprice TripleXXX may be the most affordable headphone I&rsquo;ve ever reviewed for Sound &amp; Vision, but I took it seriously. So much so, it was my go-to headphone for NYC subway rides for weeks, even when I wasn&rsquo;t in reviewing mode and just listening to the TripleXXX for fun. That says a lot about these headphones, so don&rsquo;t let the low price throw you. These little guys sound plenty good enough for audiophiles looking for a set of budget-priced travel headphones.
Performance Build Quality Comfort Value PRICE $1,800 AT A GLANCE Plus Hyper clarity Lighter than most high- end headphones Made in California Minus They&rsquo;re expensive THE VERDICT The MrSpeakers Ether Flow headphones combine clarity with an effortless, non-fatiguing sound that ensures long-term satisfaction. I&rsquo;ve always been into headphones, starting with my longlost Sennheiser HD 414 in the early 1970s. I love &rsquo;phones, and they keep getting better and better, but I get a lot of pushback from audiophile pals who aren&rsquo;t yet ready to take the plunge. When asked about what&rsquo;s holding them back, they complain about comfort and sound that feels crammed inside their heads. Sure, but that was then. It&rsquo;s time to listen to some of the best new &rsquo;phones to hear what&rsquo;s happening now. Take the new MrSpeakers Ether Flow: It&rsquo;s so open and spacious, the sound seems to come from around your head!
Performance Build Quality Comfort Value PRICE $399 AT A GLANCE Plus Brilliant styling Built-in headphone amp Click-on bass boost Minus Not super transparent THE VERDICT The Blue Sadie is one of the more unique headphones on the market. The look and feel are mighty impressive. The sound is up to snuff too! Blue is known primarily as a high-end studio and consumer microphone manufacturer, but they broke into the headphone scene with their radically designed Mo-Fi back in 2014. I liked that headphone well enough, but it was heavy, and the sound balance struck me as a little too Beats inspired. Mo-Fi is history, but Blue&rsquo;s new one goes by the name Sadie, and her sound is more in tune with audiophile tastes.
Thanks to Apple, there’s a surge of Bluetooth headphones hitting the market. Apple users are practically forced to go wireless, and other users find it convenient to ditch the cords. However, besides the sound quality issue of going wireless, there is also a comfort factor. Because more electronics have to be jammed into earphones, most Bluetooth earbuds are heavy, making them uncomfortable for many users. Jam Audio’s Comfort Buds is a solution for those sensitive listeners. Is comfort worth the sacrifice in sound quality?
Performance Build Quality Comfort Value PRICE $599 AT A GLANCE Plus Designed and made in Germany Concise and clear sound Extra comfy Minus Plastic earcups break the high-end spell THE VERDICT The Amiron Home&rsquo;s open-back design delivers a rich, yet highly detailed sound and the extreme comfort Beyerdynamic&rsquo;s headphones are known for. Beyerdynamic is a pretty conservative company, and its sound hasn&rsquo;t really changed all that much over the last decade. I started to sense something was up in 2015 when I reviewed the flagship T 1 second-generation headphone that took the brightness down a smidge. Now the smoothing trend continues with the Amiron Home open-back, over-the-ear headphone. The look is also fresher, and this headphone definitely has a warmer, sweeter sound than the model it replaces, the T 90. Beyerdynamic is onto something new, and I like it.
Performance Build Quality Comfort Value PRICE $649 AT A GLANCE Plus Made in Japan Neutral sound balance Two-year warranty Minus Cable isn&rsquo;t user-replaceable THE VERDICT The Audio-Technica ATH-A2000Z somehow looks brand new and classic at the same time, and we could say the same about the sound. The ATH-A2000Z is the top model from Audio-Technica&rsquo;s Art Monitor Series, and its polished titanium earcups are a not-so-subtle hint about the headphone&rsquo;s status in the company&rsquo;s pecking order. It&rsquo;s made in Japan, just like AudioTechnica&rsquo;s very best headphones (such as the ATH-W5000). The company has been making &rsquo;phones since 1974.
Performance Build Quality Comfort Value PRICE $399 AT A GLANCE Plus High-resolution sound Planar magnetic drivers Comes with Apple Lightning and standard cables Minus Little or no isolation from external noise THE VERDICT The Audeze iSine 10&rsquo;s sound crushes the competition&mdash;it&rsquo;s more dynamically alive, more spacious, and more transparent than any other in-ear headphone I&rsquo;ve heard so far. With the iSine 10, Audeze completely reinvented the in-ear headphone. I&rsquo;m not exaggerating. While every other in-ear headphone uses dynamic or balanced armature drivers, the iSine 10 has planar magnetic drivers, the same thin-film driver technology Audeze uses with all of their on-, and very high-end over-the-ear headphones. The driver isn&rsquo;t the only unique design feature, though. The iSine 10&rsquo;s wild-looking earpieces are a good deal larger and designed in a completely different way than any other in-ear on the market.
Performance Build Quality Comfort Value PRICE $699 AT A GLANCE Plus Six balanced armature drivers Extreme comfort Two-year warranty Minus They don&rsquo;t look as expensive as they are THE VERDICT The Audiofly AF1120 is super comfortable and sounds effortlessly sweet and transparent. Audiofly may be a new name to you and me, but they started making headphones in Australia in 2012. The headphone that initially got the ball rolling, the AF78, was a hybrid in-ear with dynamic and balanced armature drivers that gained a following with musicians. Audiophile attraction came a bit later.