HEADPHONE REVIEWS

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Steve Guttenberg  |  Jun 29, 2017  |  1 comments

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’s sound quality definitely ups the ante for budget-priced in-ear headphones.

The Monoprice TripleXXX may be the most affordable headphone I’ve ever reviewed for Sound & 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’t in reviewing mode and just listening to the TripleXXX for fun. That says a lot about these headphones, so don’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.

Mark Fleischmann  |  May 03, 2016  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
384/32 and DSD256
Eight-stage power supply
Doubles as stereo preamp
Minus
Black, boxy styling
Tricky sampling-rate LEDs

THE VERDICT
The Moon by Simaudio Neo 230HAD is a state-of-the-art headphone amplifier/DAC that has a healthy, and sometimes transformative, effect on whatever headphones you plug into it.

Like the rest of us, headphones have dreams and aspirations. They know they have to start out small with whatever phone, computer, or AVR comes to hand. But they dream of something better—of an amp and DAC tailored just for their needs. In short, they long for their dream home. If you’ve invested in a good pair of headphones, wouldn’t it be cruel to make your cans sleep on a sofabed in a basement when they deserve more headroom, more purity, the freedom to be the best they can be? The Moon by Simaudio Neo 230HAD just might be the dream home they’re hoping for.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Jan 09, 2017  |  0 comments
While traversing the CES show floor, listening to products is usually an exercise in futility - nothing sounds good with so much chaos around you, and who has time to stop and really listen to anything? Amidst the noise of this CES, however, taking a moment to slip on a pair of the new MrSpeakers ETHER Flow headphones was an escape into musical paradise, and one of the best listening experiences I’ve had in Vegas in years.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Aug 31, 2017  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Closed-back, planar magnetic design
Made in San Diego, California
Beautifully balanced sound
Minus
Non-standard connectors on the earcups

THE VERDICT
The Aeon are a game changer for MrSpeakers. Their least expensive headphones might be their most accomplished design.

I meet a lot of audiophiles who flat out refuse to give headphones a chance. They go on about the headphones they bought in college when Michael Jackson released Thriller and won’t even try the new breed of ’phones. This one here, the MrSpeakers Aeon, might be the headphones that turn them around. The complete package—the sound, the shape, the smooth feel of the carbon fiber earcups, the luxuriously thick earpads, and best of all, the price—might win over even the most curmudgeonly of resistors.

Steve Guttenberg  |  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.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Jun 14, 2017  |  0 comments

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’re expensive

THE VERDICT
The MrSpeakers Ether Flow headphones combine clarity with an effortless, non-fatiguing sound that ensures long-term satisfaction.

I’ve always been into headphones, starting with my longlost Sennheiser HD 414 in the early 1970s. I love ’phones, and they keep getting better and better, but I get a lot of pushback from audiophile pals who aren’t yet ready to take the plunge. When asked about what’s holding them back, they complain about comfort and sound that feels crammed inside their heads. Sure, but that was then. It’s time to listen to some of the best new ’phones to hear what’s happening now. Take the new MrSpeakers Ether Flow: It’s so open and spacious, the sound seems to come from around your head!

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 02, 2014  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Well-balanced sound
Space-saving footprint
XLR and RCA outputs
Minus
No data rate conversion
Incomplete sampling indicators

THE VERDICT
NAD’s D 1050 is a well-rounded DAC and headphone amp with outputs to feed a stereo preamp or receiver.

NAD’s D 1050 USB DAC, to use its official name, is one of a trio of products introduced at the same time. Like the D 7050 Direct Digital Network Amplifier ($999) and D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier ($499), it includes a headphone amp and USB DAC. Unlike those two products, it doesn’t directly drive a pair of speakers—only your humble cans and the analog inputs of an audio system. However, its shape and design are similar to that of the other two products, building their digital-to-analog and preamp guts into a smaller package.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Mar 23, 2016  |  0 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.

Steve Guttenberg  |  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?

Brent Butterworth  |  Jan 04, 2012  |  0 comments

Mention noise-cancelling headphones and most people think of large, over-ear models like the Bose QC15. Comfy as those big cans can be, they’re waaaay too big to slip into a pocket or purse. But not all noise-cancelling headphones come in cases sized like jumbo donuts at the State Fair. In fact, a few manufacturers have added noise-cancelling technology to their in-ear monitors (IEMs), using a little “lump in the line” to house the needed electronics.

One might fairly ask, though: Do IEMs really need noise cancelling? After all, when used with tips that fit your ears properly, IEMs completely seal off your ear canals. However, IEMs do most of their noise-blocking at frequencies above 1 kHz. Below that, they’re not so effective at keeping the noise out.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Feb 04, 2014  |  0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $150

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dynamic and balanced armature drivers
All-metal earpieces
Tangle-free, flat cable
Minus
Zippy highs
May not suit audiophile tastes

THE VERDICT
The Om Audio InEarPeace may stray too far from neutrality for some, but it’s definitely not boring!

Om Audio is the recent brainchild of a select group of consumer electronics, audio, and technology professionals, including former staff members from Dolby, Velodyne, and Gracenote. While Om’s InEarPeace in-ear monitor looks pretty standard, it features a rather unusual two-way driver complement, with a 10mm bass driver and a midrange/tweeter balanced armature driver in each all-metal earpiece. Nice!

Steve Guttenberg  |  Oct 24, 2013  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $179

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean styling
Neutral and highly accurate sound
Looks more expensive than it is
Minus
Could have more headband padding

THE VERDICT
Onkyo’s debut outing in the headphone market is near perfect.

We are living in a golden age for headphones. New models and even types of headphones are announced, and a month or two later, there’s another deluge. The waves of entry-level, midrange, and high-end models never let up. But even in the midst of headphone mania, Onkyo’s ES-HF300 distinguishes itself on a number of counts. I’m happy to see that rather than take the shiny plastic design route, the ES-HF300 sports brushed, black anodized aluminum construction, and it looks thoroughly modern and yet classic.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Oct 31, 2014  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,099

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Planar technology
Rich sound
Understated good looks
Minus
Voicing too rich for some
Crosses the $1K barrier

THE VERDICT
Oppo’s first headphone, the PM-1, uses a planar diaphragm to produce a luxuriously warm sound that becomes addicting on its own terms.

There once was a piano tuner named Opporknockity. A customer asked him to re-tune a piano he’d done the week before. “Sorry,” he replied, “Opporknockity only tunes once.” Luckily for consumers, Oppo Digital isn’t as stingy as Opporknockity. You can buy all the Oppo products you want.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 26, 2016  |  1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Planar diaphragms
Smooth, sweet, high-res sound
Long and short cables supplied
Minus
Not as airy as some competitive ’phones

THE VERDICT
Planar headphones don’t come cheap, but the Oppo PM-2 is a relatively affordable specimen that sounds beautiful with a variety of content and signal sources.

Planar magnetic headphones have potential advantages over conventional dynamic headphones. Their flat diaphragms have magnets evenly spread across them, driving the entire surface, as opposed to a single coil driving the center of a diaphragm. The result can be greater resolution and phase coherence. But that potential performance edge comes at a price. So headphone fans rejoiced when Oppo—which won positive reviews for its $1,099 PM-1—introduced the PM-2, with some of the same features, at a more affordable price of $699, followed by the even more affordable PM-3 ($399). I’ve been spending much of the past year or so listening to the PM-2.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Jun 20, 2016  |  2 comments
Every week a new pair of wireless Bluetooth earphones seem to appear on my doorstep. Usually, I have to take a long, hard look to find anything noteworthy to make one pair stand out from the others. The newly updated NuForce BE6i earphones feature aptX technology for better playback quality and that, my friends, is noteworthy enough.

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