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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 09, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Two-way hybrid dual-driver design
User-replaceable cables
Two-year warranty
Minus
Resolution no match for all-armature in-ear designs

THE VERDICT
The PSB Speakers M4U 4 blocks a good amount of external noise, feels comfy, and sounds sweet. What’s not to like?

PSB Speakers’ Paul Barton is a quick learner. After decades designing his company’s speakers, he jumped into headphones with the PSB M4U 2 full-size, noise-canceling ’phones. The M4U 2 was hailed by critics and consumers alike, and his next design for NAD, the Viso HP50, was even better, Barton was clearly on a roll. Now, with the M4U 4, Barton may be the first celebrated speaker designer to ever tackle crafting an in-ear headphone.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 14, 2006 0 comments
The sweet sounds of success.

Neil Young was on NPR chatting about his new movie, Heart of Gold, when he uttered a line that stuck with me: "The art of singing is making a sound that comes from your heart." Thanks Neil, I'm co-opting the idea to describe what distinguishes great home theater systems—their sound touches your heart. Yeah, that's it. While components are getting better all the time, many lack that special something. There's nothing obviously out of whack, it's just that their sound doesn't connect on an emotional level. Sometimes the individual components are all top notch, but, if they're not well matched to each other, the sound suffers. When everything clicks, you know it. That was certainly the case when I hooked up Marantz's SR8500 A/V receiver with a set of PSB's VisionSound VS300 speakers and SubSeries 5i subwoofer. They're all charmers.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 01, 2012 0 comments
The Acoustical Manufacturing Company’s Quad ESL-57 was the world’s first production full-range electrostatic speaker. It debuted in 1957 when hi-fi speakers were big boxes and used moving-coil drivers, so the ESL-57’s flat-panel, downright minimalist design not only looked like a radical advance, its thin-film diaphragm’s low-distortion and lightning-fast transient response sounded truly revelatory to 1950s audiophile ears. The speaker’s introduction came not so many years after the transition from 78-RPM records to higher-fidelity LPs took place. The market was primed for a more transparent transducer technology, and Quad had the best-sounding speaker of the age.
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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 16, 2012 13 comments
RCA's CT-100 may not have been the first consumer color TV in the U.S., Westinghouse's set beat it by a few weeks, but that model didn't sell in significant numbers. Both sets were on the market less than 100 days after the Federal Communications Commission finalized its standards for broadcasting color television.

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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: Sep 11, 2012 1 comments
The Sennheiser HD414 was a game changer in 1968. In those days hi-fi headphones were all big and bulky, closed-back designs, and the compact HD414 was the industry’s first “open aire,” on-ear (supra-aural) headphone. It looked, felt and sounded like nothing else and forecast the future direction of headphone sound.
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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 24, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Best-in-class sound
Minus
Bass sounds more full than accurate

THE VERDICT
One of the best-sounding in-ear headphones to come along in a long time. The IE 800 is a game changer.

I’ve heard most of the world’s best in-ear headphones, and frankly, those custom-molded models fitted to my ear canal from the likes of JH Audio, Ultimate Ears, and Westone regularly trump the universal-fit models. So before I popped on the Sennheiser IE 800, a universal-fit earphone, I wondered if the sound would justify its $1,000 MSRP. I shouldn’t have worried; the IE 800 is a game changer.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 22, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
New lossless wireless audio technology
Two-year warranty
Lightweight design
Minus
Wireless ’phones can’t play loud

THE VERDICT
The Sennheiser RS 185 raises the bar on audiophile-grade wireless headphone sound quality.

I’ve auditioned a number of wireless Sennheiser models over the years and was always satisfied with the sound. Sennheiser claims their latest ’phones are better than ever, and the RS 185 is the best sounding of the twelve wireless models the company currently offers. No other brand has as broad a range of wireless headphones, starting with the $99 Sennheiser RS 120.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 14, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Four balanced armature drivers
Customizable frequency response
User-replaceable cables
Minus
Not as good at isolating outside noise as custom in-ears

THE VERDICT
The SE846 combines state-of-the-art engineering with great musicality.

You guys know Shure; it’s best known as a microphone manufacturer, but millions of vinyl lovers have had long-term affairs with Shure’s phono cartridges. The company jumped into the earphone market in 1997 and focused on pro users—musicians and sound engineers—but audiophiles quickly got the word. Microphones, cartridges, and earphones have one thing in common: They’re all “transducers.” Microphones convert sound into electrical signals; cartridges convert groove wiggles into electrical signals; earphones convert electrical signals back into sound. The all-new SE846 reference-grade earphone was in development for four years.

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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.

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