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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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Steve Guttenberg Posted: 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.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 13, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
50mm biocellulose drivers
Liquid wood ear cups
Deliciously comfortable
Minus
Cable much too long for portable use

THE VERDICT
NightHawk’s use of sustainable materials, high comfort, and sweet sound bode well for AudioQuest’s debut headphone.

Everything about the AudioQuest NightHawk headphone, from its materials, design, and sound, differs from what came before. Take a gander at those ear cups: They’re made from something called Liquid Wood. Don’t worry, they’re not the least bit squishy or soft. The cups are crafted from sustainable plant fibers that are liquefied and precision injection-molded. Then their insides are elastomer-coated to minimize resonance. The ear cups also feature a 3D-printed grille, inspired by the underlying structure of butterfly wings, and the grilles are said to reduce the cups’ internal reflections.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 31, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,190

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Hybrid dynamic/electrostatic design
Brilliant high-resolution sound!
Wide open imaging
Minus
The relatively stiff cable is kinky

THE VERDICT
The EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000 seamlessly melds dynamic and electrostatic drivers to produce ultra high-resolution sound.

Even though I was hearing good reports from friends about the EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000 hybrid electrostatic/dynamic headphone, I was still more than a bit skeptical about how successful the blending of its two drivers could be. AKG made hybrid dynamic/electrostatic headphones in the late 1970s. I auditioned a pair just a few years ago and heard the electrostatic tweeter and dynamic driver as two separate sound sources. Thankfully, the Dharma D1000 aced the blend—the two drivers sound like one.

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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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 29, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $2,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Luxurious design
Extraordinarily spacious sound
Advanced nano-thin planar magnetic drivers
Minus
A big, definitely not-so-portable headphone
Crazy expensive

THE VERDICT
The HiFiman HE1000 is pricey, but it sounds so clear and open other headphones sound dull and drab by comparison.

What? $2,999 for headphones? Can they be worth it? Yes, and yes. It’s not just that the Hifiman HE1000 sounds more transparent, spacious, and dynamic than other headphones: With the HE1000, music arrives more intact—there’s more there there.

The Hifiman HE1000’s open quality makes you realize not all open-back headphones sound equally open. You don’t have to be an engineer to understand why: Just look at the HE1000 ear cups’ thin horizontal blades that minimize reflections to a remarkable degree and expose most of the back surface of the diaphragm to the air.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 18, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High-resolution sound
Planar magnetic drivers
Made in the U.S.
Minus
Lacks mic and phone controls

THE VERDICT
The Audeze EL-8 may be the first planar magnetic headphone sensitive enough to come alive with portable music players.

I’ve reviewed a lot of headphones, but I’ve never encountered anything quite like the Audeze EL-8 before. It’s the first high-end planar magnetic headphone to come alive and sound fully transparent with portable music players. Now, sure, we’ve heard similar claims for other high-performance, full-size headphones; and yes, they play, but too much of the headphone’s potential is forfeited with portable devices. The EL-8 sounds scary good with my humble little iPod classic.

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