Headphone Reviews

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Art Dudley  |  Aug 25, 2016  |  7 comments
Approximately 331/3 years after AudioQuest's first phono cartridge, the company announced two new USB D/A headphone amplifiers: the DragonFly Black ($99) and the DragonFly Red ($199). Both have circuits designed by the engineer responsible for the original DragonFly—Gordon Rankin, of Wavelength Audio—and both have the novel distinction of requiring considerably less operating power than their predecessors, so much less that the new DragonFlys can be used with iPhones, iPads, and various other mobile devices.
Tyll Hertsens  |  Aug 18, 2016  |  0 comments
This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

I had only two days with a pre-production Ether Flow before my house was invaded by the French. I was quite enjoying the pre-production Flow, but the Focal Elear and Utopia turned my world upside down. By the time Dan Clark, CEO and Founder of Mr. Speakers, sent the production unit my world was in a bit of an uproar. Though I didn't mention them, the Flow was ever present in my listening tests...it kept whispering to me, "It's not about "The Best" anymore, it's about character."

Tyll Hertsens  |  Aug 08, 2016  |  0 comments
This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

And then, at 21 second in, right after she sings, "When God gave out rhythm...", two chords are gently played on the piano. My goodness, I've never heard such sensitively percussive, harmonically rich, filled with weight and substance sound from a piano. Most astonishing is the interplay of tones, harmonics, and intermodulation making the whole of the chord a rich textured wave of sound. I was transfixed until track's end.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Jul 28, 2016  |  0 comments
This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

THIS is what a $1000 headphone should be. Unapologetically masculine styling...and sexy; confidently strutting exquisite materials and build-quality; and delivering sound of a quality I've not heard before on any headphone. It walked in my office, swept all the headphones off my desk in one grand gesture, and said, "Here I am. Deal with it."

Tyll Hertsens  |  Jul 22, 2016  |  0 comments
This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

"Value packed" is not a word I typically use to describe a headphone. I really thought the Beyerdynamic DTX 350 m was great for the money; definitely a good value...but not packed with value. Sennheiser's HD 600 is an extraordinary value...but no carry case; doesn't have a mic/remote; isn't useful portably. Still a great headphone and an extraordinary value, but packed with value? Okay, maybe. HD 800 S? Great headphone, but no friggen way anything over $700 is "value packed." The Quiet Comfort 35, on the other hand? Oh yeah, this thing will be a delightful traveling companion with technological, comfort, convenience, and solid sound quality characteristics abundantly.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Jul 15, 2016  |  0 comments
This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

Were it not for the fact that I'm about to tell you so, there's nothing that would clue you in: The Beyerdynamic DTX 350 m ($59) looks about like any cheap plastic headphone you might run across at WalMart...but beauty runs deep with this one. Check it out.

Dick Olsher, J. Gordon Holt, John Atkinson  |  Jul 12, 2016  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1984  |  0 comments
Stax Kogyo, a small audio company by Japanese standards, has been for the past 15 years steadfastly refining and redefining the electrostatic headphone. The SR-Lambda Pro is their current flagship model, and at a 1984 US list price of $780 it also represents a very substantial investment in headphone technology.
John Atkinson  |  Jul 06, 2016  |  First Published: May 01, 1991  |  4 comments
I do quite a bit of headphone listening during the day, making use of their convenience to shut out the office hubbub while I get down to serious copy editing. The system I use is modest—a pair of no-longer-available Sennheiser HD420SLs driven by an Advent 300 receiver I bought for $75, with CD source provided by a Denon DCD-1500 II—but I get quite a bit of musical satisfaction from it.
Tyll Hertsens  |  Jul 02, 2016  |  0 comments
This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

Originating with the Foster OEM design (model 443741, page H-4 of this .pdf) and seeing the light of day first as the Denon AD-H1001, then the Creative Aurvana Live! (CAL!), this model has now been refreshed as the E-Mu Walnut. This is a lovely example of a company—in this case Creative Technologies in the form of its subsidiary company E-Mu Systems—recognizing they have a solid-performer on their hands, and incrementally improving it. I wish I saw this more often.

John Atkinson  |  Jun 21, 2016  |  4 comments
Life is too short to put up with poor-sounding headphones, I mused the other morning, during my 60-minute commute on the NYC subway. All around me, straphangers gripped smartphones and listened to multicolored Beats, noise-canceling Boses, white Apple earbuds, and, only rarely, Sennheisers and Grados.
John Atkinson  |  Jun 16, 2016  |  3 comments
When Pass Labs is mentioned, it's natural to think of its founder, iconic engineer Nelson Pass. But Nelson heads a team of engineers at the California company: Their XP-30 preamplifier, which I enthusiastically reviewed in April 2013, was designed by Wayne Colburn; and the subject of this review, the HPA-1 headphone amplifier, is the first Pass Labs product designed by Jam Somasundram, former director of engineering for Cary Audio. Somasundram joined Pass Labs in July 2013; he spent a year working on the HPA-1, which was shown at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, but not formally launched until the 2016 CES, at a hefty $3500.
Jon Iverson  |  May 25, 2016  |  5 comments
I first spied the Ayre Codex two Januarys ago, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, and its scrappy proletarian vibe sure made it look different from any other Ayre creation. On learning that its price would be well under $2000, I was immediately curious what Charley Hansen and his gang—makers of the $3450 QB-9DSD USB digital-to-analog converter, plus a few five-figure amps and preamps—could create when cost is an object.
Tyll Hertsens  |  May 20, 2016  |  0 comments
This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

One of the things that, it seems to me, separates headphone enthusiasts from traditional audiophiles is an interest in good inexpensive stuff, or devices with unusual utility. Think Koss Porta Pros or the Riva Turbo X. The Porta Pro has been delivering excellent sound quality for its very low $49 price for decades and for decades headphone enthusiasts have been praising their worth. And when the Riva Turbo X Bluetooth speaker showed up at CanJam a year or so ago, headphone hobbyists embraced it immediately as a great sounding portable speaker. These are cool little gadgets, and it seems to me headphone enthusiasts are more than willing to have a good hard look at them....no matter the cost.

Jim Austin  |  May 19, 2016  |  3 comments
I was lying on a mattress on the floor of an empty apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Not as grim as it sounds—it's a nice apartment, and the mattress was new, and had just been delivered—but it was hot (no air-conditioning), and my family and my furniture were still in my condo up in Maine, and I was lonely. I needed some cheering up. Which is how I rationalized the decision to buy an Explorer2, Meridian Audio's tiny, inexpensive ($299) digital-to-analog converter.
Tyll Hertsens  |  May 06, 2016  |  0 comments
This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

First, how in the hell do you make a pair of headphones, distribute it to retailers, and have it shipped overnight to your house for $20!? I shake my head; how can this be? Well, the answer, of course, is economies of scale. And with 312,000,000 headphones sold world-wide annually, there's plenty of scale in that economy.

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