Alpha Design Labs by Furutech ADL-H118 headphones and X1 portable headphone amp

Partnered with ADL’s Esprit preamp/headphone amp/USB DAC-ADC and playing FLAC files via Foobar from a Sony Vaio laptop, the handsome, lightweight, and comfortable Alpha Design Labs’ ADL-H118 headphone ($299) produced very fine sound. The system conveyed Diana Krall’s “Este Seu Olhar” with a great sense of intimacy and space: Krall’s vocals sounded as if whispered into my ear. Listening to “My Foolish Heart,” the opening track from Bill Evans Trio’s Waltz for Debby, I heard a piano with the proper sparkle and clang, cymbals with the right amount of sizzle and splash, and bass that was tight and musical. The overall result was a sound that was smooth yet dynamic—very easy to listen to and enjoy.

Meanwhile, ADL’s X1 fits in the palm of a hand and combines headphone amplifier with ESS Sabre ES9023 USB DAC. The X1 supports iOs and Android operating systems at resolutions up to 16-bit/48kHz via its USB A socket, while its USB Mini-B socket and 3.5mm optical output (the latter making the X1 compatible with a dedicated hi-fi) are said to handle all resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz.

Listening to James Blake’s “Limit to Your Love,” I heard a very natural bass sound and dead silent backgrounds. The X1 will be available in metallic white, silver, blue, black, and red finishes, and will cost around $550. Look for it this March.