Headphone Reviews

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Julie Mullins  |  Dec 31, 2021  |  17 comments
It had been a while since I'd done any serious, critical listening through headphones. That changed when Editor Jim Austin asked if I wanted to review the iFi Audio ZEN Signature Set ($599). Figuring I could use more Zen in my life, I agreed.

UK-based iFi Audio, which operates under the auspices of the Abbington Global Group, has released several compact products in its ZEN series: DACs, headphone amps, a Bluetooth receiver, and a network streamer.

Herb Reichert  |  Dec 23, 2021  |  11 comments
At noon on a cloudless, ridiculously bright 97° day, John Atkinson and I auditioned Audeze's new-but-not-yet-released CRBN electrostatic headphones. The audition took place at a sneak preview hosted by Audeze's principal, Sankar Thiagasamudram, in a sleeping room at New York's hipster-chic Ace Hotel on 29th Street and Broadway.
Herb Reichert  |  Oct 06, 2021  |  5 comments
Today is Monday. Since Saturday, I have changed the amplifier driving my Falcon Gold Badge LS3/5a speakers three times—from the Parasound Halo A21+ (250Wpc into 8 ohms) to the Pass Labs XA25 (>25Wpc into 8 ohms) to the Elekit TU-8600S (9Wpc into 8 ohms). Now I am listening to the Falcons via the just-arrived RAAL-requisite HSA-1b headphone and speaker amplifier. This unusual, made-in-Serbia amp is priced at $4500. It's specified to produce 10Wpc into 8 ohms, 20Wpc into 4 ohms, 40Wpc into 2 ohms, and 55Wpc into 1 ohm, these values from the loudspeaker output
Herb Reichert  |  Aug 24, 2021  |  24 comments
One summer afternoon in Brooklyn, after a sweaty too-long day doing construction, I stumbled upon a hi-fi shop I'd never noticed before. I thought, hmmm, I bet they have air conditioning.

Inside, the air was only marginally cooler, but before I could leave, an excessively happy salesman introduced himself. After a bit of low-level chit-chat, he asked me if I was into British audio. I told him I "Never heard of it."

John Atkinson  |  May 24, 2021  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2021  |  1 comments
The June 2021 issue of Stereophile included followup reviews of two recommended components, both which deserved further investigation of what they had to offer: the dCS Bartók D/A processor and the Schiit Audio Sol turntable.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 21, 2021  |  12 comments
In Schiit's words: "Measurements, schmeasurements! If you want measurements, we got measurements: the Magni Heresy's got you covered. But if you're ready to have some fun with something completely different, Vali 2+ is for you. Enjoy tube sound without tons of noise, play with different tubes without having to get a second mortgage for a matched quad, and see what this whole tube thing is all about!"
John Atkinson  |  Feb 15, 2021  |  5 comments
When Stereophile publishes a followup review in the print magazine, we add it as a "child page" to the website reprint of the original coverage. We have recently done so with three significant products: the Magico M2 loudspeaker, the Linear Tube Audio Z10e tubed headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, and the Okto Research dac8 PRO multichannel D/A processor.
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 26, 2021  |  27 comments
What I categorize as mainstream, dealer-based, fancy-pants streamers and big-speakers audio is actually only the gold-plated tip of a gigantic asteroid-like monolith that extends (underground) from New York to Hong Kong, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica.
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 20, 2021  |  33 comments
I am certain the quality of life I live is determined by two factors: who and what I give my attentions to, and my ability to observe all that I encounter with an open mind. This approach to living has served me well—especially during this review of the Benchmark Media Systems HPA4 headphone amplifier ($2999).
Herb Reichert  |  Sep 30, 2020  |  10 comments
"Future generations will be able to condense into the brief space of twenty minutes the tone pictures of a lifetime—five minutes of childish prattle, five moments embalming the last feeble utterances from the death-bed. Will this not seem like holding veritable communion with immortality?"—Berliner Gramophone Company ca 1877
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 02, 2020  |  30 comments
Today is March 22, 2020. Outside my door, the plague is gaining intensity. People are wearing masks and rubber gloves. But outside the window by my desk, there is a Callery pear tree, and every day its blossoms are becoming more intensely white. Each day its brightness (measured in units of luminous flux) increases noticeably. The optical radiance of its zillion-petal whiteness illuminates the whole garden.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 02, 2020  |  11 comments
Almost a year ago, a headphone pal loaned me the Zach Mehrbach–designed ZMF Auteur LTD headphones. He said, "Herb, see if you like these." I took them home and right away thought, Wow, these headphones really disappear!

Nothing about their sound attracted my attention. The only thing I noticed, casually, was how relaxed and unbelievably transparent they were.

Herb Reichert  |  Jan 08, 2020  |  31 comments
Tell me now: When you're there in the scene, watching Lord Voldemort chase Han Solo through the Cave of the Klan Bear, how often do you notice that the sounds you're experiencing are being pumped at you from five black-painted room boundaries, while the flickering-light images approach from only one? Moreover, in a parallel, more quotidian reality, you're sitting upright in your seat, noisily chomping popcorn while absorbing—and processing—massive amounts of sensory data: Did you ever consider the sensual, mechanical, and psychological complexity of a moment like this, and how fundamentally unnatural it is?
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 04, 2019  |  9 comments
My current romance with audiophile-quality headphones began in earnest with the appearance, about 10 years ago, of Audeze's LCD-2 planar-magnetic headphones—these predated the company's patented Fazor elements, said to guide the sound around the transducers' magnet structures—and Schiit Audio's original Asgard headphone amplifier. Together, these groundbreaking products rekindled my interest by making headphone listening into something new and exciting—something less distorted, more dynamic, denser, and more intensely lifelike than what I was getting from my speakers on the floor. Best of all, I could listen while lying in bed with my eyes closed.
Herb Reichert  |  May 23, 2019  |  3 comments
Every time I review a digital-to-analog converter, my memory drifts to the spring of 1983, when the first Compact Discs arrived at Tower Records in New York City. They appeared in the opera section. Sitting next to big, thick boxed sets of opera LPs, these new discs looked truly compact. A few months later, boxed sets of popular opera LPs, in almost untouched condition, began selling in the Tower Annex for $1/disc.

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