The ALO Island is a USB-powered digital audio converter/headphone amplifier, and it's a honey! Functionally, it's not so different than many of the other USB digital converter/amps I've covered on this blog, but it's a bit bigger. The others are about the size of a thumbdrive; the Island is a 1.25x1.25x3.25-inch aluminum "brick," but it's still small enough to be considered a portable device. It handles low- and high-resolution files, up to 192kHz/24-bit. The Island sells for $299 in the US direct from the ALO Web site, … Read more
Bass-emphasized headphones are now the norm, so much so that when I get to listen to more accurate headphones they really stand out. Not that I have anything against bass, readers of this blog who crave feel-it-in-your-bones bass had their turn with the JBL Synchros S700 headphones, so now it's time to go for a higher-resolution/clarity model with the new Phiaton Fusion MS 430 M-Series headphones ($179).
The earcups' carbon fiber inserts are a sleek styling touch, but the ear cushion's comfort levels are good, not great. While the headband padding may be a little lean for … Read more
If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that most people like bass, and they like more bass even more. I suppose JBL engineers know the same thing, and they made sure the new Synchros S700 over-the ear, closed-back headphones deliver incredibly deep bass.
Designwise, JBL avoided the slick, plastic look of Beats and other fashion-oriented 'phones. The Synchros S700's precision die-cast aluminum earcups look like they mean business, and the headband is steel-reinforced, so the headphones feel really solid. One other reason for that is the headband isn't hinged, so while it … Read more
I remember the very first Woo Audio headphone amp I heard five years ago; it was the $520 WA-3, and they still make it. The little amp made a strong impression because it so radically improved the sound of Grado headphones. That amp transformed Grados, gave them more soul, more body, and sweetness. I've reviewed a number of Woo products over the years, but the new WA-234 Mono is a very different beast. First, it is as the name implies, a monophonic design, so you need two amps for stereo. The other big difference is that these tube amps … Read more
Leaked from today's 404 episode:
- Bad Beats: Why was the original Beats Studio headphone so popular?
- Why is the engineer who recorded Nirvana still using analog tape?
- 40 Bowers & Wilkins speakers and the art of sound.
Does it make sense to buy fancy headphones?
If your answer was a rousing "yes!", you'll be glad to know that "fancy" doesn't have to mean "expensive" -- not today, anyway. While supplies last, DealFisher has the Logitech UE 6000 noise-cancelling headphones for $99.99 shipped. They list for $199.99 and sell elsewhere for at least $140.
These are factory-refurbished headphones, but DealFisher says they're in "new/excellent" condition and is going so far as to offer a full 365-day warranty. In other words, although Logitech typically would … Read more
There's no denying the Beats by Dre Studio's success, and how it so radically changed the headphone landscape. No other headphone manufacturer could have imagined that it could sell millions of $300 headphones to non-audiophiles. Before Beats those buyers were content with cheap and utterly disposable headphones, headphones that all too often would stop working in a few months, get thrown away, and get replaced with another set of cheap headphones. Of course, those cheap headphones sounded pretty bad, so moving up to the Studio meant the sound was a revelation! Bass, dynamics, and treble detailing were so … Read more
When I first reviewed the 1964 Ears V6 custom in-ear headphones earlier this year I not only loved the sound, I got the distinct feeling the company tries harder to please its customers than other custom in-ear makers. For example, 1964 Ears V6-Stage headphones are sold with a longer warranty (two years) and lower prices than the flagship models from more established high-end headphone competitors. 1964 Ears doesn't make universal-fit in-ear headphones, all of their designs are custom-molded to your ears for the best possible fit and maximum isolation from external noise. The headphones are hand-crafted by 1964 Ears … Read more
If you're the clubbing type, then you know that feeling of standing on a dance floor with the bass vibrations rolling through your body. It's hard to capture that sort of sensation at home or with headphones on. The BassAware holster on Kickstarter translates the musical low-end into a visceral body experience.
The harness-style device is worn around your shoulders to position a tactile transducer at the center of your upper back. It turns bass notes into vibrations, so you feel the bass through your body. It works with any headphones or audio device. Pockets on the front hold your smartphone or wallet.… Read more