It was probably 10 years ago when I heard my first custom headphones, and I couldn't get over the sound. It was an Ultimate Ears UE-5 model, and the level of detail was so much better than any previous headphones I'd tried. The custom earpieces' superior noise-isolation dividends were also part of the appeal, because as the background noise level goes down, the apparent detail goes up. With less environmental noise overpowering the subtle/quiet details in the music, I could listen at lower volume levels. Once you've experienced what custom-molded headphones can do, it's hard … Read more
Head-Fi is a national headphone club, and I went to the local meeting in Babylon, N.Y., last Saturday.
The vibe was friendly, and it was great to hear Head-Fi members' home-built gear, but there were a few surprises popping up from the headphone and electronics manufacturers in attendance.
Logitech Ultimate Ears' Personal Reference Monitor in-ear headphones feature a new twist on custom-molded-to-your-ears headphone design. Lots of brands now make custom in-ear headphones, and Logitech's have been among my favorites for years, but the upcoming Personal Reference Monitor takes the personalization to the next level. Once your ear canals' &… Read more
Today's episode of The 404 is a valuable resource for anyone obsessed with headphones -- classic audiophiles, young audiophiliacs, musicians, producers, and casual listeners will all benefit from Steve Guttenberg's knowledge, and he brought a friend! Tyll Hertsens is largely credited for creating the first portable headphone amp and currently the editor-in-chief of InnerFidelity.
With Tyll's help, we'll run through the differences between on-ear and in-ear headphones, give credit to two companies responsible for introducing high-quality headphones to the next generation of audiophiles, and we'll even spend a little time dissecting the criteria for what makes a headphone "sound good."… Read more
I wrote a very favorable review of the Velodyne vPulse in-ear headphones a few months ago, but for one reason or another I'm still listening to the vPulse. Not exclusively, I listen to my own headphones and headphones I'm reviewing, of course, but there's something about the vPulse that still draws me in.
Part of the appeal is comfort; it's exceptional in that regard, and most of my vPulse listening time is on the New York subway. At home the vPulse has too much bass, but the quality of the bass is so good I don'… Read more
I love the noise-blocking isolation a good set of in-ear headphones provides, but the trick lies in getting the best possible seal. Sure, most headphones come with a selection of three or more silicone, foam, or Comply eartips. I recommend trying on as many tips as you can, and see which set provides the best possible fit. Once you have achieved that, you'll have the maximum isolation from environmental noise, optimum bass response, and the right tip will likely provide the most secure fit, making the earpieces less likely to accidentally fall out. The problem I'm talking about … Read more
First a confession: a lot of audiophile speakers can't rock out. They're "voiced" to sound best with acoustic jazz or classical music. Nothing wrong with that, but when you want to party some of them can't cut loose. The new GoldenEar Technology Aon 3 is very much an audiophile-oriented design, so sure, it sounded clear and clean playing Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue."
But what really made me sit up and take notice was the way the Aon 3 knocked out the Drive-By Truckers "Go-Go Boots" album. This CD sounds like … Read more
Sound-quality advances in headphone design show no sign of slowing down, and even old names like Philips and Sony are getting serious about making great-sounding headphones. Sadly, those brands aren't attempting to make anything that could be compared with the world's best, like the JH-3A headphone/amplifier system, from JH Audio.
That company's founder and designer, Jerry Harvey, started building in-ear monitors for rock bands in 1995. He counts Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, Aerosmith, Foreigner, and Linkin Park as customers. Harvey is currently with the Van Halen tour--the band uses his 'phones onstage--and Harvey uses their feedback to improve his designs.
The JH-3A is an amplifier/in-ear headphone system, with analog and digital inputs with up to 24-bit resolution and 96kHz sampling rates. I've used portable headphone amplifiers before, and they can sound great with all types of headphones, but the JH-3A takes in-ear headphone performance to another level.… Read more
I have to admit I never really bought into noise-canceling headphones.
The name was a turnoff, they don't really cancel or eliminate noise, they reduce noise--and that's great--but so do most in-ear headphones. Better yet, those headphones don't need batteries and don't run the music signals through the noise-canceling electronics. My favorite isolating headphones sound better than noise-canceling headphones, but I haven't tested a noise-canceling headphone for a long time.
I'm hoping the whole celebrity-branded headphone shtick will soon run its course, but I have to admit Monster's new Earth Wind & Fire Gratitude in-ear headphones are pretty spectacular.
Earth, Wind & Fire was one of the most popular funk bands of the 1970s, so naturally they were primed to attach their name to a headphone. That's fine, but I have to judge a headphone on its build and sound quality, and the Gratitude is a very decent headphone indeed. The heavy gold accents on the earpieces were a little gaudy for my taste, but that's … Read more
Twenty-eight years after their debut, the Koss Porta Pro over-ear headphones finally get a push into the 21st century with the Porta Pro KTC, a new model sporting a three-button remote control for navigating tracks on iOS and (some) Android devices.
Porta purists will be happy to hear that the skin and guts of the headphones haven't changed aside from the addition of the remote. The earcups are still secured to your head by a thin steel headband that adjusts with two sliders that tighten and loosen the tension--Koss calls this the "Comfort Zone."
The Porta Pros continue to earn a spot on CNET's Best 5 headphones list partly for their throwback design, and partly because these cans continue offering worthy sonic competition to modern headphones, even after 28 years.
According to Koss, "neodymium iron boron rare-earth magnet structures" handle output in a 15-25,000Hz frequency range. That first part sounds like marketing fluff, but having used these as my personal pair for the last three years, I'm confident marking these as the headphones to beat in the sub-$50 category.… Read more