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
Velodyne makes subwoofers, great ones in fact, and the brand is now following a string of speaker manufacturers venturing into the headphone market: Klipsch, Polk, PSB speakers. Velodyne has just introduced a sharp looking in-ear headphone. It's called the vPulse, and I think they have a winner on their hands.
You'd expect that when a subwoofer company makes an in-ear headphone, the device would make a lot of bass, and the vPulse delivers on that score. The big bass drum that opens "Cindy, I'll Marry You Someday," from Robert Plant's "Band of Joy&… Read more
You've probably already read about the latest and greatest in smartphones, tablets, and OLED displays, so let's take a look at the coolest high-end audio goodies. We've assembled some of the most promising candidates for your approval.
The Arcam rPAC is a portable USB powered digital-to-analog converter and headphone amplifier, but it can also be played over a hi-fi system. "USB powered" means there are no batteries or "wall warts," it's powered by your computer's USB port. The entire component is enclosed in a small precision-cast aluminum case.
I've loved … Read more
Thinksound's awesome little ts02 in-ear headphones($100) knocked me out in March, so I was eager to hear the company's new model, the ms01.
It doesn't look a whole lot different than the ts02, but that's not a bad thing. Both models are smaller and more comfortable than most in-ears, and both block a good amount of external noise. Almost as much as a noise-canceling headphone, and unlike NC models, the ms01 doesn't run on batteries.