1964 Ears makes custom-molded, in-ear headphones, just like Ultimate Ears, JH Audio, and Westone, but 1964 Ears is a relative newcomer. It has to try harder than the more established brands, so 1964 Ears offers a wider array of customizable features and service options than the others. Prices start a little lower, at $350 for the 1964-D, and $650 for the top-of-the-line model I'm reviewing here today, the 1964-V6. That's significantly less expensive than the established brands' flagships.
With most speakers or headphones, you're stuck with the designer's sound, but with the Logitech UE Personal Reference Monitors (PRM) you get to play headphone designer and dial in exactly the sound you want.
Each pair is totally unique; they're built with the individually designed equalization curves you selected. My PRMs sound absolutely amazing, but I'm a little biased, I designed them to please my ears! Every PRM buyer will do the same, and if they totally screw up and hate the result, Ultimate Ears will give them another try. Each PRM set is handmade in UE's facilities in California.
The price for this level of customization doesn't come cheap, though; the Personal Reference Monitors sell for $1,999. That's extreme, but so are $285,000 luxury cars. I cover the full gamut of audio, from affordable to the craziest expensive gear. … Read more
I'm a lucky guy; audio companies keep asking me to check out their gear, and that's not a bad way to make a living. Before you get too jealous, I have to listen to a lot of crap to find the good stuff. There's a lot of shipping to and fro, and that's not a fun part of my work. Every now and then something really special arrives, and that makes it all worthwhile.
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
Westone started out in the late 1950s making custom molds for hearing aids and ear protection devices. Once I learned that little factoid I wasn't surprised to hear Westone was the first to introduce custom-molded in-ear headphones in 1993.
This is my first Westone review, so I'm starting with its best headphone, the Elite Series ES5 Musicians' Monitor ($950). The company offers a range of more affordable universal-fit in-ear headphones, like the UM-1 ($109).
I hope to soon do a follow-up review with a universal-fit Westone to better describe the sonic differences between universal and custom-molded in-ear designs.
For now I will say that no universal in-ear headphone from Etymotic, Monster, Shure, Ultimate Ears, etc. has anywhere near the sound-isolating capabilities of custom-fit designs. I always hear more detail, overall clarity, and upper treble air and delicacy with custom-fitted in-ear headphones because those sounds aren't masked by noise. The ES5 is handcrafted at Westone's factory in Colorado Springs, Colo. … Read more
Ultimate Ears' new Reference Monitor in-ear headphone is a very different take on the state of the art. UE collaborated with EMI Music's Capitol Studios to design this headphone for recording, mixing, and mastering engineers. The UE engineers submitted a number of prototypes to Capitol and other beta testers for feedback before arriving at the finished Reference Monitor. I'm no engineer, but I think the Reference Monitor is the best, most accurate-sounding in-ear headphone I've heard to date.
Right, I know some of you must be thinking, aren't all headphones designed to be accurate? Once you … Read more