I've covered a lot of great sounding budget gear this year, but the very best audio is far from cheap. That's hardly unique to high-end audio; the best cars, cameras, and clothes are always pricey, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that cutting-edge audio can be crazy expensive. What follows is a list of most astonishing gear I listened to this year. I love my job!
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.
All of the best sounding in-ear headphones I've tested over the years have been custom-molded to my ears models. Prices vary, but the $399 UE-4 was the least expensive, and most of the top-of-the-line models are more than $1,000. Those prices don't include the fee the audiologist charges to make molds of your ear canals, and the fees add $100 to the price of the headphones. Customs ensure a perfect fit, and the best isolation from external noise. Plus they can't fall out of your ears,
The great thing about headphones is that you can, with a bit of effort, find great-sounding models in every price range. True, the best expensive models definitely sound better, but my picks for the cheapest ones are still pretty awesome. In fact, the $89 Velodyne vPulse headphones are the ones I regularly used long after I wrote the review! There was something about the sound of the vPulse that had me coming back for more. I cover audiophile, in-ear, full-size, wireless, and noise-canceling headphones, and prices run from dirt-cheap to insanely expensive.
I haven't covered too many inexpensive earphones in this blog, mostly because I prioritize sound quality, and precious few under-$50 models cut it. The RHA MA450 really stands out in this crowded market, not just because it actually sounds pretty decent; the look and feel are outstanding and RHA sells the MA450 with a three-year warranty. Reid and Heath Acoustics products are designed at its research and development center in Glasgow, Scotland.
Build quality and features are exceptional for a $50 pair of in-ear headphones; the MA450 has machined aluminum earpieces, 10mm drivers, seven pairs of silicone eartips, … Read more
Since in-ear headphones sit in or near the ear canal, they don't interact with the pinna, the bends and curves of the outer ear that direct sound to the ear canal. The pinna also serves as an acoustic filter, enhancing the frequency range of human speech, and it also supplies directional cues, so we can localize where sound is coming from. That's how our ears and brains process sound in real life, but in-ear headphones don't interact with the pinna, so they can't sound as realistic as full-size headphones or speakers. In-ears can still sound great, … 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