Most of the headphones I've tested over the years weren't designed to have a neutral balance of bass, midrange, and treble frequencies. Manufacturers are well aware that most people like bass, and that buyers tend to favor one headphone over another based on how much bass it produces. I think that's obvious, but a recent study cited in Brent Butterworth's blog countered that assumption. "The Relationship between Perception and Measurement of Headphone Sound Quality," a paper by Sean Olive and Todd Welti presented at last October's Audio Engineering Society convention found that a … Read more
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.
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
Red Wine Audio makes some of my all-time favorite headphone amplifiers, but they're pretty expensive. The Isabellina HPA LFP-V Edition, for example, runs $2,500; it was designed and built in Vinnie Rossi's small factory in Durham, Conn. The Isabellina is more than just a headphone amp, it features a spectacularly good digital-to-analog converter and a hybrid transistor/vacuum tube audio amplifier. While the amp can be run off an AC power outlet, it sounds best powered by its built-in 25.6 volt Lithium Iron Phosphate battery pack. The battery can play for up to 10 hours, and … Read more
I love high-end headphones. The best ones offer a level of detail and clarity that's hard to match with speakers.
Still, lot of folks never listen to headphones at home; for them headphones sound too small, too inside their heads, and they prefer the sound of speakers. Some of the better headphones, like the Sennheiser HD-800 and the Hifiman HE-5's produce sound that is somewhat less stuck inside the head, but even so they always sound like headphones. Now, with the Smyth Research Realiser A8 processor, headphones can sound like speakers. It's amazing!
Never heard of Smyth Research? Stephen Smyth of Smyth Research developed the algorithm that was later selected by Digital Theater Systems (DTS) for its cinema audio playback system that premiered with the Steven Spielberg's film, "Jurassic Park." Mr. Smyth seems to know his way around sound processing algorithms.
After spending some quality time listening through his Smyth Research Realiser A8, I can testify to its effectiveness. With the Realiser A8, room-filling sound was produced by headphones!
When I heard the Realiser A8 do surround for the first time, I whipped the headphones off in disbelief. Wow! The sound wasn't coming out of the surround speakers! The Realiser A8's spatial localization is 100-percent convincing. The system comes with a set of very-high-quality Stax SR-202 electrostatic headphones and a Stax headphone amplifier, but you can use any headphone with the Realiser A8.
I first listened to a demo of the Realiser A8 at a mastering studio and a few days later at home. In both cases the Realiser A8 processor worked very well. It stores data about the actual sound of the speakers in your room--or any room you take the processor to. Better yet, the Realiser A8 isn't limited to stereo reproduction, it can do full-blown five-, six-, or seven-channel surround. The extra cool aspect of that feature is that you can have the sound of your best stereo speakers reproduced in the front, center, and surround channels. The Realiser A8 seems ideal for two-channel audiophiles who previously avoided tackling home theater. With the Realiser A8, audiophiles can keep their two-channel system intact, and still have a satisfying home theater surround experience. It would also work for SACD and DVD-Audio high-resolution surround sound.
So the Realiser A8 produces vastly superior surround than Dolby Headphone, Beyerdynamic's 5.1-channel Headzone, or any prepackaged virtual surround headphone processor I've heard to date. There's a good reason for that: the Realiser A8 comes with a pair of tiny measurement microphones you place in your ears that document the unique characteristics of each listener's ears, head, and torso in a specific sound environment, like your room. Test tones are sequenced through the speakers for a couple of minutes, while the Realiser A8 performs the required calculations to reproduce the sound of the speakers in the room over headphones. … Read more
You can buy a set of great full-size headphones for $100 from Grado or Sennheiser, but if you want to pick up one of the world's best headphones, be prepared to spend more than $1,000. Granted, no one needs a $1,000 headphone to listen to music or a $140,000 Porsche Panamera Turbo sedan to drive to work, but they're nice things to have. That's why we cover them on CNET.
Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, Grado, and Ultrasone's latest attempts to advance the state-of-the-art are really expensive, but before the introduction of the T1, Beyerdynamic's top models all carried an MSRP of less than $400. With the Tesla T1, Beyerdynamic joined the $1,000-and-greater club; it sells for $1,295.
Steep prices haven't stopped the high-end headphone market from booming, and Beyerdynamic can't keep up with the demand for the T1. It's hand-built and tested in the company's headquarters in Heilbronn, Germany.
Its padded leather headband and soft earpads provide high comfort levels, and while we were testing the T1 over some rather hot and humid late spring days, the headphone remained comfy for hours on end. The T1 comes packed in a very impressive aluminum storage case.
According to Beyerdynamic, the T1's transducer is the first to produce more than one Tesla of magnetic flux density (hence the T1 designation). A more powerful magnet better controls the diaphragm's movement, which should produce lower distortion.
Most of the T1's outer earcup is covered with a finely woven wire mesh, which allows the user to hear outside sounds. Actually, the T1 is classified as a "semi-open" design, so it partially limits how much sound the wearer would hear, compared with open Sennheiser and Grado designs. The T1's thick cable is just shy of 10 feet long (118 inches) and it's fitted with a 6.3mm connector. Beyerdynamic doesn't include a 3.5mm adapter for use with iPods or other portable devices.
I listened to the T1 with three different amplifiers: an Onkyo TX-SR805 receiver, Woo Audio WA6-SE vacuum tube amp, and Burson Audio HA-160 solid-state headphone amp ($699). Beyerdynamic's headphone amp, the A1 ($849), would likely be a serious contender, but I didn't have a chance to try it. … Read more