The ALO Island is a USB-powered digital audio converter/headphone amplifier, and it's a honey! Functionally, it's not so different than many of the other USB digital converter/amps I've covered on this blog, but it's a bit bigger. The others are about the size of a thumbdrive; the Island is a 1.25x1.25x3.25-inch aluminum "brick," but it's still small enough to be considered a portable device. It handles low- and high-resolution files, up to 192kHz/24-bit. The Island sells for $299 in the US direct from the ALO Web site, … Read more
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.
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.
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
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That has to be one of our favorite expressions here at CNET, and the hearing professionals who head up Westone clearly abide by it. In 2006, we got our hands on the company's only two pairs of consumer earphones--the UM1 and the UM2--both of which received high marks for their good looks, comfortable fit, and excellent sound quality. Rather than toy with two winning products, the company has added a third headphone to the lineup, the ultrahigh-end Westone 3 True Fit Earphones ($399). These super sweet-sounding headphones are pricey … Read more
Breaking things--that's what the very bright and super curious do; they look beyond the obvious to see what's truly lurking beneath the surface. On Wednesday and Thursday, attendees at Black Hat D.C. 2008 got a window into the latest research being done on Web applications, wireless, and embedded technologies.
On Wednesday, researchers David Hulton and "Steve" showed how with about $1,000 with of equipment they can decrypt A5/1 cellular GSM traffic in less than a hour. Following that, Adam Laurie reprised his popular RFIDiots talk from last year's Black Hat briefings with … Read more