Earphones Reviews

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Tai Ming Sow Posted: Nov 29, 2011 25 comments
Editors Note - I had a good laugh reading well known headphone enthusiast ClieOS' (Tai Ming Sow) article as some of his recommendations are very familiar to me and have already been reviewed favorably at InnerFidelity, and some I had never even heard of the company before. The number and variety of IEMs Tai has heard is spectacular.

I should mention Tai lives in Malaysia, and a couple of the headphones he recommends are not available in the U.S. Thanks for the recommendations Tai.

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Oct 06, 2011 25 comments

Editor's Note: This article was nearly complete when I read of Steve Jobs's death last night. I think the conclusions herein are telling of his passion for making "insanely great" products ... right down to the last detail.

A couple of weeks ago, Steve Guttenberg wrote an article on his Audiophiliac blog entitled, "The Worst-Sounding Audio Product." In it he "aimed [his] sights on the worst sounding product regularly used by millions of people:" the stock Apple iPod ear-bud headphones. There may be some truth in that, but he also said, "Apple is an amazingly innovative company, but it's incapable of selling a decent set of headphones under its own name."

With this, I'm going to have to disagree ...

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Aug 29, 2011 3 comments

When I saw these pop up on the internet, I couldn't wait to get my hands on them. I have a pair of the B&W P5 headsets and I like them very much. They're somewhat colored but they're fun sounding, and a sexier piece of audio kit you'll hardly ever see. I was expecting a similar experience with the C5.

Didn't get it though.

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Aug 25, 2011 17 comments

I've spent a lot of time with good balanced armature monitors stuck in my ears. Mostly it's a pleasure --- there are some darn good headphones out there of this type: Jerry Harvey Audio JH13, Shure SE530, Etymotic ER4P, and Audéo PFE come to mind. I've also spent a good bit of time with in-ear monitors that use dynamic drivers. That hasn't been nearly as pleasurable.

Lately, that's begun to change, and with the Sony MDR-EX600 and MDR-EX1000 I'm thinking we've got a real horse race on our hands.

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Jul 18, 2011 7 comments

The rash of in-ear headphones over the past few years has produced an enormous amount of style over substance. All too often the bling on the outside is accompanied by horrifically bloated or screechy sound on the inside. Likewise, some makers are able to deliver great sound, but fall down in the looks and comfort department. Rare indeed is the in-ear headphone that is stylish, comfortable, and good sounding.

The Audéo PFE seems to have beaten the odds.

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Jul 06, 2011 7 comments

I'm a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to the word "voicing." I want neutrality; I want absolute transparency; I want to hear exactly what's on the disk, nothing more nothing less. Problem is, it rarely happens ... if ever. Pretty much every headphone I've ever heard has its own character. I'm pretty sure most headphone makers shoot for neutral and miss; the resulting "voice" is a bit more random than by design in most cases, I suspect.

The folks at Spider Cable say they were shooting for a "voicing" with an "emphasis on strong vocals or smooth sounding classical music."

Well I'll be damned, I think they did it.

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: May 04, 2011 51 comments

Evolution is not like a car wash; it's not some process with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's messy; it makes mistakes; sometimes it moves in a particular direction; sometimes it just goes in circles refining things. Evolution doesn't really know where it's going until it gets there.

Since 1997 Shure has been evolving its line of in-ear headphones. It seems to me they've both run in circles on the ergonomics, and made a bee-line for good sound. Let me explain.

Tyll Hertsens Posted: Apr 21, 2011 5 comments

Whenever I can, I spend time on the back of this beast: a 2005 Yamaha FJR 1300 super sport touring bike. This baby eats continents. I once left Bozeman, Montana in the morning and slept in a cornfield in Iowa that night. I really dig long-distance travel --- the gradual and ever-changing scenery, weather, and geology punctuated with little towns and churches is mesmerizing. Nonetheless, I need my tunes to complete the experience, and it took me a good long while to find just the right headphones to accompany me on my journeys.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Mar 19, 2011 1 comments
I haven’t had much luck with in-ear headphones.

Kelli’s Etymotic ER-6i earphones ($99) offered a well-balanced sound, with satisfying bass and natural highs, but I found them extremely uncomfortable and I had a difficult time getting them to fit properly in my ear canals. I liked Shure’s SE210 ($149.99) and SE115 ($139.99), but they felt large and heavy in my ears, and friends often balked at their prices. Don’t get me started about the V-MODA Remix Metal in-ears ($99.99); their highs were so pronounced and glaring and bass so completely absent, I wanted to run away from my music—never a good sign. (But I’ll take the blame here: I should’ve known what to expect from an earphone with the word “Metal” in its name. I have since steered clear of models designed to look like bullets, arrows, and jet engines or whose product literature uses the words “crisp,” “sharp,” or “edgy.”)

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John Atkinson Posted: Dec 27, 2010 0 comments
Headphone listening is hot these days, due not only to the ubiquity of the iPod as a music source but also because it is possible to get state-of-the-art headphone playback without having to have stupidly bottomless pockets. A plethora of affordable high-quality headphone amplifiers are available, and high-performance 'phones can be had for a few hundred dollars. Used with a computer or iPod to play uncompressed WAV or AIF files or losslessly compressed FLAC or Apple Lossless (ALAC) files, a headphone-based system can offer the audiophile on a budget seriously good sound.
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Wes Phillips Posted: Aug 16, 2010 1 comments
Ah, how the times change. When I reviewed Etymotic Research's ER-4S in-ear headphones in the July 1995 Stereophile, they seemed expensive to me at $330, but well worth that seemingly high price: at the time, they were the best headphones I'd heard. Nowadays, with reference headphones costing well north of a kilobuck, the price of the ER-4S seems relatively reasonable.
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Jim Austin Posted: Sep 21, 2009 0 comments
Designed to be used onstage by musicians monitoring their sound and mix, in-ear monitors (IEMs) such as the new Westone 3 are great in situations where you want to hear nothing but the music. They're small and portable, and their high efficiency and easy impedance load mean they work well with portable players. IEMs are better than electronic-feedback, noise-reducing, closed circumaural phones at blocking out airplane engine noise and annoying neighbors who want to chat. They're also more compact, sound better, and don't require batteries.
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John Atkinson Posted: Sep 21, 2009 0 comments
I got early into personal stereos. I lost my driving license for a while in the mid-1970s—something about a stop sign and "failure to observe"—so I used to take the train to a regular bass-playing gig I had in Brighton, on England's south coast. Not only did I conclude that any audio magazine worth its cover price had to have enough meat in it to last the two-hour journey and back again, I also built myself an op-amp–based, battery-powered amplifier to drive a pair of RadioShack headphones. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and my only source was a mono cassette recorder. Inside-the-head mono is as mono desperately does, so once I got my license back, it was back to the car and stereo FM radio. It wasn't until a) I moved to New York City to become a strap-hanging commuter and b) bought a 2003-vintage 30GB iPod (which I still use) that music on the move again began to play a major role in my listening.
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John Atkinson Posted: Sep 21, 2009 3 comments
Phiaton is the brand name used by the South Korean Cresyn Company. Wes Phillips reviewed Phiaton's conventional closed-back Moderna MS 400 headphones in January 2009 and was as impressed by the sound quality as he was by their appearance. The PS 200 ($249), the only in-ear headphone sold by Phiaton, also has a striking appearance: the black rear face, which is all someone sitting next to you in the subway will see, resembles the turbine blades of a fan-jet engine. There are two balanced-armature drive-units, with a passive crossover network.
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Wes Phillips Posted: May 27, 2008 0 comments
Meeting strangers at social events, I've learned not to say that I write about hi-fi for a living. It's generally a conversation killer—unless your idea of scintillating repartee is "People make a living doing that?" (Short answer: Not many, and not really.)

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