Over-Ear Open Headphones Reviews

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Tyll Hertsens  |  Sep 25, 2011  |  68 comments

It's not often one get's to set-up $37,000+ worth of the world's best headphone gear on the dining room table. I should do a little comparative listening test and report my findings, methinks.

Wasn't easy to write with all the good music going on in my head, though.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Sep 19, 2011  |  14 comments
Photo Credit: Steve Guttenberg

You can't listen to a headphone without plugging it into an amplifier of some kind: an iPod, portable device or a maxed out home amp. It's really the combination of the two we hear, so when we talk about the "sound" of a headphone, it's more about the sound of a headphone/amp system.

Lets get started.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Aug 23, 2011  |  9 comments

I can't tell you what a treat it is to measure and listen to the unusual headphones I get from enthusiasts. This time, rythmdevils from Head-Fi has sent in a couple of vintage AKG cans.

He's also a photographer, and has kindly allowed me to use his sweet pix of these two cans for the article. Very nice! Thanks!

Tyll Hertsens  |  Aug 16, 2011  |  4 comments

Kabeer - "I am located in UK, and I have some orthos. Im not sure if its very viable for me to get anything measured?"

Tyll - "I really can't spend too much money on this, so I've limited DIY Ortho testing to the U.S. to keep the shipping costs down. Sorry."

Kabeer - "Id really like to send my Aiwa to you to get measured. I think its pretty great :). Wualta wants to see their measurements too and has kindly offered to pay you the postage back to UK for them."

Tyll - "Okie Dokie. If Wualta wants to see the measurements, it must be good."

You see, while Wualta might be a crusty old curmudgeon, he's also one of the patron saints of Orthodynamic DIYers, and if he thinks something is worthwhile ... well, you just have to have a listen.

By golly, he's right on the mark again!

Tyll Hertsens  |  Aug 15, 2011  |  17 comments

A goodly amount of forum chatter has been focussed on these two very inexpensive Superlux headphones. (Superlux is a Taiwanese maker of professional audio gear, and is distributed in the U.S. by Avlex.) I thought it would be fun to have a listen and see if the headphone enthusiast community has stumble upon some giant killers.

(C'mon, how much can $30 really get you?)

Tyll Hertsens  |  Jun 13, 2011  |  32 comments

According to a February 2011 NPD Group study, celebrity endorsements are extremely/very important to nearly 30 percent of consumers when deciding what headphones to buy. Moreover, there was a 75% increase in sales of headphones over $100 from 2009 to 2010 ... in a bad economy, no less. Headphones are a hopping commodity.

So sure, why not nab a big name like Quincy Jones and extend the life into an aging, but still very good headphone.

Tyll Hertsens  |  May 24, 2011  |  36 comments

I’ve heard so many conflicting opinions on the Ultrasone Edition 10 that I just had to get my hands on a pair. At $2,749, you’d reckon the praise ought to be a little more consistent. So I gave my buddy Todd (the Vinyl Junkie) a call to see if he had a pair I could play with, and sure enough, he had a slightly used pair for me to audition.

Wow! What an experience!

Tyll Hertsens  |  May 22, 2011  |  25 comments

Just a year and a half ago I walked into the CanJam area of RMAF, and right smack-dab in the middle was Fang Bian, head of Head Direct and the HiFiMAN brand of headphone gadgetry. Fang always has something new going on; I wondered what it would be this time. He smiled, stood, and cheerfully greeted me, then pointed towards center-stage on one of his tables.

"Would you like to hear my new planar magnetic headphones?"

You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Apr 12, 2011  |  30 comments
Back before the Sennheiser HD 800 broke the $1000 high-end headphone barrier and started a flurry of ground-breaking new reference cans, there were three staples for enthusiast searching for great sound: the Sennheiser HD 650 ($649.95 MSRP); the AKG K701 (now reincarnated as the Quincy Jones Q701; $399 MSRP); and the Beyerdynamic DT 880 ($313.95 MSRP). All three, in my mind, remain good value when properly chosen for your listening tastes. (HD 650 – warm and smooth, though somewhat lacking in detail; AKG K701 – articulate, but slightly hard; DT 880 – detailed with depth and air, but somewhat lacking weight through the mids.)

A rather cool and unusual feature of the Beyer DT 880 is that it is available in three different impedance values in order to give you better options in suiting them to your needs. I thought it would be fun to have a look at the three different versions, and evaluate their suitability to home, portable, and general use.

Read on for the techno-geekly details, but go ahead and skip to the summary if you just want the recommendations….

Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 29, 2010  |  4 comments
I remember my first experience with headphones. In 1960, I bought a set of Trimm dual 'phones (less than $5) and rewired them for stereo. The experience was remarkable for several reasons. First, it brought the sounds into my head—I was thrilled with the impact. Second, stereo effects, especially with Enoch Light's ping-pong LPs (eg, Provocative Percussion, Command RS800SD), were striking. Third, I could play them really loud without bothering others. Of course, they had no bass, brittle treble, distorted at high levels, and their wire headband and Bakelite earpieces were uncomfortable. My fascination with this gimmick quickly faded.
Wes Phillips  |  Jul 14, 2009  |  1 comments
Sennheiser's long-awaited (seven years) HD 800 sure isn't subtle—at least, not in appearance. The HD 800's large earpieces are made from a combination of absorbing composites and functional metal accents, and are huge. Of course, they have to be to house the 56mm ring-radiator transducers—and to mount them so they're firing "back" to your ears from the front. Also not subtle is the price: $1399.95.
Wes Phillips  |  Aug 19, 2006  |  3 comments
Oh mama, was I ever excited when I heard rumors of the existence of AKG's K 701! If you're among the audiophiles who sneer at those of us who like headphones, you're probably rolling your eyes and thinking I must lack a rich inner life.

But hold on there, Skippy—some of us use those cans in our prosumer studios, in recording sessions, and even in barn-burning late-night critical listening sessions where we employ ancillary equipment that would beggar your jaded high-end sensibilities. We're not talking about the three-buck, upchuck disposable 'phones your friendly flight attendant flogs before your in-flight main feature. We're talking about serious tools that can reveal a flea fart in a cathedral.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 07, 1994  |  0 comments
You'd probably be surprised to learn that headphones are the most common means for listening to music. No, I didn't get that from a book, but from personal observation. I'm referring here to personal portable stereo listening—the ubiquitous Jogman with which a whole generation has retreated into its own private world, isolated from traffic noise, muggers, and, at home, housemates or parents screaming "Turn it down!"

Audiophiles discovered the benefits of headphone listening years ago. I still remember my first set of Koss Stereophones—nirvana for a college student in a tiny, shared dorm room. This ability to listen privately without disturbing—or being disturbed by—others remains the major reason audiophiles seek out good headphones.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 02, 1994  |  1 comments
While headphone listening remains secondary to that of loudspeakers for most serious listeners, it's still an important alternative for many. And while good conventional headphones exist, electrostatics are usually considered first when the highest playback quality is required. As always, there are exceptions (Grado's headphones come immediately to mind), but most high-end headphones are electrostatic—such designs offer the benefits of electrostatic loudspeakers without their dynamic limitations. Last year I reviewed the Koss ESP/950 electrostatics (Vol.15 No.12), a remarkable set of headphones from the company that practically invented headphones for serious home listening. Here I listen to examples from two other companies, each known for its headphones since Pluto was a pup.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Dec 03, 1992  |  2 comments
Love 'em or hate 'em, headphones serve a purpose. My first headphones were Kosses, and they were perfect for use in a college dorm. While I've always owned a pair or more over the years, somehow they never became my primary mode of listening, except in situations where using loudspeakers at satisfying levels risked eviction, bodily harm, or both.

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