Archive for Headphones

Basshead Showdown: Denon AH-C551 vs. Hippo VB vs. Klipsch S4

bassheads unite Basshead Showdown: Denon AH C551 vs. Hippo VB vs. Klipsch S4

Does your car’s trunk make more noise than its motor? Does standing on the epicenter of a medium earthquake give you that warm, fuzzy feeling in your stomach? Does your 5.1 sound system consist of five subs and one tweeter?

If the answer to any of the questions above is ‘yes’, then you might want to read forum member Illusion’s shootout of three of the most popular basshead IEMs currently available. Fret not, Illusion knows what he’s talking about. His review is not about bass quantity alone – it’s about overall quality/musicality, with special focus on our beloved earth-shattering subharmonics. All three phones reviewed are around the $80 price range – well worth the price of admission, compared to the uncontrolled, bloated midbass you get from some shabby $20 Skullcandy fart cannons, or similar.

If you’re not afraid by now, head over to the forum thread for the full review, while I listen to some Dubstep on my Etymotic ER-4.




Your Very Own Custom Fit IEMs in 4 Minutes

sonomax Your Very Own Custom Fit IEMs in 4 Minutes

There’s not a lot of portable audio related news from CES so far, but Canada’s Sonomax are definitely worth mentioning. So far the company from Montreal has been known for custom fit hearing protectors, and now they venture into the crowded niche of custom fit in ear monitors with their “Sculpted Eers” (sic) series of IEMs.

sonomax2 Your Very Own Custom Fit IEMs in 4 MinutesThe special trick up Sonomax’s sleeve is – unlike every other custom IEM manufacturer’s ordering process – that you don’t have to have ear impressions made by an audiologist, send them in to the company, and wait for a month or two until your finished custom IEMs are returned to you. With Sonomax you simply buy the phones plus molding kit in a store, put the retro-futuristic headphone-shaped injection device on your head which fits the IEMs’ tips to your ears by injecting silicone into a ‘balloon’, wait four minutes until the mold hardens, and Bob’s your uncle.

Sonomax custom IEMs should be available across North American retailers this spring, for $199 (dynamic driver) and $299 (dual armature, or “sound enhancing interface module”, as the Sonomax marketing department calls it). That’s a pretty good price, considering what such devices usually cost. Let’s hope they sound as good as they look. Personally, being already spoiled by a pair of custom Ultimate Ears IEMs, I can’t wait to try Sonomax’s approach to custom comfort and isolation.

Thanks to forum moderator WalkGood for the tip. Via Financial Post, NY1.

(Update: Images show a slightly different product – the V4, not the Sculpted Eers.)




AIAIAI TMA-1 Review

tma1 main AIAIAI TMA 1 Review

While “AIAIAI” sounds a bit like a Spanish Flamenco-related exclamation to me, they’re in fact a relatively new headphone company from Denmark. They started out with street/fashion phones and IEMs – quality products though, way above the level of generic Skullcandy or WESC toys – and in the meantime they put their efforts in creating a high quality DJ headphone, the TMA-1.

The stunning minimalist design of the phones, conceived by Danish design studio KiBiSi, and of course the name as well, is what got me interested in them. “TMA-1” stands for “Tycho Magnetic Anomaly 1”, the name of the monolith in Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi novel “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Can’t really get more awesome than that, methinks.

Hard-boiled headphone veterans’ alarm bells might go off after that introduction: Stylish design? Cool name? Made for DJs? Those must sound bad; those must be style over substance. At first I was a bit wary myself – but fret not: AIAIAI definitely made sure that the TMA-1 sound as good as they look.

Read on for the in-depth review.

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KRK, the Next Brand to Jump on the Headphone Bandwagon

kns 8400 angle KRK, the Next Brand to Jump on the Headphone BandwagonSince brands like Shure and Monster discovered that there’s quite the market for closed portable and/or studio headphones, it was only a matter of time that others follow suit. Enter KRK Systems, purveyors of fine no-nonsense, no-ripoff listening devices for at home and in the studio, and their newly announced KNS8400 and KNS6400 closed headphones. They go for about 150 and 100 bucks, respectively. We already reviewed the KRK RP5 and KRK RP6 G2 Rokit speakers.

While the aforementioned Shure of course are a serious professional audio company (with serious prices slapped on their products), and Monster basically built their empire on a big cable scam (later on following up with decent in-ear phones), KRK is a bit of an underdog, not that well known to the unwashed masses. Most aspiring artists however know that KRK is one of the main brands to consider for top notch active studio monitors, delivering excellent sound quality while not breaking the bank.

While I haven’t heard their new phones yet, I sure hope they stay true to KRK’s company philosophy, delivering good sound for a good value. KRK claims the phones are as accurate as their studio monitors, and they use some sort of memory foam ear pads that remembers the shape of your ears and noggin. They also sport a user-replaceable cable.

Thanks to forum member Aevum for the tip. Official KRK headphones website.




Beyerdynamic T 50 p / T50p Tesla Review

t50p main Beyerdynamic T 50 p / T50p Tesla ReviewBeyerdynamic’s naming scheme for headphones generally uses the prefix ‘DT’, which since the 1930ies stood for the cute retro description ‘dynamic (measuring) telephone’. Recently they introduced a new range of phones, not targeted towards professional studio applications, but aimed at the luxury home-user market. Those phones are the T 1, T 5, and the T 50 p, which I’m going to review. The ‘T’ stands for Edison’s adversary, Nikola Tesla – or, more precisely, for the SI unit of magnetic field strength, named after him.

According to Beyerdynamic’s marketing department this means, “Under the name of Tesla technology, Beyerdynamic has bundled a range of features to improve the sound and increase the efficiency of the headphones. Put simply, the magnetic ‘drive’ of Tesla headphones provides double the performance of conventional models, which is an increase in efficiency [...] This is because the efficient Tesla converters do not just provide exquisitely precise and detail-rich sound: their degree of efficiency also compensates for the low performance of mobile players. With the T 50 p, devices that often sound too quiet are given a boost in performance that can only be compared with the spontaneous acceleration and overwhelming torque of an electric car.

Interestingly, on the one side we have headphone manufacturer Ultrasone, who brags about their ‘ULE (Ultra Low Emission) Technology’ which claims to reduce magnetic death rays emanating from their headphones – on the other hand we have Beyerdynamic, claiming to have the beefiest magnets ever in their new series of phones (and that their magnetic radiation isn’t harmful in any way). Who is right? Who is wrong? Does it even matter for real life applications, or is it all just a marketing gimmick? You decide.

Anyways – I was never one that gave much for such bold advertising claims. Let’s see how they perform in reality.

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Bose QuietComfort 3 Review

quietcomfort3 5 520x312 Bose QuietComfort 3 Review

Bose is one of those brands that you either hate or love. On ABi, the former seem to be the norm, mostly because the price is so much higher than similarly performing gear. Still, Bose does have some interesting products in their line up, and one of them is the Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones that I got my hands on a few months ago. They use active noise canceling technology to give you peace and quiet, but how do they perform compared to other noise reduction methods?

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Panasonic RP-HJE900 Zirconia Review

panasonic headphones Panasonic RP HJE900 Zirconia Review

Martin aka DFKT drop off this little review for us in the headphone forum. Even though these phones were released June of 2008, he found them to be quite nice. Read the full review in the forums till we have the front page up and running. Also, we have quite a few headphone user reviews in the forums from out members if you are looking to buy.




EarSonics SM3 Review

sm3 main2 cr EarSonics SM3 Review

When one thinks about specialized European in-ear monitor manufacturers, not a lot of brands come to mind. Of course there are the bigwigs like Sennheiser and AKG, and their assortment of cheap-to-expensive earphones next to their regular headphones, but for custom-molded IEMs and professional monitoring specialists the market is rather barren in Europe. Let’s see… I can think of ACS in England, and of two companies in France (there’s probably more, at least one in the Czech Republic, and maybe a few others as well, but let’s keep it simple). One of those French companies is Insono, the other one is EarSonics. For this review we’re focusing on EarSonics and their new flagship universal IEM, the SM3. It is equipped with a triple armature, three-way crossover design.

While all the advertising, hype, and public awareness is usually reserved for big-shot company products, the specialists often go unnoticed. Well, they don’t have advertising budget like the big companies, and they have to ask more in return for research, development, and manufacturing than the companies that outsource their manufacturing to Asia.

Just because you might not have heard of EarSonics yet, doesn’t mean that should stay that way. For reference, there are lots of French musicians, audio engineers, and celebrities, from Charles Aznavour to Suprême NTM, who use EarSonics products on-stage, or while mixing/monitoring. I guess it’s time to help EarSonics to a bit more international awareness.

Read on to find out what’s really behind the “Designed in France, Made in France” label on the EarSonics SM3.

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How it’s Made: AKG K702 Headphones

The Discovery show “How it’s Made” episode 14×09 just aired and one of the four 5-minute segments in that particular episode showed how headphones are made- more specifically the AKG K702. Check out the YouTube video to see the clip.




Sennheiser IE 8 Review

IE8main Sennheiser IE 8 Review

For years Sennheiser, one of the world’s leading headphone manufacturers, was only known for one model of in-ear phones, the CX 300 – and those weren’t even Sennheiser designs, but an OEM product made by Foster Japan. With the success of the relatively inexpensive CX 300 and other models of the CX series it was only a matter of time until Sennheiser went for the higher priced market, competing with brands like Ultimate Ears or Shure, with products aimed at more discerning listeners and audio professionals.

Thus the Sennheiser IE series of in-ear phones was born. In this case ‘IE’ very likely stands for ‘In-Ear’, unlike certain web-browsing software from Redmond, WA. While they’re not exactly IEMs suited for professional monitoring applications, they sure are among the quality choices for hi-fi listening… The audio snobs we are, we’re not wasting any time on the IE 6 or 7 – we’ll go for the fancy flagship IE 8 right away and put them through their paces.

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