Pryma 0|1 Headphones

Pryma 0|1 measurements can be found by clicking this link.

March 2016

An ideal world would be meritocratic and egalitarian. Appearance wouldn’t matter. What truly counted would be what was inside each of us. Somewhere in the mooted multiverse such a reality probably exists, but it’s not the one we currently inhabit. Here, not only does one’s physical appearance matter, it’s been suggested that more good-looking people will, all else being equal, be perceived as more intelligent, friendly, and competent than the less good-looking. In fact, studies have shown that, on average, the better-looking get hired and promoted more often, and are paid more. Whether that’s fair or unfair, it might behoove me and you to get into better shape, shave regularly, and wear clothes that actually fit.

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HiFiMan Edition X Headphones

HiFiMan Edition X measurements can be found by clicking this link.

February 2016

Reviewers' ChoiceI can’t believe I’m reviewing $1799 headphones that are considered a step-down model. The HiFiMan Edition X is a less-costly version of HiFiMan’s flagship headphones, the HE1000s ($2999), which I recently reviewed and truly loved. Except for color and materials, the Edition Xes look almost identical to the HE1000s, but they’re intended as a more practical product. Not only do they cost $1200 less, they’re touted as being sensitive enough that any smartphone can drive them.

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JBL Everest Elite 700 Headphones

JBL Everest Elite 700 measurements can be found by clicking this link.

February 2016

The JBL Everest Elite 700s are the most technologically advanced headphones I’ve tested. I can’t think of a significant feature they don’t have, but the most innovative is TruNote automatic calibration. TruNote uses an internally generated test tone and an internal microphone to evaluate the acoustical effects of your ears, and tunes the Everest Elite 700s’ frequency response to compensate for those effects. It’s basically a headphone version of the auto-calibration technologies, such as Audyssey MultEQ, found in most A/V receivers. This feature was launched earlier this year in the N90Q ($1499.95 USD), from AKG -- which, like JBL, is owned by Harman International.

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Klipsch Reference X20i Earphones

Klipsch Reference X20i measurements can be found by clicking this link.

January 2016

When non-audiophiles see something like Klipsch’s new Reference X20i earphones priced above $500 USD, they’ve got to wonder how something so tiny could be worth so much. For that price, you can buy a TV or a digital SLR camera -- something that looks as if it costs $500. But the X20i’s don’t appear to be substantially different from Klipsch’s R6 earphones, which cost only $79. What makes them worth $549 -- nearly seven times as much?

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KEF Muo Bluetooth Speaker

January 2016

Reviewers' ChoiceA price of $349.99 USD might seem high for a medium-size Bluetooth speaker, but the KEF Muo isn’t just any Bluetooth. With its release, KEF enters a new realm of speaker manufacturing -- namely, of portable wireless Bluetooth speakers -- while upholding its longstanding reputation for making great-sounding audiophile speakers.

Box and specs

The Muo is available in Neptune Blue, Light Silver, Sunset Orange, Storm Grey, or Horizon Gold, and comes in an oblong box of heavy cardboard. The top lifts off to expose the speaker, covered in clear plastic -- nice plastic, not the blister-pack style that rips your fingers. Lift the Muo to discover its accessories: a braided USB-to-Micro-USB cord, three power adapters that allow you to charge the Muo from your home’s power grid, and a quick-start guide and warranty information.

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Definitive Technology Symphony 1 Headphones

Definitive Technology Symphony 1 measurements can be found by clicking this link.

December 2015

A few years ago, I’d have been tantalized by the fact that Definitive Technology is getting into the headphone business -- but these days, what mainstream speaker company isn’t in the head-fi biz? Still, I have to admit that I’m impressed that DefTech has jumped in in such a big way. Most speaker companies begin with simple, passive headphones; but DefTech’s Symphony 1s ($399 USD) include noise canceling, Bluetooth, and a direct digital input.

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RBH Sound EP3 Earphones

RBH Sound EP3 measurements can be found by clicking this link.

December 2015

One great thing about the headphone business is that you never know who’s going to rise to the top. RBH Sound, creator of the EP3 earphones reviewed here, is a perfect example. It’s a medium-profile audio manufacturer that never, to my knowledge, strayed outside its specialty -- loudspeakers -- until a couple of years ago, when it came out with its first earphones, the EP1s. The EP1s were voiced by RBH technical director Shane Rich, a talented speaker designer with no previous experience in headphone design. Although they looked rather generic and had no particularly marketable features or design tweaks, the EP1s won numerous rave reviews, and beat out dozens of big-name competitors in a multi-listener comparison test I participated in.

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NAD Viso HP30 Headphones

NAD Viso HP30 measurements can be found by clicking this link.

November 2015

On-ear headphones such as NAD’s Viso HP30 model rarely appear among audio websites’ top picks. There’s good reason for that. First, it’s difficult to make comfortable on-ear headphones, because the earpads, rather than encircle your earlobes, mash directly against them. Second, it’s difficult to ensure that the earpads seal correctly on the ear -- and without a good seal, it’s impossible to get consistently good sound.

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NuPrime Audio IDA-8 Integrated Amplifier-DAC

November 2015

Reviewers' ChoiceNuPrime Audio continues to carve out its own unique path since being spun off from NuForce (now owned by Optoma, an international manufacturer of video projectors). While Optoma NuForce continues to make lower-priced audio products, NuPrime concentrates on designing components of higher performance yet still high value, including amplifiers based on the highly respected, proprietary class-D architecture first developed by NuForce. One of NuPrime’s first products was the IDA-16 integrated amplifier-DAC ($2600 USD), reviewed for SoundStage! Access in January by Vince Hanada, who liked it so much that he bought the review sample.

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Oppo Digital HA-2 Headphone DAC-Amplifier

October 2015

Reviewers' ChoiceI think I like reviewing headphones and mobile audio gear more than I do full-size hi-fi components. The thrill of unboxing a new set of speakers retreats pretty quickly once the outriggers are hooked up, minute adjustments are made to toe-in angles, and the speaker cables are attached. But you live with a pair of headphones. You touch them, grab them, adjust them, and, most important, wear them -- they’re almost as much a fashion accessory as a watch or a pair of eyeglasses. Top-quality appearance and sound are necessary but not sufficient. The quality, durability, and comfort of the materials, the feel of the controls, become much more meaningful when they’re part of a device you physically interact with multiple times a day. A loudspeaker merely shouts at you from a distance.

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