Friday, July 21, 2017
High End 2017
in Munich
Brand New
Video Series
NAD C 368
DAC-Integrated
New Integrated
Anthem STR
Vandersteen
Model Seven Mk.II
Ayre Acoustics
QX-5 DAC
Paradigm's Flagship
Persona 9H
Newsflash:
Merging NADAC ST-2 on SoundStage! Ultra ... Read the review
Onkyo's A-9010 on SoundStage! Access ... Read the review

Sponsors

Alpha Design Labs A1Price: $599

Website: www.adl-av.com

Hans said: The A1 headphone amplifier-DAC is pretty much faultless in terms of sound quality; add in its flexibility and DSD capabilities, and I could happily live with one for a long while.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Stylish, full-featured, great-sounding headphone amp.

Alpha Design Labs EH008Price: $239

Website: www.adl-av.com

Hans said: On the whole, the EH008s sounded nearly full-range, with a wealth of resolution easily audible down to all but the very lowest registers, and with low-frequency information doled out in responsibly ample portions.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Competitive with the better earphones out there.

Alpha Design Labs X1Price: $479

Website: www.furutech.com 

Vince said: Although other portable USB DAC-headphone amps work well with Apple devices, the ADL by Furutech X1 is a unique device that adds 24/192 capability via USB. It sounded splendid at all resolutions, and with every device that I connected it to. At $479, the X1 is pricey -- but you get a versatile, classy-looking device with exceptional sound quality to match its good looks.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Competition for Astell&Kern.

Astell&Kern AK240Price: $2499

Website: www.iriverinc.com

Rad said: The Astell&Kern AK240 makes it possible to listen to high-resolution music practically anywhere. It’s pricey, but look at what it can do and what components it can replace, and see if that doesn’t lessen the sticker shock. After using it for a month, I concluded that it was probably worth close to its asking price of $2499.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Lotta money, but if you want portable hi-rez . . .

Audeze LCD-3Price: $1945

Website: www.audeze.com 

Garrett said: The Audeze LCD-3s created the best head-fi listening experience I have yet had. They’re serious contenders for a reference-level set of headphones and a must-hear for anyone looking at the top-tier of head-fi.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: The anti-Beats set of headphones.

Audeze LCD-XPrice: $1699

Website: www.audeze.com

S. Andrea said: The LCD-Xes imbue every recording with a little extra glow, but their enhanced high-frequency performance, and the fact that they’re more easily driven, will likely broaden their appeal beyond Audeze’s current fan base. Last, the LCD-Xes’ materials, build quality, and accessories embrace both luxury and utility. For anyone truly serious about headphones, the Audeze LCD-Xes are a must audition.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Newish company stands apart in a crowded headphone market.

Audio-Technica SonicFuel ATH-AX5iSPrice: $89.95

Website: www.audio-technica.com

Rad said: Audio-Technica’s ATH-AX5iS headphones are in no way outstanding, but they have competently good sound, and they’re lightweight and easy to wear for just about any activity.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Not bad, but doesn’t stand out in a crowd.

Audiofly Performance AF140Price: $349

Website: www.audiofly.com

Brent said: I think probably just about anyone would like the Audiofly AF140s. Who would love them? Listeners who want a neutral, natural, spacious sound in the mids and treble, combined with some extra bass power.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Audiofly’s upscale earphone series contains this good middle-of-the-road performer.

Bowers & Wilkins P7Price: $399.99

Website: www.bowers-wilkins.com

S. Andrea said: The P7 headphones are another well-thought-out design by team B&W. They’re fashionable in a mature way, with high-quality materials and meticulous attention to detail. And there is substance to go along with the style.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Great for your tunes and your image.

Brainwavz S5Price: $129.50

Website: www.yourbrainwavz.com

Brent said: If you like a little extra treble, and if you want to hear every last detail in all of your music, the S5 is one of the few earphone models I’ve heard -- actually, it’s the only one I can think of -- that can do detail without downsides.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Detail monsters.

Focal Spirit ClassicPrice: $399

Website: www.focal.com

S. Andrea said: Where the Spirit Classics step ahead of most of their competition is in the exceptional clarity with which they reproduce the textures of voices and instruments, and their excellent dynamic contrasts. With that combination of strengths, any audiophile looking for closed-back headphones should audition Focal’s Spirit Classics.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Andrea was knocked out by this stylish French design.

JBL Synchros E50BTPrice: $149.95

Website: www.jbl.com

Rad said: The JBL Synchros E50BTs are excellent commuter headphones. They sound terrific, they’re extremely simple to operate, and they can be used wirelessly via a Bluetooth connection, or wired with a cable connection. They look stylish, fit securely on the head and ears, and though they have no noise-reduction circuitry, they block a huge amount of exterior noise.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Just another good set of headphones at a respectable price.

KEF M200Price: $199.99

Website: www.kef.com

Hans said: I was deeply surprised by the M200s’ high qualities of materials and sound. This model is a strong candidate at the $200 price point, and a laudable freshman effort on the in-ear-’phones front from one of audio’s most respected names.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Take KEF sound everywhere.

Motorola S11-HDPrice: $99.99

Website: www.motorola.com 

Rad said: Those uncritical of sound quality will perhaps be OK with the sound of the Motorola S11-HDs, but audiophiles will find them unacceptable. That’s too bad, as the features and design are such great improvements over the S10. But somewhere along the way, good sound got lost.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: These pretty much sucked.

NAD HP20Price: $169

Website: www.nadelectronics.com

Brent said: I doubt the existence of any earphones that every listener will love -- people’s reactions to headphones seem to be too varied to make so broad a prediction -- but clearly, the Viso HP20s are world-class earphones with great sound at a reasonable price.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: If it’s got a speaker in it, designer Paul Barton can make good sound come out of it.

NAD Viso HP50Price: $299

Website: www.nadelectronics.com

S. Andrea said: With their combination of dependable-looking build quality, reasonable price, and strong marks in all areas of sound reproduction, the Viso HP50s carry on the NAD tradition of solid performance and high value.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: PSB’s NAD counterpart is a winner, too.

NuForce Primo 8Price: $499

Website: www.nuforce.com

Brent said: The NuForce Primo 8s are flat-out great earphones. Yeah, $499 is a lot to pay for in-ears when you can get quite a nice set for $150 or so. But I think anyone who cares about audio will appreciate the Primo 8s’ practically perfect bass, ultraclear midrange, uncolored treble, and -- most of all -- awesome sense of space.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: With these expensive earphones, the sound supports the price.

Oppo Digital HA-1Price: $1199

Website: www.oppodigital.com

Uday said: The HA-1 functioned beautifully in all of the roles I asked it to play in my system, and its sound quality was first rate. Its build quality is fantastic, it’s very user friendly, and it works as advertised. If you’re looking for a one-box headphone amp, preamp, and DAC, your search should begin and end here.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Oppo seems to only make winners, and the HA-1 is no exception.

Oppo Digital PM-1Price: $1099

Website: www.oppodigital.com

S. Andrea said: Oppo Digital’s first headphone model proves itself a strong competitor in the very demanding premium-headphone segment. The PM-1s’ warm balance pairs wonderfully with voices, offers enough extension to capture the essence of all manner of instruments, and grants an enjoyable listening experience with almost any recording. Their bass reaches authoritatively into the bottom octave and can deliver a firm punch, but always remains clear and controlled.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Well-built, stylish, and great sounding.

Outdoor Tech PrivatesPrice: $99.95

Website: www.outdoortechnology.com

Rad said: The Outdoor Tech. Privates are stylish, can be used wired or wirelessly, fold up for easy packing and conveyance, and sound like much more expensive headphones. They’re the best on-ear headphones in their price range that I’ve heard.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Totally cool in an outdoorsy, adventurer sort of way.

Pathos Acoustics AuriumPrice: $1495

Website: www.pathosacoustics.com

Garrett said: If you’re looking for something with real power and versatility, arresting looks, and seriously good sound, I heartily recommend the Pathos Acoustics Aurium. You may end up buying one. I did.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Italian style and classic sound to power your headphones perfectly.

Samsung Level InPrice: $149.99

Website: www.samsung.com

Brent said: I’m impressed at the overall quality and design of the Level Ins. However, these earphones’ lower-treble peak spoils them for me. That’s disappointing -- I suspect that the Level Ins may be only a tweak away from greatness.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: One potentially fatal flaw.

Sony XBA-H1Price: $149

Website: www.sonystyle.com

Brent said: I’ve worked on reviews of some 100 earphones, for websites including Sound & Vision and The Wirecutter, and I can’t think of anything I’ve tried for under $300 that I like better than the Sony XBA-H1 earphones.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: The buck-fifty earphones to beat.

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