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Head-Fi.org › 2015 Holiday Buying Guide › Head Fi Buying Guide Over Ear Headphones 2

Head-Fi Buying Guide (Over-Ear Headphones) 2

Introduction
Over-Ear Headphones
In-Ear Headphones
Wireless Headphones
Gaming Headphones
Exercise Headphones
Cables & Accessories
Desktop Amps & DACs
Portable Amps, DACs & DAPs
Ultra-High-End Headphones (Summit-Fi)
Desktop & Portable Speakers
Head-Fi Meets
Music
Head-Fi Buying Guide

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Sennheiser HD6 Mix, HD7 DJ, and HD8 DJ
TYPE: Closed over-ear headphones
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PRICE: $279.95 (HD6 Mix), $329.95 (HD7 DJ), and $389.95 (HD8 DJ)
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URL: www.sennheiser.com

One of the most popular DJ headphones in the world is the HD 25 by Sennheiser--many DJ's the world over wear their 25's proudly, a sort of status symbol. Here's the thing, though: the HD25 wasn't originally designed as a DJ headphone.

 

The Sennheiser HD 25 headphones were first released in 1988, and were intended for outside broadcasting use. What were some of the features that would be helpful for outside broadcasting? A rotatable ear cup for one-ear monitoring, and isolation from outside noise. Obviously, these are traits well suited for DJ use, too; but it wasn't until around ten years after their introduction that the HD 25 picked up steam with DJ's. And for the last 15 years or so, they've become a common site around the neck, and half on the head, of serious DJ's.

 

Early last year, Sennheiser released some purpose-built DJ headphones in the HD7 DJ and the HD8 DJ (both have nominal 95Ω impedance). I have them both, but I'm no DJ. My friend Adam Bellinson (DJ Thread, or simply "@thread" on Head-Fi) is a DJ, however, playing the Detroit scene regularly, and he had been an HD25-wearing DJ for a long time. When Sennheiser contacted him to ask him to try the HD8, he agreed to, and I wondered which--between his long-time HD25 and the new HD8 DJ--he'd prefer. Well, since receiving the HD8, I haven't seen a photo of him spinning with any other headphone. He really likes the HD8 and posted as about it on Head-Fi. (thread is a high-end headphone audio enthusiast, too, by the way.)

 

Again, I am not a DJ, but I have spent a lot of time with the HD7 DJ, HD8 DJ, and the HD6 MIX (which I'll get to in a minute). Of the two DJ models, I have a slight preference for the HD8. It is quite bass-heavy, yes. But I find its overall tonal balance fun, with what sounds to me like hard-hitting emphasis, particularly from the mid-bass through the lower mids. (This is also true of the HD7.) And though the bass is heavy, it's surprisingly fast--emphasized a lot, but with detail. Where the HD8 edges out the HD7 for me is its slightly more lit treble, which gives it a little more pizzaz, and makes for a fun on-the-go headphone.

 

Of the three models in this new group of headphones, the one I prefer most is the HD6 MIX (nominal impedance of 150Ω), which Sennheiser describes as a headphone "designed to cater to the needs of the professional sound technician," and describe its sound as "accurate, balanced sound reproduction suitable for mixing and monitoring." In addition to notbeing a DJ, I am also not a professional sound technician. The HD6 sound signature Sennheiser describes might read to audiophiles like the HD6 would sound neutral, which, to my ears, it is not. So perhaps what a professional sound technician is looking for and what audiophiles consider neutral are two different things. The HD6, however, is more even-handed than either of the two "DJ" models, still with some mid-bass emphasis, but not as much thickness, to my ears, in the upper bass or lower mids. Its treble doesn't have that extra bite that I'm hearing with the HD8 DJ, so from the bottom to the top, its sound is certainly more uniform, and less exciting, which, to me, is the more preferable of the two signatures for my kind of use and listening.

 

All three headphones are built very stoutly, obviously intended to withstand the rigors and punishment of pro audio use, and come with tough carrying cases. The HD7 and HD8 have dual rotating ear cups, and the HD6 cups don't rotate at all. All three are quite light in weight for their size, with the HD8 just slightly heavier due to the use of metal parts in key areas to improve strength and durability.

 

This new family of headphones also introduces an aesthetic that is unique, not just to Sennheiser, but to the market as a whole, and I love their style. Their look is at once professional, youthful, and attractive.


While I may not have the professional credentials of the intended customers for these headphones, I've found them enjoyable, and have occasion to carry especially the HD6 MIX for on-the-go use.

Philips Fidelio L2
TYPE: Open, full-size, around-the-ear headphone
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PRICE: $279.00 
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URL: www.fidelio.philips.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

In 2013, I took a trip to Philips' audio research and development facilities in Leuven, Belgium. If Philips' recent headphones have impressed you, it's because Philips has invested huge sums to reestablish Philips as a premium audio brand, and it was impressive to see the resources they've marshaled to get there.

 

One of the interesting things to see was how they examined their own Philips Fidelio L1 (which they were already justifiably proud of), and how they went about attempting to improve every aspect of an already-very-good headphone--its design, its comfort, its style, its sound. The result is the Philips Fidelio L2, and I have to say they've done it.

 

In terms of its style, I'd describe the change as having gone from standard BMW to BMW M Sport--a move from more traditional design and colors to a more modern, edgy variation. The more conventional colors of the L1 were adjusted to include gunmetal, and orange stitching and hinge pins. The L1 consisted of a lot of metal that some mistook for plastic--Philips wanted to make sure this didn't happen again, making sure all metal parts are obvious to the eye as metal. Lines were smoothed out, tightened up. The Bentley-type grille is now even larger. The loosely coiled cables that went from the top of each earpiece into the headband have been eliminated. I think it's a better looking headphone for all the changes--an absolute stunner.

 

The headphone cable is also now fully detachable at the left earcup.

 

Unfortunately, from what I can tell, the earpads are still not user replaceable. Don't get me started on this, as I simply can't understand how that wasn't addressed, and I've expressed this to them...emphatically. Fortunately, my Fidelio L1 pads have held up wonderfully, looking pretty much good as new after a lot of use; and the L2's earpads seem at least as durable.

 

In terms of sound, the improvements over the L1 are, in my opinion, a big deal. The sonic changes are actually more dramatic to my ears than the style and design changes are to my eyes. Bass has been tighened up substantially, and the level brought down closer to a more reference level (but still hitting solidly)--in my opinion, this is a very welcome change. The mids are still bloomy and smooth, but with even more clarity than its predecessor. And another of the most welcome changes is the treble performance of the L2, which is a substantial improvement over the L1--more extended, more shimmery, more present, more detailed. It's a more revealing, less forgiving headphone than its predecessor, for sure.

 

Frankly, the Fidelio L2 is one of my portable reference-type headphones, right along there with the HD 26 Pro, DT 1350, NAD VISO HP50, Focal Spirit Professional and Sony MDR-7520. And I personally prefer it to Philips previous flagship Fidelio X1, which, in my opinion, could use some of the same treatment that brought the L1 to the L2.

 

highly recommend you audition the Philips Fidelio L2 if you've been considering some of those other headphones I just mentioned. It's a very strong contender.

 

"What the L2 brings to the table is a portable semi-open headphone that is pretty comfortable, very stylish, and has excellent build. It sounds phenomenal – very clean and detailed, and an extremely black background allowing for excellent separation of instruments, and wonderful imaging ability."

-Brooko
Head-Fi Member/Reviewer

Sennheiser HD 630VB  

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

The last time Sennheiser released a new headphone with the "HD" designation--with a number in the 600's behind it--it was the Sennheiser HD 650, nearly 12 years ago (in 2003). Whereas the HD 650 was rather a lot like the HD 600 (and the HD 580 before that), the new HD 630VB has no outward familial ties to anything from Sennheiser's modern era, its design instead inspired by a long-ago Sennheiser infrared wireless model called the HDI 434. (Go ahead and look it up, as I wasn't familiar with it either.)

 

Beginning with its obscure design inspiration, the HD630VB definitely marches to the beat of its own drummer. Like Sennheiser's HD 25-1 II, the HD 630VB has rather atypical right-side cable entry. The HD 630VB's ear cups, yokes, and sliders are made of aluminum. The right ear cup's flat surface is dominated by a dark circle that houses the volume and music/call control buttons (which I'll get to shortly). (The HDI 434 also had controls on its right ear cup.) The left ear cup has no controls (also like the HDI 434), and Sennheiser did not elect to put a decorative dark circle in its center to match the HD 630VB's right ear cup--they left its beveled silver-colored aluminum to dominate that left side, sans any logos or emblems. The contrast between the two cups is certainly unique.

 

The HD 630VB is a large headphone, with full-size ear cups that are rather thick. Fortunately, the HD630VB has a couple of tricks up its sleeve that most closed headphones this large do not have: first, the earpieces rotate to fold flat; and, also, the headband has sturdy-feeling hinges—with very nice, very positive detents—that allow the HD 630VB to fold flat, and to stack the flat-rotated ear cups one on top of the other. While it's not ultra-compact no matter how you fold it up, the HD 630VB's flat-folding design and hinged headband make it far more stowable than most headphones of similar size.

 

The "VB" in this headphone's name stands for "Variable Bass." This, and perhaps a few other things, are likely to give some audiophile's pause. What other things? The Sennheiser HD630VB's headphone cable is captive (non-removable), and has an inline microphone for headset use. The controls on the right ear cup include music/call controls, and an iOS / Android switch to optimize its control compatibility with most popular mobile phones. To further optimize the HD 630VB's drivability from most mobile devices, it was designed with low nominal impedance (23Ω) and high sensitivity (114dB).

 

While some of the above features/specs are not typical of the audiophile headphones we usually discuss on Head-Fi, do not cross the HD630VB off your list of candidate headphones if you're looking for a headphone with impressive sound that's both full-size and closed-back. With an expected retail price of $549.95, the Sennheiser HD 630VB is priced to compete with the likes of the Fostex TH600, and, to my ears, it's in league with the big, black Fostex. I actually think many will find the new Sennheiser more versatile with its well-implemented passive bass control (which I'll get to in a minute), not to mention being better suited to be packed up and toted along. Also, unlike the semi-closed Fostex TH-600, the Sennheiser HD 630VB is a fully closed design, meaning it's better at keeping the music from leaking out, and has solid passive isolation.

 

As for its sound, the HD 630VB is very versatile, helped by the fact that its bass control (rated by Sennheiser for +/- 5dB at 50Hz) is, to my ears, very well implemented. It actually has a more pronounced effect the further down you go below 50Hz, but little effect in the direction of the midband (until you really crank it up).

 

The bass control dial is continuously adjustable, but marked by several index points, starting with MIN, and then five primary marks between, before hitting MAX (for a total of seven major index points, each sub-divided into quarters). No matter how you set the bass control, the HD 630VB has some upper-bass emphasis, but I find it very well voiced there, and not at all intrusive. Between the MIN and the first major index point, I can discern little change in tonal balance. However, when I keep turning past there, the changes become more evident. What I love is that there's minimal effect on the lower midrange, until you get into its highest settings, at which point the lower mids do thicken noticeably--fortunately, the onset of this happens somewhat quick, and so it's rather easy to avoid. I'm impressed with the bass control's execution, and, so far, most of those I've let listen to the HD630VB have been similarly impressed.

 

In terms of how I set the HD 630VB's bass adjustment, I've found myself using the third notch above MIN (the red line in the graph above), and the fourth notch (the purple line), and moving in between those. For my tastes, I've found this range the most even-handed with the HD 630VB, while still giving me some extra oomph down low for a little heightened drive. @joe tends to prefer a thicker sound than me, and he's been using it at around the second from highest setting (the one just below MAX), and sometimes backs off a little bit from there.

 

While I don't often go beyond the fourth notch--and very rarely venture anywhere near MAX--I do find the latitude to thicken the sound at or near the HD630VB's highest bass settings a blessing for some of my ultra-tinny 80's pop and new wave music. It can also add a sense of welcome tonal depth to some of my thinner, reedier old jazz and cabaret recordings, by the likes of Django Reinhardt and Edith Piaf, for example.

 

One of the HD630VB's strongest points is its imaging, especially for a closed headphone. I know a lot of tuning went into this aspect of the headphone, and it's with great effect--never reaching out like the super-open flagship Sennheiser HD 800, but often casting well beyond what I'd expect of a headphone that is as closed as the HD630VB is.

 

I think one headphone a lot of shoppers will inevitably compare the HD 630VB to is the Fostex TH-600, given that they're both closed (well, the Fostex is semi-closed), and that their prices are within striking distance of each other (the Fostex's street price is currently around $50 higher). Again, I think the HD 630VB is a worthy contender for the venerable Fostex, and I'd compare them thusly: The Fostex--perhaps owing to its semi-open design--has tonal characteristics to me that are, in some ways, rather less like a closed headphone (than, say, the Shure SRH1540, or this HD 630VB), being a bit more even-handed from bass to mids, with more open-sounding, more soaring treble, too.

 

If the TH600 is closed enough for you and your environment, and you don't desire greater versatility from it, I'd say you might end up preferring the TH-600 to the HD 630VB. If, however, you've found the TH-600 too open (in terms of leakage in or out), and/or you've found the TH-600's treble a bit too tipped-up for your tastes, then the Sennheiser HD630VB is a must-audition headphone.

 

Is the Sennheiser HD630VB capable of being adjusted (via its bass adjustment knob) to the type of neutral presentation of something like a Focal Spirit Professional? No. However, if you've found the Focal Spirit Professional a bit lean or cold for your tastes, then the spunkier Sennheiser HD 630VB might be more to your liking.

 

What quibbles do I have with the HD 630VB? Though it has a certain charm about its appearance, it is a very noticeable headphone on the head. While this doesn't bother me (I've been known to wear the Fostex TH-600 and Audeze LCD-XC out and about on rare occasion), some might find it a bit too obvious, in all its large silver glory. As for sound, I've found its adjustability suits its purpose for me for on-the-go use. When I've used it at my desk, though, I've had occasion to wish for a little more richness in the mids (low-mids to mid-mids), but not to any degree greater than other minor wishes I have for just about every headphone I use.

 

Don't let the bass adjustment dial, inline microphone, or song/call controls fool you into thinking the Sennheiser HD 630VB isn't a serious closed headphone at the price, as it very much is. As with any other headphone, it won't be to everyone's taste, but its versatility may broaden its appeal. If you're currently shopping for a good closed headphone in the $500 price range, make sure to put the Sennheiser HD630VB on your list of candidates to audition. In my opinion, it's a serious closed headphone candidate at the price, that just happens to have some unusual (but useful) features thrown in.

TYPE: Closed, full-size, around-the-ear headphones 
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PRICE: $549.95 
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URL: www.sennheiser.com
Sony MDR-1RBT

Details about the Sony MDR-1RBT can be found in the Wireless Headphones section of the guide.

 

Click here to check it out.

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

I've used headphones with tunable acoustics before, and even with the ones I've liked, I've mostly found one setting and stuck with it. With beyerdynamic's CUSTOM ONE PRO, though, changing its bass tuning is very easy, with no parts to swap out--just flick a four-position switch on each earpiece to season bass to taste.

 

More important than ease of tuning is how effective it is, and the beyerdynamic CUSTOM ONE PRO's bass tuning is superbly executed. Essentially, when you move the sliders, you're either opening or closing bass reflex vents in the housing shells, and, as described by beyerdynamic, you can choose between "an analytical sound to a rich, full bass," and almost anything in between.

 

I've found the 16-Ohm beyerdynamic CUSTOM ONE PRO very easy to drive, and I've routinely used it directly from my mobile phones. While it doesn't reach the resolving abilities of my favorite beyerdynamic Tesla models, like the DT1350, T1, and T5p, the CUSTOM ONE PRO is still a revealing headphone, still sounds like a modern beyerdynamic to me (which is a good thing), and adds a level of versatility with its tunable bass that few other headphones can match.

 

In other words, the CUSTOM ONE PRO is a lot of German-made beyerdynamic goodness for only $249.00. And given that it's like having a few different headphones for that price makes the CUSTOM ONE PRO an even stronger bargain.

TYPE: Closed, full-size, around-the-ear headphone
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MSRP: $249.00
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URL: www.beyerdynamic.com
Audeze LCD-2

The entry about the Audeze LCD-2 can be found in the Summit-Fi section of the guide.

 

Click here to read about the LCD-2 from Audeze.

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

Since its release, Bowers & Wilkins' P5 has been a hit, in the broader consumer market, and also with many audio enthusiasts. Overall, the P5 is a very good supra-aural (on-the-ear) on-the-go headphone--comfortable for an on-ear, with a sound that's pleasant for just about anyone, even if it wasn't particularly detailed or resolving. In other words, being one of the most gorgeous headphones ever made, having a good, smooth sound signature, and bearing the name of one of high-end audio's most well-known names, all together makes for an alluring value proposition. It sucked me in, and I still use and enjoy the P5.

 

If Bowers & Wilkins asked me, though, how I'd improve on the P5, I'd have several suggestions:

 

  • Don't mess with its stunning good looks, both off and on the head.
  • I love how no matter where I touch it, I'm touching either metal or leather--please don't change that.
  • Don't mess with the awesome cable-groove-in-the-earpiece strain relief, so that it can continue to be cased up with its cable still installed.
  • Make it a circumaural (around-the-ear) design, to make it more comfortable.
  • Give it more bass control, more detail in the mids, and better treble extension. If you're feeling generous, throw in better imaging, please. High-end audio enthusiasts will thank you.

 

In addition to making audio products I love (I bought two of their Zeppelin Airs, and their MM-1 mini monitors for one of my main desks), I think Bowers & Wilkins can also read minds. Because they made all the changes to the P5 I was wishing for, and somehow managed to make it even better looking.

 

It's called the Bowers & Wilkins P7, and it's a perfectly good reason to drop 400 bucks. Thank you.

 

"The P7 looks fantastic, it feels fantastic, it's very comfortable and isolates very well, and it SOUNDS just beautiful. If you seek a high fidelity headphone, value both form and function and have $400 to spend on a portable, I can't think of anything I'd recommend more."

-Lan647
Head-Fi Member/Reviewer

TYPE: Closed, portable, circumaural (around the-ear) headphone 
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MSRP: $399.95
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URL: www.bowers-wilkins.com
AKG K553 Pro  
TYPE: Closed, full-size, around-the-ear headphoneX
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PRICE: $199 
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URL: personal.akg.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

First it was the AKG K7XX (which was the same as AKG's 65th anniversary edition of the AKG K702) that took an AKG headphone I found too lean and gave it more meat. The Massdrop/AKG K7XX is, in my opinion, one of the strongest headphone performance/price values of the past year.

 

Now AKG and Massdrop have done it yet again--taken an AKG model I liked, gave it more meat, and turned it into something I love. I'm talking about AKG's new K553 Pro, which Massdrop has now dropped at least a couple of times for only $120 (when I've seen it at other dealers for $199)! I've long been a fan of K553's predecessor AKG K550, for being a closed headphone with the airiness of a good open-back headphone. The K550 was more on the bass-light side, and had crisp, clear, flat mids. The K550's treble was, to my ears, on the livelier-than-neutral side--"more potent than smooth" is how I'd once described its treble. Somehow it all came together to make a headphone that I've enjoyed for years, but, admittedly, have had many occasions to want more from.

 

The AKG K553 is AKG's outstanding answer for those who, like me, wanted more. The AKG K553 is essentially the K550 changed in all the ways I wanted it changed. Bass-light? Not anymore. AKG filled the bass in, but kept it taut and detailed. Would it satisfy a basshead? Perhaps not, but, to my ears, it's now neutral-plus down there, instead of the K550's neutral-minus. The mids are a wee bit smoothed, too, but still detailed, still airy. In the treble region, AKG smoothed it out some, and I'm glad they did. Those who thought the K550's treble was perfect might find the K553's treble lost too much sparkle--I am definitely not one of them.

 

I think the the changes from the K550 to the K553 represent a much-needed refinement that took a headphone I really liked (K550) into a headphone I love, even at its $199 retail price, and even more at the $120 Massdrop price.

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

If, as I said earlier, the Sony MDR-ZX700 is a sort of modern spin on the circa-1980's MDR-V6, then the MDR-7520 is still a further evolution and refinement of the monitor sound the MDR-V6 represented in its heyday.

 

Let's get one thing straight before I continue: The MDR-7520 is not the same headphone as the now-discontinued (in the U.S.) MDR-Z1000. That was something I always assumed, but a belief I had banished for me in a head-to-head comparison of the two with Sony's Naotaka "Nao" Tsunoda (Nao was the lead engineer for these products). They do look similar, but they definitely sound different, with the MDR-7520's signature the one I preferred, its bass more impactful, and its image more spacious.

 

The pro audio market MDR-7520 has grown into one of my top choices for a sub-$500 closed headphone. While the newer Sony MDR-1R is also one of my favorites with its smooth-yet-detailed presentation, the MDR-7520 is often what I turn to when I want a closed around-the-ear that's more even-keeled (the MDR-7520's bass, though impactful, sounds less bumped-up to me than the MDR-1R's), and less polite, more revealing. I tend to prefer the MDR-1R when I know the music I'll be listening to is going to be all over the map, and the MDR-7520 when I'm queuing up my highest fidelity recordings, most of which are jazz and classical recordings. I'd have to give a slight edge to the MDR-7520 in imaging, too--image placement just seems a bit more precise with it.

 

Yes, its sibling, the MDR-1R, with its comfort advantage, fold-flat design, and smoother presentation, may see more general use from me; but the MDR-7520 has become an important, key member of my closed headphone stable. The MDR-7520 is now one of my primary go-to cans for reference sound in closed cans under $500.

TYPE: Closed, full-size, around-the-ear headphone 
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MSRP: Around $400
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URL: www.sony.com

 

beyerdynamic T1
TYPE: Semi-open, full-size, around-the-ear headphones
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MSRP: $799
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URL: www.beyerdynamic.com

 

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

Not long after Sennheiser announced the HD 800, beyerdynamic started firing gargantuan salvos of high-end goodness of its own, beginning with the Tesla T1.

 

The beyerdynamic T1 approaches neutrality with a slightly more forgiving nature than Sennheiser's HD 800. I also find it easier to find a good amp match-up for the T 1 than the HD 800.

 

If the Sennheiser HD 800 is on the cooler side of your tonal preferences--but you enjoy its detail and transparency--give serious consideration to the T1. Like few other headphones, beyerdynamic's flagship somehow balances ultra-revealing with sense of ease. Though it's deserving of outstanding amplification, I've not found it a hard headphone to coax greatness out of.

I've always enjoyed some of beyerdynamic's headphones, but the Tesla T1 (as well as the portable Tesla DT 1350) made me a beyerdynamic enthusiast.

 

"The T1 has an absolutely unique ability to make music sound natural, in my experience. Music simply flows from the T1 in a way that makes it unbelievably enjoyable to listen to, but without requiring any kind of noticeable coloration to get that job done. In my experience, it is that combination of neutrality, accuracy, and musicality that makes the T1, for me, the king of the dynamic headphones."

-SkyLab
Head-Fi Member/Reviewer

Fostex TH500RP  
TYPE: Open over-ear headphone 
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PRICE: $699.99 
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URL: fostexinternational.com

In 2013, Fostex decided to show an early prototype of their new planar magnetic headphone at CanJam at RMAF, before the headphone was even given a name. Since then, it has gone through A LOT of development, and it has also earned the name "Fostex TH500RP." The TH500RP is a sort of melding of Fostex's longstanding planar magnetic expertise with the design philosophy and flair of their flagship dynamic Fostex TH900 (and the TH600). The end result is a headphone that may confound those looking to buy their first premium Fostex headphone, as it adds one more excellent option to the top of the Fostex headphone line (accompanied by the TH600, and flagship TH900).

 

Built largely of aluminum and magnesium, the TH500RP's construction is outstanding, and fully in keeping with the quality that the TH600 and TH900 have spoiled us with. With the large, round earcups, and the perforated grill, the TH500RP looks like the love child of a Stax SR009 and a vintage Fostex.

 

The TH500RP is very comfortable on my head. I've worn it for hours at a time without any hotspots or clamping force issues. It only weighs 380 grams (13.4 ounces), so, as far as planars go, it is quite light.

 

Compared to its TH600 and TH900 siblings, the TH500RP is a more subtle headphone, a more even-tempered headphone. The bass emphasis isn't there--in fact, some may find the TH500RP's bass on the lean-ish side; I find its bass more neutral. To my ears, there's certainly no bass emphasis or boost. The TH500RP's midrange is very smooth, and with beautiful tone--I wouldn't describe its mids as bloomy, but, again, relative to pure neutrality, there's some sweetness in the TH500RP's midband. The same goes for its treble presentation. To my ears, it doesn't have the sense of treble extension that, for example, the HE-560 has, but, as with its mids, there's something entirely pleasant and mellifluous about the TH500RP's treble presentation.

 

Sonically, the TH500RP is not a headphone that wowed me, and, strangely enough, I really mean that as a compliment. It's a revealing headphone, but it's not incisive or analytical, to my ears. It's a headphone that has enough ease about its sound that once it's on my head, it's usually on for dang long time.

 

I visited Fostex's highly secretive audio labs last year in Japan, and one thing I've learned is that Fostex doesn't leave anything to chance. The overriding character of the TH500RP to me is that it doesn't impose itself on me or the music, and I'm inclined to think that Fostex fully intended that.

 

The TH500RP is an eminently musical headphone, and if you're shopping in its price range--and if what I've described sounds appealing to you--definitely put it on your audition list.

Shure SRH440 and Shure SRH840

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

Closed-back, pro-audio-oriented headphones, the SRH440 and SRH840 have found popularity for studio use. However, many audiophiles also appreciate them for their more neutral tonal balances (relative to many other closed headphones in this price range), the SRH440 having none of the bass bloat that many of its closed competitors have. The SRH840 adds a little more bass presence and a touch more midrange bloom. I also find the SRH840's overall presentation a bit more refined.

 

Though a full-size headphones, both the SRH440 and SRH840 fold into pretty compact, portable bundles.

 

At its street price of around $100, I think the Shure SRH440 is one of the better bargains in Head-Fi'dom, particularly because it can be challenging to find a good, affordable, neutral-ish closed headphone. If you want a touch more musicality without sacrificing the neutral-for-a-closed-headphone balance, its more refined sibling is still a great deal--and a classic--at around $160.

 

"These cans in my opinion are ideal for pure enjoyment of music - either straight out of your DAP, or amplified for a little extra lift. If I had to sum them up in a couple of words I would "smooth" and "balanced". I use the word balance more in an all purpose sense rather than a frequency range sense - these cans are great with most genres you throw at them."

-Brooko
Head-Fi Member/Reviewer

TYPE: Closed, around-the-ear headphones 
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MSRP: Around $100 and $160, respectively
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URL: www.shure.com
Noontec Zoro II  
TYPE: Closed, portable, on-the-ear headphones
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PRICE: Around $90 
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URL: www.noontec.com

Written by Amos Barnett (Currawong)

 

It is not often that I have interest in $100 headphones, and even less so in those with a bunch of marketing speak on the box — “Surround Closed Cavity Body” (meaningless), “Votrik Speaker” (who?), “High Definition” (Ungh!). It brought back memories from decades ago of my $10 “Dyanmic Stereo Sound” speakers which were single drivers in a cheap plastic box. 

 

However I’d seen some positive comments about the Zoro IIs on Head-Fi and the Amazon reviews were full of praise, so I agreed to give them a go. Opening them up, I was pleased to find that the hinge is steel reinforced, which is a positive given that the headphones are understandably plastic. The outer plastic is coated in what is described as “piano crafting varnish”, though it looks more like the pearl finish on my car. Irrespective, it is very nice and fingerprint-magnet smooth. On the headphones, which are “Designed in Italy” the result is gorgeous, garnering immediate positive comments from my young daughter when she spotted them. The headband arc ends at the hinge and part of it on either end are two tiny lugs which, when you open headphones all the way, snap into place, and the cable comes with a smartphone plug and mic. I immediately worried about the durability of snapping and folding this daily a few times and reached out to Noontec to ask them about durability. They replied that they had tested the hinge and it didn’t have any problems after “5000 times test” [sic].

 

Noontec appears to have taken the time to make decent earpads. I’ve seen too many pairs of low-range headphones that had vinyl so thin that the earpads were destroyed in short order, so decently thick earpads with a reasonably soft and smooth but a little robust-feeling covering was a pleasant surprise. The Zoro IIs sit on your ears, rather than around them, so this is important. 

 

The fit and finish appears quite good, down to the cup swivels, which don’t just flop around. The headphones don’t rattle when shaken and even when folded the hinges only have a tiny amount of play, only about as much as one gets in a high-end zoom lens. Even the single-button-with-mike phone-compatible cable is decent enough — a long strip of thin rubber terminated with branded plugs.

 

My first impressions were a shock and not at all what I expected from a pair of cheap headphones. At a moderate listening level the music was quite detailed and crisp. My usual experience with cheap headphones is that they tend to be boomy with a poor mid-range and very rolled-off treble, which might be OK with modern brightly-mastered pop but is rubbish for just about anything else. More recent models seem to be moving away from this trend, but I found that one usually has to spend a couple of hundred dollars first. 

 

Yello’s latest album, Touch Yello, is a slightly more modern version of the duo’s synth pop, with tracks ranging from dance music to ballads and soft jazz and welcomes detailed headphones with a good bit of bass punch. The Zoro IIs played it with both punch and delicacy as required. Heidi Happy’s voice, while not as well-presented as with some of my headphones, still came through very well, more like what I’d expect from a more expensive pair of headphones. I think this is due to the treble being slightly muted, which can make vocals seem slightly muffled. 

 

That muted treble was most noticeable listening to Leigh Barker from the Kostas Metaxas Recording Samplers. While the cymbals, for example, didn't come through as strongly as with some headphones, there was nothing disagreeable about the presentation, which is, overall, a touch warm. The percussion in "I’d Rather Be Blind, Crippled and Crazy" by The Derek Trucks Band was very enjoyable, the whole song delivered very well at both ends of the frequency spectrum. If anything, like with Heidi Happy on Yello’s album, I could only find fault in the vocals, which had a touch of hardness, but no more than I’d expect to find in headphones costing a few hundred dollars more.

 

To test the deep bass, I broke out the Amon Tobin’s Bricolage and The Silent Sound Spectrum by A Guy Called Gerald, both of which contain tracks that seem to go down close to 20 Hz. The rumble came through, not strongly, but quite sufficiently, and not lacking detail as I had expected. However, their inexpensive build doesn’t fare quite as well when the volume is turned up to louder levels, with vibrations clearly coming through the frame and a bit of harshness appearing in the presentation. A great deal of this is due to them being on-ears. Regardless, they held up remarkably well considering their price. 

 

Overall, for US$99 they are a steal, all of attractive, comfortable and enjoyable to listen with as long as one doesn't turn the volume up too high. I didn’t feel a desire to remove them from my head once I started listening, always an excellent sign. People looking for more pounding bass or a “club” experience might choose V-MODAs or the like, but for a pair of inexpensive and attractive all-rounders the Zoro IIs set a high bar.

 

V-MODA XS

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

V-MODA's M-80 earned a place as one of the top Head-Fi choices for a closed, portable, around-the-ear headphone (alongside the likes of the Sennheiser HD 25-1 II and the beyerdynamic DT 1350). With its rich, detailed mids, and smooth treble response, and full bass (but certainly not overblown, to my ears), the M-80 became one of the standards in this class of headphones. And though, technically, the M-80 is still on the market (at the time of this writing), V-MODA's XS serves is similar enough to it that we chose to replace the M-80 in this guide with it.

 

Starting with the low end, to my ears, the XS actually has a touch more energy in the mid-bass than the M-80. Still, though, I prefer the XS's bass presentation, which I find more precise, and more revealing of bass detail than the M-80 musters. The XS's rich, detailed mids are a nice carryover from the M-80. The newer headphone's treble, however, is more refined, and smoother than its older sib's. And, overall, that is actually how I'd describe the sound of the XS relative to the M-80--more refined. To my ears, in terms of sound, the headphone gives up nothing to its older stablemate.

 

Because the it more than keeps up with the M-80's sound, the biggest story with the XS, in my opinion, are the improvements that come with its physical design, and the changes and innovations there. V-MODA put considerable effort into making the XS more comfortable (and more compact) than the M-80, and it has paid off in spades.

 

One of the things I've always appreciated about every V-MODA over-ear headphone (both on-ear and around-the-ear) is the durable build quality that comes with their extensive use of metal and relatively straightforward swivel-less designs. While doing away with yoke swivels and joints certainly leads to greater strength, it also results in limited flexibility, especially in terms of earcup articulation. With my M-80, I've rather forceably twisted the headband to better optimize the angle at which the earcups greet my ears. With the XS, however, V-MODA has created a headband that seems to me to be more flexible, and that also seems to apply force to the earcups more evenly than with the M-80. The XS feels less clampy, and sits just as securely--but more evenly on my ears--than the M-80. For me, the XS is the a substantial comfort upgrade over the M-80.

 

V-MODA's Val Kolton also designed the XS to have a more form-fit appearance on the head. I've seen the XS worn by a good number of people by now, and the headband seems to have the ideal radius and flexibility to keep its lines snug up against heads of just about every shape and size. Because there's so little gap between the XS's headband and the head of the wearer, one of the marketing phrases V-MODA uses for the XS is "Mind The Gap," of course borrowed from the famous London Underground rail system warning. In my opinion, the XS is one of the best looking headphones on the head, with an understated physical presence, but with all the bold design elements of a V-MODA.

 

Finally, borrowing from the larger V-MODA M-100, the V-MODA XS incorporates V-MODA's awesome folding hinge design. As on the M-100, these folding hinges are things of beauty, super-sleek yet seemingly indestructible, and possessing of a detent *click* sound that reminds me of a well-made folding knife's blade snapping into its open position. And, when folded, the XS fits into its tiny carrying case, making for the smallest supra-aural (on-ear) headphone in its class. Even in a tightly packed messenger bag, when it seems there might only be room for an in-ear monitor, I can usually find a place for the XS.


For its sound, and for its comfort and compactness, the V-MODA XS is easily one of the best on-the-go headphones currently on the market.

 

"If you want a rich, smooth, warm yet detailed, big and dynamic sound in a crazy small portable package I strongly recommend trying the XS out. V-MODA just keeps getting better and better with the quality of their products and they should really be proud of this one."

-roma101
Head-Fi Member/Reviewer

TYPE: closed, on-ear headphone
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PRICE: $212.00 
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URL: www.v-moda.com
Abyss Headphones AB-1266

 

Details about the Abyss Headphones AB-1266 can be found in the Summit-Fi section of the guide.

 

Click here to check it out.

Sony MDR-1A  

In the last couple of years, I've personally seen the Sony MDR-1 series models--mostly the MDR-1R--worn in the wild more than any other premium Sony over-ear in recent memory. Sony updated the popular Sony MDR-1R with the MDR-1A. The two headphones look almost identical, but the Sony MDR-1A, like Sony's flagship MDR-Z7, has aluminum-coated liquid crystal polymer (ALCP) drivers, and an updated sound signature. (The Sony MDR-1R's drivers were liquid crystal polymer without aluminum coating.)

 

As a Sony MDR-1R fan, I'm happy to say that Sony didn't stray too far from the sound that made it so popular. Still, Sony's engineers worked hard to update the the MDR-1A with meaningful sonic improvements, and the results were very fruitful. To my ears, the Sony MDR-1A sounds like it has more low-bass than the MDR-1R, so there is a richer bottom end now. Also, the MDR-1A's treble response has more shimmer--the treble seems better fleshed out on the newer model, which, to my ears, gives it a leg up on its predecessor.

 

Like the MDR-1R before it, the MDR-1A's midrange is wonderful, presenting most vocals slightly forward, and with beautiful rendering of subtle details that some of its competitors miss. Midrange detail and focus have improved with the MDR-1A, but not quite to the extent that the treble improved.

 

There have been changes to the earpads, too, with the newer pads being thicker, which does change the feel a bit. I think the older ones (on the MDR-1R) are a wee bit more comfortable, but the MDR-1A remains one of the most comfortable closed headphones currently available.

 

I think the sonic adjustments made with the MDR-1A will play very well in showroom auditions, so I have a feeling I'll continue to see more and more Sony MDR-1A's in the wild in the coming years. I was happy with the MDR-1R as it was, but certainly welcome the progress Sony has achieved with this model update.

TYPE: Full-size, around-the-ear closed headphone
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PRICE: Around $300
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URL: www.sony.com
TYPE: Closed, full-size, around-the-ear headphone
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MSRP: Around $160
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URL: www.audio-technica.com

 

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

I'm including the closed-back ATH-M50 in this guide because it is a very strong favorite in this price range with Head-Fi'ers, known for solid overall performance at the price, with a tendency toward bass emphasis and sparkly treble. I see few headphones recommended as often by our community, both for starters looking for a good entry into Head-Fi'dom, as well as for seasoned Head-Fi'ers looking for a good closed around-the-ear headphone.

Audeze LCD-X and LCD-XC

Details about the Audeze LCD-X and LCD-XC can be found in the Summit-Fi section of the guide.

 

Click here to read about these Audeze headphones.

Alpha Design Labs ADL-H118 (by Furutech)
TYPE: Closed, full-size, around-the-ear headphone 
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MSRP: $269.00
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URL: www.adl-av.com

 

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

Furutech is probably most widely known in the high-end audio industry as a manufacturer of some of the best-made, fanciest cable terminations for signal and power cables. High-end cable manufacturers consider Furutech cable terminations bragging rights, and charge accordingly for the inclusion of them. In the last few years, Furutech ventured into portable and computer audio via their Alpha Design Labs (ADL) brand, with several models of DAC/amp combos, both portable and desktop. Now Furutech is officially in the headphone business, and the H118 is a cracking good start.

 

That this headphone isn't garnering more attention by the Head-Fi community is a bit of a shock to me, as it's a very good closed headphone that's reasonably portable (because it folds). This is a headphone that, in my opinion, should easily be considered as a candidate among the likes of the Sennheiser MOMENTUM and HD 26 Pro, V-MODA M-100, Sony MDR-1R, Shure SRH1540, Focal Spirit Professional, etc. Among the more balanced headphones in its class, I've found the H118 to be a joy to listen to, not just on the go, but at my desk, which I usually reserve for headphones with a more reference-type presentation.

 

The H118's bass extension is very good, and its presentation very impactful. There's perhaps some mild bass emphasis, but "mild" is the key descriptor here. Before I received the H118, I read at least one other review of this headphone that seemed to suggest it was going to be bass-heavier than it is. (It was a pretty early review, so perhaps there was a running change?) The H118's bass control and detail is also exceptionally good for this type of headphone. As for mids, the H118's midband sounds mostly neutral, to my ears, but with more warmth than the very flat mids of the Focal Spirit Professional. Treble presence is excellent, with maybe a touch less shimmer than the Focal, but a bit more than, say, the smoother treble of the HD 26 Pro. In terms of its tonal balance, this is one of the easiest to recommend headphones in its class, for a variety of tastes.

 

The ADL H118's imaging is good, in terms of precision image object placement; but spaciousness is not one of its strong points, especially compared to something like the expansiveness of the Sony MDR-1R. I'd say, in terms of the H118's imaging, it's par for the course for a closed headphone of this type.

 

My biggest reservation about the ADL H118 headphone by Furutech is its earcup shape, which appears to be ideal for someone with upside-down Mr. Spock ears. ADL stands for "Alpha Design Labs," and with some of their components, they've gone for an alpha-shape profile. Okay, I get it--it looks unique, and plays on the name. (Look up the "ADL Cruise" if you want to see what I'm talking about.) But to shape headphone earcups this way...well, let's just say it makes a lot less sense to me. To honor the alpha-shape, the bottoms of the earcups--and, thus, the earpads--come down into a tight, pointy bend. My ears mostly fit inside the ear pads, but would probably fit completely inside if they'd rounded off the bottoms more. It's not so much that the H118 isn't comfortable--it's more that it could have been significantly more comfortable, which, for a headphone that sounds this good, would've made it even more irresistible. Still, though, the H118 is more comfortable for long-term wear than most of its supra-aural (on-the-ear) competitors.

 

The ADL H-118 by Furutech is a headphone I strongly suggest you audition if you're in the market for a solid, reasonably priced, closed headphone with a more reference sound signature.

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

The V-MODA M-100--V-MODA's current flagship--was one of the most anticipated product launches we've seen in the Head-Fi community in quite some time. Part of what made the M-100 so anticipated is how it came to be, uniquely developed alongside online audiophiles, musicians, editors--a true collaborative effort. At its core, though, the M-100 was a passion project for V-MODA founder Val Kolton. He'd been working on it for a long while before he revealed the project publicly; and then for about a year after that, he started gathering feedback from his musician and editor friends, and then welcomed opinions from the Head-Fi community, including sonic critiques from Head-Fi members.

 

In 2011, Kolton and I met twice to discuss the M-100, once in Chicago, and then again at Head-Fi HQ in Michigan. The purpose of the visit to my office was to look at his hinge design (which ended up evolving into something stronger and more refined by the time it made production), as well as evaluating a bunch of earpad variations that looked so much alike they had to be numbered for identification (yet they sounded quite different from one prototype pair to the next). There was no sleep at that latter meeting, as there was a lot to cover--we even had a couple of video conferences with his engineers overseas. Then there was a limited public unveiling (and auditions) of M-100 prototypes at CES 2012, and a few more get-togethers about the M-100 last year. Strengthening the community-developed nature of the M-100, a very limited run of specially packaged first-run M-100's was sold exclusively to Head-Fi community members who signed up for it.

 

After all that, what was the result? Let's start with that hinge: As a professional DJ who knows how rough headphones can be treated on the road, Kolton wanted to make sure that any hinge he developed wouldn't be a point of weakness. And the hinge that evolved into the production version feels exceedingly strong. A lot of attention even went into the detents that *click* to confirm full-open and full-closed positions--this hinge feels positively Swiss-like in its precision.

 

The M-100 is a tough headphone that can survive 70+ drops on concrete from a height of six feet; survive environmental tests including high and low temperatures, humidity, salt spray, and ultraviolet light exposure; with a headband that can bend flat 10 times, and a cable that can survive 1,000,000+ bends. And, yes, these are actual tests V-MODA performs.
 

Also Swiss-like in its precision is the quality control the drivers are subjected to, each matched to tight tolerances at six different frequency bands, as one of Kolton's hot buttons is, without a doubt, driver matching.

 

Even more attention and anxiety was paid to the sound signature. With every V-MODA headphone ever made (in-ear or over-ear), there's bass emphasis, depending on the model, to varying degrees. The V-MODA Crossfade M-80 (also in this guide) was the first headphone from V-MODA that was designed for audiophiles (or "Modiophiles"--modern audiophiles--as Kolton calls them). The M-100 is the second, and the flagship. Still there is bass emphasis, but in a manner that smartly leaves the mids relatively unruffled. The M-100's mids are detailed, if not just somewhat subdued with its framing between the prominent bass on the one side, and the soaring treble on the other. Imaging is surprisingly spacious for a closed headphone whose drivers don't appear to me to be at all canted at an angle, like we see on so many headphones today.

 

The M-100's passive isolation is good enough for most of my on-the-go needs. For an on-the-go headphone, its sound (not to mention its durability) make it virtually perfect. If you've a tendency to prefer some bass emphasis and very detailed treble, this might very well be the closed, over-ear reference headphone you've been looking for. For me, the M-100 has become one of my top passive on-the-go headphones of choice, for both its sound and durability.

 

"By far the strongest sonic trait of the M-100 is it's rendering of its bass. At least to my ears, this is the defining signature of these headphones... I won't call myself a bass head but the M-100's bass traits have enlightened me on how to appreciate good quality bass."

-AnakChan
Head-Fi Member/Reviewer

TYPE: Closed, full-size, around-the-ear headphone
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MSRP: $310.00
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URL: www.v-moda.com

 

Parrot ZIK 2.0

Details about the Parrot Zik 2.0 can be found in the Wireless Headphones section of the guide.

 

Click here to check it out.

TYPE: Closed, portable, active noise canceling, around-the-ear headphone (MDR-1RNC) 
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MSRP: $499.99
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URL: www.sony.com

 

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

The Sony MDR-1RNC, in terms of technology and features--and in terms of price--is the MDR-1 line's flagship model. It's an active noise canceling model. The MDR-1RNC also differs from the other two models in the line with a 50mm Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) driver, the other models sporting 40mm drivers.

 

As for its noise canceling circuit, the MDR-1RNC uses an adaptive digital noise canceling system that will automatically select one of three distinct noise canceling profiles (airplane, bus, or office), depending on the MDR-1RNC's assessment of the ambient noise around you. In use, I've found the MDR-1RNC's noise canceling to be very effective. However, the way it goes about canceling noise is quite different than Bose's. Bose's noise canceling seems to cancel more total noise, to my ears, with a cancellation effect that is more broadband. The MDR-1RNC, on the other hand, seems to selectively let more human voices through, but only after substantially blunting them. This effect is so specific, I have almost no doubt that it's deliberate.

 

One area the MDR-1RNC's noise canceling seems particularly effective is with low-frequency noise cancellation. While testing them at an airport, Joe (one of Head-Fi's co-administrators) was wearing the MDR-1RNC (and I the Bose QC15), and when I asked what the rumble of the tram that had just gone by sounded like to him, he looked at me puzzled and asked, "What tram?"

 

To my ears, another advantage the MDR-1RNC has over my Bose QC15 or QC25 is in sound quality with music. The Bose QC15 had a smooth, friendly sound signature, but one that's not very detailed, and with rather flat imaging; and the QC25 has improved on the QC15. The MDR-1RNC, like it's wireless sibling (the MDR-1RBT) uses Sony's "S-MASTER" digital amplification and "DSEE" processing which is designed to restore depth and detail lost in the audio compression process. The effect is more dramatic in the MDR-1RNC than it is in the MDR-1RBT, adding a bit more edge to the sound than the MDR-1RBT's implementation of these technologies; but, again, I think this was intentional, as an attempt to accentuate details that loud ambient noise may mask. The result is a more detailed sound signature, and more three-dimensional imaging, than either of my Bose over-ears.

 

The MDR-1RNC can be used in passive mode, so the sound can keep going, even after the internal rechargeable battery dies. However, since the MDR-1RNC's battery life is rated at up to 30 hours of listening time, you're not likely to run it dry if you routinely charge it. The MDR-1RNC's passive mode's sound quality is acceptably good, but certainly not this headphone at its best. In this mode, it's bass-heavier and thicker-sounding overall than the better sounding passive-only MDR-1A and the Bluetooth MDR-1RBT in its passive mode--but it's still acceptably good in a pinch.

 

Currently, the Sony MDR-1RNC is the only active noise canceler I use for travel other than Bose's offerings. That said, the improvements in the Bose QuietComfort 25 have moved the Sony MDR-1RNC into second position for me, as far as active noise-canceling over-ears go.

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

For a nice open-backed full size headphone in this price range, Sennheiser's HD 558 is one of the best choices I've come across. Lightweight, and well padded, the HD 558 is among the most comfortable headphones I've owned (at any price), and I've owned a lot of headphones.

 

And, thankfully, the HD 558 sounds as good as it is comfortable, projecting a wide, open sonic image. Though its bass presentation is more on the neutral side, there's still a sense of fullness down low. Smooth, yet with outstanding detail overall, is how I'd characterize this headphone.

 

The HD 598 is like an HD 558 that went to sonic finishing school--simply put, it's more refined. Most noticeable is that the HD 598's presentation is slightly more treble-tilted, and its bass more controlled. The HD 598's more polished sound signature is, to my ears, higher-end, and earns the difference in price between it and its mid-line sibling.

 

I also love the HD 598's entirely unique color scheme--no other headphone I'm aware of looks like it, with its cream-colored leather-like chassis, and dark brown faux burl wood trim and velour ear cushions.

 

TYPE: Open, full-size, around-the-ear headphones 
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MSRP: Around $180 and $250, respectively
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URL: www.sennheiser.com

 

 

TYPE: Closed, full-size, around-the-ear headphone
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MSRP: Around $150
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URL: www.skullcandy.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

The Skullcandy Aviator, in my opinion, is one of the coolest looking headphones on the head, though it takes some youthful spirit to pull it off.

 

Sonically, I think the Aviator holds its own as a portable headphone, even at $150, with its surprisingly even-handed presentation (surprising considering rapper Jay Z had something to do with it), and a nice open sound. That openness comes at the expense of isolation, which the Aviator is devoid of (despite technically being a closed headphone)--so, in terms of isolation, assume it similar to an open headphone.

Fostex TH600

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

Fostex's flagship TH900 is, without a doubt, one of my favorite headphones of all time. I'm certainly far from alone in expressing unbridled adulation for the TH900, and there are many who've heard it who want one but find its price too much of a stretch. Fostex took notice, and the TH600 is their answer.

No, the TH600 doesn't have the stunning urushi lacquer over birch wood earcups. It does, however, have more understated matte black die-cast magnesium earcups that are still gorgeous, and might actually be preferred by those who are partial to a more subdued aesthetic. Its driver's magnet is not quite as powerful as the TH900's (1.0 tesla versus 1.5 tesla), so the TH600 has slightly lower sensitivity, but is still quite easy to drive. None of these differences keep the TH600 from offering up most of what so many people love about the flagship TH900, and it does it at a substantially lower price ($799.00 versus $1499.00).

No, the TH600 doesn't sound exactly like the TH900. The TH900 is more transparent, with more treble refinement--more realistic shimmer--and with more controlled, more detailed bass. The TH-600 has enough of the TH-900's traits that I've had Moon Audio re-wire it with a much shorter Moon Audio Black Dragon cable, and use it as a sort of TH-900 alternative for on-the-go use.

If you listened to and loved the Fostex TH900, but just can't stretch your budget to get to it, the TH600 is raising its hand wildly, and you'd do well to call on it.

 

"I think for those who are curious about the Fostex TH-series house sound, the TH-600 will please. It actually performs well for a headphone of it's price range. I actually can't think of another closed back of that price that would sound nice and articulate."

-AnakChan
Head-Fi Moderator/Member/Reviewer

TYPE: Semi-closed, around-the-ear headphones
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MSRP: $600.00
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URL: www.fostexinternational.com

 

TYPE: Portable, closed, on-the-ear headphone
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MSRP: Around $90
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URL: www.sennheiser.com

 

 

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

The Sennheiser PX 200-II is an easy recommendation for an ultra-portable on-the-ear headphone priced under $100, especially if you're looking for a compact, closed headphone with a more neutral sound signature. If you've found most portable on-the-ear headphones too bass-heavy for you, put the PX 200-II at the top of your audition list, especially if you want something super portable that's not an in-ear. The closed-back PX 200-II provides good passive noise isolation, too.

 

This headphone is also available in a version with a three-button remote/mic cable, and that model is called the PX 200-IIi, and is priced around $110.

 

"The PX200-II therefore has all the hallmarks of a critical and commercial success – usability, excellent sonic characteristics, and a respected name to back it all up - and will likely become more popular than the famed PX100 in the near future."

-ljokerl
Head-Fi Member/Reviewer

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