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Reviews by: Currawong

The Noontec Zoro II Wireless are a comfortable, light-weight, inexpensive and good-sounding pair of wireless headphones.

Posted

Pros: Good sound both wireless and wired. Light weight. Fold neatly. APTx Bluetooth. Very comfortable and stylish.

Cons: Poor isolation. Not so good at loud volumes. No hard case.

Video review.   It all started some time ago with a message asking me if I’d like a free review sample of some headphones from a creatively off-beat name. I’d seen the name around Head-Fi and only guessed that they were inexpensive and may actually be half-decent, so I accepted. Later it turned out that they appeared to have given away quite a few pairs to people to review and that they were cheaper than expected. At under the $100 mark they were on the end of the scale that I usually ignored except when a handful of cheap-headphone-spotters would start arguing about over them in the forums.   The small box that arrived with a front revealing-flap did...
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The Woo Audio WA8 is a lovely-sounding single-unit transportable high-end rig.

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Pros: Warm yet detailed and spacious sound. Drives everything from high-end headphones to IEMs easily. Very well made. DAC is great.

Cons: Heavy for a portable device. Poor battery life.

  Until recently, one of the most daring things I'd seen on an amp was the large block of glass atop Woo Audio's WA7 Fireflies. The amp, a simple, yet good-sounding transformer-coupled tube amp performed, I reckon, above it's $999 price (ignoring the DAC), and gives an IKEA-like style to the world of headphone amps. That was until Jack Wu decided he was going to make a portable version.     WA8s at the 2016 SF meet at Wikia   Let's get the major bits out of the way first: It weighs 1.09 kg or 2.4 lbs. This is purely crazy. The weight isn't just from the battery, it's actually mostly from the case and the two transformers, as the WA8 is not a hybrid....
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MrSpeakers' Ether Flow makes an already great pair of headphones even better.

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Pros: Comfortable, not too heavy, Nitinol headband is great. Outstanding sound quality. Great cable.

Cons: Upgrade for existing owners must be done at the factory.

  I was lucky enough to be sitting with Dan Clarke in his office at the moment Jude's video about the original Ethers went live and my experiences with them before, and during CanJam SoCal 2015 lead me to buy the demo pair I'd taken home with me. Dan had bet his entire company on the product and subsequent Ether C headphones, his Foxtex-based models going into retirement. It thankfully paid off.    Not one to rest, for even a moment, Dan released V1.1, a simple update consisting of a piece of specially chosen foam. I forgot to grab that for my own pair, but thankfully didn't forget to grab a pair of the new Ether Flow at the San Francisco meet this year.  The name...
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Chord's DAVE is transcendental headphone listening in a single box.

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Pros: Amazing sound quality. Very good headphone drive. Measures outstandingly.

Cons: Very expensive. Generic remote control. Unattractive user interface.

When I was a child in the '80s, one of my neighbour's kids, a gloriously goofy-looking guy of the era, was always out on his driveway fixing his motorbikes, then later, his car, a vintage Ford V8. Amongst the memories of grease, gears and the like was his response to questions of how to fix any problem. "Use a bigger hammer" he'd say, jokingly, something anyone of that era who did their own mechanics can appreciate the humour of.    That expression stuck in my head since then, and came to mind once again listening with the Chord DAVE. With the many different, and seemingly conflicting approaches to digital music reproduction, the one problem that manufactures come up against...
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RHA's T20 are a robust and entertaining pair of IEMs.

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Pros: Very sturdily made. No micro-phonics. Excellent packaging. Switchable nozzles with different tuning. Good sound with fantastic bass.

Cons: Plug sticks out quite far. Cable is very chunky. Getting a good seal can be troublesome. Not the most refined or detailed sound.

  At the 2015 Spring Tokyo Fujiya Avic Headphone Festival I had the pleasure of meeting Lindsey from Reid Heath Acoustics and talking to her about their new T20i IEMs. Lindsey was insistent that I try the new models and I almost forgot with the overwhelming number of products I was busy trying and photographing. On a Sunday afternoon at the end of the show is the hardest time to impress me after all that has been seen and heard, but the T20is didn’t disappoint, with some very punchy bass that I felt needed further investigation, so I agree with Lindsey to review a pair.   The T20 use a very interesting and unique driver. Where a normal dynamic driver has one voice coil, the...
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The Sony h.ear on wireless headphones deliver outstanding audio quality for the money, despite being noise-cancelling.

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Pros: Long battery life, excellent sound quality, portable case, noise cancelling, ease of use, good comfort, wide sound-stage.

Cons: Some background sounds can still be heard. Recessed 3.5mm socket only works with supplied cable. Ear-pad replaceability not clear.

  It's always a pleasure to meet Nao Tsunoda of Sony at the Tokyo festivals as there is plenty of interesting technology being developed and on display. At first when I saw a row of colourful "h.ear on Wireless" MDR-100ABN headphones it didn't bring up my interest (a range of colours is usually strike 1 for good sound quality) being told that they were Bluetooth (strike 2), and noise cancelling (strike 3!) didn't encourage me any more. However Nao did want me to try the new high-res LDAC Bluetooth transmission, which can send 96k-quality audio from one of their Sony NW-A25 Walkmans. So I got out a micro SD card and plugged it in, put them on to have that weird shell-cupping...
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The Brainwavz Hooka gives your headphones a good time hanging from your desk.

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Pros: All-metal design is very sturdy. Attaches using a large pad of strong 3M VHB tape. Deep pad allows plenty of room. Hooked end prevents slipping.

Cons: None so far.

The unfortunately-named Brainwavz Hooka was offered to me via email from Brainwavz. I didn't realise you could buy a Hooka online, but now you can on Amazon, for only $15.95.    The Hooka is designed to stick onto, say, the side of your desk, and unlike the Truss and Hengja, offers a deeper metal plate for your headphones to rest on. This means that a full-sized pair of headphones can hang without bumping the surface the Hooka is attached to. It also has an upturned hook at the end, good for catching your headphones from falling, and thankfully you wont catch anything else from it, except maybe your pants, if it is protruding from your desk.   The Hooka uses 3M's VHB...
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The Brainwavz Truss is handy if you want to hang two pairs of headphones under a desk, but needs to be wider so they don't bump.

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Pros: All metal design makes the hanger very solid. Can hang two pairs of headphones or one pair with cable.

Cons: Narrow design results in headphones banging together, unless they are both Grados or similarly small.

Brainwavz sent me this hanger along with two others and to what seems to be other people as well.     Like their other hangers, the Truss is an all-metal design, making it nice and sturdy. It attaches using some serious 3M VHB tape. This is not the kind of thing you want to stick on the forehead of your passed-out friend in a moment of drunken inspiration, as having them wake up with a double-sided headphone hanger would be hilarious for all of a couple of minutes until someone had to get the thing off.     However, such serious tape is needed to have have the headphones accidentally drop on your foot because the tape gave way. Similarly, the Truss is hooked...
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The Brainwavz Hengja is a basically decent all-metal desk-clamp headphone hanger.

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Pros: Sturdy, all metal design that can be adjusted for a vertical or horizontal clamp. Doesn't take up much room.

Cons: Hanging section could be a bit longer. Needs some form of non-slip material on top for best results.

Like everyone else, I was sent the hanger by Brainwavz to review.      It's a very straight-forward product: It clamps to your desk or shelf in a horizontal or vertical position, which can be changed by undoing the main screw and clamps using a common screw mechanism.    When mine arrived, I attempted to undo the main screw to change it to vertical orientation and found the screw was so tight that I had to use enough force to bend the included hex key, to the point that the plating started to fall off. That was on the only problem I had, as otherwise the hanger works as intended.     The hanger will clamp onto desks or shelves that are...
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The ALO Audio Rx is an excellent amp for driving all types of IEMs.

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Pros: Seemingly transparent sound quality, light weight, free quality micro-USB cable.

Cons: No gain switch, not as small as some other alternatives.

  If I was to rate products by how easy they are to review, I’d pick amplifiers as an easy first, and headphones and IEMs last. While both have their complexities, with amplifiers those lie with the engineers and manufacturers, and it is fairly easy to determine to what degree the products goals have been met, whereas the complexities of headphones related to the listener, such as music tastes, how loud one listens, comfort and whatnot.   In that regard, the new Rx from Ken Ball at ALO Audio is on the dead easy end of the scale: Do you need an amp that drives IEMs well, especially high-end models with multiple balanced armatures? Do you not mind that it is not the...
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Head-Fi.org › Currawong › Reviews by Currawong