It was probably 10 years ago when I heard my first custom headphones, and I couldn't get over the sound. It was an Ultimate Ears UE-5 model, and the level of detail was so much better than any previous headphones I'd tried. The custom earpieces' superior noise-isolation dividends were also part of the appeal, because as the background noise level goes down, the apparent detail goes up. With less environmental noise overpowering the subtle/quiet details in the music, I could listen at lower volume levels. Once you've experienced what custom-molded headphones can do, it's hard … Read more
Is the music from your iPhone sounding a little lifeless? The Vamp could bring your audio back from the dead with a built-in headphone amplifier and digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that bypasses the iPhone's audio circuitry.
Designed for Apple's iPhone 4 and 4S, the Vamp is also a very solid-looking case that's made from "aircraft-grade metal." Inside, there's a high-quality DAC and two 150mW amps (at 32 omhs) to drive headphones of various sizes. A rechargeable 2,200mAh battery powers the setup for up to 8 hours, which isn't very impressive for a high-end headphone amp.
It also serves as a backup battery for your iPhone, which will undoubtedly leave you with even fewer hours of music. … Read more
I've reviewed my share of portable headphone amplifiers, but ALO's new Rx-MK3B just might be the best on a number of counts. First, the amp is compact, just about the same size as an iPhone, but twice as thick. ALO invested two years of engineering and development time in the Rx-3B, and makes it in the U.S.
The Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo is a portable digital-to-analog converter designed only for use with iPhones, iPads, and iPods, but it won't work with computers (it's not a USB DAC). There are precious few portable DACs that can … Read more
Head-Fi is a national headphone club, and I went to the local meeting in Babylon, N.Y., last Saturday.
The vibe was friendly, and it was great to hear Head-Fi members' home-built gear, but there were a few surprises popping up from the headphone and electronics manufacturers in attendance.
Logitech Ultimate Ears' Personal Reference Monitor in-ear headphones feature a new twist on custom-molded-to-your-ears headphone design. Lots of brands now make custom in-ear headphones, and Logitech's have been among my favorites for years, but the upcoming Personal Reference Monitor takes the personalization to the next level. Once your ear canals' &… Read more
I don't run without music. I just get too bored. But a few beats into songs by, say, The Knife, and my feet are pounding the pavement hard. I'm also perpetually safety-conscious, though, which means I tend to avoid Portland's beautiful but busy waterfront loop in favor of quiet streets with low traffic.
So I have long hoped for the perfect sports headphones that are durable, comfortable, and let the ambient noise in. Enter AIRbudz, the alternative earbud attachments that Utah-based entrepreneur (and jogger) Tammy Erdel is raising funds for on Kickstarter.
AIRbudz deal with external sound blockage by incorporating air channels into their 3D-printed buds that quite simply let ambient sound stream in. The ambient noise is obviously still competing with whatever sounds are pumping through the headphones, but that sound doesn't appear to be in any way altered or compromised.… Read more
Headphones are among the most popular products on CNET, and, not surprisingly, many of you are looking for a pair that delivers a lot of bang for the buck -- and so are we.
Earlier I put together a list of headphones that cost less than $100. While that list included some models that you could pick up for less than $50, the ones I've rounded up here all come in under $50 -- and even a few under $10. Like the previous list, it's a hodgepodge of products, with a mix of in-ear, on-ear, and over-the-ear headphones, and even a few Bluetooth models.… Read more
Shure is one of the leading professional microphone manufacturers, and it makes terrific headphones, but my first brush with a Shure product was with one of its phono cartridges in the early 1970s. Shure cartridges were known for their superior tracking ability, and had lower distortion than most competitors. Shure now offers a full line of consumer and DJ phono cartridges.
I recently chatted with Shure's Michael Pettersen to learn more about how to get the best sound from any phono cartridge, and his first order of business was keeping the "needle" in the groove.
Pettersen says … Read more
Today's episode of The 404 is a valuable resource for anyone obsessed with headphones -- classic audiophiles, young audiophiliacs, musicians, producers, and casual listeners will all benefit from Steve Guttenberg's knowledge, and he brought a friend! Tyll Hertsens is largely credited for creating the first portable headphone amp and currently the editor-in-chief of InnerFidelity.
With Tyll's help, we'll run through the differences between on-ear and in-ear headphones, give credit to two companies responsible for introducing high-quality headphones to the next generation of audiophiles, and we'll even spend a little time dissecting the criteria for what makes a headphone "sound good."… Read more
Today's show title is the design credo of Milton Glaser, the celebrated designer responsible for turning the "I <3 New York" graphic into a world-recognized symbol.
That ethos is also the inspiration for today's discussion topic about Apple's "faux-real" user interfaces that Tom Hobbs at Fast Company believes is stunted by skeuomorphs, or elements of design that retain parts of its inspiration.
We'll look at how Apple's desire to show off the look of its products may be hindering its principal innovations, why the Amazon Kindle uses its own basic layout to create a more immersive environment for its readers, and how apps harnessing nostalgia like Instagram and Hipstamatic are holding back the next evolution of technology.… Read more
I've always been a big fan of Denon receivers' sound quality, but now the company's really getting serious about headphones. Yes, it's made headphones for years, including some really nice ones, so I was unprepared for the radical rethinking of Denon's headphone line. I was treated to an advance preview of upcoming Denon, Marantz, and Boston Acoustics products on Tuesday in Mahwah, N.J.… Read more