Rad said: All in all, listening to Astell&Kern’s AK Jr was pure pleasure.
The gist: Littlest brother to the company’s mighty AK380 portable media player.
Rad said: Audio-Technica’s ATH-MSR7 headphones blindsided me. I’d expected very good commuter cans that would be good for casual listening. Instead, I discovered a set of audiophile headphones that live up to the Hi-Res Audio badge they wear.
The gist: Good sound on the go from a respected source.
Brent said: There’s no contesting that the AudioQuest NightHawks are an extraordinary design with best-in-the-business comfort, and sonic isolation that I didn’t think possible from semi-open-back headphones. They’re also the product of a huge amount of knowledge, research, experimentation, and original thought. I don’t know if you’ll like them, but I do know that they deserve your audition.
The gist: Controversial voicing in a beautifully conceived package.
Brent said: The Flow is an upscale product with excellent sound quality and ergonomics, and impressive versatility. I expect it to be a big hit with headphone enthusiasts whose primary source component is a laptop computer.
The gist: Perhaps the coolest headphone amp out there.
Hans said: If I needed a pair of all-purpose, everyday headphones, Bowers & Wilkins’ P5 Series 2s are exactly what I would buy. Their sumptuous design and luxurious materials make them as much a fashion statement as a declaration of appreciation of high-fidelity sound, while their tailored frequency response delivers easy listening with most any musical genre you can throw at them.
The gist: Stylish headphones for those with 802s in the living room.
Brent said: They’re not the perfect noise-canceling headphones -- nothing is, yet -- but they deliver an undeniably appealing mix of sound quality, features, and comfort.
The gist: Compare these to your Bose headphones and you might be surprised.
Brent said: I don’t know if the HE1000s are the ultimate headphones. But considering their impeccable sound quality and above-average comfort, I think they’re the closest thing I’ve found.
The gist: Brent’s favorite high-priced headphones.
Rad said: If you’re looking for an inexpensive pair of headphones for daily use, you could scarcely go wrong with the Jabra Moves. They’re lightweight, durable, have great overall sound, and can be used wired or wirelessly.
The gist: Not bad, but Rad says spend another hundred bucks and get the Jabra Revos.
Rad said: The Jam Transit headphones have a lot more going for them than you’d think. The clever packaging converts to a carry case, they fit well, they have punchy bass, and they don’t get hot with prolonged use. But the lack of clean, crisp highs limits their appeal. This minus is countered by perhaps the biggest plus: the extremely low price.
The gist: Poor highs detracts.
Rad said: Koss’s BT540is are great over-the-ear headphones for physical activity and for listening at home. One of a growing number of headphone models designed to suit all purposes, they have especially good, nonboomy bass, but their sound is solid from top to bottom.
The gist: Modern headphones from one of the oldest companies in hi-fi.
Uday said: If you don’t need the DAC, and/or have a tube-based system, and/or prefer things on the warmer side of neutrality, the Marley may be what you’re looking for. You should definitely check it out.
The gist: Good but basic headphone amp (that’s not cheap).
Brent said: They sound basically neutral overall, and their EQ switch lets you easily tune them to the music you’re listening to without messing up the sound in any way. They also have a great fit and a friendly design.
The gist: Get your air guitar on with these babies.
Rad said: The 10585s have killer good looks, fit amazingly well, fold up compactly, can be used wirelessly or wired, come with a nice storage case, run incredibly long on a single battery charge, and are that rare headphone model that can do double duty as a serious listening device and as a portable that can be used anywhere: at the gym, on the bike, at home. And they cost a third of anything comparable.
The gist: And you thought Monoprice was only about cheap cabling.
Brent said: It can drive any pair of headphones I’ve ever encountered to loud levels; it can handle almost any digital or analog source (assuming its optional DAC module is installed); and despite its high-tech look, it’s a pleasure to use. Most important, though, is the sound, which is a substantial step up from the lower-priced headphone amps that make up the bulk of the market these days.
The gist: Brent said it: “Maybe it does make sense to spend $4300 on a headphone amp!”
Brent said: Sonically, the HP30s are quite nice. They’re not for people who want loads of treble, and the apparent detail created by that extra treble. They’re for listeners who crave a natural-sounding midrange, precisely reproduced bass, and fatigue-free sound.
The gist: For those who crave the most neutral sound.
Hans said: It’s incredibly well designed, with the build quality and feel of a modern iPhone, and the style and flair of something that will look at home in any setting. Factor in ruler-flat neutrality, flexibility of use with a wide variety of devices, and a fast-charge feature that you’ll never want to be without, and I can’t think of one area in which the HA-2 comes up short.
The gist: High-style, great-sounding headphone DAC-amp for a very reasonable price.
Hans said: Their build and appearance are beyond reproach -- every detail has been assiduously attended to -- and whatever concessions the PM-2s make to the PM-1s on the luxury front are, to my mind, unimportant. Discriminating consumers take note: Oppo’s PM-2s sound every bit as good as they look and feel -- and they look and feel superlative.
The gist: Maybe the sweet spot in Oppo's knockout line of headphones.
Brent said: The Oppo Digital PM-3s are a great alternative to ordinary closed-back headphones, with a more trebly and detailed sound than most, and without the big, somewhat booming bass produced by many, if not most, closed-back ’phones. They’re a great choice for someone looking for a high-quality, high-detail listening experience on the go.
The gist: Oppo has this headphone stuff figured out!
Rad said: I can applaud the Tuis for their visual design, and Outdoor Tech. for trying to break the mold. But considering the Koss BT540i’s and many other headphones out there (Polk and Monoprice come to mind), and adding in the Tuis’ somewhat loose fit and difficult navigation controls, I can’t recommend them.
The gist: Just not very good.
Brent said: If you want earphones that deliver great reproduction of voices and exceptional treble detail -- and you want to pay less than $100 to get it -- I think the MS 100 BAs are the best thing going for the price.
The gist: One of Brent’s favorites.
Rad said: The difficulties I had in using their control wheel and the fact that I got seriously overheated after wearing them for only 20-30 minutes were serious drawbacks. The warranty also seems a bit short for $200 headphones. But they sounded so good that I think they’re still worth checking out -- those negatives might not be problems for everyone.
The gist: Some real drawbacks functionally, but still sound good.
Brent said: The more I listened to the M4U 4s, the more I warmed up to them and the less I wanted to listen to any of the many other earphones I have. The PSBs’ mids and treble are so uncolored, and their bass so precise, that I have to think that the M4U 4s will be the go-to earphones for me.
The gist: Brent's current reference for the genre.
Brent said: I think the EP3s are at least as good as anything else out there for the price, better than about 95% of them, and are probably my favorite in their price range.
The gist: 99 bucks buys a pretty good set of earphones.
Brent said: As long as you don’t crave trebly sound, it’s hard to imagine that you won’t find two or three or even four of the t402vs’ eight distinct sounds that appeal to you. And the facts that the t402vs are so beautifully designed, with comfortable earpads, easy portability, and great looks, make them even more appealing.
The gist: Highly configurable for just the right sound.