Headphones

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Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Aug 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngEighty-two years after its founding and 61 years after the ESL-57, Quad delivers its first headphone, the ERA-1, and it's a planar design... but not an electrostatic!

For Quad devotees, the ERA-1 headphone has been a long time coming. One suspects that the company – like B&W, KEF and so many other traditional British brands – saw the writing on the wall. And what did this say? 'Headphones are now the only growth area in audio.' Disagree or concur, that's the reality check in the post-iPod era, and Quad has wisely chosen to deliver a model costing £599.

Review: Cliff Joseph, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngWith a more compact and elegant design, plus both wired and wireless connectivity, iFi Audio’s new top-of-the-range portable DAC/headphone amp seems to have it all

The iFi Audio range of portable DACs and headphone amps has been one of the main challengers to the popular Chord Mojo [HFN Jan ’16], with its first-generation nano iDSD [HFN Dec ’14] picking up an EISA Award back in 2014. The company recently updated its range with the entry-level nano iDSD Black Label [HFN Apr ’18], which offers a highly competitive audio upgrade for just £199. However, it’s this new xDSD model that’s setting the standard for the company’s latest range of products, with a more streamlined and portable design, improved connectivity, and a £399 price tag that pits it right up against the Mojo.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jul 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngFollowing a succession of top Audio-Technica headphones that were variations on a familiar theme, this latest flagship open-back model rings some significant changes

Audio-Technica currently offers a bewildering 22 headphone models to its European customers in the hi-fi category alone, and goodness knows what exotica there may be which never escapes Japan. Prices range from £30 at the bottom end to £1990 at the top, that latter tag dangling from this new model, the ATH-ADX5000, but if you thought you knew what to expect from A-T’s most expensive headphones, it may surprise you a little.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jun 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngAn engineering tour-de-force informed by the latest research in ‘targeted sound curves’, the miniature N5005 in-ear headphone features no fewer than five drivers

The hi-fi industry throws up some wonderful contradictions. If this were a review of a five-way loudspeaker you’d expect it to be a monster and question whether five-way wasn’t one way too many. If the subject of the review were a five-way over-ear headphone you’d think the world had gone mad: most over-ear headphones make do with a single drive unit, and while there have been two-way models they have rarely been successful. Yet going down the size scale one more notch to the insert earphone (aka in-ear headphone), here we have a new £800 flagship model from AKG boasting, yes, five drive units within its compact exterior dimensions.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngFocal’s latest luxo-headphone slots in between the Elear and Utopia models, in the hotly-contested ‘affordable high-end’ middle ground – we hear the sound of £1400

If I have learned anything about committing one’s thoughts to print, it is Never Make Predictions. They will invariably be wrong and will come back to haunt you. I am thus unwilling to hazard a guess as to the longevity of the boom in headphone sales and usage. As long as it continues, however, in the best ‘make hay while the sun shines’ manner, Focal is covering all its bases. The latest to join its high-end family is the £1399 Clear, between the dearer Utopia [HFN Feb ’17] and less costly Elear [HFN Apr ’17].

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Feb 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngA high-end luxury headphone solution from a new name, the M1 offers a unique in-house twist on established technology. Is it the ideal solution for 'head-fi' enthusiasts?

There's no denying that headphone listening, or 'head-fi' as some fans describe it, is one of the boom sectors of the audio industry. There are now more upmarket headphones on the market than ever before, along with dedicated amplifiers and other accoutrements, and it's a safe bet that one of the busiest areas of any hi-fi shows is going to be the personal audio zone.

Review: Cliff Joseph, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jan 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngIt took some time to develop its first noise-cancelling headphones, but Bowers & Wilkins has thrown down the gauntlet to its rivals with this high-tech PX model

Noise-cancelling headphones are undoubtedly useful if you want to relax and block out the background drone on a long journey by train or plane, but the technology can also have a frustrating, deadening impact on sound quality. And rarely is adding Bluetooth wireless streaming a boon to great sound.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2017
hfncommended.pngSomething for the high-end user with a sense of fun – Metaxas' Marquis 'Memento Mori' headphone amp marries form with function and the result is rather jolly. Er, Roger.

Headphones now rule – period – and as a vivid illustration of the current profusion of cans, I was staggered to see, at a store in Tokyo, a selection of something like 1500 headphones, and with plenty of high-end brands notable by their absence.

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