Review and Lab: Keith Howard

Review: Christopher Breunig, Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  May 29, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedSan Diego-based Dan Clark Audio, previously known as MrSpeakers, has just launched its lightweight but resilient Aeon 2 headphone in both 'open' and 'closed' variants

If you're looking at the photos of the Aeon 2 here thinking, 'Isn't that a MrSpeakers product?', the answer is yes and no. The original Aeon was indeed made by MrSpeakers but recently the company changed its name to Dan Clark Audio, Dan Clark being the company founder. It was a sensible move because MrSpeakers had never made, or looked like making, a loudspeaker, but like all company name changes it can take time to bed in.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard, Review: Andrew Everard  |  May 20, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingIf there was anything wrong with the Kii Audio Three, it's fixable at a stroke by adding the BXT extension module

As the moving-coil loudspeaker approaches its centenary you could say plus ça change – much about it has changed, but some things remain stubbornly the same. For instance, for a large slice of the loudspeaker's lifetime, designers and enthusiasts have argued over how sound should be radiated into the room. Should a speaker 'beam' its sound towards the listener, thereby quelling the room's contribution as much as possible? Or should it fire sound in all directions, engaging the room as much as possible?

Review and Lab: Keith Howard, Review: Ken Kessler  |  May 08, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingIf you have an expectation of Audeze circumaural headphones that they are large and heavy and not something you'd want to schlep around, the LCD-1 is a mould-breaker

When we reviewed the LCD-2 [HFN Mar '13], Audeze was in the vanguard of what was to become the rebirth of isodynamic driver technology, more commonly known today as 'planar magnetic'. To those of us who'd lived through the high-profile launch of the original PM headphone, the futuristic looking Wharfedale Isodynamic, 40 years earlier, it came as a surprise.

Review: Christopher Breunig, Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Apr 21, 2020  |  0 comments
hfncommendedWhile their eye-catching aesthetics have been unkindly compared with 'Eastern Bloc, Cold War era' industrial design, these flagship cans still aim to please both head and ears

Is conventional headphone design an example of what biologists call convergent evolution – adoption of a common design solution because it's optimal – or something more akin to herd behaviour: doing it a particular way because we always have?

Review: Andrew Everard, Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 11, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnedchoiceDubbed Avantgarde's 'best kept secret' the Duo Primo XD was revealed at the UK Hi-Fi Show Live

Of late we've had some speakers through editor PM's listening room only describable as imposing, but nothing quite prepares one for the sheer visual impact of the Duo Primo XDs from Germany's Avantgarde Acoustics. Standing some 1.8m tall by 67cm wide, and weighing 185kg apiece, installing them is a matter of slotting the boxes together rather in the manner of building a PA stack – an appropriate analogy, as we'll discover – while the price-tag is similarly huge, at £79,500 a pair.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 10, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingGenuinely novel headphones are few and far between but here, from a small brand in Vienna, is one worthy of the description. And it can boast a famous ancestor...

Among those fortunate enough to have experienced it, the AKG K1000 is often spoken of with a mixture of reverence and awe. It wasn't just AKG's flagship when introduced 30 years ago, it was an attempt to redefine headphone design and shove it in a new direction. The K1000 had no earpads as such – its capsules were held away from the head by small pads above the ears – and it was pared-down structurally to obviate other resonant cavities and minimise the reflective surface area.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 03, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingDon't look down your nose at PS Audio's cheapest mains regenerator. Used with low-power source components, pre and headphone amps, it can still be transformative

Back in the late 1970s Bob Stuart of Meridian observed that an amplifier has more inputs than those labelled as such, others being 'output' and 'mains'. It was an idea to which lip-service was widely paid but, on the mains side, nobody really picked up the idea and ran with it until PS Audio introduced its first mains regenerator in 1998. Yes, we'd had mains filters and conditioners of various types before but this was the first device that said that if you want the cleanest mains supply you're going to have to synthesise it from scratch.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jan 13, 2020  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingIt's a brave company that launches a £20,000 headphone as only its second product – and an electrostatic too. Yet more remarkable: that company isn't Chinese but British!

Electrostatic headphones are like royalty: rarefied enough to assume an aura that rivets mass attention. In the case of Warwick Acoustics' Aperio, it's not just its operating principle that catches the eye and sparks interest but its price too: at £20,000 this isn't the most expensive headphone/amplifier combination ever seen but it's up there with the very few daring to dangle a price tag greater than that of a family car.

Review: Christopher Breunig, Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Nov 26, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnoutstandingBeryllium drivers, sustainable hardwood, real leathers, price – these debut open-back 'phones tick all the boxes. But do they offer the ultimate in sound quality?

Mention beryllium and digit counters begin to whorl in the imagination. Unquestionably the very best metal from which to construct a headphone or loudspeaker diaphragm – because the speed of sound through it is over twice that of aluminium, magnesium or titanium – its use has historically been constrained for two reasons.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard, Review: Christopher Breunig  |  Sep 03, 2019  |  0 comments
hfnedchoiceThe Chinese company claims a decade of planar driver technology development with these robust mid-priced open-backed 'phones – are they a cause for celebration?

With HiFiMan's UK distribution now switching to Signature Systems, we are at last able to get our hands on this idiosyncratic range of headphones from China. What makes them idiosyncratic is not merely their use of planar magnetic (aka isodynamic) drive units – something which is becoming increasingly mainstream – but that these drivers are reminiscent of isodynamic units of the past in respect of their low sensitivity.

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