Nov 092012
 

I spend a lot of time talking about accuracy and neutrality. It is important to me and it should be to you but every now and then you have to have some fun. When I need a bit of a lift I reach for my Audio-Technica (AT) ATH W1000x Grandioso headphones.  Not only do they look great with their shiny wood cups and unusual headband, they sound great and will put a spring in your step.

The W1000x isn’t the most accurate or neutral headphone, in fact the bass is a bit fat and the highs can touch on edgy with the wrong amp. None of this distracts from the fact that these attributes are what make them so fun. They are great with jazz, rock, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  They breathe life into everything and some days this is just what the doctor ordered.

Now that I have the adoration out of the way we can get serious. The unusual headband design, a kind of 3D flying wing, takes some getting used to. Most phones clamp down on your head, some remain comfortable while others can be torture to wear. The W1000x’s float on your head, supported by the wing thingies. This does two things of note; the first is the unusual pattern it leaves in your hair after even a short session which may be a problem for some users. Secondly, they do not stay in place well. While listening to these cans will make you want to dance it is inadvisable to do so. The headphones will either slide off or fly across the room. You tap your feet with these unfortunately. They are however the most comfortable cans I have ever tried; it is like wearing a cloud. This floating design doesn’t do a very good job of isolation considering it is a close back design.

The W1000x have a warm sound that floats slightly, much like the headband. Under normal circumstances I would hate this but there are times when I toss caution to the wind and for this I can’t think of a better headphone.

The bass is strong but doesn’t go much below 90hz, which isn’t bad and the bass above 90hz is controlled but not perfect. The mids are pretty much perfect, no coloration and acoustic instruments sound dead on.

The only true negative I found was the treble, which when matched with an already bright amp can drill into your head and shock your brain. The W1000x requires a neutral to warm amp to sound its best.

If you are looking for the most smiles to mile cans the W1000x may just be your best option.

Do you use headphones attached to anything that isn’t a mobile device?

Nov 012012
 

There is always someone who takes things too far. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, they are there. Their brains never stop trying to see how they can take it to the next level.

This is the case with one David Mahler, a man who is so highly respected within the headphone community that he is referred to as the ‘Headphone Guru.’ Only such a man could write an in depth review and have firsthand knowledge of the best 50 headphones ever made. To be awed by both his knowledge and his obsession check out this page.

Oct 232012
 

Dear Friends of HiFiMAN,

Since being introduced earlier this year, our HE-400 headphone has been very successful and one of the most exciting high-performance models in the category. HE-400 is known for its powerful bass, smooth frequency response and lifelike detail.

Like any good company, HiFiMAN makes upgrades to its products whenever we think we can improve its performance or quality. So about four weeks ago, we upgraded the support for the driver magnet. That unintentionally created an audible peak or brightness and within the past two weeks, HE-400 customers started to report this problem because they knew this was not consistent with any HifiMAN headphone, especially HE-400.

Investigating this feedback, I discovered that the change did help improve the structural integrity but it unfortunately created this peak. In the military, they call this “friendly fire”, at HiFiMAN I call it totally unacceptable.

We have corrected this problem at the manufacturing level so all HE-400s nowshipped will be with the sound that everyone has been raving about for several months. We have also identified which models were affected by this “upgrade” and want to replace them at our expense as soon as possible. Simply email customerservice@head-direct.com and in the subject line, reference “HE-400 Fang”.

HiFiMAN has built its reputation on quality, great sound and standing behind our products. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused to our valued HifiMAN owners. We will do whatever it takes to make it right.

Fang Bian
Founder and President
HiFiMAN

Mama Say’s Don’t Eat Your Beats

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Oct 162012
 

Whether Beats are worth the money is open to debate. Reviews are mixed, but many people love them. The headphones are sleekly Apple-esque, which is no surprise, since they were created by a former designer at Apple. Beats also offer a celebrity vibe and a lot of boom-a-chick-a-boom bass.

So much bass, in fact, that some audio experts say that Beats distort the sound of the music.

“In terms of sound performance, they are among the worst you can buy,” says Tyll Hertsens, editor in chief of InnerFidelity.com, a site for audiophiles. “They are absolutely, extraordinarily bad.”

I agree 100%, they are terrible. What do you think?

The Ultimate Headphone Wish List

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Sep 252012
 

It is possible to do this hobby on a budget but let’s face it; we are here to see the cool stuff. I don’t flip though a car magazine to see the newest offering from Fiat. I want to see the Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Corvette. In this vein I bring you: The No Holds Barred Headphone List

This list is simple and consists of the best sounding headphones I have had an opportunity to hear or own. There isn’t enough time to give detailed reviews for each and frankly it has been some time since I listened to some of these. I can unequivocally state that if you were to find yourself with a fistful of money you could not go wrong with any of these cans. So, in no particular order:

Warning: The following headphones require a great amp that will generally cost several times more than the headphones themselves — You have been warned — See how helpful that was.

AH-7000

Denon AH-7000

Denon is well known for its mid-fi receivers, source components, turntables, and now their headphone line. While I never warmed up to their other products the Denon AH-D7000 headphones are an amazing over the ear, closed-back pair that can keep up with the fastest musical transitions, be it a speed metal solo or a delicate, floating harp crescendo. At just $999.99, these are one of the more reasonably priced cans on the list.

HD 800

Senn HD 800

Sennheiser has long been a leader in the headphone game. They are one of the originals and this left their fans wondering why they didn’t have a set of headphones that were elite and competitive with the new high end headphone market. Alas, Sennheiser came out with their version of a perfect headphone. The $1499 HD 800 is the single most neutral headphone I have owned. The HD 800 never lies but it will reveal every problem in a recording which makes listening to even the best MP3s like nails on a chalkboard.

BeyerDynamic T1

BeyerDynamic T1

I love BeyerDynamics and their Tesla T1 is no exception. While I have never been able to quite put my finger on it, these cans are just out and out fun. Priced at $1399 not everyone will swoon but these phones have a very high dollar to fun ratio. The bass is slightly over emphasized and the highs can be sparkly… some would call that lively and I can’t disagree.

Grado P1000

Grado P1000

The Grado PS1000 is much like its lower priced kin, polarizing. You either love the sound of Grados or you hate them, there is no neutral ground here. The PS1000 are lovely sounding with the right music, which is rock and roll my friends. This is the headphone that reproduces the sound of an electric guitar better than any other can on earth. This alone makes it worth the $1699 price of admission but if you can only have one set of cans, look elsewhere on the list.

Fostex TH-900

Fostex TH-900

Behold the Fostex TH-900. These are my favorite headphones in the world, they sound wonderful but even more than that, they are the most beautiful headphones I have ever seen. The Japanese cherry birch housings are finished by the traditional “Urushi” lacquer (a.k.a. Japan) by a 100 years old artisan group. Yes, a substantial portion of their $2300 price tag is because of the aesthetic quality of the phones but the sound is a perfect match to their gorgeous exterior. When I find the right deal, this phone will be all mine.

What is the most you would spend on headphones?