What headphone buyers need to know, Part 1

I get a lot of reader emails seeking recommendations for headphones, and sometimes they'll ask about two very different types of designs. For example, "What should I buy, Sennheiser's on-ear Momentum or the AKG K 712 'phones?" In that case there's no obvious "better" headphone, because they are two radically different types of headphones. The Sennheiser is an on-ear, closed-back design, and the AKG K 712 is a much larger over-the-ear, open-back headphone. It's like asking "What's better, a Ford F-150 Raptor truck or a Porsche 911 Turbo sports car? … Read more

Ooh la la: The Aedle VK-1 headphones

As soon as I spotted the Aedle VK-1 headphones on the Web, I just had to check them out. That was early last year; e-mails were exchanged, and there were delays along the way, but now that I have them I'm happy to report they sound as good as they look. Aedle designs and manufactures the VK-1 in Paris, France.

I've had the VK-1 for a while; Aedle's founder Raphael Lebas was in NYC a few months ago and hand-delivered the headphones to me. He's a young guy, but totally focused on the job at hand. … Read more

Sennheiser's HD-25 Aluminum and HD-26 Pro: Two knockout headphones from Germany

Sennheiser makes a lot of headphone models, and it can be a bit confusing to make sense of the lineup. Some models are close cousins, and then it's even tougher to keep track of them all. Take the Sennheiser HD-25 Aluminum ($330), the 25th anniversary edition of the classic HD-25 headphone. Then again, the HD-25 Aluminum looks like a twin of the Sennheiser Amperior ($349), and to keep things interesting Sennheiser just introduced another very similar model, the HD 26 Pro ($320). I don't have an on-ear Sennheiser Momentum ($200) in house to compare, but I know it … Read more

Koss KTX Pro 1 headphones offer spectacular sound for as little as $10

When I first set eyes on the Koss KTX Pro 1 headphones I wasn't expecting much. The silver plastic on-ear has an all-too-generic look, but as soon as I started listening the sound had my full attention; they were very decent! Most cheap on-ears sound claustrophobic and pinched, but the KTX Pro 1's sound was big and spacious. The 60-ohm design is exceptionally comfortable, and the foam ear pads exert minimal pressure, so you can wear these things for hours without fatigue setting in. Like all budget headphones the KTX Pro 1's cable lacks an inline mic … Read more

An under-$100 headphone for bass-loving audiophiles

The House of Marley Liberate headphones don't look or feel like any other $100 pair. Most are flimsy plastic things, while the Liberate's metal, wood, hemp cloth, and vinyl construction gives it the feel of a more expensive design. The Liberate features 40mm drivers and an unusually flexible cable with an iPhone/iPad-compatible mic and inline controls. The headband isn't hinged and the earcups don't fold flat, but the upside to those design choices is the Liberate will probably withstand rough treatment better than most hinged models. Then again, the Liberate's cable isn't user-replaceable, … Read more

Straight out of Germany: Beyerdynamic T 51 P headphones

Like anyone who regularly reviews headphones, I've noticed that the majority of them have no unique features or qualities. So for example, it's rare to find headphones in the T 51 P's price class that aren't made in China, but this little $289 Beyerdynamic is made in Germany. The lightweight, 174 gram, mostly metal design doesn't have a hinged headband, but the ear cups fold flat for easy storage in the supplied, beautifully designed carry case. The headphone lacks a mic or inline controls, marking it as a design intended for the serious audiophile who … Read more

Noontec Zoro: A new high for $100 headphones?

It's impossible to keep up with all of the new headphones crowding the market, but great-sounding headphones are still pretty rare. The Noontec Zoro is the rarest of the rare, an audiophile-oriented design that's affordably priced.

The headband and earcups' high gloss finish conform to the fashion of our times, and the headphone's build quality is good for the money. The hinged steel headband allows the headphone to fold up and fit inside the included soft carry case, and the user-replaceable headphone cable is tangle-free and plugs into the left earcup. Both ends of the 48-inch long, … Read more

Three awesome-sounding on-ear headphones

I was shaken and stirred by the Bowers & Wilkins P5 on-ear headphones back in 2010. It set a new standard for sumptuous sound and build quality for very small, on-ear headphones. Designed with portable music players and phones in mind, the P5 was definitely a step up from most ear buds, and the sound was easy to listen to over the long haul. The P5 ($300) is still around, but B & W recently introduced a similar, but less expensive model, the P3 ($200).

When I unboxed the new one I decided to first judge it without directly comparing … Read more

Bose OE2i headphones review: No 'Bose bloat'

Here's something you don't see every day: a pair of white Bose headphones. Yes, it's the company's second-generation on-ear headphones, the OE2 ($149.95) and OE2i ($179.95), each offered in black or white.

That "i" in the step-up OE2i adds a microphone for cell phone calls along with an Apple-friendly in-line remote compatible with more recent iPhone, iPod, iPad, MacBook, and MacBook Pro models. (Some Android smartphones also recognize the remote functionality, but volume control from headphones that carry the "Made for iPhone" stamp doesn't always work.)

These headphones are smaller and lighter than Bose's original OE headphones that launched in 2008 and earned my approval for their excellent fit and comfort. Your ears will still get a little steamy under the OE2is in hot weather, but the material is plush for equal weight distribution, and, just as importantly, they fold up to fit into a compact carrying case (included).

Are they worth their lofty price? Read the full review to find out.… Read more

Shaken and stirred by Bob Marley headphones

I was treated to a nice sampling of House of Marley audio gear at a trade show recently, and came away impressed. HOM offers a wide selection of distinctly styled in-ear and full-size headphones, docks, and other gear, but when it came down to what I wanted to review I gravitated to the Stir It Up on-ear headphones ($200 with free shipping).

The Stir It Up won me over even before I heard it. Construction quality is a step up from the mostly plastic Bose Quiet Comfort, Monster Beats by Dre and Ludacris headphones. I realize a lot of folks … Read more