Be sure to check out our special deals for Black Friday!
David Solomon – Headphones.com
SINGLE BALANCED ARMATURE FROM SONYI have enjoyed reviewing Sony’s new XBA line thus far. For the most part, it is a success, especially granted the prices of the individual models. However, none are more impressive to me than the XBA-1, which at the affordable price of $71.99, is among the best values in the in-ear market today!
THE FIT AND THE FINISHThe XBA-1 comes in two versions. One features a Y-split cable design with Apple remote and microphone embedded into the left side. This model is known as the XBA-1iP. The other version, known simply as the XBA-1, features an uneven cable split intended to be worn behind the head and does not come with an Apple Remote which means you cannot use it for phone calls. I much prefer the Y-split cable design. I wish the cable design of the XBA-1 was the same as the XBA-1iP. Even should you not intend to pair the XBA-1 with a phone, you may in fact find it worth the extra cost just for the superior cable design. Of course, this is all a matter of opinion. The packaging here is nothing fancy, but still attractive. The XBA-1 ships with a soft carrying pouch which although serves its purpose, may not be suited for busy (and sometimes less than careful) users. I always prefer a hard-shell carrying pouch. Sony also includes an accessory which allows you to wind your cable up both for storage and for customizing the length while using. It’s a nice consideration, but ultimately I didn’t find it necessary. As mentioned, the cable design of the XBA-1 is designed to rest behind the head. I prefer the Y-split cable design of the iPhone enabled version. The earpieces are designed to have the cable fall straight down rather than wrap behind the ear. Both models feature a right-angle plug, which is always preferred for portable use since it puts less strain on the headphone output. The XBA-1 ships with a variety of differently-sized silicone ear tips as well as differently-sized silicone / foam hybrid eartips. The foam/silicone hybrids are a fantastic for getting the most noise isolation possible, but some may feel that the plain silicone tips are more comfortable. Overall, the comfort level of the XBA-1 is pretty good. I prefer earphones that have the cable wrap behind the ear because they actually feel less heavy this way as the cable doesn’t hang down from your ear. The earpieces of the XBA-1 are small enough that they do not carry too much weight.
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND…For its price, the XBA-1 is a fantastic in-ear model. No it doesn’t possess quite the clarity and overall transparency of the pricier XBA models, but it is the best value, in my opinion.
- Balanced tone (close to neutral)
- Good with a variety of genres
- Albeit, a little bass shy
- Not as transparent as pricier models
- Rolled off in the highs
LAST WORDThe XBA-1 is one of the least expensive balanced-armature earphones on the market today. Based on its performance, I consider it a great value. Many will prefer the iPhone-compatible version, not only for this added feature, but also because the Y-split cable design is more common. Either way, the XBA-1 and XBA-1iP are both worth consideration if you’re in the market for a sub-$100 in-ear.
Rating Chart & Price Point
|Design & Features||7.5|
|Value||8.5 out of 10|
Beyerdynamic’s – T70P Headphone Review
David Solomon – Headphones.com
IF P STANDS FOR PORTABLE, T SHOULD STAND FOR TERRIFICThe T70p is Beyerdynamic’s newest closed-back full-size headphone intended for portable use. It takes the place of Beyerdynamic’s discontinued DT770 32 ohm. Earlier this year, when I got word that the DT770 was being discontinued I was very surprised and admittedly confused as the DT770 has long been one Beyerdynamic’s most appreciated headphones. Based on my experience with the DT770, I found them to be a top recommendation for those seeking a well-balanced closed-back headphone. But the DT770 did have certain colorations which I felt detracted from the overall fidelity of the sound. This included an over-inflated and sometimes-slow bass response. The T70 and T70p are Beyerdynamic’s replacement models for the DT770. The T70p is, in virtually every way, a drastic improvement over the DT770 32 ohm – structurally, cosmetically and most importantly sonically. Many will note that the price-tag of the T70 is quite a bit more than the DT770. While the price increase is, in my opinion, justified by the noted improvements, I do wish the DT770 was still available for affordability reasons *It is worth mentioning that T70 and T70p is the same headphone but with different impedance ratings and cable lengths. The T70 features a 10 foot cable and is rated at 250 ohms nominal impedance – perfectly suited for use with a dedicated headphone amplifier; while the T70p features a 4 foot cable is rated at 32 ohms and is much better suited for use without an amplifier.
THE FIT AND THE FINISHThe T70p features a beautiful micro-velour padding design, both in its earpads and headband. While the texture looks markedly similar to the standard velour padding used by Beyerdynamic, the touch is a bit smoother and features a memory-like tactility that I find very pleasing. Like all full-size Beyerdynamic headphones, the earpads are perfectly round and extremely comfortable on the ears. The earcups are indeed closed-back and attenuate quite a bit of outside noise. The clamp of the headband is just right in my opinion – not too tight, but tight enough to allow for easy moving without the risk of the headphone falling off your head. The headphones are very light and pleasing to wear for long periods of time. The earcups adjust length-wise via Beyerdynamic’s traditional-stepped design. The cable is one-sided (attaches to the left) and does not disconnect for easy replacement – bummer! The T70 ships with a Beyerdynamic’s signature leatherette case with protective foam interlay.
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND…The “T” in T70p stands for Tesla, as in Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor and electrical engineer, whose last name is used as a unit of measurement for magnetic flux density. When Beyerdynamic debuted their T1 headphone model in 2010, they unleashed the very first headphone driver with a magnetic flux density of 1.2 teslas. The result was a new level of detail and clarity for Beyerdynamic. Since the debut of this flagship, Beyerdynamic has continued to incorporate this driver technology in other headphones. First was the T5p (which was closed-back design incorporating a similar design to the T1) and the T50p (a small on-ear) and now the T70/T70p. Beyerdynamic’s patented Tesla driver design is perhaps the most significant contribution Beyerdynamic has provided the headphone industry since its founder Eugen Beyer invented the very first dynamic transducer headphone in the late 1930s. Unlike the T1 and T5p, the drivers of the T70p are not angled. Angling the drivers helps provide a more forward soundstage presentation and a center with greater focus. Therefore, in this sense, the T70p is perhaps a tad inferior to Beyerdynamic’s current flagship models. But make no mistake about it – I LOVE the sound of the T70p. I find it to be among the most natural sounding headphones that I have used directly out of a portable device. Here are my findings upon several days of critical listening:
- Exceptional tonal balance – close to neutral.
- Wonderful bass extension without any overwhelming boom
- Clear, detailed and very refined
- Excellent instrument placement abilities
- May be a tad bright and/or thin-sounding for some listening preferences
LAST WORDThe T70p should be on the short list of anyone seeking audiophile grade performance from a headphone when paired with a portable device. It is a very revealing and realistic sounding headphone. It may not be as affordable as the DT770 which it replaced, but it is certainly an upgrade Beyerdynamic should be proud of. Highly recommended!
Rating Chart & Price Point
|Design & Features||8.5|
|Value||8.5 out of 10|
David Solomon – Headphones.com
THE STREET IS IN YOUR EARSI wondered how soon it would be before SMS Audio released an in-ear model. While the wired Street by 50 model and wireless Sync by 50 model was becoming a popular choice among the headphone-consumer public, it was obvious to me that their product line was missing an in-ear model. Well…Still well within their first year since debuting their original product-line, SMS Audio did in fact inform us at headphones.com that their in-ear model was on its way. Well…they’re finally here! Let’s see how they are…
THE FIT AND THE FINISHThe name of the SMS Audio in-ear model is Street by 50. I find this confusing because the wired full-size headphone is also known as the Street by 50. Call me a skeptic, but I don’t think it’s the best idea for the two models to share the same name. Either way, that’s probably my biggest criticism here, which is not so bad considering it’s just a name. The Street by 50 in-ear is a very attractive in-ear. They clearly share design elements of SMS by 50′s full-size headphones, giving the whole product line a very nice uniform look. It is offered in two color combinations: white/blue (Ghost White) & black/blue (Shadow Black). The faceplates of the earpieces showcase the SMS logo in blue while the perimeter has an attractive chrome-like finish. The cable is Y-split and design and is flat. The cable is blue on one side and then either white or black depending on which model you choose. Embedded into the left side at about chin-level is the Apple remote control and microphone. The remote here is very sleek and really complements the overall design very nicely. The cable is worn straight down (rather than behind the ear) as is common in the consumer earphone market. This style is not my preference as it permits a lot more noise to be heard while the cable is tugged and moved. That said, the earphones themselves fit in the ear rather comfortably. The nozzle on each earpiece is at a slight angle which makes for easy insertion. The earphones come with a variety of differently sized silicone sleeves. I opted for the largest size as I found I was able to achieve the best seal with these. It’s interesting to note that for their white model the silicone sleeves are white and for their black model the silicone sleeves are black. The Street by 50 also ships with a hard shell carrying case for easy storage and commuting. When comparing the overall feel and look of the Street by 50 with similar offerings by Soul by Ludacris and Beats by Dr Dre, I find that the Street by 50 are the sleekest and, perhaps, most attractive looking. But how do they sound?
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND…The in-ear market is chock-full of sub-$100 offerings, many of which can out-perform the celebrity endorsed products which carry a higher price tag. But much of what you pay for is the name and the fashion. Headphones and earphones are far more than just about sound today. They are one of the most lauded fashion accessories on the market. Even with this consideration, you don’t want to pay a lot of money for bad sound. The Street by 50 in-ear sounds fair, not great. The clarity is lacking overall and the bass may not be enough to appeal to people who love full (sometimes bloated) bass. Listening to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” I was impressed first off that the earphones were able to be driven loudly without showing any signs of clipping. But towards the end of the track I was underwhelmed by the lack of air surrounding the voice. It felt less than 3 dimensional. The bass didn’t have the thump that I typically associate with rapper headphones – a thump I don’t always prefer but many do particularly for hip hop. Listening to Bjork’s “Isobel” I felt that there was simply not enough instrument separation. The sound was far too cluttered to really take in all the wonderful ornaments that the song has to offer. On the plus side, Bjork’s voice was not at all sibilant, which it sometimes can be on this track. The bass response worked better here than on Jay-Z’s track. Listening to “Taxman” by The Beatles (in mono mind you), I checked to see how sharp the cymbal transients would sound on the big crashes. Fortunately they were not sharp. However, the overall tone of the song was duller than I would have liked. It sounded somehow blanketed and I began to become weary that the Street by 50 was not an earphone that I could recommend. Finally, a track that really impressed me was “Cathedral in a Suitcase” by Pat Metheny. This track is exceptionally well-recorded and showcases a lot of upper harmonics in the percussion. The Street by 50 managed to hold the mix together very well without being too strident in the treble. It also showed me that the midrange itself is closer to neutral than a lot of other in-ear offerings in the consumer market. I still however felt that the bass and lower mids was lacking somewhat.
LAST WORDThe Street by 50 is a good looking earphone that misses the mark a bit on audio fidelity. I recommend it to those who are won over by its impressive appearance, but for those who seek a rapper earphone for sound alone, I suggest the SL99 from Soul by Ludacris. It is superior sounding in my opinion and actually less money.
Rating Chart & Price Point
|Design & Features||9|
|Value||6.5 out of 10|
David Solomon – Headphones.com
NEUTRALITY AT ITS BESTShure entered the headphone world as a manufacturer of in-ear-monitors. After several years of dominating the high end IEM market, Shure joined the long list of full-size headphone manufacturers. The first four headphones Shure was to release – SRH240, SRH440, SRH840 and SRH940 were all closed-back in design. TheShure SRH1840 is one of two open-back models which Shure released in 2012, the other being the SRH1440. The SRH1840 is Shure’s current flagship and it is, by far, the best sounding model I have ever heard from Shure. It is among the best sounding headphones I have heard for under $1000 – an absolute winner!
THE FIT AND THE FINISHJust seeing the SRH1840 in photos for several weeks before they were released, I couldn’t help but think it had a striking resemblance to Sennheiser’s HD650. However, Shure offers a plethora of unique design features. The velour earpads are comfortable enough for extremely long listening sessions. The earpads themselves can be removed rather easily and Shure was generous enough to supply an extra pair of earpads. The cable is easily removable and terminates to a miniplug with an added ¼ inch adaptor. Just as with the earpads, Shure includes an extra cable! Nice!!!. The overall packaging is among the best I’ve seen. In addition to a fancy cardboard storage box, the SRH1840 comes with a hard-shell carrying case with zipper. Even the included instruction manual was of a higher grade than average. The SRH1840 is among the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. The oval-shaped pads fit around my ears without any excessive clamping pressure. I can wear them for hours without overheating. The adjustable headband is very light considering its size. Of course, being that these headphones are open-back don’t expect any isolation from outside ambient noise. Because of this, these headphones are best suited for home use and use in the studio control room. All in all, the SRH1840 proves to be one of the most well packaged and fully accessorized audiophile-grade headphones on the market today!
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND…To get the best sound out of the SRH1840 you will want to power them with an amp such as the SPL Auditor.The SRH1840 are one of the most neutral headphones around and as such, they are quite susceptible to changes in amplification. However, they sound good with every amp I’ve tried including a variety of tube amplifiers.
- Insanely neutral tonal balance
- Works well as a monitoring headphoneNon-fatiguing
- Lacks a hair of transparency
- May sound a bit analytical for some tastes
LAST WORDI am extremely impressed with the SRH1840. They are a great value for someone who is seeking ultimate neutrality. While the tonality may be a bit analytical for some, it rewards the listening with tremendous accuracy and detail. It is also a highly durable choice as it comes packed with replacement parts and accessories. Highly recommended.
Rating Chart & Price Point
|Design & Features||10|
|Value||9 out of 10|
THREE IS A MAGIC NUMBER
David Solomon – Headphones.comSony is the world’s most prolific headphone manufacturer. When they unleashed their new balanced armature in-ear line, they did so in a big way by releasing 11 different models all at once. The triple driver models (XBA-3 and XBA-3iP) are not as expensive as the quadruple driver models (XBA-4 and XBA-4iP) but I actually prefer them in many ways.
THE FIT & THE FINISHThe XBA-3 possesses the same design as the XBA-4 which is the reason my criticisms and praise for both models reads largely the same. CRITICISM: For one I don’t like the cable design all too much. As they have done with several in ear models, Sony has designed the XBA-3 to have the cable rest behind your head, but not in the standard Y-split cable fashion. The cable design of the XBA line has it so that the left and right are unevenly split. This design prevents the user from letting the cable hang in front since the left and right ear piece are connected to one another. This is a bummer for those whom don’t prefer this style, but a great asset to those who do prefer the cable to be worn behind the head. Ultimately the cable falls on the left side and terminates to a right-angle plug in order to prevent strain on the headphone output. *The XBA-3iP features the same earpieces the XBA-3 except that it features an Apple remote and microphone for use with the iPhone. Another very important difference is that the iP versions of the XBA line, features a straight down Y-split cable. This is a much better cable style in my opinion! Another criticism I have of the Sony XBA-3 is that the earpieces are designed to be worn with cable hanging straight down, rather than behind the ear. I prefer a behind the ear design for several reasons. Firstly, I think it is ultimately more comfortable to have the cable behind the ear. Secondly, I feel that having the cable behind the ear, prevents much of the sounds which emanate from the cable being touched or moved. These sounds are known as microphonics and are not preferable when listening to music. One final criticism I have regarding the design is the lack of removable / replaceable cable. If the cable should break, you will need to send the earphones in for a warranty repair/replacement. Surely, not ideal, but nonetheless the cable appears sturdy enough to withstand normal use. PRAISE: Now that I’ve gotten my criticisms out of the way, let me express how well built these earphones come across. The chassis of the earphones is extremely well engineered, demonstrating a tremendous amount of attention to detail. I like the angling of the earpieces and find them reasonably easy to fit comfortably in my ears while getting a more-than-adequate seal. I find that the earpieces themselves are very nice looking. A nice metallic shine and unique overall shape makes the XBA-3 a real eye-pleaser. The XBA-3 is slightly smaller than the XBA-4 and therefore this may make them easier for someone to use. The nozzle is the perfect length and girth to ensure the earphone’s longevity. One common misfortunate for many earphone users is the dread day they accidently broke the nozzle of their earpiece while changing the ear tips. This will not likely ever happen with the Sony’s since the nozzle which holds the tip is neither too long nor too thin. The ear tips (or sleeves) supplied are silicon. Normally I would express complaint about the absence of foam tips, but this case I have to praise Sony for including something which the DIY community has already been creating for years: silicone tips with a foam interior! WOW! Sony really came through on this. With this design, you get the sweat resistant long-lasting benefit of silicone with the improved seal which only foam can provide. Of course, if you would prefer just silicone without the foam, Sony provides this as well. All tips come in a variety of sizes. The cable appears to be kink resistant and terminates to a right-angle plug. As I had mentioned earlier, I always prefer a right angle-plug since it relieves strain on the input. The cable is roughly 4 feet long. The XBA-3 ships with a uniquely-shaped pleather semi-hard carrying case. The flap-door locks via magnet. Very nice! Sony includes a cord adjuster which allows you to customize the length of your cord and wind it up securely for storage. While it is a thoughtful inclusion, I ultimately did not find it useful.
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND…To my ears, the XBA-3 sounds more well-rounded than the XBA-4. The XBA-4 is a pinch more detailed, but ultimately the XBA-3 has a fuller tone which is more pleasing to my ears.
- Well-Balanced sound signature
- Tightly focused bass response.
- Very good spatial definition and instrument placement for an in-ear-monitor.
- Close-to-neutral tonal balance
- Particularly great with Jazz and rock music
- Lacks just a hair of depth and bottom
- At times, Vocals feel a little more in the background than the foreground.
LAST WORDThe XBA-3 is a great triple driver IEM. It may not be the top model in Sony’s new balanced armature line, but I think many listeners would prefer the sound of the XBA-3 over Sony’s top offering – the XBA-4. I recommend the XBA-3 without hesitation to any fan of many genres of music!
RATING CHART AT PRICEPOINT
|Design & Features||7.5|
|Value||9 out of 10|
David Solomon – Headphones.comSony has long been the one of the most prolific headphone manufacturers in the world. Their legacy includes some of the greatest headphones ever made and several other fantastic efforts. When I heard that Sony would be releasing an entire series of balanced armature in-ears, one question came to mind: What took so long? When compared with dynamic drivers, balanced armature drivers are for me, the preferable earphone driver design. Without getting too much in the science of it (see our glossary for more information), balanced armature often have multiple drivers which focus on independent frequency ranges. In the case of the Sony XBA-4, there are 4 drivers (a tweeter for highs, a midrange driver, a woofer for bass and something Sony refers to as a super-woofer for sub-bass frequencies.
THE FIT & THE FINISHMy overall impression of the XBA-4 it is a success. But this does not mean I do not take issue with some aspects of the design. CRITICISM: For one I don’t like the cable design all too much. As they have done with several in ear models, Sony has designed the XBA-4 to have the cable rest behind your head, but not in the standard Y-split cable fashion. The cable design of the XBA line has it so that the left and right are unevenly split. This design prevents the user from letting the cable hang in front since the left and right ear piece are connected to one another. This is a bummer for those whom don’t prefer this style, but a great asset to those who do prefer the cable to be worn behind the head. Ultimately the cable falls on the left side and terminates to a right-angle plug in order to prevent strain on the headphone output. Another criticism I have of the XBA-4 is that the earpieces are designed to be worn with cable hanging straight down, rather than behind the ear. I prefer a behind the ear design for several reasons. Firstly, I think it is ultimately more comfortable to have the cable behind the ear. Secondly, I feel that having the cable behind the ear, prevents much of the sounds which emanate from the cable being touched or moved. These sounds are known as microphonics and are not preferable when listening to music. One final criticism I have regarding the design is the lack of removable / replaceable cable. If the cable should break, you will need to send the earphones in for a warranty repair/replacement. Surely, not ideal, but nonetheless the cable appears sturdy enough to withstand normal use. PRAISE: Now that I’ve gotten my criticisms out of the way, let me express how well built these earphones come across. The chassis of the earphones is extremely well engineered, demonstrating a tremendous amount of attention to detail. I like the angling of the earpieces and find them reasonably easy to fit comfortably in my ears while getting a more-than-adequate seal. I find that the earpieces themselves are very nice looking. A nice metallic shine and unique overall shape makes the XBA-4 a real eye-pleaser. Sony did a wonderful job at getting larger than average earpieces to fit in the ear with ease and look nice at the same time. The nozzle is the perfect length and girth to ensure the earphone’s longevity. One common misfortunate for many earphone users is the dread day they accidently broke the nozzle of their earpiece while changing the ear tips. This will not likely ever happen with the Sony’s since the nozzle which holds the tip is neither too long nor too thin. The ear tips (or sleeves) supplied are silicon. Normally I would express complaint about the absence of foam tips, but this case I have to praise Sony for including something which the DIY community has already been creating for years: silicone tips with a foam interior! WOW! Sony really came through on this. With this design, you get the sweat resistant long-lasting benefit of silicone with the improved seal which only foam can provide. Of course, if you would prefer just silicone without the foam, Sony provides this as well. All tips come in a variety of sizes. The cable appears to be kink resistant and terminates to a right-angle plug. As I had mentioned earlier, I always prefer a right angle-plug since it relieves strain on the input. The cable is roughly 4 feet long. The XBA-4 ships with a uniquely-shaped pleather semi-hard carrying case. The flap-door locks via magnet. Very nice! Sony includes a cord adjuster which allows you to customize the length of your cord and wind it up securely for storage. While it is a thoughtful inclusion, I ultimately did not find it useful. *The XBA-4iP is the same as the XBA-4 except that it features an Apple remote and microphone for use with the iPhone.
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND…With a impedance rating of 8 ohms at 1 Khz and a Sensitivity reading of 108 db / 150 mV input, the XBA-4 is a very efficient earphone. Pretty nice! The Westone 4 is, to my knowledge, the only other triple crossover quad balanced-armature-driver universal earphone being produced today. Which sounds better? Long story short…neither! It will depend on which sound your after. The Westones are smoother and more midrange focused, while the Sony’s boast more upper harmonics. It is also worth mentioning that Audeo and Shure both offer flagship models, that while not showcasing quite as many drivers, can still sit alongside the shortlist of best earphones on the market.
- Amazing detail! I am literally able to hear certain nuances which I’ve only experienced with a very expensive full size setup
- Impactful but tightly focused bass response. May be just slightly leaner than neutral.
- Can be driven loudly without evidence of clipping even on abrupt transients.
- Very good spatial definition and instrument placement for an in-ear-monitor. Soundstage is wide, but not the widest I’ve heard,
- Close to neutral, if just a bit colder than neutral due to a slightly accentuated treble.
- The treble is wonderfully extended and for this reason the XBA-4 is a classical music monster!!!
- The frequency response demonstrates certain peaks in the upper mids which detract from the transparency of the overall sound. It can sound metallic and tinny at times especially on percussion.
- The Super-woofer is largely focused on frequencies which demand a higher-than-avergage quality source. This means specifically that with an iPod or iPhone you may actually be not making much use of this driver since the iPod output rolls-off the sub bass frequencies. I noticed a significant bass increase when using an amplifier.
LAST WORDSony, gets most things right with the XBA-4. It is an extremely compelling in-ear-monitor, offering a great sense of space and neutrality. It may be a bit uneven in the mids for some. If a smooth and forgiving tone is what you seek, I would consider the Westone 4 as an alternative. Even though the design does not thrill me in every way possible, I highly recommend that XBA-4 to those seeking a top-level, revealing in-ear!
RATING CHART AT PRICEPOINT
|Design & Features||7.5|
|Value||8.5 out of 10|
A SUPREME FLAGSHIP
David Solomon – Headphones.comThe Beyerdynamic Tesla Series T1 was the first headphone to introduce Beyerdynamic‘s patented Tesla driver design. As of 2012, it is still my favorite headphone to incorporate this driver design. It is without a doubt, one of the best headphones on the market today and a contender for a spot on the short lists of best headphones ever made.
THE FIT AND THE FINISHAt the time I write this review (March 2012), the T1s are a few years old. In these few years, the headphone industry has grown in ways which I don’t think anyone could have foreseen just a few years back. In this time, several flagships have been introduced and it is no longer uncommon to see a price-tag of $1,000+ on a top level pair of headphones. But flip the page three years and it seems that the T1 is almost a bargain for what it offers. The T1 ships a wonderfully secure aluminum case featuring an open-cell foam interlay for ultimate protection. The round black velour earcups are use replaceable. I find that the texture of the earcup is just slightly less soft than the grey velour earcups that are installed on the DT880 and DT990. The T1 also features a very substantial leather headband and a metal frame design. It is noticeably heavier than the other non-Tesla Beyerdynamic models, but does not feel heavy while on the head. The cable is unfortunately not detachable, but extremely sturdy. The T1 terminates to a quarter inch plug. If you wish to plug it into a headphone mini-jack you will need to buy an adapter.
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND…The drivers of the T1 are angled so that the sound will be coming toward you from a frontward position. Angling the drivers this way is thought to enhance the imaging and soundstage properties of a headphone as it positions the transducers as loudspeakers may be positioned. The earcups are semi-open design which means that sound can leak out, but not quite as much as fully-open cans.
- Awesome tonal balance, just slightly colored to have a hair extra bass and a hair extra treble
- Great spatial definition; Instrument placement is very good and sound is immersive
- Soundstage is wide and deep
- Transient response is very good
- Lacking a sense of absolute neutrality offered by other top price cans
- Sound is a little more closed in than other offerings
- Treble can sound slightly hot on some systems
LAST WORDThe T1 is without a doubt the best Beyerdynamic headphone I have ever encountered. Both in terms of sound and comfort, it succeeds at being worthy of the designation “flagship.” If I had any criticisms, it would simply be that at its price it costs more than three times the cost of Beyer’s own DT880. I’m not sure it will be worth that extra money for everyone. But if you want the best headphone which Beyerdynamic has to offer, these are definitely our pick!
RATING CHART AT PRICE POINT
|Design & Features||9|
|Value||9 out of 10|
SHURE’S BASE MODEL LACKS BASS
David Solomon – Headphones.comThe Shure SRH240A(a revised version of the SRH240) is a good choice for those not looking to spend a fortune, but demand to hear detail. They are the base model of Shure’s full-size headphone line. I do have some qualms about the design and ultimately, I have some reservations regarding studio application – a field in which Shure has excelled for years with both their microphones and in ear monitors.
THE FIT & THE FINISHThe SRH240A are circumaural in design which means that the earcups are intended to encompass the ear, rather than rest on them. The soft pleather material, while a little cheap in feeling, is quite comfortable. The headband too is covered in this pleather material. The headband does not clamp with too much force and therefore I easily could see myself wearing these headphones for long sessions. However, the problem I find about the headband is that the plastic is easily breakable where the earcup connects. In fact one of my customers sent back this headphone with this part broken off (twice!). So needless to say, the SRH240A does not win any durability awards from me. The cable is thinner than most at this headphone size and this adds to the portability factor. Being that this headphone is designed with studio monitoring in mind, the headphone does not feature a microphone or Apple remote. However, I feel that the build quality may be too fragile for most studio applications. The SRH240A’s cable is terminated to an 3.5 mm plug (good for portable use), but it does ship with a ¼ inch adapter (good for studio use). It does not come with any carrying case. The hard cardboard packaging is where the headphones would ultimately need to be stored, unless you pick up a 3rd party carrying case.
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND…Traditionally, a good monitoring headphone will possess a close to neutral tonal balance, be fairly easy to drive, and be close to leakage-free. That’s pretty much what you get with the SRH240A. For its price, it does what I believe it was intended to do fairly well. It is most definitely rolled off in the bass. The extension just isn’t there and I would not personally find myself using it in a studio setting simply for this reason. The midrange exhibits a bit of forwardness in the vocal region, but overall the tone is hardly natural to my ears. I may find that a vocalist would benefit from using these during a recording, but I may not opt for them simply because there are superior options available such as the Sennheiser HD280Pro or Shure’s own SRH440. Out of the iPhone, the SRH240A sound far more detailed than your average 60 dollar headphone, but overall a bit cold and reserved. I took a listen to Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably numb” and while all the instrumentation was very clear, I felt little connection with the music. There’s a lacking of visceral impact that just makes the SRH240A not very compelling for what I feel one would look for in everyday music listening. They do however sound much better suited for classical music than they do for rock music. Considering that closed back designs typically narrow a soundstage, the SRH240A has one of the larger soundstages I’ve heard of closed back headphones at its pricepoint. The forward midrange brings violins and pianos forward in a very pleasant way. Listening to Colin Davis’ brilliant interpretation of Berlioz’s Harold en Italie with the LSO, I was surprisingly thrilled by the SRH240A’s rendering of the oboe and viola. It sounded much better than I had anticipated. Open and airy, even though still lacking transparency. The SRH240A may be best suited for monitoring speech and dictation since there is a clear emphasis in the vocal region. For this type of application, the SRH240A receive my highest recommendation!
LAST WORDThe Sound of the SRH240A is probably not going appeal to most music listeners. It is a very colored headphone, exhibiting a clear emphasis in the mids, and lacking a lot of bass. It’s therefore headphone I reserve to recommend in most cases. Even in studio application, I’m not sure that the build quality can withstand standard use for very long. Shure has better efforts for sure. But again, if you are careful with your headphones and looking for something that zooms in on the human voice, these headphones are one I do recommend at its price.
RATING CHART AT PRICEPOINT
|Sound Quality||6.5 (lacking bass)|
|Design & Features||5|
|Value||6 out of 10|
David Solomon – Headphones.comSennheiser‘s HD650 is one of the purest sounding headphones I have ever heard. While quite a few offerings trump the HD650s in terms of detail retrieval, soundstage and instrument placement – very few headphones sound as seductively beautiful as the HD650. For this reason, I often find myself returning to the HD650 even though newer flagships are stronger in specific areas. The HD650 was an evolution of the HD600, a headphone which was already an evolution of another headphone – the HD580. Experienced headphone audiophiles like to debate which of these three headphones is the superior one. It is generally agreed however that this trilogy was comprised of Sennheiser’s three finest dynamic transducer headphones until the release of their HD800 in 2009. Even today, there are plenty of headphone enthusiasts whom prefer the warm lush tone of the HD650 to the more neutral / analytical tone of the HD800. For me, it is a matter of which amp I am using and which music I am listening to. The HD650 are much less picky when it comes to amplification. For relatively little money, you can get a terrific sound out of the HD650. With the HD800, I recommend tubes when possible, and a good tube amp at that. When compared with the HD800, the HD650 sounds thicker. The soundstage is also much narrower than that of the HD800. For this reason, I still prefer the HD650 for rock music more than the HD800. When it comes to classical, I would take the HD800. What I am really getting at here is that for some listeners, the HD650 is still going to be among the best headphones on the planet, if not the best. It is that gorgeous sounding – I am willing to make such an assertion. I will also mention that for me the HD650 is perhaps my favorite of the trilogy mentioned previously (HD580 / HD600 / HD650) because it is the most flavored and it is a flavor I really like. The HD600 and HD580 are more neutral by comparison, but for me, lack a certain magic that the HD650 has. The HD600 however is one of the most neutral headphones on the market and I can certainly understand if someone preferred it to the HD650. The HD580 has been long discontinued by the manufacturer.
THE FIT & THE FINISHOne thing Sennheiser does better than anyone else, in my opinion, is ear cushions. I love the earpads on the HD650 – the shape; the feel; the removability. Ovals fit the human ear better than circles in my opinion. It ensures that the ear will not have a pad resting on it. One criticism I have heard in the past is that the pads are so large that they can exert some pressure on the jaw. This has never been the case with me, but I think it is worth mentioning. The outer grills are removable as well – should you dent them or wish to replace them in the future, the manufacturer makes it easy! It is worth mentioning here that the headphone itself is open-back – the grills are vented to allow sound in and out of the headphone. No sound isolation here. The cable is removable too! This way you can easily use an aftermarket cable should you get the urge to upgrade your system. The cable itself is a Y-split design, approximately 3 meters and terminates to a ¼” plug. Sennheiser includes a very nice 1/4 ” to 3.5 mm adapter. This adapter is designed as a small extension cable in order to not put stress on the headphone minijack you plug it into. The HD650 ships in a hard cardboard box with a secure foam interlay. Outside of this box is a thin ridged cardboard sleeve.
ALL ABOUT THE SOUNDWhen I think about the sound that the HD650 brings to my ears, a few words come to mind: Beautiful; Smooth; Sultry; Warm; Dark. Of course, I state these attributes with a positive implication, but if I had any criticism of the sound at all it would be perhaps that the sound is simply too beautiful, too smooth, and in the process, not as revealing as some other headphones. Still, when listening to something so pure sounding as the HD650, it is hard to imagine a better sounding headphone.
- The sound is as beautiful as it is transparent
- Voices have great presence and depth
- Bass is punchy without any bloat
- Extremely forgiving with bad quality recordings
- Non-fatiguing for long listening sessions
- Sounds great with most genres (Rock, Jazz, Hip Hop and even Classical)
- The headphones do not render upper harmonics as forwardly as some other headphones and this leads to what some have called a slightly veiled sound
- The soundstage and instrument placement abilities are bested by other offerings
LAST WORDThe HD650s have been around for nearly a decade. In this time, several manufacturers including Sennheiser have released new headphones which were their attempt at raising the bar. While the bar has certainly been raised, the HD650 still has a place in a state-of-the-art headphone set up. In my opinion, there is still reason to call the HD650 the world’s most beautiful sounding headphone.
RATING CHART AT PRICEPOINT
|Design & Features||9.5|
|Value||9.5 out of 10|