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Although I don’t know much about you, dear reader, I am pretty confident you’ll eventually own some true wireless earphones -- even if you’re a hardcore audiophile. The sheer convenience of them seems to win over everyone who tries them, and they’re expected to take about 50% of the earphone business this year. Audiophiles haven’t shown much interest yet, but with new models such as the Edifier TWS6 earphones ($119.99 USD) appearing, they probably will.

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Reviewers' ChoiceI signed on to review the JVC HA-FW01 earphones ($329.95 USD) because one of the many ideas about audio that I’m working hard to disprove, dispel, and sometimes even deride, is the absurd obsession with driver materials in headphones and speakers. Pick a driver material, and I can almost certainly cite examples of good- and bad-sounding products using that material. Or as Voice Coil editor and Loudspeaker Design Cookbook author Vance Dickason told me, “I certainly have my favorites, but given any decent set of drivers, I can make you a good speaker with them.”

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I tend to love headphones with planar-magnetic drivers. And I tend to love hybrid earphones using a couple of different types of drivers. So when I saw the oBravo ERIB-2a hybrid earphones ($899 USD) at CES a few years ago -- combining a planar-magnetic driver and a dynamic driver in a single earpiece -- I thought it might be love at first listen. Sadly, I never saw them again. But the new oBravo Cupid earphones ($179) seem like a miraculous rebirth of the ERIB-2a earphones -- the same concept, but at a price most listeners can afford.

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Atlantic Technology’s just about the last audio brand name I’d have expected to see on a set of earphones, even ones as complex as the FS-HAL1s. I first encountered Atlantic Technology when the company and I were both just getting started, at my first CES in 1990. It built a solid reputation in the ’90s and ’00s as a pioneer in home-theater sound. Now under new ownership, the company’s branching out into products designed for the listening preferences of the early ’20s -- including headphones and earphones.

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Reviewers' ChoiceLike most high-end earphones, the Meze Audio Rai Pentas ($1099 USD) use multiple drivers -- but multiple drivers aren’t a simple prescription for great sound. With speakers, a complex electrical crossover circuit is typically used to optimize each driver’s performance. While some multi-driver earphones do include simple electrical crossovers, most of the tuning is done using acoustical chambers -- a method that typically requires much lengthier trial-and-error sessions than simple crossover tuning.

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According to market research firm Futuresource, true wireless earphones already account for 30 percent of earphone sales by volume and more than 60 percent in dollars, and by 2023 they’re expected to account for more than half of all total headphone retail revenue. But almost all of them are rather plain when it comes to acoustics -- usually just a single dynamic driver per earpiece. The Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earphones ($149.99 USD) use a unique driver arrangement to break out of the functional but uninspired engineering common to the category.

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Latest Comments

Brent Butterworth 5 hours ago Andover Audio PM-50 Headphones
@TimYou can't tell from the photo, but the squared ones are about 3/16" thicker than ...
Why do the ear pads change the sound? What is happening with them? Tim
@JohnUnfortunately, there's much more to consider than the version of Bluetooth incorporated into the chipset. ...
Can't get more up to date than Bluetooth 5.0 Brent. Perhaps your phone is out ...
Brent Butterworth 15 days ago miniDSP IL-DSP DAC-Headphone Amplifier
@MauroI'm not sure where the biggest of those ears comes from, but the two flesh-colored ...