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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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Reviewers' ChoiceWhen I first saw the EarFun Frees, I thought they might be the answer to a question I’ve had for a couple of years now: When will someone make good, cheap true wireless earphones? Once you’ve tried true wireless earphones that fit well and work reliably, you’ll probably want a set. Even if you’re a hardcore audiophile who listens through $3000 headphones powered by a tube amp, true wireless earphones are an irresistibly convenient choice for day-to-day activities, such as walking the dog or cleaning the house. But for such casual use, do you really want to spend $200 or $300?

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Research shows that listeners’ opinions of headphones don’t vary as much as many audio publications would have you believe -- so voicing headphones to conform to the response most listeners prefer in blind tests is a pretty sure bet. But as anyone who’s ever conducted a blind test of speakers or headphones can tell you, people’s opinions about sound do differ substantially. So it wouldn’t be a crazy idea to make the sound of your headphones variable, to accommodate different listener tastes. That’s exactly what Simgot has done with the EK3 earphones ($359.99 USD) -- and they’ve done it in a way that makes it far easier to experiment with different sounds.

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As a longtime reviewer who’s on all sorts of press lists, I get dozens of pitches every month to review headphones. Sometimes I wake up to find three or four new pitches in my e-mail -- with more likely to come later in the day. I confess the sheer volume of pitches sometimes makes me a little too eager to delete them, and that’s what I did when I got an e-mail about Ausounds, a company that launched in August. Fortunately, I stumbled upon them at the 2019 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, and that’s where I saw the AU-Flex ANC earphones.

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Latest Comments

Thanks Brent for the Bluetooth blind test. That was interesting.

I could separate some formats ...
Good article, appreciated
David K. 10 days ago KLH Ultimate One Headphones
I have owned these headphones for a while now and I really like them. I ...
@Brent ButterworthThat makes perfect sense. Even if I thought that other testers put headphones on your ...
@MauroI don't blind test headphones. It's complicated to say the least, and in ways it's ...