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If you’d have told me (or anybody else) ten years ago that 2020 would see so many companies selling headphones for more than $1000, I’d have said you were crazy. But off the top of my head, I can name a dozen brands, and that’s not even getting into earphones. With such a surprising number of competitors, it’s becoming more difficult to create headphones that are truly distinctive. But with the HEDDphone headphones ($2499 USD), HEDD Audio has indisputably come up with something no one else has.

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With all the talk about the Harman curve and how it’s improving headphone and earphone design, it’s easy to forget that a lot of headphone designers were getting things right a long time ago. The Sony MDR-7506 headphones, which became ubiquitous in audio and video production after their introduction in 1991, are still winning comparison tests of affordable headphones. I have a set of decades-old AKG K240s, given to me by vintage audio guru Gordon Sauck of Innovative Audio, that to this day sound really good. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pros go back about as far as the MDR-7506es; I’d used them in radio and recording studios, and always liked them -- but I never reviewed them. So in my probably never-ending quest to find the perfect recording headphones, I thought I’d test the DT 770 Studios ($199.99, all prices USD), which are said to be the same as the Pros but for the name.

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Reviewers' ChoiceWith this review, I’m violating one of my long-established rules: never review a product after a lot of other people have. I figure, with so many opinions already out there, who’ll care about mine? And how will anyone even find my review with so many others grabbing the top spaces of their Google search? That’s why I never reviewed the Utopia, Focal’s top-of-the-line headphone model that debuted in spring of 2016 -- I didn’t submit my sample request early enough, and by the time Focal had a set to send, there were already at least a dozen reviews posted. But when Focal sent me a pair of Utopias to use to test the Arche DAC-headphone amplifier, and SoundStage! founder Doug Schneider suggested I take this chance to do a formal review of the Utopias, I didn’t hesitate.

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Lutefisk, Dua Lipa, AIAIAI: three foreign entities I’ve been dimly aware of yet never really taken the chance to check out. Dusty shelves of my memory hold vague recollections of AIAIAI headphones encountered in various European places -- perhaps at the IFA show in Berlin, or in the electronics stores of Munich or Prague, or worn by passengers on the London Underground, or featured in the pages of What Hi-Fi? magazine. I was curious about them, mostly because of the cool name (pronounced “aye-yi-yi”), but the Danish brand’s negligible presence in North America discouraged me. Then out of the blue, I got an e-mail from the brand’s PR rep, which suggested my home continent was at least on AIAIAI’s battle maps, so I immediately asked for a set I could listen to.

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Reviewers' ChoiceFor years, I’ve mentioned in reviews the concept of taking open-back audiophile headphones on business trips. It seems like a good idea -- treating yourself to high-fidelity sound while you’re sitting up all night at the Hilton Garden Inn banging out a PowerPoint for your morning meeting -- but honestly, I never thought anyone would actually do it. That is, until I tried the HiFiMan Deva headphones.

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I’ll be honest: sometimes I request products for review for the same reason a lot of people watch auto races -- with the expectation that I might see something crash and burn. Impressed as I was with the Atlantic Technology FS-HAL1 earphones, the announcement of Atlantic’s FS-HR280s -- a dual-driver, over-ear headphone design -- raised a zillion doubts in my mind. Although dual-driver over-ears were common back in the 1970s, every one of the dual-driver models I tried for my 2012 “survey” of vintage headphones was literally worse than any modern headphones I can think of (the JustBeats Solo perhaps excepted). Could a company that got into the headphone biz only a few months ago actually make a dual-driver design work?

SoundStage! Expert: Sonus faber Olympica Nova Speakers - 1) General Care (February 2020)

SoundStage! Expert: Sonus faber Olympica Nova Speakers - 2) Grille Care (February 2020)

SoundStage! Expert: Sonus faber Olympica Nova Speakers - 3) Cleaning (February 2020)

Latest Comments

Margo Coster 2 hours ago Is Chesky Dumping Binaural?
@SimonWhat's your point? He's human?
Brent Butterworth 3 days ago Audeze iSine10 Earphones
@MauroHi, Mauro. I don't think the in-ears in this case add anything in particular relative ...
They are by an obscure brand, but full-range AMT has been done before - https://precide.ch/eng/eergo/ergo2.htm

Not ...
Mauro 6 days ago Focal Elegia Headphones
My take for those that might be interested buying Elegia’s:
They have an incredibly clear midrange ...
Mauro 11 days ago Audeze iSine10 Earphones
Hi Brent,

do these in-ears add something more to the sound compared to over-ear's?
Have you ever ...