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Reviewers' ChoiceThe HiFiMan HE400se headphones are a classic example of product development. Last year, HiFiMan introduced a new, more mainstream, less artisanal industrial design with the Deva headphones . . . and I loved them not only because they had a great design, but because they had a fuller sound than the dozen or so HiFiMan models I’ve previously tested. Now HiFiMan combined the headband of the Devas with the cup design of the company’s 400-series headphones to create the HE400se headphones—a “parts bin” model that costs just $149 USD.

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In 2010, Bowers & Wilkins, the iconic British loudspeaker manufacturer, debuted its first headphone model—the P5. Every year since then, B&W has launched a new model, eventually making at least one in every form factor, from the in-ear C5 to the large, over-ear P9 Signature. As the headphone market has evolved, the company has kept pace by going wireless, and adding active noise-canceling technology. Now, in celebration of its first decade of headphone manufacture, Bowers & Wilkins has introduced a special Carbon Edition of its current flagship PX7 Bluetooth active noise-canceling headphones ($399.99 USD).

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By far, the biggest potential for improvement in headphone sound comes not from new driver materials, new amplification technology, or tweaking by some grand master of audio, but from digital signal processing, or DSP. DSP can make headphones sound almost any way you want—or adapt the sound of headphones to your specific needs and situation. This is exactly what Yamaha is doing with the YH-E700A headphones ($349.95, all prices USD).

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I’m surprised that Emotiva didn’t get into the headphone business a long time ago, considering it’s in so many other areas of the audio business. But I’m not surprised that the Airmotiv GR1 headphones ($299, all prices USD) represent a somewhat fresh approach, because Emotiva’s always been fairly aggressive about moving into new technologies.

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The Master & Dynamic MH40s bring me back to 2014—a very different era in headphone history. Beats by Dre was at the zenith of its popularity, and it seemed every new brand sought to copy Beats’ original formula of fashion-forward looks and bass-heavy sound. So when I saw the retro/steampunk design of the first Master & Dynamic headphones, I assumed they would suck. But they turned out to be among the best in their price range at the time. I feel remiss in never having reviewed the brand’s more recent products for SoundStage! Solo, but better late than never.

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It seems like a new—or at least unfamiliar to me—headphone brand pops up daily in my Facebook feed. A lot of them pitch me headphones to review, but most of those are cheap, true wireless models or $50-ish, plasticky over-ears with lame noise canceling. But when I got an e-mail from Calyx—a brand I’d never dealt with, known primarily for portable music players, amps, and DACs—I was delighted to find they were pushing the Calyx H, a set of on-ear, passive headphones for $250 (all prices in USD). Seeing that the product was targeted at audio enthusiasts rather than bottom-feeding Amazon shoppers, I immediately agreed to a review, having not the vaguest idea of what I was about to hear.

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