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When I lost my Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones a while back, I faced a conundrum. I’d switched to using AKG K371s for mixing and monitoring my music recordings, but I still needed something visiting musicians could wear when laying down tracks. I just wanted a good, cheap set of studio headphones, but professional reviews of cheap headphones are few and far between. The AKG K72s looked like they might be a safe bet: established brand with a strong rep for studio gear, rave reviews on retailer websites, apparently decent build quality, and $49 on AKG’s site—or just $38.95 on Amazon.

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Reviewers' ChoiceI’m actually not interested in the Life Q35 headphones for the reasons Soundcore wants me to be. They want me to get all excited because the Life Q35 headphones feature Sony’s LDAC codec, which in its highest-quality mode transmits data at 990 kilobits per second (kbps). That’s about three times the maximum that the standard SBC Bluetooth codec can achieve, and pretty close to the 1411kbps data rate of uncompressed 16-bit/44.1kHz audio.

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I’m reluctant to review any headphones more than a few months past their launch, because I worry that readers won’t be interested—and that all the search traffic for those headphones will go to sites that got their reviews posted earlier. Technically, I’m not making an exception with the DALI IO-4s, because the company recently introduced the IO-4 and the IO-6 headphones in two new colors: Army Green and Chalk White, in addition to the existing Iron Black and Caramel White. I liked the IO-6es so much when I reviewed them last year, but sadly, I got only a few weeks with them. The new colorways gave me an excuse to check out the company’s line again; the IO-4 ($399 USD) is basically the same model, except that the IO-6 ($499) adds noise canceling.

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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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Sound: *******1/2
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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).

Latest Comments

Ragav 3 days ago AKG K371 Headphones
@Brent ButterworthHi Brent! AKG also launched the K275 closed back, K245 semi-open back, and the K175 ...
Mauro 6 days ago HiFiMan HE400se Headphones
@Brent ButterworthThe two mentioned by Ragav are very different headphones by looking the oratory1990 measurements..
@JohnyI forgot to compare it very close to LCD-3 for 1/3 their price.
I have M1570 and also HEX and LCD-X. M1570 eats Sundara for breakfast with seismic ...
Brent Butterworth 7 days ago HiFiMan HE400se Headphones
@RagavIf memory serves, I contacted them and we e-mailed a few times, but I can't ...
Sitting in an orchestra level seat one evening at the SF Symphony when the musicians ...
Ragav 9 days ago HiFiMan HE400se Headphones
@Brent ButterworthIf possible could you review the ‘Austrian Audio’ Hi-X55 closed back and Hi-X65 open back ...
Brent Butterworth 11 days ago How to Not Go Deaf From Headphone Listening
@RagavThanks! Still making a living, so I can't complain. I hope you're well, too.

I don't ...
Brent Butterworth 11 days ago HiFiMan HE400se Headphones
@RagavI hate to generalize, but the number of closed-back headphones that can match the spaciousness ...
Ragav 13 days ago HiFiMan HE400se Headphones
How does the soundstage and spaciousness of the HE400se compare to the K371 and DT ...