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Reviewers' ChoiceIn 2014, when NAD Electronics introduced their Viso HP50 headphones, some may have wondered why an electronics company was bringing a passive design -- i.e., one with no built-in amplification -- to an already-crowded market. Paul Barton, of sister Lenbrook Group company PSB, had designed the HP50s, and their sound signature was similar to PSB’s own M4U 1 and M4U 2 models. The HP50s also included RoomFeel, a technology intended to provide a listening experience similar to that of hearing a pair of loudspeakers properly set up in a good room. Among a sea of competitors, the Viso HP50s won praise from reviewers and consumers alike, and have remained among the better-sounding closed-back headphones available at their price of $299 USD.

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Although the combination of Bluetooth (BT) and noise canceling (NC) seems ideal for headphones used on the go, such models have typically cost about $350 USD -- not expensive for audio enthusiasts, but a lot for average listeners. Fortunately, in the last year some major brands have begun offering BTNC headphones for about $200, and the latest example of this trend is Audio-Technica’s ATH-ANC700BT ($199).

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For years there were essentially two classes of noise-canceling (NC) headphones. One was represented solely by Bose, whose headphones offered by far the most effective NC, as well as outstanding comfort. The other class was basically every other company offering NC headphones. Their products typically offered much less effective NC, but they sometimes sounded better than competing Bose models. Recently, some companies have come close to the NC performance of Bose products. These include Samsung, Sony, and Bang & Olufsen (B&O), the last of which recently launched two new NC headphone models in the B&O Play line: the on-ear Beoplay H8i ($399 USD) and the one reviewed here, the over-ear Beoplay H9i ($499).

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Reviewers' ChoiceEven though Audio-Technica’s big open-back audiophile headphones have always been a little idiosyncratic, they’ve also ranked among my favorites. When I got hooked on the 2000s version of Battlestar Galactica -- all streamed through Netflix on a laptop before Netflix was available in Blu-ray players and TV sets -- I used Audio-Technica’s ATH-AD900 headphones because I liked the sound and I knew they’d stay comfortable through all 75 episodes. The new ATH-ADX5000 headphones ($1999 USD) could be considered a super-high-end version of the ATH-AD900s; in fact, they’re more than three times as costly as the company’s next-priciest open-back, the ATH-AD1000X headphones ($599.95).

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Reviewers' ChoiceMarshall Headphones’ Mid A.N.C. on-ear headphones ($269 USD) are the latest in a new crop of headphones combining Bluetooth and active noise canceling (NC). Bluetooth recently became more important when Apple took the headphone jack off the latest iPhones. And because Bluetooth requires a rechargeable battery, amplifiers, etc., adding NC becomes relatively easy.

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When Apple omitted the headphone jack from new iPhones in 2016, audio manufacturers had to start taking Bluetooth wireless audio seriously. Any new model without Bluetooth would have to connect to the world’s most popular smartphone using a dongle, something most listeners don’t want. Thus, we’re seeing Bluetooth (and the accompanying internal amplification and battery) added to more new models, even some targeted at audiophiles. The new Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless is not only one of the first Bluetooth headphones built with audiophiles in mind, it’s also -- like the Aventho Wired model -- one of the first on-ear headphones built with audiophiles in mind.

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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. 5 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 ...