Sony WH-1000XM2 Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones

Monoprice Sony WH-1000XM2 earphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.

December 2017

Based on what I’ve observed, the greatest challenge in headphone design isn’t building the world’s greatest audiophile headphones. It’s building really good noise-canceling headphones. Consider the challenges Sony faced in creating the WH-1000XM2 noise-canceling (NC) headphones ($349.99 USD). The engineer must deal not only with the incoming music signal, but also with the signals coming from one or two microphones in each earpiece, each mike separately filtered to compensate for its distance from the driver, and for the acoustical properties of the driver and enclosure. The response of the drivers must be tuned to compensate for the effects of NC on the headphones’ sound -- and they still have to sound reasonably good in passive mode, when the battery runs down. Then there’s the noise of the internal amps and microphones to worry about. Perhaps worst of all, I’m told that many of the key patents of this technology are still held and vigorously defended by Bose.

Read more ...

Monoprice Monolith M300 Earphones

Monoprice Monolith M300 earphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.

December 2017

Products like the Monolith M300 in-ear earphones show how different Monoprice is from other audio brands. Other than their name and logo, Monoprice makes no pretense of brand identity in their products. Their focus is working with various overseas manufacturers to deliver products of (usually) reasonably good quality in all sorts of categories, at prices so low that few other companies can match them. However, the Monolith M300 earphones reflect what seems to be a minor sideline for Monoprice: products that look like knockoffs of well-regarded models made by other companies.

Read more ...

MartinLogan Wireless Ensemble Bravado Loudspeaker

November 2017

Wireless loudspeakers are propagating at a remarkable rate. The first appeared in the 1990s, and received music signals from the source components via RF. But they sounded pretty awful, and didn’t catch on. The next wireless speakers used Bluetooth, which have gradually become better as Bluetooth’s codecs have improved, from SBC to aptX to the new aptX HD. Lately we’ve seen a proliferation of wireless speakers that work via Wi-Fi; these are easy to implement, as most people’s homes now have a wireless network. Apple, Google, and Amazon are the latest and biggest players in this market, with voice-activated products that also play music.

Read more ...

Paradigm PW Soundbar / PW 600 Loudspeakers / Monitor Sub 8 Subwoofer

November 2017

I’ve been asked to review several home-theater soundbars over the years, and I usually decline. In my experience, the vast majority of them don’t sound any good. They’re so compromised in size and abilities that they wouldn’t be on the radar of most home-theater enthusiasts. Nor have I had an easy way to accommodate a soundbar, either in my home-theater room or my living room. The speakers in my living room are on-wall models, and running wires from my receiver to a traditional soundbar would be messy.

Read more ...

MartinLogan Motion SLM X3 Soundbar

October 2017

The Missus and I relocated to the Carolina coast earlier this year, and are now happily perched next to a tidal creek and its wondrous array of wetlands avifauna. When we moved, two desires (read: edicts) were that the living area of our new house have excellent music and movie sound but not be awash in speakers. This is something I clearly understand. Few artifacts of modern living disrupt domestic feng shui more than arrays of surround-sound speakers, and man, there can be a host of them -- 11.2 channels, anyone?

Read more ...

Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Headphones

Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC headphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.

October 2017

Reviewers' ChoiceSome of the fabled audio brands of my teen years, in the 1970s, seem to be aging even less gracefully than I am as they face brutal competition from online merchants and low-cost Chinese brands. Sure, established names like Sennheiser can still command a premium over such brands as Fleeken, Hiearcool, and Paww. But when consumers can choose between OK headphones for $70 and name-brand cans for $350, most will likely cheap out. I’m guessing this is why Sennheiser has introduced the HD 4.50 BTNC noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones for $199.95 USD -- half the price of their next-least-expensive current models of this type, the PXC 550 Wireless and HD1 On-Ear Wireless, both at $399.95.

Read more ...

JBL E55BT Quincy Edition Headphones

JBL E55BT Quincy Edition headphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.

September 2017

The E55BT Quincy Edition headphones take me back to the early days of the headphone boom, when it seemed that the primary goal of headphone brands was to get a celebrity to endorse their products. While endorsements were once common to the point of absurdity -- Soul Electronics sold a model endorsed by Tim Tebow -- these days they’re rare. I think the E55BT Quincy Edition ($199.95 USD) is the first set of celeb-endorsed headphones I’ve reviewed in about four years.

Read more ...

Bluesound Pulse Soundbar Wireless Loudspeaker and Pulse Sub Wireless Subwoofer

September 2017

In this brave new world of Wi-Fi-driven audio, there is no understating the importance of a robust home Wi-Fi network, and in our move from northern Virginia to coastal Carolina we’ve met the issue of robustness head on. We’ve completely revamped and upgraded our Wi-Fi network, which now includes a dual-band range extender so that even the farthest reaches of our new house produce all four bars on the Wi-Fi signal strength indicator. As a precaution, I also put into effect Plan B and had every room in the house wired with Ethernet -- RJ45 ports with CAT5 cabling -- because, as good as Wi-Fi is, it can be maddeningly unpredictable. As it turned out, Plan B was essential to reviewing Bluesound’s Pulse Soundbar and Pulse Sub.

Read more ...

Tidal Force Wave 5 Headphones

Tidal Force Wave 5 headphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.

August 2017

In the last several years, new headphone brands have seemed to emerge almost weekly. It used to be we reviewers would roll our eyes and ignore the latest press release touting a celebrity endorsement, or boasting of a headphone’s “Xtreem!” bass, or trying to lure us with flashy styling. We figured these mass-market products wouldn’t appeal to most of the people who read our reviews. Lately, though, we’ve seen more new brands focus on the audiophile segment. One is Tidal Force, which just launched its first headphone model: the Wave 5 ($299 USD).

Read more ...

Monoprice M1060 Headphones

Monoprice M1060 headphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.

August 2017

The audio industry is now seeing two clear, opposing, concurrent trends in product development: a race to the top and a race to the bottom. The race to the top is evident at any hi-fi show, where demos are dominated by amps and speakers priced in the mid-five figures. The race to the bottom can be found on the Internet, where high-value audio specialists fight to see who can most dramatically undercut audio’s storied brands. The Monoprice M1060 headphones ($299 USD) exemplify the latter trend.

Read more ...

More Articles ...