Compact, portable DACs that plug into a laptop’s USB port, extract up to 24-bit/96kHz digital audio using the jitter-eliminating asynchronous protocol, and provide amplified output for headphones and line-level output for preamps, are common enough these days. But in 2012, when AudioQuest introduced its first DragonFly DAC, the concept turned heads. The most attention-grabbing element was no doubt that the DragonFly was the size and shape of a USB memory stick. That such tiny hardware could make possible the playback of high-resolution audio through headphones -- not to mention a high-end audio system -- seemed nothing short of amazing.
I’ve dreamed of wireless speakers for years. For one, I’ve always been owned by at least one cat, and, well, what you’ve heard is true: Curiosity can kill cats. I’ve had more than one sail through its first four or five years of life showing no interest in wires -- then, suddenly, the left channel starts to fry, and close inspection reveals a chewed wire. Fortunately, none of my feline friends has chewed anything carrying current heavy enough to kill.
Audeze Sine headphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.
Most new headphones are just permutations of past designs. Not the Audeze Sines. They’ve got two genuinely unusual, perhaps even unique, features. First, they’re an on-ear design with planar-magnetic drivers -- the first ever of this type, Audeze claims. Second, they’re available with analog and digital cables.
Sennheiser HD 630VB headphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.
There can be no doubt that Sennheiser is one of, if not the, best-known headphone brands. The company offers models for every conceivable application, ranging in price from under $20 to the flagship HD 800S ($1699.95 USD). Sennheiser is also one of the few brands that is both familiar to the mass market and respected by audio engineers and audiophiles the world over.
Optoma NuForce HEM8 earphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.
How many drivers do earphones really need? I’ve heard models with as many as eight per ear. I’ve also heard excellent earphones that have just one driver per ear. With their HEM earphone models, Optoma NuForce lets you decide. You can get the single-driver HEM2s ($119 USD), the two-driver HEM4s ($299), the three-driver HEM6s ($399), or the four-driver HEM8s ($499). All share the same enclosure shape and features. When NuForce asked which I wanted to review, I opted for the top-of-the-line HEM8s.
As anyone who has recently visited an Apple Store can tell you, iPhone protection is big business -- a high-quality phone case can easily cost $50 to $70. Another big iPhone-related business is headphones -- something that an iPhone owner checking out the Bose, Beats, or B&W options at that same Apple store can readily confirm. The argument in favor of a good case is easy to make -- fixing a broken iPhone can be startlingly expensive (yet another iPhone-related business). But what good, ultimately, are pricey headphones if the sound delivered by your iPhone’s headphone output is, at best, mediocre?
The speaker designed for desktop use is a category that seems to be in flux. A few companies specialize in desktop designs -- Audioengine comes to mind -- but most mainstream speaker makers have either missed the boat or taken a pass on the opportunity to make a statement in this category.
AKG N60 NC headphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.
When it comes to noise-canceling headphones -- which are designed specifically for travel -- audio reviewers focus almost entirely on their sound quality and on the efficacy of their noise canceling; they rarely consider portability. My guess is that most of these reviewers don’t travel much, and don’t consider how much of a drag it is to have to lug a huge headphone case along. I do travel a lot by air, and I also spend a lot of time on public transit. That’s why the AKG N60 NC’s predecessor, the very similar K 490 NC, has been my favorite noise-canceling headphone since it was introduced, in 2012.
Bluesound Node 2 Streaming Tuner, Pulse Mini Streaming Loudspeaker, and Vault 2 Streaming CD Ripper and Storage Device
When, in the 1950s, Eichler installed the first whole-house intercom/radio system in a tract house, it jump-started a fascination with the notion that you could listen to your favorite radio program anywhere in your home. The marketing went something like this: “With whole-house audio, no matter where you are -- kitchen, laundry, den -- you [the stay-at-home mom] don’t have to miss a word of [insert favorite show, song, etc.]” Of course, it helped if you didn’t mind the horribly tinny sound quality, or the limitations of the AM radioband. The convenience sure beat having a tabletop radio in every room -- even if you already had a tabletop radio in every room.
Focal Sphear earphones measurements can be found by clicking this link.
With the Sphear earphones ($149 USD), Focal has become the first high-end audio company to attempt building a product as good as a Bose model. Yeah, I wrote that to rankle audiophiles a bit -- but regardless of what you think of the sound of Bose headphones, there’s no denying that they’re comfortable, and that’s the part Focal is trying to match. A frequent traveler, I believe that the comfort of headphones and earphones is as important as their sound. Getting deeper into the music you love is what high-quality audio is all about, and you can’t get deep into any music when your earlobes feel as if they’ve been worked over by Manny Pacquiao.