Introduction, Specifications, and Design
More than an ordinary pair of headphones, the SINE headphones from Audeze feature planar magnetic drivers, and the option of direct connection to an Apple Lightning port for pure digital sound from the SINE's inline 24-bit DAC and headphone amp. So how does the "world’s first on-ear planar magnetic headphone" sound? We first had a chance to hear the SINE headphones at CES, and Audeze was kind enough to loan us a pair to test them out.
"SINE headphones, with our planar magnetic technology, are the next step up in sound quality for many listeners. Instead of using ordinary dynamic drivers, our planar technology gives you a sound that’s punchy, dynamic, and detailed. In fact, it sounds like a much larger headphone! It’s lightweight, and folds flat for easy travelling. Once again, we’ve called upon our strategic partner Designworks, a BMW group subsidiary for the industrial design, and we manufacture SINE headphones in the USA at our Southern California factory."
Planar headphones certainly seem be be gaining traction in recent years. It was a pair from Audeze that I was first was able to demo a couple of years ago (the LCD-3 if I recall correctly), and I remember thinking about how precise they sounded. Granted, I was listening via a high-end headphone amp and lossless digital source at a hi-fi audio shop, so I had no frame of reference for what my own, lower-end equipment at home could do. And while the SINE headphones are certainly very advanced and convenient as an all-in-one solution to high-end audio for iOS device owners, there’s more to the story.
One the distinct advantages provided by the SINE headphones is the consistency of the experience they can provide across compatible devices. If you hear the SINE in a store (or on the floor of a tradeshow, as I did) you’re going to hear the same sound at home or on the go, provided you are using an Apple i-device. The Lightning connector provides the digital source for your audio, and the SINE’s built-in DAC and headphone amp create the analog signal that travels to the planar magnetic drivers in the headphones. In fact, if your own source material is of higher quality you can get even better sound than you might hear in a demo - and that’s the catch with headphones like this: source material matters.
One of the problems with high-end components in general is their ability to reveal the limitations of other equipment in the chain. Looking past the need for quality amplification for a moment, think about the differences you’ll immediately hear from different music sources. Listen to a highly-compressed audio stream, and it can sound rather flat and lifeless. Listen to uncompressed music from your iTunes library, and you will appreciate the more detailed sound. But move up to 24-bit studio master recordings (with their greater dynamic range and significantly higher level of detail), and you’ll be transported into the world of high-res audio with the speakers, DAC, and headphone amp you need to truly appreciate the difference.
Introduction and First Impressions
Edifier might not be a household name, but the maker of speakers and headphones has been around for 20 years now; formed in 1996 in Beijing, China. More recently (2011), Edifier made news by purchasing Stax, the famous Japanese electrostatic headphone maker. This move was made to 'improve Edifier's position' in the headphone market, and with the Stax name attached it could only raise awareness for the brand in the high-end audio community.
But Edifier does not play in the same market as Stax, whose least expensive current offering (the SR-003MK2) is still $350. Edifier's products range from earbuds starting at $19 (the H210) to their larger over-ear headphones (H850) at $79. In between rests the smaller over-ear H840, a closed-back monitor headphone 'tuned by Phil Jones of Pure Sound' that Edifier claims offers a 'natural' audio experience. The price? MSRP is $59.99 but Edifier sells the H840 for only $39.99 on Amazon.
"Developed with an electro-acoustic unit on the basis of the coil, these Hi-Fi headphones provide life like sound. The carefully calibrated balance between treble and bass makes Edifier H840 the perfect entry level monitor earphones."
At the price, these could be a compelling option for music, movies, and gaming - depending on how they sound. In this review I'll attempt to describe my experience with these headphones, as well as one can using text. (I will also attempt not to write a book in the process!)
Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 03:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: portable speakers, OTONE, Inateck, headphones, Fugoo, audio
The Inquirer put together a list of their favourite audio products so far this year, perhaps the list will not match yours but perhaps there is a product named which you have not heard of yet. From portable speakers to earbuds that wrap around your wrist when you are not using them they cover a variety of products. Check out the list and see if any of these products are worthy of spending your hard earned money on.
"THOUSANDS OF NEW audio products are released every year. Sometimes the big names are the best, but at other times there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here's our guide to the headphones, speakers and other audio gems that will float our boat during 2016."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Kanto Yaro 2 Amplifier & Speakers Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Jabra ROX Wireless In-Ear Stereo Earbuds Review @ NikKTechE
- Edifier H840 Headphones Review @ Hardware Canucks
Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2016 - 01:47 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: hifiman, headphones, HE-1000, audio
HiFiMAN have been producing mid level and high end audio products for quite some time, straddling the line between affordable and audiophile quality. The HE-1000 are of the aforementioned audiophile level, at $3000 you really have to have discerning ears to want to pick up these cans. The headset is quite pretty, built with leather, wood, and aluminium with soft cloth for the earcups and a window blind design on the exterior which HiFiMAN claims has a positive effect on the audio quality. techPowerUp tested these headphones out, you can read the description of their experience in the audio soundstage these headphones create in their review ... or not.
"HiFiMAN is constantly developing their planar technology, and today, we will take a look at their latest state-of-the-art headphone. It is dubbed the HE-1000 and features a nanometer thick diaphragm, leather headband, and milled aluminum. We take HiFiMAN's most audacious and pricey headphone for a ride!"
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum Wireless Headset @ eTeknix
- Rock Jaw Audio Alfa Genus V2 earphones @ Kitguru
- Corsair VOID USB Dolby 7.1 Gaming Headset Review @ Madshrimps
Handcrafted in Brooklyn, NY
First impressions usually count for a lot, correct? Well, my first impression of a Grado product was not all that positive. I had a small LAN party at my house one night and I invited over the audio lead for Ritual Entertainment and got him set up on one of the test machines. He pulled out a pair of Grado SR225 headphones and plugged them in. I looked at them and thought, “Why does this audio guy have such terrible headphones?” Just like most others that have looked at Grados the first time, I thought these were similar to a set of WWII headsets, and likely sounded about as good. I offered my friend a more “gaming friendly” set of headphones. He laughed at me and said no thanks.
The packaging is relatively bland as compared to other competing "high end" headphones. Grado has a reputation of under-promising, yet overperforming.
I of course asked him about his headphones that he was so enamored with and he told me a little bit about how good they actually were and that he was quite happy to game on them. This of course got me quite interested in what exactly Grado had to offer. Those “cheap looking” headphones are anything but cheap. While the aesthetics can be debated, but what can’t be is that Grado makes a pretty great series of products.
Grado was founded by Joseph Grado in 1953. Sadly, Joseph passed away this year. Though he had been retired for some time, the company is still family owned and we are now seeing the 3rd generation of Grados getting involved in the day to day workings of the company. The headquarters was actually the site of the family fruit business before Joseph decided to go into the audio industry. They originally specialized in phonograph heads as well as other phono accessories, and it wasn’t until 1989 that Grado introduced their first headphones. Headphones are not exactly a market where there are massive technological leaps, so it appears as though there has been around three distinct generations of headphone designs from Grado with the Prestige series. The originals were introduced in the mid-90s then in the mid 2000s with the updated “i” series, and finally we have the latest “e” models that were released last year.
The company also offers five different lines of headphones that range from the $50 eGrado up to the $1700 PS1000E. They also use a variety of materials from plastic, to metal, and finally the very famous wood based headphones. In fact, they have a limited edition Grado Heritage run that was made from a maple tree cut down in Brooklyn very near to the workshop where Grado still handcrafts their headphones.
That townhouse in the middle? That is where the vast majority of Grado headphones are made. Not exactly what most expect considering the reputation of the Grado brand. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Grado)
I was sent the latest SR225e models to take a listen to some time back. I finally got to a place where I could just sit down and pen about my thoughts and experience with these headphones.
Subject: General Tech | August 27, 2015 - 04:00 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: logitech, headphones, gaming, G933, G633, DTS Headphone:X, 7.1
Today Logitech is announcing that they have added to their headset lineup with two new products. This is a fairly big announcement as it has been around five years since Logitech did anything with their gaming headset. Units like the recently reviewed G35 and G230 have been around since 2010. Users have been complaining as of late about a lack of fresh products on the scene, even though those previous products have adequately filled their niche.
The two new products coming out are the wireless G933 and the wired G633. These are under the new brand Artemis Spectrum Gaming Headsets. The G633 has a MSRP of $149.99 putting it at the higher end of gaming headsets. Compare this to the G35 which originally shared that MSRP, but is now around $79 at retail. The top end G933 is a pricier option at $199.99 US.
Logitech has done a lot of work in terms of physical characteristics and the software they are using to drive these units. Neither comes as a pure analog solution, but instead utilizes a USB connection to power the wired and wireless units. Logitech continually refines its gaming software and this provides a great amount of flexibility when it comes to usage scenarios and audio features for these headphones.
Powering these cans is a newly designed 40 mm driver that is created from a stiffened fabric rather than paper or plastic. Logitech is branding these as the patent pending Pro-G audio drivers. The engineers worked with materials people to develop the technology that is said to provide audiophile quality sound across a variety of applications. I had asked why Logitech stayed with a 40 mm driver when other companies were utilizing larger 50 mm units which can deliver potentially deeper bass. The answer was that they discovered that 40 mm was the sweet spot for this material to provide a flat curve without diminishing the high end. The 50 mm prototypes just did not have the high end performance of the 40 mm units, so it was decided to sacrifice a bit of the low end to keep things more balanced and brighter.
Previously the Logitech Gaming headphones used Dolby Headphone support to simulate 3D/positional sound. This is changing up with these latest headphones. The new ones do support a virtual 7.1 audio solution as well as the new DTS Headphone: X support. This is an area where Logitech has again done quite a bit of work to improve their HRTF support. Ryan was shown around 30 different ear “models” that were used to measure how sound was reflected, refracted, and tone shifted when audio was played around these models in multiple positions. HRTF stands for Head Related Transfer Function. Humans can recognize sound positioning through a lot of processing in the brain. The brain can recognize when a sound’s tone is shifted due to the individual curves and shape of a person’s ear. Logitech has taken this data and created a software solution that more accurately provides this effect than their previous G35 and higher headphones which features the 7.1 functionality. This functionality will also seem more realistic when combined with a higher end driver, such as what is included with the Pro-G audio drivers.
The boom microphone is very similar to the previous models. It can swing down and provide some decent audio for outgoing. It will not match more professional units, but we can only hope that it is superior to the previous generation of headphones that Logitech has put out.
One area that could potentially be controversial is that of the LED lighting on the headphones. The headsets light up around the cups and can be changed to the tune of 16.8 million colors. The side plates can also be swapped, so potentially custom made plates can be swapped in to show whatever logos or pictures as one desires. One positive of this design is that the LED lights are facing to the rear of the listener’s head, so potential reflections off of a screen (or glasses) will just not happen. The headphones also feature three programmable G-Keys, a feature that was on the previous G35 units. It also features the mute button and the scroll wheel to control volume. These are handy, handy things for those that have already created a dozen macros on their keyboard and could potentially start mashing buttons. Not like I have ever done that before trying to mute some headphones…
These headphones also have a unique feature in that they can dynamically mix multiple inputs. The G633 can mix audio from two different inputs while the G933 can handle three inputs. There are multiple use scenarios for this such as playing on a console while having the headphones attached to a cellphone. Users can mix and match this functionality in a variety of scenarios that will fit their lifestyle. This is slightly more interesting for the wireless G933 as more devices can be connected, and the user can be free of a plethora of cables attached to the base unit.
The G933 also have an option of being a wired unit through analog cables. This does provide some nice flexibility for users, as well as playing for hours more when the batteries of the wireless headphones are recharging. This flexibility was not featured in previous wired headsets and is a nice change of pace.
Certain products have a long lifespan when it comes to product cycles. Headphones are one of these areas (just ask Grado and how many generations they have gone through in the past 25 years). Logitech has done some serious groundwork to make sure that these are competitive and high quality units. The final proof will of course be listening to these cans under multiple scenarios to see if the new drivers are in fact as good as they claim to be. With the laser like focus that Logitech has been aiming at gaming as of late, I am pretty comfortable in the idea that these headsets are the real deal when it comes to quality audio under gaming, movies, and music situations. Individual tastes will of course vary, but Logitech has spent a great deal of time and effort to make these competitive with the industry at large. It is a good step forward and I look forward to hearing the results.
The G633 will be available starting in September while the G933 will come to market in an October timeframe. The DTS Headphone:X support will be a software upgrade with the Logitech Gaming software in October.
Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2015 - 03:08 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Sirus, headphones, gaming headset, cooler master, CM Storm, audio
Many, many moons ago Josh reviewed the CM Storm Sirus Surround headphones, the first of their line and good for gaming, if not for music. Cooler Master have released an updated version called the Sirus-C which keep the infamous gold plated USB plug while shrinking the inline sound card and reducing the number of drivers in the earcups to two, a 44 mm full range and 40 mm sub. TechPowerUp provided an overview of the new headset and came to the conclusion that these would better serve a console gamer looking for a good plug and play audio solution, but feel there are better choices for the PC gamer. This especially holds true with the current asking price of $156 on Amazon, as there is a lot of competition at that price point.
"CM Storm's newest do-it-all headset is put to the test. The Sirus-C is compatible with all major console systems and features its own in-line USB sound card. The design is like previous Sirus headsets on the outside, but it now uses a dual-driver setup on the inside."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Ozone Blast Ocelote World 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound Gaming Headset @ eTeknix
- Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset @ Tech ARP
- TDK WR780 Smartphone Wireless Headphones Review @ NikKTech
- Creative Sound Blaster X7 Deskop DAC & Amplifier @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2014 - 07:31 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: steelseries, siberia, siberia v3, prism, headphones, headset, gaming headset
My last headset was a SteelSeries Siberia V2 and it served me well. The headband was snug, in a good way, against my head and the ear cups were comfortable. Both the headphones and the microphone sounded great from my subjective listening. It died after about a year and a half, though (specifically its right speaker). Still, again, it served me well, especially considering how much usage they saw on any given day.
Now they announced a new family with four siblings, ranging from $60 up to $200 (USD).
Starting with the cheapest, the Siberia Raw Prism, we have a USB headset with a colorful glow. It has a microphone built into the left ear cup. Unlike the rest of the Siberia line (and the Siberia V2), the mic is not retractable. You cannot extend and position it in front of your mouth. It is USB-only for Windows, Mac, and PlayStation. This USB powers and controls the aforementioned "colorful glow" through their drivers, customizable to 16.8 million colors. It has a $59.99 MSRP.
The next level up is the true successor to the V2, the Siberia V3. The price jumps quite a bit, to $99.99 MSRP. Like the V2, it has a retractable microphone and a snug-fitting internal headband. Also like the V2, it has two 3.5mm plugs when used with the included three-ring 3.5mm to dual 3.5mm (one headphone, one mic) plug adapter. No USB support though, at least not without an external sound card.
Which brings us to the SteelSeries V3 Prism, with an MSRP of $139.99. Instead of 3.5mm, it uses USB. I mean, how else will you control the 16.8 million colors, like the Raw. Unlike the Raw, it is a series of dots rather than a thin, circular strip. It also has a better microphone than the regular V3 (more sensitive and a wider range in frequency response - although those metrics are pretty useless when they are not charted in a graph). Again, instead of 3.5mm jacks, it uses USB. Like the Raw, you cannot connect this to a 3.5mm device. For that, you need to go up to...
... The SteelSeries Siberia V4 Elite ($199.99 MSRP). Surprisingly, the microphone has a lower frequency response and sensitivity than the V3 Prism but, again, that does not mean that it is worse. Its speakers have a very high sensitivity, 120 dB, which likely means that they can get loud. The connector is detachable and comes with three ends: dual-3.5mm, three-ring 3.5mm, and a USB sound card. Also included, a 6-foot USB extension cable.
The headphones are now available at the SteelSeries store.
Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2014 - 11:44 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: usb, Portable Audio, headphones, Headphone Amp, DAC, D/A Converter, Cirrus Logic
Creative has added a new member to their portable Sound Blaster "E" series lineup with the E5.
This new multi-function DAC and headphone amp features a reference-grade D/A converter chip from Cirrus Logic, the CS4398, which supports up to 24-bit/192kHz PCM audio (and technically DSD 2.8MHz/5.6MHz, though this does not seem to be implemented here). In addition to the realistic analog reproduction possible from a high quality chip like the CS4398, the Sound Blaster E5 provides amplification via a Texas Instruments TI6120A2, which Creative says gives the E5 a "best-in-class 600 ohm headphone amplifier".
Another aspect of the E5 that sets it apart from the previous E1 and E3 models is the inclusion of optical digital input/output, to go along with USB and dual 3.5mm headphone jacks. The two 3.5mm jacks can simultaniously drive two pairs of headphones, and on the back of the unit there are additional 3.5mm jacks for microphone input, line input/output, and these double as optical input/output via mini TOSLINK. (This might be geared for portable use, but would serve as a fine external sound solution for desktops as well!)
The input stage of the E5 uses another Cirrus Logic chip, the CS5361, enabling high quality recording options from various sources at up to same 24-bit/192kHz. While supporting external microphones (as well as line/optical input) the E5 also has "built-in beamforming CrystalVoice microphones for audio recording and calls". And while the E5 is employing Creative's SBX sound processing chip, this DSP can be switched off with a button on the side of the device - a welcome option for serious music listening from high-resolution source material.
The Sound Blaster E5 also supports digital input from iPhone and "select" Android phones (listed compatible devices include the Samsung Galaxy S4/S5, Galaxy Note 2/3, and Nexus 5/7). For portable use the E5 has a built-in rechargeable 3200mAh lithium polymer battery, which Creative says will provide up to 8 hours of playback per charge.
The Sound Blaster E5 will be available in October for $199 at Creative's online store (and likely various other retail outlets).
Subject: General Tech | February 14, 2014 - 03:28 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: audio, roundup, headphones
The Inquirer has put together a list of the 14 best headphones released so far this year, including both on ear and over the ear styles. You won't find a single Beats model in this roundup but you will hear about a wide range of best in class headphones from a wide variety of uses from the cheapest pair that still sounds good to the best ones for travelling. Just don't buy the ones with frogs on them.
"Long gone are the days when people felt too embarrassed to wear a hefty pair of cans on their heads in the fear that they'd be accused to trying to look like an Ibiza DJ wannabe. The hype about on-ear headphones has helped convince the masses that, "Actually, these clumsy looking music accessories are pretty cool," or, "Why shouldn't I wear them with pride on the Tube after forking out hundreds for them?""
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Bitfenix Flo Gaming Headset Review @ Madshrimps
- Ozone Onda Pro Headset @ Rbmods
- SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset Review @ Legit Reviews
- SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset @ NikKTech
- Fanny Wang WangBuds Review @ TechwareLabs
- Antec pulse Bluetooth Wireless Headphone Review! @ Bjorn3D
- Func HS-260 Gaming headset Review! @ Bjorn3D
- Thermaltake eSPORTS Cronos Gaming Headset Review @ Modders-Inc
- Func HS-260 Stereo Gaming Headset @ eTeknix
- Corsair Vengeance 2100 Dolby 7.1 Wireless Gaming Headset Review @ Madshrimps
- CM Storm Pitch In-Ear Gaming Headset @ eTeknix
- Creative T4 2.1 Wireless Speaker System with NFC Review @ Madshrimps
- Edifier Luna Eclipse e25 2.0 Speakers @ Kitguru